By Victor Schwartzman and George Orwell
June 8, 2015
When Victor asked me via the internet, where everyone remains alive, to write a column analyzing “The Path to 2025: Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan,” I told him that the Ontario Government had already contacted me for help with its media release. Minister Duguid said to me “I haven’t read your novel but I’m a big fan of the Disney movie.” Apparently he confused “Animal Farm” with “Dumbo”.
I turned him down, of course. After all, I am probably best known as the writer of “1984”. I invented “Big Brother” and “Thought Police.” “Doublethink” is where one accepts the Government stating it is moving forward while also accepting it is standing still. I agreed to write this column because the Ontario Government’s “Action Plan” style was born in the pages of my novels. It is hardly a comfort to see the shadows of 1984 in 2015.
The Ontario Government failed for a decade to implement AODA properly. Last November it received a second independent review, the Moran Report, which stated that implementation and enforcement were as dead as I am. Given that the Government had half a year, one is entitled to expect at least half a response. The “Action Plan” is that.
In reading any Government’s action plan, often the most interesting information is found not at the beginning but at the end. Buried at the bottom of the Government’s media release, I indeed found the truly important news: access standards will not be fully rolled out until 2021. As a client of Jerry MacGuire might have said of this “Action Plan,” “Where’s the action?” That access standards would not be complete until 2021 should have been at the top of the release, but that would have attracted attention. There was no indication the Government intends to rush the standards and have them completed this year which should attract attention.
Access standards are important because businesses cannot develop concrete plans for customer service, employment and other issues without them. The standards set conditions businesses must meet. Businesses will delay implementing AODA until they have the standards. That is the true meaning of the “Action Plan”, that the Government does not expect to begin AODA implementation until six long years from now. Everything until 2021 is wheels spinning. This situation will leave Ontario only four years to achieve full accessibility (out of the twenty it had available when AODA was proclaimed.)
Everything else in the “Action Plan” is not Doublethink but a subcategory, Singlethink. Singlethink involves a Government statement which stands only by ignoring inconvenient facts. For example, the “Action Plan” ignores that compliance audits were to be cut to 1,200. Instead, it states audits will be boosted to 4,000 per year. However, the Government ignores that 4,000 is 1% of the 400,000 businesses involved. 60% of those businesses have not complied, so to be fair the 4,000 audits would be more than 1% of the noncompliant businesses, except it sounds too much like a school math problem and I still have nightmares about those.
Of course, Minister Duguid is on record as wanting to encourage more than enforce. Good, but ten years of encouragement has not worked yet.
The “complaint hotline” is also Singlethink. It will not act on complaints but instead forward them for action to a Minister who has not acted. A voluntary certification program will publicly award “good businesses” a gold star or perhaps a statuette. And a new Government website will allow people to rate businesses on access issues. Likely those ratings will fall into a bottomless pit because the important function of the website will be to allow consumers to search for goods and services to buy.
Singlethink very definitely applies to the Government’s spending programmes. The “Action Plan” addresses only the next two years for spending, and little will be spent. $4 million in low cost LOANS will be available over the next two years to businesses which hire and keep workers who have disabilities. A one year $1.8 million project with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce will promote accessibility, essentially educating businesses about access and available grants.
You weigh how serious a Government is by how much it spends: in this instance, peanuts.
The peanuts are to feed the elephant in the room, to prevent a nasty trumpeting.
And that is the “Inaction Plan.” Dumbo isn’t happy.
Next: Guest Column By A Person Who Has A Disability! “AODA Isn’t Trucking Along!” By Imperator Furiosa.
Victor Schwartzman has contributed this weekly satirical column to Accessibility News and the AODA Alliance since May 13, 2013. Check out the first nine chapters of his current satirical fantasy novel, King Of The Planet, for .99 on Kindle at http://www.amazon.ca/King-The-Planet-Victor-Schwartzman-ebook/dp/B00NE0CCRC, or for free on Facebook. The unpolished first nine chapters got a “4 out of 5 star” review! He is currently polishing the novel. His graphic novel The Winnipeg Weakly Herald (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He has had poetry and short fiction published, has edited novels and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.