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Ontario Government Knows Staggering 70% of Ontario Private Sector Organizations with 20 or More Employees Violating Disabilities Act’s Reporting Requirement

But No Effective Enforcement, Despite Election Promises, Even Though Ample Unspent Budget for Implementing this Law

See Toronto Star Article and AODA Alliance News Release

November 18, 2013

SUMMARY

According to an AODA Alliance news release and a November 18, 2013 Toronto Star article, both set out below, the Ontario Government knows that fully 70% of Ontario private sector organizations with at least 20 employees have not complied with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s reporting requirements. The reporting deadline was December 31, 2012.

The Ontario Government is not keeping its promise to effectively enforce this law. Yet it has ample unspent funds to implement and enforce this law.

This was all revealed days ago, when the Ontario Government finally started releasing information to the AODA Alliance on the AODA’s enforcement, that it has been seeking since January 22, 2013. The Government has finally agreed to provide all information that AODA Alliance David Lepofsky has requested. At the end of the AODA Alliance’s news release, set out below, is a key four-page document that the Government has released to Lepofsky. It sets out key information reflected in the news release.

The Toronto Star reports that the Ontario cabinet minister responsible for enforcing the AODA, Dr. Eric Hoskins, is “upset” about the lack of compliance. The Star reports that he said the level of compliance is unacceptably low. He believes the Government is not doing enough to make sure organizations are complying with this law. The Star also reports that Dr. Hoskins is sending 2,500 enforcement notices today to non-complying organizations, and that he will “pursue vigorously those businesses that don’t respond.” This overdue action clearly results from our advocacy.

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The Toronto Star November 18, 2013

URL: http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2013/11/18/ontario_businesses_ignore_provincial_accessibility_law.html

News

Ontario businesses ignore provincial accessibility law; Queen’s Park not enforcing legislation, activist says

Queen’s Park is ignoring thousands of Ontario businesses that are flouting the province’s disability accessibility legislation, government documents show.

Meanwhile, $24 million in government funds earmarked to oversee the law since it was passed in 2005 remains unspent, say the documents obtained under a freedom of information request.

Seventy per cent of private businesses with 20 employees or more, about 36,000 across the province, have failed to comply with the law’s reporting requirement, according to the data obtained by lawyer David Lepofsky of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance.

Under the 2007 requirement, companies had until Dec. 31, 2012, to e-file a report with the government outlining how they accommodate customers with disabilities, train staff and receive customer feedback.

Despite the lack of compliance, not one business in violation has been inspected, issued a compliance order or fined, the documents show.

Lepofsky, who asked for an update on business compliance in January, was forced to file an FOI and initially charged $2,325. He appealed and the government released the documents late last week.

“In both the 2003 and 2011 provincial elections, the Liberals promised to effectively enforce their disability legislation,” Lepofsky said.

“But the documents show they have been palpably derelict in their duty to enforce this law.”

Economic Development, Trade and Employment Minister Eric Hoskins, who is responsible for the legislation, said he is also upset about the lack of compliance.

“I believe we are not doing enough to make sure companies and organizations are complying with the standards,” he said in an interview. “The percentage of compliance is unacceptably low.”

Since taking over the portfolio in February, Hoskins said he has doubled the number of businesses in compliance from about 7,000 to 15,000.

He ordered the ministry to send information notices to every business last spring and again last summer. On Monday, he is sending out 2,500 enforcement letters.

“I will pursue vigorously those businesses that don’t respond,” he said.

As for the $24 million in unspent funds to oversee the law, Hoskin predicted that once enforcement measures begin, spending will increase.

“Until Dec. 31, 2012, we really only had the ability to increase awareness,” he said. “This calendar year, we have turned our attention to identifying those that didn’t comply.”

Ontario’s 2005 disabilities act requires the government to ensure the province is fully accessible by 2025.

“Professionally, this is one of my top priorities as a minister and I have worked very seriously on this,” he added.

A 2010 independent review of the disabilities act urged the government “to show new leadership” and “revitalize” implementation of the law.

But these latest documents show the government has fallen down on the job of serving the province’s 1.7 million Ontarians with disabilities, Lepofsky said.

“The government said this is a top priority,” Lepofsky said. “Their inaction speaks far louder than their hollow words. I’d hate to see what it would be like if it was a low priority.”

Laurie Monsebraaten Toronto Star

* * * * *

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Government Records Reveal Triple Affront To Over 1.7 Million Ontarians With Disabilities: Thousands Of Ontario Organizations Violating Ontario’s Disability Accessibility Law’s Reporting Requirement – Government Breaching Its Promise To Effectively Enforce This Law – 24 Million Dollars, Allocated From 2005 To 2013 to Government Agency To Implement/Enforce This Law, Go Unspent.

November 18, 2013: Toronto

The Ontario Government has finally admitted that a staggering 70% of private sector organizations in Ontario with at least 20 employees are violating Ontario’s 2005 disability accessibility law’s reporting requirement. Making this worse, the Government has flagrantly broken its promise to effectively enforce this law, despite unused appropriated public funding available for it. Ontario’s 2005 Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

These revelations are all shown in Government documents that the non-partisan AODA Alliance pried from the Government, after a 287-day ordeal to unearth this information. A key four-page Government document including the pivotal information is set out at the end of this news release.

1. Rampant Violations of Disabilities Act Reporting Requirement

Under a 2007 regulation, private sector organizations in Ontario with at least 20 employees were given a lengthy five years to take modest steps. It required them to adopt a customer service accessibility policy (to help accommodate customers with disabilities), to train their staff on this policy, and to establish a customer feedback process. By December 31, 2012, private sector organizations with at least 20 employees were required to e-file with the Government a report simply self-declaring if they did what they are required to do.

By the end of 2012, only 7,983 private sector organizations with at least 20 employees had filed the simple mandatory report. The Government wrote to these organizations this summer to remind them. As of November 3, 2013 this number only increased to 15,293, about 30% of the total number of Ontario private sector organizations required to obey this requirement.

Government records report that until recently, the Government pegged the total number of Ontario private sector organizations with at least 20 employees at 60,000. The Government now says that the lower total of 51,421 is more accurate, based on Statistics Canada. Even with that 20% reduction, fully 70% of obligated Ontario private sector organizations are now violating the accessibility law’s simple reporting requirement, after five years to be ready.

This only relates to the e-filing requirement. The Government cannot say how many of the 30% of private organizations which filed the mandatory reports, have actually done what the law says they must do, to ensure accessible customer service for customers with disabilities.

2. Broken Government Promise to Effectively Enforce the Disabilities Act

In the 2003 and 2011 elections, Ontario’s Liberal Government promised to effectively enforce this legislation. Yet the recently-revealed Government information also shows that the Ontario Government has been palpably derelict in its duty to enforce this law.

Under the Disabilities Act, the Government must appoint one or more directors and inspectors to audit and inspect public and private sector organizations across Ontario, and can levy monetary administrative penalties. Government records reveal that for this huge province, it now has a paltry two directors and one inspector, to enforce the entire Disabilities Act. It has conducted no inspections of any organizations and a paltry percentage of audits. It has issued no compliance orders and imposed no monetary administrative penalties.

On May 10, 2005, when the Legislature unanimously passed the Disabilities Act, the Government proudly proclaimed at a Queen’s Park news conference that there would be spot audits, inspections, and available monetary penalties and enforcement for violators. Then-Minister Marie Bountrogianni reiterated why it is important for the AODA to be effectively enforced, not voluntary, referring to the previous Conservative Government’s weak and unenforceable disability law:

“They will be given of course chances to remedy their situation. It’s not about punishment. It’s about doing the right thing. However if they do not comply, there is a fine — fifty thousand dollars for individuals and a hundred thousand dollars for corporations. So we’re serious. That was missing in the previous act. That was one of the things that was missing in the previous act. And without that enforcement compliance, when you just leave it to the good will of the people, it doesn’t always get done. And so we know that we know that from the psychology of human nature. We know that from past research in other areas, like the environment, like seatbelts, like smoking. And so we acted on the research in those areas.”

3. 24 Million Unspent Public Dollars Allocated to Government Agency to Implement/Enforce Disabilities Act Since 2005

The Government has no excuses. This breach of promise is not due to the provincial deficit, or a lack of funding for the Government’s office charged with responsibility for implementing and enforcing the Disabilities Act, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. That Directorate has consistently had substantial unspent funds and a clear legal mandate to enforce this law.

Government records reveal that that office has operated well under budget each year since 2005, the year the Disabilities Act was enacted. Between 2005 and the present, fully $24,264,833.00 has been unspent that was allocated to it.

Here is how much the Government annually appropriated to the Accessibility Directorate, and how much per year it spent.

2005-06 Budget = $ 7,284,800.00 Actuals = $ 4,465,060.00 Difference = $ 2,819,740.00
2006-07 Budget = $10,284,800.00 Actuals = $ 7,776,128.00 Difference = $ 2,508,672.00
2007-08 Budget = $10,284,800.00 Actuals = $ 9,405,472.00 Difference = $ 879,328.00
2008-09 Budget = $14,784,800.00 Actuals = $12,434,436.00 Difference = $ 2,350,364.00
2009-10 Budget = $17,617,000.00 Actuals = $12,799,778.00 Difference = $ 4,817,222.00
2010-11 Budget = $16,468,100.00 Actuals = $12,244,031.00 Difference = $ 4,224,069.00
2011-12 Budget = $17,600,300.00 Actuals = $14,483,762.00 Difference = $ 3,116,538.00
2012-13 Budget = $16,446,500.00 Actuals = $12,897,600.00 Difference = $ 3,548,900.00

4. Conclusions – Appalling Abdication of Government’s Duty to Effectively Enforce the Disabilities Act

“Before this new revelation, an important Government-appointed 2010 Independent Review of the Disabilities Act urged the Government to show new leadership under the Disabilities Act, and to revitalize its implementation of the Disabilities Act. The Government has inexcusably fallen down on the job,” said David Lepofsky, who chaired the non-partisan coalition that campaigned to pass the disabilities act from 1994-2005, and now chairs the coalition that fights to get it effectively implemented and enforced. “Accessibility is good for business and for the public. It helps the bottom line by opening up business to more customers with disabilities. The Government said this is a top priority. Their inaction speaks far louder than their hollow words.”

“It is important for the Government to give organizations the information they need to comply with this law, and only to resort to enforcement when all else fails, but it now has been over 8 years since the Disabilities Act was passed, over 5 years since the customer Service Accessibility Regulation was passed, and over 10 months since the deadline for e-filing accessibility reports,” said Lepofsky. “Enough is enough!”

The Government has kept this embarrassing information from the public for months. Back on January 22, 2013, the AODA Alliance wrote the Government to find out how many organizations were complying with the Disabilities Act, and what the Government planned to do with those who don’t comply. For 287 days, the Government did not answer.

Fed up, on August 15, 2013, AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky filed a Freedom of Information request to get this information. On October 2, 2013, the Government told him it would cost him about $2,325 to get the answers he sought.

Ten days ago, the Government finally agreed to disclose the requested information. This came only after an embarrassing exchange during Question Period in the Ontario Legislature with NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo and after a blistering October 31, 2013 Toronto Star editorial.

Contact: David Lepofsky aodafeedback@gmail.com www.aodaalliance org Twitter @aodaalliance

KEY LINKS

To read the Toronto Star’s October 31, 2013 editorial on enforcement of the Disabilities Act, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11052013.asp

To read the exchange on enforcement of the Disabilities Act in Question Period in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 2013, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10302013.asp

Dalton McGuinty’s August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, promising effective enforcement of the AODA, is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp

Dalton McGuinty’s April 7, 2003 letter, promising a Disabilities Act with effective enforcement, is available at http://www.odacommittee.net/news80.html

Kathleen Wynne’s December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance, promising to keep all Dalton McGuinty’s disability accessibility commitments, is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12032012.asp

The transcript of the May 10, 2005 Queen’s Park news conference, held immediately after the Legislature passed the Disabilities Act, is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09272013.asp

To read the AODA Alliance’s January 22, 2013 letter to the Ontario Government, requesting the Ontario Government’s plans for enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, visit http://is.gd/XdwlVG

Learn more about AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s August 15, 2013 Freedom of Information application by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08152013.asp

* * * * *
Text of a Key Document which the Ontario Government Released to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

Responses to compliance/enforcement questions as at November 3, 2013

1. How many private sector organizations in Ontario with 20 or more employees had filed required accessibility reports under section 14 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 (“AODA”) by the end of December 31, 2012?

MINISTRY RESPONSE: As of December 31, 2012 there were 7,983 reports filed. As of November 3, 2013, 15,293 reports have been filed. A further 1,888 additional reports are in progress.

2. What is the total number of private sector organizations in Ontario with 20 or more employees that were required to file an accessibility report under section 14 of the AODA by December 31, 2012? If the Government does not have an exact number, then what estimates does the Government have?

MINISTRY RESPONSE: 51,421

COMMENT: Information provided from Statistics Canada’s December 2012 Establishment Counts for Ontario dataset from the Canadian Business Patterns

3. Of the total or estimated number of private sector organizations with 20 or more employees who were required to file an accessibility report under section 14 of the AODA by the end of 2012, how many have not filed a required accessibility report as of August 15, 2013? If that information is not readily available, then by the nearest readily available date that has passed as of the date of the receipt of this Freedom of Information application.

MINISTRY RESPONSE: As of November 3, 2013, there are 36,128 organizations that have not filed. Please see explanatory comment.

COMMENT: The ADO has used the approximate number of 60,000 obligated organizations since 2010 however, the number of organizations that have to submit a compliance report will vary from year-to-year based on organizations closing, merging, and new organizations being created.

4. How many public sector organizations were required to file accessibility reports under section 14 of the AODA?

MINISTRY RESPONSE: 863

7. How many public sector organizations have been audited or inspected for compliance with the AODA or accessibility standards enacted under it by 2010, broken down by year if possible.

MINISTRY RESPONSE:
2010 Audits = 36 Inspections = 0
2011 Audits = 41 Inspections = 0
2012 Audits = 200 Inspections = 0
2013 Audits = 0 Inspections = 0

COMMENT: There were no reporting requirements in 2012 so therefore no audits were necessary in 2013. Public sector organizations are submitting their second compliance report in 2013.

8. How many private sector organizations with at least 20 employees have been audited or inspected for compliance with the AODA or accessibility standards enacted under it?

MINISTRY RESPONSE:
2013 Audits = 1428 Inspections= 0

10. To how many private sector organizations, potentially obliged to comply with the AODA or accessibility standards enacted under it, did the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, or any officials, persons or organizations acting on its behalf or under its direction, send an email, letter or other correspondence, in 2011 or 2012, to advise that private sector organization that it is or may be obliged to file an accessibility report under s. 14 of the AODA by the end of 2012?

MINISTRY RESPONSE: 934,925. Please see explanatory comment.

COMMENT: The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, and officials, persons or organizations acting on its behalf or under its direction sent 934,925 emails, letters and other correspondence to organizations, in 2011 or 2012, to advise them of obligation or potential obligation to file an accessibility report under s. 14 of the AODA by the end of 2012.

Due to multiple outreach initiatives the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is unable to confirm the exact number of unique organizations to receive a correspondence from the ADO. The aforementioned number is the sum total of organizations that received a correspondence in 2011 and 2012 regarding reporting from the ADO or organizations acting on its behalf.

11. A sample of the letters sent to organizations referred to in the preceding paragraph.

MINISTRY RESPONSE: See attachment: Accessible Customer Service

12. To how many private sector organizations, potentially obliged to comply with the AODA or accessibility standards enacted under it, did the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, or any officials, persons or organizations acting on its behalf or under its direction, send an email, letter or other correspondence, in 2013 to advise that private sector organization that it has not filed an accessibility report under s. 14 of the AODA by the end of 2012?

MINISTRY RESPONSE: 113,920. Please see explanatory comment.

COMMENT: The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, and officials, persons or organizations acting on its behalf or under its direction, sent 113,920 emails, letters and other correspondence to organizations, in 2013 to advise them that they have not filed an accessibility report under s. 14 of the AODA by the end of 2012.

Due to multiple outreach initiatives the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is unable to confirm the exact number of unique organizations to receive a correspondence from the ADO. The aforementioned number is the sum total of organizations that received a correspondence in 2013 regarding reporting from ADO or organizations acting on its behalf.

13. An example of the standard letter if any, that the Ministry sends to an organization which has not filed an accessibility report required under s. 14 of the AODA, (excluding any information that would identify the recipient organization.)

MINISTRY RESPONSE: See attachment: Non-Filer – 1st Notice

14. In how many cases per year since 2010 has any official of the Ontario Government or any official acting on its behalf, issued a compliance order and/or imposed an administrative penalty under the AODA on a public sector organization or a private sector organization for non-compliance with any provision of the AODA or accessibility standards enacted under it? Please break down this information by year, and based on whether it was a public sector organization or a private sector organization. Please also specify:

MINISTRY RESPONSE: 0

a) What were the amounts, if any, of the administrative penalties?

MINISTRY RESPONSE: Not applicable

b) What, if any, were the contents of the compliance orders?

MINISTRY RESPONSE: Not applicable

c) Were there any appeals from these compliance orders or administrative penalties?

MINISTRY RESPONSE: Not applicable

d) If so, what was the result of the appeals? How many appeals, if any, are now pending?

MINISTRY RESPONSE: Not applicable

16. The number of

a) directors appointed under s. 30 of the AODA in total since the AODA was enacted;

MINISTRY RESPONSE: 4

b) directors appointed under s. 30 of the AODA now working within the Ontario Government or under its authority;

MINISTRY RESPONSE: 2

c) inspectors appointed under s. 18 of the AODA per year since 2007; and

MINISTRY RESPONSE: 2

d) inspectors appointed under s. 18 of the AODA now employed in or on behalf of the Ontario Government.

MINISTRY RESPONSE: 1

COMMENT: Information based on time period from 2010-2013

17. The number of organizations that an inspector, appointed under s. 18 of the AODA, has physically visited to discharge the powers of conducting an inspection under the AODA since 2010, divided by year.

MINISTRY RESPONSE: 0

18. The number of times per year, commencing in 2010, that an administrative penalty order was filed with a local registrar of the Superior Court of Justice under s. 23 of the AODA.

MINISTRY RESPONSE: 0

21. Broken down by year since 2005:

a) the annual budget approved for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in that year; and

b) the total expenditures of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario for that year.

MINISTRY RESPONSE:

2005-06 Budget = $ 7,284,800.00 Actuals = $ 4,465,060.00
2006-07 Budget = $10,284,800.00 Actuals = $ 7,776,128.00
2007-08 Budget = $10,284,800.00 Actuals = $ 9,405,472.00
2008-09 Budget = $14,784,800.00 Actuals = $12,434,436.00
2009-10 Budget = $17,617,000.00 Actuals = $12,799,778.00
2010-11 Budget = $16,468,100.00 Actuals = $12,244,031.00
2011-12 Budget = $17,600,300.00 Actuals = $14,483,762.00
2012-13 Budget = $16,446,500.00 Actuals = $12,897,600.00

COMMENT: Source: Ministry Results-based Plan Briefing Book (MCSS)