Province to inspect fewer businesses despite widespread violations and a recent report urging more action on Ontario’s accessibility law
Accessibility News Note: So this is the action Minister Duguid was talking about in his Press Release?
Accessibility activist David Lepofsky says Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government knows of the “rampant private sector violations” of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). By: Laurie Monsebraaten Social justice reporter, Published on Tue Feb 24 2015
Ontario plans to conduct fewer compliance inspections this year, even though more than 60 per cent of businesses are still in violation of the province’s landmark accessibility legislation, according to new government data.
This is despite an independent review last month that urged the province to step up efforts to enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
“The Wynne government knows rampant private sector violations of the AODA persist,” said accessibility activist David Lepofsky, head of the AODA Alliance. “And yet the government plans to substantially reduce its already-paltry enforcement, rather than expand it.”
Under the act, passed unanimously in 2005, the government is responsible for developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards for Ontario’s 1.8 million people with disabilities by 2025. The act covers goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment and buildings.
As part of the legislation, the province’s 53,000 private businesses with 20 employees or more had to file online reports by the end of 2012 on how they accommodate customers with disabilities, train staff and receive customer feedback. They were required to update their reports by the end of last year.
But so far, 65 per cent of businesses still have not filed their 2012 accessibility reports and 60 per cent have failed to meet the 2014 deadline, said Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid, in a letter to Lepofsky last week.
Duguid, who is responsible for the accessibility legislation, acknowledged the government “has more work to do.”
But instead of boosting enforcement measures, Duguid’s letter reveals the government will be conducting just 1,200 “compliance activities” in 2015. That is considerably less than last year when 2,000 audits were completed and fewer than 2013 when the government audited 1,900 businesses, Lepofsky said.
A spokesman for Duguid said the ministry is concentrating this year on pilot projects with the ministries of labour, transportation, and training, colleges and universities to improve private sector compliance with the act.
Andrew Forgione said the government is also working on a new accessibility standard to address barriers in the health-care sector, as recommended by both the disability community and last month’s independent review by University of Toronto Provost Mayo Moran.
Lepofsky is also angry that Duguid’s letter is the first time he heard the government has set up a long-awaited toll-free phone line to report AODA violations.
“This is something we have been calling for since 2012 and which Premier Wynne promised in the 2014 election,” he said. “If they really meant this number for us to report barriers, don’t you think they would have told us about it?”
A toll-free AODA information line (1-866-515-2025) has been operating for at least four years to answer questions, hear feedback and increase awareness of the legislation, Forgione said Tuesday.
But the government has been improving the line since last fall to reflect the premier’s campaign promise and Moran’s recommendations released Feb. 13, he said.
The recorded message will be updated by the end of the week to make it clear that individuals are welcome to comment and lodge complaints, Forgione said. The ministry is also working to ensure the number is more prominent on all website materials.