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Premier Wynne Appoints Tracy MacCharles as Ontario’s First Minister of Accessibility for 1.8 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Will Premier Wynne Instruct Her to Take the Actions Needed to Get Ontario Back on Schedule for Full Accessibility By 2025 The Deadline that Ontario’s Accessibility Law Sets?

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
June 13, 2016

Toronto: In today’s mid-term Cabinet shuffle, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne appointed Tracy MacCharles as Ontario’s first virtually stand-alone Accessibility Minister. This took place on the 11th anniversary of the day when Ontario’s accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), went into force.

Two successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA, in 2010 and 2014, called for the Premier to appoint a stand-alone minister with responsibility for getting Ontario on schedule for full accessibility by 2025 for Ontarians with disabilities. Past ministers with this file have had so much else on their plate that they did not devote enough time to this issue, contributing to the poor recent Government record in this area.

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to full accessibility for 1.8 million people with a physical, mental, sensory, intellectual, or learning disability by 2025. It aims to ensure that people with disabilities can fully take part in schools, universities, jobs, housing, goods, services, restaurants and stores. Under the AODA, the Government must enact and effectively enforce accessibility standards that tell public and private sector organizations what disability barriers they must tear down, and by when.

“The Wynne Government’s implementation of Ontario’s accessibility law has fumbled and stumbled in recent years. It reached an all-time low last week when Premier Wynne broke her promise, made when she was running for Ontario Liberal leadership, that she’d never weaken any protections that Ontarians with disabilities had made in or under Ontario’s accessibility law for which we fought so long and hard,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance that leads the grassroots campaign for accessibility in Ontario. “Breaking her word to us, last week Premier Wynne amended Ontario’s 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard, gutting any hope of its effective enforcement with over 32,000 private sector organizations with 20-49 employees. The Wynne Government did this, despite the fact that the Government new of rampant AODA violations among private sector organizations with at least 20 employees.” The AODA Alliance’s June 7, 2016 news release, detailing how the Wynne Government broke this promise, is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06072016.asp

The AODA Alliance hopes that Minister MacCharles will devote far more time to keeping Premier Wynne’s December 3, 2012 promise that she would ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. To make this happen, and to turn the page on the Government’s flagging performance on this issue in recent years, Premier Wynne needs to give Minister MacCharles a full-time deputy minister responsible for accessibility, as the two Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews recommended. Premier Wynne must also give Minister MacCharles clear and strong directions in the Mandate Letter that the Premier sends each minister, setting their priorities. In the 2014 Ontario election, Premier Wynne promised to direct her ministers and senior officials on keeping the Government’s accessibility promises and duties. Yet her September 25, 2014 Mandate Letters to her cabinet, the first ever to be made public, left out most of the Government’s accessibility pledges and duties. For the AODA Alliance’s detailed analysis showing that Premier Wynne’s 2014 Mandate Letters left out most of her Government’s accessibility pledges, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10072014-analysis-of-premier-wynne.docx To make Minister MacCharles’ Cabinet assignment work for Ontarians, we urge Premier Wynne to direct Ontario’s first stand-alone Accessibility Minister to:

* Immediately and substantially ramp up Ontario’s flagging enforcement of the AODA including, as a start, now implementing the doubling of the organizations to be audited that the Government announced over a year ago;

* Appoint a Standards Development Committee under the AODA to develop an Education Accessibility Standard to tackle the barriers facing 334,000 students with special education needs across Ontario;

* Now appoint a Standards Development Committee to develop the Health Care Accessibility Standard that the Government said it would create back on February 13, 2015, but for which this first mandatory step has never been taken; and

* Develop an action plan for the Government to keep all its accessibility pledges and fulfil all The AODA, and for ensuring that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.

Last week, the AODA Alliance called on the Wynne Government to undo its recent breach of Premier Wynne’s promise to never weaken any protections and provisions in or under Ontario’s accessibility law. It is not too late for Minister MacCharles to undo the damage that she inherits.

The AODA Alliance is eager to roll up our sleeves and work with Ontario’s first Accessibility Minister on these issues. Only eight and a half years are left before the AODA’s 2025 deadline for full accessibility.

In related news, this grassroots accessibility campaign later this week will debut on an important international stage. David Lepofsky, the chair of the AODA alliance (which campaigns for accessibility in Ontario at the provincial level) and co-chair of Barrier-Free Canada (which campaigns for the Federal Government to enact the Canadians with Disabilities Act at the federal level) has been invited to speak at this week’s major international conference on disability rights held at the United Nations in New York City. On Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 1:15 to 2:45, pm, he will speak on an international panel on accessibility of technology for people with disabilities, hosted by Israel’s Beit Issie Shapiro, a respected non-governmental organization that serves the needs of children with disabilities in Israel and consults with other countries on meeting the needs of children with disabilities. At this UN conference, Lepofsky will highlight lessons, good and bad, that other countries can learn from Canada’s experience in achieving accessibility for people with disabilities. There are one billion people with disabilities around the world. More on Beit Issie Shapiro is available at ## http://en.beitissie.org.il/

Contact: David Lepofsky aodafeedback@gmail.comTwitter: @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance http://www.aodaalliance.org

Links to Key Background Information

Kathleen Wynne’s December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12032012.asp

To read the list of low-cost high-impact changes to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard that the AODA Alliance and the ARCH Disability Law Centre proposed to the Wynne Government, and which the Wynne Government has entirely rejected visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03182016.asp

To read the 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran 2nd AODA Independent Review, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/Final-Report-Second-Legislative-Review-of-the-AODA.docx To read the AODA Alliance’s analysis of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/04292015.asp and http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05012015.asp

To read the list of low-cost high-impact changes to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard that the AODA Alliance and the ARCH Disability Law Centre proposed to the Wynne Government, and which the Wynne Government has entirely rejected visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03182016.asp

To read the AODA Alliance’s November 18, 2013 revelation of rampant AODA violations known to the Wynne Government, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11182013.asp

To learn about the campaign from 2005 to the present to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org