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Should the Wynne Government Create a Private Accessibility Certification Process?

Send Feedback on Our Draft Response Demonstrating Its Serious Problems — Better for the Government to Keep Unkept Promise to Effectively Enforce the AODA

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities

November 25, 2015

SUMMARY

1. Wynne Government Hires the Deloitte Firm to Consult You

On November 16, 2015, the Wynne Government announced that it has launched a public consultation on its proposal that the Government create a private process for an as-yet-unnamed private organization to provide private, voluntary accessibility certification of the obligated organization. The Governments November 16, 2015 email, news release and web posting on this, set out below, are thin on details.

The Government is not having its own Accessibility Directorate conduct this consultation. Instead it hired the private Deloitte firm to consult the public.

This week, just days after the consultation was announced, Deloitte has already scheduled a first round of short-notice stakeholder discussions.

We have advised Deloitte that within the disability community at least, if not for others, more time would be helpful to formulate input. We are told these first consultations are preliminary. Deloitte told us that they plan to conduct a series of evolving consultations between now and March, 2016.

From our preliminary analysis, a private accessibility certification process is a fundamentally and obviously flawed idea. It raises very serious concerns from the perspective of people with disabilities.

Moving as quickly as we can, we prepared a draft submission to Deloitte. We set it out below. We welcome your input before we finalize our submission. Send us your feedback on it by January 11, 2016. Please email your thoughts to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

In summary, our draft submission makes these points:

a) It is important to probe beyond any superficial attractiveness that a private accessibility certification process might initially seem to have.

b) It is important for the Government to first decide whether it will adopt a private accessibility certification process, before effort is invested in deciding on the details of how such a process would work. Several serious concerns set out in this submission are fatal to any such proposal, however its details are designed. The Governments public announcements of this consultation, unlike Deloittes contact with us, imply that the Government may have already decided on establishing a private accessibility certification process, and is only interested in hearing about how it should be designed.

c) Instead of diverting limited public and private resources, effort and time into a problematic private accessibility certification process, the Government should instead focus on and increase efforts at keeping its unkept promise to effectively enforce the AODA. A private accessibility certification process is no substitute for a full and comprehensive AODA audit or inspection, conducted by a director or inspector duly authorized under the AODA.

d) The Government cannot claim that it has deployed the AODAs compliance/enforcement powers to the fullest, and gotten from the AODA all it can in terms of increasing accessibility among obligated organizations. The Government has invested far too little in AODA enforcement.

e) The entire idea of a private organization certifying an obligated organization as accessible is fraught with inescapable problems. Obligated organizations will ultimately realize that a so-called accessibility certification through a private accessibility certification process is practically useless. It does not necessarily mean that their organization is in fact accessible. It cannot give that obligated organization any defence if an AODA inspection or audit reveals that the organization is not in compliance with an AODA accessibility standard, or if the organization is subject to a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. An obligated organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law.

f) A private accessibility certification could mislead people with disabilities into thinking an organization is fully accessible in a situation where that organization is not in fact fully accessible.

g) Obligated organizations that have spent their money on such a private accessibility certification will understandably become angry or frustrated when they find that this certification does not excuse unlawful conduct. They will understandably share these feelings with their business associates. Ontarians with disabilities dont need the Government launching a new process that will risk generating such backlash.

h) A private accessibility certification could have a very limited shelf-life. When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as it has promised to do in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.

i) The Governments idea that a private accessibility certification process would be self-financing creates additional serious problems.

j) Any private certification process raises serious concerns about public accountability. As such, we will not be able to find out how it is operating, beyond any selective information that the Government or the private certifier decides to make public. Without full access to the activities and records of a private certifier, the public cannot effectively assess how this private accessibility certification process is working, and whether it is helping or hurting the accessibility cause.

In a November 23, 2015 phone call, Deloitte advised AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky that last summer, Deloitte submitted a report to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. It includes background research on this issue. This included a survey of practices in other jurisdictions. We asked Deloitte for a copy of any report it submitted to the Government. We await Deloittes response. Deloitte may need the Government to agree to this.

We would like to know if the Government asked the Accessibility Directorate for its advice, before the Government incurred the expense of hiring Deloitte. We also want to know what advice, if any, the Government received from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario on whether the Government should create a private accessibility certification process.

Deloitte told us it is consulting both on whether there should be a private accessibility certification process, and if so, what that private accessibility certification process should look like. We need the Government to confirm that it has not already made a firm decision to proceed with a private accessibility certification process. The Governments public announcements make it sound as if the Government has already made up its mind to have such a private accessibility certification process. Its current consultation should take an open-minded look at whether any private accessibility certification process should be undertaken at all. It should not proceed on any premise that there has already been a decision, no matter what, to establish a private accessibility certification process, and to simply gather our input after-the-fact of that decision.

2. Other Accessibility News

On November 20, 2015, we invited you to send us your input on our draft submission to the Wynne Government on its troubling proposed revisions to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. Both were enacted under the AODA. We seek your feedback by November 27, 2015, so we can quickly finalize our submission to the Government on that topic.

Some of you told us you had difficulty with the link to download the MS Word version of our draft submission on those proposed accessibility standard revisions. We tested it. It appears to work. If it does not work for you, please email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com and we will email you our draft submission. Download the AODA Alliances draft response to the Wynne Governments November 9, 2015 proposal to amend the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/nov-20-2015-aoda-alliance-Response-to-ontario-government-proposed-changes-to-customer-service-accessibility-standard.docx Below we set out:

* The AODA Alliances November 25, 2015 draft submission on the Governments proposal to establish a private accessibility certification process.

* The text of the November 16, 2015 email from the Government announcing its consultation on the private accessibility certification process proposal.

* The Governments November 16, 2015 news release on this issue.

* The text of the Governments November 16, 2015 posting on its web page regarding this issue, and

* the Ontario Hansard transcript of the November 17, 2015 exchange in Question Period in the Ontario Legislature on this issue.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

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We encourage you to use the Governments toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org

MORE DETAILS

November 25, 2015 Draft AODA Alliance Initial Submission to Deloitte on the Wynne Governments Consultation on Whether To Create a Private Accessibility Certification Process

Note: This is only a draft and does not represent the AODA Alliances final submission on this issue.

1. Introduction

The Wynne Government has hired the Deloitte firm to consult the public on whether the Government should create a private accessibility certification process, and if so, what that certification process should look like. This is the AODA Alliances preliminary response.

We have concluded that this proposal suffers from fatally serious flaws. The Government should not create a private accessibility certification process. These flaws cannot be addressed by the details of the design or implementation of a private accessibility certification process. The Government should instead keep its unkept promise to effectively enforce the AODA.

2. Superficial Attractiveness Hides Serious Problems

It is important to probe beyond any superficial attractiveness that a private accessibility certification process might initially seem to have.

At first, a private accessibility certification process may to some seem superficially attractive. There are so many obligated organizations that are now not fully accessible. Any new initiative that will motivate some to become accessible might seem to be a positive step.

If an obligated organization can volunteer to take part in a private accessibility certification process that is independent of the Government, this may avoid any imaginary or real resistance to mandatory government action to enforce the AODA.

Yet, on any closer inspection that probes beyond the superficial, this proposal has very serious and inescapable flaws. They largely if not totally dont depend on the details of how a private accessibility certification process is designed. They show such a proposal to be at least unhelpful and wasteful, if not counterproductive.

We have always recognized that to get Ontario to full accessibility by 2025, it is helpful to use a range of different strategies. As is widely known, we have been in the lead in presenting the Government with a range of ideas on how to use a mix of strategies to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025, as the AODA requires.

No useful discussion of or consultation on the detailed design of a private accessibility certification process can or should take place until the Government first squarely decides whether it should proceed with this proposal at all. The concerns set out in this submission are fatal to any such proposal, however its details are designed.

3. Government Efforts Should Focus on Substantially Strengthening AODA Enforcement and Not the distraction of a Private Accessibility Certification Process

Instead of diverting limited public and private resources, effort and time into a problematic private accessibility certification process, the Government should instead focus on and increase efforts at keeping its unkept promise to effectively enforce the AODA. A private accessibility certification process is no substitute for a full and comprehensive AODA audit or inspection, conducted by a director or inspector duly authorized under the AODA.

The Wynne Government has never kept its fundamentally important promise to effectively enforce the AODA. The Government has persisted in doing an extremely poor job of enforcing the AODA. This is so despite the fact that the Government has known for up to three years that there are rampant violations of the AODA among private sector organizations with at least 20 employees.

The Government has tried to keep a lid on this fact. We have had to resort to Freedom of Information applications to bring the full picture to the public, despite Government promises of openness and transparency.

Without effective AODA enforcement, the Government will ensure that Ontario does not get back on schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025. The Report of the Government-appointed 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review emphasized the need for the AODA to at last be effectively enforced.

The Government only started taking any real steps to use important AODA enforcement powers vis a vis the private sector in late 2013. This came only after we revealed to the public that there were rampant private sector AODA violations, that the Government knew all about this, and that despite this, the Government was issuing no monetary penalties or compliance orders against any private sector obligated organizations.

In November 2013, the Government faced blistering media coverage of its failure on this front. As a result, the Government targeted around 3,250 organizations for focused enforcement action in late 2013 and 2014. This was a small fraction of known AODA violators. The Government later reported that it thereby secured a significant increase in compliance among those targeted organizations. This substantially increased AODA compliance happened once the Government took action to show those targeted obligated organizations that the Government means business.

The Government made the AODA enforcement situation worse earlier this year when it decided, for reasons it has never made public, to cut by over one-third the number of organizations that the Government will audit this year for AODA compliance. As a result, the Government was again blasted in the media over its faltering AODA enforcement.

Four months later, the Government changed its mind. It announced on June 3, 2015 that starting next year it would increase the number of organizations it would audit per year for AODA compliance, with that number eventually to double in some future year. We have seen no further details on this. We dont know when audits will double. We have not been able to date to get the Government to release documents we have sought on this.

The Government cannot claim that it has deployed the AODAs compliance/enforcement powers to the fullest, and gotten from the AODA all it can in terms of increasing accessibility among obligated organizations. The reports of the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review both show that is not the case. Much to the contrary, the Government was reticent for years about even uttering the words mandatory and enforcement in connection with the AODA, especially when addressing the public.

The Government has invested far too little in AODA enforcement. It should not now divert any public resources into the creation of a private accessibility certification process. Those funds could be far better spent on beefed-up AODA enforcement. Before the Government funds the hiring and training of private inspectors to work for some private sector organization to do accessibility certifications, it would make much more sense for the Government to hire, train and deploy enough inspectors under the AODA.

It is no answer to our concern that the Governments announcements say that this private accessibility certification process is not meant to be a substitute for AODA enforcement. Simply stating that does not change the reality of this proposal.

4. Idea of a Private Accessibility Certification Process is Fatally Flawed

The very notion of a private accessibility certification process is inherently and fatally flawed.

Deloitte confirmed to AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky in a November 23, 2015 phone call that from its research, Deloitte had found no example of a private accessibility certification process akin to that which the Wynne Government is considering, anywhere in the world. A Deloitte official agreed that the Planat process connected with the Rick Hansen Foundation is not the same as what the Government is considering here.

The entire idea of a private organization, certifying an obligated organization as accessible, is fraught with inescapable problems. What standard or yardstick and measure for accessibility would the private certifier apply? What barriers would they look for? Would they look for all or just some barriers? Would they consider all disabilities or just some disabilities? If a private accessibility certification process only looks for an insufficient range of barriers, then it could end up giving an obligated organization a certification that it is accessible even though that organization is not in fact truly accessible. That would be very harmful.

Would the private certifier only look for compliance with AODA standards? If so, then the certifier cannot certify the obligated organization as accessible. It could only claim to certify that the obligated organization is thought to be AODA-compliant.

It would be wrong to encourage obligated organizations to simply seek certification that they comply with AODA accessibility standards. For an organization to now simply comply with all AODA accessibility standards does not thereby mean that this obligated organization is fully accessible to all people with disabilities, or that it will ever become fully accessible to all people with disabilities.

The AODA makes it clear that where another law provides for more accessibility, the stronger accessibility law prevails. To certify that an obligated organization complies with an AODA standard (even if that were feasible) does not thereby mean that the organization has complied with the stronger accessibility standards requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. The Ontario Human Rights Code applies to all public and private sector organizations in Ontario. The Charter of Rights applies to all public sector organizations, and to private sector organizations (like hospitals) when they deliver government programs.

The 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review Report showed that AODA accessibility standards have real problems. As we and the Ontario Human Rights Commission have pointed out to the Government to no avail, several requirements under AODA accessibility standards fall below the accessibility requirements that are required by the Ontario Human Rights Code. For public sector organizations, we would say the same regarding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

One example proves the point. Under the AODA, the Government has enacted no accessibility standards to deal with physical barriers in the built environment apart from limited ones dealing with public spaces like recreation trails, public service areas, and outdoor seating areas. Recent accessibility amendments to the Ontario building code dont fall under the AODA and dont rise to the level of human rights accessibility requirements. As but one illustration, the Government has enacted no measures to address the need for retrofits in the built environment, in existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. The Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review pointed this out as a serious unmet need.

As such, if a private accessibility certification process is going to certify based on the AODA alone, it could misleadingly certify an obligated organization fully accessible even though it is located up a flight of stairs, and is totally inaccessible to people using a wheelchair or walker. That would make a mockery of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the private accessibility certification process.

Right now, the accessibility cause is hurt by the fact that too many obligated organizations in the public and private sectors at times labour under the incorrect notion that all they need to do to obey the law on accessibility is to fulfil AODA accessibility standards. To the extent that AODA accessibility standards fall short of Ontario Human Rights Code requirements, this belief leads those organizations to do too little, and take too long, to address their full legal duties on accessibility.

5. Getting a Private Accessibility Certification is Ultimately Fruitless for Obligated Organizations

Obligated organizations will ultimately realize that a so-called accessibility certification through a private accessibility certification process will be useless. It cannot give that obligated organization any defence if an AODA inspection or audit reveals that the organization is not in compliance with an AODA accessibility standard. The obligated organization cannot simply wave their private certification in the face of an AODA inspector or auditor and insist that the Government cannot impose an AODA compliance order or monetary penalty simply because the obligated organization earlier got a private accessibility certification. If an AODA audit or inspection reveals an AODA violation, the obligated organization must still face the AODA consequences.

Over our repeated objections, the Government included so many vague terms in AODA accessibility standards that any opinion by a private certifier that an obligated organization has met all of them would merely be a subjective judgement-call. An obligated organization could have no reason to expect that a Government AODA auditor or inspector will reach the same conclusion on such subjective matters.

What if a person with a disability files a human rights complaint against an organization due to an accessibility barrier? A private accessibility certification doesnt provide a defence to a valid accessibility complaint against that organization under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The organization cannot point to a piece of paper from a private certifier that it has an accessibility certification, as a defence to the human rights complaint. If the organization cannot prove that it is impossible to accommodate the person with a disability without undue hardship to that organization, it has violated the Ontario Human Rights Code, no matter what piece of paper the private certifier has given.

An obligated organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law. Ignorance of the law is no defence. Moreover it is a longstanding an important principle under both the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Human Rights Code that a denial of equality rights or human rights can occur regardless of whether an organization meant to deny equality or human rights. No private certification process can undo that vital principle.

Most obligated organizations that are now failing to comply with the AODA and/or human rights accessibility obligations probably dont know they are in breach of those laws. To reward such ignorance would gut these laws effectiveness.

In the face of this, it would be better for an obligated organization to invest their money on fixing barriers, rather than on such a private accessibility certification. Moreover, obligated organizations that have spent their money on such a private accessibility certification will understandably become angry or frustrated, and will share these feelings with their business associates. Ontarians with disabilities dont need the Government launching a new process that will risk generating such backlash.

To try to prevent this backlash, a private accessibility certifier would have to caution an obligated organization up front and in advance that any private accessibility certification provides no defence to an AODA violation or human rights complaint. If given that forewarning, we doubt that many obligated organizations would spend money and time on a private accessibility certification.

6. Any Private Accessibility Certification Can Only Have a Limited Shelf-life

A private accessibility certification could also have a very limited shelf-life. When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as it has promised to do in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.

7. Making a Private Accessibility Certification Process Self-Financing Creates Added Problems

The Governments idea that a private accessibility certification process would be self-financing creates additional serious problems.

The Governments announcement suggests that the Government intends this to be a self-financing program. We can understand this, since a Government-funded system could quickly become very costly on an ongoing basis. We anticipate that the Government would have to fund its establishment, even if obligated organizations would thereafter pay for their individual certification processes.

A self-financing process creates several troubling issues.

Would the private certifier be doing this work for profit, or as a non-profit organization? Either way, there automatically is a serious problem. if obligated organizations have to pay for their certification, they will only want to do so if they think they will likely get certified. Otherwise, why spend the money?

A for-profit certifier will have a profit-driven incentive to lean in favour of certifying obligated organizations, in order to get business and make a profit. Even if the certifying organization is operating on a non-profit basis, it will still have a troubling incentive to lean in favour of granting accessibility certifications. It will need sufficient revenues to cover its operating costs and pay its certification staffs salary and training.

8. Proper Public Accountability is Lacking

Any private certification process raises serious public accountability concerns. We fear that it would not be subject to Ontarios Freedom of Information legislation. If so, we will not be able to find out how it is operating, beyond any selective information that the Government or the private certifier decides to make public.

Ontarios Freedom of Information legislation has played an absolutely vital role in our holding the Government to account for its failure to effectively enforce the AODA. The Government has been very reluctant to make public all the information on enforcement that we have sought.

Moreover, Premier Wynne promised in the 2014 election to make public details reports on AODA enforcement. Despite this, anything the Government has made public on AODA enforcement without being faced with a Freedom of Information application has been slim and lacks much-needed detail.

That is why AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky has had to resort to Freedom of Information applications several times since 2013. Even then, the Government has tried to create barriers to that access, by trying to impose hefty fees to get access to such information. As things now stand, the Government has demanded that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky pay $4,200 for updated 2014-15 information on such things as AODA implementation and enforcement.

Without full access to the activities and records of a private certifier, the public cannot effectively assess how this private accessibility certification process is working, and whether it is helping or hurting the accessibility cause.

How will the public be able to know whether the private certifier is only certifying an organization as accessible if it is truly accessible? How will the public know for certain what standards for accessibility the private certifier is actually using? How can the public know if the private certifier has showing favoritism among those whom it opts to certify or to refuse to certify?

If the private certifier refuses to certify an obligated organization as accessible, what recourse will the obligated organization have? Will the Government create some sort of private right of appeal? Is it going to pass legislation for this?

What if the private certifier certifies an obligated organization as accessible, but a person with a disability finds out from first-hand experience that the organization is in reality not accessible. How can a member of the public get that incorrect and misleading certification withdrawn? If it is not withdrawn, then the certification itself may become a barrier to accessibility.

9. Additional Serious Practical Problems Make the Idea of a Private Accessibility Certification Unworkable

Even if the foregoing were not enough, there are more serious practical problems with a private accessibility certification process. Who will do the certifying? What assurance will we and the public have that they have the sufficient expertise in accessibility as it relates to the wide range of different disabilities and recurring barriers? Who has sufficient expertise in website accessibility needs of people with print, hearing motor, learning or cognitive disabilities, as well as physical accessibility needs of people with mobility, vision or hearing disabilities, as well as electronic kiosk accessibility for people with vision, hearing, motor or cognitive disabilities, just to name a few.

What confidence can the public have that the private accessibility certification process is operated in a fair way? There is no self-governing profession of accessibility certifiers, with a code of ethical conduct, a licensing regime, and other safeguards to ensure that they know what they are doing and behave in a professionally-appropriate way.

We know of no organization in the private sector in Ontario that now has this expertise. Spending large amounts of public money to create this expertise seems inappropriate, especially if that expertise is reposed in an unaccountable private organization, and not a publicly-accountable public sector organization.

Will a private sector accessibility certifier go to the obligated organization anywhere in Ontario and do an on-site inspection? Or will they just read documents that the obligated organization sends them? If it is a mere paper audit, it wont get at all the barriers that an on-site inspection can detect. If it is to be an on-site inspection, then the Government will have to finance the creation of a large new private organization with the capacity to reach all around the province.

10. Wynne Government May Misunderstand Its Proposal

During Question Period in the Legislature on November 17, 2015, the NDP questioned the Government about its consultation on a private accessibility certification process. We set out that exchange below.

To defend its action, the Government pointed to a private process with which the Rick Hansen Foundation is associated. The Government made it sound like any disagreement with the Governments plans was thereby an attack on working with Rick Hansen on accessibility. In Question Period, Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said in part: Surely the member doesn’t have a philosophical problem with this government working with Rick Hansen on accessibility.

The Governments answers in Question Period do not address or reduce any of the concerns which we have described here. For example, the Rick Hansen initiative to which the Wynne Government referred does not purport to exhaustively examine an organization for all kinds of barriers that people with disabilities can face. As far as we understand, that initiative was not created by a provincial government with government funding. British Columbia does not have a comprehensive accessibility law like the AODA. That initiative does not reduce the need for full and effective AODA enforcement.

11. Conclusion

We are concerned that diverting public resources to a private accessibility certification process can involve the Government in sliding further and further in the direction of converting AODA compliance into a voluntary rather than a mandatory requirement. Between 1995 and 2003, when the Ontario Liberal Party was in opposition, the Liberals rightly blasted the Conservative Mike Harris Government for its position that any Ontario accessibility law must be voluntary, not mandatory and effectively enforced. The liberals promised people with disabilities a mandatory law, not a voluntary one.

Because the Government has left the AODA largely unenforced, it has slid in the direction of a voluntary law. If the Government now devotes time, effort and resources to a voluntary private accessibility certification process, in which participation is voluntary, it threatens to slide even further in that very direction.

Text of Ontario Governments November 16, 2015 Email to Disability Sector Organizations

Dear Stakeholder Working Group Members:

I am writing to inform you about the launch of a public engagement process to support the development of a voluntary third-party accessibility certification program.

This initiative is part of the Accessibility Action Plan and is being led by Deloitte on behalf of the Ontario government. An online platform, certifiedforaccess.ca, launched on November 16 and is intended to engage participants and allow them to have their say in shifting the accessibility landscape in Ontario and beyond. This engagement will bring together businesses, persons with disabilities, disability advocates, certification experts, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations in a transparent and inclusive way.

The desired outcome of this process is the development of an independent, financially self-sustaining, made-in-Ontario certification model for businesses, organizations and institutions.

Certification will not replace requirements that organizations need to meet under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. It is not intended to be a replacement or alternative to compliance and enforcement activities.

Rather, certification is intended to enable a competitive advantage toward which businesses, industries and institutions can strive. It would improve Ontarians knowledge of which businesses are accessible and allow them to make informed decisions about what services, locations, information and institutions they interact with.

A key part of the engagement is a challenge to encourage a third-party certifying body to come forward to deliver the program.

To learn more about this process, or to take part, please visit certifiedforaccess.ca

A news release regarding this initiative is attached to this email, and can also be found through the following link: http://news.ontario.ca/medt/en/2015/11/help-develop-ontarios-accessibility-certification-program.html?utm_source=digest&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=o Your assistance in distributing this message to your networks would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Ann Hoy
Assistant Deputy Minister

November 16, 2015 Ontario Government News Release
Help Develop Ontarios Accessibility Certification Program

Province Takes Another Step Towards an Accessible Ontario by 2025

November 16, 2015
News

Ontario is seeking public input to develop a voluntary, third-party accessibility certification program which will recognize businesses and organizations that have championed accessibility.
The province will explore ways to develop an accessibility certification program and challenge a third-party certifying body to come forward to deliver the program. A certification program would highlight the efforts of accessible businesses and organizations and help raise awareness of their commitment to accessibility in the marketplace. The program would help businesses tap into an important and relatively unexplored consumer base.

Businesses, disability advocates, certification experts, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations are encouraged to get involved in the conversation by sharing ideas, stories and advice online at http://www.certifiedforaccess.ca.

Improving accessibility is part of the governments plan to build Ontario up. The four-part plan includes investing in peoples talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontarios history, creating a dynamic, innovative environment where business thrives and building a secure retirement savings plan.

Quotes

I challenge people across this province to help create a made-in-Ontario designation for accessible businesses. This initiative would make it easier for people to identify accessible organizations and would be a great way for businesses to increase their customer base and improve their bottom line. Ontario is an accessibility leader certification would enhance our culture of inclusion and strengthen the economy.
Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure

Quick Facts

This consultation is part of Ontarios Open Government strategy, focused on engaging a broader and more diverse range of people in new and modern ways.
The Path to 2025: Ontarios Accessibility Action Plan contains a commitment to develop a certification program encourage businesses to reach beyond the requirements of the AODA and promote a cultural shift towards a society where everyone can reach their full potential.
One in seven Ontarians has a disability, a number that will increase to one in five by 2035.
2015 marks the 10th anniversary of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
People with disabilities and their families represent an economic market worth $25 billion in Canada.
According to the Martin Prosperity Institute, by building an inclusive Ontario, we would see a $7.9 billion increase to GDP, and that is good for business.

Website of Ontario Government-Sponsored Consultation on Proposal for a Private Accessibility Certification Process

Originally posted at https://www.certifiedforaccess.ca/

Participate now!

What is Certified for Access?

In June 2015, the Ontario Government committed to exploring accessibility certification. Certified for Access is a consultation process independently led by Deloitte on behalf of the Ontario Government. It will bring together a diverse range of participants from across Ontario to develop a made-in-Ontario business certification model that would be delivered outside of government.

CertifiedforAccess.ca hosts the online engagement intended to provide an opportunity for all members of the public, persons with disabilities and business to voice their views on the issues being discussed in an open and transparent forum. Feedback and ideas from all corners of our communities will be essential to creating an Ontario that is accessible to all.

Your Opportunity to Participate

Your feedback and ideas will help guide this process, and by participating in Certified for Access you will ensure your voice is heard in the development of a made-in-Ontario certification model.

As each phase of this engagement unfolds, Certified for Access will seek your feedback on the challenges faced by people and business as they work to make their interactions more accessible. This is your opportunity to share stories and provide advice.

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Ontario Hansard November 17, 2015

Question Period

ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED

Mr. Taras Natyshak: My question is to the Premier. The government has announced that it is looking for public input into setting up a third-party certification program for compliance with Ontario’s accessibility legislation, the AODA. By “third party,” of course, this government means privatization, and any input is already being considered through this lens.

This government shouldn’t be interested in accessibility for Ontarians facing barriers because it’s commercially viable or opens new markets; the government should be invested because it’s in fact the law. How will this government ensure, 10 years after, that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act will finally be enforced?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure.

Hon. Brad Duguid: Much to the temptation to go otherwise, I want to respond to the member’s question. Yes, indeed, while I was at an event with Colleges Ontario yesterday, where Rick Hansen was speaking as the motivational speaker, we were talking about an initiative that Rick Hansen has been a champion of. That’s looking at ways that we can reach out to the business community and recognize those businesses that are excelling in becoming accessible, similar to the way that the LEED program works, with gold, platinum and bronze.

The leading person and the leading organization in doing this in Canada thus far has been Rick Hansen and his foundation. We would be open to others doing this kind of work as well, but surely the member doesn’t have a philosophical problem with this government working with Rick Hansen on accessibility.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Taras Natyshak: Speaker, Rick Hansen certainly is one of our most revered advocates for people with disabilities, but unless the government intends on having Rick do the enforcement part of the AODA, I don’t think you’re actually going to be able to follow through with your commitments-and thank you, Rick.

Speaker, my brother is a quadriplegic. We know the barriers that people with injuries face. Disability advocates have been clear: They don’t need certification; they need enforcements of the AODA. What does it matter if the source of the barrier has been certified?

After 10 years, how will you enforce the AODA?

Hon. Brad Duguid: I know that this member cares a lot about this issue, and we do as well. We’re going to take our advice from experts like Rick Hansen, because nobody knows better than Mr. Hansen when it comes to these issues. We’re going to use models that work and have worked in the past. It’s really important that we change the dynamics in this province and across this country when it comes to business perceptions about the need and the importance, from a business case, of becoming accessible.

There are many ways that we can do that. Compliance is one of them; enforcement is another. But it’s really important that businesses embrace our ability to become accessible. A LEED-like program in Ontario would be a first in Canada and something that we’re working very closely on with the likes of Rick Hansen to achieve. We’re proud of that, and I would expect the member ultimately to support it.