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AODA Alliance Holds Novel On-Line “Virtual News Conference” to Unveil the Ontario Parties’ 2014 Disability Accessibility Election Pledges – Urge Your Local Media to Cover the Election’s Disability Accessibility Issues!

May 16, 2014

SUMMARY

Do you want to know what the three parties in the Ontario Legislature have pledged in this Ontario election, to make Ontario fully accessible for persons with disabilities by 2025? We have just made public all the answers, in a way that lets you enjoy a front row seat!

At 11 a.m. on Friday May 16, 2014, the AODA Alliance made a “virtual news conference” available on line, to unveil the parties’ commitments and our non-partisan election strategy for this election campaign. To watch the AODA Alliance’s virtual news conference on Youtube, visit the link below:

http://youtu.be/05AoTreGF7A

The media is invited to email us for an interview by sending a request at any time to aodafeedback@gmail.com

Below we set out:

* Our news release, announcing our on-line virtual news conference.
* The speaking notes for the presentation at this virtual news conference by AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky.
* Links to the letters we received from the NDP, Conservatives and Liberals, setting out their 2014 election disability accessibility commitments, and to our March 3, 2014 letter to the party leaders, that lists the election commitments we seek.
* Our summary of the parties’ 2014 election commitments on disability accessibility.

* Our analysis of each party’s commitments.

We encourage you to:

* Spread the word to the media. Urge them to cover this story. It is just a click away. They don’t need to leave their newsroom to get the whole story.
* Spread the word to the candidates and to your friends and families, about our virtual news conference, about the parties’ commitments on disability accessibility and about our non-partisan election blitz that we unveil at this virtual news conference for voters with disabilities and voters without disabilities. * Let us know what you think of the parties’ commitments.
* Let us and your local media know if any all-candidates debates in your community are to be held in an inaccessible location. We have tweeted every candidate on Twitter, seeking commitments that they will not attend an all-candidates debate if it is not disability-accessible.
* Stay tuned for our upcoming Election Action Kit, that we will make available in the coming days.

There have now been 138 days since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act despite its knowing of rampant violations in the private sector. There have been 85 days since the Government promised to make public a plan for enforcing the AODA “in short order.”

There have been 480 days since the Government reaffirmed that it will make new accessibility standards under the AODA, without deciding which ones. There have been 261 days since the Government announced its planned legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games, but without announcing a detailed plan for a disability accessibility legacy.

Send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

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

MORE DETAILS

Text of AODA Alliance’s May 16, 2014 News Release

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

MAJOR ONTARIO DISABILITY COALITION HOLDS NOVEL ON-LINE VIRTUAL NEWS CONFERENCE MAY 16 11 A.M. EDT TO UNVEIL THE ONTARIO POLITICAL PARTIES’ DISABILITY ACCESSIBILITY ELECTION PLEDGES TO 1.8 MILLLION ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES

May 16, 2014 Toronto: As a novel grassroots strategy, the non-partisan AODA Alliance has just posted on YouTube its first-ever on-line virtual news conference. Using the internet to instantly reach the media across Ontario, the AODA Alliance is right now making public the election commitments that the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP have made to make Ontario fully accessible to all persons with disabilities by 2025. Enjoy a front-row seat, and learn how Ontarians with disabilities plan to mobilize in the lead-up to the June 12 election.

Watch AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky’s 30-minute virtual news conference, as he explains the commitments the AODA Alliance sought, what the parties promised, and how this grassroots coalition plans to raise disability accessibility issues in the hotly-contested Ontario election campaign. The parties’ letters, making their commitments, an analysis of them, speaking notes for the news conference, the parties’ track record on disability accessibility, and other background materials are all just a click away. Links to everything you need are set out below.

You can arrange a one-on-one interview by emailing a request at any time to aodafeedback@gmail.com The media are welcome to use any content in the on-line virtual news conference.

“In each of the past six Ontario elections, right back to 1995, at least two of the major Ontario parties made written election pledges on tearing down barriers that impede Ontarians with disabilities, in letters to our coalition or its predecessor,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the province-wide AODA Alliance. “Our virtual news conference lets everyone across Ontario and beyond get instant access to this news the moment we unveil it. Reporters don’t have to leave the campaign trail or their newsrooms to cover this story.”

Through this news conference and a concerted social media blitz, the AODA Alliance is calling on voters with disabilities, and indeed all voters, to press all candidates for stronger commitments on disability accessibility than the three party leaders gave. They’ve tweeted a challenge to every candidate on Twitter to refuse to attend any all-candidates debates held in an inaccessible location.

“The three parties unanimously passed the Disabilities Act in 2005. It requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to persons with disabilities by 2025. But dithering by the Government since the 2011 summer has led Ontario to fall further behind schedule,” said Lepofsky. “We need strong leadership and bold commitments to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.”

As part of this blitz, the AODA Alliance is urging PC candidates to press Tim Hudak for a clear commitment that he won’t cut disability accessibility regulations or other initiatives – an unequivocal commitment Hudak has refused to make.

Everyone is hurt by the barriers that impede persons with disabilities from getting a job, an education or public services, or from shopping in stores. Everyone eventually gets a disability as they age, and suffers from these barriers. Those barriers hurt our economy.

For an interview, contact: David Lepofsky aodafeedback@gmail.com

KEY LINKS

To watch the AODA Alliance’s virtual news conference, visit http://youtu.be/05AoTreGF7A

To read the Ontario Liberal Party’s 2014 election commitments to the AODA Alliance on disability accessibility, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/2014-election-pledges-Kathleen-Wynne.asp To read the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s 2014 election commitments to the AODA Alliance on disability accessibility, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/2014-election-pledges-Tim-Hudak.asp To read the Ontario New Democratic Party’s 2014 election commitments to the AODA Alliance on disability accessibility, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/2014-election-pledges-Andrea-Horwath.asp To read the AODA Alliance’s March 3, 2014 letter to the party leaders, setting out the specific disability accessibility commitments in this election that the AODA Alliance seeks, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03042014.asp

To read the speaking notes for the AODA Alliance’s May 16, 2014 virtual news conference, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/2014-election-accessibility-issues-speaking-notes.asp To read the AODA Alliance’s summary of the three parties’ 2014 election commitments on disability accessibility, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/2014-election-accessibility-pledges.asp To read the AODA Alliance’s analysis of the three parties’ 2014 commitments on disability accessibility, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/2014-analysis-of-accessibility-pledges.asp To see the records of the Liberals, PCs and NDP on disability accessibility from 1990 to the present, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05072014.asp

To see a comparison of the parties’ 2011 election disability accessibility commitments, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220115.asp

To see a comparison of the parties’ 2007 disability accessibility commitments, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/default.asp

For full background on the ongoing campaign to make Ontario disability-accessible, visit www.aodaalliance.org

Follow us on Twitter for all the news from Ontario and around the world on disability accessibility: @aodaalliance

Speaking Notes for the AODA Alliance’s May 16, 2014 Virtual News Conference

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

Proposed Remarks by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky for the May 16, 2014 Virtual News Conference

Note: Check against delivery. Where there are any differences between this text and the recorded video of this virtual news conference, the media and anyone else is welcome to quote from either source, and to use as much of the recorded video and audio as it wishes.

Welcome. My name is David Lepofsky. I am the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Thank you for logging on and tuning in to the first virtual news conference ever convened by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. We are holding this very novel virtual on-line news event to make public for the first time, the election commitments that the major Ontario political parties have made to us on the topic of making Ontario fully accessible to all people with disabilities. We will also unveil our non-partisan 2014 Ontario election strategy for voters with disabilities and anyone who may get a disability.

We are speaking to you right now from the Inclusive Design Research Centre. It is part of the Ontario College of Art and Design, in downtown Toronto.

The IDRC is a world-leading centre with extraordinary expertise in how to make information technology fully accessible to persons with disabilities. We chose this location because it so powerfully illustrates how Ontario could become a world leader on disability accessibility, to the benefit of everyone, if our next Government shows strong new leadership on this issue.

In this virtual news conference, I will explain what the accessibility issue is that confronts Ontario. I will describe the commitments that we asked of the major party leaders. The Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats have all now made written commitments to us. I will summarize what they have promised. Finally, I will unveil our election strategy.

This virtual news conference is, of course, pre-recorded. If you have questions for us, or want an interview, please send a request to us via email. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com . We will get back to you as quickly as possible.

The election commitments from the parties, plus our analysis of them are now going live and available to you by visiting our website. Just go to www.aodaalliance.org and visit our What’s New page.

What is the issue?

Imagine going to school to see your child or grandchild in a school play, but finding out that you can’t get in because the building has steps, and you use a wheelchair or walker.

Imagine going to vote in a provincial election, one of the most important rights and duties of citizenship, only to find that you cannot mark your own ballot independently and in private, and verify your choice, because you are blind or dyslexic. A voter must mark their paper ballot or get someone else to do it for them. Imagine that Elections Ontario proudly proclaims that they are deploying one or two accessible voting machines in your riding, so that you can mark your own ballot, but it turns out that the machine sometimes hasn’t worked.

Imagine going to a restaurant to eat, only to be told that you can’t sit where you want, because you, a deaf person, brought a Hearing Ear dog to assist you.

Imagine the Ontario Government pouring millions of public dollars into developing a new Presto Smart card, to pay your public transit fare, only to find that their fancy new technology is not designed to be accessible to people who can’t read a computer screen. Imagine that this happened even though the Government said it would be accessible, and the needed access technology is readily available.

Ontario has over 1.7 million people who have a physical disability, a sensory disability, a mental health condition, an intellectual disability, or a learning disability. We face too many barriers when trying to get a job, ride public transit, vote in an election, shop for goods in a store, or eat in a restaurant.

Some barriers are physical, like steps in a courthouse. Some barriers are technological, like too many websites that are inaccessible to our adaptive technology. Some barriers are communication barriers, like the lack of Sign Language interpreters when trying to access important public services.

We are the most unusual minority group in society, because we are the minority of everyone. Everyone either has a disability now, or has someone near and dear to them with a disability, or will get a disability later in life. This is because the most common cause of disability is growing older.

Who is the AODA Alliance?

The AODA Alliance is a non-partisan, volunteer coalition of individuals and organizations. We have united to advocate for Ontario to become fully accessible to all people with disabilities through the full and effective implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s disability accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or “AODA.”

Since 1994, we, preceded by our predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, have spearheaded a tenacious campaign across Ontario to tear down the barriers that impede Ontarians with disabilities from fully participating in and benefiting from all that Ontario has to offer. From 1994 to 2005, our predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, led the decade-long fight to win the enactment in 2005 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to all persons with disabilities by 2025. That is only eleven years from now.

It was an exciting day just a little over nine years ago, on May 10, 2005, when the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act on Third Reading. It was amazing to watch all MPPs from all parties rise in unison to give this historic moment a standing ovation. Our politicians are rarely so united over anything these days.

Our movement is widely recognized for our leadership on this important issue, by the media and by all political parties. In every Ontario election since 1995, our organized disability accessibility movement has asked the major parties for specific commitments on what they would do, if elected, to make Ontario become fully accessible to all people with disabilities. In every Ontario election since 1995, at least two of the major parties have made election commitments on disability accessibility. In every case, that commitment has been expressed in letters to our coalition.

We are totally non-partisan. We do not seek to elect or defeat any party or any candidate. In this election, we aim to get the best promises from each party that we can on disability accessibility. We inform voters about the parties’ commitments and records on this issue. We also do our best to help voters with disabilities get around the unfair barriers they can face when trying to vote.

What commitments did we seek from the party leaders?

To understand this, I want to give some background. It is the common experience of persons with disabilities that we are not on schedule for reaching the goal of full accessibility by 2025, on time. We need Ontario’s next Government and Premier to show strong new leadership, to revitalize the implementation of the disabilities Act, and to breathe new life into it.

How does the Disabilities Act work? Most organizations that employ people, or provide goods and services to the public, have no idea that they have barriers impeding persons with disabilities, whether as potential customers or employees. These barriers hurt persons with disabilities. They hurt people who will get a disability later. They hurt our economy. They hurt a company’s bottom line.

Providing accessibility helps everyone. I know that lesson all too well. As a blind person, I had to fight not one, but two human rights cases against the Toronto Transit Commission to force it to announce all bus and subway stops. Those announcements help blind people like me know when it is time to get off the bus or subway. Yet they also help the many sighted people on public transit who cannot see through the crowd, or through the dirty windows, or through a snow storm.

Under the Disabilities Act, the Government must create, enact, and then enforce accessibility standards. These are regulations, enacted sector by sector, that list the barriers that need to be fixed, and that set deadlines by when they must be fixed. They are not one-size-fits-all. Rather, they can set rules that vary depending on whether an organization is public sector or private sector, and depending on whether the organization is large or small.

The Government must create all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025. To date, the Ontario Government has enacted several accessibility standards. However, they are not broad enough, or detailed enough, to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.

Moreover, we revealed last fall that the Ontario Government is now not effectively enforcing these accessibility standards, even though it budgeted for this, and knew of rampant violations of the Disabilities Act in the private sector. Last November, the Government knew that some 70% of private sector organizations with at least twenty employees had violated the Disabilities Act with impunity. Its actions on enforcement since then have been far too little and far too late.

We therefore wrote the major party leaders on March 3, 2014 to list the election commitments we need to get Ontario back on track and on schedule.

On our website www.aodaalliance.org if you go to the What’s New link, you can find:

* our March 3, 2014 letter to the party leaders, setting out the election commitments we seek.

* a summary of the records of the three parties on this issue over the past two decades.

* the letters we received from the three parties, setting out their commitments, and

* a comparison of what they each are offering persons with disabilities.

We sought 19 commitments that boil down to the following eight items:

A. Generally strengthen implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

B. Ensure that all enforceable requirements under the AODA are effectively enforced

C. Develop the new Accessibility Standards under the AODA needed to achieve full accessibility by 2025

D. Ensure taxpayers’ money is never used to create or buttress disability barriers

E. Ensure accessibility of provincial and municipal elections

F. Substantially improve how the Ontario Public Service ensures the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces

G. Complete the overdue promised review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers

H. Foster our ongoing relationship with each party.

What did the Parties promise in this election?

Here’s the bottom line: Each party made some helpful promises. The NDP overall gave a better package of promises. The Liberals were in the middle. The PCs promised the least.

The New Democratic Party commits to

* strengthen the implementation of the Disabilities Act, and not allow any accessibility measures to be weakened.

* create new accessibility standards to address barriers in education, health care, and residential housing, and deciding on all the other accessibility standards needed to get Ontario to full accessibility by 2025.

* release a plan for fully enforcing the AODA.

* ensuring the accessibility of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games and a disability accessibility legacy for the Games.

* ensure public money is not used to create disability barriers.

* meeting with and working together with the AODA Alliance.

* amend Ontario’s Elections Act to address voting barriers facing voters with disabilities, akin to those which the NDP proposed on our behalf in 2010, e.g. to advance telephone and internet voting.

* Designate a specific cabinet minister to be responsible for disability accessibility, and to take the other steps recommended in the 2010 Report of the Charles Beer Independent Review of the Disabilities Act.

* accelerate the Ontario Government’s current review of all Ontario laws to address any disability accessibility barriers in those laws.

Regarding the AODA, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party committed to:

* a goal of removing barriers facing persons with disabilities in areas like education, health care and public housing (but without committing to enact and enforce accessibility standards to address these).

* take seriously the goal of making Ontario fully accessible to persons with disabilities by 2025.

* acknowledging a moral and social responsibility to address voting barriers impeding voters with disabilities.

* work with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues regarding the AODA.

* believe that our education system must minimize barriers for students with disabilities.

* spend tax dollars wisely and ensure public funds are not used to create new disability barriers.

* maintain a strong, open dialogue with the AODA Alliance.

The Liberals offer us less than they have in any of the previous three elections. They commit to:

* increase private sector compliance with the AODA, but don’t say by how much. They say they’ll increase public sector compliance from 99% to 100%, which is inconsequential.

*a helpful new toll free number to report AODA violations, to finally release their overdue action plan on AODA enforcement, and to annually report on their progress on enforcement.

* create a new accessibility standard to address barriers in education, or health care, or both. They don’t say when, after three years of dithering, they’ll finally decide. They admit to creating what is to us a new, improper bureaucratic barrier to getting this decided.

* not to use public money to create or perpetuate disability barriers.

* vague promises on addressing barriers to accessible voting for voters with disabilities, and on continuing their promised review of Ontario laws for accessibility barriers..

Let me offer an analysis of how these stack up:

None of the parties commits to all or even most of what we sought. This can have nothing to do with Ontario’s deficit and debt. The measures we seek can be achieved within the current budget. Indeed, the Economic Development, Trade and Employment Ministry’s Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has been under budget in every year since 2005, totaling some $24 million of appropriate but unused disability accessibility budget.

The New Democrats commit to more than do the Liberals and PC’s, but in some areas, to less than do the Liberals.

The Liberals are in the unique position of having been in power since 2003. The Liberals’ record on this issue started off strong back in 2003. They kept their word to consult with the public and bring forward a strong, mandatory, enforceable accessibility law that applied to both the private and public sectors.

The Liberals did a good job in 2005 of selecting the first five accessibility standards to develop. They commendably worked hard in the early years on getting this legislation implemented.

However, their efforts have taken a troubling turn for the worse in recent years. Since the summer of 2011, their work on this issue has ground down to a virtual stand-still. They are creating no new accessibility standards. They are not effectively enforcing or even effectively educating the public on the accessibility standards they have already created. As the documentation on our website shows, they have a troubling record of making great promises, but too often breaking them in recent years, when it comes to disability accessibility.

Tim Hudak voices support for the Act, commits to dialogue with us, and to not spend public money to create new barriers against persons with disabilities. Beyond this, he doesn’t make the specific commitments for concrete action that we seek.

Perhaps most noteworthy, the PCs have refused to commit that they won’t cut back any of the gains that we have won since 2005 on disability accessibility. For example, they don’t commit that our hard-won new accessibility standards already enacted won’t be repealed or gutted.

We faced this same problem with Mr. Hudak in the 2011 election. If he is promising to cut many Ontario regulations and programs, we want to be sure that ours were not on the chopping block. He has not made that commitment.

During the 2011 election campaign, we tried to get Mr. Hudak to make that pledge on the campaign trail. He said some helpful things, but they didn’t go as far as we want. They are not repeated in his letter to us during this election. What is our strategy that we unveil today for this election?

We have concluded that none of the party leaders have shown enough leadership on this issue, even though there are clear differences among them on what they would do for us. Ontarians deserve a strong accessibility platform that will get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, and that will ensure that we reach that target on schedule.

The problem we face is that many of the members of the Legislature who took part in the decade-long battle for the Disabilities Act have now left Ontario politics. The candidates running across Ontario in this election, and their staffs, don’t have the same background, and may not have the same ambition to make a difference in this area.

We need to roll up our sleeves and start building support again, one MPP at a time, right across Ontario. We need the back benches of each party to demand of their leaders a greater sense of urgency on this issue. Talk is cheap. We need concrete action. If we cannot get the leaders to make all the commitments we seek, we will try to do so, one MPP at a time. If we cannot succeed top-down, then we must try to succeed going from the bottom up.

We also need to focus specific effort on the Progressive Conservative Party. As we did in the 2011 election, we need to press the PCs to make a strong, clear and unambiguous commitment that they will not cut accessibility gains we have made to date, whether in the form of accessibility standards that we won, or other accessibility initiatives. We want to be certain that whichever party wins this election will not turn the clock back on accessibility for persons with disabilities.

We therefore today kick off our call to voters with disabilities and to their friends, families and supporters. Take our accessibility agenda to all the candidates in their own ridings. Tell them that you don’t want to just hear what the leaders have to say. The leaders need the backbenches to lead them! Ask the candidates to personally commit to the commitments that we sought from the parties in our March 3, 2014 letter to the party leaders.

We urge voters to call on every candidate from every party in every riding to personally support our constructive agenda for reaching full accessibility by 2025. We need voters with disabilities and their friends and families to educate and energize candidates, to win their support, and to get the candidates to lobby their own leaders to step up to the plate.

We are very busy harnessing social media to get the word out. We will soon release an action kit that will give people everything they need to swing into action.

We know that our issue too often does not get the headlines during an election campaign. But we know full well that, flying just below that radar, we can have a dramatic impact right across Ontario. That is how we won the Disabilities Act in 2005, after a ten-year long, arduous battle. That is how we will win its effective implementation and enforcement.

How can reporters contact the AODA Alliance for an interview right now? How can members of the public get involved and stay informed?

You can contact the AODA Alliance for an interview right now. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com As the expression goes, operators are standing by!

There are several easy ways for persons with disabilities and people without disabilities to plug into our non-partisan campaign. It’s free. We don’t ask for money from our supporters.

To sign up for AODA Alliance Email Updates, send a request to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

We are very active on Twitter. We tweet accessibility news from Ontario and around the world. We have tweeted to every candidate who has a Twitter handle and have gotten several to respond. Follow us at @aodaalliance

You can also get updates from us by liking our Facebook page: Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Our strength comes from the many Ontarians who know they are part of the minority of everyone, who have a disability now, or who may get one later in life.

The political parties see the information technology sector as a very important growth area for Ontario, especially when trying to expand our sales to international markets. Yet we have no comprehensive plan to ensure that Ontario catches up, much less becomes a world leader, in ensuring that information technology is accessible to all people with disabilities. We are speaking to you from a world-class centre of expertise in this area, right in the heart of Toronto. We have the expertise. It’s time we start harnessing it. We need the Government to be a strong and effective leader. 2025 is under eleven years away.

Thank you for tuning in to our first virtual news conference. Please contact us, and get involved.

Text of Our Summary of the Parties’ 2014 Disability Accessibility Election Commitments

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

Summary of the 2014 Election Disability Accessibility Pledges of the Three Political Parties in the Ontario Legislature

The Commitments We Sought

In our March 3, 2014 letter to the leaders of the three parties in the Ontario legislature, we sought 19 commitments. These were broken down under these eight headings:

A. Generally strengthen implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

B. Ensure that all enforceable requirements under the AODA are effectively enforced

C. Develop the new Accessibility Standards under the AODA needed to achieve full accessibility by 2025

D. Ensure taxpayers’ money is never used to create or buttress disability barriers

E. Ensure accessibility of provincial and municipal elections

F. Substantially improve how the Ontario Public Service ensures the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces

G. Complete the overdue promised review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers

H. Foster our ongoing relationship with your party

To read our March 3, 2014 letter to the party leaders, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03042014.asp

To read the New Democratic Party’s May 11, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out its disability accessibility 2014 election commitments, visit ##

To read the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s May 12, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out its disability accessibility 2014 election commitments, visit ##

To read the Ontario Liberal Party’s May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out its disability accessibility 2014 election commitments, visit ##

Here we provide a summary of what each party promised.

The Ontario New Democratic Party’s 2014 Commitments

* “New Democrats have pushed for amendments to strengthen the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act since it was tabled in 2005. We have also pushed for the creation of new accessibility standards in the areas of health, education and residential housing. We remain committed to this and will strengthen the implementation of the AODA and related initiatives.”

* “New Democrats are committed to the full enforcement of the AODA and will ensure that all agreements are enforced. A NDP government will make it a priority to issue an enforcement plan that ensures action.”

* “The next government will need to determine all accessibility standards to achieve full accessibility in Ontario. New Democrats are committed to doing this as quickly as possible and making Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.”

* “Our plan also includes ensuring the Pan Am Games are fully accessible to all Ontarians. We believe that hosting the Pan Am Games is an ideal opportunity to leave an accessibility legacy.”

* “New Democrats do not support any measure that would weaken accessibility protections in Ontario. Further, we believe it’s the role of government to reduce barriers, not create more. Public dollars should be spent in ways that promote and ensure accessibility for all Ontarians and always in accordance with provincial legislation and standards.”

* “We are committed to meeting with the AODA Alliance and working together to ensure disability barriers are never created.”

* “The Ontario NDP brought forward numerous amendments to Bill 231, the Liberal amendment to the Election Act, which would have strengthened its accessibility provisions. We remain committed to the issues raised and to ensuring full accessibility in elections for both voters and candidates. The NDP would introduce legislation that implements the substantive issues addressed in our amendments to Bill 231.”

* “Designating a Minister responsible for accessibility issues in Ontario is a necessary first step in developing a coordinated strategy to improve accessibility issues in the Ontario Public Service and in program and service delivery. The Ontario NDP supports the recommendations of the Beer report and understands the importance of a coordinated approach to fulfilling the requirements of the AODA.”

* “Andrea and the Ontario NDP believe that a comprehensive review of all Ontario law for accessibility barriers is long overdue. In September 2013, the Liberals made appointments to lead a review of the province’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It was made clear when the review will be complete. The Ontario NDP remains committed to this important undertaking and will accelerate the review process.”

* “Andrea and the Ontario NDP hope to continue working with the AODA Alliance and other stakeholders to ensure Ontarians can access services and businesses in their communities. We would be pleased to meet with your group post-election, regardless of the outcome, to continue working on accessibility issues.”

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s 2014 Commitments

* “The PCs commit to place a particular focus on leveraging the enormous untapped potential of Ontarians living with disabilities who are significantly underrepresented in our provinces workforce.”

* The PC Party does not explicitly commit to develop accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, and residential housing. Its letter states: “Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities. For the Ontario PCs, this remains our goal.”

* “Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and its one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government I lead.”

* “Under our plan, we will move quickly to connect employers to people with disabilities to develop more opportunities and to reduce barriers that exist in the workplace.”

* “Moreover under our Million Jobs Plan, we will take action on a number of important fronts to help people with disabilities succeed. For starters, we will work with employers to develop greater opportunities for individuals with disabilities and to reduce barriers that exist in the workplace. We also believe that the full range of government employment services should be made available to Ontarios disabled community.”

* “We will expand post-secondary education for people with disabilities, so they can develop job-ready skills.”

* “We must also do more to help kids with special needs. All kids benefit when those with special needs have the attention they deserve because it allows teachers to meet the needs of those individual students and the needs of the entire class. We will invest some of the savings we achieve elsewhere in the budget in extra support for schools that are struggling and children with special needs who are having a hard time keeping up.”

* “Theres no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election. Its also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities cant do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.”

* “An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.”

* “The Ontario PC Party believes our education system must minimize barriers for students with disabilities, providing the skills, opportunities and connections with the business community that are necessary to enter the workforce. For example, we need to increase spaces for programs, such as the Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE), which are tailored for people with disabilities in the provinces post-secondary institutions.”

* “Through our Million Jobs Plan, we will be focused on making government affordable and taking steps that will create jobs and better our day-to-day lives. For this reason, we support the AODA Alliances request to spend tax dollars wisely and ensure public funds are not used to create new disability barriers.”

* “Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.”

The Ontario Liberal Party’s 2014 Commitments

* “We continue to fully support the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and its goals.”

* The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) will review Ontario’s existing accessibility standards and develop new accessibility standards. (Note the Government earlier made this commitment in the fall of 2012.)

* “The Ontario Liberal Party is dedicated to pursuing compliance and enforcement action to bring more private sector organizations into compliance with AODA.”

* The Liberals will see to it that public sector organizations’ compliance with AODA obligations rises from 99% to 100%.

* “We will ensure that organizations that fail to comply with AODA requirements are met with monetary penalties and be subjected to prosecution, where necessary.”

* “I am committed to using all enforcement provisions under the AODA to ensure that organizations that do not comply with the law are penalized and to encourage compliance.”

* The Liberals would monthly send out compliance notices under the AODA.

* The Liberals commit “to investigating the possibility of having government inspectors and investigators enforce the AODA within the context of existing resources and as training capacity exists.”

* Promptly after the election the Liberals would “make a detailed plan on all enforcement activities available, along with establishing and publicizing an accessible toll-free phone number to report violations of AODA requirements.”

* The Liberals would “make an annual report publicly available on levels of compliance including the effectiveness of our enforcement measures.”

* “The next accessibility standard we will develop will focus on education and/or health.”

* “We will continue to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against Ontarians with disabilities.”

* “We will ensure that the Ministry of the Attorney General, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Elections Ontario are committed to providing the best possible services to ensure accessible elections.”

* The Liberals pledge to “continue to implement our accessibility obligations and commitments. This includes directing Cabinet Ministers and senior public officials to implement accessibility obligations and commitments.”

* A new position has already been created at the Economic Development, Trade and Employment Ministry “to ensure that accessibility is integrated into all business practices.”

* On the review of all legislation and regulations for accessibility which the Liberals promised in the 2007 election, the Liberals promise to complete a review of 51 high-impact statutes by the end of 2014. “We commit to addressing the findings of the review and continuing to review additional Ontario statutes to remove any potential barriers. We commit to making amendments to regulations to remove accessibility barriers as required based on the findings of the current review and the review of additional Ontario statutes going forward.”

* The Liberals commit to “achieve our goal of full accessibility by the year 2025.”

* The Liberals commit that the Premier’s office is always happy to meet with the AODA Alliance’s representatives.

Text of Our Analysis of the Parties’ 2014 Election Disability Accessibility Commitments

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

Analysis of the 2014 Election Disability Accessibility Commitments of the Ontario Political Parties

In providing this analysis, we emphasize that we are a non-partisan coalition. We do not urge voters to support or defeat any party or candidate. We provide this information for voters to use as they wish.

To see our comparison of the parties’ 2011 election disability accessibility commitments, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220115.asp

To see our comparison of the parties’ 2007 disability accessibility commitments, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/default.asp

To see our comparison of the parties’ overall records on disability accessibility since 1990, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05072014.asp

Analysis of the 2014 Election Disability Commitments of the New Democratic Party

Overall, the NDP clearly makes stronger disability accessibility commitments than either the Liberals or Conservatives.

Only the NDP clearly commits to the three accessibility standards we need the Government to make next, namely accessibility standards to address barriers in health, education, and residential housing. Only the NDP commits to determine, in the next term of government, which other accessibility standards are needed to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.

The NDP makes a strong general commitment to enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and to issue an enforcement plan. However, it does not make the commitment that the Liberals make, to establish a toll-free line to call in AODA violations. As well, the NDP does not make the commitment that the Liberals make, to annually report to the public on levels of AODA compliance and enforcement.

The NDP goes the furthest of any party to commit to a disability accessibility legacy for the Toronto 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games.

Only the NDP explicitly states in its 2014 election commitments that it will oppose any reduction to accessibility measures now in force. However, as noted below, Kathleen Wynne made a commitment on December 3, 2012 while running for the Liberal leadership that covers this ground.

The NDP makes the most detailed commitment for reforms to ensure accessible voting for voters with disabilities. This could possibly bring telephone and internet voting (which the NDP and PCs had supported when presenting unsuccessful amendments in 2010 to a Liberal Government elections reform bill).

Only the NDP promised to designate one minister with lead responsibility for accessibility, and to accelerate the Government’s review of Ontario laws for accessibility barriers.

Analysis of the 2014 Election Disability Commitments of the Ontario Conservative Party

The Ontario PC Party offers Ontarians with disabilities by far the least of the three parties regarding disability accessibility and the implementation of the AODA. The PC Party’s letter also speaks to some other proposed disability-related program initiatives that are separate from the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

The PC Party voices support for the AODA, commits to dialogue with us, and to not spend public money to create new barriers against persons with disabilities. It also voices intentions favouring or support for more employment and education opportunities for people with disabilities. Beyond this, the PCs make none of the specific commitments for concrete action on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that we seek.

Of great importance, the PCs did not commit that they won’t cut back any of the gains that we have won since 2005 on disability accessibility. For example, they don’t commit not to repeal or reduce any accessibility standards enacted to date. This is significant since the PC Party has committed to substantially reduce Ontario regulations. We have no assurance that our accessibility regulations will be kept off the chopping block.

This is the second provincial election in a row where this issue has arisen with the Ontario PC Party. During the 2011 election campaign, we tried to get PC leader Tim Hudak to commit that he will keep our accessibility gains off its chopping block. Mr. Hudak did not then make such a commitment in unequivocal terms. He gave qualified commitments on TV Ontario’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin and at a CP24 Town Hall meeting during the 2011 campaign.

To see Mr. Hudak’s statement on whether he would cut accessibility regulations, during a September 30, 2011 appearance on CP24-TV, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10032011.asp

To see Mr. Hudak’s response when asked about not cutting back on the AODA during his September 28, 2011 appearance on TVOntario’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09302011.asp

Analysis of the 2014 Election Disability Commitments of the Ontario Liberal Party

The Liberal Party’s third term in office since 2003 has shown a dramatic reduction of the rate of progress on accessibility, compared to its first two terms in power. Its election commitments are clearly sparser and thinner than its commitments in any of the last three elections.

The Liberal Party does not here make the commitment we requested, that it will not cut back on gains we previously made regarding accessibility. However, in her December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance, Kathleen Wynne promised to honour all previous Liberal Party disability accessibility commitments. In his August 19, 2011 letter to us, Premier Dalton McGuinty promised: “We will ensure that we maintain and/or strengthen the current provisions and protections in the AODA or any regulations enacted under the legislation.” We hold the Liberals to that pledge.

The Liberal Party’s enforcement commitments are very tepid and weak. They only commit to bring “more private sector organizations” into compliance. Last fall, we made public the deeply disturbing fact that the Government knew that over 70% of private sector organizations with at least 20 employees were violating the AODA. The Government could keep this new commitment by simply getting a handful of those 70% to start to comply with some AODA obligations. The Liberals’ pledge to increase public sector organizations’ compliance from 99% to 100% is similarly trifling.

The Liberals’ letter is inaccurate where it states that the Government has created a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. It states: “We have created enforceable standards including customer service, information and communications, transportation, built environment and employment.”

The Government had repeatedly promised to enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. However, it later decided to instead make limited accessibility amendments to the Ontario Building Code. We fear that these may not be enforceable under the AODA. For that reason, we wrote Kathleen Wynne on June 1, 2012, when she was the Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, to ask the Government to commit to also enact these changes as a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. The Government has never agreed to do so, nor has it given a reason for not doing so. Our March 3, 2014 letter to the party leaders sought a similar commitment in this election . The Liberal party does not make that commitment in its recent letter to us.

In December 2012, the Ontario Government passed a limited accessibility standard to address physical accessibility barriers in such public spaces as recreation and beach trails, public parking, and sidewalks at street corners. However, this only covers a tiny fraction of the built environment. The Government has never claimed that that was a comprehensive response to all the many physical barriers that impede people with disabilities in the built environment.

In this election, the Liberals for the first time commit to investigate the possibility of deputizing Government investigators and inspectors under other legislation to also be authorized to conduct AODA inspections and audits. We have been urging the Government to do this for over three years. We sought this commitment in the 2011 election, but the Liberals refused to commit to it at that time.

The Liberals 2014 election commitment to promptly make public an AODA enforcement plan after the election seems like more of the same. On December 3, 2013, the minister responsible for enforcing the AODA, Dr. Eric Hoskins, said in the Legislature that he already had an enforcement plan. On February 20, 2014, the Toronto Star reported that the Government said that its enforcement plan would be made public “in short order.”

The Liberal’s commitment to establish an accessible toll-free number for the public to report AODA violations is a breakthrough. We have been advocating for this for at least two years.

It is similarly helpful that the Liberals agree to make a public annual report on levels of compliance and the effectiveness of enforcement. Last year, we had to resort to a Freedom of Information application and a ten-month delay just to get such information.

It has taken us at least three years of pressing the Liberals and two elections to finally get them to agree to say something about the next accessibility standard they will choose to create under the AODA. Their commitment that the next accessibility standard will address education and/or health is some progress. Yet here again, it is very tepid.

The Liberals still won’t decide whether they will make accessibility standards to address education, or health care, or both. People with disabilities need full accessibility to both health care and education. They still face too many barriers in each.

The Liberals do not say when they will finally decide this question. They also don’t say when they will decide which other accessibility standards they need to create to ensure Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.

As a serious setback for people with disabilities, the Liberals here for the first time announce a new and deeply troubling bureaucratic barrier to progress. The Liberals’ letter states that “In order to develop a new accessibility standard, the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment has been actively working with the Ministries of Education, Training, Colleges and Universities as well as Health and Long-Term Care to examine where changes and new standards are required to make our education and healthcare systems more accessible. This important work needs to be done prior to broad consultation with the accessibility community.”

This is a serious distortion of the AODA legislation that the Liberals themselves designed. Under the AODA the Ministries of Education, Health and Colleges, Training and Universities do not first develop recommendations for what an accessibility standard will contain. That is the job of an arms-length body appointed under the AODA. The Government assigned that role to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, as Premier Wynne’s letter elsewhere states.

Only after the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council consults the public, and makes a recommendation about an accessibility standard’s contents, does the Government then internally deliberate on which of ASAC’s recommendations it will adopt. Yet here, the Liberals are improperly deciding what an Education and/or Health Care Accessibility Standard should contain before it asks ASAC to develop recommendations on what it should contain. This flies in the face of the AODA’s carefully designed, finely-balanced process for developing accessibility standards.

This is a new bureaucratic roadblock. In 2005, the Government did not go through such extensive bureaucratic hoops before it decided to develop accessibility standards in the areas of transportation, employment, information and communication, and the built environment. Had it done so in 2005, it would have dramatically delayed progress.

Ontario is already behind schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025. We cannot afford any additional bureaucratic delays.

It is good that the Liberals have for the first time explicitly and comprehensively committed that they will “ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against Ontarians with disabilities.” It was inaccurate for the Liberals to write that they will “continue” to do this. For example, there are glaring instances where they have created new disability barriers, using public money, in the recent past.

For example, the Government recently created the new Presto Smart Card for paying public transit fares. It was designed with serious barriers that impede its use by people with vision loss or dyslexia.

The Liberal Party does not make the commitment we sought to ensure a strong disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. In part, the Liberals talk about meeting built environment requirements under the AODA and Ontario Building Code. Yet there are no comprehensive built environment accessibility requirements yet created under the AODA, beyond such things as recreation and beach trails, public parking and new sidewalk curbs. The new Ontario Building Code accessibility requirements are not sufficient to ensure built environment accessibility, even if they apply to these structures.

Neither the AODA standards enacted to date nor the Ontario Building Code sufficiently address our major concern with existing barriers to accessibility in tourism services and facilities such as hotels and restaurants.