By Victor Schwartzman
March 28, 2014
With the new Game of Thrones season coming up, we were inspired, said Minister Eric Hoskins on launching his new programme for AODA enforcement. As politicians we must be strong! Heads will roll!
An article posted recently on Accessibility News, by Jennifer Brown, notes that Some labour and employment lawyers say they are receiving calls from clients who have been notified they are going be audited by the Ministry of Economic Development Trade and Employment because they didnt know about the legislation and failed to file a compliance report by December 2012. The effort was described as a crackdown.
The new programme? 2,500 companies received letters from the Government demanding compliance. 2,000 companies responded appropriately, with a report. Whether they actually had or created access is unknown, but they did file a report. The remaining 500 companies have now been advised they will face audits and possible AODA compliance orders for failing to file required forms on access.
36,000 businesses in Ontario failed to file a customer service standard report.
500 to 36,000. The odds still appear to favour businesses which ignore the law.
However, if you are feeling cynical, know that if they continue to ignore Provincial law, itll cost them: they may be fined! big time! Between $500 and $2,000. Of course, for a big company, thats less than lunch money. So the intimidation and Game of Thrones threat is more, according to Minister Hoskins, in the principle. Of course, breaking the law for an easy $500 is also a principle.
The Ontario Government access steamroller will continue in 2014 with a whopping additional (or do they include the 500 already involved?) 1,700 access audits. That could be a grand total of 4,200 companies out of 36,000. Or maybe less than 4,200, as it is not clear that the Ontario Government has hired the additional qualified staff to conduct the audits.
True, many of the companies involved are small businesses which do not have big budgets for attorneys. Also true is that the same businesses manage other laws more complex, such as taxes. True, AODA is a new law. True, AODA is already ten years old. How old do you have to get before you are no longer new? In Ontario, apparently a law has to be way older than a decade. True, the access reporting forms are new and more work for businesses. True, those forms (often vague online questionnaires for businesses to fill out with general responses requiring no facts) came out a couple of years ago or longer, with services available to help businesses.
The truth can be elusive when money and effort are involved. This is especially true for the Ontario Government, which is well into an election year. But the truth now is clear. Here we finally have an example of a Government putting its energy into where its mouth has been for so long!
Being cynical serves no one. After a decade, some standards on some issues have been developed by which governments and businesses can be judged on access. Adding to the momentum is now, a few years after some standards were developed, Minister Hoskins.
4,200 companies out of 36,000 complying with audits by the end of 2014, close to a decade after AODA became law! Anyone but a misanthrope would be bowled over by this rush of activity. At this rate, by the time AODA legally should have completed its work in 2025, maybe 20,000 out of 36,000 Ontario companies would have filed AODA reports!
It would take another eight years to get all those reports filed and audits done. That takes us to 2033. Once all the reports are filed, and the audits done, then action can be taken on creating access. Yes, while some may find it slows the process, laying the foundation of access by establishing solid paperwork by 2033 demonstrates the Governments commitment to not merely enforcing its own law, but to what access itself is all about.
So we truly congratulate Minister Hoskins and the Ontario Government, and as we watch Game of Thrones, we will think of them!
Next: The Move Is Over. Boxes Unpacked. Now What?
Victor Schwartzman contributes this weekly satiric column to Accessibility News nothing in these columns is true except what they are about. His graphic novel (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He also contributes a monthly poetry review to http://www.targetaudiencemagazine.com. and does an on-air review monthly for the World Poetry Café on CFRO-FM in Vancouver. He has had poetry and short fiction published, and has edited novels. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.