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McGuinty Government Commits That Revamped Accessibility Council Will Develop New Accessibility Standards Under the Disabilities Act- but No Commitments on Which New Standards or by When

MANITOBA GOVERNMENT PLEDGES TO INTRODUCE A PROVINCIAL DISABILITIES ACCESSIBILITY LAW IN 2013

January 21, 2013

SUMMARY

Today there have been two newsworthy developments concerning the efforts to achieve accessibility for persons with disabilities in Canada.

1. McGuinty Government Announces Revamped Accessibility Standards Advisory Council to Review Existing Accessibility Standards and to Develop New Accessibility Standards

Today, the McGuinty Government issued a news release, set out below. It announces the establishment of a revamped Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC). ASAC, which has existed under the AODA since that law was passed in 2005, will now have a new mandate to review the existing accessibility standards that have been enacted under the AODA and to develop new standards.

This announcement responds to a recommendation of the 2010 Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA. That Review proposed that instead of setting up a different Standards Development Committee under the AODA each time the Government wants to develop or review an accessibility standard, the Government should create a single, streamlined body that will develop and review all accessibility standards under that legislation.

This part of the news release is not new. Last fall we made this information public, and commended the Government for revamping the role of ASAC. You can read the AODA Alliance’s October 31, 2012 Update on the revamped role of ASAC by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11052012.asp

We supported this recommendation in the 2010 Charles Beer Independent Review Report. We have been urging the Government for over two and a half years to implement it.

What is new today, and a positive step (though an overdue one), is this news release’s commitment in unequivocal terms that new standards will be developed under the AODA. The news release states that the new ASAC’s mandate will include, among other things, responsibility to “Develop new accessibility standards based on the advice and feedback we have received to date from stakeholders.” By stating that the new standards will be created “based on the advice and feedback we have received to date,” the Government is committing that there does not need to be any more consultations before it decides what the topic of the new accessibility standards will be.

We have been urging the Government for several years to embark on the creation of new accessibility standards. The standards that have been developed to date, while helpful, do not address anywhere near the full range of barriers that need to be removed or prevented to ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible by 2025, as the AODA requires.

We have been waging an ongoing campaign for quite some time to get the Government to commit that the next three accessibility standards to be developed will address barriers in our education system, barriers in our health care system, and barriers to access to residential housing. To learn more about our campaign to get the Government to commit to develop these three new accessibility standards next, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07102012.asp

The need for these three new accessibility standards was most recently discussed during AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s January 16, 2013 interview on TVOntario’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin”. To watch the January 16, 2013 interview by David Lepofsky on “The Agenda with Steve Paikin on Youtube, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHWxUCzhTsU

In his August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his 2011 election pledges on disability accessibility, Premier McGuinty promised that his Government, if re-elected, would consult us and the public on which accessibility standards should be developed next. We have been pressing the Government for a year and a half to keep that promise. You can read Premier McGuinty’s August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp

We are very disappointed that today’s news release does not specify when the Government will decide which new accessibility standards it will create next. It is important for the Government to now decide what the topic of those new accessibility standards will be, and to promptly get on with the work of having ASAC develop them. There is no reason for any further delay. There is now less than 12 years to go before Ontario reaches 2025, the date by which this province must become fully accessible to persons with disabilities. Ontario is behind schedule for meeting that 2025 deadline.

2. Manitoba Government Commits to Introduce a New Disability Accessibility Act this Year

We support and encourage any and all efforts to enact strong, effective, mandatory disability accessibility legislation across Canada. Manitoba has benefitted for several years from the amazing and tenacious advocacy efforts of Barrier-Free Manitoba, a non-partisan grassroots coalition that has campaigned to win the enactment of a Disabilities Act in that province. Barrier-Free Manitoba’s legislative agenda builds on our efforts in Ontario. We have been doing what we can to help them along.

As a major stride forward, thanks to the relentless efforts of Barrier-Free Manitoba, on January 21, 2013, the Manitoba Government released an 11-page White Paper that commits to introduce a Manitobans with Disabilities Act this year. The text of that White Paper can be found at http://www.aoda.ca/government-response-to-recommendations-of-the-accessibility-advisory-council-for-a-made-in-manitoba-accessibility-act/. As you read it, you will see echoes of Ontario’s experience.

We congratulate Barrier-Free Manitoba for their efforts and commend the Manitoba Government for this great news.

To learn more about the great work of Barrier-Free Manitoba, visit www.barrierfreemb.com/

For background on some of our efforts to assist Barrier-Free Manitoba, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06302011.asp

In contrast, the Government of Canada committed six years ago to enact a Canadians with Disabilities Act. We need strong, effective disability accessibility legislation at the federal and provincial level, to ensure that all barriers facing persons with disabilities are effectively addressed. To read Prime Minister Harper’s February 6, 2007 commitments to enact a Canadians with Disabilities Act, visit http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=1522

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

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TEXT OF MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT’S JANUARY 21, 2013 NEWS RELEASE

New Council to Help Make Ontario Even More Accessible
McGuinty Government Improving Independence for People of all Abilities

NEWS

January 21, 2013

Ontario has appointed a new council to help remove barriers for people with disabilities.

In response to recommendations by Charles Beer’s review of Ontario’s accessibility law http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/publications/accessibility/charles_beer/tableOfContents.aspx , the government is establishing the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/accessibility/partnerships/ASAC/index.aspx . This new council will be chaired by Jim Sanders, former president and CEO of CNIB. The immediate mandate of the new council will be to:

* Review Ontario’s five existing accessibility standards.
* Develop new accessibility standards based on the advice and feedback we have received to date from stakeholders.

Since the introduction of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_05a11_e.htm in 2005, Ontario has implemented standards that cover customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation and the design of public spaces. The most recent set of standards, the design of public spaces, became law on Jan. 1, 2013. As part of a phased-in approach, this newest standard will take effect in 2015 for the government, with full implementation by 2018.

Making Ontario more accessible is an important part of the McGuinty government’s plan to create opportunities for Ontarians and improve independence for people of all abilities.

QUOTES

“Ensuring that Ontario is a place where every person who lives or visits can participate fully makes good sense – for our people, our businesses and our communities. This council will play a key role in making sure Ontario meets its goal of becoming accessible to people of all abilities by 2025 by maintaining the standards we have established and overseeing the development of new ones.”

– John Milloy, Minister of Community and Social Services

“The changes the government has made to the mandate and structure of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council respond positively to a key recommendation in the first Independent Review of Ontario’s accessibility standards legislation, which I had the privilege of leading. I believe the new Council will play a key role in reviewing and developing accessibility standards on behalf of all Ontarians with disabilities.”

– Charles Beer, Independent Reviewer, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

“Ontario has shown a real commitment to making the province accessible to people with disabilities. I’m honoured to lead this new advisory council. I look forward to working with council members to continue helping people of all abilities participate in their communities.”

– Jim Sanders, Chair, Accessibility Standards Advisory Council

QUICK FACTS

§ One in seven Ontarians has a disability – that’s 1.85 million people. Over the next 20 years, that number will rise as the population ages.

§ Ontario’s accessibility law affects 360,000 businesses and organizations throughout the province.

§ People with disabilities have an estimated spending power of $25 billion annually across Canada.

LEARN MORE

Find out how Ontario is becoming accessible by 2025 http://www.ontario.ca/AccessON