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Thumbs Up Program: Helpful or Misleading?

By Geof Collis
July 8, 2011

I posted a Press Release “New Program Will Give a “Thumbs Up” that sparked a debate on the Coalition of Ontario Accessibility Advisory Committee (COAAC) forum that has me wondering if Accessibility Advisory Committees (AAC) are working in isolation as the Charles Beer Report alludes to.

While it has been written in the Press Release as “New Program” it has been around for a while in other Municipalities, going back as far as 2007 and has its drawbacks as was shared in some of the conversation in the COAAC forum:

The Thumbs Up program gives retailers and business’ a false sense that they have achieved accessibility when an AAC creates a very short list of accessibility needs, usually 2040 or so.

The decal will be displayed in the store front, which the blind can’t read. With the CSS and IAR now legislated, AAC’s should be promoting becoming compliant with the CSS this January 1 of 2012 instead of letting business’ believe that they are now accessible under the “Thumbs Up” program.

I’d rather see the private sector get behind the Customer Service Standard this January than the Thumbs Up program.

well put!

A similar checklist has been promoted throughout essex county, and was distributed at the AAC regional forum in london, that allow a business, for example, to choose one: self-opening doors, disabled push button, or doorbell. if a business chooses the doorbell and gets a sticker, how accessible is it? a doorbell is the most undignified option and goes against the intent of the human rights code, but it is being touted as an option.

I’d like to know what criteria an AAC uses to develop the checklist.

Valid points, with many other unanswered questions.

With no Built Environment Standard in place yet, how can an AAC decide if it is Accessible and on what authority does any AAC have to decide the Accessibility of any business, as far as I know they are “Advisory” Committees only.

As stated from the Government in a posting from the AODA Alliance at

The Accessible Built Environment Standard is still under development. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) are working together to complete a careful analysis of the proposed standard. In addition, you may be aware that the Standards Development Committee identified a number of areas where additional research was required in order to develop regulations, which were not part of the Final Proposed Standard. These additional recommendations are also part of our analysis of the Standard Development Committee’s recommendations.

We are working hard to make sure that the requirements put forward are clear, consistent and enforceable, and build on current accessibility requirements. Once this analysis is complete, the government will make decisions on what requirements will be proposed as regulations and when they will come into force.

How can an AAC give a “Thumbs Up” to a Business when the Law isn’t even in place?

In fact the City of Kawartha lakes has already givne out a “Thumbs Up” decal to a Business, a “Gold” one at that, A Gold “Thumbs Up” to A Buy and Sell Shop

What happens if a Disabled person has an issue not covered in the Program, how likely is it that they will be told that their local AAC has given the “Thumbs Up” and your going to have to either have to go to your AAC , AODA Enforcement or worse, Human Rights Commission.

A lot of the items covered in the Press Release and the Checklist from and seem to be less about the Law and more about common sense and safety.

As stated in the above document at

*** Disclaimer:
This information is being provided as a community service only
and does not imply that this location is 100% barrier free or safe.

The Thumbs Up program and all partner agencies are not responsible for any claims made against this location.

As long as Business understands the limitations of such programs then in theory it should be a good way to raise awareness of Accessibility, however that isn’t always the case and in the example that I wrote about “Essential Accessibility” is “Not Essential to Meeting the Integrated Accessibility Standards (IAS) some Business/Municipalities will take the path of least resistance leaving the Disabled to play catch up as usual.

Helpful or Misleading?