In the third review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends needed improvements to the Act. One of these improvements is the need for the AODA to clearly explain the meaning of accessibility. Onley’s review states that many people, including workers in businesses, wonder: what is accessibility? A definition of accessibility in the AODA could help them better meet the needs of people with all disabilities. During public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees outlined the importance of defining accessibility.
What is Accessibility?
The first word in the title of the AODA is Accessibility. Nonetheless, the AODA never defines what accessibility means. As a result, Onley’s review states that many organizations do not understand what their responsibilities are under the AODA. Currently, every person can define accessibility in a different way. Therefore, some organizations believe they are accessible, while customers with a different definition of accessibility disagree.
For instance, Onley’s review describes a hotel that claims to be fully accessible. However, a guest found the bed in his accessible hotel room too high to access from his assistive device. In short, the hotel and the guest defined accessibility differently. While this accessible room may meet some guests’ needs, it did not meet the needs of this guest. As a result, the service experience was disappointing for both the guest and the hotel.
Onley’s review states that a clear definition of accessibility would reduce this confusion for everyone who must comply with or use the AODA. Therefore, the government should define what accessibility means in the context of the AODA. It could place this definition with other terms that are already defined at the beginning of the Act.
some attendees at Onley’s public meetings believe that accessibility should be defined by its outcome. In other words, organizations can claim to be accessible when every customer, client, or worker with a disability experiences no barriers. These attendees believe that organizations should set their own goals for reaching this outcome. In this case, organizations would need more guidance about how to remove all types of barriers for people with different disabilities.
Alternatively, Onley recommends that organizations should have clearer guidelines about specific steps they should be taking now to become accessible by 2025. Furthermore, Onley recommends that after defining accessibility, the government should develop a step-by-step plan to help organizations comply. Onley suggests that the government should have made this plan by the end of 2019. However, this has not been done. Moreover, the first review of the AODA, in 2010, made a similar recommendation. In other words, Ontarians of all abilities have waited at least ten years to learn: what is accessibility?