ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

AODA ALLIANCE PRESSES MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT FOR SPECIFICS ON HOW IT PLANS TO KEEP ITS OFT-REPEATED ELECTION PLEDGE TO EFFECTIVELY ENFORCE THE ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

January 24, 2013

SUMMARY

On January 22, 2013, the AODA Alliance wrote Community and Social Services Minister John Milloy, who has lead responsibility for implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We asked the minister for specific details on the Government's plans to keep its promise to effectively enforce the AODA. This letter is set out below.

Our letter to Minister Milloy points out that all private sector organizations with 20 or more employees that provide goods or services in Ontario were required to file an accessibility report with the Government by December 31, 2012. These reports must indicate whether the organization is in compliance with the requirements of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard that the Government enacted under the AODA back in July 2007, over five years ago. We ask the minister how many of those organizations have fulfilled this requirement, and how many have not. We ask what the Government plans to do to enforce this reporting requirement for those organizations that did not file the required accessibility report with the Government. We also ask what other plans the Government has for enforcing this legislation.

We have been trying for years to get the Government to effectively enforce the AODA. For example:

* Read about our fall 2012 Dial Dalton blitz to press for the AODA's enforcement by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10292012.asp

* Read a status report on efforts to get the AODA effectively enforced as of June 15, 2010 by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06152010.asp

We have heard from Ontarians with disabilities that they are frustrated with the slow pace of the AODA's implementation, and want to see strong and effective action to enforce this legislation and the accessibility standards that are enacted under it. You can help our shared efforts to make progress. We encourage you to

* Email or call Minister Milloy to endorse and support our request in our January 22, 2013 letter for specifics on how the Government plans to keep its pledge to effectively enforce the AODA. That letter, set out below, includes his email and regular mail addresses;

* Contact your member of the Ontario Legislature, and as many other MPPs as you can. Urge them to press the Government to promptly announce detailed plans for the effective enforcement of the AODA.

* Let us know what you are told when you make these effort.

* Urge others to do the same, by widely circulating this Update.

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

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TEXT OF THE JANUARY 22, 2013 LETTER FROM THE AODA ALLIANCE TO MINISTER JOHN MILLOY

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email:   aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance
Visit: www.aodalliance.org 
 
January 22, 2013

via email:  john.milloy@ontario.ca;
Hon. John Milloy, Minister
Community and Social Services
6th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1E9

Dear Minister,

Re: Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005

For many years, your Government has promised that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) will be effectively enforced. Premier McGuinty most recently reiterated this important pledge during the 2011 Ontario election. His August 19, 2011 letter to us states: "• We remain committed to ensuring effective enforcement of the AODA." That letter is publicly available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp

Section 14 of the AODA requires that by December 31, 2012, all private sector organizations in Ontario with 20 or more employees must have filed with your Ministry an accessibility report regarding their compliance with The Customer Service Accessibility Standard. These accessibility reports had to report to the Government on that organization's compliance with the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

The Customer Service Accessibility Standard aims to ensure that public and private sector organizations that provide goods or services in Ontario, have customer services that are accessible to persons with disabilities. This Standard requires these public or private sector organizations to establish customer service accessibility policies, to provide notice of service disruptions to the public in certain circumstances, to provide training to relevant employees of that organization on ensuring accessible customer service to persons with disabilities, and to establish a process for getting feedback from customers with disabilities.

Organizations with 20 or more employees must create a written accessibility policy including, among other things, procedures regarding service disruption that is available to the public on request. They must keep written records regarding training of employees on accessible customer service. They must have a written record describing their customer service feedback system.
      
We would like to know how many private sector organizations with 20 or more employees have filed those required accessibility reports by the December 31, 2012 deadline. Of the private sector organizations who were required to file an accessibility report by the end of 2012, how many have not filed the required report? What is the total number of organizations that were required to meet the December 31, 2012 filing deadline?

We would also like to know in detail what your Government's specific plans and time lines are for enforcing compliance with AODA standards. For example:

1. What plans does your Government have for enforcement in the case of any private sector organization with 20 or more employees that has not filed the required accessibility report for the Customer Service Accessibility Standard? What financial penalties will you be seeking? What time lines have you set for various stages of enforcement? In relation to how many such organizations do you plan to take each successive step for enforcement? In other words, we want to know what enforcement steps you will be taking, and in relation to how many organizations.

Enforcement of this reporting requirement should be extremely easy. Your Ministry will now know which organizations have to report and which in fact have reported. Either an organization is in compliance or it is not.

2. What plans does your Government have for auditing private sector organizations for compliance with the Customer Service Accessibility Standard? For how many organizations per year? The accessibility reports that organizations must file under the AODA are simply self-reports. In them, an organization states whether it is in compliance with the standard. A key part of enforcement is going beyond such self-reporting, lest the legislation be nothing more than a form of voluntary compliance.

Enforcement here as well should be easy to do. The Customer Service Accessibility Standard requires that organizations have certain required documentation regarding their accessibility policies, practices, training and customer feedback systems. It should be readily apparent to any Government officials who take enforcement steps under the AODA that an organization either has the required documentation, or it does not.

3. We appreciated receiving a briefing some months ago about initial compliance initiatives regarding public sector organizations. Building on that information, what steps has your Government taken since 2010 to audit compliance by public sector organizations with the Customer Service Accessibility Standard? How many public sector organizations must comply with that standard? How many have been audited? What has been the aggregated result of these audits? In what number and in what percentage of cases were the audited public sector organizations in full compliance? To what extent, if any, did the audits reveal a situation different from that found in that organization's accessibility report that it had filed with the Ministry?

4. In how many cases has the Ministry levied a financial penalty against a public sector organization for non-compliance with the Customer Service Accessibility Standard? What was the amount of the fines, if any? Were there any appeals from these fines? If so, what was the result of the appeals?

5. What plans does the Ministry now have to go beyond auditing an organization's documentation? It is not good enough for an organization to have required pieces of paper on file, or in a computer. It is important for these documents to be translated into actual removal and prevention of barriers against persons with disabilities in customer service.

6. What specific plans does your Government have for enforcing the requirements of the Integrated Accessibility Regulation? It addresses barriers against persons with disabilities in transportation, employment, public spaces, and information and communication. A number of its provisions have already gone into effect, or will shortly go into effect.

 7. What steps has your Government taken to date to publicize to obligated organizations that it will be actively enforcing these standards? What plans does the Government have for conveying this to obligated organizations now or in the future?

There is no good reason why all organizations would have not filed an accessibility report on the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and to have implemented that Standard's other requirements by now. Private sector organizations in Ontario with 20 or more employees have had a great deal of time to comply with it. This accessibility standard was enacted back in July 2007, over five years ago.

Public sector organizations were required to file accessibility reports regarding their compliance with this Standard much earlier, over two years ago.  Your Government has made available free resources to aid organizations to comply. Your Government has several times made public the high percentage of broader public sector organizations that have reported their compliance with the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

Many Ontarians with disabilities were very appreciative during the previous Mike Harris Conservative Government in Ontario, when your Party vigorously argued that to be meaningful, disability accessibility legislation had to be enforced, and not voluntary and self-enforcing. Your Party spearheaded the landmark October 29, 1998 resolution, introduced by MPP Dwight Duncan, and which the Legislature unanimously passed on October 29, 1998. That resolution called for a Disabilities Act that, among other things, would be effectively enforced.

In both the 1999 and 2003 elections, your Party promised a Disabilities Act that would fulfil the Legislature's October 29, 1998 resolution. Therefore, your party has promised effective enforcement in writing in three different elections in 1999, 2003 and 2011. 

Your Government's current approach to the enforcement of this legislation is critically important to us. How your Government approaches organizations that are not complying with the simple and basic requirement to file accessibility reports under the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, as well as to all other requirements under the various standards enacted under the AODA, is a litmus test of the Government's oft-repeated promise of effective enforcement of this law. Obligated organizations will be watching the Government, to see if it means business about enforcing the AODA. If the Government does not effectively enforce as simple a requirement as the filing of accessibility reports under the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, this will signal whether they need to expect any enforcement of the substantive accessibility requirements in the various AODA accessibility standards.

We recognize that enforcement must be coupled with other strategies to best ensure that the AODA is effectively implemented. However, without effective enforcement, we fear that any other strategies would pale, as the AODA would fade into voluntary legislation that your Party rightly condemned as inadequate, during the previous Harris Government.

We would appreciate hearing back from you as soon as possible, with as many specifics as possible. The time has come when the Government must act, to fully and effectively enforce this important legislation.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.
Chair, AODA Alliance
 
cc:  Premier Dalton McGuinty, fax (416) 325-3745, dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-5240, marg.rappolt@ontario.ca
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, Ministry of Community and Social Services, fax (416) 325-9620, ellen.waxman@ontario.ca