ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Please Use and Widely Circulate the AODA Alliance’s New Action Kit Which We Unveil Today

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Watch Former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley and AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Interviewed Together on TVOntario’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” Monday February 2, 2015

January 30, 2015

Summary

1. Our New Action Kit is Ready for You!

Today we unveil an important new ten-page Action Kit, set out below. It gives you easy-to-use tips on how to reach out to your member of the Ontario Legislature, and to the media, to press for the Ontario Government to speed up action to get Ontario back on schedule for becoming fully accessible to over 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. Please read this Action Kit.

This Action Kit kicks off our blitz to try to convince every MPP in the Ontario Legislature to speak out for more action on disability accessibility. We need to rebuild support for this issue, because many if not most of the MPPs who were in the Legislature from 1994 to 2005 (when we fought for and won passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) have now left provincial politics.  We have done it before, twenty years ago. Now it is time to do it again! Our new Action Kit shows you how!

Try out this Action Kit’s action tips. Encourage others to read and use it. Let us know what results you get.

2. Watch The Agenda with Steve Paikin Monday February 2, 2015 at 8 and 11 PM on TVOntario

On Monday, February 2, 2015, Ontario’s flagship provincial public affairs program, TVOntario’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” will air a 26-minute interview on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the fight to make Ontario fully accessible to all people with disabilities. Host Steve Paikin interviews both Ontario’s former Lieutenant Governor David Onley and AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky.

We encourage you to watch it. It airs at 8 and 11 pm. Within a couple of days, it will also be available on YouTube.

To see several previous editions of The Agenda with Steve Paikin on this topic, go to www.youtube.com and search on “Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.”

3. Glancing at the Accessibility Clock

We can always count on the Accessibility Clock to keep us up to date. The Government has only nine years and 336 days left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities, as the AODA requires.

A disturbing 438 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the AODA, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised detailed plan for the AODA's effective enforcement. The Government’s November 7, 2014 web posting on AODA enforcement includes little new. It does not constitute the promised detail AODA enforcement plan.

Three hundred and forty-two days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan "in short order." Two hundred and fifty-nine days have passed since Premier Wynne promised to establish a toll-free line for members of the public to alert the Government to accessibility barriers against people with disabilities in the community. None has been announced.

To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement.

To read the Government's February 20, 2014 pledge to publish in "short order" its plan for enforcing the Disabilities Act.

To read the Government’s May 14, 2014 election promise to establish a toll-free line to report disability accessibility barriers.

To read our analysis of the Government’s paltry November 7, 2014 web posting on the AODA’s enforcement.

As well, 520 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games. Only 161 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!

Send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.

Please "like" our Facebook page and share our updates.

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Action Kit – Rebuilding the Ontario Legislature’s Support for Disability Accessibility, One MPP at a Time!

January 30, 2015

1. Introduction

The time has come for bold new action to kick-start stalled action by the Ontario Government, to lead Ontario to become accessible to over 1.8 million people with disabilities. Ontarians with a physical, mental, sensory or learning disability still face far too many barriers every day, when they try to get a job, shop in stores, go to school or university, get health care services, find a place to live, eat in restaurants, ride in a taxi or on public transit, or use public services.

In 2005, the Ontario Legislature proudly and unanimously passed a new law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It requires the Ontario Government to lead this province to become fully accessible to all people with disabilities by 2025 (twenty years). Yet with less than ten years remaining, we are behind schedule for reaching that goal. The Government of Ontario has no plan to get us back on schedule.

It’s not too late for Ontario to get back on schedule for full accessibility. But we need your help. We must convince every member of the Ontario Legislature (MPP) one at a time, to make this a real priority and to press Premier Wynne for bold new action.

It doesn’t matter if you now have no disability. This issue still touches you. You have family members or friends with disabilities. As you get older, you are likely to get a disability later in life. We people with disabilities are the minority of everyone!

This Action Kit gives you everything you need to make a huge difference. It gives you easy-to-use ideas on what you can do in your own community. It explains the problem. It offers you action tips. It even offers points you might want to make when talking to your MPP, his or her staff, your local media, or anyone else you can convince to support our efforts.

After all that, do you want more background than we can cram into these few pages? At the end of this Action Kit, we give you links to great background information, and information on how to contact us. 

Have you never before spoken to an MPP or a news reporter? This Action Kit gives you everything you need to know. Please read on. Try at least one of our action tips. Share this Action Kit with friends and family. Get them to join this new non-partisan grassroots blitz.

A great tool to use in this new blitz is the video and still camera that comes with every smart phone. If you have a smart phone, use it to record accessibility barriers in your community. Let us know what you have tried, and how it worked. Share with us other ideas for grassroots action by people like you. Our contact information is at the end of this Action Kit.

2. Our Goal in this New Province-wide Blitz 

We aim to get every MPP in the Ontario Legislature to speak out in favour of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), to press Premier Wynne for this law to be effectively implemented and enforced, and to urge the Premier to keep her promises on disability accessibility. We want each MPP to help us ensure that Ontario gets back on schedule for becoming fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025, and after that, to stay on schedule.

Why is this new blitz so important? As we discuss later, many if not most MPPs who were in the Legislature in 2005 when the AODA was passed have left provincial politics. Newer MPPs and their staff and advisors don’t know enough about this issue, or treat it as a priority. Just as we convinced MPPs to support the AODA twenty years ago, we have to do it again now, for a new crop of MPPs.

As always, our campaign is non-partisan. We do not support or oppose any political party or candidate. We work with all political parties.

3. Easy-To-Use Action Tips

Action Tip #1: Educate your MPP on the AODA and Get them to Publicly Support Our Call for More Government Action on Accessibility!

* Please visit or phone your local MPP. Educate them. Ask for their support and help. In the next part of this Action Kit, we suggest things you might wish to talk about with them. For a list of all MPPs and their contact information, visit our website at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/01282015.asp or email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com and ask for that list.
 
We need to build support from every MPP across Ontario from all political parties. If your MPP is a Liberal, they can mount pressure within the Government. If your MPP is a Conservative or New Democrat, they can speak out, talk to the media and press their party to speak out more often and more loudly on this issue. In the next part of this Action Kit, we give ideas of what you might want to say. Share your ideas in your own words. 

* It's best to meet your MPP in person. If you can’t, then scheduling a phone call is second best. A letter telling your MPP about your concerns of course helps, if you can’t meet them in person or speak with them on the phone. Any contact with them in any form is always helpful.

* To get a meeting, you will need to first talk to one of their staff members at their local constituency office in your community, or at their Queen’s Park office. Contact information for their offices are all on our MPP List, at the link above. MPPs depend on their staff to fill them in, and help them decide whether they should meet you. Their staff can be very helpful and influential. We recommend you arrange to meet with one of the MPP’s office staff in person, or talk to them on the phone, to tell them in advance everything you want to tell your MPP.

* The ideas set out later in this Action Kit are a helpful guide of what you might want to say. Assume that an MPP’s office staff knows very little if anything about the AODA and disability accessibility issues.

* The MPPs office may tell you that you have to write them a letter or email to ask for a meeting. If so, you might wish to say something like this in a letter to or email to your MPP (It is best to use your own words):

“I would like to meet with my MPP ___. I live in their riding. I want to talk about the need for the Government to do more to ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible to all people with disabilities by 2025. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the Government to lead Ontario to full accessibility by 2025. Progress has been too slow. Please let me know when and where we can meet.”

* When you meet or talk on the phone with your MPP, or with a member of their staff, you might share photos or videos of barriers in your community. If you have a smart phone, record these photos and videos on your phone. Pick barriers that are easy to fix, and that really get in the way.

* Urge your MPP and his or her staff to watch the one-hour captioned video of the AODA Alliance’s November 28, 2014 celebration at Queen’s Park of the 20th anniversary of our campaign for strong accessibility laws in Ontario. In that video, we tell the story of the tough uphill battle we have had to fight for two decades. In it, your MPP and his or her staff can hear from us, and from key former MPPs who helped along the way. To watch the captioned video of the AODA Alliance’s November 28, 2014 Queen’s Park Celebration of the 20th anniversary of the campaign for the AODA.

To watch the captioned 30 minute news conference that the AODA Alliance held at Queen’s Park on November 28, 2014.

* Your MPP and their staff may want to learn more about this issue. You might wish to print up the list of helpful links at the end of this Action Kit and give it to them. You may even wish to give them this entire Action Kit! You can also invite them to visit the AODA Alliance website at www.aodaalliance.org 

* Near the end of your meeting, ask your MPP or their staff member to follow up with specific actions. We give examples below. Ask them when they will get back to you. If you don’t hear back from them, call and remind them.

ACTION TIP #2: Bring Our Disability Accessibility Issues To your Local Media

* Contact your local newspapers, TV and radio stations. Urge them to cover this issue. Email or fax them this Action Kit. Urge them to cover accessibility issues that concern over 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities, as well as their families and friends. Remind them that the huge number of persons with disabilities in Ontario is growing as the population ages. Encourage them to call your MPP, to ask whether your MPP thinks the Government could be doing more to make Ontario accessible to all people with disabilities. 

* Do you personally know any reporters, columnists or editors in your community? Urge them to cover our issues. Use the information in the next part of this Action Kit.

* The news media like a “story” that touches your community, and involves everyday people in everyday situations. That can be you, or your family member, or friends who have experienced a disability!

* If you have a smart phone, video or photograph an obvious accessibility barrier in your community that gets in your way. Let them know you’re trying to get your MPP to take action. 

* Call in to phone-in radio or TV shows to bring our issues to the public's attention. Use this as a chance to educate the audience.

* If a party leader or other Ontario MPP is on a phone-in program, call to ask about our issues. Ask them to commit on the air to press Premier Wynne to speed up and strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

* If you have more time to offer, write a guest column or letter to the editor on our issues for your local newspaper. Feel free to cut and paste as much as you want from our AODA Alliance Updates, and from this Action Kit.

ACTION TIP #3: Community Organizations -- Help Spread the Word and Organize people to contact their MPPs!

Are you a staff member, volunteer, or board member of a community organization, or a religious congregation, or a member of a Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee? You are in a great position to help us spread our message! Please get your organization to use its network to spread the word.

* Get your community organization itself to write Premier Wynne and call for action to speed up progress in Ontario towards full accessibility. The ideas can help your organization write a letter to the Premier, using the points we describe in the next section of this Action Kit.

* Encourage people connected with your organization to sign up for AODA Alliance Email Updates. They can send a request to sign up to aodafeedback@gmail.com

* Get your community organization to send out our AODA Alliance Updates, or excerpts from them, to its staff, board, clients and volunteers. If your organization has a newsletter, include information from our AODA Alliance Updates in that newsletter.

* Urge your community organization to organize people across Ontario to contact their MPPs, to press to get progress towards a barrier-free Ontario speeded up. Suggest that your organization hold a town hall meeting to discuss barriers against people with disabilities. Contact the AODA Alliance for tips on how to organize such an event and to provide a volunteer speaker. Invite your local MPP to attend and speak at that event, and to answer questions from the audience. Urge the media to attend this event and report on it. 

* Get your organization to link its website to the AODA Alliance’s website. Make this link directly to: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/default.asp 

Your link might say “Learn what you can do to help make Ontario fully accessible for over 1.8 million people with disabilities.”

* Urge your community organization to use its contacts in the media to seek more media coverage on barriers in your community and on the need for the Government to speed up progress towards full accessibility.

* Get your community organization to take the steps we list below to spread the word through social media.

ACTION TIP #4: Spread the Word Through Social Media Like Twitter and Facebook!

Use the incredible power of social media to spread the word on our accessibility issues. We have a growing list of followers and supporters through these social media. We send out lots of punchy updates about accessibility in Ontario, elsewhere in Canada, and around the world. We are a recognized social media source of news on disability access. We are proud of how many of our posts are re-tweeted on Twitter and are “liked” on Facebook. 

* If you use Facebook, visit our Facebook page. It is called "Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance." Our Facebook page is available at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Accessibility-for-Ontarians-with-Disabilities-Act-Alliance/106232039438820   

* Let your Facebook friends know about us. Click on your Facebook page that you "like" our Facebook page. “Share” our Facebook” posts with your Facebook friends. Urge your Facebook friends to email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com to receive our AODA Alliance Updates.

* Sign up for Twitter. It is free. Follow us on Twitter. Urge others to follow us as well. Our Twitter handle is @aodaalliance

Re-tweet our AODA Alliance tweets.

4.  Points You Might Want to Make to Your MPP and Others

Expect that your MPP and his or her office staff know very little about the AODA, and about the many barriers that people with disabilities face. Many if not most MPPs were not members of the Legislature when we campaigned from 1994 to 2005 to win The AODA. To them, the AODA is just one of 750 Ontario laws. It may not be a real priority for them. Some MPPs know something about disability accessibility barriers, if they or a family or staff member has a disability.

Making the Needs of People with Disability for True Accessibility Come Alive

How can you make our accessibility needs come alive for your MPP and their staff? Describe specific accessibility barriers that impede you, your family members or friends, when trying to get a job, ride public transit, get an education or health services, shop in stores, eat in restaurants, find a place to live or use public services. Show how frustrating this is.

Ontarians who face barriers include those with a physical disability, a mental disability, a sensory disability, a learning disability, an intellectual disability or a mental health disability. Remind them that we are the minority of everyone. Everyone either has a disability now or gets one later in life. People without a disability today will be the people with disabilities of tomorrow!

Accessibility barriers can be physical barriers (like steps to get into a subway station or doctor’s office), information barriers (like no Braille on elevator buttons in a public building), communication barriers (like no Sign Language interpretation when going to a government office), bureaucratic barriers or even attitude barriers.

These barriers hurt so many people. They help no one. A study conducted for the Ontario Government reported in 2010 that making Ontario fully accessible is good for our economy. It concluded that barriers against people with disabilities are bad for our economy.

Why Did We Need the AODA?

Our non-partisan, grassroots movement was born in late 1994 to make Ontario fully barrier-free for all Ontarians with disabilities. Across Ontario, people with disabilities and their families and friends tirelessly lobbied each Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) one at a time from 1994 to 2005. In 2005, after ten long years of advocating, we achieved a historic victory that many had thought impossible. We got all parties and all MPPs to vote to pass a strong, mandatory, effectively enforced law to make Ontario become fully accessible, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The AODA was passed so people with disabilities won’t have to individually fight these barriers one at a time, by having to sue organizations under the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Charter of Rights, just to remove and prevent each and every individual barrier they face, day after day.

What the AODA Requires the Ontario Government to Do

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. Under the AODA, what is the Government supposed to do?

  1. The Government must pass regulations called “accessibility standards.” These must tell public and private sector organizations what they need to do, and by when, to become fully accessible by 2025. The Government must pass all the accessibility regulations needed to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025.
  2. The Government must effectively enforce all AODA accessibility regulations. It can inspect organizations, audit them, order them to obey the law if they don’t, and even impose monetary penalties. There must be real consequences for organizations that break the law. Otherwise, many organizations won’t take this law seriously.

What Progress So Far?

There has been some progress under the AODA since 2005. However, overall the Government is doing a poor job. Ontario is not the world leader on accessibility that the Government claims to be.

It is great that some barriers have been removed. Yet at the same, time new barriers are still being created. In 2010, the Ontario government launched the new Presto Smart card for paying public transit fares. It promised it would be accessible. Yet it was originally designed so that you had to be able to read a video screen to know your card balance at a bus, train or subway station. That is a barrier for people who can’t read print, like people with vision loss or dyslexia.

The Government is now not creating any new AODA accessibility standards. Years ago, it passed five accessibility regulations. They address barriers in Customer Service, employment, information and communication, transportation and in public spaces like recreational trails.

Even if every organization obeyed all those regulations, Ontario still will not become fully accessible by 2025. Those accessibility regulations don’t sufficiently address many important barriers we face. They mainly prevent some new barriers from being created in the future. They don’t require virtually any existing barriers to be removed.

For over three years we have been asking the Government to make new accessibility regulations to address barriers to education, to health care and to residential housing. People with disabilities, like everyone else, need to be able to get an education, to use healthcare services, and to find a place to live. Yet the Government has dithered for years, rather than deciding on our request.

Making this worse, for years the Government has been breaking its promise to effectively enforce the AODA. In November 2013, the Government knew a huge 70% of private sector organizations with twenty or more employees were violating the AODA, with no Government enforcement. Since we revealed that terrible news in November 2013, the Government has only taken enforcement steps against a tiny fraction of organizations it knows are violating the AODA.

In the 2014 Ontario election, Premier Wynne promised to set up a toll-free number for the public to report AODA violations. Her Government hasn’t kept this promise.

Premier Wynne also promised to direct her cabinet ministers and other senior officials to implement the Government’s promises and duties. Yet she hasn’t done this, months after being re-elected in June 2014. 

There are as many as one billion people with disabilities around the world. Right now Toronto, and indeed Ontario, is not a receptive tourism destination for them. In the summer of 2015, Toronto will host the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. It expects 250,000 visitors. Yet as of now, the Government has announced no specific plans to increase the number of accessible restaurants, hotels, taxis and public transit services, so that people with disabilities can fully enjoy the Games and all Toronto has to offer.

The Government says accessibility means more opportunity for people with disabilities, and more income for businesses. Yet it's dropped the ball on leading Ontario to full accessibility.

It is not enough for the Government to say that there has been some improvement in the past ten years on accessibility. Progress is not fast enough to ensure full accessibility by 2025.

What You Might Ask Your MPP to Do

Ask your MPP to take specific action. No matter what party your MPP belongs to, ask him or her if he or she agrees that the Government should be doing more to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. Ask him to raise this within his or her political party, and with the Premier. Ask him or her to make a statement or ask a question about this in the Legislature, and to send you a copy of what they said.

Let your MPP know you don’t want to just hear a list of all the great things the Government or an opposition party says it is now doing. If your MPP is a member of the Liberal Party, they may start reading to you from cheat notes that the Government sends them, about all the things they have done about accessibility for people with disabilities. You can tell them that we know all about this, and that we have shown that it has not been enough to ensure we reach full accessibility by 2025.

You may wish to tell your MPP you want Premier Wynne to:

  1. Get her Government to fully and effectively enforce and implement the AODA now.
  2. Keep her 2014 election promise to set up the promised toll-free phone number for the public to report AODA violations.
  3. Make sure that there is a big increase in accessibility of restaurants, hotel rooms, taxis, public transit and other tourism services before the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games.
  4. Keep her promise to instruct her cabinet ministers and other senior officials to implement all the Government’s promises and duties on disability accessibility.

Ask for Follow-Up

Ask for specific follow-up. Tell your MPP you want to hear back from them on what new they can get done. Ask them what they plan to do, and when you should hear back from them. Ask them to schedule a follow-up meeting with you.

5. Want More Background? Here are Helpful Links

Our website is chock full of useful background on our non-partisan campaign for a fully accessible Ontario for all people with disabilities. Here is a sampling:

Would you like to see exactly what the Government of Ontario has promised on disability accessibility? Here are links to key letters to the AODA Alliance from the Ontario Government, setting out disability accessibility election pledges:

The Ontario Liberal Government's 2014 disability accessibility election pledges are set out in Premier Wynne's May 14, 2014 letter to us.

Kathleen Wynne's December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out her disability accessibility pledges during the Ontario Liberal party leadership race.

The Ontario Liberal Government's 2011 disability accessibility election pledges are set out in former Premier McGuinty's August 19, 2011 letter to us.

The Ontario Liberal Government’s 2007 election promises to Ontarians with disabilities are set out in former Premier McGuinty’s September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance.

Would you like to learn all about the history of our two-decade-long campaign to make Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities? Check out our on-line captioned video lecture series on disability accessibility.

To read our November 18, 2013 revelation of abject Government enforcement inaction despite knowing of massive violations of the AODA.

In the summer of 2014, the AODA Alliance offered the Government a detailed roadmap on how to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, and to keep its promises on disability accessibility. To read the AODA Alliance’s June 30, 2014 Brief to the Mayo Moran Independent Review of the AODA.

To see how the Ontario Government now has no plan to get Ontario back on schedule to become fully accessible by 2025, and to keep its disability accessibility promises.

6. How to Contact the AODA Alliance and Get Involved 

Contact us, and send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.

Please "like" our Facebook page and share our updates.

Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

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