ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Ontario's Three Major Parties answer the AODA Alliance's Survey Seeking Disability Accessibility Commitments in the Two February 13, 2014 By-Elections - Only the NDP Made All Accessibility Commitments We Seek

February 12, 2014

Summary

Ontario's three major political parties with seats in the Ontario Legislature have each responded to the AODA Alliance's by-election survey questions. We sought disability accessibility commitments in the run-up to the February 13, 2014 by-elections in the Thornhill and Niagara Falls ridings. We now make these party responses public. We set out the actual emails from the three parties, below, in the order they were received on February 11, 2014.

We and, before us, our predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, have been raising non-partisan disability accessibility issues and seeking commitments since as far back as the 1995 Ontario general election. In the upcoming by-elections, we asked candidates if they support our call for the Ontario Government to develop new accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 (AODA), to address barriers in education, health care, and residential housing. We also asked candidates if they support our call for the Government to act now to effectively enforce the AODA, and to reveal its plans for doing so. Finally, we asked the candidates if they agree that the Government should act now to ensure that public money isn’t used to finance the creation of new barriers against people with disabilities or to perpetuate existing barriers.

Only the New Democratic Party made all the commitments we requested. The parties made these commitments:

1. Regarding our call for the Government to develop new accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care and residential housing:

* The NDP said Yes

* The Liberals and Conservatives spoke in support of accessibility but did not make this specific commitment.

For over two and a half years, we have been advocating for these to be our next three accessibility standards developed in Ontario.

2. Regarding Our Call for the Ontario Government to Effectively Enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and to reveal its enforcement plans:

* The NDP committed to enforcement.

* The Liberals spoke about their enforcement activities and agreed that the AODA should be enforced, but beyond this, did not make this specific commitment.

* The Conservatives said the Ontario Government should reveal its enforcement plans but otherwise made no specific commitment to effectively enforce the AODA.

Last fall, we made public conclusive proof of rampant non-compliance in the private sector of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. As of last November, the Ontario Government had not inspected, audited or imposed any monetary penalties on any private sector organization, despite having allocated funds that could be used for enforcing the AODA. The Government has said that it has a plan for enforcement but has not made it public. 

3. Regarding Our Call for the Government to Ensure that Public Money is Not Used to Create or Perpetuate Barriers Against People with Disabilities:

* The NDP appears to have made this commitment.

* The Liberals and Conservatives spoke in support of accessibility but did not make this specific commitment.

We urge you to widely circulate this information. Urge voters in the two ridings holding Ontario by-elections to take this information into account. As a non-partisan community coalition, we do not endorse or oppose any party or candidate.

Full background on our non-partisan strategy during the two Ontario February 13, 2014 by-elections, including our “Action Kit” for accessibility advocacy in the February 13, 2014 by-elections.

To see the major parties' accessibility commitments in the campaign for the five August 1, 2013 Ontario by-elections.

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February 11, 2014 Email from NDP Niagara Falls Riding Candidate Wayne Gates to the AODA Alliance

A barrier free Ontario questionnaire:

1.  Will you support our call for the Ontario Government to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the Disabilities Act, to make Ontario's education system fully accessible to students, parents, and education staff with disabilities?

Yes. I'm proud that Ontario's New Democrats have fought to build an accessible Ontario. I support all efforts to ensure we get back on track to meeting our province's goal of full accessibility to people with disabilities by 2025. I understand that important stakeholders in the education system support an accessibility standard because they know that accessibility is of vital important for students, teachers, staff, and parents. I will work with the AODA Alliance and other stakeholders to support accessible education at all levels, including pre-school, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary.

2.  Will you support our call for the Government to develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard to make our health care system's services fully accessible to patients and health care providers with disabilities?

Yes. The NDP has always been the champion for public healthcare in Ontario. For me, public healthcare is about eliminating barriers and ensuring that every Ontarian can access the care they need, when they need it. Ensuring full accessibility to persons with disabilities at hospitals, clinics, and other health facilities is vital to delivering on the original promise of public healthcare.

3.  Will you support our call for the Ontario Government to develop a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard to address our crisis of accessible housing in Ontario?

Yes. We all know that everyone needs a place to live - and ensuring accessibility in residential housing is an important next step in making our province fully accessible. The Ontario NDP will continue to work with all stakeholders on additional opportunities to strengthen accessibility requirements in Ontario.

4.  Will you support our call for the Government to act now to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act, and to reveal its plans for enforcing this important law?

Yes. Ontario's New Democrats are committed to the full enforcement of the AODA. While the Liberals have failed repeatedly to honour their election pledges, resulting in unacceptable levels of non-compliance, New Democrats are working to strengthen enforcement. We know that it's time for the provincial government to take the AODA seriously, ensure proper inspections, and recommit to making our province fully accessible to persons with disabilities.

5.  Will you support our call for the Government to now implement effective action to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities, or to perpetuate existing barriers?

It's the role of government to reduce barriers, not create more. I believe that public dollars should be spent in ways that promote and ensure accessibility for all Ontarians. Ontario's New Democrats are committed to implementing measures that ensure the responsible, accountable expenditure of public funds. And we believe that funding should always occur in accordance with provincial legislation and standards, including our commitment to full accessibility.

Wayne Gates Campaign

February 11, 2014 Email From Liberal Thornhill Candidate Sandra Yeung Racco to the AODA Alliance

1. Will you support our call for the Ontario Government to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the Disabilities Act to make Ontario’s education system fully accessible to students, parents, and education staff with disabilities?

Ontario Liberals have been exploring possible new standards to be developed. Along with the options below, we have been consulting with the broader accessibility community to determine how best to move forward with any new standards.

Five accessibility standards are now law under the AODA: customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation, and the design of public spaces, but we know we can do more.

School boards are required to develop multiyear accessibility plans outlining their strategy to prevent and remove barriers, and to meet the requirements of the AODA. School boards and educational institutions are also required to provide educators with accessibility awareness training related to accessible program or course delivery and instruction. Finally, recognizing that transportation can often be a difficulty for Ontarians with accessibility issues, each school board is required to develop individual school transportation plans for each student with a disability.

2. Will you support our call for the Government to develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard to make our health care system’s services fully accessible to patients and health care providers with disabilities? 

Ontario Liberals are committed to enhancing accessibility standards across Ontario and we will continue working with our stakeholders to ensure that accessibility is integrated into all we do in Ontario. The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Committee has the power to advise government on new accessibility initiatives. Five accessibility standards are now law under the AODA: customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation, and the design of public spaces, but we know we can do more.

3. Will you support our call for the Ontario Government to develop a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard to address our crisis of accessible housing in Ontario?

As mentioned above, the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Committee has the power to advise government on new accessibility initiatives. It will allow us to streamline and strengthen the way we review and develop accessibility standards.  We look forward to their recommendations on new accessibility initiatives for ways we can advance accessibility standards in Ontario.

Five accessibility standards are now law under the AODA: customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation, and the design of public spaces, but we know we can do more.  Residential Housing is a critical area of concern for all Ontarians. That’s why Ontario Liberals recently announced amendments to the building code, effective Jan. 1, 2015, that will substantially enhance accessibility in newly constructed buildings and existing buildings that are to be extensively renovated. These changes are part of our commitment under the AODA to achieve the goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025.

4. Will you support our call for the Government to act now to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act, and to reveal its plans for enforcing this important law?

I support the Act and agree that it needs to be enforced.  Our goal is to support organizations in meeting their accessibility requirements across the province. We work directly with organizations by providing free tools and resources to help organizations understand and meet their accessibility requirements. Since taking office, Ontario Liberals have doubled the number of companies that are complying with these standards. Of course, there is still more to do.  Our government is the first to use all enforcement tools available to us under the AODA. We are in the process of fining companies that have not filed their compliance reports.

Your organization's advocacy on this issue has been critical in promoting our government's strategy to enforce the AODA.  Our strategy includes a combination of public information, providing assistance to companies looking to come into compliance and penalties for those who do not.

5. Will you support our call for the Government to now implement effective action to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities, or to perpetuate existing barriers?

Ontario is a leader in accessibility. The province is one of the first regions in the world to move to a modern regulatory regime that mandates accessibility and require staff to be trained in accessibility. As well, we are the first province in Canada to introduce legislation that sets out a clear goal and time-frame for accessibility by 2025. We are committed to a fair and transparent government and we recognize that inclusion and equality have a broad and sustaining social and economic impact for Ontario as a whole.  I'm interested in learning more from you about what would constitute effective action.

February 11, 2014 Email from Liberal Niagara Falls Candidate Joyce Morocco to the AODA Alliance

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questionnaire. My apologies for the delay in responding, but I trust your concerns are addressed here in my answers below.
Thank you again.

1. Will you support our call for the Ontario Government to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the Disabilities Act to make Ontario’s education system fully accessible to students, parents, and education staff with disabilities?

Ontario Liberals have been exploring possible new standards to be developed. Along with the options below, we have been consulting with the broader accessibility community to determine how best to move forward with any new standards.

Five accessibility standards are now law under the AODA: customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation, and the design of public spaces, but we know we can do more.

School boards are required to develop multiyear accessibility plans outlining their strategy to prevent and remove barriers, and to meet the requirements of the AODA. School boards and educational institutions are also required to provide educators with accessibility awareness training related to accessible program or course delivery and instruction. Finally, recognizing that transportation can often be a difficulty for Ontarians with accessibility issues, each school board is required to develop individual school transportation plans for each student with a disability.

2. Will you support our call for the Government to develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard to make our health care system’s services fully accessible to patients and health care providers with disabilities? 

Ontario Liberals are committed to enhancing accessibility standards across Ontario and we will continue working with our stakeholders to ensure that accessibility is integrated into all we do in Ontario. The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Committee has the power to advise government on new accessibility initiatives. Five accessibility standards are now law under the AODA: customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation, and the design of public spaces, but we know we can do more.

3. Will you support our call for the Ontario Government to develop a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard to address our crisis of accessible housing in Ontario?

As mentioned above, the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Committee has the power to advise government on new accessibility initiatives. It will allow us to streamline and strengthen the way we review and develop accessibility standards.  We look forward to their recommendations on new accessibility initiatives for ways we can advance accessibility standards in Ontario.

Five accessibility standards are now law under the AODA: customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation, and the design of public spaces, but we know we can do more.  Residential Housing is a critical area of concern for all Ontarians. That’s why Ontario Liberals recently announced amendments to the building code, effective Jan. 1, 2015, that will substantially enhance accessibility in newly constructed buildings and existing buildings that are to be extensively renovated. These changes are part of our commitment under the AODA to achieve the goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025.

4. Will you support our call for the Government to act now to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act, and to reveal its plans for enforcing this important law?

I support the Act and agree that it needs to be enforced.  Our goal is to support organizations in meeting their accessibility requirements across the province. We work directly with organizations by providing free tools and resources to help organizations understand and meet their accessibility requirements. Since taking office, Ontario Liberals have doubled the number of companies that are complying with these standards. Of course, there is still more to do.  Our government is the first to use all enforcement tools available to us under the AODA. We are in the process of fining companies that have not filed their compliance reports.

Your organization's advocacy on this issue has been critical in promoting our government's strategy to enforce the AODA.  Our strategy includes a combination of public information, providing assistance to companies looking to come into compliance and penalties for those who do not.

5. Will you support our call for the Government to now implement effective action to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities, or to perpetuate existing barriers? Ontario is a leader in accessibility. The province is one of the first regions in the world to move to a modern regulatory regime that mandates accessibility and require staff to be trained in accessibility. As well, we are the first province in Canada with to introduce legislation that sets out a clear goal and timeframe for accessibility by 2025.  We are committed to a fair and transparent government and we recognize that inclusion and equality have a broad and sustaining social and economic impact for Ontario as a whole.  I'm interested in learning more from you about what would constitute effective action.

Joyce Morocco
Liberal Candidate - Niagara Falls.

February 12 Email from Conservative Thornhill Candidate Gila Marto to the AODA Alliance

AODA ALLIANCE SURVEY
Q: Will you support our call for the Ontario Government to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the Disabilities Act, to make Ontario’s education system fully accessible to students, parents, and education staff with disabilities?

As the mother of four children, I would never want my child to face barriers to education because of their disability. My priority would be to work collaboratively with Ontario’s disabled community and other stakeholders to ensure Ontario’s education system is accessible to students, parents and education staff with disabilities.

For the past 10 years, the Ontario Liberal government has not lived up to the expectation that everything, including education, should be accessible.  I recognize there are still very limited opportunities for people with disabilities to enroll in post-secondary education and training. As a result, there are fewer employment opportunities for Ontarians living with disabilities.

The Ontario PC Critic for Health and Long Term Care, Christine Elliott, has been a champion on the issue of access for people with disabilities in Ontario’s education system and has highlighted that changes to the current system are necessary to advance opportunities for people with disabilities in Ontario.   

2.  Will you support our call for the Government to develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard to make our health care system’s services fully accessible to patients and health care providers with disabilities? 

As a health care professional, I understand how important it is to support improving accessibility to healthcare system services for patients and healthcare providers with disabilities.

For me, this is about ensuring all patients, regardless of their disability, receive appropriate access to care.  In addition, improved accessibility in our health system will create fewer barriers for people with disabilities to obtain employment and actively contribute to Ontario’s workforce. 
Where the current government has equated disabilities with an inability or desire to work, we will take a different approach.

Tim Hudak and the Ontario PC Party recognizes the enormous untapped potential of those with disabilities, who are still significantly underrepresented in our province’s workforce.
 
3.  Will you support our call for the Ontario Government to develop a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard to address our crisis of accessible housing in Ontario?

As an optometrist, I have to look at all aspects of a patient’s health before proper and accurate diagnoses can be made. Similarly, I believe that we have to look at everything that impacts the lives of people with disabilities, including accessible housing. After 10 years, we believe it’s time the government reveals how much progress they have made in making this province more accessible to those living with disabilities.

Last year, Ontario PC Critic for Health Christine Elliott called on the government to strike a committee that would focus on the needs of children, youth and adults with an intellectual disability, taking into consideration educational needs, workplace opportunities, housing needs and social, recreational and inclusionary opportunities.

I look forward to seeing the recommendations from the committee in the spring.

4. Will you support our call for the Government to act now to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act, and to reveal its plans for enforcing this important law?

Like the AODA Alliance, I think it’s time for the current government to report on the status of enforcing the Disabilities Act. 

I support ongoing consultation with stakeholders including small business and charities with the goal of improving compliance with accessibility regulations. As someone who has worked collaboratively with many community groups in Thornhill, I know I can be an asset to this process.

5.  Will you support our call for the Government to now implement effective action to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities, or to perpetuate existing barriers?

Along with the Ontario PC Caucus, I believe it is the job of the government to break down barriers for people with disabilities, instead of creating new barriers.

I am committed to breaking down barriers to ensure Ontarians with disabilities have improved access to opportunities that should be available to all Ontarians.