ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Sign Up for Public Hearings for Dean Mayo Moran's Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act's Implementation and Enforcement in Ottawa, Toronto, London, Thunder Bay and On-Line

February 28, 2014

Summary

The Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act's implementation and enforcement, conducted by University of Toronto's Law Dean Mayo Moran, has announced that it will be holding public hearings. These will be in Ottawa (March 18, 2014), Toronto (March 21 and April 29, 2014), London (April 9, 2014) and Thunder Bay (April 15, 2014).  It will also be holding on-line consultations on Thursday, April 3, 9am-1pm and Tuesday, April 22, 9am-1pm.

We urge one and all to sign up to make a presentation in person or on-line. You will also be able to submit feedback to the Independent Review in writing, whether or not you make a presentation in person or at one of the on-line webinars. Written input must be submitted by June 1, 2014.

You can contribute either on behalf of an organization, or simply as an individual. You can contribute whether you have a disability now, or might get one later in life. That includes everyone!

Below we set out a summary of several key points we intend to present to the Moran Independent Review. We hope you find these helpful as you decide what to tell the Independent Review. We also set out an open letter to the public from the Mayo Moran Independent Review with more details on how to take part.

We always urge you to send us your feedback. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

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More details

Summary of the AODA Alliance's Expected Position to Date - A Work Still in Progress

Please share with the Moran Independent Review your own thoughts and experiences with the AODA. Has it made a difference in your life? 

To help you decide what you might wish to say to the Moran Independent Review, here is a short summary of what the AODA Alliance will be saying. Please feel free to borrow as much as you wish from this Update and from our website when preparing your submissions, if you find our thoughts helpful.

Ample background on our concerns with the AODA's implementation and enforcement can be found.

We are still working on our written submission to the Moran Independent Review. We welcome your feedback and ideas as we prepare our submission to the Moran Independent Review. Send us your thoughts at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Here are key points we plan to make:

* We appreciate that Ontario has made some progress on the road to becoming fully accessible since 2005. Had we not fought for and won the enactment of the AODA in 2005, we would not have made as much progress. We are especially appreciative of all those organizations and individuals who have taken the AODA and accessibility seriously and taken prompt, bold and decisive action to remove and prevent barriers against persons with disabilities.

* The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, by enacting and enforcing accessibility standards across the economy. The Mayo Moran Independent Review should consider whether Ontario is now on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

* It is our view that Ontario is not now on schedule for full accessibility by that legal deadline. The Ontario Government must now take strong, decisive action to get Ontario on schedule for full accessibility.

* For example, the Ontario Government has enacted a number of accessibility standards under the AODA which are helpful. However, even if every obligated organization fully complied on time with every requirement in all of those accessibility standards, Ontario would not become fully accessible for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, or indeed ever.

* The accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted to date, in the areas of customer service, transportation, employment information and communication and the built environment, do not cover all key recurring barriers in those areas. Their requirements too often fall short of the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For the most part, they only require certain new barriers to be prevented without requiring existing barriers to be removed.

* The AODA requires the Ontario Government to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025. The accessibility standards enacted to date do not cover all major activities and sectors of the economy in the level of detail that is needed.

Ontario needs more accessibility standards to be enacted. The next three that we have called for, and that we have been urging the Government to act on for at least the past two and a half years, would address barriers in education, health care, and residential housing. As well, the Government needs to keep its unkept promise to develop provisions in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard to address retrofitting in existing buildings that are not undergoing renovations. The Government has been taking far too long to decide on our proposals.

More accessibility standards will be needed after these, to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025. The Government created a streamlined process for making new accessibility standards and said that more would be made, but continues to dither rather than deciding which new accessibility standards will be made next. 

* The AODA requires the Ontario Government to effectively enforce accessibility standards enacted under it. We have revealed Government documents that prove conclusively that the Government has not kept this promise. The Government has known for months about rampant violations of the AODA in the private sector. Yet the Government has not used its full range of enforcement powers. The Government has had allocated budget that could be used for enforcement, and has had a detailed enforcement plan on hand for some two years, developed at public expense by the Ontario Public Service.

* The Ontario Government has not kept a number of other important election promises made to Ontarians with disabilities about the AODA's implementation. For example, it has not taken promised steps needed to ensure that the Ontario Public Service becomes an accessible employer and deliverer of public services. Much more needs to be done.

* Beyond its core duty to make accessibility standards and then to effectively enforce them, the Ontario Government has not effectively used other means at its disposal to help promote accessibility. For example, it has not effectively ensured that public money is never used by anyone to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. It could do so by imposing sufficient accessibility strings on its annual spending of billions of public dollars on capital, infrastructure and the procurement of goods and services.   

Two examples prove the point. The Government spent large sums of public money to create the new Presto Smart Card for paying public transit fares. It pressed municipal transit providers to adopt the Presto Smart Card. Yet despite commitments to make it accessible to persons with disabilities, the Presto technology  was designed with readily-foreseeable and entirely-preventable barriers.

As well, the Government is spending millions on the 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games in Toronto. Yet its plans for the legacy for these Games (the long term benefits to Ontarians after the Games are over) had not included a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy plan.

* The Ontario Government has not taken effective steps to ensure that municipal and provincial elections in Ontario are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities. For example, we still face insurmountable legal barriers in getting telephone and internet voting implemented in provincial elections, with no end in sight.
 
* The last Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Charles Beer in 2009-10, recommended that the Government must show new leadership on the AODA, and must breathe new life into its implementation. The Government has not done so.

* During the first years after the current Government took office in 2003, it moved actively and promptly on its disability accessibility commitments and agenda. However, since the summer of 2011, its action on these has ground down to a snail's pace.

* Under the mandatory terms of the AODA, the Ontario Government was required to appoint this Independent Review no later than May 31, 2013. However, the Government did not do so until September 10, 2013, over 100 days past the legal deadline. This set a very poor example for other organizations that are similarly obliged to obey the AODA.

* We commended the Government's decision in February 2013 to move the accessibility portfolio from the Community and Social Services Ministry to the Economic Development and Trade Ministry. However, this has turned out to be a huge let-down. We have not seen disability accessibility embedded in the Government's economic development and trade agenda. We have not seen new and refreshed leadership. While the Economic Development Minister has proclaimed disability accessibility a "top priority," the Government's inaction speaks far louder than these praiseworthy words.

* We will present a series of detailed recommendations to the Mayo Moran Independent Review on how to get Ontario on schedule for full accessibility. These are still being developed.

However a series of nine key proposals that we will advance as short term measures were made public on December 3, 2013. These priorities can all be implemented without increasing the Ontario budget or deficit. Our nine accessibility priorities for immediate action are: 

  1. Announce and implement a comprehensive ongoing plan to effectively enforce the AODA.
  2. Create three new accessibility standards under the AODA to address barriers impeding Ontarians with disabilities in education, health care and residential housing.
  3. Ensure that the Ontario Government does not let public money be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.
  4. Establish and implement a comprehensive public plan to ensure that the Toronto 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games leave behind a strong legacy of disability accessibility in the community.
  5. Implement a new comprehensive strategy to effectively remove and prevent barriers within the Ontario Government and Ontario public service, and to ensure that the Ontario public service works together on accessibility, not in isolated silos.
  6. Mandate a permanent province-wide program to ensure that students in school and people training in key professions, such as architecture, are educated on disability accessibility.
  7. Include the accessibility message in public speeches by as many Cabinet ministers as possible.
  8. Implement a comprehensive plan, including new legislation, to ensure that municipal and provincial elections are fully accessible to people with disabilities (including secure internet and telephone voting).
  9. Generally strengthen the implementation of the AODA to ensure its objectives will be achieved, and to not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under it, or any Ontario Government policies or practices that aim to achieve its objectives.

To date, no Ontario political party has endorsed all of our 9 priorities for immediate action. To see the 9 priorities for immediate action on accessibility by the Ontario Government that we proposed on December 3, 2013.

Public Announcement on Behalf of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review

Dear Supporter of Accessibility for Ontarians,

As you may know, Dean Mayo Moran of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law is currently undertaking the second independent review of Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the A.O.D.A.).  During her review, Dean Moran is conducting a series of public consultations in order to hear from those most engaged with the relevant issues.

In-person, ‘live’ consultations will be held in Ottawa, London, Thunder Bay and Toronto in March and April.  Interested participants must register (preferably at least 7 days before the consultation session) via the Reviewer’s website at this link: http://aodareview.utoronto.ca.

Here are the dates and times of the in-person consultations:

In-Person Consultations:

Ottawa: Tuesday, March 18, 12:30-5:30pm.
Toronto: Friday, March 21, 9am-5pm and Tuesday, April 29, 9am-5pm.
London: Wednesday, April 9, 12:30-5:30pm.
Thunder Bay: Tuesday, April 15, 12:30-5:30pm.

Written submissions by those attending the Reviewer’s public consultations are not required. However, those who wish to present a summary of a written submission at a public consultation must submit their written submission 7 full days prior to the date of the consultation that they will be attending, using the Comments page at http://aodareview.utoronto.ca  (link).  The final deadline for all written submissions to the Reviewer, regardless of whether the submitting party has attended a consultation session, is June 1, 2014.

Online and Call-in Consultations:

The Review is also holding two online/ call-in consultations. Registration is not required for the online/ call-in consultations. Participants may either log on or call in to register their comments via telephone during the time periods below:

Thursday, April 3, 9am-1pm.
Tuesday, April 22, 9am-1pm.

The website address for the online consultations, and the telephone number to call in should you prefer to use the telephone to register your comments, will be posted on the Reviewer’s website page after 4 pm on the day prior to the online and call-in consultation. Please make sure to check the Reviewer’s website to obtain the log-in and call-in details after 4 pm the day prior to the consultation: http://aodareview.utoronto.ca.

Dean Mayo Moran looks forward to hearing from you as part of this important review of the A.O.D.A. legislation.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please submit a comment via the review website, or to this email address:  aoda.review@utoronto.ca.

And please feel free to circulate this email and the Reviewer’s website address widely!

Sincerely,

Andrea Russell, University of Toronto Faculty of Law,
AODA Review Project Manager

Andrea Russell, M.Phil., J.D.
Executive Director, Office of the Dean.

University of Toronto Faculty of Law,
84 Queen's Park,
Toronto, ON. M5S 2C5. Canada.
T  (+1) 416.946.8226.  F  (+1) 416.971.3026.
law.utoronto.ca