ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

With Only One Year Until the 2018 Ontario Election Campaign, the AODA Alliance Asks Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles for a Detailed Update on What the Ontario Government is Doing and Plans to Do to Ensure Ontario Reaches Full Accessibility for 1.8 Million Ontarians with Disabilities by 2025

March 16, 2017

Summary

The AODA Alliance has just written the Wynne Government's lead minister responsible for leading Ontario to full accessibility by 2025, Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles. We ask for a detailed update on what the Government has been doing, and what it plans to do, to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025, less than eight years from now. We set that letter out below.

One year from now, Ontarians will be fully immersed in a provincial election campaign. The next Ontario general election will be held in June 2018. At that time, we will be asking the major parties and local candidates to make detailed commitments on what they would do, if elected, to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025. What we ask of them will depend on how much progress Ontario will have made over the next twelve months.

It has been nine months since Premier Wynne appointed Tracy MacCharles to serve as Ontario's first Accessibility Minister, a positive step. To assist her in this new role, we wrote Minister MacCharles twice to give her a detailed briefing on key accessibility issues, and to recommend specific actions.

You can read the AODA Alliance's July 10, 2016 letter to Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles.

You can read the AODA Alliance's January 16, 2017 letter to Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles.

In our most recent letter set out below, sent on March 16, 2017, we ask the Minister specific questions in twelve important areas, to learn what the Minister and her Ministry have done, and what they plan to do over the next year. Our earlier two letters to the Minister give all the background you need on these areas. In summary, our most recent letter asks:

Creating a Detailed Plan to Reach Full Accessibility by 2025

1. Has your Ministry developed a detailed plan designed to ensure that Ontario will reach the AODA's required goal of full accessibility by 2025? If so, may we see that plan?

Effectively Enforcing the AODA

2. What are your Ministry's detailed plans to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement for last year, this year, and next year leading up to the 2018 election? Can you give us the promised enforcement reports for 2015, 2016 and for 2017 up to now? What specifically is your Ministry doing to meet Premier Wynne's direction in her September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to you, to increase compliance reporting rates among private/not-for-profit sector organizations by an additional 50 per cent in 2017?

Creating an Education Accessibility Standard

3. By when will you post an announcement inviting people to apply to serve on the Education Standards Development Committee, and by when will that Committee be appointed? Will you ensure that the Government does not impose prior restrictions on which disability accessibility barriers the Education Standards Development Committee can consider in our education system?

Creating a Health Care Accessibility Standard

4. When will the Health Care Standards Development Committee be appointed?

Review of the Employment and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standards

5. By when will you appoint the new Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee to review the current accessibility standards addressing accessibility barriers in employment and in information and communication? What will be done to ensure that the disability community gets a full chance to be fully included in and give direct input to those Standards Development Committees, beyond the specific disability sector representatives that you appoint to those Committees?

Reviewing the Transportation Accessibility Standard

6. What has been completed so far in the review of the transportation accessibility provisions enacted in 2011 under the AODA, and when will we and other interested voices from the disability community, such as the AODA Alliance, be afforded a chance to speak directly to the Standards Development Committee that is conducting that review?

Addressing Ongoing Barriers in the Built Environment

7. What actions will your Government take under the AODA to ensure that Ontario's built environment becomes fully accessible by 2025, and by when? When will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to recommend measures for retrofits and for accessibility in residential housing?

Ensuring Accessible Customer Service

8. What is your Ministry doing to bring stakeholders together to explore ways to improve the Customer Service Accessibility Standard? Would you bring stakeholders together to find ways to improve accessible customer service?

Creating a Disability Employment Strategy

9. When will your Government announce its new Disability Employment Strategy, and what has been done to date to develop it?

Reviewing All Ontario Laws For Accessibility Barriers

10. How is your Ministry conducting its review of all Ontario statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers? What has been done so far, since your Ministry took lead responsibility for this review? Who is leading it? When will it be completed? By when will an omnibus bill be before the Legislature to address accessibility barriers that require legislative amendments? By when do you aim to go before Cabinet with needed amendments to any Ontario regulations to address accessibility barriers?

Deliberations on Idea of Creating a Private Accessibility Certification Process

11. Is your Ministry proceeding with the idea of a private accessibility certification process? What has been done about this, and what are your Ministry's plans? Can you let us know if no public money will be spent on any private accessibility certification process, as we urge?

Ensuring the Ontario Public Service Becomes a Fully Accessible Service-Provider and Employer

12. Since becoming minister, what new efforts or initiatives have been launched or are being planned to remove and prevent customer service and employment accessibility barriers in the Ontario Public Service, and to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers?

As our letter to the Minister commits, we will make public the response that we receive.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

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We encourage you to use the Government's toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

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MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliance's March 16, 2017 Letter to Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles

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

March 16, 2017

Via Email Tracy.MacCharles@ontario.ca
The Honourable Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Accessibility and Minister of Government and Consumer Services
Office of the Minister Responsible for Accessibility
6th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay St,
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2
 
Dear Minister:

Re: Ensuring Ontario Reaches Disability Accessibility By 2025

Thank you for your efforts over the past nine months, since becoming the minister responsible for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act's (AODA) implementation and enforcement. We seek an update on what your Ministry has done, and plans to do, to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025. We appreciate your personal commitment to this goal.

To assist you, we wrote you on July 10, 2016 and January 16, 2017, to offer suggestions of what priorities need your attention. Ontario is just one year away from another election campaign. We would welcome your answers to the following questions, so we can know what to expect over the next year, and can best assist you.

Creating a Detailed Plan to Reach Full Accessibility by 2025

1. Has your Ministry developed a detailed plan designed to ensure that Ontario will reach the AODA's required goal of full accessibility by 2025? If so, may we see that plan?

Effectively Enforcing the AODA

It is good that the Government promised to effectively enforce the AODA. In the 2014 election, Premier Wynne promised to make public annual reports "on levels of compliance including the effectiveness of our enforcement measures."

2. What are your Ministry's detailed plans to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement for last year, this year, and next year leading up to the 2018 election? Can you give us the promised enforcement reports for 2015, 2016 and for 2017 up to now? What specifically is your Ministry doing to meet Premier Wynne's direction in her September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to you, to increase compliance reporting rates among private/not-for-profit sector organizations by an additional 50 per cent in 2017?

Creating an Education Accessibility Standard

It was very good that Premier Wynne announced over three months ago, on December 5, 2016, that your Government would develop an AODA Education Accessibility Standard. The first step needed to get that process started is your appointing an Education Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what that accessibility standard should include.

3. By when will you post an announcement inviting people to apply to serve on the Education Standards Development Committee, and by when will that Committee be appointed? Will you ensure that the Government does not impose prior restrictions on which disability accessibility barriers the Education Standards Development Committee can consider in our education system?

Creating a Health Care Accessibility Standard

Over two years ago, on February 13, 2015, your Government commendably announced that it would create a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Last fall you advertised for people to serve on a Health Care Standards Development Committee.

4. When will the Health Care Standards Development Committee be appointed?

Review of the Employment and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standards

Your Government has also invited the public to apply to serve on Standards Development Committees to review the information and communication and employment provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, enacted back in 2011, as the Government is required to do within five years after that accessibility standard was enacted.

5. By when will you appoint the new Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee to review the current accessibility standards addressing accessibility barriers in employment and in information and communication? What will be done to ensure that the disability community gets a full chance to be fully included in and give direct input to those Standards Development Committees, beyond the specific disability sector representatives that you appoint to those Committees?

Reviewing the Transportation Accessibility Standard

A Transportation Standards Development Committee has been reviewing the 2011 transportation accessibility provisions of the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation for over a year. We have not been offered any opportunity to take part in that review.

6. What has been completed so far in the review of the transportation accessibility provisions enacted in 2011 under the AODA, and when will we and other interested voices from the disability community, such as the AODA Alliance, be afforded a chance to speak directly to the Standards Development Committee that is conducting that review?

Addressing Ongoing Barriers in the Built Environment

The AODA requires Ontario's built environment to become fully accessible by 2025. Yet 2015 amendments to the Ontario Building Code were insufficient to ensure that new buildings and major renovations are fully accessible. The AODA Alliance's YouTube video of accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary arts Centre exemplifies this, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRmVBmOy6xg&t=28s

Moreover, the Ontario Government has enacted no measures to require retrofit of any accessibility barriers in the built environment, even if readily achievable, and even if needed to fulfil the duty under the Ontario Human Rights Code to ensure accessibility of employment, goods, services or facilities. The final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review emphasized that these retrofits need action. Many tweets on Twitter using the hashtag #AODAfail show the pressing need for action, by illustrating the many accessibility barriers Ontarians with disabilities face around Ontario.

In the 2009 summer, the Ontario Government commendably promised to create a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and to then address retrofits and accessibility barriers in residential housing through the standards development process. In the 2011 election, Premier McGuinty commendably promised that the Ontario Government would enact the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard promptly. Yet no comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard has been enacted under the AODA. No effort has been announced to use the standards development process to address retrofits and barriers in residential housing.

7. What actions will your Government take under the AODA to ensure that Ontario's built environment becomes fully accessible by 2025, and by when? When will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to recommend measures for retrofits and for accessibility in residential housing?

Ensuring Accessible Customer Service

For over three years, we have asked the Government to bring together stakeholders from the disability community and obligated organizations, to come up with positive reforms to strengthen the limited 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard. We have presented constructive, low cost, readily achievable options.

2016 amendments to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard did not significantly improve it. In important ways, those amendments weakened it. None of our proposals were adopted.

8. What is your Ministry doing to bring stakeholders together to explore ways to improve the Customer Service Accessibility Standard? Would you bring stakeholders together to find ways to improve accessible customer service?

Creating a Disability Employment Strategy

It was very good that in her first Throne speech over four years ago, Premier Wynne announced that increased employment for people with disabilities would be a Government priority. In her September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to you as Ontario's first Minister of Accessibility, Premier Wynne directed you, as a priority, to have in place a new disability employment strategy in place by the end of 2016.

We understand that your Ministry now commendably has a new division and assistant deputy minister responsible for disability employment. As well, for about one year, the Government has had the final report of its Partnership Council on Disability Employment. It received an interim report from that council almost two years ago.

9. When will your Government announce its new Disability Employment Strategy, and what has been done to date to develop it?

Reviewing All Ontario Laws For Accessibility Barriers

It is very good that in 2007, Premier McGuinty promised that the Ontario Government would review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers. About 51 of Ontario 750 statutes have been reviewed since then. Only minor changes were made.

In her September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to you, Premier Wynne transferred to you the lead responsibility for this review of all Ontario statutes and regulations.

10. How is your Ministry conducting its review of all Ontario statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers? What has been done so far, since your Ministry took lead responsibility for this review? Who is leading it? When will it be completed? By when will an omnibus bill be before the Legislature to address accessibility barriers that require legislative amendments? By when do you aim to go before Cabinet with needed amendments to any Ontario regulations to address accessibility barriers?

Deliberations on Idea of Creating a Private Accessibility Certification Process

In 2015 and 2016, your Government explored the idea of a private accessibility certification process being created. We and many others in the disability community believe a private accessibility certification process is a bad idea. Public money should not be spent on it, which could be better spent on effective AODA implementation and enforcement.

11. Is your Ministry proceeding with the idea of a private accessibility certification process? What has been done about this, and what are your Ministry's plans? Can you let us know if no public money will be spent on any private accessibility certification process, as we urge?

Ensuring the Ontario Public Service Becomes a Fully Accessible Service-Provider and Employer

In your new role as Minister of Government and Consumer Services, you are responsible for leading the efforts to eliminate the many accessibility barriers in the Ontario Public Service.

12. Since becoming minister, what new efforts or initiatives have been launched or are being planned to remove and prevent customer service and employment accessibility barriers in the Ontario Public Service, and to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers?

Many will be eager to hear your update on these important topics. We will be pleased to widely circulate it through our robust network across Ontario. Of course, we are eager to work with you to help the Government make major progress on all these fronts over the next year leading up to the upcoming June 2018 provincial election.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont.
Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: Premier Kathleen Wynne, premier@ontario.ca   
Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, marie-lison.fougere@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, ann.hoy@ontario.ca
Steve Orsini, Secretary to Cabinet steve.orsini@ontario.ca
Angela Coke, Deputy Minister of Government and Consumer Services angela.coke@ontario.ca