ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CHARTER OF RIGHTS COMPLETE WITH A GUARANTEE OF EQUALITY FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES –HOW FAR HAVE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN CANADA COME?

April 17, 2012

SUMMARY

Today marks an yet another important date on the road to a fully accessible society for persons with disabilities. Thirty years ago today, on April 17, 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and freedoms went into effect. It was the result of a long, hard-fought political battle.

How does this relate to our campaign for accessibility in Ontario? Many if not most are unaware of the fact that during the two-year fight over the Charter in Ottawa and across Canada between 1980 and 1982, only one new substantive right was added to the text of the Charter. That right is the guarantee of equality for people with mental or physical disabilities.

The original draft of the Charter which the Trudeau Government tabled in Parliament in October 1980 included a guarantee of equality in Section 15. However as originally worded, Section 15 did not guarantee equality to persons with disabilities. Over the next months, a campaign was effectively mounted by many within the disability community to fight for, and eventually win the disability amendment. That was the amendment to the draft Charter of Rights that added persons with disabilities to the list of grounds of discrimination that the Charter made unconstitutional.

On the Charter's 20th anniversary, ten years ago today, The Toronto Star published a guest column by David Lepofsky (now chair of the AODA Alliance, and then chair of its predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee). That column marked the 20th anniversary of the Charter going into effect. In that column, he describes his own personal involvement in that campaign. He was one of the many, many people who worked to win the disability amendment to the Charter.

Back then, such campaigns were fought without the benefit of technology like email, Twitter, the internet or even fax machines. Those tools would not be invented for a number of years. You can read the April 17, 2002 Toronto Star guest column by David Lepofsky on the Charter's 20th anniversary.

The Charter's guarantee of equality as well as the guarantee of equality to persons with disabilities in the Ontario Human Rights Code combine to provide the foundation upon which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 and the earlier Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 were both built. We remain indebted to Prime Minister Trudeau for listening to the many who fought for the disability amendment. 

Here's an interesting and informative way to reflect on the importance of this anniversary. Below we again sample more media coverage of our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario over the past months. This helps get a sense of how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. We do not suggest that this is a fully representative sampling.

Below we set out:

* an article in the April 9, 2012 Toronto Star that describes how a local business tried to do the right thing by getting a ramp to its entrance, only to have that ramp later removed. It illustrates the kind of unfortunate problems that can still persist for those who try to do the right thing. We need a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to be enacted to make such accessibility efforts easier to achieve.

* an article in the April 11, 2012 Hamilton Spectator announcing the forthcoming 40th anniversary celebration for Hamilton's Path Employment Services. This is the kind of event that can help spread the word on accessibility in a positive way.

* an article in the April 15, 2012 on-line edition of the Toronto Star, about a commendable local effort to make a park named after famous musician Jeff Healey fully accessible.

This article also reports that the City is delaying more comprehensive efforts on making its parks fully accessible until the Ontario Government enacts the long-overdue Built Environment Accessibility Standard. This shows how delays in the effective implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act serve to delay broader action on accessibility, contrary to the aims of this legislation. In the 2011 provincial election, the McGuinty Liberals promised to promptly enact the Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Six months later, we still have no Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

* an article from a year earlier, in the March 16, 2011 on-line edition of the St. Catharines Standard, that describes a poor turnout at an all-day training session in the Niagara Region, on how to provide accessible customer service.     

* an article from the April 9, 2012 NorthBayNipissing website reporting that North Bay aims to have fully accessible public transit buses by the end of this year.

* an editorial in the March 12, 2012 website Netnewsledger reporting on the troubling shortage of accessible hotel rooms in Thunder Bay. Those attending Thunder Bay's National Wheelchair Curling Championships are reported as unable to find hotel rooms with an accessible shower.

* an article from the April 4, 2012 Cambridge Times, reporting on the Waterloo Region's approval of a five year plan for implementing accessibility measures in public transit. 

* an article from the October 29, 2011 edition of the Guelph Mercury, reporting on one disability advocate's campaign for accessibility in his local community.

* an article from the November 9, 2011 edition of the Sault Star, reporting on the development of a five year accessibility plan for Sault Ste. Marie, to be presented to its city council.

* an article in the November 9, 2011 Sarnia Observer on efforts to make Sarnia accessible to persons with disabilities.

* an article in the October 19, 2011 Hamilton spectator on the early stages of a long term process that is attempting to eventually achieve an on-demand taxi service in Hamilton which persons with disabilities can fully use.  

* an article from the March 9, 2012 website blog.cvent.com on the need for event planners to know how to plan events that are accessible to persons with disabilities. The article urges that even event planners outside Ontario need to know how to meet Ontario accessibility requirements.

* an article from the March 15 2012  website emcstlawrence.ca that commends the AODA's accessibility requirements from the perspective of Education for Quality Accessibility (Canada).

* an article from the February 13 2012 website hrvoice.org on how Ontario's accessibility requirements are impacting businesses in other provinces and which do business in Ontario.
 Think about whether all these reports, and the actions they describe, would have happened as they have, had we not won a guarantee of disability equality rights in the Canadian Constitution. Lessons we learned over 30 years ago on how to mount a campaign for disability rights have served us well since then, in our fight between 1994 and 2005 to win enactment of the AODA, and our current campaign to get the AODA effectibvely implemented.

Send your feedback on these events to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

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The Toronto Star April 9, 2012  
URL:  http://www.healthzone.ca/health/newsfeatures/article/1157239--making-businesses-accessible-to-all-has-its-obstacles
Making businesses accessible has its obstacles; All businesses in Ontario will be required to be accessible to people with disabilities by 2025
RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR

Graphic: Joanne Smith was thrilled when her local Starbucks installed an access ramp last fall. It was removed just two weeks later because it was built on a sidewalk on Queen St. E., forcing pedestrians to walk on the boulevard.

After four years of knocking on the side door of a local Starbucks to have her latte brought out to her, wheelchair user Joanne Smith was thrilled last October when the property owner installed an access ramp.

"It was a great ramp," she says. "Built to (Ontario's building) code, with two railings."  She exchanged greetings with mothers pushing strollers, who also delighted in the new convenience of entering the Queen St. E. coffee shop in the Beach. Other wheelchair users started frequenting the shop, too, says Smith.

"It finally gave people with disabilities a fully accessible place to go."  But two weeks after it was installed, the ramp disappeared overnight. After receiving complaints, the City of Toronto issued a removal order, threatening hefty fines that would accumulate daily if the building owner, First Capital Realty, didn't comply.

"We thought it was the right thing for us to do, to put the handicapped ramp along the west side of the building to access Starbucks," says First Capital Realty vice-president Maryanne McDougald. 

But the ramp was built on the city-owned sidewalk, forcing pedestrians to walk on the boulevard, says Kyp Perikleous, a city manager in charge of approving permits.

"The city's bylaw requires that the sidewalks be cleared of snow and ice in winter," he says. "That kind of regulation is not in place for boulevards."

The property owners were told not to build there when their permit was denied, Perikleous adds. "If we allow individual properties to start putting things right on the sidewalks, we're not being fair to all residents."

Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), passed in 2005, businesses in Ontario will be required to be accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

The Starbucks incident has shone a spotlight on a litany of potential problems that could accompany making businesses accessible.

With tight spots like the tiny storefronts and restaurants that dot not only the Beach but neighbourhoods across Toronto, city councillor for Beaches-East York Mary-Margaret McMahon wonders if there is wiggle room as owners consider what it will take to provide access.

"There is a bigger conversation that needs to be had with the cities, the province and the BIAs (Business Improvement Areas), so we can figure out how to do this in an efficient and not-so-costly, expedited manner," says McMahon, who called the Starbucks experience a huge education "for me and hopefully for the city, the owners and the residents."

McMahon is working with the BIA in her riding and planning an accessibility walk along the ward's Queen St. strip to engage storeowners on the subject.

"It's a lot of work and the sooner we get the message out, the better," McMahon says, adding she'll talk to other councillors to promote similar efforts.

One problem is persuading owners to accept responsibility for creating access with a deadline of 2025, says John Kiru, executive director of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, which includes 72 BIAs and 30,000 registered businesses.

"The urgency doesn't seem to be there," Kiru says. "Some of these guys feel they might not even be in business long enough to worry about it."

He says his group holds information sessions about the legislation during conferences, to convince owners of the lucrative benefits of universal access. However, thousands of businesses don't belong to BIAs and may not have heard of the new access law, says McMahon. Education and communication about how the government can assist small business owners provide accessibility will be key, she says.

David Lepofsky, chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance says it will be difficult to meet the 2025 deadline without cutting the bureaucratic red tape that makes each issue take months or longer to resolve. Lepofsky's group wants provincial standards to overrule any municipal by-laws that conflict or could delay proposed accessibility renovations.

"Provincial standards are needed to accomplish that," he says. "The building code has historically not been sufficient to meet all our needs." Lepofsky says the building code didn't cover all barriers, require even simple retrofits in existing buildings and failed to live up to accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Money spent on accessibility is bound to have returns, supporters say. "Any of the businesses that adapt to this quicker there are billions of dollars that are spent by people that fall into that category," Kiru says. "It's only going to increase."

Accessibility is a wise investment, Lepofsky agrees. "Restaurants without an accessible washroom are losing money. They are losing business of customers with disabilities, their families, seniors."

Meanwhile, First Capital Realty has architects working with the city to bring access to the front entrance of the Queen St. E. Starbucks.

Barbara Turnbull Toronto Star

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Hamilton Spectator
April 11 2012 from website thespec.com.doc
URL:  http://www.thespec.com/print/article/703261
Accessibility champion coming to Hamilton

Ontario has a long way to go, but many good reasons to become fully accessible by 2025.
What needs to be done and the benefits of doing it are among the things David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance plans to share as keynote speaker April 25 at PATH Employment Services’ 40th anniversary breakfast in Hamilton.
Lepofsky, a lawyer who was admitted to the Ontario bar in 1981, is possibly best known as the man who won two human rights cases against the Toronto Transit Commission to force it to audibly announce bus and subway stops for the benefit of riders with impaired vision.
He spearheaded the campaign that led to the enactment of the 2001 Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and later the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and is leading the charge to get these laws effectively implemented.

Lepofsky has been chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance for more than a year.

From 1994 to 2005, Lepofsky was co-chair and then chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee — the provincewide, non-partisan body that was the predecessor to the AODA Alliance — which spearheaded the decade-long campaign that resulted in legislation.

PATH is a nonprofit agency that’s been helping people with any kind of disability get jobs since 1972. The agency serves about 2,500 people in its resource centre each year and last year staff worked with 550 individuals and placed 340 in jobs.

The anniversary breakfast will be held Wednesday, April 25, at the Hamilton Convention Centre, at 1 Summers Lane, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Tickets, which are $40 per person, are available at PATH. Please call 905-528-6611, ext. 234 for more information.

The Hamilton Spectator

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Toronto Star
April 15 2012 from website thestar.com
URL:
http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1161947--legacy-of-local-musician-jeff-healey-to-play-on-in-accessible-park
Legacy of local musician Jeff Healey to play on in accessible park
Jennifer Pagliaro
 
PHOTO:  A swing with extra support at Oriole Park, one of only two playgrounds in Toronto built with accessibility in mind. The third one, Jeff Healey Park, will focus on music. BERNARD WEIL/TORONTO STAR
 
As a boy, Jeff Healey loved to play in grassy Woodford Park in the city’s west end.

The blind boy who would grow up to be one of Canada’s legendary jazz, blues and rock musicians grew up on Bonnyview Dr., across from the park where he liked to toboggan in the winter.

After he died of cancer in 2008, the city renamed the park in his honour at the urging of family, friends and the local community. Now they’re raising money to build a modern, accessible playground where children with disabilities can feel at home and share the joy of making music that Healey loved so much.

With a conservative goal of $20,000, Healey’s friends held a benefit concert at the Sound Academy on April 12, featuring bands like Juno award-winners Monkeyjunk and The Guess Who’s Randy Bachman.

“As important as Jeff was to the musical community in Toronto he was at least as or more important to the disabled community,” said Rob Quail, Healey’s childhood friend and former bandmate.

Healey and a group of friends have been working with the city to design a playground for children of all abilities, including those with perceptual or learning disabilities, in Jeff Healey Park. They hope to incorporate tactile and musical elements like a xylophone and percussion instruments so local kids can jam together.

“The concept is to have a section of the park with a rubberized surface that wheelchairs can easily roll on, and various instruments arranged around that area,” Quail said.

The large instruments will be mounted in the ground and will incorporate tubes that would allow kids on different sides of the playground to talk to each other.

Quail said they don’t want to alter the existing jungle gym, since it already incorporates accessible elements.

The focus on music will make the park unique in the GTA, which is home to two other playgrounds built with accessibility in mind — Earl Bales and Oriole parks.

Like those projects, plans for Jeff Healey Park are developing in partnership with city architects at Parks, Forestry and Recreation.

Accessible playgrounds have yet to become the standard in the city. The city is waiting for the province to finalize building guidelines under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which won’t be fully implemented until 2025.

Michael Schreiner, manager for capital projects and parks development for the city said Toronto has more than 800 playgrounds and aims to build eight to 10 a year at $125,000 each.

“We do community consultation on everything,” Schreiner said. If a community asks for accessible equipment like chair swings that support children with limited mobility, it can be worked into the design, he said.

Neshama Playground in Forest Hill’s Oriole Park and the playground at Earl Bales Park in York Mills were exceptional cases, Schreiner said, where private donors contributed between $700,000 and $1 million.

More city playgrounds could be retrofitted under the disabilities act guidelines, but Schreiner said the city will have to wait to see what they entail before designing a new playground strategy.

Kathryn Underwood, assistant professor at the School of Early Childhood Education at Ryerson University, said accessible play spaces are critical for childhood development.

“We need multiple inclusive environments for children to do well,” she said. “For young children, play is tremendously important in their development.”

Quail said he hopes the park stimulates conversations about his friend Healey and lets his story play on.

“This is really about celebrating what can be accomplished if someone has the talent and determination, regardless of whether they have physical limitations,” he said.

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March 16 2011 St. Catharines Standard online.doc
URL:  http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3011228
Seminar on how to serve disabled had disappointing turnout
By Linda Crabtree
Special to The Standard

For those working in the Niagara tourism sector, the season has already begun. Brochures and maps, coupons, flyers and media advertisements are being designed and printed or shot. Festivals and exhibitions are in the planning stages and hiring notices are beginning to appear in the local papers for seasonal staffers at Niagara restaurants, hotels, wineries and attractions. There may still be snow on the ground but everyone involved knows that very soon tourists will begin to arrive and we have to be ready — ready to accommodate the millions who visit our lovely part of the world and spend their money here.

Recently, I attended a reasonably priced ($29) all-day Accessibility Standards for Customer Service workshop designed to teach people, and in particular front-line employees, supervisors and managers, who run tourism venues or any small business, how to best serve customers who are disabled. Keep in mind that we have more than 250 hotels and various places of lodging in Niagara and likely five times that number of restaurants, close to 100 wineries, at least 25 major attractions and an untold number of small businesses. And, also know that under the new Accessibility Standards for Customer Service regulations that come into effect Jan. 1, 2012 and are part of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), every business in Ontario with at least one employee will have to comply with these new rules. So, how many people do you think showed up at the seminar? Seven. And that included me and I don't count because I don't run anything except a website. Seven! To say that I was disappointed at the turnout is an understatement.

Here are some interesting tidbits: About 1.85 million people in Ontario have disabilities. That's about 15.5% of the population. There are 50 million people with disabilities in North America. Those 50 million have $200 billion to spend every year. By 2017, for the first time, seniors will account for a larger share of the population than children age 0–14. By 2036, the number of seniors aged 65 plus will double from 1.7 million in 2008 to 4.1 million. As we age, more of us become disabled and the need for access increases. If accessibility has a modest impact of a 3% increase in tourism, this would represent $700 million in additional expenditures by Ontarians alone.

Doesn't it make sense to include all of these people with disabilities and their partners and families in your business so you can take advantage of what's happening now and what will be a growing market in the future? Certainly it does.

Does everyone who runs a business serving the public in Niagara know everything there is to know about this new law? Does everyone feel at ease serving people with disabilities? Do you know how to work with their support person? Could you recognize a barrier if you saw one? (Hint: there are five types.) Are you familiar with service animals, their needs and the laws pertaining to them? Are you aware of the many types of disabilities and the assistive devices people use when they are disabled? Do you know how your business can best attract part of the billions that seniors and people with disabilities have to spend annually? Somehow I doubt it.

If you want to know more, and as much as I dislike sounding a warning, you're going to have to know more by the end of the year, go to www.AccessOn.ca.

***

Once again, The Ontario March of Dimes – South Region, will host the Breaking the Barriers Awards ceremony during National Access Awareness Week, May 29-June 4, in Market Square, St. Catharines, on June 1, beginning at 11 a.m. In the past, awards have gone to people who have made their businesses accessible, hired persons with disabilities or volunteers who have devoted years to help persons with disabilities become independent. The exceptional provision of accessible tourism and exceptional leadership and commitment to further the integration of people with disabilities is also recognized. If you think you know someone or some place that warrants accolades, please nominate them.

Get in touch with Lorraine Nadeau at (905) 687-6788 ext. 715 or email lnadeau@marchofdimes.ca for a nomination form. Nominations close April 29, 2011.

linda@lindacrabtree.com

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April 9 2012 from website northbaynipissing.com.doc
URL:
http://www.northbaynipissing.com/2012/04/ity-transit-expected-to-be-totally-accessible-by-year-end/

City transit expected to be totally accessible by year-end

NORTH BAY – Freedom. That’s the word Dale Norton uses to describe the City’s commitment to providing totally accessible public transit by 2013 and the two new state-of-the-art buses about to hit North Bay streets.

Nora Long, chair of the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC), congratulated council on the purchase of the new accessible coaches during her presentation of the committee’s annual report at the March 26 committee of council meeting.

“North Bay is leading the way in accessible public transportation,” she said. “These new buses mean that our bus line is 87 per cent accessible. Our goal is to have 100 per cent of our buses accessible by the start of next year.”

City transit manager Dorthea Carvell says the accessible buses, “are good for the public, for the transit department and for the city. All municipalities will have to meet the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by 2025,” she said.

“While there are other things that the transit department will have to do in other areas to meet all the criteria, we are well ahead when it comes to our buses. If all stays on track, our buses will be completely accessible by the end of 2012.”

The two newest buses about to be added to the City’s fleet are Flyer Excelsiors with sleek 40-foot-long bodies and seating for 39 people.

“They feature a low floor with two secure wheelchair locations behind the driver and an accessible ramp for easy entry and exit,” said Long.

When the bus stops and accessible entrance is required, “it kneels down,” said transit supervisor Remi Renaud – his way of explaining how the body of the bus lowers allowing the driver to release the ramp level with the sidewalk.

“That allows for easy drive-on convenience for those in wheelchairs, with walkers or canes, or for those with visual impairments,” he said.

The seats immediately behind and across from the driver flip up against the wall to allow ample room for a wheelchair on both sides. Bus drivers attach the chairs to a front and rear anchor and a special seat belt is used to ensure the rider is secure in the chair seat.

“It only takes a matter of a minute or two to secure the chairs, and we have allowed time for that when we set out the bus schedules,” Renaud said.

North Bay has been providing transportation for those with disabilities for many years, starting with the Para Bus service operated by the Physically Handicapped Adults’ Rehabilitation Association (PHARA), under agreement with the City.

“We have six Para Buses, but you have to book them 48 hours in advance,” said Carvell. “They provide excellent transportation for those who can’t get to a regular bus, but they don’t allow for a lot of flexibility.

“There’s also a priority booking list for the Para Buses that means school, work and medical runs take precedent over a social requirements,” she said.

Norton says he “loves” the concept of being able to take public transit whenever he feels like it.

“I have been a Para Bus client and they offer a wonderful service, but you have to book in advance so you’re limited in when you can go out. The new buses, that’s freedom for people like me,” he said.

“It means I can be just like everybody else. If I decide to go out I don’t have to wait,” said Norton.

Paul Ouellette, a Para Bus dispatcher and a wheelchair user, says the accessibility is improving all the time as buses become increasingly sophisticated.

“These new buses are really good,” he said. “The ramps aren’t as steep as some of the older ones and getting on and off is really easy. I think our riders will be really pleased.”

Carvell advises those who need an accessible bus make a quick call to the bus depot to ensure their route is covered the day they are going out.

“At the moment, 18 of our 24 buses are accessible,” she said, “and we have 16 buses on the road at any time, so until all our buses are accessible it’s just wise to call ahead rather than be disappointed.”

The new buses came with a price tag of $500,000 each, but Carvell says the city has excellent purchasing power through a joint procurement agreement with Metrolinx. “That gives a small city like North Bay both the buying power and expertise of the larger systems.”

Coun. Sean Lawlor, chair of the Community Services Committee said, “For a city of our size, you wouldn’t expect us to be a leader in accessible public transit, but it’s an important service for our residents. The buses have no steps and makes it easier for everyone to get on and off, and the automatic ramps mean many people who were confined to Para Buses or private handicap transportation can now go out whenever they want to.”

“I have always tried to live an independent life,” said Norton. “I feel that I have been blessed in many ways. I’m always ready to go out and do things and I live in a good place that has provided me with a way to do that.”

Story by Laurel J. Campbell    lcampbell@metrolandnorthmedia.com

*****

March 20 2012 from website netnewsledger.com
URL:
http://netnewsledger.com/2012/03/20/nice-city-to-visitjust-dont-expect-to-take-a-shower-push-northwest/
“Nice city to visit…Just don’t expect to take a shower!” – PUSH Northwest
Written by: Donna-Lynn Wiitala

THUNDER BAY – Editorial – On January 1, 2012 the Customer Service Standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) came into effect for the private sector. This means that persons with disabilities are thankfully able to enjoy an increasing amount of access to businesses in Thunder Bay. We are very pleased with the efforts being made!

However, for visitors requiring special accommodation, our city is still lacking. We are currently hosting the National Wheelchair Curling Championships. Unfortunately there are only a limited number of accessible hotel rooms and we cannot offer even one of these athletes a room with a roll-in shower.

Imagine you are one of the athletes. You’ve curled hard all day and all you want to do is take a hot shower and relax in your room. But your only option for a shower is to travel somewhere else to take one.

Because of these deficits, some people cannot visit our city. Not only is this embarrassing for Thunder Bay, we incur a loss in tourism revenue as well. We have a lot to offer as a city. More accessible hotel rooms would allow us to capitalize on this. We would definitely have a better chance at being chosen to host other events, such as the National Sledge Hockey Championships if we could provide for our visitor’s needs.

In 2008, PUSH Northwest developed an accessibility package for hotels and motels. During this time, we went to the management of every hotel and motel in person and invited them to a workshop on Hotel/Motel Accessibility. Unfortunately, we have only seen small gains in hotel/motel accessibility.

PUSH is still available to do accessibility audits to inform businesses about the AODA. It is our hope that our hotels will address the issue of accessibility in order to become more compliant with AODA standards.

PUSH Northwest wishes all of the wheelchair curlers an enjoyable visit to our city and hopes that this great event will help us to learn to be even more accommodating for future events and visitors.

Donna-Lynn Wiitala,
Chair, PUSH Northwest

*****

THE CAMBRIDGE TIMES

April 4 2012 from website cambridgetimes.ca
URL:
http://www.cambridgetimes.ca/news/local/article/1330120--bus-service-plan-approved

Bus service plan approved

The MobilityPLUS five-year plan was approved by Region of Waterloo council last week. The plan was developed to achieve service expansions to accommodate growth, comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, manage growing demand for dialysis treatments and various other service quality improvements.

Highlights of the plan include expanding door-to-door service, training and assisting MobilityPLUS customers to use the new low floor conventional buses, developing new approaches for transporting dialysis patients and improving contracted taxi service to name a few.

Council also approved recommendations to establish the same fares as Grand River Transit (GRT), exempt support persons from paying transit fees and extend MobilityPLUS service hours.

*****

GUELPH MERCURY
October 29 2011 website GuelphMercury.com
URL:  http://www.guelphmercury.com/news/local/article/616740--wheelchair-activist-breaks-through-barriers-to-access
 
Wheelchair activist breaks through barriers to access
Vik Kirsch, Mercury staff
October 29, 2011

Photograph:  Wheelchair activist Matt Wozenilek poses near his Stevenson Street home with his dog Irene. The former Guelph high school teacher is now a wheelchair activist fighting for mobility issues.
Photograph: Tony Saxon/Guelph Mercury
Source: Guelph Mercury

GUELPH — Matt Wozenilek is an in-your-face wheelchair activist fighting for himself and others with mobility issues.

But he’d rather wrangle concessions from the owners of inaccessible buildings than rely on emerging provincial legislation.

The former school teacher has had success in recent years persuading businesses and others to see things his way, including convenience stores, doughnut shops, the Guelph Mercury and MP Frank Valeriote, though Wozenilek at times appears impatient and still has a way to go to convince everyone.

“There are all sorts of things that could be done. If I make a difference for myself, that helps everybody else,” the 60-year-old said over a cup of coffee at an easy-to-get-to Tim Hortons on Speedvale Avenue, one of his success stories.

Whereas ageism is chauvinism against older individuals, ableism is inequity, sometimes unintentionally, against people of limited mobility, like those getting around with the help of wheelchairs and other aids.

Among admirers of such activists who promote accessible buildings is Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, who was in town Tuesday to attend a disabilities conference organized by the University of Guelph’s Centre for Families, Work and Wellbeing.

“It’s a priority because without physical access, you may as well have a sign on the door saying ‘no physically disabled people allowed in,’ ” said Onley, who has difficulty walking and uses a scooter.

It’s no different, he added, than the discrimination people of colour once faced. “It is a barrier,” Onley said.

Disability in one form or another affects a slight majority of Ontarians when their family members are included, Onley said.

Wozenilek was raised in Port Credit and Orangeville. He studied geography and English at the University of Guelph, in a city he’s called home since 1985, but became a computer science and business teacher for 22 years at area schools, including Guelph Collegiate and John F. Ross high schools.

But in recent years he’s increasingly depended on a wheelchair to get around because of a neurological condition first diagnosed in his mid-20s. While the condition is stable today, “the damage was done,” he said. “My quality of life has diminished dramatically.”

He lives in his house on the city’s east side and relies on disability insurance. With limited energy from the illness, he has home-care workers who make day-to-day living a little easier. “My first priority every day is to maintain my health.”

His focus on accessible buildings “came out of a need.” That need was a desire to live an independent life and feel equal to everyone else. He couldn’t get into the 7-Eleven convenience stores in his neighbourhood, so he approached them to install accessible entrances, which they ultimately did in 2009 after he filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

“It was me asking for personal accessibility.” Soon, two neighbourhood Tim Hortons locations also came on board, with Wozenilek preferring to think he helped influence their decisions. An M & M store and Candies of Merritt in Speedvale Mall also made their businesses accessible.

But his batting average isn’t perfect. There is continued resistance to innovations such as ramps and power doors. Sometimes he’s had to repeatedly remind property owners of new and continuing reforms to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which is intended to make it easier for people to access buildings.

His focus is on establishments he frequents, and he said he has no intention to seek changes at other places. He admits he’s been accused of harassment, but he’s confident more businesses will see the benefit of making life easier for customers. “It’s going to take time and it’s going to take education.” It may also take altruistic able-bodied clients putting pressure on building owners for the greater good, he added.

Frank Valeriote said he was already thinking about making changes to the entrance at his Cork Street constituency office, which had only a temporary ramp, when Wozenilek made his pitch for a ramp and automatic doors. That allowed the Liberal MP to approach his landlord with a cost-sharing proposal.

“I want to applaud Matt’s efforts,” Valeriote said, adding that Wozenilek “has put a lot of time into this (issue) and he has met with some success.”

Wozenilek also runs a website — stopableism.org — that he uses as another tool to raise awareness. Along with links to things such as the Ontario Human Rights Code, he has a list of places in Guelph that are friendly to people in wheelchairs.

But among those who think Wozenilek has overstepped himself is Guelph MPP Liz Sandals, whom he hasn’t convinced to convert a street-level entrance to her constituency office on Woolwich Street. It has a temporary ramp and a buzzer that brings an assistant to open the front door for a visitor requiring assistance.

“I would say the office is wheelchair accessible,” Sandals said. “We have people in the office all the time who are in wheelchairs.”

Sandals added it’s an old building that can’t be converted, though she did install a wheelchair-accessible washroom after consulting with the city and landlord.

She added legislation doesn’t require massive renovation that would take much of historic downtown Guelph out of the building stock. “You would de facto render those buildings unusable,” Sandals said. “It was never the intent of the act that existing buildings be totally compliant.”

Wellington County, with its own accessibility advisory committee, has developed a facility design manual for new construction and major renovations.

“We’re doing a lot within our county buildings,” county accessibility clerk Jennifer Cowan said.

An example is the new Puslinch library that opened in September, with barrier-free ramps, wide, automatic doors, wheelchair-accessible washrooms, wide aisles and “assistive” technology, such as computer screens for the visually impaired.

Guelph Barrier Free Committees, a volunteer organization, is working toward an independent, accessible, equal and inclusive environment for people with disabilities, though it isn’t focusing on the active advocacy of Wozenilek, chair Jean McClelland noted.

“We promote positive accessibility,” she said. “We can’t go to places and demand anything.”

The 15-member committee and its subcommittees prefer educating the public about accessibility issues. This is done through initiatives such as events last summer at the West End Community Centre, which promoted activities like soccer for the visually impaired and wheelchair basketball.

The barrier-free group also holds annual awards for people who have made significant improvements in the lives of people with disabilities. “Anyone can nominate people,” McClelland said. Her group has a new website — guelphbarrierfree.net — a Facebook presence and can be found on Twitter, she noted.

Onley, who uses an electric scooter, told his Guelph audience this week the public shouldn’t think of people with mobility limitations as disabled. Most people at some point in their lives experience such limitations. “In short, we are all disabled or eventually could be.”

Thus, he stressed, people aren’t in any real sense handicapped “except through the barriers of others.” Inclusiveness to Onley means being seen as a full member of the larger community.

“We are not a full community without one another.”

In the audience was human rights and equity consultant Laurie Arnott, who is sympathetic to Wozenilek’s efforts to make buildings more accessible, particularly in the downtown core.

“That’s been one of the problems with downtown Guelph,” said Arnott, who uses a wheelchair. She disagreed that more can’t be done, particularly in this age of technological innovation and better construction techniques, though she conceded the hurdle may be costs associated with change.

Arnott is asking people to be receptive to innovative thinking to make the world inclusive for everyone.

For Wozenilek, the downtown Norfolk United Church renovation that added an elevator is an illustrative case in point.

“I see that as one of the finest examples of accessibility,” he said.

vkirsch@guelphmercury.com

*****

THE SAULT STAR

November 9 2011 from website saultstar.com.doc
URL:  http://www.saultstar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3359712
Local News
Accessibility committee develops 5 year plan
By Elaine Della-Mattia

Sault Ste. Marie's joint accessibility committee has developed a five-year plan to remove barriers in Sault Ste. Marie.

The new plan, to be presented to council Monday, serves as the committee's first five year plan which is required by new government legislation effective 2013.

The Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires that statutory annual planning be completed by accessibility committees as a main reporting tool to show progress in municipalities.

Statistics show that one in seven people in Ontario have a disability and that number will rise over the next 20 years as the population ages.

In a report to council, the accessibility committee notes that "policies, procedures and processors are established to ensure that new or retrofit actions by he Corporation consider accessibility for all citizens."

Those construction projects include capital planning activities and developments that will ensure accessibility barriers are reduced in public buildings.

The 2012 plan includes investing in equipment and making changes to to city owned facilities.

The plan recommends increasing the $2,500 budget for John Roads pool equipment to $5,000 annually starting in 2013 and ensuring that sledge maintenance is done for the facility's arenas.

Public works and transportation will continue to change its pedestrian signals to those that are accessible with a $20,000 annual budget along with curb cut repairs.

Sault Transit currently has its own subcommittee to deal with regular transit and parabus service.

The report states that the social services department will allocate a one-time budget of $5,000 to develop an integrated accessibility standards training program and maintain a vulnerable person's registry at the cost of $20,000 annually.

Each city department is making its own improvements to reduce barriers as part of their planning process.

A number of items are already in progress at various city facilities including developing a wheelchair accessible table at the concession stand of the Essar Cente, improving entranceways to the Maycourt and Jesse irving Centres and improving the Seniors Centres.

The city is also working at implementing a TEXTNET Communication System that allows the deaf, deafened and hard of hearing to communicate with staff and council independently.

The police department is also reviewing systems that can help the hard of hearing make 9-1-1 calls.

The accessibility committee says the next few years will be busy as the city strives to meet new provincial integrated accessibility standards.

*****

SARNIA OBSERVER
November 9 2011 from website theobserver.ca.doc
URL:  http://www.theobserver.ca/PrintArticle.aspx?e=3362441

Sarnia improving accessibility

It just makes sense to create a city that caters to the disabled, says Susan Weatherston.

She was hired by the City of Sarnia two years ago to interpret a slew of new provincial legislation geared to making the public sector more accessible.

"It's a long haul," she told council during a special information session Monday. "But we're meeting the deadlines."

Fifteen per cent of the population has a disability. "It's our parents, our kids, our neighbours, and it could apply to any of us tomorrow," said Weatherston.

Ensuring that public buildings are designed to accommodate disabilities and that municipal staff are sensitive to the needs of the disabled is just the right thing to do, she said.

"It's based on the principles of dignity and respect."

Take, for instance, a change in the poll locations during the last municipal election. Many voters had to travel to new places to vote because, for the first time, Weatherston was there to ensure they were accessible.

That's a very tangible example of how the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act makes a difference.

But there are many other ways that are less tangible, she said.

It's going to take until 2025 before all the accessible legislation is rolled out, but so far Sarnia has met the deadline to provide education and training to all 420 of its employees.

Assisting those with disabilities is now a part of the culture at city hall, said Weatherston.

Many people with physical challenges are looking to government to improve accessibility to public buildings. But the legislation doesn't address that.

It includes regulations for new buildings, but existing ones are grandfathered and don't have to be altered, Weatherston told council.

Sarnia applied for federal dollars to make the Sarnia library auditorium more accessible but was turned down, she said.

Costs are high to make substantial changes to older buildings and it's not mandatory, she noted, but that doesn't mean improvements haven't been made.

"Probably the single biggest barrier is heavy doors, which we fixed with $28 worth of door stops," she said. "Sometimes it just takes thinking about the standard and how to meet the needs of the disabled."

She works with a committee of council that has dealt with accessibility issues for the past 10 years.

"We're doing a lot of things right," she said, pointing to a universally accessible washroom on city hall's main floor.

"And we're always looking for input on accessibility improvements."

The city's website will soon be upgraded to be more user friendly for people with disabilities. It also has a link where more suggestions can be made by the public.

Weatherston stressed that she is working on accessibility in the public sector only and the private sector has until Jan. 2012 before it must start to comply with the Act.

cdobson@theobserver.ca
 
*****

THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR
October 19 2011 from website thespec.com.doc
URL: 
http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/611508--a-wait-on-wait-times
A wait on wait times

Jeff Green

Hamilton’s disabled community will have an on-demand taxi service eventually. Right now, there is no clear picture on how that will look — and we won’t find out for some time.

In July 2011, the province legislated taxi services should have fare and service level parity between disabled and able-bodied persons — including the same wait times. But the details on how much service would be provided and how that would be implemented have been left up to the municipalities.

Revisions to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act have forced municipalities to have a plan — and an appropriate number of totally accessible, on-demand taxis ready — by Jan. 1, 2013. The legislation does not make any specific recommendation as to the proportional amount of accessible taxis based on a community’s population.

The local disabled community and taxi cab owners, drivers and brokers had a lot of questions after Tuesday night’s public meeting hosted by the City of Hamilton, where officials were short on answers. The city will bring Thursday’s suggestions to the planning committee in early 2012.

“It’s only the beginning of something we’re starting and reviewing,” said Vince Ormand, manager of licensing and permits.

“One hundred per cent of the vehicles have to be accessible,” said Aznive Mallett, who uses Hamilton’s Disabled and Aged Regional Transport System (DARTS) to get to and from her job at Hamilton Health Sciences.

Mallett expects the process could be phased in, but Blue Line Taxi owner Anthony Rizzuto says, without concrete numbers, it’s hard to estimate what level of service would be needed.

“It’s impossible to do 100 per cent,” said Rizzuto, noting many seniors ask for sedan taxis over vans (the taxis that would be converted for wheelchair access), because of the ease of getting in and out.

“I would consider they revamp DARTS and make them 24/7,” added Rizzuto. Legislation isn’t leaning that way, specifically asking for taxis to be accessible.

Ormand noted it would cost approximately $15,000 to retrofit a van to be totally accessible, and $40,000 for a new vehicle tailored for this specific service.

The Ontario Taxi Workers Union is worried those costs will trickle down to the drivers, and some have disabilities themselves. Training costs and increases to insurance were also brought up as concerns.

“There are a ton of hurdles that need to be overcome,” said Rizzuto.

*****

March 9 2012 from website blog.cvent.com
URL:
http://blog.cvent.com/blog/executiveoasis/aoda-impact

Impact of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act for Event Planners
by Anne Thornley-Brown@executiveoasis

Event industry professionals in Ontario face an increasingly intricate network of legislation with a direct impact on how business is conducted daily. First, there was the impact on event planners of the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling about TICO's jurisdiction. Now, Ontario event, meeting and conference planners also need to be aware that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) came into full effect on January 31, 2012.

It is important for event and meeting planners outside Ontario to be aware of this legislation as, often, provisions that are implemented in one jurisdiction eventually spread to others.

AODA stipulates that all events, conferences, business meetings and venues must be FULLY accessible to participants with physical challenges and other disabilities.

There are several levels to this requirement:

• transportation to and from event venues
• access to event and meeting venues
• ease of getting around conference, event and meeting facilities
• full access to content

This goes far beyond just ensuring that there are wheelchair-accessible ramps at venues. There are customer service standards, and accessibility could include providing:

• special parking areas
• braille handouts
• sign language interpreters
• facilities for guide dogs including access to emergency veterinary care and much more. The key is to give participants the opportunity to identify what resources, tools and assistance they require for full access. In other words, ask don't assume. Staff training that meets the standards set out in AODA is an important part of the provisions. Staff must be trained about how to handle requests related to accessibility.

For organizations with 20 or more employees, there are specific AODA reporting requirements.

AODA is enforced through inspections. Failure to comply can result in:

• fines of up to $100,000 a day to organizations
• fines of up to $50,000 for each director

Every attendee has a right to be treated with dignity and respect. Even in jurisdictions where no legal framework is in place, it is in the best interests of our clients and our industry to take steps to ensure accessibility.

If there are similar provisions in your jurisdiction, please do add your comments. Let us know where you are based and about the provisions to ensure accessibility in your area.

*****

March 15 2012 from website emcstlawrence.ca
URL:
http://www.emcstlawrence.ca/20120315/news/EQA+welcomes+the+Accessibility+Standards+for+Customer+Service

EQA welcomes the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service
By Doreen Barnes

Photo:  Doreen Barnes, St. Lawrence EMC - It's law and the McClintocks welcome it along with other members of the Education for Quality Accessibility (Canada). John (left) and Elaine (right) with their dog Lucy have been advocating for years on behalf of those with disabilities, especially physical. They applaud the Provincial Government for moving forward with the subsection of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, Accessibility Standards for Customer Service.

EMC News - The barriers to businesses for those with disabilities will come down with the introduction of new provincial legislation.

As of Jan. 1, 2012, the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07 has come into effect, which is a subsection of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.

Members of the Education for Quality Accessibility (Canada), EQA for short, are delighted to hear this news.

This legislation applies to businesses and organizations that provide goods and services directly to the public or to third parties and have one or more employees in Ontario.

"The government is enacting the removal of barriers to people with communication problems, whether they are deaf, hard of hearing, sight (vision), mental health, physical, developmental or learning," said EQA secretary Elaine McClintock.

Disabled people travel, shop and perform business transactions just like everyone else, so by learning how to serve these individuals can make for a win-win situation.

Formed by the provincial government, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 has five categories.

"They are customer service, transportation, information and communications, built environment and employment," said Elaine. "Standards were set up and have to be met by all agencies. The provincial government buildings, municipal organizations, colleges etc., they all have committees that have met for several years to make sure they are ready to meet this legislation."

One such committee in Brockville is the Brockville Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (BMAAC) which was formed after the passing of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, in 2005.

"We are the only province in Canada that has that Act (2005)," indicated Elaine. "British Columbia is very good at looking after the disabled. The depths of this Act 2005, is so comprehensive that it's a good model."

EQA

EQA is a not-for-profit charitable organization formed in 1994 by several interested individuals.

"I was one of the founders," said John McClintock. "The reason was after the Year of the Disabled Persons, about 1981, people were going ahead to make places accessible, they did all kinds of stuff, but they made the mistake of not consulting people that would be using this, the disabled people. I decided it was time we showed them what they needed to do."

The EQA wants to offer information, education, assessments, inspections and consulting services to help those to improve the quality of life for physically disabled people.

John has Multiple Sclerosis and has spent many years making his way around in a wheelchair, so he knows first hand what the barriers are.

"There are all kinds of disabilities, but a motion disability is more noticeable than any other," said John. "I found in those days, there were all kinds of places I couldn't get in at all. They would build a ramp to go into a building or any place, they would forget about the curve at the bottom."

John continued to say that people think a person in a wheelchair can get over a four or five inch rise with no problem, but that's not true, especially for anyone in a manual wheelchair.

"You have to have a lip of about half an inch for the manual wheelchair," indicated John.

John acknowledged that early on the Brockville City Council was not that supportive of the idea to make government building accessible to those with a physical disability.

"The mayor at that time broke his leg and couldn't get upstairs to the Council Chamber," said John. "When this happened, an elevator was put in."

According to Elaine prior to the installation of the elevators, a city employee was made aware of the difficulty to enter Brockville City Hall using a wheelchair. He suggested that the sidewalk be raised to allow for easier access into Victoria Hall, which was done.

John said it took time, but with the support of the council, especially former councillor Robert (Bob) Huskinson, today, there are electronic door opener buttons along with two elevators at Brockville City Hall.

"Our goals at the time might have been a little too ambitious," said John. "You could suggest to people that they do something, but there was nothing to say that they had to do it," said John. "With this legislation that the Ontario Government has come up with, it has put some teeth into it now, they have to do it by 2025."

The EQA awards businesses, municipal buildings and others with a decal should they meet the standards they have set out.

There is a five-star decal, a four-star decal and even a three-star decal which is given depending on how accessible the building is.

"We wanted to make Brockville the model for accessibility for all over the world," indicated John. "It had to start somewhere we felt it might as well start in Brockville."

BROCKVILLE MUNICIPAL

ACCESSIBILITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE (BMAAC)

This committee is comprised of people with an interest in advising and helping the City of Brockville with support and assistance in removing barriers for the citizens of all abilities which includes persons with disabilities.

"They advertised for people who would be interested to be on the committee and they look after all the municipal buildings," said Elaine.

In fact, BMAAC was instrumental in making the Brockville Memorial Civic Centre accessible.

As well, with the financial assistance of the May Court Club of Brockville, the playground structure at Hardy Park is wheelchair accessible with tactile features and the installation of the Braille alphabet.

"We give BMAAC suggestions as to what still needs to be done (in Brockville)," indicated Elaine. "They are very, very receptive. We have just sent them a whole list of stuff. In fact we are to meet with Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark about the new Services Ontario building on Market Street. There's no handicap parking outside the door and on market days, we can not get near it. If someone parks at the bottom of the hill and uses a manual wheelchair, it has to be pushed up the hill. Those who have oxygen tanks can't do it."

EQA's list of suggestions are to make scooters available at the front entrance of the larger box stores along with a bench just inside the doors not just for people with walking issues, but for all seniors.

Other items include level sidewalk entry into stores, curb cuts at municipal properties, lower counters in places of business, directions of handicapped bathrooms in public places and technology to assist the hearing and sight impaired at government and municipal buildings to name a few.

ACCESSIBILITY OUTSIDE BROCKVILLE

"BMAAC has done a lot," stated Elaine. "Once they took over we started working with people outside of Brockville. John and I were on a United Counties of Leeds and Grenville group and we were able to give input to the social housing."

John added that they have given advice to people in other provinces, the Maritimes and British Columbia.

"One of our main projects," said Elaine, "We were invited by the architects to go to the Parliamentary Library to help them to make it accessible. We took the scooter and the wheelchair and went all through the beautiful library. We showed them how much space was needed to turn. They were to remove wooden panels just as you go in. They were also planning a bathroom. We showed them that the door had to open out to be able to turn inside and where the bars should be placed."

NATIONAL ACCESS AWARENESS WEEK

The first week of June is recognized by the Federal Government as National Access Awareness Week.

The EQA usually has a display in a prominent location in Brockville during this particular week to inform the public with hand-outs, showing a DVD and having knowledgeable speakers available.

TRAVEL

The McClintocks are travellers and while on the road they need to find suitable lodging with easy entrance access into a building, as well as enough space in the rooms, especially the bathroom to accommodate John's wheelchair.

'They talk about the United States as being totally accessible, but it isn't," stated John. "Not by a long shot. They say how wonderful it is, but it is not as we have been over there."

Although business operators think about making their premises wheelchair accessible, many make very common mistakes which include having a designated wheelchair washroom with a door that opens in, not out.

"There are still a lot of things that need to be done in Brockville," said Elaine.

Businesses and organizations must comply with these requirements, as it is the law. To local tools and resources, visit www.AccessON.ca/compliance.

*****

February 13 2012 from website hrvoice.org
URL:  http://www.hrvoice.org/accessibility-for-ontarians-legislation-impacts-business-in-bc/

Accessibility for Ontarians: Legislation Impacts Businesses in BC
By Melissa Magder

The province of Ontario has passed a series of laws intended to eliminate all barriers to persons with disabilities. Such barriers include systemic barriers, attitudinal barriers, physical barriers, and those to do with information, technology and communication. The objective is to make Ontario a fully accessible province for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, building structures and premises by January 1, 2025.

Although the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a provincial legislation, many businesses outside of Ontario are also impacted and need to be aware of the requirements. Specifically, companies that are headquartered in another province but have offices or representation inside Ontario must also comply with the AODA.  If they do not, they are subject to hefty penalties associated with this legislation.

The starting point is customer service. By January 1, 2012, all private sector Ontario businesses that provide goods or services to the public or to other third parties were legally required to comply with the Customer Service Standard. This is the first of five standards to be passed under the AODA legislation. The law requires all businesses and organizations with more than one employee to create policies, procedures and plans for providing goods or services to persons with disabilities. It also requires mandatory training for anyone who interacts with clients, customers, the external public or third party service providers. There are specific elements that the training must cover, but it is centered on effectively communicating and interacting with persons with disabilities in a manner that takes into account their disability.

Organizations with more than 20 employees must report annually to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario on their compliance activity. Businesses that do not comply with the Customer Service Standard are subject to a range of fines – up to $100,000.00 per day in the case of an offence.

Why has this become such a priority? 15.5 per cent of Canadians have some form of a disability. This number is expected to increase to 20 per cent over the next 20 years. Furthermore, research shows that persons with disabilities have an approximate spending power of $25 billion annually across Canada. Providing accessible customer service will help ensure that current and potential customers, including those with a disability, choose your business over your competitors. It also creates a positive public image – a factor that is becoming more influential in this age of social consciousness.

For more information on the AODA and its compliance requirements, go to http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca

Melissa Magder is director of Diversity, HR & Cross-cultural Training at proLearning innovations …