ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

AODA Alliance Writes Economic Development, Trade and Employment Minister to Request Specific Details on Government Action to Implement and Enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

May 2, 2014

Summary

On May 2, 2014, the AODA Alliance wrote Dr. Eric Hoskins, the Ontario Government cabinet minister with lead responsibility for implementing and enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. See the text of that letter, below.

To help us prepare our written brief that we will submit to the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act's implementation and enforcement, we asked the Minister for specific information that he has readily available to him on:

a) the Government's overdue choice of which accessibility standards to develop next under the AODA.

b) the Government's promised effective enforcement of the AODA.

c) how much money the Government gave the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario for the past year and how much it spent.

d) what the Government has done to integrate disability accessibility into all programs at the Economic Development, Trade and Employment Ministry.

e) what the Government has done to encourage the private sector to produce goods and services that are disability-accessible.

f) what the Government has done to increase employment of persons with disabilities.

g) what the Government will do to ensure a lasting and strong disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games.

On April 29, 2014, we made an in-person presentation at the Toronto public hearings of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. We are now working on our written brief for that Independent Review. We welcome any feedback on what you think our brief should include. Send your ideas to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

You have until June 1, 2014 to send the Mayo Moran Independent Review your own written submission on how effectively the Government is implementing and enforcing the AODA. 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.

To submit your ideas to the Mayo Moran Independent Review.

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MORE DETAILS

May 2, 2014 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Dr. Eric Hoskins

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

March 2, 2013

Via Email:  eric.hoskins@ontario.ca

Hon. Dr. Eric Hoskins
Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment
Hearst Block, 8th Floor
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2E1

Dear Dr. Hoskins,

Re: The Ontario Government's Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005

We seek important information regarding your Government's implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The AODA requires your Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to persons with disabilities by 2025.

We are preparing our brief for the Independent Review of the Government's implementation and enforcement of the AODA. Your Government appointed University of Toronto's Dean Mayo Moran to conduct this Independent Review. The information we request is fundamentally important to us and no doubt, to the work of the Moran Independent Review.

The information we seek should be known to you or instantly and easily located. Please provide this information as soon as possible. The Moran Independent Review has set a June 1, 2014 deadline for written submissions. We need this information well before that date.

A. New Accessibility Standards

Under the AODA, you are the minister responsible for deciding which accessibility standards to develop. Right after the AODA was enacted in 2005, your Government commendably was able to promptly select the first five accessibility standards to develop.

Since then, your Government has had before it the question of which accessibility standards to develop next, for some five years. For example, in June, 2009, your Government asked Charles Beer to advise your Government on the choice of which accessibility standards to develop next, as part of his first Independent Review  of the AODA's implementation.

For well over the last two and a half years, we have been pressing your Government to designate the three important areas of education, health care, and residential housing to be the next areas for which accessibility standards will be developed. No one has contested that health care, education and residential housing are important areas where persons with disabilities require accessibility, and where they now too often now face barriers. 

On January 21, 2013, fully 466 days ago, your Government announced that it would decide which new accessibility standards will be developed next, based on information that your Government had already gathered.

We therefore wish to know:

1. When will your Government announce the accessibility standards that it will next develop under the AODA?

2. Why has your Government taken so long to decide which accessibility standards to next develop, longer than it takes to actually develop an accessibility standard?

B. Enforcement of the AODA

You are the minister with lead responsibility for enforcing the AODA. On November 18, 2013, some 124 days ago, we revealed to the public that your Government was aware that for over ten months, at least 70% of private sector organizations with at least 20 employees were in clear violation of the AODA. We also revealed, from Government records, that your Government had not kept its oft-repeated promise to effectively enforce the AODA. Your Government had not imposed a dime in monetary penalties under the AODA, or conducted a single audit or inspection, or issued a single compliance order against any private sector organization as of early November 2013.

On December 3, 2013, you announced in the Ontario Legislature that you already had a plan for the AODA's enforcement. You stated regarding the enforcement of the AODA: “We will continue to work hard—including through audits and inspections and, if required, fines and the court system—to improve our private sector compliance. We have an enforcement plan and we will implement it.”

Two months after that, on or before February 7, 2014, some 71 days ago, your office told the Toronto Star that you would publicly post your promised AODA enforcement plan "in short order." We are still waiting.

The only enforcement efforts that you have announced to date concerned focusing on a mere 2,500 of the 36,000 private sector organizations with at least 20 employees about whom your Government already had conclusive proof of AODA violations. Moreover, the only enforcement efforts that you have publicly acknowledged concern the duty of private sector organizations with at least 20 employees to file a Customer Service accessibility compliance self-report by December 31, 2012.

You have not announced any action to enforce the duty to actually provide accessible customer service. You have announced no enforcement efforts in the context of customer service, to include private sector organizations that have less than 20 employees. You have not announced any action to enforce any other accessibility obligations in the areas of employment, information and communication, transportation, or accessible public spaces. Various accessibility obligations in those areas have come into force in 2011, 2012, 2013 and in some cases, 2014, under the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation.

We therefore wish to know:

3. When will your Government make public its promised plan for enforcing the AODA?

4. Will your Government's plan for enforcing the AODA include enforcement of all accessibility obligations that are in effect under the AODA or any accessibility standards enacted under it?

5. Why has it taken your Government so long to develop and make public its promised plan for enforcing the AODA?

6. Why wasn't your Government enforcing the AODA for so long?

7. Since November 2013, against how many organizations has your Government imposed monetary penalties under the AODA, and in what amounts?

8. Since November 2013, against how many organizations has your Government issued a compliance order under the AODA? Or conducted an AODA audit? Or conducted an AODA inspection?

9. Why has your Government's limited recent efforts to enforce the AODA only included enforcing the requirement for private sector organizations to file a Customer Service Accessibility self-report, but no other accessibility requirements under any of the accessibility standards enacted to date?

10. At present, how many directors have been and remain appointed under the AODA? How many inspectors?

C. Funding for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

Last November, we revealed Government records showing that the Government office responsible for implementing and enforcing the AODA, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, had been under budget in every year since the AODA was enacted in 2005, up to the 2012-2013 fiscal year. As a result, some 24 million dollars, allocated for implementing and enforcing the AODA, went unspent over those years. We are eager to learn whether that was also the case in the last fiscal year.

We therefore wish to know:

11. How much money did the Government budget for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario for the last fiscal year (2013-2014), and how much did the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario actually spend in that fiscal year?

D. Integrating Disability Accessibility Action into All Programs of the Economic Development, Trade and Employment Ministry

Shortly after you took on your current portfolio, on February 27, 2013, we wrote you, stating, among other things: "We encourage you to capitalize on and build upon the Premier’s decision to move lead responsibility for the AODA to you and your Ministry. It is important for your ministry to incorporate disability accessibility as a prominent part of all of your Ministry’s strategies, programs and initiatives for promoting Ontario’s economic development, trade and employment."

Three months later, one year ago, on May 28, 2013, to honour National Access Awareness Week, you made a statement in the Legislature, in which you committed, among other things, as follows: “It means that the goal of greater accessibility must be integrated into all that we do as a ministry, and I have instructed my ministry to do just that.”

We therefore wish to know:

12. Has your Ministry fully incorporated disability accessibility criteria, goals and action into all of its programs? If so, please provide specifics (e.g. the names of the programs and the changes made), and what practical impact this has had.

E. Encouraging Ontario Businesses to Produce Goods and Services that are Disability-Accessible

In our February 27, 2013 letter to you, we wrote: "Your Ministry and its programs should promote Ontario’s public and private sectors to produce world-leading goods, services and facilities that incorporate principles of universal design so that everyone can use and benefit from them, including persons with disabilities. This would substantially expand Ontario’s market for its goods around the world. The demand for accessible goods, services and facilities continues to grow. The U.S.A., the European Union and other global markets are ramping up their commitments to accessibility."
 
In your May 28, 2013 statement in the Legislature, you focus on at least one aspect of this. You said:

“There are also opportunities that we must seize in the area of business and especially trade. Because of our province’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion, we have a thriving business sector producing goods and services for people with disabilities. I saw this yesterday at the Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery conference, where I presented awards to young innovators who have come up with new goods and services that will make our communities more inclusive and more accessible.

As we encourage companies to go global with their products, we must do the same for companies producing goods and services focused on accessibility.”

We therefore wish to know:

13. What have you and your Ministry done to foster and encourage Ontario businesses to produce goods and services that are fully accessible for persons with disabilities, and that incorporate universal design principles, to position Ontario to meet the untapped global market of one billion persons with disabilities?

F. Increasing the Number of Ontarians with Disabilities who have Jobs

On February 19, 2013, in your Government's first Throne Speech under Premier Kathleen Wynne, your Government committed to make employment for people with disabilities a new priority. The Throne Speech included:

“Your government will ensure that all individuals can find their role in this economy. And so it calls on the private sector to increase the number of people with disabilities in the Ontario workforce. As a demonstration of its commitment to this goal, your government will shift the Accessibility Directorate from the Ministry of Community and Social Services to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. Because men and women with disabilities deserve a level playing field.”

Three months later, in your May 28, 2013 statement in the Legislature, you said that you and your ministry will reach out to the private sector to work on increasing employment for people with disabilities: “In our efforts to work with business across the province to create jobs, we must also work to improve the participation rate for people with disabilities in the workforce. It’s the right thing to do, and it makes economic sense, because if our economy is to be vibrant, if we are to thrive and if our society is to be truly fair, all Ontarians must have the opportunity to contribute. Many businesses understand this. There are numerous examples of employers who get the economic case for hiring people with disabilities—an economic and business case that has been demonstrated in study after study.

But as a ministry and as a society, we must do more to help employers understand that business case and to improve access to employment. We must do that in our conversations with business and through robust public education.”

Six months later, on December 3, 2013, speaking in the Legislature you said:

“Recognizing that we still have a long way to go in making our workplaces more accessible, together with the business community and accessibility advocates, I’ve directed my ministry to develop and publish an employment strategy to remove barriers for persons with disabilities in the workforce and create an inclusive environment in the workforce for employment of persons with disabilities.”

Two months after that, on February 7, 2014, we made public the fact that your Government was only then arranging to appoint a council to develop ideas for a disability employment strategy. It would have until the end of 2014 to submit its ideas to the Government. This means that the promised Government action plan must wait until some time in 2015 to get started.

We therefore wish to know:

14. What concrete actions has your Government taken since you became Minister, to increase the employment of persons with disabilities, and with what concrete results?

15. Why has it taken you almost a full year to set up an advisory council to propose a strategy for increasing the employment of people with disabilities, with a plan not to be forthcoming until some time next year?

G. Disability Accessibility Legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games

On August 28, 2013, your Government held a major news conference to unveil its plans for its proposed legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. The Government is spending a large amount of public money to help finance those Games.

At that news conference, your Government did not announce any comprehensive plans for a lasting and strong disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Toronto Games. Since that news conference, your Government has still not announced a comprehensive plan to ensure such a disability accessibility legacy for the Toronto 2015 Games, despite our efforts.

In your December 3, 2013 statement in the Legislature to mark the International Day for People with Disabilities, You committed:

“Ontario will also have an opportunity to demonstrate how much we’ve accomplished in building an accessible province when we welcome the world to the Pan Am/ParaPan Am Games in 2015. That year, we will also be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We will have a real opportunity for the games—in fact, the first fully accessible games—to leave a lasting legacy when it comes to a more accessible province. We will seize that opportunity.”

We therefore wish to know:

16. When will your Government make public a comprehensive plan to ensure that the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games have a lasting and strong legacy of accessibility for persons with disabilities in Ontario?

17. Why has your Government not made a comprehensive plan public up until now for a lasting and strong disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Toronto Games?

Conclusion

On May 28, 2013, you told the Legislature that accessibility for persons with disabilities is a top priority for you and your Government. You also said that “Talk is important, but it will only get us so far. We need action."

We agree that we need action. We look forward to hearing back from you as soon as possible on what action you and your government have taken, and with what concrete results for persons with disabilities, in the important areas that this letter addresses.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.
Chair, AODA Alliance
 
cc:  Premier Kathleen Wynne, email kwynne.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment Email: wendy.tilford@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, ann.hoy@ontario.ca
Dean Mayo Moran, University of Toronto Faculty of Law