ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT TO MAKE PUBLIC THE FINALIZED ENACTED INTEGRATED ACCESSIBILITY REGULATION THIS FRIDAY

June 01, 2011

SUMMARY

On Tuesday, May 31, 2011 the McGuinty Government announced that on Friday June 3, 2011 it will make public the finalized Integrated Accessibility Regulation it is enacting under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This is the final stage in the development of that accessibility regulation. When it is made public on Friday, It will be the law of the Province of Ontario.

The Integrated Accessibility Regulation will address barriers facing persons with disabilities in the important areas of information and communication, employment and transportation.

This new development was announced at a reception that the Government hosted on the afternoon of May 31, 2011, to honour the sixth anniversary of the enactment of the AODA, as well as National Access Awareness Week. The Community and Social Services Minister stated:

"Tonight, I’m proud to announce yet another milestone in Ontario’s accessibility history. As of this Friday, our government will be filing and posting the Integrated Accessibility Regulation – this will set in motion progress on the next three accessibility standards:

-           Transportation

-           Information and Communication, and 

-           Employment.  As a result of this news, our government can now proudly state that we have passed four of the five accessibility standards."

This announcement is the culmination of five years of tenacious advocacy by the disability community. When the finalized Integrated Accessibility Regulation is made public, we will circulate it as quickly as we can and comment on its contents. The Government's announcements at the May 31, 2011 event did not describe the details of the finalized Integrated Accessibility Regulation. To read what we recommended in our last brief to the Government on this regulation, visit:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03112011.asp

Below we set out the text of the speaking notes of Premier McGuinty and Community and Social Services Minister Meilleur, at this event. The master of ceremonies was James Sanders, chair of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council.

In his speech, Premier McGuinty emphasized the need to not require persons with disabilities to fight barriers one at a time via human rights complaints. He said: "You know, the truth is, in the past, we put the onus on people with disabilities. They had to go to the Human Rights Tribunal …"

We agree. That is why the McGuinty Government needs to promptly deploy all the enforcement powers that we won in the AODA. This is needed to keep Premier McGuinty's 2003 election promise that there would be effective enforcement of the Disabilities Act.

OTHER NEWS

We remind one and all to attend the upcoming public forum on how to advocate for accessibility, hosted by the East Gwillimbury Accessibility Advisory Committee. It is taking place on Saturday June 11, 2011 from 9 a.m. to noon. ASL will be provided. For details on the location, on requesting accessibility services,  and on how to RSVP, visit:  http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05192011.asp

In yet more news, the June 1, 2011 edition of the Guelph Mercury reported on an excellent conference on accessible information technology, hosted by the University of Guelph. See that article, below. We are delighted with the article but would disagree with the statement in it that: "The private sector faces major expenditures in bringing their operations in line with the legislation." The costs of compliance, especially regarding the prevention of new barriers, is quite low, can be spread over time, is a normal cost of doing business, and is more than offset by the gains that accessibility generates for organizations. 

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Minister Madeleine Meilleur

Remarks on Ontario’s accessibility progress and promise

ROM reception to open National Access Awareness Week

May 31, 2011

Bonsoir / Good evening everyone and thank you Jim for that kind introduction.

I’m so glad that you could all join us here tonight to celebrate National Access Awareness Week in Ontario. And I want to thank the Royal Ontario Museum for hosting us this evening.

La célébration de la Semaine nationale pour l’intégration des personnes handicapées est une excellente occasion de dire ‘merci’ à vous tous pour votre engagement / ‘thank you’ for your continued partnership, service and dedication to Ontarians with disabilities.

Because of the hard work you do, accessibility in Ontario is becoming a daily occurrence, not just a rare event.

We have much to celebrate this evening.

A quick tour around the Royal Ontario Museum will show you how far accessibility has come in Ontario.

This jewel – or crystal – in Ontario’s cultural crown shows the world what’s possible when we remove barriers.

The breadth and accessibility of the ROM’s programming reflects the spectrum of experiences, cultures and abilities in our world.

And I’d like to congratulate everyone at the ROM for realizing our vision of an accessible province and accessible world.

I’m so pleased that Sal Badali, Chair of the ROM’s Board of Trustees is able to be with us this evening.

I’d also like to single out my former Cabinet colleague, Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, for starting this accessibility journey.

Six years ago, the law she introduced as Minister – the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act – passed in the House.

She then brought that message of accessibility with her when she came to work with the ROM.

Dr. Bountrogianni couldn’t be with us tonight, but I want to thank her for her commitment to accessibility in Ontario.

Since the introduction of the AODA, we have passed many milestones on the road to accessibility.

Tonight, I’m proud to announce yet another milestone in Ontario’s accessibility history.

As of this Friday, our government will be filing and posting the Integrated Accessibility Regulation – this will set in motion progress on the next three accessibility standards:

-           Transportation

-           Information and Communication, and

-           Employment

As a result of this news, our government can now proudly state that we have passed four of the five accessibility standards.

 

And we couldn’t have done it without you. Tonight we are here to recognize not us here on stage, but everyone here in this room, because without you, we wouldn’t be celebrating such remarkable progress.

Depuis six ans, nous avons fait d’immenses progrès dans la réalisation de notre objectif,   l’accessibilité pour tous que vous soyez une entreprise du secteur privé ou un organisme qui travaille dans la collectivité, vous avez été des partenaires de choix, votre intérêt et votre sensibilité au besoin des personnes qui ont un handicap et la rapidité avec laquelle vous avez adapté vos produits et services font de l’Ontario une province inclusive et innovatrice dans le domaine de l’accessibilité.  

Whether you work with the disability community, represent our private sector businesses, or are a member of a public sector organization, the experience, insight and advice you have lent to the process is helping us build a province that leaves no one behind.

Because accessibility is about more than regulations or requirements.

It’s about fairness.

It’s about inclusion.

It’s about people.

Over the last six years, as we’ve worked to make Ontario more accessible, one of our biggest supporters at Queen’s Park has been Premier McGuinty.

We simply could not have come as far as we have without his leadership and commitment to the vision of an accessible Ontario.

From the very beginning he has made accessibility a priority right across government and challenged all of us in Cabinet to find new ways to break down barriers for Ontarians with disabilities.

Because, just like everyone in this room, he recognizes that a province without barriers is a province without limits.

Please join me in welcoming the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty / Monsieur le premier ministre de l’Ontario, Dalton McGuinty…

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Premier’s Speech – May 31, 2011

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Thank you Madeline for that kind introduction today.

And for the work you do every day.

Making Ontario stronger by making it accessible to all.

Il nous suffit de jeter un simple coup d’oeil à ce magnifique endroit Ici au Musée royal de l’Ontario

Ici au Musée royal de l’Ontario

Une de nos plus grandes institutions

Et un lieu agréable pour les familles

Pour comprendre pourquoi il est si important que nous fassions tous les efforts nécessaires, pour rendre les lieux publics accessibles à tout le monde.

We only have to look at these wonderful surroundings here at the Royal Ontario Museum, one of our finest institutions, and a great place for families, to see why it is so important that we make every effort possible to make public places accessible to everyone.

We would not want anyone to miss out on great Ontario attractions like this one.

Even more important, we don’t want our province missing out on all the important contributions that people of all abilities can make to help us continue building on the great quality of life we enjoy.

That’s why we created the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

And I am pleased to be here to celebrate the sixth anniversary of its passage.

We’re also recognizing Access Awareness Week which is part of Rick Hansen’s vision. He made people around the world very aware of how much can be accomplished through sheer determination.

So we need to be just as determined as we work to fulfil our own vision for a fully accessible Ontario and to work as quickly and effectively as we can to reach that goal no later than 2025.

En tant que province, nous devrions tenter de devenir des chefs de file en matière d’accessibilité pour montrer aux autres ce qui est possible de telle sorte qu’en bout de ligne, non seulement nous renforçons l’Ontario. Mais nous aidons aussi à faire de ce monde un meilleur endroit pour vivre.

We should strive to be leaders as a province in accessibility to show others what’s possible so that in the end, we not only make Ontario stronger, we help to make the world a better place, too.

When you look at the opportunities awaiting us in the global economy and the strength of the competition it’s clear that we need everyone at their best.

The Martin Prosperity Institute has estimated that by making it easier for Ontarians with disabilities to get to work, school, shops, and tourist attractions.

Our economy stands to benefit by $1.5 billion.

That provides us with the means to invest in schools, hospitals and all the things that matter to all our families.

But more than that, an accessible province is one where there are no limits on the great things Ontarians can achieve together.

So, when places like the Brockville Arts Centre install a new lift so that musicians of all abilities can get on stage or into the orchestra pit.

We’re not doing that just because it is the right thing to do. We’re doing it because it sends a clear message to that musician in the lift and to each and every Ontarian:

We need you.

All of you.

We need your passion.

We need your creativity.

We need your ideas.

We need your idealism.

Right across Ontario, in community centres, offices, schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and our public institutions, we need to be sending that message:

We need you.

You know, the truth is, in the past, we put the onus on people with disabilities.

They had to go to the Human Rights Tribunal.

Such as when David Lepofsky fought for TTC buses and streetcars that announced every stop.

It’s a great example of one person making a big difference for all of us.

Because then the TTC went further and they now also display every stop.

But as my father used to say, “None of us is as strong as all of us, working together.

And the Ontarians with Disabilities Act gets all of us working together so that instead of waiting for complaints and then taking action we’re setting standards so that, for example, transit providers will eventually be announcing and displaying stops right across Ontario.

This is the kind of proactive approach we want to see everywhere, in workplaces, on websites, or at public libraries. So that accessibility becomes a natural part of what we do in Ontario.

As our Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable David Onley has put it:

“Accessibility is nothing more but nothing less than that which enables people to fulfill their full potential.”

And if I can be so bold as to add to his words I would say that accessibility is also about enabling Ontario to reach its full potential, nothing more but nothing less.

So we will continue driving forward with accessibility.

We will come up with new ideas and better solutions.

That’s what we do as Ontarians.

We are builders.

We never put tools down.

It’s bred in the bone.

And I’m very grateful for that.

Suite à l’urgent besoin d’aujourd’hui de croître en force, il est heureux d’être des bâtisseurs qui travaillent bien ensemble.

Et nous aurons besoin de l’engagement de tous et chacun.

Ainsi, continuons à agir de cette façon pour bâtir une communauté véritablement accessible, une société plus inclusive et un Ontario plus fort…

In the face of today’s pressing need to grow stronger, it’s great to be builders who work well together.

And it will take everyone’s commitment.

So let’s keep doing that. Let’s keep building a truly accessible community, a more inclusive society, and a stronger Ontario, the greatest province in the best country in the world.

Thank you.

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GUELPH MERCURY June 1, 2011

Accessibility advocate calls for ‘barrier buster’ actions at Guelph conference

Rob O'Flanagan, Mercury staff

Photo:  David Lepofsky receives the Order of Ontario at a special ceremony hosted by Lt.-Gov. David C. Onley at Queen's Park, in 2008. Lepofsky was keynote speaker Tuesday, via Skype, at a Guelph conference to explore accessibility issues in the province.

Source: Mercury News Services file photo

GUELPH — A leading advocate for people with disabilities said universities and colleges have an enormous amount of power to affect accessibility practices and technologies, not only on campuses but across society.

Rozanski Hall on the University of Guelph is the site of the third annual The Accessibility Conference, which opened Tuesday and runs through Wednesday. Attendees are primarily post-secondary disability services staff from across Ontario, all working to make services and facilities easier to access for the disabled.

Numerous barriers continue to impede those with learning, seeing, hearing and mobility challenges, and vigilance is needed to ensure that recent accessibility legislation comes to fruition in practical terms, conference participants heard on Tuesday morning.

David Lepofsky, a distinguished constitutional lawyer and champion of the groundbreaking Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, said information technology is in a constant state of renewal and evolution, and post-secondary institutions are in a very influential position to demand technology that is accessible to people with disability.

“We need your universities to commit to having fully accessible information technology within five years,” said Lepofsky, who made his address via Skype, an information technology that featured frequent stalls, delays and fade-outs. Lepofsky was unable to attend the conference in person.

Starting immediately, universities and colleges should make it clear that they will not spend money on any future information technology – whether hardware or software - that is not accessible to the disabled. By letting vendors know now of this intention, those producers of technology will be forced to innovate in the interests of the disabled.

“If the universities and colleges all do this at the same time, think of the huge amount of pressure they could bring to bear on future information technology,” Lepofsky said. “You have a lot of purchasing power at your universities.”

When designing buildings, a website, or even a document, it is important to think about accessibility from the outset, rather than constructing a barrier that needs to be eliminated in the future, he indicated. He encouraged “barrier buster tours” in communities, during which barriers to the disabled are identified and publicized, and solutions to them proposed.

Lepofsky, a key organizer of an advocacy group that fought for over a decade for legislative changes to make Ontario more accessible, also encouraged advocates to bring attention to the issue during the provincial election. Study the platforms of the various parties, he said, and let the public know where each one stands on accessibility.

Many election polling stations and booths, he said, remain inaccessible to those with certain disabilities and that is simply wrong. Polls should be chosen with accessibility in mind.

Jeanette Parsons is a leading accessibility advocate, and former accessibility coordinator at Queen’s University. In an interview she said the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is unique in the world. It goes beyond the Ontario Human Rights Code to address accessibility issues.

“It’s basically saying, we are not going to wait for somebody to face discrimination, we’re going to go after these barriers and try to remove them before someone encounters a barrier,” she explained. “That is very different from any place else in the world.”

But Ontario is now in the thick of implementing the act’s standards, she said, and the practicalities of doing so are proving very challenging. Accessibility costs money. The private sector faces major expenditures in bringing their operations in line with the legislation. The act was passed in 2005 and gave a 20-year timeline for implementation.

“Economically, this can get a little challenging, and so the standards themselves are not rolling out as smoothly as one would have hoped,” she said. “The other thing is we don’t have a strong enforcement process. Even when organizations are not in compliance with the standards, the minister is not necessarily following up with those organizations quickly.”

Lepofsky said accessibility may not be foremost on the minds of Ontarians, but the subject should be.

“People without disabilities will eventually get one,” he said. “We all have a disability in waiting.”

Athol Gow is on the conference organizing committee. Conference programming, he said, is geared mostly to post-secondary staff of disability services offices. The programming is aimed at those interested in working with students with disabilities.

He added there was a strong turn out for the conference.

roflanagan@guelphmercury.com