ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
Further Reflections on the Wynne Government's Weakening the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard and Premier Wynne's Broken Promise Never to Weaken Protections or Provisions We'd Won In or Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
June 10, 2016
Several days after it revised the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the Wynne Government has issued a broadcast email to make public its amendments to that accessibility standard. We set out that email below. We were not able to also set out below the attachments to that email, because, contrary to proper accessibility practice, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario only attached them to its broadcast email in PDF format, and not also in an accessible MS Word format that we could paste below. Here are more reflections on this week's developments.
On June 8, 2016, with seemingly greater fanfare, the same Ontario Government Ministry, the Ministry of Economic Development, more loudly announced proposed new legislation that the Government proposes to enact, to reduce regulatory requirements on business. We set out that announcement below, as well.
Two years ago, the same Ministry brought forward a similar-sounding regulatory reduction announcement, just before the 2014 Ontario general election. At that time, we announced concerns that such measures must be designed so that they won't be used to weaken any protections we have won in or under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Otherwise, accessibility for people with disabilities can lose out in the process. Since then, the Wynne Government has never responded to our concerns about that initiative with any substantive discussions. To learn about the AODA Alliance's publicly-announced concerns with the Wynne Government's regulatory-reduction announcement in March 2014.
As the June 7, 2016 AODA Alliance Update shows, the Wynne Government's recent revision to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard gutted that accessibility standard's documentation requirements for the huge number of private sector organizations with 20-49 employees. That made that regulation's effective enforcement far more difficult. As our June 7, 2016 AODA Alliance Update shows, that action constituted a serious breach of Premier Wynne's solemn written pledge to 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities that she would not weaken any protections or provisions we'd won in or under the AODA.
It is informative to look at these two recent actions by the Economic Development Ministry at the same time. For example, the Wynne Government's news release, set out below, on its proposed regulatory reduction bill says the Government proposes to amend fully 50 Ontario statutes to reduce burdens on business. In contrast, two months ago, the Government amended only a mere 11 Ontario laws to remove accessibility barriers. It is worthwhile asking what is the Wynne Government's greater priority? To learn more about the Wynne Government's modest and insufficient actions on the nine year old promise to review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers.
From the Wynne Government's June 9, 2016 email announcement regarding the AODA, it is clear that the Government has also decided to reduce but not to entirely eliminate from the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard a provision which we have showed since 2007 has no proper place in that regulation. This is a provision that created a new barrier against people with disabilities –something an AODA accessibility standard cannot do.
What is that troubling provision? The 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard let obligated organizations require a person with a disability in some cases to bring a support person with them, and to charge a second admission for them, if the person with a disability wants to go into the premises of that obligated organization. The recent amendments leave in place the new barrier of allowing an obligated organization to require people with disabilities to bring support persons with them, but with some further restrictions on when the obligated organization can do this. The amendment does take the helpful step of removing the barrier of letting the obligated organization charge a second admission for the support person.
The amendments in effect concede that the Customer Service Accessibility Standard has been over-reaching since it was enacted in 2007. The Wynne Government has never explained why it is needed at all, or why the Government thinks that the AODA lets the Government create such a barrier against people with disabilities.
The Wynne Government has rejected our recommendation that this provision be entirely removed from this standard. This is part of a larger problem – Over the past three years, the Wynne Government rejected most if not all of our input regarding this review of the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard, as did its Accessibility Standards Advisory Council. Our input was based on feedback which we solicited from Ontario's broad disability community over an extensive period of time.
Since the AODA Alliance's and the ARCH Disability Law Centre's June 7, 2016 news releases, highlighting problems with these amendments, the action on Twitter about the Wynne Government's revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard have overwhelmingly focused on the serious concerns with this action which the AODA Alliance and the ARCH Disability Law Centre have publicized.
The Wynne Government is certainly not describing these amendments as some major step forward on its own part, for people with disabilities. Rather, the Government has been giving these amendments a low profile. Since we issued our news release on June 7, 2016, we have received inquiries from the media, the disability community and the public, trying in vain to find any Government announcements of the amendments.
It is important to look at these amendments to the 2007 customer Service Accessibility Standard in light of a bigger picture. The central way the Ontario Government is to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to all people with disabilities by 2025 under the AODA is by creating and effectively enforcing all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario reaches that goal on time.
The Government's track record since Premier Wynne took office on expanding the effectiveness of accessibility standards under the AODA has been slow and minimal. This is so despite the fact that in her December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance, written when she was running for Ontario Liberal Party leadership, Kathleen Wynne promised to ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. The 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review shows that Ontario is not now on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. Kathleen Wynne's December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance.
Since she became Premier in early 2013, no new Standards Development Committee has been appointed under the AODA to create any new accessibility standards. No new accessibility standards have been enacted.
Well over a year ago, back on February 13, 2015, the Wynne Government commendably announced that it would develop a new Health Care Accessibility Standard. However, in the intervening year and a third, the Wynne Government has not even announced the appointment of a Standards Development Committee to start to develop recommendations for it – the very first step the Government must take under the AODA.
The only Standards Development Committee that is now in operation, as far as the Wynne Government has told us, is a new Transportation Standards Development Committee. It is required to review the 2011 transportation accessibility requirements in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. The Government never publicly announced this, as far as we have received word. The new Transportation Standards Development Committee has not sought our input or that of the broader disability community, into its review of the current transportation accessibility requirements.
At the end of 2013, the Government passed modest accessibility changes to the Ontario Building Code. While somewhat helpful, these did not go as far as people with disabilities need. They are not enacted under the AODA, despite our request that the Government take that additional step. They do not solve the major problem of accessibility barriers in existing buildings that are not undergoing major renovations. They do not ensure that new buildings and major renovations to existing buildings will be fully accessible to people with disabilities.
In its ground-breaking 2014 final report, the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, appointed by the Wynne Government, identified major weaknesses and deficiencies in accessibility standards which the Ontario Government has enacted to date. The Wynne Government has not fixed any of them since then.
We bring these reflections Update to you on an important day in the history of our campaign for human rights for people with disabilities in Ontario. Thirty-five years ago, on June 9, 1981, an Ontario coalition which is the grandfather of the AODA Alliance, called the Ontario Coalition for Human Rights for the Handicapped, appeared before a Standing Committee of the Ontario Legislature to speak in support of proposed Government amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code. Those amendments would for the first time make it illegal in Ontario to discriminate against people with disabilities in access to jobs, goods, services or facilities.
One of the speakers for that coalition was David Lepofsky, now chair of the AODA Alliance. Chairing that Standing Committee of the Ontario Legislature was a new Conservative MPP named Mike Harris. He would go on to later become Ontario's premier from 1995 to 2001. It was the only formal meeting that David Lepofsky and Mike Harris have ever had.
Thirty-five years later, the AODA Alliance, and all the wonderful individuals and community organizations with whom we work, continue to tenaciously work to make the guarantee of human rights a reality in the lives of people with disabilities in Ontario. No matter what the set-back may be along the way, we continue to work tirelessly, undeterred.
How can you help? We again encourage one and all to circulate widely the AODA Alliance's and ARCH's June 7, 2016 news releases on Premier Wynne's broken promise to people with disabilities. The AODA Alliance's and ARCH's June 7, 2016 news releases are available.
You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at email@example.com
Have you taken part in our "Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our "Picture Our Barriers" campaign.
To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
We encourage you to use the Government's toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.
Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.
Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance's YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign.
Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org
Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is proud to be the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org
1. June 9, 2016 Broadcast Email from the Ontario Government's Accessibility Directorate
Ministry of Economic
Ministère du Développement économique, de l'Emploi
Reference number: P1606-5
You are receiving this notice because you are an important member of our accessibility network.
What you need to know
What are the main changes?
- All employees and volunteers must now be trained on accessible customer service.
- More types of regulated health professionals can provide documentation of a need for a service animal.
- More specific information is provided to clarify that an organization can only require a support person to accompany someone with a disability for the purposes of health or safety and in consultation with the person. If it's determined a support person is required, the fee or fare (if applicable) for the support person must be waived.
- All accessibility standards — including the accessible customer service standard — are now part of one Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. This means that the requirements are now better aligned to make it easier for organizations to understand their obligations.
- Private sector and non-profit organizations with 20-49 employees no longer need to document policies (does not remove compliance or reporting requirements).
- Certain terms and definitions have also been updated and do not affect your existing requirements.
An information sheet with more detail about the changes is attached to this email.
When do these changes come into effect?
The changes to the standard will come into effect on July 1, 2016.
What is the deadline to comply with these changes?
All organizations in Ontario with one or more employees must comply with the changes effective July 1, 2016.
What is the deadline to report compliance with these changes?
All public sector organizations, and businesses and non-profits with 20 or more employees must submit their 2017 accessibility compliance report by December 31, 2017.
The 2017 report will include questions relating to compliance with the updated customer service standard.
Why were these changes made?
Accessibility standards must be reviewed within five years after becoming law to ensure they are working as intended.
Changes are based on recommendations from the Standards Development Committee. The public and stakeholders were invited to provide their feedback during an extensive public review process.
Updating the accessible customer service standard is part of Ontario's Accessibility Action Plan and our commitment to building an accessible Ontario by 2025.
Sign up for our free online session Accessible Customer Service Standard: What You Need to Know.
Contact the AODA Contact Centre (ServiceOntario) at:
2. Ontario Government June 8, 2016 News Release
Ontario Proposing Changes to Cut Red Tape
Ontario Proposing Changes to Cut Red Tape
Province Helping Businesses Save Time and Money
June 8, 2016 4:25 P.M.
Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
Ontario is proposing changes to 50 different statutes to reduce regulatory burdens and practices that cost businesses time and money, while protecting environmental and health standards and enhancing worker safety.
Today, Minister Brad Duguid introduced the Burden Reduction Act, 2016. If passed, the proposed Act would help the province continue to build a smarter, more modern regulatory environment by rooting out existing burdens and streamlining regulations.
The proposed changes support Ontario's five-year, $400-million Business Growth Initiative that is helping to grow the economy and create jobs by promoting an innovation-based economy, helping small companies scale-up and modernizing regulations for businesses.
- Allowing provincial inspectors under the Consumer Protection Act to request information through phone calls or emails instead of face-to-face meetings leading to fewer interruptions to businesses
- Streamlining the delivery of superload (oversize/overweight) vehicle permits, making it easier and more efficient for businesses shipping heavy machinery and other goods to secure the proper certification
- Maintaining the "industrial exception" in the Professional Engineers Act to give businesses more flexibility in hiring non-engineers to practice engineering in relation to machinery or equipment
The wide-ranging bill also includes a number of measures that would modernize government communication with businesses by allowing for the electronic submission of documents. This, and other crucial updates, would help to foster an innovative and supportive business environment.
Reducing regulatory burden is part of the government's economic plan to build Ontario up and deliver on its number-one priority to grow the economy and create jobs. The four-part plan includes investing in talent and skills, including helping more people get and create the jobs of the future by expanding access to high-quality college and university education. The plan is making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario's history and investing in a low-carbon economy driven by innovative, high-growth, export-oriented businesses. The plan is also helping working Ontarians achieve a more secure retirement.
- The proposed legislation amends more than 50 statutes across 11 different ministries.
- Ontario's 2015 Burden Reduction Report features a total of $44 million in savings, building on $6 million identified in the 2014 report. This puts the province on track to reach its target of reducing business burden by $100 million by the end of 2017.
- Ontario recently launched the Red Tape Challenge, an innovative online platform to help identify and eliminate regulatory duplication, lessen compliance burdens, shorten response times and make it easier for businesses and citizens to interact with government.
- In recognition of the province's efforts to reduce red tape, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) awarded the province a B+ grade — the second highest grade in Canada — as part of its annual Red Tape Awareness Week.