ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
After Almost Three Months, The Wynne Government Answers the AODA Alliance's Request for An Update on Government Plans on Implementing and Enforcing the AODA, but Several of Our Important Questions Remain Unanswered
June 23, 2017
Back on March 16, 2017, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario's Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles, to ask what the Government has recently done, and what it plans to do over the next year, to implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Eighty-three days after we wrote, the Minister responded. The Government's June 8, 2017 letter is set out below.
In our March 16, 2017 letter, we ask the Government specific questions in twelve important areas, to learn what the Government has done, and what it plans to do over the next year on the AODA's implementation and enforcement. This is important since the Wynne Government has one year left in its mandate. Ontarians with disabilities want to know what the Government will do over this upcoming year to get Ontario back on schedule to reach full accessibility by 2025, the deadline which the AODA imposes.
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter did not answer fully 5 of the 12 clear questions that we had asked. Of the remaining questions, the Government largely reported information that we had already ourselves learned over the 83 days since we wrote the Government. Here are the questions we asked the Government, and a summary of the Government's responses:
Creating a Detailed Plan to Reach Full Accessibility by 2025
1. Has your Ministry developed a detailed plan designed to ensure that Ontario will reach the AODA's required goal of full accessibility by 2025? If so, may we see that plan?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter did not answer this question.
Effectively Enforcing the AODA
2. What are your Ministry's detailed plans to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement for last year, this year, and next year leading up to the 2018 election? Can you give us the promised enforcement reports for 2015, 2016 and for 2017 up to now? What specifically is your Ministry doing to meet Premier Wynne's direction in her September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to you, to increase compliance reporting rates among private/not-for-profit sector organizations by an additional 50 per cent in 2017?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter did not answer this question. The Government pointed to previous Government announcements regarding the AODA's enforcement in 2014 and 2015. The Government stated that later this year, the Government will make public a statement about AODA enforcement in 2016. The Government gave no information on its activities or plans for AODA enforcement this year, or next year.
Creating an Education Accessibility Standard
3. By when will you post an announcement inviting people to apply to serve on the Education Standards Development Committee, and by when will that Committee be appointed? Will you ensure that the Government does not impose prior restrictions on which disability accessibility barriers the Education Standards Development Committee can consider in our education system?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter said that it had begun recruiting members of the Education Standards Development Committee and was conducting a survey of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system. By the time we received this letter, we already knew this. the Government's letter came after it had, on May 25, 2017, begun the process of recruiting people to serve on the Education Standards Development Committee.
The Government's letter does not say by when it plans to have appointed that committee. It did not answer our request that the Government not impose prior restraints on the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee, i.e. limiting which disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system can be considered by the Education Standards Development Committee. The June 21, 2017 AODA Alliance Update shows that the Government does in fact plan to impose those prior restraints, despite our repeated objections.
Creating a Health Care Accessibility Standard
4. When will the Health Care Standards Development Committee be appointed?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter said that the Health Care Standards Development Committee had been appointed. By the time the Government wrote us, we had already learned of this development.
Review of the Employment and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standards
5. By when will you appoint the new Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee to review the current accessibility standards addressing accessibility barriers in employment and in information and communication? What will be done to ensure that the disability community gets a full chance to be fully included in and give direct input to those Standards Development Committees, beyond the specific disability sector representatives that you appoint to those Committees?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter said that these two Standards Development Committees had been appointed and had started their work. Here again, by the time the Government wrote us, we had already learned of this development.
The Government did not answer our inquiry about what would be done to ensure that we and the disability community have full input into the work of those Committees.
Reviewing the Transportation Accessibility Standard
6. What has been completed so far in the review of the transportation accessibility provisions enacted in 2011 under the AODA, and when will we and other interested voices from the disability community, such as the AODA Alliance, be afforded a chance to speak directly to the Standards Development Committee that is conducting that review?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter said that the Transportation Standards Development Committee has made public its initial recommendations and is now seeking public input on them. By the time the Government answered our March 16, 2017 inquiry, we had already learned this.
Addressing Ongoing Barriers in the Built Environment
7. What actions will your Government take under the AODA to ensure that Ontario's built environment becomes fully accessible by 2025, and by when? When will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to recommend measures for retrofits and for accessibility in residential housing?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter did not answer this question or acknowledge that it had been asked.
Ensuring Accessible Customer Service
8. What is your Ministry doing to bring stakeholders together to explore ways to improve the Customer Service Accessibility Standard? Would you bring stakeholders together to find ways to improve accessible customer service?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter said that the Government had revised the Customer Service Accessibility Standard in 2016, and that this accessibility standard would be subject to review again in 2021. We already knew this. the Government did not respond to our request that the Government now bring together representatives of the disability sector, the business community and other obligated organizations, to try to find improvements in this area now. Its letter can be understood in effect as refusing to do this.
Creating a Disability Employment Strategy
9. When will your Government announce its new Disability Employment Strategy, and what has been done to date to develop it?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter said that its Disability Employment Strategy was announced on June 5, 2017. By the time we received this letter, we already knew this, and had issued a news release responding to it.
Reviewing All Ontario Laws For Accessibility Barriers
10. How is your Ministry conducting its review of all Ontario statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers? What has been done so far, since your Ministry took lead responsibility for this review? Who is leading it? When will it be completed? By when will an omnibus bill be before the Legislature to address accessibility barriers that require legislative amendments? By when do you aim to go before Cabinet with needed amendments to any Ontario regulations to address accessibility barriers?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter did not answer this question or acknowledge that we had asked it. Premier Wynne's September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to the Accessibility Minister had directed the Minister to lead this review going forward. The Government promised this review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers a decade ago, in its September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance.
Deliberations on Idea of Creating a Private Accessibility Certification Process
11. Is your Ministry proceeding with the idea of a private accessibility certification process? What has been done about this, and what are your Ministry's plans? Can you let us know if no public money will be spent on any private accessibility certification process, as we urge?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter did not answer this question or acknowledge that we had asked it.
Ensuring the Ontario Public Service Becomes a Fully Accessible Service-Provider and Employer
12. Since becoming minister, what new efforts or initiatives have been launched or are being planned to remove and prevent customer service and employment accessibility barriers in the Ontario Public Service, and to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers?
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter said that as of April 1, 2017, the Government had created an Ontario Public Service Accessibility Office, and referred to the Government's Multi-Year Accessibility Plan, announced at the start of this year, and required under the AODA.
This response did not provide any specifics on future action for improving accessibility within the Ontario Public Service. Despite ongoing accessibility issues within the Ontario Public Service, the Government's letter continued the Government's practice of declaring itself a leader on accessibility.
Our Concluding Comment:
We have been concerned for years that Ontario is falling further and further behind schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025, the AODA's deadline. Up until the Government's June 8, 2017 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Government had not contradicted our concern that Ontario is behind schedule. Premier Wynne had promised in a letter to the AODA Alliance back on December 3, 2013 that if she became Ontario's premier, she would ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.
The Government's June 8, 2017 letter included the first direct or implied claim we have seen in writing by any Ontario minister that Ontario is now on schedule to reach full accessibility by 2025: The letter concludes:
"I look forward to continuing to work with organizations, businesses, stakeholders and members of the public to ensure that we stay on track to becoming an accessible province by 2025."
With respect, Ontario is not now on track or on schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025. If every obligated organization in Ontario fully obeys all AODA accessibility standards now in force, Ontario will not reach full accessibility by 2025, or ever. The results of two successive Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews, in 2010 by Charles Beer and in 2014 by Mayo Moran, showed that substantial improvement in the AODA's implementation was needed, if Ontario was to be on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.
It is for this reason that we need the Government to develop and make public, as soon as possible, a 7.5 year plan that will ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility on time. We regret that the Government's June 8, 2017 letter does not commit to developing that needed 7.5 year plan. We urge the Government to reconsider. We would be happy to assist in its development.
At the end of this update are links to key background information.
Text of the Accessibility Minister's June 8, 2017 Letter to the AODA Alliance
6th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto ON M7A 1L2
June 8, 2017
Dear Mr. Lepofsky:
Thank you for your email regarding our government's commitment to creating an accessible province by 2025. I am always pleased to hear from you.
Our government remains committed to supporting the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) as well as other initiatives that promote accessibility. Through collaborative programs promoting accessibility awareness and our engagement in standards development and review, we are continuing to build momentum as we move toward an accessible province by 2025.
I am pleased to say that Standards Development Committees for health, information and communications, and employment have been established. Members met for an initial orientation meeting in late March 2017. Since then, we have hosted a second set of productive meetings involving all three committees. Membership information and mandate letters are available online for public review.
In addition, a review of the Transportation Standards is currently being conducted by a Standards Development Committee comprised of representatives from the disability community, transit industry, municipalities and affected ministries. The committee's initial recommendations have been posted online for public feedback, and the committee will consider this feedback before finalizing its recommendations to the government.
An inclusive education system is key to helping all students in Ontario reach their full potential. That is why the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is working with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development to establish an Education Standards Development Committee. We have recently launched a survey. The results of this survey will help support the work of the Standards Development Committee, providing insight into where a new standard can have the greatest impact for Ontario students. We have also officially launched the recruitment process for a Standards Development Committee for Education, and are now accepting applications. People can indicate their interest in applying to participate on the committee by selecting 'yes' on question three of the survey, or by contacting Phil Simeon, Manager of Standards Development at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, via email at email@example.com. More information on SDC membership recruitment will be communicated publicly in the coming weeks.
Our Accessibility Compliance and Enforcement Reports outline compliance and enforcement activities undertaken in 2014 and 2015, and they are available online for public review. In 2017, we will release an Accessibility Compliance and Enforcement Report detailing compliance activities conducted in 2016.
Regular reviews of the AODA and accessibility standards promote ongoing accessibility awareness, support a culture of inclusion, and increase economic and social opportunities for people of all abilities. In 2016, the Customer Service Standard was amended based on recommendations from the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Committee and extensive public feedback. As a result of this feedback, changes were made that help to clarify obligations and align requirements across standards. The Customer Service Standard is scheduled to be reviewed a second time beginning in 2021.
Accessibility legislation is a key factor in breaking down barriers, but it is not the only one. To help raise accessibility awareness and foster engagement, our government has partnered with OCAD University's Inclusive Design Research Centre to deliver the BIG IDeA — a collaborative pilot program that celebrates successes and promotes innovations in accessibility. The goal of the BIG IDeA program is to inspire a cultural change toward greater inclusion, and to equip businesses with the tools and resources they need to lead and innovate in accessibility. The program is designed to help organizations deliver a more accessible experience by fostering collaboration and inspiring Ontario businesses to become leaders in accessibility.
As you know, our government announced its new Employment Strategy for people with disabilities. This strategy aims to connect more people with disabilities to job opportunities and more businesses to a talented labour pool. We have taken a whole-of-government approach, involving multiple ministries, to develop this strategy. As part of its development, we consulted broadly with individuals, stakeholders, service providers, educators, business leaders and not-for-profits across the province to assess needs and determine appropriate outcomes. I look forward to engaging with employers to remove barriers and create inclusive workplaces.
Additionally, I am proud to say that recent organizational changes resulted in the creation of a dedicated Ontario Public Service (OPS) Accessibility Office as of April 1, 2017. The OPS is a leader in accessibility, and this new office reinforces our position by championing and coordinating efforts to deliver OPS-wide initiatives. This includes the implementation of the new Multi-Year Accessibility Plan (MYAP), which outlines how we will make the OPS a more accessible organization. The plan includes initiatives that will help to remove and prevent accessibility barriers across government, including the review of existing and new legislation and regulations.
Before I close, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for sharing your insights on accessibility within the OPS, which helped inform the development of the MYAP.
As always, I appreciate your continued support. The input we receive from Ontarians, especially members of the disability community, is invaluable. I look forward to continuing to work with organizations, businesses, stakeholders and members of the public to ensure that we stay on track to becoming an accessible province by 2025.
Original signed by
c: The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier
Steve Orsini, Secretary of the Cabinet, Head of the Ontario Public Service
Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, Francophone Affairs and
Angela Coke, Deputy Minister of Government and Consumer Services
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Employment Division, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
Phil Simeon, Manager of Standards Development, Accessibility Directorate of
Important AODA Alliance Resources on Accessibility
You can read the AODA Alliance's March 16, 2017 letter to Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles.
You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
We encourage you to use the Government's toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.
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