ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

Learn more at: www.aodaalliance.org

AODA ALLIANCE SUBMITS BRIEF TO CHARLES BEER RECOMMENDING HOW TO CONDUCT HIS INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF THE AODA 2005

July 2, 2009

SUMMARY

The AODA Alliance has finalized and submitted its brief to Charles Beer with recommendations on how to conduct his Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. (See text of that brief, below.) In it, we offer 13 practical recommendations designed to make sure that this Independent Review is inclusive, comprehensive and effective.

We thank everyone who took the time to review our draft brief, and to send in their thoughtful and helpful comments and suggestions. We have tried our best to incorporate the feedback received. That feedback helped us improve and fine-tune our earlier draft.

******

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

BRIEF TO CHARLES BEER ON RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CONDUCTING THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF THE ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

July 2, 2009

I. INTRODUCTION

On June 12, 2009, the Ontario Government appointed Mr. Charles Beer to conduct an independent review of the effectiveness of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 and its implementation. We congratulate Charles Beer on his appointment to conduct this Independent Review, and welcome the opportunity to do whatever we can to ensure that this Independent Review is comprehensive and effective. The announcement of the appointment of this Independent Review is at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06152009.asp

In this brief, the AODA Alliance offers proposals on how this independent review should be conducted. Appendix 1 describes the AODA Alliance. Appendix 5 collects together all the recommendations in this brief.

II. THE TWO INDEPENDENT REVIEWS THAT THE GOVERNMENT MUST CONDUCT

The Government must hold two independent reviews. The same person can conduct both.

First, the AODA requires the Ontario government to appoint an independent inquiry within four years after the enactment of the AODA, to inquire into how effective the AODA's implementation has been. It must decide if Ontario is on schedule for achieving the mandatory goal of full accessibility by January 1, 2025. Section 41 of the AODA provides:

Review of Act

41. (1) Within four years after this section comes into force, the Lieutenant Governor in Council shall, after consultation with the Minister, appoint a person who shall undertake a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of this Act and the regulations and report on his or her findings to the Minister.

Consultation

(2) A person undertaking a review under this section shall consult with the public and, in particular, with persons with disabilities.

Contents of report

(3) Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), a report may include recommendations for improving the effectiveness of this Act and the regulations.

Tabling of report

(4) The Minister shall submit the report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and shall cause the report to be laid before the Assembly if it is in session or, if not, at the next session.

Further review

(5) Within three years after the laying of a report under subsection (4) and every three years thereafter, the Lieutenant Governor in Council shall, after consultation with the Minister, appoint a person who shall undertake a further comprehensive review of the effectiveness of this Act and the regulations.

Same

(6) Subsections (2), (3) and (4) apply with necessary modifications to a review under subsection (5).

Section 41 was strengthened in the AODA at the specific request of the disability community. During public debates over this legislation in 2005, the ODA Committee (the AODA Alliance’s predecessor) urged that this provision be strengthened to read as it now does, so that the public, including especially the disability community, could monitor the AODA’s effectiveness, and press for the AODA to be strengthened if Ontario was not then on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

The Ontario Legislature passed the AODA 2005 on May 10, 2005. It received Royal Assent on June 13, 2005, making it go into effect on that date. Therefore, the Ontario government was required to appoint this independent review of the AODA 2005 by June 13, 2009.

Second, the government is and has also been required by legislation to undertake an independent review of the implementation of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 (ODA 2001) by September 30, 2007. The ODA 2001 was passed by the previous Harris Government four years before the current McGuinty Government passed the AODA 2005. It went into effect on September 30, 2002 and remains in force today. Section 22 of the ODA 2001 provides:

Review of Act

22. (1) The Executive Council shall cause a review of this Act to be undertaken within five years after this section comes into force.

Contents

(2) The review may include recommendations to improve the effectiveness of this Act.

We have received no information suggesting that the Ontario government has already completed the review required under the ODA 2001. Although that Independent Review is almost two years overdue, we propose that the Independent Review that Mr. Charles Beer has been appointed to undertake under the AODA 2005 should also include the overdue Independent Review of the implementation of the ODA 2001.

III. WHAT WE EXPECT OF THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACHEVING THIS

(1) Questions the Independent Review Should Ask

It is important for the Independent Review to provide a comprehensive, fair, impartial and arms-length review of how effective the AODA 2005 and the first four years of its implementation, as well as the ODA 2001 and the last 6.5 years of its implementation, have been at achieving the goal of achieving a fully accessible Ontario for persons with disabilities by 2025. This Independent Review should determine whether Ontario is now on schedule to achieve that objective. If it is not on schedule, the Independent Review should identify why Ontario is not on schedule, and what changes are needed to the legislation and to the Government’s implementation of it to get Ontario on schedule for achieving that goal.

The Independent Review’s recommendations should include, where needed, proposals for amendments to this legislation and any other related provincial legislation or regulations. They should also include proposals for any changes to the implementation of this legislation.

The Independent Review must ask the tough questions. Soft questions like “Are we on the right track?” or “Are we making some progress?” or “Are we improving accessibility?” are not the way to go. Over the past four years, some of the Government’s invitations for input on proposed accessibility standards have unfortunately asked such soft questions. They are not helpful or informative. They set the bar far too low.

It is too easy to merely make “some progress” towards “improving accessibility.” One new ramp at the front of one previously inaccessible building, or one website retrofitted to make it accessible to screen-reading programs “improves” accessibility. Being “on the right track” means simply that Ontario is not increasing inaccessibility.

The tough questions include, for example, whether we are making enough progress, and are doing so quickly enough.

In the 2003 election the McGuinty Government promised that the AODA 2005 and the regulations made under it would fully comply with the 11 principles which the Ontario Legislature unanimously adopted for new disability legislation by a resolution passed on October 29, 1998. That resolution, sponsored by Liberal MPP (now Finance Minister) Dwight Duncan, is in Appendix 2. Premier McGuinty’s 2003 election promises regarding the new Disabilities Act are in Appendix 3.

In the 2007 election, two years after the AODA 2005 went into effect, Premier McGuinty made a series of additional election pledges to strengthen the implementation of the AODA 2005. The Government’s 2007 election pledges are set out in Appendix 4.

We therefore recommend that:

1. The Independent Review should investigate whether Ontario is now on schedule for achieving fully accessible employment, goods, services, facilities and buildings in the public and private sectors by 2025; whether the Government’s implementation of the AODA 2005 fulfils the 11 principles for the Disabilities Act that the Legislature unanimously adopted by resolution on October 29, 1998; and if not, what changes to the AODA 2005, to regulations enacted under it, to the ODA 2001, and to other legislation, and the implementation of that legislation are needed to put Ontario firmly on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

2. The Independent Review should identify how much progress towards full accessibility has been made from June 2005 to June 2009, as a result of the AODA 2005’s implementation.

We understand that some years ago, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario did some work on developing tools for measuring progress. The Independent Review would benefit from access to that work product, and from sharing it with the disability community, for feedback on its potential usefulness.

We therefore recommend that:

3. In acting on the foregoing recommendations, the Independent Review should explain what objective measures it will use to assess progress.

The Independent Review should, of course, focus attention on how effectively the Ontario Government has been at implementing the AODA 2005 and its promises in connection with that legislation. We therefore recommend that:

4. Regarding the overall implementation of the AODA 2005, the Independent Review should consider questions such as:

a) To what extent has the Ontario Government used the powers conferred on it by the AODA 2005, and fulfilled all its duties under that legislation, to put Ontario on schedule for full accessibility on or before 2025?

b) Does the Ontario Government have an effective, comprehensive, beginning-to-end multi-year plan in place for implementing the AODA which will bring Ontario to the required goal of full accessibility by 2025?

c) Has the Government implemented an effective process for ensuring that the AODA 2005 and the accessibility standards enacted under it are effectively enforced?

d) What impact has the Government’s enactment and implementation of Bill 107 (privatizing enforcement of human rights claims, and removing from the Ontario Human Rights Commission its mandate to investigate and prosecute individual discrimination cases) had on the effective achievement of the AODA 2005’s goals, and the effective enforcement of the AODA 2005?

e) To what extent has the Ontario Government amended Ontario legislation and regulations to remove and prevent legal barriers to the provision of accessibility?

f) To what extent has the Government implemented all the commitments it made in the 2007 election to strengthen its implementation of the AODA 2005?

g) To increase action in this area, and to prevent resistance and misunderstandings on the part of the public, has the Ontario Government acted effectively to ensure that public and private sector organizations understand their duties to persons with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights, as implemented by the AODA 2005, including their duty, since 1982, to remove and prevent barriers against persons with disabilities?

h) Has the Government provided appropriate tools, incentives and supports to assist public and private sector organizations to remove and prevent barriers to accessibility facing persons with disabilities? If not, what added tools, incentives and supports should be provided?

i) Since it was foreseeable that several years could pass before the first accessibility standards would be enacted and enforceable, to what extent did the Ontario Government implement effective interim measures to encourage the public and private sectors to remove and prevent barriers in advance of the enactment of the accessibility standards (e.g. pursuant to s. 32(3)(f), (g) and (j)) of the AODA 2005?

j) As Ontario’s largest employer and provider of public services to the public, to what extent has the Ontario Government been effective since 2005 at providing a barrier-free workplace for Ontario public servants with disabilities, and barrier-free public services to Ontarians with disabilities? Does the Ontario Public Service have in place a comprehensive multi-year beginning-to-end plan to remove and prevent workplace and service barriers in the Ontario Public Service?

k) What measures should the Ontario Government put in place, including what changes to the AODA or regulations enacted under it, to better ensure that Ontario will achieve the required goal of full accessibility on or before 2025?

Centrally important to the implementation of the AODA 2005 is the Government’s development and enactment of accessibility standards. The AODA 2005 requires that comprehensive accessibility standards be enacted across the public and private sectors and enforced to give the public and private sectors clear direction on the barriers they need to remove, and the time lines by when these are to be removed. To date the Government has enacted one accessibility standard, the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. Four others are under development, namely ones to address access to employment, to the built environment, to transportation and to information and communication.

It is very important for the Independent Review to direct special attention to the Government’s development and enactment of accessibility standards to date, and any plans to develop and enact all additional accessibility standards in the future, needed to ensure that Ontario achieves the goal of full accessibility by 2025.

We therefore recommend that:

5. The Independent Review should consider questions regarding the Government’s development and enactment of accessibility standards including:

a) If the accessibility standards that have been enacted, and the ones that are now in the form of proposals, are fully implemented as written, will they achieve full accessibility for persons with disabilities by 2025 in the areas they address?

b) Since the AODA 2005 was enacted to implement and reinforce accessibility requirements under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, do the accessibility standards enacted or proposed to date at least meet the accessibility requirements under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and in the case of public sector organizations, the Charter of Rights as well?

c) Did the Ontario Human Rights Commission have a sufficient opportunity to provide input into accessibility standards under development to ensure that they at least meet the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code?

d) What additional accessibility standards need to be developed to ensure that the AODA 2005 achieves its goal of comprehensive accessibility in Ontario by 2025?

e) To what extent has the public, including particularly the disability community, had an effective voice, including an effective opportunity to take meaningful part in the development of accessibility standards under the AODA 2005, whether as members of Standards Development Committees, or as members of the public providing input to Standards Development Committees?

f) Did the Ontario Government provide sufficient supports to the disability community, including to disability sector representatives on each Standards Development Committee, to ensure that the disability community would have an equal and effective voice in the development of the accessibility standards?

g) During the development of accessibility standards, to what extent did the Standards Development Committees follow and act on input from the disability community?

h) Since the AODA Alliance voiced serious concerns with the methodology of the Cost Impact Studies that the Government commissioned regarding the proposed accessibility standards, to what extent were these studies properly conducted and what impact did they have on the development of accessibility standards?

i) To what extent has the process for developing accessibility standards been independent of and arms length from the Ontario Government?

j) When the Government was finalizing the Customer Service Accessibility Standard in 2007, to what extent did it follow and act on the disability community’s input on the proposals for that standard?

6. Regarding the ODA 2001, the Independent Review should consider questions such as:

a) Are all public-sector organizations that are required to do so preparing and making public annual accessibility plans each year?

b) To what extent have these annual accessibility plans effectively identified barriers that need to be removed or prevented, and provided for specific timelines for their removal and strategies for their prevention?

c) To what extent have these public-sector organizations actually implemented these accessibility plans?

d) To what extent have these annual accessibility plans been roadmaps for new action, as opposed to declarations of things the organization was already doing?

e) Does every municipality in Ontario with a population over 10,000 have a municipal accessibility advisory committee as is required by the ODA 2001?

f) To what extent are municipal governments listening to and acting on the recommendations of municipal accessibility advisory committees?

g) What new powers or provisions would assist the work of municipal accessibility advisory committees?

h) To what extent have municipalities used their new power, created under the ODA 2001, to make it a pre-condition of a business licence that a business’s premises be accessible to persons with disabilities? The ODA 2001 amended the Municipal Act as follows:

“28. (1) Clause 257.2 (2) (f) of the Municipal Act, as enacted by the Statutes of Ontario, 1996, chapter 1, Schedule M, section 22, is amended by striking out "and" at the end of subclause (ii) and by adding the following subclause:

(ii.1) requiring the premises of the business, or a part of the premises, to be accessible to persons with disabilities, and”

(Note: This section number may have changed on final enactment of the ODA 2001.)

i) To what extent has the Ontario government complied with the provisions of the ODA 2001 ss. 5 to 9, requiring:

i) government websites to be disability accessible;

ii) provision on request of government documents in an accessible format;

iii) effective accommodation of Ontario public servants with disabilities;

iv) considering accessibility requirements when the Government procures accessible government goods, services and facilities; and

v) including accessibility requirements when allocating Government capital grants (such as infrastructure funding)?

j) To assist in the effort to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025, would it assist for the ODA 2001 to remain in effect at least until 2025?

(2) Questions the Independent Review Should not Consider

First, the mandate of the Independent Review of the AODA 2005 focuses on whether this law is sufficiently effective, as written and implemented, to achieve its objective. We are aware that some voices, a minority among the public, have voiced some regrettable backlash against this legislation. They may seek through this Independent Review to have it cut back.

This perception tends to have been based on an unfortunate misunderstanding. Some incorrectly believe that the AODA 2005 imposes new obligations on the public or private sectors to remove and prevent barriers against persons with disabilities. In fact, those obligations have been imposed by the Ontario Human Rights Code, and in the case of the public sector, by the Charter of Rights, for over two decades. Regrettably, too many have not been fully complying with those obligations, and may not even fully know about them. That sad fact helped drive the disability community’s campaign for the enactment of these new accessibility laws.

It is not within the mandate of the Independent Review to recommend cutting back on the AODA 2005 or its implementation, especially since it is beyond dispute that Ontario has not yet reached its mandatory goal of full accessibility. It is, of course, open to the Independent Review to recommend measures that would assist obligated organizations to be able to more effectively remove and prevent barriers against accessibility.

However, it would controvert the purposes of the Independent Review for it to become a platform for a rearguard attack on this legislation. We hope that instead, this Independent Review will provide, among other things, a positive means to help clear up some misunderstandings about the AODA 2005 that some in the public may have.

Second, the Ontario Government’s Frequently Asked Questions web page concerning the appointment of Charles Beer says that part of Mr. Beer’s task will be to devise a strategy for the repeal of the ODA 2001. From the perspective of the AODA Alliance, at this point, devising a strategy for the repeal of the ODA 2001 is manifestly premature. It would be counterproductive.

It would only make sense to discuss a strategy for repeal of the ODA 2001 now if it were shown that nothing in that legislation is capable of helping move Ontario towards the goal of full accessibility by 2025, and that everything the ODA 2001 requires has been replicated in the AODA 2005. Neither of these conditions now exists.

Thus, to repeal the ODA 2001 in the foreseeable future would be counterproductive. The Independent Review has no mandate to recommend any action that would set back or slow down progress toward the statutory goal of full accessibility. It would be especially inappropriate for the Government to jump to the conclusion that the ODA 2001 should be soon repealed, when it has not even fulfilled its rudimentary obligation under that legislation, described above, to appoint an Independent Review of that legislation by September 30, 2007. This Independent Review should instead consider how the ODA 2001 might be strengthened and better used to help achieve the shared goals of that law and the AODA 2005.

(3) Effective and Meaningful Public Consultation with Particular Emphasis on Consulting the Disability Community

The independent review is intended to include a meaningful public consultation. This is to include, with special emphasis, an open and accessible opportunity for persons with disabilities and their organizations to fully participate in it.

The Independent Review has open to it for its consideration, two different approaches to consider for this. The first is the commendable approach to public consultations which the McGuinty Government used between 2003 and 2004, when developing the AODA 2005. Before introducing Bill 118 into the Legislature for first reading in October 2004, the Government undertook a constructive open and accessible process for public consultations. It was open to all, and not invitation-only. It occurred around Ontario, not just in Toronto. It brought diverse stakeholders to the table, to offer a wide range of perspectives. It included a good number of private individuals, not just major organizations from the disability community. It enabled many to contribute face-to-face, who had not been actively involved in disability rights advocacy in the past.

This process included a series of open, accessible, advertised public forums around Ontario, at which anyone could attend and present. In addition, it included a series of round-tables with people possessing diverse expertise, from the disability community, the business community and the public sector. It also included informal discussions that occurred outside the context of formal public forums.

The second approach to consultations is the one which the Ontario Government has used since 2005 to get feedback from the public, including the disability community, on proposed accessibility standards that are under development. These have been far less open and inclusive. They have involved a far narrower spectrum of voices and perspectives.

At least some, if not all, have involved round-table sessions that appeared to be invitation-only. At these, a far smaller number of attendees from the disability community were present. In each such session in which the AODA Alliance was in attendance, the disability sector representatives were substantially out-numbered by the representatives from the business and broader public sectors. These sessions, we found, were conducted by outside consultants, uninvolved in the AODA 2005 itself, who used up too much time on giving rudimentary background to attendees on the AODA 2005. this reduced the limited time available for giving actual input.

By this second approach, a higher level of emphasis appeared to us to be placed on providing input by non-face-to-face avenues, e.g. email or phone-in submissions.

We strongly urge that the Charles Beer Independent Review use the first approach, and steer far away from the second approach. Opportunities for face-to-face input with Charles Beer (and not with others who summarize the feedback for him) are very important. It is not good enough to invite the public to mail in written submissions or to leave messages in Government voice mail boxes. They can present accessibility barriers. Of course, the options of emailing, faxing mailing or phoning in one’s input should remain available. However that is no substitute for open, advertised public forums.

Among other things, and in addition to holding public forums around Ontario, the Independent Review should arrange to attend open public meetings at different disability organizations, which can be promoted in advance. These can give the Independent Review a chance to hear about the distinctive needs and experiences of different sectors within the disability community.

As well, it would be very beneficial for a conference or gathering of members of municipal accessibility advisory committees to be arranged, either in person or via web-conferencing, to give input to the Independent Review on the experiences that these committees have had in trying to get barriers removed and prevented at the municipal level. The Ontario Government recently convened a series of informative meetings of municipal accessibility advisory committee members. These provided a good forum for drawing on this front-line experience. They are a good model for what should be arranged to assist this Independent Review.

We therefore recommend that:

7. This consultation should primarily focus on advertised, open, fully accessible public forums around Ontario, which are not invitation-only and which are comparable to those that the Ontario Government held when developing the AODA 2005, (although it should also include effective avenues for giving input by those who cannot attend these public forums).

We have found that far too many Ontarians, including many persons with disabilities and many from the obligated sectors (businesses, municipalities, school boards, etc.) know very little about the AODA 2005. At consultation sessions we have attended on proposed accessibility standards, we heard several attendees from the obligated sectors announce that they know little about what was going on, and were attending to learn more. It is therefore very important that the Independent Review’s public forums and consultations be preceded by an effort to better educate the public on this legislation. This need not be a costly TV ad campaign. It can be conducted by low-cost initiatives.

We therefore recommend that:

8. The Independent Review should be preceded by a concerted effort to better educate the public on the AODA 2005.

9. To help the public take part in the Independent Review, a short consultation document should be made public, as soon as possible, that sets out a range of questions on which input might be given.

In the Government’s consultations on accessibility standards since the AODA 2005’s enactment, it appears that it has relied primarily on its website and its email list to notify the disability community of any invitations to give input. We have found that this leaves out the vast majority of Ontarians, including the vast majority of Ontarians with disabilities. Many don’t use computers. Most don’t regularly visit the Government’s websites to see if there is a new invitation for input into accessibility strategies. Many if not most who are interested in this issue may not be on the Government’s email distribution list.

We therefore recommend that:

10. The Independent Review should take active steps to widely invite the public, including particularly the disability community, to take part in this Independent Review, beyond email and website postings.

It is critically important that the public, including the disability community, be given ample advance notice of opportunities for input, including any public forums. People need to arrange accessible transportation. Organizations need to consult their membership and boards before formulating and approving submissions. Many are not available during the summer months.

We therefore recommend that:

11. The Independent Review should give the public, including the disability community, ample advance notice of opportunities for input, including at least 8 weeks’ notice the dates of public forums and meetings.

(4) The Independent Review’s Report

It is important that the report of the Independent Review offer specific, concrete, practical recommendations. It should provide a practical roadmap that the Government can act upon, whether via legislative amendments or other strategies, well before the October 2011 election. This Report should also be written to serve as a useful guide for the next Independent Review, required to be conducted in 2012. The person conducting the next Independent Review should be able to look back and see whether the current Independent Review’s recommendations were implemented and to measure how effective they were.

It is important that the Independent Review’s Report be made public as quickly as possible after it is delivered to the Government. We regret that we understand that the Government has in the past had occasion to hold off releasing some annual ministerial reports on the AODA 2005, required under s. 40 of that legislation, until well after they were signed off.

We therefore recommend that:

12. The Report of the Independent Review should include detailed, specific and concrete proposals for action.

13. The Government should make the Report of the Independent Review public as quickly as possible after it is delivered to the Government.

IV. CONCLUSION

The AODA Alliance looks forward to taking active part in this Independent Review. We are eager to do whatever we can to help make it a success.

APPENDIX 1 - WHO IS THE AODA ALLIANCE?

The AODA Alliance is a voluntary non-partisan coalition of individuals and organizations. Its mission is:

"To contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act."

To learn about us, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org.

Our coalition is the successor to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee led the province-wide, decade-long campaign advocating for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our membership from the ODA Committee's broad, grassroots base. To learn about the ODA Committee's history, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net.

APPENDIX 2

RESOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY PASSED BY THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE OCTOBER 29, 1998 AS PROPOSED BY LIBERAL MPP DWIGHT DUNCAN

In the opinion of this House, since persons with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation; and since, all Ontarians will benefit from the removal of these barriers, thereby enabling these persons to enjoy equal opportunity and full participation in the life of the province; and since Premier Harris promised in writing during the last election in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dated May 24, 1995 to:

a) enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its current term of office; and

b) work together with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, amongst others, in the development of such legislation.

and since this House unanimously passed a resolution on May 16, 1996 calling on the Ontario Government to keep this promise,

Therefore this House resolves that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should embody the following principles:

1. The purpose of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should be to effectively ensure to persons with disabilities in Ontario the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Ontario based on their individual merit, by removing existing barriers confronting them and by preventing the creation of new barriers. It should seek to achieve a barrier- free Ontario for persons with disabilities within as short a time as is reasonably possible, with implementation to begin immediately upon proclamation.

2. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act's requirements should supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities;

3. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require government entities, public premises, companies and organizations to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations;

4. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the providers of goods, services and facilities to the public to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed to reasonably accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. Included among services, goods and facilities, among other things, are all aspects of education including primary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as providers of transportation and communication facilities (to the extent that Ontario can regulate these) and public sector providers of information to the public e.g. governments. Providers of these goods, services and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers within legislated timetables;

5. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require public and private sector employers to take proactive steps to achieve barrier-free workplaces within prescribed time limits. Among other things, employers should be required to identify existing barriers which impede persons with disabilities, and then to devise and implement plans for the removal of these barriers, and for the prevention of new barriers in the workplace;

6. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a prompt and effective process for enforcement. It should not simply incorporate the existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as these are too slow and cumbersome, and yield inadequate remedies;

7. As part of its enforcement process, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a process of regulation- making to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry basis, or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy;

8. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also mandate the Government of Ontario to provide education and other information resources to companies, individuals and groups who seek to comply with the requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act;

9. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also require the Government of Ontario to take affirmative steps to promote the development and distribution in Ontario of new adaptive technologies and services for persons with disabilities;

10. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the provincial and municipal governments to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or of purchasing any services, goods or facilities, that they be designed to be fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Any grant or contract which does not so provide is void and unenforceable by the grant- recipient or contractor with the government in question;

11. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Ontario. It must have real force and effect.

APPENDIX 3

Dalton McGuinty, M.P.P.
Leader of the Official Opposition
Room 381, Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A4
(416) 325 7155
(416) 325 9895 fax

April 7, 2003

David Lepofsky
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, ON M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Liberal Caucus to thank you once again for the work that you and your organization are doing to improve the lives of people with disabilities here in Ontario.

I would also like to share with you the Ontario Liberal Party platform for the approaching election regarding Ontarians With Disabilities.

We believe that the Harris-Eves government's Ontarians With Disabilities Act does not even begin to adequately address the needs and rights of countless Ontarians. We therefore commit that:

We will introduce, with the intent of passing within one year of forming government, a strong and effective Ontarians With Disabilities Act, following fully-accessible, province-wide hearings. It will incorporate all 11 principles that were adopted by the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998. The legislation and regulations will include timelines, standards and a mechanism for effective enforcement, and, at a minimum, will reflect the substance of amendments to the Conservative bill offered by the Liberal party in the fall of 2001.

As Premier, I will meet with ODA Committee representatives and my government will work together with the Committee to develop the new Act.

On forming government following the election, we will provide a Cost of Living increase for participants in the Ontario Disability Support Program.

I look forward to continuing to work with you to advance the interests of persons with disabilities in Ontario and I wish you the greatest possible success in that regard.

Yours truly,

Dalton McGuinty, MPP
Leader of the Official Opposition
Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

APPENDIX 4

September 14, 2007

Doreen Winkler, Ph.D., R.S.W.
Acting Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1828 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 2E8

Dear Ms. Winkler:

Thank you for writing to me and for giving me the opportunity to outline our government’s record and the Ontario Liberals’ future plans for ensuring accessibility in Ontario. And thank you and your colleagues for working with us over the past four years to help make sure that all Ontarians have the ability to fully participate in our society – and reach their full potential. We have accomplished much together, but I know there is more to do.

Our government believes in an inclusive society where people who have disabilities are actively and integrally involved in our schools, our workforce and our neighbourhoods. Since 2003, the Ontario Liberal government has been continuously working toward this goal. With the inception of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in 2005, our government made Ontario a leader in Canada on accessibility issues. The AODA is a clear indicator of our commitment to a fully accessible Ontario. We have started removing walls that prevent complete inclusion in society for those who have disabilities. The AODA has also allowed us to start changing attitudinal, physical, technological and social barriers.

We have also gone further than the AODA to help us build an inclusive society. We have increased social assistance rates by seven per cent, and have simplified rules around earnings exemptions so that people on ODSP are provided with incentives and flexibility to work the hours they are able.

We have also extended drug, dental and vision care benefits for people leaving ODSP for employment. People with disabilities no longer have to worry that they will lose their benefits if they leave ODSP. And, we have created an Employer Outreach Secretariat to engage employers in expanding sustainable job opportunities for people with disabilities. In addition, we launched the Employment Innovations Fund in 2006 to work with employers to expand job opportunities for people on social assistance, including people with disabilities.

In response to your suggestions:

Accessibility Standards
Strengthening the accessibility standards development process:

The AODA is a historic piece of legislation not only because of the accessibility standards it will set, but also because of the process by which those standards are being created. Our government has proven its commitment to openness and discussion, and has worked hard with the disability community to create a fair and effective process. We will commit to a number of steps to ensure that we continue to build an accessible and inclusive society. These include:

An independent review of the implementation of the AODA to ensure substantial progress is being made for Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025.

We continue to be open to feedback on how the legislation is working and to be committed to ensuring the AODA fulfils its potential.

Our process for developing standards is one that is open and consultative. The standards have been, and will continue to be, created by the public, including persons with disabilities and affected individuals and organizations. We will continue to have public consultation on the standards before they are finalized. The minister will also continue to rely on advice from the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC), until recently chaired by David Onley, who has been an active advocate for people with disabilities in the province.

The role and responsibilities of ASAC include advising on the process for the development of accessibility standards and the progress made by the committees. The majority of ASAC members must be persons with disabilities.

We will also commit to two sets of audits: one following the creation of each of the five standards – and another following their completion. The audits will continue to apply to all future standards.

Review all Ontario laws to find any disability accessibility barriers that need to be removed.

The Ontario Liberal government believes this is the next step toward our goal of a fully accessible Ontario. Building on our work of the past four years, we will continue to be a leader in Canada on accessibility issues. For Ontario to be fully accessible, we must ensure no law directly or indirectly discriminates against those with disabilities. To make that happen, we commit to reviewing all Ontario laws to find any disability barriers that need to be removed.

Institute a new program to ensure that students in schools and professional organizations are trained on accessibility issues.

We already include awareness of and respect for students with special needs: in every curriculum document there is a front piece on planning programs for students with special education needs. Disability awareness is an expectation in the Grade 12 Social Sciences and Humanities course. Our government also introduced character education.

Character education is about schools reinforcing values shared by the school community – values such as respect, honesty, responsibility and fairness. It is about nurturing universal values, upon which schools and communities can agree. We will ensure that this curriculum includes issues relating to persons with disabilities.

The Government of Ontario does not set the training curriculum for professional bodies such as architects, but we commit to raising this issue with the different professional bodies.

Develop an action plan to make provincial and municipal elections fully accessible to voters.

We have just released guides on how to make election communications materials accessible and how to make all candidates meetings accessible. A third guide will be released in October on how to make constituency offices and campaign offices accessible. In addition, we will commit to developing an action plan to make elections fully accessible to voters with disabilities.

Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2006
Not to proclaim the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2006 in force:

When the Ontario Liberal government took office in the fall of 2003, Ontario's human rights system, once the envy of the world, was outdated and in need of an overhaul. A 1992 report had recommended sweeping changes, but was ignored by successive NDP and Conservative governments.

The Ontario Liberal government drafted Bill 107 in response to the 1992 report and the loud calls we heard for change. The human rights system was often criticized for taking too long to resolve a complaint and for giving individuals too little control over their own cases. An individual would file a discrimination complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which would take carriage of the case, investigate the complaint and determine whether the complaint should continue on to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario for a hearing. Very few claims made it to the tribunal. If the case was referred to the tribunal, however, many steps in the process might be repeated.

There was too much duplication in the system and, with an average of 2,500 discrimination claims filed per year, the backlog of cases had become overwhelming, with some claims taking years to resolve. That was not acceptable to the Ontario Liberal government – and it was not acceptable to the people of Ontario.

In December 2006, the Ontario legislature passed Bill 107, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2006, to modernize and strengthen Ontario's human rights system. The transformed system is designed to resolve discrimination claims faster and with greater transparency. The system also helps prevent discrimination and proactively promotes human rights in Ontario.

The reforms to the system shorten the timeline from complaint to resolution, giving people direct access to the tribunal. The tribunal receives applications directly and is responsible for accepting, dismissing, mediating, resolving and adjudicating complaints of discrimination. A new human rights legal support centre ensures that those filing an application have the information, support, advice, assistance and legal representation they need to move through the system.

Under the act, the commission becomes an even stronger champion of human rights, as noted by Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner, in a letter she wrote to the Toronto Star on Sept 7, 2007. She described how the newly enhanced commission is a proactive body focused on public education, research and analysis to protect and promote human rights. In addition, the commission has the ability to intervene in or initiate complaints on systemic issues affecting the public interest before the tribunal.

The Ontario Liberal government is proud of the new act. This modernized human rights system will better serve Ontarians, and better promote and advance human rights in this province.

Hold public consultations on how to amend the process for enforcing human rights in Ontario:

The act is the culmination of extensive study, consultation and debate. The former NDP government commissioned an excellent task force to review the human rights system. They released a report in 1992, a report that sat untouched by the successive NDP and Conservative governments. The United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed that these recommendations should to be acted upon. The Ontario Liberal government, unlike the previous governments, listened to the report – and acted.

The legislation was under consideration for 200 days. We heard from 80 different presenters at hearings across the province in Thunder Bay, Ottawa, London and Toronto. Additionally, the Attorney General met with 40 groups over a six-month period. As a result of these consultations, over 60 amendments were made to the bill.

Increase the annual budget of Ontario's human rights enforcement system by $6 million:

In March 2007, the Ontario Budget announced an additional $8-million investment for our new human rights system. For 2007/08, this represents a 22 per cent increase – the largest budget allocation in the history of Ontario's human rights system. The Ontario Liberal government believes in properly funding the system and has taken more steps than either the previous NDP or Conservative governments to ensure it gets the funding it needs to protect the human rights of Ontarians.

Our government has demonstrated a firm commitment to transforming Ontario so that all of our citizens are fully able to participate. We understand that we cannot achieve our full potential as a province until all of our citizens achieve theirs. We have made substantial progress, but there is still more to do. If I am fortunate enough to obtain a second mandate as Premier, I will continue to work closely with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and all our partners in the disability community as we move forward together.

Please accept my best wishes.

Yours truly,

Dalton McGuinty
Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party
Premier

APPENDIX 5 - LIST OF RECOMMENDATIONS

1. The Independent Review should investigate whether Ontario is now on schedule for achieving fully accessible employment, goods, services, facilities and buildings in the public and private sectors by 2025; whether the Government’s implementation of the AODA 2005 fulfils the 11 principles for the Disabilities Act that the Legislature unanimously adopted by resolution on October 29, 1998; and if not, what changes to the AODA 2005, to regulations enacted under it, to the ODA 2001, and to other legislation, and the implementation of that legislation are needed to put Ontario firmly on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

2. The Independent Review should identify how much progress towards full accessibility has been made from June 2005 to June 2009, as a result of the AODA 2005’s implementation.

3. In acting on the foregoing recommendations, the Independent Review should explain what objective measures it will use to assess progress.

4. Regarding the overall implementation of the AODA 2005, the Independent Review should consider questions such as:

a) To what extent has the Ontario Government used the powers conferred on it by the AODA 2005, and fulfilled all its duties under that legislation, to put Ontario on schedule for full accessibility on or before 2025?

b) Does the Ontario Government have an effective, comprehensive, beginning-to-end multi-year plan in place for implementing the AODA which will bring Ontario to the required goal of full accessibility by 2025?

c) Has the Government implemented an effective process for ensuring that the AODA 2005 and the accessibility standards enacted under it are effectively enforced?

d) What impact has the Government’s enactment and implementation of Bill 107 (privatizing enforcement of human rights claims, and removing from the Ontario Human Rights Commission its mandate to investigate and prosecute individual discrimination cases) had on the effective achievement of the AODA 2005’s goals, and the effective enforcement of the AODA 2005?

e) To what extent has the Ontario Government amended Ontario legislation and regulations to remove and prevent legal barriers to the provision of accessibility?

f) To what extent has the Government implemented all the commitments it made in the 2007 election to strengthen its implementation of the AODA 2005?

g) To increase action in this area, and to prevent resistance and misunderstandings on the part of the public, has the Ontario Government acted effectively to ensure that public and private sector organizations understand their duties to persons with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights, as implemented by the AODA 2005, including their duty, since 1982, to remove and prevent barriers against persons with disabilities?

h) Has the Government provided appropriate tools, incentives and supports to assist public and private sector organizations to remove and prevent barriers to accessibility facing persons with disabilities? If not, what added tools, incentives and supports should be provided?

i) Since it was foreseeable that several years could pass before the first accessibility standards would be enacted and enforceable, to what extent did the Ontario Government implement effective interim measures to encourage the public and private sectors to remove and prevent barriers in advance of the enactment of the accessibility standards (e.g. pursuant to s. 32(3)(f), (g) and (j)) of the AODA 2005?

j) As Ontario’s largest employer and provider of public services to the public, to what extent has the Ontario Government been effective since 2005 at providing a barrier-free workplace for Ontario public servants with disabilities, and barrier-free public services to Ontarians with disabilities? Does the Ontario Public Service have in place a comprehensive multi-year beginning-to-end plan to remove and prevent workplace and service barriers in the Ontario Public Service?

k) What measures should the Ontario Government put in place, including what changes to the AODA or regulations enacted under it, to better ensure that Ontario will achieve the required goal of full accessibility on or before 2025?

5. The Independent Review should consider questions regarding the Government’s development and enactment of accessibility standards including:

a) If the accessibility standards that have been enacted, and the ones that are now in the form of proposals, are fully implemented as written, will they achieve full accessibility for persons with disabilities by 2025 in the areas they address?

b) Since the AODA 2005 was enacted to implement and reinforce accessibility requirements under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, do the accessibility standards enacted or proposed to date at least meet the accessibility requirements under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and in the case of public sector organizations, the Charter of Rights as well?

c) Did the Ontario Human Rights Commission have a sufficient opportunity to provide input into accessibility standards under development to ensure that they at least meet the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code?

d) What additional accessibility standards need to be developed to ensure that the AODA 2005 achieves its goal of comprehensive accessibility in Ontario by 2025?

e) To what extent has the public, including particularly the disability community, had an effective voice, including an effective opportunity to take meaningful part in the development of accessibility standards under the AODA 2005, whether as members of Standards Development Committees, or as members of the public providing input to Standards Development Committees?

f) Did the Ontario Government provide sufficient supports to the disability community, including to disability sector representatives on each Standards Development Committee, to ensure that the disability community would have an equal and effective voice in the development of the accessibility standards?

g) During the development of accessibility standards, to what extent did the Standards Development Committees follow and act on input from the disability community?

h) Since the AODA Alliance voiced serious concerns with the methodology of the Cost Impact Studies that the Government commissioned regarding the proposed accessibility standards, to what extent were these studies properly conducted and what impact did they have on the development of accessibility standards?

i) To what extent has the process for developing accessibility standards been independent of and arms length from the Ontario Government?

j) When the Government was finalizing the Customer Service Accessibility Standard in 2007, to what extent did it follow and act on the disability community’s input on the proposals for that standard?

6. Regarding the ODA 2001, the Independent Review should consider questions such as:

a) Are all public-sector organizations that are required to do so preparing and making public annual accessibility plans each year?

b) To what extent have these annual accessibility plans effectively identified barriers that need to be removed or prevented, and provided for specific timelines for their removal and strategies for their prevention?

c) To what extent have these public-sector organizations actually implemented these accessibility plans?

d) To what extent have these annual accessibility plans been roadmaps for new action, as opposed to declarations of things the organization was already doing?

e) Does every municipality in Ontario with a population over 10,000 have a municipal accessibility advisory committee as is required by the ODA 2001?

f) To what extent are municipal governments listening to and acting on the recommendations of municipal accessibility advisory committees?

g) What new powers or provisions would assist the work of municipal accessibility advisory committees?

h) To what extent have municipalities used their new power, created under the ODA 2001, to make it a pre-condition of a business licence that a business’s premises be accessible to persons with disabilities? The ODA 2001 amended the Municipal Act as follows:

“28. (1) Clause 257.2 (2) (f) of the Municipal Act, as enacted by the Statutes of Ontario, 1996, chapter 1, Schedule M, section 22, is amended by striking out "and" at the end of subclause (ii) and by adding the following subclause:

(ii.1) requiring the premises of the business, or a part of the premises, to be accessible to persons with disabilities, and”

(Note: This section number may have changed on final enactment of the ODA 2001.)

i) To what extent has the Ontario government complied with the provisions of the ODA 2001 ss. 5 to 9, requiring:

i) government websites to be disability accessible;

ii) provision on request of government documents in an accessible format;

iii) effective accommodation of Ontario public servants with disabilities;

iv) considering accessibility requirements when the Government procures accessible government goods, services and facilities; and

v) including accessibility requirements when allocating Government capital grants (such as infrastructure funding)?

j) To assist in the effort to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025, would it assist for the ODA 2001 to remain in effect at least until 2025?

7. This consultation should primarily focus on advertised, open, fully accessible public forums around Ontario, which are not invitation-only and which are comparable to those that the Ontario Government held when developing the AODA 2005, (although it should also include effective avenues for giving input by those who cannot attend these public forums).

8. The Independent Review should be preceded by a concerted effort to better educate the public on the AODA 2005.

9. To help the public take part in the Independent Review, a short consultation document should be made public, as soon as possible, that sets out a range of questions on which input might be given.

10. The Independent Review should take active steps to widely invite the public, including particularly the disability community, to take part in this Independent Review, beyond email and website postings.

11. The Independent Review should give the public, including the disability community, ample advance notice of opportunities for input, including at least 8 weeks’ notice the dates of public forums and meetings.

12. The Report of the Independent Review should include detailed, specific and concrete proposals for action.

13. The Government should make the Report of the Independent Review public as quickly as possible after it is delivered to the Government.