ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Wynne Government Extends to July 31, 2017 the Deadline for Answering the Government's Education Barriers Survey and for Giving Feedback on Draft Reforms to Ontario's Transportation Accessibility Standard and Wynne Government Responds to AODA Alliance Letter But Doesn't Answer Our Concerns With the Government's Consultation on Education Accessibility Barriers

July 17, 2017

Summary

Here are five quick newsworthy items from the front lines of our accessibility campaign in Ontario:

1. Wynne Government Extends Deadline to Complete the Government's Education Accessibility Barriers Survey

 

At our request, the Wynne Government has extended the deadline for completing the Government's online survey of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system. The survey was originally scheduled to close on Friday July 14, 2017. The Government has extended it to July 31, 2017. We commend the Government for granting this extension.

Please take this opportunity to give the Government your feedback. Tell the Government about all the disability accessibility barriers you know of in Ontario's education system. That includes in schools, colleges, universities, and in other educational organizations (like early learning programs and job training programs). We encourage you to:

* Use our easy-to-find information on where to find the Government's education barrier survey.

* Use our tips on filling out the Government's education accessibility barrier survey.

* If you fill out the Government's education accessibility barrier survey, please include a statement that you support the AODA Alliance's answers to the Government's survey.

* Even if you don't have time to fill out the Government's entire survey, just take two minutes to email the Government at AODA.input@ontario.ca Tell the Government if you support the AODA Alliance's answers to the Government's education accessibility barrier survey.

We are encouraged that the Government is also considering our request to extend the deadline further, until sometime in October. That further extension would give needed time to schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations to reach out to their students for input, when they are back in class.

It is very odd that the Government has not widely announced its extension of the deadline to July 31, 2017. If people don't know about this extension, they will think the survey has closed.

As far as we know, the Wynne Government has only announced it on social media like Twitter. It has not even sent an email about this deadline extension to its broadcast email list. See below the text of the July 14, 2017 email from the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, Ann Hoy, responding to our inquiry about this.

2. Wynne Government to Hold a Consultation on July 18, 2017 for College and University Students with Disabilities on Education Accessibility Barriers in Post-Secondary Education – Did You Know About It?

We have learned through the grapevine that on July 18, 2017, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development will hold some sort of consultation for students with disabilities, to get feedback on the disability accessibility barriers they face in college or university. The Government never told us about this consultation. It never consulted us on it. We would have been happy to offer our input, and to have spread the word to students with disabilities through our extensive grassroots network.

Below you can read the July 16, 2017 email which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky sent to a Ministry official evidently involved in this consultation. We urge the Ministry to go beyond the narrow focus of the Government's current online survey, because it leaves out a majority of the disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario's education system. We ask the Government to use the full list of barrier questions that the AODA Alliance has formulated, that would ensure that a full spectrum of disability accessibility barriers is discussed.Otherwise the consultation will be wrongly skewed away from a majority of the disability accessibility barriers that we need the Education Accessibility Standard to fix.

It is, for example, bizarre that the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development would only focus on disability accessibility barriers in colleges and universities, but not in job training programs that are not operated by colleges or universities. "Skills development" doesn't only take place in college and university classrooms.

3. Accessibility Minister Responds to Our June 21, 2017 Letter Raising Serious Concerns About the Wynne Government's Consultation on Accessibility Barriers in Ontario's Education system – But Doesn't Answer Any of Our Concerns

On June 21, 2017, the AODA Alliance wrote the Wynne Government to raise several serious concerns about the Government's consultation on disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system. Below we set out the July 14, 2017 response we received from Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles. The Government's response was warm in its tone. However, it told us nothing new and answered none of our concerns.

In summary, our June 21, 2017 letter raised these concerns:

1. the need for the Government to speed up the development of the promised Education Accessibility Standard.

2. the Government's online disability education survey is too narrow. Its list of five focus areas leaves out many if not the majority of disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario's education system. It also leaves out many educational organizations in Ontario such as early learning programs, private schools, and job training programs that are not offered by a college or university. Its final open-ended questions let the public talk about other disability accessibility barriers. While helpful, that is not sufficient to offset the way the survey steers and narrows the discussion.

3. the similar need for the Government to expand the Government's Engagement Guide for education organizations like schools that hold public forums or meetings on education disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system.

4. our serious concern that the Government is preparing to restrict which education barriers the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee can consider, when it recommends what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include. This threatens to prevent the Education Accessibility Standard from ensuring that Ontario's education system becomes fully accessible to students with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA imposes.

5. the Government has failed to consult the AODA Alliance on the disability barriers online survey and Engagement Guide.

6. it is time for the Government to keep two key decade-old election promises made to the AODA Alliance concerning education in Ontario.

Our June 21, 2017 letter to the Wynne Government had offered practical recommendations for prompt action. Our letter recommended the following 10 actions, none of which are taken up in the Government's July 21, 2017 response to us:

1. We ask the Government to accelerate the process of appointing the Education Standards Development Committee as soon as possible after the July 31, 2017 deadline for people to apply to serve on it.

2. Once it is appointed, we ask the Government to get the Education Standards Development Committee up and running as quickly as possible, starting by mid-September.

3. We ask the Government to adjust its online survey to explicitly include the additional disability accessibility barriers we list in our letter. Because the Government's survey is being run on the Survey Monkey website, it will be easy to adjust it at any time.

4. We ask the Government to expand the survey to include disability accessibility barriers in all educational organizations in Ontario's education system, not just in publicly-funded schools, or in colleges and universities. For example, it should also include private schools, early learning programs and job training programs.

5. We ask the Government to remove the reference in the survey that suggests that older buildings are a problem for built environment accessibility, unlike newer buildings.

6. We ask the Government to re-issue its Engagement Guide for schools, colleges and universities, after expanding it to include a wide and inclusive spectrum of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system, including the missing barrier areas that the AODA Alliance has identified in this letter.

7. We ask the Government to widely circulate to educational organizations the June 19, 2017 AODA Alliance Update, which offers tips to Ontario's education system on how to conduct public forums or meetings to gather feedback for the Government on disability accessibility barriers in educational organizations.

8. We ask the Government to not try to impose prior restraints on which disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee can consider within the scope of the AODA.

9. We ask the Government to consult with and work with the AODA Alliance on its upcoming actions on developing the promised Education Accessibility Standard, including e.g. on the terms of reference or mandate for the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee.

10. We ask the Government to now keep its decade-old election promises to

a) reach out to self-governing professions (which certain should include teachers) to include disability inclusion and accessibility training in their professional training, and

b) create school curriculum on disability accessibility and inclusion.

4. Wynne Government Extends Deadline for Sending Feedback on the Draft Recommendations for Amendments to the Transportation Accessibility Standard

On May 19, 2017, the Wynne Government invited feedback from the public on draft recommendations for amendments to the Transportation Accessibility Standard, which was enacted under the AODA in 2011. These draft recommendations come from the Transportation Standards Development committee. That Committee is conducting the mandatory 5-year review of the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard.

Originally the deadline for submitting public comment was July 19, 2017. We also asked for this deadline to be extended. We thank the Wynne Government for extending the period for submitting feedback, to July 31, 2017. Below we set out the July 10, 2017 email from Assistant Deputy minister for Accessibility, Ann Hoy, notifying us of this extension.

In the next few days, the AODA Alliance will circulate a draft brief to the Wynne Government on reforms needed in the area of accessibility of public transportation in Ontario. We will invite your feedback on our draft brief, before we finalize it. Stay tuned for more on this important topic.

To read the Transportation Standards Development committee's May 19, 2017 draft recommendations for amendments to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/20170628-SDC-Recommendation-Accessible.docx  

5. Still No Answer from the Wynne Government on AODA Enforcement Statistics

 

The AODA Alliance wrote the Wynne Government on June 12, 2017, to ask for some basic information and statistics on AODA enforcement. Over one month later, we have still not received an answer. Stay tuned.

6. For More Background

 

At the end of this Update we provide links to helpful background information on these issues.
 

MORE DETAILS

July 14, 2017 Email to the AODA Alliance from the Assistant Deputy Minister of Accessibility, Ann Hoy

Dear David,
 
I am pleased to confirm that the accessible education survey has been extended to July 31. The link to the survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EducationSurveyEN.
 
Both the ADO and the Ministry of Education have communicated this extension by social media.
 
We are currently exploring a further extension to the survey, to the fall, as you have requested.
 
Best,
 
Ann Hoy
Assistant Deputy Minister
Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
416 325-5247
www.ontario.ca/accessibility
 
*****

From: David Lepofsky
Sent: July 14, 2017 2:48 PM
To: Penrice, Amanda (EDU); Hoy, Ann (MEDG/MRIS); Fougère, Marie-Lison (OFA)
Cc: Steel, Ed (MGCS)
Subject: On the Record Request
 
We are writing to ask if the deadline for completing the Government's online survey of education accessibility barriers has been extended beyond today. We have seen some Twitter traffic suggesting it may have been extended to July 31, 2017. We have asked for it to be extended into the fall, to let students and educational organizations have the time they need to respond.
 
We have received no notification from the Government about this deadline extension, if any. Typically, if the Government makes such an extension, we have been notified e.g. by email. We have seen no email addressed to us, or to the broader public.
 
Given that today is the stated deadline, can you please let us know, so we can advise our supporters.
 
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Text of July 16, 2017 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities

Via Email To: daniel.h.mckeown@ontario.ca
Mr. Daniel McKeown

July 16, 2017

Re Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development July 18, 2017 Consultation on the Promised Education Accessibility Standard

We have heard through the grapevine that your Ministry is holding a consultation on July 18, 2017 on the promised Education Accessibility Standard, as it affects colleges and universities. We wish to express our serious and substantial concern and regret that your Ministry did not consult with us before designing and launching this consultation. We are the community coalition that came up with the idea of create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and which convinced the Ontario Government to agree to develop it. We have led the campaign for years, advocating for the Education Accessibility Standard, and have a great deal of expertise in this area.

Had you alerted us about this consultation with students with disabilities, we would have been happy to publicize it. We would have encouraged students with disabilities in colleges and universities to take part in it.

From what we have heard through the grapevine, it appears possible if not likely that your Ministry's July 18, 2017 consultation will largely if not totally leave out a majority of the disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario's education system. By concentrating the time and focus of participants on the five focus of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system that the Government's online survey addresses, this would channel attention on only a minority of the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system.

That risks leaving out or downplaying the majority of disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities now face in Ontario's education system. It also threatens to substantially skew the results of the consultation, in a way that works against the needs of students with disabilities. Had we been consulted, we would have emphasized that your Ministry should be fully open to hearing from students with disabilities about the full range of disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face.

It is not too late for your Ministry to correct this situation. At your Ministry's July 18, 2017 consultation, we encourage you to use the full list of consultation questions that the AODA Alliance has made public, and has invited educational organizations to use when holding consultations on education disability accessibility barriers. You can find our suggestions at
 http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06192017.asp

You can find our letter to the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, as well as to the Minister of Education and the Minister of Accessibility, that sets out our concerns about how the Government is going about the development of the Education Accessibility Standard, at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06212017.asp

Could you please provide to us, in accessible MS Word format, any documents that you have circulated or will be circulating in connection with the July 18, 2017 consultation with post-secondary students? Could you also please let us know if you will invite consultation participants to answer the full range of questions that we provided at the link above? I would welcome an opportunity to discuss this with you on Monday July 17, 2017 if your time permits. Please let me know when and at what number you may be reached.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: Premier Kathleen Wynne, premier@ontario.ca   
Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development deb.matthews@ontario.ca
Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Education Mitzie.hunter@ontario.ca
Tracy MacCharles Minister of Accessibility tracy.maccharles@ontario.ca
Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, marie-lison.fougere@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, ann.hoy@ontario.ca
Sheldon Levy, Deputy Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Sheldon.levy@ontario.ca
Bruce Rodrigues, Deputy Minister of Education Bruce.Rodrigues@ontario.ca

July 14, 2017 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles

 

Minister Responsible
for Accessibility
6th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto ON M7A 1L2

July 14, 2017

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your email regarding our online survey and the Education Standards Development Committee. I am always pleased to hear from you.

Our government is committed to identifying and addressing accessibility barriers in the education sector. That is why I am currently working closely with the Minister of Education and the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development to establish an Education Standards Development Committee.

It is very important that the standards development process is as evidence-based and inclusive as possible. To achieve this, we are reaching out to students with disabilities, parents and professionals in the education sector to gather feedback through our online survey. The results of this survey will help support the work of the Standards Development Committee, providing insight into where a new standard will have the greatest impact for students in Ontario.

I am pleased to say that while we gather feedback through our survey we are, at the same time, seeking applications from interested partners for the recruitment of committee members. We are excited to bring together an expert and diverse committee to develop the standards, and we look forward to providing committee members with the feedback they will need to support their work.

I appreciate your interest in applying to participate on the Education Standards Development Committee. Applications can be sent by email to SDC.Applications@ontario.ca, and the closing date for applications is July 31, 2017. For your reference, I have included an accessible Word document providing a description of the committee and how to apply. A job ad has also been distributed via social media, and will continue to be advertised over the coming weeks.

We are very eager to strike the Education Standards Development Committee, and I look forward to establishing a committee that represents the breadth, diversity, and expertise of both the accessibility community and the education sector.

Thank you again for your message. Please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,

Original signed by

Tracy MacCharles
Minister

Enclosure

July 10, 2017 Email from Assistant Deputy Minister of Accessibility Ann Hoy to the AODA Alliance

Hi David,
 
Thank you for your feedback. I'm happy to tell you that we have now extended the survey until Monday, July 31st. You can find the committee's original recommendations online at https://www.ontario.ca/page/2016-review-accessibility-transportation-standards and provide feedback here: https://www.ontario.ca/form/transportations-standards-initial-recommendations-public-survey
 
A Word version is also attached.
 
Best,
Ann

Helpful Links and Resources

For more background on our campaign to win the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system.

To read the AODA Alliances Discussion Paper that explains what we would like the promised Education Accessibility Standard to include.
 
To learn how to apply before July 31, 2017 to sit on the Government-appointed Education Standards Development Committee.

To read tips we offer school boards and other educational organizations on how to hold a public forum on disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.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: aodafeedback@gmail.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.

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.

Please "like" our Facebook page and share our updates.
 
Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org