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

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AODA ALLIANCE WRITES THREE CABINET MINISTERS, TO LEARN WHAT THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT HAS DONE TO KEEP PREMIER’S 2007 ELECTION PLEDGE ON TEACHING SCHOOL STUDENTS AND PROFESSIONAL TRAINEES ABOUT DISABILITY ACCESSIBILITY

July 21, 2009

SUMMARY

In the 2007 election, Premier Dalton McGuinty made important election pledges to the disability community, on the topic of teaching school students and professional trainees about disability accessibility. To see all his 2007 election pledges to the AODA Alliance, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09142007.asp

On July 20, 2009, the AODA Alliance sent a letter to three Ontario cabinet ministers with responsibility in this area, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and the Minister of Community and Social Services. We asked for them to tell us what the Government has done, and what it plans to do, to fulfil this promise. The text of this letter is set out below.

We ask for this information as we prepare for our submission to Charles Beer on his Independent Review of the effectiveness of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

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ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
(Fax) 416-480-7014

July 20, 2009

Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Education
22nd Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1L2
Fax: (416) 325-2608
Email: kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org

And

Hon. John Milloy, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities
3rd Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1L2
Fax: (416) 326-1656
Email: jmilloy.mpp@liberal.ola.org

And

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community and Social Services
6th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1E9
Fax: (416) 325-5225
Email: mmeilleur.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Dear Ministers,

Re: Education Curriculum for School Students and Professional Trainees on Disability Accessibility

I write on behalf of the accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act alliance. We are a voluntary, non-partisan coalition united to advocate for the effective achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all people with disabilities. We are eager to learn from you what action the Government has taken since the 2007 election, on an important 2007 election pledge that Premier McGuinty made.

On August 24, 2007, in advance of the 2007 election, we wrote all three political parties, seeking commitments, among other things, to:

“4. Mandate a permanent program to ensure that students in the school system, and people training in key professions, such as architects, are educated in disability accessibility.”

In response, Premier McGuinty wrote to us on September 14, 2007, setting out your Government’s election commitments to us. His letter included the following on the subject of teaching curriculum on disability accessibility:

“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.”

With the government's current mandate almost half over, we are writing to ask what specific steps the Government has taken to implement these commitments. We wish to learn what has been done, and what plans are now in place for further action on these commitments.

In this context, section 32(3)(f) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 provides that the Accessibility Directorate may: “(f) consult with organizations, including schools, school boards, colleges, universities, trade or occupational associations and self-governing professions, on the provision of information and training respecting accessibility within such organizations;” we would like to know whether and to what extent the Accessibility Directorate has acted under that provision, and if so, what results have been achieved.

Section 41 of the accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act 2005 required the government to appoint an Independent Review of the accessibility legislation’s effectiveness. The Government appointed Mr. Charles Beer to conduct this independent review. We will be encouraging him, as part of his Independent Review, to Explore the Government's actions on its 2007 election promises to us.

These commitments fall within the mandates of your ministries. We therefore address our inquiries jointly to you. We are eager to follow up with you at your earliest convenience, to learn what action has been taken, with what results, and what more is planned.

We look forward to receiving your response to these inquiries, and would welcome the opportunity to do whatever we can to assist you and your government in fulfilling this election commitment.

Yours sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont,
Chair, AODA Alliance

cc: Premier Dalton McGuinty via fax (416) 325-3745 and email dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Deborah Newman, Acting Deputy Minster of Education via fax (416) 327-9063 and email deborah.newman@ontario.ca
Deborah Newman, Deputy Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities via fax (416) 314-7117 and email deborah.newman@ontario.ca
Lois Bain, Acting Deputy Minister, Community and Social Services via fax (416) 325-5240 and email lois.bain@ontario.ca
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, Ministry of Community and Social Services via fax (416) 325-9620 and email ellen.waxman@ontario.ca