Our Campaign for Strong, Effective Implementation of the AODA

MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT RELEASES INITIAL PROPOSED BUILT ENVIRONMENT ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD FOR PUBLIC COMMENT

July 24, 2009

SUMMARY

On July 14, 2009, the McGuinty Government made public the initial proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard. This proposal was developed by the Built Environment Standards Development Committee. The Government appointed that Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

The public has until October 16, 2009 to send the Government feedback on this proposal. The Built Environment Standards Development Committee will then develop a final proposal for the Built Environment Accessibility Standard, after reviewing the public’s feedback.

We set out below the Government’s announcement, inviting the public’s input.

For the time being, you can get the text of the initial proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard and supporting documents by visiting the Government’s website at:
http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/pillars/accessibilityOntario/accesson/business/environment/

The Government has had an unfortunate practice of eventually taking down a proposed accessibility standard from its website after it finalizes the standard. We at the AODA Alliance believe these proposals should always remain available to the public. Therefore, we are making the initial proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard available now, and into the future, as an MS Word file, at:  http://www.aodaalliance.org/docs/0709-proposed-built-environment.doc

There has been controversy surrounding the Government’s initial announcement on this proposed standard. The Government’s initial announcement on July 14, 2009 stated in seemingly categorical terms that it would not pass a Built Environment Accessibility Standard that included retrofits to existing buildings, or any requirements for residential homes. As a result of feedback the Government later received from the disability community, including from the AODA Alliance, the Government has amended its initial announcements. It has committed to establishing in the future a Standards Development Committee process to deal with retrofitting of existing buildings, and accessible housing issues. The details on these events are set out below.

We also set out two news items arising from the initial release of this proposed standard. Because the initial proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard is almost 300 pages long, we have not yet had a chance to read and analyze it.

We want to alert you in advance that there will be more than the usual number of AODA Alliance updates over the next week. We have a backlog of news to share. After that, our email updates will go off line for the month of August. We will not be answering any emails in August.

MORE DETAILS

On July 14, 2009, when the Ministry of Community and Social Services released the initial proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard, its announcement included the following:

“It is important to note that the government does not plan to impose requirements for retrofitting existing buildings at this time. Also, the government does not intend to require Ontarians to make their existing or new single family houses accessible at this time.”

As well, the corresponding Ministry of Community and Social Services website posting on this new proposed accessibility standard said, among other things:

“The initial proposed standard sets out specific requirements for making the built environment in Ontario accessible, including all new construction and extensive renovations.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is built on a vision of improving accessibility in Ontario - looking forward, not looking back.

We asked the standards development committee to take a broad look at how to make Ontario’s buildings, structures and other spaces accessible. The requirements the committee is proposing are not law.

Requirements for single family residential housing and for retrofitting existing buildings have been included for public discussion. But the government will not impose these requirements in the final built environment standard at this time.

The government does not plan to require that all existing buildings be retrofitted to meet accessibility requirements in the final accessible built environment standard at this time. Terms of reference outline that this standard will be focused on preventing barriers on a go-forward basis. Also, the government does not intend to require Ontarians to make their existing or new houses accessible in the final accessible built environment standard at this time.”

The terms of reference which the Ministry set for this Standards Development Committee required, among other things that the Standards Development Committee:
“Focus on first 5 year efforts on preventing barriers, on a go forward basis;”

After these announcements were made public, concerns were raised with the Ministry about the need to address, at some point and where appropriate, the retrofitting of existing buildings and accessibility to housing. It is wrong to state that the AODA is meant to address accessibility “looking forward, not looking back.” The AODA explicitly addresses not only the prevention of new barriers, but the removal of existing barriers. Otherwise, it would not be possible to reach the AODA’s stated goal of full accessibility in Ontario by 2025.  

The Ministry then amended the preceding portions of its website so it now reads:

“On July 14, 2009, the Ontario government released the initial proposed Accessible Built Environment Standard for a public review period. A standards development committee developed the proposed standard. The committee was made up of representatives from the disability and business communities.

Creating an accessible Ontario by 2025 is a big undertaking, but a goal the government is committed to achieving.

The committee’s terms of reference outline that this standard will focus on preventing barriers on a go-forward basis. Under this proposed standard, all new buildings and buildings undergoing major renovations would need to meet the proposed requirements if passed as law.

The government does not plan to require that all existing buildings be retrofitted to meet accessibility requirements in the final accessible built environment standard at this time. Also, the government does not intend to require Ontarians to make their existing or new houses accessible in the final accessible built environment standard at this time.

A subsequent step the government plans to take to achieve an accessible built environment in the province is to take a more focused look at how to deal with retrofitting existing buildings and making houses accessible. These two issues are expected to be addressed through a standard development committee process.

The standard development process going forward will consider any recommendations made by Charles Beer in his independent review of the AODA, which is currently underway.”

We understand this to mean that the Government plans first to have a Built Environment Accessibility Standard developed and enacted which addresses barrier-free construction in new buildings and renovated properties. After this standard is established, the Government will designate a Standards Development Committee or Standards Development Committees to address issues of retrofitting of existing buildings, and accessible housing needs facing Ontarians with disabilities. We hope that this latter initiative can include the full spectrum of issues relating to access to housing, such as removing barriers to community living options for persons with disabilities.

We here set out the entire Government announcement, including information on how to give your feedback to the Government. After that, we set out two news items that followed the Government’s announcement of the initial proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE ACCESSIBLE BUILT ENVIRONMENT STANDARD: WHERE WE ARE NOW

Public Review of the Initial Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standard

On July 14, 2009, the Ontario government released the initial proposed Accessible Built Environment Standard for a public review period. A standards development committee developed the proposed standard. The committee was made up of representatives from the disability and business communities.

Creating an accessible Ontario by 2025 is a big undertaking, but a goal the government is committed to achieving.

The committee’s terms of reference outline that this standard will focus on preventing barriers on a go-forward basis. Under this proposed standard, all new buildings and buildings undergoing major renovations would need to meet the proposed requirements if passed as law.

The government does not plan to require that all existing buildings be retrofitted to meet accessibility requirements in the final accessible built environment standard at this time. Also, the government does not intend to require Ontarians to make their existing or new houses accessible in the final accessible built environment standard at this time.

A subsequent step the government plans to take to achieve an accessible built environment in the province is to take a more focused look at how to deal with retrofitting existing buildings and making houses accessible. These two issues are expected to be addressed through a standard development committee process.

The standard development process going forward will consider any recommendations made by Charles Beer in his independent review of the AODA, which is currently underway.

Have your say. Everyone in Ontario can:

- review the proposed standard, and

- submit comments.

The Committee will use the feedback received during the review period to shape the final proposed standard before submitting it to the government to consider for adoption as a law.

Consultations are also being conducted across the province.

If you are interested in commenting on the proposed standard, please do so by October 16, 2009.

If you require an alternate format or method to provide your feedback, please contact:

Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
Outreach and Compliance Branch
Ministry of Community and Social Services
777 Bay Street, Suite 601
Toronto ON Canada
M7A 2J4

E-mail: publicreview@ontario.ca

1-888-482-4317
TTY: 416-326-0148 or 1-888-335-6611 (toll-free in Ontario)
Fax: 416-326-9725

Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada to develop province-wide, enforceable accessibility standards. The proposed accessible built environment standard is the fifth standard to be released for public review.

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Ottawa Citizen July 18, 2009
Accessibility standards goal behind schedule
Province told to move more quickly to allow broader use of public spaces
By Jake Rupert, The Ottawa Citizen
 
OTTAWA — The provincial government is moving ahead with creating accessibility standards for all buildings, sidewalks, roads, and any other man-made structure, but the chairman of the province’s largest advocacy group for people with disabilities says the process is taking too long.

David Lepofsky, chairman of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says members of the disabled community understand the task is complicated, but that if the government continues to move at its current pace, it will fail to meet the 2005 act’s goal of having the province 100-per-cent accessible by 2025.

“We are now four years down the road, and we are behind schedule,” he said. “Yes, progress is being made, but things aren’t moving as fast as we would like.”

This week, after public consultation, the government released its first draft of the proposed standards that cover entrances, doorways and ramps to buildings, parking spaces, signs and displays, recreation areas, and any other place the public has access.

They were developed by the Ministry of Community and Social Services in conjunction with an advisory committee comprising people living with disabilities, business leaders, architects, engineers, building owners associations, and others.

The draft is 300 pages long, and the standards cover everything — right down to publicly accessible toilets, hotels, meeting rooms, public transit areas and restaurants.

The ministry is seeking public input on the draft standards until the fall. After that, the standards will be revised before being put through the necessary legislative processes before becoming law.

Then, owners of all “built form,” as the act refers to public spaces and places, will have five years to make the necessary changes to be compliant, regardless of whether they are publicly or privately owned. The act requires owners to file reports on progress toward the standards, and calls for financial penalties if somebody fails to comply.

These standards are one of five main areas addressed by the act, the first of its kind in Canada. The others are customer service, transportation, information and communications, and employment.

Standards for customer service are now law. Standards in the other three areas are currently making their way towards becoming law.

Lepofsky said his group will review the proposed rules on built-form accessibility over the coming weeks and will have submissions to make to the government.

He said it’s been a struggle to get things to this point, and that there are still people who think the cost of making things accessible for disabled people is too high. However, he said, these people should think twice.

“We all end up with a disability at some point as we age,” he said. “All these things, like bus-stop announcements and ramps, help everybody. We are worse off as a province without these things.”

The government is on side with that thinking, as can be seen on the ministry’s website announcing the built-form standards.

“It is the right thing to do,” the website says. “It also makes good sense economically and socially. Ontario’s population is getting older. Twenty years from now, 20 per cent of the people living in the province will probably have a disability of some kind.

“When barriers get in the way of people with disabilities participating fully in society as a result of their disabilities, everyone in Ontario loses.”

*****

CBC Website Friday July 17, 2009 -
Province Wrong to Make Only New buildings Accessible: Disability Group
Should retrofit old ones, too

An advocacy group for people with disabilities says that the Ontario government is ignoring an important piece of legislation that was supposed to make the province's buildings more accessible.

This week, the provincial government put forward standards that would make new buildings more accessible to people with disabilities.

But representatives from some advocacy groups say the concept behind the legislation was meant to also include older buildings.

Barry McMahon, who is from Ottawa, sits on an advisory group that offered suggestions to the province when the legislation was being drafted.

"I'm absolutely outraged," he said. "The small barriers in Ontario are so easy to eliminate, and yet, there's been no emphasis in this standard to address that. It's completely left out. We feel deceived."

McMahon has driven his motorized wheelchair to an Ottawa bakery to buy rye bread for 20 years - only, he doesn't go inside to make the purchase.

His wife has to do that.

"There is no way I can get in. There's an 8-inch step," said McMahon.

"It would be so easy to put a ramp in and a door opener."

These barriers are the reason McMahon volunteered to sit on the provincial advisory committee.
But now, he said he's upset that the proposed standards won't require owners of existing office buildings or stores to retrofit.

"By being accessible, it doesn't mean that you are just concerned with the new construction in the future. You have to get rid of the existing barriers," he said.

The Canadian Paraplegic Association and the Multiple Sclerosis Society agree that older buildings should be included in the new rules.

But Pamela Cluff, a member of the advisory committee and a representative for Ontario architects, said mandatory retrofitting it simply too expensive.

"I think we can get the new buildings on line faster than we can get retrofit on line because of the financing," she said.

The province plans to deal with the issue of retrofits at a later date, according to Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur, MP for Ottawa-Vanier.