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

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Learn more at: www.aodaalliance.org

SEND US YOUR FEEDBACK ON OUR DRAFT BRIEF ON HOW TO IMPROVE THE AODA, FOR THE CHARLES BEER AODA INDEPENDENT REVIEW

July 29, 2009

SUMMARY

We have prepared a draft brief on how to improve the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and its implementation. The Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA gives the disability community an important opportunity to make forward strides on our campaign for a barrier-free Ontario. We want our brief to that Independent Review to provide a blueprint for how to improve the AODA and the Government’s implementation of it.

In this draft brief, we propose 68 specific recommendations to improve the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and its implementation. Before we finalize this brief, we want your feedback on it.

This draft brief is based on our extensive research, and on feedback we received from our supporters around Ontario. It is the result of a great deal of work.

We are eager for you to take a look at our draft brief, and to send us any suggestions. You can download the draft brief in MS Word format at:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/docs/0709-draft-aoda-review.doc

Send us your feedback by writing us at: aodafeedback@rogers.com

MORE DETAILS

This draft brief is long and thorough. We set out our short summary of it below. This draft brief builds on briefs and other updates we have circulated in the past.

The brief starts with a detailed Table of Contents with no page numbers (since the pagination may later change if your feedback leads to more editing). If you want a quick overview, you can skim the Table of Contents just to see what topics the brief covers. To skip over the Table of Contents, to get right to the text of the draft brief, go to page 5.

Also, at the end of the draft brief is an Appendix that lists all our 68 draft recommendations in one place. If you don’t want to read the whole draft brief, feel free to just look over that Appendix and offer your feedback on it, or just look at the summary below. That summary boils our conclusions and recommendations down to a number of core themes.

When sending us your feedback, please do not mark up the MS Word file and then send us the whole draft brief. Instead, if you want to point us to a specific passage in the draft brief on which you have suggestions, please paste the passage you are commenting on into an email, with your comments on it. That makes it easier for us to review.

We always really appreciate it when our supporters have been able to take the time to plough through our draft briefs to give us their ideas. So many have been so generous with their time, and imaginative with their ideas.

We emphasize that this is only a draft brief. It is not the position of the AODA Alliance until we announced that it is finalized.

We have done our best to ensure the accuracy of information in the draft brief. Despite this, if there is any information in this draft brief that you think may be incorrect, let us know.

Send us your email response by August 31, 2009. Our email account will not be monitored after July 29, 2009 until the end of August, so do not be surprised if your email is not acknowledged until September.

We are still gathering information before we finalize our brief. For example, on July 23, 2009, we wrote to Community and Social Services Minister Meilleur to ask for some information we need before finalizing this brief. We set that letter out below.

The Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA has already gotten some good media attention. Below you can find the July 4, 2009 Toronto Star column by Helen Henderson. One of the topics it reports on is the Beer Independent Review.

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SUMMARY OF DRAFT AODA ALLIANCE BRIEF ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

We summarize our proposed position in this draft brief as follows:

a) There has been too little progress in Ontario towards full accessibility since June 2005. Ontario is not on schedule to achieve full accessibility by 2025 as the AODA 2005 requires. We acknowledge that there has been some progress towards full accessibility, albeit far less than was hoped when this legislation was passed. We also acknowledge that many involved in the implementation of this legislation have been working very hard, and are very dedicated to achieving its objectives. Despite this, there is need for substantial new action, to beef up and speed up the AODA’s implementation, since:

1. Ontarians with disabilities have not yet experienced a significant reduction of the barriers they daily face;

2. only one accessibility standard has been enacted to date, which is weak and deficient; the other accessibility standards now under development have yielded proposals that vary from quite promising to quite disappointing;

3. the Ontario Government has kept some, but not all of its commitments to date regarding the AODA 2005.

4. the Ontario Government has not made full and effective use of all the powers that the AODA 2005 gives it.

b) Our 68 proposed recommendations for reform seek specific changes to the AODA and its implementation that will:

1. provide strong new leadership from the top

2. ensure accessibility standards at a minimum comply with requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code

3. make the accessibility standards development process more independent of the Ontario government

4. revamp the process for developing each accessibility standard

5. learn from other countries that have developed disability accessibility standards

6. improve support for disability sector representatives on standards development committees

7. review sizes of standards development committees

8. substantially increase the Human Rights Commission’s involvement in the standards development process

9. improve the voting process at standards development committees

10. encourage standards development committees to recommend needed changes to legislation

11. revamp ministry-requested costing studies

12. make the work of standards development committees open and transparent

13. make transparent how and when the government uses public input when finalizing and enacting accessibility standards

14. make it easier for the disability community to provide input into accessibility standards

15. improve the process for obtaining public input on proposed accessibility standards

16. set interim benchmarks in accessibility standards

17. address the inadequate 2007 ministry consultant’s review of the effectiveness of the first two standards development committees

18. establish independent AODA public enforcement agency

19. establish a new tribunal to hear AODA appeals

20. implement interim and preliminary measures to promote barrier removal and prevention before accessibility standards are enacted

21. ensure laws enacted in Ontario are screened for accessibility barriers

22. ensure Ontario tax dollars are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities

23. implement an extensive public education/outreach strategy

24. expand technical supports for obligated organizations

25. strengthen municipal accessibility advisory committees

26. improve Ontario government compliance with the ODA 2001

27. make provincial and municipal elections barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities

28. not repeal the ODA 2001

29. educate school students and professional trainees on disability accessibility

30. expressly require all boards, commissions and other tribunals to consider accessibility when exercising discretionary powers

31. make minister's annual reports on AODA more meaningful and useful

32. make the work of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council open and transparent.

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

July 23, 2009

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community and Social Services
6th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1E9
Fax: (416) 325-1498
Email: mmeilleur.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Dear Minister,

Re: Independent Review of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005

We are preparing our comprehensive submissions to the Charles Beer Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. It would assist us if you or your Ministry officials could provide us with answers to the following questions. No doubt the Charles Beer Independent Review, and others, in the disability community and elsewhere, will also benefit from this information.

1. What decisions has the Government made on how the AODA 2005 and accessibility standards enacted under it will be enforced? We understand that the Ministry has been working on a compliance framework, to set out how the Government will be enforcing the AODA 2005 and accessibility standards enacted under it. Has that compliance framework been finalized? May we receive a copy of it or any other documents setting out the Government’s plans for the AODA’s enforcement, including any complaints mechanism? If it has not been finalized, when does the Government plan to finalize it? May we receive a draft of it, if it is not finalized?

2. Has a tribunal been designated under section 26 of the AODA 2005 to hear AODA appeals? If not, when will the tribunal be designated? What opportunity will the disability community have for input into the choice of the tribunal to be designated?

3. As you know, in June 2009 the Select Committee on Elections rendered its report with its proposal for electoral reform in Ontario. We understood that the inter-ministerial committee earlier looking into fulfilling the Government’s 2007 election commitment of an accessible elections action plan, had been awaiting that Select Committee’s report before taking further action.

What steps has the Government taken regarding the implementation of the report of the Select Committee on Elections, on the issue of making provincial and municipal elections fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities? What minister, if any, has been designated to have lead responsibility for the implementation of that report?

4. Section 32(3) (e) of the AODA 2005 mandates the Accessibility Directorate to conduct public education campaigns on accessibility. What has the Ministry done, or does it plan to do, in this regard?

5. Section 32(3) (g) of the AODA 2005 mandates the Accessibility Directorate to work with the broader public sector and business community on preliminary measures, in advance of the enactment of accessibility standards, to promote barrier-removal and prevention. What steps has the Ministry taken, or does it plan to take, in this regard?

6. The AODA 2005 gives the Ontario Government extensive powers to enact regulations to promote the implementation of the AODA 2005. Apart from the regulations made to enact the Customer Service accessibility standard, what regulations, if any have been made, or are being planned, under those powers?

7. Could you please provide us in MS Word format with the text of the initial proposed Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and the final proposed Customer Service Accessibility Standard that the Customer Service Standards Development Committee recommended to the Government?

8. It is our understanding that the Ministry does not provide any financial compensation or remuneration to members of Standards Development Committees, apart from some expenses. Does the Ministry provide any such compensation or remuneration to members of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, beyond reimbursement of expenses?

We look forward to receiving your response at your earliest convenience, and would prefer a response via email if possible.

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
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
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections via fax (416) 212-1025 and email
gsorbara.mpp@liberal.ola.org

*****

Toronto Star July 4 2009

Threat to Rights Tribunal Demands a Response

Helen Henderson

So Tim Hudak wants to dismantle the Ontario Human Rights tribunal.

For the newly minted provincial Progressive Conservative leader, this platform undoubtedly has conservative appeal, but it is by no stretch of the imagination progressive.

Indeed, as the Star's Jim Coyle so aptly put it, by the time the Mike Harris protégé had claimed his crown last weekend, "anything `progressive' about the party had pretty much left the building."

The Canadian Charter of Rights states that "every individual has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability."

Yet the human rights tribunal is the only quasi-judicial body in this province that offers those not trained as lawyers access to knowledgeable help in assessing and arguing the merits of their cases.

Trust me, you do not stand much chance of fighting injustice without qualified assistance. Which puts the price of justice way out of reach for anyone struggling to make ends meet.

Most families that include someone with a disability are doing just that, even when the economy is at its strongest.

Three years ago, the federal Conservatives cancelled the Court Challenges Program that helped those with limited finances get equal representation before the law.

Now the Ontario party is on the same campaign trail in the run-up to 2011, when the province is scheduled to go to the polls.

I'd say it's never too early to start marshalling forces and taking a stand.

Is Ontario going to be an inclusive place where people of all abilities can contribute to the growth of their communities?

Or are we a place that excludes anyone who moves or communicates or processes information differently from the majority.

Already, the wheels are in motion to take a hard look at such issues.

Last month, the province announced it has appointed consultant Charles Beer to conduct a review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

It came into force in June four years ago, developing sets of accessibility standards and rules to be brought into customer service, transportation, information and communications, employment and the so-called built environment, which includes infrastructure. This year's review was mandated as part of the Act.

Beer, who spent a brief time as Ontario's minister of social services from 1989 to 1990, when the Liberals went down to defeat at the hands of Mike Harris, says he is still in the process of getting organized. He is expected to hand in a report by January.

Even though the AODA has been in effect for four years, "there are still a lot of people just realizing that they have to comply," Beer says.

Preliminary plans call for consultations online and in person with "targeted groups" and the public.

"We're going to try to have some open meetings," he says.

"The question is: how many and where."

That's one of the key questions for lawyer David Lepofsky, a vocal representative of the disability community.

As he puts it on the website of the AODA Alliance, a coalition of disability groups and individuals: there must be "advertised, open, accessible, province-wide public forums to gather input from the public including the disability community. These forums must not be by invitation-only."

Lepofsky also cautions against repealing too quickly the 2001 Ontarians With Disabilities Act, a predecessor to the AODA, which he says may include some provisions - such as an employment accommodation fund - worthy of incorporating into the later Act.

Beer says he is in the process of putting together a website on the AODA review.

Until it's up and running, check www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/news/backgrounders/090612.htm.

You may also get information from aodaalliance.org and you can may reach Charles Beer at charles.beer@ontario.ca

Helen Henderson is a freelance writer and disability studies student at Ryerson University. Her column appears Saturdays.

helenhenderson@sympatico.ca