ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

AODA Alliance Chair Resorts to Freedom of Information Application to Get Access to Ontario Government's Plans for Enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Conservative Party News Release Slams Ontario Government for Violating Disabilities Act

AODA Alliance Invited to Meet with Accessibility Standards Advisory Council

August 15, 2013

SUMMARY

This year, our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario for all people with disabilities does not slow down for the summer months! Here’s a grab-bag of three new developments that illustrate how our efforts focus on so many different fronts at the same time.

1.  On August 15, 2013, after much frustration, AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky has had to resort to filing a Freedom of Information application with the Ontario Government. He did so to get access to information about the Government’s commitment to effectively enforce the AODA.

An extraordinary 203 days have passed since we wrote the Ontario Government to ask for its plans to keep its pledge to effectively enforce the AODA. We have received no substantive public response to that inquiry.

Having waited a long time for an answer, no option was left but to file a Freedom of Information application. To learn more about our earlier request for the Ontario Government’s plans to enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, visit http://is.gd/XdwlVG    

In this Freedom of Information application, David Lepofsky asked how many private sector organizations have filed mandatory Accessibility Reports under the AODA, how many did not do so, what the Government has done and plans to do to enforce the AODA and how many officials have been designated under the AODA  as enforcement “directors” and “inspectors.” He asked for any directions or instructions sought or obtained on how extensively the AODA will be enforced.

He wants to know how many organizations have been audited or inspected under the AODA, how many have been written to notify them that they need to comply, and how many have been issued a compliance order or administrative penalty for non-compliance. He also asked to be told how much money the Government budgeted for the Accessibility Directorate each year, and how much money it actually spent each year.

2. On August 13, 2013, Progressive Conservative MPP Toby Barrett issued a strong news release. It slams the Ontario Government for not appointing the mandatory Independent Review of the AODA. We set out his news release below.

A disturbing 76 days have passed since the legal deadline for the Ontario Government to appoint an Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Government is still violating that law. You can read our May 31, 2013, guest column in the on-line edition of the Toronto Star on the Government’s failure to appoint an Independent Review of the Disabilities Act by the May 31, 2013, deadline by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05312013.asp        

3. On August 15, 2013, we received a letter from Mr. James Sanders, chair of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council ASAC. We are delighted that Mr. Sanders accepts our request to make a presentation to ASAC at its next meeting. We earlier wrote ASAC on August 6, 2013, requesting an opportunity to meet.

ASAC is the body which the Ontario Government has appointed to develop all new accessibility standards under the AODA, and to conduct mandatory reviews of any existing accessibility standards that are five years old. To date, the Government has not designated any new accessibility standards to be developed. This is so, despite our pressing for years for new accessibility standards in the areas of health care, education and residential housing. The AODA Alliance’s August 6, 2013 letter to ASAC is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08062013.asp

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Information Requested From  the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment In David Lepofsky’s August 15, 2013 Freedom of Information Request

C.        Description of Records or Correction Requested
1.         How many private sector organizations in Ontario with 20 or more employees had filed required accessibility reports under section 14 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 (“AODA”) by the end of December 31, 2012?

2.         What is the total number of private sector organizations in Ontario with 20 or more employees that were required to file an accessibility report under section 14 of the AODA by December 31, 2012? If the Government does not have an exact number, then what estimates does the Government have?

3.         Of the total or estimated number of private sector organizations with 20 or more employees who were required to file an accessibility report under section 14 of the AODA by the end of 2012, how many have not filed a required accessibility report as of August 15, 2013? If that information is not readily available, then by the nearest readily available date that has passed as of the date of the receipt of this Freedom of Information application.

4.         How many public sector organizations were required to file accessibility reports under section 14 of the AODA?

5.         Any past or current plans, policies, directives or instructions for enforcement of any requirements or provisions of the AODA or of any accessibility standards enacted under it, including for example, for conducting any inspection of that organization:

a) in the case of any private sector organization with 20 or more employees that has not filed the required accessibility report under section 14 of the AODA.

b) In the case of any private sector organization with 20 or more employees, that has filed a required Accessibility Report under s. 14 of the AODA.

c) in the case of any private sector organization with less than 20 employees.

6.         Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, any plans, policies, directives or instructions for auditing or inspecting private sector organizations for compliance by any public or private sector organization with the AODA and any accessibility standards enacted under it, including, for example, any plans or estimates of how many organizations to be audited or inspected per year.

7.         How many public sector organizations have been audited or inspected for compliance with the AODA or accessibility standards enacted under it by 2010, broken down by year if possible.

8.         How many private sector organizations with at least 20 employees have been audited or inspected for compliance with the AODA or accessibility standards enacted under it?

9.         Any plans, inquiries, explorations or investigations by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, or conducted on its behalf or at its request, to arrange for inspectors, investigators, auditors or other officials working for or on behalf of any organization within the Ontario Government, to act as directors, inspectors or other enforcement officials under the AODA, to discharge any enforcement powers and authorities under the AODA, including, for example, any powers of directors and/or inspectors appointed under the AODA.

10.       To how many private sector organizations, potentially obliged to comply with the AODA or accessibility standards enacted under it, did the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, or any officials, persons or organizations acting on its behalf or under its direction, send an email, letter or other correspondence, in 2011 or 2012, to advise that private sector organization that it is or may be obliged to file an accessibility report under s. 14 of the AODA by the end of 2012?
 
11.       A sample of the letters sent to organizations referred to in the preceding paragraph.

12.       To how many private sector organizations, potentially obliged to comply with the AODA or accessibility standards enacted under it, did the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, or any officials, persons or organizations acting on its behalf or under its direction, send an email, letter or other correspondence, in 2013 to advise that private sector organization that it has not filed an accessibility report under s. 14 of the AODA by the end of 2012?

13.       An example of the standard letter if any, that the Ministry sends to an organization which has not filed an accessibility report required under s. 14 of the AODA, (excluding any information that would identify the recipient organization.)

14.       In how many cases per year since 2010 has any official of the Ontario Government or any official acting on its behalf, issued a compliance order and/or imposed an administrative penalty under the AODA on a public sector organization or a private sector organization for non-compliance with any provision of the AODA or accessibility standards enacted under it? Please break down this information by year, and based on whether it was a public sector organization or a private sector organization. Please also specify:

a) What were the amounts, if any, of the administrative penalties?

b) What, if any, were the contents of the compliance orders?

c) Were there any appeals from these compliance orders or administrative penalties?

d) If so, what was the result of the appeals? How many appeals, if any, are now pending?

15.       Any studies, reports, option papers or other documents or records prepared by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, or by any other person or organization, whether within the Ontario Government or outside the Ontario Government, on options and/or policies or practices for implementing the enforcement powers under the AODA, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the powers to conduct audits, to impose administrative penalties, to issue compliance orders.

16.       The number of

a) directors appointed under s. 30 of the AODA in total since the AODA was enacted;

b) directors appointed under s. 30 of the AODA now working within the Ontario Government or under its authority;

c) inspectors appointed under s. 18 of the AODA per year since 2007; and

d) inspectors appointed under s. 18 of the AODA now employed in or on behalf of the Ontario Government.
 
17.       The number of organizations that an inspector, appointed under s. 18 of the AODA, has physically visited to discharge the powers of conducting an inspection under the AODA since 2010, divided by year.

18.       The number of times per year, commencing in 2010, that an administrative penalty order was filed with a local registrar of the Superior Court of Justice  under s. 23 of the AODA.

19.       Any requests for permission, authority, directions or  instructions by or on behalf of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, on use or deployment of any enforcement powers under the AODA including but not limited to those specified in sections 12 to 28 of the AODA e.g. any request for permission to take enforcement actions such as inspections under the AODA.

20.       Any permission, authority, directions or  instructions, or any refusal of permission, authority, directions or  instructions, formal or informal, given to the Accessibility Directorate or any official of, or working on behalf of the Accessibility Directorate, on whether or to what extent the enforcement powers under the AODA (including but not limited to those in sections 12 to 28 of the AODA) are to be used, and if so, under what circumstances they are to be used. This includes, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, any directions or  instructions that the AODA or any accessibility standards under it, are not to be enforced, or limiting in any way the deployment or use of any enforcement powers conferred by or under the AODA. This entire request includes any directions, instructions, authority or permission given or refused  from any source, such as (but not limited to) those from a minister’s office, deputy minister’s office, Cabinet Office, or the Premier’s Office.

21.       Broken down by year since 2005:

a) the annual budget approved for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in that year; and

b) the total expenditures of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario for that year.

CLARIFICATIONS

1.         Please provide all documents in an accessible format in MS Word, so that they can be read by screen-reading software used by people with vision loss and other print disabilities.

2.         Please provide any requested information as soon as available. In other words, please do not hold back all requested information until it is all assembled. If some information can be quickly provided, while other requested information may take longer, please provide the immediately available information as soon as possible, and do not hold it back until all other requested information is sought and obtained.

3.         If some requested information would require extensive efforts to collect and provide, please contact me. I am open to adjusting the request for information to reduce the time and cost to the Government of complying with this request, so long as I can obtain the substance of the information I am seeking.

4.         I realize that until March 2013, the Accessibility Directorate was within the Ministry of Community and Social Services. To the extent that the information requested was not brought forward by the Accessibility Directorate to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment when the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario changed Ministries in or about March 2013, please forward my application for disclosure of this information to the appropriate officials within the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

5.         I am not seeking disclosure of any privileged legal advice sought or obtained by or within the Government.

Text of the August 13, 2013 News Release by Conservative MPP Toby Barett

For Immediate Release
August 13, 2013

Government violating its own law
Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 10 weeks overdue

Simcoe – The Ontario Government is setting a terrible example to businesses and organizations who must abide by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), according to Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett.

Last year the Ontario Government announced it would assign the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) responsibility for developing recommendations for any new accessibility standards elected officials decided to create. Further ASAC was charged with the job of reviewing existing standards that have been in place for five years. However, neither Premier Wynne nor any cabinet minister have directed ASAC to do anything despite pressures from groups to develop new standards in the areas of education, health care and residential housing.

“For a government that says accessibility is a top priority, their actions sure say otherwise,” said Barrett. “This is a government that expects everyone else to play by the rules but it can pick and choose which laws it wants to follow.”

Barrett went on to say that the legal deadline for the Wynne government to appoint an independent review of the AODA was the beginning of June.

“This is inexcusable and if the government or its appointed panel are stumped as to what to work on, there are several groups who would be happy to help out,” Barrett said. “It’s time this government’s actions match its words.”

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For more information please contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446, 905-765-8413 or 1-800-903-8629

Text of the August 14, 2013 Letter from Mr. James Sanders Chair of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council to the AODA Alliance

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

This will acknowledge your August 6, 2013 request to meet with the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Committee (ASAC/SDC). We would be pleased to have you attend our meeting over lunch on Thursday, September 12, the second day of our two day meeting.

Over the coming months, ASAC/SDC will be developing the details and time-frame for the mandatory review of the Customer Service Standard, including when we are seeking public input on our proposed recommendations.

As you can appreciate, the Council would not have the resources to meet directly with all groups and delegations from the disability and obligated organization sector. However, the Council wishes to recognize the unique role and voice which the Alliance and its predecessor has played in the development of the AODA.

Sincerely,

Jim Sanders C.M.
Chair,
Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Committee

c: The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario
The Honourable Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment
Tim Hudak, MPP, Leader of the Official Opposition
Andrea Horwath, MPP, Leader of the New Democratic Party
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment