ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
One Full Year to the Day After the Wynne Government Unveiled Its Planned Legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games, Where is the Comprehensive Plan for a Strong and Lasting Legacy of Improved Disability Accessibility?
August 28, 2014
This is an important anniversary on the road to a fully accessible Ontario, but not a happy one. Today marks one full year since the Wynne Government held a carefully-staged news conference to make public its plans for the longterm legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. The Ontario Government Minister speaking that day said not one word about a legacy of improved disability accessibility. The Games' legacy is the long-term benefits to Ontario that will be left behind from the huge public investment in the 2015 Games.
Today, exactly one year later, we have written the new Ontario minister responsible for the 2015 Toronto Games, Michael Coteau. That letter is set out below. In our letter, we urge the minister to now make public a comprehensive plan for a lasting and substantial disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Games. We ask what he plans to do.
We explain that the disability accessibility measures that the Government has announced to date are too little, too slow, and too low-visibility. We always like to offer constructive proposals to the Government. Over ten months ago, on October 1, 2013, we made public our own proposal for a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Toronto Games. In our August 28, 2014 letter to Minister Coteau, we urge him to adopt the suggestions we included in our October 1, 2013 proposal.
The Government expects as many as a quarter of a million people to come to the 2015 Games. That can include a great many persons with disabilities. Toronto and surrounding communities are not now able to ensure sufficient effective, accessible public transit, accessible taxis, and accessible tourism and hospitality services such as restaurants and hotels. We want the Games to leave behind a major legacy of improved accessibility in these and other important areas.
The 2015 Games will mark ten years since the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was enacted in 2005. By then there will only be ten more years left before Ontario must be fully accessible to persons with disabilities, according to the requirements of the AODA. Ontario is now not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.
Our letter emphasizes to Minister Coteau that when the whole world has its eyes on Toronto next year, we want the world to see a community that is ahead of schedule, or at least on schedule, for full accessibility by 2025. Yet at the present rate, what the world will see is a community lagging behind schedule, and a Government that dropped the ball when it had a great chance to show strong leadership.
On January 27, 2014 and April 15, 2014, Mr. Steven Davidson, the Deputy Minister responsible for the Pan/ParaPan American Games, sent emails to the AODA Alliance, to list what had been done to date regarding a disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Toronto Games. We set those emails out below. The measures they list, while helpful, are far less than what Ontarians, including Ontarians with disabilities, need and deserve.
One year ago yesterday, on August 27, 2013, the Toronto Star reported on the fact that the Government had sent AODA Alliance chair an inaccessible invitation to the August 28, 2013 2015 Toronto Games news conference. If the Government could not get such a simple accessibility matter straight, we were left scratching our heads, wondering how well it would do when it came to much bigger issues, like ensuring a strong disability accessibility legacy for the Games. Even in the face of bad press arising from that, the Government still went ahead the next day with a news conference on the 2015 Games' legacy, without having the lead Minister announce a comprehensive commitments for a strong disability accessibility legacy for the Games.
Needless to say, the accessibility clock keeps ticking. A problematic 283 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the AODA, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised plan for the AODA's effective enforcement. One hundred and eighty-nine days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan "in short order."
To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement.
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August 28, 2014 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Michael Coteau, Minister responsible for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games
August 28, 2014
Via email Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Michael Coteau
Minister Responsible for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games
900 Bay St
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2
Re: Planning for a Strong and Lasting Legacy of Disability Accessibility for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance seeks to ensure a fully accessible Ontario no later than 2025. We congratulate you on your appointment as minister responsible for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games.
To much fanfare, the Toronto 2015 Games recently released a video entitled "Are You Ready?" To us, that title is a powerful, cruel irony. Ontario is not now ready to ensure that the 2015 Toronto Games will leave behind a strong and lasting legacy of accessibility for persons with disabilities. Moreover, Ontario has no effective, comprehensive plan in place to ensure that it will be ready.
It was one year ago today, on August 28, 2013, that your predecessor, Minister Michael Chan, held a carefully-scripted news conference to unveil the Government's plans for the legacy of the 2015 Games. The Games' legacy is what is left behind after the Games are over – the permanent benefits to Ontario from the huge sum of public money that Ontario is investing in the games - a legacy to be enjoyed long after the athletes and tourists have gone home.
It was deeply troubling that in unveiling the promised and planned legacy for these Games one year ago today to much fanfare, not a word was said by the Ontario Cabinet Minister responsible for the Games about leaving behind a legacy of substantially improving long-term accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed. It requires the Ontario Government to lead this province to become fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.
Ontario is well behind schedule for meeting the mandatory deadline of full accessibility for persons with disabilities by 2025. We cannot afford to miss any opportunities to get back on schedule. If you want to learn how and why Ontario is behind schedule, we encourage you to read our 368-page brief to the Independent Review of the AODA, which the Government appointed Dean Mayo Moran to conduct, which is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06302014-Final-Brief-Mayo-Moran-AODA.doc
We have been tenaciously trying, without success, over the full year since the Government's August 28, 2013 news conference, to get the Government to announce an effective and comprehensive plan for an enduring and substantial disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Toronto Games. To be constructive and to fill this void, on October 1, 2013, we made public our own detailed proposal for a disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Games. We also shared it with senior Government officials. Our October 1, 2013 Proposal for a Strong and Lasting Disability Accessibility Legacy can be viewed at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10012013.asp
Several times last fall and winter, we extensively briefed your senior Ministry officials on this issue. We also briefed senior officials at the 2015 Toronto Games last fall. We appreciated that they all listened intently, and voiced strong support for the goal of full accessibility. However, this has not produced the concrete and timely action that we need. Declarations of good faith commitments to disability accessibility are not enough.
We have been told about modest and at times vague plans, to be undertaken along time lines that are far too slow. These are certainly not very visible, and fall far short of the action that Ontarians, including Ontarians with disabilities, need.
It is not enough to ensure that the buildings where the 2015 Toronto Games are hosted are physically accessible. It is not enough to post information on line for people to look at, if they wish, to address the accessibility barriers in their services. It is certainly not enough for the Government to require recipients of certain Government grants for activities that promote and celebrate the 2015 Toronto Games to merely "consider accessibility for persons with disabilities in its planning to an extent that is relative to its needs." That may simply require a grant recipient to give accessibility a moment's thought, and then do nothing about it.
The Government has projected that as many as 250,000 people will come to watch the Games. They need to be assured fully accessible public transit, ample available accessible taxis, accessible hotel facilities, accessible restaurants, and other tourism supports. At the present rate, that is not what they will be assured to find when they arrive here.
In your Deputy Minister's April 15, 2014 email to the AODA Alliance, providing his most recent update on this issue, Mr. Steven Davidson said only this about plans for a legacy of accessible tourism for the 2015 Games:
"Ministry staff continues to work with tourism stakeholders in respect to potential recognition programs and opportunities for the tourism industry, to be ready hosts for people with disabilities. In particular, MTCS is working with the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) and the Ontario Restaurants Hotel Motel Association (ORHMA) on the development of web based resources for both consumers and tourism businesses."
The Government must do much, much more, must do it much more visibly, and must do it now. The Government should now announce (and indeed should have announced at least a year ago) that no events having any connection with the Games will be held in a venue or at an organization that does not provide full disability accessibility. It should announce, and should have announced at least a year ago, that the Government will strongly encourage all 2015 Games employees and volunteers to frequent and use only the services of restaurants and other tourism services that have full accessibility for persons with disabilities. It should give the public and private sector ample notice of this, so that they can make the changes needed if they want the Games' business. Not a dime of public money should go to any hospitality or tourism provider that cannot ensure the full disability accessibility of their services.
The Government should now launch a major strategy to ensure that there will be sufficient accessible transit and transportation services to meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands who are expected at the Games. Our October 1, 2013 proposal for a disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Games offers a good number of other worthwhile ideas.
On December 3, 2013, to mark the International Day for People with Disabilities, then-Minister of Economic Development Eric Hoskins made a solemn commitment on behalf of the Government, on which we have not seen sufficient action. Speaking in the Ontario Legislature, he stated:
“Ontario will also have an opportunity to demonstrate how much we’ve accomplished in building an accessible province when we welcome the world to the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in 2015. That year, we will also be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We will have a real opportunity for the games—in fact, the first fully accessible games—to leave a lasting legacy when it comes to a more accessible province. We will seize that opportunity.”
It is time to seize that opportunity. Only 316 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. We ask you to act now to immediately announce the comprehensive Disability Accessibility Legacy that Ontario needs. Every day that the Government delays announcing needed action reduces the time that the public and private sectors will need, to be able to positively answer the vital question posed in the Toronto 2015 Games' video: "Are You Ready?"
The AODA gave the Ontario Government twenty years, from 2005 to 2025, to lead this province to become fully accessible to persons with disabilities. When the 2015 Games take place, ten of those twenty years will have already passed. At the present rate, Ontario will not be halfway to the goal of full accessibility.
Such a major event as the 2015 Toronto Games gives the Ontario Government a tremendous opportunity to move Ontario forward more quickly towards full accessibility by 2025. Both the recent Vancouver and London Olympics benefitted from pre-planning for a concerted disability accessibility legacy. Without the Government's leadership on this now, and new strong action, we will miss this crucial opportunity.
When the whole world is watching Toronto next year, what will they see? We want the world to see us at least on schedule, if not ahead of schedule, for full accessibility. We want the world to see us as a great destination for persons with disabilities. Yet at the present rate, they are more likely to see Toronto, and indeed Ontario as a place that neither provides assured accessibility nor honours its own legislation on point.
There are projected to be as many as one billion persons with disabilities around the world. This number is only going to rise over time. That includes a huge source of potential tourists who could come here, if we provide a welcoming accessible destination.
What we ask of you involves responsible use of public money and sound leadership. It falls directly in line with promises your Government has made. During the recent Ontario election, Premier Wynne wrote us on May 14, 2014, committing that the Government's implementation of the AODA would make Ontario "the most accessible and inclusive region in the world." She also pledged "…to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against Ontarians with disabilities." Her letter is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06132014.asp
Earlier, on December 3, 2012, when she was running for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne promised us in writing to ensure that Ontario would be on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. That letter is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12032012.asp
As well, your Government has promised over and over that on accessibility, it would lead by example. Yet as Part 10 of our brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review documents, the Ontario Government has too often fallen short, when it comes to leading by example, and at times has led by the wrong example on accessibility. Our proposals for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games could help turn that around.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you as soon as possible to kick-start action. We ask you to let us know as soon as possible what detailed and concrete plans your Government will undertake to ensure that the 2015 Games leave behind a strong, lasting legacy of disability accessibility for persons with disabilities, that is worth the massive investment that the public is making in these Games.
That legacy must go much further than accessible facilities for those engaging in these wonderful sport activities. It must, for example, include a tourism and hospitality sector that is far more open, now and in the future, to tourists and local residents with disabilities, and an education system that is far more inclusive of students with disabilities in sports and recreational activities.
Please don't think of this as a problem that can be solved by simply seeking more publicity of efforts already underway. We need concrete, effective new initiatives, along the lines of those in our October 1, 2013 proposal for the 2015 Toronto Games' legacy. Your Ministry staff has had months to address this. They should be in a position to advise you on prompt action.
David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
cc: Premier Kathleen Wynne, email email@example.com
Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure email firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Davidson, Deputy Minister for the Pan/ParaPan American Games email email@example.com
Drew Fagan, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and soon-to-be Deputy Minister of the 2015 Games email firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, email email@example.com
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Harlow, Assistant Deputy Minister for the 2015 Toronto Games email email@example.com
January 27, 2014 Email from Pan/ParaPan American Games Deputy Minister Steven Davidson to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky
Thank you for your email.
Since we last spoke, we’ve continued to work working closely with TO2015 to ensure the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games are inclusive of people of all abilities.
The recommendations proposed by the AODA Alliance are very helpful, and the province supports increasing the focus on raising awareness of accessibility, athletes with disabilities and parasport.
Since our meeting in December, we launched Pan Am/Parapan Am Kids. This is a Legacy initiative that will provide resources and supports to 4000 elementary schools across Ontario, 450 after-school programs and 1000 summer camps to increase awareness and access to sport and parasport. Accessibility and parasport are woven throughout the resources, including instruction and participation on sitting volleyball, goalball, and boccia. Other recently announced Legacy initiatives that will impact accessibility and support people with disabilities include:
- Am/Parapan Am Trails - completing 250 km in gaps along Ontario’s Trans Canada Trail, with all new trail development involving consultations to address applicable accessibility requirements
- Sport and Recreation Grants and Bursaries - to increase participation in Pan Am/Parapan Am sports – by athletes, officials, and coaches – supporting Ontarians in becoming more active and engaged in their communities, such as a grant to support and promote engagement in Para-rowing
Over the coming months (January to summer 2014), we are committed to working with our partners and announcing initiatives focussed on Games accessibility in the following key areas:
- Tourism – Ontario is developing accessible tourism initiatives that will support businesses in accessibility preparation and promotion, in order to provide visitors with positive and barrier-free experiences
- Infrastructure – key Games sport venues will not only meet applicable accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, but will also include key accessibility features
- Parasport – Legacy Strategy initiatives will focus on increasing awareness and participation in para-sport in Ontario, and placing an enhanced focus on accessibility
- Volunteerism –TO2015 expects to begin recruitment for 20,000 Games volunteers and will engage diverse stakeholders to encourage applicants and ensure accessibility, including from targeted communities. The Province will also support the volunteer recruitment with legacy initiatives that include accessibility components
In addition to the above examples, we are continuing to work with our Games partners to develop additional accessibility programs and features that will support inclusion and access for people with disabilities. PPAGS has worked closely with TO2015, and will continue to hold them accountable to their commitment and obligation to implement a Diversity Plan that includes participation of people with disabilities in Games planning and delivery. PPAGS has also worked closely with other partners, such as the City of Toronto, to highlight the importance of accessibility planning for the Games and in the development of post-Games legacies.
Moving forward, we will provide you with progress updates as these initiatives are developed and announced. I also encourage you to contact our Games partners to seek updates on their respective accessibility initiatives.
Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport
Pan/Parapan American Games Secretariat
900 Bay St., 9th Floor Hearst Block
Toronto, ON M7A 2E1
April 15, 2014 Email from Pan/ParPan American Games Deputy Minister Steven Davidson to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky
As a follow up to my January 24th email, I am providing you with a progress update on our accessibility initiatives for the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Please see below.
Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO)
In March, Ontario announced new support for its high performance athletes and para-athletes with expanded training facilities and increased opportunities to compete at international amateur sporting events. Athletes of all abilities will benefit from improved access to expert training at the CSIO’s new, state-of-the-art facility at the Toronto Pan Am Sport Centre on the University of Toronto Scarborough campus. A key goal of the CSIO is to develop a Centre of Para Sport Excellence at the Aquatic Centre. The entire facility is being built upon the principle of inclusiveness and will be a centre of excellence for accessibility. Accessibility functionality and features that are installed for the Games will be maintained as part of the Legacy use. All of these services will increase the facility’s ability to attract provincial and national sport organizations to locate their national and provincial training centres at the facility. For example, Wheelchair Basketball Canada recently created an Academy to develop their national team which trains at U of T Scarborough campus, and will move into the new Fieldhouse at the University of Toronto Pan Am Sport Centre.
In March, we also launched the application phase for IGNITE Ontario, a new provincial grant program designed to help organizations host celebrations and community engagement initiatives that promote the Games. Each initiative will be required to consider accessibility for persons with disabilities in its planning to an extent that is relative to its needs. Priority will be given to initiatives that foster inclusivity and diversity through the involvement of youth, Aboriginal, Francophone and other diverse communities, and consider accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Volunteer initiatives and Supports
Launched April 7, 2014, TO2015’s volunteer program is the largest volunteer recruitment effort in Ontario’s history. TO2015 has committed to providing accessibility training to all 20,000 Games volunteers, ensuring that people of all abilities – athletes, officials, spectators, and visitors – will be able to develop, deliver, compete and watch the Games. The province continues to work with TO2015 to ensure their volunteer accessibility training plans and resources are in place and provide the most appropriate and up-to-date information regarding accessibility and support to people with disabilities.
Ontario has also been working with TO2015 to ensure they meet their accessibility obligations with respect to Games volunteers. Post-Games, Ontario will retain TO2015’s accessibility training resources for use by organizations across the province that rely on volunteers for their attractions, festivals, events and sporting competitions. This will help to continually increase the number of people who will be better able to deliver accessible experiences to people with disabilities.
To further support volunteerism in the province, Ontario introduced its first ever online volunteer gateway that will enable volunteer recruitment province-wide by compiling volunteer opportunities and other resources into a single, accessible website.
Ministry staff continues to work with tourism stakeholders in respect to potential recognition programs and opportunities for the tourism industry, to be ready hosts for people with disabilities. In particular, MTCS is working with the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) and the Ontario Restaurants Hotel Motel Association (ORHMA) on the development of web based resources for both consumers and tourism businesses.
The province is planning an Ontario celebration site to promote tourism, culture and business investment during the Games. The site will comply with accessibility standards established under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). In addition, programming at the province’s celebration site will feature performers and artists that demonstrate Ontario’s diversity, including the contribution of Ontarians with disabilities. The site is also an opportunity to promote the 10th anniversary of the AODA and increase the awareness of accessibility issues among the general public.
Parapan Am Games
The Parapan Am Games will be the biggest parasporting event ever held in Canada. We are working with the organizing committee on the para-torch relay, opening and closing ceremonies and the days of competition to ensure parasport and the Parapan Games receive the utmost support, recognition, and broadcast attention.
Pan Am/Parapan Am Kids
Launched December 2013, the Pan Am/Parapan Am Kids program has now reached over 15,000 kids at over 350 after school programs. The initiative is designed to get kids of all abilities active, expose them to the cultures of the Pan Americas and create opportunities for community celebration. The program supports increased awareness and access to parasport, including instruction and participation in sitting volleyball, goalball, and boccia. Program resources are reflective of all students, and include adaptations to meet the needs of youth with disabilities. The initiative will continue post-Games.
We will continue to provide you with progress updates as these initiatives are developed and announced. I also encourage you to contact our Games partners to seek updates on their respective accessibility initiatives.
Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport
Pan/Parapan American Games Secretariat
900 Bay St., 9th Floor Hearst Block
Toronto, ON M7A 2E1