ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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Read the Ontario Liberal Party's August 19, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance, Setting out its 2011 Election Commitments on Disability Accessibility

September 2, 2011

SUMMARY

August 19, 2011

Mr. David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.

Chair

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario

M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you very much for your recent letter and for providing me with an opportunity to speak to our current record and future plans to ensure accessibility in Ontario.

Over the past few years, we have taken some significant steps toward our goal of making Ontario accessible by 2025. We could not have done it without our accessibility partners across our province.  

I am immensely proud of the milestones we have reached together. But Ontario Liberals recognize that the task of building a more prosperous and equitable province is far from finished. We look forward to continuing to work together toward achieving our goals. 

The PCs neglected accessibility issues. They failed to develop the dialogue and the relationship needed to advance the needs of Ontario’s disability communities. 

With your help, we crafted the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The AODA represents a real cultural change in the way accessibility issues are addressed in Ontario. We worked in collaboration with advocates, government, businesses and disability communities to find the right balance. And in order to give Ontarians living with a disability a strong voice at the table, we have ensured that 50 per cent of all standards development committees are made up of members from the disability community. 

Four of the five accessibility standards are now in place. These lay the foundation to achieve greater accessibility in Ontario — for instance, more accessible transportation

systems for Ontarians to get to school or work, a more inclusive employment hiring

process, tolerant workplaces, more accessible restaurants and tourist venues, more inviting public spaces, and government and business websites that are comprehensive and within reach for people with varying disabilities.  

Ontario Liberals believe that improving accessibility and ensuring people with disabilities can achieve their full potential, participate in the labour force and lead productive and meaningful lives is not just a moral imperative, but also an economic one. Over the next decade our seniors population will grow by 40 per cent. And, in the next 20 years, the number of Ontarians with a disability will grow from one in seven to one in five. These demographic shifts will have a material impact on issues like accessibility and mobility.

With the passing of the AODA in 2005, Ontario became a world leader in accessibility.  Jurisdictions worldwide are now looking to Ontario for guidance and assistance on their own policies. Together, we are showing the world that bringing equity to people living with disabilities can be done in a progressive and responsible manner.

We are starting to see encouraging results from many of the policy initiatives Ontario Liberals have undertaken since 2003. Since we came into office in 2003:

·         We have seen a 35 per cent increase in the number of students with disabilities pursuing postsecondary education and a 70 per cent increase in the number of people on ODSP participating in the workforce.

·         We amended the Election Act to require provincial elections to include:

o   accessible voting equipment and polling locations

o   accessible formats of Elections Ontario publications

o   accessibility training for election officers. 

·         We also amended the Municipal Elections Act to require that all municipal polling stations be accessible to voters with disabilities and that staff be trained on accessibility issues. We recognize that there is more to do, and we will continue to build on our progress when it comes to making municipal and provincial elections more accessible.

We reformed our human rights system to ensure that people have access to justice without waiting years to have a complaint resolved.

 

We have come a long way, but there is more to do. If re-elected, Ontario Liberals will continue to work with your organization, other groups and the business community to keep making progress under the AODA:

·         We will ensure that we maintain and/or strengthen the current provisions and protections in the AODA or any regulations enacted under the legislation.

·         It is a priority for us to enact the Accessible Built Environment standard promptly and responsibly. Having the first five accessibility standards under the AODA enacted will set a firm foundation for further progress on accessibility, and we look forward to working with Ontario’s accessibility communities and partners to identify the next standards that will move accessibility forward in our province.

·         Consistent with the recommendations made in the Charles Beer AODA Independent Review, we are committed to repealing the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) once the current five accessibility standards under the AODA are enacted and we will ensure that all needed provisions in the ODA are incorporated into the AODA.

·         We will create a full-time Assistant Deputy Minister position in the Ministry of Government Services responsible for accessibility, and we will continue to consider options and advice on how to modernize our government structure to promote accessibility. The ADM will pay particular attention to breaking down the barriers and silos experienced across government when implementing accessibility initiatives.

·         We are integrating accessibility as a fundamental principle when it comes to making vital decisions that affect the daily lives of Ontarians. For instance, as part of our 10-year infrastructure plan, we are requiring all entities seeking provincial infrastructure funding for new buildings or major expansions or renovations to demonstrate how the funding will prevent or remove barriers and improve the level of accessibility where feasible. We will also extend this to include information technology infrastructure and electronic kiosks.

·         We are committed to completing our review of all legislation for accessibility barriers and, through the work of a central team, we will ask ministries to report on their progress as part of their annual performance plans. We will also pursue strategies to address defined barriers in an efficient and suitable manner.

·         We remain committed to ensuring effective enforcement of the AODA.

·         We will also continue to make progress on all previous commitments.

 

We appreciate the issues you raised with regard to Ontario’s human rights system. We recently appointed Andrew Pinto to conduct a review of the implementation and effectiveness of changes to the Human Rights Code, which came into effect in 2008, and I look forward to your contribution to this process. In contrast to our efforts to strengthen human rights in Ontario, the Hudak PCs committed to dissolving the Human Rights Tribunal altogether. When Hudak became leader of the PC Party, he referred to it as a “kangaroo court.” Fundamental issues of fairness and human rights are far too important to be treated in such a cavalier manner.

 

The $14-billion hole in their platform will certainly lead to devastating cuts to the social programs and services that matter to Ontarians. We recognize the important role the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario plays in supporting compliance and enforcement measures of the AODA. We do not want to see these programs at risk.

Leading change is not always easy. We remain committed to building a more accessible Ontario as it is not only the smart thing to do — it is the right thing to do.

 

We need to keep moving forward together, and Ontario Liberals are the only ones who will make that happen. We look forward to continuing to build and strengthen our relationship with the AODA Alliance. Mr. Lepofsky, your work on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities has been powerful and profound. And, as we have always done, we will continue to welcome opportunities to maintain an open dialogue and meet with you to continue to move accessibility issues forward. 

 

Mr. Lepofsky, I want to once again thank you for your work and advocacy. Your ongoing advice has made a tremendous contribution to helping us make Ontario more accessible. 

I look forward to sharing many more successes with you in the near future.

 

Yours truly,

 

Dalton McGuinty

Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

Premier