ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

AODA Alliance Writes the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to Identify Key Accessibility Priorities for that Ministry

September 17, 2014

Summary

On September 16, 2014, the AODA Alliance wrote the new Ontario Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ted McMeekin. In that letter, set out below, we identify key priorities on disability accessibility for his Ministry. This is part of our effort to write each Ministry which can help ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible to persons with disabilities on or before 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.

Our priorities for this Ministry include:

1. Implementing Effective Measures to Ensure Accessibility of Municipal Elections to Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

2. Showing Leadership by Effectively Advocating to the Municipal Sector on Achieving Municipal Accessibility More Broadly

3. Supporting Our Call for the Development of New Accessibility Standards to Address Remaining Barriers in the Built Environment

4. Effectively Publicizing Your Government's Recent Accessibility Amendments to the Ontario Building Code and Providing Overdue User Guides

To read the AODA Alliance's August 14, 2014 letter to Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid.

To read the AODA Alliance's September 12, letter to the Government and Consumer Services Minister David Orazietti.

To Read the AODA Alliance's August 28, 2014 letter to the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games Minister Michael Coteau.

Also, we want to give you a last reminder that tonight at 7 to 9 pm is the annual Toronto Transit Commission Public Forum on accessible Transit. It is being held at Queen Elizabeth Exhibit Hall, Exhibition Place - 180 Princes’ Boulevard. Come to tell TTC's top brass about recurring barriers to accessibility you face on TTC. More information about the TTC 2014 Annual Public Forum on Accessible Transit.

If you are on Twitter, you can follow our live tweets from this event. We expect to use the hashtag #TTCAccess. That is the hashtag TTC used last year.

The reliable Accessibility Clock keeps on ticking. A troubling 303 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. Two hundred and 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.

To read the Government's February 20, 2014 pledge to publish in "short order" its plan for enforcing the Disabilities Act.

As well, 385 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games. Only 296 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!

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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario.

MORE DETAILS

Text of September 17, 2014 Letter from the AODA Alliance to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com <mailto:aodafeedback@gmail.com>
Visit: www.aodalliance.org <http://www.aodalliance.org>

September 16, 2014

Via email: ted.mcmeekin@ontario.ca

Hon. Ted McMeekin
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
777 Bay Street, 17th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2E5

Dear Minister:

Re:  Important Measures for which your Ministry is Responsible for Ensuring Ontario Becomes Fully Accessible to People with Disabilities

I write on behalf of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.  We are a non-partisan, volunteer coalition which united to advocate for a fully-accessible Ontario for all people with disabilities. Your Government set out election commitments on disability accessibility in letters to our coalition, including in the most recent Ontario election.

Please accept our congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.  In this capacity, you have lead responsibility for several important areas needed to support your government's promise to achieve a fully-accessible Ontario by 2025.  We wish to outline these, and offer to work closely with you, to assist in their achievement.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which your Government was proud to enact in 2005, requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible for all persons with disabilities no later than 2025. Ontario is now clearly behind schedule. It needs renewed Government leadership to speed up action on accessibility. To see how and why Ontario is so clearly behind schedule for full accessibility by 2025, and what can be done across the Ontario Government to fix this, we invite you to examine our 368-page brief to the Independent Review of the AODA which your Government appointed University of Toronto's Dean Mayo Moran to conduct. You can find our June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06302014-Final-Brief-Mayo-Moran-AODA.doc 
 
To assist, in this letter we outline several key priority areas requiring your immediate leadership and action. 

1. Implementing Effective Measures to Ensure Accessibility of Municipal Elections to Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

Your ministry has lead responsibility for taking provincial action to ensure the accessibility of municipal elections to voters and candidates with disabilities. In Premier McGuinty's September 14, 2007 letter to us, setting out your Government's 2007 election pledges on disability accessibility, Premier McGuinty wrote:

"Develop an action plan to make provincial and municipal elections fully accessible to voters.
 
We have just released guides on how to make election communications materials accessible and how to make all candidates meetings accessible. A third guide will be released in October on how to make constituency offices and campaign offices accessible. In addition, we will commit to developing an action plan to make elections fully accessible to voters with disabilities."
 
Premier McGuinty's September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09142007.asp 

This promise remains alive. When she was running for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, Kathleen Wynne pledged to us in writing on December 3, 2012 that she would keep all of your Party's prior commitments on disability accessibility. Kathleen Wynne's December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12032012.asp  

In 2009, your government included in an omnibus bill, some brief and modest amendments to address the accessibility of municipal elections.  These were very rushed. They were not the result of comprehensive consultations, because they were part of an omnibus bill. 

After that, on January 5, 2010, then Municipal Affairs Minister James Watson committed to a provincial review of municipal election accessibility issues, to be conducted after the 2010 municipal elections were completed. He wrote:

"We will be undertaking a review of the Municipal Elections Act after the 2010 municipal election. One component of that review will be an examination of any provincial-election reforms that may occur as a result of Bill 231."

Despite this, and as far as we have been told, your Government thereafter took no further steps on municipal elections accessibility.

Later, your Government made further commitments to us in the lead-up to the 2011 Ontario election. In Premier McGuinty's August 19, 2011 letter to us, setting out your Government's 2011 election commitments on disability accessibility, he promised that your government would continue to make progress on accessible municipal and provincial elections.  In that letter, he also re-affirmed all your Government's previous commitments to us. Premier McGuinty's August 19, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp  

In your Government's third term in office, it took no action, to our knowledge, to ensure the full accessibility of future municipal elections to voters and candidates with disabilities. 

In her May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out your Government's election promises on disability accessibility during the 2014 election, Premier Kathleen Wynne wrote:

"E. Ensure accessibility of provincial and municipal elections

13. Ensuring the proper accessibility of the provincial and municipal elections falls in line is a top priority for us to safeguard the interests of Ontarians with disabilities through ease of access to the provincial and municipal elections as does every citizen of Ontario. We will ensure that the Ministry of the Attorney General, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Elections Ontario are committed to providing the best possible services to ensure accessible elections."

Premier Wynne's May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out your Government's 2014 accessibility election pledges, is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06132014.asp 

To fulfil these unmet commitments, we are eager to work with you and your ministry on developing new legislation and other strategies to make municipal elections fully accessible for voters and candidates with disabilities.  We would prefer that these be harmonised in an omnibus bill that would also address the same barriers recurring in provincial elections. Premier Wynne's May 14, 2014 letter to us, referred to above, evidently assigns the accessibility of provincial elections to the Attorney General.  

Each municipality and Ontario should not be forced to separately and wastefully shoulder the burden of reinventing the accessibility wheel for each local municipal election.  The same barriers recur in each municipality, and hurt voters and candidates with disabilities. 

The October 27, 2014 municipal elections are close at hand. It is important for your Ministry to track the initiatives taken by municipalities across the province to address this issue, and to help municipal election officials wherever possible.  We urge you to work with us, with the broader disability community, and with municipal governments to craft long-term comprehensive legislative solutions to be implemented across the province, for all municipal elections after this one.  We encourage you to direct your officials to investigate and fully brief you on the analysis and recommendations in Part IX of the AODA Alliance's June 30, 2014 brief to the male Moran Independent Review of the AODA.  That part of our brief focuses on the specific issue of elections accessibility, both at the provincial and municipal levels.

2. Showing Leadership by Effectively Advocating to the Municipal Sector on Achieving Municipal Accessibility More Broadly

We ask you to proactively advocate to the municipal sector, both to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and directly to municipalities themselves, on the importance of their acting promptly to achieve accessibility at the municipal level.  It would be helpful to bring together mayors and municipal councillors who are supportive on accessibility, and who could help advocate across Ontario. We regret that there has been some recurring resistance by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. We know that AMO does not reflect a monolithic view of those working in municipal governments on this issue. We have been heartened by the support for the AODA and for accessibility standards enacted under it by a commendable representation from the municipal sector.

In 2009, your Government appointed Mr. Charles Beer to conduct an independent review of the AODA and its implementation. Mr. Beer's commendable 2010 report noted the pressing need for a much stronger Government public education strategy to ensure that the obligated sectors act effectively on accessibility.  We believe that you, as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, are in a key position to help promote this by effectively advocating to and educating your government's municipal partners.

3. Supporting Our Call for the Development of New Accessibility Standards to Address Remaining Barriers in the Built Environment

Please support our call for the Government to develop an accessibility standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to address barriers facing people with disabilities in residential housing. We also need the Government to get to work on the promised next stage of the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard, to address retrofits to address built environment accessibility barriers in buildings which are not undergoing major renovations. 

Your ministry took on responsibility for the parts of the built environment accessibility standard to be incorporated in the Ontario Building Code.   Amendments passed in December 2013 to the Ontario Building Code to deal with disability accessibility did not deal comprehensively with residential housing, and did not address retrofits in the case of accessibility barriers situated in existing buildings which are not undergoing major renovations.

In July 2009, your Government committed to address these retrofit issues and residential housing barriers in a future standards development process.  The Government's website then stated:

"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."

That action was deferred until after the Government finished developing its initial batch of amendments to the Ontario Building Code, and the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.  All of that work was completed by the end of last year.  Yet since then, there has been no indication from the Government of any action on this commitment. 

With the 2025 deadline for achieving full accessibility quickly approaching, it is important for the Government to now get to work on this. We encourage you to direct your officials to brief you on the analysis and recommendations in Part IV of our brief to the Mayo Moran Independent Review of the AODA, where it addresses are concerns regarding barriers in the built environment.

4. Effectively Publicizing Your Government's Recent Accessibility Amendments to the Ontario Building Code and Providing Overdue User Guides

In December 2013, your Government passed modest accessibility amendments to the Ontario Building Code. These partially address the need to ensure that new buildings, and major renovations to existing buildings, are barrier-free for persons with disabilities.

There has been far too little publicity of these amendments. We fear that many if not most involved in designing and constructing new buildings, and renovating existing buildings, will have little or no idea about these amendments.

We urge your Ministry to broadly publicize these. This requires much more than merely posting notices about them on the internet, or sending out emails about them. We also urge the Government to immediately make public free user guides and other like tools to help builders know what to do to ensure the accessibility of their projects. These should not be limited to the strict requirements in the recent Ontario Building Code accessibility amendments. They should also include recommended best practices.

5. And Finally

We would be delighted to work with you and your ministry in any way we can, to assist you in promoting this agenda. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

We have often written Ontario cabinet ministers, to make constructive proposals for specific actions on accessibility. To often our letters have simply been routed to a communications branch official for a boiler plate "public relations" response. We too often end up receiving a letter, authored by communications officials, that thanks us for writing, praises our advocacy on accessibility, and voices support for making Ontario accessible. Such letters then simply repeat lists of things the Government has already done or promised. Too often these responses do not actually answer our inquiries or proposals.

Please don't let that happen here. We are eager to know what you are open to doing from among the proposals we here set out. We would be happy to discuss our ideas with you. Your Ministry officials have been brief over and over on these issues, so they should be able to bring you and your office up to speed in very short order.

We would welcome the chance to work together with you on taking bold new action on accessibility.  

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont,
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

c:          Premier Kathleen Wynne
Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure email brad.duguid@ontario.ca
Laurie LeBlanc, Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing email Laurie.LeBlanc@ontario.ca
Giles Gherson, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure email giles.gerson@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario email ann.hoy@ontario.ca