ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

LET THE MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT KNOW IF YOU SUPPORT THE AODA ALLIANCE'S OCTOBER 4 2012 FINAL BRIEF ON ITS DRAFT PUBLIC SPACES ACCESSIBILITY REGULATION –ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION SUPPORTS OUR CONCERNS ABOUT THAT DRAF REGULATION

October 4, 2012

SUMMARY

1. Our Latest Effort in Our Efforts to Win Strong Accessibility Standards in Ontario

On October 4 2012, the AODA Alliance submitted our latest brief to the McGuinty Government. It gives our feedback on the Government's August 15, 2012 draft Public Spaces Accessibility Regulation. It sets out 59 constructive recommendations on how to strengthen that draft regulation.

At the end of this Update, we set out a short summary of our brief's conclusions. You can download a copy of our October 4,2012 final brief on the draft Public Spaces Accessibility Regulation by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/docs/October-4-2012-final-AODA-Alliance-Brief-on-Draft-Public-Spaces.doc

We are delighted to let you know that in its October 1, 2012 submission to the Ontario Government, the Ontario Human Rights Commission supports the concerns that we have raised about the draft Public Spaces Accessibility Regulation in our September 20, 2012 draft brief. As our brief states: "The Commission is the Ontario Government's flagship organization for advising on accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code. The AODA is meant to implement and buttress the Human Rights Code's accessibility requirements."

2. How You Can Help

Please let the McGuinty Government know if you support our October 4, 2012 brief on the draft Public Spaces Accessibility Regulation. You can email the Government at: accessibility@ontario.ca      

You don't need to take much time. Just one or two lines in an email to the Government is sufficient. Even though the Government's October 1, 2012 deadline for sending the Government feedback on the draft accessibility regulation has passed, there's still a window of opportunity for you to help. Please send the Government a quick response right now.

Here's how else you can help us win a strong and effective Public Spaces Accessibility Regulation:

* Let your local member of the Ontario Legislature know that you support our October 4, 2012 brief on the McGuinty Government's draft Public Spaces Accessibility Regulation. Email, fax, phone or visit your local MPP to let them know of your support.

* Tell your local media about this issue. Let them know how important it is for the Government to substantially strengthen the draft Public Spaces Accessibility Regulation.

3. What's New in Our Final Brief

Our final October 4, 2012 brief includes all the content that was set out in our September 20, 2012 draft brief. It also includes a few additional recommendations. These were based on feedback received on our draft brief. These new recommendations

* urge the Government to remove the provision that exempts any employees' parking lot from requirements to have accessible parking spots. Employees with disabilities can need accessible parking spots.

* ask the Government to remove the exemption for new or redeveloped parking lots from any requirement to have accessible parking spots, if the lot is not on a barrier-free path of travel. Some persons with disabilities can benefit from accessible parking spots, even if the path to them has barriers, e.g. those who can climb some stairs, but who cannot walk long distances.

* call for higher percentages of accessible parking spots in certain classes of facilities like hospitals, nursing homes, and major government offices (like those where community and social services are offered).

* propose that accessible parking spots should be located as close to the nearby street and related building as possible.

* ask that any provision that reduces the rights of persons with disabilities be removed from the draft regulation.

* ask that the Government remove or dramatically curtail the provision in the draft regulation that would let more than one organization make a joint accessibility plan.

4. A Big Thank You!

We thank all those who generously offered their time to review our September 20, 2012 draft of our brief, and to send us their feedback and suggestions. An important foundation of our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario is the many great people around Ontario who offer their ideas and their support for our cause.

Among others, one place where we got some great ideas was the wonderful September 18, 2012 public forum on the draft Public Spaces Accessibility Regulation that was hosted in Toronto by the Ontario College of Art and Design University's world-famous Inclusive Design Institute. You can see a video or read a transcript of the September 18, 2012 OCADU Public Forum on the draft Public Spaces Accessibility Regulation.

You can see the Government's August 15, 2012 draft accessibility regulation on the built environment in public spaces, past proposals for the Built Environment Accessibility Standard, and our activities in this area, by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/20120914.asp

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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org  

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SUMMARY OF OUR OCTOBER 4, 2012 BRIEF TO THE MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT ON THE DRAFT PUBLIC SPACES ACCESSIBILITY REGULATION

We summarize our feedback in this brief as follows:

1.         The draft regulation identifies a helpful but incomplete range of recurring accessibility barriers that impede persons with disabilities in the built environment of important public spaces in Ontario. It does not include a number of measures that were recommended by the Built Environment Standards Development Committee. Appendix 3, at the end of this brief, sets out a list of these, prepared by the Quadrangle Architects organization. The draft regulation needs to be expanded to effectively address a number of recurring barriers that it does not now address.

2.         The draft regulation wrongly excludes all small private sector organizations from having to comply with many if not most of its requirements, regardless of whether a small private sector organization (defined solely by the number of its employees) has the resources, revenues and capacity to meet more (if not all) of the draft regulation's requirements. The draft regulation needs to be revised, to extend all of its requirements to small private sector organizations that have the capacity to comply with them.

3.         In a number of places, the draft regulation provides helpful technical standards. However, in a number of other important areas, the standard provides only vague requirements. These are hard to enforce. They are hard for organizations to implement with any assurance that they have fully complied.

4.         In a number of places, the draft regulation only imposes a nebulous duty to consult with persons with disabilities, but with no actual substantive barrier-removal or prevention standards to meet. The draft regulation needs to be revised to incorporate more specific technical accessibility standards.

5.         In a number of places, the draft regulation creates exemptions from or exceptions for its accessibility requirements that are too broad. They that are inconsistent with the strict "undue hardship" requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and, in the case of public sector organizations, the Charter of Rights. The draft regulation needs to be revised, to narrow these exemptions and exceptions, in order to make them consistent with the narrower "undue hardship" test.

6.         The time lines in the standard are far too long. The draft regulation needs to be revised to shorten several time lines, and to provide different time lines tailored to each activity that the draft regulation addresses.

7.         We are deeply concerned that this draft regulation only addresses new developments, or substantial redevelopments. Otherwise it leaves the many, many existing barriers in the built environment of public spaces in place to continue to impede persons with disabilities. The draft regulation should be revised, where possible, to extend its requirements to removing existing barriers, even where no redevelopment is underway, with time lines that are appropriate for those activities.

8.         Even if this draft regulation were fully and faithfully complied with, Ontario would not ensure fully accessible public spaces by 2025, even in terms of new developments and redevelopments. As such, the draft regulation needs to be substantially strengthened.

9.         We are very concerned about the draft regulation's proposed amendments to the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Regulation that have nothing to do with the built environment. The Government did not comply with the requirements in the AODA that must be followed before it can revise an existing accessibility standard enacted under the AODA.

In this brief, we offer a series of detailed and specific recommendations to address these concerns. These are divided into three groups. First, we offer recommendations concerning the draft regulation's existing provisions governing the built environment in public spaces. Second, we offer recommendations about aspects of the built environment in public spaces that the draft regulation now does not address. Third, we offer recommendations concerning sundry provisions in the draft regulation that do not pertain to the built environment in public spaces.

After all our recommendations, the brief includes three appendices that set out important supporting documents that the brief mentions. Appendix 4, at the end of this brief, gathers together in one place all the recommendations we offer.

Our brief does not specifically comment on some of the technical standards in the draft regulation. These technical standards require further scrutiny. We encourage the Government to act on the input from organizations within the disability community with specialized expertise in this area.