Our Campaign for Strong, Effective Implementation of the AODA

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

RE-ELECTED ONTARIO GOVERNMENT MAKES IMPORTANT ELECTION COMMITMENTS TO ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES

October 10, 2007

SUMMARY

Ontarians have elected the McGuinty Liberals to a second term in office as a majority government. This was the fourth Ontario general election when persons with disabilities and their supporters at the grass-roots raised important disability issues across Ontario during the campaign. We thank and congratulate all who helped with our non-partisan effort.

This means that the McGuinty Liberals will be in power for a minimum of at least the first six and a half years of the twenty years that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act gave for Ontario to become a fully accessible province for persons with disabilities – fully one third of the period leading to that mandatory legislated deadline. What election commitments did the re-elected McGuinty Government make regarding disability accessibility issues to fulfill this responsibility? In his September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA alliance, Premier McGuinty expressed his commitment to achieving a fully accessible Ontario for persons with disabilities. He specifically pledged:

  1. to ensure that the membership of the standards development committees that develop proposed accessibility standards under the AODA is comprised of a 50 per cent representation by the disabled or those representing the disability community. To help achieve this, they commit to waive the ministries’ official roles as committee members. Until now only a minority of those Standards Development Committees were disability community representatives.
  2. to hire a full-time staff member to help bring the disability community’s voice to the table when the AODA Standards Development Committees are working to develop proposed accessibility standards.
  3. to allow the standard development committees to have presenters come to their meetings.
  4. to allow the standards development committees to vote on individual clauses, to be put forward for the proposed standards, rather than voting on proposed standards on an all-or-nothing basis.
  5. to an independent review of the implementation of the AODA to ensure substantial progress is being made for Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. There is also a commitment to two sets of audits: one following the creation of each of the five accessibility standards – and another following their completion. The audits will continue to apply to all future accessibility standards.
  6. to be open to feedback on how the legislation is working and to be committed to ensuring the AODA fulfills its potential.
  7. that the minister responsible for the AODA will rely on advice from the Accessibility Standards Advisory Board, appointed under the AODA.
  8. to review all Ontario laws to find any disability barriers that need to be removed, to ensure no law directly or indirectly discriminates against those with disabilities.
  9. to ensure that the “Character Education” curriculum in Ontario schools includes issues relating to persons with disabilities.
  10. to raise with bodies responsible for training professionals such as architects the need to include training on accessibility needs of persons with disabilities in the services they provide.
  11. to develop an action plan to make elections fully accessible to voters with disabilities.

You can see the full text of Premier McGuinty’s September 14, letter to us at:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/election2007/liberal.asp

In addition, the ongoing commitments Premier McGuinty made in the 2003 elections can be found at:

http://www.odacommittee.net/news80.html

To see commitments the McGuinty Government made regarding enforcement of human rights, during public debates over the controversial Bill 107, see generally:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/reform/default.asp

We can be proud of the substantial gains that we have made. Two years ago, the AODA was passed with unanimous all-party support. Ontario’s 2007 general election was the first election campaign where all three parties voiced commitments to strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. No party campaigned to cut back on the AODA.

Thanks to your grassroots efforts over these past years, the political support for the AODA has been widespread, and cuts across all parties. We must remember that things were certainly not always this way. In previous elections, there were divisions among the parties on whether a strong, mandatory Disabilities Act should be passed. Moreover, shortly after the NDP Government under Bob Rae passed employment equity legislation in the early 1990s, both the Conservatives and Liberals campaigned in 1995 to repeal it. The Harris Government repealed the Employment Equity Act, once elected in 1995.

In this election, the three major parties were in agreement that new steps need to be taken to get us to our goal of a fully-accessible Ontario. Each party committed to several of the key measures we proposed for this goal. We thank all the parties for speaking to these issues in their election commitments to us.

For example, all three parties committed to an action plan to make future Ontario elections barrier-free for voters with disabilities. It will be necessary to have the support an participation of all the parties to achieve our goal of an election without barriers.

It was especially difficult to get the media’s attention on our issues during this election campaign. Despite this, we got coverage both before and after the campaign began.

We look forward to working with the re-elected Government and the opposition parties on our shared goals. Stay tuned for future email updates. We will bring forward ideas for action over the next weeks.