ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO AODA ALLIANCE INQUIRIES ON ITS PLANS FOR IMPLEMENTING THE AODA – MUCH STILL REMAINS UNCLEAR

November 12, 2009

SUMMARY

On July 23, 2009, the AODA Alliance wrote to Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur. She has lead responsibility for the Ontario Government’s implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We asked for specific information on the Government’s action to date on implementing the AODA. That letter is set out below.

The Minister responded to our letter on August 13, 2009. We set out her letter below. Her letter sets out each of our questions and then gives the answers.

From her letter, we learn among other things, the following:

  1. Even though the Customer Service Accessibility Standard under the AODA becomes enforceable on January 1, 2010, there is now no enforcement mechanism in place for enforcing it. Moreover, the Minister makes it clear that enforcement/compliance process is still being developed. There is no specific time indicated when we will be told what this enforcement mechanism will be. We note that in the 2003 election, Premier McGuinty promised effective enforcement in the disability accessibility legislation he would enact. The Government has had six years since it made that promise, and over four years since the AODA was enacted, to decide on the details of the promised enforcement process.
  2. The Government has not yet decided which Tribunal will hear cases under the AODA. The Minister said that a decision on this will be made some time in 2010.
  3. We still cannot find anyone in the Ontario Government with lead responsibility for fulfilling Premier McGuinty’s 2007 election promise to establish an accessible election action plan. In this letter, Minister Meilleur refers us to MPP Greg Sorbara, who chairs the Legislature’s Select Committee on Elections. However Mr. Sorbara had previously told us that he does not have lead responsibility for this, and that after his Select Committee renders its report (which it rendered last summer), it will be up to the Government to decide what it will do to achieve accessible elections for voters and candidates with disabilities. In other words, we are being passed back and forth with no one to answer our questions.
  4. The Minister describes efforts the Ministry is undertaking to educate the public on accessibility. We are eager to know if anyone receiving this email has seen any of these education initiatives, or knows of others who has benefitted from them.
  5. The AODA gives the Government a wide range of powers to enact regulations to implement the AODA, beyond making individual accessibility standards. However, apart from enacting the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and working on four other accessibility standards that are still under development, the Government has not to date used these powers to enact any other regulations to implement the AODA.
  6. We asked if the Ministry pays any compensation to members of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, beyond paying for their expenses in taking part in the work of that council. The Minister wrote that members of that Council are “eligible” for compensation. Of course, the AODA says the Minister “may” pay compensation (beyond expenses) for council members. However, the Minister did not make it clear whether the Ministry in fact does pay any compensation to members of that Council.

We have provided this information to the Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA and will be incorporating it into our final brief to that Review.

Send us your feedback. You can reply to this email, or write to us at: aodafeedback@rogers.com

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AODA Alliance's letter to Hon. Madeleine Meilleur

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
(Fax) 416-480-7014

July 23, 2009

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community and Social Services
6th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1E9
Fax: (416) 325-1498
Email: mmeilleur.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Dear Minister,

Re: Independent Review of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005

We are preparing our comprehensive submissions to the Charles Beer Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. It would assist us if you or your Ministry officials could provide us with answers to the following questions. No doubt the Charles Beer Independent Review, and others in the disability community and elsewhere, will also benefit from this information.

  1. What decisions has the Government made on how the AODA 2005 and accessibility standards enacted under it will be enforced? We understand that the Ministry has been working on a compliance framework, to set out how the Government will be enforcing the AODA 2005 and accessibility standards enacted under it. Has that compliance framework been finalized? May we receive a copy of it or any other documents setting out the Government’s plans for the AODA’s enforcement, including any complaints mechanism? If it has not been finalized, when does the Government plan to finalize it? May we receive a draft of it, if it is not finalized?
  2. Has a tribunal been designated under section 26 of the AODA 2005 to hear AODA appeals? If not, when will the tribunal be designated? What opportunity will the disability community have for input into the choice of the tribunal to be designated?
  3. As you know, in June 2009 the Select Committee on Elections rendered its report with its proposal for electoral reform in Ontario. We understood that the inter-ministerial committee earlier looking into fulfilling the Government’s 2007 election commitment of an accessible elections action plan, had been awaiting that Select Committee’s report before taking further action.

    What steps has the Government taken regarding the implementation of the report of the Select Committee on Elections, on the issue of making provincial and municipal elections fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities? What minister, if any, has been designated to have lead responsibility for the implementation of that report?
  4. Section 32(3) (e) of the AODA 2005 mandates the Accessibility Directorate to conduct public education campaigns on accessibility. What has the Ministry done, or does it plan to do, in this regard?
  5. Section 32(3) (g) of the AODA 2005 mandates the Accessibility Directorate to work with the broader public sector and business community on preliminary measures, in advance of the enactment of accessibility standards, to promote barrier-removal and prevention. What steps has the Ministry taken, or does it plan to take, in this regard?
  6. The AODA 2005 gives the Ontario Government extensive powers to enact regulations to promote the implementation of the AODA 2005. Apart from the regulations made to enact the Customer Service accessibility standard, what regulations, if any have been made, or are being planned, under those powers?
  7. Could you please provide us in MS Word format with the text of the initial proposed Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and the final proposed Customer Service Accessibility Standard that the Customer Service Standards Development Committee recommended to the Government?
  8. It is our understanding that the Ministry does not provide any financial compensation or remuneration to members of Standards Development Committees, apart from some expenses. Does the Ministry provide any such compensation or remuneration to members of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, beyond reimbursement of expenses?

We look forward to receiving your response at your earliest convenience, and would prefer a response via email if possible.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.
Chair AODA Alliance

cc: Premier Dalton McGuinty via fax (416) 325-3745 and email dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, Ministry of Community and Social Services via fax (416) 325-9620 and email ellen.waxman@ontario.ca
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections via fax (416) 212-1025 and email gsorbara.mpp@liberal.ola.org

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Madeleine Meilleur's letter to David Lepofsky

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 for your letter dated July 23, 2009 regarding the independent review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) by Mr. Charles Beer. Please find attached an itemized response to your questions:

  1. What decisions has the Government made on how the AODA 2005 and accessibility standards enacted under it will be enforced? We understand that the Ministry has been working on a compliance framework, to set out how the Government will be enforcing the AODA 2005 and accessibility standards enacted under it. Has that compliance framework been finalized? May we receive a copy of it or any other documents setting out the Government's plans for the AODA's enforcement, including any complaints mechanism? If it has not been finalized, when does the Government plan to finalize it? May we receive a draft of it, if it is not finalized?

    The compliance and enforcement approach has been developed to evolve with new regulations enacted under the AODA. Development of compliance and enforcement measures will involve risk assessments in order to prioritize compliance and will encourage close cooperation with organizations to support them meeting the requirements of the standards. We will also support compliance by encouraging organizations to exceed the minimum requirements of standards and to establish industry/sector leadership.

    Further information regarding the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario's (ADO ) approach to compliance is currently under development and will be communicated to stakeholders when finalized.
  2. Has a tribunal been designated under section 26 of the AODA 2005 to hear AODA appeals? If not, when will the tribunal be designated? What opportunity will the disability community have for input into the choice of the tribunal to be designated?

    The ADO will be finalizing a recommendation for designating a tribunal in 2010. The designated tribunal will be available to respond to appeals against any enforcement action related to non-compliance with the AODA. In considering a tribunal to hear appeals under the AODA, the ADO is assessing the legislative requirements and anticipated enforcement activity. The ADO will not be hosting formal consultations on the tribunal, but would be pleased to hear the views of the disability community.
  3. As you know, in June 2009 the Select Committee on Elections rendered its report with its proposal for electoral reform in Ontario. We understood that the inter-ministerial committee earlier looking into fulfilling the Government's 2007 election commitment of an accessible elections action plan, had been awaiting that Select Committee's report before taking further action.

    Please note, Electoral Reform falls under the jurisdiction of the Select Committee on Elections. For more information regarding accessible elections plans, please contact:

    Greg Sorbara, MPP, Vaughan Chair
    Select Committee on Elections
    Room 186, Main Legislative Building
    Queen's Park
    Toronto, Ontario
    M7A 1A4
    Telephone: 416-212-1022
    Fax: 416-212-1025
    Email: gsorbara.mpp@liberal.ola.org
  4. Section 32(3) (e) of the AODA 2005 mandates the Accessibility Directorate to conduct public education campaigns on accessibility. What has the Ministry done, or does it plan to do, in this regard?

    My Ministry's AccessON: Breaking Barriers Together campaign is raising public awareness about the barriers that exist for people with disabilities and the need for accessibility. The campaign includes , a website full of tips and tools to improve accessibility in Ontario. This website, which is promoted across the province, is regularly updated with success stories and videos to showcase accessibility initiatives taking place in Ontario and to inspire others to break down barriers.

    We also launched a province-wide transit ad campaign in March 2008 to challenge people's perceptions about barriers and accessibility. We are currently finalizing plans for the next leg of AccessON.

    My ministry promotes accessibility in a variety of ways on an ongoing basis across Ontario through:

    media events and outreach
    events and speeches
    meetings, events and conferences, such as annual general meetings.
  5. Section 32(3) (g) of the AODA 2005 mandates the Accessibility Directorate to work with the broader public sector and business community on preliminary measures, in advance of the enactment of accessibility standards, to promote barrier- removal and prevention. What steps has the Ministry taken, or does it plan to take, in this regard?

    The ADO) has been working with the Broader Public Sector (BPS) and business community to generate a greater awareness about accessibility issues and to promote barrier removal and prevention since the AODA was passed in 2005. The BPS, the business community, people with disabilities and their representatives also make up the Standards Development Committees in the five key areas:

    Customer Service;
    Built Environment;
    Information and Communication; and
    Employment and Transportation.

    My Ministry, through the ADO has also established an open and consultative public review process that includes an extensive outreach strategy providing accessible documents, meetings and an accessible feedback process where BPS, business community and the general public can provide feedback on proposed standards.

    The ADO also works with organizations through the EnAbling Change Partnership program to increase awareness about accessibility, promote barrier removal and prevention, educate obligated organizations about the AODA and upcoming standards and develop compliance assistance resources. ADO staff participate at events, conferences and Annual General Meetings in order to provide BPS and the business community with information, education, tools and resources about the AODA and the accessibility standards, and to ensure a better understanding of accessibility, barrier removal and prevention.
  6. The AODA 2005 gives the Ontario Government extensive powers to enact regulations to promote the implementation of the AODA 2005. Apart from the regulations made to enact the Customer Service accessibility standard, what regulations, if any have been made, or are being planned, under those powers?

    As you know, the Customer Service Regulation came into effect on January 1, 2008.

    Other Standards Development Committees have either completed or are in the process of completing proposed standards for the remaining standards.

    Final proposed standards will then be submitted to the government to consider.
  7. Could you please provide us in MS Word format with the text of the initial proposed Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and the final proposed Customer Service Accessibility Standard that the Customer Service Standards Development Committee recommended to the Government?

    Please find both documents attached for your consideration.
  8. It is our understanding that the Ministry does not provide any financial compensation or remuneration to members of Standards Development Committees, apart from some expenses. Does the Ministry provide any such compensation or remuneration to members of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, beyond reimbursement of expenses?

    Section: 31 (3) of the AODA states that “The Minister may pay the members of the Council the remuneration and the reimbursement for expenses that the Lieutenant Governor in Council determines.” Since the act provides for both, ASAC members are eligible for both remuneration and reimbursement of expenses.

I hope this information will be of assistance and, once again, I thank you for your commitment to accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

Sincerely,

[ORIGINAL SIGNED BY]

Madeleine Meilleur
Minister

Enclosure