ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
Wynne Government Seeks Public Feedback on Its Proposals to Amend Two Accessibility Standards that Would Do Little for People with Disabilities But would Break an Important Promise to Ontarians with Disabilities – Send the AODA Alliance Your Input on Our Draft Response to the Government’s Proposals by November 27, 2015
November 20, 2015
On November 9, 2015, the Wynne Government made an important and deeply disturbing announcement. It posted online a short and problematic five-page summary of amendments it proposes to make to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. Those are the two accessibility standards that the Government has enacted in the past decade under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
We invite and welcome your input on our proposed response to the Government’s summary of its proposed amendments. Rushing as quickly as we can, we have prepared a draft Response to the Government, dated November 20, 2015. It includes 25 pages of item-by-item analysis. It then includes key background materials as appendices, including the Government’s November 9, 2015 announcement, and the text of the Government’s November 9, 2015 summary of its proposed amendments.
Don’t have time to read our entire draft response? Don’t worry! We set out a summary of it below. We ask you to email us your input by November 27, 2015. We want to finalize our Response and submit it to the Government as soon as we can after that date. Email your feedback to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a nutshell, our draft Response says that the Government’s proposed amendments do extremely little to help people with disabilities – far less than over 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities need and deserve. Under the weak 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard as originally written, or as the Government proposes to amend it, customer service in Ontario will not be required to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or indeed, ever.
The Government has rejected or disregarded the vast majority of input in this area that we have provided. Even ten years after the AODA was enacted, Ontarians with disabilities continue to face barriers when seeking accessible Customer Service.
Back on June 3, 2015, Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid, the Ontario cabinet minister with lead responsibility for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, publicly acknowledged that the Government’s implementation of the AODA had been flagging. He said he wanted to beef up its implementation. Yet the Government’s November 9, 2015 announcement shows no significant revitalization of the Government’s flagging implementation of this important law.
In several troubling ways, the Government’s proposals would make things worse, weakening the Government’s inadequate AODA implementation and enforcement. As a first example, part of the Government’s proposal would violate Premier Wynne’s written December 3, 2012 promise to Ontarians with disabilities that her Government would not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections that we had won in the AODA or in any accessibility standards enacted under it. The Government proposes to eliminate the legal duty of private sector organizations with 20 to 49 employees to keep documentation of key steps they must take to implement the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.
That measure would threaten to gut any effectiveness of two key AODA enforcement tools, the Government’s power to audit these organizations for compliance and the duty of these organizations to file periodic accessibility reports with the Government. The Government’s poor enforcement of the AODA to date flies in the face of its promise to effectively enforce that law. This proposal would make that situation even worse.
The Government has known for three years that there have been rampant violations of the AODA among private sector organizations with at least 20 employees. This proposed measure would reward that law-breaking by making enforcement harder to carry out, rather than cracking down on that law-breaking.
As a second example, the Government proposes to make amendments to the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation which have nothing to do with improving accessible Customer Service for people with disabilities, and without obeying the AODA’s mandatory process for revising an existing accessibility standard. It earlier tried doing this in 2012. It backed down in 2012 after we pointed out the Government’s failure to obey the AODA’s requirements. Now the Government seeks to do the same thing again. This includes proposing revisions that are the same as or very similar to ones it withdrew in 2012.
As a third example, the Government’s proposals leave in place and only insufficiently tinker with an unlawful provision in the existing accessibility standard that wrongly mandates organizations to impose an accessibility barrier to Customer Service –something an AODA accessibility standard cannot do. That provision wrongly lets an obligated organization in some situations demand that a person with a disability bring a support person with them, at their own expense. It wrongly also lets the obligated organization charge a second admission for that support person.
Certain of the Government’s proposals reflect an impoverished approached to accessibility for people with disabilities. The 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard is very weak. We need it substantially strengthened, not further weakened, if Ontarians with disabilities are to enjoy accessible Customer Service.
The Government is giving the public up to December 31, 2015 to submit feedback on the summary of its proposed amendments. It scheduled the latter part of this consultation period right in the peak of the December holiday season. It is widely known that during that period, many are on holiday. They are not focused on preparing for Government consultations. Some community disability organizations are closed or on shortened hours and reduced staff over that period. Government owes it to Ontarians including people with disabilities to extend its consultation period to the end of January 2016.
We fear that some won’t bother giving the Government any input, given the Government’s past disregard of our input on this subject in the past. Nevertheless, we believe that we and all Ontarians with disabilities should take every opportunity to try to get the Government to do the right thing when it comes to accessibility.
We urge the Government to set aside its problematic proposed amendments, to undertake a prompt and inclusive consultation on ways to actually improve and strengthen the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and to keep its promises to people with disabilities on the AODA and accessibility standards enacted under it.
We also want to alert you to the fact that the Government also announced that it had repealed certain provisions of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. In a future AODA Alliance Update, we will address that action.
Below please find:
* a summary of the AODA Alliance’s November 20, 2015 draft response to the Government’s proposals to amend the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.
* The text of AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky’s new November 13, 2015 Freedom of Information application. He asked the Government to indicate how many private sector organizations in Ontario have between 20 and 49 employees, and how many of these have filed their required AODA Accessibility Reports in 2012 and 2014.
* links to key background information on this issue.
We encourage you to use the Government’s toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.
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Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for their updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org
1. Summary of the AODA Alliance Draft November 20, 2015 Response to the Government's November 9, 2015 Summary of Proposed Amendments to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation
We summarize the AODA Alliance’s Response to the Government’s November 9, 2015 summary as follows:
1. The Government’s proposed changes to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard are far too inadequate to meaningfully improve that weak accessibility standard. As well, they include unwarranted cutbacks that are both harmful to people with disabilities, and would violate the Government’s promises to people with disabilities.
2. The Government does not even say it aims to strengthen the weak and inadequate 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard.
3. The Government’s proposal would break Premier Wynne’s promise never to weaken AODA provisions or protections.
4. The Government wrongly proposes to perpetuate an unlawful provision in the Customer Service Accessibility Standard which should be removed.
5. The Government improperly proposes changes to the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation without following the mandatory legal process for which we fought so hard, and won in 2005.
6. The Government proposes a counter-productive backwards step regarding customer feedback on accessibility barriers in an organization’s goods, services or facilities.
7. The Government Proposes cosmetic packaging changes that will make no difference for achieving accessibility for people with disabilities, or whose impact is insufficiently clear to be assuredly harmless.
8. The Government proposes some minor improvements that, though helpful, won’t significantly strengthen the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.
9. The Government should reconsider and make needed improvements to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard that it so far has disregarded or rejected.
10. The Government should now launch a short, focused and inclusive consultation with stakeholders together to develop meaningful improvements to the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard.
2. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s November 13, 2015 Freedom of Information Application Directed to the Economic Development Ministry
Ontario Access or Correction Request
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
Date: November 13, 2015
A. Type of Request:
Access to general records (non-personal information)
Name of institution request made to:
Patricia Carroll-Tougas, Freedom of Information Coordinator
Freedom of Information and Privacy Services, Service Management and Facilities Branch,
Corporate Services Division,
Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
900 Bay Street | 3rd Floor, Hearst Block, Room 332
Toronto, ON M7A 2E1
B. Requester’s Information:
Last name: Lepofsky First name: David
C. Description of Records Requested
Regarding Levels of Compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act AODA
1. By December 31, 2012, private sector organizations in Ontario with at least 20 employees had to file a first Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Accessibility Report with the Government under s. 14 of the AODA.
As of November 9, 2015, and if readily available, as of the date of this application’s fulfilment, how many private sector organizations, that were required to file an AODA Accessibility Report by December 31, 2012, and that have between 20 and 49 employees, had still not filed the required AODA Accessibility Report? Please state this as a number of organizations, and as a percentage of the private sector organizations with between 20 and 49 employees which were required to so file.
2. By December 31, 2014, all private sector organizations in Ontario with at least 20 employees were required to file with the Government a second AODA Accessibility Report. As of November 9, 2015, and, if readily available, as of the date of this application’s fulfilment, how many private sector organizations with between 20 and 49 employees that were required to file a first AODA Accessibility Report by December 31, 2012, and a second AODA Accessibility Report by December 31, 2014, had not filed either required report? Please state this as a number of organizations, and as a percentage of the private sector organizations with between 20 and 49 employees which were required to so file.
3. What is the total number of private sector organizations in Ontario with between 20 and 49 employees that were required to file an accessibility report under section 14 of the AODA by December 31, 2012? And by December 31, 2014? If the Government does not have an exact number, then what estimates does the Government have or use?
1. Please provide all documents in an accessible format in MS Word, so that they can be read by screen-reading software used by people with vision loss and other print disabilities. If this presents any difficulty, please advise me and I will do my best to see if there are ways to effectively address this.
2. Please provide any requested information as soon as available. In other words, please do not hold back all requested information until it is all assembled. If some information can be quickly provided, while other requested information may take longer, please provide the immediately available information as soon as possible, and do not hold it back until all other requested information is sought and obtained.
Because the Government is now conducting a consultation on proposed changes to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, I ask that I be provided this information as quickly as possible, and that the Government not wait out the time lines set out in the Freedom of Information legislation.
3. This information should be readily available at the push of a button. If some requested information would require extensive efforts to collect and provide, please contact me. I am open to adjusting the request for information to reduce the time and cost to the Government of complying with this request, so long as I can obtain the substance of the information I am seeking. I have assisted with just such an issue in the past, and am happy to do so again.
4. I am not seeking disclosure of any privileged legal advice sought or obtained by or within the Government.
5. I ask in advance that any fee for complying with this request be waived. I do so because this is a public interest application. I make the request for information under the Freedom of Information Act as a matter of public interest. I am the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, a volunteer position with a volunteer coalition. Our coalition is a non-partisan, non-profit community coalition advocating for the effective implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. We have no funds of our own.
I make this request for information in good faith. The search fee should not become an unfair barrier to access to information for such a community group or for people with disabilities generally. The AODA Alliance has been recognized by all parties in the Ontario Legislature as a leading voice advocating for accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. As one illustration of this, each of the political parties has made their election commitments on disability accessibility in the form of letters to the AODA Alliance.
Method of access: Receive copy
D. Payment and Signature
$5 application fee - Cheque