ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
The AODA Alliance Issues a News Release about Newly-Secured Government Documents that Show the Wynne Government Continues With Paltry Enforcement of Ontario’s Disabilities Act, Despite Three Years of Rampant Private Sector Violations and 1.3 Million Dollars Left Unspent that Could Buy Lots More Enforcement
December 3, 2015
To mark December 3, 2015, the International Day for People with Disabilities, the AODA Alliance has issued a news release. It makes public documents obtained from the Wynne Government showing that it still is failing to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act this year. This makes three years in a row of ineffective AODA enforcement vis à vis the private sector. This is so despite the fact that the Government has known for three years about persistent and rampant non-compliance among private sector organizations with at least 20 employees. This is also so despite the Government having 1.3 million dollars that went unspent at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in fiscal year 2014-15.
The AODA Alliance news release is set out below. The detailed AODA Alliance analysis of these documents, and the text of the documents themselves, can be found by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/dec-3-2015-analysis-of-1st-batch-of-FOI-aoda-enforcement-disclosures.docx
In summary these new documents that we have unearthed show:
- Rampant private sector AODA violations persist, known to the Wynne Government, almost three years after the AODA Alliance revealed this troubling trend.
- The Wynne Government cut back on already-weak AODA enforcement in 2015 despite these known rampant AODA violations. It maintained those cuts throughout 2015 despite public and media outcry against these cuts.
- Even in 2015, the Wynne Government continues to only have scant staffing for AODA enforcement. To enforce the AODA across Ontario, the Government has only appointed three directors and one inspector.
- 2015 AODA enforcement cuts were not due to budget limitations. Government had 1.3 million dollars unspent in its AODA 2014-15 budget. Over the past decade, the Government has left unspent a total of 27.5 million dollars, budgeted for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, since 2005, the year when the AODA was enacted.
- The Wynne Government’s 2015 cutbacks to AODA enforcement remain unexplained.
- The Government says it has no record of how much it spends each year on AODA enforcement.
- Private sector organizations with under 20 employees are getting a virtual free pass from AODA enforcement. Of the hundreds of thousands of those organizations, only 9 were audited for AODA compliance in 2014 and the first half of 2015.
- The Wynne Government’s failure to date to disclose a further breakdown of key detailed information on AODA enforcement, which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky requested, flies in the face of recommendations of the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review.
- New disclosures from the Government reveal that last year, Premier Wynne sent misleading information to the AODA Alliance on Government staffing to work on embedding accessibility in Economic Development Ministry programs.
- The Wynne Government is keenly aware of public concerns over AODA implementation and enforcement shortcomings. It planned a series of evasive answers for the media to deflect from these.
We encourage you to:
* pass our news release on to your local media. Urge the media to cover this issue, especially in connection with December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities.
* send this news release to your MPP. Ask them to press the Government to beef up AODA enforcement now.
* circulate this news release widely to anyone you know, via email, on any web site you have access to, and via social media like Twitter and Facebook.
This information was provided as a partial response to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s June 4, 2015 Freedom of Information application. Originally, the Government demanded $4,250 from David Lepofsky, before it would answer any of his Freedom of Information application.
Later, the Government partially backed down. It agreed to release only the parts of the requested information that the Government said it could easily find. The Government still is considering AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s request that the Government waive the $4,250 fee for answering the rest of his Freedom of Information application.
Three years ago today, Kathleen Wynne wrote the AODA Alliance, promising to ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, the mandatory deadline that the AODA sets. Ontario is still not on schedule for full accessibility. There are only 9 years and 28 days left before 2025.
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.
Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.
Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance’s YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign.
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Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org
ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On the UN’s International Day for People with Disabilities, Newly Disclosed Government Records Reveal Yet Another Triple Affront to over 1.7 Million Ontarians with Disabilities: Thousands Of Ontario Organizations Still Violating Ontario’s Disability Accessibility Law’s Reporting Requirement for Three Full Years – Wynne Government Breaching Its Promise to Effectively Enforce This Law – 27.5 Million Dollars, Allocated From 2005 to 2015 to Government Agency to Implement/Enforce This Law, Go Unspent
December 3, 2015 - Toronto: Despite repeated promises to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), Ontario Government records just unearthed by a Freedom of Information (FOI) application show the Wynne Government knows a staggering 65% of Ontario private sector organizations with at least 20 employees have been in violation of the Disabilities Act for three full years. These documents show that the Wynne Government has nevertheless not backed down from its widely-criticized decision to slash by over one-third, the number of organizations in 2015 it would audit for compliance with the AODA, a cutback we initially revealed last February.
Exposed via Freedom of Information applications by blind lawyer David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, this 2015 AODA enforcement cutback isn’t due to any budget shortfalls. In 2014-15, the Government left fully 1.3 million dollars unspent in the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario – the AODA’s enforcement agency. Over the past decade, that agency has been under budget every year since the AODA was passed in 2005. Twenty-seven point five million budgeted dollars went unspent on implementing and enforcing the AODA over the past decade since this law was passed.
The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to full accessibility for 1.8 million people with a physical, mental, sensory, intellectual, or learning disability by 2025. It aims to ensure that people with disabilities can fully use schools, universities, jobs, housing, goods, services, restaurants and stores. Under the AODA, the Government must enact and effectively enforce accessibility standards that tell public and private sector organizations what disability barriers they must tear down, and by when.
The Government knows that fully 65% of private sector organizations with at least 20 employees still have not e-filed mandatory accessibility reports that were due in 2012. Fifty-eight percent of those organizations have not filed compliance reports that were due at the end of 2014.
“Despite Government promises to increase Disabilities Act audits next year, Ontario still has a paltry three Disabilities Act directors and one inspector appointed to deploy the law’s inspection and auditing powers for the entire province,” said Lepofsky, who leads Ontario’s non-partisan grassroots accessibility movement. “Think of how much accessibility and enforcement 27.5 million dollars or even 1.3 million dollars could buy! The Government’s unspecified plans to increase enforcement in future years and other recent announcements don’t make up for lax enforcement over the years since this law’s enforcement powers went into effect the past half-decade.”
The AODA Alliance’s 17-page analysis of these new Freedom of Information disclosures, made public today, the International Day for People with Disabilities, along with the documents themselves, also showed the following:
* The Wynne Government has given no explanation for its 2015 one-third cut to the number of organizations against which it would take Disabilities Act enforcement action. The Government says it has no records of any instructions on the Act’s enforcement in 2014 or 2015 that the Government gave to the Accessibility Directorate.
* The Government in effect says it has no record of how much it spends each year on Disabilities Act enforcement.
* The Wynne Government is keenly aware of public concerns over AODA implementation and enforcement shortcomings. When it staged an event last June to celebrate the Disabilities Act’s 10th anniversary, it planned a series of carefully-crafted evasive answers for the media, to deflect from these criticisms.
The Government has still not answered a good part of Lepofsky’s Freedom of Information requests. On August 31, 2015, it demanded $4,250 as a fee. Lepofsky asked for a fee waiver since the AODA Alliance has no money. Two years ago, the Government eventually waived a $2,325 FOI fee for Lepofsky, when he sought earlier information of a similar kind, but only after the Government was blasted in the media and Legislature for such a financial barrier to open and transparent government. The Government now says its 2013 2013 fee waiver isn’t relevant to Lepofsky’s request for a FOI fee waiver on identical grounds in 2015.
In 2014, a major Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA by former Law Dean Mayo Moran found that the Government, including Premier Wynne, must now breathe new life into the AODA, and show strong new leadership on accessibility. It found that after a decade, this law hasn’t lived up to its great potential. It has not yet made a significant difference in the lives of Ontarians with disabilities.
To read the AODA Alliance’s December 2, 2015 analysis of the Government’s November 25, 2015 FOI disclosures, and to read the documents that the Government disclosed, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/dec-3-2015-analysis-of-1st-batch-of-FOI-aoda-enforcement-disclosures.docx