ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Media Reports on Our Getting the Wynne Government to Agree to Develop an Education Accessibility Standard Federal Government to Consult on Adopting the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Ontario Public Service Restructures Who Leads Its Own AODA Compliance

December 8, 2016

SUMMARY

This is our last AODA Alliance Update for 2016. Enjoy the peace and quiet as we take an email and social media break until the new year.

We wind up 2016 with good news, highlighted below:

* The Toronto Star reported on our important success earlier this week, when the Wynne Government agreed to develop an Education Accessibility Standard.

* Last week, the Federal Government announced that it would undertake a consultation on Canada adopting the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

* The Ontario Government takes steps to more effectively manage the accessibility obligations of the Ontario Public Service, and

* Even more great media attention has focused on the AODA Alliance's recent captioned online video of accessibility barriers at the new Centennial College Culinary arts Centre.

We also offer a preliminary response to the media coverage of a new private accessibility certification process which was announced last week in the media – an initiative that raises real concerns.

We wish one and all a happy, safe and barrier-free holiday season and new year. We also thank one and all for your help with and support of our grassroots cause. Any progress we make is due to the encouragement, support and advocacy of so many individuals and organizations right across Ontario.

1. Toronto Star Reports on the Wynne Government Agreeing to Create an Education Accessibility Standard

The December 6, 2016 Toronto Star included an article reporting on our victory, convincing the Wynne Government to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We set the article out below. When the new year begins, we will hit the ground running, urging the Wynne Government to get right to work on developing the promised Education Accessibility Standard.

The important lesson we should learn from this victory is that our tirelessness and tenacity can pay off, if we just stick to it. That is what it took to get the legislature to pass the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. That is what it took to get the Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard, to tear down the accessibility barriers impeding over one third of a million Ontario students with disabilities . That is what it will take to ensure that the promised new accessibility standard is a strong and effective one. We are up to the challenge, working together across Ontario.

2. Federal Government Commits to Consult on Adopting the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

To mark December 3, 2016, the United Nations' International Day for People with Disabilities, the Federal Government made an important and very encouraging announcement on December 1, 2016. It announced that the Federal Government would undertake a consultation regarding Canada adopting the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Below we set out key parts of the Federal Government's announcement on its website.  

Adopted a decade ago, the CRPD is an international declaration of the rights of people with disabilities around the world under international law. Years ago, Canada signed onto it, but not onto its Optional Protocol. The Optional Protocol is very important. It would allow members of the public, including people with disabilities, to launch an international appeal if there are any violations of the CRPD in Canada, after one has first tried the options under Canadian law to complain about the problem in question.

This announcement is only a preliminary first step. It is not a commitment that the Federal Government will in fact adopt the CRPD's Optional Protocol. However, this announcement was accompanied by a strong statement from the Federal Government's key ministers, Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. In the announcement set out below, they voice strong support for the idea of adopting the Optional Protocol. That is very encouraging.

It may be that the Federal Government feels it must consult within Canada before making a final decision on whether to adopt the Optional Protocol. Provincial and territorial governments may wish to have their say. It will therefore be important for people with disabilities and disability organizations to vigourously press every provincial and territorial government to support and not oppose the CRPD's Optional Protocol.

We heartily commend the Federal Government for this announcement. Barrier-Free Canada, of which the AODA Alliance is the official affiliate for Ontario, is one of the many voices that have urged that the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act include an adoption of the CRPD's Optional Protocol.

3. The Ontario Public Service Takes Helpful Steps in the direction of How It Will Internally Oversee Its Own Efforts on Disability Accessibility

In a November 29, 2016 email within the Ontario Government, the senior public servant for Ontario, Secretary of Cabinet Steve Orsini, announced an internal restructuring of how its own internal efforts on delivery of accessibility to the public will be led. We set out a copy of that memo, below.

When you first read it, it will seem like obscure inside baseball that will have no significant impact for people with disabilities around Ontario. However, we encourage a closer look.

The AODA Alliance has been pressing the Ontario Government for many years to do a much better job at ensuring accessibility within its own house, e.g. in the services it delivers, and in the Ontario Public Service as a workplace for tens of thousands of Ontarians.

The Ontario Government repeatedly claims to lead by example, on accessibility. We have pointed out over and over that despite some within the Ontario Public Service who want and try to achieve more, the Government has far too often led by a poor example.

The Ontario Government has not had one public servant with ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the Ontario Government and the Ontario Public Service delivers on its accessibility duties and commitments. They are good at praising themselves, but not as good at delivering on accessibility. We and two successive AODA Independent Reviews have urged that there needs to be several reforms in this area. Until now, the Ontario Government has done little to act on those proposals.

Now the Secretary of Cabinet, the top professional Ontario public servant, has commendably put one person in charge, Marie-Lison Fougère, who is also accountable directly to Tracy MacCharles, the Minister of Accessibility, as her deputy minister. This looks to be quite helpful. The announcement set out below also creates an office right in Cabinet Office (which is the office directly under the Secretary of Cabinet), to oversee inclusion and diversity within the Ontario Public Service, on all issues, not just disability.

Viewed from the outside, this may look unclear or confusing. however it is commendable as the first real effort from the top to try to start straightening out a long term problem within the Ontario Public Service, an effort we commend.

We will be happy to work with the Ontario Public Service in an effort to make this succeed. We will, of course, also hold the Ontario Government accountable for progress under this new approach. This change will need to show progress quickly, since the 2025 deadline for full accessibility is fast approaching, and is only 8 years away.

One concern is that the same deputy minister will be responsible for both leading the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act's enforcement and for the Ontario Government's compliance with the AODA. It would be better for these to be entirely separated. We urge the Ontario Government, as it implements this new regime, to put in place safeguards in an effort to make this work.

4. Yet More Great Media Responses to the AODA Alliance's Captioned Video of the Accessibility Problems at the Brand-New Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre

The AODA Alliance's recent captioned video of accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre, just released to the public a week ago, is having quite a positive impact. Last Friday, December 2, 2016, it was covered in the Toronto Star, CBC Radio's national news, and on CBC TV's flagship national news program, "The National".

To watch the December 2, 2016 item (captioned)  that shows our video on CBC TV's The National.

Today, there was a strong letter to the editor in the Toronto Star about the accessibility problems at Centennial College's new building, from AODA Alliance advocate Kathryn Bremner, set out below. Letters to the editor are always a great way to focus public attention on our issues.

Those who design places or services in Ontario should seek to ensure they meet full accessibility requirements, and not just Ontario's inadequate Building Code and AODA accessibility standards. They won't want to violate the Ontario Human Rights Code. They won't want to be shown in videos or photos publicized on social media via our AODAfail "Picture Our Barriers" campaign.

Between the longer 18 minute version of our video and the shorter 6 minute version, we have already gotten almost 1,000 views in the ten days since it was announced on the internet. Help us get more people to watch this video.

To watch the AODA Alliance's captioned 18-minute video on accessibility issues at the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre.

To watch a shorter 6-minute captioned version of the AODA Alliance's Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre video.

To learn more about our AODAfail "Picture Our Barriers" campaign and to learn how you can help.

5. Problematic New Private Accessibility Certification Process Announced in the Media

In contrast to all the good news, set out above, on Friday, December 2,2016, the media reported on an announcement that the Rick Hansen Foundation was launching some sort of voluntary private accessibility certification process for buildings. We don't yet know full details about it.

Rick Hansen is, of course, widely recognized and respected for his important work on disability issues. Despite this, we have very serious concerns about this proposal, whether it is conducted by Mr. Hansen's Foundation or by any other private organization.

One year ago, the Ontario Government launched a public consultation on creating a private accessibility certification process in Ontario. The Deloitte consulting firm was reportedly paid over $400,000 by the Ontario Government to hold that consultation.

We have voiced our strong concerns about this entire idea, about that consultation, and about that use of such a large amount of public money that would have been better used on AODA enforcement. This was long before the Rick Hansen Foundation made its announcement last week. To see the AODA Alliance's detailed submission raising serious concerns about the idea of a private accessibility certification process, submitted to Deloitte last winter.

Although the Hansen Foundation's initiative is well-intended, we regret that nothing in the media coverage last week reduces or addresses our concerns.

A so-called "certification" from a private accessibility certification process, whether offered by a for-profit company or a private foundation, does not release any public or private organization from its duty to comply with human rights legislation or, in the case of a government, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms . A private company or foundation is not part of the Government. It does not have the mandatory openness and accountability to the public that a government agency must ensure. We have no idea what measure of accessibility a private accessibility certification process would use, or whether it will use it consistently.

If an organization got a high accessibility rating from a private accessibility certification process like this, there is no assurance that the organization is truly accessible to people with all kinds of disabilities. We also have no assurance that it would remain accessible over the days, weeks or months after it proudly posted its "certification" for all passers-by to see. Far from serving as an incentive for organizations to go beyond their obligations on accessibility, it could become a reward to organizations that fall below their human rights duties.

To see our reaction to this idea, reported on CBC TV's "The National" newscast, with captions.

We expect to later have more to say about this. In the meantime we call on the Federal Government to ensure that this plays no part in the development of the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act. It should play no role in the content, enforcement or implementation of that promised law, now under development.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Have you taken part in our "Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our "Picture Our Barriers" campaign by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/2016

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

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

Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is proud to be the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org

MORE DETAILS

December 6, 2016 Toronto Star

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/12/05/wynne-aims-to-remove-barriers-for-students-with-disabilities.html

News

Province commits to accessibility plan; Open letter from 22 groups advocated to remove barriers facing youth with disabilities

Graphic: Rana Nasrazadani says the province's commitment to removing barriers for students with disabilities "should be considered a turning point." Chris So/Toronto Star File Photo

The province will develop an education accessibility standard to remove barriers that students with disabilities face in classrooms, curriculum and on school premises, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Monday.

She made the commitment hours after receiving an open letter from 22 community groups who called for its creation, arguing that too many special needs students aren't getting the education they're entitled to because of obstacles, in physical environments and teaching.

"We recognize that there's more to be done and there will be an education standard developed," Wynne told the legislature, in response to an opposition question citing a Star story about the groups' proposal.

In the five-page letter sent Monday, advocates said barriers make it difficult for disabled students to succeed. The result is unemployment that has reached crisis levels among adults with disabilities.

Sometimes, those barriers are physical, faced by students in wheelchairs who can't play on playground equipment or open hallway doors. They can include a lack of supports, such as a shortage of special needs assistants, which prevents children with autism or other conditions from participating in the classroom. Or it can be classroom technology that kids with learning disabilities or vision impairment are unable to use. One in six Ontario students receives special education services.

Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the province is committed to becoming accessible to all citizens by 2025 and has focused on key areas such as public transportation and health care.

In their letter to Wynne, the organizations said an education standard must also be a priority to create a consistent benchmark across Ontario when it comes to providing supports for students with disabilities.

The groups include the CNIB, the Canadian Mental Health Association and advocates representing students with autism, intellectual disabilities and a range of developmental or communications disorders.

Rana Nasrazadani of Toronto, who faced challenges in high school as a student with cerebral palsy, said Wynne's move Monday amounts to "steps in the right direction" and hopes it will lead to changes for disabled students who have faced hurdles for so long.

"I think this should be considered a turning point," said Nasrazadani, 20, a student at York University.

Her response was echoed by Toronto lawyer and accessibilities activist David Lepofsky, who commended Wynne for making the commitment.

He called it "a very important first step along the road to a fully inclusive and accessible education system" and said it's important news for kids with disabilities and their families.

The next step is consultations between advocates, school boards, post-secondary schools and teachers to make recommendations on what the standard should include, he said.

Tracy MacCharles, minister responsible for accessibility, said in a statement Monday she has been meeting with experts and advocates "to determine how to increase accessibility in our education system."

Andrea Gordon Toronto Star

Federal Government's December 1, 2016 Online Announcement on the Optional Protocol to the CRPD

Originally posted at:
http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?mthd=index&crtr.page=1&nid=1163849

News Releases

Canada makes further commitment to support rights of persons with disabilities
 
December 1, 2016 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada

The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, today announced that the Government of Canada has begun a consultation process on Canada's accession to the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Optional Protocol).

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities protects and promotes the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities without discrimination and on an equal basis with others.

Provinces and territories have an important role to play in considering Canada's possible accession to the Optional Protocol, and consultations are currently taking place with them on this matter. The process will also involve engagement with Indigenous governments that may be implicated, as well as Indigenous organizations and civil society.

Quotes

"I support this protocol because it further empowers Canadians with disabilities and because it is consistent with Canada's commitment to promote inclusion, always and everywhere."
- Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs

"Our willingness to move this protocol forward is a significant step in supporting the rights of Canadians with disabilities. This announcement helps us foster equality and inclusiveness and brings us closer to a more accessible Canada."
- Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

Quick facts

•Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010. Parties to the convention are required to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities.

•The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the convention by states parties. States parties to the convention are expected to submit reports to the committee every four years, with an initial report due two years following ratification. Canada submitted its initial report in February 2014, and will appear before the committee in spring 2017.

•The Optional Protocol gives people with disabilities a new safeguard for their rights by establishing two procedures aimed at strengthening the implementation and monitoring of the convention. The first is a complaint procedure that allows individuals and groups to bring petitions to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities claiming that their rights under the convention have been violated. The second is an inquiry procedure that gives the Committee authority to investigate allegations of grave or systematic violations of the provisions of the convention by a state party. The Optional Protocol was adopted by the UN in 2006 and entered into force in 2008. As of November 2016, there are 92 states parties to the protocol.

•The International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be marked on December 3. This year's theme, Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want, highlights the recent adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the role of these goals in building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.
 

November 29, 2016 Memo from Ontario's Secretary of Cabinet Steve Orsini to the Ontario Public Service

November 29, 2016

MEMORANDUM TO:        Deputy Ministers

SUBJECT:                            Inclusion, Diversity and Anti-Racism Division

           
As the Secretary of the Cabinet and the Head of the Ontario Public Service, I am personally committed to building a more respectful, diverse and inclusive OPS where everyone has an opportunity to fulfil their full potential.

As part of that commitment, I am pleased to announce the creation of a new Inclusion, Diversity and Anti-Racism Division in Cabinet Office. The Division will bring together the existing Anti-Racism Directorate and the OPS Diversity Office, establishing a centre for excellence and focal point for enterprise-wide leadership on inclusion, diversity and anti-racism both within and outside of the OPS.

I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Sam Erry as Associate Deputy Minister, Inclusion, Diversity and Anti-Racism. Sam has served as Assistant Deputy Minister of the Anti-Racism Directorate since its creation, and has been instrumental in establishing the mandate of that office. Sam previously served as ADM, Corporate Policy, Agency Governance and Open Government, Treasury Board Secretariat, and ADM Operations, ServiceOntario.

Sam will be supported by an Assistant Deputy Minister, Inclusion and Diversity, and an Assistant Deputy Minister, Anti-Racism. I am pleased to announce that following a competitive process, Brian Fior will assume the role of Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Inclusion and Diversity. Brian joins us from Treasury Board Secretariat where he held the position of Director, Open Government, and previously was the Director of Corporate HR Strategy and Policy. 

Information on the recruitment of the ADM, Anti-Racism will be provided in the near future.
Sam will continue to report to Steven Davidson, Deputy Minister, Policy and Delivery, and Deputy Minister Responsible for work related to the Anti-Racism Directorate, and will report to me on work related to OPS Diversity and Inclusion.  By having Sam report directly to me on OPS Diversity and Inclusion, I will endeavour to ensure that the senior management of the OPS continue to be focused on making the OPS a more diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace.

The creation of the new Inclusion, Diversity and Anti-Racism Division will be effective January 2, 2017.
Finally, I am also pleased to announce that as part of the new structure, the responsibility of the OPS accessibility portfolio currently within the OPS Diversity Office will be transferred to Marie-Lison Fougère, the Deputy Minister Responsible for Accessibility. This will serve to further highlight accessibility in the OPS and will continue to support the OPS's position as a leader in accessible employment. It will also allow the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to build its role as a centre of excellence by overseeing accessibility both within the OPS and across the province. This transfer will occur following an assessment of the transfer requirements.
I am confident that these changes will help the OPS as we continue to work towards our goal of becoming a public sector leader in diversity, inclusion and creating a respectful workplace.
Please join me in welcoming Sam and Brian to their new roles.
 
Original signed by
Steve Orsini

c:         Andrew Bevan
            Mary Rowe
Diane McArthur
Steven Davidson                                                                    
Angela Coke
Marie-Lison Fougère

Letter to the Editor in the December 8, 2016 Toronto Star

 

The Toronto Star December 8, 2016

Letters to the Editor

Understanding importance of inclusion

Accessibility law lacking, lawyer says, Friday, Dec. 2

David Lepofsky is absolutely correct in his assessment of why there is poor access at Centennial College. But not only is this the result of the province's low standards, it is also the result of people at the top not understanding the importance of inclusion.

The defensive response by Shannon Brooks, associate vice-president of corporate services, underscores the need for better training of, and understanding by, those in positions of power in the post-secondary system of the needs of all students attending colleges and universities.

Having had some experience myself in this area, I know that all colleges and universities must have accessibility advisory committees as well as provide yearly accessibility reports to the government. This is mandated by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. To say that a building is exempt from these laws because it is built with private funds is absurd, and highlights the lack of commitment to students with disabilities at Centennial College who deserve this consideration.

Will this building never be used by a student with a disability? A prof? A politician? A visitor? Come on!

Kathryn Bremner, Oshawa