Our Campaign for Strong, Effective Implementation of the AODA

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

AODA ALLIANCE DELEGATION PRESENTS RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE AODA’S IMPLEMENTATION TO COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL SERVICES MINISTER

December 12, 2008

SUMMARY

On December 11, 2008 an AODA Alliance delegation met with the McGuinty Government’s minister responsible for the AODA’s implementation, Madeleine Meilleur. The AODA Alliance’s December 12, 2008 letter to the minister, set out below, summarizes the meeting’s key points.

The AODA Alliance wishes one and all a happy holiday and a fully-accessible 2009!

Send your feedback to: aodafeedback@rogers.com


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

via facsimile (416) 325-1488

December 12, 2008

The Honourable Madeleine Meilleur,
Minister of Community and Social Services,
6th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1E9

Dear Minister,

Re: Implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

We appreciate your taking the time on December 11,2008 to meet with a delegation from the AODA Alliance. We welcomed the chance to discuss our ideas for strengthening the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We want to help get Ontario on schedule to be fully-accessible by 2025, as the AODA requires.

1. Independent Review of AODA’s Implementation and Effectiveness

Thank you for agreeing to consult with us on the design and schedule of the upcoming independent review of the AODA’s implementation. That review must commence next summer according to section 40 of the AODA.

2. Need for Multi-Year Plan for Implementing AODA

At this meeting we recommended that your Ministry develop a comprehensive multi-year plan on steps the Ontario Government must take to fully implement the AODA, to get Ontario to the AODA’s requirement of full accessibility by 2025. We are delighted that you thought this was a good idea and agreed to consider it.

3. Need for Government Commitment that AODA Accessibility Standards Will Comply with Human Rights Code

We asked you to commit on behalf of your Government that any accessibility standard it will enact under AODA will comply with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code. We have previously raised this with your officials. We ask this for several reasons.

First, the Government’s core reason for passing the AODA was to more effectively implement the rights which the Human Rights Code guarantees to persons with disabilities, without our having to litigate barriers one at a time.

Second, in 2007 we were troubled to learn that the Accessibility Directorate’s lead official said that they were not trying to develop accessibility standards that comply with the Human Rights Code.

Third, as you know, in 2007 the Human Rights Commission expressed serious concern that the initial proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard fell well below Human Rights Code requirements.

You told us you cannot yourself commit that standards made under the AODA will comply with the Human Rights Code’s requirements. You said that you would need the approval of Cabinet before giving such a commitment. We asked you to seek Cabinet’s approval to commit that any accessibility standard made under the AODA will comply with the Human Rights Code, or failing to so commit, that the Government at least will endeavour to have its accessibility standards comply with the Human Rights Code. You agreed to consider this.

May we add at this time that it would be very troubling if the Government were not prepared to make this commitment. The Government has ample access to resources, including lawyers to advise it whether it is complying with or falling below the Human Rights Code’s requirements. It is well established that the Human Rights Code has primacy over all other laws, including the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

4. Ministry Process for Getting Input on Final Transportation Accessibility Standard

We understand that the Transportation Standards Development Committee has made its final proposal to the Ministry for a Transportation Accessibility Standard. We look forward to that proposed accessibility standard being made public. We asked you to let us know what process the Ministry will be adopting to consult on it, before passing a final Transportation Accessibility Standard.

We are given to understand that there are major issues that the Transportation Standards Development Committee was not able to resolve. We want to have fulsome opportunity for direct input, beyond filing detailed written submissions. Again, thank you for agreeing to consider this.

5. Problems with Ministry-Commissioned Cost Studies on Accessibility Standards

We raised with you our serious concerns with the two cost studies that the Ministry has commissioned. One deals with the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. The other deals with the Transportation Accessibility Standard.

We are very concerned that these studies used flawed methodologies. As a result, they exaggerate the costs associated with compliance with these accessibility standards. We are concerned that these flawed studies might themselves produce unwarranted opposition to strong, effective regulations in this area, to which the Premier committed your Government. Some of these concerns can be found in the AODA Alliance’s draft brief on the initial proposed Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, which was circulated earlier this week for comment.

6. Action on Initial Proposed Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

We were delighted to learn from you that the Ministry is preparing a more comprehensive plain language guide to the initial proposed Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. This will help the public provide feedback on that proposed standard.

We repeat our offer to do whatever we can to help the Ministry conduct outreach and public education on the proposed Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We believe that there is need for much more of this than the Government has done to date. In this regard, we asked you to let us know what steps the Ontario Public Service has taken to provide barrier-free information and communication in connection with provincial government services and employment.

We asked you to hold open, accessible public consultations on the initial proposed Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. These meetings should be open to all, and not invitation-only.

We also asked that these be advertised. You expressed concern that to advertise them in the media is costly, and the economy is now facing serious difficulties. We believe there are ample ways to better publicize these consultations without spending significant funds, e.g. by your holding a news conference and taking part in media interviews and call-in radio programs. The current economic downturn doesn’t justify a failure to go further to let the public know about these public consultations.

7. Making Standards Development Process More Open and Transparent

Premier McGuinty’s September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance sets out his election commitments to us. In it, he said: “Our process for developing standards is one that is open and consultative.” In that spirit, we asked you to consider three important steps that would make the process of developing these accessibility standards more open and transparent.

First, we asked that you make public the minutes of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC). We understand that in the past, ASAC minutes were not public. However, the minutes of the Standards Development Committees are public. There is no reason why ASAC minutes should not be the same. Both bodies are made up of people outside the Government, brought together to give the Government recommendations regarding effective accessibility standards.

Second, we understand that as Standards Development Committees work on developing accessibility standard, some important decisions have been made in meetings of sub-committees of these Standards Development Committees. This can include proposals being voted out or dropped from further discussion. As far as we know, there are no public minutes of the sub-committees of Standards Development Committees. We propose that minutes be kept at those sub-committees, and that these be made public, just like the minutes of meetings of each full Standards Development Committee.

Third, we asked that the Government make public a document summarizing what options or proposals for the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard were voted down at any stage in the work of that Standards Development Committee, and the reasons why they were voted down. This would help the public prepare their feedback on the proposed Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

8. Other Ideas for Improving the Development of Accessibility Standards

Finally, we are developing some specific proposals for actions that will help enhance and improve the work of the Standards Development Committees. We hope to have these available early in the new year. We welcomed your agreeing that Ministry staff will meet with us, hopefully early in the new year, to review our forthcoming proposals. We also appreciate your agreeing to meet with us again, hopefully also early in the new year, to discuss these once we have had a chance to explore them with your Ministry officials.

Again, thank you very much for taking the time to meet with us.

Sincerely,

Catherine Dunphy Tardik
Chair, AODA Alliance

cc: