ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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AODA ALLIANCE SUBMITS FINAL BRIEF TO CHARLES BEER ON REFORMING THE AODA AND ITS IMPLEMENTATION

December 15, 2009

SUMMARY

On December 11, 2009, the AODA Alliance submitted its final brief to the Charles Beer Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It builds on the draft of this brief which we circulated for your feedback back on July _, 2009. You can download a copy of this brief by clicking on:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/docs/1209-Charles-Beer-Review-AODAA-Brief.doc

Our brief is summarized as follows:

“1. There clearly has been some progress under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 (AODA) and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 (ODA) towards the AODA’s mandatory goal of full accessibility in Ontario by 2025. However, this progress has been too slow. Ontario is not now on schedule to reach full accessibility by 2025. Significant new reforms, including amendments to Ontario legislation, are needed to get Ontario on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

2. The AODA’s implementation to date has not had a significant impact on the daily lives of Ontarians with disabilities.

3. Strong, effective accessibility standards have not been developed under the AODA to date. Only one accessibility standard has been enacted, the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. It is weak, ineffective and actually creates a barrier. The other four accessibility standards now under development address important areas, but are not yet law. The proposals for these four accessibility standards range in their quality. We do not know whether the Government will be bold or timid when finalizing them.

4. There have been problems with the standards development process. We recognize that the Government is ploughing new terrain in this area and is building experience. During the first two years of developing standards, the Government used a flawed approach to developing them. It operated under the incorrect view that these standards need not attempt to comply with the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

5. In the 2007 election, the Ontario Government made several important commitments regarding the AODA’s implementation. It has kept some of these, which have helped the standards development process. However several of its important 2007 election promises remain unkept.

6. The Ontario Government has not made full and effective use of its other powers under the AODA, beyond developing accessibility standards, to promote a fully accessible province. For example, it has not yet put in place its full regime for enforcing the AODA, even though the first accessibility standard goes into force and can be enforced in January, 2010.

7. The Ontario Government, which should be a leader on accessibility, is itself quite behind in making Ontario Public Service employment and services fully accessible to persons with disabilities.

8. The Ontario Government has not effectively ensured that public tax dollars, spent on infrastructure capital projects and procurement of goods and services, are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.

9. The Government has not acted sufficiently to reduce the impending attitudinal barrier created by the incorrect perception, held by some, that the AODA imposes new accessibility obligations.

We recommend that the Independent Review make specific findings, based on the foregoing, to support recommendations for needed reform. Based on these proposed findings, we offer 69 recommendations to improve the AODA and its implementation, by:

a) Securing strong new leadership for the AODA’s implementation, including a minister with lead responsibility for all accessibility issues;

b) Strengthening the process for developing strong, effective accessibility standards to ensure that they comply with the Human Rights Code;

c) Providing for the strong and effective enforcement of the AODA.

d) Ensuring that all Ontario and municipal laws neither create nor perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities;

e) Ensuring Ontario tax dollars are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities;

f) Expanding other efforts by the Government beyond developing accessibility standards, to promote accessibility;

g) Improving Ontario Government compliance with accessibility requirements;

h) Making provincial and municipal elections barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities;

i) Educating school students and professional trainees on disability accessibility;

j) Expressly requiring all boards, commissions and other tribunals to consider accessibility when exercising discretionary powers.”

We hope this brief will be helpful to the Charles Beer Independent Review, to the Government of Ontario, and to anyone else interested in the cause of full accessibility for persons with disabilities. It gives a thorough review of progress to date under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, and under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. It offers practical ideas on how to make improvements for the future. We thank all of you who reviewed our draft brief and sent us your feedback. As always feedback from around Ontario enriches our briefs we submit to the Government.

On the very eve of our submitting this brief, there were some new developments on the accessibility agenda. We tried our best to incorporate these in the brief. We will have updates soon to bring you more information on these developments.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Write us at: aodafeedback@rogers.com