ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

May 11, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath setting out her party's 2014 election pledges on disability accessibility

David Lepofsky
Chair, AODA Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

May 11, 2014

Dear David,

Thank you for raising these important issues on behalf of your organization and all Ontarians with a disability. We appreciate this opportunity to outline the Ontario NDP’s positions. Please see our answers to your questions below.
It is time for a government that stands up for Ontarians with Disabilities.
Sincerely,

Andrea Horwath
Leader, Ontario NDP

NDP Responses


What will your party do to:

A. Generally strengthen implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Currently one in seven people in Ontario have a disability and this number will rise as the population ages.

The Ontario NDP understands that building a truly accessible Ontario is crucial. That is why we have worked to strengthen the AODA and other legislation with accessibility implications, whenever possible.

New Democrats have pushed for amendments to strengthen the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act since it was tabled in 2005. We have also pushed for the creation of new accessibility standards in the areas of health, education and residential housing.     

We remain committed to this and will strengthen the implementation of the AODA and related initiatives.

B. Ensure that all enforceable requirements under the AODA are effectively enforced.

New Democrats have been disappointed with the Liberal approach to enforcement of the AODA.

In the fall of 2013 media reported that the majority of businesses in Ontario were not in compliance with the law’s reporting requirements; yet no point of orders had been issued and no audits had been conducted.

This prompted the ministry to send 2,500 enforcement letters to businesses. However, last November, 70 per cent of companies — about 36,000 across the province — had not yet filed a report.

Andrea and the Ontario NDP don’t believe that enforcement should happen only when the media is looking. New Democrats are committed to the full enforcement of the AODA and will ensure that all agreements are enforced.

A NDP government will make it a priority to issue an enforcement plan that ensures action.

C. Develop the new Accessibility Standards under the AODA needed to achieve full accessibility by 2025

The next government will need to determine all accessibility standards to achieve full accessibility in Ontario. New Democrats are committed to doing this as quickly as possible and making Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.  

Our plan also includes ensuring the Pan Am Games are fully accessible to all Ontarians. We believe that hosting the Pan Am Games is an ideal opportunity to leave an accessibility legacy.

D. Ensure taxpayers' money is never used to create or buttress disability barriers.

New Democrats do not support any measure that would weaken accessibility protections in Ontario. Further, we believe it's the role of government to reduce barriers, not create more. Public dollars should be spent in ways that promote and ensure accessibility for all Ontarians and always in accordance with provincial legislation and standards.

Andrea and the Ontario NDP believe that accessibility for all Ontarians is important. We are committed to meeting with the AODA Alliance and working together to ensure disability barriers are never created.

E. Ensure accessibility of provincial and municipal elections

The Ontario NDP brought forward numerous amendments to Bill 231, the Liberal amendment to the Election Act, which would have strengthened its accessibility provisions. We remain committed to the issues raised and to ensuring full accessibility in elections for both voters and candidates. The NDP would introduce legislation that implements the substantive issues addressed in our amendments to Bill 231.  

F. Substantially improve how the Ontario Public Service ensures the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces

Achieving the goals of the AODA requires coordination and clear expectations for the whole of government. Consecutive Liberal governments have ignored recommendations to designate a lead Minister and Ministry to be responsible for accessibility issues in Ontario.

Designating a Minister responsible for accessibility issues in Ontario is a necessary first step in developing a coordinated strategy to improve accessibility issues in the Ontario Public Service and in program and service delivery.

The Ontario NDP supports the recommendations of the Beer report and understands the importance of a coordinated approach to fulfilling the requirements of the AODA.

G. Complete the overdue promised review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers

Andrea and the Ontario NDP believe that a comprehensive review of all Ontario law for accessibility barriers is long overdue.

In September 2013, the Liberals made appointments to lead a review of the province's Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It was  made clear when the review will be complete. The Ontario NDP remains committed to this important undertaking and will accelerate the review process.

H. Foster our ongoing relationship with your party

Andrea and the Ontario NDP hope to continue working with the AODA Alliance and other stakeholders to ensure Ontarians can access services and businesses in their communities.  We would be pleased to meet with your group post-election, regardless of the outcome, to continue working on accessibility issues.