Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities
January 16, 2017
Now that Premier Wynne has assigned Tracy MacCharles to serve as both Ontario’s Accessibility Minister and Minister of Government and Consumer Services, the AODA Alliance has written Minister MacCharles to provide a thorough list of priorities for action on accessibility in each portfolio. We set out that letter below.
This new letter to Minister MacCharles comes right on the heels of our January 13, 2017 letter to Premier Wynne. In that earlier letter, we showed Premier Wynne why it was a real setback for her to assign to Minister MacCharles the role of Minister of Government and Consumer Services last week, on top of Ms. MacCharles’ existing duties as Accessibility Minister. The AODA Alliance’s January 13, 2017 letter to Premier Wynne on that topic is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/01132017.asp
Last week’s earlier letter to Premier Wynne explained that Ontario needs a full time Accessibility Minister to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by the 2025 deadline. That deadline is now fewer than eight years away. The detailed list of action priorities in today’s letter to Minister MacCharles amply illustrates why we need a full time Accessibility Minister. The premier’s adding the many time-consuming duties to Ms. MacCharles as Minister of Government and Consumer Services leaves her far less time to fulfill her Accessibility Minister’s duty. That comes at a time when she cannot afford any such distractions.
The important action priorities in our new letter to Minister MacCharles, set out blow, are summarized as follows:
I. Actions as Minister of Accessibility
1. Promptly appoint an Education Standards Development Committee to develop recommendations for the promised Education Accessibility Standard.
2. Strengthen AODA enforcement.
3. Adopt a more inclusive approach to the reviews of the Information/Communications and Employment Accessibility Standards, and to the development of the Health Care and Education Accessibility Standards.
4. Keep the Government’s promises on accessibility barriers in the built environment.
5. Strengthen, not weaken, requirements to ensure accessible customer service in Ontario.
6. Complete the Government’s promised review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers.
7. Quickly consult on and implement an effective employment strategy for people with disabilities.
8. Take no action to create a private accessibility certification process in Ontario.
9. Support the Federal Government’s promised Canadians with Disabilities Act and the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
II. Actions Needed in the New Role As Minister of Government and Consumer Services
1. Get the Ontario Public Service to lead Ontario by a good example on accessibility.
2. Ensure public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers.
We encourage you to:
* Send the AODA Alliance’s January 16, 2017 letter, set out below, to your MPP. Urge them to support our list of action priorities and to press the Government to act on them.
* Let your local media know that the Ontario Government needs to act now on these priorities. Tell your local media why this matters to you.
* Spread the word about this on social media, like Twitter and Facebook.
You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org
We encourage you to use the Governments 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 Alliances YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign. https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance
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Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance
Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting https://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
January 13, 2017 AODA Alliance Letter to Tracy MacCharles, Accessibility Minister and Minister of Government and Consumer Services
ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email email@example.com Twitter: @aodaalliance www.aodaalliance.org
January 16, 2017
The Honourable Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Accessibility and Minister of Government and Consumer Services Office of the Minister Responsible for Accessibility
6th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay St,
Re: Getting Ontario on Schedule for Full Accessibility by 2025
We wish you and your team a very Happy New Year. We again welcome the opportunity to work with you this year on getting Ontario on schedule to become fully accessible by 2025, the deadline that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets.
We appreciate your efforts over the second half of 2016, upon becoming the minister responsible for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. As just one symbolic but important example, we very much appreciated your attending and speaking at the AODA Alliance’s Durham Region’s launch last fall. You are the first minister responsible for the AODA, since the AODA’s enactment, who attended and spoke at such an event.
Under eight years remain for Ontario to reach full accessibility by the AODA’s deadline. As this New Year starts, it is important to hit the ground running. It is critical for you to announce and implement a comprehensive multi-year plan to ensure that the Government leads Ontario to full accessibility by 2025, a legislative deadline you commendably have endorsed and personally support.
As our January 13, 2017 letter to Premier Wynne shows, we are deeply concerned about the Government’s recent decision to assign to you the large added responsibility as Minister of Government and Consumer Services. That letter explains why this presents a real problem for people with disabilities. This was not meant as a criticism of you in any way, as our letter to Premier Wynne emphasizes. The length of the list of actions we need, set out in this letter, is powerful proof of why Ontario needs a full-time stand-alone Accessibility Minister, with no other Cabinet portfolios.
With those concerns in mind, we propose the following action recommendations. We hope and trust you will find that 12 years after the AODA was enacted, and with fewer than 8 years before full accessibility must be achieved, the measures we propose are all timely, appropriate, necessary and important. Your leadership and action on these proposals are needed now. Ontario is still further behind schedule for full accessibility, while the available time for action gets less and less.
I. Actions as Minister of Accessibility
1. Promptly Appoint an Education Standards Development Committee to Develop Recommendations for the Promised Education Accessibility Standard
We were delighted that Premier Wynne announced in the Legislature on December 5, 2016, that the Government has agreed to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA to tear down the accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities. It is important for you to now take the first mandatory step needed to get this going.
Please quickly launch the process for appointing the required Education Standards Development Committee to develop recommendations for the promised Education Accessibility Standard. On behalf of the AODA Alliance, I will be applying to sit on that Committee.
There is no reason to delay posting an announcement that will invite members of the public to apply to sit on the Education Standards Development Committee. In May 2014 Premier Wynne said the Public Service had already been studying education accessibility barriers. You already have in hand the 2015 KPMG study of education accessibility barriers that the Government commissioned, our detailed analysis of that study, our Discussion Paper on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include, and the Ontario Human Rights Commissions study of accessibility barriers in the education system.
As a point of comparison, the Government announced on February 13, 2015 that it would create a Health Care Accessibility Standard. After that, it took the Government over one and a half years to start to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee. We appreciated your kick-starting that process after you took over your current ministerial role. With under eight years left before 2025, Ontario cannot afford such delays.
Please do not try to impose prior restrictions on which disability accessibility barriers in our education system the Education Standards Development Committee can consider. That Committee must be free to identify any education accessibility barriers that the AODA covers. The AODA defines what a disability is, and what a barrier is.
Last summer, the Government regrettably tried to impose an unfair prior restriction on the development of the Health Care Accessibility Standard, before a Standards Development Committee had even been appointed. The Government initially said it would not cover any physical barriers in the built environment. The Government’s PowerPoint presented at the Accessibility Directorates July 26, 2016 “pre-consultation” meeting on the Health Care Accessibility Standard listed among the things it wouldn’t include in the Health Care Accessibility Standard:
“New requirements for the built environment where health services are provided.”
Fortunately, at that “pre-consultation” session (which you attended), the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario dropped this attempted prior restriction, at our request. It agreed that the Health Care Standards Development Committee could consider any accessibility barriers.
It made no sense for the Government to try to impose such prior restrictions on the Health Care Standards Development Committee. We pointed out at that “pre-consultation” that Torontos brand-new Womens College Hospital has troubling built environment accessibility barriers.
It would similarly make no sense to impose such restrictions on the Education Standards Development Committee. As of the start of 2016, a mere 85 of the 550 schools in the Toronto District School Board are physically accessible. Also illustrating problems in new buildings in Ontarios education system, the brand-new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre has a number of built environment accessibility problems, as a widely-viewed online AODA Alliance video shows.
Please ensure that the Education Standards Development Committee reviews the AODA Alliance’s November 21, 2016 Discussion Paper on what the Education Accessibility Standard needs to address, our November 9, 2016 analysis of the 2015 KPMG report on education accessibility barriers, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s 2003 report on education accessibility barriers, The opportunity to succeed: Achieving barrier-free education for students with disabilities.
2. Strengthen AODA Enforcement
Please let us know what your Government has done to strengthen AODA enforcement. In her September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to you, Premier Wynne specifically emphasized AODA enforcement, and directed you to make this a priority, emphasizing:
“Taking steps to increase compliance reporting rates among private/not-for-profit sector organizations by an additional 50 per cent in 2017.”
Over two years have passed since the final report of the Government-appointed Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review called for the Government to beef up AODA enforcement. Since originally taking power in 2003, the Government has repeatedly promised to effectively enforce the AODA. As you know, it is widely recognized in Canada and abroad that AODA enforcement is very lax. Your predecessor minister made this worse two years ago, when he significantly cut back on already-weak AODA enforcement.
Please take immediate action to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, and to make this corrective action public.
On June 3, 2015, to mark the AODA’s 10th anniversary, the Government made a high-profile announcement about AODA implementation and enforcement. In a June 3, 2015 Toronto Star article, reporting information that the Government leaked exclusively to the Star, it was reported that the Government would ramp up the number of organizations it audits under the AODA to 4,000, beginning that ramping up in 2016. The article did not say when the Government planned to reach that 4,000 audits-per-year figure. The Star reported that the Government was exploring hiring an outside firm to do the audits. On that same day, the Government released a plan of new actions under the AODA, including:
Release an annual compliance and enforcement plan which will include audit blitzes and report back to inform the public on our efforts, and monitor compliance trends among obligated organizations.
This was helpful, but didn’t look new. It is something that was in large part promised in the 2014 election. So far, we have not seen any such report after that announcement.
We have seen no public action as a result of the Government’s June 3, 2015 announcements on enforcement. Can you please let us know what exactly has been done to implement that announcement?
We would also welcome the chance to learn what the Government has done about the actions we urged in our July 12, 2016 letter to you. It asked you to:
“1. Immediately ramp up AODA enforcement, including, for example:
a) Now at least double the number of obligated organizations to be audited for AODA compliance, based on the base number of organizations annually audited before Minister Duguid’s February 2015 cuts to AODA audit.
b) Conduct on-site audits of actual accessibility practices, rather than the current practice of off-site paper audits of an obligated organization’s records regarding AODA compliance. Ontarians need to know if obligated organizations are actually becoming accessible, not just if they produce required paper trails (which may or may not be accurate).
c) Deputize a wide range of inspectors under other legislation to also be AODA inspectors, so that AODA compliance is included when they inspect obligated organizations under other legislation, such as inspectors under labour, health and safety or environmental legislation. The Government did a trial with this idea, based on our recommendation, but has refused to disclose any results unless we pay $4,250 (the fee for this and other information).
d) Keep Premier Wynne’s 2014 election promise, set out in her May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, to widely publicize the Government’s toll-free number for the public to report AODA violations, in connection with AODA enforcement. The Government has not, to our knowledge, made any significant effort to publicize this toll-free number. Again, the Government has refused to disclose its plans and actions for publicizing this, unless we pay $4,250.
e) Implement the Mayo Moran report recommendations to make public on a quarterly basis key information on the Government’s AODA enforcement.
f) Engage in much more visible AODA enforcement, so obligated organizations get the clear message that there are real and significant consequences for non-compliance.”
To those items, we add these recommendations:
g) Assign AODA enforcement to an arms-length agency that is independent of the Ontario Government. Ontario has needed this for some time. Last weeks’ Cabinet shuffle makes it even more necessary. You have been placed in the conflicting position of serving simultaneously as the AODA’s Enforcer-in-Chief (as Accessibility Minister), and as leading and speaking for the efforts to comply with the AODA by the largest organization that must obey it (as Minister of Government and Consumer Services).
h) Actively and extensively use the Government ‘s toll-free number’s accessibility violation from the public reports as a basis to launch specific AODA enforcement efforts.
i) Undertake some high-profile AODA enforcement efforts in specific cases to highlight to the public that this legislation will be effectively enforced.
j) Convene and AODA enforcement summit to discuss with all sectors together how AODA enforcement can be strengthened, beyond these steps.
3. Adopt a More Inclusive Approach to the Reviews of the Information/ Communications and Employment Accessibility Standards, and to the Development of the Health Care and Education Accessibility Standards
Over the past year, a Government-appointed Transportation Standards Development Committee has been reviewing transportation accessibility requirements that were enacted in 2011. We know virtually nothing about what it is doing. We have not been given any opportunity to give that Committee any input from the disability community.
We have heard word through the grapevine that some have been invited to speak to that Committee. We have not been invited. In fact, we have heard nothing from the Transportation Standards Development committee.
It is not sufficient for the Transportation Standards Development committee to eventually make its initial recommendations public, for public comment. From past experience, we know that by then, the die is largely cast. In the 2007 election, your Government’s promises included promising to allow “the standard development committees to have presenters come to their meetings.”
We would appreciate the opportunity to address the Transportation Standards Development committee. We are now working on a brief on revisions needed to strengthen transportation accessibility provisions in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, to ensure that transportation services become fully accessible by 2025.
We urge you to take several additional simple steps to ensure that a far more open and inclusive process is used by all the Standards Development Committees that will review the existing Transportation, Employment and information and communication provisions, and that will develop recommendations for the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard and Education Accessibility Standard:
You should widely publicize the opportunity for community groups to request a chance to present to a Standards Development Committee, when it is developing proposals for an accessibility standard. Unlike the experience in recent years with the reviews of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Transportation Accessibility Standard, we and other stakeholders should be brought into their discussions earlier on, as they deliberate on what to recommend, and not merely when they post draft recommendations. The earlier we get to be heard, the more likely we and other stakeholders will have our views considered.
When Standards Development Committees are developing proposals for the contents of an accessibility standard, you should encourage each Standards Development Committee to identify a short list of high priority issues on which it is encountering difficulty. The Standards Development Committee should be encouraged to invite stakeholders from the disability community and regulated sectors to jointly meet together with that Standards Development Committee to informally discuss and brainstorm about those high priority issues that the Standards Development Committee has found challenging to resolve.
When a Standards Development Committee is developing an accessibility standard, the Accessibility Directorate should provide to it, and post on the internet for public input, a review of measures adopted in other jurisdictions to advance the goal of accessibility for persons with disabilities in the area that the accessibility standard is to address.
The Human Rights Commission should be far more extensively involved in the formal and informal work of each Standards Development Committee, including during review of public input and discussion and votes on clauses of proposed accessibility standards. This could include having an Ontario Human Rights Commission representative sit on Standards Development Committees as they work on recommendations for the contents of accessibility standards.
The Government should encourage each Standards Development Committee, when developing proposals for the contents of an accessibility standard, to identify where changes are needed to provincial or municipal legislation, regulations or bylaws, to advance the goal of a fully accessible Ontario.
Please take steps to make the work of each Standards Development Committee more independent of the Ontario Government. For example, starting in 2013, the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate was made a member of at least one Standards Development Committee, the one reviewing the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. This was not a good idea. It contradicted the thrust of the final report of the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review, which had called for standards development to be made independent of the Government.
4. Keep the Government’s Promises on Accessibility Barriers in the Built Environment
Ontario is far behind schedule for ensuring that its built environment will become fully accessible by 2025. Modest 2015 amendments to the Ontario Building Code only dealt with new construction and major renovations. Even then, they did not provide adequate accessibility requirements for those projects. This is illustrated by the accessibility problems at the brand-new Women’s College Hospital and Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre. Both are major public sector buildings.
The 2015 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review emphasized ongoing accessibility problems in the built environment, and the insufficiency of current AODA accessibility standards. Ontario needs to enact and effectively enforce requirements under the AODA that will ensure that new buildings and major renovations are fully accessible to people with disabilities, i.e. by enacting a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard.
Moreover, nothing is now underway to address built environment retrofits in existing buildings that are undergoing no major renovations. Many if not most do not even know that the Ontario Human Rights Code requires such retrofits. Eight years ago, your Government promised that through the standards development process, it would address accessibility retrofits of existing buildings that aren’t undergoing major renovations, and accessibility in residential housing.
We repeat our request in our July 12, 2016 letter to you, to keep the Government’s 9-year-old promise to get a Standards Development Committee appointed to develop recommendations on accessibility standards needed to address barriers in the built environment in residential housing, and in existing buildings that are not undergoing major renovations. We also ask you to keep Premier McGuinty’s 2011 election promise to enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. The inadequate 2015 Ontario Building Code amendments are not an AODA accessibility standard and do not effectively meet the accessibility needs of people with disabilities.
You should also investigate problems with how existing accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and the Public Spaces provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation are now enforced.
5. Strengthen, Not Weaken, Requirements to Ensure Accessible Customer Service in Ontario
As in our July 12, 2016 letter to you, we again ask you to reverse the previous minister’s breach of Premier Wynne’s December 3, 2012 promise to never weaken any protections or provisions in the AODA or regulations enacted under it. For private sector obligated organizations with 20-49 employees, we asked you to restore the requirement to document their customer service accessibility policies and training on them. Your Government repealed that requirement last summer, violating Premier Wynne’s promise to never do such a thing.
We also ask you to bring together representatives from the disability sector and obligated organizations to produce a list of reforms to strengthen, not weaken, the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. The AODA Alliance has been calling for this for some three years. Last winter, we offered the Government a list of constructive, high-impact, low-cost reforms as a basis for discussion. The Government has not taken up our proposal to date to bring together stakeholders to discuss this.
6. Complete the Government’s Promised Review of all Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers
A decade ago, in the 2007 election, your Government promised to review all Ontario statues and regulations for accessibility barriers. Just two years after the Government passed the AODA, Premier McGuinty wrote in his September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance:
“The Ontario Liberal government believes this is the next step toward our goal of a fully accessible Ontario.”
Yet a decade later, the Government has only reviewed a small fraction of Ontario’s laws. That review was completed before the end of 2014, over two years ago.
Regarding the small percentage of laws it has reviewed, the Government made some amendments but did not fix several key accessibility barriers.
The Government has not announced any new action to review the vast majority of Ontario statutes that it has not yet reviewed, or all of Ontario’s regulations. The final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review brought attention to this overall problem, finding in part:
“A further concern involving the Government of Ontario itself was the slow pace of the Government’s promised review of provincial laws and regulations to identify and then remove accessibility barriers. Premier McGuinty promised this review during the 2007 election campaign and reiterated the commitment during the 2011 campaign. In 2013 the Government stated that, by the end of 2014, 13 ministries will have reviewed 51 statutes and considered steps to remove any barriers identified. Disability stakeholders pointed out that this leaves about 700 other statutes, as well as 1,500 regulations, still to be examined. The Government was urged to complete the review of all legislation by 2015, and all regulations by 2016.”
We were delighted that last September, Premier Wynne assigned you responsibility to take over and lead this stalled review. We urge you to now kick-start this review.
Please announce a comprehensive plan for reviewing all Ontario legislation and regulations for accessibility problems:
a) This plan should include assignment of clear lines of responsibility, interim deadlines for action and a date for completing this project.
b) The plan should require annually reporting to the public on progress on this review. These reports should give specifics on what the Government has done and plans to do, whether by legislative amendments or other actions, to address accessibility barriers it has discovered in this review.
c) The plan should include a plan to bring forward omnibus legislation to amend any statutes that require this, and omnibus amendments by Cabinet to regulations to correct any accessibility problems.
d) The plan should include an open process for getting input from the disability community on accessibility barriers in Ontario’s laws, to be considered during the Government’s legislative review. We remain happy to work with your Government on developing and implementing that plan.
As well, under your leadership, the Government should institute a formal process for ensuring that in future, no bill is introduced into the Legislature until Legislative Counsel certifies that it has been reviewed for disability accessibility barriers, and it will not mandate, permit or create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against persons with disabilities. The same certification requirement should apply for regulations that are presented to the Ontario Cabinet or other body authorized to enact regulations under Ontario legislation.
7. Quickly Consult on and Implement an Effective Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities
In her September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to you as Accessibility Minister, Premier Wynne assigned you to develop an employment strategy for people with disabilities. This is very important and long overdue. Your Government’s Special Advisor on Accessibility, David Onley, has said many times that the unemployment rate facing Canadians with disabilities is not only a national crisis it is a national shame.
Almost four years have passed since Premier Wynne made increased private sector employment for people with disabilities a new priority, in her first Throne Speech, back in February 2013. In the intervening time, all the Government did was appoint an expert panel in 2014 to give advice, and then to announce a small pilot incentive program in 2015. The Government’s expert panel had advised the Government against such an incentive program, saying these are relatively ineffective.
The Government has not itself consulted us on what to include in an employment strategy. We are happy to offer input.
We would like to know what you have done on this issue. Please act fast to get a disability employment strategy in place. Premier Wynne’s September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to you directed you to have one in place by the end of 2016.
8. Take No Action to Create a Private Accessibility Certification Process in Ontario
We urge you and your Government not to take steps to create or support the creation of a private accessibility certification process in Ontario. We have gone on record with your Government for over one year, explaining why a private accessibility certification process is a bad idea. It would distract from needed efforts to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. No more public money should be spent on this bad idea. There are so many other better ways to spend limited resources available on the accessibility issue.
9. Support the Federal Government’s Promised Canadians with Disabilities Act and the Adoption of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Premier Wynne’s September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to you directs you to
“Work with the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs in leading Ontarios work with the federal government and other provinces and territories on the development of national accessibility legislation.”
Please urge the Federal Government to commit that the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act will fulfil the 14 principles that Barrier-Free Canada has enunciated for that legislation. Those principles reflect the 11 principles for Ontario’s accessibility legislation which the Ontario Legislature unanimously adopted by resolution, on a motion from the Liberal Party, on October 29, 1998.
When the Liberal Ontario Government first took office in 2003, it did so on an election pledge to ensure that the AODA would fulfil those 11 principles. We therefore ask you to again stand by those principles. Please urge your federal counterpart to commit to the reiteration of them which Barrier-Free Canada has presented to the Federal Government.
The Federal Government is consulting the provinces with a view to Canada adopting the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We urge your Government to publicly support Canada’s adopting the Optional Protocol. Please urge the Federal Government to do so. It would be great if you could also encourage the other provincial and territorial governments to support it as well.
II. Actions Needed in Your New Role as Minister of Government and Consumer Services
Substantial improvements are needed now on accessibility in the Ontario Public Service. The Ontario Public Service has claimed to lead Ontario by example on accessibility. Too often, it has led by a poor example, and has been a drag on progress on accessibility.
The final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review brought this message home, noting:
“* One of the prominent themes that emerged from the consultations was the belief of the disability community that the Government of Ontario has not succeeded in embedding accessibility into its internal operations.
* The disability community believes that the Government of Ontario has not succeeded in embedding accessibility into its internal operations.
* People with disabilities also expressed the hope that accessibility should become part of the Governments DNA.
* The accessibility of OPS workplaces, facilities and services should be monitored through on-site audits and inspections. As well, obligated organizations stressed that ministries should coordinate their efforts and align, support and fund accessibility priorities across the various public sectors.
* It is up to the Premier to ensure that the administrative structure is put in place to make all of this happen. One does not have to be an organizational design expert to see that nothing gets done in government unless someone is held accountable for results. I therefore recommend that the Premier formally charge the Minister of Government and Consumer Services with responsibility for ensuring that the Ontario Public Service becomes a fully accessible employer and service provider. An associate deputy minister position could be created to support the Minister in this role.”
In her September 23, 2016 letter to the previous Government and Consumer Services Minister, Marie-France Lalonde, Premier Wynne identified several priorities as they pertain to people with disabilities. These now are among your priorities as the new Minister of Government and Consumer Services:
“Your mandate is to deliver efficient, high quality services to the people and Government of Ontario. Your specific priorities include:
Enabling More Inclusive, Diverse and Accessible Public Services
Continuing to work across government to develop and implement anti-racism training and to promote accessibility, mental health and inclusion across the Ontario Public Service (OPS)
Creating a More Modern Service Ontario
Working with Service Ontario and private Service Ontario franchise operators to ensure a minimum standard when it comes to overall appearance, physical condition and accessibility of ServiceOntario outlets.
As part of the broader Digital Government strategy, reimagining the delivery of government programs and services to remove unnecessary red tape, lower the cost of doing business, and make everyday life easier, including:
Making all new and remodeled online services user-friendly and relevant to consumers and businesses.
Supporting the development of OPS-wide service-design standards and performance measures.
Leading the development of a digital identity pilot to improve key online transactions (for example, change an address on a health card or drivers licence), and support the development of a government-wide digital identity, including a pilot that explores opportunities to collaborate with federal, provincial and municipal governments, community organizations and the private sector, allowing Ontarians to view, apply for and access government services as well as verify their identity with partners outside of government.
Improving and promoting Ontarians ability to renew their drivers licences and licence plate stickers online, and make it easier for them to find and use ServiceOntario online services.
Supporting the Minister of Economic Development and Growth by continuing to revamp online business services to make them more accessible and easier to use.”
Here are key actions we have urged upon the Government for at least three years. These would help to fulfil your duties under Premier Wynne’s Mandate Letter.
1. Get the Ontario Public Service to Lead Ontario by a Good Example
Please establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister responsible for ensuring the disability-accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, as the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review recommended.
We urge you to ensure that the Accessibility Lead position in each ministry becomes a full time position, which will report directly to the deputy minister of that ministry, with an option for a dual report as well to the ministry’s Chief Administrative Officer.
Please restore the full time position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Government Services for Accessibility, as Premier McGuinty promised in the 2011 Ontario election.
We also ask you to promptly implement and widely publicize within the Ontario Public Service a comprehensive permanent periodic program for auditing and monitoring its workplaces and public services and facilities for disability accessibility and barriers. This program should include, among other things, on-site audits and inspections, and not merely paper trail audits. The results of this monitoring should annually be made public. Please make public results of any audits to date.
We encourage you to also promptly implement a constructive program for ensuring accountability of public servants in the Ontario Public Service, for their efforts on disability accessibility. Among other things, the Ontario Public Service should require that every employee include in his or her annual performance review where feasible, performance goals on disability accessibility within the scope of their duties. Performance on this criterion should be assessed for performance, pay and promotion decisions.
The Government should not solely or predominantly rely on on-line programs to train the Ontario Public Service on accessibility, as it has done in the past. Online training on this topic is far less effective. It should implement live, interactive programming where possible that involves face-to-face interaction with persons with disabilities.
To supplement those immediate actions, please promptly launch a consultation with people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service and in the general public for no more than two months, and then announce and implement a plan to re-engineer how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are fully accessible, to expand upon the Ontario Public Service multi-year accessibility plan which the Government made public last month.
2. Ensure Public Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Accessibility Barriers
In the 2014 election, Premier Wynne promised to “…ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against Ontarians with disabilities.” Later in 2014, the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review emphasized the need for new Government action on this front:
“A particular concern with the Government, the Review heard, arose where public funds were actually used to create new barriers.”
As Minister of Government and Consumer Services, we need you to take leadership on this issue, and to bring the other relevant ministries along, such as the Treasury Board and the Infrastructure Ministry.
Please lead the Government to immediately implement, widely publicize and report to the public on a comprehensive strategy to ensure that public money is never used by anyone to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against people with disabilities. This should include recipients of public money expended for example, through Ontario capital or infrastructure spending, through procurement of goods, services or facilities, or through Government grants or loans of any sort. As part of this activity, the Government should keep its August 19, 2011 promise to extend its Ten Year Infrastructure Plan’s accessibility requirements to information technology and electronic kiosks. As well, the Government should make it a condition of research grants that it funds or to which it contributes that people with disabilities should, where feasible and appropriate, be included in research study as subjects.
In any Government strategy to ensure that public money is not used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate accessibility barriers, it is not sufficient for the Government to make it a condition that a recipient of public money merely obey the AODA and AODA accessibility standards. It should require that recipients of public money comply with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code, and where applicable the Charter of Rights. It should require, among other things, that the recipient organization’s specific capital project or goods, services or facilities be fully disability accessible or require a commitment to remediate these to become fully accessible by time lines to be set out in the grant, loan or other terms of payment of public money.
The Government should also make it a condition of transfer payments and capital or other infrastructure funding to municipalities, hospitals, school boards, public transit providers, colleges, universities, and transfer partners that these recipient organizations adopt comparable initiatives to ensure that their procurement and infrastructure spending, and any loans or grant programs, do not create, exacerbate or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. The Government should make public a resource guide to assist those transfer partners to know how to effectively implement this requirement.
You should promptly establish a process for monitoring and effectively enforcing this recommended comprehensive strategy to ensure that public money is not used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate accessibility barriers. It should not be left to each ministry to do as little or as much as it wishes to implement Government policy and procedures on this topic.
Under your leadership, the Government should widely and prominently publicize as soon as possible to any organization that seeks Ontario infrastructure or procurement funds, or any Government funded or subsidies, loans or grants, that they must prove in their applications that they will ensure that public money isn’t used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against persons with disabilities.
The Government should establish and widely publicize an avenue for the public to report to the Government on situations where public money is used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability accessibility barriers.
You should establish a process for annually reporting to the public on what the Government is doing on and what results have been achieved, to ensure that public money is never used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate accessibility barriers.
We look forward to working with you on this agenda for action.
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
cc: Premier Kathleen Wynne, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, email@example.com
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, firstname.lastname@example.org Steve Orsini, Secretary to Cabinet email@example.com
Angela Coke, Deputy Minister of Government and Consumer Services firstname.lastname@example.org