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Connections Between Disability Laws in Ontario

In the third review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends needed improvements to the Act. One of these improvements is the need to clarify connections between the AODA and the Ontario Human Rights Code (the CODE). During public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees discussed the need for clear connections between disability laws in Ontario.

Clear Connections between Disability Laws in Ontario are Needed

During Onley’s public meetings, people representing many organizations expressed confusion about how the AODA and the CODE are connected. For instance, organizations trying to comply with the AODA do not understand whether they are complying with the CODE. Therefore, Onley’s review recommends that the government and the Ontario Human Rights Commission find ways to resolve this confusion. For example, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) states that its standards do not replace the CODE. However, the IASR does not mention how the CODE and the IASR are related. Onley’s review recommends that the IASR state how standards support organizations’ efforts to comply with the CODE.

Attendees also recommend that the government explain key differences between these two laws. For instance, the CODE requires people not to discriminate. In addition, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal investigates when people claim that an organization has discriminated against them. For example, someone who believes their employer has discriminated against them can ask the tribunal to investigate this claim. In contrast, the AODA lists requirements that organizations must follow to remove barriers that could result in discrimination. For example, the Employment Standards require all public and large private employers to develop accommodation plans for workers with disabilities. This requirement helps to ensure that a worker with a disability will not experience discrimination at work. In other words, these two laws use different methods to reduce discrimination and remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Possible Solutions

Onley’s review suggests that the government place a definition of accessibility in both the AODA and the CODE. Furthermore, the review suggests that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario become responsible for hearing AODA appeals. Onley suggests that the AODA’s enforcers will need the Tribunal’s accessibility expertise when AODA appeals become more complex. In addition, one tribunal enforcing both laws will show that Ontario’s accessibility laws are closely connected.

In short, Onley’s review states that the government should resolve confusion about how the AODA relates to the Code. Moreover, both previous reviews of the AODA, in 2010 and 2014, have made a similar recommendation. In other words, Ontarians with disabilities have waited at least ten years for clear connections between disability laws in Ontario.