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Ground-Breaking Report by Former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, Tabled in the Legislature Yesterday, Blasts Poor Provincial Government Implementation and Enforcement of Ontario’s 2005 Disabilities Act and Calls for Major Reforms to Tackle Persisting Barriers Impeding 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 8, 2019 Toronto: At least 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities need the Ontario Government to take strong new action now to tear down the many disability barriers they still face when trying to get a job or education, or use public transit or shop for goods or services, according to a blistering Government-appointed report by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley that the Ford Government made public yesterday. In 2005, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become disability-accessible by 2025 by enacting and enforcing regulations (called accessibility standards) that spell out what employers and the providers of goods and services must do to tear down and prevent disability barriers.

In February 2018, the Ontario Government appointed Mr. Onley to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement and to recommend any reforms needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. Based on public feedback, Onley’s report finds that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With under six years left before 2025, the report found that “the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

Mr. Onley found “this province is mostly inaccessible.” The Onley report correctly concluded:

“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this.”

The Onley report makes concrete, practical top-to-bottom recommendations to substantially strengthen the Government’s weak, flagging AODA implementation and enforcement. Set out at the end of this news release is the Onley report’s summary of its recommendations. Many if not most of them echo the findings and recommendations that the AODA Alliance submitted in its detailed January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley Review. Among other things, Mr. Onley calls for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for barriers in the built environment, strengthen the existing AODA accessibility standards, and reform the Government’s use of public money to ensure it is never used to create disability barriers.

“The Onley report recommends desperately needed major new action to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Disabilities Act. We strongly endorse the Onley report’s findings and almost all of his recommendations. Any with which we disagree are secondary and should not distract from the report’s core thrust,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which spearheads the campaign for accessibility in Ontario for people with disabilities. We call on the Ford Government to act now to implement this report. Premier Ford has the opportunity to do a much better job of implementing this law than did his predecessor.”

It is good but long overdue that when releasing the Onley report, the Ford Government also lifted its 258-day long freeze on the important work of two Government-appointed advisory committees. These committees were mandated under the AODA to recommend what regulations should be enacted to tear down disability barriers in Ontario’s education system impeding students with disabilities, and in Ontario’s health care system obstructing patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance led the fight for the past nine months to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance
All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

David Onley AODA Independent Review Report SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.
Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.
Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers. Lead by example.
Coordinate Ontarios accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

2. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA. Define accessibility.
Clarify the AODAs relationship with the Human Rights Code.
Update the definition of disability.

3. Foster cultural change to instill accessibility into the everyday thinking of Ontarians.
Conduct a sustained multi-faceted public education campaign on accessibility with a focus on its economic and social benefits in an aging society.
Build accessibility into the curriculum at every level of the educational system, from elementary school through college and university.
Include accessibility in professional training for architects and other design fields.

4. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.

5. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.

6. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.

7. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.

8. Develop new comprehensive Built Environment accessibility standards through a process to:
Review and revise the 2013 Building Code amendments for new construction and major renovations Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards
Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

9. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.

10. Introduce financial incentives to improve accessibility in residential housing.
Offer substantial grants for home renovations to improve accessibility and make similar funds available to improve rental units. Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

11. Reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed by Infrastructure Ontario to promote accessibility and prevent new barriers.

12. Enforce the AODA.
Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations. Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

13. Deliver more responsive, authoritative and comprehensive support for AODA implementation. Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.
Establish a provincewide centre or network of regional centres offering information, guidance, training and specialized advice on accessibility.
Create a comprehensive website that organizes and provides links to trusted resources on accessibility.

14. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.

15. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.