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Help Us Expand Access to Jobs for Ontarians with Disabilities

Please Tell the Ontario Government If You Support the Finalized AODA Alliance Brief on Improvements that the Employment Standards Development Committee Should Recommend to Ontario’s Employment Accessibility Standard

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 10, 2018

SUMMARY

The 2018 Ontario election campaign is now underway. Stay tuned for lots of news over the next days and weeks, as we mount our non-partisan campaign to raise disability accessibility issues in this election campaign.

We have been radio silent for almost two weeks due to email server problems that we discuss further below. That means we’ve got a backlog of news on the accessibility front that we will roll out to you over the next few days.

1. Support Our Call to Strengthen the Employment Accessibility Standard

Employees and job-seekers with disabilities face far too many barriers when trying to get or keep a job in Ontario. Here’s an easy and quick way you can help us right now to change that.

On May 7, 2018, the AODA Alliance sent the Employment Standards Development Committee (an advisory committee appointed by the Ontario Government) our finalized brief. It sets out our advice on what needs to be added to the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard, enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to ensure that employment becomes fully accessible for people with disabilities in Ontario by 2025. This brief also sets out our feedback on the Employment Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard.

The Employment Standards Development Committee is expected to review all the feedback it receives. It will then finalize its recommendations to the Government on how the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard should be improved. That work continues even during the period of the current election campaign.

We are urging the Employment Standards Development Committee to make all the recommendations for reform that we set out in our brief. We concluded in our brief that the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard is too weak. It needs to be substantially strengthened. We also conclude in our brief that the draft revisions to that accessibility standard that the Employment Standards Development Committee circulated for public feedback on March 20, 2018 won’t sufficiently strengthen the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard. Our brief offers 21 recommendations on what needs to be done to ensure that the Employment Accessibility Standard is revised to make it strong and effective.

You can read the entire AODA Alliance brief by visiting
https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/read-the-may-7-2018-aoda-alliance-brief-to-the-ontario-employment-standards-development-committee-on-its-draft-recommendations-for-revisions-to-the-2011-employment-accessibility-standard/ This Update offers you an overview of exactly what we recommend in our detailed brief. Later in this Update, we set out a summary of the brief’s contents. We also set out a list of all our 21 recommendations for improving the Employment Accessibility Standard.

The May 7, 2018 deadline for feedback to the Employment Standards Development Committee has passed. However you can still help our efforts. Just send an email to the Employment Standards Development Committee, saying if you support our May 7, 2018 brief on the Employment Accessibility Standard. Even one sentence will do.

You can write them at: AODA.input@ontario.ca.

We are delighted and appreciative that support for our brief has already started to reach the Government, from the community. We extend a huge thank you to everyone who gave us their ideas on how to improve the Employment Accessibility Standard, including feedback on our draft of this brief that we shared with you on April 28, 2018.

2. A Huge Apology to All for Our Recent Email Update Mess

We want to express our deep and profound apology to everyone who has signed up for our email AODA Alliance Updates, for the unintended and unwanted blast of multiple emails that invaded your inboxes on Saturday, April 28, 2018. We unexpectedly had a series of server problems. No, we were not hacked by any foreign invaders.

We have switched servers and hope that this problem has now been solved. This Update is our first AODA Alliance Update since that mess. We are holding our breath, in hopes that this works.

We deeply appreciate everyone who has been willing to receive our Updates, and who share them with others. To receive a blizzard of undesired emails in your inbox over a short period of an hour or two is incredibly frustrating. We were very upset at this happening. Please accept our apology.

To make this transfer to a new email server, we had to reconstruct our subscription list. We are hoping that we have ironed out all of our problems, and have removed from our email list everyone who has asked to be removed. If not, or if you ever encounter any problems with our Updates, just contact us by composing an email and sending it to us at: aodafeedback@gmail.com Please be assured that we take these issues extremely seriously.

You will see that these Updates are now coming to you from a new email address: updates@aodaalliance.org Please ensure that your spam filter lets through our Updates from that email address.

We will soon have a new email address to send us feedback. however, for the time being, feel free to keep using aodafeedback@gmail.com

At the end of this Update, as always, we offer you links to key background information, including instructions on how to sign up for or unsubscribe from these Updates.

Stay tuned over the next days and weeks for lots of information on accessibility issues, especially in connection with the current Ontario election campaign.

MORE DETAILS

Summary of the May 7, 2018 AODA Alliance Brief to the Employment Standards Development Committee

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. The Government must enact and effectively enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that the AODA’s goal is achieved. An accessibility standard is a provincial regulation that spells out what an obligated organization must do to prevent and remove accessibility barriers and that sets time lines for this action.

In 2011, the Ontario Government enacted the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) under the AODA. It includes, among other things, provisions addressing disability barriers in access to employment in Ontario. In this brief, we call that the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard.

Under the AODA, the Government was required to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review that standard, and to recommend any revisions needed to ensure that employment becomes fully accessible to people with disabilities in Ontario by 2025.

In 2017, the Ontario Government appointed a new Employment Standards Development Committee to review the provisions of the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard, and to make recommendations on any needed improvements. On March 20, 2018, the Ontario Government made public the initial or draft recommendations that the Employment Standards Development Committee has proposed, for public comment.

The AODA Alliance has solicited input from its supporters through its website, its mass email list, and repeatedly, on Twitter. Drawing on that feedback and on our extensive involvement in advocacy on accessibility issues in Ontario, this brief provides our feedback on those draft recommendations. We earlier circulated and posted on line a draft of this brief, seeking further input from our supporters and the public.

Our feedback set out in this brief is summarized as follows:

1. The 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard is far too weak. It will not lead employment to become accessible to employees and job-seekers with disabilities by 2025, or by any time in the distant future, even if all obligated organizations fully complied with it to the letter. It needs substantial strengthening.

2. The AODA Alliance agrees with a number of the draft recommendations that the Employment Standards Development Committee has proposed. However, those draft recommendations, if adopted, would not significantly improve the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard, and would not make a significant improvement in the accessibility of employment for employees and job-seekers with disabilities.

3. The Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations are built on a misunderstanding of the purpose or aim of its review of the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard. This review’s aim is not merely to see if the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard is working “as intended”, or if it will “improve” accessibility”. The Standards Development Committee should aim to see if the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard will ensure accessible employment for employees and job-seekers with disabilities by 2025.

4. The AODA Alliance agrees with the Standards Development Committee that the long-term objective of the Employment Accessibility Standard should be strengthened. We propose reforms that are stronger than the wording that the Standards Development Committee proposes.

5. Of the Standards Development Committee’s eight recommendations, four of them (Recommendations 1, 4, 5 and 7) merely call for the Government to provide better, more user-friendly public education information for employers regarding their duties owing to employees and job-seekers with disabilities. We agree with any such improvements, but also call for stronger recommendations including amendments to strengthen the Employment Accessibility Standard in these areas.

6. We agree with one of the Standards Development Committee’s recommendations that calls for an actual amendment to strengthen the Employment Accessibility Standard, Recommendation 3 regarding notice to employees and job-seekers with disabilities about an employer’s policies and practices regarding the duty to accommodate employees and job-seekers with disabilities.

7. The AODA Alliance does not necessarily agree with the Standards Development Committee’s recommendation that the Employment Accessibility Standard be amended to define the term “employee”. If such an amendment were made, we recommend that this term be broadly defined to accord with its interpretation in the Ontario Human Rights Code, that it include contractors and volunteers, and that it not be harmonized with other employment legislation (since such harmonization is likely not feasible).

8. The AODA Alliance does not agree with the Standards Development Committee’s Recommendation 6, calling for amendments to the Employment Accessibility Standard regarding an employer’s duty to provide employees and job-seekers with disabilities with information on individualized emergency procedures.

9. The AODA Alliance does not agree with the Standards Development Committee’s Recommendation 8, which would defer for five years any review of the Employment Accessibility Standard’s provisions on accommodating workers with disabilities in their return to work. Those provisions should be reviewed by the Employment Standards Development Committee now.

10. The Employment Standards Development Committee should go much further in its recommendations, so that the Employment Accessibility Standard can live up to the goals of the AODA. At present, the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard’s core focus is on putting in place formal procedures in each organization for an employee with a disability to request and receive an individualized workplace accommodation. The Employment Accessibility Standard needs to be substantially expanded to include requirements for the systematic identification, removal and prevention of recurring employment barriers within an obligated organization, such as barriers in the built environment, in choice of location for off-site office events, in office furniture and equipment, and in job descriptions. With proper action on this front, the workplaces of 2025 can be barrier-free. Without this, employers will continue to leave employment barriers in place, and will continue to create new ones. The workplace of 2025 will only become barrier-free for employees and job-seekers with disabilities if the Employment Accessibility Standard is revised to include strong and effective provisions that identify disability barriers that must be removed and prevented, that direct the corrective action needed, and that set time lines for this action.

11. The standard should include provisions on addressing employment barriers in the context of a unionized workplace where there is a collective agreement.

12. The standard should be expanded to implement in larger organizations a process for addressing in a fair and timely way the cost of barrier-removal and prevention and of individual accommodation.

13. The standard should be expanded to create specific added measures to address the Ontario Government, Ontario Public Service and the broader public sector, as Ontario’s largest employer. This should include, among other things, strengthened provisions to ensure that the goods, services and facilities that the public sector procures for use in their workplaces are accessible to employees with disabilities.

14. We endorse in principle the, Ontario Human Rights Commission’s recommendations in its May 4, 2018 letter to the Employment Standards Development Committee, set out in Appendix 2 to this brief.

15. We recognize that in addition to a strengthened Employment Accessibility Standard, people with disabilities need strong new non-regulatory measures to substantially improve employment opportunities to people with disabilities. While the Government’s June 2017 “access Talent” strategy included some helpful measures, it is far too “high level”, and does not include the comprehensive package of concrete measures that job-seekers with disabilities need. The AODA Alliance’s analysis of “Access Talent” is set out in Appendix 3 to this brief.

List of the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations for Improvements to the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard

#1. The Standard should be amended to include a provision that states that the purpose of the Standard is to ensure that employment and workplaces in Ontario become barrier free for employees and job-seekers with disabilities, and that people with disabilities, including employees and job-seekers, have equal access to employment on or before 2025.

#2. The standard should be revised to ensure that its measures for removing and preventing disability barriers, and the related time lines always meet or exceed the employer’s duties under the Ontario Human Rights Code and, where applicable, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For example, the standard should refer to the employer’s duty to accommodate the disability-related needs of employees and job-seekers with disabilities, and not a diluted duty to take into account their disability.

#3. The standard should be amended to spell out in clear language the relationship between its requirements and those of the Ontario Human Rights Code. For example, the standard should state in as strong and clear terms as possible that nothing in it reduces or diminishes an employer’s duties under the Human Rights Code, including the duty to accommodate the workplace needs of job-seekers and employees with disabilities.

#4. The standard should be amended to require that obligated organizations of a sufficient size, that have a website are required to post their required policies and procedures on employment accessibility and accommodation on their website, if they have a website.

#5. If the Employment Accessibility Standard were to be amended to include a definition of “employee,” then:

a) It should be a very broad and non-exhaustive definition, one that is at least as broad as the way “employee” is interpreted under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

b) Contrary to the Employment Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations, the definition of “employee” need not and should not be harmonized with other employment legislation, since there is no one omnibus definition of “employment” in all Ontario legislation.

c) Any definition of “employee” should include contractors, to prevent evasion of this accessibility standard.

#6. The standard should be revised to extend it to volunteer work, in terms that can provide more circumstance-specific flexibility for obligated organizations, as compared to paid employees.

#7. As the Employment Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations propose, s. 22 of the Employment Accessibility Standard should be amended to require an employer to notify job applicants with disabilities, about the availability of accommodation of disability-related needs, in its recruitment processes and its entire employment life cycle.

#8. The standard should be amended to include measures to ensure that machine-based and artificial intelligence-based systems used to screen job applicants in the hiring process are free from disability barriers and discrimination.

#9. The Standards Development Committee should investigate which recurring disability barriers occur at the recruitment stage of the employment life cycle, and recommend concrete measures to remove and prevent those barriers.

#10. Sections 23 and 24 of the standard should be amended to require that all job applicants and employees be notified of the availability of workplace accommodations, referred to in those sections, whether or not they appear to have a disability or have disclosed that they have a disability.

#11. The Standards Development Committee’s fifth recommendation, to remove the word “individualized” from s. 27 of the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard, should be rejected.

#12. Where the Standards Development Committee recommends improved training and information resources for employers, these should be created and made available within four months from now.

#13. The Standards Development Committee should consider whether employees with disabilities who attempt to return to work after being off work due to disability are having their disability needs effectively accommodated in the return-to-work process. It should reach out now to injured workers and to organizations that advocate for them, for feedback and advice. It should recommend any needed reforms to the Employment Accessibility Standard now. It should not defer that issue until the next five-year review of the Employment Accessibility Standard.

#14. The Standard should be expanded to set out:

a) an explicit duty to identify, remove and prevent workplace barriers;

b) a duty not to take any action that impedes the identification, removal or prevention of workplace barriers against people with disabilities, or that impedes the delivery of needed workplace accommodations to employees or job applicants with disabilities.

#15. The standard should be amended to include specific requirements for identification, removal and prevention of recurring workplace barriers over time, apart from fulfilling individual employee accommodation requests, e.g. barriers in office workspace, office equipment and technology and in terms and conditions of work. It should not just impose a duty on employers to plan. It should specify the barriers to be removed and prevented, and where possible, the specific steps that the employer should take to remove or prevent them.

#16. The standard should be amended to require that large organizations in the public and private sectors designate an employee to serve as that organization’s accessibility lead or accessibility champion. It is preferable for that person to report to the organization’s top management.

#17. The standard should be expanded to address the process of removing and preventing barriers to effective workplace accommodation and accessibility in the collective bargaining process and in collective agreements, which could:

a) focus an employer and union, involved in the process of bargaining a collective agreement, on identifying and removing existing barriers in the collective agreement, and preventing the creation of new employment barriers;

b) require a mediator or an arbitrator, undertaking binding arbitration of the collective agreement, to address identification removal of existing barriers, and prevention of new barriers in the collective agreement, including inviting submissions from the union and employer on this topic during the mediation/arbitration process;

c) engage the employer and union in getting input from employees with disabilities on workplace barriers that may arise from the collective agreement;

#18. The Standard should be amended to require larger private sector organizations, and all public sector organizations, to establish, make public, and inform employees and job applicants about a process for making funds available within the organization, when needed for workplace accommodations, including:

a) In the case of public sector organizations, establishing a central fund to cover the cost of accommodations, so long as that Fund is not treated as a ceiling of what the organization may expend on needed workplace accommodation;

b) Large private sector organizations would either establish such a Fund or a comparable process.

c) If an employee-requested workplace accommodation isn’t provided by the organization, on account of concerns over the cost or for any other reason, the organization’s chief executive officer should be required to be informed of this decision and the reason for it.

#19. The standard should be expanded to

a) Ensure that access to the current Ontario Employment Accommodation Fund will be made available to any employee of the Ontario Government and any public official paid by the Ontario Government whether or not they are employed by a specific Ministry.

#20. The standard should be expanded to

a) require that training of management officials in the Ontario Public Service on employment accessibility standards issues be face-to-face, not on-line training, and

b) require periodic training of co-workers in the Ontario Public Service on the duty to accommodate employees with disabilities, whether or not they have management responsibilities.

#21. The standard should be expanded to substantially strengthen requirements for procurement of accessible goods, services and facilities for use in the Ontario Government, the Ontario Public Service, and the broader public sector, including a process for effective monitoring and reporting to the public on the broader public sector’s performance in this context.

More Information About the AODA Alliance

To sign up for or unsubscribe from Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Updates, send your request to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com In late December 2017, our email list for these Updates unfortunately crashed. We have rebuilt it. In case you fell off the list but want to return, just email to ask us to sign you up. In case you had wanted to be removed from the list, but were accidentally restored to it, just email us to ask to be removed! Sorry for any inconvenience.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at: aodafeedback@gmail.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: aodafeedback@gmail.com

We encourage you to use the Government’s 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.

Check out our new and expanded collection of online videos about the history, strategies and accomplishments of Ontario’s non-partisan grassroots accessibility campaign, available at:
https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/the-aoda-alliance-launches-part-2-of-its-series-of-online-videos-on-the-campaign-for-accessibility-to-mark-the-23rd-anniversary-of-ontarios-grassroots-campaign-for-disability-accessibility/ Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance’s 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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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting: http://www.aodaalliance.org