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In a Compelling Open Letter, 21 Disability Organizations Unite to Call on the Doug Ford Government to Announce a Plan to Implement the Report on Ontario’s Disabilities Act Submitted by Former Lieutenant Governor David Onley Almost Six Months Ago

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Twitter: @aodaalliance

July 10, 2019


Today, 21 respected disability organizations and groups, reflecting a diverse spectrum of different disabilities, have united to send Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford an open letter, set out below. It calls on the Ford Government to announce a plan to implement the final report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, of his Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

This issue is critical for over 1.9 million Ontarians who have a physical, mental, sensory, communication, intellectual, learning or other kind of disability and who still face far too many accessibility barriers in Ontario every day. the Ford Government received the Onley Report 160 days ago, on January 31, 2019. Yet it has not announced a plan to implement this report, even though Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho said that he’d read the report and that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job”.

In its last public statement on this issue known to us, the Government said it was still studying the report. Yet in sharp contrast, the Ontario Government has been known over the past year to act quickly in other areas it considers to be a priority.

The AODA Alliance led the preparation of this open letter, after the Ford Government used its majority in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019 to defeat a reasonable and demonstrably non-partisan motion by NDP MPP Joel Harden that called on the Government to develop a plan to implement the Onley Report. Several MPPs from the Ford Government, including its Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, disparaged taking the action recommended in that proposed motion as “red tape”.

As detailed in the open letter, the Onley Report found that Ontario remains full of “soul-crushing barriers” impeding people with disabilities, and that action to implement and enforce the AODA has been too slow and weak. The Report made detailed recommendations, summarized at the end of the open letter.

The AODA Alliance invites other community organizations and groups to sign this open letter. An organization can be added to the list of signatories by emailing the AODA Alliance at

This open letter is just the first part of a new AODA Alliance campaign to press the Ford Government to implement the Onley Report. Further opportunities for action will be unveiled soon, that will focus on what individuals can do to help this effort. Stay tuned for more on that front.


Open Letter to the Premier of Ontario

July 10, 2019

To: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford
Via Email:
Room 281, Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A1

Copy to: The Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Via email:
College Park 5th Floor
777 Bay St
Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Premier Ford,

The undersigned community organizations and groups in Ontario are writing to call on the Ontario Government to announce a plan to implement the final report of former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. Under the AODA, the Ontario Government is required to appoint an Independent Review of the effectiveness of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement approximately every four years.

On January 31, 2019, Mr. Onley submitted his final report to the Ontario Government. On April 10, 2019, Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated in the Legislature that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” and that Ontario is not one third the way to becoming accessible to people with disabilities. The Ontario Government has not announced a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report’s findings and recommendations.

Based on public feedback, the Onley report found 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.”

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

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

The Report 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 Government leadership.

The Onley Report recommended that the AODA’s implementation be substantially strengthened. Among other things, it recommended that the Government substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for barriers in the built environment, strengthen the existing AODA accessibility standards, ensure improved accessibility training for design professionals (like architects) and reform the Government’s use of public money to ensure it is never used to create disability barriers. At the end of this Open Letter is the Onley Report’s summary of its recommendations.

Mr. Doug Ford said in his May 15, 2018 letter to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance:

“Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.”

A plan of action is needed to address this. The undersigned organizations would welcome the opportunity to work with your Government on this.


1. AODA Alliance
3. March of Dimes Canada
4. Older Women’s’ Network
5. Ontario Autism Coalition
6. Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
7. StopGap Foundation
8. BALANCE for Blind Adults
9. Community Living Ontario
10. DeafBlind Ontario Services)
11. Ontario Disability Coalition
12. Guide Dog Users of Canada
13. Views for the Visually Impaired
14. Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA) 15. ARCH Disability Law Centre
16. Easter Seals Ontario
17. Inclusive Design Research Centre, Ontario College of Art and Design University 18. Centre for Independent Living in Toronto CILT
19. Canadian Disability Policy Alliance
20. Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)
21. Citizens With Disabilities – Ontario

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.