An Open Letter to Provincial Candidates re: Accessibility

To celebrate National Accessibility Week, I recently sent out the following letter to all London candidates of the upcoming provincial election to determine their stance on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). I will be posting their responses as they come in if you’re interested to know their stance.

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Dear [candidate],

In 2005, Ontario began an important journey with the passing of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Boldly promising a fully accessible Ontario by 2025, the passing of the AODA was a landmark moment for our province not just because it promised accessibility but it was the first attempt in Canada to fully mandate the inclusion of citizens with disabilities. Now almost 10 years later, we have seen progress with the first round of Accessibility Standards being passed into law and slowly being implemented. This is an important achievement and something we, as Ontarians, should celebrate.

At the same time, 10 years on and it’s hard not to feel as though a malaise has set in, as we rest on the laurels of past success. While the standards have been implemented, little has been done to promote, educate and enforce the new accessibility laws. At the same time, other requirements of the AODA, namely a mandatory enforcement measure (with fines) to ensure compliance, remain unfulfilled with little movement towards completion. Further, there is growing concern that the momentum to develop and implement new standards has stalled entirely, meaning the AODA will not continue to grow as it was intended, with new and stronger standards failing to be developed. Despite lots of talking about making Ontario accessible, there has been little tangible change in the lives of Ontarians with disabilities over the past decade. Worse still, there is growing concern that all of the gains of the AODA may be for naught as the deadline of 2025 may simply be unattainable.

Pessimistically, people often view elections as being a time for promises made with no intention of fulfillment. I, on the other hand, see elections as a time to refocus and change course. It is difficult to say the past decade has been a resounding success for the AODA but that does not mean the next 4 years must suffer the same fate. With your help, we can ensure the disabled are fully included in the political and personal sphere and, for the first time ever, become full participating citizens of this province.

I am writing to you today with three exploratory questions to help inform myself and other citizens of London in the upcoming election. If elected…

  1. Do you pledge to recommit to the AODA and continue the process started in 2005?
  2. What will your party do to ensure public and private citizens of Ontario comply with the requirements of the AODA?
  3. How will you strengthen the AODA to ensure we meet the deadline of a fully accessible Ontario by 2025?

I would greatly appreciate your candid response to these questions and, with your permission, would like to publicly post your response on my website for everyone to learn your position on this important issue. It is not too late, we can make Ontario fully accessible to the benefit of every one of its citizens.

Thank you for your time and the best of luck in the coming contest.

Jeffrey Preston

 

Responses…

3 Replies to “An Open Letter to Provincial Candidates re: Accessibility”

  1. Thanks for writing this open letter Jeff. It is especially important for voters to understand that although accessibility standards are slowly being developed under the AODA, enforcement of those standards are almost completely non existent.

    AODA customer service standards have now come into effect and, among other things, require businesses of 20 employees or more to merely file an accessibility report with the government of Ontario; the content of the reports are apparently not analyzed. By November 2013, the Toronto Star reports, that “70 per cent of companies — about 36,000 across the province — had not yet filed a report.” http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/02/20/ontario_vows_to_enforce_accessibility_law.html

    Deb Matthews highlights a 99% report filing rate by a small segment of certain public sector organizations, and sidesteps the meagre 30% overall compliance rate in Ontario – of merely writing ANY kind of report on how accessibility of an organization will be dealt with. A sheet of lined paper with the word “accessible” scrawled on it by hand would likely fulfil the requirement.

    Simply, s. 26 of the AODA http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_05a11_e.htm#s26s1 requires the government of Ontario to designate a Tribunal to deal with enforcement of standards, and the government has not yet done so. They have chosen to merely use their own power to issue a meagre 500 Notices of Director’s Orders: letters asking for compliance.

    The 2025 goal of an accessible of Ontario is looking more and more out of reach. Instead of a leader in effective disability law, Ontario may be on its way to becoming a case study in how not to legislate accessibility.

    1. I’m curious about Deb Matthew’s statement that one financial penalty has been doled out as well. Who was it? What was the penalty? What was the process? Has the offender paid the fine?

      Curious that they’re moving ahead on enforcement yet are not doing so publicly…

  2. Thank you for writing this. The issue of accessibility should be all over Canada. You are an excellent writer, and I hope this letter gets a lot of attention.

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