Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities
https://www.aodaalliance.org firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @aodaalliance YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance
November 10, 2023
Today, the non-partisan AODA Alliance wrote Premier Doug Ford, urgently seeking a meeting. They asked him to kick-start sluggish provincial action to fulfil the Ontario Government’s legal obligation under Ontario’s Disabilities Act (AODA) to lead Ontario to become accessible to 2.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. (Letter set out below)
In this letter, the AODA Alliance calls on the Premier to:
* Agree to meet with representation from the AODA Alliance. Premier Ford is the first Ontario Premier in two decades to refuse to do so.
* Identify an official within the Premier’s Office with responsibility for this area, with whom the AODA Alliance can speak.
* Direct Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to meet with representation from the AODA Alliance and to have his Minister’s Office restore their ongoing email, in-person and phone contact with this widely recognized coalition. Minister Cho’s office unilaterally cut off all such direct contact over two years ago.
* Make public the final report of the Rich Donovan Independent Review of the AODA, which the Government received on June 6, 2023. Section 41(4) of the AODA requires that this report be made public. It provides recommendations on what the Government should do to fulfil its mandate to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities.
The AODA’s January 1, 2025 deadline for Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities is fast approaching. Ontario is far behind schedule for reaching this deadline. Ontario now has no comprehensive plan of action to meet that deadline or to even come close.
Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky email@example.com Twitter: @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance Learn more at the AODA Alliance website.
November 10, 2023 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Premier Doug Ford
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
November 10, 2023
To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier
Via Email: Premier@ontario.ca
Room 281, Legislative Building
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1
Dear Premier Ford,
Re: Fulfilling the Ontario Government’s Duty to Lead Ontario to Become Accessible to 2.9 Million People with Disabilities
We seek an urgent meeting with you. We ask you to revive and revitalize the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
In 2005, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed the landmark AODA. It requires the Ontario Government to lead our province to become accessible to 2.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. People with disabilities campaigned tirelessly for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to win that law.
2025 is only 418 days away. Ontario remains far behind the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities. Far too many disability barriers remain in employment, housing, education, health care, and access to goods, services and facilities that the public enjoys.
Ontario has no effective action plan to lead this province to become accessible by 2025 or by any time in the future. Progress has been far too slow in removing existing disability barriers. Making that worse, new disability barriers continue to be created by or with the approval of the Ontario Government, using public money.
In his January 31, 2019 Independent Review final report to your Government, former Lieutenant Governor David Onley said that progress on accessibility was “glacial and that Ontario remains full of soul-crushing barriers. The March 1, 2023 Interim Report of the 4th AODA Independent Review conducted by Rich Donovan described the implementation of the AODA over 17 years as a series of failures and missed opportunities.
This situation benefits no one. Who suffers from this predicament? All people with disabilities as well as people who will later acquire a disability. This ultimately includes everyone, such as students with disabilities who must struggle in an education system that was not designed for their learning needs, job-seekers with disabilities who face an unfair uphill battle seeking competitive employment, customers with disabilities who face too many barriers when they seek to spend their money on goods and services they need, patients with disabilities who suffer from unfair barriers in getting health care services to which they are entitled, people with disabilities who want to ride public transit, and the escalating number of people with disabilities who confront a crisis in finding an accessible place to live. It hurts businesses who want to serve a broader customer base and who want access to a broader pool of potential employees. It hurts all Ontarians who want this province to benefit from what individuals with disabilities have to offer our society.
Consequences of the failed implementation of the AODA are well known to Ontarians with disabilities who face accessibility barriers every day. It has been repeatedly verified in Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA and by Government-appointed Standards Development Committees. The situation has not been disputed by any Government or political party.
Over the past five and a half years, the Ontario Government has received recommendations for reform from six different Government-appointed accessibility Standards Development Committees. These addressed disability barriers in health care, K-12 education, post-secondary education, employment, transportation and information and communication. No accessibility standards have been enacted or strengthened as a result of those reports.
Last year, your Government chose Mr. Rich Donovan to conduct the latest mandatory Independent Review of the implementation of the AODA. Your Government received his final report on June 6, 2023. That report contains recommendations for what your Government should do to fulfil your obligations under the AODA.
Section 41(4) of the AODA requires your Government to make that report public. Yet your Government has not made it public in the 157 days since receiving it. This inaction further delays progress towards an accessible Ontario. No previous Government or Minister has withheld an AODA Independent Review from the public for so long a time.
It is good that your Government has had a Minister for Seniors and Accessibility throughout your mandate. However, that Minister and his Minister’s Office has refused to have any contact with the AODA Alliance for upwards of two years, if not longer. Before that, we had extensive contact with every Minister and every Minister’s Office responsible for the AODA since it was enacted in 2005. During the first years of your Government’s mandate, we had extensive interaction with your Accessibility Minister’s Office.
However, that line of communication has been totally shut down. We receive no response to any letters to the Minister or emails to his office or other efforts to reach out to him or his staff.
Similarly, we have been unable contact anyone in your office since after your first year in office. We have not been able to find out who in your office has this file. You have not answered any letters from us in recent years. Your answers to us in your first months in office referred us to the Accessibility Minister.
You are the first Ontario Premier in two decades who has not met with any representative of the AODA Alliance. The non-partisan AODA Alliance’s leadership role in the area of disability accessibility has been widely recognized in Ontario and beyond. Since the AODA was enacted, every political party that has made election commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities has done so in official letters to the AODA Alliance. We have also provided input on accessibility issues to the Governments of Canada, Manitoba, British Columbia and Alberta. Outside Canada, we or our predecessor coalition (the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) have made presentations to the Parliaments of Israel and New Zealand and to the European Commission and a conference of the United Nations.
It was great that on May 15, 2018, you committed as follows in a letter to us:
Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.
It is also very important that in the June 27, 2022, edition of Queen’s Park Briefing, you are quoted as committing as follows regarding the AODA’s 2025 deadline:
We’ll make sure we meet those timelines, and we’ll move as quickly as we possibly can
It is not too late for Ontario to change direction in a positive way. To help you keep your commendable commitments, we ask you to take these steps:
* Please agree to meet with representatives of the AODA Alliance. We are happy to brief your Office on key issues in advance of that meeting.
* Please identify for us an official within the Premier’s Office with responsibility for this area with whom we can speak.
Please direct Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to meet with representatives from the AODA Alliance and to have his Minister’s Office restore their ongoing email, in-person and phone contact with us, which they have terminated.
* Please now make public the final report of the Rich Donovan Independent Review of the AODA.
Accessibility for people with disabilities is not a partisan issue. It is not a right-wing or a left-wing issue. It is everyone’s issue. Please let us help your Government fulfil its obligations to 2.9 million Ontarians who now have a disability and all other Ontarians who are bound to get a disability later in their lives.
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Twitter: @davidlepofsky
cc: The Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond.firstname.lastname@example.org
Melissa Thomson, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Melissa.Thomson@ontario.ca
Meenu Sikand, Assistant Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Meenu.Sikand@ontario.ca