Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities
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September 29, 2023
Since taking office in 2018, the Ontario Government of Premier Doug Ford has appointed only two new Standards Development Committees under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). These Committees have the very important responsibility to make recommendations on how to strengthen any existing accessibility standards enacted under the AODA. The Government belatedly appointed both Committees years after the mandatory legal deadline for appointing them.
In both cases, and for a second time in the past two years, the Ford Government has frozen out the AODA Alliance from participation as a member of a new Standards Development Committee, despite our stated interest in being appointed to them. Most recently, some time over the past few weeks, the Ford Government appointed a new Customer Service Standards Development Committee to conduct a mandatory review of the weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard that the Government first enacted in 2007. We have led the campaign for over two years to get this Standards Development Committee appointed. The AODA required the Ford Government to appoint it no later than early June 2021.
The Ford Government appointed no cross-disability coalitions and indeed no disability consumer organizations at all to the Customer Service Standards Development Committee. The disability sector representatives that the Ford Government appointed include six representatives of service-providing organizations and four individuals whom the Government refers to as community representatives.
We are deeply concerned that the Government has chosen to entirely omit from this Standards Development Committee anyone who speaks for a consumer disability organization or for a cross-disability advocacy organization like the AODA Alliance.
We had hoped that the AODA Alliance would be considered an important voice to have at the table and that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, representing our advocacy coalition, would be evaluated as sufficiently qualified to serve on this Standards Development Committee. He submitted a detailed application for this position. He led the decade-long campaign from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA enacted. Since 2005, the AODA Alliance has led the cross-disability non-partisan campaign to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.
The AODA Alliance has submitted dozens of briefs to assist earlier Standards Development Committees and similar bodies and has received an endless stream of feedback from people with disabilities about the customer service barriers that they face. The AODA Alliance website’s Customer Service page is likely Ontario’s most comprehensive resource on customer service disability barriers and recommendations under the AODA. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has successfully launched legal proceedings to advance the goal of accessible customer service, such as forcing the Toronto Transit system to audibly announce all bus, streetcar and subway stops.
From 2018 to 2022, he served on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, originally appointed by the previous Kathleen Wynne Government. In a February 18, 2022, letter from Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to David Lepofsky, the Minister thanked him for his contribution to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, stating:
“Your outstanding contributions toward the removal of barriers to accessibility in Ontario’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 publicly funded education system are highly regarded and greatly appreciated.”
Similarly, last year, the Ford Government did not include any representation from the AODA Alliance or any other cross-disability coalition on the new Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky had alerted the Government that he wanted to serve on that Committee. The Ford Government never held an open competition for that earlier Standards Development Committee.
It is clear that service by an individual or an organization on a previous Standards Development Committee is no disqualification from or impediment to serving on a subsequent one. The Government has appointed the same member to serve on a Standards Development Committee who has also served on a previous one, including in the case of this new Customer Service Standards Development Committee.
Ultimately, politicians decide or approve who gets appointed to a Standards Development Committee. There appears to be a broader troubling pattern. Premier Ford is the first Ontario premier in two decades that has refused to meet with a representative of the AODA Alliance. His Citizenship Minister Raymond Cho and his office had engaged with the AODA Alliance earlier in their mandate but have refused to meet or even to respond to emails for at least two years.
We do not suggest or imply any criticism of those who have been appointed to serve on these two Standards Development Committees. We appreciate their willingness to serve in this role.
Despite this setback, we always remain eager and willing to do what we can to assist the Customer Service Standards Development Committee and the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee in their work. However, the AODA Alliance knows from many years of experience under the AODA that submitting a brief and making a time-limited presentation at a Standards Development Committee meeting is no substitute for serving on the Standards Development Committee itself.
Share your thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even better, let the Ford Government know what you think.
List of the Voting Members of the Customer Service Standards Development Committee Appointed by the Ford Government
Originally posted at https://www.ontario.ca/page/customer-service-standards-development-committee#:~:text=In%202013%2C%20the%20Minister%20Responsible,on%20existing%20customer%20service%20standards.
List of members and representation
The following is a full list of the second review committee members, including the organization or sector they are representing. Committee membership may be subject to change.
Jeff Adams (Chair), lawyer and disability advocate
Doug Earle, West Park Healthcare Centre Foundation
Raj Chopra, disability community representative
Kevin Collins, Easter Seals Ontario
Kay Matthew, Ontario Business Improvement Area Association
Louie DiPalma, Ontario Chamber of Commerce
Lois Davies, Association of Municipalities of Ontario (York Region) Julia Hudson, Canadian Hearing Services (CHS)
Tracey McKenzie, Rural Ontario Municipal Association
Brian Buchan, Human Resources Professionals Association
Fatima Finnegan, Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association Maryann Istiloglu, Ontario Association of Mental Health Professionals Lucille Berlinguette-Saumure, City of Ottawa
Peter Athanasopoulos, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario
Chris O’Brien, OLG
Jennifer Cowan, Scotiabank
Don Halpert, disability community representative
Jacqueline Silvera, University Health Network (UHN)
Jason Mitschele, Public Prosecution Service of Canada
Azhar Karim, DEEN Support Services