Good Media Coverage of the Rich Donovan Final Report

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

December 19, 2023
Summary

The Final Report of the 4th Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, conducted by Rich Donovan, has received great media attention. Below we set out the December 18, 2023 News Reports by CBC and City News, and the December 18, 2023 news release by the Ontario New Democratic Party.

The AODA Alliance’s December 18, 2023 news release sets out our first response to the final Donovan Report. We strongly support some of the Donovan Final Report’s findings and recommendations. We disagree with others. However, our disagreement with some of the Report’s findings and recommendations does not detract at all from the parts of the Report with which we agree. We call on the Ford Government to implement the commendable parts of the Report as quickly as possible.

On June 6, 2023, the Ford Government received a strong message from the Donovan Final Report that people with disabilities in Ontario are facing a crisis. It is deeply troubling that the Ford Government’s response was not to take immediate action but instead concealed this Report from the public for over six months. It did so even though it is required by the AODA to make the Report public.

Making this worse, the Ford Government refused to release this report when it received separate Freedom of Information applications from both AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and the CBC. Instead, it made the bogus claim that to disclose the Donovan Report risked revealing confidential Cabinet discussions. Now that the Donovan Final Report is public, it is obvious from reading it that its disclosure never risked revealing any secret Cabinet discussions.

The Government could and should have productively used the past six months to consult the AODA Alliance and others on which of the Donovan Report’s recommendations should be implemented. Instead, six precious months were needlessly squandered.

The City News report, prepared by the Canadian Press and set out below, gives the Ford Government’s first glimmer of a response to the Donovan Report. That article reveals:

When asked about the gap, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility said that “given the complexity and expansive scope required when addressing issues around accessibility,” it believed the report “warranted time spent on a thoughtful analysis and response.”

The ministry said it was taking action on a few initiatives as a “first step,” including establishing a volunteer group of people with disabilities to speak on their experience and provide feedback; updating evacuation plans for all government owned and leased buildings to ensure the safe evacuation of people with disabilities; and ensuring all government procurement through Supply Ontario incorporates accessibility standards.

The ministry did not give a timeline for those plans.

The same Government needed only eight days to reflect before it made public Rich Donovan’s Interim Report last March. The volunteer AODA Alliance turned around its preliminary response to the Donovan Final Report in about 48 hours. Six months to study Rich Donovan’s 47-page Final Report should have yielded a comprehensive plan of action. We’ve seen none.

The few actions that the Government told the Canadian Press it is now planning are measures that the Government has announced in some form in the past. They are all measures we have urged the Government to expand upon for well over a decade.

Ponder this: The AODA Alliance, a volunteer coalition, has done far more than the entire Ford Government to let the public know about Rich Donovan’s Final Report. Last Thursday, the Government simply posted the report on a web page, with no public announcement or news release. It was the AODA Alliance’s December 18, 2023 news release that brought it to the attention of the media and public. Is there something wrong with this picture?

Just 380 days! That is the number of days until 2025, the date when the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires Ontario to be accessible to 2.9 million Ontarians with disabilities.

Send us your feedback. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

MORE DETAILS

News December 18, 2023

Originally posted at https://www. .ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-aoda-4th-report-1.7062516

Ontario accessibility in ‘crisis,’ says report quietly released by Ford government | News Advocates say province ‘squandered’ precious time acting on report’s recommendations

Vanessa Balintec News

Photo: A button people who use wheelchairs can push to open doors.

The Ontario government quietly released a review last week calling the current state of accessibility in the province a ‘crisis.’ (Michael Wilson/CBC)

With a year left until Ontario is supposed to be fully accessible, the state of accessibility in the province is in “crisis,” a new report finds.

The declaration, along with over 23 recommendations on how to get the province back on track, was made in a critical report by Rich Donovan, the fourth person appointed to review the province’s progress implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Enacted in 2005, AODA was intended to make the province accessible by 2025. But at the pace things have been going, Donovan says it’s a”near certainty” that the province will miss the mark, directly impactingthe 2.9 million people with disabilities in Ontario.

“The implications of getting accessibility right and the continually rising costs of failing to do so are why the Ontario government must care. Must prioritize. Must act,” wrote Donovan, who was appointed in 2022 to undertake the review.

“Any further delays are an unacceptable risk to the province.”

* Honour late lieutenant-governor David Onley by making Ontario accessible, advocates, friends say
* Three years after Ontario accessibility report, ‘little progress’ made, former lieutenant-governor says
The Ontario government quietly released the report last Thursday, months after receiving it in June. Building on his interim report released in March, Donovan found that:

* AODA outcomes are poor and are failing people with disabilities. * Enforcement of the legislation does “not exist.”
* The lack of data and research on people with disabilities was the “single biggest missed opportunity” since the AODA was enacted in 2005.
* There is a “lack of urgency” on the file from both current and previous Ontario governments.
* There is a “lack of accountability” for implementing the AODA both in the public and private sector.

However, the review “is not intended to be an indictment of the Ontario Government,” Donavon [sic.] wrote.

“While the identification of gaps is necessary, the emphasis of the recommendations report is how to move forward.”

Ministry defends time taken to table report

Donovan made23 recommendations under the categories: crisis, strategic and tactical. According to his report, the “vast majority” of them are designed to be completed in the next three years.

Crisis recommendations must be resolved within 180 days, he said, and are intended to address immediate threats to public safety. His report says they will lay the “necessary groundwork for a successful accessible regime that has been absent for 17 years.”

Photo: A man smiles for a headshot, looking away from the camera.
Photo caption: Rich Donovan is the fourth reviewer of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, appointed to the task in 2022. (@richdonovannyc/X)

This includes the creation of emergency response protocols in provincial buildings and creating a new agency dedicated to all things AODA, and making sure the government, through the Crown agency Supply Ontario, only procures accessible services and products after 2025.

Meanwhile, strategic recommendations are geared toward shifting accessibility regulation to the federal government from the private sector something Donovan says can help get rid of duplication and boost enforcement now that Canada is working on crafting a federal counterpart of the AODA, the Accessible Canada Act.

Tactical recommendations focus on “immediate tangible improvements,” such as building a team to collect, analyze and publish disability research and assembling an initial panel of 100 different people with disabilities, who aren’t advocates or activists, to help inform policy.

In an email to CBC Toronto, the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility defendedthe time it took to table the report, sayingDonovan’s reviewrequired”careful review and consideration.”
“We believe Mr. Donovan’s report warranted time spent on a thoughtful analysis and response to his recommendations and that is what we have done.”
The statementsays the ministryhas started workon atleast three of his recommendations:
* The creation of a new volunteer group of people with disabilities to provide their experience and feedback on accessibility issues.
* An update to building evacuation plans for all government-owned buildings and leased buildings.
* All government procurement through Crown agency Supply Ontario incorporatingaccessibility standards.
“We will continue to work together with our partners and across government to address the other recommendations that could helps us meet, achieve or exceed AODA standards by 2025,” the statement reads.

Advocates mixed on report, critics take aim at province
In a news release Monday, AODA Alliance, a consumer watchdog group, welcomed some, but not all of Donovan’s recommendations.

The alliance says it supports the formation of a crisis committee, the creation of an action plan for achieving accessibility and the forming of a new provincial agency to take primary responsibility for AODA implementation and enforcement.

However, in the release, the Alliance says it does not support Ontario transferring the regulation of accessibility in the private sector to the federal government. Among other things, it also doesn’t support imposing accessibility surcharges on some government services, or Donovan’s view that there is an “overreliance” on accessibility standards at the expense of the lived experience of people with disabilities.

Photo: A man wearing a white button-up shirt with a black patterned cardigan sweater looks directly at the camera.
Photo caption: David Lepofsky is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Regardless, AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said there was no good reason to keep the report hidden from the public for this long.

“The report found that Ontario is far behind schedule and has no effective action plan to lead this province to become accessible by 2025 or by any time in the future,” Lepofsky said in the release.

“Instead of using the past six months to follow this wise recommendation, Premier Ford squandered those months by keeping Donovan’s report secret.”

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In a separate news release Monday, the NDP says it’s calling for “urgent action” after the Progressive Conservatives tried the “bury” the report.

“It speaks volumes that the Conservative government sat on this report for six months instead of taking immediate action to address this crisis,” said MPP Monique Taylor, the critic for Children, Community, and Social Services.

“It’s clear they are not taking it seriously. We need urgent action to address this serious challenge, especially if we want to have any hope of getting anywhere near AODA standards by 2025.”

City News December 18, 2023

Originally posted at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2023/12/18/ontario-in-a-crisis-state-on-accessibility-unlikely-to-meet-2025-goal-report/ Ontario in a ‘crisis state’ on accessibility, unlikely to meet 2025 goal: report

Statistics Canada data shows that 27 per cent of people 15 and older about eight million Canadians reported having at least one disability in 2022, about twice the percentage of people who reported a disability 10 years ago. Wheelchairs await non-ambulatory patients at the University of Calgary Medical Clinic, in Calgary, Alta. on Nov. 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh THE CANADIAN PRESS

By Paola Loriggio THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ontario is in a “crisis state” when it comes to accessibility, and it’s a “near certainty” the government will fail to meet its goal of making the province accessible for people with disabilities by 2025, according to a newly released report.

The final report examining the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act said the declaration of a crisis isn’t meant as an assessment of accessibility in the province, noting several previous reports including a scathing interim report earlier this year have already covered that ground.

Instead, it said the declaration is intended to be a “necessary catalyst.”

“It is a near certainty that the goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025 will pass. That does not mean the next years of accessibility regulation, action, and enforcement are not critical,” the report’s author, Rich Donovan, wrote.

“This crisis state, intended to last six months, will allow Ontario to accelerate key overdue processes to get accessibility right in the coming years.”

Within 30 days of the report being tabled, the province must form a crisis committee chaired by Premier Doug Ford and tasked with implementing urgent recommendations, including the creation of a new accessibility agency to enforce accessibility standards within the government, the document said.

Another urgent recommendation for the committee is the creation of clear and consistent emergency response protocols for all provincial government buildings that include the safe and immediate evacuation of all people, regardless of their mobility, vision or other differences.

“At present, emergency procedures for people with disabilities that manage limited vision or mobility often consist of sheltering in place,” the report said.

“Given the lack of accessibility of many buildings and the shutting down of lifts during emergencies, there is often no way for some (people with disabilities) to safely evacuate a building.”

The committee must implement the crisis recommendations, or submit a detailed plan for their implementation, within 180 days of its creation, the report said.

Other more long-term recommendations include shifting oversight and enforcement of accessibility in the private sector to the federal government.

“The federal government has tools that can be utilized to solve the logistical hurdle of regulating Ontario’s 380,000 small businesses,” the report said.

For example, the Canada Revenue Agency collects information from small and medium business and audits them, “making it an ideal partner to enforce the accessibility legislation currently under the AODA,” the document said.

“While such a transition would require additional training and resources within the CRA, it is a more efficient means of enforcing accessibility than what currently occurs in Ontario,” it added.

The report is dated June 5 but was tabled in the provincial legislature last week.

When asked about the gap, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility said that “given the complexity and expansive scope required when addressing issues around accessibility,” it believed the report “warranted time spent on a thoughtful analysis and response.”

The ministry said it was taking action on a few initiatives as a “first step,” including establishing a volunteer group of people with disabilities to speak on their experience and provide feedback; updating evacuation plans for all government owned and leased buildings to ensure the safe evacuation of people with disabilities; and ensuring all government procurement through Supply Ontario incorporates accessibility standards.

The ministry did not give a timeline for those plans.

Accessibility advocates and opposition legislators criticized the government’s delay in tabling the report.

“Donovan’s final report calls on Premier Ford to immediately establish a crisis committee, chaired by Ford, to oversee urgent reforms over six months,” said David Lepofsky, who chairs the disability consumer advocacy group AODA Alliance.

“But instead of using the past six months to follow this wise recommendation, Premier Ford squandered those months by keeping Donovan’s report secret.”

The AODA Alliance urged the province to reject some of the recommendations in the report, including the proposal to transfer regulation of the private sector to Ottawa.

“It would unfairly force vulnerable Ontarians with disabilities to have to lobby federal MPs from coast to coast just to get new private sector reforms enacted,” Lepofsky wrote in a statement.

New Democrat Monique Taylor, the critic for children, community and social services, said it “speaks volumes” that the government “sat on this report for six months.”

“It’s clear they are not taking it seriously. We need urgent action to address this serious challenge,” she wrote in a statement.

The report noted that 2.9 million people in Ontario currently have a disability.

Ontario’s accessibility law was the first of its kind in Canada when it passed in 2005, with a stated goal of ensuring universal accessibility in the province by Jan. 1, 2025. The report is the fourth review of the law’s implementation.

In his interim report released in March, Donovan, the former chair of the province’s Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, said little progress has been made since the law was passed in 2005. He said that was the result of design flaws in “services, products, technology, buildings, infrastructure, careers, processes and human imagination.”

He noted then that previous reviews had also reported continuous failures, poor outcomes and painfully slow progress.

December 18, 2023 News Release by the Ontario New Democratic Party

Originally posted at https://www.ontariondp.ca/news/ndp-ford-conservatives-bury-aoda-report-calls-crisis-response-ontario-accessibility

Ontario NDP

December 18th, 2023

NDP: Ford Conservatives bury AODA report that calls for a ‘crisis’ response to Ontario accessibility
QUEEN’S PARK NDP MPPs are calling for urgent action after the Conservatives tried to bury the AODA’s fourth review, that rang alarm bells about accessibility in Ontario being in a ‘crisis’ state.

“Accessibility in Ontario is in a clear state of crisis and it’s shameful for this government to sit on a report of this importance,” said MPP Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain), NDP critic for Children, Community, and Social Services. “The crisis in accessibility is having a real, daily impact on the quality of life of millions of people in Ontario. Do the Conservatives think they can just dodge accountability for this?”

The Conservative government received a copy of the fourth and final AODA review in June of 2023. One of the report’s recommendations is for the government to urgently address Ontario’s poor accessibility measures as a ‘crisis’.

Ford’s Conservatives quietly released the report last week six months later.

“It speaks volumes that the Conservative government sat on this report for six months instead of taking immediate action to address this crisis,” said Taylor. “It’s clear they are not taking it seriously. We need urgent action to address this serious challenge, especially if we want to have any hope of getting anywhere near AODA standards by 2025.”

The AODA standard was passed into law in 2005, and mandated that Ontario be fully accessible by 2025. Ontario is likely to miss that target, after subsequent Liberal and Conservative governments have failed to take serious measures.

BACKGROUND

The third review of the AODA was a scathing admonishment of the Ford government, delivered in 2019 by former Lieutenant Governor, David Onley
The fourth review urges the government to convene a “Crisis Committee chaired by the Premier and co-chaired by the Secretary of Cabinet” within 30 days. This recommendation seems to have been ignored.