Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho Finally Breaks Months of Radio Silence and Writes the AODA Alliance, But Tells Us Nothing New and Does Not Agree to Meet

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

December 19, 2023

SUMMARY

On December 19, 2023, after many months of complete radio silence, Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho finally wrote the AODA Alliance. His short letter is set out below.

Minister Cho’s letter does not answer our request for a meeting. It tells us nothing new.

What is the background to this letter? On November 10, 2023, we wrote Premier Doug Ford. We asked him for an urgent meeting. We urged him to take leadership on the issue of leading Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. We also asked him to help us get a meeting with Accessibility Raymond Cho, writing:

“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.”

On November 17, 2023, the Cabinet Office’s Correspondence Unit wrote us. Premier Ford once again refused to meet with us. Our November 10, 2023 letter to Premier Ford was being referred to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho the very Minister whose office has failed to answer any efforts by us to make contact in over two years.

The bottom line? Premier Ford told us nothing new and did not agree to meet with us. He punted our inquiry over to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho. Minister Cho told us nothing new and does not agree to meet with us.

While this is all going on, Premier Ford and his Cabinet, Including Accessibility Minister Cho, have known for months that the person they hand-picked to conduct the 4th Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Mr. Rich Donovan, had told them in the clearest terms that the issue of inaccessibility facing 2.9 million Ontarians with disabilities is now a crisis. It requires an urgent crisis response, to be led by Premier Ford, Donovan’s Final Report declared.

There is no indication that the Government has done anything about this crisis. Instead, it kept the final Rich Donovan Report secret for over six months, even though the AODA required that it be made public.

Could it get worse? We regret that it does. In his short December 19, 2023 letter, Minister Cho makes the following claim:

“Our government continues to make investments across the province to meet and exceed the standards set out in the AODA. Project by project, community by community, every dollar the government invests in infrastructure, programs and services has a focus of making our communities accessible to people of all abilities. This includes each new and retrofitted hospital, school, long-term care home, courthouse and provincial building.”

Yet the accessibility standards that have been enacted to date under the AODA set virtually no accessibility requirements for the infrastructure spending to which the Minister refers. We have called on the Government for years to ensure that such expenditures are tied to accessibility, so that public money is never used to create new accessibility barriers. The Government has failed to do this.

As but one example, for over three years, we have urged the Ford Government to set new provincial requirements to ensure that new schools, built with public money, are fully accessible. The July 30, 2020 AODA Alliance Update had this headline: “Ford Government to Spend Over a Half Billion Dollars on New Schools and Major School Additions, Without Announcing Effective Measures to Ensure that These Schools Will be Fully Accessible to Students, Parents and School Staff with Disabilities”. The Government has never responded to us nor announced any new strategies to achieve this.

In his new letter, Minister Cho wrote:

“Ontario is focused on being a leader in accessibility. ”

This claim is completely refuted by the blistering finings in the 2019 final report of the 3rd AODA Independent Review conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, the March 2023 Interim Report of Rich Donovan’s 4th AODA Independent Review and Rich Donovan’s June 2023 Final Report.

Let your local media know about Minister Cho’s letter, and what you think about it.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the December 19, 2023 Letter from Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

Via Email
December 19, 2023

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your email to the Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, regarding accessibility in Ontario and the final report of the Fourth Legislative Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). I appreciate you writing to share your perspective.

Ontario is focused on being a leader in accessibility. Achieving accessibility is an ongoing and collaborative effort and this government is working with our partners to meet our goal to improve accessibility throughout the province.

Our government continues to make investments across the province to meet and exceed the standards set out in the AODA. Project by project, community by community, every dollar the government invests in infrastructure, programs and services has a focus of making our communities accessible to people of all abilities. This includes each new and retrofitted hospital, school, long-term care home, courthouse and provincial building.

In his report, Mr. Donovan provided comprehensive recommendations and observations of accessibility in Ontario that require careful review and consideration. Given the complexity and expansive scope required when addressing issues around accessibility, 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.

We will continue to work together with our partners and across government to address the other recommendations that could help us meet, achieve or exceed AODA standards by 2025.

We appreciate your interest in the work of the ministry. Our government will continue to welcome feedback and contributions from stakeholders and disability advocates, and we look forward to collaborating with all our partners to continue building an Ontario that enables inclusion, participation and dignity for all Ontarians.

Thank you again for writing and sharing your perspective with me. Please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,
Honourable Raymond Cho
Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

c: The Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario