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Ontario Responds to Recommendations from Mayo Moran's Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

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Ontario Responds to Recommendations from Mayo Moran's Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Ontario is responding to a comprehensive review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).

The review and report, by Provost Mayo Moran, Vice Chancellor and Provost of Trinity College at the University of Toronto, is helping to chart the course to an accessible Ontario by 2025.

Regular reviews of the act are required to make sure the legislation is working as intended and to identify where improvements can be made. The first review was conducted by Charles Beer in 2010.

Significant progress has been made since this review, including streamlining the functions of the advisory councils that play a key role in reviewing and developing accessibility standards, as well as harmonizing accessibility standards under the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation in order to make it easier for organizations to comply.

Provost Moran's review lays out eight themes for change with supporting recommendations.

The Ontario government was pleased to receive Provost Moran's findings and is already moving on a number of the recommendations. Her comprehensive examination of our legislative framework highlights and includes advice on what we can do on our path towards an accessible Ontario by 2025.

Accessibility is a journey we all share. The Government of Ontario would like to thank Mayo Moran for her comprehensive review. The recommendations contained in her report have been key to informing The Path to 2025: Ontario's Accessibility Action Plan. They will help us to strengthen the foundation Ontario has built since 2005 and continue our journey towards a dynamic economy and a strong inclusive society.

The following outlines Provost Moran's key themes and the steps the government has already taken, or will take, to implement them:

  1. Renew Government Leadership

The Ontario Public Service (OPS) has taken important steps to strengthen its leadership on accessibility and is committed to leading by example on accessibility and inclusion.

The OPS is committed to building an inclusive, equitable and accessible organization and has developed:

  • A Disability Support Strategy to promote a healthy, inclusive and engaged public service. This strategy has also made improvements to employment accommodation and return to work policies.
  • Tools and resources to foster a more accessible organization including:
    • The OPS Inclusion Lens -- a web-based tool to make inclusion a part of day-to-day work.
    • Accessibility@Source -- a web-based tool that provides clear information on how to build accessibility into products and processes, including procurements, documents and employee accommodation.

We also undertook a government-wide review of 51 high-impact pieces of legislation related to health, education, seniors and social services to identify barriers to accessibility. The review identified strategies to address existing barriers, such as those found in appeals processes, timelines and forms.

Our efforts are being recognized. The OPS has been named one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers for eight years, and we will continue working hard to maintain this standing.

  1. Public Awareness

In their reports, both Charles Beer and Mayo Moran highlighted the importance of public awareness campaigns to promote the value of accessibility to society.

Last fall, Ontario launched a campaign to increase awareness among small- and medium-sized businesses of the value of accessibility and the need to comply with the AODA. The campaign was a success. The number of reports filed by the 2014 reporting deadline increased by 150 per cent compared to 2012.

Our government is encouraged by these results and plans to launch additional awareness campaign this fall.

This summer, we have the unprecedented opportunity to welcome over 250,000 athletes, spectators and tourists of all abilities as Ontario hosts the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. Live broadcast of selected events -- the biggest Parapan coverage ever -- will introduce millions of viewers to parasport and the abilities of people with disabilities.

We are also working with public transit agencies, municipalities and TO2015 to make accessible transportation a priority for the games. Visitors will have the chance to experience games venues that meet or exceed provincial accessibility standards. And, more than 23,000 volunteers will be trained in accessibility and focused on helping people of all abilities enjoy the games.

As Provost Moran suggests, the games are our opportunity to show the world Ontario at its best -- a dynamic economy, a vibrant and diverse culture and an accessible, inclusive province.

  1. Compliance Support

Provost Moran's consultations confirmed that there is strong support for the AODA's vision of an inclusive Ontario. During her review, an overwhelming number of organizations expressed that they want to do the right thing and comply with this important law. As a result, Provost Moran has recommended better promotion of existing resources and simplifying standards.

As a result, the Government of Ontario has taken the following steps:

  • A help desk to provide assistance with questions about accessibility requirements and to receive both positive and negative feedback. The information is tracked and may inform future policy decisions.
  • Policy guidelines with practical examples.
  • Web-based training videos.
  • Online templates to help organizations understand and meet their accessibility. requirements
  • Extensive education and outreach activities across Ontario.

We are exploring the development of other resources, such as bulletins, to clarify requirements for specific sectors.

We are also making our website easier for users to navigate so they can find the information they are looking for.

And we will direct future Standards Development Committees to treat simplification and clarity as guiding principles when reviewing or developing accessibility standards.

  1. Enforcement

Last year, the government released a compliance action plan outlining compliance and enforcement activities with the private, public and non-profit sectors across Ontario. Earlier this year, we reported on the results of these activities.

Making sure organizations comply with the law is a priority for our government. We plan to make our compliance and enforcement plan public and annually report on our progress. These annual updates will outline the previous year's results and publicize targets and the plan for the following year.

For example, in 2014, 2,000 audits were completed and over 300 Directors Orders with monetary penalties were issued.

Ontario is looking at ways to improve enforcement, such as partnering with the private sector to increase current audit targets, using tools such as audit blitzes.

Provost Moran recommended ways for the public to report on violations of the AODA. While individuals are encouraged to provide feedback directly to businesses, the public may also submit feedback about the AODA to the government through the mail, over the phone or by email.

We have also boosted our ability to track incoming complaints and feedback. Public feedback will be used to inform trends analysis, as well as legislative reviews, outreach, compliance and enforcement activities.

  1. Ontario Human Rights Code

Provost Moran found that the relationship between the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA causes confusion for many obligated organizations and recommended the government take steps to provide clarification.

Ontario works closely with the Human Rights Commission to help private, public and non-profit sectors understand how the AODA and the code work together to promote inclusion and accessibility. An e-learning video has been developed to clarify how the code and the act complement each other. Additional ways to clarify the relationship between the two are being explored.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission regularly participates in public consultations held by the government to develop and review standards.

  1. New Standards

Ontario plans to move forward to address barriers to accessibility in the health care sector.

Provost Moran recommended the government consult with stakeholders to identify accessibility gaps not already addressed by the existing standards and assess the need for additional standards. She also acknowledged current gaps in the system may be closed once all requirements under the AODA come into effect.

Ontario will examine how current standards are being implemented and investigate gaps that may exist in the health sector. This analysis will illuminate barriers that can be overcome through education, outreach and new standards.

Moran also suggested that government consider establishing requirements for building retrofits to remove architectural barriers. On January 1, 2015, amendments to Ontario's Building Code came into force that will enhance accessibility in newly constructed buildings and existing buildings that are scheduled to undergo extensive renovations.

  1. Accessibility Beyond the AODA

Provost Moran recommended Ontario boost its efforts to create inclusive environments by encouraging and supporting accessibility planning beyond the AODA.

Building on our accomplishments beyond the province's accessibility law is an important goal for our government.

Ontario is working to celebrate our accessibility leaders so that others may be inspired to take similar action. The province introduced an annual David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility in honour of our province's 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, who is a passionate advocate for accessibility.

The award recognizes individuals or organizations that have gone above and beyond in improving accessibility for people with disabilities. It also celebrates people who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment in supporting awareness of accessibility and disability issues.

Currently, the government is not pursuing the tax incentives for accessibility recommended by Provost Moran. We are undertaking work with the private sector and the disability community to explore a voluntary third-party certification program to give businesses an incentive to go beyond what is required under the AODA, and promote their accessibility achievements. The government feels that this approach better meets the needs of the disability community while encouraging more businesses to embrace the culture shift towards going beyond legislative requirements.

  1. Improving AODA Processes

Provost Moran provided valuable insight on how to improve processes under the AODA and advance the goal of accessibility in Ontario.

Ontario is carefully considering how to repeal sections of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In response to Provost Moran's recommendation, our government will work with stakeholders on the steps the government could take regarding the timing of ongoing reviews of the act and accessibility standards. This would allow for collaboration with key stakeholders and the collection of critical implementation and compliance data to inform future reviews.

Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees (AACs) are an important part of making communities work. Municipalities have authority to seek advice from AACs on a range of accessibility priorities impacting their communities, including implementation of all accessibility standards. Ontario will work with municipalities to explore how current Accessibility Advisory Committees are supporting their needs.

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