Advancing Accessibility in Ontario: Government to lead by example
Enhancing accessibility is a priority for the government. The province has elevated accessibility as a commitment by creating a dedicated Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility to work towards a more accessible and inclusive Ontario today and for future generations.
Advancing Accessibility in Ontario is a cross-government framework that will help focus the government's work in four key areas:
- breaking down barriers in the built environment
- government leading by example in its role as a policy maker, service provider and employer
- increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities and
- improving understanding and awareness about accessibility
The government leading by example demonstrates Ontario's leadership in improving accessibility in its role as a policy maker, service provider and employer.
In its role as a policy maker, the government is making significant progress in implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and as an organization is leading the way by:
- Ensuring ministries are taking accessibility into account as a key consideration when developing policies.
- Addressing barriers in the health care sector, such as a greater need for sensitivity when communicating with people with disabilities, by resuming the Health Care Standards Development Committee to develop recommendations for proposed accessibility standards for hospitals in regulation under the AODA. This committee is comprised of people with disabilities, disability organizations and sector experts.
- Making sure students with disabilities have the supports they need to transition from one school system to another by resuming the K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees to provide recommendations on how to make the education sector more inclusive. These committees will develop recommendations for proposed accessibility standards in regulation under the AODA.
- Considering recommendations from the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee to assess how to make information and digital communications more accessible.
- Creating more inclusive learning environments by providing educators with accessibility training, lesson plans and resources through the TeachAble Project website. The site was created with funding from the government's EnAbling Change Program and gives people who work with students ways to create awareness about accessibility in the classroom.
- Providing clearer and more transparent processes for families requesting service animals accompany their children to school, no matter where they live in Ontario. As of January 1, 2020, Ontario school boards are required to implement their service animal policies. This support will help all students be successful.
- Providing organizations and the public with practical tips on how to be more accessible by delivering regular free webinars on various topics, such as accessible transit and creating accessible tourism experiences and customer service in Ontario.
- Improving accessibility as part of broader efforts being made with the federal government and other provinces.
In its role as a service provider, the government is working to provide barrier-free services through initiatives including:
- Better serving transit users and commuters by investing in improvements to the GO transit experience as part of the GO Expansion program. Progress continues at the five remaining GO stations in the Greater Toronto Area that are not yet accessible, including installing ramps and platform elevators as needed.
- Continuing to improve accessibility on trails, beaches and provincial parks in Ontario by adding features like mobility mats to make it easier for everyone to use public spaces.
- Streamlining the Accessible Parking Permit process to reduce misuse while ensuring access by making it easier for people 80 years of age and older, Canadian veterans of any age and certain people with disabilities to apply for an accessible parking permit.
- Investing $1.07 million in 2019-20 to support Abilities Centre in Whitby to advance inclusion and accessibility for people of all ages and abilities. Initiatives include:
- researching social inclusion and social enterprise
- developing a pre-employment skills program
- piloting a 12-week pan-disability program for adults with disabilities
- supporting local private and non-profit sector organizations to develop inclusion and accessibility plans
- Improving community agencies across Ontario through the annual Partner Facility Renewal program, which includes an investment totalling $11.5 million that goes towards more than 350 upgrade and repair projects. This program includes an investment of more than $1.6 million for building repairs and upgrades at community agencies across northern Ontario so they can continue providing services to children and families. For example, a new elevator will be installed at Ontario Native Women's Association, helping to make the building more accessible.
- Continuing to help Ontario residents with long-term mobility disabilities remain in their homes and participate in their communities by funding the Home & Vehicle Modification Program, which is administered by March of Dimes Canada. With an annual investment of $10.6 million, this program reduces safety risks by approving grants up to $15,000 to make basic home and vehicle modifications.
- Addressing barriers in the digital environment to move towards a modern digital approach so that our accessibility resources, reports and publicly available data are easier to access. For example:
- We're making it easier for people who are blind to use Ontario GeoHub, a website that provides descriptive information about the characteristics, quality and context of Ontario's geospatial data. For this project, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry collaborated with the Canadian National Institute of the Blind, which led to helpful adjustments to the site that make it more user friendly for people with disabilities. The ministry will use these learnings to inform how it delivers digital services moving forward.
In its role as an employer and as an organization, the government is working to establish a more inclusive employment culture in the OPS by:
- Supporting OPS employees - roughly 12 per cent of which self-identify as having a disability - and ministries to meet the requirements of the AODA and embed accessibility into internal activities through the Ontario Public Service Accessibility Office, which serves as an accessibility centre of excellence.
- Addressing systemic barriers and gaps through Deputy Ministers' committees within the OPS. These groups work on accessibility planning and implementation across government, as well as ensure accessibility is meaningfully reflected in government policies, programs and initiatives. This helps to improve access to government services for the public, which enhances health, employment and social inclusion.
- Using the OPS' annual Multi-Year Accessibility Plan Report to summarize the OPS' work to prevent and remove barriers to accessibility. The OPS also works to help foster a culture of inclusion both within the organization and across the province.
- Increasing opportunities for hands-on work experience and training in the OPS for youth with disabilities by expanding eligibility for the Ontario Internship Program. The criteria have recently changed so that students with disabilities that have graduated within the last five years - rather than two years - can now apply to the year-long program.
- Expanding the professional networks of youth with disabilities by connecting them with mentors across the OPS and broader public sector through Connexions, an annual session that helps post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities prepare for the job market by practicing job-seeking skills.