posted February 29, 2000 at 6:03 PM
(Letter from Isabel Bassett, Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation)
The government is committed to promoting equal opportunity for
people with disabilities through a new Ontarians with
Disabilities Act and other measures.
Over the past three years, the government has taken important
steps to improve access for people with disabilities. It has
taken people with disabilities off the welfare system and created
the Ontario Disability Support Program to provide income and
employment supports. It has committed over $1 billion a year to
school boards specifically for special education. It has improved
the standards in the Ontario Building Code to make buildings more
accessible to people with disabilities.
The 1998 Ontario Budget proposed further steps: a new Workplace
Accessibility Tax Incentive to help businesses accommodate people
with disabilities; and an expansion to the Retail Sales Tax
Rebate for personal use vehicles purchased to transport people
with physical disabilities, to include additional family members
and non-family care-providers.
Although progress has been made in improving access, Ontarians
with disabilities continue to face obstacles to participation. As
a result, Ontario loses skills, creativity and energy. Allowing
people with disabilities to contribute their potential to the
social and economic life of the province benefits all of us.
Some barriers can be prevented from ever happening. Others can be
removed quickly and at little cost. Still others will take more
Essential to preventing and removing barriers are partnerships:
Ontarians with disabilities, communities, business, labour,
service providers and governments working together to develop
Together we can make a difference. I look forward to receiving
your ideas on the questions included in this paper. Thank you for
participating in the consultation.
Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation
Getting to work, borrowing a book from the library, using a pay
phone, going to the movies, eating in a restaurant.
These seem like ordinary activities to most citizens, but this is
not the case for many Ontarians. Barriers can prevent Ontarians
with disabilities from participating in the community.
These barriers include: a lack of physical access; communication
barriers; policies or procedures that may not adapt to the needs
of individuals with disabilities; and attitudinal barriers.
Barriers vary from community to community and across different
areas, including employment, transportation, education and
training, health and social services, access to public
information and housing. Often, these areas are connected and co-
ordinated solutions are required.
People with disabilities aren't consciously excluded from
participating in the community. Usually barriers exist because
the needs of people with disabilities are not fully considered --
for example, when buildings are designed, or when services or
products are developed.
More businesses today recognize it makes good sense to have their
products and services accessible to the widest range of consumers
and clients. More employers realize their workplaces benefit from
the skills and talents of a diverse workforce. More people
understand the barriers faced by people with disabilities.
Attitudes are changing. Action is beginning to reflect these new
attitudes. But many believe change is slow and that creative
approaches are needed.
The government agrees. It believes that every person in Ontario
should have equal opportunity to participate in the life of the
2. Purpose of the Consultation
The purpose of this consultation is twofold: one, to focus ideas
for a new piece of legislation, an Ontarians with Disabilities
Act; and two, to consider other approaches in addition to the
The foundation for barrier prevention and removal is the Ontario
Human Rights Code. The Code provides persons with disabilities
the right to equal treatment without discrimination.
Preventing and removing barriers will complement the steps being
undertaken by individual government ministries to improve access
for people with disabilities. Various ministries offer programs
and services to support individuals with disabilities -- for
example, by providing technical aids and devices, attendant or
interpreter services and income support.
Information on the supports currently available to Ontarians with
disabilities is provided as an appendix to this paper.
The government is looking for your help in answering the three
broad questions listed below. Other, more specific questions can
be found in Part 5 of the paper.
What are the priorities for preventing and removing barriers?
What could a new Ontarians with Disabilities Act include to help
prevent and remove barriers?
What additional approaches could complement an Ontarians with
3. Principles and Parameters
This consultation is based on three principles:
- The province benefits when Ontarians with disabilities can
- The Human Rights Code provides Ontarians with disabilities the
right to equal treatment.
- Everyone has a role in preventing and removing barriers.
All ideas for removing barriers will be reviewed within the
context of the following parameters:
Priorities should be established for preventing and removing
Priority areas for action need to be identified. All the barriers
faced by Ontarians with disabilities cannot be removed at once.
Time frames for implementing approaches should be realistic.
Approaches should recognize that time frames for implementation
will vary depending on the sector and available resources.
Approaches should support the government's goals.
Approaches should be consistent with the government's overall
goals: a strong economy, job creation, high quality services, and
a balanced budget.
Approaches should use existing legislation and enforcement
The right to equal treatment without discrimination is already
provided by the Human Rights Code, including a process for
handling complaints. Existing legislation and enforcement
mechanisms will be used where they can effectively support the
goals of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. No new agency will
be created to administer and enforce the new Act.
A range of different approaches should be considered.
It will take a range of approaches to prevent and remove barriers
and may include: public education, technical assistance,
partnerships, incentives, self-regulation and government
Equal opportunity in the workplace should be promoted through
The government's Equal Opportunity Plan is a voluntary approach
to promoting equality in the workplace. Barrier removal ideas in
the area of employment should be consistent with this approach.
The roles and responsibilities of different levels of
government should be considered.
Suggested approaches should take into account the changing roles
and responsibilities of the federal government, province and
municipalities, including responsibility for making policy;
setting standards; and funding, managing and delivering services.
4. Legislative Context
Constitutional and Human Rights Legislation
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter) and the
Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) set the standards for
equality and access in Ontario.
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Since 1982, the Charter has protected the basic rights and
freedoms of Canadians. Section 15 of the Charter, which came into
effect in 1985, guarantees people with disabilities equal
protection and equal benefit of the law. The Charter applies to
activities of government, including law-making.
Human Rights Code
The Ontario Human Rights Code was enacted in 1962. In 1981,
"handicap" was added as a prohibited ground of discrimination.
The Code prohibits discrimination because of "handicap" in a
number of areas:
- goods, facilities and services -- social services, education,
publict ransportation, as well as services delivered by the
- membership in trade unions, trade or occupational associations,
and self-governing professions.
The Code applies to the provincial government, municipal
governments, the broader public and not-for-profit sectors, and
the private sector.
In general, the Code prevails over all Ontario legislation. It
applies to all areas discussed in this paper even where specific
legislation exists. For example, access to buildings is governed
by both the Ontario Building Code and the Human Rights Code.
The Human Rights Code requires employers, landlords and providers
of goods, services and facilities to accommodate the needs of
people with disabilities.
For over a decade, there have been more complaints to the Human
Rights Commission on the basis of disability than on any other
ground. In 1996-97, 29 per cent of complaints filed were
The protections of the Code are generally achieved by individuals
filing complaints after discrimination has occurred. While
individual complaints can remove barriers, many feel this is not
the best way of achieving broad, lasting change.
There is other legislation in Ontario that regulates standards in
specific areas to promote access for people with disabilities.
Some examples are provided here.
Ontario Building Code
Since the 1970s, the Ontario Building Code has set standards for
making buildings accessible to people with disabilities. These
standards, which were improved recently, cover:
- entrances, such as width of doors and ramps
- the path of travel, such as width of halls, floor areas and
- fire safety provisions
- passenger loading zones and access to parking.
Accessibility standards apply to some renovations and new
buildings, including apartment, condominium, commercial and
Ontario Corporations Tax Act
The Ontario Corporations Tax Act allows taxpayers to deduct the
reasonable costs of modifying income buildings or properties to
make them accessible to people with disabilities. The cost of
devices bought to help people who have sight or hearing
impairments can also be deducted.
Ontario Disability Support Program Act
The Ontario Disability Support Program Act provides a separate
income and employment support program for eligible persons with
disabilities. It removes persons with disabilities from the
welfare system and provides them with assistance that recognizes
their unique needs.
Ontario's Education Act includes provisions to address the needs
of students with disabilities who have been identified as
"exceptional pupils". School boards must provide special
education programs and services to these students.
Blind Person's Rights Act
The Blind Person's Rights Act deals with the use of guide dogs
and white canes. The Act prohibits discrimination against people
who use guide dogs.
Highway Traffic Act
The Highway Traffic Act regulates safety devices on accessible
urban transit buses.
Ontario's Election Act addresses the needs of people with
disabilities. For example:
- institutions such as hospitals or psychiatric facilities with
20 or more beds for people with disabilities must have a polling
- advanced polling stations must be accessible to people who use
- deputy returning officers or friends can assist people who need
help marking their ballots
- ballot boxes can be moved to make it easier for people with
disabilities to vote.
An Ontarians with Disabilities Act could include a variety of
approaches to improve access for people with disabilities. It
could regulate mandatory requirements in some areas and help or
encourage action in others. Other strategies could be developed
to support the goals of an Act.
Some examples are provided here to stimulate discussion on a
variety of approaches which could be adopted. These examples are
- Regulating Requirements
- Industry Self-Regulation
- Government Policies
- Information Technology
- Public Education and Technical Assistance
- Best Practices
- Evaluating Progress
What types of regulatory requirements could be included in an
Ontarians with Disabilities Act?
Ontario currently regulates access for people with disabilities
in various areas, such as education and the construction of new
Legislation can regulate specific standards. The Ontario Building
Code is an example of this. It tells builders how wide
entranceways must be to accommodate wheelchairs. Developing these
kinds of standards takes time and consultation with all sectors
In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act sets some
accessibility standards for new buses, trains and stations. In
some cases, these standards are phased in to reflect the time and
cost of alterations.
Legislation can also require that certain processes be
undertaken. For example, an Act could require a review of
existing legislation or policies to identify barriers, and the
development of plans to prevent and remove barriers.
What is needed to encourage and support self-regulation?
As a matter of good business practice, some industries have taken
steps to remove barriers to people with disabilities.
Last year, the Canadian Transportation Agency worked with
federally-regulated rail carriers to develop a code of practice
to improve the accessibility of passenger rail travel to people
with disabilities. Their code specifies accessibility criteria
for rail cars and services.
The Ontario Hotel and Motel Association, as a member of the Hotel
Association of Canada, assisted in the development of the Access
Canada Training Program to help hotel staff become more confident
and efficient in serving seniors and people with disabilities.
The program includes information on seniors and people with
disabilities, what makes a hotel accessible, and how to provide
the best possible service.
What kinds of incentives could promote barrier prevention and
Tax breaks, rebates, grants, awards or other kinds of incentives
can encourage barrier removal. Ontario provides a tax incentive
to corporations that make their facilities accessible. Revenue
Canada offers a similar incentive.
The 1998 Ontario Budget proposed a new, accelerated tax incentive
to support the efforts of businesses to accommodate employees
with disabilities. As well, the Budget proposed that the Retail
Sales Tax rebate for personal use vehicles bought to transport
people with physical disabilities be expanded to include other
family members and non-family care-providers.
Some Canadian car manufacturers offer reimbursements to customers
who modify their vehicles to make them more accessible to people
The Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation's Access
Fund, delivered by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, gives money
to community-based, not-for-profit organizations to retrofit
their buildings to increase access for Ontarians with
In 1996, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)
launched the FlexHousing Design Competition to encourage the
development of housing that adapts to the changes people go
through as they age. CMHC posts winners of its awards on its Web
site and distributes flyers promoting examples of flexible
housing. The Nouvelle Development Corporation recently won the
competition; it designed storage spaces that could later serve as
How can government use policies to continue promoting barrier
prevention and removal?
Policies can help to prevent and remove barriers and promote
access to government information and services.
Ontario encourages government offices to provide information and
publications in alternate formats -- for example, large print,
Braille, audio cassette, computer disk and TTY phone lines.
In 1994, the Australian government adopted a 10-year voluntary
planning strategy to ensure its facilities, programs and services
are accessible to people with disabilities. The strategy requires
the government to develop action plans identifying barriers and
setting time frames for removing them.
How could information technology be used to promote access for
people with disabilities?
Rapid developments in information technology provide many new
- share information on removing and preventing barriers
- provide training and distance education
- connect employers with people with disabilities
- expand public access to information and research.
Ontario has a strategy for the use of information technology by
the public service, which includes accessibility for all groups
as a key part of its vision. The government is encouraging its
ministries to consider the needs of people with disabilities when
putting new information technology in place.
Technologies, such as the Internet and automated service kiosks,
can be very important tools for people with disabilities -- if
they are designed with their needs in mind.
The Royal Bank developed Canada's first Audio Banking Machine.
The machine helps customers who have difficulty reading the
screen and allows transactions to be performed via a discrete and
friendly voice system.
Public Education and Technical Assistance
How can public education activities and technical advice be used
to promote barrier prevention and removal?
Information for job seekers with disabilities and employers is
available on Ontario's Equal Opportunity Web site,
Using the Web site's interactive live conferences, employers and
others can receive technical assistance from experts on removing
barriers in the workplace. As well, 24-hour discussion groups
encourage people to share information on equal opportunity
Some professional associations offer education and assistance to
their members on removing barriers and accommodating the needs of
people with disabilities.
For example, in March, 1998, the Human Resources Professionals
Association of Ontario held a conference called "Breaking the
Barriers -- New Approaches for Persons with Disabilities" to help
employers address the needs of employees with disabilities.
How can best practices be promoted and shared?
Developing and sharing information on best practices is critical
to preventing and removing barriers. Best practices are creative
ways of doing things (programs, procedures) that have been
Often, best practices are tailor-made to reflect the needs and
opportunities of a specific sector.
The Anne Johnston Health Station offers health and social
services to seniors and youth in North Toronto and people with
spinal cord-related disabilities throughout Toronto. The centre
is a leader in barrier-free design for this third group.
The building's features include: extra-wide hallways so two
wheelchairs or scooters can pass each other; oversized medical
examination rooms with tables that can be adjusted for height and
position; washrooms with wheelchair access features surpassing
Ontario Building Code requirements; and on-site personal
Sudbury's Cambrian College opened The Glenn Crombie Centre
(formerly the Special Needs Regional Resource Centre) in 1996.
The centre offers unique educational resources and services for
people with disabilities. Its assistive learning technologies and
state-of-the-art universal building design are models for
national and international visitors.
How can partnerships be used to facilitate the prevention and
removal of barriers?
Partnerships -- where information, expertise and resources are
shared -- are key to preventing and removing barriers.
In 1996, Ontario introduced the Community Transportation Action
Program to provide transitional support to Ontario communities
interested in co-ordinating local transportation. The program
helps develop partnerships among public, private and volunteer
sectors of communities. For example, in the Hamilton-Wentworth
region, specialized school buses now carry people with
disabilities and seniors between student runs.
Researchers at the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre at the
University of Toronto work with private sector partners to make
the World Wide Web more accessible. For example, they have
developed a tool to help people create Web pages that can be used
by people who are blind or visually impaired. This approach helps
ensure that disability-related needs are incorporated into the
design stage and avoids costly adaptations later.
How can we evaluate progress in preventing and removing barriers?
Whatever approaches are used to prevent and remove barriers, it
is important to monitor and evaluate progress.
For example, a process could be put in place to ensure that
policy and program proposals are reviewed to identify those where
barrier issues may arise or be addressed.
Ontario ministries could review their legislation, policies and
programs to identify those that are priorities for barrier
prevention and removal.
Each ministry's business plan -- a public document -- could
reflect the steps that will be taken to identify and remove
Regular reports could be presented to the Legislature on the
progress made in preventing and removing barriers for Ontarians
6. Review of Consultation Questions
The questions contained in the discussion paper are listed here:
1. What are the priorities for preventing and removing barriers?
2. What could a new Ontarians with Disabilities Act include to
help prevent and remove barriers?
3. What additional approaches could complement an Ontarians with
4. What types of regulatory requirements could be included in an
Ontarians with Disabilities Act?
5. What is needed to encourage and support self-regulation?
6. What kinds of incentives could promote barrier prevention and
7. How can government use policies to continue promoting barrier
prevention and removal?
8. How could information technology be used to promote access for
people with disabilities?
9. How can public education activities and technical advice be
used to promote barrier prevention and removal?
10. How can best practices be promoted and shared?
11. How can partnerships be used to facilitate the prevention and
removal of barriers?
12. How can we evaluate progress in preventing and removing
7. How to Provide Input
All interested individuals and groups are invited to provide
input into the consultation. All submissions will be carefully
Submissions should be received by Friday, September 4, 1998.
Please send your submission to:
Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation
Equal Opportunity and Access Branch
77 Bloor Street West, 7th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2R9
You may also fax your comments to: (416) 314-7307 or (416)
or e-mail them to: ODA@mczcr.gov.on.ca
or complete your submission on-line.
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