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Ontario Government's
New ODA Bill 125

February 2, 2002



December 13, 2001



Here is an explanation of the amendments which the Legislature's Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs made to Bill 125, during its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill on Tuesday, December 11, 2001. Because the Conservative Government has a majority on that Committee, it totally controlled which amendments would pass and which ones would be defeated. This summary does not review the content of the amendments that the Government defeated.

These amendments, taken together, do not make this bill "strong and effective,"
as was promised in the Ontario Legislature's unanimous resolution of November
23, 1999. They do not bring the bill into compliance with all 11 principles for
the ODA, which the Ontario Legislature approved by a unanimous resolution
passed on October 29, 1998. They do not fulfil the Government's own November 1,
2001 "Vision Statement" calling for a barrier-free Ontario.

Despite this, it is important to note that these amendments do make a number of
improvements to the bill. These amendments respond to some of the criticisms of
the bill and some of the proposed recommendations for amendments, which the ODA
Committee and other ODA supporters brought forward in their presentations and
briefs to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

Even though the Government rejected most of the amendments that were proposed,
all our efforts did have an impact. We can only imagine what better amendments
could have been made, had the Government listened more effectively. We can only
imagine how much better this bill would be, had the Government allowed for full
and barrier-free hearings, at which persons with disabilities were not impeded
by barriers from attending and fully participating.

These amendments cover fully 15 of the 33 sections of this bill. This shows how
problematic was the original version of the bill, even disregarding all the
many additional proposed amendments from the Liberals and the NDP, which the
Government rejected. It was evident at the meeting that staff of Citizenship
Minister Cam Jackson, present at the meeting, were passing notes to the
Conservative Government MPPs on the Standing Committee. It is reasonable to
expect that the Minister's staff was directing the Conservative MPPs on what
positions to take on the amendments.


The definition of "barrier" was considerably broadened to include: "anything
that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in all
aspects of society because of his or her disability, including a physical
barrier, an architectural barrier, an information or communications barrier, an
attitudinal barrier, a technological barrier, a policy or a practice." This
removed the bill's previous requirement, that something could be a barrier only
if it blocked persons with disabilities while not blocking anyone else. It also
added some additional examples of barriers. This list is not intended to be
exhaustive. This was the only Liberal Party amendment that the Government


The bill's definition of "disability" in s. 2 and the corresponding definition
of disability in the Ontario Human Rights Code was amended to explicitly
include "a brain injury."


Section 3 of the bill was amended by the only NDP proposal which the
Conservative Government accepted, to provide that nothing in the ODA
"diminishes in any way the existing legal obligations of the Government of
Ontario or any person or organization with respect to persons with
disabilities." This provides a better assurance that nothing in the ODA can be
used to reduce the rights of persons with disabilities. Originally, the bill
had said only that nothing in the ODA "limits the operation of the Human Rights


Perhaps the most significant change to the bill which the
amendments make is to provide for an avenue for public input into regulations.
In Ontario, there is usually no legal process provided to ensure that the
public has input into regulations. The
amendments include the following new step for this process: before Cabinet can
make any regulation under s. 22 of this bill, it must first publish a draft of
it in The Ontario Gazette, and allow interested persons a reasonable
opportunity to make comments on the draft to the Accessibility Directorate of
Ontario. We will, therefore, have advance notice of possible new regulations,
and a chance to voice our concerns and suggestions. There is no assurance that
the Government will listen to this advice, but the door is opened for us to try
to have our say.


Section 6 was amended to require the Ontario Government to "provide its
internet sites in a format that is accessible to persons with disabilities,
unless it is not technically feasible to do so." This changed the wording in
the original bill, which had required the Government to provide accessible
websites "where technically feasible." The burden of justifying an inaccessible
Ontario Government website is now placed on the Government. Thus, the burden is
now on the Government to make each of its websites accessible, unless the
Government can show that it is not
technically feasible in a particular instance.


Section 7 of the bill was replaced with new wording requiring that, after the
Government of Ontario receives a request for a Government publication in an
accessible format, "the Government of Ontario shall make an Ontario Government
publication available in a format that is accessible to the person, unless it
is not technically feasible to do so." As in the amendment to s. 6, this
reversed the burden from the original bill. The bill originally said that the
Government had to provide these publications in an alternative format, only
"where technically feasible." The bill, as amended now, presumes that all
publications can be made available in an alternative format, and exempts the
Government from this provision only where it could show that it is not
technically feasible.

As in the case of s. 6, however, the bill does not provide a place to go to
complain and to get enforcement, beyond existing rights to make complaints to
the Ontario Human Rights Commission.


The amendments make the following changes regarding municipalities:

(a) The amendments cause all municipalities to make annual
accessibility plans. Previously, the bill had required this only of
municipalities with a population of at least 10,000.

(b) The municipality is required to undertake consultations on the preparation,
implementation and effectiveness of its accessibility plan. If the municipality
has a population of at least 10,000, it must do this consultation with its
disability advisory committee. If the municipality has a smaller population, it
may either establish a disability advisory committee to consult with, or
consult directly with persons with disabilities and others.

(c) A majority of the municipal disability advisory committee must now be made
up of persons with disabilities. The original bill had no such majority

(d) The amendments empower the municipal advisory committees to review site
plans and drawings under the Municipal Act, which the Committee can request the
municipal council to provide. The amendment does not require the municipality
or anyone else to accept any advice on the site plans that the advisory
committee might give.

(e) Where more than one municipality or other body identified in the
regulations are allowed to make a joint accessibility plan, they are also
allowed by the amendments to establish a joint disability accessibility


The amendments require public transit organizations and "scheduled
organizations" (i.e. hospitals and universities) to consult with persons with
disabilities and "others" in preparing their annual accessibility plans.


The amendments provide for an enforcement mechanism for ministries,
municipalities, public transit organizations and other
organizations if they are required to make an accessibility plan, and either
don't make the plan at all or don't make their plan public. The amendments make
it an offence punishable by a fine up to $50,000.00, either to fail to make a
plan where required, or to fail to make the plan public. It is similarly an
offence for a municipality to fail to establish a municipal disability advisory
committee, where it is required to do so under the bill. Those organizations
which the bill defines as an "agency," and which are required to make an
accessibility "policy," (not an annual plan) commit an offence with the same
penalty, if they fail to make an accessibility policy.


The amendments add to the role of the provincial disability advisory council
the tasks of advising, at the minister's
direction, on the implementation of the ODA and the preparation of regulations.
The original provision, on advising the minister on access by persons with
disabilities to employment in Ontario, has also been replaced with these words:
"the accessibility for persons with disabilities to employment opportunities in
economic sectors in Ontario." It is not clear that this adds anything of


The amendments would oblige the directorate, a new government office, to do the
following, in addition to other tasks already outlined in the bill, all at the
minister's direction:

(a) consult with the provincial disability advisory council;

(b) ask that organizations which produce accessibility plans or policies
provide them to the directorate;

(c) review these plans or policies;
(d) consult, as the minister directs, with the provincial advisory council,
persons with disabilities, and others that the minister directs, to develop
codes, codes of conduct, formulae, standards, guidelines, protocols and
procedures under the bill. This
presumably was intended to relate to voluntary codes for them private sector;

(e) consider the feedback that the government receives on draft regulations,
and provide recommendations to the minister on these.


The amendments change the Municipal Elections Act. That Act will now require
that vision impaired voters be provided with a ballot that they can mark
without assistance, during a municipal election. Previously, this had not been
mandatory. It had only been optional.


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