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Roeher Institute Report on the ADA


During the Harris Government's first term in office, while Marilyn
Mushinski served as the Harris Government's first Citizenship Minister,
the Ontario Citizenship Ministry retained the services of the Toronto-
based Roeher Institute to prepare a report on the impact of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
. The Roeher Institute
submitted its report to the Ministry in 1997. The Minister had said that
she was holding off undertaking a public consultation on the ODA until
this report was received.

The Ministry gave a copy of the Roeher Institute's report to the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee in 1997. Here is the
text of that eport

The ODA Committee gave the Harris Government's second
Citizenship Minister Isabel Bassett feedback on this report on
August 4, 1998, as part of its input during the Minister's closed
consultation meetings. As part of its presentation, the ODA
Committee delegation said the following about the ADA and the
Roeher Institute report:

"We have reviewed a great deal of studies and data on the
impact of the ADA, as well as the report prepared for your
ministry by the Roeher Institute on the effectiveness and the
cost/benefit of the ADA. It is important in reviewing all of
this material to remember that while the ADA was passed more than
eight years ago, many parts of the law only came into effect two
years ago. As We share the main conclusion of the Roeher report,
namely that there were many positive benefits and some
weaknesses. We should keep in mind, however, that when compared
with progress in Ontario even the weaknesses of the ADA surpass
our own record.

We want to briefly comment on some specific aspects of the Roeher
report. In dealing with enforcement, the report says that the
ADA uses a complaints-driven approach to enforcement that has
resulted in procedural backlogs and delays. While individual
complaints are one component of the ADA, the report fails to take
into account that the ADA has been most effective in those areas
where standards have been set by regulation, such as
transportation. It has also been very effective where a public
body has assumed responsibility for the systemic enforcement of
the act. This occurs primarily in the area of public and private

The fact that the ADA is not as effective where it relies
primarily on individual complaints, supports our position that
the current Ontario Human Rights Code, which also depends on
individual complaints, is not the most effective way to remove
and prevent barriers. At least under the ADA where the public
enforcement body does not act quickly enough individuals can
still go through the Court systems. This is not true with the
Ontario Human Rights Code, but it is worth considering under the

There are several studies done by the General Accounting Office
in the US that were not included in the Roeher Report. These
massive surveys on barrier removal in the area of selected
private services shows remarkable progress. We would be glad to
provide you with information about these reports on your request.
There is also nothing in the Roeher Report about the significant
changes in transportation that have occurred under the ADA nor
the improved representation of people with disabilities among the
graduates of post-secondary institutions.

It is also easy to find critics of any system and those quoted in
the Roeher report are no exception. We want to point out,
however, that in a major Lou Harris U.S. Poll conducted in 1995
they found that only 9% of U.S. business executives wanted the
ADA weakened, while 82% thought the ADA's benefits were worth the
cost. A poll released just last month found the average cost of
accommodation was $300.

Similarly, while some advocates for people with disabilities
criticized the ADA, 96% of the people with disabilities
questioned in a major survey done for the United Cerebral Palsy
Association in 1996 indicated that the ADA already made a
positive difference in their lives.

We urge you to look at the picture as a whole. The ADA was
passed by a Republican administration, committed to less
regulation of business, in a country which is acknowledged to
allow a less active role for government. More recently, when
Congress was considering its legislation to prohibit unfunded
mandates, the ADA was specifically excluded from these
restrictions. This shows that even in the U.S., there is an
important bi-partisan recognition of the important role that
government must play, in enacting and enforcing mandatory
legislation in this field, including in the area of employment.
The ADA has made a difference and comprehensive disability
legislation, which takes into account what we can learn, both
positive and negative from the ADA, will do the same in Ontario."

It is significant that two years after this presentation to
Minister Bassett, when a delegation of the ODA Committee met with
the Harris Government's third Citizenship Minister, Helen Johns,
on September 8, 2000, Minister Johns indicated that she had no
knowledge of this report. This was the case even though Minister
Johns had said she and the Ministry were actively studying the
impact of the ADA as part of their development of the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act, and that she had read all previous
submissions to the Government about the ODA.

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