ODA Committee Update
dated May 13, 2004
posted August 3, 2004
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
Citizenship Minister Releases Summary Of Important ODA Round-Table Discussion On Extending ODA To The Private Sector
May 13, 2004
Ontario's Citizenship Minister, Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, has released a summary of an important round-table consultation session she held earlier this year, on the issue of extending the ODA to the private sector. See a copy of her letter to the ODA Committee on this, and the enclosed summary,
Please note that the ODA Committee's email update service is going off-line until early in June. While we always welcome your feedback, your emails won't be read until then.
The weak, unenforceable ODA which the previous Conservative Government
passed in 2001 didn't require barriers against persons with disabilities to
be removed or prevented in the private sector e.g. in stores, restaurants,
or other private businesses. At our request, the Liberals and NDP put
forward proposed amendments to extend that law to the private sector back in
2001, but the governing Conservatives used their majority to defeat them.
For years while the Conservatives were in power, we urged them to bring
representatives from the private sector and the disability community
together at one table to discuss this issue. The Conservatives refused.
In the 2003 Ontario election, the Liberals, like the NDP, campaigned on an
election platform that included commitments to extend the ODA to the private
sector. Since taking power last fall, the Liberals have held public
consultations on the ODA. Among other things, the Liberals held an important
round-table meeting, hosted by the new Citizenship Minister at the offices
of the Canadian Standards Association, at which representatives of the
disability community and from the private sector were brought to the same
table. This was an important step forward in finding common ground. While
there was not unanimous agreement on everything, there was clearly more
support for extending the ODA to the private sector from voices within the
private sector than the previous Conservative Government had claimed.
We commend Minister Bountrogianni and her Government for taking the very
positive step of convening this round-table session. Below please find the
citizenship Minister's summary of this meeting. Send us your feedback at:
As a side note, we are pleased to let you know that the ODA email service is
now using new software. It allows us to send you our updates without others
seeing your name and email address. Many had asked for this to respect their
LETTER TO THE ODA COMMITTEE FROM MINISTER OF CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION DR. MARIE BOUNTROGIANNI
Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration Minister
400 University Avenue
Toronto ON M7A 2R9
Tel.: (416) 325-6200
Fax: (416) 325-6195
May 5, 2004
Chair, Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto ON M4G 3E8
Dear Mr. Lepofsky:
I would like to thank you for your participation in the March 2nd roundtable
meeting involving representatives from private sector and disability
organizations that focused on ways to make the Ontarians with Disabilities
Act, 2001 (ODA) more meaningful.
Our time together was very constructive. Participants shared thoughtful
ideas and perspectives and we all gained insight into a number of issues and
priorities that were presented during discussions about accessibility in the
The ministry is currently reviewing your input and the suggestions that came
forward regarding approaches concerning awareness and attitude, funding,
standards, employment, compliance, enforcement and other priorities
highlighted by participants. The McGuinty government is firmly committed to
putting measures in place to strengthen the ODA, taking into consideration
findings from these consultations, building on lessons learned.
Again, thank you for contributing to this government's priority to make
effective changes to the ODA that will, in turn, benefit all Ontarians.
Dr. Marie Bountrogianni
March 2, 2004 ODA Roundtable - Private Sector and Representatives from Disability Organizations
Question for Participants
Participants were asked to discuss short-term and long-term approaches that
could strengthen the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 (ODA), including:
options, both legislative and non-legislative, that would facilitate
accessibility in the private sector; how the ODA may be applied to private
businesses and organizations; and suitable enforcement mechanisms to ensure
Context and Remarks
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, and
Parliamentary Assistant, Dr. Kuldip Kular, opened the meeting by underlining
the government's commitment to working with Ontarians with disabilities on
strong and effective legislation. As part of its province-wide consultation
process, the Ministry is talking to people with disabilities, their family
members, caregivers and service providers as well as other interested
parties in numerous sectors - both public and private.
Participants provided valuable input, insight and comments in presenting
their top three priorities regarding the elimination or prevention of
barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities. Key themes that
developed during the roundtable include:
Awareness and Attitudes
Many participants agreed that sustained awareness through strategic
partnerships (e.g., government and business) would promote attitudinal
change and incentive to improve accessibility in Ontario. There is a need
for more awareness of invisible disabilities, especially regarding
employment (e.g., mental illness, hearing disabilities) accommodation and
recruitment of people with mental disabilities. Businesses need to keep in
mind that accommodating people with disabilities is good for business, and
that accessibility -- e.g., elevators, closed captioning and automatic
doors -- benefits people of all abilities. Many businesses are already
increasing accessibility. For example, the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and
Motel Association is considering delivering a Web-based program to train
employees on accessibility and customer service, and the Canadian
Association of Broadcasters is presenting an action plan for diversity by
including people with disabilities in story lines and on-air for productions
in the broadcasting industry. Some participants maintained that awareness is
only the first step - the next step is to outline the actions that will be
most effective in getting businesses to improve accessibility among
Participants suggested that the Ministry provide funding to assist both
obligated sectors and the private sector to deal with any financial hardship
resulting from meeting accessibility standards set out in the ODA. One way
to address financial constraints associated with improving accessibility may
be through amendments to the Developmental Charges Act. The group also
discussed the benefits of making new buildings accessible at the outset vs.
the cost of retrofitting, which is a much more expensive option.
Some participants felt that accessibility planning would be simpler with
consistent standards, criteria and guidelines on how to remove barriers
without having to reinvent the wheel with each initiative. As well,
partnerships between business owners and people with disabilities would help
ensure appropriate accessibility standards, with reasonable timelines for
compliance. Most felt that government should introduce standards that
address both visible and invisible disabilities, are consistent and
enforceable, are appropriate for the size and type of industry (i.e., large
corporations as well as smaller, family-run operations), build on work done
to date by organizations like the CSA, and meet requirements set out in
other acts (e.g., Ontario Building Code).
It was suggested that some form of employment equity be applied at the
provincial level, seeing as the federal Employment Equity Act has worked
well in promoting accessibility in the workplace, e.g., the banking sector.
As well, more funding for successful training programs such as "Project
Work" (funded by MCSS and HRDC) may encourage employers to hire people with
physical and invisible disabilities.
Compliance and Enforcement
Many participants suggested introducing mandatory standards that could be
enforced through fines, penalties and incentives. Others suggested
compliance mechanisms through an ombudsman-type process, or through MOUs
with trade associations and college/professional bodies that would set out
criteria to gain or retain membership, professional status or licence.
Checklists, such as the accessibility checklist developed by the hospitality
sector, could help organizations outline standards, identify accommodation
needs and suggest ways to remove barriers. A checklist would also help
organizations prepare for audits, which was one other way that participants
suggested to facilitate compliance with the ODA.
Dr. Bountrogianni thanked all participants for their time, valuable input
and active discussion of issues associated with accessibility and inclusion.
In closing, the Minister assured participants that their input will play an
important role in helping the government develop viable measures to make the
ODA strong and effective for all Ontarians, delivering real, positive
change, and creating a province where full accessibility benefits everyone.
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