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ODA Committee Update
dated December 16, 2002
posted Dec. 28, 2002


ODA Committee's Brief to Government's Consultation on Barrier-Free Standards for Ontario Government Buildings

December 16, 2002


The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee has submitted a brief to the Ontario Realty Corporation, in connection with its public consultation on barrier-free design guidelines for Ontario Government buildings. We set out the five-page brief below. You will recall that we encouraged ODA supporters to participate in this public consultation. Our brief makes it clear that we are not attempting to duplicate the input that individuals and organizations have contributed. Our aim in this brief is to make general recommendations which supplement others' input.

We make recommendations in this brief on the contents of the guidelines, the steps needed to develop these guidelines and to consult effectively with the disability community, and on the need to monitor the implementation of these guidelines.

We do not include the attachments and enclosures. If you want to see those, either visit the ODA Committee website in a few days, or email us at:


Send us your feedback on this brief at the email address above.


To: The Ontario Realty Corporation
Attention Marlene Budhram, Program Analyst
Via email: marlene.budhram@orc.gov.on.ca


December 15, 2002


The Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee welcomes this
opportunity to give its input into the Ontario Realty Corporation's
current consultation, under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act
2001, into barrier-free design standards for Ontario Government
buildings and facilities.

The ODA Committee is a province-wide, grassroots, voluntary, non-
partisan coalition of individuals and over 100 community
organizations organized in 23 regions of Ontario. Founded in late
1994, we have united to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for all
persons with disabilities through the prompt passage and effective
implementation of a strong, effective Ontarians with Disabilities

We include over 100 organizational members and many individual
members, both with and without disabilities. Our membership
includes people of all ages, and includes many parents of children
with disabilities. Our organizational members are listed on our

We have extensive experience and expertise with the wide range of
disabilities. Through our volunteer efforts we have brought our
message to the Ontario Government, the opposition parties, the
public and the media. Our activities are amply documented on our
website. We led the charge for the enactment of a strong and
effective ODA. We now lead the charge to get the current
legislation promptly and effectively implemented, monitored, and
improved where needed.

We commend the Ontario Realty Corporation (O.R.C.) for conducting
this consultation. We do not wish to duplicate the efforts of our
members and others who have given you their input. Rather, we wish
to offer some more general recommendations and resources to help
you in your work in developing strong and effective barrier-free
guidelines for Ontario Government buildings.

We would be delighted to do whatever we can to help you achieve
success in your activity in this area. Please contact us if we can
provide anything further to help.



1. We recommend that the guidelines you develop for barrier-free
Ontario Government buildings and facilities clearly state that
their aim is to achieve a barrier-free Ontario, including a
barrier-free Ontario Government, as soon as reasonably possible.
The goal of merely "improving access" is too weak, and could
achieve little for us. We note that at the time the ODA bill was
before the Legislature last year, then Citizenship Minister Cam
Jackson, who sponsored this bill, committed that the Ontario
Government should be in compliance within five years.

2. We recommend that you ensure that your guidelines meet fully the
high standards for accessibility required by the Ontario Human
Rights Code, and required by the 11 principles for the ODA which
the Legislature unanimously passed by a resolution on October 29,
1998. They should also live up to the Ontario Government's 13
commitments for the ODA, which it made in the fall of 2001. We set
out the Legislature's October 29, 1998 resolution and the
Government's Fall 2001 13 commitments below.

For assistance regarding the standards of the Ontario Human Rights
Code, you should consult the OHRC's excellent new policy guidelines
on the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities, at:


We also recommend that you consult directly with the Ontario Human
Rights Commission itself. We all wish to avoid a multiplicity of
human rights complaints. If your guidelines ensure that Ontario
Government facilities comply with the requirements of the Ontario
Human Rights Code, then the need to litigate barriers one at a time
will be reduced, to the benefit of all.

3. We recommend that you design your guidelines to apply not only
to newly-acqu but to existing ones as well, even if they are not
slated for renovation. Whether or not the ODA 2001 requires the
Ontario Government to develop guidelines over pre-existing Ontario
Government buildings that are not slated for renovation, is to us
beside the point. It is not sufficient for only newly-acquired and
newly-renovated Ontario Government buildings and facilities to
become properly accessible, to become barrier-free, if the Ontario
Government is to live up to its Fall 2001 commitments to make
Ontario a barrier-free province, and to lead by example. The
information you will receive during your current consultation would
equally be useful for guidelines on Ontario Government buildings
that are not slated for renovation. Therefore, we urge that to
avoid the wasteful need to duplicate this work later, you ensure
that your guidelines cover the entire field now, including
buildings that are not slated for renovation.

4. We recommend that you ensure that the guidelines you develop
concerning barrier-free design of Ontario Government buildings and
facilities can readily be adopted and used by organizations outside
the Ontario Government. While the guidelines you are now developing
are intended only for Ontario Government buildings and facilities,
it would be helpful to all organizations seeking to become barrier-
free to be able to benefit from your efforts.

We therefore ask that you develop guidelines which, as much as
possible, could be used by other public sector and private sector
organizations outside the formal structure of the Ontario
Government if they wish. We also ask you to make your guidelines
broadly available at no charge, so others interested in this area
can make use of them. We know, for example, that municipalities and
their Accessibility Advisory Committees will welcome useful
guidelines in this area.

5. We recommend that you ensure that your guidelines fully exceed
the current accessibility requirements of the Ontario Building
Code. It is open to you under the ODA 2001 to develop barrier-free
standards that exceed the insufficient requirements of the Ontario
Building Code. At present, too many companies and organizations
merely seek to meet the Building Code's inadequate requirements.
They thereby create new barriers against persons with disabilities.


6. We recommend that in developing your barrier-free guidelines,
you fully review resources developed to date in connection with the
ODA and related initiatives. In separate emails we will forward two
of these resources to you, namely:

(1) The ODA Committee's comprehensive 1998 brief to the Ontario
Legislature, providing our proposed blueprint for the ODA. Included
with that brief, and especially helpful for you, is its Appendix 1,
a 50-page inventory of barriers that ODA supporters reported to us
over a three-year period during which we gathered this information.

(2) The ODA Committee's 2002 brief to the Ministry of Municipal
Affairs and Housing, on reforming the accessibility requirements in
the Ontario Building Code.

We also would direct you to two additional important sources of
information in Ontario. When the Ontario Government tabled its ODA
bill in the Ontario Legislature last year, in response to our call
for public hearings, A Standing Committee of the Legislature held
several days of public hearings. Despite a number of barriers
making it hard to prepare and participate, many individuals and
disability organizations with great expertise in this area made
excellent presentations and submitted excellent briefs. We urge you
to review all of these, to see what was submitted that would assist
you. This will also help you identify people and organizations with
expertise and an interest in this area.

As our 2002 brief on the Building Code details, you can see all the
presentations before the Standing Committee on our website. It also
details how you can get all the briefs submitted on the ODA bill.
If you want us to email you the briefs which we have in electronic
form, contact us. We would be delighted to help.

We also encourage you to obtain from the Ministry of Municipal
Affairs and Housing all the briefs and other submissions they
received earlier this year, on reforming the Building Code's
accessibility requirements. We regret that the Ontario Government
did not act on those submissions when it subsequently drafted and
passed the most comprehensive reform of the Ontario Building Code
in decades, after the Government had asked the disability community
to take the time and effort to prepare and provide input on the
issue of building accessibility. However, we hope that you will
obtain and make use of that work product.

7. To consult effectively with persons with disabilities, we
recommend that the O.R.C. first collect together existing barrier-
free building/facilities standards that have been developed in
Ontario, elsewhere in Canada, in the U.S. and elsewhere around the
world. Then, it would be helpful if the O.R.C. could make that
material public and synthesize these materials into a document
which sets out options in important areas. The O.R.C. could then
consult with the disability community and other stake-holders on
the choices from among these options. You might wish to co-ordinate
such efforts with the Accessibility Directorate of the Ministry of
Citizenship, and with the staff at the Ministry of Municipal
Affairs and Housing who deal with Building Code issues, to avoid
duplication of effort.

This is most likely to aid you in getting the most useful feedback.
It will give the community the best chance for meaningful input.

It would then be helpful if you could publicize a draft of your
proposed guidelines on barrier-free standards for Ontario
Government buildings and facilities for comment by the community,
before they are finalized.

We understand that sometimes Government does not publicize a
document until it gets formal approval within Government. This can
make it very difficult to make changes based on public input
afterwards, since all the Government decisions have already been
made. We encourage you to go about this in a way that lets one and
all look at the product well enough before it is finalized, to
ensure a chance for true and meaningful input. This will allow us
to be the most helpful to you.

8. We recommend that you use as many avenues as possible to
publicize your requests for input. The only avenue we heard about
your current consultation was via your website and email postings.
You may have circulated your announcement in other ways. However,
we did not receive such. In fact, we learned of your consultation
only when one of our members forwarded an email message to us about
it. We appear not to be on your distribution list. We would
appreciate being added to it.

We ourselves make heavy use of the internet, due to our lack of
external funding. However, we are keenly aware that many, including
many persons with disabilities, do not have access to the internet.
Of those who do use the internet, some may not have heard about
your consultation. For our part, when we heard about your
consultation, we did our best to publicize it ourselves and to
encourage others to participate.

We believe that it is important to do what we all can to reach
everyone. You have the advantage of the Government's resources. We
encourage you to do what you can in this regard.

We invite the O.R.C. to notify us of all future developments in
this area, and send us any and all announcements that it makes
available to the public. We would be pleased to help you where
feasible, by ensuring that those announcements get widely
circulated to many interested people and organizations. We have a
good track record of getting word out widely and fast on breaking-
developments concerning the ODA.

We should also alert you that we received word that some had
concerns and difficulties, when trying to complete your on-line
survey. We cannot comment on these, beyond alerting you to this, as
we understand you have heard from at least one individual, and to
ask you to look into this.

9. We encourage you to ensure that your consultation process
extends to the seniors' community. Disability issues substantially
affect seniors. It is important that your guidelines meet their


10. The ultimate measure of the effectiveness of your forthcoming
guidelines on barrier-free Ontario Government buildings will be the
practical experience of persons with disabilities, who actually try
to use Ontario Government facilities. Thus, as an important step in
this process, we recommend that you have individuals with
disabilities, who are independent of the Ontario Government, test
their effectiveness by visiting and auditing Government facilities
purporting to comply with your new guidelines, once they are in
draft form. This can help you and us see whether the draft
guidelines are sufficient.

It will also be vital to monitor generally, to ascertain how much
the Ontario Government complies with these guidelines, once they
are developed.


Please let us know what we can do to be of further help to you in this work.

Background Links

Making Ontario Open For People With Disabilities: A Blueprint For A Strong And Effective Ontarians With Disabilities Act Submitted to the Ontario Legislature by the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dd April 22, 1998

ODA Committee Brief To Ontario Government On Reform To Disability Access Provisions Of
The Ontario Building Code
dd Feb 27, 2002

Ontario Legislature's Second Resolution (adopting the 11 principles) on the Ontarians with Disabilities Act dd Oct 29, 1998

Conservative Government's 13 Commitments to Ontarians With Disabilities


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