ODA Committee Update
dated June 9, 2003
posted June 18, 2003
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
Chair of Government-Appointed Accessibility Advisory Council Writes to ODA Committee
June 9, 2003
The Chair of the government-appointed provincial Accessibility Advisory Council, Mr. Jeff Adams, wrote to the ODA Committee on May 23, 2003, to respond to our letter to the Council of two months ago, dated March 18, 2003. The Council's chair echoes the core message in the Citizenship Minister's recent May 15, 2003 letter to the ODA Committee. He also states that Council members have participated in several public events, with a view to bringing views back to the Citizenship Minister. The Council chair's letter does not indicate what advice the Council has given to the Minister. It also does not give specific answers to certain questions which the ODA Committee had asked.
In the second half of last year, the ODA Committee wrote to the government-appointed provincial Accessibility Advisory Council three successive letters. In these, we offered our help to the Council in doing its job of consulting with the disability community and giving input to the Government on how to effectively implement the ODA.
That Council's chair, Mr. Jeff Adams, first wrote the ODA Committee in response on January 30, 2003. He apologized for the six month delay in responding to us, and said he'd work to ensure that all correspondence to the council is addressed as soon as possible.
The ODA Committee wrote the Council again on March 18, 2003 to raise a series of issues of concern. You can find that correspondence on the ODA Committee's website at:
The Council's chair replied to us two months later, on May 23, 2003. (See his letter below) The Council's chair says that activity is occurring to educate the public on promoting accessibility for persons with disabilities, and that the Government-appointed Council's members are attending public events in connection with this.
Here is a summary of some of the key issues we raised with the Council's chair in our March 18, 2003 letter, and his responses in his most recent letter:
* Last year we urged the Council to undertake public consultations on the ODA's implementation, including on the development of regulations to set standards for organizations becoming accessible. Back on January 30, 2003, the Council's chair wrote to us, saying that "It is not within our mandate to conduct public consultations on proposed regulations under the Act." He stated that to fulfil their role the Council should "attend events that ensure we understand the needs and views of persons with disabilities," and to observe how various sectors fulfil their duties under the ODA.
In our March 18, 2003, letter we explained that we saw it as being very central to the Council's role to conduct public consultations. We asked the Council to reconsider Mr. Adams' position.
In Mr. Adams' May 23, 2003 letter, he described how Council members had participated in various public events to which they had been invited, and would bring information back to the Minister of Citizenship. Mr. Adams did not indicate whether the Council has taken up our request to re-think whether it can conduct public consultations. He has not explained why the Council's members can go to public events, and can convey to the Minister what they hear there, but cannot hold a public consultation on the ODA's implementation or on the development of regulations under the ODA.
In his May 23, 2003 letter, Mr. Adams said: "During our second Quarterly Meeting on March 20 to 21, 2003, we informed the Honourable Carl DeFaria, Minister of Citizenship, of the comments and information council members have received while attending various events. We will continue to gather information to share with him to ensure that we fulfil our mandate and advise him on matters regarding the successful implementation of the ODA. As regulations are developed, we will also carry the comments of the interested parties back to the Minister." There is no indication what feedback was given to the Minister.
* In our March 18, 2003 letter, we asked the Council to recommend to the Ontario Government that it immediately proclaim in force section 21 of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. Section 21 imposes a fine on an organization which fails to make an accessibility plan or policy, if the organization is required to do so under the ODA 2001. That provision also makes it an offence for a municipality with a population over 10,000 to fail to establish a disability accessibility advisory committee. It is the only provision of the ODA which the Government has not proclaimed in force in the 18 months since that law was passed by the Legislature.
We have received ample feedback from across the disability community signalling the need for that provision of the ODA 2001 to be immediately brought into effect.
In his January 30, 2003 letter, Mr. Adams had not supported the call for this section of the ODA being proclaimed immediately in force. His position was very similar to the position of the Citizenship Minister DeFaria in his May 15, 2003 letter to us on this issue.
In Our March 18, 2003 letter to Mr. Adams, we asked whether his position on the issue of proclaiming in force section 21 of the ODA is a statement of the Council's position, and if so, whether it was unanimous. We also asked what steps the Council had taken to solicit input from the disability community before providing advice to the Minister on this.
In his May 23, 2003 response to us, Mr. Adams did not answer these questions. He did not address the unproclaimed section 21 at all in that letter.
* In our March 18, 2003 letter to Mr. Adams, we asked for any information on what steps his Council is now taking to monitor compliance with the Act, and what information they have on the extent to which organizations are now complying with the Act's provisions. For example, we indicated that it would be helpful to know what information the Council has on whether every municipality with a population over 10,000 had already established a municipal accessibility advisory committee as of September 30, 2002 or as of the present time. Mr. Adams' May 23, 2003 letter did not answer these questions.
* We have generally emphasized in our letters to the Council that it has an important role to play in advocating for strong, mandatory measures to achieve a barrier-free province as soon as possible. In his letter, Mr. Adams focused on the council's work "to raise awareness and bring a stronger understanding of the need for accessibility and inclusion."
Send us your feedback at:
May 23, 2003
David Lepofsky C.M.,
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, M4G 3E8
Dear Mr. Lepofsky and Members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee:
Thank you for your letter dated March 18, 2003.
The Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario appreciates your commitment to the implementation of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 (ODA).
In our letter dated January 30, 2003, we discussed that the mandate of the Accessibility Advisory Council, as stated within the ODA, clearly defines the role of the council as advisors to the Minister of Citizenship regarding accessibility and the inclusion of people with disabilities living in Ontario. This is an important mandate and one that each council member supports.
The council feels that in order for it to effectively meet its mandate, council members need to be in touch with a variety of stakeholders. The council has therefore, participated in a range of local and provincial events, many of which were at the invitation of organizations with obligations under the ODA.
For example members have participated in such events as, the Ontario Hospital Association's launch of their `Toolkit for Annual Accessibility Planning under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act'; the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference; the Ontario Transportation EXPO; the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) Conference 2002 `Opening Doors to Success'; Celebration of People - Citizen Advocacy Ottawa; and the Annual Conference and Exposition for the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario.
This ongoing outreach is a crucial aspect of the council's work to raise awareness and bring a stronger understanding of the need for accessibility and inclusion. Through these and other meetings with stakeholders, it is clear that the ODA is creating a climate of change and bringing the issue of inclusion of people with disabilities to the forefront.
Sectors named in the ODA are working towards the September 30, 2003 deadline to make their plans public. Municipalities across this province, both large and small, have established accessibility advisory committees and have started to work with their communities on accessibility plans.
Other sectors are also moving forward with their first annual accessibility plans. Professional and sectoral associations are working closely, in consultation with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, to develop tools and resources that support organizations through this process. The Council supports the many progressive initiatives currently underway and we believe it is important to allow this process to continue to develop.
During our second Quarterly Meeting on March 20 to 21, 2003, we informed the Honourable Carl DeFaria, Minister of Citizenship, of the comments and information council members have received while attending various events. We will continue to gather information to share with him to ensure that we fulfil our mandate and advise him on matters regarding the successful implementation of the ODA. As regulations are developed, we will also carry the comments of the interested parties back to the Minister.
Together we will work towards a more inclusive and accessible Ontario. The council would again like to thank you for your continued support and interest in its work.
Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario
cc: The Honourable Ernie Eves
The Honourable Carl DeFaria Minister of Citizenship
The Honourable Chris Stockwell Minister of the Environment
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Last updated June 18, 2003