Enforcing AODA: The Big Purple Elephant in the Room
By Karen McCall, M.Ed.
For those of you who have been following the misadventures of Para transit in the county of Brant, my comments in this article are a logical continuum in this saga. For those of you who haven’t been following the events, I won’t bore you with them here…except to say:
In trying to provide information and a framework for the County of Brant to implement the Integrated Accessibility Standards, Part IV – Transportation it became clear from the start that enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities Act is a huge missing piece of the legislation. It is also a huge purple elephant in the room in that no one wants to talk about it or deal with it.
Every time updates on the actions of the County were sent to the accessibility Directorate for assistance the response was the same: The AODA is not “complaint based” and “your feedback will be kept for statistical purposes only.”
There is no mechanism for those of us who are encountering non-compliance or barriers that should be eliminated through the AODA and its components to bring these barriers and issues to the attention of the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the accessibility Directorate of Ontario. Whether we want to get assistance for compliance or enforcement of the provincial law, there is no recourse. We don’t have a voice in ensuring that our province is inclusive. That may be quite the oxymoron.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act relies on self-reporting and of the reports received, a few will be investigated and hopefully enforced.
The Accessibility Directorate does audit organizations and municipalities, however the audits are based on what is in place at the time of the audit and do not ask or care about what plans are in the works for the future. So if the County were audited, the audit would include information on the current Para transit service not the proposed Para transit scheme that ignores the transportation standards.
Those of us with disabilities are the ones encountering the barriers and the avoidance toward implementing any or all of the AODA. For example, in the County it has been stated that the AODA is not a real law but simply suggestions. With this starting position, where would you think self-reporting would be on the list of priorities?
In this case the barriers are not only the failure to meet the AODA and its current Customer Service and Integrated Accessibility Standards but a resistance to acknowledging that these represent provincial law.
Where is enforcement of the AODA and its components in these types of scenarios?
“The AODA is not complaint based. Your feedback will be used for statistical purposes only.”
My confidence in an inclusive community and province by 2025 is building exponentially!
There are other instances of subtle backlash toward inclusion. In Ottawa Ontario the Accessibility Advisory Committee has been merged with another committee and can only meet three times a year. In Aurora Ontario wheelchair accessible vehicles are arbitrarily identified as “limousines” and people with disabilities are charged limousine rates. In these cases and others we have a law but no voice or enforcement.
How can an Accessibility Advisory Committee help the municipality implement the AODA if it only meets three times a year. I would suspect that contrary to the original Accessibility with Ontarians Act that states that an Accessibility Advisory Committee must be made up of a majority of people with disabilities that this is not the case in Ottawa if the Accessibility Advisory Committee has been merged with another committee (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, 29 – 3).
In several other communities, the Accessibility Advisory Committee is not consulted on any decisions and many of the recommendations die at Council chambers or before.
In Aurora how can specialized transportation be provided in a way that is affordable and does not discriminate by charging more to people with disabilities under an arbitrary fare structure? I would dare say that in the “luxury” wheelchair accessible vehicle there is no coffee, tea or other beverages or items one would find in a limousine!
Where can we turn to for support and enforcement?
“The AODA is not complaint based and your feedback will be kept for statistical purposes only.”
Good to know we don’t have to advocate for our rights anymore, the Accessibility Directorate has us covered.
The AODA Alliance has declared that October 29, 2012 is Dial Dalton Day. We need a number to call to document, with the intent of educating or eventually enforcing, violations of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and all of its components.
We need oversight (including at the municipality level) into the process to investigate the numerous complaints that arise from our encountering the front line barriers to an inclusive community and province. We have a provincial law and the responsibility for “enforcing” that law should not be transferred to the Ontario Human Rights Commission where currently over 56% of the complaints are based on discrimination against people with disabilities.
Isn’t this why we have the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in the first place…to create the standards to eliminate the discrimination and support through legislation, our rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the United Nations convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities?
I would challenge us to go further than Dialing Dalton. There is an upcoming provincial Liberal leadership process and provincial election. After we Dial Dalton, we need to dial the opposition leaders, our MPP’s, the media, organizations and associations of and for people with disabilities and create a critical mass of energy to improve the enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
We need to write about our stories on the barriers we face and use social media and blogs to draw attention to instances of non- compliance with AODA and its components. There is no better time than the present to put the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and its enforcement at the forefront of the discussion about the future of Ontario. IF we want an inclusive province, it is up to us to continue to advocate for inclusion in our communities and the enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Make sure that our voices and unified voice are not kept for statistical purposes only and that we continue to shape inclusive communities and our province.
The following resources were used for this article.
AODA Alliance Releases a Report Card on the McGuinty Government Record at Keeping Its Twelve 2011 Election Promises on Disability Accessibility, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Blog and http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09072012.asp
If you would like to read more on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code, the following links are provided.
These two videos are a good starting place to learn about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities which Canada ratified in 2010. The last link is to the convention text itself.