Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
I had the honour, many years ago, to speak on a panel with disability rights and constitutional law lawyer David Lepofsky. Needless to say, I was a little start struck. For over three decades, Mr. Lepofsky has been a leading champion for disability rights in Canada. For example, in the early eighties he, along with a broad disability coalition, successfully advocated that protection against discrimination based on disability be included in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Seems obvious now, but not then.
Mr. Lepofsky also campaigned for ten years to win passage of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, and won two cases at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordering the TTC to consistently announce all subway stops and all bus and streetcar stops. See Lepofsky v. TTC, 2007 HRTO 23 (CanLII), 2007 HRTO 41 (CanLII), 2005 HRTO 12 (CanLII), 2005 HRTO 20 (CanLII).
Most recently, as Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance), Mr. Lepofsky is taking the Government of Ontario to task on its implementation, or lack thereof, of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. Under the AODA 2005, accessibility standards are to be developed, implemented and enforced in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.
While accessibility standards are to be developed in cooperation with various stakeholders, under the Act, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is ultimately responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of standards that will meet the legislative objective – achieving accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.
In June 2015, Mr. Lepofsky submitted a Freedom of Information application, seeking records regarding what steps the Government is taking to implement and enforce the AODA 2005 and remain on target for 2025. After providing some records, the Government informed the Alliance that the fee for the bulk of the information they were seeking was $4,250. The AODA Alliance fought back, and, in a rare public hearing held on January 31st, 2017 before Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commission, David Lepofsky argued that the Government should waive the prohibitive fee given that it was an undue hardship for the unfunded AODA Alliance.
While the Government conceded that the Alliance has no funding, it maintained that the fee still must be paid if the coalition wants access to the information it holds.
Accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is everyone’s business. If you don’t have a disability now, chances are you or someone in your family will experience a form of physical limitation as you and those you love age. 2025 is around the corner – less than 8 years around the corner. The Government needs to stop wasting time and pass the information over to the AODA Alliance so that it can keep the policy makers on task and track for the good of all Ontarians.