The ODA passed late Thursday, December
13, 2001, however, it has yet to be proclaimed which means it is not officially
in effect. Presumably this will happen in the first quarter of 2002. (In
February 2002 the parts of the ODA relating to the establishment of the
Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario and the Accessibility Directorate
There will be much work taking
place even before the official proclamation in selecting people for
the province-wide Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario and the
local Accessibility Advisory Committees and establishing the Accessibility
Details about the selection process
for both the Council and the local committees should be made public
in the next few weeks. The Ontario Division office will distribute that
information as soon as it is available.
What has been accomplished
(Many thanks to David Lapofsky,
chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee for providing most
of the following information re accomplishments and the analysis of the
As passed on December 13, 2001, the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act:
requires the provincial government
and much of the broader public sector to make and publicly release annual
plans to identify, prevent and remove barriers, after a consultation
has broad definitions of "barrier"
has limited enforcement mechanisms.
could include the private sector
if the Government chooses to do so by making the necessary regulations.
has a process for developing regulations
that allows for public comment before they come into effect. These regulations
can include setting standards and time lines for removing and preventing
has provincial Accessibility Council
and municipal Advisory Committees that we can seek to make effective
and accountable within the scope of their powers.
Requires a majority of members
on municipal Advisory Committees to be people with disabilities.
Requires all municipalities to
make annual accessibility plans, not just those with populations of
at least 10,000.
"While Bill 125 falls significantly
short of the goals of the ODA Committee, we have made some progress since
Bill 83 was introduced in 1998 and was quickly withdrawn, after our widespread
criticism. We also have a stated government commitment to achieve a barrier-
free Ontario for persons with disabilities and a number of government
commitments regarding this legislation against which we can monitor future
actions, and where needed, hold the government accountable," said
David Lapofsky, Chair, ODA Committee.
Analysis of Amendments
The Legislature's Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs made
a number of amendments to Bill 125 during its clause-by-clause consideration
of the bill on Tuesday, December 11, 2001. The amendments fall short of
changes strongly urged by the MS Society of Canada, Ontario Division and
most other organizations and individuals who presented to the committee.
The ODA does not meet the government's own Vision Statement on a barrier-free
Ontario, unveiled November 1, 2001.
Despite this, as the ODA Committee
notes, it is important to note that these amendments do make a number
of improvements to the bill "all our efforts did have an impact."
These amendments were quite extensive
and cover fully 15 of the 33 sections of this bill.
Definition of Barrier
The definition of "barrier"
was considerably broadened to include: anything that prevents a person
with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society
because of his or her disability, including a physical barrier, an architectural
barrier, an information or communications barrier, an attitudinal barrier,
a technological barrier, a policy or a practice.".
Definition of Disability
The bill's definition of "disability"
in Section 2 and the corresponding definition of disability in the Ontario
Human Rights Code was amended to explicitly include "a brain injury."
Recognition of Existing Legal
Section 3 of the bill was amended
by the only NDP proposal which the Conservative Government accepted,
to provide that nothing in the ODA "diminishes in any way the existing
legal obligations of the Government of Ontario or any person or organization
with respect to persons with disabilities." This provides a better
assurance that nothing in the ODA can be used to reduce the rights of
persons with disabilities. Originally, the bill had said only that nothing
in the ODA "limits the operation of the Human Rights Code."
Public Input into Regulations
Perhaps the most significant change
to the bill which the amendments make is to provide for an avenue for
public input into regulations. In Ontario, there is usually no legal
process provided to ensure that the public has input into regulations.
The amendments include the following new step for this process: before
Cabinet can make any regulation under Section 22 of this bill, it must
first publish a draft of it in The Ontario Gazette, and allow
interested persons a reasonable opportunity to make comments on the
draft to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.
Ontario Government Internet Sites
Section 6 was amended to require
the Ontario Government to "provide its internet sites in a format
that is accessible to persons with disabilities, unless it is not technically
feasible to do so." This changed the wording in the original bill,
which had required the Government to provide accessible websites "where
Section 7 of the bill was replaced
with new wording requiring that, after the Government of Ontario receives
a request for a Government publication in an accessible format, "the
Government of Ontario shall make an Ontario Government publication available
in a format that is accessible to the person, unless it is not technically
feasible to do so." As in the case of Section 6, (re Internet sites)
however, the bill does not provide a place to go to complain and to
get enforcement, beyond existing rights to make complaints to the Ontario
Human Rights Commission.
Duties of Municipalities
The amendments make the following changes regarding municipalities:
The amendments cause all municipalities
to make annual accessibility plans. Previously, the bill had required
this only of municipalities with a population of at least 10,000.
The municipality is required to
undertake consultations on the preparation, implementation and effectiveness
of its accessibility plan. If the municipality has a population of at
least 10,000, it must do this consultation with its disability advisory
committee. If the municipality has a smaller population, it may either
establish a disability advisory committee to consult with, or consult
directly with persons with disabilities and others.
A majority of the municipal disability
advisory committee must now be made up of persons with disabilities.
The original bill had no such majority requirement.
The amendments empower the municipal
advisory committees to review site plans and drawings under the Planning
Act, which the Committee can request the municipal council to provide.
The amendment does not require the municipality or anyone else to accept
any advice on the site plans that the advisory committee might give.
Where more than one municipality
or other body identified in the regulations are allowed to make a joint
accessibility plan, they are also allowed by the amendments to establish
a joint disability accessibility committee.
Accessibility Plans of Public
Transit Organizations and "Scheduled Organizations"
The amendments require public
transit organizations and "scheduled organizations" (i.e.
hospitals and universities) to consult with persons with disabilities
and "others" in preparing their annual accessibility plans.
The amendments provide for an
enforcement mechanism (a fine up to $50,000) for ministries, municipalities,
public transit organizations and other organizations, if they are required
to make an accessibility plan, and either don't make the plan at all
or don't make their plan public. It is similarly an offence for a municipality
to fail to establish a municipal disability advisory committee, where
it is required to do so under the bill. Those organizations which the
bill defines as an "agency," and which are required to make
an accessibility "policy," (not an annual plan) commit an
offence with the same penalty, if they fail to make an accessibility
Role of Provincial Disability
The amendments add to the role
of the provincial disability advisory council the tasks of advising,
at the minister's direction, on the implementation of the ODA and the
preparation of regulations. The original provision, on advising the
minister on access by persons with disabilities to employment in Ontario,
has also been replaced with these words: "the accessibility for
persons with disabilities to employment opportunities in economic sectors
in Ontario." It is not clear that this adds anything of substance.
Role of the Provincial Disability
The amendments would oblige the directorate, a new government office,
to do the following, in addition to other tasks already outlined in the
bill, all at the minister's direction:
consult with the provincial disability
ask that organizations which produce
accessibility plans or policies provide them to the directorate;
review these plans or policies;
consult, as the minister directs,
with the provincial advisory council, persons with disabilities, and
others that the minister directs, to develop codes, codes of conduct,
formulae, standards, guidelines, protocols and procedures under the
bill. This presumably was intended to relate to the possible development
of codes for the private sector in the future;
consider the feedback that the
government receives on draft regulations, and provide recommendations
to the minister on these.
The amendments change the Municipal
Elections Act. That Act will now require that vision impaired voters
be provided with a ballot that they can mark without assistance, during
a municipal election. Previously, this had not been mandatory. It had
only been optional.