Submission to the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, December 2015
In January 2008, the Customer Service Standard became the first accessibility standard to be made into a regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). The purpose of this standard is to require eligible organizations that provide goods or services to the public or to other organizations to achieve accessible customer service. Compliance began in January 2010 for public organizations, and January 2012 for private and not-for-profit organizations.
In September 2013, the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standard Development Committee (ASAC/SDC) began its review of the Customer Service Standard at the direction of the Minister of Economic Development, Trade, and Employment. In fall 2015, the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and the Ministry of Research and Innovation asked for public comments on the proposed revisions. The following is CMHA Ontario’s submission. About Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), which operates at the local, provincial and national levels across Canada, works toward a single mission: to make mental health possible for all. The vision of CMHA Ontario is a society that believes mental health is the key to well-being. We are a not-for-profit, charitable organization which is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Through policy analysis and implementation, agenda setting, research, evaluation and knowledge exchange, we work to improve the lives of people with mental health and addictions conditions and their families. As a leader in community mental health and a trusted advisor to Government, we actively contribute to health systems development through policy formulation and by recommending policy options that promote mental health for all Ontarians. CMHA Ontario works closely with the 32 local Branches in communities across the province to ensure the quality delivery of services in the areas of mental health, addictions, dual diagnosis and concurrent disorders which occur across the lifespan.
Through a number of initiatives and activities, CMHA Ontario provides leadership for advancing mental health accessibility in Ontario:
- Mental Health Works, a workplace mental health program
- Enabling Minds project to promote mental health accessibility in the recreation sector
- Think Outside the Box, a mental health accessibility and human rights web-resource
- Ongoing activities related to supported employment initiatives
- Ongoing activities related to supportive housing initiatives
- Advocacy and public policy analysis related to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
- Appointment to the Elections Ontario Accessibility Advisory Committee
- Participation in development of AODA and standards
CMHA Ontario has also done extensive work in the area of emotional support animals. For many individuals with mental health disabilities, emotional support animals play a critical role in recovery by helping manage symptoms or triggers. There may be a perception that emotional support animals are just well loved pets. But in reality, just like service dogs for people with visual impairments, emotional support animals make it possible for people with mental health disabilities to participate in society with dignity and respect. CMHA Ontario’s work to address this issue was recently profiled on CBC News.
In addition, CMHA Ontario receives requests from governmental and non-governmental organizations regarding compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) and its standards. In general, organizations are seeking information and resources about how to increase the accessibility of programs, policies, and practices for people with mental health disabilities. CMHA Ontario has received requests from the Ontario Human Rights Commission; the Canadian Transportation Agency; the Family Responsibility Office at the Ministry of Community and Social Services; Presto, a division of Metrolinx; and Elections Ontario. At the local level, CMHA branch public educators also receive similar requests.
Proposed Revisions to the Customer Service Standard
CMHA Ontario is concerned that some revisions to the Customer Service Standard of the AODA proposed by the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and the Ministry of Research and Innovation could have adverse impacts on accessibility for Ontarians with mental health disabilities. We are most concerned about changes to the:
- Definition of service animals
- Section on support persons
- Section on training
It is noted that the documents available for review only reflect a summary of the changes.
Recommendation 1: CMHA Ontario requests that full details of the revisions, including specific language, be made available so that stakeholders can better assess implications.
Definition of Service Animal
CMHA Ontario would like to commend the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and the Ministry of Research and Innovation for removing its previous recommendation to include a training requirement under the definition of service animal. This training requirement could have had significant negative outcomes for people with mental health-related service animals.
CMHA Ontario strongly supports the proposed revision that documentation confirming an individual’s need for a service animal be provided by members of the listed professional colleges; however, we recommend strongly that the College of Social Workers be added to this list. In the context of mental health disability, a range of health providers, including social workers, psychologists and psychotherapists, play critical roles in recovery.
Recommendation 2: CMHA Ontario recommends that the College of Social Workers be added to the list of regulated professionals that can provide service animal documentation.
CMHA Ontario remains concerned that requiring a person with a disability to be accompanied by a support person could impact on the human rights of people with disabilities in Ontario. CMHA Ontario cannot support this revision without knowing what specific language will be added to this section.
CMHA Ontario recommends that the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and the Ministry of Research and Innovation review resources that provide clarification on how health and safety determinations may be made within the larger context of human rights obligations. In section 5.3.3 of its Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) provides guidance on this topic. Additional information is also available in Travelling with an Attendant in the Federal Transportation System: A Resource Tool for Persons with Disabilities and Carriers, a tool created by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) to assist stakeholders to determine when an organization may require a person with a disability to be accompanied by a support person. This resource tool emphasizes the need to balance organizational health and safety concerns with the rights of the person with a disability, and also notes that the person with a disability should be allowed to assume some personal risk.
Recommendation 3: CMHA Ontario recommends that the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and the Ministry of Research and Innovation remove sections in the Customer Service Standard through which organizations may require people with disabilities to be accompanied with a support person for health and safety reasons, unless detailed instruction is provided regarding how such determinations are to be made, consistent with the OHRC’s Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate.
Throughout the development of the AODA and its Customer Service Standard, CMHA Ontario has consistently recommended that organizations that are obligated to provide training on accessible customer service also be obligated to provide training on the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code). Both the Code and the AODA play significant and complementary roles in advancing accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. As noted above with respect to support persons, organizations have obligations under the Code as well as under the AODA, and the Customer Service Standard training provisions create the opportunity to strengthen understanding of and compliance with both.
Recommendation 4: CMHA Ontario recommends that revisions be made to require obligated organizations to provide training on AODA as well as the Code.
CMHA Ontario wishes to thank the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure and the Ministry of Research and Innovation this opportunity to comment on the proposed revisions to the Customer Service Standard. We welcome the opportunity to further discuss our recommendations or to provide additional information.
For more information, please contact:
Sheela Subramanian, Policy Analyst
Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
180 Dundas Street West, Suite 2301
Toronto ON M5G 1Z8