An independent review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) was released by the Ontario Government on May 31, 2010, the fifth anniversary of its enactment and the start of National Access Awareness Week. The report, from independent reviewer Charles Beer, includes findings and recommendations based on extensive consultation with many members of the public, including persons with disabilities.
Charles Beer was appointed by the Ontario government in June 2009 to conduct the independent review. Under section 41 of the AODA, an independent review involving consultations with the public and persons with disabilities is mandatory within four years after the act takes effect.
The review’s scope includes four areas of the legislation and its implementation process:
- Standards development
- The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
- The repeal strategy for the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA)
- Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees (MAAC)
The review document has four sections: an introduction with an outline of the history of accessibility legislation in Ontario and the current status of the implementation of the AODA; “What the Review Heard,” a detailed summary of input from the individuals and organizations consulted; a discussion of issues and the observations that shaped the reviewer’s approach; and, in the final section, the reviewer’s findings and recommendations.
After reviewing the feedback received during the consultation process, Beer identified four key themes: the need for stronger government leadership; implementation challenges, including harmonization and costs; integration of the AODA with other legislation and initiatives; and concerns related to the standards development process.
The document presents the following recommendations:
- The government needs to take immediate steps to harmonize accessibility standards before making the remaining proposed standards regulations
- Leadership should be renewed for implementation of the AODA, by
- Formally designating the Minister of Community and Social Services as the minister responsible for accessibility
- Strengthening the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario by elevating the role of the Assistant Deputy Minister to Deputy Minister and by focusing on renewed priorities, including a public awareness and education campaign to support the AODA
- The AODA requires amendment to establish an arm’s-length advisory body, the Ontario Accessibility Standards Board, to review and develop accessibility standards — replacing the standards-development committee process.
Recommendations are also made to repeal the ODA and to continue the role of Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees.
The report can be accessed at www.mcss.gov.on.ca.
For a stakeholder response to the review, see www.aodaalliance.org.