Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO) have submitted a joint response to the Ministry of Community and Social Services on the proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation (IAR), which harmonizes the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) standards for information and communications, employment and transportation into a single regulation. Accessibility standards are the rules that businesses and organizations in Ontario have to follow to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility.
Although the proposed IAR will help to improve accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario, several issues remain unaddressed with respect to individuals with mental illnesses. The joint submission highlights several key messages to promote the inclusion of non-visible disabilities, including mental illnesses, in the AODA standards and regulations. CMHA Ontario and SSO are concerned that the IAR has not been developed from a true social disability perspective; therefore it is inadequate in promoting equity for persons with mental illnesses and other non-visible disabilities in all aspects of society. As well, non-visible disabilities, such as mental illnesses, are not explicitly addressed in the IAR, which may compromise the accommodation of individuals with mental health disabilities. The authors recommend a standardized working definition of “mental disorder” be included in the AODA, which would help operationalize both the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA to reflect the needs and concerns of people with mental health disabilities. CMHA Ontario and the SSO are also concerned that the accommodation of people with mental health disabilities is further compromised by excluding volunteers and only including paid employees under the AODA and proposed IAR.
The submission also points out that despite previous CMHA Ontario and SSO recommendations, the AODA, and subsequently the IAR, is still primarily focused on reducing physical barriers, regardless of the nature of the disability, and the authors recommend that attitudinal barriers and stigma should be addressed as well. Finally, the current submission states that dedicated funding should be made available to support organizations to meet AODA compliance standards and that shorter timelines are needed to ensure continued momentum towards compliance for all obligated organizations and businesses.
The Accessibility Standard for Customer Service, Ontario Regulation 429/07, came into effect January 1, 2008, and was the first regulation that was created and implemented under the AODA. All others are proposed standards not yet in effect.
See “Response to the Proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act,” October 2010, available at www.ontario.cmha.ca/submissions.
For more information about the AODA standards and regulations, visit www.mcss.gov.on.ca. See also “Charting a Path Forward: Report of the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005,” Charles Beer, February 2010, available at www.mcss.gov.on.ca.