Before the Christmas holidays, the Province released the final report of the 4th Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
As this is the final review ahead of the 2025 timeline for an accessible Ontario, the report is written as a call to action with several immediate steps for the Province to take a leadership role to address the crisis declaration made by the reviewer in this report. The report is a follow-up to the Interim Report released in March 2023 that outlined challenges with the state of accessibility in Ontario. The report lays out 23 recommendations in three categories: immediate crisis recommendations, strategic recommendations, and tactical recommendations.
Given the crisis declared, the review calls for the formation of a crisis committee chaired by the Premier and co-chaired by the Secretary of Cabinet to implement the recommendations within 180 days of the formation of the committee.
Specifically, the reviewer has outlined that this committee focuses on actions relating to:
- Emergency response
- Service delivery and employee experience within the broader public sector
- Creating a new Accessibility Agency to be elevated above the legislature
- Creation of a preliminary action plan with corresponding success metrics
- Development of initial actions for accessible government procurement
Strategic recommendations shift oversight and enforcement responsibility for the private sector to the federal government as it has tools and resources to support these activities.
The Province would focus on, among other things, setting up a new Accessibility Agency to create a whole of government approach to accessibility in the broader public sector that would be responsible for filling in financial and informational resource gaps and coordinating accessibility initiatives. The Agency would also support regulation, enforcement, and public and sector learning and education.
Tactical recommendations which are meant to follow the implementation and conclusion of the crisis response recommendations are spread out over four themes and respond to the findings of the Interim Report:
- Tools and Mechanisms for Behavioural Change
- Mobilizing Government Actions
- Built Environment
While the focus of the report’s recommendations is primarily on the Province, several recommendations address municipal interests with 16 references. These include:
- Provincial and federal partners developing a set of quality standards for the broader public sector that must be met for compliance.
- Developing a funding model with federal partners to attain and maintain accessibility in the Ontario broader public sector with funding tied to quality standards.
- The establishment of an Accessibility Agency responsible for leading and coordinating provincial and municipal accessibility activities.
- Building, maintaining, and analyzing datasets from the Agency, and mandating the use of these to inform decision-making in all issue areas at provincial and municipal levels and for audits of public policy beginning with health, education, housing, and transportation.
- Developing a cooperation framework between governments to clarify roles in improving accessibility and to be used to inform the completion of reports and strategic recommendations. This would be developed in consultation with municipalities among other stakeholders.
- Government intervention to support remediation of the built environment through exploration of social impact bonds for high-cost infrastructure projects, and issuance of negative interest loans for built environment improvements.
- The development of aggregated success metrics that are not only tied to the meeting of standards but to the experiences of persons with disabilities (PWD) and economic goals.
- A panel with PWD to consult on priority issues impacting accessibility with specific panels for municipalities and/or groups of municipalities.
- The publication of accessibility plans every three years with annual progress reports based on consultations with PWD.
The Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility has responded to media inquiries stating that the ministry has begun work on three recommendations:
- The creation of a new volunteer group of PWD to provide their experience and feedback on accessibility issues.
- An update to building evacuation plans for all government-owned buildings and leased buildings.
- Government procurement through the Crown agency, Supply Ontario, which incorporates accessibility standards.
We will continue to monitor Provincial activity on accessibility.