In March 2011, we made a submission on the Proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation that expressed our serious reservations. This Regulation continues to focus on preventing new barriers going forward in the areas of information and communications, employment and public transportation. Our concern is that the proposed Regulation has no requirements for removing the many existing barriers across the province. This contravenes section 6(6) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) 2005, which states that standards must include requirements for removing existing barriers.
The Government has stated that removing barriers will be its long-term objective and that preventing them is the short-term objective. If that is the case, we feel strongly that the Regulation should be amended so that all the implementation timelines are short-term. This would be in keeping with the standards development committees’ obligation to re-examine the Regulation within five years of it being adopted.
While this version of the Regulation did have many improvements, we still have concerns that some standards could cause contraventions of the Ontario Human Rights Code, because it:
- Exempts smaller organizations, as well as organizations with no employees, from many technical requirements such as accessible websites
- Exempts volunteers from employment standards
- Exempts inaccessible transit vehicles that exist in a fleet on July 1, 2011 – in fact, we also sent a letter to transit operators across Ontario cautioning them to not purchase inaccessible vehicles before the Regulation took effect
- Has “where not practicable” exemptions throughout. These could lead to contraventions because the Code requires accommodation unless it would cause undue hardship.
Other groups including the AODA Alliance are raising similar concerns. People with disabilities across Ontario are counting on us to push for regulations that will improve their quality of life. We will continue to work to make sure the new AODA regulations meet this goal and reflect the vision of the Code.