To All Members of the Accessible Public Transit Service Advisory Committee
Re: AODA Update
That the report be FORWARDED to the Commission for review and consideration.
On February 28, 2020, the Minister of Seniors and Accessibility announced a number of initiatives that are currently underway relating to accessibility in Ontario. In addition, a new framework which was informed by the recommendations made by the Honourable David C. Onley in the third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, as well as input from key partners, organizations and people with disabilities has been established. Advancing Accessibility in Ontario is a cross-government framework that will help focus the government’s work in four key areas:
- breaking down barriers in the built environment
- government leading by example in its role as a policy maker, service provider and employer
- increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities; and
- improving understanding and awareness about accessibility
From a policy perspective, the government is making progress in implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and as an organization is leading the way by:
- Developing provincial criteria for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) to establish accessibility as one of the four main objectives that applications will be evaluated on under the program’s Community, Culture and Recreation stream. Projects will additionally be evaluated based on exceeding minimum standards, use of Universal Design Principles, accessible guidelines and innovative solutions to increasing accessibility.
- Resuming the Health Care Standards Development Committee to develop recommendations for proposed accessibility standards for hospitals in regulation under the AODA
- Resuming the K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees to provide recommendations on how to make the education sector more inclusive.
- Considering recommendations from the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee to assess how to make information and digital communications more accessible.
- Creating more inclusive learning environments by providing educators with accessibility training, lesson plans and resources through the TeachAble Project website. The site was created with funding from the government’s EnAbling Change Program and gives people who work with students ways to create awareness about accessibility in the classroom.
- Providing clearer and more transparent processes for families requesting service animals accompany their children to school, no matter where they live in Ontario. As of January 1, 2020, Ontario school boards are required to implement their service animal policies.
- Providing organizations and the public with practical tips on how to be more accessible by delivering regular free webinars on various topics, such as accessible transit and creating accessible tourism experiences and customer service in Ontario.
From a service provider perspective, the government is working to provide barrier-free services through initiatives including:
- Better serving transit users and commuters by investing in improvements to the GO transit experience as part of the GO Expansion program. Progress continues at the five remaining GO stations in the Greater Toronto Area that are not yet accessible, including installing ramps and platform elevators as needed.
- Continuing to improve accessibility on trails, beaches and provincial parks in Ontario by adding features like mobility mats to make it easier for everyone to use public spaces.
- Streamlining the Accessible Parking Permit process to reduce misuse while ensuring access by making it easier for people 80 years of age and older, Canadian veterans of any age and certain people with disabilities to apply for an accessible parking permit.
- Improving community agencies across Ontario through the annual Partner Facility Renewal program, which includes an investment totaling $11.5 million that goes towards more than 350 upgrade and repair projects.
- Continuing to fund the Home & Vehicle Modification Program, which is administered by March of Dimes Canada. This program reduces safety risks by approving grants up to $15,000 to make basic home and vehicle modifications.
- Addressing barriers in the digital environment to move towards a modern digital approach so that our accessibility resources, reports and publicly available data are easier to access.
In its role as an employer and as an organization, the government is working to establish a more inclusive employment culture in the Ontario Public Service (OPS) by:
- Supporting OPS employees – roughly 12 per cent of which self-identify as having a disability – and ministries to meet the requirements of the AODA and embed accessibility into internal activities through the Ontario Public Service Accessibility Office, which serves as an accessibility centre of excellence.
- Addressing systemic barriers and gaps through Deputy Ministers’ committees within the OPS. These groups work on accessibility planning and implementation across government, as well as ensure accessibility is meaningfully reflected in government policies, programs and initiatives.
- Increasing opportunities for hands-on work experience and training in the OPS for youth with disabilities by expanding eligibility for the Ontario Internship Program. The criteria have recently changed so that students with disabilities that have graduated within the last five years – rather than two years – can now apply to the year-long program.
Enabling Change Project – Ontario Public Transit Association
In addition to the initiatives covered above, the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility has approved a grant under the Enabling Change fund to work in partnership with the Ontario Public Transit Association to implement one of the recommendations from the Transportation Standard Development Committee’s review of the Transportation Standards. This recommendation called for increased public education and awareness around three key elements of the transportation standards, namely:
- Accessible seating and mobility aid spaces on conventional transit buses;
- Service animals, and accommodating same on public transit vehicles; and
- Priority boarding on conventional transit services
Consistent with the approach undertaken when the province-wide campaign relating to the newly established priority seating requirements in 2012, this project will be led by a marketing firm with input from marketing representatives from transit systems across the province. The use of consistent messaging and medium will ensure that riders across the province will receive the same message.
An initial meeting was held in early February to discuss potential themes for the communications program and to provide direction to the marketing firm. It is anticipated that initial draft concepts will be shared with the committee at the end of March, subsequent to which the materials will be shared with local accessibility advisory committees and other stakeholders for feedback. Once all feedback has been gathered and considered, the designs will be finalized and prepared for distribution.
The communications will be presented in a number of formats to ensure that all transit systems have the opportunity to utilize them in some form. It is anticipated the final templates will be available to transit systems by the end of June with roll out of the communications to follow.
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager