Enforce Ontario’s law on access for the disabled
TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – Ontario has mostly ignored the laws it created to help disabled people.
Feb 24 2014. Editorial
When it comes to accessibility rights for disabled people in Ontario, the Liberal government has done little to enforce its own high-profile laws.
Advocates for the disabled exposed this sad fact last fall after winning a lengthy battle for government documents that uncovered an appalling lack of interest in the enforcement of accessibility reporting rules.
But that’s not the end of this unfortunate tale.
As the Star’s Laurie Monsebraaten reports, activist David Lepofsky recently uncovered a June 2012 “briefing note” that detailed a two-year plan to target 3,600 businesses to ensure they complied with the law and filed reports on the accessibility of their businesses. The bureaucrats had done their job but, curiously, something stopped the plan from moving ahead.
In the years since the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act became law — way back in 2007 — the Liberal government’s lack of interest in upholding its own rules has created unconscionable delays for the disabled.
Clearly, Eric Hoskins, the minister of economic development, trade and employment, has some explaining to do.
As that briefing note stated, “Filing an accessibility report is a legislated requirement … Failure to do so is considered a major violation of the act.” There’s no grey area in a statement like that.
Lepofsky rightly wonders, “Where is the political will to enforce this legislation?” It’s a good question.
The act requires that companies with 20 or more employees file electronic reports detailing how they accommodate customers with disabilities, train staff and handle customer feedback. As of last fall, a whopping 70 per cent (36,000) hadn’t bothered to do so.
At the time, Hoskins vowed to crack down and sent letters to 2,500 violators, most of which complied with the act. That was encouraging.
But Lepofsky is right to complain that those compliance numbers are a “microscopic drop” in the bucket: “So we have gone from 36,000 companies who have not filed their reports to 34,000. You do the math.”
At the time it was passed, the Liberals made a big deal about the law that promoted the rights of the disabled. However late, Hoskins needs to kick-start a province-wide strategy to uphold the government’s own rules.
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