A message from the minister

In 2015, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This landmark legislation calls for an accessible Ontario by 2025.

Accessibility standard requirements continue to roll out. More companies and organizations are going beyond the legislation and embracing accessibility as an exciting business and community building opportunity.

And in 2015 we made substantial progress.

The government released The Path to 2025: Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan. It reaffirms our commitment to an inclusive Ontario by 2025 and outlines the steps we’ll take to ensure we meet our goal.

Ontario hosted the largest, most successful and most accessible Parapan Am Games in history. They raised the profile of parasports and athletes with disabilities, and left a legacy of accessible sports programs, facilities, housing and transportation for all Ontarians to enjoy for decades to come.

We held the first-ever Accessibility Innovation Showcase. It featured the latest in accessibility technology and assistive devices and promoted awareness about people with disabilities.

Going forward, we’ll continue to work with stakeholders in the public, private and non-profit sectors to explore ways we can better accommodate people with disabilities.

Working together, we’re building an Ontario where inclusion, equal opportunity, respect and dignity for people of all abilities are ingrained in everything we do. Accessibility promises great opportunities for people with disabilities and for all communities across the province. I look forward to continuing this journey with all Ontarians.

Tracy MacCharles
Minister Responsible for Accessibility
Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues

A decade of action on accessibility

All parties unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. Since then, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has worked with people with disabilities, businesses of all sizes, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to bring our vision of an inclusive Ontario to life.

The accessible customer service standard came into effect in 2008 and requires that companies and organizations large and small take into account the needs of people with disabilities – and that staff are trained on accessible customer service. All sectors had to comply with the standard by 2012. A review of the standard began in 2013, and we posted draft regulatory amendments to the Ontario government’s Regulatory Registry website for public comment in 2015.

The accessible employment standard requirements were introduced to the Ontario Public Service on January 1, 2013 and on January 1, 2014 & 2015 for large and small broader public sector organizations respectively. It came into effect for large businesses and non-profits on January 1, 2016, and will come into effect for smaller ones on January 1, 2017. The standard requires that all organizations make their employment practices accessible to people with disabilities. It will allow businesses to look to an underused talent pool and allow people with disabilities to access workplaces more easily.

Full implementation of standards that govern accessible information & communications, transportation and public spaces will follow, with all requirements for all five standards in place by 2021.

In just 10 years, we’ve seen a remarkable shift, from a focus on disability to recognizing abilities, and now on to social inclusion. And we’re confident that momentum is building.

Signs Restaurant: Accessible Dining

When Anjan Manikumar was a manager at a Boston Pizza in Markham, one of his regular guests was deaf. Manikumar couldn’t help but notice what a challenge it was for him to order, so the young manager started to learn and use basic American Sign Language (ASL). His customer was so delighted he started bringing in his friends who were deaf. That gave Manikumar the idea for Signs Restaurant, an upscale eatery in downtown Toronto, where the Deaf can work and dine using their language – and where people can learn about the Deaf community. Most of the staff is deaf and all the diners use ASL to order. For hearing patrons, there’s a “cheat book” of ASL illustrations. The restaurant, which has been a hit since it opened in July 2014, was recognized with a 2015 Leader in Accessible Employment Award at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Business Achievement Awards.

AODA celebrates 10 years

No government can build an inclusive society alone; businesses, organizations and individual Ontarians need to work together. Over the past 10 years, more and more of them have realized the value of accessibility, and many of them have reached beyond the standards with exciting and innovative initiatives.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the AODA, we showed our appreciation with a number of presentations and awards.

The highlight was a gala event held on June 3. More than 250 champions of accessibility celebrated 10 years of action at the Royal Ontario Museum. An accessibility time capsule designed by OCAD University students was on display. It will be stored and opened in 2025.

We also held:

  • nine community accessibility events across the province, which included a screening of a video on accessibility accomplishments and keynote speeches by high-profile accessibility champions
  • one French language event in Ottawa, organized by Le Phénix, a provincial Francophone disability organization and one of our EnAbling Change Program partners

The government launched the first David C. Onley Award for Leadership in Accessibility, which recognizes four individuals and organizations who demonstrate outstanding leadership in creating awareness of accessibility and disability issues in their communities. This year, awards went to:

  • Access Orangeville (Role Model/Champion – Organization) for transforming Orangeville into a barrier-free community
  • Dr. Kathryn Church (Role Model/Champion Award – Individual) for her work in accessibility, particularly for people with mental health issues
  • Lois Davies (Employee Engagement Award) for creating a positive and accessible work environment in York Region
  • Sarah Dinsdale (Youth Leadership) for her work with children, youth and adults with disabilities

Communities across the province also recognized 101 Ontarians for their passion and commitment to accessibility and inclusion with a one-time AODA 10th Anniversary Champion Award. Their accomplishments ranged from fundraising to building an accessible playground to starting an accessible sailing program.

We capped the year off on December 3, International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Minister Duguid made a statement in the Legislature outlining our progress over the past 10 years, and issuing a call to action to all Ontarians.

Mother Teresa: Accessible Playground

Mother Teresa Catholic Elementary School in Courtice has about 425 students. Only one of them has a physical disability, but when his mother began to appeal for an accessible playground, the school and the parent council didn’t hesitate. They got on board and held school-based fundraisers and online fundraising campaigns and got donations from businesses and the Rotary Club of Bowmanville. It took four years to raise the $75,000 needed, but in September 2015, the school unveiled a new, accessible playground on the site of its old one. It features wood chip flooring, ramps and transfer stations with activities at all levels, a swing set and a covered playhouse. The response from the parents and the community at large was really gratifying, says Principal Frank Bradica. And we now have a playground that can be enjoyed by every child.

Pan/Parapan American games legacy

The Pan/Parapan Am Games put an international spotlight on Ontario and what we are doing to create an inclusive province. More than 2,600 athletes and officials from 28 countries and territories took part in the 8-day Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games. As a member of the Toronto 2015 Accessibility Advisory Council, the Directorate provided input on accessible ticketing, training, communications and promotions, and transportation plans.

The games featuredfootnote 1:

The investments we made created a lasting legacy that includes accessible:

  • sports programs and facilities, including a new home for Wheelchair Basketball Canada’s National Academy
  • housing, including affordable units at the Athlete’s Village
  • transportation

During the Parapan Am Games we hosted the Accessibility Innovation Showcase, a three-day event that was the first of its kind. It raised the profile of accessibility and the many Ontario companies creating new technologies to help level the playing field for people with disabilities.

More than 50 exhibitors, 28 speakers  and 5,000 visitors took part in the showcase which featured Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure as reported in Healthline.footnote 3:

  • a technology pitch competition, where entrepreneurs showed their new technologies to investors
  • a 48-hour inclusive design “hackathon”, where students, designers and other professionals collaborated to develop new technologies to overcome barriers to accessibility
  • a “mapathon” leg, that invited the public to map locations in Toronto and at Pan/Parapan Am Games’ venues and rate their accessibility
  • a public and industry speaker series covering topics such as medical/assistive devices, IT/communications, athletes/games, government, investment/business development, and employment.

I would like to congratulate the Ontario provincial government for the steps they have taken to ensure that Toronto and its surrounding areas are the best prepared ever for a Parapan American Games. Many of the measures taken ahead of the Games will provide a lasting legacy for this part of the world. Accessible infrastructure and transport is a key component of any major para-sport event and I am delighted that ahead of Toronto 2015, the provincial government, organisers and partners have gone the extra mile by also looking at other areas such as training and tourism.

Jose Luis Campo, President of the Americas Paralympic Committee
Government of Ontario press release, August 4, 2015.

Advancing the AODA

The AODA requires regular reviews to make sure the act is working as intended, and to identify where improvements can be made.

Mayo Moran, Provost and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College, University of Toronto, did the second review of the AODA in 2013-2014. The report was tabled in the Legislative Assembly in February 2015. It found overwhelming support for accessibility across all sectors.

Reviewer Moran recommended that the government:

  • increase awareness about accessibility
  • explore new accessibility standards
  • enforce compliance
  • recognize people who promote accessibility

The Ontario government released its response to the Moran report in June 2015, and supported the review and many of the recommendations. We had already taken action in several areas, and specifically in 2015, we:

  • proposed amendments to the accessible customer service standard based on the results of the formal review to improve accessibility and make it easier for organizations to understand what they need to do
  • began work on a review of the accessible transportation standard
  • repealed sections of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act that were already addressed in the AODA. This was to reduce the burden on municipalities without impacting its effectiveness
  • developed Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan with input from Reviewer Moran’s report

There were also changes to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council. It provides high-level strategic advice to the minister on matters related to implementing the AODA. Rich Donovan, a recognized authority on disability and corporate profitability, was announced as the new chair at the end of the year Government of Ontario press release, December 16, 2015..

We gratefully acknowledge outgoing chair, Jim Sanders, who had served as chair since 2010. Among his accomplishments during his term, he led the review of the accessible customer service standard. We also thank David C. Onley, Special Advisor on Accessibility to the Minister who served as interim chair until December 2015.

Promoting accessibility

The Directorate works with businesses and organizations across the province so that they can have a better understanding of accessibility and their legal requirements.

In 2015, we continued to reach out to employers through a wide range of initiatives, including:

  • 10 e-newsletters sent to over 6,000 subscribers
  • 106 face-to-face presentations
  • 31 trade show exhibits
  • 31 webinars
  • over 1,000 visits to small businesses to raise awareness about the AODA through the Summer Student Program
  • over 5,000 responses to emails and letters
  • over 7,500 interactions on Twitter and Facebook
  • pver 18,000 telephone helpline inquiries
  • over 105,000 compliance reminders

We also launched our new website, ontario.ca/accessibility, to make it easier for companies and organizations to understand what they have to do – and when. The website includes an online feedback page to help us improve accessibility in Ontario.

And we have a telephone feedback line (1-866-515-2025) that provides the same function.

As well in 2015, the Directorate participated in several education events, including the:

  • University of Guelph Accessibility Conference, which was held in Guelph in May 2015. The Directorate took part in the trade show and gave a presentation, Towards an Accessible Ontario. Sessions focused on issues that include accessibility in the workplace, document and media accessibility, web accessibility and the countdown to 2025.
  • Learning Symposium, which was held in Chatham in June 2015. The 65th annual Ontario Municipal Social Services Association Learning Symposium brought together municipal service managers, provincial government staff, community and sector partners to share best practices and provide innovative examples of leadership in human services in Ontario. The Directorate delivered a presentation on the evolution of accessibility and leadership and provided information on accessibility compliance to delegates at the trade show.
  • The Higher Education Summit, a conference on post-secondary education, which was held in Toronto in November 2015. Minister Duguid provided welcome remarks at the summit. Rick Hansen, Paralympian and CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, gave the keynote address, which focused on visible and invisible barriers to success. He put the importance of accessibility and inclusiveness at the forefront of the conference.

Fact: 75% of small business employers who have employees with a disability report that they meet or exceed their expectationsfootnote 4.

Partnerships: EnAbling Change Program

EnAbling Change is a strategic partnership program that funds key umbrella organizations to help build awareness of the AODA and companies/organizations obligations.

In 2015, 17 new projects started. Highlights include:

  • AccessAbility for the Web: a Practical Guide to Accessible Web Design created by the Association of Registered Graphic Designers. The project featured webinar training, a dedicated website of resources and a practical handbook on accessible web design. Going forward, a Registered Graphic Designer will need certification in web accessibility requirements.
  • Enabling Minds: Mental Health Accessibility Training for Physical Activity Providers created by the Ontario Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association. Our partner created a training module and resource library to educate people who work in the sports, fitness or recreation sectors on mental health accessibility.
  • The Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) project featured educational opportunities for members, and the creation of the BIA Handbook on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. As well, they launched the MainStreet Accessibility Awards in 2015 to recognize best practices in accessibility by Business Improvement Associations and other businesses in Ontario. The inaugural award was won by the Downtown Collingwood BIA.
  • EnAbling Change Post-Secondary Design Competition developed by the Design Exchange. The competition, in its fourth year, continued to promote the importance of Universal Design among students and increases public awareness of accessibility issues by highlighting winners in an exhibition and online. Winning products in 2015 ranged from an affordable 3D printed prosthetic with multiple attachments for different needs, to a trail system that uses elevated ramps to allow people of all abilities to hike unhindered.

The Directorate thanks all our 2015 partners for their contributions:

  • Abilities Centre
  • Canadian Hearing Society
  • Conference Board of Canada
  • Curriculum Services Canada
  • Epilepsy Toronto
  • Link up
  • Le Phénix
  • Ontario Business Improvement Area Association
  • Ontario Chamber of Commerce
  • OCAD University
  • Ontario Municipal Social Services Association
  • Ontario Non-Profit Network
  • Ontario Wheelchair Sport Association
  • Regional Municipality of York
  • Retail Council of Canada
  • Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education (Ryerson University)
  • Workplace Safety and Prevention Services

Fact: According to Job Accommodation Canada, 80% of job accommodations cost less than $500. The most common accommodations – modified or reduced hours and job redesign – cost nothingfootnote 5.

Enforcing the Standards

To build an accessible Ontario by 2025, we need businesses, non-profit and public sector organizations to comply with their obligations under the law. The Directorate works hard to ensure that they do.

To make it easier for everyone to comply, we use a Compliance Assurance Framework that includes:

  • awareness campaigns about the importance of reporting
  • provision of compliance assistance materials
  • an online reporting system
  • a ServiceOntario contact centre to answer general questions, and a Directorate help desk to answer more complex inquiries
  • staff available to work with non-compliant employers to help bring them into compliance

The Directorate also has the authority to enforce the AODA and can:

  • conduct inspections
  • issue Notices of Proposed Order advising why a company/organization is not in compliance and what they must do to avoid a penalty
  • issue a Director’s Order for non-compliance
  • prosecute and fine

In 2015, the Directorate conducted an audit blitz to verify that large retail firms were in compliance with the AODA. Also in 2015, all public sector organizations were required to submit a compliance report, and 91% of them did so by the deadline.

Fact: Penalties for non-compliance range from $200 to $2,000 for individuals and unincorporated organizations; $500 to $15,000 for corporations.

The Path to 2025: Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan

To ensure we stay on track to achieve our goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025, we released Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan in 2015.

The plan has three pillars:

  • encourage employers to hire people with disabilities
  • build on our accessibility laws and standards
  • promote a cultural shift so that accessibility becomes a way of life for all Ontarians

Among other initiatives, it calls for government to maintain momentum by:

  • consulting with people with disabilities and businesses to develop a model for a voluntary third party certification model.
    • Over 100 businesses, non-profits, public sector organizations, and people with disabilities participated in consultations led by a third party in 2015 to discuss the development of a certification model
  • exploring opportunities to promote accessibility through social media and online platforms.
    • We partnered with Ryerson University for a policy hackathon that included students, people with disabilities and business people. The participants had to find digital media solutions to advance the accessibility dialogue
  • reviewing gaps and barriers in the delivery of health care.
    •  In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, we have been working to identify accessibility gaps and barriers in the health care sector. Preliminary research findings revealed that there are common accessibility barriers in Ontario’s health care system

Chelsea Hotel: Accessible Tourism

In May 2015, the Chelsea Hotel in Toronto took accessible tourism to the next level by offering an innovative Guest Accessibility Package. It’s a first for Ontario’s hospitality sector. Designed by Accessibility Professionals of Ontario, the package provides guests all the information they need about emergency evacuation procedures, accessible entrances and exits, assistive devices available at the hotel, restaurant and room service menus and local accessible transit options. It’s available in a variety of formats, including print, braille and electronic text. There is also a Guests with Autism Comfort Package, which includes social scripts to help guests with autism understand the hotel and its amenities. It’s been well received by guests, says Chelsea’s director of public relations Tracy Ford. They appreciate we understand their special needs and respond to them.

Looking forward to 2016

2016 will be another dynamic year for the Directorate as we continue to implement the vision outlined in the Path to 2025. Through our marketing efforts and outreach initiatives with new partners, we will promote accessibility to business. We will also enhance our public education work by offering more tailored and engaging learning opportunities to obligated organizations. Our continued work to strengthen the AODA will proceed as the review of the accessible transportation standard unfolds, and we will create an improved compliance reporting system for organizations. We look forward to working with Ontarians from all sectors of the economy and from all communities as we advance accessibility throughout the province.

Saugeen Shores: Accessible Beaches

A new accessible trails and beach access requirement will come into effect in 2017, but the Town of Saugeen Shores hasn’t been waiting. In 2014, it began a project to make its beaches accessible to everyone – from parents with strollers to people in wheelchairs. The Town partnered with the Grade 11/12 Construction Class at Saugeen District Secondary School to build two boardwalks, one at the Gobles Grove beach in Port Elgin and the other in Southampton. They were a success and in 2015 two more boardwalks went in at the Port Elgin Beach, thanks to the partnerships between the Town and the students, and Bruce Power and the Community Foundation Grey Bruce, who funded the projects. We want everyone to enjoy our beaches, says Saugeen Shores recreation program supervisor Heather Lorenz. And by encouraging people to stay off the delicate dune grasses, the boardwalks help protect the Lake Huron Shoreline for future generations of beach goers.

AODA 10th Anniversary Champion Awards

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the AODA, the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario, with the support of the Government of Ontario, recognized individuals who have demonstrated passion and commitment in the promotion of awareness of accessibility and inclusion in their community through a one-time award.

The AODA 10th Anniversary Champion Award was awarded to 101 individuals from across Ontario.
Aliyah YusufMississauga
Allan AngusOshawa
Allison BobbetteBarrie
Amanda RodgersShelburne
Andrea DodsworthPeterborough
Andrew SpeersElora (Fergus)
Ann Marie McPheeSault Ste Marie
Anna LeePeterborough
Archie AllisonToronto
Arthur RendallBurlington
Aznive MallettHamilton
Barbara SmithNorth Bay
Becky MurrayCannington
Ben TeichroebFormosa
Bob AshamSt Catharines
Bob SantosToronto
Brian KonNiagara Falls
Brian ShentonCamden East
Cathy AddisonLions Head
Christine MaloneOttawa
Clement LoweMississauga
Courtney GrovesHamilton
Dan DiNicoloParry Sound
Danielle GravelOttawa
Danny SteevesListowel
Wendy GossBrampton
David TheriaultSimcoe
Debbie DraganitsSarnia
Debbie KirwinHuntsville
Dely FarraceBrampton
Denise MiaultKenora
Dennis Hernandez-GaleanoFort Erie
Dennis ManareySt. Pauls
Diana SimpsonMississauga
Don ReistAjax
Donna BaydakBeaverton
Doris WeberWalkerton
Elizabeth LounsburySudbury
Fred HeydukWasaga Beach
Gail CampbellOrangeville
Gary MalkowskiToronto
Gregory SniderThunder Bay
Harvinder BajwaBrampton
Ingrid AliMarkham
Jack MerwinCollingwood
Jane Fiedorek-CarnegieDunnville
Jason MenardLondon
Jeff FillinghamMidland
Jim LowryAlmonte
Jim SandersGuelph
Joan LumsdenHamilton
John RaeWillowdale
Judith ParisienPrescott Russell
Kaireen MacKinnonNew Liskeard
Karen CoffeyOttawa
Karen KitchenBelleville
Katya PereyaslavskaToronto
Kevin McShanWindsor
Kirsten HillWhitchurch-Stouffville
Kirsty BrownCobourg
Leo PlueLondon
Linda WhitesideSudbury
Linda-Lee CassidyBelle River
Lorin MacDonaldToronto
Lynn HainerSt Marys
Manon LevesqueCornwall
Margaretta Papp-BelaynehInnisfil
Marie McCarronKingston
Mark CastroBrampton
Mark WaferWhitby
Mary SolomonMeaford
Matt TrainorSault Ste Marie
Matthew AbasAurora
Matthew BulmerPuslinch
Maurice RubenickThunder Bay
Michael DawthorneLondon
Michael GravelleOrangeville
Michelle Jones RousseauLaSalle (Essex)
Mike WasylykMaidstone
Naz HusainMississauga
Neil AllenHarrowsmith
Norman PriceLindsay
Olga DosisWoodbridge
Patrice DagenaisEmbrun
Rabia KhedrMississauga
Rachel MatthewsHamilton
Regan WestonStouffville
Robert BairdKingston
Roger KoertStratford
Ron LessardSudbury
Ron WiskinThornhill
Sarah WhiteOshawa
Shelley StewartSt. Catharines
Stephanie GrecoToronto
Stuart VandervaartCarleton Place
Sue MorganKitchener
Susan RuptashToronto
Tabetha BurleyGrand Bend
Terry McQuaidNewmarket
Tessa SoderbergThunder Bay
Vilma JohnsonThunder Bay