Advancing Accessibility in Ontario is a cross-government framework that is helping identify, remove and prevent barriers for more than 2.6 million people across the province who have a disability.

Launched in 2020, the framework incorporates recommendations made by the Honourable David C. Onley in the third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA), as well as input from key partners, organizations and people with disabilities.

The cross-government framework includes four key areas:

  • breaking down barriers in the built environment
  • government leading by example as a policy maker, service provider and employer
  • increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities
  • improving understanding and awareness about accessibility

Identifying, preventing and removing barriers for people with disabilities creates an Ontario that is built for everyone – whether you’re pushing a stroller, making a delivery, or using a walker or a wheelchair.

Making Ontario more accessible takes time and collaboration between many partners. The Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework will help us continue to work towards making Ontario an accessible and inclusive place for all.

Breaking down barriers in the built environment

Ontario is working with partner ministries and businesses to remove barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities in the built environment and housing.

Accessibility improvements

The government is implementing accessibility improvements in the built environment by:

  • clarifying certain accessibility requirements for buildings, such as:
    • location of controls for operating doors, thermostats, light switches and other functions in the building
    • types of buildings where barrier-free design applies
    • instances where doorway and door size requirements apply
  • increasing harmonization of Ontario's Building Code with National Construction Codes. This has resulted in accessibility changes that came into effect in January 2020, including:
    • enhancements for showers and bathtubs including requirements for grab bars, faucets, and individual bathtub requirements in some institutional occupancies
    • easier-to-understand requirements for universal washrooms in large buildings
    • clarifications for design of water closet stalls, locations of power door operators and building control devices
  • improving access to buildings and places for people with disabilities by working with key partners in architecture, design and building. We are exploring ways to enhance training for those practicing in the field and undertaking discussions with the postsecondary sector to reach a new generation of professionals. For example:
    • Ontario is partnering with the Ontario Building Officials Association to enhance their curriculum and training on accessibility, helping to ensure that new and existing buildings can be planned and built to be more accessible.
    • The Royal Architecture Institute of Canada introduced a new course on accessibility in March 2020. Introduction to Successful Accessible Design analyzes the impacts of accessibility in society, the built environment and the development industry. The course is offered in English and French, both as a complete university graduate-level course and as a continuing education course for practicing professionals.
  • ensuring the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks continues to incorporate up-to-date accessibility specifications in Ontario Parks capital renewal and renovation projects by receiving training on and incorporating Building Code accessibility changes and Design of Public Spaces Standards.

Funding and resources

  • investing $1.3 million over three years for the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in Ontario to help remove barriers in buildings.
  • making places of worship more accessible by providing $164,000 in funding for “Our Doors Are Open.” This free guide created by OCAD University provides practical information on how places of worship can remove physical barriers to accessibility so that more people can connect with their faith groups.
  • helping main street businesses become more accessible so they can attract more customers and employees by providing $133,150 in funding for "The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart." This free handbook is filled with tips and was created by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association.
  • giving retailers of all sizes in Ontario practical information on how to make their store more welcoming for customers and staff with disabilities by providing $100,000 in funding for “EnAbling Change for Retailers: Make your Store Accessible.” This free guide created by Retail Council of Canada covers how stores can implement accessibility in their communications, customer service and recruitment and retention.
  • providing $1.4 billion in funding for the 2020-21 school year to help school boards provide safe and healthy learning environments for students, which can include installing important accessibility features like elevators and ramps.
  • ensuring better access for people with disabilities throughout Ontario by continuing to require that all public transportation vehicles bought with provincial funding are accessible.
  • continuing to help Ontario residents with long-term mobility disabilities remain in their homes and participate in their communities by funding the Home & Vehicle Modification Program, run by March of Dimes Canada. With an annual investment of $10.6 million, this program reduces safety risks by approving grants up to $15,000 to make basic home and vehicle modifications.
  • planning to develop an innovation guide with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing that will be used to support the implementation of Ontario's Housing Supply Action Plan. The action plan will address housing challenges and support fresh approaches to help make homes more accessible.

Government leading by example

Ontario is demonstrating its commitment to accessibility as a policy maker, service provider and employer.

As a policy maker

Through its role as a policy maker, the government is working to make significant progress in implementing the AODA by:

  • ensuring ministries are taking accessibility into account as a key consideration when developing policies in the early stages of the design process, by developing tools, such as the:
    • Accessibility Review tool that supports ministry legal counsel, policy and program staff with identifying and addressing accessibility barriers in legislation and policy implementation frameworks
    • OPS Inclusion Lens that supports the user in “how” to develop and deliver inclusive, equitable, accessible and responsive initiatives
  • addressing barriers in the health care sector, such as a greater need for sensitivity when communicating with people with disabilities. The Health Care Standards Development Committee has developed initial recommendations for proposed accessibility standards for hospitals in regulation under the AODA. This committee is comprised of people with disabilities, disability organizations and sector experts.
  • making sure students with disabilities have the supports they need to transition from one school system to another. The Kindergarten – Grade 12 and Postsecondary Education Standards Development Committees are providing recommendations on how to make the education sector more inclusive. These committees have developed initial recommendations for proposed accessibility standards in regulation under the AODA.
  • 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 by funding the TeachAble Project website through Ontario’s EnAbling Change Program.
  • providing clearer and more transparent processes for families requesting service animals to 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.
  • applying an accessibility lens when evaluating capital project applications and spending. For example, Ontario established accessibility as one of the four main objectives that applications were evaluated on under the provincial criteria for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program’s Community, Culture and Recreation stream. Projects were also evaluated based on exceeding minimum standards; use of Universal Design Principles, accessible guidelines and innovative solutions to increasing accessibility.

As a service provider

In its role as a service provider, Ontario is working to provide barrier-free services by:

  • serving transit users and commuters better as part of the GO Expansion program. Progress continues at the 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 at provincial parks in Ontario on trails and beaches by adding features like mobility mats to make it easier for everyone to use public spaces.
  • putting more Ontario government services online, while making them easier and faster to use by enhancing ServiceOntario transactions, including renewals of health cards, drivers' licences and accessible parking permits. This is part of the Ontario Public Service’s Digital Strategy, which aims to develop a robust online channel that will be easy, accessible and convenient for all Ontarians, including customers and Ontario Public Service employees with disabilities.
  • investing $1.07 million in 2019-20 and an additional $4.5 million over three years, beginning in 2021-22 to support the Abilities Centre in Whitby in advancing inclusion and accessibility for people of all ages and abilities. Initiatives included:
    • researching social inclusion and social enterprise
    • developing a pre-employment skills program
    • piloting a 12-week pan-disability program for adults with disabilities
    • supporting local private and non-profit sector organizations to develop inclusion and accessibility plans
  • improving community agencies across Ontario through the annual Partner Facility Renewal program, which in 2020-21 included an investment totaling $8.5 million that went towards more than 290 upgrade and repair projects, including improving accessibility at community agencies.
  • continuing to help Ontario residents with disabilities that restrict mobility remain in their homes, avoid job loss and participate in their communities by funding the Home & Vehicle Modification Program, run by March of Dimes Canada. With an annual investment of $10.6 million, this program reduces safety risks by approving grants up to $15,000 to make basic home and vehicle modifications.
  • addressing barriers online so that Ontario accessibility resources, reports and publicly available data are easier to access. For example, by collaborating with Vision Loss Rehabilitation Ontario, a health services organization that provides training that enables people who are blind or partially sighted to develop or restore key daily living skills, the Ontario government made it easier for people who are blind to use Ontario GeoHub, a website that provides descriptive information about Ontario's geospatial data.
  • extending the Ontario Community Support Program until 2022, which delivers food and essentials for people with disabilities as well as other vulnerable communities who need to self-isolate due to COVID‑19. This was launched in partnership with the Ontario Community Support Association in April 2020 with a total $16 million investment from the government.
  • reviewing Ontario's supportive housing programs to find ways to streamline and improve coordination, so people can get the help they need. Between fall 2020 and February 2021, engagement sessions were held with stakeholders and partners from across the province. These activities included an online survey, virtual sessions and discussions with specific groups, including seniors and people with disabilities. The Ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Children, Community and Social Services and Health are working together to review the feedback received during these sessions, which will help to inform future supportive housing activities.

As an employer

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 by:

  • supporting Ontario Public Service employees — roughly 13% of whom self-identify as having a disability — by collecting and analyzing employee data to identify potential areas of focus to improve diversity and inclusion of OPS staff with disabilities in the workplace.
  • addressing recommendations from independent reviews on how to remove barriers and improve accommodations for employees with disabilities in the workplace. As part of this, the OPS is currently awaiting final recommendations from the third-party review of its inclusive workplace policies and programs launched in September 2020 to better address systemic employment barriers. This review includes all Ontario Human Rights Code grounds, with a focus on anti-racism (including anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism), transphobia and specific barriers for people with disabilities.
  • addressing systemic barriers and gaps through accountability mechanisms within the Ontario Public Service. Various strategic and operational teams work on accessibility planning and implementation across government to ensure accessibility is reflected in government policies, programs and initiatives. This helps to improve access to government services for the public, which enhances health, employment and social inclusion.
  • using the Ontario Public Service's annual Multi-Year Accessibility Plan Report to highlight progress and summarize its work to comply with the AODA’s accessibility standards, strongly promoting a culture of inclusion both within the organization and across the province.
  • increasing opportunities for hands-on work experience and training in the Ontario Public Service for graduates with disabilities by expanding eligibility for the Ontario Internship Program. The criteria changed so that students with disabilities who have graduated within the last five years — rather than two years — can now apply to the year-long program.
  • expanding the professional networks of youth with disabilities (and recently, veterans) by connecting them with mentors across the Ontario Public Service and broader public sector through the Connexions initiative. This helps post-secondary students and graduates, as well as veterans with disabilities prepare for the job market (or career change) by practicing job-seeking and networking skills.
  • working towards achieving parity with the diversity of the Ontario labour force in senior leadership for our most underrepresented groups, including people with disabilities, as part of the senior leadership diversification strategy.

Increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities

When businesses are accessible, everyone wins. Making businesses accessible and inclusive will increase more employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Industry leaders, government and stakeholders are working together to:

  • modernize and improve employment services
  • provide funding and supports to help employees with disabilities and employers thrive
  • enhance employment opportunities for youth with disabilities
  • invest in businesses to help them be more accessible to attract more customers and employees

With improved employment services

The government is working with various ministries to modernize and improve employment services by:

  • introducing a more locally responsive service planning and delivery model that will better meet the employment and training needs of individuals, businesses and communities. The new service delivery model integrates social assistance employment services into Employment Ontario to create one system that is easier to use and more responsive to local conditions. Changes were implemented initially in Hamilton-Niagara, Muskoka-Kawartha and the Region of Peel. Employment services across the rest of the province will move to the new system starting in 2022.
  • building a more responsive social assistance system through the Social Assistance Recovery and Renewal plan to ensure that employment services are working more effectively with other government services, so when people find themselves facing barriers to employment or in a precarious employment situation, they can get the help they need. Changes to the system will give social assistance recipients a path to jobs, greater independence and improved outcomes.

For employees and employers

The government is helping ensure employees and employers can thrive by:

  • providing funding to third-party service providers to deliver employment, training and labour market programs, and services through Employment Ontario. For example, Employment Services provides Ontarians with resource and information services, as well as assisted services such as job matching and job retention supports.
  • supporting the Ontario Chamber of Commerce's online portal, the Discover Ability Network, which connects job seekers with disabilities with Ontario businesses looking to hire talent through Magnet, a job matching platform.
  • promoting the benefits of accessible businesses through an Employers' Partnership Table that engages in business-to-business dialogue about hiring people with disabilities.
  • investing an additional $2 million in 2021-22 in the new Inclusive Community Grants program. This brings the total investment to $3.5 million to help municipalities and organizations develop plans to support aging in the community, helping people with disabilities and older adults to participate in the labour force.
  • Creating a web page of free accessibility resources for businesses and communities.

For youth with disabilities

We have enhanced employment opportunities for youth with disabilities by:

  • providing the following funding to colleges and universities:
    • Accessibility Fund for Students with Disabilities assists colleges and universities with costs related to the operation of offices that provide students with disabilities with a wide range of services and accommodations. This includes:
      • transitions programming
      • arranging note-taking for students with visual impairments
      • providing access to computers and appropriate technological learning aids
      • working with faculty to arrange extra time for students to write tests and exams
    • Support for Apprentices with Disabilities helps colleges with accommodation, disability assessments and equipment modification-related costs for people with disabilities who participate in apprenticeship programs, pre‑apprenticeship programs and Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Programs.
    • Print Alternate Learning Materials provides print alternate materials (for example, Braille, tape and large print) to colleges and universities to assist postsecondary students who are blind, have low-vision, are learning disabled or unable to use print materials.
    • Interpreter Funds help colleges and universities with the costs incurred in providing accommodations to students who are deaf, deafened and hard-of-hearing.
    • College Tuition Fee Compensation for Students with Disabilities supports students with permanent disabilities by making them eligible for a reduced tuition fee if they need a reduced course load and additional semesters to complete a program.
  • working with disability organizations to identify the business needs of employers and match them with the skills of people with disabilities. For example, the government and the Ontario Disability Employment Network worked with the Canadian National Exhibition to provide employment opportunities for youth with disabilities, with more than 196 people with disabilities hired in 2019.

For businesses

We are making it easier for businesses to open themselves up to more customers, clients and employees by:

  • funding municipalities to grow and support small businesses in rural communities through the Main Street Revitalization Initiative. Financial incentives for projects under this initiative included accessibility upgrades.
  • providing Ontarians with the opportunity to search for accessible travel options through Destination Ontario.

Improving understanding and awareness about accessibility

The government is working with partner ministries, broader public sector organizations, businesses and non-profit organizations to help raise awareness and change attitudes about accessibility. Many organizations are not fully aware of their accessibility responsibilities or do not realize the benefits of being accessible and inclusive.

Accessibility resources and training

We are working with key industry stakeholders through the government's EnAbling Change Program that provides resources and training materials to educate associations and employers in many sectors about accessibility. Projects include:

  • Developing Readable Fest, a specialized reading program with disability themes for elementary students that engaged more than 1,300 students in 17 Simcoe County District School Board schools with OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation.
  • enhancing curriculum and training materials on accessibility for building officials through the Ontario Building Officials Association. This ensures that new and existing buildings can be planned and built to be more accessible.
  • supporting the ReelAbilities Toronto Film Festival that increases awareness about Deaf and disability cultures by highlighting them in films and documentaries by filmmakers and actors with disabilities and/or who are Deaf. We also support the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, which runs the ReelEducation program on equity and inclusion for educators.
  • funding "The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart," a free handbook created by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association. This handbook offers no-cost and low-cost suggestions, gathered from people with firsthand experience, to help businesses to become more inclusive and accessible.
  • providing free accessibility resources and guides for businesses and communities through the "Accessibility in Ontario: Information for Businesses" web page that includes information on inclusive hiring, how to make workplaces more accessible and the economic benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

Creating cultural change about accessibility

We are taking action to make accessibility enhancements so that everyone can fully participate in everyday life. This includes increasing the availability and awareness of accessible programs and services by:

  • collaborating with Destination Ontario to improve the user experience for travellers with accessibility needs by providing practical information about accessible options at Ontario's tourism businesses through the desktop and mobile versions of Ontario's official travel website.
  • enabling Ontarians to learn about attractions, tourism operators and artists across the province through Ontario Live, a virtual hub for the arts, attractions and film and television.
  • embedding accessibility into national and international sport events by providing funding to non-profit organizations that deliver such events. For example, applicants to the Sport Hosting Program are asked to submit an accessibility plan to show how barriers for people with disabilities will be removed so that everyone can participate. Program materials include a link to the Guide to Accessible Festivals & Outdoor Events and volunteers are asked to complete an online accessibility training resource.
  • investing in the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program to help make buildings in Ontario more accessible. The program provides organizations with a snapshot of their building's accessibility to help businesses and communities understand how to be more accessible and inclusive.

Cross-government collaboration

We are strengthening cross-government collaboration efforts in implementing the AODA by:

  • increasing awareness about accessibility within the Ontario Public Service through various events throughout the year, such as National AccessAbility Week, UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities and other days of significance, with discussions on topics, such as:
    • accessibility
    • mental health and inclusive leadership
    • awareness about inclusion and diversity
  • harmonizing Ontario's accessibility efforts with those of the federal government through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). The program requires that all funded, public-facing infrastructure meets the highest published, applicable accessibility standards in Ontario. Under the program, more than 1,150 projects have been approved across Ontario that will bring critical infrastructure improvements to their communities, many of which include components that will enhance the safety and comfort of transit users. Examples include:
    • upgrades to public transit infrastructure, such as bus stops, transit terminals, and bus replacements and purchases of new buses with enhanced accessibility features, which will improve access to public transit systems
    • accessibility improvements to community, culture and recreational infrastructure, such as seating replacement projects in community theatres, new elevators in community centres
    • upgrades to public parks and active transportation infrastructure, such as new ramps to boardwalk and trail systems.
  • ensuring that ministries work to design and provide accessible internal and public communications, websites and digital services that work for everyone. Ontario offers best practice guidance and expertise to support these efforts.

For students and educators

The government is supporting the safety, needs and accessibility awareness of students and educators by:

  • providing support for research and assessment services for postsecondary students with learning disabilities by funding Assessment and Resource Centres. The support is provided through three centres across the province:
  • enhancing learning about concussion safety in sports for students and athletes with intellectual disabilities and their families by partnering with Special Olympics Ontario on a project to adapt existing concussion awareness resources, including e-booklets and concussion codes of conduct, to better support students of all abilities and caregivers.
  • reviewing and offering advice to improve digital learning tools being considered by the Ministry of Education to support students and families when learning from home during COVID‑19.