10/07/2010

AMO responded to the government's proposed integrated accessibility regulation.
The Government has integrated the regulatory requirements for the Information and Communication, Employment and Transportation standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The proposed regulation has been posted on the Provincial Regulatory Registry until October 16, 2010 when the public review period closes.

AMO believes the government should be commended on making some important changes to the implementation of the current AODA standards. Most notably, the government has listened to the feedback received on the Information and Communications standard and responded with a more reasonable approach to increasing access to information for people with disabilities.

It also appears, by proposing an integrated accessibility regulation, that the government has recognized the logic of proceeding with a policy development and implementation process that takes the time to understand how decisions in one area affect all others.

The approach of consolidating the AODA standards into a common regulation addresses a number of the concerns previously raised by AMO with respect to the harmonization of the standards, including the need for common definitions (though greater clarity is still needed) and the ability to consolidate like-requirements (ie training) in order to make the maximum use of scarce resources. Further, it provides for a single reference point with respect to AODA legislation, making it easier for organizations to assess requirements and plan for and achieve compliance.

However, a number of concerns remain outstanding for AMO and its members including; further need for harmonization across standards and government initiatives and the municipal capacity to meet the provincial expectations that have been set out on the integrated regulation. In addition, AMO remains very concerned about the timelines and a number of the requirements related to the implementation of the transportation standard.

In its response to the integrated regulation, AMO provided the following key points and recommendations as feedback:

  • The need for harmonization across standards and other provincial regulatory requirements is still needed, for example;
    • consistency with the government’s “Open for Business” initiatives;
    • understanding the requirements under the Built environment Standard in order to plan and budget appropriately;
    • requirements under Bill 168 (Violence and Harassment in the Workplace legislation) and expectations against requirements under the transportation standard.
  • The needed for greater clarity on definitions remains; for example:
    • ensuring definitions and phrases in the Employment standard are consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code and existing employment case law.
  • The need for a comprehensive cost-benefit  analysis for each standard and the integrated regulation:
    • The Martin Prosperity Institute report, “Releasing Constraints: Projecting the Economic Impacts of Increased Accessibility in Ontario,” highlighted the potential benefits of the standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, including:
      • an increase of up to $1.6 billion in new tourism revenue
      • an additional increase in total sales of between $3.8 and $9.6 billion, and
      • up to $359 million in employment income.
  • The report contends that these benefits will be experienced by businesses within communities and could result in both business and economic growth. However, the report fails to demonstrate how untapped spending power will in fact benefit municipalities. Sales taxes and employment taxes all go to either the provincial or the federal governments. However, while some municipalities may benefit from some tourism dollars, all municipalities will be facing significant cost increases and budget pressures to meet the provincial mandate of the AODA, they will not benefit from any direct cost offsets.
  • Reasonable timelines and flexibility for implementation that reflect the varying capacity: and planning processes of municipalities across the province are required.
To support the capacity concerns AMO has raised, we are recommending implementation timelines for consideration by the government. The proposed timelines are based upon the following important considerations:
  • the reality of municipal business planning cycles;
  • the understanding of the varied human and fiscal recourse capacities of municipalities across the province;
  • an opportunity for municipalities to fully utilize the lessons learned from the OPS as first starters in the implementation of the standards, and;
  • that municipalities have the opportunity to learn from other municipalities (medium to smaller municipalities may have implementation challenges that will not be captured in the OPS lessons learned).
Proposed AMO timelines:
  • Provide for a Minimum 2 Years Between OPS and BPS Compliance Timelines.
  • Separate the Requirement for Policy Adoption from Procedure and Practice Implementation.
Transportation concerns:
The cost implications for the transportation standard are believed to be significant.  Provisional estimates, for certain smaller transit systems, would see the annual ongoing operating costs equate to upwards of 50% of the current operating costs.
 
AMO has heard from its membership that in the absence of revised timelines or supportive funding to support the implementation of the transportation standard, many providers will be unable to not only meet current transit demands but also requirements under the standard. Smaller transit providers will be faced with the possibility of service degradation.

AMO believes that in the absence of the above, many municipalities will at best, meet only minimal requirements for accessibility or be in non-compliance. At the same time, the degradation of existing services is likely. What this means, is the government will be required to spend additional resources on enforcement while the reality for Ontarians with disabilities could remain virtually unchanged from how things are today.

In its full response to the proposed integrated regulation, AMO raises other concerns including the release of the regulation for public review during the municipal election cycle, AMO is requesting the opportunity to review and provide input on the final regulation.

AMO advises its members to respond to the proposed regulation and where appropriate seek feedback and endorsement from local Accessibility Advisory Committees on the response to the proposed regulation.

AMO understands the government’s desire to get this right. We are providing the above insight and recommendations in our shared desire for sustainable change.