Spinal Cord Injury Ontario Urges Immediate Action on Ontario’s AODA Commitment
A new report published just days ago is painting a stark picture of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which Ontarians were hoping would meet its goals for a fully accessible province by 2025. Rich Donovan, Chair of the province’s Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC), appointed to conduct a legislative review of the act, says Ontario is lacking in basic leadership, accountability and data needed, making it nearly impossible to fulfill its promises in the next two years.
People with disabilities in Ontario continue to face significant challenges, including a higher likelihood of unemployment and poverty. The barriers they come across range from trouble accessing essential equipment and medical supplies to navigating city streets, transportation, and government services. For individuals with spinal cord injuries, accessibility is a fundamental aspect of daily life, impacting their ability to live, work, and participate in their communities.
Peter Athanasopoulos, Director of Public Policy at Spinal Cord Injury Ontario (SCIO), expresses his frustration with the lack of progress. “This is the fourth independent review of the AODA since its existence. It’s heartbreaking reading these reviews time after time and not seeing any progress being made from the recommendations,” he says. “At some point, we need progress. At some point, we need to expedite a fully inclusive Ontario and make this a priority. Without the government’s full support on accessibility, 2.9 million people in this province will continue to experience hardship and discrimination and never achieve full citizenship.”
SCIO is committed to the AODA Standard Development Process and was recently heavily involved in the Health and Education Standard. Despite our efforts, the reports and recommendations have remained with the government for over a year without any legislative action. SCIO serves a broad community with diverse backgrounds and needs, so when the province is behind in basic accessibility, everyone is impacted.
Dr. Stuart Howe, CEO of SCIO, emphasizes the need for immediate action.“We need to stop talking about accessibility and its importance. We need action, now,” he says. “Progress must be prioritized, and this province should be transformed with the expectation of belonging and inclusion for everyone in Ontario.”
We urge the following actions to be taken:
Strengthen Enforcement: Enhance enforcement measures, establish transparent reporting mechanisms, and hold organizations accountable for complying with accessibility standards.
Develop New Standards: Consider additional accessibility standards and regularly review and update existing ones to address the evolving needs and challenges faced by individuals with spinal cord injuries.
We at SCIO are eager to collaborate with the provincial government to implement lasting, tangible changes in Ontario’s accessibility. We anticipate a formal response from the Premier regarding his vision for how his government will establish a fully inclusive Ontario, which impact nearly three million people and their loved ones. The future of accessibility in Ontario depends on everyone’s efforts, and time is running out.