The proposed Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2004 is designed to remove and prevent any barriers that might keep people with disabilities from participating in society to their fullest potential.
We are serious about making Ontario fully accessible. Our new legislation, if passed, would make Ontario a world leader in improving accessibility, encompassing the provincial government, the broader public sector, and, for the first time in this province, all of the private sector.
Our government believes that making Ontario accessible for people with visible and invisible disabilities is the right thing to do, is the smart thing to do, and will be of benefit to all Ontarians. This new act would give Ontario the strongest accessibility legislation in the country and would make Ontario a world leader in this area.
What many Ontarians may not realize is that through accident, injury or disease, they too could find themselves with a disability. Research indicates that within 20 years, as our population ages, more than one in five Ontarians may have some form of disability.
That is why it is so important to take action now.
It also makes good business sense to make Ontario more accessible to people with disabilities. A Royal Bank study estimates that Canadians with disabilities have an annual spending power of $25-billion. People with disabilities also represent an important pool of labour productivity that isn’t being tapped because of issues of accessibility.
This legislation would provide new business opportunities as we welcome more and more people with disabilities into the workforce, who in turn would visit stores, restaurants, theatres, stadiums and places of business across the province.
The focus would be on improving accessibility in key areas of everyday life – such as buildings and spaces, the workplace, communications, transportation and customer service. Standards could range from the width of aisles, to staff training in serving customers with learning disabilities, to large-print menus in restaurants.
These new standards, which would be developed in consultation with members of the business community, the broader public sector and people with disabilities, would address all disabilities, including physical, sensory, mental health, developmental, intellectual and learning disabilities. These standards could be adopted as regulations, giving them the force of law.
Standards would be achieved every five years or less, establishing real milestones, paving the way for an accessible Ontario over the next 20 years. Ours is a more aggressive schedule than those in place in other leading jurisdictions, such as Australia, the United States and the U.K.
Innovative and effective enforcement tools, such as accessibility reports and inspections, would ensure compliance among more than 300,000 public and private organizations that would be affected by the proposed legislation. And there would be tough penalties for violators.
The simple bottom line is that we should all be able to ride transit, shop in stores, receive an education, obtain health care and get a job without facing barriers.
By working in partnership with individuals and businesses across the province to implement the proposed Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2004, Ontario will become a world leader in building a truly accessible society.
For more information about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2004
visit our website at: www.gov.on.ca/citizenship/accessibility
or write to:
Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration
Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
400 University Ave.
Toronto, ON M7A 2R9