Advancing Accessibility in Ontario: Improving Understanding and Awareness about AccessibilityPublished on October 29, 2020
October 29, 2020
Advancing Accessibility in Ontario is a framework designed to help focus the government's work in four key areas:
- breaking down barriers in the built environment
- government leading by example in its role as a policymaker, service provider and employer
- increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities and
- improving understanding and awareness about accessibility
To make progress on the area of improving understanding and awareness about accessibility, the government is working with its stakeholders, including partner ministries, broader public sector organizations, businesses and non-profit organizations to help raise awareness and change attitudes. Many organizations are not fully aware of their accessibility responsibilities or do not realize the benefits of being more receptive to the accessibility needs of Ontarians with disabilities.
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 multiple sectors about accessibility by:
- 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.
- Developing an enhanced 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, increasing awareness about Deaf and disability cultures highlighted 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 a free handbook created by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called "The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart." This handbook offers no-cost and low-cost suggestions, gathered from people with firsthand experience, to inspire businesses to become more inclusive and accessible.
We are taking action to make accessibility enhancements so that everyone can fully participate in everyday life 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. These accessibility options are available through the desktop and mobile versions of Ontario's official travel website.
- Enabling Ontarians to engage with and learn about attractions, tourism operators and artists across the province, while keeping themselves safe during COVID-19, through Ontario Live, a virtual hub for the arts, attractions and film and television.
- Using a collaborative review of Ontario's supportive housing programs to find ways to streamline and improve coordination so people can get the services they need. The government is gathering feedback through multiple virtual public engagement activities, including an online survey, regional engagement sessions with stakeholders and partners, and population-specific discussions that include seniors and people with disabilities.
- Improving the government's digital platforms to put more services online, making them easier and faster to use. The Ontario Public Service (OPS) digital plan is starting by enhancing ServiceOntario transactions, including renewals of health cards and driver's licences. The Digital Strategy endeavours to develop a robust online channel that provides convenience and ease of access for all Ontarians, including customers and OPS employees with disabilities, and will create a consistent experience across multiple platforms.
- Embedding accessibility into national and international sport events by providing funding to non-profit organizations that deliver such events. Applicants to the Sport Hosting Program must submit an accessibility plan to show how barriers for people with disabilities will be removed so that everyone can take part in the event. 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 $1.07 million in 2019-20 to support the Abilities Centre in Whitby to advance accessibility and inclusion by expanding its services and training.
- Partnering with SPARK Ontario to help seniors and the most vulnerable stay connected and healthy as they self isolate during COVID-19. This volunteer hub connects volunteers to community organizations supporting people with disabilities and older adults during COVID-19 by delivering food or medicines, running errands or checking up on Ontarians as they self-isolate.
- Launching the Ontario Community Support Program, which provides home deliveries of food and essentials into 2021 for people with disabilities as well as other vulnerable communities who need to self-isolate due to COVID-19. This meaningful support was launched in partnership with the Ontario Community Support Association in April with an $11 million investment from the government. More than 230,000 meals and essential supply deliveries have been made across Ontario between the program's launch and September.
We are also providing enhanced support for implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and its accessibility standards by:
- Ensuring the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks continues to incorporate up-to-date accessibility specifications in Ontario Parks capital and renovation projects by receiving training on and incorporating Building Code accessibility changes and Design of Public Spaces Standards.
- Creating a web page that provides free accessibility resources and guides to make it easier for businesses and communities to get the information they need to help them be more accessible and inclusive. The "Accessibility in Ontario: Information for Businesses" resource is a one-stop-shop web page that includes valuable information on topics such as inclusive hiring, how to make workplaces more accessible and the economic benefits of hiring people with disabilities.
The government is strengthening its cross-government leadership in implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by:
- Increasing awareness about accessibility within the Ontario Public Service (OPS). An annual Inclusion Week has featured discussions on topics such as accessibility, mental health and inclusive leadership. Dedicated internal committees also provide resources to help advance awareness about inclusion and diversity. A multi-ministry speaker series has also built accessibility awareness to support the design and implementation of inclusive policies, programs and public services for Ontarians.
- Harmonizing Ontario's accessibility efforts with those of the federal government for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). The program requires that the province ensures all federally funded, public-facing infrastructure meets the highest published, applicable accessibility standard in a respective jurisdiction. The Ontario government applied an accessibility lens while developing the provincial criteria for ICIP. Nearly 400 ICIP projects across Ontario have been approved by the provincial and federal governments to date. They will bring critical infrastructure improvements to their communities, including accessibility components that will enhance the safety and comfort of transit users. For example, roughly 249 bus stops in Oakville will be upgraded with landing pads, walkways, ramps and curbs. In Barrie, 30 new low-floor, accessible buses will replace a retiring bus fleet and 21 new accessible paratransit city buses will replace the existing fleet over the next seven years.
- Ensuring that ministries work to design and provide accessible internal and public communications, websites and digital services that work for everyone. Our government offers best practice guidance and expertise to support these efforts, which are especially important during COVID-19 to help distribute information to Ontarians with disabilities.
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: the Northern Ontario Assessment and Resource Centre at Cambrian College, the Regional Assessment and Resource Centre at Queen's University, and the Centre francophone d'évaluation et des ressources de L'Ontario at Collège Boréal.
- 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 modify existing concussion awareness resources, including the development of the Athlete Concussion Awareness Resource: A guide for students and athletes of all abilitiesand Caregiver Concussion Awareness Resource: A supplementary resource to the guide for students and athletes of all abilities.
- Making ongoing efforts during COVID to review and improve digital learning tools being considered for the Ministry of Education's Learn at Home website to support students and families when learning from home.
- 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. As part of its own efforts to further its commitment to accessibility on campus, Carleton University became the first postsecondary institution to incorporate RHFAC into policy.