Sandra De Grandis
According to provincial government documents, private sector businesses in Ontario are not complying with provincial disability accessibility laws.
“Seventy per cent of Ontario private sector organizations with at least 20 employees are in violation of the Disability Act requirement,” David Lepofsky, of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance told Humber News.
The government also allocated money to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (the government agency in charge of enforcing the legislation) to help organizations comply with the regulations and to enforce the legislation. Since 2005, $24 million of the total budget has gone unspent.
“They can’t say they don’t have the money to do it,” said Lepofsky.
Private sector organizations are required to file an access report indicating whether they have fulfilled the requirements of the regulation that was passed in 2007. The deadline for the report was Dec. 31, 2012.
There are three steps that businesses are required to take in order to provide better accessibility. One is to have a customer service accessibility policy in order to meet the needs of those with disabilities. Businesses also are required to train employees on their accessibility policy and to have a feedback mechanism so people with disabilities can report if they run into any difficulties.
“They were given five years to develop these polices, put in effective feedback mechanisms and properly train staff,” said Lepofsky. “The government isn’t enforcing the legislation… the deadline passed 11 months ago and the government has done no inspections, issued no compliance orders and not imposed any monetary penalties.
“Inaction speaks louder than words.”
Lauren Longo, disability service officer at Humber, told Humber News it’s important for organizations to have equal access for all people.
“Everyone should have equal access to education and jobs and it’s important to help people achieve that.”
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed in 2005. According to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment website, the act plans to make the province of Ontario accessible for all people by 2025.
Lepofksy said the lack of accessibility has repercussions for all people.
“It’s detrimental to everyone. It hurts the public and people with disabilities who try to access services…it’s harder to buy goods and get services and the private sector loses out on customers.”