AODA -- Halfway There but Not Actually Halfway There
One of my favourite sports quotes cam during the 2014 NBA draft, when the Toronto Raptors selected Bruno Caboclo with their first-round selection. To be fair, Caboclo was always expected to be a project and ESPN's Fran Fraschilla captured the pick perfectly with the quote that Bruno was "two years away from being two years away."
And that brings us to AODA and where we are as we approach 2025. It's safe to say, we may be a few years away from being nine years away -- and we need to take a more active role in implementing accessibility measures across the board if we want to have any hope of embracing the spirit of the 2025 full inclusivity goal.
(And, yes, I may be stretching the halfway thing... but we're halfway through our month-long focus on Accessibility, so I'm giving myself a pass.)
Last year, then-minister of economic development, employment, and infrastructure Brad Duguid (his portfolio has since been changed to minister of economic development and growth), released a message in conjunction with The Path to 2025: Ontario's Accessibility Action Plan.
That letter called for Ontario to "renew [Ontario's] commitment [to AODA] and mobilize for another 10 years of action."
Nice words, but it's not all that simple.
While there have been positive movements in the five accessibility standards (customer service, employment, information and communications, transportation, and design of public spaces) that AODA puts in place to support the creation of an accessible province by 2025, there's far more to be done. And, seemingly, much of the momentum that AODA first spawned has been lost.
Earlier in our web accessibility writing (which you can find -- along with all of our accessibility posts -- in the accessibility section of the Echidna blog), we talked about how -- despite what some others were saying -- the process was designed to be collaborative, not punitive. Those companies who weren't in compliance wouldn't be fined, but rather the government would work with them to ensure they meet compliance.
That was the carrot. And while it may not be time for the stick, it's clear that not everyone's fully taking a bite.
AODA was supposed to be enforced, but due to resourcing and lack of will, that hasn't come to fruition. Structures and services are still being built that have barriers for people with disabilities. And 2025 is approaching with accessibility still being seen as a nice-to-have, but not an integral, mandated part of the very fabric of this province.
That has to change.
One key is educating our next generation, so that accessibility is a foundation of our society -- not just an addition. Groups like the AODAAlliance are vociferously promoting the need to establish an Educational Accessibility Standard that's designed to address barriers in the education system.
And the Ontario Student Trustees' Association is putting its focus on accessibility with the upcoming launch of its By Any Measure video -- a production that highlights successful student and staff-led initiatives towards accessibility.
So while we're on the much-ballyhooed path to 2025, we're not really far enough along it. We need people to take the initiative to reach out to their MPPs and state that this is an important issue. And we need businesses to stand up and take the lead in mandating accessibility -- both on-line and off -- throughout their businesses.
We encourage you to read through our accessibility blogs to learn about the very real and very positive benefits to your business' bottom line if you're not convinced. And we hope you'll join us as we continue to work towards an accessible Ontario.
We may have dragged our feet as a province so far, but there's time for us to quicken our pace and cross the finish line together. And a fully accessible province is most certainly a goal worth striving for.