You could say, where people with disabilities are concerned, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne started off with a positive approach. To begin her term, Wynne makes AODA changes. In the February 2013 Throne Speech, the Wynne Government announced the decision to shift the lead responsibility for the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Moving it from the Community and Social Services Ministry (where it has resided since 2005) to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. The Throne Speech made increased employment for all and inclusiveness for all a core theme.
Wynne makes AODA changes
The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, which oversees and leads Ontario’s development and implementation of accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, is more appropriately situated at the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. This is considered a positive change because the work needed to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is not a social service. Instead, it a pressing economic necessity that need to be addressed. It must be a foundational part of an economic development strategy for Ontario, not just an add-on or after the fact consideration.
The Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment works far more extensively with Ontario’s private sector. Therefore it is in a better position to engage/enroll the private sector in making Ontario fully accessible to persons with disabilities. Ontario’s economic development should draw fully on the talents of Ontarians with disabilities. The products and services that Ontario creates and sells at home and abroad should incorporate universal design principles so that customers with disabilities here and around the world can use them.
The Ministry of Economic Development is now expanded to include the important area of employment. That is why the Ministry has been renamed the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.
It is a promising step forward that the new Ontario cabinet minister, Dr. Eric Hoskins, responsible for advancing the overall goal of higher employment rates in Ontario will also have lead responsibility for increasing accessibility of employment for persons with disabilities. Putting these two areas of responsibilities under the same umbrella is a bound to bring the issues of barriers to employment to the forefront. We also echo the Government’s call for the private sector to take concerted action to expand employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.
What started out promising has yet to bring about any significant changes.