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Ontario appoints two from U of T to key roles on accessibility

David Onley will lead a review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (photo by Ken Jones)

Ontario has appointed David Onley, senior lecturer in the department of political science at the University of Toronto Scarborough and Ontario’s 28th lieutenant governor, to lead a review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The AODA’s goal is to make Ontario accessible for people with disabilities by 2025, helping to build a fair society in which everyone can contribute their skills to our economy. Section 41 of the Act calls for a comprehensive review of the legislation and its effectiveness every few years. The review includes consulting with the public, in particular people who have mental and physical challenges, in order to make recommendations.

This will be the third legislative review. Charles Beer, former minister of community and social services, conducted the first review in 2009-10. The second review was led by Mayo Moran, former dean of the U of T Faculty of Law and Trinity College provost and vice-chancellor.

“It’s an honour to be asked to undertake this legislative review of the AODA,” says Onley. “True accessibility occurs only when disabled people can completely participate in all aspects of social, cultural and economic life, when people can achieve their full potential. That is the aim of the AODA, a truly ambitious piece of legislation.”

Since the act was unanimously passed, standards have been developed in five key areas: customer service, information and communications, employment, transportation, and the design of public spaces. Onley notes that this next review comes with the shift to a more mature phase of AODA’s implementation, and as the federal and international landscape has also changed significantly. In addition to upcoming federal accessibility legislation, Ontario is currently developing standards for health and for education.

Tina Doyle, U of T Scarborough's director of AccessAbility Services, will chair the Ontario government's new education standards development committee for post-secondary education, which is charged with recommending new guidelines as part of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. Doyle previously served as chair of the Inter-University Disability Issues Association and is currently a participant on the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development’s financial aid working group.

“Both David and Tina are dedicated and well-respected champions for accessibility,” says Bruce Kidd, University of Toronto vice-president and principal of U of T Scarborough. “We’re proud that they have been invited to serve Ontarians’ aims for equity and inclusivity.”

The AODA uses the same definition of disability as the Ontario Human Rights Code, which includes both visible and non-visible disabilities.

About 1.85 million people in Ontario have a disability – that’s one in seven people or more than 15 per cent of the population and more than 40 per cent of those over age 65. As the population ages, the number is expected to rise to one in every five Ontarians.