Sunday, December 10, 2023

Accessibility in Ontario

In recent months I've become aware of our Accessibility Advisory Committee here in Meaford, a committee of mostly citizens who advise Council on matters pertaining to accessibility, or in other words, progress towards meeting the goals of 'AODA'.  I've started learning about accessibility issues fast, and may even apply to be on this committee.

AODA is a remarkable piece of legislation I've just started learning about.  Passed by the province in 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) promised to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025, just over one year away now.  The responsibility fell to everyone, including municipalities and the private sector as well as the province.

To make a long story short the proposed work was divided into several areas, not just physical access to buildings such as I need, but similar concerns with employment, training, education, transit and so on.  Committees were to set standards in each area to guide agencies across the province in making the area of their own responsibility more accessible.

It has opened my eyes to the many different forms of disability, for most are invisible disabilities.  Of about 2.9 million disabled in Ontario (20% of the population), only about 150,000 use wheelchairs, and a very small portion of those use power chairs such as mine.

What hit me most as I was thrown into learning about this legislative and program lens on being disabled, was the result of the most recent program review.  This is the 4th legislative review, all conducted by external experts, in this case Rich Donovan.

What did this review show?

First, among all the voices at stakeholder meetings and in interviews, the reviewer heard: "consistent stories of frustration, anger, resignation and disappointment with the state of accessibility in Ontario".  This reviewer described progress as 'soul-crushingly' slow, and the legislation as an abject failure.

There's lots of information and preamble in the report, but to summarize, the reviewer found that:

'Outcomes are poor,

Enforcement does not exist,

Research does not exist,

Leadership does not exist,

There is no accountability.'

 I don't have to tell you that I was appalled when I read this!

I have no real idea how we're doing here in Meaford, though based on my conversations with the two staff responsible, we're doing pretty well.  The new library is of course the big accomplishment here in Meaford.  The circulation desk and the reading room in the old library were accessible, but the meeting rooms, the childrens library and above all the book stacks were not.  The new library is totally accessible, and it's my favourite destination downtown.

And lest you think Meaford has two staff dedicated to these issues, they're certainly dedicated, but only for about 1% of their time!

I'm only beginning to be aware of all this context for me as I ramble through town, but I intend to continue learning.  You can expect further posts on these issues in the future.  How is accessibility treated in your community?



  1. That's an interesting post, FG. It hits close to home too, especially for you. Thank you for bringing it closer to the rest of us. We should all be aware of these challenges.

  2. We, too, need to know more , with our son-in-law in an electric wheelchair too. Some places said "wheelchair access" but when he visited the business or shop, found it really was not. This was in the South Island, but I guess not much different up here. Some firms have been very quick to alter their signs and adapt the access properly. The library, that would be my favourite place to visit and next time I call into our local one, will see if it is friendly for folks like you. You will be the right person to be on that committee.I wait to find out.

  3. I can certainly see how it can be frustrating. We all need to be aware of this problem!!

  4. Ever since you first wrote about your disability I had hoped that you might get involved in this kind of work, though I realised that you had enough problems of your own to grapple with first. Quite often the problems can be easily solved and it just needs someone to bring the issues to the notice of those in charge. At other times long-term policies need to be drawn up so that when new buildings are designed they are made suitable for all. It's not many years ago that Leeds railway station won a major award for a redevelopment which was totally inaccessible for many.

  5. I think most of us recognize where physical disabilities create difficulty in accessing services and buildings and the like. There has been some work done and I think most buildings in our city have some adaptations made to permit wheelchairs and walkers.
    But, it's the hidden disabilities that see fewer accommodations. I have noted that the local grocery stores are beginning to have hours set aside for those with sensory issues. The background music is turned down, lights are dimmed slightly. For those with autism or other sensory processing disorders this is something that makes the stores more accessible.
    I'm sure your voice on a committee in this area would be very much appreciated.

  6. what a great place for you to focus some energy. it is we, the disabled, who live it and can make the best suggestions and contribution. i think you have the perfect voice to make a difference. i see cars parked in handicapped spots all the time that do not have handicapped plates or placards, i always write a "shame on you" note and leave in on their windshield!!

  7. Here in northcentral Pennsylvania accessibility seems to be hit or miss. Curb cuts have been made at many intersections, but they're often bordered by side curbs that look like they'd be a real hazard to anyone with vision problems and a lot of other folks, including some in wheelchairs. There also seem to be a lot of token efforts that may look good on paper but do little or nothing for people who actually need places to be accessible. Just as a for instance, a lot of ramps have been installed but many are so steep that it would be difficult or impossible for most people to get an non-powered wheelchair up the ramp and difficult to go down the ramp as a speed that would permit an easy turn or stop at the bottom.

  8. I hope you apply and make it onto the AODA committee. You definitely would be an asset there as well as on any other like-minded committee in Ontario. People need to hear your voice.

  9. Whether you decide to become involved or not, your posts about your "adventures" in disability have been an eye opener for me. We here in Bellingham have a good bus system, and they have ramps for wheelchairs that are used regularly. The bus drivers are pretty good at staying on schedule, even when time is taken up with the task of getting the person on the bus and strapped in before setting out.

  10. Every now and then, I realize that with my hearing and walking, I qualify as being disabled in a sense. I don't think of myself that way, but I do use those handicap parking spaces fairly often.

    Tomorrow we are goin to visit a bakery with about 8 stone steps to take to enter.

  11. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. You have helped me understand disability and see the needs here in our community.