Advocates question independence of provincial accessibility review

March 13, 2018
Article Source
Toronto Star

Accessibility advocates are questioning the Wynne government's recent appointment of former lieutenant-governor David Onley to lead the next independent review of Ontario's landmark accessibility legislation.

They say Onley, a childhood polio survivor, who completed a three-year appointment last fall as the government's special adviser on accessibility, should not be reviewing the same policies and actions he so recently defended in that role.

"There is absolutely no question about the record and the commitment of Mr. Onley on disability advocacy," said Laura Kirby-McIntosh of the Ontario Autism Coalition. "But the concern is, he is being asked to review the government he was part of. And optically, that is a little bit awkward.

"Politics is about perception. The difficulty here is the optics are bad. He doesn't have the independence that he needs," she added.

Ontario's 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) commits the government to ensure the province's 1.8 million people with disabilities have the opportunity to learn, work and play to their full potential by 2025.

To drive momentum over the 20-year timeline, the legislation mandates the appointment of a person to conduct a comprehensive review of the act every four years. The review must consult people with disabilities and other members of the public and may make recommendations to improve the act's effectiveness.

Lawyer David Lepofsky of the AODA Alliance, who first raised concerns about Onley's appointment last month, praised the former lieutenant-governor's advocacy on accessibility, but said he is the wrong person to lead the review.

"The purpose of these reviews is for someone outside the government to take an independent look at how much progress has been made, whether we are on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, and if we're not, where the shortcomings are and what needs to change," he said.

Read more: Advocates question independence of provincial accessibility review