Making Ontario Accessible – The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, Andrew Graham (2011)

… from the Atlas collection of Cases

Click for case study pdf

An open access resource from the Ontario Public Service and the IPAC Case Study Program

Prepared and edited by Andrew Graham (see pdf on right; material below is directly quoted from the pdf).

Scope of this Case

This case study examines events following the passage of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), primarily focusing on two areas:

  1. How the Province attempted to fully engage all stakeholders to participate equally in the creation of new regulatory standards that would be the key component of the AODA. It will detail the challenges, opportunities and frustrations that emerge when new expectations for engagement are enshrined in legislation.
  2. How ministries across the provincial government collaborated horizontally and made decisions at an unprecedented level in support of the new legislation.

In the process, it will also examine a number of other key issues:

  • Building consensus in stakeholder groups with varying agendas and competing interests
  • Building consensus and managing expectations of employers/business community and others who have to implement and comply with standards
  • Managing the expectations of the advocacy community for particular improvements against the realities of technological possibilities and expertise
  • Implementing the spirit of the legislation versus practicalities and realities
  • Looking forward to future legislation mandating citizen engagement, what constitutes best practices?
  • Implications for leadership competencies in the OPS
Teaser excerpts

The Disability Community

To understand the significance and implications of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) it helps to take a closer look at the disability community, the types of barriers that its members face daily in their lives and the history of disability legislation in Ontario.

At the outset, it is crucial to appreciate that the disability community is large, diverse and dynamic. In 2010, there were an estimated 1.85 million Ontarians living with a disability. This population has increased significantly in recent years and will continue to do so. …

Imagine a person in a wheelchair trying to get into most restaurants today, or into the washrooms of those restaurants, or down the aisles in smaller stores. And while it is true that persons in wheelchairs are now more likely to gain entry into buildings that previously weren’t accessible, it’s also true that once in, they often can’t really go anywhere due to narrow doorways, or aisles or the lack of elevators. Accessibility has yet to be fully integrated. …

The Disability Community: A Powerful Political Force

The disability community is a term that one uses with caution, just as one does not ascribe the same characteristics to persons who are called disabled. However, taken as a whole, the various organizations have a long history of successfully advocating the Ontario government for change. Associated with this, it has put considerable effort into educating the general public and lawmakers about all types of disabilities and their respective barriers.

However, and this is important to this case study, the disability community is not a cohesive whole. It is complex environment in which large and small organizations act in the interests of their specific constituencies or on a more strategic plane, depending on their mandate. Further, some of the organizations that focus on the disabled are policy focused, seeking to both educate the public and inspire legislative and policy changes to assist the disabled. Some offer specific services to their constituent groups, thereby also being involved with government in contractual service delivery arrangements. In this sense, sorting out the right policy frame as well as ways to engage such a diverse community represents a useful heuristic for how government effectively deliver policy change. …


To aid in presenting this case study, the author

  • Reviewed background materials provided by the Ministry of Community and Social Services including an independent review requested by the Ontario government and completed by Charles Beer in February 2010 entitled, Charting a Path Forward: Report of the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005; and
  • Interviewed key participants from the Ontario Public Service. Interviewees were assured, in the interests of receiving candid feedback, that direct quotations would not be attributed to individuals, nor would a quotation be used in a way that might readily identify the person making the statement.

This case study is not intended to make judgments of whether decisions and directions were right or wrong. The goal is to transmit knowledge to others who may have policies and/or programs to implement that have elements in common with this project, and to provide them with lessons learned to help them in their work.


Making Ontario Accessible – The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, Andrew Graham (2011), IPAC Case Study Program, Institute of Public Administration of Canada, see

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 15 April 2018.

Image: Making Ontario Accessible – The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, Andrew Graham (2011), IPAC Case Study Program, Institute of Public Administration of Canada.