Our Campaign for Strong, Effective Implementation of the AODA

PLEASE TELL THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT IF YOU SUPPORT THE AODA ALLIANCE’S BRIEF ON THE FINAL PROPOSED TRANSPORTATION ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD

April 8, 2009

SUMMARY

The AODA Alliance has finalized and submitted its brief to the Ontario Government on the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard. (Text of this brief set out below.)

You now have an important opportunity to help convince the Ontario Government to enact a strong, effective Transportation Accessibility Standard. It is easy for you to help. It would take you very little time.

Please tell the Ontario Government if you support the AODA Alliance’s brief on the Transportation Accessibility Standard. All you need to do is send a quick email to:
accessibility@css.gov.on.ca

It would be great if you could say you endorse the AODA Alliance’s April 8, 2009 brief on the proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard. Of course, it would also be wonderful if you had the time to give the Government additional suggestions of your own on how to improve the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard which the Transportation Standards Development Committee submitted to the Government. You can find the text of the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard at:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03172009.asp

Encourage others to voice their support for our brief. We welcome endorsements of our brief, whether from organizations and from individuals. If you don’t want to use email, you can also contact the Government at:

Mail: Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
Outreach and Compliance Branch
Ministry of Community and Social Services
777 Bay Street, Suite 601
Toronto ON Canada
M7A 2J4

Telephone: 416-314-0529
TTY: 416-326-0148 / Toll-free: 1-888-335-6611
Fax: 416-326-9725

To make it easier to review the brief, we provide a summary of our position in the introduction. In the appendix at the end, we list in one place all of our recommendations.

We thank those who took the time to review our draft brief, circulated earlier, and to offer us feedback. Our final brief, set out below, includes everything that was in our draft brief. It also includes two added recommendations:

* Recommendation 16(b) to require a public transit provider to provide alternative accessible transportation to passengers with disabilities if important accessibility equipment on the conventional transit system (such as a subway station elevator) is inoperative for more than a minimal period of time.

* Recommendation 47: to require that public transit authorities develop and make public a multi-year transit accessibility plan showing how and by when they will make their transit services fully-accessible.

Our draft brief, circulated earlier, is available at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03302009.asp

Download a copy of our brief in MS Word format.

Thank you for considering giving your support to our call for a strong, effective Transportation Accessibility Standard.

David Lepofsky Chair, AODA Alliance

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ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

BRIEF TO THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT ON THE FINAL PROPOSED TRANSPORTATION ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD

April 8, 2009

CONTENTS

A. INTRODUCTION

1. OVERVIEW

2. WHO ARE WE?

3. THE PRESSING NEED FOR A STRONG, EFFECTIVE TRANSPORTATION ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD

4. ADDRESSING CONCERNS OVER THE COST OF ACHIEVING BARRIER-FREE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SERVICES

5. HOW WE ASSESSED THE FINAL PROPOSED TRANSPORTATION ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD

6. SUMMARY OF OUR FEEDBACK

7. SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

B. SPECIFIC CLAUSE-BY-CLAUSE FEEDBACK

1. DEFINITIONS

2. LONG-TERM OBJECTIVES

3. TRAINING

4. OPERATOR RESPONSIBILITIES

5. BOARDING/DE-BOARDING ASSISTANCE

6. SUPPORT PERSON FARES

7. AVAILABILITY OF ACCESSIBILITY EQUIPMENT AND FEATURES

8. MAINTENANCE OF FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT

9. DUTY TO HAVE ACCESSIBLE PASSENGER VEHICLES

10. PARA-TRANSIT
(a) Comparable Service
(b) Catchment Area
(c) Communities With Para-Transit But No Conventional Public Transit
(d) Eligibility Application Process
(e) Type Of Service
(f) Para-Transit Drop-Off Location
(g) Inter-City Para-Transit Connections
(h) Ride Guarantees
(i) Travelling With Companions
(j) Service Delays
(k) Repeated Para-Transit Users

11. TAXIS
(a) Expanding The Number Of Accessible Taxis On The Road
(b) Monitoring Level Of Accessible Service For Taxi Patrons
(c) Exterior Posting of Taxi Identification Information

12. ADDITIONAL BARRIERS FACING PERSONS WITH VISION LOSS

13. IMPORTANT BARRIERS AND CONCERNS NOT COVERED IN TRANSPORTATION STANDARD
(a) Ticket-Purchasing And Validation Technology And Electronic Kiosks
(b) Physical Accessibility Of Transit Stations And Stops
(c) Accessible Anouncements For Persons Who Are Deaf, Deafened And Hard of Hearing
(d) Provision Of Service To Persons With Disabilities When Conventional Transit Service Is Disrupted
(e) Courtesy Seating For Passengers With Disabilities
(f) Monitoring Compliance
(g) Meaningful Avenues To Transportation Providers For Input By Persons With Disabilities To Transportation Providers
(h) Long Term Transit Plans

14. EXCESSIVE TIME LINES
(a) Maintaining Accessibility Equipment/Facilities In Working Order
(b) Audible Announcement Of Route Stops
(c) Making Public Transit Fleets Accessible
(d) Time Lines That The Proposed Standard Didn’t Set

C. CONCLUSION: PROCESS OF GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION ON THE FINAL PROPOSED TRANSPORTATION ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD

APPENDIX 1 - SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

BRIEF TO THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT ON THE FINAL PROPOSED TRANSPORTATION ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD

April 8, 2009

Visit www.aodaalliance.org
Email aodafeedback@rogers.com

A. INTRODUCTION

1. OVERVIEW

This is the brief of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, submitted to the Ontario Government, on the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard. We welcome this opportunity to provide our input.

This brief begins with an introduction section. It describes who the AODA Alliance is. It explains the pressing need for a strong effective Transportation Accessibility Standard. It addresses possible concerns over the cost of providing transportation accessibility. It spells out how we assessed the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard. It then summarizes our feedback and recommendations.

In the second part of this brief, we provide our feedback and recommendations, clause-by-clause, to the proposed Standard. We conclude by voicing some concerns on how the Government is conducting its consultation on this proposed Standard. An Appendix lists all our recommended changes to the proposed Standard.

2. WHO ARE WE?

The AODA Alliance is a voluntary non-partisan coalition of individuals and organizations. Its mission is:

"To contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act."

To learn about us, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org.

Our coalition is the successor to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee led the province-wide, decade-long campaign advocating for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our membership from the ODA Committee's broad, grassroots base. To learn about the ODA Committee's history, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net.

3. THE PRESSING NEED FOR A STRONG, EFFECTIVE TRANSPORTATION ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD

Full barrier-free access to public transportation is fundamentally important for over 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities. People with disabilities face far too many barriers when seeking access to public transit to get to work, to school, to see a doctor, to visit a friend or family member, or to enjoy the many other great opportunities that Ontario offers its residents.

In the early part of this decade, the Ontario Human Rights Commission documented the many barriers that persons with disabilities face when trying to use public transportation services in Ontario. Visit: http://www.odacommittee.net/ODA_Bill_125_news23.html

and

http://74.125.95.132/custom?q=cache:CrXVUO4_Kk0J:https://ospace.scholarsportal.info/bitstream/1873/6706/1/10303188.pdf+ontario+human+rights+commission+consultation+report+public+transportation+disabilities&cd=8&hl=en&ct=clnk&client=google-coop-np.

People without disabilities would not tolerate having to endure the many barriers that Ontarians with disabilities daily face when seeking to use public transportation services.

It will benefit all Ontarians to make Ontario’s public transportation services fully barrier-free for all persons with disabilities. The many barriers to equal access to public transit do not only hurt persons with disabilities. They also hurt the friends and families of persons with disabilities who want to travel with them. As well, they hurt all Ontarians. These barriers undermine Ontario as a tourism destination. They impede Ontario businesses from fully benefitting from persons with disabilities as potential employees and customers.

It is critically important to make public transportation services fully accessible, in order to make the most of other accessibility standards that will be created under the AODA. For example, the forthcoming Employment Accessibility Standard will depend, for its full effectiveness, on persons with disabilities having effective access to public transit, so they can get to work.

Ontario thus now needs a strong, effective Transportation Accessibility Standard which will make Ontario public transportation services fully barrier-free. Too many transit riders with disabilities have been forced to fight these barriers one at a time, lodging individual human rights complaints against transit providers to get access to the basic human right of equal access to public transit.

The AODA requires fully accessible public transportation services by or before 2025. Seven years ago, the Ontario Human Rights Commission recommended the development of a province-wide transportation accessibility standard. We commend the Ontario Government for appointing a Standards Development Committee under the AODA to develop an accessibility standard on public transportation.

We also commend efforts by a number of Ontario public transit providers to improve the accessibility of their services. However, those efforts to date have, as an aggregate, been too slow. Unless the process of making Ontario public transportation services fully accessible is significantly broadened and accelerated Ontario will not achieve fully-accessible public transportation services by 2025.

4. ADDRESSING CONCERNS OVER THE COST OF ACHIEVING BARRIER-FREE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SERVICES

In the face of efforts under the AODA to make Ontario’s public transit services fully accessible to persons with disabilities, we expect that the issue of the cost of doing so will be raised. We address this here, before setting out our feedback on the specifics of the proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard.

We are concerned that the study which the Ontario Government sponsored on the cost of making Ontario public transportation accessible is quite unreliable. It overstates the cost at issue. For example, as technology evolves and the demand for accessible transit expands, we anticipate that this cost will drop.

Some may treat the cost of making public transportation services fully-accessible as if this is a new cost burden which the AODA creates. They may complain that the Government shouldn’t now impose this obligation on public transportation providers unless the Government is prepared to pay the bill for this new obligation. There may be some suggestion that this is a concern especially during the current economic downturn.

Any such concerns are fundamentally erroneous. The duty of transportation providers to remove and prevent barriers impeding persons with disabilities to public transportation services was not suddenly created for the first time in 2005 by the AODA. Transportation providers have had this legal duty for over a quarter century under the Ontario Human Rights Code and, in the case of government agencies that provide public transit, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These important laws impose a duty to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities, up to the point of undue hardship to transportation providers. This includes the duty to prevent new barriers against persons with disabilities from being created, and the duty to take required steps to remove existing barriers, so that persons with disabilities can fully participate in and benefit from those transportation services. This duty was re-emphasized in 2001 by the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001.

For example, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2005 and 2007 that the Toronto Transit Commission has had a duty under the Ontario Human Rights Code to consistently and reliably announce all subway, bus and streetcar stops aloud for the benefit of blind transit passengers. It held in 2005, for example, that TTC had violated the human rights of blind passengers for at least a full decade by failing to meet this obligation. Thus, the AODA didn’t create that as a new duty.

If a transit authority has not been spending the funds it has been required to between 1982 and the present on this important obligation, it must now make up for that failure. It cannot use that failure to justify further delays.

In considering the issue of cost, it must be remembered that most of Ontario’s public transit providers (except, for example, for taxi companies) are part of local or provincial governments. Moreover, year after year, billions of new public dollars have been announced by the federal and Ontario governments to be spent on public transit.

Put simply, it would be wrong to suggest that a transportation provider doesn’t have to spend money on becoming accessible unless the Ontario Government foots the bill. A local government agency or business cannot refuse to obey Ontario’s environmental laws or other legal duties until and unless the Ontario Government pays for it. The cost of becoming accessible is a cost of doing business.

The current economic downturn cannot justify a failure to fulfil the legal requirement of providing accessibility over time. The AODA doesn’t require that all needed steps be taken during the current economic downturn. Moreover, efforts at making transit services accessible will help Ontario’s economy, not hurt it.

It is also important to weigh the cost of not providing accessible public transportation to persons with disabilities. Ontario suffers significant added costs when public transportation is inaccessible. The longer that inaccessibility of conventional transit continues, the more municipalities must pay for their more expensive para-transit services. When more persons with disabilities face transit barriers, Ontario suffers the consequences of too many persons with disabilities not being able to secure full employment. Ontario suffers the loss of tourism dollars from tourists with disabilities and the loss of international convention business who when Ontario’s inaccessibility leads those abroad to choose other more accessible tourist destinations.

5. HOW WE ASSESSED THE FINAL PROPOSED TRANSPORTATION ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD

To evaluate the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard, we asked the following questions:

  1. Will public transportation in Ontario be fully accessible for persons with disabilities by or before 2025, if the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard is fully implemented along the time lines set out in it?
  2. Does the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard identify and effectively address all the major barriers that persons with disabilities face when trying to use public transportation services?
  3. Will the Transportation Accessibility Standard be effectively enforceable? For example:
    1. Will it be readily apparent whether a transportation provider has done what it is required to do by the time line required?
    2. Will Government officials and the public including persons with disabilities be able to easily point out if a transportation provider is not in compliance with the Transportation Accessibility Standard?
    3. Does the Transportation Accessibility Standard set important interim benchmarks between now and 2025, so that it will be clear well before 2025 whether transportation providers are on schedule for full accessibility on or before 2025?

In asking these questions, we note that this Transportation Accessibility Standard is intended to set long term goals and actions, not just short term goals. Under the AODA this standard’s sufficiency won’t be reviewed for updating for up to five years. By that time, there will only be about 11 or 12 years left to achieve full accessibility by 2025. Thus, it is important that this standard effectively cover all major barriers, and ensure sufficient timely progress.

6. SUMMARY OF OUR FEEDBACK

The final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard improves on the 2007 initial proposed Transportation Standard. It identifies a number of major barriers to access to public transportation. It is thereby better than the very deficient Customer Service Standard enacted in 2007.

Despite this the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard is too weak, too limited in scope and at points, too vague. It has too many loopholes.

The following concerns, among others, arise in the following discussion:

  1. Even if it were fully implemented as written, the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard does not meet the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005’s bedrock requirement. It would not lead public transportation services in Ontario to all be fully accessible by 2025.
  2. At key points, the proposed Standard falls clearly and manifestly short of the Ontario Human Rights Code’s requirements for barrier-free transportation services.
  3. It does not address a number of important barriers to access to public transportation.
  4. It delegates too much discretion to transportation providers over matters that the Standard should specifically guarantee.
  5. Where it addresses important barriers to public transportation, at several points, the proposed Standard is too weak or non-specific to be effectively enforceable.
  6. A number of timelines for barrier-removal and prevention are too long, though in this regard, the final proposed Standard is an improvement over the 2007 initial proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard.
  7. The final proposed standard does not effectively incorporate key parts of the disability community’s feedback on the initial proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard.
7. SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

Our recommendations are summarized as follows:

  1. The Transportation Accessibility Standard should be expanded to address all the major barriers persons with disabilities face in accessing public transportation.
  2. Time lines for action in the Standard should be shortened wherever possible.
  3. Interim benchmarks should also be set where long term time lines are set out in the Standard.
  4. The Standard’s requirements for action on several of the key barriers need to be significantly clarified and strengthened, to make them effective at achieving accessibility and effectively enforceable.
  5. The Standard should be expanded and made clearer and more specific, with improvements to make it easier for the public to monitor.
  6. Features should be added to the Standard to give persons with disabilities greater opportunities for meaningful input into public transit providers.

B. SPECIFIC CLAUSE-BY-CLAUSE FEEDBACK

1. DEFINITIONS

Section 2 includes two definitions which raise concerns:

2 Equivalent service – equal opportunity to obtain, use, and benefit from the service.

It is important that the Transportation Accessibility Standard achieve full equality for persons with disabilities as a long-term objective, not mere equivalence.

We therefore recommend that

1. Section 2 be amended to provide that "equivalent service" means "equal opportunity to fully use, and benefit from all aspects of the service."

Section 2 defines “Service animal” as “an animal is a service animal for a person with a disability,

(a) If it is readily apparent that the animal is used by the person for reasons relating to his or her disability; or

(b) If the person provides a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability.”

This definition appears to come from the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. We recognize the attractiveness of using similar definitions in all standards. However, we have elsewhere documented that in general the Customer Service Standard is very seriously flawed. We do not want that deficient standard to become the benchmark, and thereby to impede the effectiveness of other standards. See: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09122007.asp

There should be no impediment to a person with a disability when using a service animal. The only material issue is that the person should be in control of their animal. We see no pressing need why a person with a disability using a service animal might be required to produce documentation before being able to use their service animal on a public transit facility or vehicle.

If, despite the foregoing, some sort of documentation is to be required, it should be readily obtainable at no cost to the transit passenger. A letter should be acceptable, not only if it comes from a doctor or nurse. Other easily-accessed, authoritative sources should be sufficient. In the past, persons with vision loss who used guide dogs could get a card attesting to the dog’s service animal status from the Ontario Government.

Regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act use this definition (49 CFR 37, Section 37.3): Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.

We therefore recommend that:

2. The definition of "service animal" be amended to remove any requirement that documentation be provided to authenticate the service animal.

3. Alternatively, Section 2’s definition of “service animal” be amended to include documentation from other health care providers, not just a doctor or nurse, or from other authoritative sources, such as the organization that trains the service animal, a recognized organization of or for persons with disabilities, or from the Ontario Government.

2. LONG-TERM OBJECTIVES

Section 3 sets out the Transportation Accessibility Standard’s long term objectives, as follows:

3 “The objective of the initial proposed transportation accessibility standard is to make passenger transportation services under provincial and municipal jurisdiction in Ontario accessible for persons with disabilities.”

It would improve the proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard if its objectives were clarified and strengthened to reflect the purposes of the AODA, and the 11 principles for the AODA which the Legislature adopted on October 29, 1998. The Government pledged that the AODA would fulfil those 11 principles. The 11 principles can be seen at:
http://www.odacommittee.net/ODA_Brief_Part3_App5.html

We therefore recommend that:

4. Section 3 be amended to state that “The objective of the transportation accessibility standard is to make passenger transportation services under provincial and municipal jurisdiction in Ontario fully accessible for persons with disabilities, so that they can fully participate in and be fully included in those services on a footing of equality no later than January 1, 2025, and to ensure that as soon as practicable, readily achievable measures are taken to remove existing barriers and prevent the creation of new barriers impeding persons with disabilities from the full and equal benefit of public transportation.”

3. TRAINING

Section 4.1 includes a useful training requirement:

4.1 “Persons or organizations providing passenger transportation services shall establish, implement, maintain, and document employee/volunteer accessibility training policies and procedures in consultation with persons with disabilities.”

We propose enhancements to make this training more effective. It is helpful that the Transportation Accessibility Standard requires that the transportation provider consult with “persons with disabilities” on its training program. However this provision is too weak and vague. It could easily be fulfilled by a very minimal, limited and ineffective consultation.

We recommend that:

5. Section 4.1 be amended to require that training include training on: a) the responsibilities that the transportation provider as a whole owes to persons with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, including the duty to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities, and the duty to prevent and remove barriers to accessibility, and b) the specific duties that the individual employees or volunteers being trained owe to persons with disabilities under the Human Rights Code;

6. Section 4.1(b) be amended to provide for a minimum of how regularly employees and volunteers should be re-trained, being at least every two years;

7. Section 4.1 be amended to specify how or with whom the transportation provider must consult with persons with disabilities on its training program, to include consultation with persons with disabilities and with their organizations;

8. Section 4.1(e) be amended to remove the term “e) include sensitivity training addressing various types of disability” and replace it with “include training on the accessibility needs of persons with different kinds of disabilities;”

9. Section 4.1 be amended to add a requirement that training include a duty on the transportation providers employees and volunteers to promptly report to their superiors when they learn of a difficulty that persons with disabilities experience with accessibility to the services of the transportation provider;

10. Section 4.1 be amended to require the transportation provider to post their training materials and schedules in an accessible format on their website within 6 months of those materials being finalized, to enable public monitoring of those materials and to help facilitate feedback from persons with disabilities.

4. OPERATOR RESPONSIBILITIES

Section 4.2 lists operator responsibilities. Among other things, it states:

4.2 “Persons or organizations providing passenger transportation services shall establish, implement, maintain, and document policies and procedures which require conveyance operators to:

a) provide service to persons with disabilities able to use the conveyance, including those using mobility aids or service animals;”

This requirement is far too understated. It could lead to the exclusion of many persons with disabilities, especially if the transportation provider unilaterally says they are not “able to use the conveyance.” The Standard should state that transportation providers have the duty to provide these services on a footing of equality, and that the services be accessible.

We therefore recommend that:

11. Section 4.2(a) be amended to provide that operators’ duties include establishing and maintaining effective policies and procedures which require conveyance operators to: provide accessible service to persons with disabilities on a footing of equality, including those using mobility aids or service animals.

Section 4.3(h) provides that the policies of transportation providers must:

"(h) Allow a person with a disability to travel with medical aids allowed under relevant health and safety laws and regulations.”

This is too narrow and restrictive of the rights of persons with disabilities. Under it, unless a medical aid is specified “under relevant health and safety laws and regulations,” it would not be covered. If this medical aid is covered by the Human Rights Code’s general duty to accommodate, or the general aim of achieving full transportation accessibility under the AODA, it should be covered here, whether or not it is also covered in health and safety legislation.

We therefore recommend that:

12. Section 4.3(h) be amended to provide:

“h) Allow a person with a disability to travel with needed medical aids.”

5. BOARDING/DE-BOARDING ASSISTANCE

Section 5.1(c) provides:

5.1 “The transportation provider of single-unit conveyances shall ensure that operators…

c) Do not deploy boarding/de-boarding lifting devices, ramps, or portable bridge plates if the operator deems the location or stop to be unsafe for deployment because of a barrier;”

Related to this, section 5.2 provides:

5.2 “Where a passenger is unable to board/de-board a conveyance because the stop is not yet accessible or because of a temporary barrier, the transportation provider shall ensure that the operator allows passengers to board/de-board at the closest available safe location on the same route acceptable to the operator and passenger.”

The intent underlying this provision is positive. However, it needs to be strengthened to ensure the least disruption for the passenger with a disability, and to expedite the removal of the barrier that causes the problem.

We therefore recommend that:

13. Sections 5.1 and 5.2 be amended to: a) clarify that where a passenger with a disability cannot safely exit the vehicle at the intended destination, the driver shall ensure that they are able to exit as close to that location as possible, not merely at the next designated route stop, so as to minimize the disruption to their travel, and b) require the transportation provider to act promptly to have the safety problem or barrier corrected, or to adjust the location of the route stop.

6. SUPPORT PERSON FARES

Section 5.5 provides:

5.5 Support Person Fares

"The transportation provider shall not charge a fare to a support person, recognized by the transportation provider, accompanying a passenger with a disability.”

This provision has the commendable goal of ensuring that persons with disabilities who use a support person to assist them do not get charged a second fare for the support person. However, this provision is insufficient. This is because it seems to leave it up to the transportation provider’s sole discretion to decide whether the person, accompanying the passenger with a disability, is a “support person.”

There are a wide range of different situations where a passenger with a disability needs a support person. This can range from attendant care for a person with motor and mobility limitations to a care-giver for a person with Alzheimer's or other like conditions. A front-line transit driver is not in an informed position to make snap unilateral judgements on this. A passenger with a disability shouldn’t be left wondering at roadside whether a particular driver will decide to recognize their support person as qualifying as such.

There should be some form of fair, expeditious and non-bureaucratic process for a passenger with a disability to get a pre-approval of their need for the support person, to avoid problems at roadside. There should not be a requirement to get each individual support person separately approved. Some individuals with disabilities have a range of different support persons assisting them on different days, at times on short notice. Once the passenger with a disability is generically approved for a support person that approval should be sufficient to cover any person who is serving as their support person.

It is therefore recommended that:

14. Section 5.5 be amended to require transportation providers to establish a fair, expeditious and non-bureaucratic process for a passenger with a disability to get pre-approval for their use of a support person for whom a second fare will not be charged. Once pre-approved for using a support person, the passenger with a disability should be issued a card which transit drivers will be trained to accept as authorizing the use of any individual as their support person.

7. AVAILABILITY OF ACCESSIBILITY EQUIPMENT AND FEATURES

Section 5.6 provides:

5.6 “The transportation provider shall make available current information on the availability of accessibility-related equipment and features of their conveyances, routes and services.”

This provision is commendable in its intent. However it lacks needed detail. It is important that the information that transportation providers make available on the current status of their accessibility-related equipment be up-to-date, accurate, and readily accessible by passengers with disabilities. It is unacceptable when a passenger with a disability is given outdated information on which they rely, for example, on whether station elevators are in service.

It is therefore recommended that:

15. Section 5.6 be amended to provide that information on the availability of accessibility-related equipment and features of their conveyances, routes and services be up-to-date as of 1 half hour of the time of posting, that the information be available in an accessible format, and that it be readily obtainable at all hours that the transit service is in operation, by phone, and via web posting on an accessible website that complies with W3C accessibility standards (as are expected to be required by the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard), or their successor standards.

8. MAINTENANCE OF FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT

Section 5.7 provides:

5.7 The transportation provider shall establish, implement, maintain and document procedures to:

a) Maintain accessibility-related facilities and equipment in good working order.

b) Ensure that operators report any accessibility-related equipment failure to the transportation provider.

This vague provision needs to be strengthened. Transportation providers should ensure that if lift and ramp devices become inoperable, they should be repaired as soon as possible. To make it possible to enforce this requirement, transportation operators should post on their website an annual report of the time taken to repair such equipment.

As well, if passengers with disabilities are impeded for more than a minimal period (e.g. half a day) from using the conventional transit service due to inoperable accessibility equipment such as a subway station lift or elevator, the transit authority should be required to cover the cost of accessible alternative transportation in the meantime, e.g. via para-transit or accessible taxis.

We therefore recommend that:

16. Section 5.7 be amended to

(a) require that where accessibility equipment on a passenger vehicle is defective or inoperable, the transportation provider shall arrange to have it repaired as soon as possible, and

(b) If important accessibility equipment (such as a subway station elevator or lift) remains out of service for more than a minimal time designated in the Standard, the transportation provider shall provide accessible alternative transportation for persons with disabilities whose use of the conventional transit system was impeded by the inoperable accessibility equipment.

9. DUTY TO HAVE ACCESSIBLE PASSENGER VEHICLES

Section 6.1 commendably aims to have each transportation provider have its passenger fleet be accessible to passengers with disabilities. However section 6.1 provides an unacceptable and excessive loophole that could contravene requirements of the Human Rights Code. It provides:

6.1 “The transportation provider shall ensure that all purchased public transit conveyances put into service conform with the applicable requirements of this standard.

Where existing contractual obligations to purchase conveyances that are not in conformance with this standard exist at the time this Standard becomes regulation, the transportation provider may honour the existing contract.

The transportation provider shall develop and maintain a retrofit plan that details measures to retrofit non-accessible conveyances such that they come into conformance with the applicable requirements of this standard or to replace non-accessible conveyances with new or used conveyances that are in conformance with the applicable requirements of this standard.”

In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada decided a landmark case that endorsed and enforced the importance of achieving an accessible public transportation system. It enunciated the requirement that new barriers not be created when a public transportation provider purchases new passenger vehicles (in that case, passenger railway cars); see Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. ViaRail [2007] S.C.J. No. 15. The Supreme Court in substance held that ViaRail violated human rights anti-discrimination provisions of the Canada Transportation Act when it bought new passenger train cars that had accessibility barriers.

If an Ontario public transportation provider contracts to do what ViaRail did, i.e. to purchase inaccessible passenger vehicles for use in public transportation services, it would violate Ontario’s Human Rights Code. This Transportation Accessibility Standard should not diminish that human rights duty. It should not have an exemption that would allow this to happen, even on a transitional basis. It is not enough to impose on transportation providers a duty to later retrofit inaccessible vehicles that they may now be contracting to purchase. There is no excuse for any Ontario transportation provider to now contract to purchase an inaccessible public transit passenger vehicle.

This is made all the worse by the fact that section 6.1 would not go into effect for two years. This means that for the next two years, transportation providers in Ontario can continue to enter into contracts to purchase inaccessible public transit passenger vehicles. That activity should be prohibited immediately in this Standard.

We therefore recommend that:

17. Section 6.1 be amended to delete the sentence: “Where existing contractual obligations to purchase conveyances that are not in conformance with this standard exist at the time this Standard becomes regulation, the transportation provider may honour the existing contract.”

10. PARA-TRANSIT

It is necessary to substantially strengthen the Transportation Accessibility Standard’s provisions on para-transit. This is because mainstream conventional public transit systems still have too many barriers impeding passengers with disabilities. It will take a number of years, even under a much stronger transportation accessibility standard than has been proposed, to make conventional public transit fully accessible. The need for reliable para-transit to fill the gap is thus all the more pressing.

(a) Comparable Service

Section 7.1 sets out the baseline entitlement to para-transit services. It provides in material part:

“7.1 …Transportation providers who operate municipal conventional fixed route public transit services shall provide accessible public transit services to passengers with disabilities that are comparable to the level of service provided to individuals without disabilities who use the conventional fixed route public transportation system. To be deemed comparable to conventional fixed route public transportation, the transportation provider shall meet the requirements of Section 7.

Annex A describes the concept of accessible public transit services.”

In the abstract, “comparable service” might sound attractive. However, the rest of section 7 does not in fact provide services that are comparable to conventional transit.

Making this more problematic, section 7.1 cross-references Annex A to the proposed final Transportation Accessibility Standard. Part of that Annex appears to be a graphic which is not fully accessible to persons with vision loss.

Annex A states in part: “The Accessible Public Transit Service requirements set out in this standard are intended to ensure that accessible public transit services are available to all members of a community, in which conventional fixed route services operate. The service requirements in Clause 7 set out criteria to ensure that all services offered will provide equivalent access to that provided by the conventional fixed route, but allow the flexibility to implement various service delivery options which best meet the needs of the disabled community. In addition to the fixed route system, accessible public transit services might include to-the-door shared ride, shuttles (e.g., medical, workshop) or community buses services.”

This appears to revive the troubling “family of services” concept which was at the core of the substantially flawed initial proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard. In our August 13, 2007 brief to the Ontario Government on that initial proposed standard, we said the following regarding the “family of services” concept:

“When the proposed standard is first skimmed through, it looks as if it includes a number of commitments to achieve accessibility. However, a careful examination of the proposed standard’s definition of accessible public transit services reveals that it gives transit providers a sweeping discretion to provide a so-called family of services, and to decide which service to provide passengers with disabilities. These can be segregated from the mainstream or part of the conventional transit system. Section 2 defines “accessible public transit services” as:

“Accessible public transit services – various accessible service options, generally referred to as a family of services, developed and implemented to address the transportation requirements for persons with disabilities that are delivered by public transit. Accessible public transit services include, but are not limited to, to-the-door, workshop shuttles, medical shuttles, community bus, accessible fixed route services, travel training, and trip planning.”

The proposed standard is substantially designed around the notion that transit providers are entitled to provide “accessibility” via this “family of services” to passengers with disabilities, whether on the conventional transit system or via separate disability-accessible services like para-transit. This means that “separate but equal” service for persons with disabilities into the indefinite future is acceptable as full accessibility. This contradicts the Supreme Court’s Via Rail decision which held:

“174. VIA asserted before the Agency that it “has a policy for alternative transportation that is sensitive to passengers with disabilities and a history of satisfying those needs”, but provided no evidence in support of this assertion. In oral argument before this Court, VIA explained that in the past it has sent passengers to their destinations by taxi when they could not be accommodated on its trains, and that passengers who call in advance may be offered assistance.

175. This ad hoc provision of taxis or a network of rail services with only some accessible routes is not, it seems to me, adequately responsive to the goals of s. 5 of the Canada Transportation Act. Section 5 provides that the transportation services under federal legislative authority are themselves, to be accessible. It is the rail service itself that is to be accessible, not alternative transportation services such as taxis. Persons with disabilities are entitled to ride with other passengers, not consigned to separate facilities.

176. Likewise, the fact that there are accessible trains travelling along some routes does not justify inaccessible trains on others. It is the global network of rail services that should be accessible. The fact that accessibility is limited to isolated aspects of the global network — like VIA's alternative transportation policy or the suggestion that persons with disabilities can continue to ride the existing fleet for the time-being — does not satisfy Parliament’s continuing goal of ensuring accessible transportation services.”

A thread running through the proposed standard is that of the twin notions of entitling persons with disabilities only to equivalent services, and entitling transit providers to deliver this through the open-ended discretionary “family of services.” Because these twin bedrock features of the proposed standard are fatally flawed, the proposed standard must be re-designed from top to bottom to fulfil the requirements of true accessibility, as guaranteed by the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights, and as elaborated upon in the Via Rail decision.

If Annex A is, as it appears, a resurrection of the “family of services” concept, it is fundamentally inconsistent with the goals of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We therefore recommend:

18. Section 7 be amended to remove the designation that any para-transit service that complies with section 7 thereby constitutes “comparable” services;

19. Section 7 be amended to ensure that the Standard does not incorporate any “family of services” concept, however labelled;

20. Section 7 be amended to remove the reference to Annex A, and Annex A be removed from the Standard.

(b) Catchment Area

The Transportation Accessibility Standard does not explicitly specify what territory the para-transit service must cover, called the catchment area. Persons with disabilities should not have to fight battles, city by city, on what territory this standard covers.

Transit providers should not be able to unilaterally limit the reach of para-transit services to an area less than that which is available to the public via the conventional transit service. We propose that the catchment area for para-transit services should be liberally defined. It should cover at least the same area as the area covered by the conventional transit service, with appropriate additions at the outside perimeter. Regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act mandate the catchment areas for para-transit, in terms roughly similar to what we here propose. See section 37.131 of 49CFR37.

We therefore recommend that:

21. Section 7 be amended to provide that:

(a) for purposes of para-transit services, the transportation provider shall ensure that the accessible public transit service area be defined, at minimum, by the boundaries of the Municipality(s) in which it operates. For example, the catchment area for Toronto would, include at least the entire City of Toronto;

(b) Without limiting the size of the catchment area referred to in (a) above, if conventional fixed transit travels beyond the borders of the Municipality, specialized transit must, at a minimum, offer the same direct trip request to any destination within a 1.5 km catchment on each side of each fixed route and at the ends of each fixed route. Catchment service areas shall be defined as not less than:

(i) That area within corridors with a width of 1.5 km on each side of each fixed route;
(ii) That area with a 1.2 km radius at the ends of each fixed route; and areas not inside any of the corridors but which are surrounded by corridors.
(iii) Transportation providers shall not be permitted to reduce the catchment areas for para-transit services after this standard comes into effect.

(c) Communities With Para-Transit But No Conventional Public Transit

Section 7 only establishes requirements for para-transit services in communities that also have conventional public transit services. We understand that some communities in Ontario may operate a para-transit service, but now have no conventional transit service. We believe that the Transportation Accessibility Standard should also apply to them.

We therefore recommend that:

22. Section 7.1 be amended to also make this standard apply to any para-transit service in Ontario even if there is no conventional public transit service in that community.

(d) Eligibility Application Process

It is good that the Transportation Accessibility Standard imposes requirements for an open eligibility application and appeal process. Section 7.4 provides:

7.4 "Eligibility Process

The transportation provider shall:

a) Make available, upon request, all accessible public transit eligibility application and decision information in accessible formats;

b) Consider an applicant provisionally eligible if an eligibility determination has not been made within 14 calendar days following receipt of an application with complete information; and

c) establish an independent appeal process for eligibility decisions that are unfavourable to the applicant with a final decision rendered within 30 calendar days upon receipt of an appeal application with complete information.

The transportation providers may require a re-assessment of the eligibility of temporarily eligible registrant at reasonable intervals.

The transportation provider shall establish an independent appeal process for decisions that are unfavourable to the applicant with a final decision rendered within 30 calendar days upon receipt of an appeal application with complete information."

It is important for transportation providers to quickly decide on eligibility applications for para-transit services. We believe that a transportation provider should be required to make a decision within seven days, not 14, given the importance of this service to persons with disabilities.

This is not a complex decision for transportation providers to make. If the application is properly completed, it should be straightforward to quickly approve the application. If not, that should be apparent from the application form. For some who only need temporary service, a 14-day delay might eat up most or all of the period when they need the service.

We therefore recommend that:

23. Section 7.4(b) be amended to require a transportation provider to decide within seven days on an application for para-transit;

24. Section 7.4(d) be amended to provide that if an applicant for para-transit appeals his or her refusal of eligibility and the appeal is not decided within 30 days, that applicant should be deemed eligible for para-transit.

(e) Type Of Service

Section 7.6 defines the type of service that para-transit shall deliver:

7.6 “The transportation provider shall deliver origin to destination services that are considerate of the functional abilities of passengers.”

The term “origin to destination” is less specific than would best serve the needs of persons with disabilities. It is preferable that the service be described as “door to door.” This is especially important for passenger safety, given variable weather conditions around Ontario. This proposed wording change also makes the provision less vague, and hence, easier to enforce.

It is therefore recommended that:

25. Section 7.6 be amended to read that the type of service to be provided is “door to door,” rather than “origin to destination.”

(f) Para-Transit Drop-Off Location

Para-transit, unlike conventional public transit, does not use fix route stops. It is important to guarantee that the para-transit service will drop passengers off (in a safe location, minimizing exposure to weather and other hazards.

We therefore recommend that:

26. Section 7 be amended to provide that the drop off/transfer site for para-transit passengers is in a safe location protected from the weather and other hazards;

27. Section 7 be amended to provide that the transportation provider cannot arbitrarily decide that a passengers chosen destination is "not accessible" and choose another drop-off or pick-up location the transportation provider deems accessible, and to which the passenger does not consent.

(g) Inter-City Para-Transit Connections

People with disabilities who use para-transit service can experience hassles and run-arounds when they need to travel from one point in one municipality via para-transit to a destination in an adjacent municipality that also has para-transit. It is important for the Transportation Accessibility Standard to harmonize these services and smooth the process. It is commendable that the Transportation Accessibility Standard attempts to address this in section 7.7, which provides:

7.7 “Where accessible public transit services are provided in adjacent municipalities within a contiguous urban area, the transportation providers of both services shall facilitate connections between respective services.”

This provision needs to be substantially strengthened. It is so vague that it will be very difficult if not impossible to effectively enforce.

The provision should set out specifics on what a person with a disability using para-transit should receive when seeking to travel via para-transit between adjacent communities that have para-transit services.

We therefore recommend that:

28. Section 7.7 be amended to provide that where “specialized” para-transit transportation service options are provided in adjacent municipalities within a contiguous urban area, the transportation providers of both services shall facilitate connections between respective services such that;

a) wait times between connections for an individual using specialized transportation service are no longer than wait times for a person using comparable fixed route transit services;

b) Where conventional transit currently crosses a Municipal border (whether by a City to City fixed agreement or reciprocal agreement) so to shall the specialized transit along the same or similar route and with 1.5 km catchment area of the route.

(h) Ride Guarantees

Except during major service interruptions and traffic jams, persons who use conventional public transit daily depend on getting a ride on their public transit route of choice on a pre-posted schedule. They don’t have to book it in advance. Apart from major system breakdowns or traffic tie-ups, they organize their day around those schedules.

Even at its optimum, para-transit doesn’t approximate this service. It must be booked in advance. Needed para-transit rides are not assured, even if requested in advance. Their compliance with the booking time of pick-up is not as dependable as conventional public transit.

This Transportation Accessibility Standard does not require any real guarantees of service.

Section 7.10 provides:

7.10 “For those accessible public transit service options requiring reservations, the transportation provider shall:

a) Accept booking requests at least 3 hours prior to the published close of the booking period the previous day; and

b) Provide same day service to the extent that service is available.”

We believe that guaranteed same-day service should be achievable over time. At a very minimum, a ride should be guaranteed if booked the day before, within the Transportation Accessibility Standard’s provisions for pre-booking. Any exception to this for acts of God should be extremely narrow. It should not enable a transportation provider to keep an unacceptably small fleet of para-transit vehicles, and to use this as a justification for not fulfilling the level of service here required.

We therefore recommend that:

29. Section 7.10 be amended to provide that:

a) By a future deadline that the Transportation Accessibility Standard will set, para-transit riders will be assured same-day service if booked at least five hours in advance on that day;

b) By an interim time line which the Transportation Accessibility Standard will set, The transportation provider shall guarantee all para-transit trip requests within the provider’s area of service where reservations are booked in the previous day notice period provided for in the Transportation Accessibility Standard, except where demonstrably impossible due to unforeseeable situations beyond the transportation provider’s control, namely weather or system wide breakdown that was not anticipated at the time a trip was reserved, and where alternative provision of the requested ride through contracting out services are unavailable to provide the requested ride.

c) transportation providers shall be required to have effective back-up plans to effectively cover for para-transit service interruptions due to equipment failure.

(i) Travelling With Companions

Given limited para-transit resources, transportation providers may want to avoid using limited seating on para-transit vehicles for persons accompanying a passenger with a disability, if the accompanying individual is able to use conventional services. To address this concern, section 7.11 provides:

7.11 "The transportation provider may allow companions to travel with an eligible passenger if space is available and will not result in the denial of service to other eligible persons.

The transportation provider shall allow dependants to travel with an eligible parent if appropriate child restraint securement systems and equipment are, if required, available.”

People without disabilities travel on conventional transit with whomever they wish and with as many others as they wish (except for those who cannot access conventional transit due to disabilities). To constitute equivalent services, para-transit should allow for the same.

We are concerned that this provision can impose or perpetuate barriers against para-transit riders with disabilities. This issue arises because of the ongoing inaccessibility of conventional transit, and the insufficient supply of para-transit services. For persons with disabilities, this is not an issue of convenience. Some passengers with disabilities have to have someone with them when they travel, either due to disability needs or due to other responsibilities (e.g. parental duties). Others won’t want to be dropped off on a street at night, all alone and vulnerable, having to wait while a companion without a disability reaches them via conventional transit.

This problem should reduce:

a) as para-transit services are expanded to meet the requirements of the Transportation Accessibility Standard;

b) To the extent that transportation providers have the option of meeting para-transit needs by contracting with taxi services, and

c) as conventional transit services become more accessible.

We therefore recommend that:

30. Section 7.11 be amended to provide that no eligible person with a disability shall be refused the right to be accompanied by a companion on a para-transit ride where the companion is needed

a) to accommodate the needs of the passenger with a disability;

b) if the passenger with a disability is to be accompanied by a family member or members for whom that passenger with a disability is responsible, or

c) for safety reasons before, during or after the ride.

(j) Service Delays

Regrettably, para-transit users report that service delays, even very long ones, are too common. At a minimum, a passenger with a disability who has booked a ride on para-transit deserves to be notified when there is a significant service delay. The passenger may be en route to an important job interview, a vital family function, a final exam, or a medical appointment.

Commendably, the Transportation Accessibility Standard seeks to address this. Section 7.12 provides:

7.12 “For those accessible public transit service options requiring reservations, the transportation provider shall provide information on the duration of pick up delays to impacted passengers by a method agreed to by the transportation provider and passenger.”

We believe that a para-transit passenger should be notified if the delay is known or expected to exceed twenty minutes. Given the expanding use of cell phones, Blackberrys and the like, this should be achievable for many at little effort, and possibly even through automation for many if not most users.

We therefore recommend that:

31. Section 7.12 be amended to provide that para-transit passengers in an accessible way will be notified of service delays and their expected duration where they are expected to exceed twenty minutes from the scheduled pick-up.

(k) Repeated Para-Transit Users

Many conventional public transit users travel the same route day after day. Para-transit users may have the same needs.

Section 7.9 commendably aims at preventing transportation providers from imposing policies that restrict full access to para-transit services by eligible individuals. Yet section 7.9(b) creates a controversial exception. It appears to let a transportation provider adopt a policy restricting “subscription” bookings. It provides:

“The transportation provider shall not limit the availability of accessible public transit services to eligible passengers by

…(b) implementing any policy or operational practice that limits the availability of service, excluding the provision of subscription trips.”

Para-transit providers may be concerned that if the same passenger books a ride on a regular schedule daily, this could eat up limited para-transit services, to the disadvantage of other para-transit passengers. This is simply another way of saying that passengers with disabilities are denied the full and equal service that passengers without disabilities enjoy on public transit.

The solution is not for the standard to justify perpetuation of this unacceptable situation. The solution is for passengers with disabilities to be provided equal services, as the Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 require.

We therefore recommend that:

32. Section 7.9(b) be amended to delete the words “excluding the provision of subscription trips.”

11. TAXIS

(a) Expanding The Number Of Accessible Taxis On The Road

On-demand taxi services are very important for persons with disabilities. This is especially so due to the many barriers that persons with disabilities can face when trying to use either the conventional public transit or para-transit services.

Far too many taxis on the road are inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities. Despite this, there is no clause in the standard respecting the number of wheelchair accessible taxi cabs required to be available in each municipality to meet the needs of persons with disabilities now, or at any time in the future. It is thus possible under this proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard for the proportion of inaccessible taxis on the road to remain the same or to even increase over time, with this standard doing nothing to rectify this. This falls far short of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s requirements and goals.

This is not something which can be solved simply by directing regulations at the taxi companies themselves. Many if not most taxi companies do not own and operate the majority of taxis in their “fleet.” We understand that commonly, an individual taxi vehicle can be separately owned, independently of the taxi dispatch company that a member of the public calls for taxi service.

The organization that may be in the best position to affect real and substantial change in this area are municipalities. They issue and renew taxi permits in their communities. They could impose conditions on those new or renewed permits to progressively increase the number of accessible taxis on the road. This could work over designated time lines towards the goal of full accessibility. There is no reason that Ontario could not have fully accessible taxi services by or well before the AODA’s 2025 deadline.

The Transportation Accessibility Standard does not effectively address this; for example, it does not require municipalities to do anything to work towards expanding the fleet of accessible taxis on the road in its community towards the goal of full accessibility of service.

Section 8.1 of the Transportation Accessibility Standard now provides:

8.1 “Independent operators, brokerages or dispatch services shall provide on-demand taxi services using:

a) Standard taxis with accessibility features; and

b) Wheelchair accessible taxis.”

In the absence of provincial standards in this area, there can exist in Ontario a disparate approach to municipalities meeting service demands. Under the Transportation Accessibility Standard as proposed, no municipality need work toward increasing their percentage of wheelchair-accessible taxis.

It had been suggested to us that while some communities have a number of accessible taxis on the road, some of these vehicles may be contracted to the local specialized transit service. If this happens, this can limit the number of vehicles available to the public for on-demand taxi service.

True accessibility can only be achieved when a person with a disability can receive accessible taxi service as any other person at the same time of day, evening or night, at the same price within a reasonable time or within the same time as any member of the public receives.

This is far from what persons with disabilities in Ontario now experience. Due to limited numbers of available accessible vehicles, persons with disabilities can receive a service which is sub-par when compared to that of their non-disabled cohorts. We hope and trust that the Ministry of Community and Social Services has data on this to inform the preparation of the Transportation Accessibility Standard.

We believe that the Transportation Accessibility Standard should set an end goal of 100% accessible taxis. When every taxi on the road is accessible, then a person with a disability can obtain true full access, whether calling a cab or hailing one on the street. This, of course, cannot be achieved overnight. We believe it is best achieved through an attrition regime that ensures that every new cab that goes on the road in the future be fully accessible, whether it is operating under a newly-issued permit or under a renewal of an existing permit. For a municipality or other licensing authority to give a permit that allows a new taxi vehicle to go on the road that is inaccessible, is for a government body to condone and authorize the creation of a new barrier against persons with disabilities, contrary to the Human Rights Code and the principles in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. ViaRail.

There are a range of different ways to achieve this. We believe that the Transportation Accessibility Standard should set an end-date by which full taxi accessibility should be achieved. It should also set a series of interim benchmarks, possibly varying due to size of municipality, e.g. on when 50% accessibility should be achieved. It should also impose specific requirements for licensing of new taxi vehicles.

We have indirectly received unconfirmed word that some within the Government may be uncertain whether a standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act can impose requirements on municipal licensing authorities. The Government should let the public know if this is a concern.

We believe that it is open to the Government under the AODA to include in the Transportation Accessibility Standard requirements on municipal taxi licensing authorities, akin to those we recommend. If there is any doubt on whether the AODA authorizes such in an accessibility standard, the Government should consider using the unused regulatory powers available to it under other provincial legislation, such as the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. If the Government fears that it has no power at all to make regulations in this area addressing municipalities (a view which we have not heard from the Government), then it should amend the AODA to correct any such deficiency.

The cost of accessible taxi vehicles should reduce as the demand for these vehicles increases. Given the current state of the auto industry, discount prices on cars may help make this easier to achieve more quickly. The time is ripe for action on this score.

As indicated earlier, this is a cost of doing business. Just as a taxi company cannot refuse to have legally-required pollution controls on its cars because of the cost, the same is true for accessibility requirements which the Human Rights Code has imposed since 1982.

We recognize that there should be some flexibility in the Transportation Accessibility Standard to allow municipalities to use alternative means to achieve its benchmarks, so long as the Transportation Accessibility Standard interim and final benchmarks are fulfilled. For example, communities where both accessible public transit services and private taxi services are available could be encouraged to investigate the potential to provide on-demand accessible public transit service via a fully accessible taxi industry. This might more effectively address both para-transit and accessible taxi requirements, all at a lower cost.

We therefore recommend that:

33. Section 8 be amended to provide that:

8 a) by a benchmark end date, persons with disabilities should have full access to 100% accessible taxi fleets, that end date to be no later than 2025.

b) requiring Municipalities be or other taxi licensing authorities to only grant a new taxi license or to renew an existing permit for vehicles that meet standards for accessibility to be set out in the Transportation Accessibility Standard, so that every inaccessible taxi vehicle retired off the road due to long term use is replaced by a new vehicle that meets Transportation Accessibility Standard accessibility requirements;

c) Setting a series of intermediate benchmarks on proportions of a municipality’s taxi fleet that are accessible (e.g. 50% by 2015). These benchmarks can be varied depending on community size or other reasonable factors;

d) requiring municipalities or taxi companies to report publicly to the Ministry on an annual basis, on the proportion of their taxi fleets that are accessible, on the proportion of these that are available for on-demand calls (i.e. not sub-contracted to para-transit services), and on the average time required to fill a call for an accessible taxi. This data should be made public by the Ministry for easy reference and comparison; e) Requiring that taxi fares and charges for a passenger with a disability be the same as, and no higher than, those charged for the public generally, and include no surcharges;

(b) Monitoring Level Of Accessible Service For Taxi Patrons

To track progress on this front, it would be very helpful for taxi dispatch companies to keep track of and annually report to Government and the public on how many requests they get for an accessible taxi, how often they can fill it, and the time lag in filling it compared to other calls. This need not be a burdensome or unduly detailed amount of information. It would enable municipalities and the Ontario Government to track progress. The Government could consult with the taxi industry on ways to minimize the administrative work involved in tracking this data.

We therefore recommend that:

34. Section 8 be amended to require taxi dispatch companies to keep track of and annually report on statistics on how many requests they get for an accessible taxi, how often they can fill it, and the time lag in filling it compared to other calls.

(c) Exterior Posting of Taxi Identification Information

Section 8.2 provides specifics on the posting on a taxi of its registration information. It requires the posting of that information on the taxi’s exterior, adjacent to both rear entrance doors.

Section 8.2 provides in material part:

8.2 "…Taxi registration numbers or company and vehicle identification information shall be made available on the exterior of the taxi:

a) adjacent to both rear entrance doors;”

This information should also be posted on the taxi’s rear bumper. If a taxi improperly refuses to pick up a patron with a disability, the patron needs to be able to identify the vehicle as it drives away.

We therefore recommend that:

35. Section 8.2 be amended to require that a taxi’s identification information also be posted on the Taxi’s rear bumper.

12. ADDITIONAL BARRIERS FACING PERSONS WITH VISION LOSS

Beyond issues covered earlier in this brief, the Transportation Accessibility Standard needs to be strengthened to better address barriers facing persons with vision loss.

The proposed standard does not address the need to install tactile walking surface indicators on edges of transit platforms or ferry docks. These are important for persons with vision loss to navigate safely and avoid serious injury.

During the Transportation Standard Development Committee’s work, the disability sector asked that tactile walking surface indicators be included in the Transportation Accessibility Standard. This request was rejected. There is no compelling reason why this Standard should not address these barriers.

Tactile walking surface indicators should be required along all edges of all ferry docks and train platforms, and at edges of stairs in transit stations, or on transit vehicles including ferries. Standards for tactile walking surface indicators have been well documented in publications addressing accessibility needs of persons with disabilities, e.g.:

CSA B65.1-04, "Accessible Design for the Built Environment," Canadian Standard Association, 2004 (3d ed. of B651), Product Number: 2417157

"Accessible Design and the Built Environment," Clause 4.1.2.3, Canadian Human Rights Commission International Best Practices in Universal Design, page 59

"International Best Practices in Universal Design: A Global Review," Canadian Human Rights Commission, March 2006, rev'd ed. August 2007, Cat. No. HR21-64/2007E, ISBN 9780662457176

CNIB's "Clearing Our Path," Guidelines, and Recommendations for the Built Environment - Tactile Walking Surface Indicators.

"Clearing Our Path: Recommendations on How to make Public Places Accessible to People Who are Blind, Visually Impaired, and Deafblind," CNIB, Ontario Division, August 1998, pp. 23, 24, 35, ISBN 0-921122-28-4 (See also new edition, forthcoming)

ISO's draft standard on tactile walking surface indicators, International Organization for Standards, "Provision of Slip Resistance on Walking/Working Surfaces," ISO TC 173 Working Committee, ANSI A1264.2

We therefore recommend that:

36. The Transportation Accessibility Standard be amended to require that:

a) Tactile walking surface indicators shall be located at all unprotected drop-off edges on transit platforms and ferry docks.

b) Tactile walking surface indicators shall be installed the full width of the drop-off.

c) The base surface shall be level with or not more than three millimetres above the surrounding surface.

d) The depth of the tactile walking surface indicators shall be 610 mm to 650 mm.

e) Tactile walking surface indicators should have the following specifications:

(i) The height of the flat-topped domes should be 5mm +/- 1mm.

(ii) The diameter of the top of the flat-topped domes should be between 12 mm and 20 mm.

(iii) The diameter of the lower base of the flat-topped domes should be 10 mm +/- 1 mm more than the diameter of the top.

(iv) The distance between the bases of adjacent domes should be a minimum of 15 mm.

(v) the spacing between adjacent flat-topped domes should be adjusted depending on the size of the domes, as shown in the table below. The larger the individual domes, the farther the space between them:
Top diameter of flat-topped domes (mm): 12, 15, 18, 20
Spacing between the centres of adjacent domes (mm): 55 to 61, 57 to 63, 60 to 61, 63 to 68

f) Stairs on ferries and in transit stations should have a detectable warning surface located at the top of all stairs. The texture of the detectable warning shall:

i) be 70% colour contrasted from the surrounding surface and run the full width of the stairs;

ii) have a depth of 920 mm;

iii) commence one tread depth from the edge of the stair.

iv) be the same texture and dome dimension as the tactile walking surface indicator used on ferry docks.

Level of lighting in an area, and colour contrast, font size and style on signage, are very important for people with low vision. Section 6.13 of the Transportation Accessibility Standard provides:

“The transportation provider shall ensure that all new conveyances incorporate colour contrasting and lighting features that promote independent boarding, on-board circulation and de-boarding for passengers with visual disabilities.

Any step well or doorway immediately adjacent to the driver shall have, when the door is open, an illuminance of at least 20 lux when measured on the step tread or lift platform.

Other step wells and doorways, including doorways in which lifts or ramps are installed, shall have, at all times, an illuminance of at least 20 lux when measured on the step tread, or lift or ramp, when deployed.

The vehicle doorways, including doorways in which lifts or ramps are installed, shall have outside light(s) which, when the door is open, provide an illuminance of at least 10 lux when measured on the street surface for a distance of 0.9 m perpendicular to the bottom step tread or lift outer edge. Such light(s) shall be shielded to protect the eyes of entering and exiting passengers.

Accessibility equipment and features shall be colour-contrasted by at least 70% with their background.”

The lighting levels required are far too low. This is problematic for persons with low vision, and likely, for many if not most passengers. The level of lighting at each position here regulated needs to be augmented to a minimum of 100 Lux. The 100 lux is in keeping with the Canada Standards Association elevator standard and is also found in the annex of CSA’s B65.1 Accessible Design and the Built Environment for the landing sill on elevators.

On signage, the Transportation Accessibility Standard does not set size or style of fonts for intended viewing distances or the type of font to be used. Based on input from experts with vision loss, we recommend the use of upper and lower case letters that are sans serif. The size of fonts should be specifically detailed.

We therefore recommend that:

37. Section 6.13 be amended to substitute 100 lux for 20 lux for lighting levels (in all areas it addresses.

38. Section 6.13 be amended to require that on signage,

a) lettering be in sans serif

b) The size of fonts should harmonize with CSA's B65.1 viewing distance chart in clause 4.5.3.3: Viewing distance, 2.5 meters - font size 100 millimetre - example, external route sign viewed from street.

Viewing distance, 2.3 meters - font size 75 millimetres - example, internal line transfer information.

Viewing distance, 1.5 meters - font size 50 millimetres - example, route information on display map.

13. IMPORTANT BARRIERS AND CONCERNS NOT COVERED IN TRANSPORTATION STANDARD

The final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard does not address several serious, recurring barriers. These must be addressed to achieve fully accessible transportation services. We address major examples.

(a) Ticket-Purchasing And Validation Technology And Electronic Kiosks

Transportation providers increasingly use new automated electronic kiosks for such things as purchasing fares for public transit, validating tickets and/or inquiring about transit routes. We expect that these will be used more and more in the future. Unless designed to be usable by persons with disabilities, these kiosks can present substantial accessibility barriers for people with disabilities. Those who can encounter difficulties can, for example, include those with vision loss, those who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, or who have motor disabilities, learning disabilities, and/or intellectual disabilities. If the passenger cannot easily and independently purchase and validate the fare to get on a public transit service, this could constitute a very serious impediment to their full and equal use of that service.

Most of this technology is new. The electronic kiosks which will be deployed by public transit authorities in Ontario five years from now, for the most part have not been purchased and likely, not yet been designed. There is now an excellent opportunity to prevent barriers in this area at low cost. Accessibility features that should be included in this new technology will also make it substantially more user-friendly for users without disabilities.

It is very important that the Transportation Accessibility Standard address this barrier now. It is not clear whether the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard will effectively cover this barrier. Regulations under the Americans With Disabilities Act impose some requirements for automatic vending machines for transit fares, though not in the terms we here propose. See sections 220 and 707 of revised Americans with Disability Act Guidelines (ADAGG) adopted into regulation per section 37.9 of 49CFR37.

We therefore recommend that:

39. A detailed provision be added to the Transportation Accessibility Standard requiring that electronic kiosks, including those for purchasing and/or validating tickets, and those which provide route information to customers be designed to be barrier-free and fully useable by persons with disabilities, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, persons with vision loss, persons who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, persons with motor limitations, learning disabilities and/or intellectual disabilities. This might include, for example:

a) visual information be located on a glare free surface utilizing appropriate colour contrast and typefaces.

b) Visual information be supplemented with tactile and/or auditory information and vice versa.

c) equipment be accessible for a transportable mobility aid with a maximum footprint 1500 mm long.

d) operating controls be located at a minimum height of 400 mm and a maximum height of 1200 mm above the floor.

e) Instructions use plain language.

The foregoing list is not meant to be exhaustive.

40. The Standard be amended to provide that where electronic ticket purchase or validation, or route information equipment or kiosks are made available to the public, alternative readily-accessible means be provided for these functions via contact with an employee of the transportation provider.

(b) Physical Accessibility Of Transit Stations And Stops

The final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard does not address any physical barriers to accessibility at transit stations or stops. This is a major omission. If the physical environments where people with disabilities get transit services are not physically accessible, then the other efforts which this Standard addresses will be of limited usefulness.

Existing legislation does not sufficiently address these needs. The Building Code does not require any accessibility retrofit of existing buildings which are not undergoing renovations. We understand that the initial proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard currently under development will not address retrofitting of existing buildings, except possibly where undergoing major renovations. As we understand it, outdoor venues that are not part of the building, such as bus stops, won't necessarily be covered by either the Building Code or the initial proposed Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Thus, unless the Transportation Accessibility Standard addresses this, people with disabilities will be left with the unacceptable option of having to bring individual human rights complaints on a station by station or bus stop by bus stop or city or by city basis.

We therefore recommend that:

41. The Transportation Accessibility Standard be amended, to include specific requirements and time lines for making public transit stations and transit stops physically accessible for people with disabilities.

(c) Accessible Announcements For Persons Who Are Deaf, Deafened And Hard Of Hearing

Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people cannot hear audio public announcements e.g. in transit stations, relating to emergency situations, including evacuation procedures, re-routing, delays in service, etc. Timely access to this information is important to fully benefit from public transportation services.

The final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard does not effectively address this. It is necessary for the Standard to mandate detailed specific requirements.

If a transit system uses a public address system for announcements to passengers in terminals, stations, or other fixed facilities, it needs a means for conveying the same information to individuals who cannot hear these announcements. The choice for conveying the information visually might be a closed-circuit monitor or a moving message display system. Regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act impose some requirements for accessible announcements for people who cannot hear audio announcements in transit stations. See section 810 of revised Americans with Disability Guidelines (ADAGG) adopted into regulation per section 37.9 of 49CFR37.

We therefore recommend that:

42. The Standard be amended to include detailed provisions to require transportation providers to provide deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people with equal, timely access to important audio public announcements such as emergency announcements, and to provide time lines by which this service is to be provided.

(d) Provision Of Service To Persons With Disabilities When Conventional Transit Service Is Disrupted

When there is a major disruption of conventional public transit services, some transit providers implement interim alternatives to meet the transit needs of their patrons. For example, when Toronto’s subway breaks down for more than a few minutes, alternative surface route services may be implemented. When this happens, the alternative service should be accessible to riders with disabilities on the conventional transit route where the service disruption occurs. The Transportation Accessibility Standard does not address this.

We therefore recommend that:

43. The Transportation Accessibility Standard be amended to provide that where services on the conventional public transit system are disrupted and alternative services are provided, the transportation provider shall:

a) make alternate arrangements to transfer passengers with disabilities to their route destination where alternate arrangements for passengers without disabilities are inaccessible.

b) ensure information on alternative arrangements for passengers with disabilities is communicated in an accessible manner.

(e) Courtesy Seating For Passengers With Disabilities

Some transit providers are to be commended for providing designated seating for persons with disabilities who don’t use a wheelchair or scooter. Some are quite good about ensuring that these are freed up for passengers with disabilities who need them. However, transit passengers with disabilities regrettably can at times encounter problems getting needed seating, especially though not exclusively when their disability isn’t visible (i.e. where the individual doesn’t use a cane or walker).

The final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard does not address this issue. Section 6.10 speaks only to providing space in new buses for persons using wheelchairs or other mobility devices. Section 6.10 states:

6.10 “On all new conveyances, the transportation provider shall:

a) provide two or more allocated transportable mobility aid spaces on the conveyance, each having a minimum clear space of 1220 mm by 762 mm;

b) provide, as appropriate, securement devices; and

c) where possible, consolidate allocated spaces to accommodate larger mobility aids.

An allocated space may be used for other passenger purposes if it is not required for use by a passenger with a transportable mobility aid.”

The addition to the Standard of a courtesy seating accommodation doesn’t require much effort. This can be addressed by such measures as posting signs on existing buses and training drivers to help make sure such spots are available where needed.

We therefore recommend that:

44. The Standard be amended to require that designated seating be provided, preferably near the driver and as close as possible to an accessible door, on all public transit vehicles, for use by persons who cannot safely stand while the transit vehicle is in motion.

(f) Monitoring Compliance

It is not enough for the Standard to require transportation providers to adopt a policy or plan and implement it. It is also important for transportation providers to be required to systematically monitor and publicly report on their compliance.

Public transportation providers will be in the best position to systematically monitor how effectively they are complying with the requirements of the Transportation Accessibility Standard. They will no doubt want to know how effectively they are complying.

Moreover, the government and the public, including the disability community, have a substantial interest in knowing how effectively transportation providers are complying. This is important for the enforcement of the Standard. It will be important for the review of the standard, required within five years, as well as the mandatory review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act provided for in section 41 of the AODA.

In Human Rights Tribunal cases against TTC regarding the need to announce subway, bus and streetcar stops, TTC self-monitoring revealed that TTC operators were not consistently complying with its own policy on calling out stops. After the Human Rights Tribunal issued orders against TTC regarding the announcement of all subway, bus and streetcar stops, TTC's self- monitoring demonstrated how quickly TTC brought itself into significant compliance with Human Rights Tribunal orders.

We therefore recommend that:

45. The Standard be amended to require public transit providers to periodically self-monitor their compliance with key provisions of this Transportation Accessibility Standard and report publicly, in an accessible way, on their compliance.

(g) Meaningful Avenues To Transportation Providers For Input By Persons With Disabilities To Transportation Providers

An important theme of the Ontarians With Disabilities Act 2001, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, is providing people with disabilities with a meaningful opportunity for input into decisions that affect their lives. It is important for additional features to be added to the Transportation Accessibility Standard, to provide better meaningful input for people with disabilities.

It is our experience that it is insufficient for a transit provider or other public organization to appoint a Disability Advisory Committee. These committees can be very helpful if the transportation provider listens to them. Experience in that regard is uneven, from our understanding. Individuals with disabilities whom a transit authority picks to serve on one of these disability accessibility advisory committees, cannot be expected to single-handedly consult with all members of the disability community and serve as their deputized representative, voicing all their concerns.

We propose an excellent additional avenue for meaningful input by the disability community. This occurs where the senior management and Board of Directors of a public transit authority annually hold an open, accessible and advertised public forum, for passengers with disabilities. This lets passengers with disabilities meet face-to-face with the transportation provider’s senior management, and share with them their front-line experience with using the transit services. It is when those making senior decisions at a transit authority learn firsthand about this that disability community input is most meaningful. When passengers with disabilities phone or e-mail a public transit authority with their concerns, their feedback may never reach senior management.

It is not enough for these forums to be attended by the transit authority’s disability advisory committee. Those transit authority officials actually making executive decisions need to hear the feedback directly from their passengers with disabilities.

In Lepofsky v. TTC #2, the Human Rights Tribunal ordered TTC to hold such public forums annually for three years. The first public forum held in 2008 was attended by over four hundred TTC riders. It provided a very good opportunity for direct input by passengers with disabilities. TTC found this sufficiently beneficial that it has announced its intention to hold these annual public forums, even after the three-year period required by the Human Rights Tribunal order.

We therefore recommend that:

46. The Standard be amended to require that public transit authorities providing conventional and/or para transit services be required to hold, at least once annually, an open, accessible, advertised public forum, for passengers with disabilities to give feedback directly to the transit authority's senior management and Board of Directors.

(h) Long Term Transit Plans

For a major public transit authority to make its services fully accessible to persons with disabilities is a multi-year undertaking. It should be approached in a systematic, planned way. .

It is important for each major public transportation provider to now develop a multi-year plan indicating how and by when they will reach the requirement of full accessibility. In 2008, TTC made such a multi-year plan public. This helps the public and the Government know what progress is expected, and by when. It helps one and all know if Ontario as a whole, and transportation providers in particular, are on schedule to achieve full accessibility on or before 2025, as the AODA requires.

We therefore recommend that:

47. The Standard be amended to provide that each major public transit authority be required within one year of this Standard coming into force to develop and make public on its website its multi-year plan for achieving fully-accessible transportation services. The Plan should specify the expected major interim benchmarks for progress, and the year by which full accessibility is planned to be achieved. The Plan should be periodically updated.

14. EXCESSIVE TIME LINES

The final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard’s time lines are an improvement over those in the 2007 initial proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard. Despite this progress, several time lines in the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard are a cause for concern. We offer examples, but generally urge the Government to reduce any time lines where possible:

(a) Maintaining Accessibility Equipment/Facilities In Working Order

Section 5.7 gives transportation providers fully two years to establish procedures to

5.7 “a) maintain accessibility-related facilities and equipment in good working order.

b) ensure that operators report any accessibility-related equipment failure to the transportation provider.”

This basic requirement should go into effect immediately. It would be troubling if any public transportation provider didn’t have such procedures in place now.

We therefore recommend that:

48. Section 5.7 be amended to require transportation providers to immediately establish procedures to maintain accessibility-related facilities and equipment in good working order, and to ensure that operators report any accessibility-related equipment failure to the transportation provider.

(b) Audible Announcement Of Route Stops

Section 5.4 gives municipal transit authorities one year after this standard’s enactment to start audibly announcing all route stops on their buses. While this is definitely an improvement from the 18 years that the initial proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard had allowed, it need not take a full year for this to be provided.

Municipal transit authorities have already had well over one and a half years to start providing this accommodation. Commendably, several are now doing so.

On July 26, 2007, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario held in Lepofsky v. TTC #2 that the Human Rights Code requires this accommodation. It also held that if a public transit authority plans to institute automated route stop announcements, its drivers must call out all stops, as an interim accommodation, until that technology is up and running.

TTC spent fully $450,000 on lawyers to oppose human rights cases, brought to compel consistent and reliable announcement of all subway, bus and streetcar stops. In the 2007 fall, the Ontario Human Rights Commission wrote all municipal transit authorities, raising the need to provide this accommodation, alerting them about the Human Rights Tribunal rulings, and asking what steps they will take to implement them. Several local media outlets have covered this issue, and highlighted some unjustified instances of municipal and transit authorities’ resistance and foot-dragging. Some municipalities were reportedly disregarding the Human Rights Tribunal ruling on announcing route stops. Several media outlets have run editorials condemning the resistance to providing this simple and obvious accommodation.

When the TTC was ordered to call all route stops, TTC had its drivers doing this within a few weeks (pending later installation of automated audiovisual announcements). The Human Rights Code requires provision of such interim accommodations pending implementation of any long term solution such as an automated audio-visual route stop announcement system.

This Standard gives subways a full year to comply. Yet Ontario’s only subway, TTC’s, has been required to provide these announcements pursuant to a Human Rights Tribunal order since 2005.

It will still be months before the Ontario Government enacts the final Transportation Accessibility Standard.

We therefore recommend that:

49. Section 5.4 be amended to provide that as an interim accommodation, municipal transit authorities be required to have bus drivers audibly announce all route stops, starting within two months of the enactment of the standard.

(c) Making Public Transit Fleets Accessible

Section 6.1 gives transportation providers fully fourteen years to make their passenger vehicle fleets accessible to persons with disabilities. Whether or not this outside deadline is justified, there is a need for interim benchmarks to be set for progress. Otherwise, this part of this standard is in effect unenforceable until fourteen years from the standard’s enactment.

We therefore recommend that:

50. Section 6.1 be amended to set interim benchmarks on the percentage of public transit vehicle fleets that must be accessible by interim deadlines.

(d) Time Lines That The Proposed Standard Didn’t Set

In several sections of the Standard the Transportation Standard Development Committee evidently reached no consensus on the time line.

It is important for transit providers’ staff to receive training on their AODA obligations as quickly as possible. For training requirements (section 4.1), most if not all of the public transit service providers identified in the Transportation Accessibility Standard also fall within the definition of public sector organizations in the Customer Service Standard. Thus, most if not all of them already must establish policies, practices and procedures and provide front line employee training by the customer service standard. These organizations all have the means and resources at their disposal to quickly implement the additional training requirements prescribed by the Transportation Accessibility Standard.

It is therefore recommended that:

51. Section 4 be amended to require compliance with the Transportation Accessibility Standard training requirements within one year of the regulation being adopted for all classes of public transit providers and accessible public transit operators, and within two years for on-demand taxi services.

The Transportation Accessibility Standard provision on Support Person Fares, section 5.5, requires transportation providers not to charge a fare to a support person accompanying a rider with a disability. This policy is consistent with the 2008 “One Person, One Fare” rulings of the Supreme Court of Canada and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding air travel. There is no reason for any delay in implementing this policy in Ontario.

We therefore recommend that:

52. Section 5.5 be amended to require immediate compliance with the support person fare requirements when the Transportation Accessibility Standard is enacted.

Section 6.14 requires fixed route transportation providers to audibly announce the route, the destination or the direction of the conveyance at the boarding point. This requirement imposes no significant cost and needs little additional effort. It is consistent with the existing obligation for drivers to call route stops, already established in Lepofsky v. TTC #1 and #2.

It is therefore recommended that:

53. Section 6.14 be amended to require immediate compliance with the duty to make pre-boarding route or destination announcements;

54. Section 6.14 provides that light, commuter and inter-city rail services must provide a minimum of one wheelchair accessible car per train. There is no reason in 2009 why this bare minimum should not immediately be provided.

We therefore recommend that:

55. Section 6.14 be amended to require immediate provision of a minimum of one transportable mobility aid accessible rail car per train on light, commuter, and inter-city railcars.

C. CONCLUSION: PROCESS OF GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION ON THE FINAL PROPOSED TRANSPORTATION ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD

We commend the Government for making available some helpful materials on its website to help the public sort through the complex contents of the proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard. However we are concerned with the process that the Ontario Government appears to be using for its consultation on the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard.

We have recommended that the Government undertake an open, advertised, accessible public consultation process, one that is more open than the one which it conducted on the 2007 initial proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard. It appears that the Government has not agreed to do so. Its consultation on this final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard is actually less open and effective than its limited 2007 consultation on the initial proposed standard.

From what we can determine, the Government has temporarily posted the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard on its website, and has sent out emails inviting feedback. We are concerned that many if not most who may be interested in this topic may not know about this consultation, and hence will be left out of it.

In 2007, the Government held a series of in-person stakeholder forums for getting input on the initial proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard. We had been concerned that those were invitation-only, not widely advertised and open to all. We gather that the Government doesn’t now plan to even hold comparable stakeholder consultation forums on the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard. It will thus be up to interested members of the public to seek to meet ad hoc with Government officials in an unstructured, informal way.

Moreover, we understand that the Government plans to take down the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard from its website after March 31, 2009. We recommend that it not do so. To help fulfil Premier McGuinty’s 2007 election promises to make the process of developing accessibility standards open and transparent, there should be a permanent public record of every major publicly-circulated draft of each accessibility standard. This lets the public compare what the Government finally enacts to what each Standards Development Committee proposed along each step of the way.

That comparison will also be important for the public to provide input into the statutory review of the AODA to be held this summer, as required under section 41 of the AODA. By taking down the final proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard from its website, the Government makes it harder for the public to scrutinize the entire standards development process.

We also believe that the Government should make broadly available to the public a synthesis of the input that the Transportation Standards Development Committee and the Government receives on each major proposal for this standard. The public should be able to monitor how much the Standards Development Committee and the Government are listening to and responding to the input that the public receives.

APPENDIX 1 - SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Section 2 be amended to provide that "equivalent service" means "equal opportunity to fully use, and benefit from all aspects of the service."

2. The definition of "service animal" be amended to remove any requirement that documentation be provided to authenticate the service animal.

3. Alternatively, Section 2’s definition of “service animal” be amended to include documentation from other health care providers, not just a doctor or nurse, or from other authoritative sources, such as the organization that trains the service animal, a recognized organization of or for persons with disabilities, or from the Ontario Government.

4. Section 3 be amended to state that “The objective of the transportation accessibility standard is to make passenger transportation services under provincial and municipal jurisdiction in Ontario fully accessible for persons with disabilities, so that they can fully participate in and be fully included in those services on a footing of equality no later than January 1, 2025, and to ensure that as soon as practicable, readily achievable measures are taken to remove existing barriers and prevent the creation of new barriers impeding persons with disabilities from the full and equal benefit of public transportation.”

5. Section 4.1 be amended to require that training include training on: a) the responsibilities that the transportation provider as a whole owes to persons with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, including the duty to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities, and the duty to prevent and remove barriers to accessibility, and b) the specific duties that the individual employees or volunteers being trained owe to persons with disabilities under the Human Rights Code;

6. Section 4.1(b) be amended to provide for a minimum of how regularly employees and volunteers should be re-trained, being at least every two years;

7. Section 4.1 be amended to specify how or with whom the transportation provider must consult with persons with disabilities on its training program, to include consultation with persons with disabilities and with their organizations;

8. Section 4.1(e) be amended to remove the term “(e) include sensitivity training addressing various types of disability” and replace it with “include training on the accessibility needs of persons with different kinds of disabilities;”

9. Section 4.1 be amended to add a requirement that training include a duty on the transportation providers employees and volunteers to promptly report to their superiors when they learn of a difficulty that persons with disabilities experience with accessibility to the services of the transportation provider;

10. Section 4.1 be amended to require the transportation provider to post their training materials and schedules in an accessible format on their website within 6 months of those materials being finalized, to enable public monitoring of those materials and to help facilitate feedback from persons with disabilities.

11. Section 4.2(a) be amended to provide that operators’ duties include establishing and maintaining effective policies and procedures which require conveyance operators to: provide accessible service to persons with disabilities on a footing of equality, including those using mobility aids or service animals.”

12. Section 4.3(h) be amended to provide:

“h) Allow a person with a disability to travel with needed medical aids.”

13. Sections 5.1 and 5.2 be amended to: a) clarify that where a passenger with a disability cannot safely exit the vehicle at the intended destination, the driver shall ensure that they are able to exit as close to that location as possible, not merely at the next designated route stop, so as to minimize the disruption to their travel, and b) require the transportation provider to act promptly to have the safety problem or barrier corrected, or to adjust the location of the route stop.

14. Section 5.5 be amended to require transportation providers to establish a fair, expeditious and non-bureaucratic process for a passenger with a disability to get pre-approval for their use of a support person for whom a second fare will not be charged. Once pre-approved for using a support person, the passenger with a disability should be issued a card which transit drivers will be trained to accept as authorizing the use of any individual as their support person.

15. Section 5.6 be amended to provide that information on the availability of accessibility-related equipment and features of their conveyances, routes and services be up-to-date as of 1 half hour of the time of posting, that the information be available in an accessible format, and that it be readily obtainable at all hours that the transit service is in operation, by phone, and via web posting on an accessible website that complies with W3C accessibility standards (as are expected to be required by the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard) or their successor standards.

16. Section 5.7 be amended to

(a) require that where accessibility equipment on a passenger vehicle is defective or inoperable, the transportation provider shall arrange to have it repaired as soon as possible, and

(b) If important accessibility equipment (such as a subway station elevator or lift) remains out of service for more than a minimal time designated in the Standard, the transportation provider shall provide accessible alternative transportation for persons with disabilities whose use of the conventional transit system was impeded by the inoperable accessibility equipment.

17. Section 6.1 be amended to delete the sentence: “Where existing contractual obligations to purchase conveyances that are not in conformance with this standard exist at the time this Standard becomes regulation, the transportation provider may honour the existing contract.”

18. Section 7 be amended to remove the designation that any para-transit service that complies with section 7 thereby constitutes “comparable” services;

19. Section 7 be amended to ensure that the Standard does not incorporate any “family of services” concept, however labelled;

20. Section 7 be amended to remove the reference to Annex A, and Annex A be removed from the Standard.

21. Section 7 be amended to provide that:

(a) for purposes of para-transit services, the transportation provider shall ensure that the accessible public transit service area be defined, at minimum, by the boundaries of the Municipality(s) in which it operates. For example, the catchment area for Toronto would, include at least the entire City of Toronto;

(b) Without limiting the size of the catchment area referred to in (a) above, if conventional fixed transit travels beyond the borders of the Municipality, specialized transit must, at a minimum, offer the same direct trip request to any destination within a 1.5 km catchment on each side of each fixed route and at the ends of each fixed route. Catchment service areas shall be defined as not less than:

(i) That area within corridors with a width of 1.5 km on each side of each fixed route;
(ii) That area with a 1.2 km radius at the ends of each fixed route; and areas not inside any of the corridors but which are surrounded by corridors.
(iii) Transportation providers shall not be permitted to reduce the catchment areas for para-transit services after this standard comes into effect.

22. Section 7.1 be amended to also make this standard apply to any para-transit service in Ontario even if there is no conventional public transit service in that community.

23. Section 7.4(b) be amended to require a transportation provider to decide within seven days on an application for para-transit;

24. Section 7.4(d) be amended to provide that if an applicant for para-transit appeals his or her refusal of eligibility and the appeal is not decided within 30 days, that applicant should be deemed eligible for para-transit.

25. Section 7.6 be amended to read that the type of service to be provided is “door to door,” rather than “origin to destination.”

26. Section 7 be amended to provide that the drop off/transfer site for para-transit passengers is in a safe location protected from the weather and other hazards.

27. Section 7 be amended to provide that the transportation provider cannot arbitrarily decide that a passengers chosen destination is "not accessible" and choose another drop-off or pick-up location the transportation provider deems accessible, and to which the passenger does not consent.

28. Section 7.7 be amended to provide that where “specialized” para-transit transportation service options are provided in adjacent municipalities within a contiguous urban area, the transportation providers of both services shall facilitate connections between respective services such that;

a) wait times between connections for an individual using specialized transportation service are no longer than wait times for a person using comparable fixed route transit services;

b) Where conventional transit currently crosses a Municipal border (whether by a City to City fixed agreement or reciprocal agreement) so to shall the specialized transit along the same or similar route and with 1.5 km catchment area of the route.

29. Section 7.10 be amended to provide that:

a) By a future deadline that the Transportation Accessibility Standard will set, para-transit riders will be assured same-day service if booked at least five hours in advance on that day;

b) By an interim time line which the Transportation Accessibility Standard will set, The transportation provider shall guarantee all para-transit trip requests within the provider’s area of service where reservations are booked in the previous day notice period provided for in the Transportation Accessibility Standard, except where demonstrably impossible due to unforeseeable situations beyond the transportation provider’s control, namely weather or system wide breakdown that was not anticipated at the time a trip was reserved, and where alternative provision of the requested ride through contracting out services are unavailable to provide the requested ride.

c) transportation providers shall be required to have effective back-up plans to effectively cover for para-transit service interruptions due to equipment failure.

30. Section 7.11 be amended to provide that no eligible person with a disability shall be refused the right to be accompanied by a companion on a para-transit ride where the companion is needed

a) to accommodate the needs of the passenger with a disability;

b) if the passenger with a disability is to be accompanied by a family member or members for whom that passenger with a disability is responsible, or c) for safety reasons before, during or after the ride.

31. Section 7.12 be amended to provide that para-transit passengers in an accessible way will be notified of service delays and their expected duration where they are expected to exceed twenty minutes from the scheduled pick-up.

32. Section 7.9(b) be amended to delete the words “excluding the provision of subscription trips.”

33. Section 8 be amended to provide that:

8 a) by a benchmark end date, persons with disabilities should have full access to 100% accessible taxi fleets, that end date to be no later than 2025.

b) requiring Municipalities be or other taxi licensing authorities to only grant a new taxi license or to renew an existing permit for vehicles that meet standards for accessibility to be set out in the Transportation Accessibility Standard, so that every inaccessible taxi vehicle retired off the road due to long term use is replaced by a new vehicle that meets Transportation Accessibility Standard accessibility requirements;

c) Setting a series of intermediate benchmarks on proportions of a municipality’s taxi fleet that are accessible (e.g. 50% by 2015). These benchmarks can be varied depending on community size or other reasonable factors;

d) requiring municipalities or taxi companies to report publicly to the Ministry on an annual basis, on the proportion of their taxi fleets that are accessible, on the proportion of these that are available for on-demand calls (i.e. not sub-contracted to para-transit services), and on the average time required to fill a call for an accessible taxi. This data should be made public by the Ministry for easy reference and comparison; e) Requiring that taxi fares and charges for a passenger with a disability be the same as, and no higher than, those charged for the public generally, and include no surcharges.

34. Section 8 be amended to require taxi dispatch companies to keep track of and annually report on statistics on how many requests they get for an accessible taxi, how often they can fill it, and the time lag in filling it compared to other calls.

35. Section 8.2 be amended to require that a taxi’s identification information also be posted on the Taxi’s rear bumper.

36. The Transportation Accessibility Standard be amended to require that:

a) Tactile walking surface indicators shall be located at all unprotected drop-off edges on transit platforms and ferry docks.

b) Tactile walking surface indicators shall be installed the full width of the drop-off.

c) The base surface shall be level with or not more than three millimetres above the surrounding surface.

d) The depth of the tactile walking surface indicators shall be 610 mm to 650 mm.

e) Tactile walking surface indicators should have the following specifications:

(i) The height of the flat-topped domes should be 5mm +/- 1mm.
(ii) The diameter of the top of the flat-topped domes should be between 12 mm and 20 mm.
(iii) The diameter of the lower base of the flat-topped domes should be 10 mm +/- 1 mm more than the diameter of the top.
(iv) The distance between the bases of adjacent domes should be a minimum of 15 mm.
(v) the spacing between adjacent flat-topped domes should be adjusted depending on the size of the domes, as shown in the table below. The larger the individual domes, the farther the space between them:
Top diameter of flat-topped domes (mm): 12, 15, 18, 20
Spacing between the centres of adjacent domes (mm): 55 to 61, 57 to 63, 60 to 61, 63 to 68

f) Stairs on ferries and in transit stations should have a detectable warning surface located at the top of all stairs. The texture of the detectable warning shall:

i) be 70% colour contrasted from the surrounding surface and run the full width of the stairs;
ii) have a depth of 920 mm;
iii) commence one tread depth from the edge of the stair.
iv) be the same texture and dome dimension as the tactile walking surface indicator used on ferry docks.

37. Section 6.13 be amended to substitute 100 lux for 20 lux for lighting levels (in all areas it addresses.

38. Section 6.13 be amended to require that on signage,

a) lettering be in sans serif

b) The size of fonts should harmonize with CSA's B65.1 viewing distance chart in clause 4.5.3.3: Viewing distance, 2.5 meters - font size 100 millimetre - example, external route sign viewed from street.

Viewing distance, 2.3 meters - font size 75 millimetres - example, internal line transfer information.

Viewing distance, 1.5 meters - font size 50 millimetres - example, route information on display map.

39. A detailed provision be added to the Transportation Accessibility Standard requiring that electronic kiosks, including those for purchasing and/or validating tickets, and those which provide route information to customers be designed to be barrier-free and fully useable by persons with disabilities, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, persons with vision loss, persons who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, persons with motor limitations, learning disabilities and/or intellectual disabilities. This might include, for example:

a) visual information be located on a glare free surface utilizing appropriate colour contrast and typefaces.

b) Visual information be supplemented with tactile and/or auditory information and vice versa.

c) equipment be accessible for a transportable mobility aid with a maximum footprint 1500 mm long.

d) operating controls be located at a minimum height of 400 mm and a maximum height of 1200 mm above the floor.

e) Instructions use plain language.

(The foregoing list is not meant to be exhaustive.)

40. The Standard be amended to provide that where electronic ticket purchase or validation, or route information equipment or kiosks are made available to the public, alternative readily-accessible means be provided for these functions via contact with an employee of the transportation provider.

41. The Transportation Accessibility Standard be amended, to include specific requirements and time lines for making public transit stations and transit stops physically accessible for people with disabilities.

42. The Standard be amended to include detailed provisions to require transportation providers to provide deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people with equal, timely access to important audio public announcements such as emergency announcements, and to provide time lines by which this service is to be provided.

43. The Transportation Accessibility Standard be amended to provide that where services on the conventional public transit system are disrupted and alternative services are provided, the transportation provider shall:

a) make alternate arrangements to transfer passengers with disabilities to their route destination where alternate arrangements for passengers without disabilities are inaccessible.

b) ensure information on alternative arrangements for passengers with disabilities is communicated in an accessible manner.

44. The Standard be amended to require that designated seating be provided, preferably near the driver and as close as possible to an accessible door, on all public transit vehicles, for use by persons who cannot safely stand while the transit vehicle is in motion.

45. The Standard be amended to require public transit providers to periodically self-monitor their compliance with key provisions of this Transportation Accessibility Standard and report publicly, in an accessible way, on their compliance.

46. The Standard be amended to require that public transit authorities providing conventional and/or para transit services be required to hold, at least once annually, an open, accessible, advertised public forum, for passengers with disabilities to give feedback directly to the transit authority's senior management and Board of Directors.

47. The Standard be amended to provide that each major public transit authority be required within one year of this Standard coming into force to develop and make public on its website its multi-year plan for achieving fully-accessible transportation services. The Plan should specify the expected major interim benchmarks for progress, and the year by which full accessibility is planned to be achieved. The Plan should be periodically updated.

48. Section 5.7 be amended to require transportation providers to immediately establish procedures to maintain accessibility-related facilities and equipment in good working order, and to ensure that operators report any accessibility-related equipment failure to the transportation provider.

49. Section 5.4 be amended to provide that as an interim accommodation, municipal transit authorities be required to have bus drivers audibly announce all route stops, starting within two months of the enactment of the standard.

50. Section 6.1 be amended to set interim benchmarks on the percentage of public transit vehicle fleets that must be accessible by interim deadlines.

51. Section 4 be amended to require compliance with the Transportation Accessibility Standard training requirements within one year of the regulation being adopted for all classes of public transit providers and accessible public transit operators, and within two years for on-demand taxi services.

52. Section 5.5 be amended to require immediate compliance with the support person fare requirements when the Transportation Accessibility Standard is enacted.

53. Section 6.14 be amended to require immediate compliance with the duty to make pre-boarding route or destination announcements.

54. Section 6.14 provides that light, commuter and inter-city rail services must provide a minimum of one wheelchair accessible car per train. There is no reason in 2009 why this bare minimum should not immediately be provided.

55. Section 6.14 be amended to require immediate provision of a minimum of one transportable mobility aid accessible rail car per train on light, commuter, and inter-city railcars.