Sign Up for Free March 29, 2022 Virtual Conference on the Past, Present and Future of Making Ontario’s Education System Fully Inclusive and Accessible for Students with Disabilities – Marking The 25th Anniversary of the Eaton v. Brant County Board of Education Case

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

 

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

 

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Sign Up for Free March 29, 2022 Virtual Conference on the Past, Present and Future of Making Ontario’s Education System Fully Inclusive and Accessible for Students with Disabilities – Marking The 25th Anniversary of the Eaton v. Brant County Board of Education Case

 

March 18, 2022

 

SUMMARY

 

Sign up to watch an extremely interesting and important online three-hour event on March 29, 2022, starting at 3 pm Ontario time. This conference marks the 25 year anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Emily Eaton v Brant County Board of Education. It will look at the past, present and future of the struggle to ensure that students with disabilities are fully included in, can fully participate in, and fully benefit from Ontario schools at all levels.

 

Organized by Inclusion Action in Ontario and the ARCH Disability Law Centre, this event appeals to anyone interested in tearing down the many disability barriers in Ontario schools that hurt students with disabilities. There will be amazing speakers, such as Emily Eaton’s father Clay Eaton, the lawyers who argued the case on behalf of Emily Eaton all the way up the court system, and retired Justice Louise Arbour, who decided the case in the Ontario Court of Appeal.

 

Below we set out the announcement of this event from its organizers, including the list of speakers. The conference is open to anyone and everyone. There is no charge to attend. To register for this conference, go to https://sites-airdberlis.vuturevx.com/18/3869/landing-pages/paula-boutis—inclusive-education-as-the-foundation-for-inclusive-communities—pb-fwd.asp

 

The AODA Alliance is delighted to be invited to participate in this event. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky will speak about the need for Ontario to swiftly enact a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard that implements the final report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, of which he was a member.

 

For its part, the AODA Alliance has tenaciously advocated for over 11 years to use the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to achieve this goal. For example, since 2009, we have led the province-wide campaign to get the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.

 

Did you know that a quarter of a century ago, a heroic family tried to use Canada’s court system to advance the right to inclusive education for students with disabilities? Their frustrating, uphill battle was a multi-year roller coaster ride, with twists, turns, exciting ups and depressing downs. To mark the Eaton case’s 25th anniversary, this conference will hear from several key participants in the Eaton legal battle itself as well as experts who have worked on this cause since that case.

 

In Emily Eaton v. Brant County Board of Education, an Ontario family battled tirelessly for years against an Ontario public school board that insisted that their child be educated in a special education classroom that was restricted to students with disabilities. The family wanted her to receive her education in the regular classroom, which included both students with disabilities and those with no disabilities.

 

The case eventually reached the Ontario Court of Appeal. Justice Louise Arbour (who later was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada) ruled in Emily’s favour, for a majority of the Ontario Court of Appeal. Justice Arbour’s ruling was the strongest and best implementation of the guarantee of equality to people with disabilities in the Charter of Rights in the first decade of that provision’s operation.

 

Rather than comply, the school board appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. In a real setback for students with disabilities, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against Emily. The disconnect between the Supreme Court’s decision and Emily’s actual reality was palpable. It was a cruel irony that as the case worked its way up the courts, Emily switched from the public school board to a Catholic school board which placed her in a regular classroom.

 

The harmful elements of the Supreme Court’s Eaton decision have subsequently been supplanted by later decisions, such as the Supreme Court’s landmark decision under the Charter of Rights in Eldridge v British Columbia [1997] 3 SCR 624 and its decision under human rights legislation in Moore v. British Columbia (Education). [2012] 3 S.C.R. 360

 

Would you like to learn more about the Eaton case? Below we set out excerpts about the Eaton case from an extensive law journal article written by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, that was published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law in 1997. That article looked at all the decisions of Canadian courts on equality for people with disabilities that were decided in the first decade in which Charter section 15 was in effect. That article uses the term “integration” which has since been superseded by the term “inclusion”.

 

 

You can see the efforts by the AODA Alliance on behalf of students with disabilities by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

 

You may also want to catch the captioned and widely viewed talk by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on tips for parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate for their child’s disability-related needs at school.

 

Announcement of the March 29, 2022 Retrospective on the Case of Emily Eaton v. Brant County Board of Education

 

 

 

March 29, 2022, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Inclusive Education as the Foundation for Inclusive Communities: Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of the Eaton Decision and the Future of Inclusive Education in Ontario

Inclusion Action in Ontario (IAO) and ARCH Disability Law are pleased to host two panels on the state of the law and practice of inclusive education in Ontario for students with disabilities.

The importance of inclusive education cannot be overstated. There is a widespread view that inclusion of students with disabilities is the norm in Ontario. In practice, there remains a significant emphasis on segregation of students with disabilities throughout Ontario’s education system, which has resulted in separate services and separate lives for our most vulnerable citizens. The barriers remain high in the workplace, including for lawyers with disabilities.

Nearly three decades ago, the Eaton family embarked on a journey to have their daughter, Emily, included in the regular classroom. The Brant County Board of Education determined through its Identification, Placement & Review Committee that she should be placed in a special education classroom. While the case made its way through the courts all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, the family moved Emily to the Catholic board, which placed her in a regular classroom for the duration of her school experience.

The legal panel will reflect on the 25th anniversary of this seminal decision, as well as where we’ve gone since and where we need to go. Our education panel will feature leading education practitioners and families on the ground in schools and on school boards, where inclusive education is either systemically adopted or practised solely out of the extraordinary efforts of families who insisted it should be so. Through advocacy, lawyers and families will be better equipped to support inclusive education for students with disabilities.

Agenda

3:00 p.m. – Opening and Welcome Remarks – Paula Boutis, IAO President and Counsel with Aird & Berlis LLP, and Robert Lattanzio, ARCH Disability Law Clinic, Executive Director

3:10 to 4:15 p.m. – Panel 1: The Right of a Student With Disabilities to Inclusive Education: The Past, Present and Future

Our first panel of esteemed jurists and legal professionals will reflect on the Eaton decision and its impact on inclusive education in Ontario;, significant jurisprudence since that time and the future of inclusive education law in Ontario for students with disabilities.

Moderator: Paula Boutis

Panellists:

In a pre-recorded message, Retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Louise Arbour, then a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal and who delivered the Court’s reasons in Eaton, will offer her reflections on the time and place of the decision.

Justice Anne Molloy, Superior Court of Justice, Janet Budgell, Vice President with Legal Aid Ontario, and the Hon. Stephen Goudge, now a retired judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal, will reflect on their experiences as part of the ARCH legal teams that argued this matter on behalf of Emily Eaton before the Court of Appeal for Ontario and the Supreme Court of Canada.

Robert Lattanzio will reflect on the overall system of special education, the more recent jurisprudence and needed reform to continue towards the removal of barriers for persons with disabilities in schools and ultimately in the workplace, including in the legal profession.

David Lepofsky, retired Crown Counsel and Chair of the AODA Alliance, will speak to the proposed education standards now being considered by the government.

4:15 p.m. – BREAK

4:30 – 5:30 p.m. – Panel 2: Inclusive Education Practice on the Ground

Moderator: Paula Boutis

Panellists:

Sonia Spreafico, Board Member, Inclusion Action Ontario, and parent to a son currently experiencing an inclusive high school education in the Peel District School Board.

Dr. Jacqueline Specht, Director of the Canadian Research Centre on Inclusive Education, Western University

Karen Congram, Head, Special Education, Stratford District Secondary School, and parent to a daughter with Rett Syndrome

Karen Sheydwasser, Education Assistant, Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour School in Edmonton

Panellists will speak to good pedagogical practices and inclusive education strategies on the ground, as educators and/or parents.

5:30 p.m. – On behalf of the family, remarks by Clay Eaton, father to Emily Eaton and retired educator and former President of Inclusion Action Ontario

 

5:40 p.m. – Closing Remarks – Paula Boutis and Robert Lattanzio

 

 

Excerpts from “M. David Lepofsky, A REPORT CARD ON THE CHARTER’S GUARANTEE OF EQUALITY TO PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES AFTER TEN YEARS – WHAT PROGRESS? WHAT PROSPECTS?”, Published in National Journal of Constitutional Law Volume 7 Number 3 1997 – 7 NJCL 263-431

 

(Footnotes omitted)

 

 Excerpt 1

 

The most principled and purposive treatment of the disability equality guarantee in the direct discrimination context during s. 15’s first decade is the Ontario Court of Appeal’s seminal decision in Eaton v. Brant (County) Board of Education. In Eaton, the parents of a 10 year old girl with cerebral palsy resisted the school board’s efforts to remove the child from a regular classroom and place her in a segregated class for children with disabilities. The Ontario Court of Appeal held that segregation of a child with disabilities in a separate class for children with disabilities, against the child’s wishes as expressed by the child’s legal representatives, contravenes Charter s. 15(1). Segregation against the child’s wishes could only occur if the school board can show under Charter s. 1 that there is no alternative for meeting the child’s needs in the regular classroom, or otherwise in a less restrictive environment. The court recognized the constitutional requirement that the school board reasonably accommodate the child in the regular classroom where possible.

 

Eaton is a classic illustration of direct disability discrimination. The state ordinarily provides children free public education with their peers in their neighbourhood school. Certain children with disabilities can be denied this opportunity and be required instead to attend special educational programs in segregated classes, possibly far from their home, due to their disability.

 

There will be cases where a child with a disability cannot be served in the regular classroom setting even with reasonable accommodation, due to their disability. However, the court properly agreed that consistent with the Charter’s disability equality guarantee, the correct starting point in assessing a child with a disability’s placement is their inclusion in the mainstream classroom, supported by reasonable accommodation if needed. Only where it is shown that this cannot work, nor would any less restrictive environment, should segregation be considered.

 

Because our public education system was designed largely if not exclusively to serve children without disabilities, resort to the expediency of segregated special education programs for children with disabilities is insufficient as a comprehensive post-hoc method of redressing this discriminatory situation. Equality demands more. It requires serious and substantial efforts to rectify the long legacy of educational exclusion by endeavouring where possible to accommodate children with disabilities in the mainstream.

 

Eaton constituted the most effective judicial implementation of s. 15 disability equality for several reasons. First, the Court of Appeal’s s. 15 analysis most closely accords with disability equality’s purposes. It effectively holds that equality for persons with disabilities includes the chance to participate fully in the mainstream alongside those without disabilities, while accepting that compelling exceptions to this principle may be demonstrated. The court found that even if separate classes or schools for children with disabilities were assumed to meet their educational needs, “separate but equal” segregated school facilities presumptively are inherently discriminatory. Any other finding would sanction the relegation of persons with disabilities and other Charter-protected groups to ghetto environments, with victims of segregation improperly forced to prove that they deserve to be welcomed into the mainstream before having any s. 15 entitlement to full participation in society.

 

Eaton’s emphasis on individualized assessments of children with disabilities is closely tied to s. 15’s aim of ensuring a fair and accurate assessment of individual ability. It implements Canada’s international obligations to children. It achieves a result which is similarly required by the Ontario Human Rights Code.

 

Second, Eaton correctly held that segregated or “separate but equal” education is as violative of equality rights when imposed on children with disabilities as it is if it were forced upon children based on their race or sex. It properly rejected the school board’s anachronistic contention that there is no analogy between race and disability when it comes to equal access to educational facilities, holding that exclusions based on physical or mental disability are no less discriminatory than those based on race or sex. This is laudable since s. 15 does not guarantee a hierarchy of different levels of protection from discrimination depending on the ground involved. To do otherwise would be to infect s. 15 with an inherently discriminatory interpretation.

 

The school board’s argument in this regard runs afoul of the s. 15 disability amendment’s legislative history. During the patriation debate, Parliament received a proposal from one group that s. 15 be amended to include disability but in a fashion which gave persons with disabilities less protection than certain other groups. This proposal was rejected. To accept the school board’s argument would be to reverse Parliament’s rejection of this proposal and to inject into s. 15 one of the most hotly-criticized elements of U.S. equal protection doctrine, a doctrine which Canada has largely avoided replicating.

 

Third, the Eaton court rightly rejected the school board’s claim that the young child suffered no disadvantage from being excluded from the mainstream classroom and from being placed in a segregated disability class. The school board’s position denigrated s. 15’s core goal for persons with disabilities of full participation in the mainstream. The Court of Appeal’s landmark holding was that the Charter seeks to redress and prevent the legacy of exclusion from which persons with disabilities have suffered. Segregation poses the harm that the child with a disability may be forced to separate from their home and family, i.e., in areas where no special education program is available nearby. Quoting from Justice Abella’s Royal Commission Report on Equality in Employment the court stated:

 

“From the earliest age, disabled children should see themselves as part of the mainstream of society, and children who are not disabled should see them the same way. These enabling perceptions, carried into adulthood, have the power to affect, on both sides, expectations about the extent to which the community is and should be accessible and about standards of behaviour in the workplace, both for employers and employees.”

 

The Court of Appeal correctly acknowledged that for years, a core aim of the disability rights movement has been increased integration and inclusion of persons with disabilities into the mainstream and that, “[i]n the social context, inclusion is so obviously an important factor in the acquisition of skills necessary for each of us to operate effectively as members of the group that we treat it as a given.” Absent such integration, the Eaton child and the non-disabled students in the mainstream class would each lack a full opportunity to learn how each other lives. Segregation is often socially perceived as a form of punishment.

 

Fourth, the Court of Appeal significantly found that for the school board to show that segregation is not a disadvantage, and is instead a benefit, it is not sufficient that the school board was motivated to segregate the child in order to help or benefit her. The placement must be seen in its larger social and historical context which, in this case, is but one manifestation of a larger practice of exclusionary and harmful treatment. If the school board could do what it wished with the child with a disability simply by claiming that it was seeking to help her, the disability equality guarantee would be stripped of much of its potential punch. After all, much of the discrimination historically confronting persons with disabilities has been the product of paternalistic efforts purportedly to help them.

 

Fifth, Eaton correctly rejected the lower court ruling which would have insulated school boards in this important area from meaningful Charter scrutiny due to undeserved, sweeping judicial deference to educational academics and bureaucrats. The court below had erroneously held that this case raised no Charter issue as it involved a debate over competing pedagogical theories. It is true that there is a debate in the educational world over different approaches to education for children with disabilities, much as there are debates over educational issues for all children. However, this does not excuse a school board from its constitutional duty to extend equality in education to children with disabilities.

 

Sixth, Eaton draws the appropriate line between Charter s. 15 analysis and the analytically-distinct Charter s. 1 inquiry. The Court of Appeal held that under s. 15, one must ascertain whether a party has been excluded from an opportunity or benefit on grounds of disability. Thereafter, if the government wishes to justify the exclusion, e.g., by contending that the child’s disability cannot be accommodated in the mainstream setting, its arguments must be addressed under s. 1, with the burden of proof on government to justify exclusion from the mainstream. It correctly held:

 

“Whether the placement that is offered to Emily is of equal or even superior value is not relevant to a finding of discrimination. It is only relevant to the s. 1 analysis which needs to be embarked upon if the discriminatory treatment is to be justified. Under s. 15(1) it is sufficient to find a classification, on a prohibited ground, which deprives the person of a benefit or imposes a burden or disadvantage.”

 

Any other approach would place an unfair evidentiary burden on applicants with disabilities. It would also have grafted onto Charter s. 15 an inappropriate, pejorative and stereotypical presumption that disability necessarily means inability. The court effectively eradicates from the s. 15(1) analysis any distracting inquiry into whether the school board’s segregation option is better for the child – an inquiry which would have erroneously misdirected s. 15(1) into a simple “best interest of the child” provision, detached from the core values of equality.

 

Seventh, Eaton ultimately reflects a much-needed judicial willingness to take s. 15’s disability equality guarantee seriously, and to undertake meaningful though carefully-tailored action to put it into effect. For some judges, it might have seemed easier to accede to the claim of the mainstream educational bureaucracy that these issues are simply best left to them and their experts, as had the lower court. Judicial intervention might appear to involve significant changes to the educational status quo, which judges might be fearful about initiating.

 

Yet, superficially enticing as such reluctance might seem, it would involve a major abdication of judicial responsibility under the Charter. Disability equality will of necessity require some significant changes to the status quo, especially in an area like education where the history of disability exclusion is so deep-rooted, and where the importance of education to the child with a disability is so fundamental. The Eaton decision is so seminal because it heralds such a change, through a judicial pronouncement which clearly enunciates the core constitutional principles which should guide the change, while properly affording the education system scope for putting these into action.

 

Eaton provides an effective guide to courts considering s. 15 direct disability-based discrimination claims. Applying the Eaton approach, a court first ascertains if the government extends a program or benefit to all or part of the public. It then decides whether some or all persons with disabilities are excluded from full participation in that program as part of the mainstream due to their disability. If so, this exclusion, even if benignly motivated, must be justified under Charter s. 1 on a case-by-case individualized basis. This could include a showing that even with reasonable accommodation, the person with a disability cannot benefit at all from participation in the mainstream, or in environments less restrictive than total segregation.

 

 Excerpt 2

 

The Ontario Court of Appeal’s pivotal Eaton decision most effectively implemented these principles in the disability setting. It held that children with disabilities have a s. 15 right to be educated in their local school along with children without disabilities if they wish, with reasonable accommodation to their disabilities being provided where needed in the classroom. Denial of this right must be justified under Charter s. 1 on an individualized basis.

 

Eaton is especially significant for it properly infused the duty to accommodate into the Charter’s disability equality guarantee in a direct discrimination case. This extricates from Charter s. 15 the confounding and counterproductive controversy which has plagued the Supreme Court of Canada for a decade over the question whether the duty to accommodate only applies in adverse effects discrimination cases or whether it also arises in cases of direct discrimination. As indicated earlier, it is vital for the duty to accommodate to apply with equal vigour in both instances if disability equality is to be achieved.

 

Eaton also correctly rejected the school board’s problematic claim that the placement of a child with a disability in a segregated classroom over her objection is compatible with s. 15(1) because it allegedly amounts to a form of accommodation for that child. The court properly ruled:

 

“[I]t cannot be said that her placement in a special class is a form of accommodation necessary to grant her a true equality of access to education. That reasoning would offer a justification to any “separate but equal” treatment under s. 15(1) without the need to examine the separate treatment under s. 1 of the Charter.”

 

The school board’s misuse of the duty to accommodate would strip that doctrine of its rightful place as a key element of the guarantee of disability equality, and contorts it instead into a weapon to insulate discriminatory treatment of children with disabilities.

 

Excerpt 3

 

Building on Roberts, the most principled and appropriate s. 15(2) ruling in the Charter disability context is the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Eaton v. Brant (County) School Board. A family with a child with a disability argued that the school board violated her s. 15 disability equality rights by requiring her to attend segregated classes for children with disabilities, when she wanted to attend her regular neighbourhood school alongside children without disabilities. The school board argued among other things that if this compelled segregation violated Charter s. 15(1), it was saved by s. 15(2). This is because the school board said it provides segregated special education programs to children with disabilities to redress disadvantages confronting them, allegedly as a form of affirmative action.

 

The Ontario Court of Appeal properly rejected the school board’s s. 15(2) argument. Elsewhere in the decision, the Eaton court had correctly concluded that the mere fact that the school board offers some students with disabilities segregated special education as a perceived or intended help or benefit to them does not immunize it from scrutiny under s. 15(1). The board’s attempt to resurrect this argument under s. 15(2) could have no greater hope of success.

 

Eaton correctly held that even if segregated education for children with disabilities was assumed to be an affirmative action program within s. 15(2), this did not automatically immunize it from Charter challenge by proposed recipients of its intended benefit, i.e., children who are forced into educational segregation. It properly infused into the Charter the Ontario Court of Appeal’s reasoning in Roberts. By this approach, the enactment of an affirmative action program does not exempt the state from any and all Charter compliance within the program. Otherwise, government could easily escape any Charter obligations by claiming that they are trying to help persons with disabilities by treating them worse than others. When government subjects persons with disabilities to worse treatment than others, s. 15(2) simply does not allow this to escape full Charter scrutiny.

 

Put another way, Charter s. 15(2), like its counterparts in human rights statutes, was enacted to prevent students without disabilities from complaining of “reverse discrimination” in the unlikely event that they too wanted to participate in special education programs designed for children with disabilities. The Eaton court was not being asked to decide whether the coerced segregated disability class could be saved under s. 15(2) if mainstream students attacked it under Charter s. 15(1).

 

 

 Excerpt 4

 

            (a) The Supreme Court’s Eaton Decision

 

Before this article went to print, the Supreme Court of Canada inaugurated the second decade of Canada’s constitutional guarantee of equality to persons with disabilities by overturning the Ontario Court of Appeal’s seminal ruling in Eaton v. Brant (County) Board of Education. This epilogue examines this decision’s implications for s. 15’s second decade.

 

The Ontario Court of Appeal’s ruling in Eaton constituted the single greatest breakthrough for people with disabilities during s. 15’s first decade. Understandably then, the Supreme Court’s reversal of this decision appeared to be a dramatic setback for disability equality. This perception is strongly buttressed by the fact that the Supreme Court decided Eaton less than 24 hours after oral argument, with reasons to follow.

 

On closer scrutiny, the Supreme Court’s decision in Eaton is better seen as a mixed result for disability equality. It contains important principles which will serve disability equality well. However, these principles are followed by some judicial comments which are confused, contradictory and counterproductive.

 

The Ontario Court of Appeal in Eaton held that s. 15 guarantees to children with disabilities the constitutional right to go to school in an integrated classroom in their local communities with their non-disabled peers. A child with a disability could only be placed in a segregated class or school for children with disabilities if the child or his or her parent’s consented to the placement or if the school board could establish under Charter s. 1 that the child’s disability could not be accommodated in the mainstream school setting. The Court of Appeal held that provincial education legislation contravened s. 15 because it embodied no constitutionally required presumption in favour of integration into the mainstream for pupils with disabilities.

 

The Supreme Court held on procedural grounds that the Court of Appeal should not have embarked on any assessment of the constitutionality of the education legislation. The Supreme Court then held that the special education tribunal did not violate Emily Eaton’s s. 15 rights when it ordered her removed from an integrated class and placed in a segregated program for children with disabilities.

 

(b) The Eaton Decision’s Important Gains

 

The Supreme Court reached important conclusions about disability equality which, if turned into constitutional practice, will go a long way towards making s. 15 work well. The Court acknowledged for the first time that s. 15’s disability equality guarantee has two aims. It seeks first to eliminate discrimination which takes the form of attributing untrue characteristics to a person based on stereotypical attitudes about a person’s immutable characteristics.

 

More importantly, in the disability context, s. 15’s “central purpose” is to ensure the “recognition of the actual characteristics” of a person’s disability and to ensure the “reasonable accommodation of these characteristics”. The Court recognized that full participation by persons with disabilities in society’s mainstream is what s. 15 seeks to achieve, holding that equality requires recognition of “the true characteristics of this group which act as headwinds to the enjoyment of society’s benefits” and their accommodation. It ruled that “[e]xclusion from the mainstream of society results from the construction of a society based solely on `mainstream’ attributes to which disabled persons will never be able to gain access.” Thus equality requires that changes be made to society so that “its structures and assumptions do not result in the relegation and banishment of disabled persons from participation”.

 

In so ruling, the Court squarely rejected the school board’s claim that there was no inequality or discrimination because Emily’s placement was not based on any stereotyping. The Court held that disability equality can be violated even absent proof of stereotyping. It stated:

 

“The discrimination inquiry which uses “the attribution of stereotypical characteristics” reasoning as commonly understood is simply inappropriate here. It may be seen rather as a case of reverse stereotyping which, by not allowing for the condition of a disabled individual, ignores his or her disability and forces the individual to sink or swim within the mainstream environment.”

 

This is a seminal repudiation of any attempt by a government facing a Charter claim, or business facing a human rights complaint, to rebuff efforts by persons with disabilities to participate fully in society’s mainstream by contending that people with disabilities must take that mainstream setting just as they find it. Rather, governments have a constitutional duty under the Charter to change the world, which was and is frequently designed on the false and unfair premise that persons with disabilities have no place in it, to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities, just as private businesses have a duty to do so under human rights statutes.

 

Accordingly, the Supreme Court reached the important conclusion that it is discrimination to require a blind person to take a written test, presumably in ink print format, or to require a person using a wheelchair to enter a library by ascending stairs, instead of providing him or her with a ramp. Equality for people with disabilities is thus in significant part about achieving a barrier-free society in which people with disabilities can fully participate. This bodes very well for the future of disability equality.

 

The Court’s initial approach to the specific issue of access to education for children with disabilities is also well-suited to s. 15’s purposes. Employing a “subjective, child-centred perspective … which attempts to make equality meaningful from the child’s point of view as opposed to that of the adults in his or her life”, the Court held that the school board or education tribunal must ensure that the child with a disability receives the education placement that is in the “child’s best interests.” To do this for children with disabilities, “integration should be recognized as the norm of general application because of the benefits it generally provides.” The Court held that the decision-making body:

 

“… must determine whether the integrated setting can be adapted to meet the special needs of an exceptional child. Where this is not possible, that is, where aspects of the integrated setting which cannot reasonably be changed interfere with meeting the child’s special needs, the principle of accommodation will require a special education placement outside of this setting.”

 

The Court further held that the child’s wishes must be incorporated into this deliberation:

 

For older children and those who are able to communicate their wishes and needs, their own views will play an important role in the determination of best interests. For younger children, and those … who are either incapable of making a choice or have a very limited means of communicating their wishes, the decision-maker must make this determination on the basis of the other evidence before it.

 

This approach harmonizes with the Court’s compelling recognition that for persons with disabilities, equality is all about full barrier-free participation in society’s mainstream. It also accords with Eaton’s ruling that pivotal to this goal is respect for the individuality of each person with a disability, and the elimination of barriers which impede his or her access to the mainstream. It follows an appropriate analytical sequence by starting off with the expectation that the child will be educated in the mainstream “integrated” setting. If alterations to that setting are needed to accommodate the needs of a child with a disability, there is a duty to make those changes or accommodations. This is especially crucial since, for so long, Canada’s school system has been solely or primarily designed to cater to the needs of children without disabilities. Only where accommodation is not feasible should the school system contemplate placing the child in a segregated setting, having regard to the fact that placement in the integrated setting has enormous benefits which should not be foregone wherever possible.

 

Moreover, the Court deployed this salutary analytical approach when it scrutinized Emily’s special education tribunal decision. It upheld the constitutionality of the tribunal’s decision because the tribunal sought to achieve a placement which was in Emily’s best interests from the standpoint of receiving the benefits of an education, via an examination of her specific circumstances. The Court found that the tribunal took into account “the great psychological benefit that integration offers”. It concluded that it was impossible to meet Emily’s needs in an integrated classroom, and that such a placement had proven counterproductive. It held that the integrated classroom could not be adapted to meet Emily’s safety needs without “radically altering the classroom or establishing a very isolating level of adult supervision”. It found that the tribunal “considered Emily’s special needs and strove to fashion a placement that would accommodate those special needs and enable her to benefit from the services that an educational program offers”.

 

This approach is even more significant in light of three of the school board’s arguments against the Eatons which the Supreme Court effectively rejected, and which would have severely impaired disability equality had they been accepted. First, the Brant County Board of Education argued that under Ontario’s legislative regime for “exceptional” pupils, segregation of Emily in a special class or program for children with disabilities did not constitute different treatment or unequal treatment in accordance with the first prong of Andrews’ s. 15 test. Necessarily dismissing this claim, the Court held:

 

“It is quite clear that a distinction is being made under the Act between “exceptional” children and others. Other children are placed in the integrated classes. Exceptional children, in some cases, face an inquiry into their placement in the integrated or special classes. It is clear that the distinction between “exceptional” and other children is based on the disability of the individual child.”

 

Second, the school board argued that the term “segregation” was improper when used to describe the removal of a child with a disability from a mainstream classroom and his or her placement in a special class or school for children with disabilities. The Supreme Court itself chose to use the term “segregation” in its judgment, thereby accepting the label’s appropriateness.

 

Third, the school board sought to further minimize the significance of Emily’s proposed removal from the integrated classroom where she had been studying for years by contending that this was just about the “physical setting” for education. However, the Supreme Court clearly recognized that the segregation of a child with a disability means much more than a simple choice of physical venue. It did so by referring to “the great psychological benefit that integration offers” in its description of the tribunal decision and by ultimately finding that Emily’s case involved an instance of “distinction” or exclusion due to disability under s. 15(1) of the Charter.

 

These significant holdings have the effect of engaging s. 15 and constitutionalizing any school board decision to remove a child with a disability from the mainstream setting. Moreover, the Court’s approach rests squarely on the firm foundation that the school board’s decision to remove a child with a disability from an integrated classroom must be governed solely by a individualized, case-specific consideration of what is in the best interests of that child. The Court also effectively held that regard must be had to all of the child’s personal circumstances and needs, and not merely the simple existence of his or her disability.

 

The Court’s delineation of the constitutionally required approach described above imposes a demanding standard on schools and school boards. It is remarkably similar in content if not in terminology to the framework which the Ontario Court of Appeal had enunciated in Eaton. The case’s only anomaly at this point is in the outcome for Emily Eaton herself. The Supreme Court unanimously concluded, based on its factual assessment of Emily’s best interests, that Emily did not belong in an integrated classroom. Yet throughout the years that the Brant County Board of Education fought vigorously to keep Emily out of its integrated classrooms, the Eatons had in fact succeeded in obtaining an integrated classroom placement for Emily in the local Catholic school system.

 (c) The Eaton Decision’s Flaws

 

The preceding would have been sufficient to dispose of the Eaton appeal. However, the Court went on to express views which were unnecessary to the case’s disposition. In so doing, it made three serious errors. If infused into Charter jurisprudence these errors would significantly impair s. 15’s ability to meet the goals which the Court identified for disability equality.

 

(i) Rejection of a Presumption In Favour of Integration

 

 

 

The decision first became problematic when the Court considered the specific procedural question of whether, in deciding on the appropriate placement of a child with a disability, a school board or tribunal should consider integration as the preferred option and look only to segregation when it is evident that even with reasonable accommodation, an integrated placement cannot benefit the child.

 

The preceding section’s analysis strongly suggests that the starting point is integration. The Court clearly stated that integration is to be the “norm”. It also enunciated as a matter of first principle that the central aim of equality for person with disabilities is full participation in society’s mainstream and, in the education context, the “mainstream” is self-evidently the same classroom in which one’s peers receive their education. As well, Emily’s segregation from this mainstream was justified in the Court’s view only because integration had been tried but had failed and because further accommodation of Emily’s needs in the integrated classroom was not possible. Put simply, the force of the Court’s rulings on general disability equality principles and its analysis of Emily’s specific case inescapably leads to the conclusion that integration is the starting point and segregation is only to occur if it is shown to be necessary.

 

Yet in flat contradiction to its own reasoning, the Supreme Court rejected as erroneous the Court of Appeal’s holding that Charter s. 15 requires a presumption in favour of integration unless displaced by evidence under Charter s. 1. The Supreme Court held:

 

“The Court of Appeal was of the view that the Tribunal’s reasoning infringed s. 15(1) because the Charter mandates a presumption in favour of integration. This presumption is displaced if the parents consent to a segregated placement…. In my view, the application of a test designed to secure what is in the best interests of the child will best achieve that objective if the test is unencumbered by a presumption. The operation of a presumption tends to render proceedings more technical and adversarial. Moreover, there is a risk that in some circumstances, the decision may be made by default rather than on the merits as to what is in the best interests of the child. I would also question the view that a presumption as to the best interests of a child is a constitutional imperative when the presumption can be automatically displaced by the decision of the child’s parents. Such a result runs counter to decisions of this Court that the parents’ view of their child’s best interests is not dispositive of the question.”

 

This passage is multiply flawed. However, before examining this passage in detail, it is critical to clarify that it was entirely unnecessary for the Court to express this view to dispose of the case. Even had there been a presumption in favour of integration, as the Ontario Court of Appeal had held, the Supreme Court clearly felt that the tribunal’s findings of fact on Emily’s case would displace it. Indeed, this is what the school board argued to the Court. The Eatons thus personally lose in the result in their effort to keep Emily in an integrated public school classroom on any test, given the Supreme Court’s view of the facts and the Court’s reading of the tribunal’s decision. This passage is thus obiter dicta and should be read in light of the Court’s longstanding principle that it is preferable not to address constitutional issues unless it is necessary to do so to decide the case.

 

Turning to the substantive deficiencies with the Court’s comments, the Supreme Court offered three rationales for rejecting a presumption in favour of integration. Each is seriously flawwed.

 

First, the Court erroneously condemned a presumption in favour of integration because it “tends to render proceedings more technical and adversarial.” This disregards both the reality of the special education appeal process and the essence of Charter equality rights.

 

The special education appeal process is, by definition, invoked only when three conditions are present:

 

(1)        a pupil has a disability which results in his or her classification as an “exceptional pupil”;

 

(2)        the school or school board wants to take the child out of the integrated classroom and place him or her in a segregated program because of this disability; and

 

(3)        the child and/or his or her parents object to this placement and must resort to a statutory appeal process to be able to keep the child in an integrated class.

 

It is thus only the parents, and not the school board, who have administrative appeal rights, both as a matter of statute law and obvious administrative fact. After all, the school or school board has no need to appeal from its own placement decision.

 

The Special Education Tribunal, the last level in the administrative appeal process, only hears disputes after informal negotiations and two prior levels of administrative appeals have failed to resolve the conflict over the appropriate placement. At this point, the tribunal must decide on the child’s placement, having been confronted with the opposing viewpoints of the parents on the one hand and the school board on the other.

 

Given this context, it is both inaccurate and unfair to criticize a presumption in favour of integration as converting a non-adversarial, non-legalistic tribunal into an adversarial and legalistic one.

 

Proceedings before the Special Education Tribunal are clearly adversarial and legalistic, whether or not there is a presumption in favour of integration. The procedural strictures of Ontario’s Statutory Powers Procedure Act govern the proceedings, as do the common law rules of natural justice. These create a formal, adversarial adjudicative process where both the parents and the school board may retain counsel, examine and cross-examine witnesses and make detailed factual and legal arguments and objections.

 

It is therefore erroneous for the Court to single out the addition of a presumption in favour of integration as the culprit, creating adversity and technicality, as if none already existed. This implies that for a child or parent to challenge the wisdom of a school board is to be inappropriately “adversarial”. Yet the very essence of the appeal process is to provide parents with an avenue to challenge their child’s placement. It is difficult enough for an isolated parent, child or family to take on the large, well-funded school board which has so much day-to-day power over their child’s future. To have the procedural deck further stacked against them, by not even starting from the premise that the child deserves a place in a regular classroom along with their non-disabled peers, is to make things considerably worse.

 

To try to redress the imbalance in resources with a presumption in favour of integration, which parallels the Court-approved expectation that the “norm” should be in favour of integration, is not to suddenly turn a harmonious, collegial gathering into a legalistic, adversarial process. The kind of presumption with which the Court has such difficulty is akin to that which has been in effect under U.S. law since the 1970s. The Supreme Court recited no evidence, studies, or learned commentaries to support either the position that the addition of a presumption would convert the nature of these appeals or that the conversion would be counterproductive. To the contrary, our legal system has accepted since time immemorial that it is through the testing of the adversarial process that the strengths and weaknesses of competing viewpoints are most effectively revealed. Children with disabilities are no less deserving of the benefits of this process.

 

By its second rationale, the Supreme Court rejected the concept of a presumption in favour of integration on the erroneous ground that it could undermine the achievement of the best interests of a child with a disability. It feared that there was a “risk” that this presumption could lead to a child being subjected to an integrated placement in circumstances where segregation is better simply because the school board lacked sufficient proof to displace the presumption in favour of integration. The Court held that “a presumption in favour of integrated schooling would work to the disadvantage of pupils who require special education in order to achieve equality” and that “there is a risk that in some circumstances, the decision may be made by default rather than on the merits as to what is in the best interests of the child.”

 

This presupposes that there will be cases in the real world where integration will be bad for the child and segregation good for him or her, but that the school board will be incapable of proving that this is the case. The Supreme Court cited no studies, evidence or principled analysis to support this fear. It is at best pure speculation and, at worst, entirely unfounded.

 

The Court’s reasoning on this point flies in the face of the fact that school board’s have at their disposal a wide range of resources, including teachers, psychologists, social workers, physiotherapists and the like, on whom to draw for evidence and expertise. The intervener Ontario Public School Boards Association contended in oral argument that the school board has greater expertise than do parents in this context. Surely the school board, if it feels so strongly that segregation is the only option, should be able to martial some credible proof to back its view. It is not to much to expect, consistent with the prevention of disability-based segregation where unwarranted, to make the minimal legal demand that the school board back its view that segregation is warranted by some credible view.

 

The Court also disregarded the prospect that the absence of a presumption of integration creates a stronger risk that a child with a disability who could benefit from integration may be improperly forced into a segregated setting because his or her family cannot produce sufficient contrary evidence in a contest against the school board, armed with its superior resources.

 

The Court ultimately operates on the implicit presumption that it, the public, parents and children with disabilities should simply trust the school boards and accept segregated placement decisions in those cases where the child’s best interests cannot be objectively ascertained. In so doing, the Court paid no heed to the fact that school boards have not entirely relegated to the past their longstanding history of excessive and unwarranted segregation of children with disabilities.

 

The Court accepted that, in the past, children with disabilities had been systematically frozen out of mainstream school system in large part due to “a stereotypical attitude to disabled persons that they could not function in a system

 

designed for the general population,” at which time “[n]o account was taken of the true characteristics of individual members of the disabled population, nor was any attempt made to accommodate these characteristics.” Yet the Court appears to believe that this legacy came to an end after developments such as a government report in 1971 and legislative amendments in Ontario in 1982, supplemented by a provincial government policy which favours integration where possible. While undoubtedly things have changed, the Court is wrong in assuming that they have changed enough so that the trust which it reposes in school boards and tribunals to do the right thing is sufficient.

 

The Court’s misunderstanding of the current situation in the education system for children with disabilities is revealed in its comment that “[s]chools focussed on the needs of the blind or deaf, and special education for students with learning disabilities indicate the positive aspects of segregated education placement.” Undoubtedly, as the Court of Appeal acknowledged, there will be situations where segregation is warranted. However, the very fact that there still are segregated schools for blind or deaf children does not prove that a presumption in favour of integration is harmful to children with disabilities, as the Court surmises. The continued existence of these schools does not displace the risk that school boards can resort to segregating blind or deaf children too readily. To the contrary, the history of experience with those schools tends to prove the reverse.

 

The Court’s reasoning on these points is not only impossible to square with its delineation of general s. 15 disability equality principles, it is also contrary to settled statutory human rights doctrines which inform the interpretation of s. 15. The Court has held under human rights legislation that the party who has the duty to accommodate has the burden to prove that they cannot accommodate the needs of a person with a disability. The strong legal presumption is that accommodation is feasible unless the contrary is proven. Why should the right to equality guaranteed in the supreme law of Canada be any less vigourous than that guaranteed under quasi-constitutional human rights statutes? If school boards have a duty to accommodate children with disabilities in the integrated classroom, as Eaton clearly holds, the school board must surely have the commensurate duty to demonstrate that accommodation is not reasonably possible.

 

The Court also erroneously approached the concept of the “best interests of the child” in a detached, disembodied, almost ethereal way. It seems to have contemplated that this “best interests” can exist independent of burdens of proof. From a review of the concerns which the justices raised with counsel during oral argument, it appears that the Court thought the problem through backwards. In effect, it appears to have started from the premise that the tribunal was legally required to do what is in the child’s best interests and once it has done this, equality could demand no more of it. This is best captured in an exchange between Justice Sopinka and counsel for the appellant, the the Brant County Board of Education during appellant’s counsel’s opening argument:

 

“Justice Sopinka: Do you agree that the tribunal was attempting to make the decision that was in the best interests of the child?

 

Counsel: Yes, my Lord, Yes my Lord, I do.

 

Justice Sopinka: Now given that, is it then possible to argue that that’s discrimination?

 

Counsel: No. I’m just going to deal with that. In fact I’m going to deal with that as part of my argument on section 15.”

 

Yet, the flaw with this highly abstract reasoning is that it wrongly assumes as a starting point that the placement chosen is in the child’s best interests. This entirely begs the central question which was how the tribunal or a reviewing court should get at deciding what are the child’s best interests. A child’s best interests is a fact-specific and context-specific matter. When a school and the child’s parents have different views on this, an independent arbiter needs some guidance in how to resolve this conflict. Indeed, perhaps the most unfortunate and constitutionally problematic result of the Court’s reasoning is that, by rejecting a presumption in favour of integration, it implicitly sanctioned a presumption in favour of segregation.

 

A tribunal must necessarily employ some kind of presumption or analytical starting point in reaching its determination of what placement is in the best interests of a child. There must be some sort of presumption because, at the very least, there must be a tie breaker if the tribunal finds both positions equally compelling. If it is not a presumption in favour of integration for children with disabilities, then of necessity, there will be a presumption in favour of segregation. It is no answer to this to say that the tribunal must ultimately do what is in the child’s best interests. That goes without saying. The “best interests” yardstick is the substantive legal standard. In contrast, presumptions and burdens of proof are different in nature. They are procedural

 

This abstraction was rendered even more problematic during oral argument when members of the bench looked to the Eatons to produce proof that segregation of children with disabilities was categorically and necessarily harmful as a precondition to the Court finding a presumption in favour of integration. This is nothing less than a repudiation of the core principles concerning disability equality which the Court embraced so categorically in its decision.

 

The Eatons should never have to prove that their child belongs in the mainstream of society. Section 15 presumes that a person with a disability is entitled to fully participate in the mainstream wherever possible. The integrated classroom is the education’s system mainstream. From this, it inescapably follows that children with disabilities have a presumptive place in the educational mainstream unless government can justify removing the child from that setting. The analysis is as simple as it is inescapable. In any event, the Court’s request of the Eatons to provide categorical proof overshoots the mark since the Eatons did not argue that segregation could never be permitted. It was common ground between the parties that there are some children whose disabilities cannot be accommodated in the integrated classroom and that placement decisions must be made on a case-by-case, fact-specific basis. What was in issue was how the school board should approach this fact-specific determination.

 

By its third problematic rationale, the Court repudiated the notion of a presumption of integration because it erroneously assumed that this presumption could automatically be displaced if the child’s parents consented to the school board’s request to segregate the child. This makes no sense. The Eaton’s case involved no claim that the parents had the right to demand, much less consent to, segregation. It dealt only with the right of the child, through her parents, to demand that she remain in an integrated setting. Moreover, there is no reason to assume, as did the Court, that a presumption in favour of integration necessarily has to be displaceable at the parents’ behest. It would be constitutionally permissible to find that the presumption could only be displaced, and segregation therefore permitted, if objectively justified.

 

The Court has therefore left parents, children, schools, school boards and tribunals in a nebulous, unclear predicament. What is the tribunal to do in a case where it is not clear that the child can profit from the integrated setting, but it is also unclear that the child will fare any better in a segregated setting? Is it compatible with equality to sweep the child out of the mainstream as an administrative convenience to the school, just because the child’s parents cannot prove that the mainstream is more beneficial? Were this the case, the Supreme Court would relegate persons with disabilities to the position of having to prove that they deserve to be in the mainstream before they can secure a place there. Women need not so prove. Ethnic minorities need not so prove. Why should equality treat people with disabilities any worse than these others, especially when the court claimed in Eaton that the aims of equality for persons with disabilities are even broader than those for women and racial minorities?

 

(ii) Segregated Education as a Benefit or a Burden

 

The second major flaw with the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Eaton was that it unnecessarily entangled itself in the self-defeating morass of considering whether the segregated placement of Emily constituted a benefit or a burden to her. After concluding that it was a benefit and not a burden, it held that there was no breach of s. 15. The Court need not have treated this as a s. 15 issue. Based on its factual findings regarding Emily, the Court would have upheld the tribunal decision even if this case were analyzed under s. 1. The s. 15 benefit/burden discussion was therefore unnecessary to the case’s disposition.

 

The Ontario Court of Appeal’s approach in Eaton is truest to Charter analysis and Charter values. It places the burden of justificatory proof on government, on whom it belongs, under Charter s. 1, where it belongs according to settled Supreme Court doctrine. In contrast, in Eaton, the Supreme Court placed the burden of proof under s. 15 on Emily’s family requiring them to prove that segregation is a disadvantage to or burden on Emily before they could establish a breach of Emily’s s. 15 rights.

 

As well, in the context of constitutional litigation over the placement of a child with a disability, the Supreme Court’s approach effectively imposes a highly-problematic constitutional presumption in favour of segregation, once the school board or tribunal has decided on a segregated placement for that child. According to the Supreme Court’s approach, once the school board has decided on a segregated placement, and the family opts to advance a constitutional argument to contest this decision, the family must affirmatively show that their child is better off in an integrated setting in order to show that segregation is a “burden” within the meaning of s. 15. This places an erroneous and unfair burden on the party least able to shoulder it, just to battle their way back into the mainstream where everyone else has a presumptive right to be. It involves a presumption of law which the Supreme Court itself denounces as ill-suited to these cases. Yet the presumption it imposes favours segregation if the school board orders it. This is educationally counterproductive and constitutionally defective.

 

The practical financial consequences of the Court’s approach are highly relevant. The school board which wishes to fight the case all the way has the taxpayer to underwrite its viewpoint. The family does not. This financial risk was brought home most vividly in this case since the Supreme Court ultimately ordered the Eaton family to pay the costs of the school board.

 

(iii)       Disability Equality compared to Other Equality-Seeking Groups

 

The third flaw in the Supreme Court’s Eaton decision was that the Court unnecessarily and erroneously waded into the risky and problematic bog of trying to make broad-brush categorical generalizations on whether disability equality is the same as, or different than, equality for other disadvantaged groups such as racial minorities or women. The Court previously avoided this trap when interpreting the disability equality provisions of Saskatchewan’s Human Rights Code in Gibbs. It would have been wiser to do the same in Eaton.

 

This issue arose three times in Eaton during oral argument before the Supreme Court. One justice proposed to Emily’s counsel that disability equality differs from racial equality because a person is born with their race, but not with their disability. Counsel quite properly corrected this serious misconception by pointing out that people are often born with a disability.

 

Had the justice’s proposition been accurate, it would nevertheless be irrelevant to equality principles. Even those who acquire a disability later in life due to illness or accident do not choose to have a disability the way they might choose their religion or career. Exclusion from the mainstream is just as discriminatory whether it is due to blindness occurring at birth or at age 50. It is hoped that the reference in Sopinka J.’s reasons to immutable characteristics vis-à-vis race and its contrast with the varying nature of disability does not constitute an adoption of this critical misunderstanding about the nature of disability.

 

Second, there were some judicial musings during oral argument to the effect that race may be different from disability in the equality context because race is rarely relevant, whereas disability can more frequently be relevant. As is demonstrated in this article’s earlier discussion of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s Eaton decision, it is critically important that this abstract, decontextualized stereotyping of disability find no home in Canada’s equality rights jurisprudence. It would set up an inherently-discriminatory two-class regime under s. 15, giving more protection to such groups as racial minorities and less to those such as persons with disabilities. The question of whether, when and how often governments may use disability as a reason for denying a person a right, opportunity or benefit is one which the Charter assigns to s. 1 and should not be used to dilute s. 15.

 

Third, the intervener Ontario Public School Boards Association sought to make an invidious distinction in oral argument between what she called _normal_ children and children with disabilities. Counsel argued in effect that to segregate children in special classes because of their disability is constitutionally no different than, and certainly no worse than, placing children in different school grades based on their age.

 

The Court does not squarely address and certainly does not adopt these submissions in its decision. It also does not employ the intervener’s offensive distinction between normal children on the one hand and children with disabilities on the other. However, it does make two observations in obiter dicta about the differences between disability equality and racial or sex equality. Both are problematic.

 

First, as described above, the Court held that racial and sex equality seeks to eradicate false stereotypes based on personal attributes, while disability equality goes further, by also seeking the accommodation of actual attributes. It is true that disability equality seeks these twin goals. To this extent, Eaton is a positive ruling. It liberates persons with disabilities from the counter-productive direction arising in recent Supreme Court equality rights cases, and criticised earlier in this article, where the Supreme Court was tending towards requiring a showing of stereotype-based exclusion before it would find a violation of equality. However, Eaton is problematic to the extent that it still relegates women and racial minorities to the realm where false stereotyping must be shown for a denial of equality to be proven.

 

Second, the Court stated that:

 

“… disability, as a prohibited ground, differs from other enumerated grounds such as race or sex because there is no individual variation with respect to these grounds. However, with respect to disability, this ground means vastly different things depending upon the individual and the context.”

 

Factually this generalization is inaccurate or at least highly overstated. A blind person’s blindness is immutable and does not vary depending on the context. In contrast, the physiological differences between males and females vary from pre-adolescence, to the child-bearing years to the post-menopausal period. More importantly, whether there is this factual difference does not make a difference in approach to the meaning of equality rights. Equality is about inclusion and full participation, pure and simple.

 

 (d) Eaton’s Implications

 

To assess Eaton’s long term implications, this section first considers its ramifications for the specific subject of equality access to education for children with disabilities. Thereafter, Eaton’s potential impact on disability equality is more generally examined.

 

In the context of access to education for children with disabilities, the Eaton decision will offer important protections for other children with disabilities even though it ultimately did nothing for Emily Eaton. Whether it is called a norm or a presumption, Eaton holds that the starting point for deciding on the placement of children with disabilities is integration. A school board therefore runs up against the Charter if it seeks to exclude a child with a disability from an integrated educational setting and must be prepared to justify this action. Moreover, in the long run, principle and practicality will combine with the internal contradictions within the Eaton decision to collapse the Court’s nebulous distinction between a “norm” of integration and a “presumption” in favour of integration. In reality, if not in name, it will serve as a presumption favouring integration.

 

The Eaton ruling, including its obiter dicta regarding the presumption of integration, rests on two important preconditions which school boards must meet before they can attempt to invoke Eaton in their defence. First, a school board must achieve a placement for the child with a disability which is in the child’s best interests having strong regard to the great advantages to integration. If the board does not use a “best interests of the child” criterion for placement and, in so doing, does not pay strong regard to the great advantage of integration, the Eaton decision will afford the school board no defence. Rather, it will found a strong basis for a constitutional attack on the child’s segregation.

 

Second, implicit in Eaton is the prerequisite that the child and his or her parents must have a meaningful role in decisions over the child’s placement. This necessarily must include access to a meaningful process of independent appellate review. The Supreme Court’s confidence in Emily’s placement rested in significant part on the fact that the tribunal’s findings against her family were seen as being backed by detailed reasons supported by ample evidence.

 

Outside the specific education context, Eaton’s implications for the future of Charter disability equality are more uncertain. Eaton offers great potential in its enunciation of general principles, including the central importance of removing barriers facing persons with disabilities to achieve full participation in society’s mainstream. Even if Eaton’s reluctance to impose an explicit presumption of integration in the public school context remains for a time, this should have no meaningful significance for the application of disability equality rights outside the education area.

 

What appears to be at the core of the Supreme Court’s reticence in Eaton in the educational context is the role of the parent of the child with a disability. When Eaton is read in light of the decisions below and the focus of the oral argument before the Supreme Court, it is evident that the Court saw Eaton first and foremost as a “parents’ rights” case. The Court was deeply troubled by the idea that the parents of a child with a disability could unilaterally trump the school board and demand their child’s integration in a situation where the Court felt that integration would harm the child, but segregation would not. Because Emily could not communicate, she could not make her views known. Her views might accord with her parents, or with the school board that fought against them.

 

The Court’s concern over this issue was quite evident during oral argument in Eaton. It even led one justice to raise the question, not raised by Emily’s appeal, of whether a parent of a child with a disability could unilaterally force the school board to impose a segregated placement on his or her child in a circumstance where the school board felt integration was more appropriate. This was a red herring. If a person with a disability can fully participate in the mainstream, after receiving reasonable accommodation to his or her disability where needed, equality has been achieved. In these circumstances, there is no constitutional right to be removed from the mainstream.

 

Viewed in this light, Eaton should not in the long run impede claims by people with disabilities to access to a wide range of mainstream opportunities, and to have government remove pre-existing barriers and prevent the erection of new ones in order to accommodate their needs. Yet some litigants will no doubt attempt to use Eaton’s internally-contradictory obiter dicta regarding the presumption of integration to persuade lower courts that the Supreme Court has now signalled new judicial caution and reluctance when faced with disability equality.

 

Lower courts should not derive this message from Eaton for several reasons. First, Eaton does not say such. To the contrary, it urged an unprecedented broadening of s. 15’s goals in the disability context. Second, Eaton’s approach to the presumption of integration in the case of a young child who cannot communicate for herself, and whose circumstances were described as unusual by the special education tribunal, provides no precedent for claims which are not analogous to this narrow situation.

 

Third, Eaton’s problematic elements (which as indicated above were not necessary to the Court’s decision) are best seen as the Supreme Court’s earliest effort at addressing an area of Canadian law which is new and uncharted, and thus prone to initial difficulties. It should therefore be open to the Supreme Court, as well as lower courts, to revisit the case’s problematic elements.

 

Fourth, the difference in results between the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada arose predominantly from each court s dramatically different view of Emily’s specific situation and the content of the tribunal decision under review. The Court of Appeal clearly felt that Emily was able to benefit from an integrated setting and certainly doubted the correctness of the tribunal’s contrary view. In contrast, the Supreme Court unanimously thought that Emily simply could not benefit from an integrated placement and could well be harmed by it.

 

The Court of Appeal also felt that the tribunal did not properly analyze Emily’s case by first considering whether Emily could be integrated in the mainstream classroom. In contrast, as the exchanges during oral argument and the ensuing reasons reveal, the Supreme Court clearly felt that the tribunal had undertaken the very deliberative process that the Eatons had asked of it. This being the case, the Supreme Court’s Eaton decision should be seen less as a repudiation of the Court of Appeal’s purposive approach to disability equality, and more as a repudiation of the Court of Appeal’s interpretation of the case’s unique facts and the tribunal decision — a matter which should have little if any consequence for future disability equality rights cases.

 

Fifth, courts have for decades traditionally shown great, almost instinctive deference, whether in the constitutional or other legal contexts, to three particular institutions, namely schools, prisons and psychiatric hospitals. Judicial deference to government is generally ill-suited to the arena of disability equality, as is addressed earlier in this article. Yet such deference clearly permeated the lower court’s reasons in the Eaton case. The Divisional Court dismissed the Charter claim in two sentences, stating merely:

 

“Finally, we have great difficulty in appreciating how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code create a presumption in favour of one pedagogical theory over another, particularly when the implementation of either theory needs the protection of the saving provisions found in s. 15 of the Charter and s. 14 of the Code. But in this case, that issue is entirely academic because the Tribunal found the evidence clearly established that Emily’s best interests will be better served with the recommended placement.”

 

There is also a tenor of such judicial deference in the Supreme Court’s Eaton decision. As the Court eventually weans itself off of this deference in the education area as it must, and as it addresses disability equality claims in other contexts, it will undoubtedly free itself of such constraints.

 

Finally, Eaton must be seen in the broader context of the Supreme Court’s evolving vision of disability equality. The Court is gradually moving towards an approach to s. 15 which will eventually give disability equality the full measure of protection which it deserves. When the Supreme Court was first presented with cases raising disability equality issues in Swain and Chaulk it ruled on those cases on other grounds without being aware that at their core, they were all about disability equality. When it next appraised a disability equality case in the controversial area of assisted suicide in Rodriguez both its equality analysis and its outcome were erroneous.

 

Now, in Eaton, the Court has come for the first time to properly and explicitly acknowledge the core aim of disability equality. It has also recognized integration as a “norm”, if not yet as a legal presumption in the educational context. As Charter s. 15’s second decade unfolds, it can be anticipated that the Court’s treatment of this new, hitherto under-explored area of our law has great potential to improve even more as the Court develops more experience in this important field of constitutional endeavour.

 

 

 

AODA Alliance’s Year-End Report on Our Advocacy Efforts in 2021

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

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AODA Alliance’s Year-End Report on Our Advocacy Efforts This Year

 

December 24, 2021

 

An exhausting year is reaching its conclusion. With this, our 100th AODA Alliance Update of the year, we give you, our valued supporters, an update on what we have accomplished together in 2021. We also look forward to what to expect in 2022.

 

What a year! The battles too often feel that they are uphill. Yet we always retain our optimism. We never give up. We never surrender!

 

Here are some of the year’s major highlights in our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.

 

  1. This year, we continued to raise serious disability issues in the Ford Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to offer constructive suggestions to those in positions of power. As a primary focus, we battled against the disability discrimination that is deeply rooted in the critical care triage protocol that the Ford Government allowed to be embedded in Ontario hospitals. In this effort, we collaborated closely with the ARCH Disability Law Centre and a team of other disability advocates and experts. We highlighted disability barriers in Ontario’s vaccine distribution and in its vaccine passport system.

 

  1. Working closely with supporters and allies in the disability community, we together convinced Toronto City Council to retain the ban on electric scooters. E-scooters endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

 

  1. We also presented concerns on allowing e-scooters in public places to Hamilton’s and Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committees and to London City Council’s Civic Works Committee.

 

  1. Working with our allies, we convinced Toronto City Council to pass a ban on robots on sidewalks, which endanger us and others. This win secured media coverage as far away as the UK.

 

  1. We raised disability accessibility issues during the fall 2021 federal election and sought commitments on this topic from the major parties.

 

  1. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky waged a legal battle in court against the Ford Government for its unjustified delay in making public the initial reports it received from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The AODA requires the Government to publicly post those reports upon receiving them, not after long delays. Regrettably, Ontario’s Superior Court dismissed that case as moot, without ruling on the correctness of the claim. This is because the Government finally though belatedly posted those reports online before the case got to court for oral argument.

 

As a step forward for us, during oral argument of that case, the Ford Government’s lawyer conceded for the first time that the Government must post such Standards Development Committee reports online once the steps needed for their posting (coding and translation to French) are completed. In this case, the Ford Government delayed posting those three reports longer than the time needed to complete those steps.

 

  1. With next year’s June Ontario election approaching, we have written to the Ontario political party leaders well in advance to list the election commitments we seek on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities. This includes a comprehensive Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we developed and to which we ask each party to commit. This Plan will serve as our major agenda for action over the next year and beyond. We are ready to brief any political party on our requests for commitments.

 

This is especially important since it was towards the end of 2021 that the AODA Alliance publicly recognized that at the present rate, it will not be possible for Ontario to reach the mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, just three years from now. This is due to many years of insufficient action by the Ontario Government to implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

 

  1. We researched, wrote, and submitted a number of detailed briefs on important disability issues, including:

 

  1. a) A brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on the barriers facing people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

 

  1. b) A brief to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on the barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s colleges and universities.

 

  1. c) A brief to the Ford Government on the disability barriers in the Ontario critical care triage protocol

 

  1. d) A brief to the Ford Government on why it should not allow a public pilot of robots on sidewalks in Ontario.

 

  1. e) A brief to Toronto City Council on why it should not allow e-scooters.

 

  1. f) A brief to London Ontario City Council on why it should not allow e-scooters.

 

You can look through all the briefs that the AODA Alliance has prepared and submitted over the years on various accessibility issues by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s briefs page.

 

  1. We continued to raise major objections to any Government reliance on the seriously flawed Rick Hansen Foundation private accessibility “certification” program. It does not provide an accurate and reliable assessment of a building’s accessibility. For details on these documented concerns, see the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program and the AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program.

 

  1. We again brought our message and a wide range of issues to the public through conventional media and through social media. For example, we issued thousands of tweets again this year on Twitter. In a wide spectrum of our advocacy activity, we secured media attention in print, on TV, and on the radio. In a good many cases, it was the media that came to us for comment, rather than the other way around.

 

  1. This year, we released new online captioned videos that help people with disabilities, the Government and the public learn more about our issues. These videos got an impressive number of views and very positive feedback. Prominent among these are the new video that introduces you to the duty to accommodate people with disabilities and the video that gives an in-depth explanation of the disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.

 

  1. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky continued to serve on behalf of the AODA Alliance as a member of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. Its initial report on barriers facing students with disabilities was made public for public consultation on June 1, 2021. It received very positive feedback from the disability community and from educators. That Standards Development Committee is now in the last stages of finalizing revisions to the report based on all the public feedback. The Standards Development Committee aims to conduct its final vote on its final report in the first week of January 2022.

 

  1. Where positive steps are taken on accessibility, we remain ready to acknowledge and applaud them. We also have continued to hold the Ontario Government publicly accountable for its insufficient action on accessibility. For example, this year we continued to publicize our daily count of the number of days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act conducted by David Onley. As of today, that count has reached 1,058 days. We are still waiting for the Ford Government to announce a comprehensive plan to effectively implement that report’s recommendations.

 

Thus, it has been a busy year for our volunteer efforts. Next year will be at least as busy as 2021 was for advocacy by Ontarians with disabilities. Our foreseeable challenges in the next year include raising disability issues in the June 2022 Ontario provincial election and in the October 2022 Ontario municipal and school board elections.

 

We will have to continue battling disability barriers created during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic racing out of control, we face the terrible need to again battle against the disability-discriminatory Ontario critical care triage protocol. We also need to get the Ford Government to remove disability discrimination from its process for renewing the Ontario Health Card online. Those are just two prominent examples of health care barriers facing people with disabilities.

 

Final reports are expected in the new year from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. We will press for the swift enactment of accessibility standards that implement those reports’ recommendations.

 

We will need to continue to battle new barriers, traceable to the Ford Government, created by allowing electric scooters and potentially by allowing robots on sidewalks.

 

No doubt, there will also be new disability issues that we have not been able to predict. We’ll be ready!

 

Once again, we thank all our supporters for their help and their encouragement as we together press forward with our non-partisan accessibility campaign. We also thank all those, including the silent heroes who cannot speak out, within the Ontario Government, school boards, city governments and private organizations and businesses who have tried in their own way to make progress on accessibility for people with disabilities. We wish one and all a safe, happy and barrier-free holiday season.

 

The AODA Alliance is now going offline for a while to re-charge our advocacy batteries. We’ll be back in full flight in January 2022. Stay safe, and have a healthy and happy new year.

Why Did the Ford Government Fail to Hold an Open Merit-Based Competition for the Chair of the Long-Overdue Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee, under Ontario’s Disabilities Act?

          Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Why Did the Ford Government Fail to Hold an Open Merit-Based Competition for the Chair of the Long-Overdue Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee, under Ontario’s Disabilities Act?

 

December 23, 2021

 

            SUMMARY

 

After years of failing to take needed action to tear down disability barriers in the built environment, the Ford Government failed to hold a fair, open, merit-based competition before announcing the appointment of a person as Chair of the long-overdue AODA Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. Below we set out the AODA Alliance’s December 23, 2021 letter to the Ford Government. It raises our serious concerns. It calls on the Government to hold a fair, open and merit-based competition for both the Chair and the membership of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. We also set out the Government’s December 20, 2021 announcement to which we are responding.

 

Since it took office in the summer of 2018, we have been pressing the Ford Government to fulfil its legal duty to appoint the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on the standard that needs to be enacted to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to all people with disabilities by 2025. In its three and a half years of stalling on this, the Ford Government had ample time and opportunity to take the obvious and important step of announcing and holding a fair, open, merit-based competition. There is no justification for the Ford Government’s failure to do so.

 

To learn about the AODA Alliance’s efforts to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, visit the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page. The Ford Government still has no comprehensive plan to fully implement the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that David Onley conducted. The Ford Government received the Onley Report 1,057 days ago. That report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities and that progress on making Ontario disability-accessible has been “glacial.”

 

Send us your feedback. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

            MORE DETAILS

 

December 23, 2021 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

December 23, 2021

 

To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

Via email: raymond.cho@ontario.ca

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

 

Dear Minister,

 

Re: Appointment of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee

 

We have serious concerns about your December 20, 2021 announcement about your appointment of a person to chair a Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We ask you to take specific corrective action identified below.

 

This would have been a “good news” announcement by your Government, had it not been for the serious objection that we here outline. We have been waiting a long four years for the Ontario Government to fulfil its obligation under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to conduct the mandatory five-year review of the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard that was enacted in December 2012, nine years ago. We have asked you over and over to fulfil that obligation, starting as far back as our July 17, 2018 letter to you. No explanation or justification has ever been offered for the multi-year failure to appoint the mandatory Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee.

 

It is good that the Government is finally starting to take steps to comply with its clear legal obligation. It is also good that your announcement states that this new Standards Development Committee will review accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code as well as those in the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.

 

However, your recent appointment of the Chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee should have been preceded by a proper open merit-based competition for the position. It was not. We understand that there was no public posting of this position and no invitation for members of the public to apply for the position, so that they could be considered on their merits. Only through such a process could the Government obtain the best pool of candidates and select the most qualified person for the position. Ontarians with disabilities deserve nothing less.

 

The Ford Government had ample time and opportunity to hold an open merit-based competition for this position and to invite applications and nominations. There is no justification for your failing to do so.

 

We have been very concerned for some time about your Government’s overall view on whether we even need a strong accessibility standard under the AODA to address the many barriers facing people with disabilities in the built environment. During National Access Ability Week in 2019, you and your Government denounced such measures as “red tape.” In contrast, two successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA by Mayo Moran which reported in 2014 and by David Onley, which reported in 2019, emphasized as a priority the need for the Government to take effective action to tear down the disability barriers in Ontario’s built environment.

 

For a Standards Development Committee to be credible and successful, the public, including the disability community, must have strong confidence in it and in the process for appointing it. Your failure to undertake a merit-based open competition for chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee undermines that needed public confidence.

 

Important qualifications for someone to chair an AODA Standards Development Committee include demonstrated expertise in leadership, team building, consensus-building, dispute resolution, and mediation of conflicting views. It also requires a strong knowledge of and experience with public policy development, and where possible, extensive knowledge of the regulatory context.

 

Nothing in your announcement suggests that the person you nominated has any of this experience and demonstrated expertise. A key qualification that you emphasize in your December 20, 2021 announcement is your nominee’s having taken the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) training course to conduct building accessibility assessments as part of the RHF private accessibility “certification” program. We have been on record for over two years demonstrating that that training program is woefully inadequate. It is far too short, being some eight days long as of the 2019 summer. It wrongly prioritizes some disabilities over others. It trains on how to conduct an RHF building assessment which is, in and of itself, fatally deficient. It includes troubling elements that are inappropriate for such training. All in all, it is not capable of effectively training someone to be an “accessibility professional,” the over-inflated label which the RHF gives to those completing this very short course.

 

We have amply documented that the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility “certification” program is fundamentally flawed. There is no assurance that a building is in fact accessible when it has been “certified” as such by the RHF program. Indeed, even calling its assessments a “certification” of accessibility is false and misleading. For details on our concerns, see the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program and the AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program.

 

In the period of over two years since the AODA Alliance publicly and thoroughly documented the many deficiencies with the RHF program and its training course, neither your Government nor the RHF has disproven the flaws we identified. Feedback that we have received from the disability community has supported and endorsed our objections to the RHF program.

 

An excellent article in the August 19, 2021 edition of the Burnaby Beacon details many serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. In this news report, the RHF is quoted as in substance conceding that its training course does not make a person an expert in accessible design. The article states in part:

 

“‘We agree that the 2-week RHFAC training course is not sufficient to provide students with enough knowledge to consider themselves experts in the application of universal design,’ the foundation said.”

 

When it comes to assessing the accessibility of buildings, Ontario has a number of true experts who have taken more than eight days of training. It has experts who are trained to know about the accessibility needs of people with a wide spectrum of disabilities and not just the ones that the RHF prioritizes.

 

In raising these concerns, we do not wish to single out in any way the person whom you nominated to chair this Standards Development Committee. We do not question her commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities nor do we suggest or imply that she has no knowledge to bring to bear in this area. In a fair, open merit-based competition, she could be evaluated along with all others who apply.

 

It is very troubling that the Government did not take the time to conduct a proper, open, merit-based competition for the chair of this Standards Development Committee. That could be done at the same time as the Government conducts its recruitment for all the members of that Standards Development Committee. To date, we have seen no public announcement of any such competition, nor any invitation to apply to serve on that Standards Development Committee.

 

We are also very troubled by your December 20, 2021 announcement’s substantially watering down the purpose of the Standards Development Committee and of the AODA. Your announcement repeatedly spoke of the goal of making Ontario “more accessible.” The AODA does not simply require that Ontario become “more accessible” to people with disabilities by 2025. It requires that Ontario become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Simply replacing one staircase with a ramp somewhere in Ontario is all that is needed to make Ontario “more accessible.” People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

 

We urgently request that you now hold a proper, fair, open merit-based competition for the position of Chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee and for the membership of that committee. We have had no contact with your office for many months. We request a virtual meeting with you to discuss this.

 

Please stay safe.

 

Sincerely,

 

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

 

 

CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford premier@ontario.ca

Carlene Alexander, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, carlene.alexander@ontario.ca

Alison Drummond, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, alison.drummond@ontario.ca

 

Ontario Government’s December 20, 2021 Announcement on the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee

 

Originally posted at https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1001367/ontario-making-public-spaces-more-accessible

NEWS RELEASE

 

Ontario Making Public Spaces More Accessible

New Chair Julie Sawchuk to lead work on behalf of province to review and improve accessibility of public spaces for people with disabilities

 

December 20, 2021

 

TORONTO — The Ontario government continues the ongoing work of identifying, removing and preventing barriers for people with disabilities. Julie Sawchuk has accepted an invitation to be the chair of the Standards Development Committee that will lead the province’s review of the Design of Public Spaces accessibility standards for outdoor and indoor public spaces. The committee will include people with disabilities from all across the province, as well as businesses, municipalities, and other impacted stakeholders. It will review existing accessibility standards, and consider whether new standards might be needed to improve accessibility in Ontario’s public spaces.

 

“I am honoured that Julie Sawchuk has accepted the role of chair of this Standards Development Committee,” said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. “Her expertise and insights will be incredibly valuable in guiding the review of standards for accessibility in outdoor and indoor public spaces.”

 

Ms. Sawchuk is a best-selling author, professional speaker, and accessibility strategist. She holds Bachelors of Science and Education degrees and is a designated professional for Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification. Ms. Sawchuk’s lived experience as a person who has a spinal cord injury offers an important perspective for the committee’s work.

 

As part of the government’s commitment to making Ontario more accessible and inclusive, it is breaking down barriers in outdoor public spaces such as bike paths, parks and playgrounds and indoor public spaces in buildings such as service counters and accessible washrooms. This is a key area of focus in the cross-government Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework. The government is working with all levels of government, community partners, and businesses to identify, prevent, and remove barriers for people with disabilities.

 

“Creating accessible public spaces in Ontario is not the job of one person, it is the responsibility of all,” said Ms. Sawchuk. “I’m both grateful and incredibly proud to be asked to lead this discussion and look forward to adding a rural perspective as often as I can. This is an opportunity to bring people together to share what is working and what needs to be done differently in design and construction and to listen to all the voices who are looking for change.”

 

The Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee is expected to begin work in early 2022 and continue into 2023.

 

Smorgasbord of Recent Media Coverage of Disability Barriers Shows Why the Ford Government Must Ramp Up Action to Make Ontario Accessible to 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

          Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Smorgasbord of Recent Media Coverage of Disability Barriers Shows Why the Ford Government Must Ramp Up Action to Make Ontario Accessible to 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

 

December 22, 2021

 

            SUMMARY

 

As 2021 nears a close, we want to catch you up on a mix of different news items that have run on disability accessibility issues in Ontario that our earlier AODA Alliance Updates did not include. These seven stories show the very wide spectrum of different disability accessibility issues that are going on simultaneously in the lives of Ontarians with disabilities. The first four of these articles quote the AODA Alliance’s chair, David Lepofsky:

 

  1. The December 9, 2021 City News report about the disability barrier experienced by people with disabilities at shopping malls in which the benches have been removed.

 

  1. The December 8, 2021 article in The Pointer about disability barriers to following the proceedings of some city council proceedings during the pandemic.

 

  1. The December 17, 2021 article in The Robot Report, reporting that Toronto City Council has banned robots from sidewalks due to the barrier they present for pedestrians with disabilities.

 

  1. The December 21, 2021 report in the British “Cities Today” publication on Toronto’s decision to ban robots from sidewalks. To our knowledge, this is the first time the AODA Alliance has been quoted in a British publication.

 

  1. The October 25, 2021 CTV News Toronto report on the disability barrier that can be created by a failure to plow snow in a way that ensures clear accessible paths of travel and the implications of a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

 

  1. The November 21, 2021 CBC News report on the disability barrier facing people with disabilities because Ontario requires one to have a driver’s license to renew an Ontario Health Card online. The AODA Alliance is not quoted in this article and had no involvement in getting this great coverage. To learn more about that barrier, check out the AODA Alliance’s December 20, 2021 news release.

 

  1. The December 8, 2021 CTV report on the same barrier to renewing Ontario Health Cards. Here again, the AODA Alliance had no involvement in getting this great coverage of that issue.

 

With 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities facing so many different disability barriers, it is even more wrong for the Ford Government to still have no comprehensive plan in place to fully implement the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that David Onley conducted. The Ford Government received the Onley Report a deplorable 1,056 days ago. That report concluded that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities and that progress on making Ontario disability-accessible has been “glacial.”

 

Send us your feedback. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

            MORE DETAILS

 

1. CityNews December 9, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/12/09/calls-to-return-bench-seating-in-public-settings-such-as-shopping-malls/

 

Calls to return bench seating in public settings such as shopping malls

 

A call to bring back mall benches

 

It was done to protect public health but now one disability advocate says the time has come to return corridor seating to local shopping malls. David Zura explains.

By David Zura

 

In the early part of the pandemic, the decision was made to remove benches and public seating areas from within malls as part of public health measures to protect the public. But now, Toronto area shoppers are saying it might be time to bring them back.

 

“Many people with disabilities, they can’t walk long distances without taking a rest,” says David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

 

Lepofsky says many people have conditions that cause fatigue or chronic pain and need places to periodically sit to shop comfortably. He adds, mall benches are easily cleaned and don’t impact vaccine status, mask use or distancing.

 

“This isn’t rocket science. So, the solution of leaving people with disabilities, who need a bench to rest on, out in the cold, is no solution.”

 

“You kind of feel it as you walk around, that there’s nowhere to sit,” says one shopper at Yorkdale Mall Thursday evening. Another saying “It would make sense to put the benches back.”

 

In a statement, Yorkdale Mall explains both benches and planters were removed from the mall at the request of Toronto Public Health.

 

“There is seating available in the food court, at restaurants and near valet. Wheelchairs are available for Yorkdale shoppers who require assistance at Guest Services,” read the statement.

 

Officials of the mall go on to say they look forward to reinstating corridor seating once public health restrictions are lifted.

 

Until then, Lepofsky says the lack of benches remains a barrier to those with a disability, as well as for businesses in urgent need of shoppers.

 

“Our stores are hurting after this pandemic, they want more customers.”

 

 

2. The Pointer December 8, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://thepointer.com/article/2021-12-08/they-are-engaging-in-a-fundamental-violation-of-the-human-rights-code-virtual-council-meetings-a-nightmare-for-local-accountability

 

‘They are engaging in a fundamental violation of the Human Rights Code’: Virtual council meetings a nightmare for local accountability

 

By Isaac Callan – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

 

It isn’t uncommon for Brampton’s 11 council members to be confused. They constantly mix up technical terms like referral or deferral and they often find themselves mired in tangential discussions during council meetings.

 

None of them have two full terms of experience and five are rookies in their first term.

 

It falls to Peter Fay, the City Clerk, to put them right. With his mask strapped beneath his chin and a mop of sometimes misbehaving hair, the veteran bureaucrat battles to keep council within the rules meant to govern their conduct.

 

Fay helps councillors navigate the pesky procedures designed to keep the process of local government open and democratic, always responsive to the people who put them in office. Members of the public hoping to keep track and help ensure accountability are too often on their own.

 

“Obviously it’s impossible to follow what they’re talking about because you don’t have the text to follow what the propositions are,” David Lepofsky told The Pointer.

 

He had reviewed a video of Brampton’s October 20 council meeting and was left somewhat dismayed.

 

Lepofsky is a blind lawyer and leading advocate for people living with disabilities. He is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA) and has pushed forward key concerns for those living with disabilities, including strong opposition to electric scooters.

 

“I can tell you, by comparison, when for example in the Ontario legislature we took part in debates over legislation like 10, 20 years ago, if a standing committee received amendments they were read out and they voted on them.”

 

Peter Fay coordinates Brampton’s meetings (Image from City of Brampton/YouTube)

 

Inside Brampton’s legislative chamber, things can be chaotic, especially for those who are unable to see what councillors are seeing.

 

“At the beginning of the meeting, there was the added item 14.5 regarding a request from Blackthorn Developments for a Minister’s Zoning Order resolution, and there was a consideration to deal with both of the items together,” Fay explained to councillors on October 20, trying to stickhandle a last-minute discussion about two requests made by Mayor Patrick Brown to bypass the traditional development planning process by using a provincial approval tool instead. “So we just need a moment to bring them up because we need them to be introduced before we can put them on the screen. So, Charlotte has on the screen the first motion as it relates to 14.3 and just momentarily we’re going to bring up the second motion as it relates to 14.5. There it is there, Charlotte.”

 

Brampton’s agenda promises these sorts of basic communication barriers should not exist.

 

“Meeting information is also available in alternate formats upon request,” it states. The claim is not backed by the typical communications offered for public meetings, as issues around accessibility for residents living with and without disabilities abound.

 

The videos of council meetings on Brampton’s website don’t offer accessible navigation in the standard player, for example. Video files matched to agendas have some options to skip through by clicking on specific items, but the buttons to fast forward and rewind   by those with visual impairments. Anyone who uses accessible technology has to watch the full meeting to catch a particular moment or exchange.

 

Councillors walk motions onto the floor without providing written materials to the public and motions are drafted on the spot often without being read out in full. Sometimes decisions flash across a non-accessible online projection for mere seconds.

 

Brampton councillors race through meetings, sometimes approving items or allowing procedural advancement without any discussion or description of what has happened, referencing items using short-form and agenda item numbers and barely drawing a breath before moving toward adjournment.

 

“It’s a joke,” Lepofsky said, “it’s a joke. These guys are on there and I’m going to gamble that most city councillors who are one meeting after the next going on Webex may well be oblivious they are engaging in a fundamental violation of the Human Rights Code. They’re flying in the face of the objectives of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. These laws require that they not create new barriers — well, they did.”

 

The City of Mississauga began reading its items and bylaws out in full at meetings during 2020 to make them more accessible. The same practice was introduced at the Region of Peel. But the broader issue of accessibility, including for those less comfortable with various technology platforms used during the pandemic and now, in some cases, being taken up more routinely, is a systemic problem.

 

It’s often older residents most engaged in the civic process who feel most cut off from a system that’s supposed to serve them.

 

Before the pandemic, Brampton councillors met in-person (Image from The Pointer files)

 

Many accessibility issues existed before the pandemic, with chaotic council meetings cutting people out. The transition to virtual meetings has compounded the situation. Access to technology and the quality of internet connections are now often a prerequisite to present to council.

In Caledon and Brampton, in particular, key decisions are being rushed through without public notice. Some community members have found their attempts to present shut down and their audio connections muted before they feel they have been able to make key arguments.

 

“I do not like virtual meetings because they result in people not really able to express themselves,” Joe Grogan, a long-time resident of Bolton, told The Pointer. “Some people are intimidated by the process because the technology is so depersonalizing. In my opinion, the process does not encourage or facilitate citizen engagement.”

 

When COVID-19 forced the end of in-person gatherings in March 2020, the Province amended the rules governing councils to allow them to meet digitally. Elected officials and bureaucrats switched almost instantly to a virtual format. A return to in-person meetings has been more drawn out, and in some jurisdictions, like Brampton, one gets the impression elected officials such as Mayor Patrick Brown prefer the lack of direct public scrutiny.

 

Even before the pandemic, more and more debate was being conducted in-camera, behind closed doors, away from public view, an issue that some Brampton councillors have openly raised during the so-called public portion of meetings.

 

“In consideration of the current COVID-19 public health orders prohibiting large public gatherings and requiring physical distancing, in-person attendance at Council and Committee meetings will be limited to Members of Council and essential City staff only,” reads a note that has sat at the top of Brampton’s agendas in some form for almost two years.

 

Mayor Brown recently said in-person meetings would return “whenever it is deemed appropriate” without offering a timeline. This is the same person who was pushing to re-open restaurants and bars during the height of the pandemic. Meanwhile, many other cities have returned to in-person meetings.

As of September 7, Mississauga resumed in-person meetings for council and all standing committees, with an option for virtual participation for those who still prefer the digital format.

 

It’s unclear why Brampton has not done the same.

 

Potential advantages to online meetings remain. Councillors can take part in discussions from anywhere in the world when exceptional circumstances force them to miss a meeting, while residents can present without travelling to City Hall if they don’t have the time or access to transportation. Advocacy groups can appear virtually at councils across Ontario from a single office, maximizing the often limited resources of non-profit organizations.

 

These advantages don’t all come automatically, and there are clear trade-offs.

 

Lengthy motions in Brampton flash across a screen briefly before being adopted (Image from Isaac Callan/The Pointer)

 

Grogan, who professes to not love technology, says the pandemic’s impact on local council killed his engagement. He went from a regular council watcher and an engaged taxpayer to a frustrated citizen.

 

“In my case, I used to follow agendas and meetings religiously. Not anymore,” he said. “The effort required is just not worth it. In the past, it would be easier to raise last-minute concerns from the floor of the meeting; this is less possible with virtual meetings. Moreover, how can citizens challenge items as in the past? The entire situation is orchestrated and controlled.”

 

Councillors also no longer have to appear in person at the meetings. Residents or members of the media cannot catch their attention after meetings to raise concerns or ask questions; both groups are often forced to deal with faceless email accounts instead.

 

Lepofsky experienced the extreme limits of poorly thought-out virtual meetings last summer.

 

In the heat of a battle between electric scooter lobbyists and disability advocates, he planned to appear before Toronto City Council. His speech was a key moment for the campaign to limit e-scooters on Toronto’s sidewalks after months of lobbying efforts. He only had a few minutes to put the concerns of Ontarians living with disabilities on the table.

 

The meeting was scheduled to take place using Webex, a system that lacked accessibility features, especially early in the pandemic. Its icon-heavy design, with limited keyboard shortcuts, meant Lepofsky was forced to call into the meeting by phone instead of using his computer. “I’m a blind guy, for me to use my computer I have a program called a screen reading program,” he said.

 

He recalls the encounter vividly.

 

To make sure he didn’t miss his spot, Lepofsky had to call into the meeting 30 minutes early. He listened to the clerks organizing the agenda until the meeting began at 9:30 a.m. and then sat through a further hour of discussions unrelated to his item. Finally, e-scooters came up and Lepofsky paid close attention to the lobbyists, preparing to make his remarks and rebut some of their arguments.

 

“Our next speaker is David Lepofsky,” the chair said. His sentence was followed by a heavy silence.

 

On the other end of the phone, Lepofsky was growing more frustrated by the second: “This is David Lepofsky, can you hear me?”

 

“Mr. Lepofsky? Has Mr. Lepofsky called in? We have no indication — he’s not here,” the chair continued.

 

Lepofsky’s heart was pumping. He began desperately sending emails to City staff and council members telling them he was in the meeting trying to speak. The presentation he planned to make was pushed to one side in his mind, as he scrambled to secure a speaking spot he had already been granted.

 

“I’m screaming into the phone like my blood pressure is going through the roof,” he recalled. “There’s no phone number to call and I’m starting to email as many people as I can, and this is all because they’re using an inaccessible app.”

 

It is one of many barriers to accessing local council that have developed through the pandemic. These obstacles are more than inconvenient: they actively limit residents’ rights to take part in the democratic process.

 

A lack of public participation in local democracy leaves councillors to govern people, not listen to residents (Image from Google Maps)

 

It is unclear when all councils in Ontario will return to full in-person meetings. Brampton is currently considering plans for a hybrid system to be implemented in January, although it is unclear how new variants or provincial health measures could impact this plan.

 

“Following the Province’s announcement of its Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term, the City is planning to expand its safe reopening and resumption of in-person services – including Council meetings,” a Brampton spokesperson told The Pointer in October. “We’ll have more information in the coming days.”

That was a month after Mississauga had already moved to an in-person option.

 

On November 16, a spokesperson said to keep waiting. “Discussions on timeline and other aspects such as vaccination proof requirements are underway,” they said. “We can provide more details once they are available.”

 

The failure to do what Mississauga and other jurisdictions did, to ensure democratic participation, has meant the Brampton budget process for 2022 has been done virtually, shutting some residents out of the debate to decide how their money will be used.

 

In-person meetings are also rife with barriers to accessibility that are borne from ignorant or lazy meeting structures. An example of this is councillors springing new motions at the start of a meeting so that those who require an accessible agenda are unable to read the details of what has been proposed. The switch to a virtual format has made things worse.

 

Inaccessible technology put up more walls, and made many parts of the local democratic process less accessible to a range of local residents.

 

“I sort of don’t need to parse out whether they know better or they should have known better, they know better and don’t care or should have known better and didn’t think about it,” Lepofsky said. “In 2021, there is no way an elected politician could reasonably expect anybody watching [the Brampton October 20 council meeting]… to have the slightest idea what they’re deciding.”

 

Email: isaac.callan@thepointer.com

 

Twitter: @isaaccallan

 

3. The Robot Report December 17, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://www.therobotreport.com/toronto-city-council-votes-to-ban-sidewalk-robots/

 

Toronto City Council votes to ban sidewalk robots – The Robot Report

By

Brianna Wessling

 

Tiny Mile’s robots have operated in Toronto for over a year, but were pulled from the streets last week. | Source: Tiny Mile

 

Today, the Toronto City Council voted to ban sidewalk robots until the council has the opportunity to further study the effects they have on the community.

The ban will prevent all robots that operate on anything other than muscular power, are automated or remote controlled, and don’t transport passengers from traveling on the sidewalks and in bike lanes. Violators will face a $150 fine.

 

Councillors approved important amendments to the ban today to leave room for potentially opening the sidewalks of Toronto back up to robots in the future.

 

It will be in effect until the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s pilot program is implemented and the City Council decides if they want to opt into the project.

 

“I can’t go around doing all the boasting I do about all the smart people, and the great tech ecosystem and why this is a great place for people to invest and create jobs, especially for innovative tech companies, and then say that we’re not going to welcome innovation,” Mayor John Tory said. “But at the same time, it can’t just be a free-for-all”

 

The ban proposal was put forward by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, in response to a proposed ten year pilot program by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, which municipalities can opt into. The Committee expressed concerns about sidewalk robots being hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as elderly people and children.

 

The pilot program did set specifications on how robots should operate. Robots must be marked with the operator’s name and contact details, and would be required to have audible signals, reflectors with lights, brakes, insurance and must yield to pedestrians. The program also states that robots couldn’t travel about 10 km/hr, about 6 mph.

 

“Sidewalks are an important publicly-funded public resource, created for pedestrians to safely use,” David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said in a letter to the Council. “Their safe use should not be undermined for such things as private companies’ delivery robots.”

 

The Council also approved what Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, an advocate for the bill, called a “friendly” amendment that would issue a Transportation Innovation Challenge in the second quarter of 2022.

 

This event would give the City Council an opportunity to explore and support local economic development with respect to the sidewalk robots. The amendment requests that the general manager of transportation services consult with local entrepreneurs, sidewalk robot manufacturers, accessibility community members, law enforcement and more. The general manager would then report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on their findings. Last week,

 

Tiny Mile, a company operating delivery robots in Toronto, announced on its

Instagram that it would temporarily remove its robots from the city in the spirit of good faith.

 

Yesterday, Ignacio Tartavull, the CEO of Tiny Mile, expressed dissatisfaction with the now adopted Transportation Innovation Challenge, and the Councils offer to allow sidewalk robots to use the Canadian National Exhibition for testing ground.

 

“Under this challenge we will be able to operate at the Canadian National Exhibition,” Tartavull said in a LinkedIn post.

 

“The only problem is that there are no deliveries to be done there … how do you fundraise as a startup if you have no customers using your product?”

 

Tiny Mile has operated in Toronto since September 2020.

 

The robots aren’t autonomous, but are controlled remotely by human operators. Ryan Lanyon, the manager of strategic policy and innovation in transportation and chair of the Automated Vehicles Working Group, stated during the meeting that the city had not received any 311 complaints about the robots.

 

However, a concern for the council was that the sidewalk robots don’t fall under a specific jurisdiction, and citizens may not be sure where to file complaints.

 

The Toronto City Council isn’t the first governing body to put limitations on delivery robots. In December 2017, San Francisco voted to ban delivery robots on most sidewalks, and greatly restrict use in permitted areas. The ban prevented robotics companies from operating sidewalk delivery robots in San Francisco until 2019, when Postmates Serve (now the independent company Serve Robotics) was approved for the first permit to test sidewalk deliveries in the city.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brianna Wessling

Brianna Wessling is an Associate Editor, Robotics, WTWH Media. She joined WTWH Media in November 2021, and is a recent graduate from the University of Kansas. She can be reached at bwessling@wtwhmedia.com

 

4. Cities Today December 21, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://cities-today.com/toronto-city-council-votes-to-ban-pavement-robots/

 

Toronto city council votes to ban pavement robots

 

 

by Christopher Carey

 

Toronto City Council has voted to ban automated robots from operating on pavements and cycle lanes until a provincial pilot scheme is in place.

 

The decision prohibits the use of “automated micro-utility devices” such as food delivery robots operated by robotics company Tiny Mile, which some city restaurants have been using to courier orders.

 

The ban came after the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee – composed of members of the public and the City Council – asked city councillors to restrict the devices over safety concerns.

 

“We applaud Toronto City Council for stopping the creation of a serious new disability barrier and for requiring City staff to consult with people with disabilities as well as law enforcement and public safety experts about the dangers that robots on sidewalks pose for the public,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance).

 

“The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create these new disability barriers.”

 

Speaking at an earlier hearing, City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said: “We want to remove external barriers so that people can participate in public life.

 

“With people who are facing barriers, with disabilities, our job is to make sure that that community has a voice to city council.”

 

Innovation challenge

The committee’s recommendation was aimed at reducing hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as the elderly and children, who may be impeded by the devices or unable to detect their presence.

 

But the City Council plans to hold a ‘Transportation Innovation Challenge’ in the second quarter of 2022, which would explore and support local economic development with respect to pavement robots.

 

The amendment requests that Toronto’s General Manager of Transportation Services Barbara Gray consult with local entrepreneurs, sidewalk robot manufacturers, accessibility community members and law enforcement before reporting back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on their findings.

 

“We of course would rather not have to fight this battle again next year, but are ready to do so if necessary,” Lepofsky told Cities Today.

 

“We are also happy to see that a City staff investigation of this issue requires consultation with people with disabilities and to law enforcement.

 

“People need to seriously talk about how such robots could be misused if allowed on sidewalks.”

 

Deeply worrying

Tiny Mile’s delivery robots, nicknamed Geoffrey, began delivering in Toronto in September 2020.

 

The devices, which can travel at a speed of up to 6 kmph, are remotely controlled by human operators from a central office.

 

“Governments – like most organisations – make decisions based on information, many times incomplete information which leads to the wrong decisions,” Tiny Mile CEO Ignacio Tartavull said on LinkedIn.

 

“What’s deeply worrying is that the process that led to this decision didn’t include any research but only brainstorming ways to mislead the public on the reasoning and the outcome.”

 

 

5. CTV News October 25, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/people-with-disabilities-hope-snow-clearing-ruling-means-more-accessible-streets-1.5637918

 

People with disabilities hope snow clearing ruling means more accessible streets

Jon Woodward

CTV News Toronto Videojournalist

@CTV_Jon

 

TORONTO — Advocates for people with disabilities say they are hoping a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that makes cities more accountable for accidents related to snow clearing will lead to more accessible streets across the country.

 

Observers say the decision could extend to legal liability for other municipal activities from filling potholes to swimming pools to garbage collection, which may bring improved service but also higher costs.

 

The case — based on a woman injuring herself while clambering over a snowbank that had been left on a sidewalk by city workers in Nelson, B.C. — could have implications for cities across Canada, said lawyer David Lepofsky.

 

 

“I hope it’s going to make municipalities sit up and take a listen, and make sure they get it right,” said Lepofsky, a lawyer who is legally blind and represents the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance.

 

He said he knows people with disabilities who have navigated into the roadways to avoid snowbanks left by city crews.

 

“They can create very serious barriers for people with disabilities,” he said.

 

The far-reaching decision stems from the snow piles that the city of Nelson, B.C. created when a worker cleared snow from downtown streets after a storm in early January 2015.

 

Nurse Taryn Joy Marchi, 28 at the time, parked in an angled spot on the street and tried to cross the snow pile to get to the sidewalk. She claimed her right foot dropped through the snow and her leg was seriously injured.

 

She said the city should have left openings in the sidewalk to allow safe passage, as other cities in the area did. But the trial judge dismissed the case, saying that cities were immune from lawsuits relating to policy decisions.

 

However, on appeal first to the B.C. Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court, judges found that clearing the snow was not a “core policy decision” and so the regular principles of negligence apply.

 

“I think it’s going to help improve snow clearing — if we can do it correctly—so we don’t leave snowbanks in the way or potential hazards for members of the disability community,” said Anthony Frisina of the Ontario Disability Coalition.

 

Those hazards have been an issue for Toronto resident Alison Brown, who is legally blind and navigates the city with the help of Ellis the vision dog. She says sometimes the city doesn’t make it easy for her.

 

“We’ve experienced many situations where the snow is blocking the sidewalk. It becomes a stress factor and makes our ability to maneuver challenging,” she said.

 

She said she’s not sure what the court decision means to her — but hopes that cities get the message to “clear the snow.”

 

The Supreme Court decision can apply to other things a city does, or doesn’t do, said personal injury lawyer Melissa Miller with Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP.

 

“This case is more far-reaching than simply snow removal, which is what’s so significant about it,” she said.

 

 

“A pothole that isn’t filled in downtown Toronto that bottoms out your car and causes you a significant injury is potentially now the subject of a lawsuit,” she said.

 

Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said the ruling is a sign that cities must take the responsibilities of clearing snow seriously for all people.

 

“We have now heard a statement that says everybody get your house in order,” she said. “You have a responsibility to make sure roads and sidewalks are safe.”

 

Wong-Tam seconded a motion at Toronto city council in May that asked the General Manager of Transportation Services to report on the feasibility of clearing snow from accessible parking spaces by July. That date was pushed to September — but she said the report still had yet to happen.

 

“This is a very wealthy city. Things should not be falling apart as long as we maintain it,” she said.

 

Lepofsky said the case may lead to more scrutiny for snow-clearing city employees, and snow-clearing robots, which are being tested right now in Ontario.

 

“No matter how clever a robot is, and I don’t think it’s that clever, the danger is that they will also shovel snow into the path of a person with disabilities,” he said.

 

In that case, it may be less obvious who to sue if there is not a clear connection between the robot’s actions and the person who programmed it or is monitoring it, he said.

 

The City of Toronto, which intervened in the lawsuit, said through a spokesperson that it will “continue to deliver a comprehensive snow and ice clearing service this winter, with council approval, has the capability to adjust service levels if required.”

 

6. CBC News November 21, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-s-online-health-card-renewal-system-excludes-people-with-disabilities-advocates-say-1.6255828

 

Ontario’s online health-card renewal system excludes people with disabilities, advocates say | CBC News Loaded

Toronto

Province looking at upgrading its system but declined to comment on the record

Samantha Beattie CBC News

 

People line up outside at a Service Ontario location in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Derek Hooper/CBC)

The thought of driving her son to a Service Ontario centre to renew his health card fills Jane Toner with dread.

 

Ben, 22, suffers from chronic pain and nerve damage, which makes the bumps, vibrations and cold temperatures that inevitably come with a ride in a car excruciating — not to mention the wait in line outside the provincial centre’s location, Toner said.

 

But soon they’ll have no other choice. In Ontario, only people with a driver’s licence can renew their health cards online, leaving those who use photo ID cards like Ben with few other options than to physically go to a centre.

 

Toner says it’s “shameful” that the province is imposing such a limitation on people living with disabilities and on seniors with mobility issues.

 

“Really, what it’s saying is that if you have a disability, we don’t care, they don’t matter,” she said.

 

“It boggles my mind.”

 

Ben’s health card expired about a year ago, but he hasn’t had to renew it yet because the province extended the validity of Ontario cards to Feb. 28, 2022 in response to the pandemic. Toner has tried acting on his behalf, filling out and dropping off all the required paperwork at Service Ontario, but was informed Ben still needed to come in to have a new photo taken.

 

 

Ben Toner was diagnosed with a rare condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome as a child and has undergone surgeries and treatments to help ease his chronic pain. (Submitted by Jane Toner)

Toner hopes changes will be made before then, but said so far calls to elected officials on both sides of the aisle have gone unheard.

 

“These are the people who need their help most,” she said. “I thought maybe somebody would take up the torch for us, but obviously not.”

 

The government’s stance is that it’s looking at expanding online services and encourages anybody who is having difficulties renewing their health card to call Service Ontario. The province refused to provide an on-the-record statement for this story.

 

‘Level the playing field’

Crystal Barnard has been in and out of hospital for months following major back surgery. Like Ben, she also has an expired health card and no driver’s licence and is faced with a similar dilemma where there’s “no way” she can go to a Service Ontario herself.

 

“When it comes to disabled people, we end up having all sorts of hoops and cracks to jump over in order to do things ourselves,” said Barnard.

 

Come February, she said she will have to find a doctor to sign a medical exemption form. To complicate matters she doesn’t have a family doctor. Then she’ll have to get her father — who requires two canes to walk — to drop off the forms at a Service Ontario location for her. They’re hoping she can reuse her photo from her old health card.

 

“If they could find a way that renewing online could be made possible for everybody involved, disabled and able-bodied people alike, it would just be so much easier all around,” said Barnard.

 

“It would equal the playing field for everybody.”

 

Anthony Frisina, a disability advocate who uses a wheelchair, said the current system is a “huge complication.” It doesn’t factor in that people without driver’s licences face more challenges getting to a Service Ontario location than those who drive, such as needing to rely on public transportation and facing accessibility barriers.

 

And getting someone to go in their place is problematic, too, he said.

 

“You want to be in control of your own issues, your own quality of life and your actual activities of daily living.”

 

7. CTV News December 8, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/health-experts-say-it-s-concerning-that-those-without-a-driver-s-licence-can-t-renew-their-ohip-cards-online-1.5699182

 

Health experts say it’s ‘concerning’ that those without a driver’s licence can’t renew their OHIP cards online

Hannah Alberga

Hannah Alberga

CTV News Toronto Multi-Platform Writer

@HannahAlberga

 

Published Wednesday, December 8, 2021 4:28PM EST

A person is seen typing. (Pressmaster/shutterstock.com)

 

Healthcare experts are calling on the province to address inequities in Ontario’s online OHIP card renewal requirements.

 

At the moment, Ontario health cards can only be renewed online if the individual has a driver’s licence. While government issued identification that shows proof of residency and personal identity is acceptable for in-person renewal, the requirements are different online.

 

“This is concerning at any time, and it is particularly concerning during a pandemic,” said Sarah Hobbs, CEO of Alliance for Healthier Communities, in a release issued on Tuesday.

 

She pointed to people with disabilities as just one group that could be disproportionately impacted by these rules.

 

“People made more vulnerable by the pandemic, and at higher risk, are also faced with inequitable access to this system,” she said.

 

Katie Hogue, a nurse practitioner in Ontario, added that there are a wide range of medical reasons that could prevent a person from driving, such as mobility challenges, vision impairment, dementia and epilepsy.

 

“The system is not considering these people or their needs,” Hogue said.

 

According to the government website, if you cannot visit a Service Ontario for a medical reason, a physician or nurse practitioner can fill out a medical exemption form. Although, once the form is completed, someone must deliver the documents to a Service Ontario to finish the renewal process.

 

More widely, the pandemic has highlighted inequities that span across the entire healthcare system, Caroline Lidstone-Jones, CEO of the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council, said.

 

“This discrimination is one example of an inequitable system but this one has a quick solution,” Lidstone-Jones said. “Allow people with a photo card to renew their health card online, the same way those with a driver’s licence can.”

 

When Minister Ross Romano was asked to address the subject at Queen’s Park earlier in the week, he said that the government is working towards “modernizing” the process of renewing OHIP cards, making it “digital first not digital only.”

 

“But I want to be crystal clear that the way in which you would have renewed your health card in the past, you can still do the same renewal processes you always could and we are just making it better,” he added.

 

Romano acknowledged how important it is to have access to OHIP renewal throughout the province and said he will have more to say about the topic at a future date.

 

 

Do they not work? Or not available?

 

So they hover over the video, so you cannot use them if yoiu can’t see them. David told me when I sent him the video to watch

Omicron Surge Amplifies the Need for The Ford Government to Remove the Disability Discrimination From the Critical Care Triage Protocol in Ontario Hospitals – and — Correction to the December 20, 2021 News Release on Online Health Card Renewals

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Omicron Surge Amplifies the Need for The Ford Government to Remove the Disability Discrimination From the Critical Care Triage Protocol in Ontario Hospitals – and — Correction to the December 20, 2021 News Release on Online Health Card Renewals

 

December 21, 2021

 

            SUMMARY

 

The Ford Government has still not fixed the disability discrimination in Ontario’s controversial critical care triage protocol. We explain why this is even more important in light of the Omicron variant. We also provide a correction to the AODA Alliances December 20, 2021 news release regarding disability discrimination in the Ford Government’s process for online renewal of Ontario Health Cards.

 

            MORE DETAILS

 

1. Eliminating the Festering Disability Discrimination in Ontario’s Critical Care Triage Protocol is Long Overdue – Where is the Ford Government’s Pledge to Protect the Most Vulnerable During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

 

With the rapid and raging spread of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, it is high time that the Ford Government comes clean about the secret protocol that it has allowed to be entrenched in hospital emergency and intensive care wards across Ontario all year. If hospitals get overloaded and cannot provide life-saving critical care to every patient who needs it, the critical care triage protocol directs blatant disability discrimination against some patients with disabilities, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. The AODA Alliance and other disability advocates have been sounding the alarm about this concern since early after the COVID-19 pandemic began. It has secured national media attention.

 

Yet for over a year, the Ford Government has misled, dodged and avoided many important questions. It has refused to answer any of the nine detailed letters that the AODA Alliance has sent to Premier Ford’s Health Minister. Those letters are all set out on the AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page.

 

The AODA Alliance, the ARCH Disability Law Centre, and others have amply documented the flagrant disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage plans. The Ontario Human Rights Commission is on record also raising such concerns. Even several members of the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table have sounded alarms. The Government’s defenders have responded with justifications that we have shown to be demonstrably false.

 

Thankfully, the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs (intensive care units) is now less than 200. That is reportedly well below the point where critical care triage would be formally triggered. However, there are several strong reasons why this disability discrimination needs to be fixed now, before an impending critical care triage crisis:

 

First, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant will clearly put more and more demand on Ontario hospitals, as it is already doing elsewhere. Second, the Ford Government’s very slow roll-out of booster vaccine shots, dragging well into the new year, means many Ontarians who want a booster shot will have to wait weeks for them. Without that booster shot, many Ontarians will remain vulnerable to the Omicron variant.

 

Third, the Ford Government has never made public any critical care triage directives issued to emergency medical services, such as ambulances. As the Omicron variant spreads, we have no way to know if some kind of informal or unreported critical care triage is going on in ambulances, before patients ever get to the hospital.

 

The critical care triage protocol in Ontario hospitals was leaked last January to the AODA Alliance. You can find it on the AODA Alliance website. In contrast, we are still awaiting action from the Ford Government under a Freedom of Information application that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky filed last May on this topic.

 

Fourth, well before a critical care triage protocol might be formally declared, there is a form of backdoor triage that can go on during the pandemic, in which there is a danger of disability discrimination. There is a backlog of surgeries in Ontario that risks getting worse if Omicron surges. When hospitals decide who to prioritize for surgery during those backlogs, the danger of disability discrimination creeping into their deliberations is made more serious by the discriminatory attitudes and requirements that lie at the core of Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.

 

Finally, the Ford Government has allowed rank disability discrimination to be deeply embedded in the critical care triage training of frontline medical staff in hospital emergency wards and ICUs around Ontario for upwards of a year, if not longer. The longer physicians wrongly believe that such practices are permitted and condoned, the harder it will be to root them out. We have warned doctors that they would use Ontario’s critical care triage protocol at their peril.

 

The discriminatory approach towards patients with disabilities enshrined in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol threatens dangerous consequences for patients with disabilities well beyond the context of overt critical care triage.

 

For more background, check out and widely share:

 

  1. The widely viewed captioned online video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky that explains the entire critical care triage protocol issue from a disability perspective, for those who don’t know the ins and outs.

 

  1. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report that thoroughly details serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage protocol.

 

  1. The unanswered letters on the critical care triage protocol issue sent to the Ford Government’s Health Minister, including the AODA Alliance‘s letters of September 25, 2020, November 2, 2020, November 9, 2020, December 7, 2020, December 15, 2020,­­ December 17, 2020, January 18, 2021, February 25, 2021, and April 26, 2021.

 

  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page.

 

2. Correction to the December 20, 2021 News Release Regarding Online Renewals of Ontario Health Cards

 

The December 20, 2021, AODA Alliance news release correctly described how the Ford Government is engaging in obvious disability discrimination where it requires a person to have a driver’s license to renew their Ontario Health Card online. However, that news release incorrectly stated that a person who has an Ontario Photo Identification Card (created as official ID for those with no driver’s license) cannot renew that Photo Identification Card online. It turns out that one can renew the Ontario Photo Identification Card online at a Government web page designed for that purpose.

 

We regret the error. Accuracy of our news releases and AODA Alliance Updates is very important to us. We thank the AODA Alliance supporter who quickly contacted us to report to us the inaccuracy of our news release.

 

That inaccuracy in our original news release (which we quickly corrected on the AODA Alliance website) does not take away from the fact that the Ford Government needs to now remove the disability discrimination from its online process for renewing one’s Ontario Health Card and needs to publicly account for how it let this happen in the first place.

 

 

As Omicron Surges, Ford Government Flagrantly Discriminates Against Many Ontarians with Disabilities in Access to Health Care, by Requiring A Driver’s License to Renew Ontario Health Card Online

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

As Omicron Surges, Ford Government Flagrantly Discriminates Against Many Ontarians with Disabilities in Access to Health Care, by Requiring A Driver’s License to Renew Ontario Health Card Online

 

Toronto December 20, 2021: As COVID-19 surges, the Ford Government’s online process for renewing a health card blatantly discriminates against many Ontarians with disabilities in their access to health care. The Ford Government now requires that expired health cards be renewed by February 28, 2022. To avoid risking exposure to COVID-19 by going to a Service Ontario office, a person can conveniently renew their health card online, but only if they have a driver’s license.

 

This obvious disability discrimination violates the Ontario Human Rights Code and section 15 of the Charter of Rights. Many people with disabilities, such as blind people, cannot get a driver’s license. Doug Ford forces them to go to a Service Ontario venue to renew their health card, risking exposure to COVID-19. A person with vision loss or certain other disabilities faces additional challenges in maintaining safe social distancing at Service Ontario venues due to their disability.

 

Ford Government Piled Discrimination Upon Discrimination

 

The Ford Government compounds this disability discrimination. It does not allow a person with an official Ontario Government Photo Identification Card to renew their health card online.

 

Years ago, the Ontario Government commendably established a new official Ontario Government Photo Identification Card to serve as official personal identification, equivalent to a driver’s license. It was created largely after advocacy by people with disabilities who cannot get a driver’s license. There is no compelling reason why the Ontario Photo Identification Card should be insufficient to let a person renew their health card online.

Ford Government Has No Defence

 

“The Ford Government’s disability discrimination is indefensible,” said AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky, who, as a blind person, is directly victimized by these disability barriers. “The Government cannot prove that accommodating people with disabilities causes undue hardship.”

 

The driver’s license requirement for renewing a health card online is also problematic for those with no disability and no driver’s license. However, that does not diminish this as disability discrimination.

 

Ford Government’s Broken Promises to Ontarians with Disabilities

 

The Ford Government pledged that it would lead by example on accessibility for people with disabilities. This disability discrimination leads by a terrible example. It also violates the Ford Government’s commitment to undertake a cross-Government approach to disability accessibility so that all Government operations will implement accessibility in their work.

 

This disability discrimination  flies in the face of Doug Ford’s solemn pledge made in a letter to the AODA Alliance on May 15, 2018  during the 2018 Ontario election that

 

” Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.”

 

How and Why Did the Ford Government Create this New Disability Barrier?

 

This disability discrimination should have been transparently obvious to the Ford Government. The Government  should have identified this disability barrier and addressed it before it decided to require Ontarians to renew their expired health cards by February 28, 2022. This is not rocket science.

 

The creation of this new disability barrier is especially harmful because it took place over one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Ontarians with disabilities have faced too many other disability barriers in access to health care during this pandemic. This has included such things as disability barriers when booking vaccinations, disability barriers in the vaccine passport system, and disability discrimination in the critical care triage protocol that the Ford Government has allowed to be entrenched in hospital emergency rooms and intensive care wards. People with disabilities have disproportionately died from COVID-19, as illustrated most painfully in Ontario’s crisis-ridden long-term care homes.

 

With the Omicron variant surging and infection rates rapidly skyrocketing, the Ford Government’s failure to publicly admit to this barrier that it created, and its failure to have fixed it by now, escalates the harm to Ontarians with disabilities. The Ford Government’s high-handed response to this issue is demonstrated by its refusal to respond to CBC on-the-record when CBC first reported on this issue in its November 21, 2021 article, fully one month ago. CBC’s report includes:

 

“The province refused to provide an on-the-record statement for this story.”

 

In light of the high profile that the COVID-19 pandemic has received, and the Government’s claim that public health and safety has been a top priority, people with disabilities can reasonably wonder whether anyone within the Ontario Public Service earlier flagged for the Government this disability barrier in online health card renewals. If they did, did the issue get escalated or buried within the Public Service? How many internal Government failures led Ontario to this point?

 

Even before the pandemic, Ontario’s health care system was replete with many health care disability barriers. These are documented in the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee which the Ford Government made public on May 7, 2021. They are also addressed in the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 brief to the Government-appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee

 

These new disability barriers also fly in the face of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley concluded that Ontario is far behind that mandatory legal deadline. The Ford Government still has no comprehensive plan to reach that target.

 

A Clear, Obvious and Urgent Need for Corrective Action

 

People with disabilities should never feel that they must expose themselves to the danger of contracting COVID-19 by going to a Service Ontario office, just to ensure that they can continue to receive health care in Ontario. The Ford Government needs to now fix this cruel irony. For example, it should announce these actions:

 

  1. The Ford Government should immediately enable people to renew their health card online if they have an Ontario Photo Identification Card.

 

  1. The Ford Government should immediately enable people to renew their official Ontario Photo Identification Card online if it is expired.

 

  1. The Ford Government should immediately create and widely publicize an easy-to-use accessible means for people with disabilities to renew their health card if they cannot do so online, without having to personally go to a Service Ontario office and risk exposure to COVID-19, such as through a phone service that is sufficiently staffed to avoid long waits on hold.

 

  1. The Ford Government should investigate and report to the public on how it allowed this obvious disability barrier to be created in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, exposing people with disabilities to further dangers to their health.

 

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

 

 

For more background, read:

 

  1. The AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page, identifying the many new barriers people with disabilities have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, identifying the many barriers people with disabilities face in Ontario’s health care system.

 

  1. The AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 Letter to Ontario Party Leaders seeking election pledges on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  2. The widely-viewed captioned online presentation by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky (who is a visiting law professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School) on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

Important Victory! Toronto City Council Today Banned Robots from Sidewalks, to Protect People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others – But Where is the Provincial Leadership 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Need from Premier Ford?

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Important Victory! Toronto City Council Today Banned Robots from Sidewalks, to Protect People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others – But Where is the Provincial Leadership 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Need from Premier Ford?

 

December 17, 2021 Toronto: At its meeting today, Toronto City Council banned robots from sidewalks, including robots delivering packages, pending further consultation and City staff study in the first half of 2022. Disability community advocates have called for robots to be banned from sidewalks because they endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Under this ban, people would remain free to use robots on their private property.

 

Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and Infrastructure Committee each recommended outlawing sidewalk robots. In its December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto’s Mayor and City Council, the AODA Alliance emphasized the many new disability barriers that robots and sidewalks can create.

 

Robots on sidewalks can be a tripping hazard or a collision danger. Blind people risk not knowing that a robot is heading right toward them or in their path of travel.

 

For people who use wheelchairs, robots on sidewalks risk becoming an access barrier in their way. If a person has balance limitations, robots brushing by them on the sidewalk could send them toppling. Sidewalks already have far too many accessibility barriers, being increasingly cluttered by street furniture, art, signs, plants and restaurant seating.

 

“We applaud Toronto City Council for stopping the creation of a serious new disability barrier and for requiring City staff to consult with people with disabilities as well as law enforcement and public safety experts about the dangers that robots on sidewalks pose for the public” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance. “The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create these new disability barriers.”

Though today’s vote is good news, people with disabilities are not out of the woods. Ontarians with disabilities need Ontario Premier Doug Ford to show leadership in this area, which has been sadly lacking at the provincial level when it comes to accessibility for people with disabilities. The Ford Government should ban robots from sidewalks anywhere in Ontario, so that people with disabilities don’t have to wage these battles in one city after the next. It is wrong for the Ford Government to instead be planning to give every Ontario municipality the authority to allow for ten-year pilot projects with robots on public sidewalks. We don’t want to have to fight this again in Toronto next year after City staff investigates this issue, much less in city after city around Ontario.

 

If robots were allowed on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult. A person cannot prosecute or sue a robot or make it produce an insurance policy.

 

It’s no solution to require robots to have a remote driver. That cannot be policed. One can’t know from looking at a robot whether it has a remote driver somewhere at all, much less a sober one who is properly trained and attentive to steering. A remote driver could be steering several robots simultaneously, dangerously dividing their attention. The public can’t know if a remote driver is in Ontario or halfway around the world, unreachable by Ontario police.

 

“We don’t oppose innovation. We innovate daily in our lives and use cutting-edge innovative technology,” said Lepofsky. “We only oppose innovations that endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.”

 

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

 

Will Toronto City Council Vote Today to Ban Robots from Sidewalks, to Protect People with Disabilities, Seniors, children and Others?

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Will Toronto City Council Vote Today to Ban Robots from Sidewalks, to Protect People with Disabilities, Seniors, children and Others?

 

December 15, 2021 Toronto: At its meeting today or tomorrow, Toronto City Council will debate whether to ban robots from sidewalks, including robots delivering packages. Disability community advocates have called for robots to be banned from sidewalks because they endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Under such a ban, people would remain free to use robots on their property.

 

Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and Infrastructure Committee each recommended outlawing sidewalk robots. Today’s and tomorrow’s City Council meeting will be streamed live at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZk2xbN6jjw

 

In its December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto’s Mayor and City Council, the AODA Alliance emphasized the many new disability barriers that robots and sidewalks can create. Robots on sidewalks can be a tripping hazard, or a collision danger. Blind people risk not knowing that a robot is heading right at them or in their path of travel.

 

For people who use wheelchairs, robots on sidewalks risk becoming an access barrier in their way. If a person has balance limitations, robots brushing by them on the sidewalk could send them toppling.

 

Sidewalks are publicly funded for pedestrians. Roads are for vehicles. Sidewalks already have too many accessibility barriers, being increasingly cluttered by street furniture, art, signs, plants and restaurant seating.

 

“To allow these robots would be to knowingly create a serious new disability barrier,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance. “The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create these new disability barriers.”

 

If robots are allowed on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult. A person cannot prosecute or sue a robot, or make it produce an insurance policy.

 

It’s no solution to require the robot’s company name to be displayed in braille. Imagine a blind person chasing a robot, with one hand on their white cane, and their other hand searching for the robot’s braille label.

 

It’s also no solution to require robots to have a remote driver. That cannot be policed. One can’t know from looking at a robot whether it has a remote driver somewhere at all, much less a sober one who is properly trained and attentive to steering. A remote driver could undetectably steer several robots simultaneously, dangerously dividing their attention. The public can’t know if a remote driver is in Ontario, or halfway around the world, unreachable by Ontario police.

 

“We don’t oppose innovation. We daily innovate in our lives and use cutting-edge innovative technology,” said Lepofsky. “We only oppose innovations that endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.”

 

This is not about one specific company’s small delivery robots, which have recently gotten some media attention. It is about any robots on sidewalks, no matter which company makes them, no matter what size or weight they are, and no matter whether they are being deployed to deliver legitimate products or for some anti-social reason.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

The AODA Alliance will be available to comment on City Council’s debate and vote on this issue. For real-time tweets, follow @davidlepofsky on Twitter.

More Media Coverage on the Dangers to People with Disabilities that Robots on Sidewalks Would Pose

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

More Media Coverage on the Dangers to People with Disabilities that Robots on Sidewalks Would Pose

 

December 13, 2021

 

            SUMMARY

 

1. Disability Objections to Allowing Robots on Public Sidewalks Get More Media Attention

 

The Saturday, December 11, 2021 Toronto Star’s Business Section included an excellent, detailed article on disability objections to allowing robots on sidewalks. Read that article, below.

 

As well, City TV News recently ran two items on this issue, on November 16, 2021 and on December 8, 2021

 

Before Toronto City Council votes on a proposal to ban robots from Toronto sidewalks, we remind you that it would really help if you urge Toronto Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Council members to vote for that ban. Here are the email addresses for all members of Toronto City Council, which you can copy and paste right into an email:

 

mayor_tory@toronto.ca, councillor_ainslie@toronto.ca, councillor_bailao@toronto.ca, councillor_bradford@toronto.ca, councillor_carroll@toronto.ca, councillor_colle8@toronto.ca, councillor_crawford@toronto.ca, councillor_cressy@toronto.ca, councillor_filion@toronto.ca, councillor_fletcher@toronto.ca, councillor_mford@toronto.ca, councillor_grimes@toronto.ca, councillor_holyday@toronto.ca, councillor_lai@toronto.ca, councillor_layton@toronto.ca, councillor_mantas@toronto.ca, councillor_matlow@toronto.ca, councillor_mckelvie@toronto.ca, councillor_minnan-wong@toronto.ca, councillor_nunziata@toronto.ca, councillor_pasternak@toronto.ca, councillor_perks@toronto.ca, councillor_perruzza@toronto.ca, councillor_robinson@toronto.ca, councillor_thompson@toronto.ca, councillor_wongtam@toronto.ca

 

Read AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s December 9, 2021 guest column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland newspapers about the dangers that robots on sidewalks pose for people with disabilities.

 

2. Reminder to Sign Up to Tell Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committee at its December 14, 2021 Virtual Meeting to Oppose Electric Scooters

 

It is not too late! Sign up to tell the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee at its December 14, 2021 virtual meeting that it should call on Ottawa City Council not to allow e-scooters, whether privately owned, or rented, in public spaces. Information on this meeting, and on how to sign up for it, is available in the December 10, 2021 AODA Alliance Update.

 

At this meeting, we will recommend that the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee pass a motion such as this:

 

“The Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee recommends as follows:

 

  1. a) The City of Ottawa not conduct any more pilots that allow electric scooters to be ridden in any public places in Ottawa, whether the e-scooter is owned by or rented by the rider.

 

  1. b) The City of Ottawa should not lift the legal ban now in effect on riding e-scooters in public places.

 

  1. c) The City of Ottawa should enforce the legal ban on riding e-scooters in public places.”

 

3. Electric Scooters and Sidewalk Robots Are Illustrations of the Ford Government Failing to Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

 

The cruel fact that people with disabilities must battle at the local municipal level against new barriers like e-scooters and robots on sidewalks is due to the Ford Government failing to show leadership on disability accessibility. This is part of a bigger picture.

 

A jaw-dropping 1,047 days have now passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that was conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. It found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities, and that progress on accessibility has been “glacial.” It concluded that the AODA’s promise of an accessible province for Ontarians with disabilities is nowhere in sight.

 

Read the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 letter to Ontario’s political party leaders. It sets out the election pledges on accessibility for people with disabilities that we seek in the June 2022 Ontario election.

 

            MORE DETAILS

 

 

 

Toronto’s pink delivery robots have been pulled off the streets and may be banned next week — but is that the right move?

By Sean Frankling

Toronto Star December 11, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/business/2021/12/11/torontos-pink-delivery-robots-have-been-pulled-off-the-streets-and-may-be-banned-next-week-but-is-that-the-right-move.jaws2021html

 

Tiny Mile has pulled its pink robots off Toronto’s sidewalks, and they may be banned for good next week. But is that the right move for the city?

 

David Lepofsky uses a white cane as he walks to sweep the path in front of him for tripping hazards.

 

The retired lawyer, who teaches law part time at the University of Toronto’s Osgoode Hall, has been blind much of his life.

 

Lepofsky, who is also chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, learned to navigate Toronto’s streets when they were relatively clear of today’s modern distractions.

 

An explosion in construction sites and, more recently, sidewalk patios – a pandemic city initiative that permitted restaurants to expand outdoor dining areas onto sidewalks – have meant an increase in obstacles for Lepofsky as of late.

 

It’s a frustrating step back for the accessibility advocate. “These are new barriers that humans are creating in a society that’s meant to be getting more accessible,” he says.

 

At least one of those new barriers – remotely piloted delivery robots – will face a vote on its fate at Toronto City Hall next week.

 

In response to the concerns of advocates like Lepofsky, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee is calling fora ban on delivery robots and their ilk, with city council to vote on the recommendation Dec. 15.

 

“It’s great that this is moving up to city council on a recommendation that these be banned,” says Lepofsky. “It says to the province, ‘You should put the breaks on this. This is not such a good idea.'”

 

While disability advocates such as Lepofsky are rooting for the vote to succeed, robotics industry experts are looking for solutions beyond an outright ban.

 

Meanwhile, the owners of Toronto’s only existing robot-delivery service – Tiny Mile – fear the ban would close their doors for good.

 

Tiny Mile’s CEO, Ignacio Tartavull, hears Lepofsky’s concerns. On Thursday, the company announced it has temporarily taken its robots off Toronto’s streets while it awaits the outcome of the vote.

 

Lepofsky has already spent the last couple of years campaigning against an Ontario government pilot project that allows municipalities to decide for themselves whether to allow e-scooters on public roads and sidewalks, which he calls a nightmare for people with disabilities.

 

He wants them banned province-wide, not just in some cities.

 

“At any time there could be a silent menace racing at me at 20 km/h. A sidewalk that was safe becomes one where I could go flying over.”

 

He wasn’t expecting to have to arm himself against another pilot project – at least, not so soon.

 

But then came the robots.

 

In November, the Ministry of Transportation concluded public consultation on a proposed 10-year pilot project that would allow companies across Ontario to operate so-called micro-utility devices – autonomous or remotely piloted robots – on public sidewalks for purposes like delivery service and snow shovelling.

 

The pilot, which doesn’t yet have a date set to proceed, is meant to assess the safety of integrating this new technology into the urban environment.

 

It would require human oversight of the robots, but not a person on-site. Instead, a remote operator or supervisor could watch via camera feed.

 

The robots would be subject to a speed limit of 10 km/h on sidewalks and 20 km/h in bike lanes, and must weigh less than 125 kg and be no more than 74 cm wide, though automated snowplows would have no size restrictions.

 

The pilot would also require operators to clearly label the company’s name on their robots, provide constant human oversight via camera with a safe-stop feature, mandatory collision reporting, and a minimum $25-million worth of general liability insurance for participating firms.

 

Municipalities would have the option to opt in – or out – the logic being that each local government knows their infrastructure best. Next week’s vote will determine whether to ban these robots before the pilot ever takes effect here.

 

Lepofsky says this approach just fragments a discussion that should be consistent across the province.

 

“That means that people with disabilities go from having a provincial rule to having to fight in one municipality after another.”

 

While he’s skeptical that the technology behind remotely piloted robots is up to the task of safely sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians, it’s the challenge of regulating them that has Lepofsky most concerned.

 

When a cyclist or an e-scooter rider gets in an accident or breaks a rule, the person liable is right there on the vehicle, says Lepofsky.

 

With an unmanned robot, the person responsible may not even be present, making it difficult to track them down, or even to proceed with a lawsuit, he says, stressing it’s too difficult to hold operators responsible in the event their robot causes an accident.

 

“The law isn’t just what’s on the books, it’s what you can enforce,” says Lepofsky.

 

Many experts in the robotics industry agree with his concerns, even if they don’t share his enthusiasm for an outright ban.

 

“(Robots) are a new source of friction, and there’s bound to be conflict,” says Shauna Brail, who just completed a report for Transport Canada looking into Canada’s policy preparedness for the rise of robot-based delivery services.

 

Brail, a professor of urban planning and economic development at the University of Toronto, says while it’s important to investigate what new technologies can do to improve urban life, those uses have to be done in balance with the normal use of public property.

 

“They’re an incompatible use if they make the sidewalk unstable for a person,” she says.

 

Brail’s report examined regulations governing robot delivery in Toronto, Calgary, San Francisco and a dozen other state and city jurisdictions in the U.S.

 

The key take-aways?

 

First, robots are already out there making deliveries in many of the jurisdictions they scanned.

 

Second; the laws around their use across Canada and the U.S. are well behind the technology, particularly in Toronto.

 

Before the ministry’s proposed pilot, the city had no regulations for sidewalk robots at all. They’ve been operating in a grey area – not illegal, but not allowed, either, says Brail.

 

And in the absence of government guidance, it’s been the companies building the robots that have led the drive to regulate them, she says.

 

Toronto startup Tiny Mile’s pink robots have been rolling along downtown streets daily for about a year, delivering takeout food, among other items.

 

A suite of cameras feed data to a remote driver who steers the robots with the aid of an on-board collision-avoidance system that detects when a robot is approaching an obstacle and automatically stops before it can hit it.

 

So far, the company says, in the “tens of thousands of kilometres” travelled, it’s had no reports of accidents. Tiny Mile has up to 20 robots on the streets at any given time.

 

“Tiny Mile is keenly interested in working with the accessibility community, hence we are calling out people who will be interested in shaping our technology with their immediate expertise and experience to help us not only make our robots safer for our community, but also greatly benefit people with disabilities,” the company said on its Instagram page in making the announcement Thursday.

 

Tartavull told the Star his robots put safety first, using their sensors and safety software to ensure the human operators can identify people moving slowly or using mobility devices and steer clear to give them plenty of space.

 

His robots’ low weight (4.5 kg), and easy speed (6 km/h), says Tartavull, pose no threat to pedestrians, a claim he says he tested personally by crashing them repeatedly into himself to make sure they couldn’t injure him.

 

“I went to the point of making myself the crash dummy. We don’t put anything on the street we don’t trust.”

 

Lepofsky isn’t buying it. No amount of testing and avoidance can guarantee a robot won’t become a tripping hazard, he says, especially if one breaks down in a public walkway.

 

While Tartavull says it’s inevitable that the robots will sometimes break down – he estimates it happens once every two or three months – the small service area allows for a team to pick up the out-of-commission robot within minutes, he says.

 

Tartavull says any conversation about regulating robots on city streets must take into account what they can offer to business and society.

 

Far from just being an obstacle, he says, “(robots) can be amazing for the disabled. It’s 2 a.m., it’s freezing cold. Wouldn’t you rather pay 50 cents for a robot to bring you those drugs you need from the pharmacy (than go out there yourself)?”

 

He argues that robotic delivery offers solutions to help with everything from traffic congestion to greenhouse gas emissions to the high cost of services like Uber Eats.

 

“It’s actually firms that are driving the initiative to regulate,” Brail says. But it’s not in Canadians’ best interest to let them lead the whole conversation, she adds.

 

“It can give a very one-sided perspective on what regulation should look like,” Brail says. “It needs to be a conversation about what does society need. And you need government to lead that.”

 

Queen’s University professor Joshua Marshall, who has spent his career developing robots for deployment alongside human workers in mining and industrial settings, agrees that testing should happen before a new technology goes into the real world, not after.

 

Marshall says engineers have a responsibility to consult everyone who might be affected before any machine goes into a workplace or into the public. “These people need to be at the table. We need all stakeholders involved. If there’s a problem, we need to identify it early, before something happens that we don’t want.”

 

Marshall also stresses the importance of rigorous testing and development for robots being used around pedestrians, starting with computer simulations and then working up to controlled environments mimicking real-world conditions.

 

But while the Ministry of Transportation say it is incorporating the feedback from the public consultation phase and considering adding more rules, the pilot project doesn’t lay out any requirements for how much testing and consultation companies must do before they put their robots on the streets.

 

“I think the problem is that you have this app development attitude of ‘moving fast and breaking things’ that’s been elevated almost to a religion among some technologists,” says Jason Millar, a University of Ottawa professor and holder of the Canada research chair in robotics.

 

But we can’t afford to be so loose when talking about technology that has a physical presence, he says.

 

“An app isn’t going to break down and leave a couple-hundred-pound impediment in the sidewalk.”

 

This is one reason Marshall and Millar agree on the need for Canada to develop a national strategy on robotics to match the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy announced in 2017 to be led and developed by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

 

The AI strategy lays out ways to attract researchers, foster collaboration and educate the public, aimed at making Canada a leader in the emerging field of artificial intelligence development. But it also creates a framework to educate policy-makers to lead discussions on the ethical and social issues that come with the technology.

 

As Marshall describes it, a national robotics strategy would need to follow the AI strategy’s lead: planning for the re-skilling necessary as automation gets integrated into life and workplaces, while also leading the conversation toward industry-wide standards for safety, testing and stakeholder consultation.

 

“We need to be thinking about how can (disability advocates) elevate a concern to get meaningful, transparent answers from the companies that are developing these technologies,” says Millar.

 

A proper approach should create standards at the national level so when concerned citizens like Lepofsky speak out, their voices join a unified conversation, not just a local disagreement, he says.

 

For Tiny Mile, says CEO Tartavull, the future hinges on the outcome of Toronto city council’s vote.

 

“If we get banned, we won’t have money to move to any other city. So that would be the end of Tiny Mile, unfortunately.”

 

New Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in Metroland Papers Explains that Toronto Should Ban Robots on Sidewalks because of the Danger They Pose for People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

New Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in Metroland Papers Explains that Toronto Should Ban Robots on Sidewalks because of the Danger They Pose for People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others

 

December 10, 2021

            SUMMARY

Here’s a new way you can help people with disabilities get Toronto City Council to ban robots on sidewalks when it meets on December 15 and 16, 2021. Please widely circulate a new guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below. It appears in the Toronto Star’s local Metroland papers. It explains why robots on sidewalks endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

Also, send this guest column to your member of the Ontario Legislature. The Ford Government is planning to allow an exceptionally long 10-year pilot with robots on sidewalks whenever a municipality opts into the pilot. We need the Ford Government to call off those plans which are still under consideration. The Ford Government should instead impose a provincewide ban on robots on sidewalks.

The December 10, 2021 edition of the Globe and Mail reports that one company that already unleashed its robots on Toronto sidewalks has now decided to temporarily pull those robots off the sidewalks up until Toronto City Council votes on the proposed ban next week. In that article, set out below, the company in question expressed a passionate desire to work with “the accessibility community” to ensure the safety of its delivery robots. This sounds remarkably like what the corporate lobbyists for the electric scooter rental companies said on the eve of Toronto City Council voting last spring against allowing e-scooters in Toronto.

For more on this, read the AODA Alliance’s December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto City Council, urging them to vote to ban robots on sidewalks. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page to learn about our battle to protect people with disabilities, seniors, kids and others from the dangers that e-scooters pose when ridden in public places.

            MORE DETAILS

toronto.com December 2019

Metroland News

Originally posted at https://www.toronto.com/opinion-story/10536197-toronto-must-ban-service-robots-from-its-sidewalks/

Opinion

Toronto must ban service robots from its sidewalks

‘Robots can be a tripping hazard or a collision danger,’ writes David Lepofsky

BY DAVID LEPOFSKY

David Lepofsky is a lawyer and advocate for people with disabilities in Toronto. – David Lepofsky photo

Toronto must ban robots from sidewalks, like robots delivering packages. They endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. People can remain free to use robots on their property.

Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and Infrastructure Committee wisely recommended banning sidewalk robots. On Dec. 15 to 16, city council votes on this.

Ford’s Government said robots on sidewalks are unregulated, causing a free-for-all. Ford’s proposed solution, a ten-year sidewalk robots pilot at municipal option, shirks much-needed provincial leadership.

Blind people like me risk not knowing that a robot is heading right at us or in our path. Those robots can be a tripping hazard, or a collision danger.

For people who use wheelchairs, those robots risk becoming an access barrier in their path. If you have balance issues, robots brushing by could send you toppling.

Sidewalks are publicly funded, created for pedestrians. Roads are for vehicles. Sidewalks already have too many accessibility barriers, increasingly cluttered by street furniture, art, signs, plants and restaurant seating.

To allow these robots would be to knowingly create a serious new disability barrier. The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create new barriers.

If police or the public encounter a robot on a public sidewalk, they should be free to dispose of it. That would end the problem.

If robots are allowed on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult. The victim won’t know who to sue or prosecute for their injuries.

A robot might have a bogus company name on it. You cannot prosecute or sue a robot, or make it produce an insurance policy.

It’s no solution to require the robot’s company name to also be in braille. Imagine a blind person chasing a robot, with one hand on their white cane, and their other hand searching for the robot’s braille label.

It’s also no solution to require robots to have a remote driver. That cannot be policed. You can’t know from looking at a robot whether it has a remote driver somewhere at all, much less a sober one who is properly trained and attentive to steering. A remote driver could undetectably steer several robots simultaneously, dangerously dividing their attention. The public can’t know if a remote driver is in Ontario, or halfway around the world, unreachable by Ontario police.

We don’t oppose innovation. We daily innovate in our lives and regularly use innovative technology. We just oppose innovations that endanger us.

Before any government allows robots on sidewalks, they must consult police on how robots, disguised as a store’s delivery vehicle, could in the wrong hands be perverted into a dreadful weapon. Pedestrian safety is our top priority.

David Lepofsky is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and visiting professor, Osgoode Hall Law School.

 The Globe and Mail December 10, 2021

(2021-12-10)

Report on Business

Toronto company temporarily pulls pink delivery robots off sidewalks

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO – A technology company says it will temporarily take its food delivery robots off Toronto’s streets as the city considers whether to ban such devices from sidewalks.

Tiny Mile, the company behind a series of pink, heart-eyed robots named Geoffrey, says it is making the temporary move because it wants to collaborate with authorities and the accessibility community.

Toronto’s city council will vote next week on whether to ban devices that run on anything but muscle power from bike lanes, sidewalks and pedestrian ways.

The ban was put forward by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, which felt the robots are a hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as seniors and other children.

The ban cleared its first hurdle last week, when it was approved by the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee, but Tiny Mile vowed to fight the move and circulated a petition on its social-media pages.

The company now says on Instagram that it will seek feedback from the public and people with disabilities while it pauses public use of its robots.

“Tiny Mile is keenly interested in working with the accessibility community, hence we are calling out people who will be interested in shaping our technology with their immediate expertise and experience to help us not only make our robots safer for our community, but also greatly benefit people with disabilities,” the company said.

Sign Up to Tell Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committee to Publicly and Strongly Oppose Electric Scooters that Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Sign Up to Tell Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committee to Publicly and Strongly Oppose Electric Scooters that Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others

 

December 10, 2021

 

            SUMMARY

 

Please contact the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee as soon as you can! Sign up to speak at its virtual online meeting at 6 pm on Tuesday December 14, 2021 and advocate that it should recommend that Ottawa stop allowing electric scooters (e-scooters). E-scooters endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

 

The public announcement of the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting is set out below. To sign up to speak at that meeting, email or phone Carole Legault:

 

CaroleA.Legault@Ottawa.ca or 613-580-2424 ext. 28934.

 

If you don’t want to speak at that meeting, you can email your comments, and ask that your feedback be shared with the Accessibility Advisory Committee.

 

Two years ago, the Ford Government ignored serious disability concerns when it gave every municipality the power to lift the ban on e-scooters. It allows them for a so-called “pilot” for up to five years.

 

Right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Ottawa jumped on the e-scooters bandwagon. It did so despite strong warnings, conveyed right to the office of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, that e-scooters endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities. It was obvious that the e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists had the inside track to Ottawa’s mayor and City Council, just as they earlier had the inside track to Premier Doug Ford.

 

Ottawa has now held two successive “pilot projects” with e-scooters. Feedback from people with disabilities demonstrates that e-scooters create serious dangers for people with disabilities, seniors and others. What occurred was exactly what we warned the office of Ottawa’s mayor about before Ottawa plowed forward, regardless of those dangers.

 

An e- scooter corporate lobbyist told a City of Toronto public meeting last spring that Ottawa is “the gold standard” for e-scooters. Instead, Ottawa is in fact the model of what should never be allowed to happen. E-scooters ridden on sidewalks, without effective law enforcement have been combined with e-scooters lying on city sidewalks, as tripping hazards and accessibility barriers.

 

Here is a chance to speak up. We need you to be heard, whether you live in the Ottawa area, or would like to be able to visit Ottawa without having to endure the dangers that e-scooters present. We need Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committee to issue a strong, public and categorical recommendation that Ottawa not allow e-scooters, now that those two successive pilot projects have finished. We don’t need or want limits or controls on e-scooters. They don’t work. We need e-scooters banned, pure and simple. People with disabilities need and deserve nothing less.

 

We need the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee to issue a very public recommendation to this effect. If it does not happen in public, it does not have the political punch that people with disabilities need. Given the obvious influence of the e-scooter corporate lobbyists, we need all the help we can get in this uphill battle. With a municipal election happening next fall, it is important for all municipal politicians and candidates to pledge to unequivocally support pedestrian safety.

 

The Accessibility Advisory Committee of Toronto, London and Mississauga each issued strong recommendations that e-scooters should not be allowed in public places including both roads and sidewalks, and including both rental e-scooters and privately-owned e-scooters. People with disabilities in Ottawa deserve and need the same from the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee, which is supposed to be a strong voice for their safety and accessibility.

 

What kinds of dangers can e-scooters pose to pedestrians? We invite you to thumb through a pile of 25 deeply disturbing news articles that we have amassed from communities around the world that have allowed e-scooters. They report on a litany of injuries and even deaths. Our concern is with e-scooters, whether they are rented or privately owned.

 

We anticipate that Ottawa City staff will make some sort of a presentation to the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee at this meeting. We are eager to hear what they say. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky recently spoke to the Ottawa City staff member assigned to this project. They had not even read the excellent reports on disability problems with e-scooters that the Toronto City staff had produced and made public months ago. David Lepofsky thereafter sent those reports to Ottawa City staff. We hope Toronto’s exhaustive research will be fully reflected in the Ottawa City staff report.

 

If you sign up for this Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting, you certainly don’t need to plan to speak for long. The Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee will likely only allow you five minutes to speak.

 

On Thursday, December 9, 2021, CBC Radio Ottawa’s afternoon program “All In A Day” included an interview on disability issues. It included AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, Wayne Antle who heads Ottawa’s chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, and a volunteer from Stopgap Ottawa. Among other things, they discussed the serious dangers that e-scooters have created for people with disabilities in Ottawa.

 

To learn more about our battle to keep the public safe in Ontario from e-scooters, check out the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

 

 

               MORE DETAILS

 

NOTICE OF A SPECIAL ACCESSIBILITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING

 

Please be advised that in accordance with Subsection 10 (1) of the Advisory Committee Procedure By-law, the Chair of the Accessibility Advisory Committee has called a Special Meeting for Tuesday, December 14, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. for the purpose of considering the following item:

 

E-Scooters Pilot Project Update

 

This Meeting will be held through electronic participation in accordance with Section 238 of the Municipal Act, 2001 as amended by Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020. The chosen technology for this particular meeting is Zoom.

 

This email constitutes notice of this special meeting to all Members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee in accordance with Subsection 10 (2) (b) of the Procedure By-law.

 

Tell Toronto City Council to Ban Robots from Sidewalks, Because They Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Tell Toronto City Council to Ban Robots from Sidewalks, Because They Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others

 

December 8, 2021

 

            SUMMARY

 

How many new disability barriers can crop up in one year?

 

Next week, on December 15 or 16, 2021 Toronto’s City Council will decide whether to ban the use of robots (such as those that deliver packages) from public sidewalks. We’ve written Toronto Mayor John Tory and all members of Toronto City Council to urge them to vote for this ban. You can read our letter, below.

 

We urge you to email or call Toronto’s Mayor and members of Toronto City Council, if you live in Toronto or if you visit Toronto. Tell them to vote to ban robots from Toronto sidewalks. You can find the email addresses of all members of Toronto City Council in our letter to them, below.

 

As the AODA Alliance’s October 20, 2021 brief to the Ford Government  and its December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto City Council explain, robots on sidewalks endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. There are no safeguards to overcome these dangers. There is no effective way to regulate robots on sidewalks, short of a total ban.

 

This ban would not stop a person or company from using robots on their own private property, if they wish. We only here object to robots on public sidewalks and other public walkways.

 

Our letter to Toronto City Council answers a dubious argument against us that a few have raised on social media. Our letter states:

 

” Some claim that to oppose robots on sidewalks is to oppose innovation. This is wrong. People with disabilities are among society’s core of innovators, daily innovating in our personal lives and regularly using innovative technology.

 

We do not oppose innovation. Rather, we oppose any technology, new or old, that endangers our safety or accessibility. We hope and trust that you do too.”

 

We applaud the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee for raising this issue, for welcoming public input (including a deputation by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky), and for voting to recommend that Toronto ban robots on sidewalks. We also commend the Toronto City Council’s Infrastructure Committee for passing a motion to ban robots on sidewalks, and for getting this issue placed on the agenda of Toronto City Council on December 15-16, 2021.

 

We need the Ford Government to stop creating new barriers against people with disabilities. It should call off its plans to hold a ten-year pilot project with robots on sidewalks – a pilot project that would inflict on people with disabilities the undue hardship of having to battle in one Ontario city after the next to prevent municipalities from opting into that wrong-headed pilot project. It would be far more helpful for the Ford Government to enact a strong Pedestrian’s Bill of Rights.

 

It helps that there is growing media coverage of our concerns. On December 6, 2021 the Canadian Press published an excellent article on it. Below we set out the text of that article that appeared on the CBC website. It also appeared in the hard copy of the December 7, 2021 Globe and Mail, and on other media websites such as Global News. As well, the CBC TV News at 6 pm on Friday December 3, 2021 included a report on this issue, quoting AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.

 

 

            MORE DETAILS

 

December 7, 2021 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Toronto Mayor John Tory and Members of Toronto City Council

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

December 7, 2021

 

To: Mayor John Tory and Members of Toronto City Council

City Hall,

100 Queen St. W.

Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Via email: mayor_tory@toronto.ca, councillor_ainslie@toronto.ca, councillor_bailao@toronto.ca, councillor_bradford@toronto.ca, councillor_carroll@toronto.ca, councillor_colle8@toronto.ca, councillor_crawford@toronto.ca, councillor_cressy@toronto.ca, councillor_filion@toronto.ca, councillor_fletcher@toronto.ca, councillor_mford@toronto.ca, councillor_grimes@toronto.ca, councillor_holyday@toronto.ca, councillor_lai@toronto.ca, councillor_layton@toronto.ca, councillor_mantas@toronto.ca, councillor_matlow@toronto.ca, councillor_mckelvie@toronto.ca, councillor_minnan-wong@toronto.ca, councillor_nunziata@toronto.ca, councillor_pasternak@toronto.ca, councillor_perks@toronto.ca, councillor_peruzza@toronto.ca, councillor_robinson@toronto.ca, councillor_thompson@toronto.ca, councillor_wongtam@toronto.ca

 

Dear Mayor Tory and Members of Toronto City Council,

 

Re: Protecting People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others in Toronto from the Dangers Posed by Robots on Sidewalks

 

Please vote to ban robots from Toronto sidewalks and other public walkways, such as robots that deliver packages. Robots on sidewalks endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. This ban would not prevent a person or company from using robots on their own private property, if they wish.

 

After receiving feedback from the public, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee recently recommended that Toronto City Council ban sidewalk robots. Toronto’s Infrastructure Committee then commendably followed that recommendation, and voted to ban sidewalk Robots. At its December 15-16, 2021 meeting, Toronto City Council is scheduled to vote on their proposal to ban robots from Toronto’s sidewalks and other public pedestrian walkways.

 

In Toronto, robots are now used on some public sidewalks, e.g., to deliver packages. The Ontario Government told us that the use of robots on sidewalks is unregulated, is a gray area, and results in a free-for-all. The Ontario Government’s impending solution, to allow a ten-year pilot with sidewalk robots at municipal option, is no solution at all.

 

People with vision loss risk not knowing that a robot is heading right at them, or that one is in their path of travel. Such robots can pose a tripping hazard, or a danger of collision. For people with mobility disabilities, including those who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs, such robots risk becoming a physical barrier in their path of travel. They can transform an accessible route into an inaccessible one. For people with balance issues, such robots present a danger of losing balance from any inadvertent brush with a robot.

 

These robots will be constantly on the move, and such unpredictable barriers are unforeseeable in advance. People with disabilities cannot plan strategies to avoid them, short of isolating at home.

 

Sidewalks are an important publicly-funded public resource, created for pedestrians to safely use. Their safe use should not be undermined for such things as private companies’ delivery robots.

 

Roads, and not sidewalks, are the place for vehicles to travel, including powered vehicles. As it is, public sidewalks and other paths of travel have far too many accessibility barriers. They are increasingly cluttered with street furniture, art, signage, plants, sidewalk restaurant eating areas, and other clutter. In residential areas, this includes weekly garbage bins.

 

For those who have just acquired a disability, sidewalk robots threaten added hardships. For example, a senior who just lost their vision needs to undergo training on how to safely and independently walk around in public. The added burden of coping with these robots will make that challenge more difficult.

 

For Toronto to allow these robots would be to knowingly create a substantial and worrisome new disability barrier impeding people with disabilities in their safe use of public sidewalks and other public paths of travel. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Toronto is far behind schedule for reaching that fast-approaching goal. Toronto cannot afford to create any new disability barriers.

 

Toronto needs a total ban on these robots on sidewalks and other public pedestrian walkways. If police or members of the public encounter a robot in forbidden locations like a public sidewalk, they should be able to seize the robot and dispose of it. That would quickly and effectively end the problem.

 

If robots are permitted on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult, when someone is injured or endangered. The victim won’t know who to sue or prosecute for their injuries. You cannot prosecute or sue a robot, or make it produce a valid insurance policy.

 

If a person is injured by a robot, and the robot keeps moving, the individual has no capacity to stop it and to try to identify its source. This is all the more so for a person with a disability such as a mobility impairment or vision loss.

 

It can be hard to know who has deployed the robot. A robot might have a company name on it. However, there is no assurance that this company name is accurate.

 

It is no solution to require the company name, if present, to be in braille. It is unreasonable to burden people with disabilities with having to find the robot, and then grope it to find a braille label. Braille labels cannot be read if the robot is moving. The very notion that a person with vision loss should try to chase down a robot in public that has injured or endangered them, with one hand on their white cane and guide dog, and their other hand flailing around to see if there is a braille label to read on the robot, illustrates the absurdity of this idea.

 

Moreover, many people with vision loss do not read braille. Most who lose their vision have this happen later in life.

 

It is unfair to burden a person suffering personal injury or property damage due to these robots to have to sue for damages. How does an injured plaintiff meet their burden to prove who is responsible for their injuries?

 

These dangers are not reduced if the law requires a robot to have a remote driver or monitor. Such a requirement cannot be effectively policed. It is impossible to know from looking at a robot, barreling towards you on the street or sidewalk, whether there is a remote driver somewhere who is attentive to steering the robot. There is no way to know if a remote driver is directing multiple robots at the same time and thus dangerously dividing their attention. Even then, the simple fact that a human being is remotely involved does not ensure that they have the skills and knowledge needed to safely operate the robot.

 

There is no way to police whether the remote driver is paying attention and is not intoxicated or has their degree of attentiveness otherwise impacted. Indeed, there is no way for the public to know if a remote driver is even in Ontario and within the reach of a police investigation, or is situated halfway around the world, far removed from the reach of Ontario law and the damage that their remote driving can cause.

 

Robots can also damage a person’s property. This in turn would shift an unfair burden to those suffering property damage to have to prove who is at fault, and the value of the loss. If the person is not present when the damage is caused, this will be impossible to do. If the person has vision loss, they may not be able to provide the necessary information to prove the claim.

 

Some claim that to oppose robots on sidewalks is to oppose innovation. This is wrong. People with disabilities are among society’s core of innovators, daily innovating in our personal lives and regularly using innovative technology.

 

We do not oppose innovation. Rather, we oppose any technology, new or old, that endangers our safety or accessibility. We hope and trust that you do too.

 

When it comes to robots on sidewalks, a spectrum of important issues should be extensively explored, in addition to the disability issues raised here, before ever allowing them. For example, it is important for the City to first extensively consult police and other public security experts to explore the danger that such robots, dressed up as a delivery vehicle for a big box store, could in the wrong hands be perverted into a dreadful weapon.

 

Please make pedestrian safety your top priority. End the free-for-all that now seems to be permitted. Ban robots from public sidewalks and other public pedestrian walkways.

 

Sincerely,

 

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

 

 

CBC News December 7, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-robot-ban-1.6275532?ref=mobilerss&cmp=newsletter_CBC%20Toronto_1642_347870

 

Toronto committee calls for ban on robots from sidewalks, bike paths

 

Committee’s recommendation aimed at reducing hazards for people with low mobility, vision

Tara Deschamps · The Canadian Press · Posted: Dec 06, 2021 4:36 PM ET | Last Updated: December 6

 

Geoffrey, pictured here in pink, provides contactless delivery while being controlled by an employee of Tiny Mile, a food delivery company in Toronto. (Angelina King/CBC)

 

A Toronto committee is pushing for the city to ban some robots and other automated or remote controlled devices from sidewalks, bike paths and pedestrian ways.

 

The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee is asking city councillors to vote next Wednesday in favour of prohibiting devices from these spaces that run on anything but muscle power.

 

The committee’s recommendation is aimed at reducing hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as seniors and other children, who may be impeded by stopped or stalled devices or unable to quickly detect their presence and manoeuvre around them.

 

The recommendation permits mobility devices like scooters used by people with disabilities, but would ban food delivery robots like Tiny Mile’s pink, heart-eyed ones named Geoffrey, which some Toronto restaurants have used to courier orders.

 

Tiny Mile did not respond to requests for comment, but circulated a petition on social media, which calls for a stop to the “illogical” ban accused of hurting innovation.

 

However, the committee’s chair insists the proposed ban is not about stifling innovation, but rather encouraging accessibility.

 

“We want to remove external barriers so that people can participate in public life,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, a city councillor, who represents the Toronto-Centre area and recently put forward a motion calling for the ban.

 

“With people who are facing barriers, with disabilities, our job is to make sure that that community has a voice to city council.”

 

Measures not enough, says professor

 

Wong Tam’s motion was prompted by discussions the committee and city staff had after Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation solicited feedback on a pilot allowing micro-utility devices, including automated personal delivery devices, for off-road use in places such as sidewalks in September.

 

The 10-year pilot proposal suggested such devices travel at no more than 10 km/hr on sidewalks, be marked with an operator’s name and contact details, and have mandatory audible signals, reflectors with lights, brakes, insurance and a requirement to yield to pedestrians.

 

These measures are not enough, said David Lepofsky, chairman of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School.

 

He worries about all the dangerous situations that could arise for people with disabilities and even those without.

 

“It’s everything from a robot, which could be in your path or travelling becoming a tripping hazard, to a robot that’s fallen over or could be in motion and could injure you,” he said.

 

“If you have a guide dog or you have got a kid with you, they could also be injured.”

 

Wong-Tam has similar concerns and feels if they aren’t addressed early, tech companies may continue to push limits and the devices could become even more dangerous.

 

“Will (the devices) become taller and larger?” she said.

 

“Unless there are regulations that tell us how fast they can operate or how large they can be, how tall they can be, how wide they can be, they’ll just keep on going.”

 

‘You can’t arrest a robot,’ advocate says

 

While the province is mulling collision reporting for the pilot, Lepofsky feels there will be little recourse for pedestrians.

 

“You can’t arrest a robot and prosecute them,” he said.

 

And worse, he says the province’s plan to allow municipalities to opt into the pilot could put the onus on Canadians with disabilities to repeatedly defend their rights and ensure they can safely use sidewalks.

 

“We don’t want to have to fight robots one city after the next all the way across Ontario,” he said. “That is totally dumping an unfair burden on people with disabilities.”

 

If Wong-Tam’s motion succeeds at city council on Dec. 16, accessibility advocates like Lepofsky will have one less battle to fight and an example of a region that took a hard stand to use elsewhere.

 

The motion was already approved by the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee last week.

 

On the Eve of the International Day for People with Disabilities, the Ford Government Publicly Admits in the Legislature It Needs to Do a Lot More to Lead Ontario to Become Accessible to People with Disabilities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

On the Eve of the International Day for People with Disabilities, the Ford Government Publicly Admits in the Legislature It Needs to Do a Lot More to Lead Ontario to Become Accessible to People with Disabilities

 

December 3, 2021

 

            SUMMARY

 

On December 2, 2021, Opposition NDP MPP Joel Harden pressed the Ford Government in the Legislature during Question Period on what it plans to do to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. He did so to mark the next day, December 3, which is the International Day for People with Disabilities. Below we set out what was said in the Legislature.

 

MPP Harden highlighted the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 letter to Ontario party leaders. It sets out the election commitments that we seek from all the Ontario party leaders in advance of the June 2022 provincial election. It also recognizes that because of years of Government foot-dragging and broken promises, Ontario will fail to become accessible by the AODA’s 2025 deadline.

 

Premier Ford was not in the Legislature to answer MPP Harden’s questions. The Government House leader, Paul Kalandra answered on behalf of the Government. Kalandra has no involvement in the AODA’s implementation.

 

MPP Kalandra admitted that the Government needs to do a lot more. He committed that the Government will come forward “very soon” to announce what more it would do. He gave no indication of when that might be.

 

In the meantime, as of today, the International Day for People with Disabilities, an inexcusable 1037 days have passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has still announced no comprehensive plan of action to implement the Onley Report.

 

            MORE DETAILS

 

Ontario Hansard December 2, 2021

 

Question Period

 

ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Mr. Joel Harden: My questions is for the Premier. Tomorrow marks International Day for Persons with Disabilities. It’s a time to celebrate the contribution that people with disabilities and the disability rights movement have made to this province, but there is a painful sadness this year. For the first time in a letter to the leaders of Ontario’s political parties, the AODA Alliance has acknowledged with frustration that the Ontario government will fail to meet its obligation to ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible to the 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, which is what the statute here requires. This is due to years of stalling and broken promises by Liberal and Conservative governments since the Legislature unanimously passed the AODA in 2005.

My question to the Premier, Speaker, through you: Will this government lay out what specific steps this government is prepared to take during its last remaining months in office to fulfill its duty to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities?

 

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply for the government, the government House leader.

 

Hon. Paul Calandra: I do appreciate the question from the member opposite. I know he has been a very powerful critic in the role and also, in many instances, a partner with the minister in helping him understand issues of importance to the community.

Look, I acknowledge that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done across the province of Ontario, and we are continuing to work on that. There are a number of reports that have highlighted that, I would suggest both federally and provincially and with our municipal partners.

Look, there’s a lot of work that has to be done. I suspect it’s something that we will continue to focus on here at home in our own Legislature over the next little while, but I don’t want to give the member an answer that doesn’t befit how important this issue is. It is very important to the minister. It is something that we are working on, and I do appreciate the urgency of it.

 

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.

 

Mr. Joel Harden: I appreciate that answer, but acknowledging that we’re falling short on accessibility for 2.6 million people in this province and that we won’t hit the target we’re required to hit by 2025, I’m just going to say to this government, to any government that comes after, that doesn’t mean we shrug our shoulders and give up. This acknowledgment that the AODA Alliance has made does not mean we can’t stop pursuing vigorously the things we need to pursue.

The Hon. David Onley gave this government a report 1,000 days ago, more than 1,000 days ago, and in this report Mr. Onley describes soul-crushing barriers facing people with disabilities in Ontario in health care, in school, in employment, in their usage of public space.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Onley and people before him have shown us the way. What we need is a plan in the last six months of this Parliament. I’ve risen in this space, as the House leader mentioned, and I’ve offered my own plan.

My question is, will you embrace it or will you propose your own? That’s what people with disabilities and their families want, and we need an answer.

 

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Government House leader.

 

Hon. Paul Calandra: Speaker, again I do appreciate that. We have started obviously with aging in place and ensuring that, at home, people can make retrofits to their own homes that will allow persons with disabilities or persons who need assistance at home can make the retrofits at home, so we can start there.

I know the minister in charge of the Ontario Trillium Foundation is also ensuring there’s significant investments that go to community organizations across the province. The minister responsible for seniors and disability has also a number of programs to help kick-start in a number of ways this very important work.

But as I said, look, I acknowledge there is more work to be done. Many of the new long-term cares—obviously all of the new long-term care homes that we are bringing into the province are going to be completely accessible, are going to have all of the features that you would have expected many years ago.

I acknowledge there is more work to be done. The Onley report highlighted it. Our minister responsible is getting that work done, and I’m sure we’ll have more to say very soon.

 

What election pledges has the AODA Alliance asked Ontario’s party leaders to make in the June 2022 provincial election on disability accessibility? Read the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 letter to Ontario’s party leaders.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

 

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

 

November 22, 2021

 

To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier

Via Email: doug.ford@ontariopc.com

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

 

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition

Via email: ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

Room 113, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5

 

Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:

Via email: leader@gpo.ca

Room 451 Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON M7A 1A2

 

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

Via email: steven@ontarioliberal.ca

344 Bloor St W,

Toronto On, M5S 1W9

 

 

Dear Party Leaders,

 

Re: Seeking your Parties’ 2022 Election Commitments to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

 

We write in a spirit of non-partisanship to ask your Parties to pledge in advance of the June 2, 2022 Ontario election, to implement our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario (set out below). Our non-partisan grass-roots community coalition seeks the achievement of an accessible Ontario for people with disabilities, through the prompt, effective implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

 

Below we set out specific commitments that we seek in order to make Ontario accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. Taken together, they constitute the much-needed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we ask your parties to each endorse.

 

In each Ontario election since 1995, some or all parties made election commitments on this. They did so in letters to the AODA Alliance, or before 2005, to our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

 

We write over six months before the election, because these are big, important issues. We will make public responses we receive.

 

 These Commitments are Vital

 

For people with disabilities, Ontario is at a very troubling crossroads. We must seek a substantial list of commitments, because of the Government’s cumulative failures to effectively implement and enforce the AODA for years.

 

People with disabilities had tenaciously advocated for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA enacted. It was an historic day in 2005 when the Legislature unanimously passed the landmark AODA.

 

The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. The Government must enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to lead Ontario to that goal.

 

Accessibility standards are enforceable provincial regulations. They are to specify, on an economic sector-by-sector basis, the disability barriers that an organization must remove or prevent, and the time lines for action, to become accessible to people with disabilities. For example, the Transportation Accessibility Standard is meant to spell out the actions that transit providers must take to tear down barriers that impede passengers with disabilities from fully using and benefitting from their transit services.

 

Since 2005, we have vigourously advocated to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced. There has been some progress since 2005. However, it has been too little and too slow.

 

With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. Responsibility for this entirely avoidable failure spreads out over many years. We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.

 

People with disabilities know from their daily life experience that we are now at this painful turning point. Reinforcing this, in January 2019, the third Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, found that progress on accessibility in Ontario has been “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal was nowhere in sight.

 

No one disputed these Onley Report findings. On April 10, 2019, the Government told the Legislature that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

 

There has been no significant progress since the Onley Report on actually removing and preventing disability barriers. The AODA’s implementation and enforcement have not been strengthened or sped up.

 

Undermining the AODA’s purpose, new disability barriers have been created since the release of the Onley Report. People with disabilities disproportionately bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and its worst impacts. Yet the Government’s emergency COVID-19 planning has not effectively addressed people with disabilities’ urgent needs.

 

For example, a new critical care triage protocol, systematically embedded in Ontario hospitals, enshrines discrimination against some patients with disabilities in access to life-saving care, if hospital overloads require rationing of critical care beds. Another example of new barriers traceable to the Ontario Government are electric scooters, which are ridden by uninsured and unlicensed joy-riders in public and which now endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others in some Cities on a daily basis.

 

The AODA does not vanish on January 1, 2025. It remains the law of Ontario. The Government will remain responsible for leading its implementation and enforcement.

 

The Government elected on June 2, 2022 will be in power when the AODA’s January 1, 2025 deadline for accessibility arrives. That Government needs to have a plan of action. We here offer a carefully-designed one, based on our years of experience on the front lines, and ask you to pledge to implement it.

 

 What Went Wrong?

 

Why do we ask your parties to endorse and commit to our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario, set out below? What led to this predicament? First, despite strong unanimous support for the AODA when it was passed, and a good start on implementing it in the early years, it substantially dropped as a Government priority after that. Premier after premier failed to show the strong leadership on this issue that Ontarians with disabilities needed, which three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA called for. Second, the AODA accessibility standards passed to date, while helpful, are not strong enough. They do not cover all or even a majority of the recurring barriers that people with disabilities face. Third, the Government’s enforcement of the AODA has been weak and ineffective. Fourth, the Government has not used all the other levers of power conveniently available to it to promote accessibility for people with disabilities.

 

For over a decade, successive governments and ministers have been told about the need to strengthen and speed up the AODA’s implementation. They received strong, practical recommendations on how to do this. This all came from Ontario’s disability community, and from the reports of three successive mandatory Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA. The report of the first AODA Independent Review, conducted by Charles Beer, was made public in May 2010. The report of the second AODA Independent Review, conducted by former University of Toronto Law Dean Mayo Moran, was made public in February 2015. The report of the third AODA Independent Review, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, was made public in March 2019.

 

Our Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario In a Nutshell

 

The 2022 election is the most pivotal one for Ontarians with disabilities since the 2003 election. This is because Ontario is on the verge of failing to comply with the AODA’s mandatory deadline. We need Ontario’s Government, elected on June 2, 2022, to commit to a bold plan of strong new action on disability accessibility, targeted at two goals. First, Ontario must get as close to full accessibility for people with disabilities as is possible by 2025. Second, Ontario must thereafter get the rest of the way to full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025.

 

In summary, our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we set out below, and to which we ask you to commit, includes requests that your party each agree to:

 

  1. Foster and strengthen our ongoing relationship with your party.
  2. Show strong leadership on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.
  3. Protect the gains on accessibility that people with disabilities have made so far.
  4. Enact a comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  5. Enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  6. Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards.
  7. Enact a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  8. Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA and create an Accessible Housing Strategy.
  9. Strengthen the weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA.
  10. Develop additional new Accessibility Standards under the AODA, needed to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities.
  11. Speed up the excessively long process for developing and enacting AODA Accessibility Standards.
  12. Substantially strengthen AODA enforcement to ensure that all requirements under the AODA are effectively enforced.
  13. Substantially reform and improve how the Ministry of Education and Ontario school system address the needs of students with disabilities.
  14. Ensure that new generations of design professionals (like architects) are not trained to be new barrier-creators.
  15. Ensure that taxpayers’ money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.
  16. Establish free independent technical accessibility advice for obligated organizations.
  17. Make provincial and municipal elections accessible to voters with disabilities.
  18. Substantially improve the accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s workplaces, services and facilities.
  19. Review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers.
  20. Root out recently-created new disability barriers traceable to the Ontario Government.
  21. Give no more public money to the problematic and unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility “certification” program.

 

Following Up on This Letter

 

Please respond to this request by February 1, 2022. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com. Please send your response in MS Word format, and not as a pdf, because the pdf format presents serious accessibility problems. We would be pleased to provide background briefings or to answer any questions you may have.

 

Our coalition addresses disability accessibility. We urge you to also take very seriously the requests you will receive from community groups for election pledges on other important disability issues, such as the pressing need to strengthen income supports like ODSP to tackle the protracted, rampant poverty among far too many Ontarians with disabilities.

 

Our non-partisan coalition does not support or oppose any party or candidate. We aim to secure the strongest commitments from each party.

 

Sincerely,

 

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

 

 

 

A Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario – 2022 Ontario Election Commitments Requested by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

 

 I. Leadership Commitments

 

 a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

 

Our coalition and its pre-2005 predecessor (the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) have been recognized in the Legislature and elsewhere for our leadership and advocacy for and expertise in disability accessibility. We offer input and advice to the Government and to opposition parties.

 

#1. As Premier, will you periodically meet with us to discuss issues concerning persons with disabilities and accessibility, including once within the first four months of taking office?

 

#2. If your Party does not form the Government, will you meet with us periodically? Will your Party raise our concerns in the Legislature, including in Question Period?

 

 b) Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility

 

Three successive Independent Reviews of the AODA concluded that Ontario needs strong new leadership within the Ontario Government on accessibility for people with disabilities, starting with the premier.

 

#3. As premier, will you show strong leadership on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities? Will you substantially strengthen and accelerate the AODA’s implementation?

 

#4. Will you commit to get Ontario as close as possible to the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025? Will you also announce and implement a plan to get Ontario to reach full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025, if the 2025 deadline is missed?

 

Ontario has not had in place a comprehensive multi-year plan for implementing the AODA. We and others urged the Government for years to establish such a plan, and have offered proposals.

 

#5. Within four months of taking office, and after consulting the public including people with disabilities, will you announce a comprehensive action plan for ensuring that the Government leads Ontario to become as close as possible to full accessibility by 2025 for people with disabilities, and if the 2025 goal is not reached, to reach the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities as soon as possible after 2025?

 

#6. Will you assign a stand-alone minister responsible for disability issues, who will periodically meet with us? Will other ministers with responsibility bearing on our issues also meet with us?

 

The Government needs to lead by a good example. Yet it has not done so. Examples are given below where the Ontario Government itself is violating the AODA.

 

#7. Will you comply with the AODA?

 

 c) Protect the Gains on Accessibility that People with Disabilities Have Made So Far

 

It is vital that the AODA not be opened up in the Legislature or amended in any way.

 

#8. Will you ensure that no amendments to the AODA will be made?

 

#9. Do you agree not to eliminate or reduce any provisions or protections in the AODA or its regulations, or in policies or initiatives within the Ontario Government that promote its objectives, or any rights of persons with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code?

 

 II. Develop and Enact Needed New Accessibility Standards Under the AODA

 

The AODA requires the Government to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government must then enforce those accessibility standards. When done right, these accessibility standards help business and public sector organizations know what to do. They contribute to the profitability and success of these organizations.

 

Since 2005, the Ontario Government has enacted five accessibility standards. They address disability barriers in customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and a very limited range of built environment barriers in “public spaces,” mostly outside buildings.

 

The Moran and Onley AODA Independent Reviews concluded that Ontario needs to enact more accessibility standards to address all the many recurring disability barriers that Ontarians with disabilities face. Yet no new AODA accessibility standards have been enacted since 2012, in almost a decade.

 

The AODA requires that each AODA accessibility standard must be independently reviewed by a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee after five years, to see if it needs strengthening. Only one of Ontario’s five accessibility standards has ever been revised. That was in June 2016, over half a decade ago. That is so even though four separate Government-appointed Standards Development Committees found that the four accessibility standards they reviewed all need to be strengthened.

 

We need the Ontario Government to develop and enact new accessibility standards, and to strengthen all the existing accessibility standards. The weak and limited accessibility standards enacted to date will not ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025 or ever, even if all obligated organizations fully comply with them.

 

 a) Enact a Comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

 

For example, students with disabilities face too many disability barriers in Ontario Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) schools, colleges and universities. All political parties have agreed that an Education Accessibility Standard should be enacted under the AODA. This is needed to remove and prevent the many disability barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s K-12 schools, colleges and universities.

 

In 2017, the Government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations for the promised Education Accessibility Standard, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. Last spring, both those Standards Development Committees sent the Government excellent, comprehensive Initial Reports. They give a strong roadmap for major reforms. A strong consensus supports their recommendations. They are expected to have submitted their final reports before the June 2022 election.

 

#10. Within one year of taking office, will you enact an AODA Education Accessibility Standard that accords with the recommendations in the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 1, 2021, and the Initial Report of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 25, 2021?

 

 b) Enact a Comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

 

All political parties have agreed that Ontario needs to enact an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. In 2016 or 2017, the Government appointed a Health Care Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. It was only mandated to address disability barriers in hospitals, even though people with disabilities face many disability barriers throughout the health care system.

 

The Health Care Standards Development Committee gave the Government an Initial Report at the end of 2020. It shows why Ontario needs a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard, and what that regulation should include. The Health Care Standards Development Committee is expected to submit a final report before the June 2022 Ontario election.

 

#11. Within one year of taking office, will you enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to remove and prevent the disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system (not limited to hospitals), that accords with the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report, made public on May 7, 2021?

 

 c) Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards

 

People with disabilities also still face many barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, or try to get access to information and communication that is shared with the public. The accessibility standards in these three areas that were passed in 2011 under the AODA, while helpful, have not been effective at overcoming these barriers.

 

The Government has received recommendations to strengthen Ontario’s 2011 accessibility standards that address barriers in transportation, in information and communication and in employment. In the 2018 spring, almost four years ago, the Government received recommendations for reforms in transportation from the Transportation Standards Development Committee. Well over two years ago, in 2019 the Government received recommendations for reform from the Employment Standards Development Committee. Almost two years ago, in early 2020, the Government received recommendations for reform from the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. The Government has announced no plans to implement any of those recommendations.

 

#12. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

 

#13. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

 

#14. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

 

 d) Enact a Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA

 

There are still far too many disability barriers in the built environment. There has been far too little progress on this since the AODA was enacted.

 

Even if a new building fully complies with the weak Ontario Building Code and scant AODA accessibility standards that address tiny bits of accessibility in the built environment, that building routinely has significant accessibility barriers. This is illustrated in our widely-viewed online videos about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre and recent new Toronto public transit stations.

 

The AODA requires buildings in Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. Around 15 years ago, shortly after the AODA was enacted, the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend what should be included in a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Yet Ontario still has no comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA.

 

In December 2012, the Government only enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. It is an extremely narrow accessibility standard. It only deals with a few kinds of “Public Spaces” (e.g. recreational trails, sidewalks and parking spots). It mainly deals with some spaces outside buildings, but extremely little inside buildings.

 

For some four years, the Ontario Government has been in violation of the AODA’s requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government has announced no plans to comply with this legal requirement, despite our repeated requests.

 

In December 2013 and later, the Government enacted very limited new accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code. That Code only deals with the accessibility of new buildings and major renovations. Even after those amendments, the Ontario Building Code does not ensure that new buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. It is not a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It is not enforceable under the AODA. It does not effectively address all the disability barriers in buildings.

 

The Ontario Government has enacted nothing under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code to address the need for retrofits in existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. If accessibility requirements for the built environment continue to only address new construction and major renovations, then Ontario’s built environment will never become accessible for people with disabilities. Two AODA Independent Reviews have specifically called for new Government action under the AODA to address the need to retrofit the built environment, the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report.

 

#15. Will you adopt a comprehensive strategy to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, including enacting a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA? As part of this, within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA to make recommendations on what a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities? This should include accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations. It should include, but not be limited to, the overdue review of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions should also be strengthened to equal the requirements in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

 

We understand that the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards do not now set needed accessibility requirements in the location and operation of elevators. Ontario needs strong accessibility standards regarding elevators. For example, increasingly buildings are installing “destination elevator” facilities. These confuse the public as a whole, and create serious accessibility problems.

 

#16. Will you ensure that a new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard will include accessibility requirements for elevators?

 

 e) Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard and Create Accessible Housing Strategy

 

Ontario has a serious shortage of accessible housing where people with disabilities can live. This crisis will get worse as society ages.

 

The Ontario Building Code and current AODA accessibility standards now set no accessibility requirements for new residential homes, even if commercially built to go on the public market. Ontario has no comprehensive effective Government strategy for ensuring that Ontario will have a sufficient supply of accessible housing.

 

#17. Will you create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA? Within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include? We are open to this being part of the mandate of the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to above, or being a separate stand-alone AODA Standards Development Committee.

 

#18. Will you announce a comprehensive accessible housing strategy, (apart from an AODA accessibility standard), within six months of taking office, after consulting the public, including people with disabilities? This strategy should aim to effectively increase the supply of accessible housing in Ontario, including supportive housing.

 

 f) Strengthen the Weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard

 

Shocking many, people with disabilities continue to face disability barriers to accessible customer service in Ontario. In 2007, Ontario passed the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard enacted under the AODA.

 

In 2016, the Ontario Government made revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard after a mandatory five-year review of it. These did not significantly strengthen it, and in some ways, weakened it.

 

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard by June 2021, five years after it was last revised. Violating the AODA, the Ontario Government has not done so. It has not announced any plans to do so.

 

#19. Within three months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee under the AODA to review the 2007 AODA Customer Service Accessibility Standard? After that Committee reports, will you strengthen that accessibility standard to require accessible customer service in Ontario for people with disabilities?

 

 g) Develop Additional New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility

 

Even if the accessibility standards addressed above are enacted or strengthened, other new accessibility standards will also be needed. For example, it would be helpful to develop an accessibility standard to address procurement of goods and services, further addressed below.

 

#20. Over the six months after the June 2022 election, will you consult with the public, including the disability community, on all the additional economic sectors that other accessibility standards need to address to achieve the AODA’s purposes? Will you announce decisions on the economic sectors to be addressed in those additional standards within three months after that consultation, and appoint Standards Development Committees to address those areas within nine months after that announcement?

 

 h) Speed Up the Excessively Long Process for Developing AODA Accessibility Standards

 

Over the 16 years since the AODA was passed, each Government has taken far too long to develop each accessibility standard. The process has been bogged down in years of delays and bureaucracy.

 

Here are a few examples: It took over six years just to decide to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Once the Government decided to create a Health Care Accessibility Standard, it took some two years merely to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee to start to develop recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. After the Employment Standards Development Committee rendered its final report on the revisions needed to the Employment Accessibility Standard, it took the Government some two years just to make that final report public.

 

#21. Will you streamline, speed up and de-bureaucratize the development of accessibility standards under the AODA, in consultation with us and the public?

 

 III. Substantially Strengthen AODA Enforcement to Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced

 

On October 29, 1998, all parties voted for a unanimous landmark resolution in the Legislature that required the Disabilities Act to have teeth. In 2005, all parties unanimously voted to include in the AODA important enforcement powers, like audits, inspections, compliance orders, and stiff monetary penalties.

 

Ever since any AODA accessibility standards became enforceable, AODA enforcement has at best been weak and spotty. Yet the Government has known about years of rampant AODA violations. Where the Government takes enforcement action, compliance with the AODA increases. While enforcement is not the only way to get more compliance with the AODA, it is an important part.

 

#22. Will you substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers to enforce all enforceable requirements under the AODA, and in connection with all classes of obligated organizations?

 

#23. Will you Transfer operational AODA enforcement outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and assign it to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement, with a significant increase in the number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers?

 

#24. Will you immediately give Ontario Government inspectors and investigators under other legislation a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation? Years ago, the Ontario Government piloted this.

 

#25. Will you have the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario publicly release and promptly post detailed information on AODA enforcement actions at least every three months. It should report on how many obligated organizations are actually providing accessibility, and not how many organizations simply tell the Government that they are providing accessibility. This should include prompt reports of quarterly results and year-to-date totals, broken down by sector and size of organization. At a minimum, it should include such measures as the number of notices of proposed order issued, the total amount of proposed penalties, the number of orders issued and total amounts and number of penalties imposed, the number of appeals from orders and the outcome, the total amount of penalties including changes ordered by the appeal tribunal, and the orders categorized by subject matter. This is what the 2015 final report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review recommended.

 

#26. Will you make as a core feature of AODA enforcement the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities? It is not good enough for the Government, as at present, to mainly or only aim to ensure that obligated organizations keep good records on steps taken on accessibility. It is far more important for organizations to actually achieve accessibility.

 

#27. Will you establish and widely publicize an effective toll-free line for the public to report AODA violations? Will you also provide and widely publicize other online avenues to report AODA violations, including Twitter, Facebook and a web page? Will you publicly account on a quarterly basis on the complaints received and the specific enforcement action taken as a result?

 

#28. Will you create new ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement, such as the Government publicly posting all online AODA compliance reports from obligated organizations in a publicly-accessible searchable data base, and by requiring each obligated organization to post its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one?

 

Additional enforcement measures regarding accessibility of built environments are also needed.

 

#29. Will you require that before a building permit and/or site plan approval can be obtained for a construction project, the approving authority, whether municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in any AODA accessibility standards?

 

#30. Will you require that post-project completion inspections include inspecting for compliance with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards?

 

 IV. Effectively Use Other Levers of Government Power to Achieve Accessibility

 

Beyond implementing the AODA, the Ontario Government needs to effectively use all levers of power at its disposal to help promote disability accessibility. Here are examples.

 

 a) Substantially Reform and Improve How the Ministry of Education and Ontario School System Deal with the Needs of Students with Disabilities

 

Those working at Ontario’s Ministry of Education are often individually eager to ensure the best for students with disabilities. Despite this, the Ministry has been a major barrier to meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Its policies and directives are too often out-of-date and unresponsive to the needs of students with disabilities. They have perpetuated the operation of school boards as organizations designed first and foremost for students without disabilities. They harmfully handcuff teachers, principals and other educators who want to effectively teach students with disabilities.

 

In Ontario’s education system, students with disabilities are far too often treated as an afterthought. They are viewed and treated pejoratively as “exceptional pupils” and as students with “special education needs” (patronizing descriptions), seen too often as a major budgetary demand. Programming, budgeting and planning for students with disabilities is arbitrarily lumped together with that for gifted students who have no disabilities, even though there is no good policy reason for this. The Ministry of Education resisted our efforts to get the Government to agree to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

 

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report shows a pressing need for major reforms in Ontario’s education system, beyond enacted a strong AODA Education Accessibility Standard. Public feedback from the disability community, families and educators on that report shows that there is a strong consensus in support of the recommended reforms. The Ontario Government needs to lead this reform. Beyond the creation of the Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, we seek the following commitments:

 

#31. Will you undertake a comprehensive reform of Ontario’s education system as it relates to students with disabilities including its funding formula for students with disabilities in order to ensure it is sufficient to meet their needs, and to ensure that funding is based on the actual number of students with disabilities in a school board, and not on the basis of some mathematical formula of how many students with disabilities there hypothetically should be at that school board?

 

#32. Will you immediately create a new deputy minister or associate Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Education to be responsible for leading reform of Ontario’s education provided for students with disabilities, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be fully included in school programs?

 

 b) Ensure that New Generations of Design Professionals Are Not Trained to be New Barrier-Creators

 

At present, design professionals, such as architects, do not need to be effectively trained in designing accessible buildings and other built environment, to get or to keep their license. This is so even though in 2007, the Government of the day promised during the 2007 election to raise the need for this with the relevant professional bodies. Despite our repeatedly asking, we have seen no indication that any Government action on that pledge ever occurred.

 

#33. Will you make it mandatory for professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects and other design professionals, to require adequate training on accessible design to qualify for a license, and to require existing professionals, where needed to take continuing professional development training on accessible design? This should not include the problem-ridden Rick Hansen Foundation training for accessibility assessors, addressed further below.

 

The Government annually contributes substantial funding to several Ontario colleges and universities for the training of design professionals, such as architects. Thus, public funding is now being used to train generation after generation of these professionals, without ensuring that they know how to meet accessibility needs. Public money is thereby being used to train and license generations of new barrier-creators. That is not a responsible use of public money.

 

#34. Will you require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains professions, such as design professionals (like architects), that they include sufficient training on meeting accessibility needs, in their program’s curriculum?

 

 c) Ensure that Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

 

The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars each year on capital and infrastructure projects, on procuring goods, services and facilities for use by itself or the public, on business development grants and loans, and on research grants. Ontario needs a new, comprehensive, effective strategy to ensure that no one ever uses Ontario tax dollars to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. This can be done within the existing budget for infrastructure, procurement and other such loans and grants.

 

#35. Will you enact, implement, enforce, widely publicize and publicly report on compliance with standards and create a comprehensive strategy, all to ensure that public money is never used by anyone to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, for example, in capital or infrastructure spending, or through procurement of goods, services or facilities, or through business development grants or loans, or research grants?

 

There are serious problems with the way the Government and other public sector organizations act to ensure accessibility in major projects. These are due in part to poor accessibility legal requirements, and to inadequate accessibility training for design professionals, as addressed above. This is also due to serious problems with the way the Ontario Government funds, plans and oversees major infrastructure projects, such as new public transit stations, new college and university buildings, new hospitals and new court houses. Accessibility issues are too often inadequately addressed behind closed doors without full proper public accountability. Infrastructure Ontario’s approach to accessibility has been troubling. The common “Alternate Finance and Procurement” AFP approach to building new infrastructure creates problems.

 

#36. Will you substantially reform and improve the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario, to ensure that accessibility is addressed far earlier, and more effectively in the project? This should include a requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, with input being required from the outset obtained from people with disabilities. Any accessibility advice from people with disabilities or accessibility consultants should be promptly made public. Any decisions by the Government or by project teams it hires to reject any accessibility advice should promptly be publicly reported, identifying who made that decision, and the reasons for it. The accessibility requirements for any infrastructure should be made public as soon as possible, and well before a bidding competition is closed.

 

#37. Will you require that when public money is used to create public housing, principles of universal design will be employed in the design of that public housing?

 

#38. Will you create a fund to increase the number of accessible public premises, which would be available to public buildings that agree to make their property available to the public, in the case of emergency?

 

 d) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations

 

Two Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews emphasized the need for the Ontario Government to provide far better technical advice and support for obligated organizations who want to take action on accessibility, but who don’t know what to do. The existing Service Ontario toll-free number gives general information. However, it is no substitute for detailed technical accessibility expertise. US experience shows that it is best when such technical advice is offered by a publicly-funded organization that is arms-length from the Government.

 

#39. Will you establish a publicly-funded centre, arms-length from the Ontario Government, that will provide expert detailed technical advice on accessibility to the public, including obligated organizations, modelled after successful US programs? For example, an Ontario “Job Accommodation Network”, designed to operate like the successful US service bearing that name, could help employers and employees in the public and private sectors.

 

 e) Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

 

Voters with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties each committed that if elected, they would implement an accessible elections action plan. Since then, legislative reforms, enacted over a decade ago, for Ontario provincial and municipal elections have not ensured that voters with disabilities face no barriers in the election process. We are aware of no plans to fix this.

 

#40. Will you consult with voters with disabilities by the end of 2022, and then introduce in the Legislature within 9 months after that, a bill that comprehensively and effectively addresses accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections?

 

#41. Will you commit that your candidates will not take part in any all-candidates’ debate during the June 2022 election campaign if the location is not accessible to people with disabilities??

 

 f) Substantially Improve the Accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s Workplaces, Services and Facilities

 

The Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government still does not now ensure that their services, facilities and workplaces are accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility is still too often inadequately dealt with in isolated silos in the Ontario Public Service. There is no strong, effective, systematic leadership, monitoring and public accountability.

 

In 2014, the second Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found a need for significant improvement in this area. Any minor changes since then have taken too long and accomplished too little.

 

#42. After promptly consulting with people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service and in the general public for no more than four months, will you announce and implement a plan to substantially re-engineer and strengthen how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are accessible? This should include, among other things, ensuring that the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces is regularly and comprehensively audited and that public servants are made accountable for ensuring their accessibility, with the results of that audit promptly made public.

 

#43. Will you ensure that in Mandate Letters, the Premier promptly directs the appropriate cabinet ministers and senior public officials to implement the Government’s accessibility obligations and commitments, and to make this direction public, once given?

 

#44. Will you establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister, who is responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Ontario Public Service Chief Accessibility Officer? Similar positions have been successfully established in leading large businesses.

 

#45. Will you ensure that in each Ontario Government Ministry, there is a full-time Accessibility Lead position directly reporting to that Ministry’s deputy minister? This should include establishing an Accessibility Lead position in the Cabinet Office, which reports directly to the Secretary of Cabinet, to ensure that accessibility is considered in all work of the Cabinet Office, and to ensure that all Cabinet Submissions are vetted in advance to ensure they do not create or perpetuate disability barriers.

 

#46. Will you include in the annual performance reviews of each deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and director below them, where feasible, specific annual commitments relating to their mandate on accessibility for people with disabilities? In 2007, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered this for senior management at the Toronto Transit Commission.

 

 g) Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

 

In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Parties each promised that if elected, they would review all provincial laws for accessibility barriers. Almost fifteen years later, we have only been told of some 50 of Ontario’s 750 statutes being reviewed, and no regulations being reviewed. In contrast, back in 1982 the Charter of Rights gave governments three years to review all legislation for all equality issues, not just disability equality.

 

#47. Within four months of taking office, will you announce a detailed plan for lawyers at the Ministry of the Attorney General to undertake a review of all Ontario laws for disability accessibility barriers, and for ensuring that new legislation and regulations will be screen in advance to ensure that they do not authorize, create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

 

#48. Will you complete a review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2023 and the review of all regulations by the end of 2024? By June 2024, will you introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed as a result of this accessibility review?

 

#49. By the end of 2025, will Cabinet amend any regulations that the government deems needed to remove and prevent disability barriers as a result of the accessibility review?

 

 h) Root Out Recently-Created New Disability Barriers Traceable to the Ontario Government

 

Contrary to the AODA, Ontario has recently become less accessible to people with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, two successive critical care triage protocols were distributed to all Ontario hospitals under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario, a Government creation of which the Ontario Government is a part. These successive critical care triage protocols each directed clear and indefensible discrimination against some patients based on their disabilities.

 

The Ontario Government has never publicly explained or accounted for this, or even made these protocols public. They were leaked to the disability community. Ontario’s Government has declined to answer any of the letters we sent over the past year on this topic.

 

Beyond this, there are up to two additional critical care triage protocols that may be in circulation, and that we have never seen or been given. One addresses critical care triage for patients under the age of 18. The other would address critical care triage by emergency medical services such as ambulances.

 

#50. Will you immediately make public any critical care triage protocol for hospitals or for other health services such as emergency medical services, that have been issued since 2020, including those pertaining to any specific age group, and any drafts that have been circulated to hospitals or other health care providers?

 

#51. Will you immediately rescind any draft or final critical care triage protocols that have been sent to any hospitals or other health care providers?

 

#52. Will you consult directly with us and the disability community on any future plans or protocols regarding critical care triage?

 

#53. Within six months of taking office, will you appoint an independent inquiry to investigate and report on the effectiveness of the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the needs of people with disabilities, including in terms of such things as health care services, critical care triage protocols, education services and income supports?

 

In 2019, over strong objections from the disability community, the Ontario Government passed regulations under the Highway Traffic Act that permit municipalities to allow electric scooters in public places for a pilot of up to five years. It did so despite the fact that e-scooters present serious personal safety and accessibility dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

 

The Ontario Government thereby inflicted on people with disabilities the undue hardship of having to battle against e-scooter rental corporate lobbyists in one city after the next. In cities like Ottawa that permit them, e-scooters are creating the very safety and accessibility dangers about which we forewarned. Moreover, even though riding them in public places remains illegal in many places in Ontario, such as Toronto, stores and online venders continue to sell e-scooters for use in Ontario.

 

#54. Will you immediately repeal the Ontario regulations that permit municipalities to allow the use of e-scooters in public places?

 

#55. Will you pass legislation or regulations to provide for effective enforcement of the ban on riding e-scooters in public places, with strong penalties?

 

#56. Will you pass legislation or regulations to ban the sale of e-scooters for use in Ontario, with strong penalties?

 

The Ontario Government is conducting a consultation on whether to allow autonomous robots that can be used on public sidewalks, e.g., to deliver products to customers or to shovel snow. These robots endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others. Regulation that might try to set rules on their use will not be enforceable. Moreover, Ontario is proposing giving municipalities the power to allow a 10-year pilot with such robots. That too would impose an undue hardship on people with disabilities to have to fight against them in one city after the next.

 

#57. Will you ban robots on sidewalks, with effective enforcement such as a right to dispose of any robot on public sidewalks?

 

 i) Give No More Public Money to the Problematic and Unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility “Certification” Program

 

In its 2019 Budget, the current Ontario Government announced $1.3 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) private accessibility certification program, to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. This is a wasteful misuse of public money. In two years, there is no evidence it has led to the removal of any accessibility barriers.

 

We have documented serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. The RHF has authority to “certify” nothing. The RHF process for training assessors and for assessing a building’s accessibility is quite faulty, misleading and unreliable. It can result in a building being “certified” as accessible which is not in fact accessible.

 

#58. Will you commit not to spend any additional public money on any private accessibility certification program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program?

 

 

Due to Years of Government Foot-Dragging, Ontario Won’t Become Accessible to 2.6 Million People with Disabilities by 2025, Violating Disabilities Act

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Due to Years of Government Foot-Dragging, Ontario Won’t Become Accessible to 2.6 Million People with Disabilities by 2025, Violating Disabilities Act

 

December 2, 2021 Toronto: Because of years of Ontario Government foot-dragging and broken promises, it is now impossible for the Government to fulfil its legal duty to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, a leading non-partisan disability coalition declared on the eve of December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities. In a November 22, 2021 letter sent to all party leaders (set out below), the grassroots AODA Alliance wrote:

 

“The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. … With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. …We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.”

 

The Ford Government is certainly not being let off the hook for living up to its obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There’s still time for the Ford Government to take its foot off the brakes and hit the accelerator.

 

“Three successive premiers and a parade of ministers caused this hurtful failure,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities. “When the Ford Government took power in 2018, we needed him to speed up action on accessibility, but instead, he slowed progress even more and created new disability barriers that make things even worse.”

 

For example, the vaccination program and vaccine passport have too many disability barriers. On the Ford Government’s watch, hospitals trained doctors to deploy a blatantly disability-discriminatory secret protocol for rationing or triaging life-saving critical care, if overrun with COVID-19 cases. As well, people with disabilities, seniors and others are now in danger of serious injuries by joyriders on electric scooters.

 

Fully 1,036 days ago, Premier Ford received a blistering report from a government-appointed independent review of the AODA’s implementation, by former lieutenant-governor David Onley. It reported that progress on accessibility is “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal is nowhere in sight.

 

Ford’s accessibility minister said Onley did a “marvellous job.” Yet Ford still has no comprehensive action plan to implement Onley’s recommendations.

 

With next June’s Ontario election campaign already in effect underway, the AODA Alliance is getting out in front. It today releases the package of election commitments on disability accessibility that it seeks from all the political parties, detailed in its November 22, 2021 letter to the parties, below. Each party is asked to pledge to implement the AODA Alliance’s proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario laid out in that letter. In the meantime, the Ford Government should act now on all the actions spelled out in that plan.

 

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

 

For more background, visit www.aodaalliance.org

 

Text of the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 Letter to Ontario Party Leaders

 

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

 

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

 

November 22, 2021

 

To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier

Via Email: doug.ford@ontariopc.com

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

 

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition

Via email: ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

Room 113, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5

 

Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:

Via email: leader@gpo.ca

Room 451 Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON M7A 1A2

 

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

Via email: steven@ontarioliberal.ca

344 Bloor St W,

Toronto On, M5S 1W9

 

 

Dear Party Leaders,

 

Re: Seeking your Parties’ 2022 Election Commitments to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

 

We write in a spirit of non-partisanship to ask your Parties to pledge in advance of the June 2, 2022 Ontario election, to implement our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario (set out below). Our non-partisan grass-roots community coalition seeks the achievement of an accessible Ontario for people with disabilities, through the prompt, effective implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

 

Below we set out specific commitments that we seek in order to make Ontario accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. Taken together, they constitute the much-needed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we ask your parties to each endorse.

 

In each Ontario election since 1995, some or all parties made election commitments on this. They did so in letters to the AODA Alliance, or before 2005, to our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

 

We write over six months before the election, because these are big, important issues. We will make public responses we receive.

 

 These Commitments are Vital

 

For people with disabilities, Ontario is at a very troubling crossroads. We must seek a substantial list of commitments, because of the Government’s cumulative failures to effectively implement and enforce the AODA for years.

 

People with disabilities had tenaciously advocated for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA enacted. It was an historic day in 2005 when the Legislature unanimously passed the landmark AODA.

 

The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. The Government must enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to lead Ontario to that goal.

 

Accessibility standards are enforceable provincial regulations. They are to specify, on an economic sector-by-sector basis, the disability barriers that an organization must remove or prevent, and the time lines for action, to become accessible to people with disabilities. For example, the Transportation Accessibility Standard is meant to spell out the actions that transit providers must take to tear down barriers that impede passengers with disabilities from fully using and benefitting from their transit services.

 

Since 2005, we have vigourously advocated to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced. There has been some progress since 2005. However, it has been too little and too slow.

 

With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. Responsibility for this entirely avoidable failure spreads out over many years. We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.

 

People with disabilities know from their daily life experience that we are now at this painful turning point. Reinforcing this, in January 2019, the third Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, found that progress on accessibility in Ontario has been “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal was nowhere in sight.

 

No one disputed these Onley Report findings. On April 10, 2019, the Government told the Legislature that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

 

There has been no significant progress since the Onley Report on actually removing and preventing disability barriers. The AODA’s implementation and enforcement have not been strengthened or sped up.

 

Undermining the AODA’s purpose, new disability barriers have been created since the release of the Onley Report. People with disabilities disproportionately bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and its worst impacts. Yet the Government’s emergency COVID-19 planning has not effectively addressed people with disabilities’ urgent needs.

 

For example, a new critical care triage protocol, systematically embedded in Ontario hospitals, enshrines discrimination against some patients with disabilities in access to life-saving care, if hospital overloads require rationing of critical care beds. Another example of new barriers traceable to the Ontario Government are electric scooters, which are ridden by uninsured and unlicensed joy-riders in public and which now endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others in some Cities on a daily basis.

 

The AODA does not vanish on January 1, 2025. It remains the law of Ontario. The Government will remain responsible for leading its implementation and enforcement.

 

The Government elected on June 2, 2022 will be in power when the AODA’s January 1, 2025 deadline for accessibility arrives. That Government needs to have a plan of action. We here offer a carefully-designed one, based on our years of experience on the front lines, and ask you to pledge to implement it.

 

 What Went Wrong?

 

Why do we ask your parties to endorse and commit to our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario, set out below? What led to this predicament? First, despite strong unanimous support for the AODA when it was passed, and a good start on implementing it in the early years, it substantially dropped as a Government priority after that. Premier after premier failed to show the strong leadership on this issue that Ontarians with disabilities needed, which three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA called for. Second, the AODA accessibility standards passed to date, while helpful, are not strong enough. They do not cover all or even a majority of the recurring barriers that people with disabilities face. Third, the Government’s enforcement of the AODA has been weak and ineffective. Fourth, the Government has not used all the other levers of power conveniently available to it to promote accessibility for people with disabilities.

 

For over a decade, successive governments and ministers have been told about the need to strengthen and speed up the AODA’s implementation. They received strong, practical recommendations on how to do this. This all came from Ontario’s disability community, and from the reports of three successive mandatory Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA. The report of the first AODA Independent Review, conducted by Charles Beer, was made public in May 2010. The report of the second AODA Independent Review, conducted by former University of Toronto Law Dean Mayo Moran, was made public in February 2015. The report of the third AODA Independent Review, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, was made public in March 2019.

 

Our Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario In a Nutshell

 

The 2022 election is the most pivotal one for Ontarians with disabilities since the 2003 election. This is because Ontario is on the verge of failing to comply with the AODA’s mandatory deadline. We need Ontario’s Government, elected on June 2, 2022, to commit to a bold plan of strong new action on disability accessibility, targeted at two goals. First, Ontario must get as close to full accessibility for people with disabilities as is possible by 2025. Second, Ontario must thereafter get the rest of the way to full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025.

 

In summary, our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we set out below, and to which we ask you to commit, includes requests that your party each agree to:

 

  1. Foster and strengthen our ongoing relationship with your party.
  2. Show strong leadership on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.
  3. Protect the gains on accessibility that people with disabilities have made so far.
  4. Enact a comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  5. Enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  6. Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards.
  7. Enact a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  8. Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA and create an Accessible Housing Strategy.
  9. Strengthen the weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA.
  10. Develop additional new Accessibility Standards under the AODA, needed to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities.
  11. Speed up the excessively long process for developing and enacting AODA Accessibility Standards.
  12. Substantially strengthen AODA enforcement to ensure that all requirements under the AODA are effectively enforced.
  13. Substantially reform and improve how the Ministry of Education and Ontario school system address the needs of students with disabilities.
  14. Ensure that new generations of design professionals (like architects) are not trained to be new barrier-creators.
  15. Ensure that taxpayers’ money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.
  16. Establish free independent technical accessibility advice for obligated organizations.
  17. Make provincial and municipal elections accessible to voters with disabilities.
  18. Substantially improve the accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s workplaces, services and facilities.
  19. Review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers.
  20. Root out recently-created new disability barriers traceable to the Ontario Government.
  21. Give no more public money to the problematic and unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility “certification” program.

 

Following Up on This Letter

 

Please respond to this request by February 1, 2022. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com. Please send your response in MS Word format, and not as a pdf, because the pdf format presents serious accessibility problems. We would be pleased to provide background briefings or to answer any questions you may have.

 

Our coalition addresses disability accessibility. We urge you to also take very seriously the requests you will receive from community groups for election pledges on other important disability issues, such as the pressing need to strengthen income supports like ODSP to tackle the protracted, rampant poverty among far too many Ontarians with disabilities.

 

Our non-partisan coalition does not support or oppose any party or candidate. We aim to secure the strongest commitments from each party.

 

Sincerely,

 

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

 

 

 

A Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario – 2022 Ontario Election Commitments Requested by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

 

 I. Leadership Commitments

 

 a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

 

Our coalition and its pre-2005 predecessor (the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) have been recognized in the Legislature and elsewhere for our leadership and advocacy for and expertise in disability accessibility. We offer input and advice to the Government and to opposition parties.

 

#1. As Premier, will you periodically meet with us to discuss issues concerning persons with disabilities and accessibility, including once within the first four months of taking office?

 

#2. If your Party does not form the Government, will you meet with us periodically? Will your Party raise our concerns in the Legislature, including in Question Period?

 

 b) Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility

 

Three successive Independent Reviews of the AODA concluded that Ontario needs strong new leadership within the Ontario Government on accessibility for people with disabilities, starting with the premier.

 

#3. As premier, will you show strong leadership on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities? Will you substantially strengthen and accelerate the AODA’s implementation?

 

#4. Will you commit to get Ontario as close as possible to the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025? Will you also announce and implement a plan to get Ontario to reach full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025, if the 2025 deadline is missed?

 

Ontario has not had in place a comprehensive multi-year plan for implementing the AODA. We and others urged the Government for years to establish such a plan, and have offered proposals.

 

#5. Within four months of taking office, and after consulting the public including people with disabilities, will you announce a comprehensive action plan for ensuring that the Government leads Ontario to become as close as possible to full accessibility by 2025 for people with disabilities, and if the 2025 goal is not reached, to reach the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities as soon as possible after 2025?

 

#6. Will you assign a stand-alone minister responsible for disability issues, who will periodically meet with us? Will other ministers with responsibility bearing on our issues also meet with us?

 

The Government needs to lead by a good example. Yet it has not done so. Examples are given below where the Ontario Government itself is violating the AODA.

 

#7. Will you comply with the AODA?

 

 c) Protect the Gains on Accessibility that People with Disabilities Have Made So Far

 

It is vital that the AODA not be opened up in the Legislature or amended in any way.

 

#8. Will you ensure that no amendments to the AODA will be made?

 

#9. Do you agree not to eliminate or reduce any provisions or protections in the AODA or its regulations, or in policies or initiatives within the Ontario Government that promote its objectives, or any rights of persons with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code?

 

 II. Develop and Enact Needed New Accessibility Standards Under the AODA

 

The AODA requires the Government to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government must then enforce those accessibility standards. When done right, these accessibility standards help business and public sector organizations know what to do. They contribute to the profitability and success of these organizations.

 

Since 2005, the Ontario Government has enacted five accessibility standards. They address disability barriers in customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and a very limited range of built environment barriers in “public spaces,” mostly outside buildings.

 

The Moran and Onley AODA Independent Reviews concluded that Ontario needs to enact more accessibility standards to address all the many recurring disability barriers that Ontarians with disabilities face. Yet no new AODA accessibility standards have been enacted since 2012, in almost a decade.

 

The AODA requires that each AODA accessibility standard must be independently reviewed by a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee after five years, to see if it needs strengthening. Only one of Ontario’s five accessibility standards has ever been revised. That was in June 2016, over half a decade ago. That is so even though four separate Government-appointed Standards Development Committees found that the four accessibility standards they reviewed all need to be strengthened.

 

We need the Ontario Government to develop and enact new accessibility standards, and to strengthen all the existing accessibility standards. The weak and limited accessibility standards enacted to date will not ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025 or ever, even if all obligated organizations fully comply with them.

 

 a) Enact a Comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

 

For example, students with disabilities face too many disability barriers in Ontario Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) schools, colleges and universities. All political parties have agreed that an Education Accessibility Standard should be enacted under the AODA. This is needed to remove and prevent the many disability barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s K-12 schools, colleges and universities.

 

In 2017, the Government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations for the promised Education Accessibility Standard, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. Last spring, both those Standards Development Committees sent the Government excellent, comprehensive Initial Reports. They give a strong roadmap for major reforms. A strong consensus supports their recommendations. They are expected to have submitted their final reports before the June 2022 election.

 

#10. Within one year of taking office, will you enact an AODA Education Accessibility Standard that accords with the recommendations in the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 1, 2021, and the Initial Report of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 25, 2021?

 

 b) Enact a Comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

 

All political parties have agreed that Ontario needs to enact an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. In 2016 or 2017, the Government appointed a Health Care Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. It was only mandated to address disability barriers in hospitals, even though people with disabilities face many disability barriers throughout the health care system.

 

The Health Care Standards Development Committee gave the Government an Initial Report at the end of 2020. It shows why Ontario needs a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard, and what that regulation should include. The Health Care Standards Development Committee is expected to submit a final report before the June 2022 Ontario election.

 

#11. Within one year of taking office, will you enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to remove and prevent the disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system (not limited to hospitals), that accords with the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report, made public on May 7, 2021?

 

 c) Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards

 

People with disabilities also still face many barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, or try to get access to information and communication that is shared with the public. The accessibility standards in these three areas that were passed in 2011 under the AODA, while helpful, have not been effective at overcoming these barriers.

 

The Government has received recommendations to strengthen Ontario’s 2011 accessibility standards that address barriers in transportation, in information and communication and in employment. In the 2018 spring, almost four years ago, the Government received recommendations for reforms in transportation from the Transportation Standards Development Committee. Well over two years ago, in 2019 the Government received recommendations for reform from the Employment Standards Development Committee. Almost two years ago, in early 2020, the Government received recommendations for reform from the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. The Government has announced no plans to implement any of those recommendations.

 

#12. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

 

#13. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

 

#14. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

 

 d) Enact a Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA

 

There are still far too many disability barriers in the built environment. There has been far too little progress on this since the AODA was enacted.

 

Even if a new building fully complies with the weak Ontario Building Code and scant AODA accessibility standards that address tiny bits of accessibility in the built environment, that building routinely has significant accessibility barriers. This is illustrated in our widely-viewed online videos about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre and recent new Toronto public transit stations.

 

The AODA requires buildings in Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. Around 15 years ago, shortly after the AODA was enacted, the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend what should be included in a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Yet Ontario still has no comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA.

 

In December 2012, the Government only enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. It is an extremely narrow accessibility standard. It only deals with a few kinds of “Public Spaces” (e.g. recreational trails, sidewalks and parking spots). It mainly deals with some spaces outside buildings, but extremely little inside buildings.

 

For some four years, the Ontario Government has been in violation of the AODA’s requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government has announced no plans to comply with this legal requirement, despite our repeated requests.

 

In December 2013 and later, the Government enacted very limited new accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code. That Code only deals with the accessibility of new buildings and major renovations. Even after those amendments, the Ontario Building Code does not ensure that new buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. It is not a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It is not enforceable under the AODA. It does not effectively address all the disability barriers in buildings.

 

The Ontario Government has enacted nothing under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code to address the need for retrofits in existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. If accessibility requirements for the built environment continue to only address new construction and major renovations, then Ontario’s built environment will never become accessible for people with disabilities. Two AODA Independent Reviews have specifically called for new Government action under the AODA to address the need to retrofit the built environment, the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report.

 

#15. Will you adopt a comprehensive strategy to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, including enacting a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA? As part of this, within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA to make recommendations on what a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities? This should include accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations. It should include, but not be limited to, the overdue review of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions should also be strengthened to equal the requirements in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

 

We understand that the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards do not now set needed accessibility requirements in the location and operation of elevators. Ontario needs strong accessibility standards regarding elevators. For example, increasingly buildings are installing “destination elevator” facilities. These confuse the public as a whole, and create serious accessibility problems.

 

#16. Will you ensure that a new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard will include accessibility requirements for elevators?

 

 e) Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard and Create Accessible Housing Strategy

 

Ontario has a serious shortage of accessible housing where people with disabilities can live. This crisis will get worse as society ages.

 

The Ontario Building Code and current AODA accessibility standards now set no accessibility requirements for new residential homes, even if commercially built to go on the public market. Ontario has no comprehensive effective Government strategy for ensuring that Ontario will have a sufficient supply of accessible housing.

 

#17. Will you create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA? Within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include? We are open to this being part of the mandate of the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to above, or being a separate stand-alone AODA Standards Development Committee.

 

#18. Will you announce a comprehensive accessible housing strategy, (apart from an AODA accessibility standard), within six months of taking office, after consulting the public, including people with disabilities? This strategy should aim to effectively increase the supply of accessible housing in Ontario, including supportive housing.

 

 f) Strengthen the Weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard

 

Shocking many, people with disabilities continue to face disability barriers to accessible customer service in Ontario. In 2007, Ontario passed the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard enacted under the AODA.

 

In 2016, the Ontario Government made revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard after a mandatory five-year review of it. These did not significantly strengthen it, and in some ways, weakened it.

 

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard by June 2021, five years after it was last revised. Violating the AODA, the Ontario Government has not done so. It has not announced any plans to do so.

 

#19. Within three months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee under the AODA to review the 2007 AODA Customer Service Accessibility Standard? After that Committee reports, will you strengthen that accessibility standard to require accessible customer service in Ontario for people with disabilities?

 

 g) Develop Additional New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility

 

Even if the accessibility standards addressed above are enacted or strengthened, other new accessibility standards will also be needed. For example, it would be helpful to develop an accessibility standard to address procurement of goods and services, further addressed below.

 

#20. Over the six months after the June 2022 election, will you consult with the public, including the disability community, on all the additional economic sectors that other accessibility standards need to address to achieve the AODA’s purposes? Will you announce decisions on the economic sectors to be addressed in those additional standards within three months after that consultation, and appoint Standards Development Committees to address those areas within nine months after that announcement?

 

 h) Speed Up the Excessively Long Process for Developing AODA Accessibility Standards

 

Over the 16 years since the AODA was passed, each Government has taken far too long to develop each accessibility standard. The process has been bogged down in years of delays and bureaucracy.

 

Here are a few examples: It took over six years just to decide to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Once the Government decided to create a Health Care Accessibility Standard, it took some two years merely to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee to start to develop recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. After the Employment Standards Development Committee rendered its final report on the revisions needed to the Employment Accessibility Standard, it took the Government some two years just to make that final report public.

 

#21. Will you streamline, speed up and de-bureaucratize the development of accessibility standards under the AODA, in consultation with us and the public?

 

 III. Substantially Strengthen AODA Enforcement to Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced

 

On October 29, 1998, all parties voted for a unanimous landmark resolution in the Legislature that required the Disabilities Act to have teeth. In 2005, all parties unanimously voted to include in the AODA important enforcement powers, like audits, inspections, compliance orders, and stiff monetary penalties.

 

Ever since any AODA accessibility standards became enforceable, AODA enforcement has at best been weak and spotty. Yet the Government has known about years of rampant AODA violations. Where the Government takes enforcement action, compliance with the AODA increases. While enforcement is not the only way to get more compliance with the AODA, it is an important part.

 

#22. Will you substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers to enforce all enforceable requirements under the AODA, and in connection with all classes of obligated organizations?

 

#23. Will you Transfer operational AODA enforcement outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and assign it to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement, with a significant increase in the number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers?

 

#24. Will you immediately give Ontario Government inspectors and investigators under other legislation a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation? Years ago, the Ontario Government piloted this.

 

#25. Will you have the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario publicly release and promptly post detailed information on AODA enforcement actions at least every three months. It should report on how many obligated organizations are actually providing accessibility, and not how many organizations simply tell the Government that they are providing accessibility. This should include prompt reports of quarterly results and year-to-date totals, broken down by sector and size of organization. At a minimum, it should include such measures as the number of notices of proposed order issued, the total amount of proposed penalties, the number of orders issued and total amounts and number of penalties imposed, the number of appeals from orders and the outcome, the total amount of penalties including changes ordered by the appeal tribunal, and the orders categorized by subject matter. This is what the 2015 final report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review recommended.

 

#26. Will you make as a core feature of AODA enforcement the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities? It is not good enough for the Government, as at present, to mainly or only aim to ensure that obligated organizations keep good records on steps taken on accessibility. It is far more important for organizations to actually achieve accessibility.

 

#27. Will you establish and widely publicize an effective toll-free line for the public to report AODA violations? Will you also provide and widely publicize other online avenues to report AODA violations, including Twitter, Facebook and a web page? Will you publicly account on a quarterly basis on the complaints received and the specific enforcement action taken as a result?

 

#28. Will you create new ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement, such as the Government publicly posting all online AODA compliance reports from obligated organizations in a publicly-accessible searchable data base, and by requiring each obligated organization to post its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one?

 

Additional enforcement measures regarding accessibility of built environments are also needed.

 

#29. Will you require that before a building permit and/or site plan approval can be obtained for a construction project, the approving authority, whether municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in any AODA accessibility standards?

 

#30. Will you require that post-project completion inspections include inspecting for compliance with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards?

 

 IV. Effectively Use Other Levers of Government Power to Achieve Accessibility

 

Beyond implementing the AODA, the Ontario Government needs to effectively use all levers of power at its disposal to help promote disability accessibility. Here are examples.

 

 a) Substantially Reform and Improve How the Ministry of Education and Ontario School System Deal with the Needs of Students with Disabilities

 

Those working at Ontario’s Ministry of Education are often individually eager to ensure the best for students with disabilities. Despite this, the Ministry has been a major barrier to meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Its policies and directives are too often out-of-date and unresponsive to the needs of students with disabilities. They have perpetuated the operation of school boards as organizations designed first and foremost for students without disabilities. They harmfully handcuff teachers, principals and other educators who want to effectively teach students with disabilities.

 

In Ontario’s education system, students with disabilities are far too often treated as an afterthought. They are viewed and treated pejoratively as “exceptional pupils” and as students with “special education needs” (patronizing descriptions), seen too often as a major budgetary demand. Programming, budgeting and planning for students with disabilities is arbitrarily lumped together with that for gifted students who have no disabilities, even though there is no good policy reason for this. The Ministry of Education resisted our efforts to get the Government to agree to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

 

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report shows a pressing need for major reforms in Ontario’s education system, beyond enacted a strong AODA Education Accessibility Standard. Public feedback from the disability community, families and educators on that report shows that there is a strong consensus in support of the recommended reforms. The Ontario Government needs to lead this reform. Beyond the creation of the Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, we seek the following commitments:

 

#31. Will you undertake a comprehensive reform of Ontario’s education system as it relates to students with disabilities including its funding formula for students with disabilities in order to ensure it is sufficient to meet their needs, and to ensure that funding is based on the actual number of students with disabilities in a school board, and not on the basis of some mathematical formula of how many students with disabilities there hypothetically should be at that school board?

 

#32. Will you immediately create a new deputy minister or associate Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Education to be responsible for leading reform of Ontario’s education provided for students with disabilities, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be fully included in school programs?

 

 b) Ensure that New Generations of Design Professionals Are Not Trained to be New Barrier-Creators

 

At present, design professionals, such as architects, do not need to be effectively trained in designing accessible buildings and other built environment, to get or to keep their license. This is so even though in 2007, the Government of the day promised during the 2007 election to raise the need for this with the relevant professional bodies. Despite our repeatedly asking, we have seen no indication that any Government action on that pledge ever occurred.

 

#33. Will you make it mandatory for professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects and other design professionals, to require adequate training on accessible design to qualify for a license, and to require existing professionals, where needed to take continuing professional development training on accessible design? This should not include the problem-ridden Rick Hansen Foundation training for accessibility assessors, addressed further below.

 

The Government annually contributes substantial funding to several Ontario colleges and universities for the training of design professionals, such as architects. Thus, public funding is now being used to train generation after generation of these professionals, without ensuring that they know how to meet accessibility needs. Public money is thereby being used to train and license generations of new barrier-creators. That is not a responsible use of public money.

 

#34. Will you require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains professions, such as design professionals (like architects), that they include sufficient training on meeting accessibility needs, in their program’s curriculum?

 

 c) Ensure that Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

 

The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars each year on capital and infrastructure projects, on procuring goods, services and facilities for use by itself or the public, on business development grants and loans, and on research grants. Ontario needs a new, comprehensive, effective strategy to ensure that no one ever uses Ontario tax dollars to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. This can be done within the existing budget for infrastructure, procurement and other such loans and grants.

 

#35. Will you enact, implement, enforce, widely publicize and publicly report on compliance with standards and create a comprehensive strategy, all to ensure that public money is never used by anyone to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, for example, in capital or infrastructure spending, or through procurement of goods, services or facilities, or through business development grants or loans, or research grants?

 

There are serious problems with the way the Government and other public sector organizations act to ensure accessibility in major projects. These are due in part to poor accessibility legal requirements, and to inadequate accessibility training for design professionals, as addressed above. This is also due to serious problems with the way the Ontario Government funds, plans and oversees major infrastructure projects, such as new public transit stations, new college and university buildings, new hospitals and new court houses. Accessibility issues are too often inadequately addressed behind closed doors without full proper public accountability. Infrastructure Ontario’s approach to accessibility has been troubling. The common “Alternate Finance and Procurement” AFP approach to building new infrastructure creates problems.

 

#36. Will you substantially reform and improve the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario, to ensure that accessibility is addressed far earlier, and more effectively in the project? This should include a requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, with input being required from the outset obtained from people with disabilities. Any accessibility advice from people with disabilities or accessibility consultants should be promptly made public. Any decisions by the Government or by project teams it hires to reject any accessibility advice should promptly be publicly reported, identifying who made that decision, and the reasons for it. The accessibility requirements for any infrastructure should be made public as soon as possible, and well before a bidding competition is closed.

 

#37. Will you require that when public money is used to create public housing, principles of universal design will be employed in the design of that public housing?

 

#38. Will you create a fund to increase the number of accessible public premises, which would be available to public buildings that agree to make their property available to the public, in the case of emergency?

 

 d) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations

 

Two Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews emphasized the need for the Ontario Government to provide far better technical advice and support for obligated organizations who want to take action on accessibility, but who don’t know what to do. The existing Service Ontario toll-free number gives general information. However, it is no substitute for detailed technical accessibility expertise. US experience shows that it is best when such technical advice is offered by a publicly-funded organization that is arms-length from the Government.

 

#39. Will you establish a publicly-funded centre, arms-length from the Ontario Government, that will provide expert detailed technical advice on accessibility to the public, including obligated organizations, modelled after successful US programs? For example, an Ontario “Job Accommodation Network”, designed to operate like the successful US service bearing that name, could help employers and employees in the public and private sectors.

 

 e) Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

 

Voters with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties each committed that if elected, they would implement an accessible elections action plan. Since then, legislative reforms, enacted over a decade ago, for Ontario provincial and municipal elections have not ensured that voters with disabilities face no barriers in the election process. We are aware of no plans to fix this.

 

#40. Will you consult with voters with disabilities by the end of 2022, and then introduce in the Legislature within 9 months after that, a bill that comprehensively and effectively addresses accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections?

 

#41. Will you commit that your candidates will not take part in any all-candidates’ debate during the June 2022 election campaign if the location is not accessible to people with disabilities??

 

 f) Substantially Improve the Accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s Workplaces, Services and Facilities

 

The Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government still does not now ensure that their services, facilities and workplaces are accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility is still too often inadequately dealt with in isolated silos in the Ontario Public Service. There is no strong, effective, systematic leadership, monitoring and public accountability.

 

In 2014, the second Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found a need for significant improvement in this area. Any minor changes since then have taken too long and accomplished too little.

 

#42. After promptly consulting with people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service and in the general public for no more than four months, will you announce and implement a plan to substantially re-engineer and strengthen how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are accessible? This should include, among other things, ensuring that the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces is regularly and comprehensively audited and that public servants are made accountable for ensuring their accessibility, with the results of that audit promptly made public.

 

#43. Will you ensure that in Mandate Letters, the Premier promptly directs the appropriate cabinet ministers and senior public officials to implement the Government’s accessibility obligations and commitments, and to make this direction public, once given?

 

#44. Will you establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister, who is responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Ontario Public Service Chief Accessibility Officer? Similar positions have been successfully established in leading large businesses.

 

#45. Will you ensure that in each Ontario Government Ministry, there is a full-time Accessibility Lead position directly reporting to that Ministry’s deputy minister? This should include establishing an Accessibility Lead position in the Cabinet Office, which reports directly to the Secretary of Cabinet, to ensure that accessibility is considered in all work of the Cabinet Office, and to ensure that all Cabinet Submissions are vetted in advance to ensure they do not create or perpetuate disability barriers.

 

#46. Will you include in the annual performance reviews of each deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and director below them, where feasible, specific annual commitments relating to their mandate on accessibility for people with disabilities? In 2007, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered this for senior management at the Toronto Transit Commission.

 

 g) Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

 

In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Parties each promised that if elected, they would review all provincial laws for accessibility barriers. Almost fifteen years later, we have only been told of some 50 of Ontario’s 750 statutes being reviewed, and no regulations being reviewed. In contrast, back in 1982 the Charter of Rights gave governments three years to review all legislation for all equality issues, not just disability equality.

 

#47. Within four months of taking office, will you announce a detailed plan for lawyers at the Ministry of the Attorney General to undertake a review of all Ontario laws for disability accessibility barriers, and for ensuring that new legislation and regulations will be screen in advance to ensure that they do not authorize, create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

 

#48. Will you complete a review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2023 and the review of all regulations by the end of 2024? By June 2024, will you introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed as a result of this accessibility review?

 

#49. By the end of 2025, will Cabinet amend any regulations that the government deems needed to remove and prevent disability barriers as a result of the accessibility review?

 

 h) Root Out Recently-Created New Disability Barriers Traceable to the Ontario Government

 

Contrary to the AODA, Ontario has recently become less accessible to people with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, two successive critical care triage protocols were distributed to all Ontario hospitals under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario, a Government creation of which the Ontario Government is a part. These successive critical care triage protocols each directed clear and indefensible discrimination against some patients based on their disabilities.

 

The Ontario Government has never publicly explained or accounted for this, or even made these protocols public. They were leaked to the disability community. Ontario’s Government has declined to answer any of the letters we sent over the past year on this topic.

 

Beyond this, there are up to two additional critical care triage protocols that may be in circulation, and that we have never seen or been given. One addresses critical care triage for patients under the age of 18. The other would address critical care triage by emergency medical services such as ambulances.

 

#50. Will you immediately make public any critical care triage protocol for hospitals or for other health services such as emergency medical services, that have been issued since 2020, including those pertaining to any specific age group, and any drafts that have been circulated to hospitals or other health care providers?

 

#51. Will you immediately rescind any draft or final critical care triage protocols that have been sent to any hospitals or other health care providers?

 

#52. Will you consult directly with us and the disability community on any future plans or protocols regarding critical care triage?

 

#53. Within six months of taking office, will you appoint an independent inquiry to investigate and report on the effectiveness of the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the needs of people with disabilities, including in terms of such things as health care services, critical care triage protocols, education services and income supports?

 

In 2019, over strong objections from the disability community, the Ontario Government passed regulations under the Highway Traffic Act that permit municipalities to allow electric scooters in public places for a pilot of up to five years. It did so despite the fact that e-scooters present serious personal safety and accessibility dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

 

The Ontario Government thereby inflicted on people with disabilities the undue hardship of having to battle against e-scooter rental corporate lobbyists in one city after the next. In cities like Ottawa that permit them, e-scooters are creating the very safety and accessibility dangers about which we forewarned. Moreover, even though riding them in public places remains illegal in many places in Ontario, such as Toronto, stores and online venders continue to sell e-scooters for use in Ontario.

 

#54. Will you immediately repeal the Ontario regulations that permit municipalities to allow the use of e-scooters in public places?

 

#55. Will you pass legislation or regulations to provide for effective enforcement of the ban on riding e-scooters in public places, with strong penalties?

 

#56. Will you pass legislation or regulations to ban the sale of e-scooters for use in Ontario, with strong penalties?

 

The Ontario Government is conducting a consultation on whether to allow autonomous robots that can be used on public sidewalks, e.g., to deliver products to customers or to shovel snow. These robots endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others. Regulation that might try to set rules on their use will not be enforceable. Moreover, Ontario is proposing giving municipalities the power to allow a 10-year pilot with such robots. That too would impose an undue hardship on people with disabilities to have to fight against them in one city after the next.

 

#57. Will you ban robots on sidewalks, with effective enforcement such as a right to dispose of any robot on public sidewalks?

 

 i) Give No More Public Money to the Problematic and Unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility “Certification” Program

 

In its 2019 Budget, the current Ontario Government announced $1.3 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) private accessibility certification program, to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. This is a wasteful misuse of public money. In two years, there is no evidence it has led to the removal of any accessibility barriers.

 

We have documented serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. The RHF has authority to “certify” nothing. The RHF process for training assessors and for assessing a building’s accessibility is quite faulty, misleading and unreliable. It can result in a building being “certified” as accessible which is not in fact accessible.

 

#58. Will you commit not to spend any additional public money on any private accessibility certification program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program?

 

 

Stunning Sampling of 25 News Articles Show Serious Dangers that Electric Scooters Pose to the Public, Including People with Disabilities, Seniors and Children

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

 

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Stunning Sampling of 25 News Articles Show Serious Dangers that Electric Scooters Pose to the Public, Including People with Disabilities, Seniors and Children

 

November 29 2021

 

          SUMMARY

 

Today, the 27th anniversary of the birth of Ontario’s grass roots non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities, we show you public overwhelming proof that Ontarians with disabilities are now exposed to a serious and unjustifiable new danger to their safety and accessibility, due to the Ford Government.

 

As we have been highlighting over the past two years, the Ford Government has decided to give every municipality the authority to allow electric scooters (e-scooters) in their community. We have repeatedly shown how this endangers public safety. This is especially so for vulnerable pedestrians, like people with disabilities, seniors and children. To date, the Ford Government and some municipalities such as the City of Ottawa have disregarded this danger. They have instead listened to the e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists.

 

We here provide a deeply troubling and stunningly vivid picture to date of exactly what kinds of dangers this poses for Ontarians, including Ontarians with disabilities. Below is a sampling of 25 news articles from around the world on this topic. These illustrate horrible examples of people being seriously injured or killed, due to e-scooters. If you read any of these stories, you cannot help but be enraged about this danger to the public. If you read all these stories, the feeling only grows.

 

Below you can read through a sampling of 25 articles from Canada and around the world demonstrating the serious dangers posed by the unchecked use of e-scooters in public spaces (full text of each article included further below). Just their headlines, listed here, is ample to tell the story:

 

  1. Altercation between e-scooter riders and occupants of vehicle before fatal stabbing in downtown Ottawa, police say

 

  1. Vernon woman spent two days in hospital after being struck by rental scooter

 

  1. National pedestrian safety campaign backs Chorley mum’s petition for stricter e-scooter laws after daughter hit

 

  1. Italy debates electric scooter safety after teenager dies in accident

 

  1. E-scooters: Sister of six-year-old boy who had skull fractured by teenage rider calls for under-21 ban

 

  1. Woman who can ‘barely dress’ herself after being hit by e-scooter lashes out

 

  1. Paris police search for two e-scooter riders after pedestrian killed

 

  1. Child taken to hospital following e-scooter collision

 

  1. Moment teenager on an e-scooter almost ploughs into a lorry while riding on the WRONG side of the road

 

  1. Three-year-old girl left with ‘life-changing’ injuries after collision with man riding e-scooter

 

  1. Electric scooters drive accident epidemic as young man, 20, latest to die in collision

 

  1. Teen e-scooter rider pleads guilty in incident which caused pedestrian severe brain injuries

 

  1. Girl’s jaw and gums had to be realigned after accident with e-scooter; rider arrested

 

  1. Canterbury woman struck by electric scooter suffers two broken limbs

 

  1. E-scooter casualties in London soar by 570% as number of pedestrians hurt DOUBLES in a year – putting pressure on Sadiq Khan over rental trial scheme

 

  1. 79-year-old woman in hospital after being knocked down by a scooter

 

  1. Actress Lisa Banes dies after being hit by scooter in Manhattan

 

  1. E-scooter drivers endanger other road users significantly more than cyclists

 

  1. He broke his bones, now no one wants to be liable: An e-scooter accident shows dangerous legal gaps

 

  1. E-Scooter riders have little, if any, protection in case of injury or accident

 

  1. Bronx man dies after falling off e-scooter hitting head on ground

 

  1. Man seriously hurt in Clifton e-scooter crash

 

  1. Moment passengers evacuated as e-scooter ‘explodes’ at London Tube station

 

  1. Oxford e-scooter crash involving pushchair leaves man and child injured

 

  1. Dental injuries on the rise thanks to e-scooter use: study by U of A prof

 

 

Please send these articles to your member of the Ontario Legislature, to your mayor and to your municipal councillor. Tell them to say no to e-scooters. Tell them to stand up for people with disabilities, and to stand up to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists.

 

To learn more about our two-year non-partisan campaign to protect the public, including people with disabilities, from e-scooters, visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

 

Read about the events 27 years ago today that led up to the birth of Ontario’s enduring disability accessibility movement.

 

^        MORE DETAILS

 

 

Altercation between e-scooter riders and occupants of vehicle before fatal stabbing in downtown Ottawa, police say

 

CTV News – July 28, 2021

Ottawa

 

Originally posted at: https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/altercation-between-e-scooter-riders-and-occupants-of-vehicle-before-fatal-stabbing-in-downtown-ottawa-police-say-1.5526698

 

Ottawa Police are looking for witnesses to a dispute between three e-scooter riders and the driver of a Volkswagen as the investigation continues into Ottawa’s 12th homicide of the year.

 

Eric Hewer, 19, of Nova Scotia died in hospital after being stabbed on Metcalfe Street near Albert Street Monday night. A second victim suffered non-life threatening injuries.

 

On Wednesday, police said the Homicide Unit has identified all persons involved in the dispute that resulted in the stabbing death of Hewer.

 

In a statement, police say anyone with information about an altercation between three riders on e-scooters and the occupants of a black Volkswagen at 8:40 p.m. on Metcalfe Street is asked to contact investigators.

 

You can contact the Ottawa Police Service Homicide Unit at 613-236-1222, ext. 5493.

 

Friends and family say Hewer had just moved to Ottawa to start a new job. A GoFundMe page in memory of Hewer said he was out celebrating the new job and his 19th birthday.

 

Vernon woman spent two days in hospital after being struck by rental scooter

 

Castanet, August 28, 2021

Vernon, BC

 

Originally posted at: https://www.castanet.net/news/Vernon/344210/Vernon-woman-spent-two-days-in-hospital-after-being-struck-by-rental-scooter

 

Isobella Zarathustra remembers very little about the actual impact.

 

But the Vernon woman does remember seeing a woman operating a bright orange e-scooter when it slammed in to her as she was walking out of the Freshco parking lot last week.

 

Zarathustra did not immediately realize the extent of the injuries she sustained to her right leg until a few hours after the incident.

 

She spent the next two days at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

 

“I checked in both directions and didn’t see the scooter. That’s how fast it was going,” said Zarathustra who was left lying on the sidewalk in pain as people gathered around.

 

“I was in a lot of pain. I had my femur bone jammed into my buttocks,” she said, adding she has extensive bruising from the collision.

 

While she does not know who was operating the scooter that is part of a rental program introduced to the city earlier this month, she does know it was a female at the controls.

 

“She was yelling at me ‘Don’t sue me. Just don’t sue me. I can’t afford it,’” Zarathustra said.

 

The woman then left the scene.

 

Zarathustra said there were a lot of witnesses to the incident and she is wondering if it was caught on surveillance video from either Freshco or the nearby Schell Motel.

 

Zarathustra said she is not against the scooter program as having the ability to get around town without creating pollution is a good idea, but she is encouraging people using the scooters to be more careful.

 

She is also reminding pedestrians to watch out for the battery-powered machines.

 

 

 

National pedestrian safety campaign backs Chorley mum’s petition for stricter e-scooter laws after daughter hit

 

Lancashire Post – September 1st, 2021

Chorley, UK

Originally posted at: https://www.lep.co.uk/news/people/national-pedestrian-safety-campaign-backs-chorley-mums-petition-for-stricter-e-scooter-laws-after-daughter-hit-3367313

 

Sarah Gayton, Street access campaigns coordinator for the National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK), is backing Naomi Moazzeny’s petition, arguing e-scooters should be completely eradicated.

 

The mum from Chorley set up her online petition, which needs to reach 10,000 signatures, after her five-year-old daughter was hit by a speeding scooter in St James’ Park in London earlier this month.

 

NFBUK is a charity working to improve the overall welfare and quality of daily life for all blind and vision-impaired people, campaigning for spaces where pedestrians are not forced to share spaces with motorised and moving vehicles.

 

And street campaign coordinator Sarah says that e-scooters are ‘an accident waiting to happen’ that should be permanently banned from being used and sold to the public.

 

The news comes as Councillor Keith Martin, who sits on South Ribble Borough Council and Penwortham Town Council, issued a warning to parents who buy their children e-scooters, saying “good luck trying to get cheaper car insurance.”

 

Sarah said: “We are mortified to hear yet again someone has been hit in this way by a scooter when enjoying a day with family in a park. It is so worrying that children can fall victim to these electronic scooters.

 

“People are being taken out left right and centre and it just isn’t good enough. We want the shops to stop selling them and for them to be completely taken off the streets before more people are hurt or killed.

 

“They should not be making a profit off other people’s danger. Even in areas where there are scooter trials, they are still being misused, may be damaged or have faulty breaks or tyres and pose a huge risk to pedestrians.

 

“In cities, you see them left all over the pavements, which is a trip hazard and just totally unacceptable that these city councils are just ignoring their dangers and letting them be used anywhere.

 

“Over the summer there seems to have been one incident after another involving these scooters. It might seem like a green and efficient way of travelling, but people are putting their lives in the hands of a narrow and flimsy machine.

 

“For blind and visually impaired people, it is even more concerning because they can’t move out of the way of a speeding scooter in time. It is terrifying because you can’t get them off the pavement and they could so easily hit someone.”

 

Trials of e-scooters are taking place in 32 UK cities, however, it is illegal to use an e-scooter in public unless it is rented as part of a recognised trial scheme.

 

Salford and Rochdale were among the two latest cities to be introduced to the new trial, with Sarah Gayton speaking to ManchesterWorld about the pilot scheme.

 

Currently, a petition is nearing 10,000 signatures for tougher requirements to be introduced for people using the scooters, including the need for a permit or drivers license.

 

There is a growing list of incidents involving e-scooters and at least four people in the UK have died in e-scooters crashes.

 

And according to an investigation by ITV’s Tonight programme, there have been 1,100 complaints and 210 people have suffered injuries in incidents involving e-scooters since trials began.

 

 

Italy debates electric scooter safety after teenager dies in accident

 

Milan, Italy

Wanted in Milan – September 7th, 2021

Originally posted at: https://www.wantedinmilan.com/news/italy-debates-electric-scooter-safety-after-teen-death.html

 

Five fatal electric scooter accidents in Italy so far this year.

 

The death of a 13-year-old boy in an electric scooter accident near Milan has reignited calls in Italy for stricter regulations to protect the safety of those using the popular mode of transport.

 

The teenager died on 30 August after being allowed to use the electric scooter of a 17-year-old who could now risk facing charges of manslaughter for “omitting due caution in giving his vehicle to a person under the age of 14”, reports news agency ANSA.

 

Helmets for e-scooter users

 

The boy’s death, in Sesto S. Giovanni in the outskirts of Milan, led the town’s mayor Roberto Di Stefano to introduce legislation obliging all electric scooter users to wear a helmet.

 

The mayor also brought in maximum speed limits of 20 km/h on cycle paths and 5 km/h in pedestrian areas.

 

Sesto S. Giovanni is reportedly the first town in Italy to introduce such sanctions, with the mayor announcing on Monday that five people have been fined by local police since the measures come into force last week.

 

Lombardia bill

 

Meanwhile the Lombardia region around Milan has approved a bill amending existing provisions governing electric scooters. The bill would ban under 18s from using e-scooters and enforce all electric scooter drivers to wear helmets.

 

Italian consumer group files complaint over Rome electric scooters

The move comes amid growing calls in Italy for compulsory helmets and speed limits for e-scooter users, with Italy’s association of driving schools saying that training courses and licenses should also be obligatory, reports ANSA.

 

Fatal accidents

 

So far this year five electric scooter users have died in Italy, including 13-year-old Fabio Mosca in Sesto S. Giovanni, reports newspaper La Stampa.

 

On 9 February a 34-year-old woman died in Genoa after being hit by a lorry.

 

A 52-year-old man lost control of his scooter in Infernetto near Rome on 23 June, hitting his face off the ground and dying from the impact.

 

A 27-year-old man from Sri Lanka died in the centre of Florence on 9 August after his e-scooter collided with a moped and he hit his head off the pavement.

 

In Rome, on the Via Gregorio VII cycle path near the Vatican, a 27-year-old man originally from the Philippines died in hospital in recent days, after three weeks in a coma following an incident whose dynamics remain unclear.

 

There was one fatal e-scooter accident in Italy in 2020: on 11 June last year a 60-year-old scooter user was hit by a car at a roundabout in Budrio, in the Bologna area, hitting his head off the ground and dying from his injuries the next day.

 

Italy: Florence wants to make helmets mandatory for electric scooter users

Official ACI-Istat data reveals that between May 2020 and the end of last year there were 564 road accidents in Italy involving at least one electric scooter.

 

E-scooters in Rome

 

Electric scooters have become extremely popular in Rome in recent years, particularly with young people, providing a convenient way to get from A to B, with several scooter rental companies operating in the capital.

 

However the e-scooters are not without their critics who point to the by-now normal sight of users (illegally) carrying passengers, travelling at speed on sidewalks or in the wrong direction on streets, as well as the anti-social “parking” of scooters abandoned on pavements and streets.

 

 

 

E-scooters: Sister of six-year-old boy who had skull fractured by teenage rider calls for under-21 ban

 

Sky News – May 1st, 2021

Originally posted at: https://news.sky.com/story/e-scooters-sister-of-six-year-old-boy-who-suffered-fractured-skull-after-being-hit-by-teenage-rider-calls-for-under-21-ban-12287604

 

The sister of a six-year-old boy who suffered a fractured skull after being hit by an e-scooter rider has called for a ban on the devices for under-21s.

 

It comes as latest figures show more than 70 people have been injured during the government’s e-scooter trials – including 11 people who were seriously hurt.

 

Brooklyn Smith said her little brother Jamie suffers anxiety attacks at the sight of e-scooters after he was knocked unconscious by a teenager riding one of the vehicles in Leicester.

 

The 17-year-old boy, who failed to stop after the collision, pleaded guilty to several offences over the incident including causing a serious injury by dangerous driving.

 

He was sentenced to a 12-month youth referral order and has been banned from the road for two years, Leicestershire Police said.

 

Privately-owned e-scooters are illegal to ride on public roads and pavements. Only rental e-scooters can be ridden on roads in areas taking part in the government’s official trials.

 

Ms Smith, 21, told Sky News that when her family walk past an e-scooter rider now they face Jamie in the opposite direction or change their route “because he has a complete anxiety attack”.

 

She said she continues to see e-scooter riders “flying around on them like there’s no tomorrow” near the family’s home, despite trials of the devices not running in Leicester.

 

Ms Smith told Sky News: “I don’t think they should be able to reach the speeds that they reach.

 

“It’s going to be stupid for us to sit here and say: ‘We want them banned. We never want them to be made again.’ That’s not realistic.

 

“They need to make sure that nothing like this is going to happen again.”

 

Jamie had to be airlifted to hospital after being struck by the e-scooter rider outside his home in August.

 

Ms Smith said her brother still suffers memory loss and it took him six weeks to be able to look in a mirror after the incident “because his own reflection genuinely frightened him”.

 

She has now called for people to be “at least over 21” before they can buy or rent e-scooters.

 

“They’re too easily accessible,” she added.

 

“At the end of the day, the speed they can reach, you’re asking for disaster.”

 

The government is trialling rental e-scooters in more than 40 towns and cities as it considers whether to legalise them on UK roads.

 

The Department for Transport (DfT) told Sky News that 11 incidents involving “serious” injuries have been recorded since the trials were launched last year, up to 25 March this year.

 

It said “serious injuries” meant those which required medical treatment such as fractures, concussion and cuts, but none required “in-patient” treatment.

 

A further 62 incidents involving “slight” injuries were recorded, such as sprains, bruises or cuts, that did not require medical treatment, the DfT added.

 

It said accident rates “appear to be low” as more than two million trips have been taken on rental e-scooters during the trials.

 

But the charity Guide Dogs said it believed the actual number of people injured by e-scooters is “much higher” as some incidents go unreported and the government’s figures do include those which are privately-owned.

 

Chris Theobald, the charity’s senior campaigns manager, said: “In the rush to roll out e-scooters in our towns and cities, people with sight loss are being forgotten.

 

“E-scooters operate quietly which makes them extremely difficult to detect if you can’t see very well.

 

“We need to make e-scooters safer, tackle dangerous and anti-social behaviour by e-scooter drivers and stop unregulated sales of high-speed e-scooters.”

 

A DfT spokesman told Sky News that “while feedback from the trials has been generally positive about their impact, we know there have been a small number of instances where e-scooters have been misused”.

 

Six students were banned from the road in March for drink-driving while riding rental e-scooters in Newcastle – including one who was almost four times over the limit.

 

However the DfT was unable to provide the total number of people convicted of riding e-scooters while over the alcohol limit during the trials.

 

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) also refused to reveal how many people have been prosecuted for riding e-scooters while over the drink-driving limit in England and Wales.

 

Following a freedom of information request by Sky News, the CPS said a “manual review of cases” involving road traffic offences would be needed to determine if e-scooters were involved, which would exceed the cost limit set out by the FOI Act.

 

E-scooter trials are expected to launch in London in the coming weeks, with an announcement on the start date expected after the city’s mayoral election on 6 May.

 

People renting e-scooters from operators taking part in the trials need to have a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence, and they have been urged to wear a helmet.

 

Only rental e-scooters are allowed on roads but not pavements, and they are limited to 15.5mph.

 

Privately-owned e-scooters cannot be used on the UK’s roads – one of the last countries in Europe where this is the case – due to their classification as a motor vehicle under the Road Traffic Act 1988.

 

Motor vehicles are required to have number plates, with users needing to have a driver’s licence, insurance and wear a helmet.

 

In October, MPs recommended that e-scooters should be legalised in the UK within 18 months to help make cities greener.

 

YouTube star Emily Hartridge became the first e-scooter rider to be killed in the UK in July 2019.

 

 

 

Woman who can ‘barely dress’ herself after being hit by e-scooter lashes out

 

Brisbane Times – September 2, 2021

Brisbane, Australia

 

Originally posted at: https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/woman-who-can-barely-dress-herself-after-being-hit-by-e-scooter-lashes-out-at-council-20210901-p58nyl.html

 

A Brisbane woman who can “barely dress” herself after she suffered a nose bleed, bruised face and a badly sprained wrist when she was hit by an e-scooter rider has criticised authorities for allowing the vehicles on footpaths.

 

Robyn Abell was on her way to meet her family at the Montague Markets in West End on Thursday, August 26 when she was hit by one of two riders on Beam e-scooters.

 

As a result, she fell to the ground and hit her nose, arm and wrist on the pavement.

 

The 73-year-old said she had X-rays the following morning at Mater Hospital Brisbane Adult Emergency Room.

 

“I didn’t sleep at all, and my arm was very painful,” she said.

 

“I can barely dress myself, so my daughter is having to take time off work to help me.

 

“There are no breakages, but my wrist is badly sprained. The worst thing is not looking after myself and I certainly can’t drive. I’m about $400 out of pocket.”

 

While Brisbane City Council has added 2000 ride-share e-scooters to city streets through a tender process, state government regulations allow them to be ridden on footpaths.

 

Ms Abell said she approached lawyers and was considering her legal options.

 

“There was something to do with this scooter company not having third-party insurance, but they said all I could do is ago ahead with a civil complaint against the riders,” she said.

 

“I don’t want to do that. I’d much rather see something done about the scooters being on the footpath. It’s dangerous.

 

“We’ve already had one person killed in West End. It’s only a matter of time until a child is killed.”

 

The council did not provide injury and crash data to Brisbane Times. However, a spokesman said operators were required to provide data to the council.

 

“This data only covers shared scheme incidents that have been reported to the operators themselves,” he said.

 

“Brisbane’s e-scooter operators are required to have public liability insurance and will be required to have third-party insurance when the insurance industry makes it commonly available.”

 

Greens councillor Jonathan Sri said he was concerned e-scooter crash reports were not being collected by the local and state governments.

 

“Residents like Robyn should be able to feel safe walking along the footpath. I’ve been hearing from quite a few residents who say that local footpaths aren’t wide enough for e-scooters to use them safely,” he said.

 

“Ideally e-scooters should not be sharing space with pedestrians or cars.”

 

Ms Abell reported the issue to council and police and was told “they couldn’t do anything”.

 

A Beam spokeswoman said two minor crashes had been reported in Brisbane since its launch.

 

“In all incidents, we work closely with our riders and community members to support them, and we encourage anyone who witnesses or is involved in an accident involving Beam to reach out directly to us,” she said.

 

A spokesman said Beam was developing third-party liability insurance tailored to a future of widespread micro-mobility.

 

“Beam has comprehensive rider insurance, subject to local regulations,” she said.

 

“Our personal accident insurance policy is written locally by local insurers – the only provider in Brisbane to do this – and is designed to take into account our target audience, which includes Australians under 18.”

 

A Transport and Main Roads spokeswoman said no changes to the laws around e-scooters were being considered at this time.

 

“Personal mobility devices, such as e-scooters, which have become popular following an initiative by Brisbane City Council, are considered pedestrians under the law,” she said.

 

The spokeswoman said riders needed to give way to pedestrians and share the path while travelling no more than 25km/h.

 

“They must also travel at a speed that allows them to stop safely, especially around pedestrians,” she said.

 

“PMDs are able to use bicycle paths, including the Brisbane City Council CityLink Cycleway.

 

“This is because the path is separated from the rest of the road by raised kerbing.”

 

The spokeswoman said riders were not permitted to travel on main roads, on-road bike lanes or on roads in central business district areas for safety reasons.

 

 

 

Paris police search for two e-scooter riders after pedestrian killed

 

The Guardian – June 19th, 2021

Paris, France

Originally posted at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/19/paris-police-search-for-two-e-scooter-riders-after-pedestrian-killed

 

 

Police are searching for two women after a pedestrian who was hit by an electric scooter while walking in Paris died.

 

The victim, a 31-year-old Italian named only as Miriam, had been in a coma since she was hit by the e-scooter, which was reportedly travelling at speed, while she walked along the Seine in the early hours of Monday.

 

Divers from the river police, who were patrolling the area, gave emergency treatment to the victim, who suffered a cardiac arrest after hitting her head on the pavement, until an ambulance arrived.

 

They restarted her heart after 30 minutes and she was taken unconscious to hospital, where she died on Wednesday.

 

The public prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into “murder, aggravated by failure to stop”. Police have appealed for witnesses to the fatal incident, which happened at 1am on the Voie Georges-Pompidou on the right bank of the Seine near the Île de la Cité, and are attempting to trace the e-scooter’s two female riders.

 

CCTV in the area is also being examined.

 

The death has rekindled controversy about the place of e-scooters in the French capital. Though hailed as an ecological means of urban transport and a welcome alternative to motorised vehicles, others have claimed they pose a risk to pedestrians, particularly as they are often used on pavements.

 

It also came as London embarked on a 12-month trial of electric scooters on 7 June, after pilot schemes in more than 40 towns and cities across the UK in advance of a government decision whether to legalise them on UK roads.

 

About 70 people are believed to have been injured since the trials were launched last year. Privately owned e-scooters are illegal to use on public roads, cycle lanes and pavements, but those rented in trial areas can be used on roads and cycle lanes.

 

A scheme operated by the Swedish firm Voi in Coventry was paused after five days because of people riding in pedestrianised areas.

 

There are three licensed private operators in Paris offering about 15,000 electric scooters, introduced to the city in 2018.

 

David Belliard, a deputy Paris mayor responsible for transport in the city, expressed his condolences to family and friends of the dead woman, originally from Capalbio in Tuscany, who worked in an Italian restaurant.

 

“The safety of the most vulnerable, that’s to say pedestrians, is one of my priorities,” he said, and called on the two riders to come forward.

 

Police in Balaruc-les-Bains in the Hérault region stopped a man riding at 98km/h (61mph) on an electric scooter in May.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child taken to hospital following e-scooter collision

 

Daily Echo – September 4th, 2021

Bournemouth, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/19558409.child-taken-hospital-following-e-scooter-collision/

 

A FOUR-YEAR-OLD boy has been taken to hospital with a suspected fractured collarbone following a collision with an e-scooter on Bournemouth seafront.

 

The incident occurred at 1pm on Friday, September 3, on the promenade near to Boscombe Pier during the second day of the Bournemouth Air Festival.

 

The boy, from Christchurch, was taken to Poole Hospital following the incident.

 

The e-scooter rider, a man in his 30s from Lancashire, has been interviewed on suspicion of driving offences under The Road Traffic Act.

 

An investigation into the collision is underway.

 

Dorset Police is urging e-scooter riders to be aware of pedestrians and other road users.

 

The e-scooter involved was hired through Beryl as part of a trial currently operating in Bournemouth and Poole, which allows individuals to hire an e-scooter from an official government scheme and ride legally. These scooters have a reduced speed limit.

 

Privately owned e-scooters are currently illegal to use in public places such as pavements, cycle lanes, beach promenades or any publicly accessible land, such as parks.

 

Police Sergeant Lee Savage, of the traffic unit, said: “This collision happened during the Bournemouth Air Festival, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people visit the seafront with thousands more visitors expected over the weekend.

 

“We are yet again urging people not to ride either Beryl or privately-owned e-scooters inside the festival site because of the sheer number of people in the area and to help keep people safe.

 

“Throughout this weekend our officers and council staff will be stopping people riding e-scooters inside the festival site area. If they are privately-owned, they will be seized and if they are part of the Beryl scheme, riders will be encouraged to dismount. Should they commit any offences they will be dealt with under the Road Traffic Act.”

 

A spokesperson for Beryl said: ”We are very sorry to hear of this incident in Bournemouth, and will be supporting in any way we can. We send our very best wishes to the young boy who has been injured, and hope for a speedy recovery.

 

”All riders of Beryl e-scooters, as part of the ongoing Department for Transport trial, must do so sensibly and in line with our rules and guidelines.

 

”Users of all types of vehicles should take care when travelling in shared spaces, especially when there is a high number of pedestrians.”

 

The illegal use of e-scooters remains an important element of Dorset Police’s Operation Relentless anti-social behaviour priority and this summer the Force has carried out two days of action.

 

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick said: “This must have been a horrible experience for the young child involved and I wish him a speedy recovery, but this incident once again highlights the dangers posed by using e-scooters in public places.

 

“Please, if you’re travelling to the Air Festival this weekend on a Beryl e-scooter, don’t use it at the event itself – it’s far too busy. And, if you’re travelling in a public place on a private e-scooter, you run the risk of having the item seized.”

 

In total since the beginning of the year, more than 40 riders of privately owned e-scooters have been stopped and spoken to before being issued with warnings.

 

Officers also have the power to seize e-scooters that are either found to be used illegally or involved in criminal activity.

 

 

 

 

Moment teenager on an e-scooter almost ploughs into a lorry while riding on the WRONG side of the road

 

Daily Mail – September 10th, 2021

Isle of Wight, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9977013/E-scooter-rider-ploughs-lorry-riding-WRONG-road.html

 

The moment an e-scooter rider almost ploughs into a lorry while travelling on the wrong side of the ride has been caught on video.

 

The near-miss was captured on Andy Phillips’ dash cam while he was driving his lorry in Nettlestone, Isle of Wight, on Wednesday evening.

 

The footage shows the fish and chip shop owner travelling along a dark road before the teenager on a hired electric scooter appears from a side road.

 

Travelling on the wrong side of the road, the teenager tries to stop as he sees Andy’s mobile chippy truck.

 

He skids and manages to scramble off the e-scooter and slips into the path of the lorry and hits the front of it.

 

Andy – who runs the Jolly Fryer, on the Isle of Wight – said the youth was fortunate to escape unharmed.

 

Andy, who runs the Jolly Fryer fish and chip shop on the Isle of Wight, said he ‘could so easily have been waking up with the thought of having someone die under the wheels of my truck’

 

But he added: ‘I could so easily have been waking up with the thought of having someone die under the wheels of my truck.

 

‘He was on the wrong side of the road.

 

‘He clearly didn’t expect other traffic to be on the roads. He appeared to be of school age.

 

‘His excuse? ‘It just went into a skid, I wasn’t going too fast’.’

 

Andy alerted police and was told the incident had been logged, but that no further action will be taken.

 

Andy said the teen was on a Beryl e-scooter that can be hired across the UK from councils – including in Bournemouth, Dorset and Norwich, Norfolk.

 

Andy added: ‘I phoned the Isle of Wight Council on Thursday, because according to blurb put out at the start of the scheme they were proud to be part of such a groundbreaking idea.

 

‘But they apparently have no idea who, on the Island, runs them and also didn’t want to know.’

 

Isle of Wight Council has been approached for comment.

 

A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary said: ‘We received a report of a collision on Nettlestone Hill, at 8.57pm on 8 September.

 

‘An E-scooter had gone underneath a lorry. The rider was not on the scooter at the point of the collision and no-one was injured.’

 

In 2018, there were four recorded e-scooter collisions in London, which rose to 32 in 2019. Accident numbers are thought to be under-reported, as riders using them in prohibited areas are unlikely to tell police about collisions.

 

Figures show the number of riders harmed in collisions in London alone leapt from 27 in 2019 to 181 between January and November 2020.

 

The number of pedestrians hurt by e-scooters doubled over the same period, from 13 to 26, according to data released under Freedom of Information legislation.

 

A study by TfL, based on US data, found riders needed hospital treatment after accidents every 3.1 years on average, with many suffering head or neck injuries.

 

 

 

Three-year-old girl left with ‘life-changing’ injuries after collision with man riding e-scooter

 

The Independent – July 20th, 2021

London, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/toddler-escooter-accident-london-police-b1887563.html

 

A three-year-old girl has been left with “life-changing” injuries after a collision with a young man riding an e-scooter in a south London park, according to police.

 

The toddler and her family were at Myatt’s Fields Park in Lambeth when the incident took place, at about 8:30pm on Monday.

 

 

 

 

Electric scooters drive accident epidemic as young man, 20, latest to die in collision

 

Express – July 1, 2021

Wolverhampton, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1456898/electric-scooters-collision-deaths-accident-epidemic

 

Shakur Pinnock, 20, suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured skull, two severed arteries, a broken jaw and punctured lungs when his electric stand-up scooter was involved in a collision with a car in Wolverhampton last month. His girlfriend Chanté Hoosang, who was a passenger on the scooter, was also seriously injured. Just six days after the incident, Pinnock died from his injuries at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. His mother Celine Fraser-Pinnock posted the message on Facebook: “I miss you so much. My beautiful, gorgeous baby.”

 

Despite such obvious dangers, e-scooters are now a common sight on the streets of Britain. Many road users tell stories about nearly being hit or watching e-scooters weaving through traffic, across pavements or the wrong way up one-way streets.

 

Sometimes carrying passengers, often young children, their riders almost never wear helmets. Aside from Department for Transport-sanctioned trials staged around the UK right now, they are illegal except on private land. Riders risk a £300 fixed penalty notice and six points on their driving licence if stopped by police.

 

Predominantly made overseas, bought and sold online and costing as little as £300, which puts them within the reach of young people, their availability and ease of use has seen tens of thousands sold in the UK.

 

Research suggests they are 100 times more dangerous than bicycles, yet arrests and seizures by the authorities appear relatively uncommon. At least four people including Shakur Pinnock are now known to have died in accidents across the UK involving these new battery-powered scooters

 

Perhaps the most high-profile case was that of 35-year-old TV presenter Emily Hartridge who, in July 2019, was killed in a collision with a lorry in south London.

 

She is believed to be the UK’s first fatality involving such a vehicle.

 

“We all loved her to bits and she will never be forgotten,” her family said after the tragic accident. “She has touched so many lives.”

 

Emily’s boyfriend, Jake Hazell, a former contestant on the 2021 series of TV show SAS: Who Dares Wins, bought the e-scooter for her and later explained how much he regretted the gift.

 

“It is an adult toy and obviously there is a massive risk that comes with it,” he told the BBC. “The road had a massive part to play in Emily’s accident. The condition of the road was shocking. It wasn’t necessarily Emily’s, the scooter’s or the driver’s fault. I don’t blame the driver whatsoever.” Chief Superintendent Simon Ovens of the Metropolitan Police’s road and transport policing command, says e-scooters “remain notoriously dangerous, and illegal when driven in public areas or on the roads”.

 

He added: “Under the Road Traffic Act 1988, it is the equivalent of riding a motorcycle on the road without any MOT, tax or insurance.”

 

Last week police confiscated more than 500 e-scooters from the streets of London during “proactive patrols” across all boroughs. There are also suggestions they have become the ride-of-choice for criminals, with robberies, assaults and even in one alarming incident a drive-by shooting having been carried out on the devices.

 

The legal scooters being used in the Department for Transport trials are capped with a top speed of 15.5mph. However, Chief Supt Ovens is concerned that illegal users sometimes modify them to go faster. “Whilst we have seized e-scooters which can operate up to 40mph, there are some which can reach 70mph,” he said.

 

Most e-scooters are designed so that riders stand on a narrow deck, supported by small wheels – often with pneumatic tyres – which are propelled by an electric battery-powered motor. At the front, a stem rises up to handlebars where the brakes and accelerator are operated.

 

Users see these vehicles as a fast and convenient way to commute, while certain pedestrians view them as a menace. Used responsibly, they can transport riders around busy towns in record time.

 

But at full speed and without due care and attention – or carrying extra passengers – they risk injury and death.

 

In June 2020 57-year-old charity fundraiser Barrie Howes lost control of his scooter while speeding down a steep road in Chatham, Kent. He was thrown off and, despite wearing a helmet, suffered brain injuries. Nine days later he died in hospital. In September 2020 55-year-old Julian Thomas was killed when his e-scooter struck a parked car in Swansea.

 

The legal scooters being used in the Department for Transport trials are capped with a top speed of 15.5mph. However, Chief Supt Ovens is concerned that illegal users sometimes modify them to go faster. “Whilst we have seized e-scooters which can operate up to 40mph, there are some which can reach 70mph,” he said.

 

So far the Department for Transport has recorded more than two million trips, covering a total distance of more than 3.1 million miles.

 

“We believe that e-scooters can offer an affordable, reliable and sustainable way to travel during a time of social distancing, improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the UK,” a department spokesperson said. “E-scooters could help ease the burden on our transport network.”

 

Living Streets is a charity which campaigns for pedestrians.

 

“Pavements are for people, but more and more people are scooting on them illegally,” said chief executive Stephen Edwards.

 

“The speed, acceleration and quietness of e-scooters causes alarm to pedestrians. We need speeds to be capped and robust police enforcement against dangerous riders. We previously asked the Government to cap speeds at 12.5mph instead of the 15.5mph adopted for the trials.”

 

Edwards claims that e-scooters are more difficult to handle than bicycles.

 

“They have smaller wheels, the footplates are closer to the ground and if you meet a pothole you are much more likely to come off than if you are cycling.

 

“The poor state of our roads combined with high levels of traffic lead us to believe that we don’t have the right infrastructure currently in place to support e-scooters

 

 

 

Teen e-scooter rider pleads guilty in incident which caused pedestrian severe brain injuries

 

Strait Times – June 13th, 2018

Singapore

Originally posted at: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/teen-e-scooter-rider-pleads-guilty-in-incident-which-caused-pedestrian-severe

 

Just two months after his father gave him an electric scooter, a teenager knocked into a pedestrian, causing her to suffer severe brain injuries.

 

Nicholas Ting Nai Jie, 18, had failed to keep a proper lookout while riding the e-scooter on Sept 17, 2016.

 

Madam Ang Liu Kiow, a 55-year-old mother of three, was left in a month-long coma. Her husband told The Straits Times in a subsequent interview that his wife can no longer remember the past or express herself properly.

 

On Wednesday (June 13), Ting pleaded guilty to causing grievous hurt to Madam Ang, a housewife, while riding his e-scooter in a negligent manner.

 

The court heard that the 14kg device cost $1,600 and his father had bought it in July 2016.

 

On the day of the incident, Ting had his girlfriend with him on the e-scooter and they made their way to Pasir Ris East Community Club.

 

The instructions manual of his e-scooter had warned against riding with a pillion rider but he ignored it.

 

The teenager was moving at about 15kmh on a footpath in Pasir Ris Drive 1 when he approached a bus stop.

 

The court heard that he failed to keep a proper lookout and did not reduce his speed even though there were pedestrians in the vicinity. He also did not sound the horn to inform them that he was approaching the area.

 

When Madam Ang stepped onto the footpath in front of the bus stop, Ting applied the brakes but it was too late.

 

Assistant Public Prosecutor Dillon Kok said: “The e-scooter impacted the left side of the victim, causing her to fall and hit her head on the ground. After the collision, the victim sat on the footpath and appeared dazed.

 

“She was helped by pedestrians to rest on the seats of the bus stop. It was observed that her eyes were open but she was not responsive. She also vomited yellowish fluid a few times.”

 

Ting and his girlfriend remained at the scene and alerted the police. An ambulance took Madam Ang to Changi General Hospital, where she was found to be bleeding in her brain.

 

The court heard that her medical, hospitalisation and therapy fees have come up to more than $107,000. After government subsidies and an insurance payout, her out-of-pocket expenses were $2,470.65 as of August last year.

 

Ting is expected to be sentenced on Thursday.

 

On May 1 this year, new laws governing the use of personal mobility devices such as e-scooters were rolled out. As part of the Active Mobility Act, power-assisted bicycles are not allowed on footpaths while e-scooters are banned on public roads.

 

The speed limits are 15kmh on footpaths and 25kmh on park connectors and shared paths.

 

First-time offenders who flout the usage rules and speed limits may be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to three months, or both. Repeat offenders may have their fine and jail terms doubled.

 

The new law also sets limits on the size and speed of the devices that can be used on public paths. These cannot weigh more than 20kg each and must have their speeds capped at 25kmh.

 

Those who use devices that flout these rules can be jailed for up to three months and fined up to $5,000.

 

 

 

Girl’s jaw and gums had to be realigned after accident with e-scooter; rider arrested

 

Today Online – April 13, 2018

Singapore

Originally posted at: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/girls-jaw-and-gums-had-be-realigned-after-accident-e-scooter-rider-arrested

 

An 11-year-old girl had to have her jaw and gums realigned, after an e-scooter crashed into her on Thursday (April 12) evening along Pasir Ris Drive 1.

 

The child, who also lost two of her teeth and suffered multiple cuts and abrasions, “cried when she saw her face in the mirror”, said her father Rahmat Nizam Samat, 38, a civil servant.

 

The police say they have arrested the e-scooter rider, a 24-year-old man. Investigations are ongoing.

 

Recounting the incident, Mr Rahmat said his wife received a call from an unknown number at around 7.15pm on Thursday, telling her that her daughter had been involved in an accident and was “bleeding from her mouth outside Pasir Ris East Community Club”.

 

He rushed to the scene, where he was told that his daughter had been hit from the back by an e-scooter. She was later taken to the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, where a doctor had to realign her jaw and gums.

 

The child also suffered cuts and abrasions to her head, under the right eye, left palm, elbows and knees. She is currently on seven days of medical leave.

 

“She has not been able to eat anything except a few pieces of watermelons due to her swollen gums,” said Mr Rahmat.

 

He added that he will be seeking legal action against the e-scooter rider once the police have concluded their investigations.

 

Thursday’s incident is the latest in a series of accidents involving pedestrians and users of e-scooters and personal mobility devices.

 

Last month, three e-scooter drivers were charged in court for injuring pedestrians, among them a 61-year-old woman and two boys aged eight and 11, on three separate occasions in 2017.

 

Mandatory registration of e-scooters was announced in March this year by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), which had earlier introduced similar requirements for electric bicycles. Tough new penalties have also kicked in for unregistered or non-compliant e-bikes.

 

The authorities have been taking tougher action against errant users of personal mobility devices like e-scooters and e-bikes in the past year, amid growing complaints about speeding and reckless behaviour by the riders.

 

In January, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament that there were 30 e-scooter accidents involving pedestrians on footpaths and walkways between January and September last year. The Minister also noted that the LTA had issued more than 1,700 advisories for unsafe riding behaviour that year.

 

 

 

Canterbury woman struck by electric scooter suffers two broken limbs

 

Kent Online – November 27th, 2020

Canterbury, UK

Originally posted at: https://www.kentonline.co.uk/canterbury/news/i-was-hit-by-an-e-scooter-but-it-felt-like-a-car-238143/

 

A mum-of-three suffered two broken limbs when she was knocked down by an electric scooter while walking along a pavement.

 

Pauline Lilford, 58, has been left bed-bound and unable to care for her elderly mother who has dementia, following the “shocking” crash in Canterbury.

 

She says the incident has left her concerned about the roll-out of e-scooters across the city – fearing things could have been much worse had a child or elderly person been struck.

 

“You’d think ‘oh it’s just a scooter’, but with the injuries that have come from it, it’s more like I’ve been hit by a car,” she said.

 

Mrs Lilford was on a morning stroll with her husband at about 8am on November 10, when she was knocked to the floor by a man illegally riding a privately-owned scooter on St Thomas’ Hill.

 

“I was on the inside of the pavement,” she said. “We were just chatting about the day ahead.

 

“I didn’t hear anything. Then I was aware of somebody shouting and I turned slightly, and was hit from behind.

 

“I didn’t know what had hit me until I was on the ground. Then I realised it was a young chap on a scooter.

 

“My husband and I were both completely shocked.

 

“I tried to get up but I couldn’t. Then the pain kicked in, and I started shaking with shock.”

 

Mrs Lilford, of Forty Acres Road, thanked those who stopped to help her – including an off-duty doctor, and those who lent her a mobile phone and duvet.

 

She described the scooter rider as “very shaken up” by the crash. Police soon arrived, and he was issued with a Traffic Offence Report for use of a vehicle without insurance, while the scooter was seized.

 

Mrs Lilford was taken by ambulance to the QEQM hospital in Margate with fractures to her arm and leg.

 

She was in hospital for five days, requiring surgery to rewire her elbow which was “smashed up” in the crash.

 

She is now back at home on bed-rest, but is facing further repercussions on her family life.

 

Her 85-year-old mum, who has dementia and usually lives with Mrs Lilford, has had to be placed in a nursing home while she is unable to care for her.

 

“It’s just added to the trauma, really,” said Mrs Lilford.

 

Due to Covid-19 measures, the care home was unable to accept her mum if she had been in contact with Mrs Lilford after her stay in hospital.

 

“So mum had to go in before I came home, and I haven’t seen her since the crash,” she said.

 

Mrs Lilford is also facing up to two months off work, from her job as office manager at her husband’s chartered surveyors firm in Canterbury.

 

“Poor Mike is having to get extra help in to do my job, and then train people on what to do,” she said.

 

“And we’re very busy – we were run off our feet before this happened, so it’s very frustrating.”

 

A 12-month trial of e-scooters launched in Canterbury just a week before the crash.

 

The vehicles are currently operating on a restricted route serving students from the city’s universities, but it is hoped the trial will be expanded to cover large areas of the city in the coming year.

 

While the man who crashed into her was riding a privately owned e-scooter – which is currently illegal in public areas – Mrs Lilford says she has been left concerned about the wider roll-out of the vehicles.

 

“It’s made me feel quite frightened, and wary of it,” she said.

 

“You’d think ‘oh it’s just a scooter’, but with the injuries that have come from it, it’s more like I’ve been hit by a car.

 

“If it is going to happen, the regulations need to be so stringent. But how can they actually make sure that people are sticking to it?

 

“I’m not keen on them at all – I don’t think it’s such a good idea. I think what happened needs highlighting.

 

“Being 58, I think I’m reasonably fit. But if it had been someone frailer, or a child that was hit, it could have been a very different story.”

 

Trial safety

 

It is hoped safety features such as a speed cap will prevent similar incidents from occurring during the city’s e-scooter trial.

 

Bird – the electric scooter lending company appointed by Kent County Council to head up the trial – declined to comment on the crash and Mrs Lilford’s concerns.

 

Just days before the incident, city councillor Dave Wilson had raised concerns over the danger e-scooters could pose to pedestrians. But it is hoped that technology used by Bird – which remotely controls where the authorised scooters can go, and how fast – will prevent such incidents happening during the trial.

 

On main roads with cycle lanes, Bird scooters can go up to 15mph, while in pedestrian areas they are capped at 5mph.

 

Meanwhile other areas are designated “no ride zones” and they power down if they cross the trial boundary.

 

Bird has not had any incidents since launching in Canterbury.

 

Insp Guy Thompson, of Canterbury Community Safety Unit, warned e-scooters are subject to the same legal requirements as motor vehicles. He said anyone found using them illegally faces a potential fine and the scooter being seized.

 

 

 

E-scooter casualties in London soar by 570% as number of pedestrians hurt DOUBLES in a year – putting pressure on Sadiq Khan over rental trial scheme

 

Daily Mail – June 26th, 2021

London, UK

Originally posted at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9729033/E-scooter-casualties-London-soar-570-number-pedestrians-hurt-DOUBLES-year.html

 

E-scooter casualties in London soared by more than 570 per cent in just a year – but the true increase is likely to be far higher.

 

Figures show the number of riders injured in collisions in the capital leapt from 27 in 2019 to 181 between January and November 2020.

 

The number of pedestrians hurt by e-scooters doubled over the same period, from 13 to 26, according to data released under Freedom of Information legislation.

 

In an email to crash victims passed to The Mail on Sunday by a pedestrian hit by an e-scooter, a Metropolitan Police officer admitted: ‘We know collisions are increasing, but they are still incredibly under-reported.’

 

The force has recently cracked down on illegal e-scooter use in the capital, seizing more than 500 last week. Despite that, the sharp rise in collisions will put London Mayor Sadiq Khan under pressure after he gave the green light to a year-long e-scooter rental trial in six of the capital’s boroughs.

 

It comes as charities warn that e-scooters are endangering the lives of blind people, even forcing them to re-train their guide dogs.

 

Sarah Gayton, street access campaign co-ordinator at the National Federation of the Blind, said: ‘The mounting deaths, serious head injuries, broken bones and lives devastated or changed forever has to be a wake-up call to the very politicians who allowed the trials to start. When there are so many other mobility options available in cities and towns, why would you put your life at risk by jumping on an e-scooter?’

 

More than 70 per cent of the public have reported seeing an e-scooter being driven illegally on a pavement, according to a survey of over 2,000 people by the charity Guide Dogs. A spokesman said: ‘Fast-moving and silent vehicles such as e-scooters are always much more difficult for blind and partially sighted people to detect and thus it becomes very difficult for the dog’s training to be reinforced.’

 

Vaughan Rees, 79, who lost his sight 40 years ago in a car accident, was nearly knocked over by an e-scooter outside his local Tesco store in Warwickshire. ‘The incident has made me feel frightened and shaken up,’ he said. ‘Because the scooters are silent it gives me the added disadvantage of being oblivious to them. I have to heavily rely on my hearing, which is not good.’

 

Zoe Courtney, of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said: ‘E-scooters are fast-moving, difficult to detect and are often ridden on the pavement, despite this being illegal.

 

‘We want to see the rules on not using e-scooters on pavements enforced, adequate off-pavement parking provided, and the appropriate street infrastructure in place to keep pedestrians safe.’

 

 

 

79-year-old woman in hospital after being knocked down by a scooter

 

Majorca Daily Bulletin – July 20th, 2021

Majorca, Spain

Originally posted at: https://www.majorcadailybulletin.com/news/local/2021/08/20/88425/year-old-woman-mallorca-hospital-after-scooter-accident.html

 

Palma police say that barely a day passes without there being an accident involving an electric scooter. Some accidents are serious – a 17-year-old was badly injured on Wednesday when he went through a red light and was knocked down. The day before, 79-year-old Daniela was knocked down on a pedestrian crossing. She lost consciousness and was admitted to the Clinica Rotger (close to the scene of the accident) with fractures to an arm and to the face. Doctors have yet to decide if she will need an operation.

 

Daniela’s daughter, Cristina, says that her mother was on the pedestrian crossing when she was knocked down by a young man on a scooter. “She couldn’t react, she didn’t see him.” Cristina is outraged by his recklessness and by the fact that he has seemingly shown no interest in how her mother is. “We don’t ask for much more.”

 

Witnesses say that the scooter rider was aged around 25 and that he kept repeating to the police that he had stopped. Given witness statements and reports, the matter is likely to end up in court.

 

Cristina, meanwhile, believes that “politicians have to be aware of what is happening and take some kind of action”. “It’s not right that these vehicles circulate in the same places where people walk.”

 

 

 

Actress Lisa Banes dies after being hit by scooter in Manhattan

 

ABC 7 – June 15th, 2021

NYC, USA

Originally posted at: https://abc7ny.com/lisa-banes-gone-girl-nyc-dies-after-scooter-accident/10791816/

 

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) — Actress Lisa Banes, known for her supporting roles in “Gone Girl” and “Cocktail,” has died after being struck by a scooter on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

 

She was 65.

 

“I am brokenhearted to share that Lisa, my beautiful wife and my love, passed away last night,” wife Kathryn Kranhold said. “Lisa has remained unconscious since being the victim of a hit and run near Lincoln Center on June 4th. She suffered a traumatic brain injury. Lisa’s brother, Evan Sinclair, and sister-in-law, Hallie Atkinson, and I were by her side for the last 10 days, as well as some dear and loving friends. We appreciate the love, support and prayers from all of you across the country. Lisa was listening. We want to express our everlasting gratitude to the medical staff at Mount Sinai Morningside for their expertise and empathy. We look forward to celebrating Lisa, her life and work, in New York City in the fall.”

 

Banes was hit by a scooter around 7:30 p.m. on June 4 at the intersection of Amsterdam Avenue and West 64th Street.

 

The actress was crossing Amsterdam Avenue on the way to visit the Juilliard School, her alma mater, publicist David Williams said.

 

The driver of the scooter fled from the scene, and so far, there have been no arrests.

 

Williams said Banes was taken to Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital, where she eventually succumbed to her injuries.

 

“We are heartsick over Lisa’s tragic and senseless passing,” Williams said. “She was a woman of great spirit, kindness and generosity and dedicated to her work, whether on stage or in front of a camera and even more so to her wife, family and friends. We were blessed to have had her in our lives.”

 

Banes appeared in numerous television shows and movies, including “Gone Girl” with Ben Affleck in 2014 and “Cocktail” with Tom Cruise in 1988.

 

On television, she’s had roles on “Nashville,” “Madam Secretary,” “Masters of Sex” and “NCIS.”

 

 

 

Russian ballet dancer from Saint Petersburg’s famous Mariinsky Theatre in coma after falling from electric scooter at high speed

 

RT – May 18th, 2021

Saint Petersburg, Russia

 

Originally posted at: https://www.rt.com/russia/524105-mariinsky-theater-soloist-electric-scooter-incident/

 

A soloist from Saint Petersburg’s prestigious Mariinsky Theatre has been placed in a coma after crashing an electric scooter and falling hard on the pavement. He is now in critical condition, after suffering from cranial trauma.

David Zaleyev has been dancing at the Mariinsky since 2013, and has won multiple awards for his solo performances. According to the theatre’s press service, which spoke to local news outlet 78.ru, Zaleyev is currently in hospital, having undergone a cranial trepanation following a brain hemorrhage.

 

Videos of the incident published online show Zaleyev attempting to weave his way through a group of pedestrians. He appears to clip one of the men on the sidewalk, causing him to take a tumble and smash his head on the ground. According to newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda St. Petersburg, citing a source, the ballet dancer may have been intoxicated.

 

The man was found in a severe state of acute alcohol poisoning,” the source said. “It was impossible to question him – he had a closed cranial trauma and concussion of the brain.”

 

In recent years, electric scooter-sharing services have been popping up all around Russia. In Saint Petersburg, the Whoosh and Molnia apps have become popular as a convenient way to get around town.

 

 

E-scooter drivers endanger other road users significantly more than cyclists

 

Spiegel – January 7th, 2021

Germany

 

Originally posted at: https://www.spiegel.de/auto/e-scooter-2020-sieben-tote-und-hunderte-schwerverletzte-bei-unfaellen-von-januar-bis-september-a-49161708-627c-4c63-9b95-b055552c261e

 

Seven people were killed in accidents with e-scooters in the first nine months of last year. 269 drivers of the batteries-powered scooters were seriously injured, 1096 suffered minor injuries, according to the Federal Statistical Office.

 

In total, the police registered 1570 accidents with the smallest electric vehicles from January to September, in which there were deaths or injuries. Siegfried Brockmann, head of accident research at insurers (UDV), warns one value is alarming: “In 21 percent of e-scooter accidents with personal injury, the accident is not the driver, but another road user.” In the case of bicycle accidents, this value is only five percent, the accident researcher explains to SPIEGEL.

 

Scooter drivers often use the sidewalk

 

This is mainly due to the fact that scooter drivers often lead irregularly on the footpath. “One of our studies shows that in almost 60 percent of cases, people drive on the footpath, although you would actually have to use the road or the bike path,” says Brockmann.

However, many drivers apparently are not even aware of this violation. According to a survey, 25 percent of drivers think they are allowed to drive on footpath, complains the accident researcher. He is therefore in favor of a Europe-wide information campaign to sensitize drivers in this country, but also tourists.

 

However, the frequency of accidents can only be compared to a limited extent with that of other means of transport. “Unfortunately, there is no movement data for the e-scooters,” explains Brockmann. You don’t know at the moment how high the mileage of the scooters is – this is crucial for comparisons. “I therefore expect the providers to disclose this data,” says Brockmann.

 

2020 difficult to compare year

 

At the same time, 2020 is an atypical year, explains the accident researcher. Due to the corona pandemic, the providers have meanwhile restricted or completely suspended their operations. In addition, a large part of the tourists who otherwise often use the scooters fell away. In addition, the electric standing scooters are a comparatively new phenomenon.

 

The scooter accidents have only been collected separately since the beginning of 2020. The e-scooters have been approved for road traffic in Germany since June 2019. The number of e-scooter accidents with personal injury increased in the spring and summer of last year: 252 were recorded between January and March, between April and June 417. According to the information, the number was highest between July and September with 901 accidents: Four people were killed, 145 seriously injured and 627 slightly injured

 

 

 

He broke his bones, now no one wants to be liable: An e-scooter accident shows dangerous legal gaps

 

Business Insider – November 28th, 2021

Germany

 

Originally posted at: https://www.businessinsider.de/wirtschaft/mobility/er-brach-sich-die-knochen-jetzt-will-niemand-haften-ein-e-scooter-unfall-zeigt-gefaehrliche-gesetzesluecken-a/

 

As on any other day, Klaus Bopp set off for work around 8:35 a.m. this Tuesday morning. Bopp is blind from birth, orients himself with a long stick and has been walking this route in Bremen’s Neustadt for 30 years. He knows every millimeter. After about two minutes, it happens: Shortly before a crossroads, the 50-year-old falls over two e-scooters lying across the sidewalk. He still captures one with the stick, on the second he no longer has a chance. He falls on the right hip and contracts a femoral neck fracture.

 

“I had such anger, because the things are not standing in the way for the first time without warning,” recalls Bopp in conversation with Business Insider. It was clear to him: There had to be an accident at some point.

The anger will boil up again at Bopp even in the months after the accident. Gradually it turns out: Nobody wants to be responsible for the bone fracture. Neither the Swedish rental company Voi, which set up the e-scooters on the morning of the accident, nor Voi’s liability insurance, nor the city of Bremen, which granted an operating license for the scooters. The case is also tricky from a legal point of view, although it is well documented by the police and eyewitnesses. The question of who is to blame for the fall over the overturned e-scooters is completely unresolved and reveals large gaps in regulation in Germany.

 

Bopp’s lawyer wants to set a precedent

 

Neither the authorities nor the e-scooter company Voi contact the injured Bopp. At our request, the company says that they are very saddened by this tragic accident. “We are doing our best to find a suitable solution for everyone,” says Stockholm headquarters. However, the solution still does not exist today. Because Bopp cannot believe that his bone fracture should remain without consequences, he turns to the legal advice of the German Blind and Visually Impaired Association. There, the business lawyer Thomas Hiby takes over the case. He now wants to set a precedent and go to court with a claim for damages. According to the pain and suffering allowance table, a sum between 12,000 and 25,000 euros would be common. If Hiby succeeds in this, it would probably have consequences for the entire e-scooter industry in Germany.

The search for the culprit proves difficult. The police, who arrive at the scene of the accident a few minutes after the fall, initially assume property damage. Even in the ambulance, Bopp is questioned as a possible suspect, not as a victim. If you run against it, you are the cause and thus to blame for the accident, writes Bopp in the memory protocol. The accusation is quickly clarified, but further investigations are not carried out. Not even the police could contact Voi “in a reasonable time”, says the police report.

 

Vois lawyers and insurance companies point to liability gap

 

Lawyer Hiby also has to wait a few weeks for feedback: The company’s lawyers see “no basis for liability.” They refer to an unknown third party who is said to have knocked over the properly installed scooters. However, the company has no responsibility for this, write Voi’s lawyers.

 

The DEVK, with which Voi has taken out statutory liability insurance, also follows this line of argument. If the users of the e-scooters have parked them properly, the subsequent behavior of uninvolved third parties cannot be attributed to the owner Voi, says Business Insider. In addition, she explains that it only covers accidents from moving scooters. She wouldn’t step in for a fall over an upright e-scooter either.

A plausible scenario is establishing itself for both the company and insurance – one that relieves all parties involved from responsibility.

No matter how many people stumble over lying e-scooters, according to the law neither the insurance nor the owner of the e-scooters is responsible for this. Lawyer Hiby evaluates the facts differently. Anyone who creates a source of danger must also bear proportionate responsibility.

 

Eleven days of hospital

 

For Klaus Bopp, the fall had far-reaching consequences. After the accident, he was in hospital for eleven days, had to undergo surgery. The doctors assume that it will take three to six months for him to return to normal. Today, almost four months after the accident, he still cannot return to work. Since he works in the public sector, his professional association covers the treatment costs. Nevertheless, he suffers financial losses, because instead of full salary he receives sick pay. It is not only the physical and financial consequences that bother him. “I am also concerned psychologically about this. I’m no longer at the same pace as I used to, because I have to reckon with the things everywhere.”

 

There are almost no parking rules

 

In Germany, e-scooters are generally allowed to park anywhere on the sidewalk as long as the municipality does not prescribe stricter rules. That’s why the police apparently come to the conclusion in the Klaus Bopp case that the e-scooters were parked in accordance with the law, even though they protruded from the wall of the house across the sidewalk.

 

The legislator has not formulated clear rules on where e-scooters may be installed, says lawyer Hiby to Business Insider. He sees this as a serious legislative gap.

 

In many places, this regulatory gap leads to parking chaos on the sidewalks. Bopp’s hometown Bremen is one of the few cities that has established clear rules of the game. The city has prescribed to Voi that at least 1.50 meters of remaining walkway must remain when parking. If someone complains to the public order office, the e-scooter providers have 24 hours to change the vehicles.

 

Business model favors wildlife parking

 

The business model of the e-scooter companies is strongly based on the fact that the scooters can be found wherever possible. “Availability is crucial,” says a spokesman for Voi. In the industry, we speak of the “free floating model”. Every customer can borrow them and park them again where they feel like it.

For Hilke Groenewold, expert for accessibility at the German Blind and Visually Impaired Association, this is precisely the danger, especially for visually impaired and blind people. “Sighted people can also stumble upon it at night,” says Groenewold. The association wants fixed parking spaces, preferably on the street. “If they have to stand on sidewalks, it is only in defined areas that are tactile and visually rich in contrast,” says the expert. However, this is only moderately attractive for e-scooter companies, as this limits availability.

 

Voi partially outsources responsibility

 

Voi assured Business Insider that the company takes safety on the sidewalk very seriously. The Swedish company will be represented on German roads in June 2019 with its e-scooter offer. Today, she is active in twelve cities with a five-digit number of scooters. The problem with fleet management: Voi has outsourced control of the scooters to a large extent, as usual in the industry. The company offers the platform, the e-scooters and some local contacts. The actual work on the road, namely collecting, charging and distributing the scooters, is done by subcontractors.

According to Voi, it checks via digital tracking whether the scooters are parked correctly. Local Voi employees would instruct the external service providers and occasionally also check them on the road. They are in close contact with the subcontractors. What doesn’t seem to fit: Voi’s operations manager for Bremen lives and works in Berlin, 400 kilometers away. From lawyer Hiby’s point of view, the company deliberately goes at maximum distance: “Voi operates a purely virtual business from Sweden without tangible liability substrates.”

 

The current permit for Voi’s 500 e-scooters in Bremen expires at the end of November. The city is negotiating the conditions for next year with Voi these days. It is clear so far that the pavement width will be increased from 1.50 to 1.80 meters and that the company will have to react much faster in the future – probably within six instead of 24 hours – to incorrectly parked e-scooters. The Senate for Home Affairs said that Bremen is pushing e-scooter companies to solid storage spaces for a while longer.

 

Klaus Bopp, who is still struggling with the consequences of the accident, is still waiting for a personal apology today. He wants the e-scooters to no longer be allowed to stand and lie anywhere. “The project was simply not thought through to the end,” he says. Because he doesn’t want to relive the seconds of the fall. At that moment, I just felt helpless and powerless, because apparently nobody cares that the e-scooters are a traffic obstacle.

 

 

E-Scooter riders have little, if any, protection in case of injury or accident

 

ABC 7 – January 4th, 2021

Washington, USA

 

Originally posted at: https://wjla.com/features/i-team/e-scooter-riders-have-no-liability-insurance-protection-from-scooter-companies

 

If you haven’t ridden an e-scooter, chances are you’ve dodged one coming at you on the sidewalk or skirted one laying in the street.

 

The obvious hazards are well-documented, but we discovered one that could impact you even if you never step foot on an e-scooter.

 

”All of a sudden somebody in front of me jumps and screams ‘Whoa!’ and the scooter is, like, coming right at me,” said Jill Jefferson, whose life profoundly changed while walking down a D.C. sidewalk on her way to a meeting.

 

A woman on an e-scooter hit Jefferson with such force she flew into the air.

“I just thought, ‘Don’t let my head hit, don’t let my head hit first, don’t let my head hit first’,” said Jefferson.

 

The full weight of Jefferson’s body dropped to the concrete, leaving her with a broken back and traumatic brain injury.

 

Eighteen months later, the former government consultant is still recovering.

“It’s hard for me to bend down, or getting right and left mixed up,” said Jefferson. “I can’t read easily. I mean, I can read words, but my eyes get blurry or I can’t understand stuff.”

 

What happened to Jill Jefferson is not a one-off.

 

Rutgers University found facial and head injuries from e-scooters have tripled in the past decade.

 

The Henry Ford Health System reports that of the 92,353 scooter injuries treated in emergency rooms, nearly 28% were head and neck injuries.

And recently the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that most injuries happen on sidewalks.

 

While you may not be surprised by the accidents or even the injuries, given that there are no uniform laws about helmets or where e-scooters can operate, chances are you have no idea how unprotected you are if you are injured by, or on, an e-scooter.

 

“There’s no insurance to cover them,” said personal injury attorney Allan M. Siegel. “Certainly no insurance provided by the e-scooter company.”

 

He says it boils down to this: If you stumble over an e-scooter on the sidewalk and get hurt, are hit by one, or are hurt yourself on one, unless you can prove the scooter company was negligent, you would have no insurance protection through the scooter company.

 

And if you’re riding and hurt someone else, it’s unlikely your personal insurance would cover any of it, leaving all costs coming out of your pocket.

 

Siegel says all automobile ride shares must carry liability insurance in case the driver injures someone, and e-scooters — some of which can reach 30 miles per hour — should be no different.

 

“I think it is the responsibility of the e-scooter companies if they want to operate in the city,” said Siegel. “I think the council should make laws that say if you want operate in our cities you’re going to have liability coverage.”

 

Recently, the D.C. city council passed a bill that provides scooter users the same protection as cyclists, pedestrians, and other “vulnerable users.” A notion that was originally opposed by The Trial Lawyers of Washington, D.C. because the District had not defined or limited the way e-scooters could be used on DC streets and sidewalks.

 

In late October, however, the D.C. Council approved legislation for additional regulation of e-scooters that includes more rules for their use in the city and a requirement that they can be locked to racks or poles. That move gained the Council the support of the Association to classify e-scooter riders among “vulnerable users.” The chair of the Trial Lawyers Association of DC recently explained “vulnerable users” in an op-ed you can view here.

In mid-December D.C.’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee met and Jill Jefferson testified about her ordeal. Jefferson says the committee is considering additional protections for pedestrians in the case of being struck by an e-scooter.

 

Because Jill Jefferson was injured while walking to a work meeting, some of her medical bills were paid through worker’s comp. But the larger issues of regulating where e-scooters can operate and making sure the companies provide insurance to riders and those injured by them, is something she says she’ll fight for until it happens.

 

“Municipalities have the responsibility for protecting the health and safety and the general welfare of the public,” said Jefferson. “And that means to be able to walk freely in our nation’s capital without fear of getting mowed down by a random e-scooter.”

There’s a significant variation in state laws when it comes to e-scooters, including where they can be ridden. For example, Fairfax, Virginia allows the use of e-scooters on sidewalks but they cannot be operated above 10 miles per hour. In Arlington, Virginia, if a protected bike lane is available, the e-scooter cannot be used on the sidewalk. D.C. considers e-scooters “personal mobility devices” and therefore not subject to helmet laws, while other jurisdictions regulate them like bicycles.

 

In Maryland, e-scooters are not regulated by the state. Certain localities, including Baltimore City, have rules and restrictions for e-scooter companies. A 2019 law passed by Maryland’s General Assembly makes e-scooters subject to the same rules of the road as bicycles.

 

We reached out to six major e-scooter operators, all operating in the DMV, to talk to about these issues. Only one responded but did so only on the condition that we not name their company or attribute any information they provided to the company, rendering the information essentially useless.

 

As for Jefferson, she says she wants to do what she can to prevent another person from being injured. She’s working on putting together an e-scooter safety coalition. She’s already been asked to speak to the Virginia Association of Zoning Officials on the subject. Jefferson never got to speak to the person who hit her. All she knows is that the woman was visiting from another country. She made this video in the hopes of reaching the woman and of helping herself heal in all ways. For more information on scooter ordinances you can email: scootersafetycoalition@gmail.com

 

 

Bronx man dies after falling off e-scooter hitting head on ground

 

New York Post – November 18th, 2021

New York City, USA

 

Originally posted at: https://nypost.com/2021/11/18/nyc-man-marvin-campbell-dies-after-falling-off-e-scooter-hitting-head-on-ground/

 

A Bronx man died after losing control of his electric scooter last month and slamming his head on the ground, cops said.

 

Marvin Campbell, 45, was riding a Cycleboard Rover Scooter on Bronx Park East near Waring Avenue in Allerton on the evening of Oct. 27 when he fell off, according to police.

 

The Wakefield man was taken to Jacobi Hospital where he died last week, according to the NYPD.

 

Campbell was not wearing a helmet, cops said.

 

Helmets are not required for e-scooter riders 18 and older, but are “highly recommended,” according to the city’s Department of Transportation.

 

 

 

Man seriously hurt in Clifton e-scooter crash

 

BBC News – November 23rd, 2021

Nottingham, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-59379996

 

A man has been seriously hurt in a crash involving a vehicle and an e-scooter, police have said.

 

The man was taken to hospital following the collision at about 14:00 GMT on the A453 in Clifton, Nottingham.

 

The road was closed in both directions between Farnborough Road and Sunninghill Drive. One lane inbound has now reopened.

 

Nottinghamshire Police said officers remain at the scene as inquiries into the crash continue.

 

All outbound lanes are expected to remain closed for some time, the force added.

Motorists have been warned to expect delays and advised to use alternative routes.

Case investigator Sophie Law added: “We would like to thank people for their patience while we have the road closed.”

 

Anyone with any information or dashcam footage has been urged to come forward.

 

 

Moment passengers evacuated as e-scooter ‘explodes’ at London Tube station

 

Metro – November 5th, 2021

London, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://metro.co.uk/2021/11/05/moment-passengers-evacuated-as-e-scooter-explodes-at-parsons-green-15551238/

 

Passengers fled as smoke billowed down the platform at Parsons Green station on Monday evening after the lithium battery in the scooter exploded.

 

The incident happened in the front carriage of a District Line train at around 8pm. The flaming scooter was dragged onto the platform as it continued to burn.

 

In footage of the drama, people evacuating the train can be heard coughing and spluttering on the platform.

 

The e-scooter fire is the second of its kind reported in the capital in less than a month.

 

On October 26, firefighters were called to Stanmore station after the lithium battery of an e-scooter being held in lost property burst into flames.

 

E-scooters are currently allowed to be carried on the tube network but following the recent fires union bosses are calling for them to be banned.

 

TSSA organising director Lorraine Ward told the Evening Standard: ‘Without doubt the incident at Parsons Green raises very serious concerns.

 

‘It’s becoming all too clear that e-scooters pose a significant threat to the travelling public, our members and all workers at TfL.

 

‘There should be an immediate halt to transporting them on all TfL services until more research into these batteries has been carried out.

 

‘I’m therefore urging TfL to fully enforce the already existing ban on the use of e-scooters.

 

‘Indeed, a further ban across the wider travel network should be considered by the Secretary of State for Transport.’

 

Calling for an investigation into what caused the fires at Parsons Green and Stanmore, Ms Ward said: ‘Safety on our transport network will always be our union’s number one priority, there can be no compromises on that.’

 

A TfL spokesperson said: ‘We completely understand how worrying it was for our customers and staff when an e-scooter caught alight on a train.

‘Emergency services attended Parsons Green station and the e-scooter was removed at the first opportunity.

 

‘While incidents like this are very rare, we take safety on the network extremely seriously and are undertaking a full review, which includes liaising with the London Fire Brigade.

 

It is forbidden to ride e-scooters at stations or on trains, and failure to comply with this by-law is a criminal offence.

 

‘E-scooters may currently be carried but must be folded for the entirety of the journey.’

 

 

 

Oxford e-scooter crash involving pushchair leaves man and child injured

 

Oxfordshire Live – November 22nd, 2021

Oxfordshire, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.oxfordshirelive.co.uk/news/oxfordshire-news/oxford-e-scooter-crash-involving-6241178

 

An e-scooter has collided with a pedestrian and a pushchair on a foot path in Oxford.

The e-scooter’s rider failed to stop after hitting the pedestrian, a man in his forties and the pushchair, that a child was sat in.

 

The incident took place on the foot path next to Brookfield Crescent, with the pedestrian and child heading towards Headley Way.

 

Read more: British Transport Police investigate Oxfordshire train station upskirting incident

 

Thames Valley Police is now appealing to any witnesses to the collision – which took place between 8.30am and 8.40am on Sunday, November 21.

Both the man and the child suffered minor injuries, but did not require hospital treatment.

 

The person riding the e-scooter is described as a young male, aged in his early to late teens, wearing dark clothing.

He was riding an orange VOI e-scooter.

 

Currently, a council trial involving VOI e-scooters is running in Oxford for 14 months, although it’s not clear if the one used in the crash was a rented one or privately owned.

 

Investigating officer, PC Ruan Brink, based at Abingdon police station, said: “I am appealing for witnesses to this incident to please come forward.

 

“I’d also ask any motorists who have dash-cams and were in the local area around the time that this happened to please check any footage in case it may have captured something that could assist the investigation.

 

“Anyone with information can contact police by calling 101 or making a report online, quoting reference 43210526639.

 

“Alternatively, if you wish to remain anonymous, you can make a report to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their website.”

 

 

 

Dental injuries on the rise thanks to e-scooter use: study by U of A prof

 

Global News – September 22, 2021

Calgary

 

Originally posted at:https://globalnews.ca/news/7351143/dental-injuries-e-scooter-e-bike-alberta-study/

 

After running a study on the frequency and severity of dental and maxillofacial injuries associated with electric-powered bikes and scooters, a University of Alberta professor wants to see more education and possibly even more enforcement and legislation.

 

Dr. Liran Levin, a professor of periodontology at the School of Dentistry, and the president-elect of the International Association of Dental Traumatology, led a study. It was based on e-scooter- and e-bike-related injuries in Israel between 2014 and 2019.

 

Out of 3,686 hospital admissions from electric bikes and scooter injuries, 378 (10.3 per cent) were specific to oral and maxillofacial injuries.

 

“That should be alarming. It’s a constant rise, a constant increase in the numbers . . . We’re talking about not just simple injuries — even if you need a few stitches, you won’t be included in this study unless you were admitted to the hospital and stayed there for more than 24 hours.

 

“We saw that about 10 per cent of those injuries are involving the oral cavity . . . either the soft tissue or teeth or the jaw or bones that are in the oral area,” Levin said.

 

While similar data on this topic is not available in Canada, Levin said parallels can be drawn and municipalities can take a proactive approach to education and prevention.

 

“I think that [Israel] started a little earlier with the use of it so I think we can look at that as a forecast of what we’re going to experience,” Levin said.

 

“I think the main message is to be proactive and start with education and maybe better enforcement of prevention methods like helmets, maybe even mouth guards. It seems like a very simple and innocent tool — everyone can take it and have fun — but it’s not as innocent as it looks.”

 

Another important finding? E-bike and e-scooter injuries were being reported in both riders and pedestrians.

 

“Most of the pedestrians were either kids below the age of 15 or elderly, which probably means they’re more prone to be hurt in a more severe way and thus require hospitalization,” Levin said.

 

He also compared the injury rate of e-bikes and e-scooters to that of traditional bicycles.

 

“We see a lot more injuries in electronic bikes and scooters than we’re seeing in regular bicycles.

 

“The majority of those, surprisingly, do not involve other vehicles; it’s mainly the scooters with pedestrians or with something in the surroundings . . . There were still accidents with cars but let’s say about 60 per cent of them were without the involvement of another vehicle.”

 

Dr. Eddy Lang, an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, spoke with Global News in August 2019 about the number of hospital visits connected to e-scooters.

 

For a study, his team combed through the electronic health record used in Calgary to see when the word “scooter” was used by patients as they described to how they were injured.

 

By August 2019, some 60 patients had visited Calgary emergency rooms with e-scooter-related injuries. Of those, most were fractures but some were head injuries.

 

Lang said, because of riders’ “precarious vertical position, people are falling off of these and as a result, we’re seeing mostly upper extremity injuries – people are hurting their wrists and elbows.”

 

The maximum speed for the vehicles is 20 km/h and it’s illegal to use them while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Electric Scooters Continue to Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Kids and Others in Ontario – Register to Take Part in CNIB’s November 18, 2021 Virtual Town Hall on the Problems E-Scooters Create for People with Disabilities Living in or Visiting Ottawa

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Electric Scooters Continue to Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Kids and Others in Ontario – Register to Take Part in CNIB’s November 18, 2021 Virtual Town Hall on the Problems E-Scooters Create for People with Disabilities Living in or Visiting Ottawa

 

November 15, 2021

 

            SUMMARY

 

In Ontario, people with disabilities, seniors, children and others continue to be endangered by the silent menace of uninsured, unlicensed, untrained joy-riders racing at upwards of 20 kilometers per hour on electric-scooters, on sidewalks, roads park paths, and other public places. The e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists are continuing their feeding frenzy around Ontario, at the doors of municipal council members and municipal public officials.

 

The AODA Alliance along with other advocates for disabilities, seniors and others are continuing our grassroots efforts to get these politicians and public officials to stand up to the corporate lobbyists, and to stand up for people with disabilities. All our efforts are being coordinated by an informal group of disability organizations and individual advocates who have been conducting an excellent joint effort on this issue. Here’s the latest news on this front.

 

1. Ottawa—An Especially Bad Danger Zone for People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others

 

The City of Ottawa is continuing to be the most obviously under the thumbs of the e-scooter corporate lobbyists. Ottawa is now running its second “pilot project” with e-scooters. It has demonstrably created real dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Unsurprisingly, e-scooters are being ridden on sidewalks, even though that is not supposed to be allowed. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s office confirmed to the AODA Alliance during the 2020 summer, before Ottawa City Council under his leadership approved this e-scooter human experiment, that Ottawa had not budgeted any new funds for e-scooter law enforcement.

 

When this dangerous pilot project comes to an end this month, people with disabilities need Ottawa City Council not to extend it.

 

CNIB is hosting a virtual Town Hall on the Ottawa experience with e-scooters from 4:30 to 6 pm EST, on November 18, 2021. We set out the full announcement of that event, below. We encourage you to register to attend it, by simply writing Kate Riccomini@cnib.ca

 

A local Ottawa news report, the Capital Current, ran an article on November 10, 2021, explaining how Ottawa’s e-scooter “pilot” has represented a serious hardship for people with disabilities. We set that article out below.

 

The most thorough study of e-scooters and the dangers they pose was conducted this year and last year by Toronto city staff. We at the AODA Alliance have now sent the Ottawa city staff the excellent reports prepared by Toronto city staff on e-scooters, which have been available online for months. It is troubling that it was necessary for us to send those reports to Ottawa city staff responsible for the e-scooters project.

 

People with disabilities need the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee to now hold a public meeting and invite public input on this issue, and to strongly call for Ottawa not to allow e-scooters in public places. The Accessibility Advisory Committees in Toronto, Mississauga and London each passed strong motions recommending against e-scooters. The Ottawa accessibility should stand up for people with disabilities, and similarly recommend that Ottawa restore the ban on e-scooters. The AODA Alliance has asked the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee for a chance to present to it, which easily can be done virtually.

 

2. Toronto City Council Said No to E-Scooters But They Are Still All Over the City, With No Law Enforcement in Sight

 

Last spring, it was a huge victory for people with disabilities, seniors and others when the Toronto City Council unanimously voted not to allow e-scooters to be ridden in public places, whether rented e-scooters or an e-scooter that a rider privately owns. However, there are now many e-scooters being illegally ridden on Toronto streets, sidewalks, and public paths. There is absolutely no visible law enforcement. We have seen advertisements by those openly selling e-scooters, even though it is illegal to ride them in such public places.

 

The City of Toronto and other municipalities must vigorously enforce the ban on e-scooters, and must publicize the fact that it is illegal to ride them in public.

 

We need the Ontario Government to now give municipalities much better tools and rules for effectively enforcing such bans.

 

3. Will the City of Hamilton Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children by Allowing E-Scooters?

 

The City of Hamilton is apparently giving in to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists. It now plans to hold an e-scooter pilot next year. However, it is still not too late to get Hamilton to call that off.

 

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky spoke to Hamilton’s Accessibility Advisory Committee on November 4, 2021. He gave that Committee tactical and strategic ideas on how it could help in efforts to get Hamilton to back down on those dangerous plans. We remain eager to help them in any way we can.

 

4. London Ontario Has Not Yet Decided Whether to Give In to the E-Scooter Corporate Lobbyists

 

The City of London’s staff are now investigating the e-scooters issue. To our knowledge, London city staff have not yet rendered a report to London City Council. We and other disability advocates have spoken to London’s Civic Works Committee and a city staff official working on this issue to raise our concerns, backed by the London Accessibility Advisory Committee’s opposition to e-scooters.

5. In Order to Look Like they are Responding to Disability Dangers Posed by E-Scooters, the E-Scooter Rental Companies are Claiming to Explore Measures that In Truth Won’t Solve the Problem

 

A few ineffective proposals are being considered by Ottawa city staff to respond to e-scooter dangers created for people with disabilities, in evident conjunction with some of the e-scooter rental companies.

 

The most obviously laughable option is for the e-scooter rental companies to put a braille label of some sort on their e-scooter. This is meant to help a blind person report to the City if an e-scooter is improperly used.

 

This will of course be useless for a blind person to identify an e-scooter that is improperly being ridden on the sidewalk. A blind person cannot be expected to run after the e-scooter, catch up to it, and reach out a hand to try to read the braille somewhere on it, while the e-scooter is racing forward at upwards of 20 KPH.

 

The only possible use of this braille could be in the case that the e-scooter is improperly left lying on the sidewalk, as too often happens in communities that allow rental e-scooters. Picture a blind person walking down a public sidewalk, where e-scooters are not supposed to be ridden or left lying around. The blind person unexpectedly finds it, possibly tripping over it. The e-scooter corporate lobbyists or city staff are imagining that the blind person will then walk or crawl over to the e-scooter, lying on the sidewalk, and start to feel all over it, somehow already knowing it is an e-scooter, and expecting it to have a braille label on it.

 

There are so many reasons why this is absurd. Many blind people don’t read braille. Of the minority of blind people who do read braille, why would any of them expect that the object over which they just tripped will have a braille label of some sort on it? None should reasonably be expected to engage in such public groping of an object lying on the ground, in hopes that a braille label can be found somewhere on it.

 

All of this is meant to enable the blind person to call in a complaint, either to the e-scooter company or the City. This all leaves the profit-making to the e-scooter companies, while shifting the burden to grope the e-scooter and then lodge complaints to blind people, who, after all, simply want to be able to safely walk on the sidewalk.

 

The second distraction that some e-scooter companies are promoting is to add some sort of audible beeping sound to the e-scooter, in order to warn people that one is coming. From the feedback we have received from some people with disabilities who took part in a demonstration of these that the Ottawa city staff coordinated with the e-scooter companies, the beeping is not loud enough to be heard if there is nearby construction, a lawn mower, or a loud truck driving by. Moreover, we have not heard any proposals that the e-scooter continue to emit a loud beep while it is parked and unaccompanied, to warn people of them lying on the sidewalk.

 

Finally, in an effort to spawn enthusiasm about futuristic technology, some e-scooter companies talk about using “geo-fencing.” Each e-scooter would have a GPS tracker on it, that won’t allow the e-scooter to ride on a sidewalk. Of course, anyone who uses a GPS on their smart phone or in their car knows only too well that GPSs are not so accurate as to reliably know when an e-scooter is on a sidewalk, and not the adjacent road.

 

It is important for such side-shows not to distract from the bottom line here. E-scooters should not be allowed in public places. Neither the Ford Government nor any city council should be allowing the creation of such new disability barriers. This is especially so when Ontario only has a little over three years to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.

 

6. Looking Ahead towards the 2022 Provincial and Municipal Elections

 

Ultimately, what Ontarians with disabilities need is for the Ford Government to now repeal its regulation that allows municipalities to permit e-scooters in public places. In the 2022 provincial election, we will ask all political parties to commit to do so, if the Ford Government has not done so by then.

 

We also need all municipal council members to stand up for people with disabilities and to oppose electric scooters in their communities. In next fall’s Ontario municipal elections, we will call on voters to hold their city council members to account on this issue. Stay tuned!

 

For more information on our campaign against e-scooters, visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

 

            MORE DETAILS

 

 Capital Current November 10, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://capitalcurrent.ca/sidewalk-snafus-accessibility-issues-are-dogging-the-e-scooter-pilot-program-in-ottawa/

 

Sidewalk snafus: Accessibility issues are dogging the e-scooter pilot program in Ottawa

By Sarah Malina,

 

The impact of e-scooters on sidewalk accessibility has been a source of frustration for Ottawa residents during the city’s 2021 e-scooter pilot program.

 

People have been concerned about the increase in sidewalk obstructions caused by e-scooter users.

 

“It’s a maze, it literally is,” said Ryan Lythall, who uses a wheelchair.

 

Lythall said he has had his path on a sidewalk impeded by e-scooters many times during the pilot program. This past summer, for example, he had a run-in with two teens riding on an e-scooter down the sidewalk.

“They pulled over to try to give me room, but I ran into a pole. There was simply no room for              me to get by,” he said.

 

Lythall says people with mobility concerns (such as physical disabilities and visual impairments) can have a harder time navigating sidewalks at the best of times and e-scooters bring an increased risk of collisions and obstruction when ridden or misparked on sidewalks.

 

People have shared their concerns on social media. Twitter has been full of photos of misparked scooters blocking sidewalks and expressions of frustration about having to move scooters out of the way — something that people with disabilities or limited mobility, like Lythall, might not be able to do on their own.

The City of Ottawa’s 2021 e-scooter pilot program, has 1,200 machines deployed across the city by rental companies Bird Canada, Neuron, and Lime until Nov. 30. As of Oct. 31, the city reported that the 2021 pilot season had 123,327 riders who had taken 452,808 trips.

 

The city promised in its announcement of the pilot that there would be a focus on reducing sidewalk riding and improper parking. Willem Klumpenhouwer, a transportation researcher and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, said that pilot programs often see issues such as these.

 

“There’s a lot of testing out what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully, the City has access to the      data, has access to certain measures of how these things are doing and then can react to that,             and make sure companies are trying to find ways to improve.”

 

Austin Spademan, the assistant general manager at Bird Canada, says the data the company collects on e-scooter rides in the city suggests that Twitter complaints don’t represent the reality on the ground.

 

“Twitter complaints don’t seem to align with reality, because as a percentage of total rides, the   compliance is exceptionally high right now. It’s not perfect, I totally agree. It’s not perfect, but         we’re at like 99 per cent appropriate parking compliance by riders.”

 

A press release that Neuron Mobility shared with Capital Current on Oct. 21, included data from a recent rider survey the firm conducted in Ottawa. According to the findings of the survey, 82 per cent of riders believe e-scooters have had a positive impact in the community. It should be noted that this finding is specific to the e-scooter riders and not the general Ottawa community. No data was shared on misparked scooters. Spademan said there are kinks to work out. E-scooters are a new technology in Ottawa. He said that Bird is working directly with people with disabilities to whom these accessibility concerns directly apply. Bird Canada has been working with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Canadian Council for the Blind. Lythall, among others, was an early stakeholder consulted by Spademan and Bird Canada.

 

“Those are the people I’m listening to,” said Spademan.

 

The city, which shares the right way to park an e-scooter on social media, says proper e-scooter parking s in what is called the sidewalk furniture zone, which is “the area closest to the curb in line with trees, benches and bike racks and out of the way of pedestrian travel.” But, not all city sidewalks have such zones. Ottawa has also created the “Electric Kick-Scooter Bylaw” to regulate and enforce proper scooter use. Offenders are liable for a substantial fine.

 

Bird Canada has set up an email created initially for people with disabilities based on feedback from the Canadian Council for the Blind (311_ottawa@birdcanada.co).

 

Messages go directly to the phones of Spademan and his operations team, allowing them to get to a site faster to move misparked e-scooters.

 

Neuron Mobility and Bird Canada are testing e-scooters with noise-emission technology to better alert pedestrians, particularly those with vision impairments, that an e-scooter is approaching. Neuron Mobility has also introduced braille identifiers and raised lettering on their e-scooters to help vision-impaired pedestrians to identify and report misparked e-scooters, and Bird Canada is also piloting a new model of e-scooters would prevent operation of the devices on sidewalks.

 

“Since we’ve implemented this program at Lansdowne, [we’ve had] zero cases of a scooter                being parked outside of the digital coral,” said Spademan.

 

Gwen McGuire, Neuron Mobility’s senior communications leader, said Neuron will be making an “exciting safety-focused innovation announcement” in a couple weeks. That timing is aligned with the end of the 2021 e-scooter pilot, which is set to finish at the end of the month.

 

Lime did not respond to Capital Current’s inquiry on the measures they are taking to alleviate sidewalk accessibility issues.

 

Klumpenhouwer thinks that the root of the issue lies more so in Ottawa’s lack of infrastructure for active transportation, such as parking options and bike lanes.

 

My worry is that people will label the whole project as a big mistake when a lot of the problems     that we’re seeing with scooters are because there’s not the right kind of infrastructure.”

 

Klumpenhouwer said he thinks if the proper infrastructure is provided people will use it, decreasing the obstructions to sidewalks and improve accessibility for people with disabilities and limited mobility.

 

“People are more inclined to park in a spot if it’s available and convenient. … So I think if you         provide a little more of the infrastructure people will start to park them in better spots.”

 

Spademan, who is also a biker, agrees better infrastructure is necessary, and suggests that e-scooters are a good business case for more bike lanes in the city.

 

“Being in this job, I can actually make compelling data-driven arguments to the city. … We’ve              now got a bunch of new people in the active mobility space and we’ve got the data to back it up     to be like, ‘hey, you need a bike lane right here, or you need e-scooter parking on this street.”

 

Despite this, Lythall said he believes there are still too many irresponsible users for the e-scooter initiative to be worthwhile. He wants the city to end the program, as is the case in Toronto.

 

 CNIB Online Announcement of Its November 18, 2021 Town Hall on Electric Scooters

 

Originally posted at https://cnib.ca/en/event/ottawa-e-scooter-experience-virtual-town-hall?region=on

 

The City of Ottawa is currently wrapping up the second year of its e-scooter pilot and we want to hear your thoughts.

 

Have you had encounters, good or bad, with e-scooters in your neighbourhood? Have you run into e-scooters in your travels to Ottawa? The second year of Ottawa’s e-scooter pilot is wrapping up, and we want to hear from you. You are invited to share your e-scooter experiences with us at a virtual Townhall meeting on November 18. We will be inviting City of Ottawa staff to hear your feedback as well, and incorporating it into a report to the City about e-scooters.

 

Date: Thursday, November 18

Time: 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Location: Online or via telephone using Zoom.

Registration is required. To register, contact Kate Riccomini@cnib.ca Program Lead, Advocacy & Accessible Community Engagement at Kate.Riccomini@cnib.ca

 

A Troubling Setback Two Decades Ago Today in the Campaign for Strong Accessibility Legislation Sowed the Seeds for Later Progress

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

A Troubling Setback Two Decades Ago Today in the Campaign for Strong Accessibility Legislation Sowed the Seeds for Later Progress

 

November 5, 2021

 

 SUMMARY

 

Let’s take an informative stroll down memory lane! Twenty years ago, today was an important, all be it frustrating day in the non-partisan grassroots campaign for a barrier-free Ontario for all people with disabilities.

 

On November 5, 2001, Ontario’s last Conservative Government, under premier Mike Harris, introduced into the Legislature its promised Disabilities Act. The Government had invited disability community representatives to Queen’s Park for the introduction of Bill 125, called the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The AODA Alliance’s predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, had been campaigning for a strong Disabilities Act for six long years, since late 1994.

 

The bill introduced in the Legislature twenty years ago today was a disaster. Yet within were the unexpected seeds of later progress in our campaign for accessibility.

 

            MORE DETAILS

 

The Long-Term Significance of the Frustrating Events Two Decades Ago Today

 

 

 

 

We quickly realized on November 5, 2005 that Bill 125 was a tremendous let-down. It was supposed to make Ontario accessible for people with disabilities. Yet it did not require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere in Ontario. Moreover, that bill only applied to the broader public sector, not the private sector. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it also had no enforcement, making it a voluntary law.

 

Bill 125 in substance did three things. First, it required each provincial ministry and broader public sector organization (like hospitals, school boards and public transit authorities) to make public an annual accessibility plan. However, those plans did not have to be any good. Those public sector organizations were not required to ever implement those plans.

 

Second, it required every municipality with at least 10,000 residents to establish a municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee. However, it did not require municipalities to ever listen to those advisory committees, or to give reasons when their advice was rejected.

 

Third, it made a series of amendments to a short list of other Ontario laws to promote accessibility.

 

The disability community widely slammed Bill 125 as toothless and grossly inadequate. The very short list of community organizations that applauded it later in substance agreed that Ontarians with disabilities needed much more. The media covered Bill 125’s serious deficiencies.

 

During public hearings at the Legislature later that fall, presenter after presenter (including the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) slammed the bill, and called for major amendments. The opposition Liberals and NDP presented many amendments on the disability community’s behalf. The Harris Government rejected those proposed amendments. The Conservative Government made at most only minor amendments.

 

When Bill 125 came up for Third Reading in the Legislature in December, 2001, the Liberals and NDP voted against it, arguing that people with disabilities deserved much more. The Harris Government used its majority in the Legislature to pass it. There were no celebrations in the disability community or in the Legislature when the bill passed.

 

Bill 125 was the last piece of legislation passed under Premier Mike Harris, before he stepped down. To us, that symbolized how low a priority it was for him. In the 1995 election, he had promised to pass the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term in office, and to work with the disability community to develop it. However, it was not passed until halfway through his second term. Moreover, Premier Mike Harris, like Ontario’s current Premier Doug Ford, refused every request from the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee for a meeting.

 

So, twenty years later as we reflect on this event, was it all bad news for Ontarians with disabilities? No, it was not. Much the opposite!

 

Some feared that we’d give up when six years of advocacy resulted in such weak legislation. Yet Ontario’s grassroots disability advocates and the disability community did not give up at the end of 2001. Instead, we re-doubled our efforts to win strong disability accessibility legislation.

 

Our efforts led both the Liberals and NDP to promise in the 2003 Ontario election to bring forward a new Disabilities Act that was enforceable, that applied to the private sector as well as the public sector, and that was mandatory, rather than voluntary. The Liberals won the 2003 Ontario election. Premier Dalton McGuinty came back to the Legislature in 2004-2005 with a new bill, Bill 218, which became the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It fulfilled those election commitments.

 

In the sixteen years since it was passed, the AODA has not delivered all it promised. Its implementation and enforcement have fallen far short of what people with disabilities need. However, the AODA has certainly produced more for people with disabilities than would have ever been possible under the weaker Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001.

 

The disability community learned a great deal during the blitz in the fall of 2001 surrounding Bill 125. It did an effective job of coming forward to the Legislature with strong recommendations on how to strengthen that weak bill. Those ideas and that experience enriched the disability community in 2003 to 2005, as it worked with the McGuinty Government on the design of the proposed Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

 

The abject failure of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 was eventually recognized by all. It was even recognized by the Conservatives. The Cabinet Minister who proudly introduced Bill 125 two decades ago today, Cam Jackson, was later to acknowledge in the Legislature during debates over the Liberal Government’s AODA bill in 2004-2005 that people with disabilities needed more than his own Ontarians with Disabilities Act delivered. Once they had moved from Government to the opposition, Ontario’s Conservative Party in fact voted in support of the Liberals’ AODA and congratulated the Government on it. They even proposed amendments to make it stronger.

 

Even leaders from the regulated organizations learned an important lesson from Bill 125. When the subsequent Liberal Government under Dalton McGuinty proposed to require the Government to enact enforceable accessibility standards, they heard about the need for such standards from some obligated organizations, and not just from the disability community. Everyone had learned that trying to come up with accessibility plans, one organization at a time, without accessibility standards in place, wastefully required each obligated organization to reinvent the same accessibility wheel over and over.

 

There are vestiges of Bill 125 still in place, even though the Ontarians with Disabilities Act itself was later repealed. Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees remain, though municipalities still don’t need to listen to them or give reasons for refusing to do so. Bill 125’s amendments to a short list of other Ontario laws also remain in place.

 

The lessons we learned two decades ago remains vital for us today. We don’t settle for weak half-measures or distractions. We remain tenacious.

 

Our message about the need for disability legislation has since spread over the past two decades to Manitoba, and then to Nova Scotia and BC, as well as to the federal sphere. When the Federal Government’s Accessible Canada Act included requirements for federally-regulated organizations to make accessibility plans, we responded that we learned from Mike Harris’ Bill 125 how toothless that was.

 

Fast-forwarding to the current Government under Premier Doug Ford, There have now been a deeply-disturbing 1,009 days since the Doug Ford Government received the withering report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, who conducted a Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There is still no comprehensive Government plan announced to implement the Onley Report. To learn about the significance of that delay, read the recent guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky published in several of the Toronto star’s Metroland newspapers.

 

We will again invoke our tenacity as we move forward over the next weeks and months with our non-partisan accessibility campaign.

 

Want to learn more about the history of the events that took place two decades ago today? How did the ODA Committee initially react to Bill 125? This is all set out in the ODA Committee’s November 7, 2001 analysis of Bill 125.

 

What did the ODA Committee tell the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance during its rushed public hearings on Bill 125? Read the December 5, 2001 ODA Committee presentation to the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance.

 

How can you learn more about these events? They are all documented on the ODA Committee website. Even though the ODA Committee was wound up in August 2005 and has been superseded by the AODA Alliance, the ODA Committee’s website remains online as a public archive of its work.

 

Download in an Accessible MS Word Format the AODA Alliance’s November 1, 2021 Brief to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on that Committee’s Initial Report on What the Promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard Should Include

Download in an Accessible MS Word Format the AODA Alliance’s November 1, 2021 Brief to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on that Committee’s Initial Report on What the Promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard Should Include

The AODA Alliance Sends a Detailed Brief with 53 Recommendations to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to Make Post-Secondary Education Accessible to Students with Disabilities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

The AODA Alliance Sends a Detailed Brief with 53 Recommendations to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to Make Post-Secondary Education Accessible to Students with Disabilities

 

November 1, 2021

            SUMMARY

Today is the final day for the public to send feedback to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on the measures needed to make colleges and universities in Ontario accessible for students with disabilities. The AODA Alliance has sent that Government-appointed Committee a detailed brief, set out below. It makes 53 recommendations.

Overall, our brief supports the Initial Report that the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted to the Ford Government last March, and which the Government made public on June 25, 2021 for public comment. Our brief points out a few areas where we disagree with that Initial Report, and several areas where we urge the Committee to add more detail to its recommendations to the Government. We congratulate the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on its efforts and are eager to meet with that Committee to discuss our recommendations in this brief.

We thank everyone who has shared their feedback with the AODA Alliance on this topic, including your thoughts on the draft Framework for the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard, which the AODA Alliance created and made public on March 11, 2020. Your input makes a huge difference.

While today is set as the final deadline for giving the Standards Development Committee your feedback, we encourage you to send a short email to them, supporting the AODA Alliance’s November 1, 2021 brief which we here make public. You can write the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee at: postsecondarySDC@ontario.ca

Today is also the final day to send your feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on its Initial Report that recommends measures to make K-12 education in Ontario schools accessible to students with disabilities. You can write that Standards Development Committee at educationsdc@ontario.ca

 

AODA Alliance Brief to the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee on Its Initial Recommendations for the Contents of the Promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard

 

November 1, 2021

Via email to: postsecondarySDC@ontario.ca

 

 1. Introduction

 

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government is required to do so by enacting and effectively enforcing accessibility standards. These are enforceable regulations. An accessibility standard is required to specifically spell out in detail the barriers that are to be removed or prevented, what specifically must be done to remove or prevent them, and the timelines required for these actions.

 

The Ontario Government has committed to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. In 2017, the Ontario Government appointed two Standards Development Committees, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. These Committees are mandated to make recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

 

On June 25, 2021, the Ontario Government publicly posted the initial or draft report of the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee, three and a half months after the Government received it. The public’s feedback has been invited on that Initial Report. That Initial Report sets out recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include in so far as Ontario colleges and universities are concerned. The public has been given up to November 1, 2021 to submit its feedback.

 

This brief sets out the AODA Alliance’s detailed feedback on the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report. Our recommendations are listed in Appendix 2 at the end of this brief. In summary, we congratulate the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee for a strong report with very helpful recommendations. In this brief, we recommend ways to fine-tune and strengthen them. With only a few exceptions, we do not disagree with anything the Standards Development Committee recommended.

 

The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report demonstrates over and over how Ontario desperately needs a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted as soon as possible. It shows that Ontario’s post-secondary education system is replete with far too many disability barriers. These barriers hurt students with disabilities and hand-cuff post-secondary educators who want them fully included in their post-secondary educational offerings.

 

It is especially important for the post-secondary education sector to become accessible to students with disabilities. A good post-secondary education is very important for getting a good job, or indeed getting a job at all. This is even more important for people with disabilities. People with disabilities chronically face a substantially higher unemployment rate than the public does as a whole. Barriers in the post-secondary education system can only make this situation worse. A strong and effective post-secondary Education Accessibility Standard is therefore an important measure for increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

 

 2. Who Are We?

 

The AODA Alliance is a voluntary non-partisan coalition of individuals and organizations. Our 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: https://www.aodaalliance.org.

 

Our coalition is the successor to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee advocated for more than ten years for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our supporters from the ODA Committee’s broad, grassroots base. To learn about the ODA Committee’s history, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net.

 

We have been widely recognized by the Ontario Government, by all political parties in the Ontario Legislature, within the disability community, and by the media, as a key voice leading the non-partisan campaign for accessibility in Ontario. In every provincial election since 2005, parties that made election commitments on accessibility did so in letters to the AODA Alliance.

 

Our efforts and expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities have been recognized in MPPs’ speeches on the floor of the Ontario Legislature, and beyond. Our website and Twitter feed are widely consulted as helpful sources of information on accessibility efforts in Ontario and elsewhere. We have achieved this as an unfunded volunteer community coalition.

 

Among other things, we led the campaign in Ontario from 2009 to the present to get the Ontario Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard. Our efforts on the education front are documented on the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

 

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past several years, the AODA Alliance has been active in advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. Our efforts influenced the development of the Accessible Canada Act. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue.

 

The AODA Alliance has spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on disability accessibility issues. We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, by parties from Israel and New Zealand.

 

 3. Our Big Message to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee

 

Before going into details, we offer six high-level themes and over-arching recommendations for the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, to help it finalize its report on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include regarding colleges and universities.

 

First, we heartily congratulate the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on its thorough, thoughtful Initial Report. It reflects mountains of very hard work.

 

The AODA Alliance strongly supports everything in that Initial Report except in the specific instances where the contrary is explicitly indicated in this brief. In each case, we show how the Initial Report can be refined to address the issues we identify. To address our concerns is eminently feasible. Our recommendations fit very well with the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s overall approach.

 

 

Second, at several points in the Initial Report, the Standards Development Committee correctly recognizes a need for standards to be created, but subsequently recommends that their creation be delegated to others, such as the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and/or the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). In each such case, we propose that it is more appropriate for that policy, standard, or direction to be set out in the Education Accessibility Standard itself.

 

In those instances, we agree that a standard needs to be created. However, its creation should not be delegated to the Ministry or the COU. The Ministry has no expertise in such areas as supervision of graduate students. Moreover, the whole idea of an AODA accessibility standard is that Cabinet enacts it. It does not get and indeed cannot be sub-delegated to someone else.

 

As noted earlier, an AODA accessibility standard is required to set specific accessibility standards that spell out in detail which barriers are to be removed and prevented, and what must be done to remove or prevent them. In the absence of an Education Accessibility Standard in Ontario, individual students with disabilities must each resort to the duty to accommodate their disabilities under human rights laws, because recurring disability barriers too often remain in place. If the Education Accessibility Standard directs the removal and prevention of specific disability barriers in the post-secondary education system, then students with disabilities will not have to resort to asking for many individualized accommodations to get around those barriers.

 

To illustrate, it is commendable that the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard does not tell each municipal transit authority to develop a plan on what to include in buses it procures to ensure that those buses are accessible to passengers with disabilities. Instead, it properly spells out in detail what a bus must include to be accessible.

 

In contrast, it is inappropriate that the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard does not spell out measures to remove and prevent many recurring workplace barriers. This is a major failing of that accessibility standard. It wrongly allows employers to leave existing barriers in place, while also allowing employers to erect new barriers. The Employment Accessibility Standard primarily attempts to encourage employers to effectively accommodate individual employees with disabilities. It does little to make workplaces accessible and barrier-free over the long term.

 

If the Education Accessibility Standard does not include specific and detailed barrier removal and prevention requirements in a particular area where a known recurring disability barrier exists, each college and university is left to determine what accessibility features it should include in its documents, websites, furniture, equipment, buildings, or services. This duplication of effort is wasteful and inefficient. Each college and university must re-invent the wheel. Students with disabilities at each college and university must repeatedly advocate for the mitigation and removal of the same recurring barriers. It leaves each college or university, or Colleges and the Council of Ontario Universities, to decide how much or how little each party will do. This risks accomplishing too little for students with disabilities.

 

Organizations want and need to know specifically what they must do to comply. Where it is proposed that each of the colleges and universities establishes a “guideline”, this is of little use. A “guideline” is not binding. In contrast, an accessibility standard is binding and enforceable.

 

For example, the Initial Report’s Recommendation 52 (Graduate supervision) includes:

 

“a) Ministry of Colleges and Universities, working with the Council of Ontario Universities, shall develop a common set of guidelines and resources for graduate faculty members in accessible and inclusive supervision of graduate students with disabilities, including best practices for virtual supervision.

  1. b) Postsecondary institutions shall mandate that all faculties of graduate studies and graduate departments have explicit policies, practices and guidelines on accessibility and accommodation for graduate students with disabilities, which are developed in a consultative manner. Policies should include consideration of disclosure, accommodation, student supervision and graduate assessments (for example, comprehensive exams and thesis defenses), and take into account the roles of graduate students as academic/research staff and university employees.
  2. c) Review of these policies shall be attached to the graduate program quality assurance process.”

 

 

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. Wherever the Initial Report recommends the creation of a standard or the development of a policy or guideline, such a standard, policy or guideline should be mandatory and should be spelled out in detail in the Education Accessibility Standard, rather than delegating authority to create it to some organization or department.

 

Third, it is especially important not to confuse or conflate the separate concepts of accessibility on the one hand, and accommodation of students with disabilities under the human rights duty to accommodate, on the other. The Initial Report appears to focus in significant part on the duty to accommodate, though not exclusively so.

 

To become accessible, a college or university must identify and remove existing recurring disability barriers and prevent the creation of new ones. On the other hand, the duty to accommodate assumes the inaccessible status quo with all its accessibility barriers. It focuses on creating individual “work-arounds” to get around those barriers, while the barriers themselves tend to remain in place.

 

It will always be necessary at colleges and universities to have in place effective mechanisms for implementing the duty to accommodate students with disabilities. To that end, it is great that the Committee’s Initial Report makes excellent recommendations to fortify these mechanisms for individual accommodation. This is vital now, while those institutions still have many accessibility barriers. Later, when those recurring barriers are removed, there will be a reduced need for individualized accommodation. However, even then, there will remain some need for the duty to accommodate to come into play.

 

Fourth, while we support virtually all of the Initial Report, and largely only ask for it to be fine-tuned as identified in this brief, we do flag one significant concern. The Initial Report principally speaks to middle and senior management at colleges and universities. It does so in language and recommendations that reflect and focus that environment. As such, the report may not appear to speak directly to students with disabilities themselves, and to front-line course instructors. We do not for a moment suggest that the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee is not keenly focused on the needs of students with disabilities. The Initial Report is commendably all about meeting their needs. However, such vague notions as “disability lens” are hard if not impossible for students to enforce, and hard if not impossible for front-line instructors to understand what they are now expected to change, and when they are in compliance.

 

There is the risk that the Initial Report’s recommendations could wrongly be converted into an increase in administrative bureaucracy, even though the Committee is seeking substantially increased direct substantive action on removing and preventing barriers. We encourage the Standards Development Committee, as it finalizes its report, to fine-tune its recommendations to make them more concrete and enforceable, so that students will know what results to expect, and front-line instructors will know what they must do. After all, it is the frontline interaction between students and their instructors where all these measures come to fruition.

 

Fifth, at several places in the Initial Report, it is recommended that colleges and universities make public a document, report or data, or submit them to the Government. All of these reports, documents and other data should be made widely, accessibly available to the public in each case.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. Wherever the Education Accessibility Standard will require colleges and universities to file a document or data with the Government, or to make public any document, report, or data, it should also require that these be submitted electronically to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in an accessible format. The Standard should also require the Accessibility Directorate to make those documents, reports or data public on a publicly searchable database or hub.

 

Sixth, even if all the Standards Development Committee’s recommendations are adopted, we are deeply concerned that the AODA will continue to be weakly enforced. Stronger enforcement and compliance measures are needed. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee recommended such actions. With minor adjustments, they would readily fit the post-secondary sector.

 

For example, there is a pressing need for there to be on-site inspections, and not mere Government review of an obligated organization’s accessibility documents (such as policies and records of staff training). It is not good enough for colleges and universities to have good records on file. They need to deliver accessible education to students with disabilities

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee should endorse and echo the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial’ Report’s recommendations on enforcement of the AODA, with necessary changes to tailor them to the context of colleges and universities.

 

 4. Specific Recommendations

 

 a) General

 

Where this brief states that “a post-secondary education organization should …” or similar wording, this means that the Education Accessibility Standard should include a provision that requires the post-secondary education organization to take the step we describe.

 

The Standards Development Committee’s final report should make it clear that it applies to all disabilities covered by the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Charter of Rights and the AODA

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to add that where the Education Accessibility Standard refers to “students with disabilities “, this should include any student who has any kind of disability, including, for example, any kind of physical, mental, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health, communication, neurological, neurobehavioural or other kind of disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

 b) Standards Development Committee Chair’s March 12, 2021 Letter Transmitting Its Initial Report to the Accessibility Minister

 

We agree with the Standards Development Committee chair’s March 12, 2021 cover letter to the Accessibility Minister, where it recommended the following – a point that the report itself should recommend:

 

“We also propose that the Postsecondary Education Accessibility Standards be applied beyond our mandate to include other educational contexts, such as privately funded colleges and universities and transitional job training programs.”

 

For example, it makes no sense that the Standard would apply to a law school, but not to the Law Society of Ontario’s Bar Admission course, which must be completed after law school graduation, to qualify for admission to the practice of law.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Standards Development Committee’s final report itself and not just the chair’s transmission letter should recommend that the Postsecondary Education Accessibility Standard apply to all other post-secondary educational contexts, such as privately funded colleges and universities and job training programs.

 

 c) Long Term Objective of the Post-Secondary Education Standard

 

We agree with the ideas and sentiments in the Initial Report’s discussion of the Standard’s long term objective, and with the Committee’s recommendation that its long term objective should be written right into the Standard itself. We also agree that the objective should be expressed in more focused and specific terms than have earlier AODA accessibility standards.

 

However, we believe that as written, the Initial Report’s long term objective is not strong or focused enough. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee Initial Report includes:

 

” Recommendation 1: The long-term objective of the standards:

With the support of the Ontario government, postsecondary publicly funded colleges and universities in Ontario will implement an intentional strategy:

that actively engages students with disabilities in the ongoing identification, removal and prevention of barriers

that recognizes disability as a critical aspect of the education sector’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion that creates policies, procedures and guidelines through an intersectional accessibility lens

where teaching and learning practices take into account the diversity of learning environments and needs throughout the academic journey

Realization of the long-term objective will result in all students with disabilities living and learning in an environment where they will:

  • feel valued, welcomed and a sense of belonging
  • navigate transparent systems without barriers
  • be provided with opportunities to realize their full potential both inside and outside of the classroom
  • have an equal opportunity to contribute, to learn and to demonstrate their knowledge”

 

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report’s proposed objective is preferrable.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The long term objective of the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that by 2025, post-secondary education in Ontario will be fully accessible and barrier-free for students with disabilities:
    1. By removing and preventing accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities from fully participating in, being fully included in, and fully benefitting from all aspects of post-secondary education in Ontario, and

 

  1. By providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process for students with disabilities to learn about and seek programs, services, supports, accommodations and placements tailored to the individual strengths and needs of each student with disabilities.”

 

  1. Eliminating or substantially reducing the need for students with disabilities to have to fight against post-secondary education accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for post-secondary education organizations to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one education program at a time.

 

 d) Barrier Area 1: Changing Public Attitudes and Awareness

 

The Standards Development Committee’s report places emphasis on and trust in public education campaigns, including within colleges and universities, to change attitudes towards people with disabilities, and to reduce or eliminate ablism. For example, the Committee’s Initial Report includes, under its Recommendation 18 (Awareness):

 

“The government will develop guidance documents for obligated organizations and conduct a sustained, multi-faceted ongoing public education campaign on accessibility.”

 

Respectfully, we disagree. We have been witness to and participants in more such campaigns and efforts than can be counted. They change very little. They let politicians and government claim to be doing something, and posture to look like they are doing something, when it turns out to be superficial optics at best.

 

We do not need another Government announcing yet another public education campaign, and to then say they are listening to and acting on the advice of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. That risks being an excuse for their not taking action on other important recommendations that the Standards Development Committee is advancing.

 

Sadly, ample experience shows that such public education campaigns too often do not materially change what people in positions of authority do. It is ineffective to hope to first change attitudes towards people with disabilities in the vain hope that this will sometime later change their actions.

 

Instead, we must now change actions. The attitudes will change as a result. Put another way, nothing raises awareness and changes attitudes and culture better than a clear, specific, mandatory law such as a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard, known to be backed by timely and effective enforcement. The detailed requirements, such as we recommend, to be included in that accessibility standard, then become the public education campaign.

 

An obligated organization may remove and prevent disability barriers because its attitudes have changed. It may do so because it is good for business. It may do so because it fears a Government inspection, enforcement and penalties. It may do so because it fears bad press if it doesn’t fix things. It may do so because it is the right thing to do. It may do so because of a combination of these motivations. We care principally that the obligated organization removes and prevents those barriers, and does so as soon as possible, for whatever reason.

 

 

 e) Barrier Area 2: Training

 

It is good that the Initial Report recommends training for post-secondary staff on AODA standards and the Ontario Human Rights Code. It should be expanded to also include their duties under s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (equality rights to people with disabilities), which the AODA also aims to implement.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (training) should be amended to include training on the duties of post-secondary institutions to people with disabilities under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and especially s. 15 (equality rights).

 

The Initial Report Recommendation 20-23 proposes that training should be provided at no cost to post-secondary institutions. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 20 includes:

 

“Online and in-person components shall be provided at no cost to postsecondary institutions across the province.”

 

If this means that The Government of Ontario should not charge for training resources, then we agree. If it means that post-secondary institutions should never have to pay anyone for such training, then we disagree. An accessibility standard can and should never purport to direct that an obligated organization never need pay for an accommodating or accessibility measure.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (Training) should be revised to either remove the statement that post-secondary institutions should not pay for disability accessibility/inclusion training, or to clarify that the Ontario Government should not charge a fee for providing such training to those obligated organizations.

 

The Initial Report’s recommendations regarding training should specifically include training on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, both employees and students with disabilities. We recognize that this is implicit in the Initial Report’s recommendations. It would be better to make it explicit.

 

We have found that there is a thirst for such training, and that training can start right now. In early October, 2021, the AODA Alliance made public a captioned training video on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, available at https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ which runs about one and a quarter hours. It is presented by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, and is posted on a post-secondary institution’s website, the Osgoode Hall Law School.

 

Within two weeks of being posted and publicized on social media by the AODA Alliance, it has been seen over 1,000 times and has received positive feedback. The Toronto District School Board sent it to all its principals and vice-principals.

 

With tools such as the video now available, action can start now.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations, Recommendations 20 and following, should be revised to explicitly require training on the duty to accommodate students and employees with disabilities, and to direct that this training begin immediately, using resources that are now readily available for free.

 

 

We support the need for training of college and university facility management officials on universal design. Colleges and universities have been the venue of some of the troubling new buildings with serious accessibility problems.

 

This training should include direct presentations by users with disabilities who have suffered as a result. It should also require the viewing of projects that have gone wrong.

 

For example, the AODA Alliance widely-viewed video about serious accessibility problems at the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, available at https://youtu.be/4oe4xiKknt0, is now being used for training in some design professional circles. The David Onley AODA Independent Review references that video. We encourage its use. We emphasize that we do not hold out Ryerson as an especially problematic place. Rather, that video illustrates problems that we find to be generally typical and troubling around Ontario.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. “Recommendation 29: Facilities Management/Design/Construction staff” Should be amended to require that training of those responsible for facilities at post-secondary institutions and those who design such facilities should be required to include direct live training from people with disabilities who have suffered from post-secondary institutions’ built environment barriers, and should include video depictions of such barriers, such as the AODA Alliance’s videos available at https://youtu.be/4oe4xiKknt0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgfrum7e-_0&t=87s

 

Training for all post-secondary employees, and especially for course instructors and other creators of electronic content (such as web site content) should be required to have up-to-date training on accessibility barriers in the area of documents and information and communication generally. For example, they need to be trained that if a document is posted in pdf, it MUST simultaneously be posted in html and/or MS Word. Too many still believe that pdf is or can be an accessible format. This is simply erroneous.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require up-to-date training on the creation of accessible digital content, such as in online posts and electronic documents, especially for course instructors and anyone else who creates digital content for use by students and others in the post-secondary community. This training should make it clear that if a document is posted or circulated in pdf, it must also be posted or circulated in MS Word and/or html.

 

Those involved in the procurement of technology for use in the college or university should be required to get training on procuring accessible technology. Though hard to believe, York University procured an entirely new phone system replete with new accessibility barriers, during the time that the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee was doing its work. This no doubt cost thousands of dollars to implement across the university. Those overseeing this were unaware of its obvious barriers, that became evident within moments of looking at the new phones.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require that college or university staff involved in the procurement of any technology or equipment be required to be trained on technology accessibility needs and requirements.

 

We offer additional proposals to supplement the Initial Report’s Training recommendations.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that:

 

  1. Each post-secondary education organization should provide teaching coaches with expertise in universal design in learning and differential instruction to support instructional staff.

 

  1. The Ontario Government should create templates or models for the training of college and university instructors on universal design in learning and differential instruction, so that each post-secondary education organization does not have to reinvent the wheel in this context.

 

 f) Barrier Group 3: Assessment, curriculum and instruction

 

The Initial Report correctly identifies the serious barrier here facing college and university students with disabilities. It is important for the Final Report to directly identify the cause of this problem. If we do not isolate the cause, we will not find the right cure.

 

Here is a cause that needs to be openly identified. The key product or service that colleges and universities provide to their students is education, through courses, classes and other supports. The direct provider of this product or service is the course instructor.

 

To be hired as a post-secondary course instructor, a person does not have to have any knowledge or training in universal design in learning (UDl), i.e. how to effectively teach all students with disabilities in their classes. To be hired as a professor or course instructor at a college or university, a candidate does generally not need to have any training, skill or background in how to teach.

 

This systemic barrier is deeply embedded in the college and university system. It differs markedly from K-12 schools. To be hired as a teacher, a person must have qualified as a teacher, through designated post-secondary training. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee has pointed out that even there, there is no requirement for teachers to know how to teach students with disabilities in order to get hired as a teacher. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee makes several recommendations to address that major shortcoming.

 

The solution is twofold. First, those already teaching in colleges and universities will need to receive substantial training on how to teach in a way that embeds UDL, so that all students with disabilities can learn in their courses. Second, the hiring, promotion and recruitment processes at Ontario colleges and universities must in future include requirements in this area, so that as new recruits join their teaching faculties, they will be better equipped from the beginning. Since getting a job teaching at Ontario colleges and universities is so competitive, there should be ample capacity to thereby make progress.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations on curriculum, assessment and instruction (Recommendations 31 and following) should be expanded

 

  1. to identify that a key systemic barrier is the fact that course instructors need not be able to teach, or to teach students with disabilities, to be hired, and to make recommendations for training existing instructor in this area, and

 

  1. to require such qualifications in the future for recruiting and promoting future faculty.

 

The Initial report calls for specific Government funding for colleges and universities to hire subject matter experts in the creation of accessible instruction materials. Recommendation 38 of the report includes:

 

“In consideration of the costs involved in hiring subject matter experts in accessible and inclusive pedagogy/andragogy, and creating accessible materials, the Ontario government should provide dedicated funding to the universities and colleges to support these standards.”

 

We understand the motivation underlying this recommendation, and other similar recommendations. However, it is critical that the Education Accessibility Standard does not itself perpetuate systemic discriminatory conduct. It would be unacceptable for any colleges and universities to refuse to meet a human rights obligation until and unless the Ontario Government specifically pays for new job posts to do this work. The Ontario Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights have included equality rights for students with disabilities for decades. This is not a new mandate, and should not be treated as such.

 

Of course, if the Government provides additional financing, that can be a positive step. However, there must be no linkage or precondition that the Government must first fund compliance by colleges and universities with their human rights obligations to students with disabilities.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report, including recommendations such as Recommendation 38, should be revised to make it clear that whether or not the Ontario Government supplements their funding, they must fulfil their decades-old obligations to students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

We supplement the Initial Report’s recommendations in the area of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment to help make those recommendations fully effective.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each post-secondary education organization should:

 

  1. Promptly survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their instructional staff, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.

 

  1. Establish a dedicated office or resource within the post-secondary education organization, or shared among post-secondary education organizations, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis. A student should not be required to show proof that they own a hard copy of an item to be able to get it in an accessible format.

 

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ontario Government to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across post-secondary education organizations.

We do not know what is meant by the Initial Report’s Recommendation 57. It states:

 

“Recommendation 57: Jurisdiction of accessibility supports in work integrated learning settings (non-regulatory)

Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility should provide guidance to postsecondary institutions and employers with respect to the division of responsibilities and applicability of the act’s standards and accommodations (Ontario Human Rights Commission) for students with disabilities in required work integrated learning settings.”

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 57 should be explained and clarified, or removed.

 

It is important for each college and university to ensure barrier-free post-secondary program admission requirements. There is now a risk that admission requirements to a post-secondary program that unintentionally or inadvertently impede access to the program for otherwise-qualified students with disabilities. It is important to ensure that students with disabilities can have their eligibility for admission to a post-secondary program fairly and accurately assessed.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. Every post-secondary education organization should be required to review its admission criteria for gaining admission to any of its post-secondary education programs, to identify any barriers that would impede otherwise-qualified students with disabilities from admission, and shall adjust those criteria to either:

 

  1. Remove the admission criteria that constitute a barrier to admission, or

 

  1. Provide an alternative method for assessing students with disabilities for admission to the program.

 

 

g)  Barrier area 4: Digital learning and technology

 

The Initial Report calls for definitions certain terms regarding accessible technology to be established by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. This is not within that Ministry’s knowledge or expertise. Moreover, under the AODA, it is the accessibility standard that should set this definition to be enforceable. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 65 states:

 

“Recommendation 65: Accessible technology definitions

The Ministry of Colleges and Universities to provide and adopt clear and consistent definitions across the education sector for key terms relating to digital learning and technology.”

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 65 should be amended to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard, and not the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, should adopt clear and consistent definitions across the education sector for key terms relating to digital learning and technology.

 

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 68 (Digital learning and technology plan) proposes that all colleges and universities:

 

“must develop and make publicly available a plan to seamlessly include accessibility in the digital learning and technology used throughout the academic journey of all students with disabilities.”

 

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 70 would require colleges and universities to each consult with people with disabilities, including students with disabilities, on this plan.

 

This might at first all appear to be helpful. However, in the end, it requires all colleges and universities to undertake duplicative work, and to ask people with disabilities, including students with disabilities, the same questions about the same barriers, one institution after the next. The AODA is meant to avoid such duplication of efforts. The Education Accessibility Standard should set the detailed requirements for such a plan. All the plan needs to do is to implement the detailed accessibility requirements that the Education Accessibility Standard should itself set. The same goes for school boards under the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard.

 

If such plans are to be required, the Education Accessibility Standard should require that they be submitted to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, and that they be centrally posted on a searchable online hub.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 68 and following, regarding accessible technology, should be revised to:

 

  1. require that the Education Accessibility Standard itself set specific requirements for accessible technology, and

 

  1. require that each obligated organization submit its accessibility plan to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, which the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario would then be required to post online in a searchable accessible public online hub.

 

An excellent example of a meritorious recommendation in the Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report which is unfortunately listed as “non-regulatory” is Recommendation 76, regarding the establishment of a the accessible digital technology lead in all colleges and universities. We agree with the substance of this recommendation. However, it should not be “non-regulatory” and hence, voluntary and unenforceable. It should instead be included in the Education Accessibility Standard and be mandatory and enforceable.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 76 should be revised to make it mandatory for each college and university to appoint an accessible digital technology lead.

 

We respectfully but profoundly object to a key part of the Standards Development Committee’s Recommendation regarding so-called “Accessible PDFs”. We fully agree with the Standards Development Committee’s recommendation, where it would require alternative accessible formatted documents to be made available when a pdf is provided or posted. However, we disagree with the Initial Report’s proposal that colleges and universities should invest time, energy and resources into training their staff and instructors to create so-called “accessible pdfs” with a view to their becoming a long term option.

 

The Initial Report includes:

 

“Recommendation 87: Accessible PDFs

Postsecondary institutions shall provide all documents in an accessible format. In the case of a PDF, this committee is recommending a phased approach:

phase 1: postsecondary institutions shall use a PDF document only if an accessible alternative format is also simultaneously available

phase 2: postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for the creation of accessible PDFs to the PDF/UA 1 /ISO 14289 standard. Following this date, any document provided as a PDF must meet this international standard. However, to phase in this requirement it is expected that postsecondary institutions continue to publish PDF-based digital content to be as accessible as their training and applications permit, even if an accessible alternative is provided. This will lessen any remediation costs if there is a need to go back and ensure that currently produced PDFs meet the PDF/UA 1/ISO 14289 standard. This will also demonstrate the postsecondary institutions’ commitment and progress towards creating accessible PDFs.

 

Timeline: Phase 1: within six months of regulation being enacted. Phase 2: within two years of the regulation being enacted

Recommendation 88: Software and training for accessible PDFs

Postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for creation of accessible PDFs.

Timeline: Within six months of regulation being enacted

Recommendation 88: Software and training for accessible PDFs

Postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for creation of accessible PDFs.”

 

We strongly disagree that colleges and universities should invest any time, resources and energy into training themselves to be able to provide “accessible pdfs.” These resources can be far better used promoting accessibility in other areas. Here’s why:

 

First, the term “accessible pdf” is a misnomer. Even if the document’s creator spends a great deal of time trying to make their pdf accessible, it still is harder to use than formats such as MS Word.

 

The Initial Report’s recommendation relies on an ISO standard that we do not endorse or accept. It should not be the legislated standard.

 

Second, when a person with a disability receives a pdf, they have no idea before they open it whether it has any accessibility at all built into it. Users with disabilities should not be left wondering every time they get a pdf whether it has any accessibility features built into it.

 

Third, when an author types a document in a format such as MS Word, the starting point is that it is generally accessible unless the author starts doing things to the document that creates barriers. When they convert it to a pdf, its accessibility is thereby destroyed. The author then must spend time trying to rebuild its accessibility. It is better not to create the new barriers in the first place.

 

Fourth, the pdf software is still evolving. Right now, it is reported to have accessibility bugs. See e.g. https://acrobat.uservoice.com/forums/590923-acrobat-for-windows-and-mac/suggestions/44183082-accessibility-errors-with-pdf-maker-update-sept-20

 

Fifth, the Initial Repport’s recommendations here will not only require training now for existing staff. It will require ongoing training as new staff join. The risk that in the interim, someone will continue creating problematic pdfs is a substantial one. The message “don’t use pdf, or if you do, also share an accessible MS Word or html document” is far easier to convey, and is far more likely to stick.

 

Sixth, even if a course instructor is trained on steps to try to insert some accessibility into a pdf, and even if these current accessibility problems were eliminated from the software, which is all speculative, there is no assurance that this training will remain relevant by the time they must use it, and that it will remain relevant in the future.

 

 

In sum, it is wasteful to invest time and effort into an effort to get people to make so-called “accessible pdfs”, when they are not assured to be accessible, when there are much easier and no-cost alternatives to such training, and when there are so many other pressing needs for the training resources that would be invested into pdfs. It would be a far better use of such resources to spend the money on training staff and faculty on creating accessible content in the native application such as Word, PowerPoint and Google Docs.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 87 should be revised to eliminate “phase two”, which now provides:

“phase 2: postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for the creation of accessible PDFs to the PDF/UA 1 /ISO 14289 standard. Following this date, any document provided as a PDF must meet this international standard. However, to phase in this requirement it is expected that postsecondary institutions continue to publish PDF-based digital content to be as accessible as their training and applications permit, even if an accessible alternative is provided. This will lessen any remediation costs if there is a need to go back and ensure that currently produced PDFs meet the PDF/UA 1/ISO 14289 standard. This will also demonstrate the postsecondary institutions’ commitment and progress towards creating accessible PDFs.”

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 88 should be removed.

 

We ask the Standards Development Committee to add some additional recommendations that will help make the Digital Barriers recommendations as effective as possible.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to recommend that the Education Accessibility Standard will require each post-secondary education organization to ensure that its information technology support and help staff includes specialists in access technology, and that students with disabilities get prompt access to IT support when needed.

 

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, people with disabilities have come to experience that different remote classroom and conference platforms are much more accessible than others. When the pandemic is finally behind us, colleges and universities should benefit from lessons learned. Accessible virtual classroom and conference platforms should be available for students who, because of disability, are more effectively accommodated by attending virtually. This should take place even if the course is being taught in person.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to require that

 

  1. Only accessible conference and remote class platforms may be used.

 

  1. the Ontario Government should be required to report semi-annually to the public and to colleges and universities on the comparative accessibility of different virtual meeting and teaching platforms, so that colleges and universities do not have to repeat the same investigations.

 

  1. Even when classes are taught in person, students with disabilities should have the option of attending virtually via an accessible virtual meeting platform, where this accommodation would be helpful to them because of their disability.

 

It is essential for any learning management system to be accessible, and for all its accessibility features to remained turned on.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require that any learning management system only be procured and used if it is accessible, and for all its accessibility features to be locked in the “on” position so that they cannot be turned off.

 

Increasingly, electronic kiosks are being used, as well as inaccessible point-of-sale devices restaurant tablet ordering procedures. The 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation provisions regarding electronic kiosks have not been effective. They are too vague and are not effectively enforced.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to ban the use of inaccessible electronic kiosks, electronic point-of-sale devices and restaurant tablet ordering technology at any colleges and universities.

 

 h) Barrier area 5: Organizational barriers

 

We support the Initial Report’s Recommendation 91 (Access to Disability Accommodation Information), calling for all students to be notified about availability of disability supports. We encourage the Standards Development Committee to add some more specifics, to help ensure that this is as effective as possible.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 91 (Access to Disability Accommodation Information) should be expanded to ensure that the Education Accessibility Standard requires:

 

  1. The post-secondary education organization’s interactive voice response system for receiving incoming phone calls should announce to all callers the organization’s commitment to accommodate students with disabilities and the number to press to get introductory information about how to seek such.

 

  1. Programming handouts and broadcast email communications to incoming students should include similar general information.

 

  1. the post-secondary education organization’s broadcast email announcements and other communications to the student population should include summary information to this effect with relevant links.

 

  1. Classroom instructors should make announcements in their first week of classes to this effect.

 

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 92 addresses Documentation policies for academic accommodations. We agree that the Education Accessibility Standard should set standards in this area. We also agree that this process must comply with human rights requirements. However, we do not agree that the Initial Report where it recommends:

 

“Based on these requirements, postsecondary institutions shall develop in a collaborative manner, a consistent and clear set of policies and practices about the nature and extent of documentation required to establish eligibility for academic accommodation.”

 

The Education Accessibility Standard should set the standard, not colleges and universities. That is what an accessibility standard is for. It should, for example, set some base line requirements.

 

For example, we understand that some colleges or universities may ask students with disabilities to re-document their disability each academic year. This is entirely unjustified and an unfair burden on students with disabilities, in cases where their disability is a permanent one. If a student is deaf or blind or has autism, for example, that condition is obviously permanent.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 92 should be revised to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard itself should set a clear set of barrier-free requirements regarding a student’s documenting an academic accommodation need. For example, a student should not be required to re-document their disability each year, where it is a permanent or long term disability.

 

We support the Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 (Full participation). It requires colleges and universities to inform students “…as early as possible in a readily accessible and understandable way, of the institution’s recognition of its duty to ensure that all academically qualified students with disabilities have the right to full participation and full inclusion in all the postsecondary institution’s programming, events, orientations and academic life.”

 

To make this as clear as possible, it would be helpful if this explicitly includes a reference to the duty to accommodate students with disabilities.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 should be amended to explicitly require that colleges and universities tell students with disabilities, as soon as possible, about the institution’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities.

 

In the Initial Report’s Recommendation 95: (Clear policies and procedures) the Standards Development Committee recommends that policies and procedures be adopted in colleges and universities:

 

“… outlining the process by which students with disabilities can access accommodations for academically related learning activities, including, but not limited to:

classroom

libraries

common areas

online learning tools including accessible software

tests/examinations

internships

practica

co-ops

field placements

apprenticeships

work integrated learning

other experiential learning that are part of their academic program of study”.

 

This is what the Education Accessibility Standard itself is supposed to specifically detail. Best practices, policies, guidelines and the like are not mandatory or enforceable. They can change on a whim.

 

Moreover, as noted earlier, the sooner colleges and universities have detailed and specific requirements to meet for barrier identification, barrier removal, and barrier prevention for recurring disability barriers, the fewer accommodations that students with disabilities will need.

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94-95 be revised to set out specific accessibility requirements for colleges and universities in such areas as classrooms, libraries, common areas, online learning tools including accessible software, tests/examinations, internships, practica, co-ops, field placements, apprenticeships, work-integrated learning, other experiential learning that are part of their academic program of study, request for priority enrollment in a course, and accessible housing placement. For example, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a post-secondary education organization’s experiential learning programs, each such organization should:

 

  1. Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers;

 

  1. Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate are available;

 

  1. Ensure that its partner organizations that accept students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities;

 

  1. Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements;

 

  1. Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation; and

 

  1. Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.

 

We also support the Initial Report’s Recommendation 96 (Disability Accommodation Plans). However, it is especially important that the accommodation application and planning process for a student be made swift, simple, and de-bureaucratized. We have received feedback that at some post-secondary institutions, the procedure is overly bureaucratic.

 

Moreover, to succeed, colleges and universities must remove policies that create clear and obvious barriers. For example, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law has a policy forbidding the recording of classes. If students with disabilities need a class recorded, they must go through the process of applying for a disability accommodation. This is an unnecessary and inappropriate step.

 

In sharp contrast, the Osgoode Hall Law School commendably does not ban the recording of classes at all. To the contrary, it has for several years followed the practice of having all lecture classes automatically recorded, explicitly to be available as an accommodation. Law students at that law school do not have to go through any bureaucracy to access such recordings.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 and following should be revised to:

 

  1. Require obligated organizations to review their accommodation procedures for systemic barriers, such as a ban on recording classes to which an exception must be sought through the accommodation process; and

 

  1. Require that those disability barriers be removed and prevented.

 

It is a positive step that the Initial Report urges that annual reports be made by colleges and universities about their disability accommodation caseload in Recommendation 98 (Disability Accommodation Caseload – Reporting). We add that these figures should be required to be submitted to The Government and that The Government be required to make them publicly available on an institution-by-institution basis, and as provincial aggregations or averages.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 98 (Disability Accommodation Caseload – Reporting) be revised to require that each college or university disability accommodation caseloads be reported to The Government, with The Government being required to publish these online annually on an institution-by-institution basis, and as provincial aggregations or averages.

 

We share the goal in Recommendation 99 (Accessibility Lens), but not how the Standards Development Committee proposes to address that goal. The Initial Report delegates to the Accessibility Ministry responsibility to consult with key stakeholders to create an accessibility lens for colleges and universities to use in major decisions. That is in effect assigning them to create a de facto Education Accessibility Standard, but calling it a “disability lens”. Instead, it is the Standards Development Committee that through its consultation should set out the specific recurring disability barriers and the corrective measures to avoid them.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 99 (Accessibility Lens) be removed and replaced with specific recommendations on the recurring disability barriers to be removed and prevented, and what must be done to remove and prevent them.

 

We agree with Recommendations 104-106 (Accessible Procurement Policies and Procedures), but we ask that these be refined to clarify that these procurement standards must be detailed and specific, both on the procurement process and the kinds of barriers to be avoided (a non-exhaustive specification of barriers). The extremely vague wording in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation for the past decade has been ineffective. For example, section 5 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation now provides:

 

“Procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities

 

  1. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, except where it is not practicable to do so. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 5 (1); O. Reg. 413/12, s. 4 (1).

 

(2) If the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization determines that it is not practicable to incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, it shall provide, upon request, an explanation.”

 

The IASR’s “not practicable” standard wrongly falls short of the mandatory human rights standard of “undue hardship”. Moreover, the vague requirement of incorporating accessible features does not ensure that no new barriers are created.

 

There is no effective monitoring or enforcement of the current vague requirements. As noted above, York University purchased a new telephone system replete with accessibility barriers under that regime.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 104-16 ((Accessible Procurement Policies and Procedures) should be revised to require that the accessible procurement standards are mandatory, include detailed specifics, are more robust than the current section 5 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, and require public accountability/reporting to ensure that they can be effectively monitored and enforced.

 

We commend Recommendations 108-110 (Handling Accommodation Requests). We would add that at present, from feedback received, some of these processes are too slow and bureaucratic. There should be a simplified process required. Where the request is for a routine accommodation, it should go through a rapid process. Those which may be more unusual or complex and require more effort should be routed into a process designed to effectively address their greater complexity.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 108-110 (Handling Accommodation Requests) should be expanded to spell out mandatory baseline requirements for student accommodation request procedures, so that each college or university does not have to re-design their own procedures, and which:

 

  1. Require the de-bureaucratizing of the handling of accommodation requests by students;

 

  1. Require a fast-track process for routine accommodation requests which are suitable for such a process;

 

  1. Require a separate track for more unusual or complex requests to be addressed in an effective and time-sensitive way; and

 

  1. Ensure that if the student had an Individual Education Plan (IEP) from an Ontario school, or a finding by an Ontario school board’s Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) that identified them as having a disability (exceptionality), or a comparable form of documentation from another jurisdiction, then the post-secondary education organization should treat that as sufficient proof that the student has a disability, without requiring further assessments or proof, unless the post-secondary education organization has independent proof showing that the student no longer has that disability. In that case, the post-secondary education organization shall provide the student with that proof and shall provide the student with an opportunity to demonstrate that they have a disability-related accommodation need. The student’s IEP should not be treated as a ceiling on what a person can request, since a person’s accommodations needs may be different in the postsecondary environment.

 

In the Initial Report’s Recommendations 111 –113 (Service Animals), there are separate references to service animals and support animals. This incorrectly implies that a support animal is not a service animal. We doubt that this is the Standards Development Committee’s intention.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 111-113 (Service Animals) should be revised to replace the term “service animals and support animals” with the more accurate term “service animals, including support animals.”

 

We support the Standards Development Committees various university governance recommendations, but add one more to make them as effective as possible.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a permanent committee of its governing board of directors or trustees to be called the “Accessibility Committee”. This Accessibility Committee should have responsibility and authority to oversee the organization’s compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as far as they guarantee the right of students with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the education programs and opportunities that the organization provides.

 

It is very commendable that the Standards Development Committee made equity, diversity, and inclusion a core principle for its work. The Initial Report states:

 

“Therefore the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion underlie all aspects of the committee’s work.”

 

In recent years, there has been a commendable and growing recognition that it is important for an effective education system to focus at all levels on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts have, for example, expanded curriculum content and course offerings to address the needs and circumstances of women, racialized peoples, Indigenous communities, and the LGBTQ population.

 

Such equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts need to fully and equally include people with disabilities and effectively address their issues and needs. This is not an isolated concern. Across the broader K-12 and post-secondary education systems as well as in some other contexts, equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives have excluded disability altogether or have included but substantially underserved people with disabilities. In those instances, equity for some creates equity for none. An old hierarchy replaces a new hierarchy, in which people with disabilities remain in a position of chronic disadvantage.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Standards Development Committee should recommend that any equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy at any college or university should be reviewed and, where needed, revised to ensure that disability is a full and equal target and focus of that strategy.

 

People with disabilities working in post-secondary education organizations often face accessibility barriers in the workplace that also hurt students with disabilities. The experience and expertise of people with disabilities working in post-secondary education organizations should be effectively harnessed to help root out the accessibility barriers that impede students with disabilities. This is because workplace disability barriers and education service disability barriers are often the same or substantially overlap.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a committee of those employees and volunteers with disabilities who wish to join, to give the organization’s senior management feedback on the barriers in the organization that could impede employees or students with disabilities.

 

 i) Barrier area 7: Physical and architectural barriers Recommendations

 

The Initial Report’s Recommendations 127 proposes adoption of the Brock University technical requirements for accessible built environment design. We propose instead that the Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS) established at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD University) be adopted: https://www.ocadu.ca/sites/default/files/2021-06/OCADU_FADS_21-05-26.pdf

 

This version of FADS has been updated to include or remove any conflicts with the 2020 and 2022 changes to the Ontario Building Code. It also has improved details for some elements and for some facility types making it a more up-to-date standard for built environment design for education facilities, including the types of facilities that might be found at post-secondary education institutions.

 

This can be enriched by the built environment proposals set out in the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’ Initial Report, which are set out below in Appendix 1.

 

These standards must govern not only the buildings and structures, but the furniture as well.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 127-128 should be revised to recommend

 

  1. The adoption of the Education Accessibility Standards of the OCAD University Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS) https://www.ocadu.ca/sites/default/files/2021-06/OCADU_FADS_21-05-26.pdf enriched by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s built environment recommendations; and

 

  1. Set standards for accessibility of the furniture in the premises of colleges and universities.

 

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 139 (Identify Barriers and Provide Accommodations) states:

 

“Postsecondary institutions shall proactively identify barriers in the built environment that cannot be removed or avoided through alternative access due to legal or geographic barriers, such as heritage designation or zoning restrictions.”

 

This recommendation is incorrect. The Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms prevail over other regulatory and statutory instruments, such as zoning bylaws. Moreover, heritage is not itself an “undue hardship” that overrides the duty to accommodate. At most, when a heritage building is involved, an organization can first seek ways to add accessibility, with the least impact on the building’s heritage features.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 139 (Identify Barriers and Provide Accommodations) should be revised to remove an incorrect suggestion that zoning bylaws or heritage designation are a legal bar to implementing accessibility in a building.

 

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 153 (Signage and Wayfinding) contains some measures to address way-finding. We add that there is a need for each campus to be reviewed to ensure that there is effective cane-detectable way-finding both indoors and outside. As one example, York University’s Downsview campus can be extremely challenging for a person with vision loss to navigate because, among other barriers, outdoor paved paths curve into each other rather than having clearly defined cane-detectable intersections.

 

Here again, the OCAD University FADS should be adopted, not Brock University’s standard.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 153 (Signage and Wayfinding) should be revised to:

 

  1. Invoke the OCAD University FADS standard for signage and way-finding, instead of those by Brock University; and

 

  1. Require that each campus review its indoor and outdoor property for effective cane-detectable way-finding, and institute such way-finding if inadequate or non-existent.

 

It is important not to exacerbate existing barriers in the built environment at any colleges or universities.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations regarding the built environment should be expanded to require that, where possible, a post-secondary education organization should not renovate an existing facility that lacks disability accessibility, unless the organization has a plan to also make that facility accessible. For example, a post-secondary education organization should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a facility which is inaccessible, if the organization does not have a plan to make that second storey disability-accessible. Very pressing health and safety concerns should be the only reason for any exception to this.

 

Part of the built environment at a post-secondary institution is its gym facilities and equipment.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to require that each post-secondary education organization:

 

  1. Take inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor gym, sports, athletic and like equipment and spaces, and make this public, including posting this information online;

 

  1. Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of existing gym, sports, athletic or other like equipment or spaces, in consultation with students with disabilities; and

 

  1. Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that the purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing equipment or spaces is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the post-secondary education organization.

 

The Initial Report does not set out specific recommendations regarding the shoveling of snow. Each winter, every campus implements some sort of snow removal to ensure that the campus community can get around and into its buildings. However, this may not ensure that people with disabilities can also safely navigate the campus. Snow can be piled up along accessible paths of travel.

 

A few years ago, one law student’s video went viral and gained media attention. The video showed that snow was shoveled in a way that enabled walking people to use paths on one campus, but which did not enable safe passage by a person using a wheelchair. We include the February 2, 2019 CBC News report on this, as it fully illustrates this issue.

 

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/watch-this-york-student-struggle-to-get-to-class-in-a-wheelchair-due-to-uncleared-snow-1.5003306

“Ali Imrie’s Twitter video shows her struggling on a snow-covered path on university campus

Kelda Yuen

 

Osgoode Hall Law School student Ali Imrie says she missed one class and was late for another this week due to snow-covered sidewalks on the York University campus. (Ali Imrie/ Twitter)

Ali Imrie says it’s only 500 metres from her student apartment to Osgoode Hall Law School on the York University campus in Toronto, but even so, she wasn’t able to make it to all her classes this week due to uncleared snow.

 

“Honestly, this week hasn’t been any different than any other week in the snow,” she said.

 

But this time, she took a video and posted it on Twitter. The 17-second clip posted Thursday evening shows a friend struggling to push her home from class along a snowy path. At one point, they appear to get stuck. Within a day, the post garnered over 20,000 views and was shared almost 500 times.

 

 

The video is raising the issue of a lack of accessibility for students with mobility issues during weather events like the snowstorm the Toronto area experienced this week.

 

Imrie is quick to note she understands it is difficult to keep pathways clear with the “crazy amounts of snow” that fell, but she is frustrated at what she believes is a lack of initiative from the school to keep on top of snow clearing.

 

Barbara Joy, the spokesperson for York, told CBC Toronto Friday the university has reached out to Imrie and has since done checks to ensure all paths on campus are clear.

 

The specific path in Imrie’s video, Joy said, “was actually cleared several times since the snow began, but unfortunately it wasn’t adequate.”

 

Hoping for a permanent solution

Imrie says she has been flagging the problem for some time now, and she wants a more permanent solution.

 

This is her third year using a wheelchair since being diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, and her second year living on campus as a part-time law student.

 

When she first arrived, her mobility issues made it “difficult and isolating,” she said.

 

“It got to the point, last January, where I had a rotating schedule of which friend could meet me before or after class to help me get there,” she told CBC Toronto.

 

She says she contacted the school about it repeatedly, but the problem of uncleared snow persisted.

 

“The reaction will be reactive and in the moment — it’s fixed. But given it’s been a year and I keep needing to bring it up every time it snows, what’s missing is the proactive piece. There’s not really been any lasting change.”

 

 

Imrie says she understands York ‘is a really big campus and it’s difficult to keep it clear all the time,’ but she hopes the university can be more proactive in making sure paths remain clear.

Joy admits York needs to “do better.”

 

One thing she says the university will do is ensure employees perform more checks to make sure all pathways remain clear.

 

“With storms, there is blowing snow and other things that impact the way the path is covered in snow, so even if it was cleared in the morning, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t check it in the afternoon,” she said.

 

“We are going to keep on top of it to make sure it’s maintained.”

 

Joy also points out there is a shuttle that’s offered to students with mobility issues.

 

But Imrie says the shuttle can take up to an hour to arrive after being booked.

 

“For me, because (my illness) is so fatiguing, if I’m in a three-hour class, I can’t add another hour on either end to wait for a van.”

 

Joy says the school is looking into ways the shuttle can accommodate her better.

 

Not just a York University problem

Imrie, meanwhile, has another suggestion.

 

While it would be ideal to have the paths clear at all times, she says the ones heavily used by students with mobility issues should perhaps get priority when it comes to snow clearing.

 

“There’s different implications for me versus someone who’s walking.”

 

She is also quick to note that lack of accessibility is not just a problem her school needs to fix.

 

She says on her route to class, she has to travel on a sidewalk partially owned by the city.

 

She says it’s rarely cleared after a snowstorm.

 

“It’s an issue everywhere.””

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to include, in its built environment recommendations, specific mandatory requirements at all colleges and universities to ensure that snow-shoveling creates no disability barriers and is sufficient to enable people with disabilities to navigate the campus.

 

It is important for the Education Accessibility Standard to include protections regarding the Indoor air/environment quality to ensure accessibility for those with environmentally linked disabilities, such as Environmental Sensitivities (which includes Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, EMF Sensitivities, etc.), Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Cancer, Diabetes, Chemical Pneumonitis, Migraines, Chronic Fatigue, Lyme Disease, etc.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to include indoor air quality requirements for persons for whom this can create disability barriers.

 

It is important for students with disabilities and other people with disabilities to know where accessibility features are included in the campus, so they can plan their route of travel.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to require each college or university to create and make available an up-to-date guide on the accessibility features in its built environment, such as electric door openers and ramps.

 

Since college and university campuses now have many accessibility barriers in their built environment, it is important for students with disabilities to be assured that courses they wish to take will be offered in an accessible classroom.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to:

 

  1. Ensure that students with disabilities have available an earlier or accelerated process for getting their course selections confirmed; and

 

  1. Have in place a mandatory process for the college or university to make priority re-assignment of any classes from inaccessible classrooms to accessible classrooms, where needed.

 

Campuses can have paths of travel blocked due to construction. Without centralized control, students and others can encounter unpredictable barriers.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require each college and university to:
  2. Ensure to the extent possible that construction projects on campus do not block accessible paths of travel, and accessibility features such as ramps and accessible doors; and

 

  1. Maintain a publicly-accessible up-to-date web page or other easily-accessed public announcement of the location and expected timing of construction projects that may impede accessible travel.

 

Graduation ceremonies should always be accessible to students, family members, friends, and staff with disabilities.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to specifically require that the venue of graduation ceremonies be accessible to students, family members, friends and staff members with disabilities, including the graduation platform.

 

The Ontario Government funds some building projects at colleges or universities. It must ensure that any such projects will be fully accessible before agreeing to that funding. In 2017, the Ontario Government agreed to invest $125 million in a new Markham campus for York University that had several serious accessibility barriers in its design.

 

We therefore recommend that:

 

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard require that the Ontario Government ensure that public funds are never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers in the built environment.

 

  1. The Ontario Government be required to revise its funding criteria for construction of facilities at a post-secondary education organization to ensure that it requires, and does not obstruct, the inclusion of all needed accessibility features in that construction project.

 

 Appendix 1. Initial Recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on Ensuring Physical Accessibility of the Built Environment in Education Settings

 

(Note: Even though these recommendations are written to address the school setting, they can easily apply to a very wide range of other buildings)

 

Specific Accessibility Requirements Recommendations

Recommendation Part Three: Usable Accessible Design for Exterior Site Elements

The following should be required:

  1. Access to the site for pedestrians
  2. a) Clear, intuitive connection to the accessible entrance
  3. b) A tactile raised line map shall be provided at the main entry points adjacent to the accessible path of travel but with enough space to ensure users do not block the path for others
  4. c) Path of travel from each sidewalk connects to an accessible entrance with few to no joints to avoid bumps. The primary paths shall be wide enough to allow two-way traffic with a clear width that allows two people using wheelchairs or guide dogs to pass each other. For secondary paths where a single path is used, passing spaces shall be provided at regular intervals and at all decision points. The height difference from the sidewalk to the entrance will not require a ramp or stairs. The path will provide drainage slopes only and ensure no puddles form on the path. Paths will be heated during winter months using heat from the school or other renewable energy sources.
  5. d) Bike parking shall be adjacent to the entry path. Riders shall be required to dismount and not ride on the pedestrian routes. Bike parking shall provide horizontal storage with enough space to ensure users and parked bikes do not block the path for others. The ground surface below the bikes shall be colour contrasted and textured to be distinct from the pedestrian path.
  6. e) Rest areas and benches with clear floor space for at least two assistive mobility devices or strollers or a mix of both shall be provided. Benches shall be colour contrasted, have back and arm rests and provide transfer seating options at both ends of the bench. These shall be provided every 30m along the path placed adjoining. The bench and space for assistive devices are not to block the path. If the path to the main entrance is less than 30m at least one rest area shall be provided along the route. If the drop-off area is in a different location than the pedestrian route from the sidewalk, an interior rest area shall be provided with clear sightlines to the drop-off area. If the drop-off area is more than 20m from the closest accessible entrance an exterior accessible heated shelter shall be provided for those awaiting pick-up. The ground surface below the rest areas shall be colour contrasted and textured to be distinct from the pedestrian path it abuts
  7. f) Tactile directional indicators shall be provided where large open paved areas happen along the route
  8. g) Accessible pedestrian directional signage at decision points
  9. h) Lighting levels shall be bright and even enough to avoid shadows and ensure it’s easy to see the features and to keep people safe.
  10. i) Accessible duress stations (Emergency safety zones in public spaces)
  11. j) Heated walkways shall be used where possible to ensure the path is always clear of snow and ice

 

  1. Access to the site for vehicles
  2. a) Clear, intuitive connection to the drop-off and accessible parking
  3. b) Passenger drop-off shall include space for driveway, layby, access aisle (painted with non slip paint), and a drop curb (to provide a smooth transition) for the full length of the drop off. This edge shall be identified and protected with high colour contrasted tactile attention indicators and bollards to stop cars, so people with vision loss or those not paying attention get a warning before walking into the car area. Sidewalk slopes shall provide drainage in all directions for the full length of the dropped curb
  4. c) Overhead protection shall be provided by a canopy that allows for a clearance for raised vans or buses and shall provide as much overhead protection as possible for people who may need more time to load or off-load
  5. d) Heated walkways from the drop-off and parking shall be used to ensure the path is always clear of snow and ice
  6. e) A tactile walking directional indicator path shall lead from the drop-off area to the closest accessible entrance to the building (typically the main entrance)
  7. f) A parking surface will only be steep enough to provide drainage in all directions. The drainage will be designed to prevent puddles from forming at the parking or along the pedestrian route from the parking
  8. g) Parking design should include potential expansion plans for future growth and/or to address increased need for accessible parking
  9. h) Parking access aisles shall connect to the sidewalk with a curb cut that leads to the closest accessible entrance to the building. (so that no one needs to travel along the driveway behind parked cars or in the path of car traffic)
  10. i) Lighting levels shall be bright and even enough to avoid shadows and to ensure it’s easy to see obstacles and to keep people safe.
  11. j) If there is more than one parking lot, each site shall have a distinctive colour and shape symbol associated with it that will be used on all directional signage especially along pedestrian routes.
  12. Parking
  13. a) The provision of parking spaces near the entrance to a facility is important to accommodate persons with a varying range of abilities as well as persons with limited mobility. Medical conditions, such as anemia, arthritis or heart conditions, using crutches or the physical act of pushing a wheelchair, all can make it difficult to travel long distances. Minimizing travel distances is particularly important outdoors, where weather conditions and ground surfaces can make travel difficult and hazardous.
  14. b) The sizes of accessible parking stalls are important. A person using a mobility aid such as a wheelchair requires a wider parking space to accommodate the manoeuvring of the wheelchair beside the car or van. A van may also require additional space to deploy a lift or ramp out the side or back door. An individual would require space for the deployment of the lift itself as well as additional space to manoeuvre on/off the lift.
  15. c) Heights of passage along the driving routes to accessible parking is a factor. Accessible vans may have a raised roof resulting in the need for additional overhead clearance. Alternatively, the floor of the van may be lowered, resulting in lower capacity to travel over for speed bumps and pavement slope transitions.
  16. d) Wherever possible, parking signs shall be located away from pedestrian routes, because they can constitute an overhead and/or protruding hazard. All parking signage shall be placed at the end of the parking space in a bollard barricade to stop cars, trucks or vans from parking over and blocking the sidewalk.

 

 

  1. A Building’s Exterior doors
  2. a) Level areas on both sides of a building’s exterior door shall allow the clear floor space for a large scooter or mobility device or several strollers to be at the door. Exterior surface slope shall only provide drainage away from the building.
  3. b) 100% of a building’s exterior doors will be accessible with level thresholds, colour contrast, accessible door hardware and in-door windows or side windows (where security allows) so those approaching the door can see if someone is on the other side of the door
  4. c) Main entry doors at the front of the building and the door closest to the parking lot (if not the same) to be obvious, prominent and will have automatic sliders with overhead sensors. Placing power door operator buttons correctly is difficult and often creates barriers especially within the vestibule
  5. d) Accessible security access for after hours or if used all day with 2-way video for those who are deaf and/or scrolling voice to text messaging
  6. e) All exit doors shall be accessible with a level threshold and clear floor space on either side of the door. The exterior shall include a paved accessible path leading away from the building

 

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – General Requirements Recommendations

The following should be required:

 

85. Entrances:

  1. a) All entrances used by staff and/or the public shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all staff and public entrances accessible, at least 50% of all staff and public entrances shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all public entrances accessible, the primary entrances used by staff and the public shall be accessible.

 

86. Door:

  1. a) Doors shall be sufficiently wide enough to accommodate stretchers, wheelchairs or assistive scooters, pushing strollers, or making a delivery
  2. b) Threshold at the door’s base shall be level to allow a trip free and wheel friendly passage.
  3. c) Heavy doors and those with auto closers shall provide automatic door openers.
  4. d) Room entrances shall have doors.
  5. e) Direction of door swing shall be chosen to enhance the usability and limit the hazard to others of the door opening.
  6. f) Sliding doors can be easier for some individuals to operate and can also require less wheelchair manoeuvring space.
  7. g) Doors that require two hands to operate will not be used.
  8. h) Revolving doors are not accessible.
  9. i) Full glass doors are not to be used as they represent a hazard.
  10. j) Colour-contrasting will be provided on door frames, door handles as well as the door edges.
  11. k) Door handles and locks will be operable by using a closed fist, and not require fine finger control, tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate

 

87. Gates, Turnstiles and Openings:

  1. a) Gates and turnstiles should be designed to accommodate the full range of users that may pass through them. Single-bar gates designed to be at a convenient waist height for ambulatory persons are at neck and face height for children and chest height for persons who use wheelchairs or scooters.
  2. b) Revolving turnstiles should not be used as they are a physical impossibility for a person in a wheelchair to negotiate. They are also difficult for persons using canes or crutches, or persons with poor balance.
  3. c) All controlled entry points will provide an accessible width to allow passage of wheelchairs, other mobility devices, strollers, walkers or delivery carts.

 

88. Windows, Glazed Screens and Sidelights

  1. a) Broad expanses of glass should not be used for walls, beside doors and as doors can be difficult to detect. This may be a particular concern to persons with vision loss/no vision. It is also possible for anyone to walk into a clear sheet of glazing especially if they are distracted or in a hurry.
  2. b) Windowsill heights and operating controls for opening windows or closing blinds should be accessible…located on a path of travel, with clear floor space, within reach of a shorter or seated user, colour contrasted and not require punching or twisting to operate.

 

89. Drinking Fountains

  1. a) Drinking fountain height should accommodate children and that of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Potentially conflicting with this, the height should strive to attempt to accommodate individuals who have difficulty bending and who would require a higher fountain. Where feasible, this may require more than one fountain, at different heights. The operating system shall account for limited hand strength or dexterity. Fountains will be recessed, to avoid protruding into the path of travel. Angled recessed alcove designs allow more flexibility and require less precision by a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Providing accessible signage with a tactile attention indicator tile will help those who with vision loss to find the fountain.

 

90. Layout

  1. a) The main office where visitors and others need to report to upon entering the building shall always be located on the same level as the entrance, as close to the entrance as possible. If the path of travel to the office crosses a large open area, a tactile directional indicator path shall lead from the main entrance(s) to the office ID signage next to the office door.
  2. b) All classrooms and or public destinations shall be on the ground floor. Where this is not possible, at least 2 elevators should be provided to access all other levels. Where the building is long and spread out, travel distance to elevators should be considered to reduce extra time needed for students and staff or others who use the elevators instead of the stairs. If feature stairs (staircases included in whole or in part for design aesthetics) are included, elevators shall be co-located and just as prominent as the stairs
  3. c) Corridors should meet at 90-degree angles. Floor layouts from floor to floor should be consistent and predictable so the room number line up and are the same with the floors above and below along with the washrooms
  4. d) Multi-stall washrooms shall always place the women’s washroom on the right and the men’s washroom on the left. No labyrinth entrances shall be used. Universal washrooms shall be co-located immediately adjacent to the stall washrooms, in a location that is consistent and predictable throughout the building

 

91. Facilities

  1. a) The entry doors to each type of facility within a building should be accessible, colour contrasted, obvious and prominent and designed as part of the wayfinding system including accessible signage that is co-located with power door openers controls.
  2. b) Tactile attention indicator tile will be placed on the floor in front of the accessible ID signage at each room or facility type. Where a room or facility entrance is placed off of a large interior open area

 

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Circulation Recommendations

The following should be required:

 

92. Elevators

  1. a) Elevator Doors will provide a clear width to allow a stretcher and larger mobility devices to get in and out
  2. b) Doors will have sensors so doors will auto open if the doorway is blocked
  3. c) Elevators will be installed in pairs so that when one is out of service for repair or maintenance, there is an alternative available.
  4. d) Elevators will be sized at allow at least two mobility device users and two non-mobility devices users to be in the elevator at the same time. This should also allow for a wide stretcher in case of emergency.
  5. e) Assistive listening will be available in each elevator to help make the audible announcements heard by those using hearing aids
  6. f) Emergency button on the elevator’s control panel will also provide 2-way communication with video and scrolling text and a keyboard for people who are deaf or who have other communication disabilities
  7. g) Inside the elevators will be additional horizontal buttons on the side wall in case there is not enough room for a person using a mobility aid to push the typical vertical buttons along the wall beside the door. If there are only two floors the elevator will only provide the door open, close and emergency call buttons and the elevator will automatically move to the floor it is not on.
  8. h) The words spoken in the elevator’s voice announcement of the floor will be the same as the braille and print floor markings, so the button shows 1 as a number, 1 in braille and the voice says first floor not G for Ground with M in braille and voice says first floor.)
  9. i) Ensure the star symbol for each elevator matches ground level appropriate to the elevator. The star symbol indicates the floor the elevator will return to in an emergency. This means users in the elevator will open closest to the available accessible exit. If the entrance on the north side is on the second floor, the star symbol in that elevator will be next to the button that says 2. If the entrance on the south side of the building is on the 1st floor, the star symbol will be next to the button that says 1.
  10. j) The voice on the elevator shall be set at a volume that is audible above typical noise levels while the elevator is in use, so that people on the elevator can easily hear the audible floor announcements.
  11. k) Lighting levels inside the elevator will match the lighting at the elevator lobbies. Lighting will be measured at the ground level
  12. l) Elevators will provide colour contrast between the floor and the walls inside the cab and between the frame of the door or the doors with the wall surrounding in the elevator lobbies. Vinyl peel and stick sheets or paint will be used to cover the shiny metal which creates glare. Vinyl sheets will be plain to ensure the door looks like a door, and not like advertising
  13. m) In a retrofit situation where adding 2 elevators is not technically possible without undue hardship, platform lifts may be considered. Elevators that are used by all facility users are preferred to platform lifts which tend to segregate persons with disabilities and which limit space at entrance and stair locations. Furthermore, independent access is often compromised by such platform lifts, because platform lifts are often requiring a key to operate. Whenever possible, integrated elevator access should be incorporated to avoid the use of lifts.

 

93. Ramps

  1. a) A properly designed ramp can provide wait-free access for those using wheelchairs or scooters, pushing strollers or moving packages on a trolley or those who are using sign language to communicate and don’t want to stop talking as they climb stairs.
  2. b) A ramp’s textured surfaces, edge protection and handrails all provide important safety features.
  3. c) On outdoor ramps, heated surfaces shall be provided to address the safety concerns associated with snow and ice.
  4. d) Ramps shall only be used where the height difference between levels is no more than 1m (4ft). Longer ramps take up too much space and are too tiring for many users. Where a height difference is more than 1m in height, elevators will be provided instead.
  5. e) Landings will be sized to allow a large mobility device or scooter to make a 360 degree turn and/or for two people with mobility assistive devices or guide dogs to pass
  6. f) Slopes inside the building will be no higher than is permitted for exterior ramps in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s Design of Public Spaces Standard, to ensure usability without making the ramp too long.
  7. g) Curved ramps will not be used, because the cross slope at the turn is hard to navigate and a tipping hazard for many people.
  8. h) Colour and texture contrast will be provided to differentiate the full slope from any level landings. Tactile attention domes shall not be used at ramps, because they are meant only for stairs and for drop-off edges like at stages

 

94. Stairs

  1. a) Stairs that are comfortable for many adults may be challenging for children, seniors or persons of short stature.
  2. b) The leading edge of each step (aka nosing) shall not present tripping hazards, particularly to persons with prosthetic devices or those using canes and will have a bright colour contrast to the rest of the horizontal step surface.
  3. c) Each stair in a staircase will use the same height and depth, to avoid creating tripping hazards
  4. d) The rise between stairs will always be smooth, so that shoes will not catch on an abrupt edge causing a tripping hazard. These spaces will always be closed as open stairs create a tripping hazard.

The top of all stair entry points will have a tactile attention indicator surface, to ensure the drop-off is identified for those who are blind or distracted.

  1. e) Handrails will aid all users navigating stairways safely. Handrails will be provided on both sides of all stairs and will be provided at both the traditional height as well as a second lower rail for children or people who are shorter. These will be in a high colour contrasting colour and round in shape, without sharp edges or interruptions.

 

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Washroom Facilities Recommendations

The following should be required:

 

95. General Washroom Requirements

  1. a) Washroom facilities will accommodate the range of people that will use the space. Although many persons with disabilities use toilet facilities independently, some may require assistance. Where the individual providing assistance is of the opposite gender then typical gender-specific washrooms are awkward, and so an individual washroom is required.
  2. b) Parents and caregivers with small children and strollers also benefit from a large, individual washroom with toilet and change facilities contained within the same space.
  3. c) Circumstances such as wet surfaces and the act of transferring between toilet and wheelchair or scooter can make toilet facilities accident-prone areas. An individual falling in a washroom with a door that swings inward could prevent his or her own rescuers from opening the door. Due to the risk of accidents, emergency call buttons are vital in all washrooms.
  4. d) The appropriate design of all features will ensure the usability and safety of all toilet facilities.
  5. e) The identification of washrooms will include pictograms for children or people who cannot read. All signage will include braille that translates the text on the print sign, and not only the room number.
  6. f) There are three types of washrooms. Single use accessible washrooms, single use universal washrooms, and multi-use stalled washrooms. The number and types of washrooms used in a facility will be determined by the number of users. There will always at least be one universal washroom on each floor.
  7. g) All washrooms will have doors with power door opening buttons. No door washrooms will be hard to identify for people who have vision loss.
  8. h) Stall washrooms accessible sized stalls – At least 2 accessible stalls shall be provided in each washroom to avoid long wait times. Schools with accessible education programs that include a large percentage of people with mobility disabilities should to have all stalls sized to accommodate a turn circle and the transfer space beside the toilet.
  9. i) All washrooms near rooms that will be used for public events shall include a baby change table that is accessible to all users, not placed inside a stall. It shall be colour contrasted with the surroundings and usable for those in a seated mobility device and or of shorter stature.
  10. j) At least one universal washroom will include an adult sized change table, with the washroom located near appropriate facilities in the school and any public event spaces. These are important for some adults with disabilities and for children with disabilities who are too large for the baby change tables. This helps prevent anyone from needing to be changed lying on a bathroom floor.
  11. k) Where shower stalls are provided, these shall include accessible sized stalls.
  12. l) Portable Toilets at Special Events shall all be accessible. At least one will include an adult sized change table.

 

  1. Washroom Stalls
  2. a) Size: Manoeuvrability of a wheelchair or scooter is the principal consideration in the design of an accessible stall. The increased size of the stall is required to ensure there is sufficient space to facilitate proper placement of a wheelchair or scooter to accommodate a person transferring transfer onto the toilet from their mobility device. There may also be instances where an individual requires assistance. Thus, the stall will have to accommodate a second person.
  3. b) Stall Door swings are normally outward for safety reasons and space considerations. However, this makes it difficult to close the door once inside. A handle mounted part way along the door makes it easier for someone inside the stall to close the door behind them.
  4. c) Minimum requirements for non-accessible toilet stalls are included to ensure that persons who do not use wheelchairs or scooters can be adequately accommodated within any toilet stall.
  5. d) Universal features include accessible hardware and a minimum stall width to accommodate persons of large stature or parents with small children.
  6. Toilets
  7. a) Automatic flush controls are preferred. If flushing mechanisms are not automated, flushing controls shall be on the transfer side of the toilet, with colour contrasted and lever style handles.
  8. b) Children sized toilets and accessible child sized toilets will be required in kindergarten areas either within the classroom or immediately adjacent to the facilities.
  9. Sinks
  10. a) Each accessible sink shall be on an accessible path of travel that other people, using other sinks or features (like hand-dryers), are not positioned to block.
  11. b) The sink, sink controls, soap dispenser and towel dispenser should all be at an accessible height and location and should all be automatic controls that do not require physical contact.
  12. c) While faucets with remote-eye technology may initially confuse some individuals, their ease of use is notable. Individuals with hand strength or dexterity difficulties can use lever-style handles.
  13. d) For an individual in a wheelchair and younger children, a lower counter height and clearance for knees under the counter are required.
  14. e) The insulating of hot water pipes shall be assured to protect the legs of an individual using a wheelchair. This is particularly important when a disability impairs sensation such that the individual would not sense that their legs were being burned.
  15. f) The combination of shallow sinks and higher water pressures can cause unacceptable splashing at lavatories.

 

  1. Urinals
  2. a) Each urinal needs to be on an accessible path of travel with clear floor space in front of each accessible urinal to provide the manoeuvring space for a mobility device.
  3. b) Urinal grab bars shall be provided to assist individuals rising from a seated position and others to steady themselves.
  4. c) Floor-mounted urinals accommodate children and persons of short stature as well as enabling easier access to drain personal care devices.
  5. d) Flush controls, where used, will be automatic preferred. Strong colour contrasts shall be provided between the urinal, the wall and the floor to assist persons with vision loss/no vision.
  6. e) In stall washrooms with Urinals, all urinals will be accessible with lower rim heights. For primary schools the urinal should be full height from floor to upper rim to accommodate children. Stalled washrooms with urinals will have an upper rim at the same height as typical non-accessible urinals to avoid the mess taller users can make. All urinals will provide vertical grab bars which are colour contrasted to the walls. Where dividers between urinals are used, the dividers will be colour contrasted to the walls as well.

 

  1. Showers
  2. a) Roll-in or curb less shower stalls shall be provided to eliminate the hazard of stepping over a threshold and are essential for persons with disabilities who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices in the shower.
  3. b) Grab bars and non-slip materials shall be included as safety measures that will support any individual.
  4. c) Colour contrasted hand-held shower head and a water-resistant folding bench shall be included to assist persons with disabilities. These are also convenient for others.
  5. d) Other equipment that has contrasting colour from the shower stall shall be included to assist individuals with vision loss/no vision.
  6. e) Shower floor drain locations will be located to avoid room flooding when they may get blocked
  7. f) Colour contrast will be provided between the floor and the walls in the shower to assist with wayfinding
  8. g) Shower curtains will be used for individual showers instead of doors as much as possible as it
  9. h) Where showers are provided in locker rooms each locker room will include at least one accessible shower, but an additional individual shower room will be provided immediately adjacent to allow for those with opposite sex attendants to assist them with the appropriate privacy.

 

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Specific Room Requirements Recommendations

101. Performance stages

The following should be required:

  1. a) Elevated platforms, such as stage areas, speaker podiums, etc., shall be accessible to all.
  2. b) A clear accessible route will be provided along the same path of access for those who are not using mobility assistive devices as those who do. Lifts will not be used to access stage or raised platforms, unless the facility is retrofitting an existing stage and it is not technically possible to provide access by other means.
  3. c) The stage shall include safety features to assist persons with vision loss or those momentarily blinded by stage lights from falling off the edge of a raised stage, such as a colour contrasted raised lip along the edge of the stage.
  4. d) Lecterns shall be accessible with an adjustable height surface, knee space and accessible audio visual (AV) and information technology (IT) equipment. Lecterns shall have a microphone that is connected to an assistive listening system, such as a hearing loop. The office and/or presentation area will have assistive listening units available for those who may request them, for example people who are hard of hearing but not yet wearing hearing aids.
  5. e) Lighting shall be adjustable to allow for a minimum of lighting in the public seating area and backstage to allow those who need to move or leave with sufficient lighting at floor level to be safe

 

102. Sensory Rooms

The following should be required:

  1. a) Sensory rooms will be provided in a central location on each floor where there are classrooms or public meeting spaces
  2. b) They will be soundproof and identified with accessible signage
  3. c) The interior walls and floor will be darker in colour, but colour contrast will be used to distinctly differentiate the floor from the wall and the furniture
  4. d) Lighting will be provided on a dimmer to allow for the room to be darkened
  5. e) Weighted blankets will be available along with a variety of different seating options including beanbag chairs or bouncy seat balls
  6. f) They will provide a phone or other 2-way communication to call for assistance if needed

 

103. Offices, Work Areas, and Meeting Rooms

The following should be required:

  1. a) Offices providing services or programs to the public will be accessible to all, regardless of mobility or functional needs. Offices and related support areas shall be accessible to staff and visitors with disabilities.
  2. b) All people, but particularly those with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing, will benefit from having a quiet acoustic environment – background noise from mechanical equipment such as fans, shall be designed to be minimal. Telephone equipment that supports the needs of individuals with hearing and vision loss shall be available.
  3. c) The provision of assistive speaking devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. Where offices and work areas and small meeting rooms do not have assistive listening, such as hearing loops permanently installed, portable assistive hearing loops shall be available at the office
  4. d) Tables and workstations shall provide the knee space requirements of an individual in a mobility assistive device. Adjustable height tables allow for a full range of user needs. Circulation areas shall accommodate the spatial needs of mobility equipment as large as scooters to ensure all areas and facilities in the space can be reached with appropriate manoeuvring and turning spaces.
  5. e) Natural coloured task lighting, such as that provided through halogen bulbs, shall be used wherever possible to facilitate use by all, especially persons with low vision.
  6. f) In locations where reflective glare may be problematic, such as large expanses of glass with reflective flooring, blinds that can be louvered upwards shall be provided. Controls for blinds shall be accessible to all and usable with a closed fist without pinching or twisting

 

104. Outdoor Athletic and Recreational Facilities

The following should be required:

  1. a) Areas for outdoor recreation, leisure and active sport participation shall be designed to be available to all members of the school community.
  2. b) Outdoor spaces will allow persons with a disability to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff. Spaces will be accessible including boardwalks, trails and footbridges, pathways, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, grandstand and other viewing areas, and playing fields
  3. c) Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
  4. d) Noise cancelling headphones shall be available to those with sensory disabilities.
  5. e) Outdoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities undergoing rehabilitation.
  6. f) Seating and like facilities shall be inclusive and allow for all members of a disabled sports team to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.
  7. g) Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of persons with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.

 

105. Arenas, Halls and Other Indoor Recreational Facilities

The following should be required:

  1. a) Areas for recreation, leisure and active sport participation will be accessible to all members of the community.
  2. b) Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
  3. c) Noise cancelling headphones will be available to those with sensory disabilities.
  4. d) Access will be provided throughout outdoor facilities including to; playing fields and other sports facilities, all activity areas, outdoor trails, swimming areas, play spaces, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
  5. e) Interior access will be provided to halls, arenas, and other sports facilities, including access to the site, all activity spaces, gymnasia, fitness facilities, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
  6. f) Spaces will allow persons with disabilities to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff.
  7. g) Indoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities who are undergoing rehabilitation.
  8. h) Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of persons with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate or stigmatize anyone.

 

 

106. Swimming Pools

The following should be required:

  1. a) Primary considerations for accommodating persons who have mobility impairments include accessible change facilities and a means of access into the water. Ramped access into the water is preferred over lift access, as it promotes integration (everyone will use the ramp) and independence.
  2. b) Persons with low vision benefit from colour and textural surfaces that are detectable and safe for both bare feet or those wearing water shoes. These surfaces will be provided along primary routes of travel leading to access points such as pool access ladders and ramps.
  3. c) Tactile surface markings and other barriers will be provided at potentially dangerous locations, such as the edge of the pool, at steps into the pool and at railings.
  4. d) Floors will be slip resistant to help those who are unsteady on their feet and everyone even in wet conditions.

 

107. Cafeterias

The following should be required:

  1. a) Cafeteria serving lines and seating area designs shall reflect the lower sight lines, reduced reach, knee-space and manoeuvring requirements of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Patrons using mobility devices may not be able to hold a tray or food items while supporting themselves on canes or while manoeuvring a wheelchair.
  2. b) If tray slides are provided, they will be designed to move trays with minimal effort.
  3. c) Food signage will be accessible.
  4. d) All areas where food is ordered and picked up will be designed to meet accessible service counter requirements
  5. e) Self serve food will be within the reach of people who are shorter or using seated mobility assistive devices
  6. f) Where trays are provided, a tray cart that can be attached to seated assistive mobility devices or a staff assistant solution that is readily available shall be available on demand, because carrying trays and pushing a chair or operating a motorized assistive device can be difficult or impossible.

 

108. Libraries

The following should be required:

  1. a) All service counters shall provide accessibility features
  2. b) Study carrels will accommodate the knee-space and armrest requirements of a person using a mobility device.
  3. c) Computer catalogues, carrels and workstations will be provided at a range of heights, to accommodate persons who are standing or sitting, as well as children of different ages and sizes.
  4. d) Workstations shall be equipped with assistive technology such as large displays, screen readers, to increase the accessibility of a library.
  5. e) Book drop-off slots shall be at different heights for standing and seated use with accessible signage, to enhance usability.

 

109. Teaching Spaces and Classrooms

The following should be required:

 

  1. a) Students, teachers and staff with disabilities will have accessibility to teaching and classroom facilities, including teaching computer labs.
  2. b) All teaching spaces and classrooms will provide power door operators and assistive listening systems such as hearing loops
  3. c) Additional considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features specifically designated for use by students with disabilities, such as accessibility standard accommodations for complex personal care needs.
  4. d) Students, teachers and staff with disabilities will be accommodated in all teaching spaces throughout the school.
  5. e) This accessibility will include the ability to enter and move freely throughout the space, as well as to use the various built-in elements within (i.e. blackboards and/or whiteboards, switches, computer stations, sinks, etc.). Classroom and meeting rooms must be designed with enough room for people with mobility devices to comfortably move around.
  6. f) Individuals with disabilities frequently use learning aids and other assistive devices that require a power supply. Additional electrical outlets shall be provided throughout teaching spaces to -accommodate the use of such equipment.
  7. g) Except where it is impossible, fixtures, fittings, furniture and equipment will be specified for teaching spaces, which is usable by students, faculty, teaching assistants and staff with disabilities.
  8. h) Providing only one size of seating does not reflect the diversity of body types of our society. Offering seats with an increased width and weight capacity is helpful for persons of large stature. Seating with increased legroom will better suit individuals that are taller. Removable armrests can be helpful for persons of larger stature as well as individuals using wheelchairs that prefer to transfer to the seat.

 

  1. Laboratories will provide, in addition to the requirements for classrooms, additional accessibility considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features in laboratories.

 

 

111. Waiting and Queuing Areas

The following should be required:

  1. a) Queuing areas for information, tickets or services will permit persons who use wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices as well as for persons with a varying range of user ability to easily move through the line safely.
  2. b) All lines shall be accessible.
  3. c) Waiting and queuing areas will provide space for mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and scooters.
  4. d) Queuing lines that turn corners or double back on themselves will provide adequate space to manoeuvre mobility devices.
  5. e) Handrails, not flexible guidelines, with high colour contrast will be provided along queuing lines, because they are a useful support for individuals and guidance for those with vision loss.
  6. f) Benches in waiting areas shall be provided for individuals who may have difficulty with standing for extended periods.
  7. g) Assistive listening systems will be provided, such as hearing loops, will be provided along with accessible signage indicating this service is available.

 

 

112. Information, Reception and Service Counters

The following should be required:

  1. a) All information, reception and service counters will be accessible to the full range of visitors. Where adjustable height furniture is not used, a choice of fixed counter heights will provide a range of options for a variety of persons. Lowered sections will serve children, persons of short stature and persons using mobility devices such as a wheelchair or scooter. The choice of heights will also extend to any speaking ports and writing surfaces.
  2. b) Counters will provide knee space under the counter to accommodate a person using a wheelchair or a scooter.
  3. c) The provision of assistive speaking and listening devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. The space where people are speaking will have appropriate acoustic treatment to ensure the best possible conditions for communication. Both the public and staff sides of the counter will have good lighting for the faces to help facilitate lip reading.
  4. d) Colour contrast will be provided to delineate the public service counters and speaking ports for people with low vision.

 

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Other Features Recommendations

113. Lockers

The following should be required:

  1. a) Lockers will be accessible with colour contrast and accessible signage
  2. b) In change rooms an accessible bench will be provided in close proximity to lockers.
  3. c) Lockers at lower heights serve the reach of children or a person using a wheelchair or scooter.
  4. d) The locker operating mechanisms will be at an appropriate height and operable by individuals with restrictions in hand dexterity (i.e. operable with a closed fist).

 

114. Storage, Shelving and Display Units

The following should be required:

  1. a) The heights of storage, shelving and display units will address a full range of vantage points including the lower sightlines of children or a person using a wheelchair or scooter. The lower heights also serve the lower reach of these individuals.
  2. b) Displays and storage along a path of travel that are too low can be problematic for individuals that have difficulty bending down or who are blind. If these protrude too much into the path of travel, each will protect people with the use of a trip free cane detectable guard.
  3. c) Appropriate lighting and colour contrast are particularly important for persons with vision loss.
  4. d) Signage provided will be accessible with braille, text, colour contrast and tactile features.

 

115. Public Address Systems

The following should be required:

  1. a) Public address systems will be designed to best accommodate all users, especially those that may be hard of hearing. They will be easy to hear above the ambient background noise of the environment with no distortion or feedback. Background noise or music will be minimized.
  2. b) Technology for visual equivalents of information being broadcast will be available for individuals with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing who may not hear an audible public address system.
  3. c) Classrooms, library, hallways, and other areas will have assistive listening equipment that is tied into the general public address system.

 

 

116. Emergency Exits, Fire Evacuation and Areas of Rescue Assistance

The following should be required:

 

116.1 In order to be accessible to all individuals, emergency exits will include the same accessibility features as other doors. The doors and routes will be marked in a way that is accessible to all individuals, including those who may have difficulty with literacy, such as children or persons speaking a different language.

 

116.2 Persons with vision loss/no vision will be provided a means to quickly locate exits – audio or talking signs could assist.

 

116.3 Areas of Rescue Assistance

  1. a) In the event of fire when elevators cannot be used, areas of rescue assistance shall be provided especially for anyone who has difficulty traversing sets of stairs.
  2. b) Areas of rescue assistance will be provided on all floors above or below the ground floor.
  3. c) Exit stairs will provide an area of rescue assistance on the landing with at least two spaces for people with mobility assistive devices sized to ensure those spaces do not block the exit route for those using the stairs.
  4. d) The number of spaces necessary on each floor that does not have a at grade exit should be sized by the number of people on each floor.
  5. e) Each area of refuge will provide a 2-way communication system with both 2-way video and audio to allow those using these spaces to communicate that they are waiting there and to communicate with fire safety services and or security.
  6. f) All signage associated with the area of rescue assistance will be accessible and include braille for all controls and information.

 

117. Other Features

The following should be required:

 

117.1 Space and Reach Requirements

  1. a) The dimensions and manoeuvring characteristics of wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices will allow for a full array of equipment that is used by individuals to access and use facilities, as well as the diverse range of user ability.

 

117.2 Ground and Floor Surfaces

  1. a) Irregular surfaces, such as cobblestones or pea-gravel finished concrete, shall be avoided because they are difficult for both walking and pushing a wheelchair. Slippery surfaces are to be avoided because they are hazardous to all individuals and especially hazardous for seniors and others who may not be sure-footed.
  2. b) Glare from polished floor surfaces is to be avoided because it can be uncomfortable for all users and can be a particular obstacle to persons with vision loss by obscuring important orientation and safety features. Pronounced colour contrast between walls and floor finishes are helpful for persons with vision loss, as are changes in colour/texture where a change in level or function occurs.
  3. c) Patterned floors should be avoided, as they can create visual confusion.
  4. d) Thick pile carpeting is to be avoided as it makes pushing a wheelchair very difficult. Small and uneven changes in floor level represent a further barrier to using a wheelchair and present a tripping hazard to ambulatory persons.
  5. e) Openings in any ground or floor surface such as grates or grilles are to be avoided because they can catch canes or wheelchair wheels.

 

118. Universal Design Practices beyond Typical Accessibility Requirements

The following should be required:

 

118.1 Areas of refuge should be provided even when a building has a sprinkler system.

118.2 No hangout steps* should ever be included in the building or facility.

* Hangout steps are a socializing area that is sometimes used for presentations. It looks similar to bleachers. Each seating level is further away from the front and higher up but here people sit on the floor rather than on seats. Each seating level is about as deep as four stairs and about 3 stairs high. There is typically a regular staircase provided on one side that leads from the front or stage area to the back at the top. The stairs allow ambulatory people access to all levels of the seating areas, but the only seating spaces for those who use mobility assistive devices are at the front or at the top at the back, but these are not integrated in any way with the other seating options.

118.3 There should never be “stramps”. A stramp is a staircase that someone has built a ramp running back and forth across. These create accessibility problems rather than solving them

118.4 Rest areas should be differentiated from walking surfaces or paths by texture- and colour-contrast

118.5 Keypads angled to be usable from both a standing and a seated position

118.6 Finishes

  1. a) No floor-to-ceiling mirrors
  2. b) Colour luminance contrast will be provided at least between:
  3. Floor to wall
  4. Door or door frame to wall

iii. Door hardware to door

  1. Controls to wall surfaces

 

118.7 Furniture – Arrange seating in square or round arrangement so all participants can see each other for those who are lip reading or using sign language

118.8 No sharp corners especially near turn circles or under surfaces where people will be sitting

119. Requirements for Public Playgrounds on or Adjacent to School Property

The following should be required:

 

119.1 Accessible path of travel from sidewalk and entry points to and throughout the play space. Tactile directional indicators would help as integrated path through large open spaces

119.2 Accessible controlled access routes into and out of the play space

119.3 Multiple ways to use and access play equipment

119.4 A mix of ground-level equipment integrated with elevated equipment accessible by a ramp or transfer platform

119.5 Where stairs are provided, ramps to same area

119.6 No overhead hazards

119.7 Ramp landings, elevated decks and other areas should provide sufficient turning space for mobility devices and include fun plan activities not just a view

119.8 Space to park wheelchairs and mobility devices beside transfer platforms

119.9 Space for a caregiver to sit beside a child on a slide or other play element

119.10 Provide elements that can be manipulated with limited exertion

119.11 Avoid recurring scraping or sharp clanging sounds such as the sound of dropping stones and gravel

119.12 Avoid shiny surfaces as they produce a glare

119.13 Colour luminance contrast will be provided at least at:

  1. a) Different spaces throughout the play area
  2. b) Differentiate the rise and run on steps. Include colour contrasting on the edge of each step
  3. c) Play space boundaries and areas where children should be cautious, such as around high traffic areas e.g. slide exits
  4. d) Entry to play areas with shorter doors to help avoid hitting heads
  5. e) Tactile edges where there is a level change like at the top of the stairs or at a drop-off
  6. f) Transfer platforms
  7. g) Railings and handrails contrasted to the supports to make them easier to find
  8. h) Tripping hazards should be avoided but if they exist, providing colour contrast, to improve safety for all. This is more likely in an older playground
  9. i) Safe zones around swings, slide exits and other play areas where people are moving, that might not be noticed when people are moving around the playground

 

119.14 Play Surfacing Materials Under Foot will be pour-in-place rubber surfacing that should be made of either

  1. a) Rubber Tile
  2. b) Engineered wood fiber
  3. c) Engineered carpet, artificial turf, and crushed rubber products
  4. d) Sand

 

119.15 Accessible Parking and Curbs, where provided, at least one clearly marked accessible space positioned as close as possible to the playground on a safe, accessible route to the play space

 

119.16 Accessible Signage

  1. a) Accessible signage and raised line map at each entrance to the park
  2. b) Provide large colour contrasted text, pictograms, braille
  3. c) provide signage at each play element with ID text and braille, marked with a Tactile attention paver to make it easier to find
  4. d) Identify the types of disability included at each play equipment/area

 

119.17 For Caregivers

  1. a) Junior and senior play equipment within easy viewing of each other
  2. b) Sitting areas that offer a clear line of sight to play areas and equipment
  3. c) Clear lines of sight throughout the play space
  4. d) Access to all play areas in order to provide assistance
  5. e) Sitting areas with back support, arm rests and shade
  6. f) Benches and other sitting areas should be placed on a firm stable area for people using assistive devices such as wheelchairs.

 

119.18 For Service Animals

  1. a) Nearby safe, shady places at rest area benches where service animals can wait with a caregiver with a clear view of their handlers when they are not assisting them
  2. b) Spaces where dogs can relive themselves – dog relief area with nearby garbage can

 

119.19 Tips for Swings

  1. a) Providing a safe boundary area around swings which is identified by surface material colour and texture
  2. b) Swings in a variety of sizes
  3. c) Accessible seat swings or basket swings that require transfer. If size and space allow provide two accessible swings for friends with disabilities to swing together

Platform swings eliminate the need to transfer should be integrated

 

119.20 Tips for Slides

  1. a) Double Slides (side by side) allow caregivers to accompany and, if needed, to offer support
  2. b) Slide exits should not be directed into busy play areas
  3. c) Transfer platforms at the base of slide exits
  4. d) Seating spaces with back support adjacent to the slide exit where children/caregivers can wait for their mobility device to be retrieved
  5. e) Metal versus Plastic Slides (Metal slides avoid static electricity which damaged cochlear implants, while sun exposure can leave metal slide hot, so shade devices are vital)
  6. f) Roller slides are usually gentler in slope and provide both a tactile and sliding experience or an Avalanche Inclusive Slide

 

 

Appendix 2: List of the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee

  1. Wherever the Initial Report recommends the creation of a standard or the development of a policy or guideline, such a standard, policy or guideline should be mandatory and should be spelled out in detail in the Education Accessibility Standard, rather than delegating authority to create it to some organization or department.
  1. Wherever the Education Accessibility Standard will require colleges and universities to file a document or data with the Government, or to make public any document, report, or data, it should also require that these be submitted electronically to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in an accessible format. The Standard should also require the Accessibility Directorate to make those documents, reports or data public on a publicly searchable database or hub.
  2. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee should endorse and echo the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial’ Report’s recommendations on enforcement of the AODA, with necessary changes to tailor them to the context of colleges and universities.
  1. The Initial Report should be revised to add that where the Education Accessibility Standard refers to “students with disabilities “, this should include any student who has any kind of disability, including, for example, any kind of physical, mental, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health, communication, neurological, neurobehavioural or other kind of disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  2. The Standards Development Committee’s final report itself and not just the chair’s transmission letter should recommend that the Postsecondary Education Accessibility Standard apply to all other post-secondary educational contexts, such as privately funded colleges and universities and job training programs.
  3. The long term objective of the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that by 2025, post-secondary education in Ontario will be fully accessible and barrier-free for students with disabilities:
  1. By removing and preventing accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities from fully participating in, being fully included in, and fully benefitting from all aspects of post-secondary education in Ontario, and
  2. By providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process for students with disabilities to learn about and seek programs, services, supports, accommodations and placements tailored to the individual strengths and needs of each student with disabilities.”
  3. Eliminating or substantially reducing the need for students with disabilities to have to fight against post-secondary education accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for post-secondary education organizations to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one education program at a time.
  1. The Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (training) should be amended to include training on the duties of post-secondary institutions to people with disabilities under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and especially s. 15 (equality rights).
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (Training) should be revised to either remove the statement that post-secondary institutions should not pay for disability accessibility/inclusion training, or to clarify that the Ontario Government should not charge a fee for providing such training to those obligated organizations.
  3.  The Initial Report’s Training recommendations, Recommendations 20 and following, should be revised to explicitly require training on the duty to accommodate students and employees with disabilities, and to direct that this training begin immediately, using resources that are now readily available for free.
  4.             “Recommendation 29: Facilities Management/Design/Construction staff” Should be amended to require that training of those responsible for facilities at post-secondary institutions and those who design such facilities should be required to include direct live training from people with disabilities who have suffered from post-secondary institutions’ built environment barriers, and should include video depictions of such barriers, such as the AODA Alliance’s videos available at https://youtu.be/4oe4xiKknt0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgfrum7e-_0&t=87s
  5. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require up-to-date training on the creation of accessible digital content, such as in online posts and electronic documents, especially for course instructors and anyone else who creates digital content for use by students and others in the post-secondary community. This training should make it clear that if a document is posted or circulated in pdf, it must also be posted or circulated in MS Word and/or html.
  6.  The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require that college or university staff involved in the procurement of any technology or equipment be required to be trained on technology accessibility needs and requirements.
  7. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that:
  1. Each post-secondary education organization should provide teaching coaches with expertise in universal design in learning and differential instruction to support instructional staff.
  2. The Ontario Government should create templates or models for the training of college and university instructors on universal design in learning and differential instruction, so that each post-secondary education organization does not have to reinvent the wheel in this context.
  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations on curriculum, assessment and instruction (Recommendations 31 and following) should be expanded
  1. to identify that a key systemic barrier is the fact that course instructors need not be able to teach, or to teach students with disabilities, to be hired, and to make recommendations for training existing instructor in this area, and
  2. to require such qualifications in the future for recruiting and promoting future faculty.
  1. The Initial Report, including recommendations such as Recommendation 38, should be revised to make it clear that whether or not the Ontario Government supplements their funding, they must fulfil their decades-old obligations to students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.
  2. To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each post-secondary education organization should:
  1. Promptly survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their instructional staff, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  2. Establish a dedicated office or resource within the post-secondary education organization, or shared among post-secondary education organizations, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis. A student should not be required to show proof that they own a hard copy of an item to be able to get it in an accessible format.
  3. The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ontario Government to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across post-secondary education organizations.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 57 should be explained and clarified, or removed.
  2. Every post-secondary education organization should be required to review its admission criteria for gaining admission to any of its post-secondary education programs, to identify any barriers that would impede otherwise-qualified students with disabilities from admission, and shall adjust those criteria to either:
  1. Remove the admission criteria that constitute a barrier to admission, or
  2. Provide an alternative method for assessing students with disabilities for admission to the program.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 65 should be amended to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard, and not the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, should adopt clear and consistent definitions across the education sector for key terms relating to digital learning and technology.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 68 and following, regarding accessible technology, should be revised to:
  1. require that the Education Accessibility Standard itself set specific requirements for accessible technology, and
  2. require that each obligated organization submit its accessibility plan to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, which the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario would then be required to post online in a searchable accessible public online hub.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 76 should be revised to make it mandatory for each college and university to appoint an accessible digital technology lead.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 87 should be revised to eliminate “phase two”, which now provides:

“phase 2: postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for the creation of accessible PDFs to the PDF/UA 1 /ISO 14289 standard. Following this date, any document provided as a PDF must meet this international standard. However, to phase in this requirement it is expected that postsecondary institutions continue to publish PDF-based digital content to be as accessible as their training and applications permit, even if an accessible alternative is provided. This will lessen any remediation costs if there is a need to go back and ensure that currently produced PDFs meet the PDF/UA 1/ISO 14289 standard. This will also demonstrate the postsecondary institutions’ commitment and progress towards creating accessible PDFs.”

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 88 should be removed.
  2. The Initial Report should be expanded to recommend that the Education Accessibility Standard will require each post-secondary education organization to ensure that its information technology support and help staff includes specialists in access technology, and that students with disabilities get prompt access to IT support when needed.
  3. The Initial Report should be revised to require that
  1. Only accessible conference and remote class platforms may be used.
  2. the Ontario Government should be required to report semi-annually to the public and to colleges and universities on the comparative accessibility of different virtual meeting and teaching platforms, so that colleges and universities do not have to repeat the same investigations.
  3. Even when classes are taught in person, students with disabilities should have the option of attending virtually via an accessible virtual meeting platform, where this accommodation would be helpful to them because of their disability.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require that any learning management system only be procured and used if it is accessible, and for all its accessibility features to be locked in the “on” position so that they cannot be turned off.
  2. The Initial Report should be expanded to ban the use of inaccessible electronic kiosks, electronic point-of-sale devices and restaurant tablet ordering technology at any colleges and universities.
  3. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 91 (Access to Disability Accommodation Information) should be expanded to ensure that the Education Accessibility Standard requires:
  1. The post-secondary education organization’s interactive voice response system for receiving incoming phone calls should announce to all callers the organization’s commitment to accommodate students with disabilities and the number to press to get introductory information about how to seek such.
  2. Programming handouts and broadcast email communications to incoming students should include similar general information.
  3. the post-secondary education organization’s broadcast email announcements and other communications to the student population should include summary information to this effect with relevant links.
  4. Classroom instructors should make announcements in their first week of classes to this effect.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 92 should be revised to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard itself should set a clear set of barrier-free requirements regarding a student’s documenting an academic accommodation need. For example, a student should not be required to re-document their disability each year, where it is a permanent or long term disability.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 should be amended to explicitly require that colleges and universities tell students with disabilities, as soon as possible, about the institution’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities.
  3. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94-95 be revised to set out specific accessibility requirements for colleges and universities in such areas as classrooms, libraries, common areas, online learning tools including accessible software, tests/examinations, internships, practica, co-ops, field placements, apprenticeships, work-integrated learning, other experiential learning that are part of their academic program of study, request for priority enrollment in a course, and accessible housing placement. For example, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a post-secondary education organization’s experiential learning programs, each such organization should:
  1. Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers;
  2. Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate are available;
  3. Ensure that its partner organizations that accept students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities;
  4. Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements;
  5. Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation; and
  6. Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 and following should be revised to:
  1. Require obligated organizations to review their accommodation procedures for systemic barriers, such as a ban on recording classes to which an exception must be sought through the accommodation process; and
  2. Require that those disability barriers be removed and prevented.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 98 (Disability Accommodation Caseload – Reporting) be revised to require that each college or university disability accommodation caseloads be reported to The Government, with The Government being required to publish these online annually on an institution-by-institution basis, and as provincial aggregations or averages.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 99 (Accessibility Lens) be removed and replaced with specific recommendations on the recurring disability barriers to be removed and prevented, and what must be done to remove and prevent them.
  3. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 104-16 ((Accessible Procurement Policies and Procedures) should be revised to require that the accessible procurement standards are mandatory, include detailed specifics, are more robust than the current section 5 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, and require public accountability/reporting to ensure that they can be effectively monitored and enforced.
  4. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 108-110 (Handling Accommodation Requests) should be expanded to spell out mandatory baseline requirements for student accommodation request procedures, so that each college or university does not have to re-design their own procedures, and which:
  1. Require the de-bureaucratizing of the handling of accommodation requests by students;
  2. Require a fast-track process for routine accommodation requests which are suitable for such a process;
  3. Require a separate track for more unusual or complex requests to be addressed in an effective and time-sensitive way; and
  4. Ensure that if the student had an Individual Education Plan (IEP) from an Ontario school, or a finding by an Ontario school board’s Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) that identified them as having a disability (exceptionality), or a comparable form of documentation from another jurisdiction, then the post-secondary education organization should treat that as sufficient proof that the student has a disability, without requiring further assessments or proof, unless the post-secondary education organization has independent proof showing that the student no longer has that disability. In that case, the post-secondary education organization shall provide the student with that proof and shall provide the student with an opportunity to demonstrate that they have a disability-related accommodation need. The student’s IEP should not be treated as a ceiling on what a person can request, since a person’s accommodations needs may be different in the postsecondary environment.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 111-113 (Service Animals) should be revised to replace the term “service animals and support animals” with the more accurate term “service animals, including support animals.”
  2. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a permanent committee of its governing board of directors or trustees to be called the “Accessibility Committee”. This Accessibility Committee should have responsibility and authority to oversee the organization’s compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as far as they guarantee the right of students with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the education programs and opportunities that the organization provides.
  3. The Standards Development Committee should recommend that any equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy at any college or university should be reviewed and, where needed, revised to ensure that disability is a full and equal target and focus of that strategy.
  4. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a committee of those employees and volunteers with disabilities who wish to join, to give the organization’s senior management feedback on the barriers in the organization that could impede employees or students with disabilities.
  5. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 127-128 should be revised to recommend
  1. The adoption of the Education Accessibility Standards of the OCAD University Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS) https://www.ocadu.ca/sites/default/files/2021-06/OCADU_FADS_21-05-26.pdf enriched by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s built environment recommendations; and
  2. Set standards for accessibility of the furniture in the premises of colleges and universities.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 139 (Identify Barriers and Provide Accommodations) should be revised to remove an incorrect suggestion that zoning bylaws or heritage designation are a legal bar to implementing accessibility in a building.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 153 (Signage and Wayfinding) should be revised to:
  1. Invoke the OCAD University FADS standard for signage and way-finding, instead of those by Brock University; and
  2. Require that each campus review its indoor and outdoor property for effective cane-detectable way-finding, and institute such way-finding if inadequate or non-existent.
  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations regarding the built environment should be expanded to require that, where possible, a post-secondary education organization should not renovate an existing facility that lacks disability accessibility, unless the organization has a plan to also make that facility accessible. For example, a post-secondary education organization should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a facility which is inaccessible, if the organization does not have a plan to make that second storey disability-accessible. Very pressing health and safety concerns should be the only reason for any exception to this.
  2. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to require that each post-secondary education organization:
  1. Take inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor gym, sports, athletic and like equipment and spaces, and make this public, including posting this information online;
  2. Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of existing gym, sports, athletic or other like equipment or spaces, in consultation with students with disabilities; and
  3. Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that the purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing equipment or spaces is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the post-secondary education organization.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to include, in its built environment recommendations, specific mandatory requirements at all colleges and universities to ensure that snow-shoveling creates no disability barriers and is sufficient to enable people with disabilities to navigate the campus.
  2. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to include indoor air quality requirements for persons for whom this can create disability barriers.
  3. The Initial Report should be revised to require each college or university to create and make available an up-to-date guide on the accessibility features in its built environment, such as electric door openers and ramps.
  4. The Initial Report should be revised to:
  1. Ensure that students with disabilities have available an earlier or accelerated process for getting their course selections confirmed; and
  2. Have in place a mandatory process for the college or university to make priority re-assignment of any classes from inaccessible classrooms to accessible classrooms, where needed.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require each college and university to:
  1. Ensure to the extent possible that construction projects on campus do not block accessible paths of travel, and accessibility features such as ramps and accessible doors; and
  2. Maintain a publicly-accessible up-to-date web page or other easily-accessed public announcement of the location and expected timing of construction projects that may impede accessible travel.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to specifically require that the venue of graduation ceremonies be accessible to students, family members, friends and staff members with disabilities, including the graduation platform.
  2. The Education Accessibility Standard require that the Ontario Government ensure that public funds are never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers in the built environment.
  3. The Ontario Government be required to revise its funding criteria for construction of facilities at a post-secondary education organization to ensure that it requires, and does not obstruct, the inclusion of all needed accessibility features in that construction project.

 

1,000 Days After Receiving The Onley Report’s Call for Major New Actions to Make Ontario Accessible to People with Disabilities, the Ford Government Responds to Questions in the Legislature with Non-Answers and Evasions

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

 

1,000 Days After Receiving The Onley Report’s Call for Major New Actions to Make Ontario Accessible to People with Disabilities, the Ford Government Responds to Questions in the Legislature with Non-Answers and Evasions

 

October 29, 2021

 

            SUMMARY

 

1. Good Questions on Accessibility in the Ontario Legislature, But What Answers?

 

Earlier this week, on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, NDP disabilities critic Joel Harden pressed the Ford Government during Question Period about its failure to take effective action on the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the Ford Government had received 1,000 days earlier. Neither Premier Ford nor Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho were in the Legislature to answer. Answers came from Conservative House Leader Paul Calandra. Mr. Calandra has had nothing to do with the accessibility file during the term of this office, and has never reached out to the AODA Alliance to learn anything about it.

 

Mr. Calandrea’s answers were not informative. On the Government’s behalf, he did agree that people with disabilities’ needs are not red tape.

 

Over two years ago, back on May 30, 2019, the Ford Government used its majority to defeat a resolution in the Ontario Legislature about Ontario’s Disabilities Act, that was proposed by NDP MPP Joel Harden. Worded in measured terms that tracked Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility, that resolution called on the Government to create a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

 

On May 30, 2019, the Ford Government repeatedly claimed that the measures proposed in Joel Harden’s resolution were wasteful, duplicative red tape that threaten to seriously harm businesses and impose high costs on them, with a particular emphasis on small business. This false claim revives old, ugly and harmful stereotypes about people with disabilities.

 

Achieving accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by effectively implementing the AODA is not red tape! It is helpful that Mr. Calandra now agrees that our needs are not red tape. It is unknown whether he realized on October 27, 2021 that he was contradicting his Government’s rhetoric in the Legislature two years earlier on May 30, 2019. We have seen no indication that there has been a change in Government policy or priorities regarding disability accessibility since then.

 

MPP Harden filed an objection that the Government’s answers in Question Period were insufficient. That entitled the MPP to raise this again at the evening sittings in the Legislature that day. We also set out below the exchange in the Legislature that resulted.

 

Speaking for the Ford Government, Conservative MPP Daisy Wai said nothing new. She said nothing about strengthening or speeding up the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. She said The Government has a plan. However, that “plan” announced over a year ago at earlier news conferences, includes very little if anything that was new. Rather, it re-announced existing activities, some which date back as far as to the NDP Government under Premier Bob Rae in the first half of the 1990s.

 

Read AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s guest column in the Toronto Star’s local Metroland newspapers on the significance of October 27, 2021, being 1,000 days since the Ford Government received the David Onley Report.

 

2. A Memorable 23rd Anniversary Today

 

It might seem like we are facing an uphill battle. We’ve faced and stared down many. Today, we can reflect back with pride on one of them.

 

Twenty-three years ago today, on October 29, 1998, with the Conservative Mike Harris Ontario Government was in office, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the predecessor to the AODA Alliance) convinced the Legislature to unanimously pass an historic resolution. We set it out below. It called for the enactment of a disability accessibility law that puts into effect the 11 principles that grass roots disability advocates had formulated.

 

That day’s events are described in a three-page excerpt, set out below, from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s article that summarizes the Disabilities Act movement’s history from 1994 to 2003. To read the debates in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998, leading to the passage of this resolution, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/hansard18.html

 

Twenty-three years later, we still measure the legislation we’ve won, the McGuinty Government’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 and any accessibility standards enacted under it, against the 11 principles that the Ontario Legislature adopted on October 29, 1998.

 

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign since 2005 to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.

 

 

3. Time Marches On!

 

There have now been 1,002 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

 

            MORE DETAILS

 

Ontario Hansard October 27, 2021 (Day Session)

 

Question Period

 

Protection for people with disabilities

 

Mr. Joel Harden: My question’s for the Premier. It’s been exactly a thousand days since the government received the report on the third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act written by the Honourable David Onley. The Onley report is scathing in its indictment of Ontario’s glacial progress on accessibility. Onley writes in the introduction, “Ontario is full of soul-crushing barriers for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. They confront those every day.”

 

But instead of treating the Onley report like the wake-up call it is, the government has let this report collect dust on the shelf. They haven’t released a plan to implement its recommendations, including building accessibility standards, accessibility training for design professionals and making sure that public money is never again used to create barriers for people with disabilities.

 

But most insultingly, Speaker, when I tabled, a May 2019 motion to create an action plan, this government members called that plan red tape. People with disabilities remain insulted by the lack of momentum on this report. Can we expect an imminent and urgent plan to implement the Honourable David Onley’s recommendations?

 

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Government House leader.

 

Hon. Paul Calandra: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the question from the honourable member. It’s an important question. It is something that I know the minister has been seized with since day one. It again highlights, as so many of the questions today have done, the ineptitude of 15 years of Liberal government that preceded this government and amount of hard work that has to be done to bring Ontario back to a place where we can all be proud of what we’ve accomplished.

 

I agree with the honourable member. David Onley, in particular, was a Lieutenant Governor who broke boundaries in this province. The report is a very important one. We all want to ensure that we do better for those persons with disabilities.

 

Again, as I said, the minister has been working very closely with the community. I know he values the advice of the honourable member opposite. My understanding is that he has reached out to him often.

 

Again, it’s not really a partisan issue. I know the member would agree with that. It’s something we have to work on together as a Legislature, and it has to involve partnerships with our friends at the municipal level, as well as the federal level.

 

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.

 

Mr. Joel Harden: I appreciate that response, but the government has an opportunity today to clear up a glaring problem, and that is the last time we had a fulsome debate on this in this House. In May 2019, members of this government called a task plan, a plan of action, red tape.

 

I invite the government today to clarify that that was a mistake, to clarify that having an action plan on the Honourable David Onley’s recommendations is essential, and to make sure that it’s important to say yes to people with disabilities. So, not no in making people on ODSP continue to live in poverty; not no for refusing to mandate accessible housing in our marketplace, not no in telling people with disabilities they have to shelter in their homes because their apartments and their living conditions are not accessible.

 

We need yes for people with disabilities. Can I please have a clear, certain and absolute answer from this government that people with disabilities and their needs are not red tape?

 

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Government House leader.

 

Hon. Paul Calandra: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

 

(Later)

 

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Pursuant to standing order 36(a), the member for Ottawa Centre has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the government House leader concerning the Onley report. This matter will be debated today following private members’ public business.

 

There being no further business at this time, this House stands in recess until 3 p.m.

Ontario Hansard October 27, 2021 Evening session

 

PROTECTION FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

 

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): The member for Ottawa Centre has given notice of dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given by the government House leader. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the minister or parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.

 

The member for Ottawa Centre.

 

Mr. Joel Harden: I want to be clear as I start here on the reason why I asked for a continuation of the discussion on this and why I was dissatisfied with the answer I got from the government House leader. I actually want to note off the top that there was some progress. We had a one-word answer this morning, but it was the right word. I asked the House leader—actually the whole government; the House leader responded. Does the government regret the fact that the last time, as disabilities critic for this province, I was urged by disability advocates to bring forward the necessity of a timeline and an action plan to implement the findings of this path-breaking report by the Honourable David Onley, many members of the government referred to that as “red tape provisions”?

 

Ever since that debate, I have been hearing from disability advocates across the province in Ontario who were deeply, deeply disappointed. So this morning, when the government House leader rose—does he agree with that connotation? The member said no, but that’s all we got.

But do you know what? Sometimes, Speaker, change happens in fits and starts. Sometimes change moves along at different paces. So I want to ask my friends in government tonight, as we pursue this debate—because that’s what I wanted to do—whether they can insist upon the leader of this province, the Premier of this province, to actually meet in person. I know the minister responsible, Minister Raymond Cho, has met with grassroots disability leaders, in particular the AODA Alliance and their leader, David Lepofsky, but I would like the Premier to sit down with David Lepofsky and the AODA Alliance, so that he can realize the gravity of the situation here.

 

We have a situation in which section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Ontario’s Human Rights Code—explicitly, since 1982, both of those statutes have prevented discrimination on disability grounds, but we have a situation in which that continues in the province of Ontario, because we are not meeting our accessibility targets.

 

We’re continuing to build—Speaker, if you can imagine it—public infrastructure that is not accessible to people with disabilities. What do I mean by that? Well, consider the Ryerson Student Learning Centre. It was built in 2015, not decades ago, and Mr. Lepofsky demonstrated through a video how, as someone who is sight-impaired, he could not climb the stairs of this particular facility without bumping into columns which had been placed in the middle of stairs; how it was also dangerous for dyslexic folks; how it was dangerous for people with mobility concerns. This was built in 2015, and the statute responsible for this—

 

Interjection.

 

Mr. Joel Harden: Members, I guess, find this humorous. I don’t find this humorous.

 

The statute responsible for this, the AODA, says that we need to make sure that built infrastructure in this province doesn’t discriminate. Something built under the previous Parliament did, and there needed to be a standard development committee on the built infrastructure by 2017. It didn’t happen.

 

Did the minister responsible in this government ensure that it did happen under the mandate of this Parliament? No, and that is why the minister, Minister Cho, recently found himself in court—which is not where anybody wants to be as a disability rights advocate, but Mr. Lepofsky took Minister Cho to court about whether or not it is a blemish on this government, a human rights infraction for people with disabilities, that we don’t have significant momentum and movement to make sure that we can do what the AODA asks us to do: have a fully accessible Ontario by 2025.

 

So we had some progress this morning. The rights of people with disabilities should not be understood as red tape—fantastic. What’s the action plan? How do we know that the standards development committees that are responsible for so many different aspects of the application of the AODA are going to meet, are going to design frameworks and give this government advice, so that we can actually implement something in the last eight months of this particular Parliament that will make us proud; that will show us on customer service, health care, education, built environment and recreational spaces that we’re making Ontario more accessible.

 

It’s worth noting, Speaker, one of the things Mr. Onley says in his report is that people with disabilities are “the only minority group in our society that faces blatant, overt discrimination and whose civil rights are infringed upon every day from multiple directions.” This theme goes on throughout the report. Mr. Onley went around the province of Ontario and heard this first-hand from persons with disabilities.

 

As the official opposition, we held our own town hall with people with disabilities so they could tell us what they thought. We need to hear from this government more than “people with disabilities are not red tape.” We need to know what the plan is. Where’s the action plan? That’s what I’m being asked to ask of you—

 

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Thank you.

 

Mrs. Daisy Wai: I appreciate the question from the honourable member. The short answer is yes, we have a plan. In response to the feedback the government received from many stakeholders, including Mr. Onley’s legislative review, we announced the Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework. This framework continues to guide our actions across the entire government as we move towards a more open and accessible province.

 

There are four areas of particular focus for our government. They are: (1) breaking down the barriers in the built environment; (2) government leading by example in its role as a policy maker; (3) service provider and employer increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities; (4) improving understanding and awareness about accessibility. We started announcing this framework more than a year before the member opposite introduced his private member’s bill.

 

Let us be clear, we appreciate the report provided by the Honourable David Onley. Our government believes everyone should have an equal opportunity to participate in the Ontario dream. That is why we are partnering with other levels of government, as well as not-for-profit and private sectors as, together, we continue the ongoing journey towards a fully accessible Ontario.

 

The Onley report highlights many interwoven areas where accessibility can be advantaged in our province. One of the elements he highlights is the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities are able to find meaningful employment. We know that people with disabilities have faced increased social and economic challenges, especially due to COVID-19. We also know that many businesses and organizations all across our province are actively seeking individuals with the skills which people with disabilities possess. That is why our government is helping job seekers to develop new skills and connect them with potential employment. We find this is the most important thing that they need as well.

 

What we have done includes the Employment Ontario programs and services that have expanded under the leadership of Minister McNaughton. We have been helping people get training, upgrading their skills and connecting them with meaningful employment. This is helping to ensure that Ontarians who are willing to work can find good jobs. Businesses that are accessible and inclusive can benefit from tapping into these deep talent pools. It also helps them to tap into new customers, unlocking the doors to a more diverse clientele overall. In fact, it will boost their profits.

 

When people with disabilities find meaningful jobs, they can more fully participate in our communities and our economy. So now, let’s work together to make workplaces more accessible and inclusive.

 

Thank you very much.

 

 

 RESOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY PASSED BY THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE OCTOBER 29, 1998

 

In the opinion of this House, since persons with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation;

 

and since all Ontarians will benefit from the removal of these barriers, thereby enabling these persons to enjoy equal opportunity and full participation in the life of the province;

 

And since Premier Harris promised in writing during the last election in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dated May 24, 1995 to:

 

  1. a) enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its current term of office; and

 

  1. b) work together with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, amongst others, in the development of such legislation.

 

And, since this House unanimously passed a resolution on May 16, 1996 calling on the Ontario Government to keep this promise, therefore this House resolves that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should embody the following principles:

 

  1. The purpose of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should be to effectively ensure to persons with disabilities in Ontario the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Ontario based on their individual merit, by removing existing barriers confronting them and by preventing the creation of new barriers. It should seek to achieve a barrier- free Ontario for persons with disabilities within as short a time as is reasonably possible, with implementation to begin immediately upon proclamation.

 

  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s requirements should supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities;

 

  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require government entities, public premises, companies and organizations to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations;

 

  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the providers of goods, services and facilities to the public to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed to reasonably accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. Included among services, goods and facilities, among other things, are all aspects of education including primary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as providers of transportation and communication facilities (to the extent that Ontario can regulate these) and public sector providers of information to the public e.g. governments. Providers of these goods, services and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers within legislated timetables;

 

  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require public and private sector employers to take proactive steps to achieve barrier-free workplaces within prescribed time limits. Among other things, employers should be required to identify existing barriers which impede persons with disabilities, and then to devise and implement plans for the removal of these barriers, and for the prevention of new barriers in the workplace;

 

  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a prompt and effective process for enforcement. It should not simply incorporate the existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as these are too slow and cumbersome, and yield inadequate remedies;

 

  1. As part of its enforcement process, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a process of regulation- making to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry basis, or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy;

 

  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also mandate the Government of Ontario to provide education and other information resources to companies, individuals and groups who seek to comply with the requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act;

 

  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also require the Government of Ontario to take affirmative steps to promote the development and distribution in Ontario of new adaptive technologies and services for persons with disabilities;

 

  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the provincial and municipal governments to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or of purchasing any services, goods or facilities, that they be designed to be fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Any grant or contract which does not so provide is void and unenforceable by the grant- recipient or contractor with the government in question;

 

  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Ontario. It must have real force and effect.

 

Excerpt from The Long, Arduous Road To A Barrier-Free Ontario For People With Disabilities: The History Of The Ontarians with Disabilities Act — The First Chapter

 

Citation: (2004, 15 National Journal of Constitutional Law)

By David Lepofsky

 

8)            FALL 1998: THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE DECLARES WHAT THE ODA MUST INCLUDE AND THE GOVERNMENT BRINGS FORWARD ITS FIRST ODA BILL

 

  1. a) Enshrining The ODA Yardstick – The Legislature’s Second ODA Resolution Adopts Our Eleven Principles

 

Perhaps the most significant milestone in the first chapter of our campaign came in October 1998. In the Fall of 1998, after the Government’s 1998 ODA closed consultations ended, we turned our attention to a next big challenge. A Government ODA bill could come at any time. We had no reason to expect that the Government would forewarn us of the date when it would introduce an ODA bill into the Legislature. The Government hadn’t forewarned us of the July 1998 release of its ODA discussion paper.

 

We wanted to publicly set a clear benchmark or yardstick against which any Government’s ODA bill could be measured. We had no reason to expect that a Government ODA bill would be any better than its weak policy framework in its ODA discussion paper.

 

Early in the Fall of 1998, we were approached by Liberal Windsor MPP Dwight Duncan. Until then, Hamilton Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino had been the lead Liberal MPP championing the ODA in the Legislature. Agostino had announced at one of our news conferences that his father had been an injured worker. From this, he well understood the barriers persons with disabilities faced. He had brought a personal passion to the ODA issue.

 

Mr. Duncan told us he wanted to introduce a private member’s ODA bill in the Legislature for us. We welcomed his support. However, we were still very reluctant to put massive work into researching and drafting a private member’s bill, for the reasons discussed earlier. We also feared that the Government could skilfully focus a barrage of criticism on some minor, distracting target in a bill that we would crank out, such as some obscure inconsequential wording problem. It could thereby transform a red herring into the central public issue. This could drag us off our message.

 

Accordingly we asked Duncan to instead introduce another private member’s ODA resolution into the Legislature. This tactic had worked so well for us in May 1996, when NDP MPP Marion Boyd had successfully brought forward the first ODA resolution to the Legislature. If Duncan were to bring forward another ODA resolution, this could help increase the Liberal Party’s support for the ODA. It was very important for our coalition to be, and to be seen as non-partisan. Rotating our activities among both opposition parties helped us achieve this.

 

Duncan was open to our idea. We then had to decide what this second ODA resolution should say. It needn’t replicate the first ODA resolution. That had called on the Ontario Government to keep its 1995 ODA election promise. We again didn’t want the resolution to be a partisan attack on the Conservative Government. As in 1996, we didn’t want to give the Government an easy excuse to use its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution.

 

We came up with an idea which would move the ODA cause forward, and which would put all of the political parties to the test. We proposed to Duncan that his resolution call on the Ontario Legislature to pass an ODA which complies with our 11 principles. A legislative debate over those principles took the ODA discussion far beyond the realm of just discussing in the abstract whether a law called the ODA should be passed. Such a resolution would make the parties either vote for or against our core principles on what that legislation should contain.

 

Dwight Duncan agreed to introduce the resolution we proposed. He also secured the Liberal Party’s support for the resolution. The NDP also notified us that it would support the resolution. We did not know whether the Conservatives, who commanded a majority of votes in the Legislature, would support it. We had no reason in advance for any optimism.

 

The resolution was scheduled for a debate and vote in the Legislature on October 29, 1998. This was one week after our meeting with Citizenship Minister Bassett, where we had been treated to the overhead slide show. The date for the resolution’s debate and vote also came a mere two days before Hallowe’en. Carole Riback, an inspired and inspiring ODA activist, dreamt up a clever Hallowe’en slogan around which we rallied. This resolution vote raised the question: “Would the ODA be a trick or treat?”

 

In Fall 1998, the ODA movement made its main focus getting this resolution passed. We urged ODA supporters to lobby MPPs from all three parties to vote for it. We also urged them to go to their local media to publicize this issue. We were learning more and more that the ODA movement was increasingly effective when it channelled its energies over a period of weeks on one concrete short-term goal.

 

The ODA Committee again quickly pulled together a major event at the legislative building at Queen’s Park for the morning of the resolution’s debate and vote. ODA supporters came to the legislative building and met in committee rooms. We planned to break into small teams to each go to MPPs’ offices, door to door, to “trick or treat,” canvassing them for their support on the resolution.

 

All hurried planning for this event went well, until we were contacted the night before by the office of the Speaker of the Legislature. It confronted us with a huge problem. The Speaker would not let us go to any MPP’s office unless we had a prior appointment. We were told that there is a blanket rule that provides that no one can get near the MPPs’ offices without an invitation. We were threatened with all being refused admittance to the legislative building. Since the Conservatives had taken power in 1995, Queen’s Park building security had increased extraordinarily.

 

This threatened to eviscerate our plans. We explained to the Speaker’s office that we planned an informal door-to-door canvass. It was impossible for us at that late hour to call then, the very night before our event, to try to book meetings with each MPP. We feared that if asked, Conservative MPPs would not agree to meet with us. They had refused to come to most of our prior events, and had so often resisted meeting our supporters in their local communities. If we could even get through to their offices at that late hour (which was unlikely), we would likely be told that appointments cannot be booked on such short notice.

 

We hurriedly negotiated a solution with the Speaker’s office. Small groups of our supporters could go to MPPs’ offices without a prior appointment, if each group was escorted by one Queen’s Park security officer, one MPP staffer, and one ODA committee representative. We had to agree to immediately recall all groups if any complaints about their conduct were received.

 

Having removed this last-minute roadblock, October 29, 1998 was a dramatic day. We had no idea in advance whether the resolution would pass. The Conservative majority held the power to decide this. Our teams carried out their door-to-door trick or treat canvass without any complaint.

 

One group was larger than authorized. We persuaded the Queen’s Park security staff not to complain. That group was composed entirely of deaf people. They made no noise, and needed our sign language interpreters. Queen’s Park security officials who travelled with our teams seemed to be enjoying the process.

 

An ODA supporter on one of our “trick or treat” teams reported that a Conservative MPP happened to be quickly leaving his office as the ODA team approached. The MPP called out that he had no time to meet, but he would vote for us, whatever it was we wanted him to vote for. While behind a glass door, another Conservative MPP turned to a staff member and mouthed that he did not know what the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was all about. That MPP hadn’t foreseen that among those on the other side of the glass door was a hard-of-hearing ODA supporter who can read lips.

 

The trick or treat teams finished their tours of MPPs’ offices. They then converged in Queen’s Park legislative committee rooms to watch the MPPs debate Dwight Duncan’s resolution in the Legislature, again on video monitors. We again brought our own sign language interpretation. As in the past, the Legislature’s public galleries remained almost totally inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.

 

During the debate in the Legislature, Liberal and NDP MPPs predictably spoke in favour of the resolution. The governing Conservative MPPs boasted of their Government’s record, and sounded as if they would vote against the resolution. However, when the vote came, our second ODA resolution in the Ontario Legislature passed unanimously.

 

Immediately afterward, we held a triumphant news conference at the Queen’s Park media studio. Both opposition parties had MPPs in attendance. The Government again declined our invitation to participate.

 

As another important step forward for us, the new Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty attended our news conference. He announced on the record that if his party were elected, they would commit to passing an ODA which complies with Dwight Duncan’s resolution.44

 

Later that day Citizenship Minister Bassett was asked in Question Period whether her Government would honour the resolution that the Legislature had unanimously passed that morning. Minister Bassett had not attended the debate in the Legislature that morning when the resolution was under consideration, even though it directly related to legislation for which she had lead responsibility for the Government. In her evasive answer to the opposition’s question put to her in Question Period that afternoon, Minister Bassett condemned the resolution as calling for job hiring quotas.

 

It was self-evident from the resolution’s text that it did not call for job hiring quotas or even hint at them. When we realized that the Government was going to use the hot-button “job quotas” accusation to try to whip up public opposition against us, we immediately launched a province-wide letter-writing campaign addressed directly to Minister Bassett and Premier Harris. We proclaimed that we sought no job hiring quotas. We called on the Government to desist in their inaccurate claims. Within a short time, Minister Bassett candidly conceded on a CBC radio interview that we were not seeking quotas. The Government thereafter dropped that tactic.

 

The Legislature’s passage of Dwight Duncan’s October 29, 1998 resolution was likely the most critical victory for the ODA movement in its history to that date. From then on, we no longer referred to the 11 principles as simply “the ODA Committee’s 11 principles for the ODA.” From then on we could, and did point to them as “the 11 principles for the ODA which the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved by a resolution on October 29, 1998.” We were indebted to Duncan for spearheading this resolution in a non-partisan way. His resolution served to become the yardstick by which any future legislation would be tested. It was also the catalyst that brought the Liberal and New Democratic Parties officially on the record in support of our 11 principles for the ODA. Both parties would go on to campaign for these 11 principles in the 1999 and 2003 provincial elections, and would actively press the Conservative Government to live up to them.

 

In the end, October 29, 1998 was a decisive, indeed towering milestone on the road to a barrier-free Ontario. Ironically, we got no media coverage that day, despite our best efforts. This cannot be explained on the basis that this story wasn’t newsworthy. The story had all the hallmarks of newsworthiness. We have learned that this is an unfortunate fact of community advocacy life. It did not deter our tenacity.

44 This was Mr. McGuinty’s first public commitment to this effect. Of great importance to the as-yet unwritten second chapter of the ODA saga, five years later, Mr. McGuinty would be elected Premier of Ontario in the October 2, 2003 provincial election. His 2003 election platform included a pledge to fulfil the commitment he first gave at our news conference on October 29, 1998.

 

 

 

 

 

1,000 Days Ago Today, Doug Ford’s Government Received the David Onley Report, Calling for Strong New Action to Tear Down Disability Barriers – Where Is Premier Ford When We Need His Help the Most?

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

1,000 Days Ago Today, Doug Ford’s Government Received the David Onley Report, Calling for Strong New Action to Tear Down Disability Barriers – Where Is Premier Ford When We Need His Help the Most?

 

October 27, 2021

 

            SUMMARY

 

It’s truly jaw-dropping and hurtful. Fully 1,000 days ago, the Doug Ford Government received the final report of the Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report showed that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities desperately need Ontario’s premier to make it a priority to remove the many barriers that impede people with disabilities in this province, and to prevent the creation of new barriers. Yet 1,000 days later, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has still announced no comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report’s recommendations.

 

The AODA Alliance has run a daily count on Twitter of the number of days since the Ford Government received the Onley Report back on January 1, 2019. We’ve offered help to the Ford Government. We have asked to meet Premier Ford, in person or virtually. He has refused. In contrast, each of Ontario’s two previous premiers had several meetings with the AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky.

 

A quick glance at recent media shows how disability barriers persist in Ontario, as David Onley warned. Below we set out a sampling of four recent articles:

 

  1. The October 25, 2021 CTV News Toronto broadcast included a story on the disability barriers that people with disabilities can face when snow is shoveled in their paths, and how the Ford Government’s proposed plan to allow robots to shovel sidewalks could make this worse.

 

  1. The October 16, 2021 CBC News included coverage of disability barriers in Ontario’s new COVID-19 vaccine passport system.

 

  1. The September 26, 2021 CTV News reported on a Toronto restaurant that said it refuses to admit customers who have no vaccination, and who have a documented medical exemption.

 

  1. The September 4, 2021 CTV News reported on our forewarning of the risk of disability barriers in the forthcoming new Ontario COVID-19 vaccine passport system.

 

We invite you to read the recently-published guest column in various Metroland newspapers by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky entitled: “Doug Ford must fix his legacy on disability issues.”

 

MORE DETAILS

 

CTV News October 25, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/people-with-disabilities-hope-snow-clearing-ruling-means-more-accessible-streets-1.5637918

 

People with disabilities hope snow clearing ruling means more accessible streets

Jon Woodward

CTV News Toronto Videojournalist

@CTV_Jon

 

TORONTO — Advocates for people with disabilities say they are hoping a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that makes cities more accountable for accidents related to snow clearing will lead to more accessible streets across the country.

 

Observers say the decision could extend to legal liability for other municipal activities from filling potholes to swimming pools to garbage collection, which may bring improved service but also higher costs.

 

The case — based on a woman injuring herself while clambering over a snowbank that had been left on a sidewalk by city workers in Nelson, B.C. — could have implications for cities across Canada, said lawyer David Lepofsky.

 

“I hope it’s going to make municipalities sit up and take a listen, and make sure they get it right,” said Lepofsky, a lawyer who is legally blind and represents the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance.

 

He said he knows people with disabilities who have navigated into the roadways to avoid snowbanks left by city crews.

 

“They can create very serious barriers for people with disabilities,” he said.

 

The far-reaching decision stems from the snow piles that the city of Nelson, B.C. created when a worker cleared snow from downtown streets after a storm in early January 2015.

 

Nurse Taryn Joy Marchi, 28 at the time, parked in an angled spot on the street and tried to cross the snow pile to get to the sidewalk. She claimed her right foot dropped through the snow and her leg was seriously injured.

 

She said the city should have left openings in the sidewalk to allow safe passage, as other cities in the area did. But the trial judge dismissed the case, saying that cities were immune from lawsuits relating to policy decisions.

 

However, on appeal first to the B.C. Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court, judges found that clearing the snow was not a “core policy decision” and so the regular principles of negligence apply.

 

“I think it’s going to help improve snow clearing — if we can do it correctly—so we don’t leave snowbanks in the way or potential hazards for members of the disability community,” said Anthony Frisina of the Ontario Disability Coalition.

 

Those hazards have been an issue for Toronto resident Alison Brown, who is legally blind and navigates the city with the help of Ellis the vision dog. She says sometimes the city doesn’t make it easy for her.

 

“We’ve experienced many situations where the snow is blocking the sidewalk. It becomes a stress factor and makes our ability to maneuver challenging,” she said.

 

She said she’s not sure what the court decision means to her — but hopes that cities get the message to “clear the snow.”

 

The Supreme Court decision can apply to other things a city does, or doesn’t do, said personal injury lawyer Melissa Miller with Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP.

 

“This case is more far-reaching than simply snow removal, which is what’s so significant about it,” she said.

 

“A pothole that isn’t filled in downtown Toronto that bottoms out your car and causes you a significant injury is potentially now the subject of a lawsuit,” she said.

 

Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said the ruling is a sign that cities must take the responsibilities of clearing snow seriously for all people.

 

“We have now heard a statement that says everybody get your house in order,” she said. “You have a responsibility to make sure roads and sidewalks are safe.”

 

Wong-Tam seconded a motion at Toronto city council in May that asked the General Manager of Transportation Services to report on the feasibility of clearing snow from accessible parking spaces by July. That date was pushed to September — but she said the report still had yet to happen.

 

“This is a very wealthy city. Things should not be falling apart as long as we maintain it,” she said.

 

Lepofsky said the case may lead to more scrutiny for snow-clearing city employees, and snow-clearing robots, which are being tested right now in Ontario.

 

“No matter how clever a robot is, and I don’t think it’s that clever, the danger is that they will also shovel snow into the path of a person with disabilities,” he said.

 

In that case, it may be less obvious who to sue if there is not a clear connection between the robot’s actions and the person who programmed it or is monitoring it, he said.

 

The City of Toronto, which intervened in the lawsuit, said through a spokesperson that it will “continue to deliver a comprehensive snow and ice clearing service this winter, with council approval, has the capability to adjust service levels if required.”

 

 CBC News October 16, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/vaccine-certificate-accessibility-1.6213934

 

Ontario’s enhanced vaccine certificate system not accessible to marginalized people, advocates say

Toronto

Enhanced system assumes people have smartphones, computers, printers, internet access

Muriel Draaisma, Dale Manucdoc

 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends a media briefing at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Friday. Ford announced that the province is making enhanced COVID-19 vaccine certificates with scannable QR codes available for download. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

 

Advocates say Ontario’s enhanced COVID-19 vaccine certificate system is not accessible for marginalized groups.

 

The new system, announced on Friday, assumes people have smartphones, computers, printers, internet access, a data plan and the ability to navigate the provincial website, the advocates told CBC News on Saturday.

 

According to representatives of three organizations, the Ontario government failed to consider the needs of people with disabilities, including those who are cognitively impaired, have mobility issues or are legally blind, as well as seniors on a fixed income, low-income people and unhoused people.

 

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the government didn’t properly test its enhanced system to ensure it met accessibility requirements. Lepofsky, who is completely blind, is a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School. The alliance is a disability consumer advocacy group.

 

“Yet again, unfortunately, the Ford government has shown that accessibility for people with disabilities, during COVID and more generally, is just not a priority for them,” Lepofsky said on Saturday.

 

Ontarians can begin downloading QR code COVID-19 vaccine certificates over next 3 days

 

Ontario’s vaccine verification app for businesses now available as 417 new COVID-19 cases reported

 

Lepofsky said he found the announcement, website and news release all to be confusing because he thought there would an app for individuals that people could load onto their phones that would show their COVID-19 vaccine certificates. However, the app, Verify Ontario, turns out to be for businesses.

 

The app for businesses also doesn’t accommodate the need for medical exemptions, he added.

 

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says the Ford government has again ‘shown that accessibility for people with disabilities, during COVID and more generally, is just not a priority for them.’ (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

 

Then, when Lepofsky began to fill out the fields required on the provincial COVID-19 vaccination portal, he found he had to ask his wife to read the number on the back of his green health card. She had to use a magnifying glass because the colour contrast is not good and the print is smaller on the back than on the front, he said.

 

Lepofsky said making provincial public health requirements, such as vaccine certificates, accessible is not difficult, but there has to be a commitment to doing so.

 

“Ultimately, there is a failure to take into account the needs of people who are not smartphone-owning, internet-connected, tech-savvy, sighted, not disabled people,” he said.

 

“It just creates a two-class society,” he added. “There are people with various disabilities who live independently and want to live independently, and they deserve the same access that people without disabilities are being given.”

 

Ford announced new enhanced system on Friday

 

On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that Ontarians who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can start downloading new QR codes this week, which officials say will allow for faster entry into settings that require proof of vaccination.

 

The enhanced system officially takes effect Oct. 22, but Ontarians can get their new scannable vaccine certificates before then, and businesses can already start using a new app to scan those codes.

 

Premier Doug Ford said on Friday that Ontarians who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can start downloading new QR codes this week. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

 

On Friday, residents whose birthdays fall between January and April were able to download the enhanced vaccination certificate through the province’s COVID-19 website. On Saturday, those born between May and August could download it, while on Sunday, those born between September and December will have their chance.

 

Seniors face obstacles to download certificates, group says

 

Elizabeth Macnab, executive director of the Ontario Society of Senior Citizens Organizations, said the government should have consulted with seniors advocacy groups and the provincial Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility before launching the enhanced vaccine certificate system.

 

Macnab noted that at least 20 per cent of Ontario’s population is over 65, but the people who designed the software are likely in their 40, 30s or 20s. “There’s a really deep divide in the understanding of technology and the intuitiveness as well, how to use it, how to access it and so on,” Macnab said.

 

“When you are an older person, it becomes an affordability issue in terms of technology,” Macnab said. “It becomes the basic necessities. The high cost of gas. I can’t drive to the grocery store, can’t socialize, let alone buy the technology too.”

 

Mobility and cognitive impairment also pose challenges. “If you’re a person with a mobility issue, you’re in a walker and you’re wandering around. Your hands are full. You’ve got to pull all of this stuff out. It’s a lot easier for somebody without the challenges of mobility level and cognitive impairment.”

 

Angie Peters, president and CEO of the Yonge Street Mission, says the process is complicated for unhoused young people or young people without stable housing because their contact information can change constantly. (CBC)

 

Angie Peters, president and CEO of the Yonge Street Mission, said unhoused young people or young people without stable housing do not always have income, leaving them without access to technology. The process is complicated because their contact information can change constantly.

 

“There are periods of time where they don’t have a phone, so if they had it loaded on a device, and they no longer have that device, now they don’t have it and they have to get it again,” Peters said.

 

Province says it knows access to technology is issue

 

Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for the Ontario Health Ministry, said in an email on Saturday that the government has worked to make the process accessible for all Ontarians.

 

“We understand that not everyone has access to technology, which is why we have worked to make vaccine certificates as accessible as possible,” Hilkene said.

 

Those who are unable to download the certificate themselves can contact the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre to have it mailed or emailed to them. The centre can be reached at 1-833-943-3900 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

 

She said people who do not have an Ontario health card can contact their public health unit to have their identity verified and get a COVID ID, which is a unique number assigned by a public health unit for the purpose of obtaining a copy of a vaccine certificate.

 

The province says people can print a copy of their enhanced vaccine certificate by visiting a local library, going to a ServiceOntario location, or asking a trusted friend or organization.

 

Enhanced certificates are not mandatory and Ontarians can continue using their current vaccine receipt if they wish.

 

 

 

CTV News Toronto September 26, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/toronto-restaurant-says-it-won-t-accept-medical-exemptions-1.5601281

 

Toronto restaurant says it won’t accept medical exemptions

Jon Woodward

CTV News Toronto Videojournalist

@CTV_Jon

 

TORONTO — A midtown Toronto restaurant worries its staff won’t be able to tell the difference between real vaccine passport exemptions and potential fakers when it opens to indoor diners in just over a week — so, it’s only going to let fully vaccinated people in.

 

“Just for now I’m not going to be accepting doctor’s certificates as exemptions. I just want fully vaccinated people in here. For the past two years we’ve been incredibly safe, our staff are healthy, our customers are healthy, and I want to keep it that way,” Stern told CTV News.

 

Bistro on Avenue owner Cindy Stern said she’s still going to serve anyone who comes by through her take-out window, accommodating any medical issues that might come up. But for indoor dining, she said she’s worried about unvaccinated people trying to cheat, using notes from doctors that her staff won’t know how to evaluate if they are real or not.

 

“It could be abused and we don’t have the time or resources to vet it,” she said.

 

Ontario residents must show proof of vaccination when going into non-essential venues and businesses. There are two legal exemptions: people who had an allergic reaction to a vaccine component, or someone who had myocarditis or pericarditis after a first dose.

 

A restaurant has an obligation to serve anyone with a disability under Ontario’s Human Rights Code, and it’s possible that someone who fits either of those categories is disabled. But those cases are very rare, said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti.

 

“The number of people who can get a true medical exemption is going to be very small,” he said.

 

That leaves people who may be trying to forge an exemption. A doctor in Richmond Hill has reportedly paused his practice after a crowd was photographed outside his clinic looking for all-purpose exemption letters.

 

In Florida, a doctor was fired last month after it was discovered he was offering patients mask exemption letters for $50.

 

David Lepofsky, a lawyer with the AODA Alliance, said the restaurant must make sure it’s accommodating any disabled customers.

 

He said the job of providing credible exemption documents should have fallen to the provincial government, and hoped that it would be included in the digital vaccine passport app expected next month.

 

“The government should have sorted this out while they were dragging their feet on a passport in the first place, rather than creating a barrier now,” he said.

 

The last time Stern went public on her pro-vaccination stance, she got threats.

 

“We don’t take them too seriously. A brick through a window. Fires. Hopefully we take it with a grain of salt,” she said.

 

But this time, she said the response to a tweet describing the restaurant’s current situation was overwhelmingly positive.

 

Bistro on Avenue

Bistro on Avenue plans to only let fully vaccinated people into the establishment and will not be accepting doctors’ notes for vaccine exemptions.

 

CTV News Kitchener September 4, 2021

Originally posted at https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/concerns-raised-over-internet-access-ahead-of-digital-vaccine-passport-rollout-in-ontario-

 

Concerns raised over accessibility ahead of digital vaccine passport rollout in Ontario

Spencer Turcotte

CTV News Kitchener Multimedia Journalist

 

KITCHENER – As the Ontario government gets ready to roll out a digital vaccine passport system next month, some are wondering how they’ll be able to access the QR code and verification app.

 

Penny Frankland, 75, has a phone with no internet access on it, and is feeling forgotten after hearing about the vaccine passport plan.

 

“What does one do if you do not have internet on your phone?” she said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do, but they’re going to have to do something else so that we’re all included in this.”

 

The province has split its vaccine passport rollout into two stages. Starting on Sept. 22, fully vaccinated residents will need to print off their vaccination receipts as a PDF or save it to their phone. This will be used as proof of vaccination in non-essential settings.

 

On Oct. 22, the QR code and verification app will come into effect.

 

“We have no assurance, since we haven’t seen the app, that the app they create will be accessible for people with disabilities that do have a smart phone,” said David Lepofsky, the chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

 

In a statement, the government of Ontario says they will provide additional support in the coming weeks for people who don’t have an email, health card or ID. The province also says the QR code can be printed out and will be accepted in paper form.

 

“That presupposes that you have a computer and a printer, that you have access to technology to be able to use it, and that their website for delivering all this will also be accessible,” said Lepofsky.

 

Advocates aren’t sure what the passport system will look like for marginalized groups, but are asking for equal and accessible options.

 

Places like Quebec rolled out their own vaccine passport system this week, where iPhone users were able to download the app right away, but Android users had to wait several days.

 

The Ontario government says it will be watching closely to make sure those same mistakes don’t happen here.

 

 

1,000 Days of Inaction by the Ford Government on the David Onley Report on Accessibility for People with Disabilities is Marked in AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s Guest Column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland Newspapers

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

1,000 Days of Inaction by the Ford Government on the David Onley Report on Accessibility for People with Disabilities is Marked in AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s Guest Column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland Newspapers

 

October 25, 2021

 

This Wednesday, October 27, 2021 will mark a deeply-disturbing 1,000 days since the Doug Ford Government received the withering report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, who conducted a Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In a guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, appearing this week in the Toronto Star’s Metroland local newspapers, set out below, the Ford Government’s 1,000 days of inaction on that report is described. The Ford Government only has 1,165 days until the start of 2025, the deadline that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets for the Ontario Government to lead this province to become accessible to people with disabilities.

 

The AODA Alliance March 8, 2019 news release, issued after the Government made the Onley Report public, at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-ground-breaking-report-by-former-ontario-lieutenant-governor-david-onley-tabled-in-the-legislature-yesterday-blasts-poor-provincial-government-implementation-and-enforcement-of-ontario/

 

Toronto Star Website and Metroland newspapers October 22, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/local-toronto-scarborough/opinion/2021/10/22/doug-ford-must-fix-his-legacy-on-disability-issues.html

 

SCARBOROUGH MIRROR

 

OPINION

 

Doug Ford must fix his legacy on disability issues

By David Lepofsky

David Lepofsky is a lawyer and advocate for people with disabilities in Toronto.

 

For 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities, Doug Ford’s record is abysmal. One thousand days ago, Ford received a blistering report from a government-appointed independent review of the implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act, by former lieutenant-governor David Onley. That 2005 law requires the government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

 

Onley reported that progress on accessibility is “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal is nowhere in sight.

 

Ford’s accessibility minister said Onley did a “marvellous job.” Yet Ford still has no comprehensive action plan to implement Onley’s recommendations.

 

Ford concealed expert recommendations for improving Ontario’s Employment Accessibility Standard for two years in contravention of Ontario’s Disabilities Act. He hasn’t assisted people with disabilities suffering unemployment and/or poverty.

 

Ford feebly enforced the Disabilities Act against violators. He’s enacted no new accessibility standards that people with disabilities and obligated organizations need.

 

The result? Creation of new buildings and other provincially-funded infrastructure, without ensuring that they are accessible. Half a billion dollars is being spent on new school buildings and additions, without ensuring that they are accessible to students, staff and parents with disabilities. Using public money to create new disability barriers is irresponsible.

 

Ford can’t duck, pleading COVID. He mostly ignored our calls to ensure that pandemic emergency plans address people with disabilities’ urgent needs. We’re disproportionately prone to get COVID-19 and to suffer its worst symptoms. Long-term-care residents with disabilities are a major proportion of those whom COVID-19 killed.

 

Distance learning wasn’t designed to accommodate many students with disabilities. It left many behind. Ford left it to 72 school boards to figure how to fix that. Ford’s TV Ontario offers distance learning resources with serious accessibility problems. Ford’s solution? Give TVO more responsibility for distance learning!

 

Last December, Ford received strong recommendations on how to remove disability barriers from health-care services — urgent during COVID. The law required Ford to publicly post them “upon receiving” them. Instead, he concealed them for months, during COVID’s worst phase.

 

The vaccination program and vaccine passport have too many disability barriers. On Ford’s watch, hospitals trained their doctors to deploy a blatantly disability-discriminatory secret protocol for rationing or triaging life-saving critical care, if overrun with COVID-19 cases. His government won’t answer our pleas on this.

 

Things got worse under Ford. His hurtful bungling of the plight of kids with autism is legendary. As well, in Ford’s Ontario, people with disabilities, seniors and others are now in danger of serious injuries by joyriders on electric scooters.

 

We non-partisan disability advocates are eager to meet with any leaders to offer our help. Unlike the last two Ontario premiers, Ford has refused to meet or talk with us. His accessibility minister holds news events, pledging that Ontario would lead by example on accessibility. The result was 1,000 days of inaction.

 

The Onley report urged the premier to make disability accessibility a priority. It’s not too late. Premier Ford, let’s talk!

 

David Lepofsky is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and visiting professor, Osgoode Hall Law School.

 

Disability Advocates Call on Ford Government Not to Endanger People with Disabilities and Others By Allowing Robots on Public Sidewalks

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Disability Advocates Call on Ford Government Not to Endanger People with Disabilities and Others By Allowing Robots on Public Sidewalks

 

October 20, 2021

 

            SUMMARY

 

Here we go again! The Ford Government is proposing to create even more new barriers against people with disabilities, contrary to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

 

Believe it or not, the Ford Government is now considering allowing the use of robots on public sidewalks. These could, for example, be used to deliver packages or shovel snow.

 

This threatens to create serious new disability barriers. These robots would present a danger to people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. We oppose them. So should you!

 

Below we set out an 8-page brief that we today sent to the Ford Government. It calls for robots to be banned from public and quasi-public places. We urge you to write the Ford Government. Support our strong opposition to robots on public sidewalks and other public places. Before the November 15, 2021 deadline we need as many individuals and community organizations to support us as possible. Write the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario by visiting its consultation web page at https://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view_posting.jsp;jsessionid=Nq4_XYOtWlMmWONQbeqo87q?language=en&postingId=39087

 

You can also send feedback via an email to registryfeedback@ontario.ca and send your feedback directly to the public servant with a role in this consultation, by writing janet.c.lee@ontario.ca

 

The Government is considering giving each municipality the option to allow robots. That would inflict on vulnerable Ontarians with disabilities the undue hardship of having to campaign in one municipality after the next, to protect our safety and accessibility. As our brief explains, the Ford Government did the same thing two years ago with electric scooters. We have suffered the hardship ever since, trying to battle corporate lobbyists who have pressured city councils to allow e-scooters, despite their serious proven danger to public safety and disability accessibility.

 

At the end of our 8-page brief, we set out the slide deck that the Ford Government presented at its October 18, 2021 virtual public consultation meeting on this topic. That slide deck states that it is confidential. We however never agreed to any such restrictions. If you read that slide deck, you’ll see there are no state secrets in it whatsoever!

 

As this is going on, there have now been a breath-taking 993 days since the Ford Government received the blistering Independent Review report by David Onley on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That report concluded that Ontario is still full of “soul-crushing” barriers facing people with disability people with disabilities, and that progress towards becoming accessible has taken place at a “glacial” pace. The Ford Government has still not made public a comprehensive plan to implement that report’s findings and recommendations. The Government has staged some media events with the Accessibility Minister to make announcements, but little if anything new was ever announced.

 

There are just a little over three years till 2025. Yet Ontario lags far behind the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Ford Government has announced no plan to get on schedule for that deadline.

 

Premier Ford, why don’t you leave these robots for the science fiction books, movies and TV shows where they belong, and keep them off our sidewalks!

 

Don’t Allow Robots on Public Sidewalks and In Other Public and Quasi- Public Places in Ontario

 

A Brief by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance to the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance www.aodaalliance.org

 

October 20, 2021

 

 

 1. The Bottom Line

 

This is the AODA Alliance’s written submission to the consultation by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation on the possibility of allowing robots, including autonomous robots, to be used in public and quasi-public spaces, e.g. to deliver packages and shovel snow. We Are strongly opposed to this. This cannot be solved by regulatory standards. Such robots must be banned from public or quasi-public places, with strong penalties that are effectively enforced. This ban should be enacted in provincial legislation, whose enactment is preceded by public hearings and  debates in the Legislature. The dangers that these robots pose cannot be effectively averted or minimized by permitting them in public places with regulations setting standards over their use or operations.

 

This brief does not take a position on the use of robots in private places to which the public is not customarily admitted, such as a factory or farm fields.

 

 

 2. Who Are We?

 

The AODA Alliance is a voluntary non-partisan coalition of individuals and organizations. Our 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: https://www.aodaalliance.org.

 

Our coalition is the successor to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee advocated more than ten years 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.

 

We have been widely recognized by the Ontario Government, by all political parties in the Ontario Legislature, within the disability community and by the media, as a key voice leading the non-partisan campaign for accessibility in Ontario. In every provincial election since 2005, parties that made election commitments on accessibility did so in letters to the AODA Alliance.

 

Our efforts and expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities have been recognized in MPPs’ speeches on the floor of the Ontario Legislature, and beyond. Our website and Twitter feed are widely consulted as helpful sources of information on accessibility efforts in Ontario and elsewhere. We have achieved this as an unfunded volunteer community coalition.

 

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past several years, the AODA Alliance has been active in advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. Our efforts influenced the development of the Accessible Canada Act. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue.

 

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on disability accessibility issues. We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, in Israel and New Zealand.

 

 

 

 

3. The Danger

 

The Ontario Government is considering enacting regulations under the Highway Traffic Act to allow robots, whether autonomous or remotely driven, to use sidewalks in Ontario, to deliver products to customers. On October 18, 2021 the AODA Alliance took part in a Government consultation on a Government proposal that had been posted for public comment. Below we set out the text of the Ministry’s slide deck presented at its October 18, 2021 consultation.

 

The AODA Alliance strongly opposes any reform, whether permanent or by pilot project, that would allow autonomous or remotely driven robots to use public sidewalks or other public or quasi-public paths and places, including for such things as the purposes of delivering products to customers or shoveling snow. By “quasi-public places”, we include private property where the public is customarily admitted, such as stores and shopping plazas.

 

For the Government to allow these robots would be to knowingly create a substantial and worrisome new disability barrier impeding people with disabilities in their safe use of public sidewalks and other paths of travel. People with vision loss risk not knowing a robot is coming, or is in their path. They can pose a tripping hazard, or a danger of collision. For people with mobility limitations, including those who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs, they risk becoming a physical barrier in their path of travel, transforming an otherwise accessible route into an inaccessible one. For people with balance issues, they present a danger of losing balance from any inadvertent contact with a robot.

 

These barriers will be unpredictable, an unforeseeable in advance. People with disabilities cannot plan strategies to avoid them, short of simply staying home. These robots, by definition, will be on the move, not remaining permanently in any fixed location.

 

Sidewalks are an important publicly-funded public resource created for pedestrians to safely use. Their use should not be undermined for such things as private companies’ delivery robots.

 

Disability activists in jurisdictions that allow automated delivery robots to roam their sidewalks experience accessibility issues associated with these devices. Emily Ackerman, a PhD student at Pittsburgh University and a wheelchair user, found herself unable to access the curb cut due to an automated delivery robot blocking her way. This forced her to remain on the street as the traffic light turned green. The robot did not understand that it was time for him to cross the street as the pedestrian signal turned green. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-19/why-tech-needs-more-designers-with-disabilities

 

Roads are created as the place for vehicles to travel, including powered vehicles. As it is, public sidewalks and other paths of travel have far too many accessibility barriers. They are becoming increasingly cluttered with street furniture, art, signage, plants and other obstacles. We cannot afford any more barriers being added. These barriers include the lack of accessible curb cuts in too many places, trees, potted plants, sidewalk restaurant eating areas, and other clutter. In residential areas, this also includes weekly residents’ garbage bins awaiting pickup.

These will create a new disability barrier for a wide spectrum of people with disabilities, old and young. For those who have just acquired a disability, they will inflict added hardships. For example, for a senior who is just lost some or all of their vision, they will need to undergo rehabilitation orientation and mobility training on how to get around independently. The added burden of coping with these robots will make that challenge more difficult.

 

As a result of Ontario Government action led in this context by the Premier’s Office and the Ministry of Transportation, this situation has been made even worse in recent months and years. In 2019, the Ontario Government harmfully allowed municipalities to permit electric scooters, over the strong objection of the disability community.

 

The Ford Government acted at the behest of corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies. It knowingly created safety dangers for the public, including for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. This has included creating a danger caused by e-scooters ridden on or parked on sidewalks. It has burdened people with disabilities to have to battle in one city after the next to avert this danger. They have had to battle against well-funded feeding frenzies by the e-scooter rental company corporate lobbyists. The new barriers that e-scooters have created for people with disabilities in Ontario are amply documented at www.aodaalliance.org/e-scooters

 

Making this even worse, during the COVID-19 pandemic, municipalities have understandably permitted restaurants to use some sidewalk space for outdoor public seating areas. Municipalities have not required that these new outdoor seating areas be barrier-free for people with disabilities, and that they not preclude accessible and safe pedestrian travel on the sidewalk to pass by the restaurant, for people with disabilities. This has had the effect of creating even more new barriers, forcing some to have to divert dangerously into the street in the face of oncoming traffic, just to get around a restaurant seating area that occupies the public sidewalk.

 

The marginalizing impact that such COVID-19 measures have on people with disabilities would be compounded by adding an additional layer of barriers to sidewalks in the shape of delivery robots. Haben Girma, an internationally acclaimed disability activist and lawyer, in an essay on accessibility issues created by delivery robots notes that, in the wake of the pandemic, “the last thing we need is cities adopting tech that excludes blind people and endangers pedestrians with mobility disabilities.” https://techcrunch.com/2020/08/11/the-robots-occupying-our-sidewalks/ .

 

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible by 2025. The Government-appointed 2019 Independent Review  of the AODA undertaken by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley found that Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching that goal. There are now just over three years left to get there. Ontario cannot afford to create any new disability barriers, like those that these robots would generate.

 

 

4. Enact Provincial Legislation and Do Not Address the Robots Issue by Mere Regulations Enacted Under the Highway Traffic Act

 

The Ontario Government is proposing to address this issue by enacting regulations under the Highway Traffic Act. We strongly recommend that instead, the Ontario Government should address this issue by introducing and publicly debating strong legislation into the Legislature to comprehensively deal with it. By passing legislation, the Legislature can deal comprehensively with it.

 

Only legislation can set requirements for public property, quasi-public property (such as shopping plazas) and private property. Regulations that the Government is contemplating under the Highway Traffic Act risk being far more limited in scope.

 

We realize that the Government may prefer the option of enacting regulations rather than bringing forward legislation, because Cabinet debates and decides what to do entirely in secret. However, for an issue that threatens public safety and disability accessibility, less secrecy and far more public accountability is required here. A very broad public consultation is needed, far more than the Ministry is now conducting.

 

It will be important for this ban to apply both to public property like sidewalks, and also to quasi-public private property, such as shopping plazas. A robot endangers the public in both such places. Legislation is the best if not the only effective tool for achieving this.

 

 

5. Ontario Government’s Stated Rationale for Wanting to Merely Regulate Robots is Wrong-Headed

 

At its October 18, 2021 consultation meeting, the Government explained why it is proposing to pass regulations that would permit use of these robots, while purporting to merely regulate some aspects of their use. The Government explained that right now there is no law governing these robots. They are being used in various parts of the province. It is a free-for-all. The Highway Traffic Act only gives the Government limited power to regulate them by way of regulations passed by Cabinet. As such, the Government is proposing to set minimum standards for their use where it can, and to give municipalities power to locally regulate them.

 

The fatal flaw in the Government’s reasoning is that it assumes that the only or best way to address this issue is by the Cabinet enacting mere regulations under the Highway Traffic Act. It disregards the option of the Legislature enacting legislation.

 

As noted above, legislation can ban the use of robots in any place, public, quasi-public or private, if the Legislature wishes. It can establish enforcement for that ban, such as the measures proposed in this brief.

 

The Government’s rationale is the same as the similarly erroneous arguments made by the corporate lobbyists for electric scooters. They claim that because people use them illegally, it is preferrable to legalize them and regulate them.

 

If these robots present a danger to the public’s health and accessibility, the proper public response is to ban then with effective enforcement, rather than legalizing them. By comparison, too many people now use dangerous drugs like crack cocaine. Current legal regimes do not prevent this. The solution is not to legalize crack cocaine.

 

 

6. No Way to Effectively Enforce Regulations Permitting Use of Robots in Public and Quasi-Public Places

 

If robots are permitted subject to Highway Traffic Act regulations or local bylaws, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult if someone is injured or endangered by a robot. The injured victim won’t know who to sue or prosecute for their injuries. Robots are not people with a legal duty to remain at the scene of an accident.

 

If a person is injured by a robot, and the robot keeps moving, the individual has no capacity to stop it and to try to identify its source. This is all the more so for a person with a disability such as a mobility impairment or vision loss.

 

Even if those barriers are overcome, there is still no way to know who has deployed the robot. A robot might have a company name on it. However, there is no assurance that this company name is accurate.

 

It is no solution to require the company name, if present, to be in braille. It is unreasonable to burden people with disabilities with having to find the robot, and then grope it to find a braille label. Braille labels cannot be read if the robot is moving. The very notion that a person with vision loss should try to chase down a robot in public that has injured or endangered them, with one hand on their white cane and guide dog, and their other hand flailing around to see if there is a braille label to read on the robot, illustrates the absurdity of this entire venture.

 

Moreover, many people with vision loss do not read braille. Most who lose their vision have this happen later in life.

 

The most effective enforcement would be to have a total ban on these robots in public and quasi-public places such as sidewalks, and to authorize their immediate confiscation and disposal. If police or members of the public encounter a robot in forbidden locations like a public sidewalk, they should be able to seize the robot and dispose of it. This would quickly and effectively put an end to the problem.

 

Ironically, under the Government’s proposal, a member of the public, endangered by a robot, risks prosecution for damaging private property if they disable a robot and dispose of it. However, the company endangering the public by sending out the robot into public places will for practical purposes face no risk of effective enforcement. The victims, and not the perpetrators, are the ones that the Government would leave at greatest legal risk.

 

It is unfair to burden a person suffering personal injury or property damage due to these robots to have to sue for damages. The costs and stresses of such litigation are substantial. People with disabilities traditionally have faced serious barriers in access to effective legal services, and barriers in the court system itself. Moreover, disproportionately, people with disabilities live at or near the poverty line. They thus cannot shoulder the costs of such litigation.

 

In addition, such a civil plaintiff would have the burden to prove who is responsible for their injuries. This presents all the monumental enforcement issues identified above, while dumping these hardships on private individuals with no public law enforcement and investigation powers. Add to this the possibility of a corporate defendant claiming that the fault lies with the robot’s designer, including software developers. Why should members of the public ever have to endure this?

 

 

7. No Effective Measures Available to Controvert These Dangers

 

The Ontario Government is asking if there are any measures it could enact to offset the safety and accessibility dangers that robots pose. The short answer is that there are none. Any effort by the Government to enact such is, as has been the case for electric scooters, doomed to fail.

 

 a) Requiring a Remote Driver Is No Solution

 

Autonomous robots present a huge danger to people with disabilities and others. These dangers are not eliminated or materially reduced if the law requires a robot to have a remote driver or monitor. There is no way for the public to enforce such a requirement. There is no way to know from looking at a robot, barreling towards you on the street or sidewalk, that there in fact is a remote driver somewhere, who is attentive to steering the robot.

 

If a company could even be identified as the robot’s source, there is no way for a prosecutor or plaintiff to affirmatively prove in court that there was no remote driver operating the robot. There is no way to know whether the robot is in fact operating autonomously some or all of the time, even if a remote driver or monitor exists.

 

If there were a remote driver, it is vital that they only be permitted to steer one robot at a time. There is no way to know if a remote driver is directing multiple robots at the same time, dangerously dividing their attention.

 

There are no prior standards for training a remote driver, akin to a driver’s education course for car-drivers. The simple fact that a human being is remotely involved does not ensure that they have the skills and knowledge needed to safely operate the robot.

 

There is a massive difference between having a driver in place in a motor vehicle on the one hand, and having a remote driver at some other location, on the other. The remote driver is not assured to have the same view as does a live driver on site in a vehicle. A live driver’s own safety is at stake if they get into a crash. A remote driver’s safety is never at risk from their remote driving of a robot.

 

There is no way to police whether the remote driver is paying attention and is not intoxicated or otherwise has reduced attention. Indeed, there is no way for the public to know if a remote driver is even in Ontario and hence within the reach of a police investigation, or is situated halfway around the world, far removed from the reach of Ontario law and the damage that their remote driving can cause.

 

 

 b) Speed Limits Are No Solution

 

Of course, the faster a robot goes, the greater is the damage it can inflict in a collision. Despite this, these dangers are not eliminated by speed limits imposed on robots. It is not possible to effectively enforce speed limits for robots. It would require police on every street, and sidewalk, equipped with hand-held radar for tracking their speed, constantly looking to see if a robot needs to be monitored. Especially in a society reeling from the added public and private costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, the enforcement costs would hardly be a societal priority, just so some mega-companies like Amazon can deliver their products without using delivery people.

 

Moreover, the dangers that these robots pose is not limited to the times when they are moving. When not moving, they are another form of unexpected sidewalk clutter that can be a tripping hazard for people with vision loss, and a barrier to mobility for people using mobility devices.

 

If a speed limit were to be set, it would need to be so slow that it would likely defeat the purpose of using robots. For example, if the speed were 3 KPH, businesses like Amazon will no doubt find that delivery people can get packages delivered more quickly by using human delivery people.

 

 

 c) Robots Emitting Sound Helps But Is No Solution

 

One option being considered is to require that the robot emit a beeping or other audible sound. This could alert some people to the robot’s presence. While this might help a little, it is also not an effective solution.

 

To be effective, there would have to be a universal sound, and a massive public education campaign to ensure that the entire public, including tourists from elsewhere, know that this is the sound of a robot.

 

Moreover, the audible alert must be ongoing, and not only when the robot approaches a person. It must be loud enough to be heard amidst city noises like traffic, construction, cars or restaurants blaring music, lawn mowers, etc. If not, a person might not be able to hear the robot sound, to localize its location and to know it is a robot.

 

 d) How Does a Robot Get Insurance?

 

Whenever a motorized vehicle is permitted to operate in public, decades of wise public policy requires that the vehicle be licensed and insured. One of the dangers arising from electric scooters arises from the fact that the Ontario Government wrongly departed from that basic public protection, for no valid public policy (except for the enrichment of e-scooter rental companies).

 

This rases the question whether the province can effectively require that robots be insured. There is likely no robot insurance available. Moreover, there is no way for a member of the public or law enforcement official to ask a robot to produce its insurance policy for verification.

 

 e) No National Safety Standards For Robots

 

Normally, motorized vehicles are not permitted on the road or other public places unless they have been tested and certified as meeting national safety standards. The Ontario Government has already endangered the public by not requiring this for electric scooters. It would make this even worse by not doing so for robots operating in public or quasi-public places.

 

As a first step, sufficient national safety standards would be needed. We are aware of none.

 

Such standards could include the permissible size, weight and shape of these robots. Just the shape alone of these robots is important. The severity of the injury they cause could be exacerbated by the shape, weight and size of the robot. If the robot is travelling at a higher speed, it gives people less time to become aware of their approach and to get out of the way. If the robot has sharp, hard edges and corners, not padded and rounded corners, they can inflict more damage. The heavier they are, the more damage they might inflict.

 

National standards could set requirements for permissible speeds, and for mandatory features to be included in the robots. They could set minimum requirements for a robot to be tested before its public use, including the tests that must be run. Whenever new software is added, they could add requirements for further testing before the robot might resume operation. We all know how new software can include bugs.

 

 

8. Snow-Shoveling robots Create Additional Dangers

 

One use for these robots would be for shoveling snow, e.g., on sidewalks. This presents additional dangers beyond other uses of robots on public sidewalks.

 

A recurring problem now facing people with disabilities during snowy periods is where snow is shoveled off a road or sidewalk, but piled up in another path of travel, such as a walkway from a house to the roadside. This results in new disability barriers being created that can make a hitherto accessible path inaccessible.

 

It must be a human being to be the one doing the snow shoveling, so that they can make sure this does not happen. Robots are less likely to avert the creation of these snow barriers.

 

 

9. Robots Can Also Damage Private Property

 

The foregoing addresses the risk of danger to people posed by robots. They also can damage a person’s property. This in turn would shift an unfair burden to those suffering property damage to have to prove who is at fault, and the value of the loss. If the person is not present when the damage is caused, this will be impossible to do. If the person has vision loss, they will likely not be able to provide the necessary information to prove the claim.

 

 

10. Leaving Approval of Robot Use to Each Municipality Creates Undue Hardship for People with Disabilities

 

The Ontario Government is considering giving each municipality the power to set local requirements for robot use and/or power to decide if robots will be permitted. This would create a huge undue hardship for people with disabilities and others.

 

This would shift to people with disabilities and charitable community organizations the massive burden to have to battle against approval of robots, one municipality at a time. The Government inflicted this on the disability community two years ago, when it gave each municipality the power to allow e-scooters. Since then, people with disabilities have had to battle in one city after the next to prevent the danger posed by e-scooters. As noted earlier, we have unfairly been pitted against e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists waging a well-funded lobbying campaign. In Toronto, we succeeded. In Ottawa, the corporate lobbyists succeeded. This has burdened our community with hours and hours of work, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. People with disabilities in Ottawa have already suffered from e-scooters left in public places and ridden in public.

 

This ordeal should not be replicated in the context of these robots. It wastes a great deal of time, and resources of municipal planning and policy officials. They already have many pressing issues on their plates.

 

 

11. Don’t Run a “Pilot” Project with Robots, Burdening People with Disabilities and Others to File Complaints

 

It is similarly wrong to authorize pilot projects with robots. It is wrong to experiment on non-consenting members of the public, as guinea pigs who will be subjected to this danger to their safety and accessibility. People are only supposed to be subjected to a human experiment if they consent to being involved in it.

 

Moreover, as the experience with e-scooters has shown, it is wrong to create this new danger, and then to shift the burden to the public to lodge complaints if they experience a problem. People have lots to do, without having this downloaded onto them without their agreement. Many won’t even know they can report problems, or to whom they should report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Appendix October 18, 2021 Ministry of Transportation Ontario Slide Deck for Public Consultation

 

MTO AV Program Enhancements 2021 Accessibility Seniors

Contents

Slide 1. 1

Slide 2. 1

Slide 3. 2

Slide 4. 3

Slide 5. 3

Slide 6. 4

Slide 7. 5

Slide 8. 6

Slide 9. 7

Slide 10. 7

Slide 11. 8

Slide 12. 9

Slide 13. 10

Slide 14. 11

Slide 15. 12

Slide 16. 13

Slide 17. 14

Slide 18. 14

 

Slide 1

Header: Ministry of Transportation

Title: Automated Vehicle Pilot Program

Consultations on Proposed Enhancements to the Pilot Program

October 2021

Slide 2

Title: Purpose of Consultations

 

Purpose of the proposals are to:

  • Reduce burden for Ontario businesses and other entities seeking to test automated vehicles (AV), while protecting road safety.
  • Facilitate innovation in connected and automated vehicle development and remain technology neutral, while protecting road safety.
  • Align Ontario’s Manufacturer Plate (M-Plate) and AV Pilot programs.

 

Purpose of the consultations are to:

  • Seek participant input on the impact to stakeholders, concerns on road safety and any accessibility issues.

 

Footer: Note: the deck is confidential, for discussion purposes only. Do not distribute.

Slide 3

Title: Context: Automated Vehicle (AV) Pilot

  • January 1, 2016: Ontario launched a pilot project to allow for the testing of automated vehicles (AVs) on public roads under certain conditions. Goals: establish rules, monitor industry developments, and evaluate the safety of AVs prior to them becoming widely available to the public.
  • January 1, 2019: In response to advances in AV technology, to ensure economic competitiveness, and in cooperation with key industry and road safety stakeholders, the province made enhancements to the AV Pilot program to:
    • Permit driverless testing under stringent conditions to ensure safety
    • Permit testing of connected “platooning” technology under stringent conditions to ensure safety, in which large trucks are able to travel closely together while tethered electronically, towards greater efficiencies, and
    • Permit the use of conditionally automated vehicles (specifically, Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 3 AVs) by Ontario consumers.

Slide 4

Title: Proposals

 

Connected and automated vehicle (CV/AV) technology is rapidly evolving and new opportunities have emerged. As such, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is exploring the following changes:

 

  • Proposal 1: Expand eligible entities for the AV Pilot
  • Proposal 2: Remove restrictions on modification or manufacture of automated vehicles by pilot participants
  • Proposal 3: Expand Manufacturer Plate Program eligibility to include approved AV Pilot participants
  • Proposal 4: Expand Manufacturer Plate Program to allow carrying freight/goods and charging a fee
  • Proposal 5: Add emerging types of AVs to the AV Pilot – automated farm vehicles only at this time
  • Proposal 6: Develop a pilot framework for the testing of automated micro-utility devices

Slide 5

Title: 1: Expand eligible entities for the AV Pilot

 

Current Status:

  • Eligibility for the AV Pilot is restricted to certain entities, such as: original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), technology companies, component and systems manufacturers, and academic and research institutions.
  • A non-eligible entity seeking to conduct AV testing may still engage in testing by partnering with an eligible entity. However, the eligible entity must be the applicant to the pilot and own the vehicle to be tested.

 

Proposal:

  • Remove regulatory restrictions and permit eligible entities that can demonstrate that they are able to meet all requirements entry to the pilot.
  • This could expand eligibility for participation in the pilot to, for example but not limited to, ineligible entities such as municipalities, indigenous groups, corporations, transit companies etc.
  • Any applicant must still satisfy all the requirements of the pilot program before they may be approved.

Slide 6

Title: 2: Remove restrictions on modifications of AVs by pilot participants

 

Current Status:

  • If a vehicle is originally manufactured as a Society of Automotive Engineer (SAE) Level 4 or 5 AV, only the OEM is eligible to modify and test the vehicle under the current AV Pilot framework. Other eligible entities for the AV Pilot are only able to test vehicles that they converted into AVs (SAE Level 3, 4 or 5) and must be responsible for the conversion.

 

Proposal:

  • Remove regulatory restrictions on the modification of vehicles by participants within the AV Pilot Framework. This would allow all eligible entities participating in the program to modify originally manufactured automated vehicles.

 

Footer: Please refer to Appendix for details on SAE Levels.

Slide 7

Title: Discussion Questions for Proposals 1 and 2

  1. What level of support would your organization have for these policy proposals? Why?
  2. Does your organization have any concerns with these policy proposals?
    1. Should the expansion be limited to only certain entities?
    2. Should the vehicle manufacturer/converter have continued involvement? If so, what?
    3. Should conditions be placed on any entities? If so, what?
  3. What impacts would these policy proposals have on your organization or the population your organization serves?
  4. Are there any alternatives which your organization would like to suggest?

Slide 8

Title: 3: Expand M-Plate Program eligibility to include approved AV Pilot participants

 

Current Status:

  • The Manufacturer Plate (M-Plate) Program allows for motor vehicles and motor vehicle component manufacturers to operate non-compliant vehicles on Ontario roads for the purposes of testing, demonstration, evaluation and exhibition.
  • The M-Plate Program is currently restricted to motor vehicle and component manufacturers, which is inconsistent with the eligibility of the AV Pilot.
  • Vehicles manufactured and equipped by the following parties are permitted in the AV Pilot:
    • Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)
    • Technology Companies
    • Academic/Research Institutions
    • Component and Systems Manufacturers

 

Proposal:

  • Expand the M-Plate Program to allow all entities eligible for the AV Pilot to test compliant and non-compliant Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) vehicles (e.g. driverless shuttles) on Ontario roads.
  • Applicants would need to be approved into the AV Pilot prior to applying for the M-Plate program. The programs have separate application forms and approval.

Slide 9

Title: 4: Expand M-Plate Program to allow carrying freight/goods and charging a fee

 

Current Status:

  • Under the M-Plate Program, participants are not permitted to carry freight/goods and to charge a fee.

 

Proposal:

  • Expand the M-Plate Program to allow approved AV Pilot participants using vehicles with an M-Plate to carry freight/goods, and to charge a fee.

 

Footer: Please refer to the appendix for further details on the Manufacturer Plate Program.

Slide 10

Title: Discussion Questions for Proposals 3 and 4

  1. What level of support would your organization have for these policy proposals? Why?
  2. Does your organization have any concerns with these policy proposals?
    1. Should there be restrictions on the M-Plate, such as limiting the number of plates that can be purchased to the number of AV vehicles to be tested?
    2. Should Ontario consider a new plate for AV Pilot participants?
    3. What restrictions, if any, should be placed on allowance to carry freight/goods and charging a fee (e.g. amount or type of goods, whether the entity should be able to make a profit etc.)?
  3. What impacts would these policy proposals have on your organization or population your organization serves?
  4. Are there any alternatives which your organization would like to suggest?

Slide 11

Title: 5: Add emerging types of AVs to the AV Pilot Program

 

Current Status:

  • The current regulatory framework does not capture automated farm vehicles as farm vehicles are not considered motor vehicles.

 

Proposal:

  • Allow for the testing of automated farm vehicles on public roadways, excluding 400-series highways
  • Current rules of the road for farm equipment continues to apply
  • Applicant would still need to satisfy all requirements of the AV Pilot Program before they can be approved
  • Most current rules for AV Pilot participation applies
  • Current driverless conditions in the AV Pilot continues to apply if it is a driverless vehicle
  • Some proposed differences:
    • Simpler data requirements
    • No transportation of hazardous goods, passengers or livestock
    • Platooning allowed (vehicles to travel close together to reap fuel efficiencies)

Slide 12

Title: 6: Develop a pilot framework for the testing of automated or remote-controlled micro-utility devices (MUDs)

 

Current Status:

  • The province does not currently have a regulatory framework in place governing automated or remote-controlled MUDs such as automated personal delivery devices or automated snow plows.

 

Proposal:

  • Create a new 10-year pilot regulation for micro-utility devices leveraging the pilot authority of section 228 of the Highway Traffic Act.
  • Will include micro-utility devices (MUDs) that:
    • May not qualify as motor vehicles under the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and will not be defined as a motor vehicle in Ontario due to its small dimensions and low operating speeds
    • May operate primarily off-road in spaces such as private property, sidewalks, trails, or shoulders of roads
    • Are not meant for the transport of passengers, and
    • Are task oriented and may be operated or modified primarily to provide services such as snow plowing, goods delivery, sidewalk inspections, waste collection etc.
  • Specialized MUD stream for automated sidewalk snow plows due to the need for their larger size/weight.

Slide 13

Title: 6: Proposed general MUDs framework

 

Size: Equal to or less than L120cm x W74cm, 125kg

 

Weight and speed proposals: Maximum speed – 10 km/h in pedestrian spaces, 20 km/h on shoulders or

  • Different speed limits for devices in different weight classes
    • g. 10 km/h speed limit for devices 125kg and less
    • 5 km/h speed limit for devices between 125kg and 250kg

 

Approval and Oversight: Municipal opt-in with authority to limit operations (e.g. where and when)

  • Mandatory operator oversight capable of creating safe stop

 

Operational requirements:

  • Yield to pedestrians
  • Display name and contact and unique device number on device
  • Collision reporting
  • Good working order requirement and secure loads requirement

Slide 14

Title: 6: Proposed MUDs framework continued

 

General safety requirements:

  • Audible alerts – either within proximity alert, or always on directional white noise
  • Lighting in low light settings, reflectors on sides
  • Prohibit carrying of dangerous goods and controlled substances requiring federal placard
  • General liability insurance of $5 million
  • Braking system that allows device to come to a controlled safe stop (i.e. pulled to one side, not blocking passage)
  • Follow pedestrian rules

 

Automated or remote-controlled sidewalk snow plows: follows general MUDs framework except:

  • No maximum weight or dimension restrictions
  • Maximum 10 km/h on sidewalks
  • Requires, in addition to all other safety requirements, emergency stop buttons that are easily accessible
  • Flashing blue light

Slide 15

Title: Discussion Questions for Proposals 5 and 6

  1. What level of support would your organization have for these policy proposals? Why?
  2. Does your organization have any concerns with these policy proposals?
    1. Do you agree with the proposed dimension and weight limits?
    2. Which speed limit option would fit your target population’s needs best?
    3. What type of audible alert would best fit your needs? What proximity should trigger the audible alert?
    4. Are there other safety considerations?
  3. What impacts would these policy proposals have on your organization or population your organization serves?
  4. Are there any alternatives which your organization would like to suggest or other emerging vehicles that should be considered in the future?

Slide 16

Title: Next Steps

  • Feedback received will be used to inform further policy development.
  • Stakeholders and the public will have further opportunity to provide direct comment on the proposals through the Regulatory and Environmental Registries.
  • If you have further comments or questions, please reach out to:

Janet Lee – Senior Policy Advisor

Road Safety Program Development Office

Ministry of Transportation of Ontario

T: (416) 562-7497

E: Janet.C.Lee@Ontario.ca

Slide 17

Title: Appendix: Manufacturer Plate (M-Plate) Program

  • January 1, 2016: Ontario introduced an M-Plate program.
  • The M-Plate Program allows motor vehicle and motor vehicle component manufacturers to operate vehicles on Ontario roads for the purposes of testing, demonstration, evaluation and exhibition.
  • To be authorized to purchase an M-Plate, motor vehicle or component manufacturers are required to complete and submit an application form to the ministry.
  • Once approved, the ministry issues the applicant a letter to authorize the purchase and use of M-Plates.
  • The M-Plate is eligible for use on a passenger vehicle, commercial vehicle, bus and a motorcycle.

Slide 18

Title: Appendix: Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Levels of Automation description

 

To summarize SAE Levels:

 

Zero to two – the driver is driving and must constantly supervise any vehicle features that support the driver.

 

Three – the driver is not driving when the automated driving features are engaged, but when the feature requests, you must be ready to take over and drive.

 

Four and five – the person in the vehicle is not driving when the automated driving features are engaged. These automated driving features will not require you to take over driving.

 

Footer: For more information, please visit the SAE website at: SAE Levels of Driving Automation™ Refined for Clarity and International Audience

 

 

 

 

Ford Government Extends to November 1, 2021 the Deadline for Sending In Feedback on the Disability Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools, Colleges or Universities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Ford Government Extends to November 1, 2021 the Deadline for Sending In Feedback on the Disability Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools, Colleges or Universities

 

October 13, 2021

 

To help students with disabilities overcome the many disability barriers they face in Ontario schools, colleges and universities, you still have a chance to press for long-overdue improvements. The Ford Government has extended to November 1, 2021 the deadline for giving feedback on the disability barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario schools, colleges and universities.

 

After years of advocacy spearheaded by the AODA Alliance, two Standards Development Committees were appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to make recommendations for the contents of a new enforceable regulation to be called the Education Accessibility Standard. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee will make recommendations on the mandatory measures that are needed to make K-12 education in Ontario schools barrier-free for students with disabilities. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will make recommendations on the measures needed to make education offered in Ontario colleges and universities barrier-free for students with disabilities.

 

Up to November 1, 2021, you can send the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee your feedback on its initial proposals for this recommendation, which were posted online for public comment on June 1, 2021. Write educationsdc@ontario.ca

 

Up to November 1, 2021, you can send the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee your feedback on its initial recommendations for measures to be enacted in the Education Accessibility Standard for colleges and universities, which were initially posted on June 25, 2021. Write postsecondarySDC@ontario.ca

 

For each of these two Standards Development Committees, here are four questions you might wish to address:

 

  1. Say if you agree with all the Standards Development Committee’s recommendations. If you disagree with any recommendations, say which ones. Explain why you disagree with them.

 

  1. Explain which of the recommendations you consider especially important. What are your biggest priorities? Why are they important to you?

 

  1. If there are any recommendations that you disagree with, explain what the Standards Development Committee might change in those recommendations to improve them.

 

  1. Are there any recommendations that you would like the Standards Development Committee to add? Did it leave out anything that you consider important?

 

We have a collection of resources that can help you take part in this important consultation.

 

  1. The AODA Alliance‘s action kit on how to give public feedback on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations. You can also use that Action Kit to help you give input on the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations.

 

  1. The AODA Alliance’s new captioned video summarizing the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations include, and why they are needed.

 

  1. The AODA Alliance’s 55-page condensed and annotated version of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.

 

  1. The AODA Alliance’s 15-page summary of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.

 

  1. A captioned video of tips for parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate at school for their child’s needs.

 

  1. The AODA Alliance’s new captioned video giving you an introduction to the duty to accommodate people with disabilities.

 

  1. For general background, the AODA Alliance website Education page.

 

There have now been 986 days since the Ford Government received the blistering Independent Review report by David Onley on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Ford Government has still not made public a comprehensive plan to implement that report’s findings and recommendations. The Government has staged some media events with the Accessibility Minister to make announcements, but little if anything new was ever announced. There are just a little over three years til 2025. Yet Ontario lags far behind the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Ford Government has announced no plan to get on schedule for that deadline.

 

Divisional Court Declines to Rule on Argument that Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Violated Ontario’s Disabilities Act — AODA Alliance Urges Accessibility Minister to Obey the Law He’s Mandated to Spearhead

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Divisional Court Declines to Rule on Argument that Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Violated Ontario’s Disabilities Act — AODA Alliance Urges Accessibility Minister to Obey the Law He’s Mandated to Spearhead

 

October 8, 2021

 

Summary

 

Here are two major updates in our campaign to get the Ontario Government to effectively implement the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

 

1. Ontario’s Divisional Court Dismisses David Lepofsky’s Court Application, Without Ruling On Whether Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho Violated the AODA

 

On Friday, October 1, 2021, the Ontario Divisional Court released its ruling in Lepofsky v. Cho. We set the 2-page ruling out below.

 

The Court dismissed the application by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, without ruling on his contention that Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho violated s. 10(1) of the AODA. That section requires the minister to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s initial report upon his receiving it. Minister Cho did not post the health care Standards Development Committee’s initial report until over four months after he received it. He did not post the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report until 3.5 months after he received it. He did not post the K-12 Education Standards Development Committees initial report until 2.5 months after he received it.

 

The Court decided not to rule on the merits of David Lepofsky’s claim, concluding that the application had become moot after the Government eventually publicly posted all three reports. The Court had the authority to rule on the case, even though it was moot, but decided not to, for the reasons set out below. Minister Cho had urged the Court not to rule on the question whether he had violated the AODA. David Lepofsky urged the Court to rule on the case even if it was moot.

 

This ruling does not vindicate the Ford Government’s conduct. There are at least two important developments arising from this case.

 

First, Minister Cho, through his lawyer, conceded in court for the first time that he must post a Standards Development Committees initial report after taking the steps that are reasonably necessary to prepare the report for public posting. See the ruling, below. Second, the evidence in the case showed that the Government had created bureaucratic barriers that delayed the public posting of these reports. For example, the Government requires Cabinet Office to give permission to post something online, in accordance with Government marketing priorities. Yet, the AODA gives Cabinet Office no right to veto or delay the public posting of these reports.

 

2. AODA Alliance Writes Accessibility Minister Cho to Call on Him to Fulfil His Unmet Statutory Duties

 

On October 8, 2021, the AODA Alliance sent a detailed letter to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, set out below. It gives some specific examples of how the Ford Government has violated the AODA. It asks the Government to give these three commitments:

 

“1. Will you commit to now appoint Standards Development Committees to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, after advertising for people to apply to serve on those Committees? Will you give the latter Committee a mandate to make recommendations generally addressing measures needed to make the built environment accessible?”

 

“2. Will you commit to strengthen the insufficient Transportation Accessibility Standard, Employment Accessibility Standard and Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in the next four months, after you consult us on the revisions needed to strengthen them?”

 

“3. Will you commit that you will now put in place effective procedures to ensure that the final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will each be made public within a few days of your receiving a final report, at the latest? To do this will you commit as follows:

 

  1. a) Will you agree that under the AODA, you as Minister are required to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s final report “upon receiving” it?

 

  1. b) When a Standards Development Committee submits its initial or final report to you, will you immediately let the AODA Alliance and the public know that it has been received?

 

  1. c) Since your Ministry officials work closely with a Standards Development Committee as it prepares and votes to approve an initial or final report, will you direct your officials to take all the steps that are reasonably necessary to publicly post the report as quickly as possible, and wherever possible, even before the report is formally transmitted to you? For example, most if not all of this work can be started and even completed after a Standards Development Committee formally votes to approve its report, and before that report is formally transmitted to you.

 

  1. d) Once you receive a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final report, will you have it immediately posted online as soon as it is translated into French and the minimum steps are taken that are needed to code the document for posting, e.g., as a downloadable file?

 

  1. e) Once you receive an initial or final report from a Standards Development Committee, will you agree not to delay its public posting in order for the Government to take steps that are not necessary for its public posting? For example, will you agree not to delay the report’s public posting until there are briefings of the minister, deputy minister or other public officials on it, and/or to prepare a public survey on it, and/or to prepare other web pages or communication web pages, or other strategies regarding it, and/or to seek permission of Cabinet Office for it to be publicly posted, and/or to edit it to conform to any Government style or writing standards for publicly posted documents, and/or to align the timing of its public posting with the Government’s political, marketing or other strategies or priorities?”

 

3. Getting Close to 1,000 Days of Ford Government Inaction on the David Onley Report

 

There have now been a breathtaking 981 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act undertaken by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is well behind schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s mandatory deadline. It found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” impeding people with disabilities. The Ford Government still has no comprehensive plan in place for implementing the Onley Report.

 

Send us your feedback. Write the AODA Alliance at aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

        MORE DETAILS

 

October 1, 2021 Divisional Court Ruling in Lepofsky v. Cho

 

CITATION: Lepofsky v. Cho, 2021 ONSC 6466

 

DIVISIONAL COURT FILE NO.: 364/21 DATE: 2021/10/01

 

SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE – ONTARIO DIVISIONAL COURT

 

RE: DAVID LEPOFSKY, Applicant

 

AND:

 

RAYMOND CHO, THE MINISTER FOR SENIORS AND ACCESSIBILITY, Respondent

 

BEFORE: Sachs, R. D. Gordon and Kristjanson JJ.

 

COUNSEL: David Lepofsky, on his own behalf

 

Michael J. Sims and Wan Yao Chen, for the Respondent

 

Dianne Wintermute, for the Intervenor, Citizens with Disabilities, Ontario

 

HEARD at Toronto by videoconference: September 27, 2021

 

ENDORSEMENT

 

The Applicant initially sought an order in the nature of mandamus compelling the Respondent to make public proposed accessibility standards the Minister had received from three committees (the “Reports”). The Reports have now been made available. The Applicant amended his application to seek a declaration that the Respondent breached his duty to make the Reports public upon receipt, as is required by s. 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “Act”).

 

We agree with the Respondent that the Application’s application is moot. The live controversy between the parties, namely, the failure to make the Reports available to the public, has now disappeared.

 

The Applicant argues that even if we find that the application is moot, we should proceed to hear it as to do so would provide guidance to the parties for future cases. We agree with the Applicant that accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is an urgent issue and that the deadline provided for in the Act for achieving the purpose of the Act is fast approaching. Thus, anything that can be done to eliminate delay in achieving the goal of accessibility should be done. We disagree that issuing a declaration in this case to the effect that the Respondent breached its duty to make the Reports public upon receipt would meaningfully advance this goal.

 

Page: 2

 

Issuing a declaration that would have a meaningful effect in the future requires adopting an interpretation of the term “upon receipt” used in the English version of s. 10(1) of the Act (the term does not appear in the French version) that is not dependent on the analysis of a particular set of circumstances. Yet, neither the Applicant nor the Respondent is advocating such an interpretation. Both agree that the Reports are required to be released only after the Respondent has taken the reasonable steps necessary to prepare the Reports for public release. Where they disagree is on the question of which steps were reasonably necessary in this particular case and how much time was reasonably required to take those steps. For example, the Respondent asserts that it was necessary to brief the government about the content of the Reports and to make sure that the Reports did not exceed the mandate of the committees who issued them and that the language in the reports is appropriate. The Applicant counters by stating that these steps were not necessary since in this case the Respondent had representatives on the committees that prepared the Reports, which should have obviated the necessity for any more review. Both parties agree that before the Reports could be released they had to be “coded” and translated into French. Where they disagree is on the question of how long this process should have taken.

 

The Respondent states that part of the delay in this case was due to COVID 19. The Applicant disputes this explanation. Determining whether the requested declaration should be issued would require this Court to assess the evidence about the circumstances in this particular case. If we were to conclude that in this case the Respondent breached its duty, this would say nothing about what a subsequent court might decide in a different case. The analysis is an individual and contextual one and will necessarily vary in each case. For the court to engage in this exercise when the desired objective (the release of the Reports) has been achieved would not be an appropriate use of its resources.

 

The Applicant argues that failing to hear his application would be deny him a remedy in the face of the Respondent’s breach of its statutory obligation. Again, we disagree. The Applicant’s remedy in this situation was to seek an order requiring the Respondent to comply with its obligation and make the Reports available. Due to the fact that the Reports have now been made available, there is no further need for court intervention.

 

For these reasons the application is dismissed. The parties agree that there should be no order as to costs.

 

Sachs J.

 

I agree

  1. D. Gordon J.

 

I agree

Kristjanson J.

 

Date: October 1, 2021

 

 

October 8, 2021 Letter from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

October 8, 2021

 

To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

Via email: raymond.cho@ontario.ca

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

 

Dear Minister,

 

Re: Your Statutory Duties Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

 

We ask you to take specific overdue actions, required of you as Ontario’s cabinet minister responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. These actions would help you fulfil your duty under section 7 of the AODA to oversee the development and implement all the accessibility standards necessary to achieving the AODA’s purpose.

 

The AODA’s purpose is to lead Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. That looming deadline is only a little more than three years away. It is beyond dispute that Ontario is not on schedule for becoming accessible by 2025. A failure to swiftly take the actions we identify in this letter would push Ontario further behind in reaching that deadline.

 

The Duty to Appoint Standards Development Committees to Review the Sufficiency of an Accessibility Standard Enacted Under the AODA Within Five Years After It is Enacted

 

Within five years after an accessibility standard is enacted under the AODA, section 9 of the AODA requires the minister, responsible for the AODA, to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of that accessibility standard. You are in clear violation of that requirement in the following two instances.

 

  1. a) The Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard was enacted in December 2012. The AODA required that a Standards Development Committee be appointed to review it no later than December 2017. Yet in the almost four years since then, no Standards Development Committee has been appointed for that purpose.

 

The previous Kathleen Wynne Government is responsible for not taking this action over the last six months of its term in office, from December 2017 to June 2018. You and your Government have been in violation of that mandatory requirement for your entire term in office to date, well over three years.

 

We have brought this unfulfilled requirement to your Government’s attention. We and others have urged your Government on several occasions to develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard, in order to fulfil the AODA’s requirement that buildings become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Your Government has never agreed to do so. To the contrary, during debates on this idea in the Legislature on May 30, 2019, during National Access Awareness Week, you inaccurately and hurtfully condemned this idea as creating “red tape.”

 

  1. b) In 2007, the previous Ontario Government enacted the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard to be enacted under the AODA. In June 2016, the previous Government enacted revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. You were therefore required to appoint a Standards Development Committee no later than June 2021, to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. You have not done so. As far as we have seen, you have announced no plans to do so.

 

People with disabilities in Ontario continue to face recurring disability barriers in many areas, such as in the built environment and in access to customer service. In important areas, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this situation even worse for people with disabilities. Moreover, your own Ministry enforcement data has revealed over the years that there have been rampant AODA violations in the context of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

 

  1. Will you commit to now appoint Standards Development Committees to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, after advertising for people to apply to serve on those Committees? Will you give the latter Committee a mandate to make recommendations generally addressing measures needed to make the built environment accessible?

 

 The Pressing Need to Strengthen the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

 

In 2011, the Ontario Government enacted three important accessibility standards under the AODA, the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. These three standards are enacted together in one regulation, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 2011.

 

The AODA required the previous Government to appoint Standards Development Committees by 2016 to review the sufficiency of each of those three accessibility standards. It therefore appointed the Transportation Standards Development Committee, the Employment Standards Development Committee, and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee.

 

Quite some time ago, each of those advisory committees fully completed their reviews and submitted their final reports to the Ontario Government. The Transportation Standards Development Committee’s final report was made public in the spring of 2018, before the June 2018 Ontario election. The Employment Standards Development Committee submitted its final report to you over two and a half years ago, on January 22, 2019. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee submitted its final report to you over one and a half years ago, on February 23, 2020.

 

According to the AODA, once the Government receives a Standards Development Committee’s final report, the Government can amend the accessibility standard that it reviewed. It can enact some, all or none of the changes that the Standards Development Committee recommended, and/or can make other reforms to the standard that the Government thinks helpful.

 

Despite all this work having been done, and all the recurring barriers that people with disabilities continue to face in transportation, employment and information and communication, your Government has enacted no revisions to the Transportation Accessibility Standard the Employment Accessibility Standard or the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. In fact, your Government has not enacted or strengthened any accessibility standards at all in its entire term in office.

 

You have failed to do so, even though over two and a half years ago, you received the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA. He found that Ontario is well behind schedule for becoming accessible by 2025, and is full of “soul-crushing barriers” that hurt people with disabilities. In the Legislature, you said that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in preparing his report.

 

  1. Will you commit to strengthen the insufficient Transportation Accessibility Standard, Employment Accessibility Standard and Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in the next four months, after you consult us on the revisions needed to strengthen them?

 

Ensuring that the Forthcoming Final Reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee Are Made Public Upon Your Receiving Them, Without Delay

 

Three Standards Development Committees, appointed under the AODA, are to resume their work this fall. They are required to review public feedback on their respective initial reports received over the summer and fall. They must then come up with their final reports and submit them to you. They will address disability barriers facing people with disabilities in the health care system, in the K-12 education system, and the post-secondary education system.

 

It is very important that you make public each of those Committees’ final reports upon receiving each of them, and that you not continue the Government’s practice of delaying for months the public posting of initial and final reports of Standards Development Committees appointed under the AODA.

 

These three forthcoming reports will, taken together, address serious disability barriers in the important areas of health care and education. The initial reports of these three Government-appointed advisory Standards Development Committees already documented that Students with disabilities face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities. Their initial reports also reaffirm how patients with disabilities face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system.

 

The AODA requires the minister responsible for the AODA to make public the initial or final report of a Standards Development Committee “upon receiving” the report. Regarding a Standards Development Committee’s initial report, s. 10(1) of the AODA provides:

 

  1. (1) Upon receiving a proposed accessibility standard from a standards development committee under subsection 9 (5) or clause 9 (9) (c), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.

 

As for any progress report that a Standards Development Committee submits to you, including the Committee’s final report, s. 11(2) of the AODA provides:

 

Progress reports

  1. (1) Each standards development committee shall provide the Minister with periodic reports on the progress of the preparation of the proposed standard as specified in the committee’s terms of reference or as may be required by the Minister from time to time.

 

Progress reports made public

(2) Upon receiving a report under subsection (1), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.

 

The Government has a troubling track record of withholding the initial or final reports of Standards Development Committees from the public for months or even years after receiving them, despite the minister’s statutory duty to post these reports upon receiving them. One troubling example of these was your Government’s withholding the final report of the Employment Standards Development Committee for over two years, from the time you received it in January 2019 to the time you publicly posted it in February 2021. You did so while people with disabilities continued to languish, facing troubling barriers in access to employment.

 

Another troubling illustration of this pattern was your withholding the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee from the public for over four months after you received it. You did this during some of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when you knew that people with disabilities were facing added barriers and hardships during that pandemic, and that the initial report you withheld from the public called for strong action on health care barriers, including those which are COVID-19-related.

 

In the recent case of David Lepofsky v. Raymond Cho, a senior Ministry official took the incorrect and harmful position that the AODA does not even require you to ever make public a Standards Development Committees final report. The Government had never before claimed that it had no statutory duty to make a Standards Development Committee’s final report public upon receiving it. That official’s affidavit, filed on your behalf, stated:

 

While posting of Initial Recommendations Reports is required by the Act and follows the process as outlined above, the Act does not require that the Minister post Final Recommendations Reports. In practice, the Ministry has posted these final reports as well.

 

In Lepofsky v Cho, I had filed a court application for judicial review on May 7, 2021, seeking a court order to force you to fulfil your duty to make public the initial reports that you had already received from the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. You had withheld those reports from the public much longer than necessary to post them online. It remains my position that you were in violation of your duty under s. 10(1) of the AODA to post each of those initial reports upon receiving them.

 

Although the court dismissed my application, it did not conclude that you complied with your legal obligations. Instead, at your request and over my objection, the Divisional Court declined to rule on my application, based on the fact that you had subsequently made all those initial reports public.

 

Your delay in posting those three initial reports was inexcusable. The Health Care Committee’s initial report was posted over four months after you received it. The K-12 Committee’s initial report was posted two-and-a-half months after you received it. The Post-Secondary Committee’s initial report was posted three-and-a-half months after you received it.

 

You made public the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial report just moments after I filed my court application on May 7, 2021, and no doubt before you had learned of my court application. You made public the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report on June 1, 2021, over three weeks after I filed my court application. You made public the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report on June 25, 2021, over six weeks after I filed my court application.

 

During the September 27, 2021 oral argument on my court application, your counsel conceded that section 10(1) of the AODA requires you to post an initial report that you have received after taking the steps that are reasonably necessary to prepare the report for public posting. The evidence that you placed before the Court showed that in the case of each of those three initial reports, your Ministry delayed its public posting well beyond the time it took to translate the report into French and to code it for online posting. (Even if it were assumed that your Ministry needed as much time as it actually took for French translation and coding.

 

According to your Ministry’s own evidence, you and your Government injected additional bureaucratic steps that delayed their posting. This included time taken to brief you or your office, and/or other Government officials. It included time taken to get Cabinet Office’s approval for their public posting in according with the Government marketing priorities, even though s. 10(1) gives Cabinet Office no authority to veto or delay their public posting. It included time taken to develop an online survey about each initial report, even though this is unnecessary to ready a report for public posting. It included time taken for the Government to develop a communication strategy (even though this too is unnecessary before a report is publicly posted). Finally, included time taken to edit the report for conformity with the Government’s standard for online posts, even though the Government has no authority to alter a Standards Development Committees report before publicly posting it.

 

It is extremely significant that your lawyer conceded in the face of the Court’s questions that the time needed to translate a report into French and to code it for public posting was a small part of the time which the Government actually took before it publicly posted an initial report. There was no evidence that your Government tried to speed up the reports’ translation or coding as a priority, or that most if not all of this work could not be done during the days or weeks before each report was formally submitted to you. Your staff were intimately involved with the work of each Standards Development Committee from beginning to end.

 

Your delays in publicly posting those three initial reports has further delayed Ontario’s progress toward reaching the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. As noted earlier, Ontario is already well behind in reaching that goal, as the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA amply documented over two years ago. Moreover, you withheld those reports from the public at an especially harmful time, during pivotal months of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was especially urgent to let hospitals, other health care providers, schools, colleges, and universities know as soon as possible about their disability barriers, and about initial recommendations of what they should do to remove and prevent them. Instead, you stalled that process.

 

It is essential that the Health Care, K-12 and Post-Secondary Standards Development Committees are able to complete their work and submit their final reports to you as soon as possible. Your Ministry should take every step it can to facilitate this.

 

Once any of those Committees submit their final report to you, you should make public the fact that you have received it. You should publicly post it upon receiving it, without any delay. You should not hold up the public posting for such things as briefing ministers or other Government officials, for getting Cabinet Office approval, for formatting the report to meet Ontario Government posting standards, or for developing communication strategies or survey instruments.

 

The next Ontario election is only eight months away. We want to ask each party to make commitments to implement those final reports. For you to delay the public posting of any of those reports would impede and frustrate that effort.

 

  1. Will you commit that you will now put in place effective procedures to ensure that the final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will each be made public within a few days of your receiving a final report, at the latest? To do this will you commit as follows:

 

  1. a) Will you agree that under the AODA, you as Minister are required to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s final report “upon receiving” it?

 

  1. b) When a Standards Development Committee submits its initial or final report to you, will you immediately let the AODA Alliance and the public know that it has been received?

 

  1. c) Since your Ministry officials work closely with a Standards Development Committee as it prepares and votes to approve an initial or final report, will you direct your officials to take all the steps that are reasonably necessary to publicly post the report as quickly as possible, and wherever possible, even before the report is formally transmitted to you? For example, most if not all of this work can be started and even completed after a Standards Development Committee formally votes to approve its report, and before that report is formally transmitted to you.

 

  1. d) Once you receive a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final report, will you have it immediately posted online as soon as it is translated into French and the minimum steps are taken that are needed to code the document for posting, e.g., as a downloadable file?

 

  1. e) Once you receive an initial or final report from a Standards Development Committee, will you agree not to delay its public posting in order for the Government to take steps that are not necessary for its public posting? For example, will you agree not to delay the report’s public posting until there are briefings of the minister, deputy minister or other public officials on it, and/or to prepare a public survey on it, and/or to prepare other web pages or communication web pages, or other strategies regarding it, and/or to seek permission of Cabinet Office for it to be publicly posted, and/or to edit it to conform to any Government style or writing standards for publicly posted documents, and/or to align the timing of its public posting with the Government’s political, marketing or other strategies or priorities?

 

As always, we remain ready, willing and able to assist the Government on the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. May we ask for your prompt reply to this letter, including the three commitments that we seek.

 

Sincerely,

 

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford premier@ontario.ca

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, Denise.Cole@ontario.ca

Alison Drumming, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, alison.drummond@ontario.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Captioned Video Gives You a Practical Guide to the Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

A New Captioned Video Gives You a Practical Guide to the Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities

 

October 6, 2021

 

Have you heard something about the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, but wanted to know what it actually means? Who owes this duty? To which people with disabilities? What does the duty include? What kinds of accommodations does it require? When does the duty to accommodate arise? Have you heard before that it is a duty to accommodate up to the point of “undue hardship,” but wondered what “undue hardship means?

 

Here’s a brand new captioned video that answers all these questions. It is called “The Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities 101 – An Introduction to the Duty to Accommodate.” It is presented by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, who is also a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School.

 

This presentation talks about the duty to accommodate in a wide range of situations. It includes the duty of employers to accommodate employees and job applicants with disabilities. It also addresses the duty of those in the public and private sectors who provide goods, services or facilities to the public to accommodate people with disabilities. That includes a diverse range of organizations, like stores, restaurants, hotels, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and other health care providers, public and private transportation providers, and so on.

 

This video is intended to help you whether you are a person with a disability, or a family member or friend of a person with a disability, or a public or private sector provider of goods, services or facilities.

 

Anyone involved in human resources work, or in direct customer service, or the management of an organization in the public or private sector can also benefit from this video. You don’t need any background in the law to benefit from this video.

 

It can be helpful to you if you are a member of a municipality’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, or of a school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, or of a Standards Development Committee appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

 

We encourage you to watch this video and to share it with others, including via social media. Post a link to it on your organization’s website. If you teach a course in college, university or other educational setting, feel free to use all or part of it as part of your instructional materials. Use this video as a tool to help in the campaign to make Ontario fully accessible to all ,people with disabilities.

 

The video runs about one and a quarter hours. To make is easier to use, and for those who don’t have time to watch it all, we provide links below to each of the major headings or topics addressed in the video.

 

Let us know what you think of this video. Send your feedback to aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

An Introduction to the Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities”

 

The video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y32XvjWmDAQ

 

Here are links to key topics in the video:

 

  1. Introduction and Overview 00:00 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeKQHuxP9XU
  2. Where does the Duty to Accommodate Come From? 2:27 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=147
  3. Who Must Accommodate People with Disabilities? Who Has the Duty to Accommodate? 5:12 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=312
  4. What is the Purpose of the Duty to Accommodate? 8:25 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=504
  5. What are the Benefits of Fulfilling the Duty to Accommodate? 11:15 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=675
  6. What Disabilities are Included within the Duty to Accommodate? 15:40 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=941
  7. Examples of Accommodations that Can be Required 17:26

https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=1046

  1. What is the Content of the Duty to Accommodate? What Must an Organization Do? 26:05 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=1565
  2. Some Red Herrings We Can Eliminate from Discussion About the Duty to Accommodate 34:05 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2045
  3. When Does the Duty to Accommodate Arise? 35:25 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2125
  4. When, If Ever, Can You Ask a Person, Requesting Accommodation, for Medical Documentation of Their Disability? 37:50 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2270

12 The Undue Hardship Defence – General Principles 39:33 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2373

  1. When Can the Cost of Accommodation Justify a Failure to Accommodate? 49:14 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2954
  2. When Can Health and Safety Considerations Justify a Refusal to Accommodate? 57:42 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3461
  3. Can the Failure to Accommodate Be Defended on the Basis that It Adversely Affects the Morale of Other Workers? 59:10 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3546
  4. How Does the Duty to Accommodate Apply to Trade Unions and Collective Agreements? 1:00:49 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3649
  5. What Happens if Fulfillment of the Duty to Accommodate May Conflict with Other Rights of Other People? 1:03:48 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3829
  6. A Short, Punchy List of Defences or Arguments that Cannot Justify a Failure to Accommodate 1:06:56 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=4016
  7. Concluding Thoughts 1:11:18 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=4282

 

 

 

 

Today 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Today 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

 

September 27, 2021 Toronto: Today at 10 a.m., the Divisional Court of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice will hold a public virtual hearing for the oral argument of a case brought by blind lawyer, law professor, and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, against Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho. In Lepofsky v, Cho, Lepofsky asks the Court to issue a declaration that Minister Cho violated section 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This is the first time anyone has gone to court to contest the sufficiency of the Ontario Government’s implementation of the AODA, and to get a judicial interpretation of the AODA.

 

The case is scheduled for about two hours. It will be livestreamed to the public on Youtube at https://youtu.be/LuD6fKu0dlE

 

As far as is now known, it will only be available online for livestreaming in real time.

 

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to 2.6 million people with disabilities by 2025. The Government must create, enact and effectively enforce a series of regulations, called accessibility standards, that spell out what organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities, and by when. The Government must appoint a series of committees, called Standards Development Committees, to advise on what those regulations should include.

 

According to section 10 of the AODA, when an advisory Standards Development Committee submits initial recommendations to the Minister, the Minister is required to make those recommendations public upon receiving them, e.g., by posting them on the Government’s website. Yet the Ford Government failed to do so for months in the case of three sets of such initial recommendations.

 

The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government back on December 3, 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted their respective initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Government appointed those Committees to advise on the disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system, and the disability barriers obstructing students with disabilities in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities.

 

Mr. Lepofsky submits that the Minister contravened the AODA by withholding those sets of recommendations from the public for five months, three and a half months, and two and a half months, respectively. The Minister denies he violated the AODA.

 

When Mr. Lepofsky filed this application on May 7, 2021, none of the three sets of advisory recommendations had been made public. Over the intervening time since then, the Minister eventually made them all public. Lepofsky argues that the minister’s delay in doing so contravened the law and hurt people with disabilities by further delaying progress towards making Ontario accessible.

 

Mr. Lepofsky’s original court application was made public on May 7, 2021 at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/disability-rights-advocate-launches-court-application-against-the-ford-government-for-violating-the-accessibility-for-ontarians-with-disabilities-act/

 

Since May 7, 2021, all parties to this case have filed additional evidence and other legal documents with the Court.

 

David Lepofsky will present his own argument. He has been assisted on a pro bono basis by Martha McCarthy and Richard Glennie of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP. The Minister will be represented by the Crown Law Office Civil of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

 

The Court granted leave to Citizens with Disabilities Ontario to intervene in the case. CWDO is supporting David Lepofsky’s position, and will be represented at the hearing by ARCH Disability Law Centre.

 

Mr. Lepofsky and the AODA Alliance will not be making any public comment about the case before oral argument is completed today.

Contact: aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

We have been advised that section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act makes it an offence to take or attempt to take a photograph, motion picture, audio recording of a court proceeding,

 

More background at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/ and on Twitter @aodaalliance

Monday September 27, 2021 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Monday September 27, 2021 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

 

September 24, 2021 Toronto: On Monday, September 27, 2021 at 10 a.m., the Divisional Court of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice will hold a public virtual hearing for the oral argument of a case brought by blind lawyer, law professor, and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, against Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho. In Lepofsky v, Cho,. Lepofsky asks the Court to issue a declaration that Minister Cho violated section 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This is the first time someone has gone to court to contest the sufficiency of the Ontario Government’s implementation of the AODA, and to get a judicial interpretation of the AODA.

 

The case is scheduled for about two hours. It will be livestreamed to the public on Youtube at https://youtu.be/LuD6fKu0dlE As far as is now known, it will only be available online for livestreaming in real time.

 

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to 2.6 million people with disabilities by 2025. The Government must create, enact and effectively enforce a series of regulations, called accessibility standards, that spell out what organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities, and by when. The Government must appoint a series of committees, called Standards Development Committees, to advise on what those regulations should include.

 

According to section 10 of the AODA, when an advisory Standards Development Committee submits initial recommendations to the Minister, the Minister is required to make those recommendations public upon receiving them, e.g. by posting them on the Government’s website. Yet the Ford Government failed to do so for months in the case of three sets of such initial recommendations.

 

The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government back on December 3, 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted their respective initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Government appointed those Committees to advise on the disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system, and the disability barriers obstructing students with disabilities in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities.

 

Mr. Lepofsky submits that the Minister contravened the AODA by failing to publicly post those sets of recommendations for five months, three and a half months, and two and a half months, respectively. The Minister denies he violated the AODA.

 

When Mr. Lepofsky filed this application on May 7, 2021, none of the three sets of advisory recommendations had been made public. Over the intervening time since then, the Minister eventually made them all public. Lepofsky argues that the minister’s delay in doing so contravened the law and hurt people with disabilities by further delaying progress towards making Ontario accessible.

 

Mr. Lepofsky’s original court application was made public on May 7, 2021 at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/disability-rights-advocate-launches-court-application-against-the-ford-government-for-violating-the-accessibility-for-ontarians-with-disabilities-act/

 

Since May 7, 2021 all parties to this case have filed additional evidence and other legal documents with the Court.

 

David Lepofsky will present his own argument. He has been assisted on a pro bono basis by Martha McCarthy and Richard Glennie of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP. The Minister will be represented by the Crown Law Office Civil of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

 

The Court granted leave to Citizens with Disabilities Ontario to intervene in the case. CWDO is supporting David Lepofsky’s position, and will be represented at the hearing by ARCH Disability Law Centre.

 

Apart from announcing the forthcoming hearing, Mr. Lepofsky and the AODA Alliance will not be making any public comment about the case before oral argument is completed on Monday.

Contact: aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

We have been advised that section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act makes it an offence to take or attempt to take a photograph, motion picture, audio recording of a court proceeding,

 

More background at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/ and on Twitter @aodaalliance

Neither Election Front-Runner, Trudeau or O’Toole, Ever Ended Up Answering the AODA Alliance’s Request for Disability Accessibility Election Pledges – And Other Last Minute Election News

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Neither Election Front-Runner, Trudeau or O’Toole, Ever Ended Up Answering the AODA Alliance’s Request for Disability Accessibility Election Pledges – And Other Last Minute Election News

 

September 19, 2021

 

Tomorrow is the final day to vote in the current federal election. Here is a last look at disability accessibility issues as they have been addressed in this election campaign.

 

We thank all those who lent their support to our effort to raise disability accessibility in this election campaign. Stay tuned for more federal and provincial news on accessibility issues after the votes are counted.

 

1. Election Front-Runners Trudeau and O’Toole Have Still Never Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for Disability Accessibility Election Pledges

 

With less than 24 hours to go, the AODA Alliance has still not received any election commitments from the two front-runners, the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau and the Conservatives’ Erin O’Toole, in response to our August 3, 2021 letter to all major federal party leaders. That letter sought 12 commitments to make Canada accessible to over six million people with disabilities, as the Accessible Canada Act aims to achieve.

 

The only party that has given commitments in response has been the New Democratic Party. We commend the NDP and have reminded the other parties over this last weekend that it was still not too late to meet or beat the NDP pledges.

 

Three days ago, the Conservative Party campaign emailed the AODA Alliance to ask for our letter in which we sought these commitments, stating that they had not received it. This is difficult to understand, since we have not only emailed it to them, but tweeted about it to Mr. O’Toole and to as many of their party’s candidates as we have been able. We quickly re-sent it to the Tories on September 16, 2021. We have still heard nothing back from them.

 

2. Minor Surge in Last-Minute Media Coverage of the Federal Election’s Disability Issues

 

There has been a bit of a surge in media coverage of disability issues in this election over the final weekend before election day. On Friday, September 17, 2021, City TV news included a story by reporter Mark McAllister entitled:

“Accessibility advocates feel left out of election”, which began:

 

“As the election campaign nears a close, a large portion of the population are still waiting for their concerns to be addressed. Mark McAllister reports on why accessibility may play into the final vote on Monday.”

 

We could not find the text of that report online, but the report itself is available at https://toronto.citynews.ca/video/2021/09/17/accessibility-advocates-feel-left-out-of-election/

 

As well, on Saturday, September 18, 2021, under 48 hours before the vote, CBC Radio’s health program White Coat Black Art with host Dr. Brian Goldman included an item on the election’s disability issues. It did not include the AODA Alliance or the specific issues we have raised. A transcript of that program is available at https://www.cbc.ca/radio/whitecoat/transcript-for-white-coat-black-art-rabia-s-family-1.6181372

 

We appreciate this issue receiving any coverage. It appears that CBC came to it quite late in the campaign. This presents a challenge, since by the time CBC got around to considering it, at least 5 million voters have reportedly voted already. For them, that coverage came too late.

 

Let’s all watch to see whether the reporters and pundits who spend hours on TV and radio on Monday night, and who write article after article for newspapers and websites on the election results, have much if anything to say on the election’s implications for people with disabilities. After this election is over, the media needs to seriously reflect on why it so systemically and repeatedly treats such issues as secondary, or leaves them out altogether.

 

3. A Quick Closer Look at Two Troubling Elements in the Liberal platform.

 

First, in its published platform, the Liberals promise to harmonize accessibility standards for people with disabilities across Canada. “Harmonization” at first sounds positive. However, this promise should worry us.

 

This could easily lead to a reduction in accessibility protections. Standards on accessibility could be brought in line with each other by reducing them to the lowest common denominator. That would harmfully take protections away from people with disabilities.

 

In any event, we do not know how the Federal Government has authority to reduce accessibility standards across Canada. An accessibility standard enacted in Ontario under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act cannot be altered by the Federal Government.

 

Second, the Liberals have promised that if they are re-elected, the Federal Government will use the definition of disability in the Accessible Canada Act for all federal programs. This too at first blush sounds appealing. However, it too is a bad idea that can hurt people with disabilities.

 

The definition of “disability” in any particular federal program must be tailored to the purposes of that program. For some programs, such as the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act, a broad definition of disability is desirable. For other programs, that broad definition would be harmful. A narrower definition of disability would be desirable.

 

For example, if the Federal Government used the Accessible Canada Act’s broad definition of disability for its employment equity programs, The Government could immediately claim that it has a massive number of people with disabilities now working in the Federal Government, and that no employment equity efforts are needed to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Yet people with disabilities face very troubling rates of unemployment and need to be front and center in any federal employment equity program.

 

 

On the Eve of the Federal Election, Tories Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance Request for Federal Election Commitments – Liberals Say They’ll Enact At Least Some Accessibility Standard Within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Passage

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

On the Eve of the Federal Election, Tories Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance Request for Federal Election Commitments – Liberals Say They’ll Enact At Least Some Accessibility Standard Within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Passage

 

September 17, 2021

 

        SUMMARY

 

The federal election is just three days away. We have more breaking news on our efforts to get the federal parties to all make strong commitments on making Canada accessible to over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada.

 

As of now, only the New Democratic Party has answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 written request for 12 election commitments on the topic of accessibility for people with disabilities. The NDP made many if not most of the 12 election pledges we requested.

 

We thank and congratulate the NDP for doing so. We urge all other parties to do the same, in our spirit of non-partisanship.

 

1. Federal Conservatives Say They Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 Letter

 

On September 16, 2021, the AODA Alliance received an email from the Conservative Party. It asks for a copy of the AODA Alliance’s request for election commitments, and says they will try to respond before voting day. The email indicates that they had not received our request for commitments before this.

 

We again quickly provided the Tories our August 3, 2021 letter to the federal parties in response to that email. We originally emailed it to Erin O’Toole on August 3, 2021. We posted it on the AODA Alliance website the next day. Over the past days, we have tweeted at Mr. O’Toole and many Conservative Candidates, trying to get them to answer this letter. Moreover, the September 6, 2021 report in the Hill Times, set out below, states that that newspaper reached out by email to the Tories about this issue but got no answer.

 

From the email we received from the Conservatives, it appears that they reached out to us because they had received a media inquiry on why they had not answered our request for commitments. This further shows how people with disabilities lose out when the media either do not cover this story at all, or delay coverage till late in the campaign.

 

2. Liberal Cabinet Minister Carla Qualtrough Says the Liberals Would Enact Accessibility Standards within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Enactment

 

The Liberal Party has also not answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, requesting 12 pledges on disability accessibility. However, in an interview published in the influential Hill Times newspaper dated September 6, 2021, set out below, federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough commits that the Federal Government would enact accessibility standards within four years of the Accessible Canada Act’s enactment. However, she did not say which accessibility standards would be enacted within that time frame. She also said that “hundreds” of accessibility standards would be needed.

 

Finally, she recognized that the Accessible Canada Act has room for improvement. However, she did not commit to making any specific improvements.

 

The September 6, 2021 Hill Times article, set out below, states that none of the federal parties had answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, that seeks election commitments. Since that article was written, the NDP answered our request, as noted above.

 

3. More Media Coverage of the Federal Election’s Disabilities Issues Days Before the Election

 

In an earlier AODA Alliance Update, we noted that CBC was one of the media organizations that had not been covering the election’s disability issues. The CBC has now started to do so, but only in the past two days. Two articles are set out below. One could say “better late than never.” However, we qualify this by noting that for the millions of voters who already have voted, late is the same as never!

 

We have also benefitted from coverage on Sauga Radio with Karlene Nation, CHML Radio Hamilton with Bill Kelly, and Sirius XM Radio with Dahlia Kurtz. We thank them all for shining the spotlight on this election issue.

 

        MORE DETAILS

 

The Hill Times September 6, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.hilltimes.com/2021/09/06/disability-groups-still-waiting-for-most-parties-to-address-accessibility/315130

 

Disability groups still waiting for parties to address accessibility

 

Advocates say they are the largest minority in Canada. Some groups say that in the long run they are ‘the minority of everybody,’ as the policies they are fighting for will impact everyone at some point in their life.

 

By Ian Campbell

 

 

Disability advocacy group says that it has yet to receive a reply from any of the federal parties after it sent them an open letter at the beginning of the campaign seeking specific commitments about making Canada more accessible.

 

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance), which is chaired by Osgoode Hall law professor David Lepofsky, said they released their open letter on Aug. 3 because they knew an election was imminent and wanted their concerns to be on the radar of parties and voters throughout the campaign.

 

The letter listed twelve commitments the group is seeking from the parties related to the implementation and amendment of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), a law that was passed by the Liberal government in June 2019.

 

Some of the items the group is calling for include a commitment that federal government grants will not go to projects that do not meet accessibility standards, and the removal of loopholes in the ACA that allow some organizations to be exempt from its requirements. The AODA Alliance also wants a four-year timeline for enforcement of the accessibility standards required by the Act.

 

“We are concerned that the law itself is too weak and the government’s actions to implement it fall short,” said Mr. Lepofsky in an interview with The Hill Times. “Not that they’re doing nothing. They’re just not doing enough, and they’re not moving fast enough.”

 

The Hill Times reached out to each of the four main federal parties that are running candidates across Canada, asking for an interview with one of their candidates who identified as having a disability and who could speak to the party’s policies related to disability and accessibility. The Conservative Party did not reply to multiple emails. The Green Party replied with a policy statement but was not able to make a candidate available for an interview.

 

The AODA Alliance released a statement on Sept. 2, the day following the release of the Liberal party platform, criticizing the platform document as well as the continued lack of response from the other federal parties to their letter.

 

“[The Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP] mention needs of people with disabilities several times in their platforms,” said the statement. “This is a step forward from some past elections. However, they fall well short of what people with disabilities need.”

 

“The only party that says anything about strengthening the weak Accessible Canada Act is the NDP. [The Liberals and the Conservatives] don’t really say very much at all on this. But none of them make the 12 commitments that we seek,” Mr. Lepofsky said.

 

Mr. Lepofsky said his group always writes to parties in each election campaign, because platforms tend to offer a more general, high-level discussion of issues, and that seeking specific policy commitments is important to his organization.

 

“We know that a platform may only have a couple of sentences, which is why we write to the parties. So the first thing that’s worrisome is they’re not answering,” said Mr. Lepofsky.

 

“In so far as the issue of achieving accessibility for people with disabilities is concerned, the Liberal platform mainly repeats what it promised two years ago: namely, promising a disability lens on all government decisions, and pledging the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. The government’s record over the past two years on both commitments is unimpressive.”

 

As an example, Mr. Lepofsky pointed to the ArriveCan application, which can be used to facilitate the process of crossing the border into Canada. Mr. Lepofsky said the application has significant accessibility barriers for people who are visually impaired.

 

In an interview with The Hill Times, Carla Qualtrough (Delta, B.C.), who has served as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion in the Liberal government, said now that the Liberal platform has been released, she is able to make more specific commitments in response to the items raised by Mr. Lepofsky in the AODA Alliance’s Aug. 3 letter.

 

“I can tell him that there will be enforceable standards within four years,” said Ms. Qualtrough. “The goal in the act is a barrier-free Canada by 2040, and all the work that I think David and other advocates, and perhaps rightfully so, kind of worry will be at the back end of the next nineteen years is being done now.”

Ms. Qualtrough added that while she is committed to having enforceable standards within four years, she cannot yet say which ones. She said that implementing the act involves developing highly detailed standards across every federally regulated sector.

 

“We’re talking standards in every aspect of federal government jurisdiction. So if you think of banks alone, there will be a standard for ATMs, for entrances, for money, for customer service. There are hundreds of standards that need to be developed over the course of the years. And there’s big ones, like an employment standard, but then there will be super technical ones, like counter height at a bank. So all of this will take time.”

 

Ms. Qualtrough said she understands the urgency that advocacy groups feel.

 

“I think that 2040 feels like a long way away, and it is for people who’ve been discriminated against their entire life, of course it is. But that doesn’t mean that work hasn’t already started and won’t be done.”

 

Ms. Qualtrough said that the vast majority of time since the ACA has been in place was during the pandemic, but that progress was still made in that time.

 

“I think that what we’ve done under the ACA, in the midst of all that, is phenomenal,” she said. “We’ve set up Accessible Standards Canada. We’ve set up the board, on which half of the members are persons with disabilities. We’ve put in place technical groups that are headed by people with disabilities to work on the first four standards.”

 

Mr. Lepofsky and other advocates have expressed concern that two key positions related to the enforcement of the ACA, the Accessibility Commissioner and the Chief Accessibility Officer, have not yet been filled.

 

NDP candidate Sidney Coles, who is running in Toronto-St. Paul’s, said that part of her party’s commitment to improve the ACA relates to looking at issues of jurisdiction.

 

“[NDP leader Jagmeet Singh] has committed to work to improve the Accessibility Act. Where we’re not quite clear, jurisdictionally, is who is going to enforce standards,” said Ms. Coles, who has limited mobility due to a leg injury.

 

“We need to work with the provinces to figure out how we do that from the municipality, to the province, to the federal level, and specifically with jurisdictional overlays, transport being one. When you’re improving a train, that may be a federal issue if it’s a national train. The municipality also has to respond and make sure that once passengers are coming off that train that the stations are set up to also accommodate passengers.”

 

Ms. Qualtrough said she sees the ACA as a major accomplishment, but there remains room for improvement.

 

“We will always look at making this law better. In my mind—and I’m saying this as a human rights lawyer—this is probably the most significant advancement in human rights for people with disabilities since the Charter. Like, this is an entirely… new system of accountability and prospective barrier removal that’s going to prevent discrimination. We’re trying to make our disability conversations across the country about human rights. It’s not this medical or charity model. It’s a human rights and poverty reduction lens.”

 

Ms. Qualtrough, who is legally blind, said she is thrilled to see these issues getting discussed during a federal election campaign.

 

Poverty relief essential: Adair

 

Mr. Lepofsky’s organization is not the only one calling for attention to disability issues during this election.

 

Bill Adair, the executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada, said that poverty is one of the key issues his organizations would like to see addressed on the campaign trail.

 

“The reality is that almost four million people in Canada live in poverty. One third of those people are people with disabilities,” said Mr. Adair.

 

“So our call is for a basic income to be provided to people living with disabilities to ensure that they no longer live in poverty.”

 

Mr. Adair said that the Canada Disability Benefit, introduced by the Liberal government in June in the final days of the last Parliament, indicated the “intent to do something specific about this,” but there needs to be much more detail than was included in that announcement.

 

“It needs to be much more robust,” said Mr. Adair. “We’d like to know, how soon is it going to be created? How much will be provided? How will this be coordinated with provinces and territories to ensure that they do not claw back benefits that people with disabilities are already receiving?”

 

“We understand this is not a simple equation that can just be solved quickly, but we are looking for something with details. We are looking for something which lifts people out of the poverty that is preventing them from participating in our great democracy.”

 

Jewelles Smith, communications and government relations coordinator at the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), said that democratic participation is one of the most important topics of all, and that means making election camp