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The Ford Government Defeated a Proposed Resolution in the Legislature that Called for a Plan to Implement David Onley’s Report on Strengthening the Implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act – The Government Invoked False and Hurtful Stereotypes About the Disabilities Act, Unfairly Disparaging Its Implementation and Enforcement as “Red Tape”

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

The Ford Government Defeated a Proposed Resolution in the Legislature that Called for a Plan to Implement David Onley’s Report on Strengthening the Implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act – The Government Invoked False and Hurtful Stereotypes About the Disabilities Act, Unfairly Disparaging Its Implementation and Enforcement as “Red Tape”

June 11, 2019

          SUMMARY

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).

The Ford Government’s defeat of this resolution is a troubling setback for Ontarians with disabilities, as we explain in this Update. There have now been 132 days since former Lieutenant Governor David Onley submitted his final report on the need to substantially improve the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. to the Ford Government. Yet the Government has not announced a plan of action to implement that report. As a result, Ontario keeps slipping further and further behind schedule for becoming accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s deadline.

We will have more to say about this over the next days and weeks. We welcome your feedback and your suggestions of non-partisan actions we might take in response to it. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

The Harden Resolution and the Onley Report’s Findings and Recommendations

Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution read as follows:

“That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.”

The June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update showed that there were ample strong reasons for the Ford Government to support the resolution. Yet instead, the Ford Government voted against it. The opposition NDP, Liberals and Green Party all voted for the resolution. It is especially troubling that this resolution was defeated right in the middle of National Access Abilities Week.

Conservative Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho told the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Onley report found that Ontario is “mostly inaccessible” to people with disabilities and that the pace of change in Ontario on accessibility since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” The report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” It concluded that progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue.

The Onley report recommended major new action to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. Among other things, he called for new accessibility standards to be enacted, and for existing ones to be strengthened. He urged strengthened AODA enforcement, and stronger Government leadership on accessibility. Among the measures he recommended are the four specific measures listed in Joel Harden’s proposed resolution.

Why Did the Ford Government Oppose the Harden Resolution?

The Ford Government opposed MPP Harden’s resolution in its entirety. The Government did not publicly propose any wording changes that would make the resolution acceptable to the Government.

The reasons which the Government gave in the Legislature for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution are deeply troubling. They reflect a serious misunderstanding of the needs of 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities, of the AODA’s mandatory legal requirements and of the Onley Report’s findings and recommendations.

The Tories’ speeches repeatedly invoked harmful and false stereotypes about the actions we need to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities and about accessibility legislation that thankfully have not been voiced at Queen’s Park for some sixteen years. As explained further below, the PC MPPs’ speeches give rise to a serious concern that the Government does not plan to fulfil its election commitments on accessibility, or its duties under the AODA. Doug Ford did not voice this disparaging attitude towards the AODA during the 2018 election campaign.

The PC MPPs’ speeches read as if they were meant to make business owners, and especially small business owners, fear that the AODA is a terrible, unfair and massive burden on them, and that the PCs will defend them from this ogre. For example:

  1. The Ford Government repeatedly claimed that the measures proposed in this resolution are merely 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 harmful stereotypes, akin to those which the former Conservative Government of Mike Harris propagated two decades ago. Ontario’s PC Party had moved well past this in 2005, when it unanimously voted in support of passing the AODA, and brought motions to try to further strengthen it.

Achieving accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by effectively implementing the AODA is not red tape!

  1. The Ford Government’s response to this proposed resolution looks like an All-out attack on the AODA itself, and its core requirement to create and enforce accessibility standards to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. the Government in effect took the position that no AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard should ever be enacted under the AODA, because it might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code and confusing. Yet a new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while at the same time the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.
  1. The Ford Government wrongly claimed that implementing the David Onley Report, through such measures as creating a Built Environment Accessibility Standard and more effectively enforcing the AODA, would not help people with disabilities and would just create barriers for new economic opportunities. The Onley Report and our lived experience prove the Government wrong on this score.
  1. The Government wrongly claimed that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution advocates for the Government to fine small businesses so as to drive them out of business. No one, not the Onley report, nor Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, is talking about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.
  1. The Ford Government appeared to reject outright any improvement in the AODA’s enforcement, which the Onley report found to be deficient and in need of strengthening, because there already is enforcement of the Ontario Building Code. Yet Building Code enforcement does not address barriers in customer service, employment, transportation, information and communication, or in existing buildings that are undergoing no major renovations. Moreover the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements are substantially deficient. Enforcing them does not ensure the accessibility of buildings.
  1. The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its diverting 1.3 million public dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into such a private accessibility certification process.
  1. To justify its opposition to this proposed resolution, the Government pointed to a number of non-legislated strategies on accessibility which were in whole or in large part launched by the previous Liberal Government under Premier Kathleen Wynne. Simply relying on the insufficient strategies of the previous Liberal Government will not yield any better and faster progress on accessibility than the previous Government’s poor record on AODA implementation and enforcement—a record which the Onley Report thoroughly documented and which the Ford Government itself has blasted.
  1. At least some of the Ford Government’s reasons for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution fly in the face of Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges to Ontarians with disabilities on accessibility in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. Those pledges are spelled out below and in the June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update.
  1. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the proposed resolution’s call for a plan to stop public money from again being used to create new disability barriers. To allow public money to be used to create new accessibility barriers is to mismanage public money. The Ford Government’s “brand” has been to claim that it is far superior at managing public money than previous governments.
  1. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the creation of a plan to ensure that design professionals (like architects) receive better accessibility training. Yet, Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance recognized

” We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

Below we set out:

* Our comments on key statements which Progressive Conservative MPPs made in the Legislature in opposition to Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution.

* MPP Harden’s May 30, 2019 news release, issued after the Government defeated his proposed resolution.

* The full text of the debate in the Legislature over MPP Harden’s proposed resolution on May, 30, 2019, as well as the list of how each MPP voted on this resolution.

* The Onley Report’s summary of its recommendations.

          MORE DETAILS

Our Detailed Comments on the Reasons Why the Ford Government Voted to Defeat NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 30, 2019 Resolution

Here are a series of the key statements in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019 by PC MPPs in opposition to Joel Harden’s AODA resolution. they are each followed by our comment on that statement.

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“I’m looking forward to discussing this motion because there’s lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onley’s report talked about these barriers. He called them “soul-crushing barriers,” and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onley’s words, “Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have.””

Our comment:

It is helpful that the minister and Government recognize that much more needs to be done. Thus the attention must focus on whether what the Government is doing about the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

2 Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

” We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.”

Our comment:

This deeply troubling statement appears to summarize the Ford Government’s overall strategy for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. It is replete with seriously incorrect claims. It is not the position on accessibility that the PC’s communicated to us and the public during the 2018 Ontario election.

It is incorrect for the Ford Government to claim that to create a plan to implement the Onley report would ” lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that public money is never again used to create new disability barriers does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that design professionals like architects get proper training on accessibility does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Creating effective accessibility standards to ensure the accessibility standards of the built environment does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business”.

For the Government to effectively implement the AODA would help businesses make more money. Accessibility gets them access to a larger customer base and a larger pool of prospective competitive employees.

The Government’s claim, particularly in the context of the built environment, flies in the face of Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance , where he set out the PC Party’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility. In that letter, he said, among other things:

“Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.”

“This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.”

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

Ontario’s Accessibility Minister is responsible to lead the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. He or she is supposed to be a strong advocate for people with disabilities at the Cabinet table. For Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Cho to condemn these core recommendations in the Onley Report as “red tape and high costs for business” is to venture into some of the most harmful and false stereotypes about the implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation such as the AODA that we have faced in many years.

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party voted unanimously to pass the AODA in 2005. That law requires the Ontario Government to enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The AODA explicitly includes “buildings” among the things that must become accessible. The minister’s statement here and during the rest of this debate, as well as those of other PC MPPs, read like a virtual repudiation of the AODA as “red tape”.

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isn’t it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?”

Our Comment:

Again, the minister voiced inaccurate and harmful stereotypes about the AODA and accessibility for people with disabilities. No one, not the Onley report, not Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, ever talks about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.

From disclosures we have extracted from the Ontario Government over the past several years, we know that a very small number of the obligated organizations have been subject to any AODA audits. The vast majority of obligated organizations are not audited at all.

Any audits have been quite minimal. The AODA “audits” have only been paper audits, with only one exception that we know of. In a paper audit, the Government only inspects the records or files that the obligated organization has kept on its AODA compliance. In those cases, the Government did not go to the organization’s premises to inspect it or find out if the claims about AODA compliance in the organization’s paper records are factual.

In the 14 years that the AODA has been on the books, a miniscule number of monetary penalties have been imposed. The previous Government knew of rampant AODA violations for over five years. Yet, the AODA Alliance revealed last year that in 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, for the thousands of private sector organizations known to have violated this legislation, the Government only imposed a total of five monetary penalties. That’s an average of less than two monetary penalties in each of those years.

Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that any of those penalties were imposed on small businesses. There is no evidence that any of those penalties were so large that they threatened to drive any small business out of business. Indeed, under the AODA regulations that the former Wynne and McGuinty Governments passed on AODA enforcement, the formula for calculating the monetary penalty of a first violator tends to be small e.g. in the hundreds of dollars. There is no public evidence from any of the many Government records that we have unearthed, typically relying on Freedom of Information applications, that the Ontario Government ever imposed any monetary penalties that were larger than that.

  1. Accessibility Minister Cho stated:

“Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, it’s my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.”

Our comment:

By the time of this debate in the Legislature, the Government had four months to consult on the Onley report. Moreover, the Onley report was itself the product of a province-wide consultation process. As such, there can be no excuse for the further Government delay that the minister here signalled, based on yet more consultations.

The minister said that the Government acted “quickly” on the Onley report’s recommendation to resume the work of the AODA Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees. These had been frozen for nine months after the Ford Government was elected. We had been pressing the Government throughout those nine months to end that unjustified freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees.

Making matters worse, some four months after the Government received Mr. Onley’s report (recommending that that freeze be lifted) and well over two months after the Government said it would lift that freeze, the Government has still not scheduled meetings of those AODA Standards Development Committees to resume their work. That is not moving “quickly.”

  1. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, “the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.””

Our Comment:

This is a second PC MPP who levelled the false and unfair accusation that any effort to improve Ontario’s accessibility standards should be rejected as “more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

This MPP did not give a fair and accurate account of what the David Onley report said about the need for more and better accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. He made it sound like the Onley report somehow supported the PCs’ claim that improving accessibility standards would amount to ” more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

The Onley Report said or implied no such thing. To the contrary, Mr. Onley explicitly recognized the need for more accessibility standards. For example, he echoed our call for the Government to resume the development of new accessibility standards in the areas of education and health care. He called for new and stronger regulatory measures to address disability barriers in the built environment. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution explicitly referred to the latter.

The Onley Report fully recognized the need for improved and sufficient AODA accessibility standards, and for having them effectively enforced. He added that they alone are not sufficient and that more is needed. With that, we also agree.

In the sentence from the Onley report which the MPP quoted out of context, Mr. Onley stated in effect that some accessibility standards may be inadequately written. He stated:

“Another fact of life is that the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right. Examples were cited in the consultations, as noted earlier – from even the best building codes that leave much to interpretation, to power door buttons that some people using wheelchairs cannot push.”

  1. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work we’re doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.”

Our Comment:

The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its spending 1.3 million public dollars over the next two years in the Rick Hansen private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into a private accessibility certification process, such as the one operated by the Rick Hansen Foundation. The Toronto Star’s May 27, 2019 editorial echoes some of the concerns we’ve raised.

The Ford Government knew that we are deeply opposed to investing public funds in a private accessibility certification process before it chose to divert public money into that process. It is no substitute for modernizing and effectively enforcing Ontario’s deficient and outdated laws governing the accessibility of buildings. Leaving it to an unaccountable and unelected private accessibility certification process to decide what our standard should be for the accessibility of buildings is no solution.

  1. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“To remove barriers on employment, our Employers’ Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. They’re now working on developing sector-specific business cases—to hire people with disabilities—that will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers’ Partnership Table.”

Our Comment:

There appears to be nothing new here. The Ford Government’s stated solution to the serious problem of chronic unemployment facing people with disabilities in Ontario is the same strategy that the previous Wynne Liberal Government had been proclaiming for years. This included claiming to bring to employers the positive business case for hiring people with disabilities, and operating a Partnership Council of employers. The previous Wynne Government had been operating two successive Partnership Councils of employers since 2014. Indeed, The Ford Government’s statement here sounds very similar to what the Liberal minister responsible for the AODA, Brad Duguid, was saying four years ago on this topic.

Chronic high unemployment facing people with disabilities continues to persist. The previous Government’s approach has proven itself to be entirely insufficient. The Onley report documented the serious barriers that still face people with disabilities in Ontario, including in employment.

Minister Cho has elsewhere rightly blasted the former Liberal Government for doing a poor job on accessibility. Yet the Ford Government is just carrying on in the employment context with the previous Government ‘s same approach.

The Ford Government here and elsewhere during this debate seemed to focus much of its talk and intended effort on “raising awareness on accessibility. We and others, and the Onley Report itself, have shown time and again that this alone is no solution for the problem of recurring disability barriers in our society, which the Onley Report described as “soul-crushing”.

Indeed, during Mr. Onley’s May 1, 2019 presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee that held hearings on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, he convincingly explained how he used to feel that this kind of strategy was sufficient. However, after hearing from people with disabilities during his public hearings in preparation for his report to the Ontario Government, he came to realize that it is not sufficient.

Moreover, the strategy of “raising awareness” was one which the Previous Conservative Ontario Government of Premier Mike Harris proclaimed as its core strategy on accessibility for people with disabilities from 1995 to 2003. That strategy was a failure. That is why Ontario needed the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. In 2005, the Conservative caucus, then in opposition, unanimously supported that legislation.

We therefore need the AODA to be effectively implemented and enforced. That requires much more than “raising awareness.”

  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.”

Our Comment:

This is the third PC speaker who opposed Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution by repeating the false claim that it calls for “more duplication” and “more red tape”. This is made worse by this MPP’s further false claim that the resolution is calling for creating “confusion around the built environment.”

Right now, there is serious confusion around the built environment. Too many architects, other design professionals, businesses and government officials wrongly think that if they comply with the current highly-deficient accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code, they have therefore created a building that is accessible to people with disabilities. Yet we have shown the public, including the Ford Government, that complying with the Ontario Building Code and weak AODA standards does not assure accessibility at all.

For example, our three widely-viewed online videos on accessibility problems in new buildings prove that we need to enact new, stronger laws on the accessibility of the built environment and to improve the training of design professionals. These are two core actions that the Onley report recommended and that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution addressed. Check out:

  1. The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 online video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently-renovated Toronto area public transit stations, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/
  1. The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/
  1. The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/
  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“David Onley’s report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesn’t make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.”

Our Comment:

Speaking for the Government, this PC MPP in effect took the position that no Built Environment Accessibility Standard can ever be enacted under the AODA, no matter what it might contain. This is because a Built Environment Accessibility Standard might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code.

This is wrong. A Built Environment Accessibility Standard can be designed that is complementary to the Ontario Building Code and that creates no such problems for those who are building or renovating buildings.

Moreover, this flies in the face of the position of the Ontario Conservative Party itself. As we noted earlier, in 2005, the Ontario PC Party unanimously voted for the AODA. Its stated purpose is to achieve accessibility in Ontario by 2025, including accessibility in “buildings”. It does so through the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standards. Yet this MPP seems to entirely repudiate that role for the AODA in the context of buildings.

A properly-designed Built Environment Accessibility Standard would not create “red tape and confusion.” A new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

This MPP has never spoken to the AODA Alliance about this, before deciding to publicly reject and disparage the entire idea of an AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard. That flies in the face of Doug Ford’s written election pledge in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance as follows:

“Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.”

  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.”

Our Comment:

This PC MPP seems in effect to claim that there is no need for improved AODA enforcement. Yet the Onley Report called for strengthened AODA enforcement, as has the AODA Alliance.

This PC MPP spoke as if the only accessibility enforcement needed is for the built environment. This disregards three important facts:

First, as we mentioned earlier, the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions are woefully inadequate. To enforce those is to permit new buildings to be built that are replete with accessibility problems.

Second, the enforcement process for the Ontario Building Code, which the MPP points to as our total solution, does not enforce any of the built environment accessibility requirements that any AODA accessibility standards impose.

Third, AODA accessibility standards that require better enforcement relate to many other kinds of accessibility barriers, and not just requirements for the accessibility of the built environment. The Ontario Building Code enforcement does not enforce any requirements for accessibility in customer service, employment, transportation and information and communication. With great respect, it appears that this MPP knows very little about the AODA, or how it is now working, or about the Onley report.

  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“We partnered with OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre to develop Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Congregations, which was shared and highlighted at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions conference. This guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.”

Our Comment:

Once again, the Ford Government seems to be relying on, if not claiming credit for initiatives that were largely if not entirely started under the previous Liberal Government. For example, the “enabling Change” program to which this MPP refers has been around for many years. This is not the new action for which the Onley report called.

May 30, 2019 News Release by NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden

May 30th, 2019

Defeating accessibility motion is an insult to people with disabilities: NDP Accessibility Critic

 

QUEEN’S Park – NDP MPP Joel Harden, the Official Opposition critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, released the following statement in response to the Ford government defeating his motion to take action on accessibility:

“I’m deeply disappointed that Doug Ford’s MPPs voted down our motion calling on the government to release an accessibility action plan, and implement key recommendations from David C. Onley’s third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The message this sends to 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities is that their human rights are not a priority for this government. Eliminating barriers is not ‘red tape’ as the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility and other PC MPPs shamefully said, it’s about ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities as able bodied citizens. People with disabilities deserve so much better than this. Ontario’s New Democrats will keep fighting for a fully accessible Ontario where no one is excluded.”

Ontario Hansard May 30, 2019

Private Members’ Public Business

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: I’d like to move the following motion before the House, motion 68, that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.

Interruption.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to ask our visitors to refrain from clapping or making any comment or any noise. We’re delighted to have you here, but we need to allow the members to debate.

Mr. Harden has moved private member’s notice of motion number 68. Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Once again, I recognize the member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr. Joel Harden: I want to thank my friends in the accessibility gallery and I want to thank my friends in the members’ gallery and the folks in the public gallery who have come here today.

There are a few people I want to acknowledge, Speaker, off the top, because I wouldn’t be doing my job as a critic if our office didn’t take the time over the last number of months to meet with people with lived experience, and people helping folks in the field. I want to acknowledge Anne Mason, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Carol-Ann Schafer, Richard Aubrey, Peter Vambe, Gerry Boily, Michele Gardner, Farrah Sattaur, Ryan Hooey, Rahima Mulla, Sinead Zalitach, Kirsten Doyle, Lark Barker, David Zivot and their son Sandino Campos. If I’ve missed anybody—Emily, we acknowledged you and your power earlier. Thank you for coming again. Thank you all for being here; thank you indeed.

Interjections.

Mr. Joel Harden: We get to clap for you this time.

Speaker, with your indulgence, I’d like to begin with a gesture of unanimous consent. One of the first things that happened to me was that the great David Lepofsky and Thea Kurdi gave me a t-shirt. I know the rules of the House are such that for a t-shirt with lettering on it, we need to ask for unanimous consent to wear it. It reads, “Disability justice is love.” I’d like to wear this as I make my remarks.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa Centre is seeking unanimous consent of the House to wear a t-shirt while he makes his presentation. Agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Joel Harden: I wore an extra t-shirt just in case. Thank you, Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. Thank you, David, and thank you, Thea, for the t-shirt.

I begin wanting to wear this shirt because one of the people who got me started in politics was Jack Layton. Some of his closing words to Canadians before Jack died were: “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” I think that’s a fitting note on which to begin, Speaker, captured, I think, by the shirt David and Thea gave to me, because, as I think about what’s before us, given David Onley’s report—according to Mr. Onley, we’re about 30% of the way there to having a truly accessible province with a lot of row to hoe and a lot of barriers that remain.

Minister Cho has mentioned this quotation in the House, and I’ll mention it again too. I think it’s a powerful one from Mr. Onley’s report. Mr. Onley wrote, “Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residents—its able-bodied residents…. For most disabled persons,” however, “Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.” That captures succinctly what I’ve heard from friends who have lived experience and what, quite frankly, people with disabilities are looking to this Legislature to do, and that’s to act with some urgency.

The Onley report is a call to action like recent climate change reports, quite frankly, are a call to action. What we know is that right now, 1.9 million people in the province of Ontario have a disability of one kind or another, and attached to them are families, loved ones and friends. So I would like to say, as the critic for people with disabilities in this building, that this isn’t just an issue for anyone; this is an issue for all of us. So far as we maintain services, building infrastructure, anything in this province which discriminates against anyone, it’s a human rights matter.

As one person who deputed to a town hall we hosted earlier in April said, “Each and every one of us is one incident away from disability or trauma that requires physical or mental health supports.” We also, Speaker, live in an aging society. In an aging society, we need now to be foreseeing the challenges that we have to have met in order to accommodate that aging society.

I want to talk, for the remainder of my time, about what I’ve heard directly from folks with disabilities who have been so gracious as to inform me, our office and our party about what they believe needs to be done. I want to talk about Blaine Cameron, from back home—hi, Blaine. Blaine is in the chapter of Ottawa ACORN. ACORN is an organization that fights for poor people in this province, in this country and indeed around the world. One of my favourite experiences with Blaine was street canvassing and farmers’ market canvassing. Blaine lives in a scooter—lives in a powered wheelchair. What I found increasingly evident to me, every time I went out with Blaine—because he is easily, and I’m sorry for picking favourites, friends in Ottawa, the most charismatic canvasser we have back home—is that he is unable to go door to door because of the built infrastructure of our city in Ottawa. But he kills at farmers’ markets, Mr. Speaker. The man cannot keep leaflets in his hands. The man gets donations in person constantly because of how powerfully he describes the need for social and economic justice. And what the people of Ottawa are missing, Speaker, given our built infrastructure, is the chance to see Blaine at the door doing what he does best: talking justice and talking fairness. We’re missing out on that because of the way in which Ottawa is designed and the way in which our province is designed.

I want to talk about Rahima Mulla, whom I met in the hall yesterday and whom we’ve interacted with before. I know that members in the government caucus have met with Rahima. She doesn’t get to come here very often to Queen’s Park, Speaker, because there are not always appropriate accessible parking spaces for her. She finds—as I’ve talked to some of my friends up in the accessibility gallery—the narrow runway up there to be very tricky to negotiate. That’s work we have to do, quite frankly, in this building.

I want to talk about Neil, whom I met a number of days ago, earlier this week, a lovely gentleman who came in with a walker. Neil asked me to walk him into the members’ gallery over there and confided to me as we were walking up the aisle that he really didn’t feel it was appropriate that there were stairs in front of the members’ gallery on the floor. He looked forward to a day when people with accessibility needs could be seated on the floor, like when the great Steven Fletcher, a member of the federal Conservative caucus, took his place in the House of Commons, as a person who lives in a wheelchair, on the floor. I look forward to the way in which we can make this building more open so that can happen.

I also want to talk about what we’ve learned in the last number of months from people who have episodic disabilities, Speaker, or what some might call hidden disabilities. I want to talk about Shanthiya Baheerathan, who shared a podium with me earlier this week as she talked about, as a student, what it was like for her to seek accommodation at Ryerson University for her learning disabilities and how difficult it was to self-advocate in an institution which—my experience with Ryerson as an able-bodied person has been quite good, when I’ve been faculty and visiting and running programs there. But the daily struggle to prove her disability because of the nature in which it fluctuates was extremely difficult for her.

Odelia Bay, who is a scholar at Osgoode Hall Law School who has also been here and has testified before the town hall we held earlier in April, has said the same thing: that we need to have an expanded concept of what disabilities are.

Other folks I’ve met in the time that I’ve had here—and it’s thanks to MPP Andrea Khanjin from Barrie–Innisfil, who hosted a reception for people from sickle cell Ontario. Sickle cell disease is something that not enough of us are aware of, Speaker. It is, to sight, an invisible disease. But what I’ve been very saddened to learn, particularly for members of Black and Brown racialized communities, is that when they admit themselves to emergency rooms in great trauma, suffering incredible pain, which is hard for most people to understand, as it has been explained to me, sometimes they’re treated with suspicion upon admission.

I’m not impugning the motives of any of our health care professionals. I love them. I’m married to one. I love the work they do. But the reality of people living with sickle cell disease is such that the University Health researchers in this great city of Toronto have begun to do epidemiological studies to figure out why it is that people are treated differently when they contact their primary health care system when they have black or brown skin. In the most sad of cases, we’ve had people suffer fatalities or serious injuries because they haven’t been able to get the health care they need.

Speaker, I look forward to the debate on this motion. I think it’s an opportunity for us as a Legislature to say, yes, we’re ready. We’re ready to act on Mr. Onley’s report. I salute the fact that the minister has spoken with urgency on the need of work to be done in this place, and I’m here to support you in that work, but what I like about the motion that I proposed for our consideration today is that it tells us: Actually, let’s set some timelines. Let’s set some goals. Let’s require of people who are being trained to design our public infrastructure in our buildings that they should never again do that in a way that discriminates against people with disabilities.

Thank you, Thea, and thank you, David Lepofsky, and thank you, folks who are here with us today, for all of your advice in that regard. And never let any child feel in this province ever again that their learning doesn’t matter to us. Yes, I’m looking at Lark Barker over there, who advocates for dyslexia, people who have stood by children who have felt humiliated as they tried to advance in the public education system, and you’ve been there for them.

As a province, we need to generalize that right across the board. We need to be there for brain-injured people. We need to be there for everybody who deserves what, quite frankly, socialism means for me: an equal-opportunity society where everybody has the chance to develop themselves to their utmost ability and contribute to this wonderful society in which we live. That’s the just society that I first saw embodied in heroes of mine like Jack Layton, Libby Davies, Olivia Chow and others.

When it comes to advocating for people with disabilities, that is something we are perfectly poised to do.

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The member from York Centre will come to order.

Mr. Joel Harden: On a closing note, because I know the member who was just heckling is a Raptors fan just like myself, on a note of levity, I would invite the government to consider a potential revenue source for you to fund a serious accessibility reserve. We know tonight is game one of the NBA finals. We know, unfortunately, that at the moment, businesses can deduct 50% of the cost of tickets against their business income. I’ve got a PhD in political economy, so I ran some numbers, given what people are assessing the cost of tickets to be. What that leads me to believe, Speaker, is that tonight, as we celebrate Canada’s team, about $45 million is being taken out of provincial coffers in write-offs.

Here’s what I would propose to the minister or to the government. I will happily put on a tie, look respectable and go with you to any employer in this province and ask them, “Do you need that business write-off, or do we need that money to make sure that we can make every building in this province accessible, for our health care, our education, our transportation services, and so that this place is open and accessible for people with disabilities?” That is a revenue source we could tap, and I’m here to help you make it happen.

Thanks for listening. I look forward to the debate.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Madam Speaker, I would also like to warmly welcome all the visitors in the Speaker’s lounge. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

I’m looking forward to discussing this motion because there’s lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onley’s report talked about these barriers. He called them “soul-crushing barriers,” and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onley’s words, “Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have.” He also points out that while rules and regulations are crucial, what is also required to eliminate barriers is a change of heart.

We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.

Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isn’t it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?

Madam Speaker, Mr. Onley delivered a thorough and thoughtful report about the barriers many Ontarians face. Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, it’s my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Chris Glover: It’s an honour to rise today. I’d like to begin my remarks by introducing almost 20 people from Spadina–Fort York and from the city of Toronto who have joined us to be part of this debate. I want to especially thank the MPP for Ottawa Centre, Joel Harden, for bringing forward this motion. I’ll introduce the people who are here. We’ve got Paula Boutis, Heather Vickers-Wong, Madora Rana, Robert Boileau, Alicia Boileau, Mitchell Feinman, Erica Howard, Deborah Fletcher, Dante Wellington, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Ipek Kabatas, Varla Anne Abrams, Tracy Schmitt—who is also known as “Unstoppable Tracy”—Kati Israel, Michau van Speyk.

I’d like to thank them all for joining us today. Could we give a round of applause to the people who’ve joined us for this debate?

Applause.

Mr. Chris Glover: When I became a school board trustee in 2010, I organized a group that was called the Special Education Forum, and for eight years we advocated for changes to the school system to make it more accessible. I want to thank the people who came to those meetings—and many of them are here in this room—because they taught me about what it’s like, or gave some glimpse of what it’s like, to be a person with disabilities. Some of the most important lessons I learned from some students. There were two students in particular, Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama from Martingrove Collegiate, which is the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. They came one day and they talked about their day in that school.

Terrence pointed out something. He said that the nice thing about that school is that the corners in the corridors are cut at 45 degrees, which, when you’re using an electric wheelchair, makes it much easier to see people coming from another direction so you avoid collisions. The other thing that he pointed out—and I had been a trustee for a few years at this time and I had never noticed it: The front door to that school was not accessible. There was a hot dog stand, and that hot dog vendor is legendary at Martingrove Collegiate. He said that sometimes he had to take his wheelchair down the grassy slope to get to the hot dog vendor, and it was hazardous. I went to the school the next day and I met him. He was sitting in his chair at the top of the steps, and there were snowbanks on either side, so he actually could not get down to the hot dog vendor, and so he had to get one of his friends to go down. This was the front entrance to the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. So we started advocating.

The other thing that I learned through that group and from the disability advocates I’d been working with is the amount of persistence it takes to make change. It took us four years to finally get an accessible ramp on the front entrance of that school, but finally it was done.

The other person who taught me a lot was Sarah Jama. She’s the founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. She taught me about something called universal design. Every Ontario should know this term, “universal design.” Universal design means that when you’re designing a building, you design it so that everybody can use it.

Just imagine, for example, if you built a building that only had women’s washrooms and what that would mean for men who wanted to be employed, potentially, in that building. Where would they go? How would they possibly get employment in that building? So you’ve got to think. If you’re building a building, you’ve got to make it for everybody, for anybody. Whether you’re using a walker or wheelchair, or whether you’re walking in, or whether you have a visual impairment or an auditory impairment, you’ve got to build a building that makes it possible for everybody to be there.

A big part of the problem that comes from not making our buildings with universal design is the unemployment rate. The employment rate among people with disabilities is only 55%, and it’s shameful in this province that we have allowed this to go on. Part of the reason for that, a big part of the reason—and we had a discussion in the committee last week where we were talking about transit—is that our buildings are not accessible and our transit systems are not fully accessible. That’s why it’s so hard for people to get to work if you have disability.

So when we talk about constructing things, when we’re building our subway infrastructure, our buses, we’ve got to make sure that people with disabilities are going to be able to get to work so that they can have employment and get all the benefits that come with employment, including a life that’s not lived in poverty, the social network, all the things you need work for.

The other group that we’ve been working with over the years, the big issue that we’ve been focusing on at this disability advocacy group is employment. I mentioned that it’s only 55% of people with disabilities; that drops to 26% of people with intellectual disabilities. And that is a real shame.

In Washington state, 87% of people with intellectual disabilities have paid employment versus 26% here in Ontario, which means that 60% of people with intellectual disabilities have the potential to work but we have not designed our society in order to invite them and to make our workplaces welcoming to them. So that’s something we really need to focus on, because that’s an incredible amount of potential that is being lost, and it’s lives that are being disrupted and not being lived to their fullest extent, because of the way that we have designed our society.

Let’s see. When the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility was talking about soul-crushing barriers, making inaccessible spaces, making inaccessible transit systems, making inaccessible buildings—these are some of those soul-crushing barriers. We may not think of it because we may not be affected by the design of the buildings that we’re looking at, but I would invite all of the members in this House to please listen to people with disabilities. I’ve learned so much from listening to people like Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama to understand what it means to have a universally designed society where everybody can reach their full potential.

I’m so thankful to the member from Ottawa Centre for bringing forward this motion. I’m absolutely going to support it and I hope the members opposite will support it as well.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I’m proud to rise here today to speak to the motion of accessibility. As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, “the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.”

I know that the minister is doing a great job working with stakeholders to chart the best path forward to improve accessibility in Ontario. As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work we’re doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.

To remove barriers on employment, our Employers’ Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. They’re now working on developing sector-specific business cases—to hire people with disabilities—that will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers’ Partnership Table.

Our goal is to make Ontario open for business for everyone. This is meaningful work that is already under way to improve the lives of people with disabilities. To help businesses better understand the benefits of accessibility, the ministry has taken steps to begin to redesign their website, to make it a more comprehensive one-stop shop on accessibility for the public and businesses, as recommended by Mr. Onley in his report.

In addition to providing resources on accessibility requirements and regulations, we have posted accessibility resources for businesses, to help them understand the benefits of accessibility and break down barriers for people with disabilities.

A business that commits to accessibility sends a strong message that people with disabilities are welcome. For this reason, it is much more likely to attract people with disabilities and their families. This goes for any and all businesses in Ontario that are providing goods and services to the public.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: It is truly always an honour to rise in this Legislature on behalf of my constituents of London–Fanshawe. It brings me great pleasure today to speak in support of my colleague’s bill, the member from Ottawa Centre’s motion taking action on accessibility with regard to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act review by the Honourable David Onley, Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor. I had the honour of being in the Legislature when the Honourable David Onley was serving as Lieutenant Governor.

Back in 2005—and that was before I was here—all parties at the time in the Legislature unanimously supported the AODA Act. They actually said, “This is not a partisan issue. It’s a non-partisan issue, and we’re all on board. We all agree unanimously that this needs to happen, and it needs to happen by 2025.”

Every three years, they appoint an independent reviewer of the progress of what has been going on, on this act. In 2017, Lieutenant Governor David Onley was appointed to review the act and report back on what was happening.

He did his homework. He went out and toured the province, and he spoke to people. Then he obviously came up with a conclusion on what was reported.

That’s what we need to do. As many people said, we need to listen to the people who have lived experience with disabilities that are physical but also episodic or non-visual, and not only listen but actually take action. Really, 2025 is coming very quickly.

The next review that’s going to happen is in 2020, and as far as I’m concerned, we are behind. I hear the member from the Conservative Party talking about how this is going to be more red tape and it’s going to have barriers for more economic opportunities. In order to get to work, there has to be a pathway to get there, so therefore places have to be accessible. I’m sure that people who are capable of working want to go out and do their part; they want to feel valuable and contribute to society. But if you can’t get to work because there are stairs and there’s no elevator, you can’t say, “You don’t want to work.” There has to be a logical process of how to get people to work, and first we need to make sure that places of work are all accessible. That makes sense.

I think that the member who spoke earlier has it reversed. This is not a red-tape bill. This is not making it harder for economic opportunities for Ontario. This is actually moving the bar forward to getting Ontario into a really positive economic opportunity for everyone. If we don’t support this bill in the House today, I think we’re sending a message to people that it’s not a priority. We’re saying, “You’ve got to get to work, and the government side has said that the best social program is a job.” That’s what they’re saying, but then if you need that to happen, what do you logically believe you need to put in place, what metrics do you need in place, to bring out those outcomes? That’s what they forget. Usually what they say doesn’t sound good to me. They think it sounds good, but they don’t have real steps on how to get there.

Put your money where your mouth is and start making things accessible so then you can have those opportunities for people who have disabilities to explore those jobs that they are so capable of doing and they so want. I hope this government is going to stop thinking so narrow-mindedly when it comes to what they think is best and actually listen to what people are telling them, and then act on that. You’ve done that in a few places when you’ve pulled back legislation. We know that you did that recently with land ambulance, public health and child care. This is your opportunity to do the right thing from the beginning, rather than backtracking. I hope they support this bill, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Natalia Kusendova: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this motion. The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.

We’ve taken real action through our $1.3-million partnership with the Rick Hansen building certification program, which will see us provide accessibility ratings of an estimated 250 buildings across Ontario. These ratings will not only certify buildings as being accessible, but it will provide a report with directions to buildings about how they can improve their accessibility. This is real action that we are taking now.

David Onley’s report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesn’t make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.

Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.

The Onley report highlights the importance of coordinating Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government. As announced in More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan, the government will harmonize our building code with national codes to open new markets for manufacturers and to bring building costs down.

What we are really here to debate is creating a barrier-free Ontario, and a government cannot do this alone. This is why work on Mr. Onley’s recommendations, along with other important initiatives, is ongoing. Our government is working closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility.

We partnered with OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre to develop Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Congregations, which was shared and highlighted at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions conference. This guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.

As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to inform a whole-of-government approach advancing accessibility. As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services, and identify areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontario’s 2.6 million people with disabilities. Speaker, this government is committed to accessibility and improving employment prospects for people with disabilities—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you. I return to the member for Ottawa Centre, who has two minutes to reply.

Mr. Joel Harden: It’s hard to know what to say. I had hoped that there would be some goodwill here and I leave out hope that we may have some support for this motion, a declaration of intent, Speaker, written not by me but written by David Onley in this report, written by experts with lived experience and who know what it’s like to live in a province that is not accessible to them—not accessible to them.

When I hear words like “red tape,” the hair on the back of my neck stands up because I think about people who can’t get into hospitals, can’t get into schools. I think about children who are being forbidden the opportunity to learn because our services and systems are not accessible to them. And what makes me even angrier, to be honest, although I am trying to be hopeful and optimistic today, is that we are presiding over a province where people tonight will write off $45 million in Raptors game expenses, and we as a province are fine with that. We’re fine with that. Last week we announced $1.3 million in a partnership for people with disabilities, which is less, Speaker, than we pay this government’s Premier’s private lawyer, Gavin Tighe, in salary.

So what people with disabilities are being told is that they matter less than the corporate folks going to the Raptors game tonight, they matter less than the salary we give the lawyer serving the Premier of this province, and that when they ask for better, they are told they are ruining the economy and that it amounts to red tape. That is a really shameful moment for me in this place.

This motion commits us to action. I’m not allowed to ask for money from this government, but I am asking you, on behalf of my friends who are here today and all over this province, to get off the pot and act.

(Later that day in the Legislature after debate on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): We will deal first with ballot item number 73, standing in the name of Mr. Harden.

Mr. Harden has moved private member’s notice of motion number 68. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.

All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”

All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”

In my opinion, the nays have it. We will deal with this vote after we have finished the other business.

(After votes on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I’m actually going to seek direction from the table. Is it a five-minute bell right now? Okay.

Call in all the members. This will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1531 to 1536.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Mr. Harden has moved private member’s notice of motion number 68. All those in favour, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Ayes

  • Armstrong, Teresa J.
  • Begum, Doly
  • Bell, Jessica
  • Berns-McGown, Rima
  • Des Rosiers, Nathalie
  • Fife, Catherine
  • Fraser, John
  • Glover, Chris
  • Harden, Joel
  • Hassan, Faisal
  • Hatfield, Percy
  • Karpoche, Bhutila
  • Lindo, Laura Mae
  • Mamakwa, Sol
  • Mantha, Michael
  • Morrison, Suze
  • Natyshak, Taras
  • Rakocevic, Tom
  • Sattler, Peggy
  • Schreiner, Mike
  • Shaw, Sandy
  • Singh, Gurratan
  • Singh, Sara
  • Stiles, Marit
  • Tabuns, Peter
  • West, Jamie
  • Yarde, Kevin

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): All those opposed, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Nays

  • Anand, Deepak
  • Baber, Roman
  • Babikian, Aris
  • Bailey, Robert
  • Bethlenfalvy, Peter
  • Bouma, Will
  • Calandra, Paul
  • Cho, Raymond Sung Joon
  • Cho, Stan
  • Coe, Lorne
  • Crawford, Stephen
  • Cuzzetto, Rudy
  • Downey, Doug
  • Dunlop, Jill
  • Fedeli, Victor
  • Fee, Amy
  • Ghamari, Goldie
  • Gill, Parm
  • Harris, Mike
  • Hogarth, Christine
  • Jones, Sylvia
  • Kanapathi, Logan
  • Karahalios, Belinda C.
  • Ke, Vincent
  • Khanjin, Andrea
  • Kramp, Daryl
  • Kusendova, Natalia
  • Lecce, Stephen
  • Martin, Robin
  • Martow, Gila
  • McDonell, Jim
  • McKenna, Jane
  • Miller, Norman
  • Mulroney, Caroline
  • Oosterhoff, Sam
  • Pang, Billy
  • Parsa, Michael
  • Pettapiece, Randy
  • Phillips, Rod
  • Piccini, David
  • Rasheed, Kaleed
  • Roberts, Jeremy
  • Sabawy, Sheref
  • Sandhu, Amarjot
  • Sarkaria, Prabmeet Singh
  • Skelly, Donna
  • Smith, Dave
  • Thanigasalam, Vijay
  • Thompson, Lisa M.
  • Tibollo, Michael A.
  • Triantafilopoulos, Effie J.
  • Wai, Daisy

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 27; the nays are 52.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I declare the motion lost.

Motion negatived.

Summary of the Recommendations of the David Onley AODA Independent Review

  1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.

Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.

Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers.

Lead by example.

Coordinate Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

  1. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA.

Define “accessibility”.

Clarify the AODA’s relationship with the Human Rights Code.

Update the definition of “disability”.

  1. Foster cultural change to instill accessibility into the everyday thinking of Ontarians.

Conduct a sustained multi-faceted public education campaign on accessibility with a focus on its economic and social benefits in an aging society.

Build accessibility into the curriculum at every level of the educational system, from elementary school through college and university.

Include accessibility in professional training for architects and other design fields.

  1. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.
  1. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.
  1. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.
  1. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.
  1. Develop new comprehensive Built Environment accessibility standards through a process to:

Review and revise the 2013 Building Code amendments for new construction and major renovations

Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards

Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

  1. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.
  1. Introduce financial incentives to improve accessibility in residential housing.

Offer substantial grants for home renovations to improve accessibility and make similar funds available to improve rental units.

Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

  1. Reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed by Infrastructure Ontario to promote accessibility and prevent new barriers.
  1. Enforce the AODA.

Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations.

Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

  1. Deliver more responsive, authoritative and comprehensive support for AODA implementation.

Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.

Establish a provincewide centre or network of regional centres offering information, guidance, training and specialized advice on accessibility.

Create a comprehensive website that organizes and provides links to trusted resources on accessibility.

  1. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.
          1. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.

During National Access Abilities Week, Ontario NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden Presented a Proposed Resolution for Debate in the Legislature that Called On the Ford 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 – There are Many Good Reasons Why the Ford Government Should Support this Proposed Resolution

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

During National Access Abilities Week, Ontario NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden Presented a Proposed Resolution for Debate in the Legislature that Called On the Ford 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 – There are Many Good Reasons Why the Ford Government Should Support this Proposed Resolution

June 10, 2019

SUMMARY

A Commendable Effort to Advance the Goal of Accessibility for 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Marking Canada’s National Accessibility Abilities Week, Ontario NDP MPP and Accessibility Critic Joel Harden proposed a resolution in the Ontario Legislature for debate on Thursday May 30, 2019. The resolution called on the Government to come up with a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The proposed resolution stated:

“That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.”

We appreciate MPP Harden’s bringing forward this proposed resolution for debate in the Legislature. This is an important issue for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities.

The Onley report found that Ontario remains full of soul-crushing accessibility barriers. It concluded that Ontario is still mostly inaccessible to people with disabilities, and is not a place where people with disabilities can fully participate as equals. It recommended strong new action to substantially speed up progress in Ontario on accessibility, so that Ontario can reach the goal of full accessibility by 2025, the deadline which the AODA imposes.

Why the Ford Government Should Support MPP Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution

For several reasons, the Ford Government has every reason to find this proposed resolution agreeable, and to support it:

* Last December, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated that the Government was awaiting the Onley Report before it decided how it would proceed in the area of disability accessibility. the Ford Government has now had the Onley Report in its hands since January 31, 2019, a total of 131 days. The Government has shown itself ready and willing to act decisively and very quickly on issues that it considers important.

* The Ford Government has been eager to show voters that it takes a different and better approach to governing Ontario than did the previous Government. The Onley Report shows that the former Government did a poor job of implementing and enforcing the AODA. The new Ford Government has an incentive to do a much better job at this.

* On April 10, 2019, Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job” in this report. Speaking for the Ford Government in the Legislature, the minister acknowledged that Ontario is not yet even 30% along the way to becoming accessible.

* MPP Harden’s proposed resolution in key ways tracks commitments that Doug Ford and the Ontario Conservatives made to Ontarians with disabilities during the 2018 Ontario general election. It is in line with the Ford Government’s core messages:

  1. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance (set out below), spelling out the PC Party’s election pledges on accessibility, Doug Ford committed that our issues regarding accessibility “are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates.”
  1. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford recognized:

“Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.”

The Onley Report reached the same conclusion.

  1. The Onley Report found that Ontario is clearly not on schedule to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”

  1. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a new plan of action for improved enforcement of the AODA, as the Onley Report recommended. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.”

  1. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for new accessibility standards in the area of the built environment and new accessibility training for design professionals (such as architects). The Onley Report showed the need for such actions. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford pledged:

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

  1. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a plan to ensure that public money is never used to create new disability barriers. The Ford Government has emphasized that it wants to ensure that public money is always used responsibly. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford promised a change from the ” government mismanagement” of the previous Government. No one disputes that using public money to create new accessibility barriers is a form of “government mismanagement.”

* Such resolutions in the Legislature are not legally binding. However, they can be viewed as a strong political statement. The Ford Government should not want to be seen as voting against so straightforward a resolution that is important to so many Ontarians, especially since it has repeatedly called itself the “Government for the People.”

* The proposed resolution was worded in a neutral and tempered way. It gives the Government a great deal of flexibility on what it could include in a plan to implement the Onley Report, on what to include in an accessibility standard to address the built environment, on how to strengthen AODA enforcement, and on how to ensure that public money is no longer used to create new accessibility barriers. The resolution’s wording neither states nor implies any criticism of the Government, nor any partisan arguments or claims against the Ford Government.

* When the Ontario Conservatives last formed a government in Ontario, under Premier Mike Harris, they voted for each of the three resolutions on proposed accessibility legislation that the opposition presented in the Legislature on behalf of the AODA Alliance’s predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. For a trip down memory lane, check out the text of the different resolutions which the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed on May 16, 1996, October 29, 1998 and November 23, 1999 regarding the need for accessibility legislation in Ontario.

What Happened in the Legislature on the Day Before It Was to Debate Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?

How would the Ford Government respond to this proposed resolution? On May 29, 2019, the day before Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was scheduled to be debated in the Legislature, Mr. Harden raised this in Question Period. He Pressed the Government to commit to action to make disability accessibility a priority, given that it was then National Access Ability Week. Below we set out the transcript of the exchange that day during Question Period. We offer these observations about that exchange:

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.”

The Government has elsewhere said this would lead to certification or audit of 250 buildings over two years.

We have serious and substantial concerns with this. First, as reiterated in our May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, we have for years made it clear that we do not agree with investing public money in a private accessibility certification process, no matter who is operating it. It is an inappropriate use of public money. The Government should instead spend that money on AODA implementation and enforcement.

Second, the minister said that the Rick Hansen Foundation is conducting those building audits as “us” i.e. the Ontario Government. Yet there is no public accountability for this private accessibility certification process, for the measures of accessibility it chooses to use, and for how it goes about its business. If the Ontario Government is to do a building audit, it should be conducted by public auditors with a public mandate and public accountability, based on accessibility standards that the public sets through the Government.

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho understandably blamed the previous Liberal Government for insufficient action on accessibility. However, the minister then cast some of the blame on the New Democratic Party for the former Liberal Government’s poor record on accessibility. The minister said:

“The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.”

While we don’t wade into partisan political bickering in the Legislature, we are not aware of any support by the NDP of the former Government’s slow action on accessibility. To the contrary, the NDP helped us press the previous Liberal Government to take swifter action on accessibility.

  1. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors also stated:

“Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report.”

It is true that the Ford Government made public the Onley Report quicker than the previous Government made public the 2010 AODA Independent Review by Charles Beer or the 2014 AODA Independent Review report by Mayo Moran.

However, by May 29, 2019, the date of this exchange in Question Period in the Legislature, the Ford Government had had ample time to study the Onley Report and arrive at a plan of action.

So—What Happened with Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?

So, what happened to Joel Harden’s proposed resolution? Was it passed or defeated during

debates in the Legislature on May 30, 2019? For the answer to this suspenseful question, watch for the next AODA Alliance Update. Same AODA Alliance time. Same AODA Alliance channel!

Below we set out:

* The text of NDP MPP Joel Harden’s resolution that he presented to the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019.

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 27, 2019 news release, announcing that his proposed resolution would be debated in the Legislature on May 30, 2019

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s guest column in the May 30, 2019 Ottawa Citizen. It explained the resolution that Mr. Harden was seeking to get the Legislature to pass that day. It refers, among other things, to the AODA Alliances efforts on accessibility, and to the online video about public transit accessibility barriers that we made public in May, 2018, and

* A transcript of the May 29, 2019 question that MPP Joel Harden asked the Ford Government during Question Period regarding his proposed resolution on the AODA.

* Text of the May 15, 2018 letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s 2018 election promises on disability accessibility.

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the Private Member’s Motion by Joel Harden, NDP Accessibility Critic, Debated in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019

That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.

May 27, 2019 Ontario NDP News Release

May 27th, 2019

NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre calls on Ford to implement recommendations from AODA third review

QUEEN’S PARK — The Ontario NDP critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre), held a press conference today to introduce his private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from David Onley’s third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

“The over 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities face constant barriers to their participation in areas including employment, education, health care and recreation,” Harden said. “As the population ages, the number of people living with a disability will grow.”

The AODA seeks to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025; every three years, an independent reviewer is appointed to assess the Act’s effectiveness.

“Former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s third legislative review of the AODA, which was informed by consultations with the disability community and tabled in the Legislature on March 8, makes the disconcerting assertion that, ‘For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity, but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers,’” said Harden.

“The Liberals dragged their feet on meeting the AODA’s target, and now the Ford Conservatives are dragging Ontario further backwards, neglecting to lay out a plan of action to implement Onley’s recommendations. The recommendations include a commitment to implementing new standards for Ontario’s built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals such as architects and an assurance that public funds won’t be used to create new accessibility barriers.”

At the conference, Harden was joined by Shanthiya Baheerathan of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and Kate Chung of the Older Women’s Network, who both spoke about the need for a more accessible Ontario.

“I, myself, had to fight for years to have my disability recognized and accommodated by my university, and in that process I lost years of my life,” Baheerathan relayed. “Enforcing AODA would work towards ensuring that no other 18-year-old need to waste time overcoming barriers and advocating for an accessible space to learn. Instead, they could use that time and energy to actually learn.”

Chung said it won’t cost the government anything to change building code standards to ensure housing is built accessibly for the many Ontario seniors and people with disabilities who need it. “Yet, it will save millions in health care dollars for vast numbers of people, it will reduce the demand for long-term care beds, and end ‘bed-blocking’ in hospitals.”

“Ontarians with disabilities deserve to have a government that listens to their needs and takes concrete action to reduce the barriers that prevent them from enjoying a full life. The Ford government must act now and implement the Onley report’s key recommendations,” Harden said.

Harden’s motion will be debated in the Legislature on May 30.

Ottawa Citizen May 30, 2019

Originally posted at: https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/harden-ontarios-accessibility-standards-are-falling-woefully-short

Harden: Ontario’s accessibility standards are falling woefully short

Joel Harden

Outgoing Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley is saluted while arriving for his last full day in office at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Monday, September 22, 2014. A former Ontario lieutenant-governor tasked with reviewing the disability legislation says the province is nowhere near meeting its stated goal of full accessibility by 2025. Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS

For an able-bodied person, whether the pillars on the platform of a train station or bus stop are straight or angled is easily taken for granted. For someone who is sight impaired, an angled pillar can mean the difference between constantly bumping one’s head or shoulder on a part of the pillar that can’t be anticipated by a cane, or being able to commute without threat of pain or injury.

This distinction, which David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, demonstrates in a video he posted online last spring, is just one of countless examples of Ontario’s standards of accessibility falling short of the disability community’s needs.

For the more than 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities, lack of accessibility is an ongoing barrier to participation in things like education, employment, transit and recreation. From public space design to health care to public information, Ontario’s accessibility standards are nowhere near where they need to be to meet peoples’ needs, nor where the province pledged they would be in the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

On Thursday, the legislative assembly at Queen’s Park will debate my private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from the third legislative review of the AODA. The AODA mandates the standards that public, private and non-profit sector entities must adhere to in the areas of customer service, public space design, communications, transportation and employment. It has set a firm deadline to make Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by the year 2025 — a target that, in 2019, no longer feels far off.

To ensure the AODA stays on track, every three years, an independent, non-partisan reviewer is appointed to consult with the disability community and assess whether the AODA and its standards are doing what they’re supposed to do — making Ontario more accessible — plus recommending additional steps as needed, to meet the 2025 obligation.

Conducted by David Onley, the former lieutenant governor of Ontario and a disability rights advocate, the AODA’s third review should be a major call to action for Ontarians, and certainly, for the Ford government. Onley’s report paints a grim picture of the status quo for people with disabilities in this province, and portrays the sluggish pace at which Ontario is moving when it comes to setting or enforcing accessibility standards.

In his report, submitted to the Ford government on Jan. 31, 2019, Onley writes that the AODA’s vision has turned out to be “a mirage.”

“Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residents – its able-bodied residents,” he writes. “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

Onley’s words echo the frustrations I heard from the dozens of Ontarians living with disabilities who traveled from across the province to attend an April 10 town hall on accessibility that our office held at Queen’s Park. Several of my fellow NDP MPPs joined Lepofsky, Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, and myself, to listen to account after account of people fed up with Ontario’s agonizingly slow progress towards accessibility. Many spoke of the daily barriers they face that stop them living full lives.

Onley’s key recommendations to the government include committing to implementing new standards for our built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals and an assurance that public money never again be used to create new accessibility barriers.

The Ford Conservatives should establish a clear plan of action for getting Ontario on track to meet its AODA obligations. I invite the government to vote with the NDP on Thursday, and implement Onley’s key recommendations right away, so that Ontarians with disabilities no longer have to wait to live the full lives they deserve.

Joel Harden is the Ontario NDP critic for accessibility and persons with disabilities, as well as

the MPP for Ottawa Centre.

Ontario Hansard May 29, 2019

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question is for the Premier. This week is National AccessAbility Week. While we’ve made strides and progress in this province, it’s thanks to disability rights activists around our towns and cities. Unfortunately, the previous government paid lip service to the goal of accessibility, and this government is on track to do the same.

During the election campaign, the Premier promised stronger enforcement of accessibility laws, a clear strategy to meet accessibility standards, examining our building code requirements for accessibility provisions and requiring design professionals to have accessibility training. But we didn’t hear any announcement in the budget on this, and I’m wondering why there’s no prioritization of accessibility during National AccessAbility Week for this government.

Hon. Victor Fedeli: To the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I thank the member of the opposition for raising the important question. I want to assure this House that this government takes our responsibilities for Ontarians living with disabilities very seriously.

Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.

We know there’s more to do, but it’s also time for real action and we are taking it right now.

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

Mr. Joel Harden: To put that in perspective, to what the minister said, $1.3 million is less than what the Premier of this government is spending on his own personal lawyer in his office, Mr. Gavin Tighe.

People with disabilities deserve more from this government. We know that the last government talked a great talk but delivered very little. We know that Queen’s Park, the very building in which you and I are working, is not fully accessible. That is true across this province: Health care, education, transportation and our spaces of recreation remain inaccessible, Speaker, and we are obliged by law to make this province fully accessible by 2025.

Tomorrow, we are going to be introducing a private member’s motion that will require us, as a Legislature, to set clear targets on accessibility. I have a very clear question for the Premier or for the minister: Will you be supporting this motion tomorrow?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I will repeat what the opposition member said. The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.

Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report. I will respond to your motion tomorrow.

May 15, 2018 Letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance

May 15, 2018

David Lepofsky, Chair

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance)

Dear David,

The Ontario PC Party is pleased to respond to the AODA Alliance’s survey for the 2018 Ontario election. Our team is focused on providing a clear alternative to voters. After 15 years of high taxes and government mismanagement under the Wynne Liberals, the people of Ontario are ready for change.

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.

Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.

Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.

For the Ontario PCs, this remains our goal. Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.

Christine Elliott, our former Health Critic and Deputy Leader, has been a tireless advocate for Ontarians with disabilities. Ms. Elliott called to establish the Select Committee on Developmental Services, with a mandate to develop a comprehensive developmental services strategy for children, youth and adults in Ontario with an intellectual disability or who are dually diagnosed with an intellectual disability and a mental illness.

When it comes to people with disabilities, we have a moral and an economic responsibility to focus on their abilities and not just on what holds them back. Our family members, friends and neighbours who have a disability of some kind are a wellspring of talent and determination.

There’s no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election. It’s also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities can’t do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.

This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.

The Ontario PC Party believes our education system must minimize barriers for students with disabilities, providing the skills, opportunities and connections with the business community that are necessary to enter the workforce.

Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.

When I am elected Premier on June 7th, I promise I will focus on investing in the priorities that matter most to the people of Ontario. Jobs and economic development will be a key focus, and Ontario will be open for business again.

In the coming weeks, our team will be releasing our platform of policies and priorities and a clear vision for a prosperous Ontario.

If you have any further questions please feel free to reach out at any time.

Sincerely,

Doug Ford

Leader, Ontario PC Party

A Toronto Star News Report and New Editorial Together Show Why the Ford Government Must Now Announce a Comprehensive Plan to Substantially Improve the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

A Toronto Star News Report and New Editorial Together Show Why the Ford Government Must Now Announce a Comprehensive Plan to Substantially Improve the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

June 5, 2019

                    SUMMARY

On May 21, 2019, the Toronto Star published a report, set out below, that accounted a troubling employment barrier that a job-seeker with a disability has recently faced in Ontario. On May 27, 2019, the Toronto Star published a powerful follow-up editorial on this issue, also set out below.

This editorial was published during National Accessibility Abilities Week in Canada. This is the 15th time a media editorial has backed an issue on which we have been campaigning during the past 25 years of our non-partisan campaign for accessibility.

Here are four important comments on these two newspaper items.

  1. These reports describe an event in our province that, sadly, is not an isolated or unique incident. This incident is just one of many examples that show how far Ontario lags behind when it comes to meeting the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. In the workplace, people with disabilities continue to face disability barrier after barrier. The result is an unfairly high unemployment rate facing people with disabilities. We have often quoted former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, who said that the unemployment rate facing people with disabilities in Canada is not only a national crisis – It is a national shame.
  1. In the face of recurring situations like this, the current Ontario Government has no comprehensive plan of action to meet the goal of full accessibility by 2025. The Ford Government has now been in power for almost one year. It has promised to be a “government for the people”. Yet 1.9 million people with disabilities in Ontario don’t seem to be treated as a full and equal part of “the people”.

A readily-available plan of action is available to the Ford Government, if only it would put it into action. It is the plan of action set out in the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley submitted to the Government on January 31, 2019. That report largely incorporates recommendations that the AODA Alliance presented to the Onley Review.

There have now been 126 days since the Ford Government received the David Onley Report. Yet the Government has still announced no comprehensive plan to implement that report. This is so even though back on April 10, 2019, Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said in the legislature that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” and that Ontario isn’t 30% towards its goal of being accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires. Moreover, last December, the Ford Government said that it was waiting for the Onley Report before it decided how to proceed to address the disability accessibility issue.

  1. It is encouraging and very much appreciated that the media again came to the AODA Alliance to comment on the broader implications of stories such as these. Indeed, the May 21, 2019 Toronto Star article quoted and drew upon the May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update as follows:

“Accessibility advocate David Lepofsky praised Judge for trying to hold Holland Bloorview and the city to account, but said the problem ultimately lies with Queen’s Park and its lack of action on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

As noted in a government review of the legislation by former lieutenant-governor David Onley, people with disabilities face “soul-crushing” barriers in their daily lives, particularly when trying to access public and private buildings. And without a renewed commitment and immediate action, Ontario would not meet the law’s goal of making the province fully accessible for its 1.9 million residents with disabilities by 2025, he said.

Onley’s report, released in March, calls for stronger enforcement and repeated earlier calls for the province to develop new accessibility standards for both new construction and building retrofits, Lepofsky noted.

“The government has announced no plans to implement the report’s spectrum of recommendations, even though (Accessibility Minister) Raymond Cho said in the legislature that David Onley did a ‘marvellous job’ and that Ontario has only progressed 30 per cent towards its target of becoming fully accessible to people with disabilities,” Lepofsky said.

Although Ontario’s April budget earmarked $1.3 million over two years for the Rick Hansen Foundation to help finance a private accessibility certification process, Lepofsky said public money should be spent to fund Onley’s recommendations.

“The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford government has not yet agreed to take,” he said. “It did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.””

  1. It is also very encouraging to us and to all who support and take part in our ongoing grassroots accessibility campaign that the Toronto Star added its important voice to ours in its May 27, 2019 editorial, set out below. That editorial called for the Ford Government to take action on the Onley Report. It also echoed our disagreement with the Ontario Government’s spenting 1.3 million public dollars on the problematic strategy of a private accessibility certification process – in this case, the one being offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation. The editorial stated:

“Onley’s report was both a withering indictment of how far (or, rather, not far) we’ve come and a guide to help get Ontario on track.

He called attention to the still extensive barriers in the built environment – such as the corridor too narrow for an adult wheelchair that kept Judge from getting her dream job – and the need for better accessibility rules, which the province is far too slow in developing, let alone implementing.

He recommended tax breaks for those improving accessibility in public and private buildings, training for architects in inclusive design and dramatically boosting enforcement. In total, he made 15 recommendations in his report, which was released two months ago.

The Ford government, by way of Raymond Cho, the minister for seniors and accessibility, thanked Onley for a “marvellous job.” Then, seemingly, it shelved his report.

It has not acted with any urgency on his recommendations. Instead, in its April budget – a month after Onley’s report – the government opted to put $1.3 million into financing a private accessibility rating system.

For a building to be certified under the Rick Hansen Foundation’s accessibility program, its “public entrance and all its key functional spaces and amenities must be physically accessible for everyone.”

The province already knows well how poorly it’s doing on that front and how few buildings will meet the gold standard. The minister himself claims Ontario’s “accessibility is not done even 30 per cent.”

So, as worthy as the foundation’s certification program may be, a government that is earmarking so few resources for accessibility as this one would do better to spend them removing actual barriers than on handing out certificates and window decals to the good buildings.

Only then will the province be moving toward its promise to “ensure people with disabilities have the support and resources they need to live fulfilling and productive lives.”

Because right now, as Onley wrote, for “most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.””

We know we’ve been sending out more Updates than usual, in order to get you caught up on recent developments. Stay tuned for more news on this issue over the next days. And always feel free to send us your feedback. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

          MORE DETAILS

Toronto Star May 21, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/05/19/toronto-preschool-for-kids-with-disabilities-cant-accommodate-staff-who-use-wheelchairs.html

She lost out on a job working with disabled kids – because she uses a wheelchair

Laurie Monsebraaten

The Toronto Star May 21, 2019

As a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy, Ashleigh Judge has faced barriers all her life. But the Toronto early childhood educator didn’t expect to be turned down for a job in a preschool that serves children with disabilities because the building is inaccessible.

“It’s not the first time I have faced this problem,” said Judge, 33.

“But it’s the first time it was so blatant. It was really disappointing, especially coming from an agency that should be doing better.”

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital has been operating Play and Learn Nursery School in a city building on Eglinton Ave. W. for 33 years. Although the Forest Hill-area program is on the main floor, it does not have an accessible washroom and the classrooms are located off a hallway that is too narrow for an adult wheelchair.

Judge says she is happy to use the accessible washroom in the library next door, but wonders why the city’s leading agency serving children with disabilities has done so little to make the learning space more accessible.

Stewart Wong, a spokesperson for Holland Bloorview, says the hospital’s main campus near Bayview and Lawrence Aves. is fully accessible, as is a community-based preschool in Scarborough. But he acknowledges the Play and Learn site is not.

“We have spoken to the city about accessibility issues,” Wong said.

“We have worked really hard to be as inclusive as possible in everything that we do. But working in buildings that are decades old presents a challenge.”

The hospital has not considered moving Play and Learn, Wong said, but would “welcome a conversation to explore more accessible options.”

Judge called the office of area Councillor Mike Colle in early April with her concerns, but never heard back.

When the Star contacted Colle’s office last week, the councillor said he sympathizes with Judge.

“People with disabilities have enough problems without having difficulty getting jobs because buildings are inaccessible,” said Colle, who represents Ward 8 (Eglinton-Lawrence).

As part of a city audit of the building last year, the Play and Learn site has been targeted for an accessibility upgrade in early 2020, he said.

“I don’t know if Holland Bloorview knew that, but the city is on track to make those upgrades in January or February next year,” he said.

“I will certainly be keeping an eye on it and make sure our facilities manager also knows there is an interest here.”

Judge is pleased the city is planning to renovate the building, but is frustrated it has taken so long, noting she first raised the issue with Holland Bloorview in 2017 during its “Dear Everybody” accessibility awareness campaign, and that the province introduced accessibility legislation in 2005.

“This is the first I am hearing about it,” she said about the planned retrofit.

“And you’d think Holland Bloorview would have told me if they knew about it. It makes me wonder if the city is doing this just because (the Star) called.”

Judge has an honours BA in psychology from York University along with Seneca College certificates in rehabilitation services and life skills coaching.

In 2011, she obtained her early childhood education diploma from George Brown College and has just completed certification as an early childhood resource consultant to work with kids who have special needs.

Over the years, Judge has worked at March break and summer camps at Holland Bloorview and logged more than 500 volunteer hours at the hospital.

“I grew up in the system. I know what it’s like and I think I have a lot to offer,” she said.

“I also think I would be a good role model for the children – and their parents.”

Judge says she is well qualified and physically able to work in a preschool setting. She has worked part-time jobs with the city’s EarlyOn child and family centres since 2015. She has no trouble picking up small children and can change diapers using a lower change table.

“When I saw a chance to work at Holland Bloorview, I jumped at it,” she said of the two permanent part-time jobs that were posted at Play and Learn last December.

According to a memo from the preschool staff shared with the Star, Judge “gave an excellent interview” for the position, “has a lot to offer children and families at Holland Bloorview” and would be “well suited for a wide variety of roles working with both children and families.”

Judge says she told the preschool she could rearrange her school schedule to start when needed.

But staff told her the building’s inaccessible hallways were an insurmountable barrier to Judge’s employment there. Undeterred, Judge asked if the program could accommodate her in its accessible Scarborough location. And if there were no positions there, she asked if the hospital would commit to offering her the next position that became vacant that matched her skill set.

“I also told them I would be willing to help them advocate to renovate the Eglinton Ave. location,” Judge said.

Judge says her advocacy offer was ignored and that her request for placement in the next available position was met with a long email from human resources, telling her the hospital follows strict hiring protocols and procedures and that she would have to apply like everyone else.

“It was pretty frustrating. What happens when the kids they’re serving now get older and they want to come back and get a job with Holland Bloorview?” she said.

“Advocacy and accessibility and the need for inclusiveness don’t stop when you turn 18.”

The hospital doesn’t comment publicly on personnel matters, Wong said. But he said it has specialized staff teams that work with job applicants and current employees to make the workplace accessible.

The hospital is also committed to helping youth find meaningful employment as adults and offers a wide range of services, including volunteer opportunities, employment training programs and supported job placements, he said.

“We have lots of programming that opens up a world of inclusion for persons with disability.”

Accessibility advocate David Lepofsky praised Judge for trying to hold Holland Bloorview and the city to account, but said the problem ultimately lies with Queen’s Park and its lack of action on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

As noted in a government review of the legislation by former lieutenant-governor David Onley, people with disabilities face “soul-crushing” barriers in their daily lives, particularly when trying to access public and private buildings. And without a renewed commitment and immediate action, Ontario would not meet the law’s goal of making the province fully accessible for its 1.9 million residents with disabilities by 2025, he said.

Onley’s report, released in March, calls for stronger enforcement and repeated earlier calls for the province to develop new accessibility standards for both new construction and building retrofits, Lepofsky noted.

“The government has announced no plans to implement the report’s spectrum of recommendations, even though (Accessibility Minister) Raymond Cho said in the legislature that David Onley did a ‘marvellous job’ and that Ontario has only progressed 30 per cent towards its target of becoming fully accessible to people with disabilities,” Lepofsky said.

Although Ontario’s April budget earmarked $1.3 million over two years for the Rick Hansen Foundation to help finance a private accessibility certification process, Lepofsky said public money should be spent to fund Onley’s recommendations.

“The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford government has not yet agreed to take,” he said. “It did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.”

Toronto Star May 27, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/05/27/ontario-is-falling-short-on-breaking-down-barriers.html

Editorial

The barriers are still up

An early childhood educator who is uniquely qualified to work in a preschool for disabled children couldn’t get the job because the building isn’t fully accessible for wheelchairs.

Surely this is just what former Ontario lieutenant-governor David Onley meant when he wrote of the “soul-crushing” barriers that people with disabilities face in their daily lives.

Ashleigh Judge, a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy, has worked incredibly hard to make her way in a world that is clearly not designed for her, and

the Ontario government has failed her by not moving quickly enough or thoroughly enough to change that, as it is required by law to do.

Judge is not the only person who is unable to fully contribute to the workforce and broader community because of the barriers she encounters. She’s just one of the 1.9 million Ontarians with a disability.

But when a woman with a disability can’t get a job working with children with disabilities because a City of Toronto building isn’t up to the task, that really should be a wake-up call about how far Ontario is from meeting its legal obligation to create a barrier-free province.

In 2005, Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It requires the province to be fully accessible by 2025.

It was groundbreaking legislation when it was introduced; it even served as a blueprint for other jurisdictions.

But, as Onley said in his recent review of that legislation, “14 years later, and the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.”

To make matters worse, the province is now all but certain to miss its legislated deadline of 2025.

Onley’s report was both a withering indictment of how far (or, rather, not far) we’ve come and a guide to help get Ontario on track.

He called attention to the still extensive barriers in the built environment – such as the corridor too narrow for an adult wheelchair that kept Judge from getting her dream job – and the need for better accessibility rules, which the province is far too slow in developing, let alone implementing.

He recommended tax breaks for those improving accessibility in public and private buildings, training for architects in inclusive design and dramatically boosting enforcement. In total, he made 15 recommendations in his report, which was released two months ago.

The Ford government, by way of Raymond Cho, the minister for seniors and accessibility, thanked Onley for a “marvellous job.” Then, seemingly, it shelved his report.

It has not acted with any urgency on his recommendations. Instead, in its April budget – a month after Onley’s report – the government opted to put $1.3 million into financing a private accessibility rating system.

For a building to be certified under the Rick Hansen Foundation’s accessibility program, its “public entrance and all its key functional spaces and amenities must be physically accessible for everyone.”

The province already knows well how poorly it’s doing on that front and how few buildings will meet the gold standard. The minister himself claims Ontario’s

“accessibility is not done even 30 per cent.”

So, as worthy as the foundation’s certification program may be, a government that is earmarking so few resources for accessibility as this one would do better to spend them removing actual barriers than on handing out certificates and window decals to the good buildings.

Only then will the province be moving toward its promise to “ensure people with disabilities have the support and resources they need to live fulfilling and productive lives.”

Because right now, as Onley wrote, for “most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

That’s why Judge is not wheeling her way down the hallway to her dream job working with preschoolers.

CBC National News Reveals Appalling Incidents of Accessibility Failures in Air Travel in Canada – Yet More Proof that the Canadian Transportation Agency has been Ineffective at Ensuring Accessibility for Air Travel Passengers with Disabilities in Canada

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

CBC National News Reveals Appalling Incidents of Accessibility Failures in Air Travel in Canada – Yet More Proof that the Canadian Transportation Agency has been Ineffective at Ensuring Accessibility for Air Travel Passengers with Disabilities in Canada

June 4, 2019

          SUMMARY

On June 2 and 3, 2019, CBC TV and radio national news broke a story of two appalling failures to ensure proper accessibility for air travel passengers in Canada. These were two episodes at the Vancouver Airport where passengers using wheelchairs were left stranded in the airport for hours by airline ground assistance staff. CBC asked the AODA Alliance to comment on the incidents which CBC had uncovered.

These reports were included in the June 2, 2019 edition of CBC TV’s “The National” and CBC national radio’s “World Report” broadcast on June 3, 2019. We offer four important observations:

  1. These are not the only such incidents that air travellers have reported. As a result of this CBC report, on June 3, 2019, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to appear on the Fight Back program on Toronto’s Zoomer Radio station, hosted by Libby Znaimer. Two callers to the program said they had experienced somewhat similar incidents. The podcast of that program is available at https://www.zoomerradio.ca/show/fight-back-on-zoomer-radio/fight-back-on-zoomer-radio-podcast/treatment-vulnerable-passengers-airlines-june-03-2019/

These disability accommodations in air travel must be consistent and reliable. Even if such appalling incidents are the exception, passengers with disabilities should not be left to fear that they might be the victim of such treatment.

  1. This is a further illustration of the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA’s) poor long-term track-record of regulating airlines in the area of accessibility. It is because of the poor CTA track-record in this area that we and others in the disability community had urged the Federal Government to assign the regulation of air travel accessibility to the new Canada Accessibility Commissioner. Instead, and over our objection, Bill C-81, the new Accessible Canada Act, leaves the CTA as mainly in charge of regulating air travel accessibility.
  1. It is good that the CTA has decided to propose regulations to set some accessibility standards in the area of air travel. However, as our April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA shows, those proposed regulations are too weak. This story should be a wake-up call to the CTA to listen to us and strengthen those proposed regulations.
  1. It should not be left to individual victims of such inexcusable treatment to have to file complaints with the CTA. If the victim is just flying into Canada for a visit and then returning home, they likely would not incur the expense and inconvenience of returning to Canada just to litigate a complaint before the CTA. For meaningful reform, we need the CTA to do its own strong “secret shopper” monitoring of airlines to catch deficiencies in the efforts of airlines or airports.
  1. The troubling incidents of accessibility failures about which CBC reported took place at the Vancouver International Airport. We note that on December 5, 2018, the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process announced that it gave the Vancouver International Airport a gold rating for accessibility. This is the Rick Hansen Foundation’s highest accessibility rating.

This illustrates some of the serious problems with such a private accessibility certification process. We have previously raised our serious concerns with the whole idea of a private accessibility certification process.

We recognize that such a private accessibility certification process may only examine a building, and not the services provided in that building. That is part of the problem. Those hearing that an airport got a “gold” certification can well be expected not to draw fine distinctions between the accessibility of an airport building on the one hand, and the accessibility of the services provided in that airport on the other.

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

          MORE DETAILS

CBC TV The National June 2, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/seniors-abandoned-by-airlines-in-wheelchairs-1.5154364

Edmonton GO PUBLIC

‘Appalling treatment’: Couple in wheelchairs left alone for almost 12 hours at Vancouver airport

Airlines are shirking responsibility to accommodate disabled passengers, advocate says

Rosa Marchitelli CBC News · Posted: Jun 02, 2019 6:00 PM MT | Last Updated: 5 hours ago

Narayan Karki, left, and her husband, Chhaya, right, missed their flight from Vancouver to Edmonton after being left in their wheelchairs without assistance for hours at the airport. They were travelling from Nepal to visit their son, Mohan, shown at centre. (Rosa Marchitelli/CBC)

The son of an elderly couple says he wants two major airlines to stop blaming each other and take responsibility for abandoning his parents in their wheelchairs for half a day, with no help to access food, water or a washroom.

Mohan Karki’s parents, who don’t speak English and require assistance to travel, were found almost 12 hours after being dropped off at a service counter at the Vancouver airport — just not by the airlines responsible for assisting them during their trip, WestJet and Cathay Pacific.

“We were thinking they were somewhere in the corner of the airport … not knowing where to go,” said Karki. “My parents told me, ‘We never left this place’ … 12 hours they were there. They tried to communicate with some other people, passersby, and nobody responded to them. Maybe they couldn’t understand what they were saying.”

On Feb. 23, Chhaya and Narayan Karki, aged 66 and 69, were on the final leg of a trip from their home in Kathmandu, Nepal, to visit their son and his family in Edmonton, with a stopover in Vancouver.

Mohan Karki said Cathay Pacific told him it delivered his parents to the WestJet customer service counter at the airport, and WestJet was to transport the pair to the gate for their final flight to Edmonton.

The Karkis sat just steps from the WestJet service counter at the Vancouver airport for almost 12 hours, until the RCMP found them.  (Rosa Marchitelli/CBC)

When his parents failed to arrive, a worried Karki spent hours on the phone trying to track them down. They didn’t have a cellphone. “For about six or seven hours, I kept on calling both airlines, but they never found my parents,” he said.

Karki then called the RCMP. It took officers 20 minutes to find the couple, located just steps from the service counter.

The couple had placards with Karki’s name and phone number, in case of an emergency. No one responded when they tried to get help by holding them up, he said.

According to an Ontario-based advocate for people with disabilities, services for those who need assistance travelling are “unreliable and inconsistent” because airlines are allowed to set their own rules — instead of being told to meet specific standards.

“It is appalling treatment … the regulator should make it clear that [airlines] can’t pass the buck to each other,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Left at the wrong gate for 8 hours

Thanh Phan shares that frustration; the same thing happened to his 76-year-old mother at the same airport.

In August, Niem Thi Le, who has trouble walking and doesn’t speak English, was left in a wheelchair for eight hours after being dropped off at the wrong departure gate by WestJet.

Le was on her way home to Hanoi, Vietnam, after visiting family in Victoria. WestJet was supposed to connect her with China Southern Airlines for her next flight.

“My mom told me that the wheelchair attendant just left her there without talking to anyone.… I was shocked … this is a human being,” Phan said.

Niem Thi Le, 76, was on her way back to Vietnam after visiting her family in Victoria. She missed her flight after being left at the wrong gate at the Vancouver airport.  (Submitted by Thanh Phan)

An employee with another airline eventually noticed Le sitting alone, found someone who could speak Vietnamese and brought the woman to the China Southern Airlines counter.

That airline contacted Phan and suggested he call WestJet to find out what happened. He did, asking if someone could help his mother until he could get there himself.

“I said, ‘Could you please help her give her some food and drinks.’… They said, no, they didn’t do anything wrong and that’s not their business,” Phan said.

He called China Southern Airlines back and it agreed to help, bringing Le a hamburger and a

drink.

‘They did not think it’s a serious problem’

Phan complained to customer service and WestJet apologized, saying it would review its internal process. But he said the airline never got back to him to explain what happened.

WestJet also told him travellers who don’t speak English shouldn’t be travelling alone, he said, though they offered him a $100 travel voucher.

“It’s very frustrating because they blame passengers, and they did not think that is a serious problem.”

Phan said he was ‘shocked’ to receive a phone call from South China Airlines, telling him his mother had missed her flight and he needed to come pick her up.  (Mike McArthur/CBC)

WestJet ‘reaching out to the families involved’

Both Phan and Karki are still demanding an explanation from the airlines involved in their respective cases.

“We sincerely apologize for the stress and worry that these guests and their families experienced,” WestJet’s media relations manager Lauren Stewart wrote in an email to Go Public.

“The nature of these incidents is serious, and we are in touch with both airline partners involved to investigate and make enhancements to our processes to prevent this type of incident from happening again. We are also reaching out to the families involved.”

Karki says Cathay Pacific told him it took his parents to the WestJet counter, but the couple never made it on their next flight. They spent almost 12 hours sitting in wheelchairs at the airport.  (CBC)

The airline says it provides mobility assistance to more than 900 guests per day.

Cathay Pacific told Go Public it was sorry to hear what happened to the Karkis, adding it followed “standard operating procedure” when it delivered the couple to WestJet staff and exchanged wheelchairs.

“The proper turnover to WestJet was made by our staff. Additionally, we are in the process of reviewing this situation with WestJet and we will apply learnings from this experience to future transitions between our airlines,” wrote Julie Jarratt, the airline’s communications director.

‘I dread entering Canadian airspace’

Lepofsky, who is blind, said he’s had his own problems travelling. “I dread entering Canadian airspace if I’m travelling alone … not because the service is always bad, but because it’s not reliably and consistently good.”

Airlines have a duty to accommodate passengers with disabilities under Canada’s human rights laws, he said. But when that doesn’t happen, it’s tough to figure out where to turn for help.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says services for those with disabilities are ‘unreliable and inconsistent’ when it comes to air travel in Canada.  (Gary Morton/CBC)

“There are multiple agencies involved,” Lepofsky said. “The Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Transportation Agency — and you could be kicked from one to the other, trying to figure out where you’re supposed to go.

“The Canadian Transportation Agency, where you’re often kicked to, does not, from the perspective of people with disabilities, have a good track record in this area.”

Proposed rules require airlines to take responsibility

The CTA says it’s aware some of the standards are out of date and a binding set of rules is needed. Until now, accessible transportation has been governed by mostly voluntary codes of practice.

The agency has proposed new accessible transportation regulations for airlines and all travel providers. The new rules would be legally binding and impose penalties up to $25,000 for non-compliance. And if another proposed law passes, the Accessible Canada Act, that fine could jump to a maximum of $250,000.

“They need to make sure that passengers don’t fall between the cracks,” said Scott Streiner, chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

CTA chair and CEO Scott Streiner says his agency has proposed legally binding regulation for accessible transportation.  (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

Under the CTA’s proposed rules, airlines would have to provide people who need assistance a place to wait, near personnel who can assist them and will “periodically inquire” about the person’s needs.

Airports would be responsible for providing assistance from curbside to check-in, while the airlines would be responsible from check-in to boarding.

Streiner said the proposed recommendations would have helped in both cases. The agency plans to have the final regulations published before summer and hopes to have the majority of requirements in place in about a year.

“Persons who require wheelchair assistance, including older Canadians, absolutely are covered by these regulations,” Streiner said. “We want to make sure that there’s no confusion about who’s providing assistance and that people aren’t left without assistance.”

As for Karki, he said that the next time his parents visit, he won’t leave them in the hands of the airlines. Instead, he’ll try to match their itinerary with other Nepali-speaking travellers.

After hearing from Go Public, WestJet called Karki last week, promising an explanation once it looks into what went wrong.

Phan said WestJet has yet to follow up with him, adding that his mother is now afraid to travel and will no longer come visit.

Submit your story ideas

Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories you want to make public.

Submit your story ideas at GoPublic@cbc.ca.

Canada’s Parliament Has Now Passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act -Here Are Seven Preliminary Reflections

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Canada’s Parliament Has Now Passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act –Here Are Seven Preliminary Reflections

June 3, 2019

          SUMMARY

We are right back in action, after being off-line during a short but eventful time in the campaign for accessibility in Canada and Ontario. Get ready for a number of updates to bring you up to speed!

In the most important development last week, right in the middle of National Accessibility Week, the House of Commons passed all the amendments to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate earlier made to the bill. Therefore, Bill C-81 has completed its current journey through Canada’s Parliament.

The Accessible Canada Act does not go into effect until the Federal Government gives the bill “Royal Assent.” We understand that this step may well take place in the next few weeks.

We thank everyone who helped in our shared efforts to get this bill improved. We thank those disability organizations and groups who worked with us on this shared goal. We thank all the AODA Alliance supporters and volunteers who contributed to our efforts. We appreciate every tweet or email sent to add pressure in favour of a stronger bill. As well the feedback we regularly received from our supporters have helped improve our message and our strategies.

We also thank all the MPs and Senators and their staff who helped press for a stronger bill, and all the federal public servants who did the same. Some of their efforts were undertaken behind the scenes, and without an opportunity for public acknowledgement and thanks.

Below we offer seven reflections on this achievement. In summary:

  1. Final passage of the amended Bill C-81 is a helpful step forward for people with disabilities in Canada.
  1. We got some of the ingredients in the bill that we were seeking.
  1. We found creative ways to constructively contribute to advocacy efforts on this legislation where there are so many disability organizations and groups spread over such a big country.
  1. While helpful, Bill C-81 still falls well short of what people with disabilities need.
  1. We’re ready for the next round in this non-partisan campaign.
  1. Our advocacy principles served us well.
  1. The media too often failed to cover this important issue – a disservice to all Canadians.

As well, for those who want more detail on all of the above, below we provide this further background information:

* A May 30, 2019 report by CTV on line, written by Michelle McQuigge of the Canadian Press, on the final passage of Bill C-81.

* The May 24, 2019 Globe and Mail article, also by CP’s Michelle McQuigge, on the Federal Government’s announcement that it would agree to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

* The May 22, 2019 Globe and Mail article reporting on efforts to get the Federal Government to finally pass Bill C-81. This article includes some of the inaccurate statements that overstates what Bill C-81 requires.

* The May 30, 2019 news release by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, on the passage of Bill C-81, which provides a good response to the bill’s final passage with which we agree.

* The final version of this spring’s second open letter to the House of Commons, calling for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81 to be ratified. Fully 84 disability organizations and groups signed this open letter, listed below.

          MORE DETAILS

Our Top Seven Preliminary Reflections on the Enactment of the Accessible Canada Act

Here are our top seven preliminary reflections we offer about this news:

1. Final Passage of the Amended Bill C-81 is a Helpful Step Forward

It is a helpful step forward that Parliament has passed the Accessible Canada Act, replete with all the amendments to it that the Senate made last month. As amended, this law gives us and all people with disabilities in Canada added tools we can try to use in an effort to tear down the many barriers that persist across this country. We plan to be active in pressing the Federal Government to ensure the achievement of the law’s goal of a barrier-free Canada without delay, and in any event, no later than 2040.

2. We Got Some of the Ingredients in the Bill that We Were Seeking

The Act includes features for which we and others pressed over the past four years. These include a fixed deadline to achieve an accessible Canada, a complaints-based enforcement process, a national body to recommend accessibility standards to be enacted, and reductions in the improper power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to enact regulations that can cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities.

Working with others in the disability community, we saw improvements to the law at each stage of the process. We saw improvements when the law was being initially designed, when it first came before the House of Commons for debate in the fall of 2018, and after that, when it came before the Senate this spring. This included some improvements to which the Federal Government had been opposed throughout the process.

3. We Found Ways to Constructively Contribute in a Country with so Many Disability Organizations and Groups

We found constructive and creative ways to work within Canada’s disability community throughout this four-year process. From coast to coast, Canada has a large and diverse landscape of disability organizations and groups. The AODA Alliance is but one of them. We certainly were not the leader of the effort, and at no time purported to be such. There was no one “leader” in this effort.

Moreover, in a country as big as Canada, there is no way to bring all of these disability organizations and groups together at one time and in one place to operate as one unanimous voice. With over five million people with disabilities, there are bound to be differences of opinion and approach.

Our goal was to try to offer influential ideas for the content of Bill C-81 and effective strategies for achieving as strong a bill as possible. We wanted to offer ideas around which as many people with disabilities and disability organizations could rally, based on the strength of those ideas.

We found it very constructive to collaborate with a good number of disability organizations and groups. Among other things, this included a close and ongoing collaboration with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the ARCH Disability Law Centre.

Among our contributions and efforts in this process were the following:

* We took part in behind-the-scenes efforts to get 2016 election commitments to pass national accessibility legislation from the federal Liberals and New Democratic Party. We also mounted a major social media campaign to press candidates across Canada to support the enactment of strong national accessibility legislation.

* In 2016, we made public a detailed Discussion Paper on what the national accessibility legislation should include. We refined it after receiving public input on it. We can trace some key features in Bill C-81 to ideas set out in this Discussion Paper. The Discussion Paper built on experience with provincial accessibility legislation.

* In August 2017, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky designed and moderated a 3-hour captioned online policy experts conference on what the promised national accessibility legislation should include. Federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough and her deputy minister attended and took active part in this event. It remains archived online for any Canadian province or other government around the world to learn from our ideas. This was conducted under the auspices of a coalition that formed for purposes of the Federal Government’s consultation on this bill, the Alliance for an Accessible and Inclusive Canada.

* We took part in behind-the-scenes briefings of several successive ministers that had responsibility for this file, several MPs from the various federal parties, and senior public servants involved with this issue.

* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky delivered a lecture on what the promised national accessibility legislation should include at the Osgoode Hall Law School where he is a part-time faculty member. This captioned lecture has remained available online, to assist others advocating in this area.

* Before Bill C-81 was introduced into Parliament in June 2018, we made public a beginner’s guide to how a law goes through parliament. This was written to help everyone involved in this campaign learn the processes for passing a federal law.

* We submitted a very detailed brief to the House of Commons in Fall 2017. It analyzed Bill C-81 in detail and sought 96 amendments. We also made an oral presentation to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee that held public hearings on the bill last fall.

* We joined together with ARCH Disability Law Centre and CCD to collectively spearhead an open letter to the House of Commons at the conclusion of its public hearings. Over 90 disability organizations and groups signed it. It listed key amendments needed to make this legislation strong and effective.

* After the House of Commons passed the bill with some but not all of the amendments we and others had sought, we worked together with other disability organizations to advocate at the Senate for further amendments to the bill. Again, our efforts were coordinated with other like-minded organizations, with a special effort together with ARCH and CCD.

* This spring, we submitted a brief to the Senate as well as the text of a short list of amendments that we proposed. We were also one of the disability organizations that made an oral presentation at the Senate’s Standing Committee hearings in April and May of this year. Here again, the Senate made some but not all of the amendments that we and others sought.

* At the Senate, as at the House of Commons, we were also very busy with extensive behind-the-scenes advocacy efforts with several Senators and their staff. We were delighted at how many were open to consult with us right up to the last minute.

* Over the final three weeks, we and others mounted a concerted and successful campaign to get the House of Commons to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. This ratification was far from a certainty when we began that effort. This included our Twitter blitz to as many MPs as possible.

Again, we joined with ARCH and CCD to create another open letter to the House of Commons. This one called for the House to approve all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. Set out below, fully 84 disability organizations and groups signed it.

* We kept our supporters and the broader public aware of each major step in this four-year campaign via our AODA Alliance updates and our tweets. This entire saga is reported at www.aodaalliance.org/canadaHere

* We attempted to use the conventional media, as well as social media, to spread the word on this campaign and get more public support for our cause. We issued news releases at several major steps along the way. Most recently, the April 30, 2019 online Toronto Star included our guest column on this campaign.

* Throughout this process, several members of the House of Commons and the Senate made supportive and flattering references to our presentations and recommendations and advocated for their adoption. We, like ARCH and CCD, were often the sources quoted when a member of the House or Senate was pointing out deficiencies with the bill and the needed improvements. Several other disability organizations pointed to and relied on the detailed analysis of the bill and the detailed recommendations for amendments that we and/or ARCH presented. We worked very closely with ARCH to coordinate our respective analysis and proposals.

4. While Helpful, Bill C-81 Still Falls Well Short of What People with Disabilities Need

While the final version of Bill C-81 is helpful and a step forward, it still suffers from serious deficiencies. For example:

* It gives the Federal Government helpful powers to promote accessibility, but largely does not require that these ever be used. For example, it lets the Federal Government create helpful and enforceable national accessibility standards but does not require the Federal Government to ever do so.

* It provides for helpful enforcement tools but splinters its enforcement across four federal agencies, which is a real disadvantage to people with disabilities.

* It continues to allow federal public money to be used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.

* It lets the Federal Government grant sweeping exemptions from some of the bill’s requirements to regulated organizations, including the Federal Government itself.

* It is excessively complicated and hard to read. This threatens to make it less effective and harder to implement.

In the excitement over the passage of a new law called “the Accessible Canada Act,” it is important not to overstate what this law actually does. As we noted in our April 30, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, Rick Hansen incorrectly stated in a guest column in the April 22, 2019 Globe and Mail that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “…will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.”

We regret that the Globe never ran our letter to the editor correcting this inaccuracy, and that, to our knowledge, Mr. Hansen did not himself correct it. We had asked him to do so.

Similarly, a May 22, 2019 Globe and Mail article, set out below, included these two inaccuracies about Bill C-81:

* “If the amendments recently added by the Senate are accepted, the bill would ensure federal agencies proactively fix their buildings to allow disabled people to move freely as well as design their programs in ways that can be delivered to all Canadians.”

* “Bill C-81 would force more accessible workplaces on agencies such as the RCMP, as well as federally run services that cross provincial lines such as banking and long-range bus transportation.”

We wish Bill C-81 did what the Globe reported in that article and what Rick Hansen wrote in the April 22, 2019 Globe. We regret that it does not require these measures. It only permits them.

5. We’re Ready for the Next Round in This Non-Partisan Campaign

Our volunteer advocacy work is not finished. Over the next weeks and months, we will launch a non-partisan campaign to get the federal political parties to make strong commitments during the upcoming 2019 federal election campaign. We will ask them to make detailed commitments to effectively implement this law, and to strengthen it with further amendments that the Federal Government did not agree to over the past year. Stay tuned for more on this.

6. Our Advocacy Principles Served Us Well

Throughout this process we adhered to important principles:

* We never give up. We took every opportunity up to the last to get this bill strengthened. We did not simply settle for what we considered a weak bill, and we did not give up the chance to get more amendments.

* We maintained complete independence from the Federal Government by not applying for any grant money from the Government at any time. We also will seek no federal grant money in the future.

* We offered our best ideas to the Government and the disability community, focusing on amendments that are substantive and as impactful as possible for all people with disabilities.

7. The Media too Often Failed to Cover this Important Issue – A Disservice to All Canadians

It remains deeply troubling that throughout the past four years, the campaign for this legislation secured very little media coverage. It deserved much more coverage, both during the 2015 federal election campaign, during the Federal Government’s 18-month public consultation leading to the bill, and during the bill’s two trips through the House of Commons and one trip through the Senate. It is commendable that despite this, a few reporters tried to cover this issue. You can find most of these reports at www.aodaalliance.org/canada

This is a newsworthy subject. This bill directly affects the needs of over five million people with disabilities in Canada. It ultimately addresses the needs of all in Canada, since everyone is bound to get a disability as they age.

The media should reflect on this. It is profoundly regrettable that the media’s preoccupation with certain scandals and perceived headline-grabbing issues has left far too many Canadians unaware that there even was a Bill C-81 or a campaign to get it strengthened.

CTV News Online May 30, 2019

First national accessibility legislation gets unanimous support in House

Originally posted at https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/first-national-accessibility-legislation-gets-unanimous-support-in-house-1.4444877?cache=yes%3FclipId%3D375756%3FautoPlay%3Dtrue%3Fot%3DAjaxLayout%3FautoPlay%3Dtrue%3FclipId%3D89619

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Service and Procurement and Accessibility stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Disabled Canadians declared a partial victory Thursday hours after the government voted to enact Canada’s first national accessibility law, calling it a major step forward while cautioning that more work was still needed to ensure it achieves its goal.

The Accessible Canada Act, which aims to improve life for those with disabilities, received unanimous support in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening. It awaits only royal assent, expected in the coming weeks, before officially becoming law.

Advocates who fought for amendments to strengthen the legislation praised the governing Liberals for delivering on a promise to implement the bill and bring Canada more in line with other countries that have had such laws for years. But they also cautioned against complacency, saying more work lay ahead.

“We applaud the government for its willingness to listen to Canadians with disabilities,” Council of Canadians with Disabilities chair Jewelles Smith said in a statement.

“CCD reminds the government that there are many serious ongoing barriers that will not be addressed by this act, and encourages the federal government to pursue policy solutions to these well-known concerns.”

Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough, who spearheaded national consultations on the bill and shepherded it through Parliament, hailed its passage as a significant moment.

“This is the most transformative piece of legislation since enacting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a true testament to the work, commitment and contributions of the Canadian disability community,” she said in a statement. “This historic act sends a clear signal to Canadians that persons with disabilities will no longer be treated as an afterthought.”

The act passed by Parliament bears striking differences from the version initially tabled last June.

Its stated purpose — to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction — was greeted with enthusiasm and remains the same. Those areas include built environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

But disabled advocates almost immediately began raising concerns about the effectiveness of the legislation and lobbied for changes.

Last fall, a group of 95 disability groups signed an open letter outlining nine areas of perceived weakness, including the lack of a timeline for the bill’s implementation and failure to recognize various forms of sign language as official languages of the deaf.

The Senate’s committee on social affairs, science and technology, citing community concerns, amended the bill to include sign language recognition as well as a timeline for the bill to be fully implemented by 2040.

Those amendments were reflected in the bill that garnered parliamentary approval.

Activists celebrated the passage of the act as genuine progress, but some continued to voice concerns about areas where they feel it still falls short.

The Arch Disability Law Centre indicated Thursday that it was particularly troubled by the language employed throughout the bill, which repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” or “must” when describing initiatives.

This language gives government … power to make and enforce the new accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers,” Arch said in a statement.

An amendment before the Senate committee addressed that concern but was defeated.

Advocates also criticized the bill for granting the government broad powers to exempt people from the new rules, spreading enforcement over numerous agencies, and opting not to withhold federal funding from organizations that don’t comply with accessibility measures. Conservatives and New Democrats echoed those issues in Parliament.

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouver-based wheelchair user, said the government’s failure to address those areas leaves the law lacking compared to similar legislation in other countries. She said she questions whether the law will prove significant for all its meant to serve.

“I and many like me will be at home with my broken wheelchair in my tiny box of an improperly adapted apartment living in poverty in a city with 8,000 corners where I can’t cross the street,” she said.

“Nothing in the act will change that. But I am glad Canada finally has an Accessible Canada Act, however lacking I find it, and I want to recognize the work of those who actually worked on and for it.”

The Globe and Mail May 24, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-federal-government-will-implement-senate-proposals-to-strengthen/

Accessibility bill will be amended to address concerns: minister

By MICHELLE MCQUIGGE

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government will heed the calls of Canada’s disabled community and amend the country’s first piece of national accessibility legislation to

include some of the changes they sought, the minister spearheading the effort said Thursday.

Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said the government will be adopting all the amendments the Senate introduced to Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible

Canada Act, when it comes back before the House next week.

Earlier this month, the upper chamber’s committee on social affairs, science and technology amended the proposed act to include a handful of measures disability

advocacy organizations across the country said were necessary to make the bill more effective.

Ms. Qualtrough conceded that the government had initially resisted some of their most pressing calls, such as the demand to include a timeline that would

require the bill to be fully implemented by 2040.

But Ms. Qualtrough said the legislation, which was drafted after cross-country consultations with disabled individuals and advocacy groups, needed to reflect

the will of the people it’s meant to serve.

“It’s just paying tribute to all the work and all the people that have been here in the past 40, 50 years really insisting that disability rights are human

rights,” Ms. Qualtrough said in a telephone interview.

Activists had been crusading for Canadian accessibility legislation for decades and watched as other countries, including the United States, got laws on

their books.

The Liberals began making good on an election promise to deliver a Canadian version when they tabled the Accessible Canada Act last June, pledging $290-million

over six years toward its implementation.

The act’s stated purpose is to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. This includes built

environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

Barrier, as defined by the act, includes anything “architectural, physical, technological or attitudinal” that “hinders the full participation in society

of a person with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication or sensory impairment.”

Disabled Canadians reacted with wary optimism when the draft act was first tabled, but soon began voicing concerns that it was too weak to make a difference

in their lives.

Last year, an open letter signed by 95 organizations, including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March

of Dimes Canada, raised a number of measures they said the act must include to be effective.

Chief among their concerns was the bill’s unwillingness to include a timeline for implementation, as well as its failure to name various forms of sign

language as official languages of deaf Canadians.

The Senate’s social-affairs committee, citing community concerns, amended the bill to address those issues. Ms. Qualtrough said their proposed amendments

will now be incorporated into the bill, which will come before Parliament for final debate next week and could be officially passed into law by the end

of June.

The government, Ms. Qualtrough said, has already begun work to appoint the people who will be tasked with implementing and enforcing the bill.

A chief accessibility officer will oversee the implementation of the legislation across all sectors, while a new Accessibility Commissioner will be responsible

for compliance. A new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, comprised largely of people with a broad spectrum of disabilities, will

also be put in place.

“Canadians deserve this,” Ms. Qualtrough said.

Activists celebrated the inclusion of the Senate’s amendments, saying they help to strengthen the bill in some key areas.

“This is an important victory,” accessibility activist David Lepofsky said in a statement. “While the Senate’s amendments don’t fix all the deficiencies

with Bill C-81 … they are an important and helpful step forward.”

Many community members said they remain concerned about other areas the Senate did not address when making revisions to the act.

The open letter criticized the bill for granting the government broad powers to exempt people from the new rules, spreading enforcement over numerous agencies,

and opting not to withhold federal funding from organizations that don’t comply with accessibility measures.

Advocates also raised concerns about the way the bill was written. The bill repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” or “must” when describing initiatives,

meaning the government is empowered to take actions but never required to follow through on them, they argued.

The Globe and Mail May 22, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-push-is-on-to-pass-canadian-accessibility-law/

Activists urge Ottawa to pass accessibility law before summer

By MIKE HAGER

Globe and Mail, May 22, 2019

VANCOUVER – Disabled Canadians and their supporters are pushing Ottawa to pass a bill enshrining their right to more accessible and inclusive federal workplaces before the next election, legislation they say could help improve the lives of those with physical and mental disabilities.

Bill Adair, a spokesperson for a group of 96 organizations, said more than a thousand people and non-profit groups have recently sent letters to every MP in a blitz aimed at getting Bill C-81, known as the Accessible Canada Act, passed by Parliament and written into law before the summer break begins next month.

“We worked hard at bringing this into effect over the past three years and it is time for our country to take this step forward and throw the doors wide open for participation,” said Mr. Adair, who is also executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada.

Mr. Adair said his umbrella group believes the bill, which would “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in agencies and programs that fall under federal jurisdiction, could help level the considerable unemployment gap for disabled people, roughly 60 per cent of whom are employed, compared with 80 per cent for the general population.

If the amendments recently added by the Senate are accepted, the bill would ensure federal agencies proactively fix their buildings to allow disabled people to move freely as well as design their programs in ways that can be delivered to all Canadians.

As well, the bill would recognize various forms of sign language – including Indigenous sign languages – and include them among government services.

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, said passing the amended bill remains a priority for her government.

“I expect the debate in the House of Commons to take place next week coinciding with National AccessAbility Week – a timely opportunity to highlight the work our government is doing to create a more accessible and inclusive Canada for all,” her statement Tuesday said.

Bill C-81 would force more accessible workplaces on agencies such as the RCMP, as well as federally run services that cross provincial lines such as banking and long-range bus transportation.

The government has pledged $290-million over six years toward implementing the act, which will see Ottawa appoint an accessibility commissioner and create an organization to develop accessibility standards for the industries covered by the law.

Rick Hansen, a former Paralympian whose eponymous foundation is part of the push to pass the bill, said it would be a huge disappointment if the act didn’t pass before the federal election. “Canada can’t afford to let down the one in five Canadians with disabilities,” Mr. Hansen said.

In the absence of national accessibility standards, his organization is launching an awareness campaign called Everyone Everywhere to identify common barriers disabled people face. These include: a lack of visual fire alarms; no push button doors at a building’s main entrance; steep curbs, narrow parking spaces, circular doorknobs; signage without Braille or raised lettering; ramps that are too steep or not wide enough and a lack of grab bars in bathrooms.

Mr. Hansen said a pilot project completed over two years rated about 1,100 buildings across B.C.

for their accessibility and found just more than a third didn’t meet the minimum standard.

Mr. Hansen’s organization also commissioned a Conference Board of Canada report last year that suggested the estimated 2.9 million Canadians with physical disabilities would be able to contribute $16.8-billion more to the gross domestic product by 2030 if they faced fewer barriers to participating in the workforce. Earlier this year, an independent review found deficiencies to nearly all aspects of Ontario’s 14-yearold accessibility law, including that too many buildings are still designed in ways that make it impossible for some disabled people to enter.

Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouverbased writer who led a campaign that created a matted trail for wheelchair users to access one of the city’s most popular beaches last summer, said Bill C-81 needs to give Ottawa the teeth to limit the funding of any agencies not making the effort to improve life for disabled Canadians. Ms. Peters, who uses a wheelchair, said she is genuinely uncertain how the legislation would affect her own life and the lives of other disabled people if it passes.

Text of the ARCH Disability Law Centre May 30, 2109 News Release

Originally posted at https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/press-release-arch-disability-law-centre-welcomes-the-passage-of-the-accessible-canada-act/

Press Release – ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the passage of the Accessible Canada Act

ARCH Disability Law Centre welcomes the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, an important moment in Canada’s disability rights movement continuing towards our goal of full inclusion and equality for persons with disabilities across Canada.

The Accessible Canada Act is federal accessibility legislation. Its stated purpose is to achieve a barrier free Canada by 2040. To do this, the Act gives powers to the Government of Canada, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications commission to create new legal requirements for advancing accessibility in federal employment, the built environment, transportation, procurement of goods, services and facilities, information and communication technologies, communication, and the design and delivery of programs and services. These new legal requirements will be aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers, which the Act defines as anything that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or functional limitation.

Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act was first introduced in the House of Commons in June 2018. As the Bill wound its way through the legislative process, a number of important changes were made to it. In particular, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) made several amendments which strengthened the Bill. For example, SOCI included in the Bill a timeline of 2040 for achieving a barrier free Canada; added multiple and intersectional discrimination as a principle which must be considered when laws, policies, services and programs are developed; clarified that nothing in the Bill or its regulations limits the existing legal obligation to accommodate persons with disabilities; and recognized sign languages as the primary languages for communication by Deaf persons in Canada.

SOCI adopted these amendments after receiving recommendations from disability organizations across Canada. “ARCH thanks Senators for listening to the concerns of disability communities and taking action to address them. The amendments made by the Senate strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We commend Minister Qualtrough and the Government for voting to pass Bill C-81 with all the amendments made by the Senate” said Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director of ARCH.

Throughout Bill C-81’s journey, disability communities across Canada were actively involved in advocating for the Bill to be as strong as possible. ARCH worked closely with Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), AODA Alliance and over 90 national, provincial and local disability groups. To support disability communities with their advocacy, ARCH wrote an extensive legal analysis of Bill C-81, provided updates on the Bill’s progress in our quarterly newsletter, gave presentations on the legislation, and produced a series of Briefing Notes explaining key amendments sought. ARCH also worked with CCD and AODA Alliance to coordinate 2 Open Letter campaigns. “Advocating to strengthen Bill C-81 has provided opportunities for disability communities to work together. It has been a privilege to work closely with so many dedicated advocates. The Accessible Canada Act is stronger because of their tireless work” said Kerri Joffe, ARCH Staff Lawyer.

Despite the helpful amendments that were made to the legislation, a number of concerns raised by ARCH and other disability groups remain. One such weakness is the use of permissive language “may” rather than directive language “shall” or “must” in the Accessible Canada Act. This language gives government, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the CRTC and other bodies power to make and enforce the new accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers.

The Accessible Canada Act has been passed by the House of Commons, but there is still one more step before it becomes law – the Act must receive Royal Asset. ARCH urges the Government to ensure that the Act receives Royal Assent before the next federal election is called.

For more details contact:

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director

416-482-8255 x. 2233

Kerri Joffe, Staff Lawyer

416-482-8255 x. 2222

Open Letter to the House of Commons Updated

Open Letter on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81- Accessible Canada Act

[Le français suit]

To: All Members of Parliament

Date: May 14, 2019

The undersigned national, provincial and local disability groups ask all Members of Parliament to commit to swiftly pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) passed on May 2, 2019.

We commend the Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough for championing this Bill and her openness to considering amendments to it, as she expressed to the Senate Standing Committee.

The Senate Standing Committee heard from a spectrum of disability organizations and advocates who supported the need for national accessibility legislation and who recommended areas where the bill could be improved to achieve its goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for people with disabilities. SOCI chair Senator Chantal Petitclerc concluded the committee’s debates by stating that the committee’s amendments reflect the maxim of disability communities: “Nothing about us without us.

While they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, the Senate’s amendments improve Bill C-81. The amendments include: setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible; ensuring that this time line does not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible; recognizing American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages as the primary languages for communication used by Deaf people; making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered; ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it cannot cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act; ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency cannot reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the Agency handles complaints about barriers in transportation; and fixing problems the Federal Government identified between the bill’s employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.

It is expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by May 16, 2019. The bill then returns to the House of Commons, for a vote on the Senate’s amendments. It is critical that the House pass all of the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81, to ensure that this important bill swiftly becomes law.

We ask the House of Commons to schedule a vote on the bill as soon as possible. We ask all MPs to vote to pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

If the House of Commons does anything less, it will weaken the bill, and risk the possibility that the bill will not finish its journey through Parliament before the fall election.

Signed:

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

PONDA

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs

Keremeos Measuring Up Team

National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada

The Project Group Consulting Cooperative

VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

DeafBlind Ontario Services

March of Dimes Canada

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Québec Accessible

CNIB

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation

Access 2 Accessibility

BALANCE for Blind Adults

Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)

Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC)

Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)

Community Living Ontario

Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)

Hydrocephalus Canada

L’Arche Canada

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

NWT Disability Council

Realize

Tetra Society of North America – Ontario Division

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Vibrant Healthcare Alliance

Vie Autonome Montréal

Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec

Association multiethnique pour l’intégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH)

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

Canadian Association for Community Living

Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance

Canadian Epilepsy Alliance

Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)

Deaf Literacy Initiative

Guide Dog Users of Canada

Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)

Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Muscular Dystrophy Canada

National Network for Mental Health

OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada

People First of Canada

reachAbility Association

Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de l’Outaouais (RAPHO)

Silent Voice Canada Inc.

The Canadian Council of the Blind

The Club Inclusion

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter)

Family Network for Deaf Children

SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)

Disability Awareness Consultants

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Empowered Kids Ontario – Enfants Avenir Ontario

Sound Times Support Services

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

JRG Society for the Arts

A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland

Community Inclusion Society

Abilities Centre

Ontario Association of the Deaf

L’Arche Comox Valley

ALS Society of Canada

Saskatchewan ALS Society

Lettre ouverte pour une rapide ratification des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81, la Loi canadienne sur l’accessibilité.

À: Tous les membres du Parlement

Date: 14 mai 2019

Nous, les soussignés, organisations nationales, provinciales et locales de personnes handicapées, recommandons à tous les membres du Parlement de s’engager à adopter rapidement toutes les modifications au projet de loi C-81, Loi canadienne sur l’accessibilité, adoptées le 2 mai 2019 par le Comité sénatorial permanent des affaires sociales, sciences et technologie (SOCI).

Nous félicitons l’honorable ministre Carla Qualtrough d’avoir défendu ce projet de loi et, tel qu’exprimé au Comité sénatorial permanent, de son ouverture envers les modifications proposées.

Le Comité sénatorial a entendu une vaste gamme d’organisations de personnes en situation de handicap et d’intervenants marteler le besoin d’une loi nationale sur l’accessibilité et recommander l’amélioration de certains secteurs afin que le projet de loi atteigne son objectif, à savoir faire du Canada un pays exempt d’obstacles. En clôturant les débats, la sénatrice Chantal Peticlerc, présidente du SOCI, a déclaré que les modifications apportées par le Comité traduisaient le slogan des collectivités de personnes handicapées “Rien pour nous, sans nous”.

Bien que n’incluant pas toutes les améliorations revendiquées par les organisations de personnes handicapées et les intervenants, les modifications sénatoriales améliorent le projet de loi C-81. Elles stipulent : que le Canada devienne un pays totalement exempt d’obstacles d’ici 2040; que cet échéancier ne justifie aucun délai quant à l’élimination et la prévention des obstacles le plus tôt possible; que l’American Sign Language, de la langue des signes québécoise et de les langues des signes autochtones soient reconnues comme langues de communication fondamentales des personnes Sourdes; que les formes multiples et intersectorielles de discrimination subies par les personnes en situation de handicap soient un principe sous-tendant l’application du projet de loi; que le projet de loi C-81 et les règlements afférents ne puissent restreindre les droits humains des personnes handicapées, garantis par la Loi canadienne sur les droits de la personne; que lors du règlement des plaintes basées sur les obstacles dans les transports, l’Office des transports du Canada ne puisse atténuer les droits des voyageurs en situation de handicap, actuellement garantis; que soient réglés les problèmes identifiés par le gouvernement fédéral entre les dispositions du projet de loi en matière d’emploi et la loi régissant la GRC.

Le Sénat devrait adopter le projet de loi C-81, tel que modifié, avant le 16 mai 2019. Le projet de loi reviendra alors en la Chambre des communes pour un vote sur les modifications sénatoriales. Et pour que le projet de loi devienne rapidement loi, ces modifications doivent absolument être adoptées.

Nous demandons à la Chambre des communes de programmer un vote aussitôt que possible et nous demandons à tous les membres du Parlement de voter en faveur des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81.

La Chambre des communes affaiblira le projet de loi si elle se contente de moins; dans ce cas-là, la course parlementaire de ce projet de loi risque d’être stoppée avant l’élection de cet automne.

Lettre ouverte signée par:

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Citizens With Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

PONDA

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs

Keremeos Measuring Up Team

National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada

The Project Group Consulting Cooperative

VIEWS Ontario For the Vision ImpairedDoing It Blind

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

DeafBlind Ontario Services

March of Dimes Canada

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Québec Accessible

CNIB

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation

Access 2 Accessibility

BALANCE for Blind Adults

Barrier Free Manitoba (BFM)

Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada (CAD-ASC)

Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT)

Community Living Ontario

Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)

Hydrocephalus Canada

L’Arche Canada

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

NWT Disability Council

Realize

Tetra Society of North America – Ontario Division

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Vibrant Healthcare Alliance

Vie Autonome Montréal

Association du Syndrome de Usher du Québec

Association multiethnique pour l’intégration des personnes handicapées (AMEIPH)

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

Canadian Association for Community Living

Canadian Centre on Disability Studies Inc. o/a Eviance

Canadian Epilepsy Alliance

Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)

Deaf Literacy Initiative

Guide Dog Users of Canada

Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)

Law, Disability & Social Change Research Project

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Muscular Dystrophy Canada

National Network for Mental Health

OCASI- Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Ontarian with Disabilitites League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada

People First of Canada

reachAbility Association

Regroupement des associations de personnes handicapées de l’Outaouais (RAPHO)

Silent Voice Canada Inc.

The Canadian Council of the Blind

The Club Inclusion

The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (Toronto Chapter)

Family Network for Deaf Children

SPH Planning & Consulting Limited (SPH)

Disability Awareness Consultants

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Empowered Kids Ontario – Enfants Avenir Ontario

Sound Times Support Services

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities

JRG Society for the Arts

A Resource Centre for Families Cumberland

Community Inclusion Society

Abilities Centre

Ontario Association of the Deaf

L’Arche Comox Valley

ALS Society of Canada

Saskatchewan ALS Society

An Important Victory – The Trudeau Government Announced Yesterday that It will Vote in the House of Commons to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

An Important Victory – The Trudeau Government Announced Yesterday that It will Vote in the House of Commons to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

May 23, 2019

Yesterday, May 22, 2019, the Federal Government announced by email and Twitter that it will vote to approve all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate passed earlier this month. The debate in the House of Commons on these amendments is expected to begin next week according to the Federal Government. Next week also happens to be National accessibility Week in Canada.

“This is an important victory for those disability advocates who have devoted so much effort and energy over the past weeks and months to strengthen Bill C-81,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, which has campaigned on accessibility for people with disabilities for many years, and which has been involved in the campaign for this legislation since at least 2014. “The Senate’s amendments set 2040 as the legal deadline for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities, and cut back on the power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to make regulations that could weaken the accessibility rights of passengers with disabilities when travelling on airlines or other inter-provincial modes of transportation, among other things.”

While the Senate’s amendments don’t fix all the deficiencies with Bill C-81 with which we have been concerned, they are an important and helpful step forward. The AODA Alliance and others have been hard at work over the past three weeks, mounting an all-out blitz on social media and elsewhere to press all MPs in the House of Commons to agree to vote to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. It was by no means a certainty that the Federal Government, which holds a majority in the House of Commons, would agree to do so. Opposition parties in the House of Commons have since last fall been supporting our call for Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

We express our gratitude and appreciation to the Federal Government, including the minister responsible for this bill, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough, for making its announcement yesterday in which it agreed to pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. We thank the opposition parties that have pressed for Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

The House of Commons only needs to hold one vote to ratify these amendments. No further public hearings or Standing Committee study of the bill are needed. Once the amendments are passed during that vote, Bill C-81 will have completed its current journey through Canada’s Parliament. It will be a law. It will come into force when the Federal Government gives Bill C-81 royal assent. The Federal Government decides when that will take place.

With the Federal Government’s announcement yesterday, there is no doubt that the vote in the House of Commons will be successful. The bill had been unanimously passed last fall on Third Reading in the House of Commons. That was the case even though opposition parties had agreed with us and other similarly-disposed disability advocates that Bill C-81 needed to be strengthened. It is an important fact that up to now, all provincial accessibility legislation passed so far in Ontario in 2005, in Manitoba in 2013 and in Nova Scotia in 2017, has passed unanimously.

“This good news does not mean that our advocacy work is finished,” said Lepofsky. “Our attention now turns to the federal election this fall. We will be unleashing a non-partisan campaign to get election commitments from all the federal political parties regarding the future of Bill C-81 and its implementation and enforcement.”

We thank all those who have toiled tirelessly at the grassroots to help our campaign in the Senate and the House of Commons to get Bill C-81 strengthened. Every tweet or re-tweet, and every email or phone call to a Senator or MP, plays a crucial part in our efforts.

We thank all the disability organizations, numbering at least 71, that signed the open letter to the House of Commons sent earlier this month, that called for the House of Commons to ratify all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. The AODA Alliance is a co-signatory to that letter. We also thank all those other disability organizations with whom we have teamed up over the past weeks and months to work on our shared objective of getting Bill C-81 strengthened.

Today’s announcement again shows that we were right to not simply accept Bill C-81 as it was, when the House of Commons passed it last fall. It was right for us and so many others to agree that people with disabilities deserve better, and to keep working to get the Senate to strengthen the bill. The improvements that we and others have won are helpful and important.

Our tenacity has always been one of our strengths. We remain resolved to do what we can with Bill C-81 to make as much progress as we can for over five million people with disabilities in Canada, and to keep working to get the bill further improved in the future.

To read the text of the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and a good explanation of them by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/more-specifics-on-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senates-standing-committee-passed-and-that-we-want-the-house-of-commons-to-ratify-still-no-commitment-by /

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

To read the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough, explaining why it is important for the Federal Government to agree to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate has now passed, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Despite No Announced Plans to Implement the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report, the Ford Government Gives 1.3 Million Dollars to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Program — A Use of Public Money We Don’t Support

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Despite No Announced Plans to Implement the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report, the Ford Government Gives 1.3 Million Dollars to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Program — A Use of Public Money We Don’t Support

May 17, 2019

          SUMMARY

Why has the Ford Government dragged its feet for months on taking new action to effectively implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)? Why instead, amidst a flurry of its controversial budget cuts across the Ontario Government, has the Government decided to invest 1.3 million new public dollars over two years in the private accessibility certification process now operated by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF)?

This is not an appropriate use of public money. Instead, the Ford Government needs to now announce a bold and comprehensive plan of action to implement the key recommendations of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Any new public money in this area should be allocated to that effort.

The Ford Government has in effect done nothing new to strengthen the AODA’s implementation in its first 11 months in office, apart from this new announcement. It has been 106 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and Enforcement. The Government has announced no plans to implement that Report’s spectrum of recommendations. This is so even though Ontario’s Accessibility minister Raymond Cho said in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a “marvelous job” in that report and that Ontario has only progressed 30% towards its target of becoming fully accessible to people with disabilities.

The Onley Report found that Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025 as the AODA requires. It concluded that progress on accessibility in Ontario has proceeded at a glacial pace, and that Ontario remains a province full of disability barriers.

Instead of announcing any new measures that the Onley Report recommended, in this spring’s Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it is giving the RHF some 1.3 million dollars over two years for its private accessibility certification process. We have serious concerns with this.

We have been on the public record for over four years expressing our strong opposition to any public money going into any private accessibility certification process, no matter who runs it. This Update tells you why. In summary

  1. A private accessibility certification in reality certifies nothing. It provides no defence to enforcement proceedings under the AODA, the Ontario Building Code, a municipal bylaw, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  2. A private accessibility certification process lacks an assurance of public accountability.
  3. A private certification of accessibility can be misleading to the public, including to people with disabilities.
  4. The Government should not be subsidizing one accessibility consultant over another.
  5. Spending public money on a private accessibility certification process is not a priority for efforts on accessibility in Ontario or a responsible use of public money.
  6. The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford Government has not yet agreed to take, but it did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.

          MORE DETAILS

1. Why We Oppose Public Money Being Spent to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Process, No Matter Who Operates It – A Closer Look

1. Overview

The RHF has for some time been offering a private accessibility certification process for buildings. From what we understand, an organization can choose to pay the RHF to have someone visit that building and give it an accessibility rating based on whatever standard of accessibility that the RHF has decided to use. They call this an accessibility “certification.” You can learn more about the RHF program by visiting its website at: https://www.rickhansen.com/become-accessible

We have several serious concerns about investing any public money in this. It is not a responsible use of public money. We voice these concerns no matter what organization were to be publicly funded to conduct this private accessibility certification process. We voiced these concerns before the RHF began offering its certification services. We recognize the RHF’s good work in other areas.

Whether a private organization wants to offer its accessibility certification services, and whether any organizations wish to pay for those services, is up to those organizations. The issue we address here is whether the taxpayer’s money should be used to help subsidize this.

We have publicly stated over the past four years that the Ontario Government should not invest any public money in a private accessibility certification process. The former Ontario Government flirted with the idea of investing public money in a private accessibility certification process four years ago. It evidently invested a great deal of public money in a private consulting firm, Deloitt, to create a public report exploring this idea. We took part in that consultation and voiced our strong and principled opposition to this whole idea as a place to put any public money.

Fortunately, the former Government eventually saw the light, and dropped the idea. It is deeply troubling that the new Ford Government is going further down the wrong road that the former Government had explored.

To read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief to Deloitt on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process, visit https://www.aoda.ca/aoda-alliance-sends-the-deloitte-company-its-submission-on-the-first-phase-of-the-deloitte-companys-public-consultation-on-the-wynne-governments-problem-ridden-proposal-to-fund-a-new-private-ac/

2. A Private Accessibility Certification in Reality Certifies Nothing

The very idea of a private organization certifying another organization or its building as accessible is fraught with problems. Organizations that seek this certification of their building will eventually realize that a so-called accessibility certification through a private accessibility certification process is not what it may appear to be.

Such a certification does not mean that the organization is in fact accessible. All that is certified is a building. The services delivered inside the building may have serious accessibility barriers.

Moreover, the certification does not even mean that the built environment in the building is in fact accessible and free of disability barriers.

Such a certification cannot give that organization a defence if there is an objection that the building does not comply with accessibility requirements in the AODA, the Ontario Building Code or a municipal bylaws. An accessibility certification similarly does not provide a defence if the organization is subject to a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, or in the case of a public-sector organization, a disability equality rights claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. An organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Ontario Building Code or a municipal bylaw, or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law and was accessible.

In addition, a private accessibility certification can have a very limited shelf-life. If anything changes in that building, such as a garbage can blocking an accessibility ramp, the assertion of certified accessibility becomes disconnected with the actual experience of people with disabilities.

When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as is under development in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.

An accessibility certification from a private accessibility certification process ultimately means nothing authoritative. At most, it is an expression of opinion by a private self-appointed certifying organization that it thinks the building in question meets whatever standard for accessibility that the private certifying organization chooses to use. That standard may itself be deficient. Its inspection may be faulty or incomplete.

It is therefore an over-statement to call this an accessibility certification. What it boils down to in real terms is something along the lines of the advice an organization might seek from one of many accessibility consultants.

Several such consultants now operate in Ontario, on a fee-for-service basis. They are available to audit an organization’s building or its plans for a new building. They can give advice on barriers in the building. They can recommend accessibility improvements to an existing building or plans for a new building. What they give is advice, not certification.

As well, there is no assurance that the people who do the actual certifying have as much expertise on accessibility as do other accessibility consultants.

3. A Private Accessibility Certification Process Lacks an Assurance of Public Accountability

There is no assurance of public accountability in a private accessibility certification process. For example, the public has no way to know or assure itself that the private certifier is making accurate assessments.

4. A Private Certification of Accessibility Can Be Misleading to the Public, Including to People with Disabilities

If an organization receives a top-level accessibility certification, that organization may be led to think they have done all they need to do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be led to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This may turn out not to be the case if the certifier uses an insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if things change in the building after the certification is granted.

5. The Government Should Not Be Subsidizing One Accessibility Consultant over Another

In a field where there are a number of accessibility consultants providing advisory services, there is no good reason why the Ontario Government should choose to subsidize one of them. If it were to do so, it should presumably first hold an open competitive bid process. It should not be limited to an organization that calls its accessibility advice a “certification” for the reasons set out above.

Moreover, we see no reason why there should be any public subsidy here. Such an accessibility certification should simply operate on a fee-for-service basis, as do all other accessibility consultants and advisors, whether or not they call their advice “accessibility certification.”

6. Spending Public Money on a Private Accessibility Certification Process Is Not a Priority for Efforts on Accessibility in Ontario or a Responsible use of Public Money

Due to its concern over the public debt and deficit, the Ford Government is now implementing major and controversial budget cuts in a large number of areas across the Government. At least some of those cuts have real and troubling implications for people with disabilities.

If the Ontario Government was looking for somewhere to inject a new spending of 1.3 million public dollars to serve the needs of people with disabilities, including in the accessibility context, public spending on a private accessibility certification process would certainly not be a priority. It is not an appropriate public expenditure.

For example, as we covered in our May 13, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Ford Government appears to be cutting its expenditures on existing Standards Development Committees that are doing work in the health care and education areas. This new 1.3 million dollars could better be spent in part to ensure that there is no cut to the number of days that those Standards Development Committees can work.

As well, there is a pressing need for the Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend an appropriate accessibility standard to deal with barriers in the built environment. These public funds could also be far better used to beef up the flagging and weak enforcement of the AODA.

7. The Onley Report Recommended Important Measures to Address Disability Barriers in the Built Environment that the Ford Government has not yet Agreed to take, But it did not Recommend Spending Scarce Public Money on a Private Accessibility Certification Process

It is striking that the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review, which Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho called “marvelous,” did not recommend that public money be spent on a private accessibility certification process. This takes on special importance since the AODA Alliance had urged the Onley Report not to recommend any public investment in a private accessibility certification process. Below we set out an excerpt from Chapter 4 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review.

It makes no sense for the Ford Government to announce only one new action on the accessibility front, and for it not to be any of the priority actions that that the Onley Report recommended. The Ford Government indicated last fall that it was awaiting the Onley Report before deciding on what to do in the area of accessibility for people with disabilities. In his December 20, 2018 letter to the chair of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, Accessibility Minister Cho wrote:

“In this regard, we will be waiting to review Mr. Onley’s report before considering the best path forward to further improving accessibility in Ontario.”

We commend the Onley Report for not recommending that public money be spent in that area. Mr. Onley clearly knew about this issue from our brief and from his prior activities in the accessibility field. He declared that the built environment should be a priority area for new action. Moreover, he offered other specific recommendations to address barriers in the built environment – recommendations that the Ford government has not yet agreed to take.

More broadly, the Onley Report also made a number of important recommendations for new Government action on accessibility beyond the built environment. With one exception addressed below (that is not relevant here), the Government has not yet announced any action on any of them, even though it has had the Onley Report for some 106 days.

Moreover, last July, long before the Onley Report was submitted, we called on the Ford Government to take a number of the priority actions that the Onley Report was later to recommend. See the AODA Alliance’s July 17, 2018 letter to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho and our July 19, 2018 letter to premier Doug Ford. Publicly funding a private accessibility certification process is not a substitute for, or better than, Government action on any of those important priorities.

Over the past eleven months, the only new action which the Ford Government has announced on accessibility and that is recommended in the Onley Report has been to belatedly lift the Government’s unwarranted and harmful 9-month freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees that were previously developing recommendations for what to include in new accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education. Yet it was the Ford Government that let that freeze run for nine months.

Investing public funds in implementing key recommendations in the Onley Report is far more important to progress on accessibility for people with disabilities than publicly subsidizing a private accessibility certification process.

2. Excerpt from Chapter 4 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement, Entitled “The Need for New Accessibility Standards, Including a Strong and Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard”

The Ontario Government Should Not Invest Public Funds in or Support any Private Accessibility Certification Process in Ontario

Several years ago, the former Ontario Government toyed with the idea of supporting the establishment of a private accessibility certification process in Ontario. It evidently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a private consulting firm, Deloitt, to explore this. Eventually, after Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid was shuffled out of the AODA portfolio in June 2016, this idea was in effect dropped. We opposed the idea of a private accessibility certification process and opposed the Government investing any public money in it. We urge this AODA Independent Review not to re-open that topic, and not to recommend a private accessibility certification process.

The February 1, 2016 AODA Alliance Update set out this backgrounder on this issue, including a summary of the AODA Alliance’s submission to the Deloitt consulting firm. It said:

“Back on November 16, 2015, the Wynne Government launched a public consultation on its proposal that the Government create a private process for an as-yet-unnamed private organization to provide a private, voluntary accessibility certification of the obligated organization. The Government’s November 16, 2015 email, news release and web posting on this were thin on details.

The Government did not have its own Accessibility Directorate conduct this consultation. Instead, at public expense, the Wynne Government hired the private Deloitte firm to consult the public.

Last fall, we moved as fast as possible to prepare and circulate a draft submission to Deloitte. It was emailed and posted on the web for public comment on November 25, 2015. We have repeatedly sent out invitations for input on it via Twitter and Facebook.

Last fall, we promptly shared our draft submission with Deloitte and with senior Government officials. On December 5, 2015, we wrote Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid to ask for important specifics on the Deloitte consultation. The Government has not answered that letter.

Summary of the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 Submission to the Deloitte Company

This submission’s feedback on the idea of the Ontario Government financing the creation of a private accessibility certification process is summarized as follows:

    1. It is important to probe beyond any superficial attractiveness that some might think a private accessibility certification process has.
    2. It is important for the Government to first decide whether it will adopt a private accessibility certification process, before public money and the public’s effort are invested in deciding on the details of how such a process would work. Several serious concerns set out in this submission are fatal to any such proposal, however its details are designed.
    3. Instead of diverting limited public and private resources, effort and time into a problematic private accessibility certification process, the Government should instead increase efforts at creating all the AODA accessibility standards needed to ensure full accessibility by 2025 and keeping its unkept promise to effectively enforce the AODA. A private accessibility certification process is no substitute for needed accessibility standards that show obligated organizations what they need to do, and a full and comprehensive AODA audit or inspection, conducted by a director or inspector duly authorized under the AODA.
    4. The Government cannot claim that it has deployed the AODA’s compliance/enforcement powers to the fullest and gotten from the AODA all it can in terms of increasing accessibility among obligated organizations. The Government has invested far too little in AODA enforcement.
    5. The entire idea of a private organization certifying an obligated organization as “accessible” is fraught with inescapable problems. Obligated organizations will ultimately realize that a so-called “accessibility certification” through a private accessibility certification process is practically useless. It does not mean that their organization is in fact accessible. It cannot give that obligated organization any defence if an AODA inspection or audit reveals that the organization is not in compliance with an AODA accessibility standard, or if the organization is subject to a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. An obligated organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law.
    6. A private accessibility certification could mislead people with disabilities into thinking an organization is fully accessible in a situation where that organization is not in fact fully accessible.
    7. Obligated organizations that have spent their money on a private accessibility certification will understandably become angry or frustrated when they find that this certification does not excuse unlawful conduct. They will understandably share these feelings with their business associates. Ontarians with disabilities don’t need the Government launching a new process that will risk generating such backlash.
    8. A private accessibility certification could have a very limited shelf-life. When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as it has promised to do in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.
    9. The Government’s idea that a private accessibility certification process would be self-financing creates additional serious problems.
    10. Any private certification process raises serious concerns about public accountability. As such, the public will not be able to find out how it is operating, beyond any selective information that the Government or the private certifier decides to make public. Without full access to the activities and records of a private certifier, the public cannot effectively assess how this private accessibility certification process is working, and whether it is helping or hurting the accessibility cause…”

In a powerful Open Letter sent to the House of Commons, An Extraordinary Lineup of Twenty-Eight Disability Organizations Unite to Press for the House of Commons’ Ratification of All the Amendments that the Senate Just Passed to Strengthen Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

In a powerful Open Letter sent to the House of Commons, An Extraordinary Lineup of Twenty-Eight Disability Organizations Unite to Press for the House of Commons’ Ratification of All the Amendments that the Senate Just Passed to Strengthen Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

May 15, 2019

SUMMARY

A strong concerted effort by Canada’s disability community has been unveiled to get the House of Commons to swiftly ratify all the amendments that the Senate just passed to improve Bill C-81, the Federal Government’s proposed Accessible Canada Act. This legislation is needed to tear down the many accessibility barriers that impede over six million people with disabilities in Canada, in areas that the Federal Government can regulate, such as air travel, banking, broadcast, telecommunication services, and the services of the Federal Government itself.

Twenty-eight disability organizations in Canada have just united to jointly send the House of Commons an open letter, set out below. It urges all MPs to swiftly ratify all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate recently passed. Check out what those Senate amendments say, and why they’re needed.

This open letter, which the Council of Canadians with Disabilities delivered to all MPs on behalf of its 28 signatories (all listed below), explains that these amendments improve the bill. The Senate formulated these amendments after holding public hearings, where disability organizations and advocates pointed out the need to strengthen the bill that the House of Commons originally passed last fall. The Senate got the message, and formulated a short package of 11 amendments that together fit on two pages.

If the House of Commons passes all these amendments, the bill becomes a law. If the House of Commons rejects even one of those amendments, the bill must go back to the Senate yet again. As the open letter explains, that could delay the bill at a time when Parliament will soon rise for the fall election campaign.

The timing of this open letter is pivotal. A swift House of Commons vote on these amendments is needed to ensure that the bill does not die on the order paper.

“A federal election is fast approaching, and Canada has millions of voters with disabilities,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan grassroots AODA Alliance who made presentations to a House of Commons Standing Committee last fall, and a Senate Standing Committee last month, on why this bill needed to be strengthened. “What political party would want to vote against measures to strengthen protections for people with disabilities, especially with an election looming? What party would want to cast a vote now that would delay Bill C-81 and risk it dying on the order paper?”

Any disability organization or group, whether national, provincial or local, can co-sign this open letter. The list of signatories will be updated as more disability organizations and groups sign on.

For your Organization/Group to co-sign this letter, just email strengthenACA@gmail.com

Please give the following information:

  1. a) Name of your organization/Group
  2. b) Name of a contact person at your organization/group
  3. c) Email address for your organization/group
  4. d) A statement to the effect that:

My organization/group would like to sign the May 14, 2019 Open Letter to the House of Commons on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act.

To see more about the blitz that the AODA Alliance now has underway to press MPs to vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

To read the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough, explaining why it is important for the Federal Government to agree to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate has now passed, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the May 14, 2019 Open Letter from Disability Organizations and Groups to the House of Commons of Canada

Open Letter on the Need to Swiftly Pass All Senate Amendments to Bill C-81- Accessible Canada Act

[Le français suit]

To: All Members of Parliament

Date: May 14, 2019

The undersigned national, provincial and local disability groups ask all Members of Parliament to commit to swiftly pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) passed on May 2, 2019.

We commend the Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough for championing this Bill and her openness to considering amendments to it, as she expressed to the Senate Standing Committee.

The Senate Standing Committee heard from a spectrum of disability organizations and advocates who supported the need for national accessibility legislation and who recommended areas where the bill could be improved to achieve its goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for people with disabilities. SOCI chair Senator Chantal Petitclerc concluded the committee’s debates by stating that the committee’s amendments reflect the maxim of disability communities: “Nothing about us without us.

While they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, the Senate’s amendments improve Bill C-81. The amendments include: setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible; ensuring that this time line does not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible; recognizing American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages as the primary languages for communication used by Deaf people; making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered; ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it cannot cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act; ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency cannot reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the Agency handles complaints about barriers in transportation; and fixing problems the Federal Government identified between the bill’s employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.

It is expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by May 16, 2019. The bill then returns to the House of Commons, for a vote on the Senate’s amendments. It is critical that the House pass all of the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81, to ensure that this important bill swiftly becomes law.

We ask the House of Commons to schedule a vote on the bill as soon as possible. We ask all MPs to vote to pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

If the House of Commons does anything less, it will weaken the bill, and risk the possibility that the bill will not finish its journey through Parliament before the fall election.

Signed:

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs

Keremeos Measuring Up Team

National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada

The Project Group Consulting Cooperative

VIEWS Ontario for the Vision Impaired

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

DeafBlind Ontario Services

March of Dimes Canada

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Québec Accessible

CNIB Foundation (Ontario and Québec)

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation

Lettre ouverte pour une rapide ratification des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81, la Loi canadienne sur l’accessibilité.

À: Tous les membres du Parlement

Date: 14 mai 2019

Nous, les soussignés, organisations nationales, provinciales et locales de personnes handicapées, recommandons à tous les membres du Parlement de s’engager à adopter rapidement toutes les modifications au projet de loi C-81, Loi canadienne sur l’accessibilité, adoptées le 2 mai 2019 par le Comité sénatorial permanent des affaires sociales, sciences et technologie (SOCI).

Nous félicitons l’honorable ministre Carla Qualtrough d’avoir défendu ce projet de loi et, tel qu’exprimé au Comité sénatorial permanent, de son ouverture envers les modifications proposées.

Le Comité sénatorial a entendu une vaste gamme d’organisations de personnes en situation de handicap et d’intervenants marteler le besoin d’une loi nationale sur l’accessibilité et recommander l’amélioration de certains secteurs afin que le projet de loi atteigne son objectif, à savoir faire du Canada un pays exempt d’obstacles. En clôturant les débats, la sénatrice Chantal Peticlerc, présidente du SOCI, a déclaré que les modifications apportées par le Comité traduisaient le slogan des collectivités de personnes handicapées “Rien pour nous, sans nous”.

Bien que n’incluant pas toutes les améliorations revendiquées par les organisations de personnes handicapées et les intervenants, les modifications sénatoriales améliorent le projet de loi C-81. Elles stipulent : que le Canada devienne un pays totalement exempt d’obstacles d’ici 2040; que cet échéancier ne justifie aucun délai quant à l’élimination et la prévention des obstacles le plus tôt possible; que l’American Sign Language, de la langue des signes québécoise et de les langues des signes autochtones soient reconnues comme langues de communication fondamentales des personnes Sourdes; que les formes multiples et intersectorielles de discrimination subies par les personnes en situation de handicap soient un principe sous-tendant l’application du projet de loi; que le projet de loi C-81 et les règlements afférents ne puissent restreindre les droits humains des personnes handicapées, garantis par la Loi canadienne sur les droits de la personne; que lors du règlement des plaintes basées sur les obstacles dans les transports, l’Office des transports du Canada ne puisse atténuer les droits des voyageurs en situation de handicap, actuellement garantis; que soient réglés les problèmes identifiés par le gouvernement fédéral entre les dispositions du projet de loi en matière d’emploi et la loi régissant la GRC.

Le Sénat devrait adopter le projet de loi C-81, tel que modifié, avant le 16 mai 2019. Le projet de loi reviendra alors en la Chambre des communes pour un vote sur les modifications sénatoriales. Et pour que le projet de loi devienne rapidement loi, ces modifications doivent absolument être adoptées.

Nous demandons à la Chambre des communes de programmer un vote aussitôt que possible et nous demandons à tous les membres du Parlement de voter en faveur des modifications sénatoriales au projet de loi C-81.

La Chambre des communes affaiblira le projet de loi si elle se contente de moins; dans ce cas-là, la course parlementaire de ce projet de loi risque d’être stoppée avant l’élection de cet automne.

Lettre ouverte signée par:

Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA)

Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Spinal Cord Injury Canada

StopGap Foundation

Travel for All

Older Women’s Network

Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

BC Coalition of People who use Guide Dogs

Keremeos Measuring Up Team

National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada

The Project Group Consulting Cooperative

VIEWS Ontario for the Vision Impaired Doing It Blind

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

DeafBlind Ontario Services

March of Dimes Canada

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Québec Accessible

CNIB Foundation (Ontario and Québec)

Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Rick Hansen Foundation

Canada’s Senate Passed Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading Last Evening, Replete with All the Amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee Made to Improve the Bill — But Will the Federal Government Vote to Ratify All Those Amendments When the Bill Returns to the House of Commons?

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Canada’s Senate Passed Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading Last Evening, Replete with All the Amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee Made to Improve the Bill — But Will the Federal Government Vote to Ratify All Those Amendments When the Bill Returns to the House of Commons?

May 14, 2019

          SUMMARY

Last evening the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, on Third Reading, complete with all the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs added to the bill on May 2, 2019. This is an important step forward for this bill, and a helpful step for people with disabilities in Canada. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of the Third Reading debates on Bill C-81 that took place in the Senate last evening.

The first among the speeches on the bill was by Senator Jim Munson. Senator Munson is the Federal Government’s sponsor of the bill in the Senate. It is likely that some or all of his speech was written by the Federal Government.

Bill C-81 is not yet an enforceable law. It is still just a bill, a proposed law.

For Bill C-81 to become a law, it must go back to the House of Commons. The House must vote on the amendments that the Senate has added to the bill. If the House of Commons passes all those amendments, Bill C-81 becomes a law. If the House of Commons does not pass some or all of those amendments, it remains a bill, a proposed law. The Senate would then have to vote again on the bill, but without the Senate’s amendments.

Thus, all attention must now focus on the House of Commons, and especially on the Trudeau Government which has a majority of seats in the House. The Federal Government has not yet said it will vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81.

As we announced days ago, we and many other people with disabilities and disability organizations are campaigning to get the House of Commons to pass ALL the amendments to the bill that the Senate has just passed. We are focusing special attention on the Senate’s commendable amendments that would set the time line of 2040 for Canada to reach full accessibility to people with disabilities, while making it clear that this time line may not delay progress before then on accessibility.

For tips on how to help with this time-sensitive blitz, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

Please email or tweet as many Members of Parliament as you can. Press them to agree to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee made to Bill C-81. For action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments passed), visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

To read the text of the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and a good explanation of them by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/more-specifics-on-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senates-standing-committee-passed-and-that-we-want-the-house-of-commons-to-ratify-still-no-commitment-by /

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

To read the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough, explaining why it is important for the Federal Government to agree to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate has now passed, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

Our overall strategy regarding Bill C-81 is unfolding as we planned. The Senate’s amendments, for which we and others fought so hard, help improve this bill. The bill clearly needed improvements. Now the issue will come before the House of Commons just months before an impending federal election.

From a disability advocacy perspective, this timing is very helpful to our cause. What elected politician or party would want to vote against measures to strengthen the protections for people with disabilities, especially with an election looming? What elected politician or party would want to cast a vote now that would delay Bill C-81 from becoming a law?

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Please send us your feedback. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

          MORE DETAILS

Senate of Canada Hansard May 13, 2019

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/chamber/421/debates/287db_2019-05-13-e

Accessible Canada Bill

Third Reading

Hon. Jim Munson moved third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, as amended.

He said: Honourable senators, what a journey we have been on. What a journey all of us have been on.

Senators, as the sponsor of this bill, I’m pleased to speak tonight at the third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, also known as the Accessible Canada Act. I am humbled and honoured to speak to a bill that will no doubt become a proud part of Canadian history.

Making history takes dedication, hard work and perseverance. So I want to acknowledge the work of many people who helped get this bill to this stage.

I want to thank the chair and deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Senators Petitclerc and Seidman, and all members who attended the committee meetings. Questions were engaging and led to an enlightening input from witnesses and to constructive amendments. This committee works so well together; I am honoured to be a member.

Thank you also to our clerk and administrator, Dan Charbonneau and Ericka Dupont, for arranging sign language, ASL, and CART services, Communication Access Real-time Translation, and the special room set-up, which helped to make the Senate committee meetings the most accessible to date. The Senate should be proud in this regard. We have shown leadership by example.

I also want to acknowledge the incredible work of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Carla Qualtrough. She and her team have shown great leadership on accessibility, and I can confidently say that Bill C-81 enjoys widespread support due to their efforts.

Most importantly, I want to recognize persons with disabilities, stakeholders, and organizations who all play a crucial role in accessibility in Canada. They have all invested tremendous work and energy into this historic bill, ensuring that it reflects the priorities of persons with disabilities. Their contributions have been instrumental in getting the bill in its amended form to this stage. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and stories with us. I know it takes courage. We could not have done any of this without your involvement and expertise. Some of those folks are here in the Senate tonight.

Senators Petitclerc and Seidman gave excellent speeches at the report stage of the bill last week, summarizing the amendments that were adopted at committee. I will not go over the amendments and details again. However, I do want to highlight some important testimony.

Over the course of our committee hearings we heard repeatedly that the time for an accessible Canada act is now. Canadians facing barriers to fully participating in their workplaces and society told us and are still telling us to pass this bill into law. Here is what Bill Adair from Spinal Cord Injury Canada and with the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, or FALA, told us at committee:

What people are telling us across the country who are participating with FALA is: We want the bill. Give us something to work with. Yes, push for the changes, but at the end of the day, before the election, we want the bill. That gives us structure and the framework so that we can get to work on removing barriers and we want it now. We’ve been waiting far too long and this is our day.

Senators, everyone is eager to see this bill become law. We must continue our essential work in order to take it over the finish line. This community has waited long enough for this recognition and respect.

Another significant and positive change is that Bill C-81 will shift the responsibility on to the system and away from the individuals facing barriers in their daily lives. Diane Bergeron from CNIB said during her testimony:

Having a disability is exhausting, and I do not say that lightly. But when you have to deal with discrimination, rights violations, different pieces of legislation, criticisms, people not thinking that you have value, it makes it worse. The current system is unfair and unacceptable.

Colleagues, we know the history. It is one of institutionalization, sterilization and social isolation. Canada had a system that took children away from their families and power away from our citizens. Persons with disabilities were seen as burdens and treated as if they were broken. Our country simply cannot continue to place the burden of advancing human rights on individuals. We can do better, and we must do better. In fact, with this bill we will do better.

In addition to this necessary shift in responsibility, the accessible Canada act, when passed, will set best practices and a framework that the provinces and the private sector can mirror. Most importantly, this bill will start to shift culture, perception and understanding of what inclusion in our society should really look like. I cannot come up with a better analogy that encompasses my hope for what this legislation will achieve than that of Minister Qualtrough. You have to be a sports fan to get this. I couldn’t agree more when she said at committee:

I think we will look back on this as a “TSN Turning Point” on disability rights and the way we talk about disability in this country.

The words of the minister.

Honourable senators, in 2017, approximately 6.2 million people, or about 22 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability. This percentage is expected to increase in the coming years due to Canada’s aging population, since the prevalence of disability increases with age. This is why the government consulted with over 6,000 individuals from across the country with lived experience over the course of this bill’s development. They have continued to be consulted and included as witnesses and experts at committee so that we can use their knowledge and their experiences to help drive the change needed for a better tomorrow.

One of those witnesses was Steven Estey from Nova Scotia, from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. This organization helped facilitate some of these consultations. Mr. Estey gave us a good summary of what that meant. He said:

. . . to talk to Canadians with disabilities about what they wanted in this legislation. We had a chance to talk to over a thousand people across the country. We had 22 separate consultations in towns and cities across the country. We had telephone consultations. We had Internet consultations. We really spent a lot of time trying to figure out what people wanted to see in this legislation. It’s an important thing for us to be involved with. We have really appreciated the opportunity and the support that we have had to be able to do that.

This is what inclusion looks like, honourable senators. Consultation, collaboration, cooperation and real input from real life experience. I know that the finer points of the bill have been outlined to you many times, including by myself, but I do want to talk again about the Canadian accessibility standards development organization. The landmark importance of the CASDO board membership aligning with the community’s mantra of “nothing about us without us.” Think about it. Because it’s the board membership who will be responsible, with their own lived experience, in making standards.

I’ve always said this, that you need to be in the room when it comes to communications. It is just as important in policy making; you need to be in the room to make a difference and to influence change. In this case, CASDO will set regulations that will lead to better results for people in this country. I hope it reoccurs in other areas of policy development. Applying a disability lens is crucial in moving forward.

Barbara Collier, Executive Director of Communication Disabilities Access Canada explained in her testimony at committee what that organization represents. Her list included people with or affected by cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, Down’s syndrome, learning disability, fetal alcohol syndrome, cognitive and intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, aphasia after a stroke, dementia, head and neck cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

(1910)

Senators, these are common conditions. It made me realize again that we will all face barriers to fully participating in society at some point in our lives. This is legislation that will affect us all in a positive way.

We learned at committee that many wheels are already in motion in anticipation of the bill coming into force. Job postings are already online for the chief accessibility officer and the CEO and board of the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, or CASDO. In fact, CASDO is expected to open its doors this summer. We know that the organizations responsible for accessibility have taken advanced steps towards planning regulations. In fact, the Canadian Transportation Agency, or CTA, has already released the first draft of its accessibility regulations.

Committee members gave the bill and its adopted amendments a deserved thorough study and consideration despite time constraints. I know that many of these amendments came right from the community, witnesses and organizations; I think we should pass the bill with these changes and let the other place do its job and reflect on our amendments. This is the process of our democracy and of our Parliament. We all need to move swiftly.

I will say it again: An accessible Canada act is a long-overdue recognition for human rights equality for 6.2 million — or one in five — Canadians. The 2017 disability survey also indicated that of the approximately 1.5 million Canadians with a disability aged 15 to 64 who are unemployed, approximately 654,000 are potential candidates for work in an inclusive, discrimination-free and accommodating labour market.

Yes, senators, there is a business case for inclusion. There is a huge untapped talent pool that could help improve Canada’s shrinking labour market.

As I mentioned, the spirit of collaboration on this bill has been and continues to be exceptional. I’m always an optimist, so over the course of study and consultations it became obvious that the removal of barriers is universal in scope and understanding. Together, our society is ready to take this step, the first of many towards a fair and equal-opportunity society. The momentum is with us.

Colleagues, I am proud of Bill C-81. I am proud of the amendments made at committee. We need to send the amended bill to the other place this week so that we can receive it back in time to do what Canadians have been asking us to do through testimony, letters, emails and phone calls: Give Canada a framework toward being barrier-free and accessible for all.

This is the time, colleagues. This is their time. It’s our opportunity to help make this happen and to be on the right side of history.

I will close tonight with some words from the great Jean Vanier, the master of inclusion. As you know, he passed away last week at the age of 90. At a 1998 Massey Lecture entitled Becoming Human, he said:

As we become more conscious of the uniqueness of others, we become aware of our common humanity. We are all fundamentally the same, no matter what our age, gender, race, culture, religion, limits or handicaps may be.

Honourable senators, as I said at the beginning of my speech, we are on a shared journey. What we have discovered on this journey is a new path of inclusion, a path where, as they say in the disability community:

Nothing About Us Without Us.

I recognize we haven’t satisfied everyone. That’s the way it is when you’re building something we have never had before: a Canada without barriers.

But we have done our job. We have discovered more about each other. We have captured the meaning of empathy. We have amended the bill. We recognize there will always be next steps. This is a step toward a more inclusive society.

Thank you very much.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

[Translation]

Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo: Honourable senators, I rise today at third reading stage of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

For one last time, I want to express my full support for the bill and commend the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on its excellent work. I also want to acknowledge the work of the chair of the committee, Senator Petitclerc, as well as that of the deputy chair, Senator Seidman, on a decisive and historic bill for Canada.

I won’t get into the details of the thorough review undertaken by the committee, since Senators Petitclerc and Seidman already did so quite eloquently. However, I’d like to draw your attention to the remarkable work that the committee has done since March 21, 2019.

The committee studied the bill in depth over the course of four meetings, with the intention of widening its scope. After hearing testimony from 20 interest groups four organizations, the committee did indeed make changes that are favourable to the primary goal of the bill.

Although I’m not a member of that committee, it is clear that those long, well-informed deliberations led to the adoption of 11 amendments. Through those deliberations, the vast and unique needs of many groups of disabled persons were identified by the committee, which led to specific amendments that improve Bill C-81 without jeopardizing its long-awaited passing.

To sum up, the changes to the bill remain faithful to its principles while doing more to recognize, eliminate and prevent barriers in all areas of federal jurisdiction. This new version of the bill also takes into account the fact that seniors living with disabilities also experience multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination.

Another amendment recognizes sign languages as the primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada and an integral part of their accessibility. After all, the recognition of sign languages constitutes an essential part of their culture and a valuable tool that enables them to participate in society.

[English]

Honourable senators, these are some examples of the positive changes that were made to the bill in consultation with experts and in collaboration with the extensive work that was previously accomplished in the other place.

I feel this bill should also act as a signal and reminder to the government regarding the recent news of 34 developmentally disabled federal workers who hold segregated and redundant jobs in Ottawa. Their contract is set to end in March 2020. I hope that, once enacted, this law will eventually represent further actions for every Canadian with a disability in order to help them become full, equal members of society.

After all, a barrier-free Canada requires us to understand the norms, societal attitudes and stigma that prevents people with intellectual, cognitive and physical disabilities from fully participating in society.

I truly believe this bill, once enacted, will be a tool for many organizations that are ready and have been patiently preparing for the implementation in order to respond to these emergent challenges and obstacles.

Honourable senators, this historic law is a testament of the great work that was accomplished in the hallmarks of this great chamber in defence of the rights of minorities.

It marks a new beginning. We will transform and address accessibility by becoming proactive instead of reactive for Canadians who do not want to be treated as a burden but as full and equal members of society as we continue to grow and learn how to become more inclusive. Thank you.

(1920)

Hon. Marty Deacon: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. I have listened with great interest to my colleagues, as well as to the many witnesses we had at the Social Affairs Committee. I speak today to share with you my perspective, my story, based on a lifetime of learning and action in this very important area.

When I arrived in Senate 15 months ago, there was much to learn; there is still much to learn. For instance, when I arrived here, I had incorrectly assumed that accessibility had already been addressed as a national issue with a fulsome national strategy. Why? Because my own formal leadership on accessibility began in Ontario, 14 years ago. I thought — silly me — that the same regulations were being mandated nationally, given how much time had elapsed since this successful law in Ontario was implemented and began its implementation in 2005.

Honourable senators, 2019 is far too late in the game to be discussing and mandating accessibility for all at the federal level, and it’s why the bill before us is so important.

In my previous life, as an educator, every day I was faced with an issue by a student, their family, a teacher or a community member who challenged fair, equitable and inclusive access. One case — and sometimes it just takes one — in particular crystallized for me what would be become a lifetime commitment to universal accessibility.

Imagine now a single mother with six children, all under the age of 10. Three of them carry the positive gene for Duchenne’s disease, a severe type of muscular dystrophy that over time reduces muscular function. It eventually results in the young person being immobilized, weakened and in need of a wheelchair.

The family survives on a low income, and, frankly, the school and the community are their lifeline. As principal of the school, on a one-floor facility, my staff and I gave the family everything we had, from meals to fundraisers, to transportation, to tutoring, and finally to the purchase of a well-used wheelchair for her oldest son, Ricky.

This school goes up to Grade 6, and now it becomes time for Ricky to graduate from junior school and move on to middle school. We meet with a team of educators and medical support people to determine the best plan for Ricky. As a former secondary school administrator, new to elementary administration, I learn that due to Ricky’s physical needs he will not be able to attend the middle school just down the road. There are just too many accessibility issues. Eventually, I learn that he will have to take a 50-minute bus ride to the nearest school that will provide some sort of wheelchair access.

How do I tell his mother, with so much on her plate already, that her son will now spend over 100 minutes a day with strangers, with different untrained bus drivers, travelling on several highways, with no significant network of support, and that in two years, if Ricky is able to keep on attending school, his ride to high school will be even more challenging and disconnected with yet another group of young people, all at the same time his condition worsens and that in two years she will have to go through this all over again with her next child?

As it turned out, it was a hard lesson I needed to learn. This was in 2005, the same year that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act became law. As you know, the act was aimed at identifying, removing and preventing barriers for people with disabilities. It applied then to government, non-profit and private sector businesses in Ontario that have one or more employees.

My own school board needed an established leader to commit to this AODA work for at least three years. Somewhat fortuitously, I was invited to take on this role. It was going to be tough work, very political, but an opportunity to bring many internal and external stakeholders together to do the right thing. Most of the table I worked with was represented by those representing diverse accessibility needs in our community. My job would be to ensure that all aspects of the act were being addressed, that all staff and volunteers were trained, that we had an accessibility policy and procedures, and that we had a multi-year accessibility plan with annual public updates, timelines and monitoring in place. I continued this leadership for 10 years. The work was ongoing and a challenge politically, financially and ensuring equity while the voices of all were heard.

Senator Moncion highlighted her work related to the AODA at second reading. I will not repeat her message. However, I will indicate how the “visible” and “invisible” needs of those with a disability are far-reaching and diverse. We started with the built environment and spaces in 130 buildings and new builds. I learned more about architecture, facility design, ramps, lifts, nine styles of elevators, more than I dreamed possible. One basic washroom to upgrade for one child was $35,000; one elevator was half a million dollars. How do you prioritize? Every student matters.

These are the more visible physical needs we are familiar with. It’s the invisible needs that are often overlooked; that is, making sure every individual — just as we do in the Senate — feels they are part of their community.

As a result of deep consultation, we were determined that every decision had to result in our students being able to attend a school within their family of schools, which is a geographically smaller region. This would not be the closest to their home, perhaps, but still in their community — full stop. We had to find the way and we did. Every decision was and continues to be backward mapped with this in mind; that is, to find a way to keep our students and families in their community.

Honourable senators, imagine your son or daughter being told they could go on a bus for a class trip with their classmates on a bus all by themselves — not with their friends, not with their peers.

One of my proudest moments was meeting with 200 bus drivers, getting some buses retrofitted, modified and ensuring more of our students could travel and experience being with their classmates. The visible need was physically getting the student to their destination by ensuring the best barrier-free environment. The invisible need was ensuring the student would not be stigmatized on a separate bus and they could contribute and participate in this class trip to the same extent as their peers — something they deserve.

This is why this legislation is so important. It will aim to make federally regulated entities so much more accessible. However, it will also unlock the potential of a huge group of Canadians who have been held back in one way or another. It will allow them to participate and contribute to their community in ways that, quite frankly, they should have been able to do long ago. With this legislation, Canada could become a world leader in accessibly. This leadership is sorely needed.

In my role as an international coach and sports leader travelling internationally, I saw first-hand and continue to see first-hand the great disparity in the respect and understanding of what it means to try to embrace and provide support for those with a disability. I observed countries that “hid” those with disabilities, countries whose representatives said to my face, “We have no citizens with disabilities.” I watched first-hand a political leader of a G7 country, while on Canadian soil, say, “There is no place for athletes with a disability in a major sporting event.”

Thankfully, this culture is changing. I’m excited to say, after 12 years of advocacy, my sport will have its debut at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. To get to this point, again, we had to educate the countries that did not support their para-athletes and para-children, and did not demonstrate their beliefs in accessibility or inclusion. This has taken over a decade.

This past weekend, at Carleton University in Ottawa, I was able to speak with families and para-athletes from many countries about what sport means to them, what it means to be barrier-free and the work that must still continue around the world. The passage of Bill C-81 for Canada will set the kind of example needed to keep this momentum going.

Senators, I want to shift my thinking before I wrap up. I want to thank the steering committee of the Social Affairs Committee — Senator Munson, Senator Seidman and our chair, Senator Petitclerc, for guiding us through such a comprehensive and in-depth process. You have heard that said earlier this evening. It is so very true. It was a collective effort by all groups and caucuses represented at committee, and that showed in fulsome but respectful discussions that played out at clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, which led to some good amendments in the legislation.

To the large but important number of Canadians who will be directly affected by this legislation, I can say to you with confidence that every member of the Social Affairs Committee has listened to your concerns. I want to thank the many individuals who gave us such compelling evidence at committee, as well as the hundreds who took the time to write and meet with us. Colleagues, many of these stakeholders have been advocating for years. They are very tired, exhausted but hopeful for the immediate passage of this bill.

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While no piece of legislation is perfect, I am confident that the bill before us gives us a solid foundation and permission to rebuild our culture in the years to come. A senator last week reminded me that there is progress and there is perfection. This bill is no different. Bill C-81, the time for all is now. Thank you.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today also to speak very briefly at third reading of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Bill C-81 enacts the accessible Canada act in order to enhance the full and equal participation of all persons, especially persons living with disability, in our society. This bill will require federally regulated entities across the country to ensure accessibility to workplaces, public spaces, employment, programs, services and information.

Bill C-81, as others have stated, is an important step in the right direction to address the barriers that many Canadians face. The message that we have heard from advocates has been the same: Bill C-81 is a good bill and deserves to be enacted into law but no one can be certain of the full effect that this bill will eventually have. This will require further knowledge and learning from a practical perspective and a commitment to work in consultation with stakeholders across Canada.

I want to associate myself with some of the very important comments that have been made in this chamber and especially recognize our colleague Senator Munson, who has dedicated so much of his life to really be quite a voice and a champion for Canadians with disabilities and, of course, on issues like autism. He has been a cosponsor on a number of events, and we have done some meaningful work together. I know that one of the motions that we cosponsored that recognized June as Deafblind Awareness Month recognizes this important subgroup of Canadians who are living with some incredible challenges.

This motion was adopted unanimously in 2015, and it was sort of thanks to our retired former colleague Senator Vim Kochhar who many of us know to be a real champion and a strong voice for Canadians living with physical disabilities as well as other disabilities. Through his outstanding effort and inspiration, we have worked together to achieve certain outcomes through the Senate. Senator Kochhar also cofounded the Canadian Helen Keller Centre and Rotary Cheshire Home, which is said to be one of the only facilities in the world where those who live with deaf-blindness can live independently.

Some of the intervenors who have come to the Hill have spoken about their work to help Canadians living with deaf-blindness communicate. Their work is truly astonishing. It’s a real calling for them to serve in this capacity. They work in a unique space where they allow those who cannot communicate otherwise to communicate with the outside world.

I also know that the work of our former colleague Senator Asha Seth also led to a motion to designate May as National Vision Health Month. That, too, was unanimously adopted in the Senate.

I stand together with many of you who have spoken on this measure and also recognize the great work of our Social Affairs Committee, the chair, the deputy chair and committee members to ensure that important amendments were adopted that will help towards ensuring a barrier-free Canada as is envisioned in this bill.

I had the opportunity to meet with the Canadian Association of the Deaf and President Frank Folino, who was also a witness during committee hearings on this bill, as well as Bill Adair, Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Canada. They expressed their firm support of passage of Bill C-81 as a very important step, but they were also hopeful that there will be continued vigilance and effort towards proper implementation and, of course, that same intention beyond implementation. In some ways we have achieved this important milestone, but our work will begin to ensure that implementation and the work beyond implementation will be successful.

I recognize these men and others who have been the real heroes and champions who inspired this important legislation and once again thank our colleagues Senator Munson, Senator Ngo and members of the Social Affairs Committee for your leadership helping this chamber arrive at this significant moment in our legislative history.

Your Honour and honourable senators, I am definitely ready for the question.

Hon. Tony Dean: Thank you Senator Martin and others who have spoken. Thank you, Senator Munson, for your very fine sponsorship of this legislation.

I have some brief introductory remarks and then I want to speak specifically about the inclusion of communication in this bill as a category of challenge in the spectrum of disabilities.

I rise to add my voice to Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. We all know now that the stated policy objective of this important and historic piece of legislation is to enhance the full and equal participation of all individuals, with a special emphasis for those living with disabilities. The bill is designed to achieve a barrier-free Canada through the identification, removal and prevention of barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction.

Many groups, including various disability advocacy groups, support Bill C-81 and are urging us to pass this bill before our summer break. Senate leaders met on April 4 to sign an agreement to ensure several pieces of legislation are voted on prior to the break and the next federal election. This bill is one of them.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the facilitator of the Independent Senators Group, the Leader of the independent Senate Liberals, the Government Representative in the Senate and the Senate Conservative Leader on this important modernizing step. You will know, I think, that I and others here believe that we could benefit greatly from more organized and effective business planning of this sort. Moreover, that’s what Canadians expect of us, and they expect and deserve timely votes on all bills, but particularly on bills that are inclusive of all members of our society and that aim to protect some of our most vulnerable people, bills like Bill C-81.

An act to ensure a barrier-free Canada is a direct response to a 2016 federal budget announcement that made a commitment to “eliminate systemic barriers and deliver equality of opportunity to all Canadians living with disabilities.”

Among other things, the bill aims to guide future interpretations of the accessible Canada act by setting out important principles and including a provision that states that all persons, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, must be treated with dignity, enjoy equality of opportunity, be able to fully and equally participate in society without barriers and have autonomy.

It also establishes the application of the accessible Canada act bringing greater clarification to which bodies and entities are bound by accessibility legislation and allows the Governor-in-Council to designate a minister to be responsible for this act.

Another important piece of this legislation is the proposed establishment of the Canadian accessible standards development office, CASDO, which Senator Munson has spoken about eloquently.

I emphasize that the CASDO would be overseen by a board of directors whose majority identify as persons with disabilities. The board would be responsible for setting the organization’s strategic direction and managing the activities and affairs in accordance with its mandate.

The inclusion of people with disabilities on the board would ensure fair representation for the many Canadians who don’t currently have a voice in accessibility standards.

Honourable senators, while no single area of accessibility is more important than any other, I would like to now focus some remarks on the issue of communication.

I am delighted that communication is recognized in key definitions in this bill, including in the definitions of barrier and disability. This legislation says that “barrier” means anything including physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a policy or practice that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation.

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It also defines “disability” as a physical, mental, intellectual, learning, communication, sensory impairment or functional limitation, whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature that an interaction with a barrier hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.

This recognition of communication is critically important, as communication includes the half million Canadians who have speech and language disabilities that are not caused by significant hearing loss and who do not require or use sign language. They may have lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, autism, spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, learning or cognitive disabilities. Other people may have acquired disabilities that affect communication, such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, dementia, ALS, multiple sclerosis and much more.

Having a communication disability can affect one or more areas of a person’s ability to speak, to understand what others are saying, read or write. People with theses disabilities may communicate using unclear speech, writing, typing, pictures, symbols, speech-generating devices, sign language interpreting, captioning and communication assistive devices.

Recognizing the broad scope of communication is also consistent with the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, of which Canada is a signatory. This is obviously important for many reasons, but I’d like to highlight a tangible example for honourable senators to consider.

Similar to the need for sign language services for people who are deaf or translation services for people who don’t speak English or French, victims, witnesses and accused persons with speech and language disabilities may require appropriate communication supports in police, legal and justice services. Despite the fact that people with speech and language disabilities are at high risk for all types of abuses and crimes — and remember, for violators, the best victims are often the ones who are perceived not to be able to tell. Communication support services in police, legal and justice services are not routinely provided as an accessibility accommodation.

Communications intermediaries are qualified speech-language pathologists who have extra training from Communication Disabilities Access Canada, CDAC, to work in justice settings. CDAC maintains a database of trained intermediaries with limited funding from a small private foundation. These services are provided to people who require assistance, understanding questions posed to them or supporting them communicating what they want to say to police, legal and justice professionals.

In a case in Canada I recently learned about, an elderly woman indicated to her son, a police officer, that she had been sexually assaulted by a personal support worker in a retirement or long-term care facility. The woman had a stroke two years before the incident, which left her with aphasia, a communication disorder that results from damage to the language centres of the brain. She had difficulty understanding spoken language and expressing her thoughts in words, as well as difficulties in reading and writing. She communicated what happened using gestures, some speech and pointing to pictures.

The Crown attorney recognized that she would require assistance to communicate in court and engaged a communication intermediary who conducted an assessment. The intermediary concluded that the woman could effectively communicate in court if provided with appropriate communication intermediary support to ensure that she rephrase questions posed to her in ways she could understand and to facilitate her responses using pictures. The judge denied the woman access to the communication supports that she required to testify.

This case illustrates the lack of understanding about accessibility accommodations required by a victim, witnesses or an accused person who has speech and language disability.

Having strong accessibility legislation in place makes it mandatory for all justice services to provide people with the communication accommodations and supports they need, including communication boards, speech-generating devices, sign language interpretation, captioning and communications assistance devices, and is an important move in ensuring that the policy objectives of this bill are realized. Access to appropriate supports for people living with disabilities that affect communications would go beyond our justice system and would also include access to health services, education and more.

Honourable senators, I want to share with you one other brief story, the story of a friend of mine of 30 years who in the past several months came to know all too well the challenges associated with difficulty in communications. Kim Clarke Champniss, as some of you will recall from his work in the heyday of MuchMusic as a veejay, TV producer and a challenging interviewer of the world’s top rock and roll artists, lost his voice permanently in the past months due to radical throat surgery that was used to address throat cancer.

I’ve watched Kim over the last weeks and months heroically take on this challenge, including the challenge of access to supports and technologies that would assist in his ability to continue engaging in the world with his upbeat energy and curiosity about the human condition. Kim will get through this. He would say, “I’m all right, Tone. I’m all right.” But Kim would also wish for better services for those who were alongside him and those who will undoubtedly follow him with communications challenges.

I would urge the government to ensure someone with a disability that affects their speech, language and communication be considered as a member of the board of the proposed Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, CASDO, which was mentioned earlier. Their contributions would greatly benefit the 500,000 people living with speech and language difficulties and ensure that no one is left behind.

I would also like to recognize that standards and regulations under Bill C-81 will need to be updated every five years, which allows for changes in innovation. They will also require public review before they are adopted.

I close by saying, senators, that Bill C-81 needs to pass now. We have an obligation as parliamentarians and senators to protect the needs of all Canadians, especially those who are among the most vulnerable in our society. I strongly believe that acknowledging this community is an essential part of meeting the objectives of this bill, which will ultimately aim to remove and prevent barriers for all people in this country.

I end by thanking Barbara Collier, who has been a tireless advocate for a communications amendment passed in the House of Commons. With these final words, I would ask my honourable colleagues to join me in voting in favour of Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. Thank you, all.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and bill, as amended, read third time and passed.)

102 Days after the Ford Government Received the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA, the Government Has Still Not Announced a Detailed Plan to Implement It

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

102 Days after the Ford Government Received the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA, the Government Has Still Not Announced a Detailed Plan to Implement It

May 13, 2019

          SUMMARY

We have recently focused a lot of attention on Parliament in Ottawa, and on Bill C-81, the proposed federal Accessible Canada Act. Yet we never lose sight of important issues at the provincial level at Queen’s park. Here’s the latest!

In a nutshell, the Ford Government has been proceeding at the speed of a turtle in slow motion, when it comes to the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Almost 11 months after the new Ontario Government took office, we’ve seen no indication of any action to speed up and strengthen the AODA’s faltering implementation and enforcement. This stands in striking contrast to certain other areas of governing, where the new Ontario Government has shown itself quite ready to act in a swift and decisive way. In this Update you can read the latest about the following issues, and then read the actual documents on point:

* Ontario Accessibility Minister wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2019 but had little to say.

* On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister was questioned in Question Period in the Legislature about the Onley Report on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, but again had little to say.

* Letters to the editor in newspapers continue to be a great way to help our accessibility campaign, as recent examples show, and

* Over two months after the Ford Government said it was lifting its 9-month freeze on the work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, no new meetings of These Committees have even been scheduled.

We will have more to say on recent developments on the Ontario front over the next weeks.

          MORE DETAILS

1. A Closer Look at Recent Developments on the Provincial Front

a) Ontario Accessibility Minister Wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2-019 But Had Little to Say

On April 3, 2019, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho wrote the AODA Alliance. We set out his letter below.

The minister was answering two earlier letters from the AODA Alliance. In our February 6, 2019 letter, we asked the Minister to immediately lift his Government’s long freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees that were developing recommendations on what to include in new AODA accessibility standards to tear down disability barriers in the areas of health care and education. We also asked his Government to quickly make public the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

In our March 11, 2019 letter, we asked the Government to “clearly and publicly accept the findings in the Onley report regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.” We also asked him to quickly take action on five priority areas identified in the Onley report, namely:

  1. to appoint a new Standards Development Committee under the AODA to address the removal and prevention of all kinds of disability barriers in the built environment. The Onley report identified this as a top priority. That Standards Development Committee should be free to address, among other things, requirements in the deficient Ontario Building Code. It should be able to address built environment in residential housing. It should also conduct the mandatory 5-year review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Government remains in violation of the AODA, because it has not yet appointed a Standards Development Committee to conduct that mandatory review. It was obligatory to appoint that review by the end of 2017, when the former Ontario Government was still in power.
  1. to now launch a short, focused public consultation leading to your Government’s identifying the other accessibility standards that need to be developed to ensure that the AODA leads Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.
  1. to substantially strengthen the Government’s enforcement of the AODA, which the Onley report showed to be substantially deficient and ineffective.
  1. to launch a major reform to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, whether as a result of public spending on infrastructure, procurement, business grants or loans, or research grants. As part of this, a major reform is desperately needed regarding how Infrastructure Ontario deals with disability accessibility needs in the projects in which it is involved. We would add to the Onley report the fact that a similar reform is desperately needed at Metrolinx when it spends billions of public dollars on public transit infrastructure, and
  1. to now implement a program to ensure that students in Ontario schools receive curriculum on accessibility for and inclusion of people with disabilities in society, and to ensure that key professional, like architects, get much-needed training on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Our March 11, 2019 letter thanked the Government for releasing the Onley report to the public on March 7, 2019 and for announcing that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the existing AODA Standards Development Committees that had been working in the areas of health care and education. Our letter urged the Government to get these existing advisory committees back to work as quickly as possible.

Minister Cho’s responding April 3, 2019 letter to us, set out below, was exceedingly general. It said nothing and committed to nothing on any of the issues we had raised and that then remained outstanding. He re-announced that the Government had lifted the freeze on the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of disability barriers in health care and education, something he’d earlier announced on March 7, 2019. Beyond that he only said that he’d have more to say at some unspecified future time.

The minister also said this in his letter:

“We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility.”

He made no mention of consulting with people with disabilities on accessibility. This takes on greater significance below. Read on!

b) On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Was Questioned in Question Period About the Onley Report But Had Little to Say

On April 10, 2019, MPP Joel Harden, the NDP accessibility critic, directed questions at Accessibility Minister Cho about the Onley Report. He asked the minister if the Government accepts the findings in the Onley Report. He also asked for the minister’s plans regarding the implementation of the Onley Report’s recommendations. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of that exchange.

This was raised in the Legislature on an especially appropriate day. Later that day, NDP MPP Joel Harden held and hosted a Town Hall meeting at the Legislature for people with disabilities to describe the disability barriers they face and the corrective action they need. MPPs of all parties were invited to attend.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to co-MC the Town Hall. For several hours stretching through the afternoon, individuals and disability organizations presented pointed and troubling illustrations of the barriers that persist in 2019, 14 years after the AODA was enacted.

In response to MPP Harden’s question whether the minister accepts the Onley Report’s findings, Minister Cho said that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Minister criticized the previous Ontario Liberal Government’s performance on the accessibility issues and said “…the accessibility is not done even 30%.” This seems to be a helpful recognition by the minister that Ontario has a long way to go to reach full accessibility by 2025, as the AODA requires. The Onley Report did not cite a specific 30% figure, but found that Ontario is far behind its goal of reaching accessibility by 2025.

In response to Mr. Harden’s question whether the minister would be releasing a plan of action in response to the Onley Report, and if so, when, the Minister said:

“After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to him—three times, I went to see him—and he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. That’s why we’re going to focus and I’m going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community.”

That answer included no commitment to create a plan of action in response to the Onley Report. The minister committed to no time lines for doing so.

The only action that the minister announced was a plan to hold a town hall for businesses. Of course, that could be one helpful step. However it is far less than what we need or what the Onley Report calls for. Here again, as in the case of the minister’s April 3, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance the minister talked about consulting businesses, but not people with disabilities. We need the Government to do much more than to hold a town hall for businesses.

We want to thank MPP Harden for raising this issue in Question Period. We also thank him, his staff, and the other NDP MPPs and staff who helped make this Town Hall such a success. We also thank the MPPs from other parties who came to watch some of the Town Hall. In our usual spirit of non-partisanship, we encourage and invite all parties to host similar Town Hall events for the public including people with disabilities.

c) Letters to the Editor in Newspapers Continue to Be a great Way to Help Our Accessibility Campaign

As in the past, letters to the editor in Ontario newspapers remain a great way to help advance our ongoing non-partisan accessibility campaign.

On March 15, 2019, the Toronto Star ran two letters to the editor about the need for more provincial action on accessibility. One was by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other was by Janis Jaffe-White, a tenacious advocate for students with disabilities. We set these out below.

These letters were written to comment on and follow up on a great March 13, 2019 Toronto Star editorial that had called for action on accessibility as a result of the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report.

Whenever you notice an article on an accessibility issue in a newspaper, we encourage you to take the opportunity to get more coverage for this issue by sending in your own letter to the editor. If it gets published, let us know. You can always write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com.

d) Over Two Months After the Ford Government Said It Was Lifting Its 9-Month Freeze on the Work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, No New Meetings of These Committees Have Even Been Scheduled

Last June, in the wake of the June Ontario election, the work of AODA Standards Development Committees in the areas of disability barriers in our health care system and education system were frozen. For those of you who have been following our AODA Alliance Updates for several months, You will recall that we spent a great deal of time and effort to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze.

After months of this effort, the Ford Government agreed partway through last fall to lift its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. However it left the other Standards Development Committees frozen. They were focusing on disability barriers in health care and education. We need those remaining advisory committees to get back to work, developing recommendations on the disability barriers and education that need to be removed and prevented in new AODA accessibility standards.

The Ford Government gave various excuses for that freeze. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors needed time to be briefed, we were originally told. Six months after the freeze went into effect, and long after the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors had had ample time to be briefed, the Government said for the first time that it was awaiting the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report before it decide what to do about the freeze.

That reason for continuing the freeze was unconvincing. It was quite obvious that Mr. Onley would recommend that that freeze be lifted. Mr. Onley submitted his report to the Ontario Government on January 31, 2019, fully 102 days ago. He did indeed recommend that that freeze be lifted.

The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 to announce that it was lifting that freeze. Yet over two months since that announcement, and over four months since the Ford Government received the Onley Report, no meetings have yet even been scheduled for the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of health care or education.

On May 6, 2019, members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee received an email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of that Standards Development Committee. We set that email out below.

On the one hand, it is good that Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is finally reaching out with preliminary steps that aim towards scheduling the next meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. As well, the email describes some changes to the way the Standards Development Committee will be operating.

We are open to improving the process for the Standards Development Committees. Our brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review included an entire chapter that detailed problems with the way the former Ontario Government operated those committees. The previous minister had, we regret, been unwilling to make changes as a result of concerns we had raised last spring.

We are, however, concerned about some of the specific changes announced in this new email. There is no reason why the Government should have waited over two months since it announced it decision to lift its freeze on these Standards Development Committees just to ask members of those committees whether they want to continue on those committees, and whether they have changed their job. That inquiry should have been made back on March 7, 2019, when the Government announced that these committees would resume their work. The Government has not yet canvassed about available dates so that the next committee meeting can be scheduled.

It appears that the Government has substantially reduced the amount of actual time when the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee can meet and do its important work. We assume that the same will be the case for the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The Government is reducing meetings from two days to one, and reducing by an undisclosed amount the total number of meeting days. This is especially problematic since the committees lost the chance to do any work over the past year due to the Government’s freeze on their work. During that year, they could have been making substantial progress if not coming close to finishing their work. students with disabilities and health care patients with disabilities are suffering the consequences.

It appears that the Government wants out-of-town committee members to take part in meetings by phone rather than in person. While reasonable cost-saving measures are understandable, this measure threatens to create real problems. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee has over 20 members. It is hard to build the kind of cooperative exchange of ideas and views if some if not many are taking part over a speaker phone.

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario’s email says that Committee members will later receive a letter of re-engagement from the minister. This is an unnecessary step. Those who were previously appointed to these Standards Development Committees remain as members of these Standards Development Committees under the AODA. The June 2018 election and its results did not change that, or dissolve these Committees. There is no need to add yet another bureaucratic step to this process which has already been delayed for too long.

We will keep you posted on developments on this front.

2. April 3, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho, In Response to the AODA Alliance’s February 6 and March 11, 2019 Letters to the Minister

Thank you for your letters regarding the review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns.

The government is taking immediate action as it continues to work towards improving the lives of people with disabilities. We are resuming the Health Care and K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees, which is something we’ve heard Ontarians ask for.

We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility. I am also working with my colleagues across other Ministries to review the Honourable David Onley’s Third Legislative review of the AODA and move forward with a plan to improve accessibility in Ontario.

The government will continue to consider Mr. Onley’s recommendations and will have more to say on next steps in the future. We are committed to working with Ontarians towards improving accessibility and we will take the time to get this right for all Ontarians.

Thank you again for writing. Please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,

Raymond Cho

Minister

3. Ontario Hansard April 10, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/house-documents/parliament-42/session-1/2019-04-10/hansard

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question today is for the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. Today, people with disabilities from across Ontario are converging right here at Queen’s Park because we’re hosting an open forum for them. They are fed up with our province’s agonizingly slow progress towards making this province fully accessible and the barriers that are preventing them from living their lives to the fullest.

In his report on the third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Honourable David Onley said the following: “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

My question to the minister: Do you accept the findings of the Onley report?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I’d like to thank the member for raising that question. First of all, I’d like to thank the Honourable David Onley. He did a marvelous job; I read the report.

I’d like to refer that question to the Liberal Party. They were in government for 15 years and the accessibility is not done even 30%.

By the way, I will drop by your town hall meeting.

Our government is open for business for everybody, even people with disabilities, and I’ll try my best as minister.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Joel Harden: Thank you to the minister for that answer, but 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities actually deserve better. This is a human rights issue. Stalling any further and only looking backwards is not an option.

The AODA sets a target for this province to be fully accessible by 2025, but the Onley report says we are nowhere near achieving that goal. Mr. Onley has 15 recommendations—Speaker, to the minister—for improving accessibility through stronger enforcement, new standards for buildings and making sure public money is never used again to create new barriers. Will the minister be releasing a plan of action and response to the Onley report, and if so, Speaker, when can we expect that plan of action?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Thank you again for the question. After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to him—three times, I went to see him—and he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. That’s why we’re going to focus and I’m going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community. Thank you for the question.

4. The Toronto Star March 15, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2019/03/15/praising-advocacy-for-those-with-disabilities.html

Letters to the Editor

Praising advocacy for those with disabilities

Time to clear the way, Editorial, March 13

Three cheers for the Star editorial “Time to clear the way.” It calls for the Ford Government to swiftly implement former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s report that shows that 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities still face far too many disability accessibility barriers. As the leading non-partisan disability coalition that’s campaigned for accessibility for almost a quarter century, we strongly support Onley’s findings and key recommendations.

We’ve asked Ford’s minister to accept Onley’s findings and to get to work swiftly on taking action. Ontarians with disabilities cannot afford more months of waiting.

As Onley said, Premier Ford needs to make accessibility for people with disabilities a major priority.

David Lepofsky, Toronto

The editor is right. This situation is “clearly unacceptable.” Thisis a violation of human rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The basic problem is lack of enforcement of the law. Everyone has the legal right to be treated equitably.

Onley is right as well. People with disabilities often feel they “don’t belong here.” School is a mini-society where inclusion develops attitudes of acceptance and belonging. It is not the curriculum that is the problem. It is the living of acceptance of all individuals within the school system and wider community. To achieve accessibility and full participation of everyone, an emphasis must be placed on compliance with and enforcement of the legally mandated human-rights requirements.

Janis Jaffe-White, Toronto

5. May 6, 2019 Email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to Members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee

Please see the message below, sent from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division. We ask that you kindly provide your response by Friday May 10th.

________________________________________

Dear Kindergarten-Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee Members,

We are pleased to confirm that the Government has announced that it will be resuming the work of the committees that have been exploring the development of new accessibility standards in Health Care, Kindergarten – Grade 12 and Post-Secondary Education under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

We wish to confirm your continued interest to sit on this committee. In addition, per the requirements of the Act regarding committee composition, we will be reviewing members’ institutional affiliations or roles to determine if any have changed – for example, if any members have switched employers or organizational affiliations, or moved to new roles within the same organization.

It is important to note that since your last meeting, there have been some changes to the way the committees will move forward. Changes will include:

  • The overall number of meeting days will be decreased;
  • The time allocated for meetings will be decreased (e.g., 1-day versus 2-day meetings);
  • Members are asked to participate in meetings via teleconference, where appropriate; and,
  • Before scheduling travel and/or accessibility supports, Ministry pre-approval is required.

This new approach is consistent with the government’s efforts to increase efficiencies and is intended to help the committees reach their goal of submitting an initial recommendations report to the minister in a more effective and streamlined way.

Please reply to this email to confirm your continued interest in sitting on the Kindergarten-Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee, as well as any relevant changes to your status.

All returning members will receive a formal invitation to re-engage from the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho.

We look forward to working with you once again soon.

Sincerely,

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division

The Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs’ Chair and Vice-Chair Make Strong Speeches in the Senate to Support the Committee’s Amendments to Improve Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act -These Speeches Show Why the Federal Government Should Agree to Pass All Those Amendments

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

The Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs’ Chair and Vice-Chair Make Strong Speeches in the Senate to Support the Committee’s Amendments to Improve Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act –These Speeches Show Why the Federal Government Should Agree to Pass All Those Amendments

May 10, 2019

            Summary

On Wednesday, May 8, 2019, the full Senate voted to formally accept the report of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. Below we set out the two strong speeches made in the Senate at that time, by the Standing Committee’s chair and vice chair. Together these speeches show why the House of Commons should vote to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate’s Standing Committee adopted. These speeches make a compelling case for those amendments.

On May 6, 2019, the AODA Alliance wrote federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough. We asked the Federal Government to agree to pass all the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments. The Minister has not yet responded. To our knowledge, she has not yet made that commitment. If the Federal Government does not pass all those amendments in the House of Commons, that will both weaken Bill C-81 and risk Bill C-81 not being finally passed by Parliament before it rises for the fall election.

The Senate is moving the bill to Third Reading debates. We understand that those debates will occur next week, with a final vote on or before Thursday, May 16, 2019. The Senate’s acceptance of the Standing Committee’s report is a formality, needed to move the bill to Third Reading.

We are eager for you to email or tweet as many Members of Parliament as you can. Press them to agree to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee made to Bill C-81. For action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments passed), visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

To read the text of the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and a good explanation of them by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/more-specifics-on-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senates-standing-committee-passed-and-that-we-want-the-house-of-commons-to-ratify-still-no-commitment-by /

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

For all the background on our efforts to get the Federal Government to enact a strong and effective national accessibility law, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Please send us your feedback. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

            MORE DETAILS

Hansard Senate of Canada May 8, 2019

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/content/sen/chamber/421/debates/285db_2019-05-08-e

Thirty-fourth Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee—Debate

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the thirty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, with amendments and observations), presented in the Senate on May 7, 2019.

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc moved the adoption of the report.

She said:

Honourable senators, I rise today in support of the thirty-fourth report of the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee. The report deals with Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

[English]

Bill C-81 proposes to enact the accessible Canada act, with the objective of enhancing the full and equal participation of all persons living with disabilities in society through the identification, removal and prevention of barriers within areas under federal jurisdiction. It would also make related amendments to a number of other acts.

The proposed legislation adds to the rights and protections currently available to persons with disabilities, including those set out under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Bill C-81 was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on March 21, 2019.

[Translation]

Pursuant to the leaders’ agreement, the committee was supposed to report back by yesterday, May 7, 2019, and it did. I sincerely thank my committee colleagues who, despite the tight deadlines created by that agreement, were able to study the bill very efficiently. The committee wouldn’t have been able to complete its report on time if it weren’t for our highly efficient clerk, Daniel Charbonneau, and Library of Parliament analysts Laura Munn-Rivard and Mayra Perez-Leclerc. I sincerely thank them.

A few groups wanted to take part in our study. We thank them for their interest and, above all, for their understanding since they were unable to appear in person.

[English]

In its study of the bill, the committee endeavoured to follow the principle, “nothing about us without us,” consulting with advocacy groups, accessibility experts and other relevant witnesses from the disability community across Canada. On behalf of the committee, thank you to the members of the disability community who offered their knowledge, expertise, ideas and insights on this important piece of legislation.

Over 4 meetings, the committee heard from 20 witnesses and received more than 70 emails from the public and more than a dozen briefs from experts and organizations. Based on the testimony we received, the committee made 11 amendments and 2 observations to Bill C-81 with the goal of strengthening the legislation.

With regard to a timeline, January 1, 2040 has been added to the legislation as a deadline by which Canada must become accessible to persons with disabilities. To address concerns that a deadline acts as a disincentive to quick implementation, Bill C-81 is also amended to state that nothing in the act authorizes any delay in the removal of barriers or the implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as possible.

As well, the preamble section of the bill is amended to state that the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility must be done without delay.

The deadline of January 1, 2040 was suggested by multiple expert witnesses, including the Honourable David Onley, as a reasonable time frame. Witnesses said that identifying a date was necessary to measure progress, strengthen accountability and propel the implementation of Bill C-81.

[Translation]

Clause 6 of the bill, which sets out the principles of the proposed legislation, is amended by the committee to reflect the fact that people with a disability face many intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination. This issue was raised several times in committee and in the briefs we received. The purpose of this amendment is to recognize the unique challenges faced by people living with disabilities. For example, handicapped seniors regularly face ageism and may also live in poverty. This enhancement of Bill C-81’s principles is important because the legislation provides that the organizations concerned take these principles into consideration when developing their accessibility plans.

[English]

Sign languages in Canada receive express recognition in the amended legislation in two ways.

First, clause 5.1, the clarification provision regarding the identification, removal and prevention of barriers under the area of communication other than information and communication technologies, is amended to include the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages.

Second, another amendment in the same clause recognizes sign languages as the primary language for communication by deaf persons in Canada.

Many witnesses stated that for people in the Deaf community, sign language is their primary language and a critical part of their culture, enabling them to participate in society.

As well, witnesses pointed to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states that:

Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture.

[Translation]

The bill is also amended by adding clause 121.1 to indicate that nothing in any provision of the new accessible Canada act or its potential accompanying regulations limits an otherwise regulated entity’s duty to accommodate.

Several witnesses stated that it was important that Bill C-81 not lessen the federal government’s existing human rights obligations. Experts from the community of people living with disabilities noted that experience with provincial accessibility legislation suggests that regulated entities could fail to provide accommodations because they mistakenly believe that compliance with accessibility regulations fulfils or eliminates their duty to accommodate.

[English]

(1500)

The legislation is amended to modify section 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, with the goal of removing the Canadian Transportation Agency’s ability to dismiss a complaint about inaccessibility in the federal transportation system if the transportation provider has complied with regulations made by the agency.

Some witnesses expressed concern that the regulations made by the Canadian Transportation Agency may not meet the legal duty to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship and may not address individual requirements of people with disabilities.

[Translation]

Finally, two committee amendments, to clauses 94(4) and 143, bring Bill C-81 in line with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act. With the adoption of the accessible Canada act, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will be able to file complaints with the accessibility commissioner and receive compensation, just like other public servants.

Your committee also made two observations to the federal government, which are appended to the report. The committee encouraged the government to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided. Furthermore, the committee strongly encouraged the government to create standardized, effective training that will ensure that all Canadians can expect the same level of access to all government services.

Honourable colleagues, the Senate’s legal counsel discovered a technical error in the French version of amendment 5(b) of the report that the committee tabled on May 7, 2019. The report states, “remplacer les lignes 22 et 23.” However, it should state, “remplacer les lignes 22 à 26.” The word “et” should be replaced by “à,” and the number “23” should be replaced by “26” in the French version. This is a human error that must be fixed so that we can immediately start building a barrier-free Canada for the 6.2 million Canadians living with a disability.

Motion in Amendment Adopted

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: Therefore, honourable senators, with leave of the Senate, in amendment, I move:

That the thirty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology be not now adopted, but that it be amended in amendment 5b), in the French version, by replacing the instruction line with the following:

“b) remplacer les lignes 22 à 26 par ce qui suit :”.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, since Senator Petitclerc moved the adoption of the report, she cannot amend it without leave.

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Petitclerc agreed to.)

[English]

(Later that day in the Senate)

Thirty-fourth Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Petitclerc, seconded by the Honourable Senator Verner, P.C., for the adoption of the thirty-fourth report, as amended, of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, with amendments and observations), presented in the Senate on May 7, 2019.

Hon. Judith G. Seidman: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s thirty-fourth report on Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

Our committee studied this piece of legislation extensively and heard testimony from 20 advocacy groups and umbrella organizations. These included the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, a network comprised of 85 organizations; the Canadian Association of the Deaf; Barrier Free Canada, advocates for accessibility legislation; AGE-Well, Canada’s technology and aging network; March of Dimes Canada, an organization that offers a wide range of programs and services to persons with disabilities; the Canadian National Institute for the Blind; the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a national human rights organization of people with disabilities; Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec; and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, all who bring representation of Canada’s disability communities.

Although virtually all of the testimony we heard called on us to pass this bill with a degree of urgency, without exception witnesses expressed concerns about certain omissions they asked us to address. While the reflected desire for this legislation was strong, the desire to improve it was even stronger.

After much deliberation and discussion, our committee adopted 11 amendments. Today, I rise to speak to two of these amendments in particular that were raised with consistency throughout our committee hearings.

First, the amendment that addresses the issue of timelines. What we heard from many advocacy groups is that timelines are an essential accountability measure and are necessary if we are to achieve the purpose of this legislation. For example, Ms. Donna Jodhan, the President of Barrier-Free Canada, said during her testimony on May 1:

Bill C-81 requires timelines. Timelines are essential to ensure that key accessibility measures are taken. Timelines are also required so that progress on accessibility can be measured. In particular, we support recommendations for the bill to include a timeline for achieving a Canada without barriers and timelines with which accessibility standards are developed and enacted by law.

As another example, Ms. Zinnia Batliwalla, the National Manager, Government Relations and Advocacy for March of Dimes Canada, said during her testimony on April 11:

To enable organizations like ours to measure progress and urge change, timelines allow us to better work with our government partners to ensure we are actively moving toward an accessible and inclusive Canada.

Steven Estey, the Government and Community Relations Officer for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, said during his testimony on April 10:

Bill C-81 is silent on those timelines. That concerns us, not because we feel there is a lack of good intention, not because we feel that officials don’t want to move forward, but because five or ten years down the road, we can begin to have meetings. If there is no backstop or wall against which we can say the time has come, people can say, “We’re working very hard. We’re doing good things.” There is no way to say that we’re going to get there by a certain time. We are concerned about that.

The former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Honourable David Onley, who has been long involved in developing Ontario’s accessibility legislation, made an interesting point. He said that if we make only one amendment to this legislation, it must be around timelines. During his testimony on May 1, the Honourable Mr. Onley stated:

I was part of the discussions at the very beginning in 2005 and the first chair of the minister’s advisory committee on the implementation of the act. I, along with most of the members of the first advisory committee, felt that moral suasion and goodwill would be sufficient to achieve the objectives . . . .

Having listened, as I mentioned, to hundreds of people from across the province and taken submissions via email and in person, my views changed. I now believe quite firmly that the only way we’re going to achieve true and full accessibility is for the various standards and objectives to have a definable date in place and a government that is willing to enforce the implementation of these measures.

(1510)

This is the type of consistent testimony that led the committee to support the date of January 1, 2040, for Canada to become barrier-free. This will give the federal government and the obliged federally regulated entities 21 years to take the necessary steps to reach their accessibility requirements, a time frame that is neither too far nor too near. It was said to be one that is realistic and will be seen in our lifetimes.

However, we also made an amendment to ensure that accessibility measures would not be delayed or postponed but enacted as soon as possible. In fact, we added a new clause to the bill, clause 5.2, which states:

Nothing in this Act, including its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers, should be construed as requiring or authorizing any delay in the removal or implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as is reasonably possible.

The other amendment I would like to address is the recognition of sign languages as the language of the deaf community. Many organizations that represent Canada’s deaf community spoke about the importance for Bill C-81 to recognize sign languages as a way to ensure that deaf persons have equal access to information, communication, employment, government services, transportation and other federally regulated sectors.

As an example, Bill Adair, the Executive Director of the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance, said during his testimony on April 10:

. . . we want Bill C-81 to recognize ASL and LSQ as the languages of people who are deaf in Canada. We are not asking for official language status. We are asking that sign languages be included as an integral part of Bill C-81.

This is why. If it were not for the use of signing here today, any person in this room who is deaf would not be privy to my remarks and to the discussions that will follow. This is true of all public hearings. Indeed, the very name implies that these meetings are for those who can hear.

More importantly, if catastrophe were to suddenly strike us, a person who is deaf would not have access to potentially life-saving information. This was the case recently in Pearson Airport when a fire broke out.

Please ensure that ASL and LSQ are written right into Bill C-81 so that there is an expectation for federally regulated entities to provide resources and newsworthy information in sign languages.

Frank Folino, President of the Canadian Association of the Deaf, said during his testimony on May 1:

We commend the Government of Canada and the minister for introducing Bill C-81, which is an important and positive step toward becoming an accessible Canada. However, an integral part of Bill C-81 will achieve its purposes of a barrier-free Canada with legal recognition of ASL and LSQ as the languages of deaf people because this does make a tremendous difference for deaf Canadians, through accessibility, information, communications and services.

Our committee learned about the deaf culture, one which has its own defining characteristics and includes sign languages, cultural norms, historical traditions and heritage. For all of us, this new understanding was very significant and led us to amend the bill to recognize the important role that sign languages play in the lives of Canada’s deaf community.

Honourable colleagues, I am extremely proud of the collaboration of our committee members. We have weighed and considered very carefully the passionate testimony we heard from the disability communities. Although the needs of the disability communities are broad and unique, we believe we were able to focus on a few clear amendments that will add value to Bill C-81 without endangering its passage. Through our work, we are convinced that we have both reaffirmed our committee to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and made a meaningful piece of legislation even better in response to overwhelmingly consistent requests from the disability communities to the benefit of all Canadians.

Honourable colleagues, I hope that you will support the report of our Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee on Bill C-81. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

It was moved by the Honourable Senator Petitclerc, seconded by the Honourable Senator Verner that this report, as amended, be adopted now.

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report, as amended, adopted.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?

(On motion of Senator Munson, bill, as amended, placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)

More Specifics on the Amendments to Bill C-81 (the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate’s Standing Committee Passed and that We Want the House of Commons to Ratify – Still No Commitment by the Federal Government to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

More Specifics on the Amendments to Bill C-81 (the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate’s Standing Committee Passed and that We Want the House of Commons to Ratify – Still No Commitment by the Federal Government to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments

May 9, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here’s the latest news regarding Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It has reached the final stage in its debates in Canada’s Senate, Third Reading debates. That is expected to wind up by May 16, which happens to Be Global Accessibility Awareness Day. the Federal Government has still not committed to pass all the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee made to the bill at the disability community’s request to improve it.

  1. We now have the exact wording of the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed on May 2, 2019. Below we set out the formal report of that Standing Committee to the Senate. That report lists the specific amendments.

These amendments improve the bill. However, they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, including the AODA Alliance.

The amendments include:

* Setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible;

* Ensuring that this 2040 timeline does not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible;

* Recognizing American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages as the primary languages for communication used by Deaf people;

* Making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered;

* Ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it cannot cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act;

* Ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency cannot reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the Agency handles complaints about barriers in transportation; and

* Fixing problems the Federal Government identified between the bill’s employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.

  1. The ARCH Disability Law Centre has posted online a helpful explanation of these amendments. We set it out below.
  1. When a Senate Standing Committee reports back to the whole Senate on a bill it has studied, it can include in its report “observations” about the bill. These set out the Committee’s advice to the Federal Government. They are not binding on the Government, but are meant to put real pressure on the Government to address them.

The Senate Standing Committee’s report, set out below, included two observations about Bill C-81. The first observation, under the heading “Federal Contracts,” commendably raises a concern that the AODA Alliance has raised for some time. It states:

“Your committee heard concerns that despite this legislation, federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that do not always meet accessibility standards. Therefore, we encourage the federal government to ensure that when public money is spent or transferred, the funding should never be used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided.”

The Committee’s second observation “…strongly encourages the government to create standardized, effective training that will ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.”

  1. The Federal Government has still not publicly said whether it will pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. On May 6, 2019, we wrote federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough to ask her Government to commit to do so. She has not yet responded to us.

Of special importance are the Senate’s amendments that set 2040 as the end timeline for Canada to become fully accessible to people with disabilities. The minister has in the past spoken in opposition to amendments that would make this change to the bill.

Of interest, the minister yesterday was asked about this in the House of Commons. On May 8, 2019, she appeared before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Human Resources (the HUMA Committee). Conservative MP (and Committee vice-chair) John Barlow asked Minister Qualtrough whether she would support passage of all the amendments that the Senate made to Bill C-81. We express our thanks to MP  Barlow for raising this with the minister.

In this request, MP Barlow specifically mentioned the amendments setting 2040 as the time line for reaching accessibility.

In her response, the Minister said:

“I certainly was open, as I told senators, to amendments within their process, but I’m very mindful that of course that is their process to run. I’m looking at their suggestions, looking at what the government thinks would be the best for this law and I’m open to many of their amendments, yes.”

It is not news that the Minister is open to “many” of the Senate’s amendments. Of the 11 amendments passed, a majority of them were proposed in the Senate by the Government’s own sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Munson, or had been the subject of prior Government signals of support for them.

The only real open question is over setting the 2040 timeline. Four of the amendments speak to this.

The Minister did not say that she is open to all of the Senate’s amendments. That is why we need as many of you as possible to now email or tweet the Federal Government to press for the Government to support all the Senate’s amendments to the bill.

To get action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments passed), visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the Report to the Senate of Canada on Bill C-81 by the Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/report/74724/42-1

May 7, 2019

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to present its

THIRTY-FOURTH REPORT

Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, has, in obedience to the order of reference of March 21, 2019, examined the said bill and now reports the same with the following amendments:

  1. Preamble, page 1: Replace line 15 with the following:

“bility without delay complements the rights of persons with disabil-”.

  1. Clause 5, page 3: Replace line 13 with the following:

“ers, on or before January 1, 2040, particularly by the identification and removal of bar-”.

  1. Clause 5.1, page 4: Replace lines 1 to 5 with the following:

5.1 (1) The area of communication referred to in paragraph 5(c.1)

(a) includes the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous sign languages; and

(b) does not include broadcasting as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Broadcasting Act or telecommunications as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Telecommunications Act.

(2) American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous sign languages are recognized as the primary languages for communication by deaf persons in Canada.”.

  1. New clause 5.2, page 4: Add the following after line 5:

5.2 Nothing in this Act, including its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers, should be construed as requiring or authorizing any delay in the removal of barriers or the implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as is reasonably possible.”.

  1. Clause 6, page 4:

(a) Replace lines 12 to 14 with the following:

“wish to have regardless of their disabilities;”; and

(b) replace lines 22 to 26 with the following:

“must take into account the disabilities of persons, the different ways that persons interact with their environments and the multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination faced by persons;

(f) persons with disabilities must be involved in the development and design of laws, policies, programs, services and structures; and

(g) the development and revision of accessibility stan-”.

  1. Clause 11, page 6: Replace line 6 with the following:

“Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040.”.

  1. Clause 18, page 7: Replace line 14 with the following:

“tribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers, on or before January 1, 2040,”.

  1. Clause 94, page 54:

(a)  Replace lines 9 to 17 with the following:

(4) An individual is not entitled to file a complaint in re-”; and

(b) replace line 22 with the following:

(5) The Accessibility Commissioner must cause a written”.

  1. New clause 121.1, page 67: Add the following after line 21 :

121.1 For greater certainty, nothing in any provision of this Act or the regulations limits a regulated entity’s duty to accommodate under any other Act of Parliament.”.

  1. Clause 143, page 77: Replace line 10 with the following:

“subsection 94(5), 96(1), 100(2), 101(2) or 103(3), the Ac-”.

  1. Clause 172, pages 88 to 91:

(a) On page 88, replace line 37 with the following:

172 Section 172 of the Act is replaced by”;

(b) on page 89,

(i) replace lines 3 to 12 with the following:

(2) On determining that there is an undue barrier to the”, and

(ii) replace lines 34 and 35 with the following:

(3) If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”;

(c)  on page 90, replace line 25 with the following:

172.2 (1) For the purpose of paragraphs 172(2)(d) and”;

(d) on page 91, replace line 5 with the following:

“graphs 172(2)(b) and (c) and 172.1(2)(b) and (c) may in-”; and

(e) renumber the remaining clauses and amend all references to them accordingly.

Your committee has also made certain observations, which are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

JUDITH G. SEIDMAN

Deputy Chair

Observations

to the thirty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-81)

Federal Contracts:

Your committee heard concerns that despite this legislation, federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that do not always meet accessibility standards. Therefore, we encourage the federal government to ensure that when public money is spent or transferred, the funding should never be used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided.

Training:

Your committee is concerned that while the goal of this legislation is to prevent, identify and remove disability-related barriers, this legislation does not sufficiently emphasize how important the education and training of front-line personnel is in accomplishing that end. Your committee strongly encourages the government to create standardized, effective training that will ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.

ARCH Disability Law Centre Analysis of the Senate Standing Committee’s Amendments to Bill C-81

Originally posted at https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/update-se

May 7, 2019

Update: Senate Committee Adopts Amendments which Strengthen Bill C-81- Accessible Canada Act

Introduction

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, continues its journey through the legislative process. If it becomes law, this Act may lead to new requirements for advancing accessibility in federal employment, transportation, services, information and communications, and other areas.

On May 2, 2019 the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) made a number of amendments to Bill C-81. Many of these amendments were adopted in response to the written and oral submissions that the Senate received from disability groups and members of disability communities across Canada. ARCH supported disability communities in their advocacy, and made our own oral and written submissions to the Senate. A common theme among these submissions was the need for the Senate to make changes to strengthen Bill C-81 and ensure that it achieves its purpose of a barrier-free Canada.

What Amendments Did the Senate Committee Adopt?

Including Timelines: SOCI adopted amendments which add a timeline of 2040 for realizing a barrier-free Canada. Amendments also clarify that this timeline does not authorize any delay in removing or preventing barriers to accessibility, and that action to advance accessibility should be taken as soon as reasonably possible. Including timelines is an important accountability mechanism, which many disability organizations advocated for, including the AODA Alliance, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and ARCH.

Taking Intersectionality Into Account: SOCI adopted an amendment which incorporates intersectionality into the principles of Bill C-81. Laws, policies, programs, services and structures must take into account disability and the multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities. This change means that organizations will have to take into account intersectionality when developing their accessibility plans. Throughout the legislative process, ARCH and other disability organizations have consistently advocated for incorporating barriers related to intersectionality into Bill C-81. Persons with disabilities and disability communities have been firm that laws, policies and programs about disability and accessibility must address the lived experiences of whole persons, not just their disabilities.

Protecting Existing Human Rights of People with Disabilities: SOCI adopted an amendment which clarifies that nothing in Bill C-81 or its regulations limits the legal obligations that organizations already have to accommodate persons with disabilities under the Canadian Human Rights Act and any other federal laws. ARCH and other disability advocacy groups highlighted to SOCI the importance of this amendment.

Protecting Existing Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities at the Canadian Transportation Agency:  Under Bill C-81, we expect that most complaints by passengers with disabilities about barriers in air travel, train travel, and every other kind of transportation that the Federal Government regulates, will go to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). The Bill gives the CTA power to make regulations to set enforceable standards on what barriers these transportation providers must remove and prevent.

However, subsection 172(2), a provision that is currently in the Canada Transportation Act, effectively means that once the CTA make these regulations and transportation providers, like airlines, comply with these regulations, they do not need to do anything more. This is problematic because the regulations that the CTA sets may not meet the duty to accommodate protections that people with disabilities have under human rights law. Under subsection 172(2), if a passenger with a disability complained to the CTA that an airline or other transportation provider should have accommodated their disability, their case would fail if the airline complied with the CTA regulations. A more detailed analysis of this issue is in ARCH’s Final Report: Legal Analysis of Bill C-81, available by going to: https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/initiatives/advocating-for-accessibility-in-canada/arch-reports-and-recommendations/  ARCH and the AODA Alliance highlighted to SOCI the importance of repealing the problematic section 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

SOCI did not repeal subsection 172(2), but adopted an amendment which changes it. The amendment allows the CTA to find that there is a barrier to accessibility, even if the transportation provider has complied with all the CTA regulations. For passengers with disabilities, this means they could file a complaint with the CTA that they faced an undue barrier in the federal transportation system, and insist that the transportation provider do more than what the CTA regulation requires. The passenger with a disability could win their case, even if the transportation provider has complied with all the CTA regulations. However, the CTA could only order the transportation provider to take “corrective measures”. The CTA could not order the transportation provider to pay the person damages or money compensation. This is different than for other complaints to the CTA about inaccessibility of the federal transportation system. Generally for these other complaints, the CTA can order the transportation provider to take corrective measures and to pay damages to the person who complained.

Recognizing Sign Languages: Communication is one of the areas in Bill C-81 for which new accessibility standards may be created. SOCI adopted an amendment that explains that communication includes the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages. Another amendment recognizes that sign languages are the primary languages for communication by Deaf persons in Canada.

Legal recognition of sign languages is an issue that Deaf communities in Canada have long advocated for. ARCH and other disability advocacy groups supported the Canadian Association of the Deaf in calling for Bill C-81 to recognize sign languages as an important acknowledgement that sign languages are not just disability accommodations, but are important for cultural and linguistic reasons.

These are some of the amendments that the Senate Committee adopted. While the amendments made address many of the issues raised by ARCH and other disability groups, they do not deal with all of our concerns and recommendations. A number of weaknesses remain in Bill C-81. One such weakness is the use of permissive language “may” rather than directive language “shall” or “must”. This language gives government and other bodies power to make and enforce accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers. For example, the Bill allows the Government of Canada to make new accessibility regulations but does not require them to do so. Therefore, there is no assurance that such regulations, a cornerstone for advancing accessibility, will ever be made.

In addition to the amendments, the Senate Committee reported 2 observations to Bill C-81. The first addresses the concern expressed by many in the disability community that federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that perpetuate barriers. The observation encourages the federal government to ensure that any federal public money should not be used to create or perpetuate disability related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided. The second observation emphasizes the importance of training in achieving a barrier-free Canada. It encourages the government to create standardized, effective training to ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.

What Happens Next?

In the coming weeks, the amended Bill C-81 will come before the Senate for Third Reading. At that time, Senators will vote on whether to pass the Bill with the amendments adopted by SOCI. If the Bill passes Third Reading, it will return back to the House of Commons for approval. If it gets approval from the House, the Bill will then enter the final stages of the process to become a law.

ARCH is pleased that in response to submissions by disability communities across Canada, the Senate made a number of important amendments to strengthen Bill C-81.

Now, the Senate and the House of Commons must both act quickly to allow enough time for the Bill to finish it journey through the legislative process, before the Fall federal election is called.

If you support Bill C-81 becoming law with the changes that the Senate Committee has made, write to or tweet Minister Carla Qualtrough and Members of Parliament. Let them know they should pass Bill C-81 with all the amendments. For practical tips and information on how to do this, go to the AODA Alliance’s website: www.bit.ly/2vKXmV2

More Information

Recorded video of the Senate Committee’s study of Bill C-81, with sign language interpretation, and the written submissions made by disability groups to the Senate can be found by going to: https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/soci/studiesandbills/42-1  and clicking on Bill C-81.

To read ARCH’s analysis of Bill C-81, and submissions ARCH made to the House of Commons and Senate, go to: https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/initiatives/advocating-for-accessibility-in-canada/

ARCH Disability Law Centre

55 University Avenue, 15th Floor, Toronto, ON, M5J 2H7

Phone: 416-482-8255  1-866-482-2724

TTY: 416-482-1254  1-866-482-2728

www.archdisabilitylaw.ca

 @ARCHDisabilityLawCentre

@ARCHDisability

Excerpt from the Hansard of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources on May 8, 2019

Mr. John Barlow: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My first question is to Minister Qualtrough. You were talking about the importance of barrier-free and we certainly heard from almost every single stakeholder as part of the discussion at committee on Bill C-81 on the concerns raised that the bill does not go far enough, that it does not have the metrics to ensure success or teeth to ensure that federally legislated businesses adhere to it.

Now there were dozens of amendments that we brought forward that every opposition party agreed with. None of them were supported by the government. However, many of those amendments have come forward and been accepted at the Senate. I’m just curious and I would like to know if you’re going to be supporting those amendments that have come forward from the Senate specifically adding a timeline of 2040 for Canada to be barrier-free? Are you going to support those amendments?

Hon. Carla Qualtrough: Thank you for the question. I certainly was open, as I told senators, to amendments within their process, but I’m very mindful that of course that is their process to run. I’m looking at their suggestions, looking at what the government thinks would be the best for this law and I’m open to many of their amendments, yes.

Mr. John Barlow: Thank you very much, Minister. I appreciate that.

Help Our New Blitz to Get the House of Commons to Swiftly Ratify All the Amendments to Bill C-81(the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate Standing Committee Has Passed

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Help Our New Blitz to Get the House of Commons to Swiftly Ratify All the Amendments to Bill C-81(the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate Standing Committee Has Passed

May 6, 2019

Summary

The AODA Alliance has just launched a new blitz to get Canada’s House of Commons to swiftly ratify all the amendments to Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed on May 2, 2019.

Please email, tweet, phone or send a note by carrier-pigeon to your Member of Parliament. Ask them to commit to vote to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate’s Standing Committee approved. To find out how to contact your MP, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en.

We’ll soon provide you with more details on the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed.

MORE DETAILS

What’s Happening and How You can Help

The Senate is expected to hold its final or “Third Reading” vote on Bill C-81 on or before May 16, 2019. It is widely expected that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended by the Senate Standing Committee. We’re now focusing on what comes next after that.

Once the Senate as a whole passes the amended Bill C-81, the bill comes back to the House of Commons. The House of Commons then gets to vote on the Senate’s amendments. If the House of Commons passes all the Senate’s amendments, then Bill C-81 becomes a law, complete with these amendments. If the House of Commons does not pass some or all of the Senate’s amendments, Bill C-81 does not become a law. It is sent once again back to the Senate, for a vote on the bill without any of those Senate amendments.

What does all this mean for you? After the Senate passes Bill C-81 with the Senate Committee’s package of amendments, we want the House of Commons to hold a swift vote on those amendments, and to pass all the Senate’s amendments. This would improve the bill, (though not as much as we had wanted). As noted above, it would also make Bill C-81 become a law.

For that reason, we’ve now unleashed a campaign to get all MPs in the House of Commons to commit to a swift vote on Bill C-81, and to also commit that during that vote, they will vote to pass all the Senate’s amendments.

We’ve done four things to get this blitz started.

  1. We’ve already started a campaign on Twitter to tweet to as many MPs as possible. We’re asking them to commit to vote for all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. We invite you to retweet these tweets, or send your own. Include the hashtag #AccessibleCanada in your tweets. You may want to use this wording in your tweet, in which you should also include the MPs Twitter handle:

The Senate amended Bill C-81 (proposed #AccessibleCanada Act) to improve it. Please commit to vote in the House of Commons to swiftly pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81 https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/senates-standing-committee-passes-amendments-to-strengthen-the-weak-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-now-its-time-for-the-full-senate-and-house-of-commons-to-pass-all-those-amendmen/ #accessibility #CRPD #AODA #canpoli #a11y

For example, if you want to tweet to Minister Qualtrough, you start the tweet with her Twitter handle: @CQualtro.

To find your MP’s Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

  1. We’ve given a media interview to the Canadian Press on the importance of the Senate’s amendments. CP’s Michelle McQuigge quoted the AODA Alliance in a great article, which has been run in City News Vancouver, and elsewhere in the media. We set that article out below. Please circulate it to others.
  2. On May 6, 2019, we wrote federal Disabilities Minister a short letter, set out below. It asks her to commit to a swift vote in the House of Commons on the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81, and to vote to pass all those amendments. It also explains why the Federal Government should agree to these requests. We invite you to circulate that letter widely, and share it with your MP.
  3. On May 3, 2019, we sent the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs a short submission, set out below. It recommends that the Senate Standing Committee attach three “observations” to the bill in its report to the Senate. A Standing Committee’s “observations about improvements needed in connection with the bill are not the same as actual amendments to the bill. They are suggestions that are not binding on the Federal Government. However they can trigger further Senate oversight of the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the bill.

Text of the AODA Alliance’s May 6, 2019 Letter to Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance www.aodaalliance.org

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

May 6, 2019

To: The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility

Place du Portage, Phase III, Room 18A1

11 Laurier Street

Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0S5

Via email: Carla.Qualtrough@parl.gc.ca

Dear Minister,

Re: Seeking the House of Commons’ Swift Ratification of the Senate Standing Committee’s Amendments to Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

We write to ask you to commit to vote to pass all the amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, that the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs passed on May 2, 2019. We ask the Federal Government to commit to pass all these amendments as soon as possible after the Senate passes Bill C-81 on Third Reading, expected to be on or before May 16, 2019. We have every reason to expect that the Senate will pass Bill C-81 as amended, and no reason to doubt this.

There are compelling reasons for you and your Government to pass all these amendments, and to commit now to do so. There are no good reasons for you not to do so.

The Senate only passed a short, limited package of amendments. A good number of them were presented and requested by the Federal Government’s official sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Munson. He clearly presented them on the Government’s behalf. The other amendments were all presented by Senators at the request of disability organizations and advocates who requested them both at the Senate’s public hearings, and last fall, during public hearings before the House of Commons’ HUMA Committee.

There is substantial disability community support for these amendments, as needed to improve the bill. To that end, it was very helpful that during your April 3, 2019 appearance at the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, you committed that you were open to the Senate making amendments to the bill, and that you wanted the bill to be “the best it possibly can be”. You also committed:

“I would certainly defer to your process and recommendations”.

The Senate’s amendments are all completely in tune with the bill’s overall structure and design, and your goals for the legislation. The Senate’s Standing Committee arrived at these amendments after careful non-partisan study and, in the classical Canadian sense, sober second thought.

This is a very modest amendments package. These amendments are far, far fewer and less than many of us sought at the House of Commons during its public hearings last fall. They are much less than the much narrower requests that we placed before the Senate during its hearings.

Within the short amendments package that the Senate Standing Committee passed, the only small group of three amendments that the Senate passed and that reflected a different approach than yours were those that specified the end date for achieving a barrier-free Canada as 2040. Both in the House of Commons and the Senate, you had expressed a reluctance to include this in the bill. The Senate’s Standing Committee was keenly aware of and alert to your perspective. It took your perspective very seriously. The Senate Standing Committee also carefully weighed the strong message from so many in the disability community, to the effect that that the lack of such time lines in the bill was a significant shortcoming that hampered the bill’s effectiveness.

The Senate Standing Committee was especially alert to your primary concern that if such an end date were included in the bill, this might lead some to delay efforts on accessibility. For our part, we too were alive to your expressed concerns. As you know, for that reason and to address your concern, the Committee passed a specific amendment which we had proposed, that was specifically designed to ensure that setting a time line for accessibility in the bill could not be used to delay progress on accessibility. According to the senate Standing Committee’s new section 5.2:

5.2 Nothing in this Act, including its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers, should be construed as requiring or authorizing any delay in the removal of barriers or the implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as is reasonably possible.”.

We are in the unique position of having worked at the front lines of Ontario’s advocacy efforts on accessibility for a quarter a century. From our actual hands-on experience, we know that the twenty-year deadline in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act has played an important role in helping us make progress on accessibility in Ontario. It has not had the adverse impact that you had feared.

The widespread view that this time line is needed was eloquently articulated at the Senate Standing Committee’s public hearing on May 1, 2019 by Ontario’s former Lieutenant Governor david Onley (to whom you have turned for advice on this legislation). His input was based on his consultation with Ontarians with disabilities last fall while conducting the third mandatory Independent Review of the AODA. Mr. Onley and three other deputants before the Senate Standing Committee on its last day of hearings were asked to identify their top priority for a reform to Bill C-81, if only one change could be added. Mr. Onley, supported by the three other deputants at the hearings’ final panel, said that this priority would be to add to the bill the 2040 deadline which the Senate Standing Committee was later to adopt. The Senators saw that this was consistent with other feedback from the disability community that they had heard throughout this process.

When you spoke to the Senate Standing Committee on April 3, 2019, you said that a ten year period would not be long enough. The 2040 date which the Senate Standing Committee adopted is 21 years.

We hope and trust that the opposition parties in the House of Commons will support this amendment. During clause-by-clause debates in the House of Commons’ HUMA Committee, the opposition parties supported the inclusion of an end date. Both the Conservatives and NDP proposed a ten year period. We will be urging them to approve the 2040 deadline, and know that if they thought ten years was enough, they should surely accept 2040 as not being too short.

Minister, it is so commendable that you have many times said that at the core of your Government’s approach to this bill has been to honour the disability community’s message: “Nothing about us without us!” Senator Chantal Petitclerc, Chair of the Standing Committee, concluded the committee’s debates by noting that her Committee’s amendments are the very embodiment of that principle. This is because those amendments are the direct result of the strong feedback that the Standing Committee received from disability organizations and advocates. We therefore ask you and the Federal Government to honour the principle “Nothing about us without us,” by agreeing now to pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee passed to Bill C-81.

We have made it clear to all political parties in the House of Commons that we want to ensure that a swift vote is held on the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments to Bill C-81. We are calling on all the political parties to reach an agreement among themselves to schedule that swift vote. We don’t want the scheduling of that vote to be impeded by any other issues that may be occupying Parliament’s attention.

Minister, for the Federal Government to oppose any of these amendments, and particularly the 2040 time line, would be to weaken this bill. We urge you and the Federal Government not to vote to weaken this bill. The Senate, like the House of Commons, heard about the importance of adding such time lines to this bill. We urge the Federal Government not to vote against such time lines.

As always, we welcome the opportunity to work with you and all parties in Parliament to achieve these important goals.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC: The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

CITY News Vancouver May 3, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.citynews1130.com/2019/05/02/senate-committee-votes-to-strengthen-federal-accessibility-law/

Senate committee votes to strengthen federal accessibility law

BY MICHELLE MCQUIGGE, THE CANADIAN PRESS

A Senate committee proposed changes to Canada’s first federal accessibility law Thursday that members of the disability community said addressed some of the most pressing concerns about the legislation, though some worried the bill may still be too weak to be effective.

Nearly a hundred disability organizations and advocacy groups had been calling on the committee to introduce major changes to Bill C-81, also known as the Accessible Canada Act, arguing it lacked teeth.

Following a detailed hearing, the Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology voted to propose the government include a timeline in the bill that would require it to be fully implemented by 2040 rather than leaving the date open-ended.

“We are dealing with a bill that is very important for Canada and is going to make our country a better country,” said Sen. Donna Dasko. “The issue of a timeline has come up many times … this is an important thing, this gives accountability to the bill, this gives a goal to the actions being undertaken.”

The committee also voted to recognize various forms of sign language as an official language of deaf Canadians and see it included among government services. That amendment also included Indigenous sign languages among those that should be acknowledged.

The committee’s proposed amendments will now go to the full Senate for a vote.

David Lepofsky, a long-time disability rights advocate, said the full impact of the committee’s proposed amendments won’t be known until they’ve been formally incorporated into the act. He noted that the House of Commons could vote to reject any steps the Senate may suggest to strengthen the law.

But he said the committee’s moves signal hope the existing bill, which he had previously described as “inadequate,” could be improved.

“We do know that the amendments do, to some extent, strengthen this bill,” Lepofsky said. “Any improvement is welcomed.”

Lepofsky said adopting a timeline would mark a significant step forward, adding that doing so would bring the federal government in line with the three Canadian provinces that have put accessibility legislation on their books.

Senators on the committee said during Thursday’s meeting that the absence of a timeline was the unifying issue that emerged from hours of testimony from disability rights groups.

It was also one of the core issues activists raised in an open letter to the committee last year that detailed concerns about the power and scope of the proposed law. The October 2018 letter also said the bill should enshrine American and Quebec sign language as the official language of the deaf community.

While the committee tackled those concerns, it did not address others raised in the letter signed by 95 organizations including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March of Dimes Canada,

The letter had criticized the bill for granting the government broad powers to exempt people from the new rules, spreading enforcement over numerous agencies, and opting not to withhold federal funding from organizations that don’t comply with accessibility measures.

Advocates also raised concerns about the way the bill was written. The bill repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” or “must” when describing initiatives, meaning the government is empowered to take actions but never required to follow through on them, they argued. An amendment brought before the committee addressed that concern but was defeated.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities, who helped spearhead the letter, focused on what it viewed as positive developments from the committee vote.

“These proposed reforms did not get much traction at the time (the bill was passed through the House of Commons), So today, we are very pleased to learn that the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee has been more responsive to our calls for reform,” it said in a statement.

But Gabrielle Peters, a Vancouver-based wheelchair user, expressed disappointment at the committee’s unwillingness to change the bill’s language from “may” to “must.”

Not addressing the issue of federal funding, she added, risks allowing governments and those supported by them to continue treating disability rights and accessibility as a perk rather than a basic human right.

“They keep using the word ‘historic,’” Peters said of the government. “Historic means you create legislation that will fundamentally shift the direction we continue to be on … (The Accessible Canada Act) is not … a historic document.”

The office of Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough did not respond to request for comment.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

May 3 AODA Alliance Submission Asking the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to Attach Three Key “Observations” to Bill C-81

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Proposed Observations for the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs to Attach to Bill C-81

May 3, 2019

We respectfully propose that the following observations be attached to Bill C-81:

  1. Because the bill’s centerpiece is the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standards as enforceable regulations but the bill does not require any of those regulations to ever be enacted, and because the bill gives the Federal Government a range of powers that it may use but does for the most part not provide that the Government must use those powers, the Committee recommends that

(a) the Federal Government should report back to the Senate in one year on its action to date, its plans and time lines for enacting accessibility standards regulations and for deploying its other discretionary powers under the bill, and

(b) within five years after the bill comes into effect, at least one regulation should be enacted that sets enforceable accessibility standards in each of the areas in section 5, namely employment, the built environment, information and communication technologies, communication, procurement of goods, services and facilities, the design and delivery of programs and services, transportation and any other areas that are designated by regulations under the bill.

  1. Because of concerns expressed by the disability community about the bill splintering its implementation and enforcement, the Committee recommends that:

(a) the Federal Government should report to the Senate in one year on the effectiveness and impact of splintering the bill’s implementation and enforcement among four federal agencies, for further study by the Senate, and

(b) within six months, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board should establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 94 to 110 of the bill.

  1. Since the Federal Government spends billions of dollars of the public’s money on procurement of goods, services and facilities, on new infrastructure projects, and on business development loans and grants, the Federal Government should establish, implement, monitor and publicly report on policies to effectively ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers and should report to the Senate within one year on its actions in this regard and the results achieved.

Senate’s Standing Committee Passes Amendments to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – Now It’s Time for the Full Senate and House of Commons to Pass All Those Amendments

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Senate’s Standing Committee Passes Amendments to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – Now It’s Time for the Full Senate and House of Commons to Pass All Those Amendments

May 2, 2019

          SUMMARY

Today the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs passed a short list of amendments to Bill C-81, with the aim of strengthening it. The Senate must next vote to pass Bill C-81 on Third Reading, and then send the amended bill back to the House of Commons.

The House of Commons then gets to decide if it will approve these amendments. We call on the Senate to quickly pass the amended bill on Third Reading. We then call on the House of Commons to quickly schedule a vote and approve these amendments. We will comment more fully on the amendments after we get their exact wording and can study them. From what we observed during the web-streamed Committee discussion, the amendments are helpful improvements, but do not cover all the concerns with the bill that we raised with the Senate.

          MORE DETAILS

During a 2.5-hour meeting on the morning of May 2, 2019 that was streamed live on the internet and that the AODA Alliance live-tweeted, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs passed a short list of amendments to the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. The bill now goes back to the full Senate for Third Reading debate and vote. We understand the Senate is set to hold its final vote on the bill on or before May 16, 2019.

We don’t yet have the precise wording of the Standing Committee’s amendments to study. We therefore cannot comment fully on them. We have written the Clerk of the Standing Committee to ask for the text of the amendments. We know that the Committee passed only some of the short list of amendments that we requested.

From what we could glean from observing the Committee debates, the amendments have improved the bill to some extent by addressing some of the serious concerns that we and many others have raised. Any improvement is welcomed.

We know that the Senate passed a helpful series of amendments to the bill that sets a 2040 deadline for Canada to become accessible to five million people with disabilities, and that this deadline does not and cannot justify any delay in working on achieving this goal. This is an important and welcome improvement to the bill. Before these amendments, the bill set no end date or time line for achieving accessibility. Many witnesses before the Senate’s Standing Committee this spring, and before the House of Commons Standing Committee last fall, pointed out that a deadline like this is vital. The specific 2040 deadline was proposed by the AODA Alliance. It was strongly endorsed during the hearings last night by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. He invoked his experience conducting the most recent mandatory Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Speaking for the Federal Government, Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough earlier had strongly resisted setting any such deadline in this bill. The Senate’s Standing Committee heard her on this issue, carefully questioned her, explored this issue with many witnesses, and formed its own judgment. The Senate is the place where such issues are supposed to get “sober second thought.” That is exactly what happened here.

We also know that the Standing Committee passed an amendment that, at least to some extent, weakened the harmful and unjustified power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to pass regulations that cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. We cannot fully assess that amendment until we get its exact wording. The Standing Committee amended the harmful s. 172 of the bill. We had wanted s. 172 to be completely repealed.

We were heartened that Senator Donna Dasko, among others, was set to propose an amendment that would have repealed s. 172. However, before she could, the Government’s sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Munson, brought forward an amendment that would retain but weaken s. 172. Clearly, the Federal Government had crafted the wording that he presented. Once we can study its wording, we can and will say more about it. When he advanced this amendment, he said he was doing so in response to concerns raised by the AODA Alliance and the ARCH Disability Law Centre.

In addition to awaiting the text of all amendments that were passed, we also await the text of the “observations” that the Standing Committee will attach to the bill. A Senate Standing Committee can attach editorial comments or suggestions to a bill outside the text of the bill itself. These can, for example, call on the Federal Government to take certain actions or to report back to the Senate within a specific time line, on a matter that the Committee spells out.

It is important for the Senate to very quickly pass this bill as amended and to send it back to the House of Commons. We will now launch a strong campaign to get all parties in the House of Commons to quickly schedule a vote on these amendments and to pass them all. Our focus is especially on the federal Liberals, who had resisted amendments like these last fall. On the eve of a federal election, they won’t want to find themselves in the unpalatable position of voting against the rights of people with disabilities.

We also will now focus attention on the opposition parties in the House of Commons. It is good that they supported amendments to strengthen this bill last fall (at the request of the AODA Alliance and numerous other disability organizations), even when the Federal Government was not on side. We want those opposition parties to support the Senate Standing Committee’s amendments now. We also want the opposition parties to agree to an early debate and vote on Bill C-81 once it returns to the House. We know that with an election looming, the parties at times get into scheduling squabbles regarding bills. We don’t want Bill C-81 to get caught up in or impeded by that process.

The federal Disabilities Minister often said that this bill was meant to embody the principle: “Nothing about us without us.” Senator Chantal Petitclerc, Chair of the Standing Committee, concluded the committee’s debates by noting that these amendments are the embodiment of that principle, because they are the result of feedback that the Standing Committee received from disability organizations and advocates. We call on the Federal Government to adhere to the principle of “Nothing about us without us,” by agreeing now that it will pass all the amendments that the Senate Standing Committee passed today.

Today’s events show that tenacity by people with disabilities and their advocates pays off. Anything that strengthens accessibility legislation helps us along that journey. For us, this is just one important step along our long journey. We’re ready for what lies ahead.

We are indebted to the Senators and their staff members who invested so much time in their review of this bill. This was our first experience with the Senate. Our Senators have to plow through bills on many complex topics, along short time lines, without the full policy resources that the Government and the political parties have at their disposal. We thank all the Senators who took time to take our phone calls, answer our emails, review our written submissions, listen to our April 11, 2019 evidence, and support amendments as a result.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Email us at: aodafeedback@gmail.com

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments, and our most recent (and even shorter) supplemental brief. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

New Toronto Star Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Shows How and Why the Senate Should Strengthen Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, Before Passing it this Spring

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

New Toronto Star Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Shows How and Why the Senate Should Strengthen Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, Before Passing it this Spring

April 30, 2019

          SUMMARY

Just three days before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs will meet on May 2, 2019 to decide what amendments to make to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, the Toronto Star online ran a guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below. It shows why five million people with disabilities in Canada need the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81 before the Senate passes it.

Please circulate our guest column to your friends and family. Also forward it to your member of Parliament and as many Senators as you can. You can find contact information for Canada’s Senators at https://sencanada.ca/en/senators/

Our guest column refers to the widely-viewed online video that the AODA Alliance made public last fall. That video documents serious accessibility problems at new and recently renovated public transit stations in Ontario. You can watch a 16-minute version of that video at https://youtu.be/za1UptZq82o

The new Toronto subway stations with accessibility problems, shown in that video, were built in part with federal money. Unless Bill C-81 is strengthened, the Federal Government will remain free to do that again and again with our money.

Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: soci@sen.parl.gc.ca

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments, and our most recent (and even shorter) supplemental brief. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

On April 22, 2019, the Globe and Mail ran a guest column by Rick Hansen entitled “Make Canada accessible for everyone,” available at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-passing-bill-c-81-is-critical-to-making-canada-accessible-for-all/ Mr. Hansen argued why Bill C-81 should be passed, even though it may not be “perfect.”

We all know that the Senate will pass Bill C-81. The only real question is whether the Senate will first amend it, to strengthen it. We and others have been emphasizing for months that Bill C-81 is far too weak, and that people with disabilities in Canada need it strengthened.

What Mr. Hansen’s column had to say ultimately rests on one key sentence. He wrote that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “…will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.”

Unfortunately his description of Bill C-81 in that sentence is incorrect. Bill C-81 does not require any disability barriers to ever be removed in public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services or information. It doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever enact any accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. It sets no deadlines for progress towards accessibility. It doesn’t stop the Federal Government from continuing to use our money to subsidize the creation of new accessibility barriers.

We swiftly sent a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail. In it we explain why Mr. Hansen’s description of the bill is incorrect. We regret that as far as we can tell, the Globe did not publish our letter to the editor. We set that letter to the editor out below, right after our Toronto Star guest column.

Last weekend we emailed Mr. Hansen to bring this inaccuracy in his column to his attention. Given his public profile and the circulation of the Globe and Mail, we emphasized the importance of his publicly correcting his description of Bill C-81. We have not received a response.

The question is not whether the bill is “perfect.” No bill ever is. As our guest column in the Toronto Star (below) shows, the bill lacks key features that people with disabilities need and have been requesting for months, if not years.

          MORE DETAILS

Toronto Star Online April 29, 2019

OPINION

Originally posted at

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2019/04/29/liberals-failing-to-strengthen-disability-laws-as-promised.html

Liberals failing to strengthen disability laws as promised

By David Lepofsky

When it comes to ensuring accessibility for 5 million Canadians with disabilities, Canada lags far behind the U.S., which passed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act 29 years ago. Canadians with disabilities still face far too many barriers in air travel, cable TV services, and when dealing with the federal government. For example, as a blind traveller, I’ve faced these barriers. I dread returning to Canadian airspace.

It’s great that the Trudeau government promised in the last election to enact a national accessibility law. However Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the House of Commons passed last fall, is much weaker than what we people with disabilities need. The bill is strong on good intentions, but weak on implementation. We’re calling on the Senate to strengthen it.

The bill is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet, it doesn’t require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere.

The bill gives the federal government helpful powers to advance the goal of accessibility. However, it doesn’t require the government to use almost any of them, or set time lines for the government to act (with a minor exception). The government could drag its feet indefinitely.

It’s good that the bill lets the federal government create enforceable national accessibility standards to set accessibility rules. However, the bill doesn’t require the government to ever create any. If the government doesn’t, the bill will largely be a hollow shell.

Unlike Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation (which cannot regulate federal areas like air travel), this federal bill doesn’t set a deadline for Canada to become disability-accessible. Under Bill C-81, Canada may not become accessible to people with disabilities for hundreds of years, if ever.

The bill assigns key responsibilities for this bill to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) and CRTC. Both agencies have faltering track records for advancing disability accessibility. Both have slow, labyrinthian processes that are hard for people with disabilities to navigate.

It’s inexcusable that the bill lets the federal government continue to contribute our tax money to infrastructure projects with accessibility problems, like hospitals and subways.

For example, federal money helped finance the recent TTC subway extension up to Vaughan. Those new subway stations, like the York University stop, have real accessibility problems. Our YouTube video documents this. We need the bill to require the federal government to attach accessibility strings to projects when it uses our money to help finance them.

It’s unfair for the bill to let the CTA pass regulations that cut back on disability human rights. The CTA is now proposing new transportation regulations that threaten to cut back on the rights of passengers with disabilities in air and train travel. Thanks, but no thanks.

Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough recently told the Senate that she’s open to the Senate amending the bill, and that she wants the bill to be the best it possibly can be. Sen. Jim Munson, sponsoring the bill in the Senate, also confirmed that there will be amendments. We’re taking them up on this. We’ve proposed a short, focused set of amendments that would improve this weak bill.

If the Senate now strengthens this bill, the House of Commons has time to ratify those improvements before this fall’s election. In hearings at the House of Commons last fall, the Greens, Tories and NDP supported strengthening this bill. It’s sad that the Federal Government defeated many important amendments we sought.

With a federal election now looming closer, the Liberals have good reason to see the light, and to support amendments that strengthen this bill. They wouldn’t want to head into the fall election having just voted down measures that would help 5 million people with disabilities, many of whom are voters.

I’ve battled as a volunteer in the trenches for a quarter century on this issue, I’ve learned what accessibility legislation needs to include. Bill C-81 is weaker in some ways than Ontario’s 2005 accessibility (for whose enactment I led the decade-long campaign). A recent independent review of Ontario’s accessibility law by former Lt.-Gov. David Onley shows that Ontario’s law has not produced the progress we need.

Let’s learn from those lessons and strengthen Bill C-81. Everyone will need it, whether you have a disability now, or get one later as you get older.

David Lepofsky is the chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Letter to the Editor Submitted by the AODA Alliance to the Globe and Mail on April 22, 2019

Via email to; letters@globeandmail.com

Rick Hansen is right. Canada has a long way to go to become accessible to 5 million people with disabilities and we need federal legislation to achieve this. (Make Canada accessible for everyone April 22, 2019). He’s incorrect to state that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “…will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.” Sadly it doesn’t.

The bill is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet, it doesn’t require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere. Canadians with disabilities in Canada deserve better.

The bill is strong on good intentions, but weak on implementation. It lets the Federal Government create enforceable national accessibility standards to set the rules, but doesn’t require the Government to ever pass any. It lets the Federal Government continue to contribute our tax money to infrastructure projects lacking proper accessibility, like hospitals and subways. It lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on disability human rights.

That’s why so many of us in the disability community grassroots call on Canada’s Senate to strengthen this weak bill.

If the Senate strengthens this bill, the House of Commons has time to approve those improvements. The Greens, Tories and NDP supported strengthening this bill in the House’s hearings last fall. Hopefully the Liberals will come around and support us now, with a federal election looming.

Battling as a volunteer in the trenches for a quarter century, we’ve learned what accessibility legislation needs to include. We need Bill C-81 amended now, before it is passed, to ensure it does what Rick Hansen expects.

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Visiting Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School

AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities

April 24, 2019

          SUMMARY

On April 23, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent the Senate of Canada a short 2-page supplementary brief. It emphasizes as a priority the pressing need for the Senate to remove a harmful and outdated provision that is perpetuated in Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That provision, section 172, lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations on accessibility in transportation that can cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. There is no reason for Parliament to leave that harmful provision in place. It flies in the face of the federal Disabilities Minister’s statement to the Senate that she doesn’t want anything in the bill to reduce the human rights of people with disabilities. We set this supplementary brief out below.

There is still a week left for you to help our campaign before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs decides what amendments to make to Bill C-81. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: soci@sen.parl.gc.ca

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

 

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

www.aodaalliance.org Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Supplemental Brief to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Regarding Bill C-81

April 23, 2019

This supplements our March 29, 2019 brief, our April 8, 2019 short list of amendments, and our April 11, 2019 oral presentation to the Standing Committee. We elaborate on one of the 11 amendments we requested. Our proposed Amendment #7 (set out below) asks this Committee to remove s. 172 from the bill. That would remove the identically-numbered 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Section 172 lets the CTA cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. The CTA should have no power to dilute our human rights. This is a top priority for us that would benefit all passengers with any kind of disability.

What’s the problem? On April 3, 2019, Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Contradicting this, s. 172 lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. Section 172 provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

For example, if the CTA passes a regulation to set accessibility requirements in air travel, that regulation is the final word on what airlines must do to accommodate passengers with disabilities, in the specific areas it regulates. The regulation sets the maximum of the airline’s human rights obligations. Passengers with disabilities cannot bring an accessibility complaint to the CTA to demand anything more of the airline in that area, even if the passenger can show that they needed more to accommodate them, and even if it poses no undue hardship to the airline.

Assume the CTA regulation said the airline can take up to 5 hours to guide a blind passenger from the check-in desk to their airplane. That means the airline could tell passengers with disabilities that they must show up to the airport 5 hours before their flight. A passenger is not permitted to show the airline could easily accommodate this need in 2 hours and doesn’t need 5 hours. All the passenger can thereafter complain about is a delay that is longer than 5 hours.

This is not a far-fetched hypothetical risk. Last month, the CTA posted proposed transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the existing human rights of passengers with disabilities. After our Senate presentation we filed a brief with CTA objecting to this.

The proposed CTA regulations would impose a new duty on passengers with disabilities to give an airline 48 hours advance notice of a request for certain listed accommodations that they now can get without any advance notice. An airline can unilaterally expand this to a 96 hour advance notice requirement in some situations. An airline does not have to let passengers know they will demand 96 hours’ notice.

If a passenger does not give this new required advance notice, the airline only has to make “reasonable efforts” to provide the listed accommodations. This reduces the airline’s existing human rights duty to provide such needed accommodations except where the airline can show that it is impossible to do more to accommodate without undue hardship to the airline. “Undue hardship” is a much tougher test for the airline to meet than mere “reasonable efforts”.

This new legislated barrier applies to important accommodations, such as assisting passengers with disabilities to go through airport security, to get to the departure lounge and onto the airplane, telling a blind passenger on the plane where the bathroom is, letting passengers with disabilities use a larger business class bathroom on the plane if it is larger than the economy class bathroom, or telling a passenger what food options are offered on the plane.

48 hours’ advance notice is not justified for these accommodations. For them, an airline uses existing staff. If any advance notice were justified, which we dispute, two days is not.

This discriminatory new barrier especially hurts last-minute travelers, for business, for an emergency or funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened.

Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee that the CTA aims for transportation in Canada to be the most accessible in the world. These draft regulations, which the minister trumpeted, fall far short. Especially because of s. 172, we oppose the enactment of these regulations, even if they elsewhere have some helpful measures for passengers with disabilities.

The outdated s. 172 only serves the interests of transportation providers who want the CTA to dilute their human rights duties. Neither the Minister nor the CTA presented any need for s. 172. The CRTC has no corresponding provision when it enacts regulations.

We therefore ask this Committee to amend Bill C-81 to remove s. 172 of the bill, which in turn would surgically excise the identically numbered s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 7 of the AODA Alliance Amendments Package

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

At the Senate, Federal Disability Minister Carla Qualtrough Answers Senators’ Questions on the Weak Bill C-81 (Proposed Accessible Canada Act) – Read the AODA Alliance’s Commentary on the Minister’s Key Answers

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

At the Senate, Federal Disability Minister Carla Qualtrough Answers Senators’ Questions on the Weak Bill C-81 (Proposed Accessible Canada Act) – Read the AODA Alliance’s Commentary on the Minister’s Key Answers

April 23, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here is a rare glimpse into how the Federal Government is thinking about the concerns that we and many others have expressed about the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

On April 3, 2019, the federal minister responsible for people with disabilities, Carla Qualtrough, appeared before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to kick off that committee’s study of Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. Minister Qualtrough made an opening statement to explain and defend Bill C-81. The Senators then took turns questioning her and her senior public service official, the Director General of the Office of Disability Issues James Van Raalte.

Many of the Senators’ questions sound like they were inspired in whole or in part by the AODA Alliance’s March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate and feedback from other disability organizations with similar concerns about the bill. We express our appreciation and gratitude for the Senators doing so.

Below we set out a series of 17 important excerpts from Minister Qualtrough’s presentation, with our comments on these statements. We will post her entire presentation to the Standing Committee on our website once it becomes available.

In our comments, set out below, we respectfully disagree with some of the minister’s statements, and explain why. In other cases, we identify key comments she has made which support the narrow package of amendments to Bill C-81 that we placed before the Senate last week, and asked for their adoption.

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.`

 

Please help our campaign. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. We are so appreciative of the individuals and organizations that have already done so. Email the Senate at: soci@sen.parl.gc.ca

 

          MORE DETAILS

Excerpts from Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough’s April 3, 2019 Presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Plus AODA Alliance Commentary on Those Remarks

Excerpt 1

Minister Qualtrough: Bill C-81 complements the Human Rights Framework in Canada. It does not take anything away from existing human rights obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act or the duty to accommodate.

Our Comment: This is not correct. Section 172 of the bill re-enacts section 172 of the Canada Transportation Act. That provision provides that when the Canada Transportation Agency enacts an accessibility standard regulation, it in effect prevails over and can water down or cut back on the duty to accommodate passengers with disabilities.

If a CTA regulation says that Air Canada has an excessive five hours to help a passenger with a disability off an airplane when it arrives, that passenger cannot complain to the CTA that Air Canada could easily have accommodated them more quickly without undue hardship.

This is not a hypothetical fear. The Canadian Transportation Agency has proposed new accessibility regulations that, if passed, threaten to cut back on disability human rights. We explain this in detail in the AODA Alliance’s April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA.

We’ve been asking the Federal Government for months to remove s. 172 from the bill. The AODA Alliance’s proposed amendments to Bill C-81, now before the Senate, would remove s. 172 from that bill. That would help make the minister’s statement here become true. However the Federal Government has not yet publicly said that it would agree to a repeal of s. 172. Our 7th proposed amendment to Bill C-81, placed before the Senate, is as follows:

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

As well, our 8th proposed amendment to Bill C-81 that we placed before the Senate provides as follows:

Section 6 should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it:

“(2) For greater certainty, in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the provisions of that Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.”

Excerpt 2

Minister Qualtrough: I’m extremely proud to say that the proposed accessible Canada act enjoys widespread endorsement and support from so many in the disabilities community.

Our Comment: The Federal Government has received widespread feedback from Canada’s disability community that Bill C-81 is too weak and needs to be strengthened. For example, see the Open Letter to the Federal Government which fully 95 disability organizations co-signed, and which was sent last October. See also the extensive feedback on Bill C-81 which disability organizations presented to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee. Disability organizations there repeatedly pressed for this bill to be strengthened.

Excerpt 3

Minister Qualtrough: As part of our whole-of-government approach, Bill C-81 builds upon the existing work done by regulators and, if passed, will strengthen their mandates to ensure accessibility in their sectors. This was demonstrated at the recent CTA announcement I attended, where the publication of draft accessibility regulations was announced, with the intention of making Canada’s transportation system the most accessible in the world.

Our Comment: It may at first sound good that the Canadian Transportation Agency wants to make Canada’s transportation system the most accessible one in the world. However, after a closer look, it falls far short of what people with disabilities in Canada need and deserve.

What people with disabilities deserve and are entitled to is an accessible transportation system. Bill C-81 is entitled an Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The CTA’s much more diluted objective would be fulfilled if Canada’s transportation system were to become slightly more accessible than all others – no matter how inaccessible all others are. In other words, by the CTA’s impoverished approach to accessibility, people with disabilities in Canada could end up having to put up with many accessibility barriers in transportation forever.

As well, we noted earlier that the CTA has proposed new transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the human rights of passengers with disabilities, a very troubling development to which the AODA Alliance’s April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA objects.

Excerpt 4

Minister Qualtrough: This approach ensures that accessibility is everyone’s responsibility and that we can’t waste any time once the bill receives Royal Assent.

Our Comment: Regrettably, Bill C-81 does not ensure that we don’t waste any time once this bill receives Royal Assent. To ensure this, a series of mandatory time lines must be added to the bill.

Excerpt 5

Minister Qualtrough: Finally, the development of regulations has begun, with the CTA posting their first draft of accessibility regulations, and the consultation process has started for the development of the multi-year accessibility plan regulations.

Our Comment: This may seem a bit technical, but the regulations that the Canadian Transportation Agency are now finalizing are not being created under Bill C-81. They are being developed under the existing national transportation legislation that has been on the books for years. It is our understanding that these regulations have been under development for the past three years, well before Bill C-81 was introduced into the House of Commons in June 2018 for First Reading.

The Canadian Transportation Agency has had the power to make such regulations for many years. We anticipate that it was the fact that the Federal Government promised national accessibility legislation in the 2015 federal election that helped motivate the Canadian Transportation Agency to finally take a serious look at using its decades-old power to make comprehensive accessibility regulations in the transportation field.

Moreover, the CTA’s posting of those draft regulations is a matter of concern, as noted earlier, since they threaten to reduce human rights protections for passengers with disabilities, as the AODA Alliance’s April 22, 2019 brief to the CTA demonstrates.

Excerpt 6.

Minister Qualtrough: The Canadian Human Rights Act absolutely imposes a duty to accommodate. Nothing in this act changes that obligation on employers, on service providers and on program deliverers within the federal jurisdiction. There was confusion in provincial jurisdictions that had enacted accessibility legislation, and we’ve made every effort to avoid such confusion. Whatever standard is created by CASDO will not necessarily create any kind of defence for an employer, service provider or program deliverer in terms of their individual duty to accommodate a specific individual.

I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments for Excerpt 1, above, where we disagree with the minister’s similar earlier statement.

We also respectfully disagree with the minister’s statement that “…we’ve made every effort to avoid such confusion” When this bill was before the House of Commons last fall, we asked the Federal Government to amend Bill C-81 to include language akin to the strong language on point in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Federal Government did not do so. Unlike this bill, section 38 of the AODA provides:

” 38. If a provision of this Act, of an accessibility standard or of any other regulation conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.”

We are troubled by the minister’s equivocal statement as follows:

“Whatever standard is created by CASDO will not necessarily create any kind of defence for an employer, service provider or program deliverer in terms of their individual duty to accommodate a specific individual.”

Compliance with a voluntary, non-binding standard recommended by the proposed new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization should simply not be a defence to a human rights complaint. Here the minister more equivocally said it is not “necessarily” a defence. That means that it could be a defence, in some situations.

It may be that the minister simply inadvertently misspoke here. However, her statement can contribute to the very confusion about the duty to accommodate that she wants to avoid.

Excerpt 7

Senator Munson: As you well know, the Senate is a chamber of sober second thought and we take looking at these bills very seriously. I am sure there will be an appetite for amendments by the time we are done our hearings.

On this particular sign language and other aspects of the bill, there are people in the community who feel it doesn’t go far enough. Yes, we’ll have it for the first time, and yes, it’s history in the making and that sort of thing, but it just doesn’t go far enough. Would you be open to amendments?

Minister Qualtrough: I would certainly defer to your process and recommendations, but yes, I want to make this bill, this eventual law, the best it can possibly be.

Our Comment: This is a very helpful, positive and important statement by the minister. The minister herself is open to the Senate making amendments to Bill C-81 to make it the best law it can possibly be. This should lay to rest any fear that by making such amendments, the Senate would thereby jeopardize the bill’s passage.

This is further reinforced by the statement by Senator Munson (the bill’s sponsor in the Senate) during the Committee’s April 10, 2019 hearings:

“We’re here for a reason. There are going to be amendments…”

Excerpt 8

Senator Forest-Niesing: With respect to deadlines, provinces with an Accessibility Act, their own Accessibility Act, have an implementation deadline, especially for total accessibility. What was the reasoning in not having a deadline in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: To be honest, this is one of the more difficult differences of opinion as we have had as a disability community in this law and in this whole process. This is because there is a very honest and staunch belief within the community that we need a deadline, that we need to make a statement saying Canada will be barrier free by X or Canada will be accessible by X. And there is an equally passionate group of individuals who believe that setting a timeline in the distant future will give people excuse to wait to take action and also believe that because accessibility is always changing and evolving as a concept, and as technology changes and as we grow in our understanding and evolve around accessibility, we won’t know what a barrier-free Canada looks like.

If we decided in this law to say by 2030 Canada will be barrier-free, first of all, I’m not sure we could achieve that, quite frankly. Second, we don’t know what barrier-free will mean and look like then.

I heard everyone, and we took back that feedback, and there are still some us of who are agreeing to disagree on this one. While we don’t disagree that we need to work towards a barrier-free Canada, we don’t agree about the need for that deadline.

Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on getting things started. Let’s get the first regulation made within two years. Let’s do a review of the act within five years of the first regulation. Let’s put the board of CASDO in place this summer. Let’s have the space for CASDO. Let’s get things going.

That seemed to be the broader consensus. It certainly ended up being where we landed as a government.

Quite frankly, it’s not necessary legislative practice to create these kinds of statements. We don’t have a criminal code that says we will be crime free by X date. We don’t have a Human Rights Act that says we will be discrimination free by this date. I’m not sure other jurisdictions have found it to be beneficial to have these timelines.

Every regulation that is established will have a timeline, so as soon as we have a standard, the regulation will say employers have to have this standard in place by X.

There will be built-in timelines. Some will be quick because we’re adopting an existing standard. Some will take longer because it’s a more complex issue.

At the end of the day, after listening to everyone, the decision was not to put that deadline in place. You will hear from stakeholders opinions that disagree with me and our government, but I assure you it has been thought out and considered. I respect their opinion, and this is where we landed.

Our Comment: We respectfully disagree with the minister. Our responses to her remarks are largely found in the April 11, 2019 presentation to the Standing Committee by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. We add a few points here.

Yes, new kinds of barriers will no doubt crop up in the future. That is a marginal factor. We nevertheless need this legislation to set an end date to reach full accessibility. A resilient flexible law can be designed to identify and adapt to address those new kinds of barriers as they come up.

The Federal Government’s repeatedly referring to accessibility as some sort of amorphous moving target is unhelpful. Overwhelmingly, we know what accessibility is and what is needed. Obligated organizations don’t need any further reasons to be reluctant to act in this area.

Contrary to the minister’s statement, there is substantial support among people with disabilities for including in this legislation an end date for reaching full accessibility. This is not a matter of a dispute among people with disabilities at the grassroots. Rather there is a dispute between the disability community on the one hand, and the Federal Government on the other.

The minister here repeated the Federal Government’s weak reasons for rejecting this request last fall when the bill was before the House of Commons. She again stated at the Senate:

“We don’t have a criminal code that says we will be crime free by X date.”

Sadly, we know that there will always be crime. The Criminal Code is there to help reduce it, and to protect the public when it occurs. That is no comparison to disability barriers. Were it so, then the Government that is sponsoring a bill “to ensure a barrier-free Canada” is conceding before we even begin that we in reality will never achieve a barrier-free Canada. We believe Canada can do better than that.

The minister said that instead of including an end date in the bill for reaching full accessibility, they decided to focus on getting the bill’s machinery up and running over the next weeks and months. She said:

“Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on getting things started. Let’s get the first regulation made within two years. Let’s do a review of the act within five years of the first regulation. Let’s put the board of CASDO in place this summer. Let’s have the space for CASDO. Let’s get things going.”

This creates the incorrect idea that we have a false choice that we must make. We must either decide to add an end date to the bill for achieving full accessibility, or we must instead choose to work on getting the bill’s machinery up and running quickly now.

The Federal Government did not have to choose one or the other, to include an end date for reaching full accessibility in the bill, or instead, to get started right away on getting the bill’s implementation up and running. The Federal Government can do both.

It is very commendable that the minister is so eager, active and enthusiastic about getting the bill’s implementation up and running so quickly. We caution that in 2005, her Ontario counterpart was just as energetic and enthusiastic just as the AODA was being enacted. A few years later, things started to dramatically slow down in Ontario. We have never gotten it sped up again. We need this bill to include strong time lines, tied to an end date, to prevent that from recurring at the federal level.

We have provided the Senate with a complete solution to the minister’s concern that the addition of an end date for full accessibility to this bill might lead obligated organizations to delay taking action on accessibility. We have recommended that the Senate add the following to the bill:

“Clarification

5.2. Nothing in this Act, including in its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, should be construed as authorizing or requiring any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers as soon as reasonably possible.”

Excerpt 9

Minister Qualtrough: Employment is definitely one of the seven areas recognized as an area of priority in the bill, and the bill applies to all areas of federal jurisdiction. It doesn’t apply to areas of provincial jurisdiction. Other provinces do have accessibility legislation. I’m encouraged by the fact that a number of provinces have basically put on hold their intention to create provincial legislation that parallels ours, waiting to see ours and then wanting to create something that’s seamless in terms of the experience for the everyday Canadian.

Our Comment: We would consider it a backwards step for people with disabilities if any provincial government put on hold its consideration of developing a provincial accessibility law pending the passage of Bill C-81. We need provinces to speed up action in this area, not slow it down. We know the since-defeated BC Liberal Government had used the development of Bill C-81 as its excuse for continuing to dodge the development of a BC Disabilities Act.

If any provincial government has its planning efforts on hold, we would urge them to get right back to work now on developing provincial accessibility legislation.

Excerpt 10

Senator Moodie: Thank you, Minister Qualtrough, for your presentation today. As a physician and a Canadian, I’m proud that we’re leaders in this space and that this bill is going to take us to the fore in continuing to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Canadians understand the needs of people with disabilities.

My question, though, challenges the bill a bit. The concerns I’m hearing are around the notion that the federal government and various federal agencies will have, with this bill, the sweeping power to exempt organizations from a number of these important accessibility obligations. The government can even exempt itself; is that correct?

Can you speak to the extent to which the federal government and federal agencies can exempt organizations from accessibility obligations, and can you explain why you felt it necessary to exempt organizations from the obligations that are stated in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: Thank you for the question, senator. Again, this is not the first time I have heard this concern.

In this legislation, we had to balance wanting to encourage innovation — so organizations that are already doing things very, very well — with holding to account organizations that aren’t doing so well. Creating the opportunity for an exemption allows organizations that already have innovative and comparable accessibility practices to what we may create as a standard to get an exemption, because they’re already doing something that effectively has the same end results. At the same time, an organization that may need a little more time to get up to that standard is allowed the opportunity to be granted an exemption for a period of time.

This is not kind of an exclusion or a get-out-of-jail-free card. The reasons for granting the exemption have to be published publicly. It is not as though we are going to exempt you from ever having to be accessible. It is a recognition that, one, your practices are already akin to what is contained in a given standard, or two, you need a little bit more time to get up to the standard that has been established for a justifiable reason that will be made public and reviewed three years.

Senator Moodie: So I’m hearing you say that in three years, even if I get an exemption the first go-around, I will be reviewed again.

Minister Qualtrough: Absolutely. The reason is technical.

Mr. Van Raalte: You’d actually have to reapply. It’s not just a review. You have to initiate the fact that —

Minister Qualtrough: It expires.

Mr. Van Raalte: It expires, and you would have to reapply, justify and demonstrate that you still require an exemption, from your perspective. Then there’s still an approval process.

Our Comment: We disagree with the minister’s justification for the bill’s current exemptions powers. An exemption from this legislation’s requirements is not needed to encourage innovation.

If an organization is already meeting or exceeding the requirements of an accessibility standard, they have no need for an exemption. If they are close, but need a bit more time, that is typically and easily dealt with through the flexibility in the enforcement process.

Moreover, the minister spelled out the specific situations when exemptions are to be granted. Yet the bill does not limit the Government to only granting exemptions in those situations. For example, the Government could exempt itself for any reason it wishes, not just for the reasons that the minister gave (i.e. they need a little more time or are already in substantive compliance with the results that the standard seeks to achieve).

Excerpt 11

Senator Omidvar: You’ve described the bill as a first or an incremental step. There are critics who say it is unnecessarily timid. I’m going to read a portion of an email that I got that deals with splintering — with a multitude of agencies being responsible for enforcement, regulation-making and overseeing complaints.

So the concern is that the bill’s implementation and enforcement are therefore less effective, it is more confusing, it’s more complicated, it’s more costly, and there is a variability of decision-making and possibly of standards. I hear this when the advocates say that this will make it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have and to get violations fixed.

So I understand the no-wrong-door approach, but I also understand that too much of a GPS with variability will make it completely confusing. Will you respond to this criticism?

Minister Qualtrough: I will. I, too, have received email — maybe that same email and maybe more than once.

Senator Omidvar: We all did.

Minister Qualtrough: If I had a blank piece of paper, and I could design the system of my liking and choosing, it might not look like this. However, we didn’t start out with a blank piece of paper; we started out with a fully functioning, complicated system of federal government that included regulators that were already doing this work — regulators that, to be honest, we didn’t always hear good things about and regulators whose powers we have beefed up.

But it became very clear very quickly as the design of the system started to take hold that we were in a position of having to either pull out from the CTA and CRTC. There are three at play here: the CTA, the CRTC and then the Canadian Human Rights Commission does everything else. In terms of the number of regulators, we’ve got the CTA doing transportation, the CRTC doing telecommunications and broadcasting; and then the Human Rights Commission doing everything else. Taking it out of the CTA or the CRTC would be costly. In some ways, at the end of the day, it wouldn’t recognize the expertise they had built up and that they absolutely can and will improve upon.

But we heard very concretely — and I’m sure you’ll hear yourselves from the kind of more technically minded regulators that are the CTA and the CRTC — that when you’re designing and responsible for safety — CTA airplane seat design comes to mind. The CTA is responsible to design an airplane seat, and the first consideration is safety, of course, and what has to be built into that seat design.

For an outside regulator to come in and say, “Yes, you have to design a seat, but you have to take into consideration all of these accessibility needs,” it was deemed better for the CTA to be the one to include and incorporate accessibility considerations into the design of that seat.

To be very clear, the non-technical aspects of the business of the transportation sector in Canada will be under the purview of the CHRC. So if there’s a customer service standard, an employment standard, built environment standard — those are all going to be imposed on the VIA Rails, the Air Canadas, et cetera. It’s the more technical sides of those sectors that will be the purview of those specific regulators.

It was a compromise, because I recognize it makes the system more complicated for the complainant and the end user. That’s why we’ve taken the efforts we have even now. There are committees. The heads of the CTA, the CHRC and the CRTC are already meeting to figure out how they’re going to work together to make sure that from the complainant’s point of view it is seamless, but we know it’s more complicated. It was a sectoral approach that we chose as a compromise, recognizing we weren’t starting from scratch and recognizing the complicated technical nature of the business in which these two established regulators are in.

I’m confident that there will be bumps along this road, but we will get to a place where whenever someone files a complaint, it will end up where it needs to be, and the chief accessibility officer and the chief accessibility commissioner will make sure of that.

Our Comment: Contrary to the minister’s suggestion, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC do not have demonstrated expertise in disability accessibility. Their insufficient performance in this area for many years suggests much the opposite.

We have warned that this splintering of the bill’s implementation and enforcement among different federal agencies is very confusing. It is hard to figure out from the bill who does what, as between the Accessibility Commissioner, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC.

The minister’s presentation reinforced this concern. She incorrectly described the division of responsibility between these agencies. She stated:

“To be very clear, the non-technical aspects of the business of the transportation sector in Canada will be under the purview of the CHRC. So if there’s a customer service standard, an employment standard, built environment standard – those are all going to be imposed on the VIA Rails, the Air Canadas, et cetera. It’s the more technical sides of those sectors that will be the purview of those specific regulators.”

The minister here is saying that the Canadian Transportation Agency will be responsible for technical issues regarding transportation, but not things like the built environment. In fact, under Bill C-81, the Canadian Transportation Agency and not the Canadian Human Rights Commission is responsible for setting standards for the built environment in places like airports and train stations. Section 120 of the bill provides in part:

“120 The only regulations made under subsection 117(1) that apply in respect of a regulated entity that is required to comply with any provision of regulations made under subsection 170(1) of the Canada Transportation Act are those that relate to the identification and removal of barriers, and the prevention of new barriers, in the following areas: …

…(b) the built environment, other than a passenger aircraft, passenger train, passenger bus, passenger vessel, aerodrome passenger terminal, railway passenger station, bus passenger station or marine passenger terminal;”

We sympathize with the minister’s confusion. This bill is itself very confusing and difficult to understand, even for those with extensive expertise in this area.

The minister said the Government is splintering the bill because of the costs of not splintering the bill. To our knowledge, this is the first time that the Federal Government has claimed that it would be more costly to have this bill’s accessibility regime all enforced by one federal agency, the new ,Accessibility Commissioner , rather than splintering it among four agencies. It is the first time the Government has claimed it would be more costly to have all regulations made by the Federal Cabinet, rather than splintering this responsibility among three agencies, the Cabinet, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC.

The Government offered no specifics on what these supposed added costs would be. It did not offset these against the greater costs under this bill, as written, to the Government, to people with disabilities and to obligated organizations of having this bill’s implementation and enforcement so splintered. For example, under the bill as now written, it will cost the airlines more to produce two separate accessibility plans and to deal with two different regulatory agencies, the Accessibility Commissioner and the Canadian Transportation Agency, than if they only had to prepare one plan and file it with one federal agency.

Excerpt 12

Senator Poirier: On Bill C-81, it does not include a deadline for achieving full accessibility, compared to the different provincial accessibility legislation, like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This act has clear deadlines for achieving the full accessibility for Ontarians on or before January 1, 2025.

Can you explain to us why you have not put a deadline established in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: Absolutely, senator. As I said, that was a topic of rigorous debate and discussion, and sometimes disagreement, over the course of going through this whole journey with respect to this legislation. Where we landed, as I said, was focusing on getting things started, not imposing a deadline that in any way would disincentivize organizations to get going on this. It was about recognizing that what we consider accessible today will not be good enough 10 years from now and knowing, quite frankly, that we’re a long way off from being accessible or barrier-free.

We concluded that it just wasn’t the best way to get going on this. I don’t know if I could elaborate further. At the end of the day, we figured putting in place the requirement that regulations and standards be put in place within two years by each of the regulators and that a review of the law happen within five years of the first regulation coming into force — taking the steps in parallel now to get this thing off the ground and going was the better course of action.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments under Excerpt 8, above.

Excerpt 13

Senator Dasko : I guess another thing that I’ve heard from some people who think this bill should go farther than it does has to do with the federal government’s lack of intention here to take a stronger role when it comes to direct federal spending on infrastructure projects or spending in many areas where the federal government funds projects and creates projects and so on, the critique being that it doesn’t go far enough in insisting that barriers are not there when these projects are undertaken. So just at the beginning, I suppose, before federal money is given to these projects, not enough is being done in this bill to ensure that those projects are barrier-free. It’s a critique I’ve heard, and I’d like to hear what you might have to say about it.

(Procedural discussion omitted)

Minister Qualtrough: At the end of the day, what I would say is we’ve pushed the language in the law as far as we can go while still respecting federal jurisdiction. James is probably better to answer the technical side as to how far we can go, but this will apply to federal policies and federal programs. It won’t apply to financial transfers like the health transfer because that’s effectively a provincial jurisdiction that we’re helping to fund, but it doesn’t give us authority, as I understand it, to actually impose that condition down that far. Maybe I’m not explaining it right. I apologize. It’s jurisdictional.

To be very clear, though, this will transformatively change the Government of Canada in terms of every department and agency will have to have an accessibility plan. We have already established in my office, for example, a centre for accessible procurement, meaning we will be having policies and processes. We won’t procure things that aren’t accessible.

The Prime Minister has appointed a deputy minister responsible for an accessible public service, whose job it is every day to figure out how we are going to have to be ready and how we will be ready in our government with its employees to adhere to this law.

Can you talk to more about how far we can go down, please? Because I can’t remember the language in the law.

Mr. Van Raalte: I think you’ve covered it, minister. Departments will have to be able to report on their programs, policies and services. They will have to do that reporting in consultation with people with disabilities. They are at the table for that. So that will actually give both the government and the public forward-looking perspective on the plans of those organizations, such as planned spending and program priorities in a forward-looking way that will allow us to have those discussions. You want to be thinking about the accessibility measures included in those investments.

Ms. Qualtrough: Having said that, in terms of what’s in the law, we’ve taken a number of steps in parallel to embed accessibility into our new programs and our new processes. I’ll give you an example. With the National Housing Strategy or our infrastructure program, accessibility is baked into these initiatives.

A fun example I like to give is around our infrastructure. Transit is a priority for our government. Historically, for whatever reason, whether it be oversight or intention, upgrades with respect to making buses more accessible have not been included as eligible expenses for communities to claim and use infrastructure dollars for. We literally added a box on a piece of paper three years ago where we told communities that they could use this money to make their community buses more accessible. In that one year, $810 million was spent on accessible transit. We didn’t advertise it. We didn’t highlight it anywhere. We changed the form, and communities recognized the values of accessible transit and invested in their communities.

I could give you so many examples, as we’ve pursued this law, of the things that we’ve done in terms of government policy, programs and initiatives to make the way we govern a more accessible experience, both for the people who work in government and the people we serve.

Our Comment: As the AODA Alliance presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 shows, we respectfully disagree with the minister’s claims that the Federal Government cannot do more here. The minister’s statements make it sound like the Federal Government is powerless to attach accessibility strings when it gives federal public money to a local or provincial government to help build a hospital, subway station, or university building.

This is incorrect. The Federal Government has a significant “spending power” which lets it attach federal conditions to federal money that it gives out. If a provincial government or other local organization doesn’t want to comply with those strings, it is free to simply refuse to accept the federal money.

For over three decades, the Canada Health Act, a federal law, has attached federal strings to federal money that is given to provinces to help finance their health care systems. One of those legal requirements is the accessibility of health care services (not in the disability sense of accessibility) If the minister is correct – that the Federal Government has no power to attach strings to federal money that is spent in provincial areas of responsibility – then she is admitting that the Canada Health Act is unconstitutional. That would be a surprising thing for a federal cabinet minister to claim.

We believe that the Federal Government could include in Bill C-81 a requirement that no federal cabinet minister or department may agree to give federal public money to any organization, federal or provincial, to contribute to the building or renovating of infrastructure, unless the recipient agrees to meet federal accessibility requirements. If the minister were correct, then the Federal Government is simply powerless here. It can give money to help fund the construction of a local subway station, but is powerless to say that the subway station must have elevators, and not just stairs, to reach the subway. We disagree.

This too is not a hypothetical issue. The AODA Alliance has produced a widely-viewed online video that shows serious accessibility problems at new Toronto subway stations, recently opened, that were built in part with federal money.

The minister gave examples of commendable new policies that the Federal Government has adopted to promote the procurement by the Government of accessible goods, services and facilities. We applaud these. However, they are merely policies, not legal requirements. A subsequent minister or Government could abolish or disregard them with the stroke of a pen, without requiring any public debate. That is why we want such requirements embedded in the bill.

Excerpt 14

Senator Kutcher: Thank you, minister, for your very clear and well considered answers to these questions. Our task is to try to assist in making the bill the best it can be. You mentioned one area that I think you suggested we could dive a little bit deeper on and that was the sign language domain. So my question is: Are there any other areas that you or your team —

Minister Qualtrough: Boy, am I allowed to answer this question?

Senator Kutcher: — would like to highlight as something we could have a more intensive focus on as we study the bill?

Minister Qualtrough: I think some sort of recognition, as you say, of sign languages as being the first language of Canadians who are Deaf is certainly what we have all heard and you will hear.

Senator Munson asked a question about the duty to accommodate, and perhaps to avoid confusion that could be explicit. I know it is at law and I would suggest case law has already clarified that point but I think it might be worth . . . nobody usually asks me that question.

Yes, I mean, if there are things that you think can be improved, certainly please explore that. My concern is getting it passed. I think it’s a really good piece of law and I wouldn’t want anything to get in the way of that. Sorry to be so direct. The community has done such good work and I feel a real heightened obligation to deliver this for them. This is once in a generation and people have fought for a long time before me to have this conversation nationally. This is a genie we are not putting back in the bottle. It’s pretty exciting. Sorry I don’t have further feedback for you but those two would be at the top of my mind.

Our Comment: The minister here again indicates that she is open to amendments to the bill. That is helpful.

As areas that the Senators might focus on as part of their study of the bill, the minister referred to possible recognition that Sign Language is the first language of people who are deaf, and something explicit about the duty to accommodate. She said that those two items are at the top of her mind. She did not specifically commit to passage of amendments to that end. She commendably invited the Senate to explore things in the bill that “can be improved.”

Excerpt 15

Minister Qualtrough: May I add something on the duty to accommodate piece because it’s really important and kind of something I’m obsessed with. We need to make it very clear to Canadians that this is a really important legally enshrined tenet of human rights law in this country and nothing we are doing here takes away any organization’s obligation to accommodate individuals. In some cases, a small business who has complied with the standard might say, “We have complied,” and that might meet their duty to accommodate but the Government of Canada it might not. We need to be very clear and I need it on the record from me so I can sleep tonight that this in no way, in any way negates any organization’s obligation to accommodate individuals on the grounds of disability.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments under Excerpts 1 and 6 above.

Excerpt 16

Senator Eaton: Minister, is there another country who does this better than we are going to do it? Is there another country that is an example to us?

Minister Qualtrough: Our neighbour to the south has the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has an anti-discrimination component which would be covered off in our country by the human rights legislation and an accessibility standards component. So we have spent a lot of time looking at their model. It’s obviously a different kind of structured country, federal, state, but what I’m hoping, because I’m at heart a competitive athlete, is that this becomes the international standard that has built upon what other countries have been doing. The States has been doing it for 30 years, but I would like to believe ours will be better.

Our Comment: We commend the minister for wanting Canada’s new accessibility legislation to be better than the American legislation, and better than other laws around the world. However, as now written, Bill C-81 regrettably falls well short of that goal. It is also in some key ways weaker than Ontario’s AODA, which itself has run into significant implementation and enforcement problems over the past 14 years.

Excerpt 17

Senator Omidvar: Very quickly, you have talked about the fact that there is a timeline, that within two years agencies have to enact one regulation. However, what is the quality of that regulation? Is there a concern that it could be an inconsequential one, a minor procedural matter without actually embracing the spirit of what you are trying to propose?

Minister Qualtrough: I don’t think the law provides the safeguard that you are asking about. What I do think, though, is that CASDO is that safeguard. So having CASDO created with a board of directors with a majority of individuals with lived experience, and they get to decide which regulations take priority and what comes first and what comes second and who does what and what the priorities are. That group of individuals will be tasked with making sure there are substantive regulations in place as quickly as possible based on their agreed upon priorities.

Our Comment: We respectfully disagree with parts of the minister’s description of this legislation. The minister correctly stated that the bill does not ensure that the regulation that must be enacted within two years is something more than an inconsequential procedural regulation.

However, she is incorrect in stating that the new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization is a safeguard to ensure that substantive regulations are enacted as soon as possible. CASDO has no such power under this bill. CASDO has no authority to enact any regulations whatsoever. It can only give advice. It can recommend what should be included in accessibility standard regulations. The Federal Government, the CRTC and the Canadian Transportation Agency need never listen to CASDO’s advice, and need never give a reason for refusing to act on CASDO’s advice.

As for the regulation that must be enacted within two years, that regulation is NOT an accessibility standard regulation. As the Senator’s question mentions, it is a procedural regulation that the Government must enact in the first two years. CASDO has no control over those procedural regulations. Contrary to the minister’s suggestion, CASDO is therefore not an effective safeguard to ensure that those regulations are meaningful.

Canada Transportation Agency Proposes New Regulations that Threatens to Reduce the Duty to Accommodate Passengers with Disabilities in Air Travel and Other Transportation that the Federal Government Can Regulate, According to a New Brief by the AODA Alliance

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Canada Transportation Agency Proposes New Regulations that Threaten to Reduce the Duty to Accommodate Passengers with Disabilities in Air Travel and Other Transportation that the Federal Government Can Regulate, According to a New Brief by the AODA Alliance

April 18, 2019

          SUMMARY

Today, the AODA Alliance submitted a brief to the Canada Transportation Agency on the draft regulations that it is proposing to enact under the Canada Transportation Act to address the many barriers that people with disabilities face in the parts of Canada’s transportation network that the Federal Government can regulate, such as air travel. We set out our brief below.

The CTA posted these very detailed draft regulations on March 9, 2019 and gave the public 30 days to comment on them. We regret that we are submitting our brief after the CTA’s deadline for comment. We were not able to prepare this brief sooner, as we have been devoting so much time to our campaign to get Canada’s Senate to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

We regret that we did not have time to post a draft of this brief earlier, for your feedback, as we ordinarily do when we are preparing briefs like this. We had to prepare this brief in an extraordinary rush.

Our brief provides an excellent illustration of why we need the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81. Parts of this draft regulation that we had time to analyze threaten to weaken the protection of the duty to accommodate people with disabilities. This is because s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act says that once a regulation like this is enacted, it serves as a cap on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, in so far as the CTA can enforce it. Our brief illustrates by example how this draft regulation would reduce protection for the duty to accommodate people with disabilities in federally-regulated transportation.

We therefore oppose the passage of this draft regulation, for the reasons we set out in this brief. We regret having to do so, because on our first review of the draft regulation, there appear to be some good things in it. As our brief explains, we nevertheless oppose its enactment because it threatens to reduce the rights of people with disabilities.

Sadly, our brief provides a good illustration of some of the problems with Bill C-81. We have called on the Senate to amend Bill C-81 to remove the damaging and harmful s. 172, so that regulations like these cannot serve to weaken the rights of people with disabilities. Our brief illustrates why that amendment to Bill C-81 is so vital to people with disabilities. We will find out on May 2, 2019 whether the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs will take up our recommendations for strengthening Bill C-81, including the repeal of s. 172.

It is not too late for you to help. Please email the Senate’s Standing Committee by writing soci@sen.parl.gc.ca and urge the Senators to strengthen Bill C-81. Send them this brief to give a good example of why we need them to get rid of the harmful s. 172.

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You should read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

 

 

          MORE DETAILS

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

www.aodaalliance.org  Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com  Twitter: @aodaalliance

Brief to the Canada Transportation Agency on the Draft Regulations Posted for Comment on the Canada Gazette Entitled “Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations”

April 18, 2019

To: Canada Transportation Agency

Via Email: sonia.gangopadhyay@otc-cta.gc.ca

Care of Sonia Gangopadhyay

Acting Director

Centre of Expertise for Accessible Transportation

Canadian Transportation Agency

15 Eddy Street

Gatineau, Quebec

K1A 0N9

Telephone: 819 953 8961

1. Introduction

In this brief, the AODA Alliance offers the Canada Transportation Agency our summary feedback on the draft regulations which the CTA posted in the Canada Gazette for public comment within 30 days on March 9, 2019, entitled “Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations”. (ATPDR)

The AODA Alliance regrets that it has had to submit this brief past the CTA’s deadline for feedback. We regret that our volunteer coalition did not have the capacity to address this earlier. The CTA’s short 30-day public consultation period on these complex regulations overlapped with the pivotally important hearings on Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act) by the Senate. Moreover, a proper analysis of the CTA’s highly-technical document, which runs over 100 pages, is not something a voluntary grassroots organization can readily undertake on such short notice. This is made more challenging by the draft regulations’ complexity and, at times, impenetrable text.

Due to the insufficient time, we have not been able to fully review and analyze the entirety of the draft regulations’ details. We here address a short number of key points that amply support our core conclusion.

Our position in this brief is summarized as follows:

  1. We commend the CTA for embarking on developing modernized accessibility standard regulations. These are long overdue. We share the CTA’s conclusion that the current situation facing passengers with disabilities is unacceptable, and that mandatory enforceable regulations are needed.
  2. We accept that there are some helpful provisions in the draft regulations. However despite this, the draft regulation should not be enacted in its current form, especially if Parliament does not remove s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act. This is because as written, the draft regulation threatens to reduce human rights of passengers with disabilities.

The Canada Transportation Agency should not infer that the short list of key concerns addressed in this brief are the only concerns that we would have raised about these draft regulations, had we had a fuller opportunity to digest and analyze them.

In general we share the concerns about this proposed regulation that the Alliance For Equality of Blind Canadians has set out in its excellent April 6, 2019 brief to the CTA which is available at:

http://www.blindcanadians.ca/sites/aebc/files/docs/brief/3208/Canada%20Gazette%20regs%20Brief%20final%2004-06-2019.docx

2. Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that has advocated in Ontario since 2005 for the effective implementation and enforcement of Canada’s first comprehensive provincial accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. We are the successor to the community coalition that successfully campaigned from 1994 to 2005 for the AODA’s enactment. We have advised many, including several provinces, a United Nations conference, the European Union, Israel and New Zealand.

Among many other activities, we have been extensively involved in providing input to the Transportation Accessibility Standard enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Our activity at the provincial level in the transportation area can be seen by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/transportation/

3. Endorsing Certain Specific CTA Findings

The CTA’s posting of draft regulation makes a number of key findings which the AODA Alliance endorses and supports.

The CTA correctly recognizes that Canada is not a leader in this area on the international stage. It acknowledged:

“Canada lags behind other countries that have comprehensive and enforceable regulations in this area.”

Later it wisely recognized:

“The CTA’s RMI revealed that its existing accessibility instruments represent a patchwork of regulations and voluntary standards, some of which are outdated and inadequate in their scope. This has resulted in inconsistent accessibility-related services and reduced access to transportation services for persons with disabilities.”

Still later the CTA recognized:

“Canada’s heavy reliance on voluntary codes of practice currently leaves it lagging behind other key jurisdictions that have comprehensive and enforceable accessible transportation regulations, notably the United States and the EU.”

Later the CTA similarly recognized how out-of-date its regulatory regime in this area has been:

“The current CTA regulations, voluntary codes of practice, and some of the guidance material relevant to accessible travel are outdated and contain significant gaps. While some gaps have been partially addressed through the CTA’s adjudication of individual accessibility complaints, this approach has resulted in an uneven playing field for industry, as some transportation service providers named in complaints are required to remove undue obstacles while others are not. As a result, extensive consultations have confirmed wide support from disability rights organizations, the general public and industry for the development of a single, comprehensive set of accessible transportation regulations that apply across the national transportation system.”

Elsewhere the CTA fairly acknowledged that its regulatory regime in this area to date has been inadequate, where it states:

“However, current accessibility provisions for the national transportation system are generally voluntary (i.e. not legally binding), and have not kept pace with developments since the early 2000s.”

4. CTA’s Goal In the Draft Regulation is Confused

At points, the CTA sets its goal well below the human rights standard. This is especially troubling, since the CTA states that it is trying to align itself with Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That proposed legislation is called “an Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.”

At other points, CTA merely says it aims to make transportation “more accessible”, a tepid and inadequate goal. The CTA states:

“The proposed Regulations would require these entities (collectively referred to herein as “transportation service providers”) to take steps to meet certain standards to make travel more accessible and consistent for persons with disabilities.”

Later the CTA acknowledges a stronger and far more appropriate goal of a barrier-free transportation system:

“The overarching objective of the proposed regulatory package is to promote the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society by creating comprehensive and enforceable accessible transportation requirements that are applicable to all modes of transportation, and enabling persons with disabilities to travel with a predictable and consistent level of accessibility across a barrier-free modern national transportation system.”

Still later, but within just a few pages of those earlier contradictory statements, the CTA in one paragraph both sets a correct goal of “equal access” and shortly thereafter the incorrect diluted goal of “more accessible”:

“The ATPDR would ensure that all Canadians, including persons with disabilities, have equal access to the national transportation system. Transportation service providers subject to the proposed Regulations would be required to take steps and meet the proposed standards to make travel more accessible and consistent for persons with disabilities.”

We recommend that the CTA use consistent language that makes it clear that aim of the regulation is the achievement of a barrier-free and fully-accessible transportation system. We also recommend that a provision be added to the regulation that makes it clear that nothing in this regulation should be construed as reducing any duties to accommodate passengers with disabilities as guaranteed either in the Canada Human Rights Act or the Canada Transportation Act.

5. Draft Regulations Threaten to Create a New Legal Barrier that Can Impede Human Rights Duty of Transportation Providers to Accommodate

The AODA Alliance opposes the adoption of any CTA regulations that could threaten in any way to reduce the duty of transportation providers to accommodate passengers with disabilities as guaranteed under human rights laws. This includes any threat to reduce the duty of transportation providers under the Canada Transportation Act to remove and prevent undue obstacles or barriers to travel by passengers with disabilities.

For this reason, we regret that we must oppose the adoption of the draft regulation. While it includes some helpful contents, it also includes provisions that threaten existing human rights entitlements.

We have not had the time to screen the entire draft regulation to find all the threatening provisions, in order to see which parts, if any, of the draft regulation is irrelevant to that pressing concern. Before proceeding with this regulation, the Federal Government should put this draft regulation through a careful screening, with input from the disability community and the Canadian Human Rights Commission for that purpose.

Our concern arises from the fact that s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act provides that once the CTA has enacted a regulation in an area, passengers with disabilities are barred from bringing an individual claim that a barrier is an “undue obstacle” in that area, if that would require the transportation provider to do anything more than the regulation requires. In effect, the CTA regulation sets a cap or ceiling on the scope of the duty to accommodate of transportation providers. The transportation provider need do no more, even if the regulation does not ensure effective accommodation, and even if further accommodation efforts are possible without undue hardship.

Section 172 provides, referring to the Canada Transportation Agency:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

The AODA Alliance and other disability organizations have asked Parliament to repeal s. 172. That would leave the human rights duty to accommodate intact. Regulations enacted by the CTA could reinforce it, but never reduce it. The Federal Government has not done so. It has given no reason for its refusal to do so.

Instead of removing this unfair provision in the CTA legislation, Bill C-81 preserves it. The Federal Government refused our request to remove it from Bill C-81. We have asked the Senate to remove it. The Senate has not yet indicated whether it would do so.

When the CTA appeared before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to discuss Bill C-81 on April 10, 2019, it did not identify this problem or express any opinion on the AODA Alliance’s call for s. 172 to be repealed. To our knowledge, the Senators did not ask the CTA about this specific provision at those hearings.

When federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough appeared on April 3, 2019 before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to speak to Bill C-81, she stated:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Yet Bill C-81, whose creation she led, preserves and perpetuates s. 172, which is a threat to the duty to accommodate people with disabilities.

We here identify a troubling example in the draft regulations which on their face threaten to cut back on the duty to accommodate. As a painful irony, this threat arises from provisions which on their face give the impression that they seek to assist with the accommodation in transportation of passengers with disabilities.

We specifically focus on the draft regulations’ imposing a duty on passengers with disabilities to give advance notice to transportation providers of a request for certain prescribed accommodations. This problem arises from a combination of sections 29, 32, 34 and 35 of the draft regulations, which we set out here in material part.

Section 29 of the draft regulations provides:

“Advance notice — at least 48 hours

29 (1) If a person with a disability makes a request for a service set out in this Part at least 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure, the carrier must provide the service.

No advance notice required

(2) Despite subsection (1), if a person makes a request for a service referred to in any of paragraphs 32(a), (b), (g) and (i) to (w) or section 34 or 35 less than 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure, the carrier must provide the service.

Advance notice — 96 hours

(3) Despite subsection (1) and subject to subsection (2), a carrier may require that a request for a service set out in this Part be made 96 hours in advance of the person’s scheduled time of departure if the period of advance notice that is required by the carrier is reasonably necessary in the circumstances because of the type of service that is requested by the person.

If no advance notice

(4) Despite subsections (1) and (3), if a request for a service that is subject to a time limit referred to in those subsections is not made within the time limit, the carrier must nonetheless make a reasonable effort to provide the service.”

Section 32 of the draft regulations, to which s. 29 refers, provides:

“32 A carrier must ensure that personnel, on the request of a person with a disability, provide the following services to the person without delay:

(a) assisting the person with registering at the check-in counter;

(b) permitting the person, if they are unable to use an automated self-service kiosk or other automated check-in or ticketing process, to advance to the front of the line at a check-in counter or ticket counter;

(c) assisting the person in proceeding through any security screening process at the terminal, including by

(i) providing personnel to assist the person to proceed through the security screening process, or

(ii) collaborating with the relevant security authority or security personnel at the terminal to permit a person who is not travelling with the person with a disability to have access to the security screening checkpoint so that they may assist the person with a disability to proceed through the security screening process;

(d) assisting the person in proceeding to the boarding area after check-in;

(e) before boarding, transferring the person between the person’s own mobility aid and a mobility aid provided by the carrier;

(f) assisting the person in boarding and disembarking and, in the case of a person travelling on a ferry, assisting the person in moving to and from a vehicle deck to a passenger deck;

(g) assisting the person in storing and retrieving their carry-on baggage;

(h) before departure and on arrival at the destination, transferring the person between a mobility aid and the person’s passenger seat;

(i) assisting the person in moving in and out of a mobility aid space;

(j) before departure or, if impossible because of time constraints, after departure, describing to a person who is blind or has a visual impairment the layout of the aircraft, train, ferry or bus, as the case may be, including the location of washrooms and exits, and the location and operation of any passenger-operated controls at the person’s passenger seat;

(k) assisting the person in accessing any entertainment content that is offered on board, such as by providing them with a personal electronic device and assisting them in using that device;

(l) before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration;

(m) on board an aircraft, train or ferry, providing the person with an on-board wheelchair;

(n) on board an aircraft, train or ferry, assisting the person in moving between their passenger seat and a washroom, including by assisting them in transferring between their passenger seat and an on-board wheelchair;

(o) on board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog;

(p) if a meal is offered on board, describing to the person all the food and beverages that are offered for consumption or providing a menu in large print or in Braille;

(q) if a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions;

(r) if the person is not able to access a food service car on a train, permitting the person and any support person to order a meal, and be served the meal, at their passenger seats;

(s) assisting the person in proceeding through immigration and customs;

(t) assisting the person in retrieving their checked baggage;

(u) assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to the general public area;

(v) assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance to proceed to the curbside zone from personnel of the terminal operator; and

(w) assisting the person, if they are transferring to another segment of their trip within the same terminal, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance from personnel of the receiving carrier.”

Sections 34 and 35 of the draft regulations provide:

“34 If a person with a disability who is in a wheelchair, a boarding chair or any other device in which the person is not independently mobile is waiting at a terminal for departure after check-in or in order to transfer to another segment of their trip, the carrier must ensure that personnel

(a) provide the person with a place to wait that is close to personnel who are available to provide assistance to the person; and

(b) periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part.

Request for assistance

35 Unless a person with a disability is able to request assistance from personnel by means of a call button, the carrier must ensure that personnel periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part.”

This draft regulation would legislate the creation of a new legalized barrier to the duty to accommodate, namely a requirement for passengers with disabilities to give advance notice to the transportation provider 48 hours before the travel, when seeking certain specified accommodations. That means that passengers with disabilities don’t have an assurance of a vital accommodation service if they have not given 48 hours advance notice to the transportation provider, where they are requesting any of the following accommodations:

Assisting the person in proceeding through any security screening process at the terminal (s. 32c).

Assisting the person in proceeding to the boarding area after check-in (s. 32(d)).

Before boarding, transferring the person between the person’s own mobility aid and a mobility aid provided by the carrier (s. 32(e)).

Assisting the person in boarding and disembarking and, in the case of a person travelling on a ferry, assisting the person in moving to and from a vehicle deck to a passenger deck (s. 32(f)).

Before departure and on arrival at the destination, transferring the person between a mobility aid and the person’s passenger seat (s. 32(h)).

Assisting the person in moving in and out of a mobility aid space (s. 32 (i)).

Before departure or, if impossible because of time constraints, after departure, describing to a person who is blind or has a visual impairment the layout of the aircraft, train, ferry or bus, as the case may be, including the location of washrooms and exits, and the location and operation of any passenger-operated controls at the person’s passenger seat (s. 32(j)).

Assisting the person in accessing any entertainment content that is offered on board, such as by providing them with a personal electronic device and assisting them in using that device (s.32 (k)).

Before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration) s. 32(l)).

On board an aircraft, train or ferry, providing the person with an on-board wheelchair (s. 32(m)).

On board an aircraft, train or ferry, assisting the person in moving between their passenger seat and a washroom, including by assisting them in transferring between their passenger seat and an on-board wheelchair (s. 32(n)).

On board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog (s. 32(o)).

If a meal is offered on board, describing to the person all the food and beverages that are offered for consumption or providing a menu in large print or in Braille (s. 32(p)).

If a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions (s. 32(q)).

If the person is not able to access a food service car on a train, permitting the person and any support person to order a meal, and be served the meal, at their passenger seats (s. 3r)).

Assisting the person in proceeding through immigration and customs (s. 32(s)).

Assisting the person in retrieving their checked baggage (s. 32(t)).

Assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to the general public area (s. 32(u)).

Assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance to proceed to the curbside zone from personnel of the terminal operator (s. 32(v)).

Assisting the person, if they are transferring to another segment of their trip within the same terminal, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance from personnel of the receiving carrier (s. 32(w)).

Providing a person with a disability who is in a wheelchair, a boarding chair or any other device in which the person is not independently mobile, while waiting at a terminal for departure after check-in or in order to transfer to another segment of their trip, to provide the person with a place to wait that is close to personnel who are available to provide assistance ,and periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required as listed in that Part of the regulations. (s. 34).

Unless a person with a disability is able to request assistance from personnel by means of a call button, to ensure that personnel periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part. (s. 35).

Advance notice is simply not justified for many if not most of these accommodations – assuming it can even be justified for any of them. These all involve a transportation provider deploying existing staff on hand. We cannot see how a transportation provider would change its plans or operations 48 hours before a trip in response to such advance notice. Even if advance notice were justified, which we dispute, a full two days is excessive.

Making this problematic situation even worse, s. 32(3) would allow a transportation provider to unilaterally require even more notice, namely 96 hours (4 days) for any of the foregoing, in circumstances that passengers with disabilities could not reliably know in advance. Section 32(3) provides:

” (3) Despite subsection (1) and subject to subsection (2), a carrier may require that a request for a service set out in this Part be made 96 hours in advance of the person’s scheduled time of departure if the period of advance notice that is required by the carrier is reasonably necessary in the circumstances because of the type of service that is requested by the person.”

When could an airline, for example, possibly need fully four days’ notice in order for a flight attendant, already present on the plane to do any of the following:

* Before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration )s. 32(l)).

* On board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog (s. 32(o)).

* If a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions (s. 32(q)).

Section 32(4) of the draft regulations attempts to reduce the harshness of this new barrier to effective accommodation of passengers with disabilities. It provides:

“(4) Despite subsections (1) and (3), if a request for a service that is subject to a time limit referred to in those subsections is not made within the time limit, the carrier must nonetheless make a reasonable effort to provide the service.”

By s. 32(4), a passenger’s failure to give the required notice is not automatically barred from any accommodation. However, the only effort that the transportation provider must make to provide a needed accommodation in circumstances of no advance notice is effort that is simply “reasonable.” The draft regulation provides no criteria for assessing the reasonableness of the transportation’s efforts.

Section 32(4)’s “reasonable efforts” clause is worded in terms that risks falling short of the human rights duty to accommodate. Under the human rights duty to accommodate, the transportation provider has the duty to make serious and substantial efforts, tailored to the individual’s specific needs, including investigating alternative solutions where needed, as well as the burden to show that it was impossible for the transportation provider to do more than it did to accommodate the passenger with a disability, without undue hardship. “Undue hardship” is a recognized and tough test to meet. It is not mere “reasonableness” of its effort.

These sections in the draft regulations read as if they were written for, if not by, the transportation sector. Such provisions are emblematic of why so many in the disability community oppose the CTA being assigned the proposed accessibility mandate under Bill C-81.

Many if not most or all of the accommodation services listed above that are subject to this new prior notice requirement are ones which passengers with disabilities have been able to request without prior notice up to now. As such, the draft regulations here threaten to serve as a real step backwards.

The regulations impose no duty on a transportation provider to effectively notify all passengers that it will require a 96 hour notice period for any or all of the listed accommodation services. Merely posting this on a website provides no assurance that passengers with disabilities will know to check, and will check at the right place. Must all passengers with disabilities start surfing the web or phoning their airline 96 hours in advance in case they might need one of these accommodations?

This notice requirement also presents a serious new barrier for passengers who are travelling at the last minute, e.g. for business, or to address an emergency or to attend a funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened. As such, this appears quite discriminatory.

The draft regulations do not require transportation providers to provide a reliable, quick, easily-accessed means for passengers with disabilities to give the required notice to the transportation provider. Members of the public are all too aware of the difficulties when trying, for example, to simply get a live person on the line when calling a major transportation provider. Even when a passenger tries to contact either of Toronto’s major passenger airports, Pearson International Airport or Billy Bishop Airport, to request curbside assistance in advance of arriving at the terminal, frustrating barriers have been encountered. Some have secured media attention. Had this been so important for the airlines, we anticipate that they would have already created a fast, effective and easy-to-use to give such advance notice.

6. Exceptions and Exemptions that Are Too Broad Fly in the Face of Supreme Court Human Rights Requirements

The draft regulations include exceptions and exemptions that are too broad. We have not had the time to isolate and analyze all of these. They all needed to be screen for human rights concerns before enactment of this regulation can be considered.

The CTA’s explanation of the draft regulations includes:

“The proposed ATPDR would set minimum accessibility standards that would apply to any new buildings or facilities purchased by Canadian transportation service providers after the one year following the coming into force of the proposed Regulations. In addition, any major modifications made to existing equipment or facilities would be required to comply with the proposed Regulations.”

This appears to permit a transportation to acquire a new building with accessibility barriers over a year after this regulation comes into force. The draft regulations need to be vetted to ensure that they do not allow a transportation provider or terminal to acquire a new building or part of a building during the year after the regulation comes into force, that does not meet the regulation’s accessibility requirements.

As another example, the draft regulations set requirements for accessibility features that must be included in new passenger airplanes. According to a complex series of provisions that are hard to decipher, some of these requirements do not apply to a “pre-existing” airplane. Section 62(4) defines a pre-existing airplane or like equipment as follows:

“(4) In subsections (1) to (3), a pre-existing aircraft, train, ferry or bus means an aircraft, train, ferry or bus that was

(a) purchased or leased by the carrier before the day on which this section comes into force; or

(b) purchased or leased by the carrier on or after the day on which this section comes into force, if the carrier has submitted the invitation for bids in respect of that aircraft, train, ferry or bus before that day.”

This provision does not come into force for one year after this regulation is enacted (See s. 162). As such, it appears that an airline could rush out now and buy new airplanes that do not meet the accessibility requirements for new airplanes, over the months before the regulation comes into effect. This flies in the face of the duty of each transportation provider not to create new disability barriers. It was a CTA case before the Supreme Court of Canada that established this principle in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. ViaRail ## cite. [2007] 1 SCR 650, citing with approval Lepofsky, M. David. “Federal Court of Appeal De‑Rails Equality Rights for Persons With Disabilities — Via Rail v. Canadian Transportation Agency and the Important Duty Not to Create New Barriers to Accessibility” (2005‑2006), 18 N.J.C.L. 169.

All the timelines in these draft regulations need to be vetted to ensure that they do not violate the principle that the Supreme Court of Canada enunciated in the ViaRail case.

7. Curbside Assistance Provisions Fraught with Difficulties

We offer one other illustration of a concern with the draft regulations that show the risk of their being quite weak, namely the provision regarding curbside assistance at a transportation terminal. We do not here suggest that this provision violates existing human rights. Rather, we point to this because the CTA, when appearing before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, highlighted this part of these regulations. CTA chair Scott Streiner told the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 10, 2019:

“The second example I would give relates to curbside assistance — that is, curb to gate assistance in airports. For travellers using mobility devices, particularly wheelchairs but also those who require guidance for blind travellers, or others, we all know that it can be a challenge, even if you don’t have a disability, to find your way from curbside to gate. Certainly, we require assistance in some cases for persons with disabilities.

There have been instances that have come to our attention where there’s been confusion about who provides that assistance between the airport, the airline and folks that found themselves not receiving the kind of assistance they need in a timely way. Again, these new regulations make it clear who has to do what. That’s a gap we’re trying to address through regulations.”

It is commendable that the draft regulations aim to ensure that passengers with disabilities can get curbside assistance to get into an airport or other transportation terminal, so they can check in. However, the provisions have excessive loopholes and leave far too much to the discretion of transportation provider and terminal operators. Contrary to Mr. Streiner’s presentation to the Senate and his commendable aims here, they do not make it clear to passengers with disabilities who does what.

Section 137 provides that a terminal operator must provide to passengers with disabilities “without delay” accommodation services such as”

“(c) assisting the person to proceed between the curbside zone and the check-in area or, if there is no check-in area, between the curbside zone and a representative of a carrier.”

Section 137(2) qualifies that a terminal does not have to provide that service if the transportation provider is providing that service. Section 137(2) provides:

” (2) Despite subsection (1), a terminal operator is not required to provide a person with any assistance referred to in that subsection if a carrier is already providing that person with that assistance.”

Section 136 requires the terminal operator to publish information about the availability of this curbside assistance. Section 136 provides in part:

“136 A terminal operator must publish, including by publishing on its Internet site, information about the services or facilities available at the terminal for persons with disabilities, including information about

(a) the curbside zone, including where the curbside zone is located and how to request assistance to or from the curbside zone;”

Taken together, these provisions are too confusing and slippery. Here again, they appear to serve the interest of terminal operators and transportation providers, who are given excessive discretion. Passengers with disabilities are left with uncertainty and unpredictability.

First, the regulation sets no time target that the terminal or transportation provider must meet to provide this curbside assistance. “Without delay” is entirely unpredictable and hard to enforce. A passenger with a disability could be left isolated, with no nearby staff, waiting and waiting alone in front of an airport in the middle of a freezing February day, without knowing how long they must continue to wait. They won’t know how much earlier they must arrive at the airport to be sure they get assisted to arrive inside the terminal to check in, in time to ensure that they don’t miss their flight. This does not serve the fundamental goal of predictability that the CTA emphasized in its explanation of these regulations.

By not specifying a specific maximum time requirement, this leaves each transportation provider free to set its own time lines, hoping that passengers with disabilities won’t bother taking on the burdensome chore of filing and litigating a case before the CTA over this. transportation providers know that few passengers with disabilities will wish to take on the hardship of litigating against a well-funded transportation provider over the interpretation of the vague words “without delay”.

Second, the draft regulations create confusion facing passengers with disabilities over who is responsible to provide this curbside assistance. The provision imposes the duty on the terminal. However, it leaves it open to an airline to provide the service, in which case the terminal is excused. Yet the provision imposes no specific duties on the airline that does offer the service. Does the “without delay” clause apply to the airlines too? If the airline doesn’t provide the service, has the passenger a right to demand it from the terminal operator? How can the passenger give the 48 or 96 hour notice that the terminal operator might demand?

For a passenger with a disability who just wants to get into an airport’s front door and up to the counter, this is a legal/regulatory mess dressed up as a helpful accommodation. Add to this the ordeal, while standing outside on that freezing February day, fearful of missing one’s flight, of then having to try to get someone on the phone from the airline or airport to figure out who is supposed to help, or trying to surf the web to see if there is an up-to-date posting on the airline’s or airport’s website that might point to the right phone number. Navigating such websites for assistance and trying to reach a live person on the phone with correct information on a topic like this is already a vexing challenge.

Third, there appears to be no requirement that all passengers including passengers with disabilities be notified of this service when their ticket is purchased, as part of the ticket documentation. Similarly, there is no requirement that the transportation provider or terminal have, and make public, an easily-reached phone number to call when en route to the terminal, to give advance warning that they are about to arrive. Requiring notice 48 or 96 hours in advance does little to help the terminal or transportation provider. Being able to call to seek this accommodation when a few minutes away, and to reach a live person in direct contact with the help personnel, would go much further to make a service like this become reliable.

8. Conclusion

We hope that in our rush to provide useful feedback on this complicated and at times, opaque draft regulation, we have not inadvertently made any incorrect descriptions of its provisions. If we have, we ask the CTA to notify us, so that we can correct our submission.

This draft regulation shows why it is essential for Parliament to immediately repeal s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act. People with disabilities should not have to fear that the enactment of a regulation like this, despite some helpful provisions, can end up reducing their rights. They face too many barriers now in Canada’s transportation system. They should not face further hurdles, created by a regulatory authority whose mandate is to tear down such barriers and to prevent the creation of new ones.

Read or Watch What the AODA Alliance Said to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 About the Need to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

 

Read or Watch What the AODA Alliance Said to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 About the Need to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

 

April 15, 2019

 

          SUMMARY

 

Here’s a chance to read or watch exactly what AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky said in our April 11, 2019 evidence presented to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on the need to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. See the text below (about 14 pages).

 

In this text we do not include what two other organizations presented at the same time. We will later post on our website the transcript for the entire set of hearings that the Senate held on Bill C-81. That will include the presentations of all the organizations that presented on Bill C-81, including the others that presented at the same time as the AODA Alliance.

 

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

We encourage you to read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page  to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

 

It’s not too late for you to help our campaign. Send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. We are so appreciative of the individuals and organizations that have already done so. Email the Senate at:

soci@sen.parl.gc.ca

 

The Senate Standing Committee will meet on May 2, 2019 to decide what amendments it will make to Bill C-81. The minister leading this bill, Carla Qualtrough, told the Standing Committee on April 3, 2019 that she is open to amendments and wants Bill C-81 to be the best bill it can be. Senator Jim Munson, who is sponsoring this bill in the Senate, told the Standing Committee on April 10, 2019 in clear and categorical terms that there will be amendments. We are campaigning to ensure that these amendments are strong and effective.

 

During our presentation to the Senate Standing Committee, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky encouraged the Committee to watch the AODA Alliance’s online video about serious accessibility problems in new Toronto area subway stations. It has already been seen thousands of times and has secured good media coverage. Check it out by visiting https://youtu.be/za1UptZq82o

 

To help our campaign, on April 5, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent a letter to the leaders of all the federal political parties. We asked them to support amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate makes to strengthen it. We want these passed in the House of Commons before the federal election this fall. We also asked the party leaders to pledge that if Bill C-81 is not properly strengthened, or is not passed before the election, that they’ll bring it back before Parliament after the federal election to be strengthened and passed into law.

 

Stay tuned. We will keep you posted on new developments. We always welcome your feedback on this presentation and on anything else we are up to! Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

 

          MORE DETAILS

 

Text of What AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Presented to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 11, 2019 Regarding Bill C-81

 

(Note: The evidence of other presenters and their responses to other Senators has been omitted here, but will be available in the full transcript for these hearings which we will post on our website when it becomes available. Also, the full transcript that we will later post will translate any French passages, set out below, into English.)

 

THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL AFFAIRS, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

EVIDENCE

OTTAWA, Thursday, April 11, 2019

 

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met this day at 10:30 a.m. to study Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

 

Senator Chantal Petitclerc (Chair) in the chair. We will continue with our second panel.

 

David Lepofsky, Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance:  Good morning, senators. Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions, but palpably weak on implementation. It’s called An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, but it does not require a single barrier anywhere in Canada, ever, to be removed. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

Bill C-81, at its core and its heart, is driven by the commendable notion that the federal government will enact enforceable regulations called accessibility standards that will tell federally regulated organizations what they have got to do. But it doesn’t require any federal accessibility standards to ever be enacted as enforceable regulations. People with disabilities need and deserve better.

Let me be clear: The regulations that the bill requires to be enacted within two years are on procedural things, not substantive accessibility standards. The federal government could meet that deadline merely by prescribing the forms that people with disabilities shall use if they want to give feedback to Air Canada or Bell Canada. People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

This legislation splinters its enforcement and the setting of enforceable regulations among multiple federal agencies. From the minister’s defence of her practice, she conceded that if she was starting from scratch, that isn’t necessarily how she would do it. But her explanation of why she did it gives triumphant ascendancy to federal bureaucracy over disability equality.

Now the question is: What do we do about it? The question is not: Are you going to pass this bill, senators? You’re going to pass this bill, so let’s take that off the table. We all know it. We all understand it. That’s the starting point.

The question before this committee is: Are you going to amend it first? What we say is that you must. The reality is this bill needs a lot of amendments not to make it perfect — that’s a red herring — but to get this bill from the status of weak to one that is closer to what people with disabilities need and deserve.

In the house, there were a couple hundred pages of amendments. Hard work over the past weekend has led us to distill it down to a series of amendments before you that we proposed — and you have received e-mails from some witnesses who support them — which fill a grand total of 3.5 pages and cover a few core themes. I am only going to address a couple of them, but let me be clear, there is time to do this. You’re going to vote in committee on May 2. I understand you will do third reading by May 16. We are working and approaching the federal parties to urge that, once amendments are passed — if they are — that the house consider them quickly, so the issue of swift passage of this bill, whether amended or not, is now, procedurally, not a bar to your being able to do what we need you to do.

So what should you do?

Well, let me just focus on a couple, but I invite questions on all of what we proposed. Let’s just turn to the headlines. Yesterday, the Government of Ontario announced a multi-billion-dollar plan for new subways in Toronto, but only if other levels of government, including the federal government, add billions to the allocation the province is committing to. That’s not unusual. But we need the federal government to be required, before it spends our money on a project like that, to say a ground rule of getting our federal money is you have to meet certain federal accessibility requirements.

Now, the minister came before you a week ago and said, “We can’t do that. We don’t have constitutional authority to do that.” Respectfully, the minister is wrong. It’s called the federal spending power. Have you heard of the Canada Health Act? The Canada Health Act says that if provinces get federal money for provincial health programs, they must meet federal accessibility requirements. Not disability accessibility, but their financial accessibility.

If what the minister told you is right, then the Canada Health Act has been unconstitutional for over three decades since it was enacted. I would be staggered to believe that is the position of the current federal government. If they can do it there, they can at least attach strings when they give money, if they agree to, to local projects and not just federal buildings.

You might look at me and say, “Oh, come on, in 2019 we wouldn’t use public money to build inaccessible public transit.” Senators, go to YouTube, search on AODA Alliance and public transit. You will see a video we released during last spring’s provincial election that has thousands of views and media coverage where we document serious accessibility problems in brand new subway stations in Toronto that just opened within the past year-and-a-half.

This isn’t about perfect, folks. This is about basic equality, so we ask for an amendment that would at least require federal ministers or their ministries, if they are agreeing to give our federal money to a province, a municipality, a college or university for a project like that, to put, as a term of the agreement, an enforceable term, just like the Canada Health Act, that accessibility requirements are required. Why should the federal government ever allow federal money to be used to create new barriers or perpetuate existing ones?

Let me give you one other core amendment. My colleague from the CNIB said the minister last week had agreed to amend the bill to ensure that it does not curtail in any way the human rights code and the duty to accommodate. I hope the minister does that, but I don’t hear her as having said that. I hear her as having said that she, as a former human rights lawyer, has ensured that this bill doesn’t interfere with the duty to accommodate. But senators, it threatens to.

Section 172 of the bill perpetuates a provision in the Canada transportation legislation that would let the CTA enact a regulation, and once it does so, to set standards for accessible transit, no matter how low that standard may be and no matter how deficient from a human rights standard it may be. As a traveller with a disability or others in my coalition or anyone in Canada, we are barred from asking any more under the legislation’s guarantee against undue barriers.

With that provision in the act, our position is: Please don’t ever enact any standards under the CTA because they threaten to take away our rights. A simple amendment would repeal that provision from the act.

Let me conclude by inviting questions on the other areas that we’ve raised. I’m telling you that we are not just about saying what’s wrong. We are about proposing constructive suggestions for what’s right, and the amendments we’ve placed before you are designed for a Senate that has a limited time frame to act, a commitment to respect policy decisions made in the House of Commons and an eagerness to ensure that these amendments can be considered by the house quickly and easily, with a realistic chance of them being taken seriously. They are designed to be tailored both to our needs and to what the minister said to you last week. So we ask you to take them all seriously. They are all substantive, and they all bear on the needs of all people with disabilities.

I conclude by saying this: I’m speaking for my coalition, but as an individual, I first came before Parliament 39 years ago as a much younger individual — my wife said I had hair back then when she saw the video — to appear before the standing committee considering the Charter of Rights. At that time, the Charter proposed to guarantee equality but not to people with disabilities. I and a number of other folks argued and succeeded in getting the Charter amended to include that right.

I leave you with two thoughts. First, the amendments we seek are aimed at making that right become a reality, not just as a matter of good intention but as effective implementation.

The Chair: Thank you so much, Mr. Lepofsky. We have a list of senators who are eager to ask questions.

Senator Seidman: Thank you all very much for your presentations.

Mr. Lepofsky, I will take you up on your challenge. I’m searching for commonalities. I appreciate the premise you made that we are looking for clear, crisp, focused and meaningful amendments that have a hope of being passed on the other side because that’s exactly what’s going to have to happen in this process.

I would like to ask you specifically, you submitted three areas that need strengthening with 11 amendments. I would like to ask you very specifically about your amendment about timelines. It is true that HUMA heard testimony around timelines, but they decided not to amend the bill to include a deadline. You have proposed one. In fact, I think you proposed January 1, 2040.

I would like to hear from you why you are pushing that we have a timeline and why it would be that particular one.

Mr. Lepofsky: There are two timelines that we set. One is that the government should be required — not just permitted but required — to enact accessibility standards regulations within five years and also the timeline for ultimate accessibility in Canada by 2040. Yes, these were pitched to HUMA. The opposition parties, left and right, united in support of that agenda. The government did not agree.

Our hope is that, on your sober second thought, you find wisdom drawing on the experiences that bring you to this Senate, that a return of this issue to the House in June, months before an election, may lead all members of the house to see the wisdom in adopting them.

To be clear, I have an appointment to meet the minister this afternoon to bring that message. We would like to work with the Senate and the house to see if we can broker a package that covers everything.

With respect to the 2040 deadline, I had the privilege of leading the coalition that fought for a decade to win the enactment of Ontario’s accessibility law, and I now lead the coalition that has fought for the past 14 years to get it effectively implemented. The minister doubted whether a deadline in the legislation would help. Our front-line grassroots experience of 14 years demonstrates unequivocally that it does. The minister feared that that might lead to a disincentive. People think, “Oh, you have to wait until 2039 to start.” Not only doesn’t it, but we’ve proposed wording that you can include that will utterly accommodate the minister’s worry by making that clear.

What we’ve learned is if you say, “It will become accessible sometime in the next millennium, whatever,” action won’t happen. If, on the other hand, the 2040 deadline is set, senator, then Air Canada knows that deadline overarches their plans and their accessibility requirements. CASDO knows that the standards they recommend have to meet that requirement, and cabinet and all other regulation-making bodies will know that that is the measure. Without that tool, our efforts in Ontario — which have been a hard slog, believe me — would be considerably harder.

Senator Seidman: Thank you.

Senator Munson: Thank you for being here. I think we have to acknowledge the work of former Senator David Smith, when, David, you talked about the Charter. He was the person who led the charge to make sure that dealing with disabilities was in the Charter. It had been left out, and I want to acknowledge that.

I have two quick questions, one for Mr. Belanger and one for Mr. Lepofsky.

Mr. Belanger, you support the bill, but it seems Indigenous people have been left off the table, and I can’t understand why. I know there have been discussions about nation to nation, but there are more than 600. So you support it, but you have been left out. If you could address that.

Mr. Lepofsky, you have not been much of a fan of the CRTC, CTA and others. You have an amendment here, so could you explain that amendment to us and how that would work? There is supposed to be no wrong door, but there seem to be a lot of doors, so if you could talk about your amendment, to get that on the record.

Mr. Belanger: (not included here)

 

 

Senator Munson: Mr. Lepofsky?

Mr. Lepofsky: Thank you. Sometimes it helps when you have someone who is blind and what you are facing is a bit of a smoke screen. The “no wrong door stuff” that you’ve been hearing about, respectfully, I think has been raised by those presenting it as a smokescreen, or as least it is serving that way.

What do I mean? Our strong preference from day one would be one-stop shopping — one agency, one place to go, one body making the regulations. It is quicker, more efficient, fairer and certainly easier for us.

The current regime only serves the interests of organizations that want to use the splintering to make it harder for us. But we know that in the amendments that you are going to pass in the next two weeks that a total rewrite of the major chunks of the bill is not feasible.

So what do we do? What could fix it? “No wrong door” talks about where you get in. It is not the most important thing. What happens when you get there? Right now, we have four agencies with four different procedures, with four different policies and practices, and there will be four different sets of forms and four different potential sets of deadlines. It is a guarantee of chaos for us, but it will be great for the airlines because they know them, or the broadcasters because they’ve been navigating them and they are lawyered up to be able to do that.

So what’s our solution? A simple amendment that says that the major bodies are required to develop, within a timeline that we prescribe, a series of processes to harmonize and have, essentially, the same procedure, or as close as possible, behind the door when you get there.

We heard yesterday from the leads of those agencies that they have started working together on their processes, but there are no commitments whatsoever to ensure that it is the same process. The bill now, in sections 94 to 110, prescribes a series of expedited processes at the accessibility commissioner. We say, great, if they work expeditiously, but neither the CTA nor the CRTC have been experienced by people with disabilities as expeditious — much the reverse.

My last point is you heard yesterday from these agencies that are generally serious in saying all they’ve done. That’s understandable from them. But can I just take you to the front lines for a minute? I will just tell you my own personal experience. I could aggregate it across all the feedback we get.

CTA’s track record historically is pretty lousy. They finally got religion three years ago and are starting to work on regulations. They’ve had the power to do this for over 30 years. Where have they been? As a blind person who travels internationally, I can tell you I dread entering Canadian airspace, not because we never get service, but it is way more unreliable here than I have seen otherwise.

The CRTC. In the U.S., it has been federal law since, I believe, 2016 that cable providers must provide an accessible PVR. In Canada, where is the CRTC? It is not required here. It should be, but it is not.

So please take the track records and understand that our jadedness is well justified. But our solution is what you can do in a short period is at least require the other agencies, if we are stuck with them, to come up with not just statements to you yesterday about how they want to be expeditious, but actually require them to come up with processes that will be expeditious. That’s what our amendment proposes….

(Passage omitted)

 

 

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you for that.

Mr. Lepofsky, I will come back to Senator Seidman’s question, and that is the whole concept of the balance of getting this through — I can’t help but bring this up just one more time — in an efficient and expedient and respectful way, and balancing what are significant concerns and amendments that, in many cases, are kind of related. Now that we have this, how do we make sure the stuff gets done?

Mr. Lepofsky: Two things. First, we are used to battling uphill. Doing disability rights advocacy is like swimming up Niagara Falls, but that doesn’t deter us. We keep doing it. When the people are more jittery and “We better just take what we can get” and all that stuff, I get that. But we’ve never taken that view. We’ve stared down the risks.

If we took that view, we would not have gotten a disability amendment in 1982. We probably would have settled for a weak accessibility law passed in Ontario in 2001 rather than standing our ground and getting a stronger one in 2005. And in this case, we have all three parties that voted for this law in the house, though the opposition said it is too weak. We wrote to all the party leaders and said : We want to take this risk off the table. Will you promise, if this bill doesn’t come through, you will bring it back in the fall?

So we are putting even more heat on them. We are saying: We want to come back with amendments from the Senate, if the Senate agrees, and decide on this bill in time to get it properly considered. Do whatever you have to do, pass it with the amendments or not. That could be dealt with before the house rises. And they’ve got the shared pressure of all the groups you’ve heard from that are jointly saying: Please get this thing through.

So the pressure will be on them. But we also have the good fortune that we have opposition parties — we are non-partisan, and we are supporting amendments in the house. We are hoping — and I will be seeing the minister this afternoon — that they will see the wisdom of strengthening this.

The final thing I will say, senator, is it is a legitimate concern, but I think it is a concern that has been answered. Minister Qualtrough answered your concern last week. Senator Munson asked her: Are you open to amendments? She could have said: Look, it is too tight. We are too busy. We are not going to be able to get it through; please just approve it.

That’s not what she said. She knew as much as anyone else in this room about the legislative timelines in the house. She probably knows more because she is part of the government. She said: No they are open to amendments, and we want this to be the best bill it possibly can be.

The fact of the matter is, with our short three pages of amendments covering a few core issues that cut across what people said at HUMA and the issues they raised here, that these will help move in the direction that she said she is open to. So I suggest you take her up and hold her to what she said.

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Ma question s’adresse à Monsieur Lepofsky.)

(après anglais — M. Belanger: … but that’s what I believe.)

La sénatrice Mégie: Ma question s’adresse à Monsieur Lepofsky. J’ai cru comprendre que vous avez collaboré à l’élaboration de la Loi sur l’accessibilité pour les personnes handicapées de l’Ontario. Ai-je bien compris?

(anglais suit — M. Lepofsky: Yes. Here’s the quick CV…)

(Following French – Senator Mégie – . . .ai-je bien compris?)

Mr. Lepofsky: Yes, here’s the quick CV — in 1980 .

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Je voulais juste ajouter ma. . .)

(après anglais — M. Lepofsky: … in 1980 —)

La sénatrice Mégie: Je voulais juste ajouter ma réelle question.

Avaient-ils un échéancier? S’ils en avaient un, est-ce que vous observez un mouvement pour la mise en œuvre de cet échéancier?

(anglais suit — M. Lepofsky: There was a movement to get the legislation…)

(Following French – Senator Mégie – . . .de cet échéancier?)

Mr. Lepofsky: There was a movement to get the legislation in place and I had the privilege of leading that movement. It was passed unanimously in 2005. The idea of the deadline of 2025 came from the government, not from us. The minister who brought it in came to the house committee here and said, “You should do it, too,” and we agreed with her. It was a great idea and we jumped on it and said it was great. It may not be as quick as we’d like, but it got action going. Are they on schedule now? No.

Senator, your colleagues were asking questions about the five-year review. We’ve had three of these reviews in Ontario. Their core job is to say, “Are we on schedule?” And all three reviews demonstrated — the most recent one in the most blistering terms — no, we’re not and we need strong action.

Now, if we didn’t have that deadline, their review could be informative but it certainly wouldn’t have the message that it does that we are far behind schedule. This came up in question period as recently as yesterday in the Ontario legislature. It is a critical tool.

Let me give you one more example because you are asking, “Will this help?” The Toronto Transit Commission runs a subway and has a whole bunch of subway stations. Approximately half of them have no elevator. But to its credit, the TTC has a plan to make them all accessible by 2025 because they’ve read the Ontario legislation.

Actually, the Ontario government has not passed a regulation addressing subway stations, but the mere presence of that date in the legislation itself has lead this major subway to adopt that plan.

Let me tell you one more thing. They tried to back down from that plan a few years ago and push it back, and we went to the media and said: “Not fair; the act says 2025.” And that media pressure led the TTC to back down and stick to 2025.

If the minister’s approach to this legislation had prevailed in Ontario, we would be further behind in getting those subway stations accessible.

(French follows – Senator Mégie – Merci.)

(après anglais — M. Lepofsky: … those subway stations accessible.)

La sénatrice Mégie: Merci.

Senator Dasko: I will focus specifically on your meeting with the minister this afternoon. In the interests of being efficient and especially effective, in your meeting with the minister could you focus her mind on what she would be willing to do, and could you get back to us with any insights or promises, pledges, intelligence, anything you can? That will help us move forward, given the time frame that’s left, given the suggestions you have for us, which in my mind seem serious and extensive. But maybe it is all easy, but I’m a new senator.

If you could learn from the minister what she would be willing to do — and I’m not saying that will determine what we do — that will help us very much in what we do. Then we will understand what might be doable and what all of us, in the end, might hope to expect and get from the process. Can I ask you that question?

Mr. Lepofsky: As a deputant who is notorious for long, wordy answers, my answer is yes.

Senator Dasko: We look forward to getting back to you. And I know Senator Omidvar has a question.

Senator Omidvar: Thank you for being here. And Mr. Lepofsky, for the correspondence that you have been in with not just me but everyone. And I want to probe your assessment the capacity, of the CRTC and the CTA on disability accessibility. They were here yesterday. I quoted to them a section of your letter, a rather blistering assessment of their lack of progress. They, in turn, responded by talking about the great pride they have in the progress they have made. And I will quote from a brief submitted to this committee from the CRTC. They talk about the history of their progress: In the mid 1980s, they —mandated TTY relay services. In 2009, it was expanded to include the provision of IP relay services, and five years later, the provision of video relay services. A 911 service is currently mandated. In 2009, the CRTC began to require broadcasters to provide described video services four hours per week. Would you still use the word “lousy” to describe their progress?

Mr. Lepofsky: Only in public. In private, they may be slightly more colourful.

Senator Omidvar: Tell us what you can.

Mr. Lepofsky: I say this not just to be glib, but we are not saying that they did nothing. Full disclosure: Scott Streiner, the head of the CTA, is a good guy with a strong record in human rights. If you could pass an amendment to make him immortal, we would vote for it, okay?

Senator Omidvar: Not in our power.

Mr. Lepofsky: I don’t know if you have the authority. That may be provincial.

I say two things in terms of these agencies. The first is that they do not have core expertise. They are not there; they are experts in broadcasting and in transit, not in accessibility. That’s what the accessibility commissioner will be.

Look at the track record of the CTA — three decades, their own draft regulation out for comment now acknowledges that they have not done enough. Why couldn’t they have done some of this years ago? We didn’t just invent people with disabilities using airplanes or trains. This is not new. It is not rocket science.

The final thing I would say is what the amendment focuses on. They have labyrinthian procedures that are designed for major regulatory decision-making. I get that. But it is not suited to us. That’s why we give credit to the government in its design of sections 94 to 110 to come up with something even more streamlined than the sometimes more labyrinthian process of the Human Rights Commission.

But we need those other agencies to talk about not just no wrong door, but equally fast, comparable procedures, once you get behind that door. And I didn’t hear them say they were going to do that, or didn’t hear them saying they were going to commit to doing that. That’s why we need this amendment.

Senator Omidvar: Fine. Thank you.

AODA Alliance to Present to Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Thursday April 11, 2019 on the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – Here are the Specific Amendments We will Ask the Senate to Make to the Bill

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

AODA Alliance to Present to Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Thursday April 11, 2019 on the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act – Here are the Specific Amendments We will Ask the Senate to Make to the Bill

April 8, 2019

          SUMMARY

The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs is holding sped-up public hearings on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. The AODA Alliance has been invited to make a presentation to the Standing Committee at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 11, 2019. You can come to watch the hearing live at this address:

Room W110, 1 Wellington St. Ottawa Ontario.

You can also watch the hearing live online at http://senparlvu.parl.gc.ca/XRender/en

The online video will be archived for future viewing, for those who watch it live. In the hearing room will be ASL and LSQ. The sign language will not be available on line for a few days.

We are working hard to get ready for these hearings on such short notice. However, we are not complaining. This is because these tight time lines will give the Senate enough time to amend Bill C-81 to strengthen it, if it is willing, and for the bill to return to the House of Commons for a debate and final vote on those amendments.

This strengthens the hand of the many, including the AODA Alliance, who are campaigning to get this weak bill strengthened. There is no need to avoid seeking amendments because the bill can’t get through Parliament before the fall election.

The public hearings are only taking place on April 10 and 11, and then on May 1. The Standing Committee will only have one meeting, on May 2, to undertake its clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. It is at that May 2 meeting when amendments would be considered.

That means the Senate’s Standing Committee will have very little time to debate amendments. Our list of proposed amendments must be very very short. We have thus worked through the weekend to produce the following 4-page document, which we are now submitting to the Senate. It sets out the wording of the absolutely top-priority amendments we are requesting. We know that this list does not include many of the amendments we need. However, given the tight time lines, a longer list of amendments, coming from us, would actually work against our hope for success.

You will also see that this document sets out a series of recommended “observations.” The Senate can attach statements like these to a bill, calling for further action, whether or not it makes amendments to the bill.

We need your help more than ever. Please email the Senate Standing Committee to urge the senators to amend Bill C-81, as we are proposing. We appreciate the efforts of all of you who have already done so. For those who believe people with disabilities deserve a strong national accessibility law, this is the best way you can help us now. Write the Standing Committee at: soci@sen.parl.gc.ca

Visit our website to learn all about the background to Bill C-81 and our efforts to get it strengthened.

If your organization is going to present to the Standing Committee or submit a brief, we invite you to support these amendments and any others that you consider important. As the following document notes, during the April 3, 2019 meeting of this Senate Standing Committee, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough made an important commitment. We plan to hold her and the Federal Government to it. Senator Munson, who is the sponsor of Bill C-81 in the Senate pointed out to her that there are calls from the disability community for this bill to be amended because it does not go far enough. He asked her if she was open to the bill being amended. Minister Qualtrough agreed that she was open to the bill being amended in the Senate. She said she wants this law to be the best it can be. We here take her up on that offer.

We are sorry that we are not now providing more detailed explanations for the following information. We are rushing to get this to you, to Senators, and others whom we need to reach.

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Proposed Amendments to Bill C-81 Submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs

April 8, 2019

Speaking to the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee on April 3, 2019, Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough said she would be open to amendments to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, and that she wants to make this bill “the best it can possibly be.”

We offer this short list of vital amendments, given the Senate’s tight time lines. Had there been more time, a number of other important amendments would have been proposed.

A. Setting a Deadline to Achieve Accessibility

Amendment 1

Section 5 of the Act should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it will provide:

“5 The purpose of this Act is to benefit all persons, especially persons with disabilities, through the realization, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, …”

Amendment 2

The following section should be added to the bill:

“Clarification

5.2. Nothing in this Act, including in its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, should be construed as authorizing or requiring any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers as soon as reasonably possible.”

Amendment 3

Section 11 should be amended to add the words on or before January 1, 2040, so that it would provide:

“11 (1) The Minister’s mandate is the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040”.

Amendment 4

Section 18 should be amended to add the words “on or before January 1, 2040”, so that it would provide in material part:

“18 The Standards Organization’s mandate is to contribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, through, among other things,…”

 B. Setting Mandatory Duties

Amendment 5

The bill should be amended to add this subsection to section 117:

“Obligation

(1.2) The Governor in Council must make all the regulations under paragraphs 1(c) and (d) necessary to achieving the purposes of this Act, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, must make at least one regulation under paragraphs (1c) and (d) in each of the areas referred to in section 5 within the period of five years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force.

Amendment 6

Section 2 definition of “barrier” should be amended to add the words “a law”, so that it will read in material part:

“barrier means anything — including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice — that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation. (obstacle)”

C. Ensuring the Bill Does Not Reduce Rights of People with Disabilities

Amendment 7

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 8

Section 6 should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it:

“(2) For greater certainty, in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the provisions of that Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.”

Amendment 9

The following provision should be added to the bill:

“123

Section 123.1.

(1) The Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must within the period of six months that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 94 to 110 of the Act.”

Amendment 10

The bill should be amended to add the following provision:

11.1.

(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers.

(2) Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, subsection 1 includes payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity.

(3) Within the period of two years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, the minister must establish and make public policies and procedures to implement, monitor compliance with, and report to the public on compliance with subsections 1 and 2.

(4) The power to make regulations under clauses 117 (1) (c) and (d) includes the power to make regulations to implement this section.

Amendment 11

Section 72(1) should be amended to add the words “except any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada)”, so that the provision will read in material part:

“72 (1) The Minister may, by order, exempt any regulated entity or class of regulated entities except the any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada) from the application of all or any part of sections 69 to 71, on any terms that the Minister considers necessary. The order ceases to have effect on the earlier of the end of the per­iod of three years that begins on the day on which the order is made and the end of any shorter period specified in the order.”

Observations We Ask the Senate to Attach to Bill C-81

  1. Since the bill is entitled “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities but does not require any barriers to be removed, the Committee recommends that the bill be strengthened.
  2. Because the bill depends on the Federal Government and various agencies to use their new powers, but does not require most of those powers to be used, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government report back to the Senate in one year on what duties and time lines for action could be added to the bill.
  1. Because of concerns from the disability community about the bill splintering its implementation and enforcement, the Committee recommends that the Federal Government report to the Senate in one year on the effectiveness and impact of splintering the bill’s implementation and enforcement among four federal agencies, for further study by the Senate.
  1. Since the Federal Government spends billions of dollars of the public’s money on procurement of goods, services and facilities, on new infrastructure projects, and on business development loans and grants, the Federal bill should be strengthened to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.

AODA Alliance Writes Federal Party Leaders Seeking Commitments to Strengthen Bill C-81, and to Bring It Back Before Parliament After This Fall’s Federal Election If It is Not Passed With Amendments to Strengthen It

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

AODA Alliance Writes Federal Party Leaders Seeking Commitments to Strengthen Bill C-81, and to Bring It Back Before Parliament After This Fall’s Federal Election If It is Not Passed With Amendments to Strengthen It

April 5, 2019

          SUMMARY

We are diving head-first into our blitz before Canada’s Senate to get much-needed amendments to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, the Federal Government’s proposed Accessible Canada Act. Bill C-81 is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet it does not require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere in Canada.

Last week, on March 29, 2019, we sent the Senate our punchy 6-page brief on Bill C-81. It describes five of the major amendments that are desperately needed to strengthen this bill. See also the Open Letter to the Federal Government that fully 95 disability organizations (including the AODA Alliance) sent to the House of Commons last fall. It called for essential amendments to the bill.

In parallel with our strategy before the Senate, we have today written the leaders of the major federal parties in the House of Commons. We set that letter out below.

In this new letter, we ask the federal parties to each make two important commitments to us. We want these commitments now. In short, we want them to support amendments to strengthen Bill C-81, if the Senate passes any, and returns the bill to the House of Commons for a vote on those amendments before the fall federal election. We also want the party leaders to commit that they will bring a stronger national accessibility bill before Parliament after this fall’s federal election, if this bill does not get passed before the fall election, or if it is passed this spring “as is”, without these much-needed amendments.

We want Canada’s senators to feel free to strengthen Bill C-81 over the next short period when they consider this bill. The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs will be holding hearings on this bill on April 10 and 11, and May 1. After that, that committee will only have one meeting to consider passing amendments to the bill. That will be on May 2. We are all operating under extreme time pressure.

We are delighted that individuals and organizations have already been emailing the Senate’s Standing Committee to support the AODA Alliance’s March 29, 2019 brief. They are calling on the Senate to strengthen this weak bill.

It is not too late for you to help with this effort! Please add your voice. Get others to do so as well. Use your own words. Email the Senate Standing Committee today, by writing this email address:

soci@sen.parl.gc.ca

We will have more to share over the next days about this blitz. Over five million people with disabilities in Canada deserve a strong national accessibility law. We need not settle for a weak bill. Now is the time to be heard!

We are tenacious! Visit our website to learn all about the background to Bill C-81 and our efforts to get it strengthened.

          more details

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance www.aodaalliance.org

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

April 5, 2019

To:

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Via email: pm@pm.gc.ca

Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

80 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Twitter: @JustinTrudeau

The Hon. Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Loyal Opposition and the Conservative Party

Leader of the Conservative Party; MP, Regina-Qu’Appelle

Via email: andrew.scheer@parl.gc.ca

Leader of the Conservative Party

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Twitter: @AndrewScheer

The Hon. Jagmeet Singh Leader of the NDP

Via email: jagmeet@ndp.ca

300 – 279 Laurier West

Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J9

Twitter: @theJagmeetSingh

The Hon. Elizabeth May Leader of the Green Party; MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands

Via email: Elizabeth.may@parl.gc.ca

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Twitter: @ElizabethMay

The Hon. Rhéal Fortin Interim Leader of the Bloc Québécois

Via email: Rheal.Fortin@parl.gc.ca

3730 boul. Crémazie Est, 4e étage

Montréal, Québec H2A 1B4

Twitter: @RhealFortin

The Hon. Maxime Bernier, Leader of the People’s Party of Canada

Via email: maxime.bernier@parl.gc.ca

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 Canada

Twitter: @MaximeBernier

Dear Federal Party Leaders,

Re: Seeking Your Parties’ Commitments to Ensure that Canada Has A Strong and Effective National Accessibility Law

With a federal election this fall, we seek commitments from each federal political party now on the need for Canada to have a strong national accessibility law. Last fall, the House of Commons passed a weak bill, Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It is now before the Senate.

We and others in the disability community are urging the Senate to strengthen that bill. It is unclear whether Parliament will finish with this bill before this fall’s federal election, and if so, whether the current weak bill will be strengthened before it is enacted. We seek your parties’ commitments now, as this will help ensure that the senators can feel free to amend this bill to strengthen it, without fearing that this will jeopardize the bill.

In this letter, we explain what we seek, who we are, and why over five million people with disabilities in Canada need Bill C-81 to be strengthened.

Commitments We Ask Your Parties to Each Make Now

We ask your parties to now make these two commitments:

  1. If this spring, the Senate amends Bill C-81(the proposed Accessible Canada Act) to strengthen it, and returns the bill to the House of Commons before it rises for this year’s federal election, will your party support swift passage of amendments that strengthen the bill in the areas that we refer to in this letter and in our March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate?
  1. If Bill C-81 does not finish its path through Parliament before this falls’ federal election, or if it is passed without the amendments needed to strengthen it in areas referred to in this letter and in our March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate, will your party commit to bring this bill, these needed amendments, back to Parliament to be enacted or strengthened, as the case may be, after the fall federal election?

Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that has advocated in Ontario since 2005 for the effective implementation and enforcement of Canada’s first comprehensive provincial accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. In every Ontario election since 2005, each provincial political party that has made election pledges on Ontario’s provincial accessibility legislation has done so in the form of letters to our coalition.

We have given advice to many, including several provinces, a United Nations conference, the European Union, Israel and New Zealand. We are the successor to the community coalition that successfully campaigned from 1994 to 2005 for the AODA’s enactment.

We have been very actively involved in the campaign for national accessibility legislation in Canada. We have gathered input from our grassroots supporters and have actively worked with other key players in Canada’s disability community to forge common ground on what national accessibility legislation needs to include. We provided input to each successive federal minister responsible for this legislation, to federal parties, and to the Federal Public Service.

Why Canada Needs Strong National Accessibility Legislation

People with all kinds of disabilities in Canada face too many accessibility barriers when they try to get a job, use public or private services, or enjoy all the other things that the public ordinarily takes for granted. As the Federal Government has commendably recognized, it is unfair and ineffective to leave it to individuals with disabilities to have to bring their own legal proceedings to battle against these obstacles, one barrier at a time, and one organization at a time. We need comprehensive accessibility legislation to remove these barriers along reasonable timelines, and to prevent the creation of new disability accessibility barriers in the future.

Canada needs a national accessibility law to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities dealing with those operating in the realm that the Federal Government can regulate, such as banking, air travel, postal services, services offered by the Federal Government, as well as radio, television and telephone/cell phone services. We also need it to ensure that whoever receives federal funding never uses that money to create or perpetuate disability barriers.

How Does Bill C-81 Measure Up?

The bill has very serious problems. It is quite weak.

Bill C-81 is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet it does not require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere in Canada.

  1. The bill gives federal accessibility agencies/officials helpful powers to promote accessibility. However, the bill imposes no duty on them to ever use those powers, with one inconsequential exception.

The bill sets no deadlines for taking many of the major implementation steps that the Government needs to take to implement this bill. The Government could drag its feet for years if not indefinitely.

For example, the bill lets the Government enact accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. This is the bill’s vital core. However, the bill does not require the Government to ever enact any. Without them, the bill is a hollow shell.

The bill gives the Federal Government enforcement powers. However it doesn’t require the bill to be effectively enforced.

During the first five years after this bill goes into effect, the Federal Government’s only mandatory duty under the bill is for Cabinet, the CRTC and Canada Transportation agency to enact one regulation within two years after the bill comes into force. However that regulation could be an inconsequential one on minor procedural matters, without ever requiring that any disability barriers be removed or prevented.

  1. Unlike Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation, this bill does not set a deadline for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities. Under Bill C-81, Canada may not become accessible to people with disabilities for hundreds of years, if ever.
  1. The 105-page bill is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities and others to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This makes the bill’s implementation and enforcement more confusing, complicated and costly. It will take longer and be harder to get strong, effective and non-contradictory accessibility regulations enacted.

It is wrong for the bill to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

  1. The bill does not ensure that federal public money is never used by any recipient of those funds, to create or perpetuate disability barriers. Under it, the Federal Government can continue to sit idly by when those who receive federal money use that money to create new disability barriers. This allows for a wasteful and harmful use of public money.

The bill lets the Federal Government set accessibility requirements for instances when it buys goods or services. However it doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever do so.

The bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach accessibility strings when it gives money to a municipality, college, university, local transit authority or other organization to build new infrastructure. Those recipients of federal money are left free to design and build new infrastructure without ensuring that it is fully accessible to people with disabilities. That’s what happened when the Federal Government helped fund the construction of Toronto’s new Women’s College Hospital, which has accessibility problems.

Also, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

  1. The bill has too many loopholes. As one example, the bill gives the Federal Government the power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill. The Government should not ever be able to exempt itself.

Will Bill C-81 Be Passed by Parliament by the Fall 2019 Federal Election?

The Senate is expediting its debates on Bill C-81. The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs is scheduled to complete its consideration of Bill C-81 on May 2, 2019.

We and others from Canada’s disability community are urging the Senate to make vital amendments needed to address Bill C-81’s serious flaws, such as those addressed in this letter. Our preference is for the Senate to make these amendments, and for Bill C-81 to be returned to the House of Commons for a vote on those amendments this spring, before Parliament rises for the fall general election. We are eager for the Senate and then the House of Commons to pass those amendments.

Should this bill not pass before the fall federal election, or if it is simply passed by Parliament before the election “as is”, we are eager to get commitments, sought earlier in this letter, that after the fall election, people with disabilities in Canada will have a chance to get a national accessibility law addressed in the next Parliament. We seek an assurance that after the fall federal election, a national accessibility bill will be returned to Parliament for debate – one that includes the improvements to Bill C-81 that we seek.

People with disabilities should not be confronted with the unfair choice to have to accept this bill “as is”, no matter how deficient it is, just because it might not otherwise be passed before the fall federal election. Years of experience have also taught us never to settle for the palpably inadequate, without pressing for better, simply because that is all a government has offered. This is not a charitable hand-out to  be gratefully accepted, no matter how inadequate.

This bill is about the fundamental equality and human rights of people with disabilities. All parties agreed in the House of Commons that there is a need for new national accessibility legislation. After all the effort that has gone into the public consultations on this bill, and with the widespread support in the disability community for the need for strong federal accessibility legislation, there is no reason why this effort should be treated by anyone as dead if it did not finish its travels through Parliament before the fall federal election.

We would be happy to answer any questions your party may have as it considers this request. We are eager to get an answer to our request as soon as possible. We want to ensure that the Senate is not deterred from making much-needed amendments to Bill C-81, out of any fear that doing so might jeopardize the bill’s future. A commitment that a national accessibility bill will be brought back before the House of Commons after the fall election, if needed, will remove that issue, and free Senators to do the right thing when they consider this bill over the next four to six weeks.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

AODA Alliance Submits A Short Brief to the Senate of Canada, Calling for Amendments to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act”

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

AODA Alliance Submits A Short Brief to the Senate of Canada, Calling for Amendments to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act”

March 29, 2019

          SUMMARY

The Senate of Canada is about to embark on public hearings on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. We want the Senate to strengthen this weak bill. The AODA Alliance has applied to make a presentation at those hearings, and has submitted a 6-page brief to the Senate. We set that brief out below.

In our brief we again endorse the Open Letter which 95 disability organizations from across Canada sent to the House of Commons last fall. It seeks nine key amendments to Bill C-81.

Different disability organizations may of course emphasize different issues in that Open Letter. For our part, our brief reiterates our endorsement of that Open Letter, and addresses the need to amend the bill to:

  1. Impose clear duties and deadlines on the Federal Government when implementing this law.
  1. Set a deadline for Canada to become accessible.

3 Unsplinter the bill So that only the Federal Cabinet makes all the accessibility regulations and only one agency enforces the bill.

  1. Ensure federal public money is never used To create or perpetuate disability barriers, and
  1. Ensure that the Federal Government won’t be able to exempt itself from any of its accessibility obligations under the bill.

Please email the committee of the senate that will be holding hearings on Bill C-81. Tell them if you support the AODA Alliance’s brief on Bill C-81. You can write the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee by emailing soci@sen.parl.gc.ca

Please contact any senators in Canada that you can. Send them our brief. Tell them to support the amendments to Bill C-81 that we are seeking. You can find the names, email addresses and other contact information for all senators on the Senate of Canada website.

You can get tons of background on the campaign to get Bill C-81 strengthened, of which the AODA Alliance is a proud participant, by visiting our website.

Ever wondered what steps a bill must go through in Canada’s Parliament in order to become a law? Check out the AODA Alliance’s introductory guide on passing federal laws.

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

www.aodaalliance.org  Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com  Twitter: @aodaalliance

Vital Changes Needed to Make the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act”, Into a Good Law

A Brief to the Senate of Canada

March 29, 2019

Submitted To: soci@sen.parl.gc.ca

Introduction

We call on the Senate of Canada to strengthen the weak Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the House of Commons passed last fall. The bill is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet, it does not require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere in Canada. Over five million people with disabilities in Canada deserve better.

We thank the Federal Government for committing in the 2015 election to enact national accessibility legislation, for widely consulting the public on it in 2016-2017, and for bringing a bill to Parliament in June 2018. We thank the opposition Conservative, New Democratic and Green Parties for supporting the need for strong national accessibility legislation, and for bringing forward much-needed amendments to this bill in the House of Commons last fall to fix the bill’s serious problems, identified by many people with disabilities.

We deeply regret that last fall, in the House of Commons, the Federal Government defeated many of the necessary amendments we sought. The Senate now has the opportunity to give this bill sober second thought, as is its constitutional role, and to substantially strengthen the bill so that it is worthy of people with disabilities.

It is commendable that Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, aims to eradicate the many barriers that impede accessibility for people with disabilities. The Federal Government can address such things as air travel, banking, the post office, TV and radio broadcasts, telecommunications (like telephone and cell phone services), Federal Government Services, and anything that anyone does using money they get from the Federal Government.

When Bill C-81 was debated in the House of Commons last fall, many disability organizations and advocates called for it to be substantially strengthened. Last fall, fully 95 disability organizations (including the AODA Alliance ) co-signed an Open Letter to the Federal Government. It called for nine essential amendments to the bill. The Federal Government rejected those amendments, but supported other helpful but less important ones. In this brief, we focus on some of the nine amendments in that Open Letter, while reaffirming our support for the entire Open Letter.

Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that has advocated in Ontario since 2005 for the effective implementation and enforcement of Canada’s first comprehensive provincial accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. We are the successor to the community coalition that successfully campaigned from 1994 to 2005 for the AODA’s enactment. We have advised many, including several provinces, a United Nations conference, the European Union, Israel and New Zealand.

Good Ingredients in the Bill

The bill creates several important new federal officials and agencies to promote accessibility. This includes a new federal Accessibility Commissioner to enforce the bill in part, a new federal Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization to create model voluntary accessibility standards that the Federal Government can choose to enact as enforceable regulations, a new federal Chief Accessibility Officer to advise and report on progress and needed improvements, and a minister to be responsible for some key functions under the bill.

The bill permits the development of non-binding federal accessibility standards. These are meant to guide organizations across Canada in what they need to do to tear down accessibility barriers, and to avoid creating new barriers. The bill allows for the enactment of these standards as federal laws, called regulations. If enacted as regulations, these become enforceable, not voluntary.

The bill requires federally-regulated organizations to create multi-year accessibility plans and to update these over a period of years. The bill aims to provide enforcement, including a complaint process. The bill also means to provide some degree of public accountability for organizations that must obey it.

Some Key Amendments Needed to Make this Bill Become a Good Law

1. Impose Clear Duties and Deadlines on the Federal Government When Implementing this Law

The bill gives the Federal Government and federal accessibility agencies/officials helpful powers to promote accessibility. However, the bill imposes no duty on them to ever use those powers, with one inconsequential exception.

The bill also sets no deadlines for taking many of the major implementation steps that the Government must take to implement this bill. The Government could drag its feet for years if not indefinitely.

For example, the bill lets the Government enact accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. However, the bill does not require the Government to ever enact any. Without them, the bill is a hollow shell.

The bill gives the Federal Government enforcement powers. However it doesn’t require the bill to be effectively enforced.

During the first five years after this bill goes into effect, the Federal Government’s only mandatory duty under the bill is for Cabinet, the CRTC and Canada Transportation agency to enact one regulation within two years after the bill comes into force. However that regulation could be an inconsequential one on minor procedural matters, without ever requiring that any disability barriers be removed or prevented.

We ask that the bill be amended to impose duties on the Federal Government and its accessibility officials and agencies to use the bill’s key powers, such as these. The bill should also be amended to set time lines within which the Government must use these powers. It is not good enough for the bill to say that the Government “may” take action. It should be amended to require that the Government shall take those required actions, and to set deadlines for the Government to act.

2. Set a Deadline for Canada to Become Accessible

Unlike Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation, this bill does not set a deadline for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities. Under Bill C-81, Canada may not become accessible to people with disabilities for hundreds of years, if ever.

We ask for the bill to be amended to set a deadline for Canada to become accessible. We have urged the Federal Government without success to work with us and others to arrive at a workable and achievable deadline to enshrine in the bill.

3. Unsplinter the Bill So that Only the Federal Cabinet Sets All the Accessibility Rules and Only One Agency Enforces the Bill

The 105-page bill is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities and others to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This makes the bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated and more costly. It will take longer to get accessibility regulations enacted. It risks weak, contradictory or unnecessarily complex regulations.

This splintering makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities are burdened to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint. That weakens the rights and voices of people with disabilities.

This splintering only helps existing federal bureaucracies that want more power, and any large obligated organizations that want to dodge taking action on accessibility. Those organizations will relish exploiting the bill’s confusing complexity to delay and impede its implementation and enforcement.

It is wrong for the bill to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

The CTA and CRTC are too close to the industries they regulate. They lack expertise in disability accessibility. The industries the CTA and CRTC regulate would love to have those agencies stay largely in control of their accessibility obligations, given their inadequate regulatory track records on accessibility.

We ask for the bill to be simplified, to get rid of its harmful splintering of federal accessibility oversight responsibilities. Only the Federal Cabinet should make accessibility regulations. Only the new federal Accessibility Commissioner should enforce the bill. This ensures clearer, smoother, lower-cost, easier-to-access one-stop-shopping for people with disabilities, and easier implementation for the Federal Government and obligated organizations.

Under the bill, transportation organizations, broadcasters and telecommunication companies must make two concurrent accessibility plans, one supervised by the Accessibility Commissioner and the other supervised either by the CTA or CRTC. That also makes compliance and enforcement more costly and confusing. We ask for the bill to be amended so that all obligated organizations will only have to make one accessibility plan, not two, all supervised by the new federal Accessibility Commissioner.

It is no solution to the bill’s “splintering” problem for the Federal Government to say that there will be “no wrong door” for a person to file a complaint. The problem is not just the four different doors that a person with a disability must choose to enter. There are also as many as three or four different procedures they must figure out, even after they enter the right door. That is a formula for confusion, and for tripping up people with disabilities.

4. Ensure Federal Public Money Is Never Used To Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

The bill does not require that the Federal Government use its readily-available levers of power to promote accessibility across Canada. For example, it does not require the Federal Government to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient of those funds, to create or perpetuate disability barriers. Under it, the Federal Government can continue to sit idly by when those who receive federal money use that money to create new disability barriers.

The bill lets the Federal Government impose accessibility requirements when it buys goods or services. However it doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever do so.

Moreover, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach accessibility strings when it gives money to a municipality, college, university, local transit authority or other organization to build new infrastructure. Those recipients of federal money are left free to design and build new infrastructure without ensuring that it is fully accessible to people with disabilities. Also, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

This all allows for a wasteful and harmful use of public money. We request an amendment to the bill that would require the Federal Government to attach and enforce accessibility strings to any federal public money that it spends or transfers, e.g. for procurement of goods, services or facilities, for new infrastructure anywhere in Canada, or for business development loans or grants. For example, when the Federal Government provides funds for the construction of a hospital, public transit line, or university building, the recipient should no longer be free to use that money to build a building or facility that has accessibility barriers.

5. Don’t Let the Federal Government Exempt Itself from Any of Its Accessibility Obligations

The bill has too many loopholes. As one example, the bill gives the Federal Government the power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill. The Government should not be able to exempt itself. We request an amendment to close the bill’s loopholes, such as the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill.

Final Thoughts

People with disabilities are a highly vulnerable and disadvantaged minority. They need the Senate to strengthen this bill.

The Senate should not simply defer to the Federal Government and accept the bill “as is”, no matter how weak it is. This bears directly on the equality rights and human rights of over five million people with disabilities.

In defence of this weak bill, the Federal Government says this is enabling legislation. That is no excuse. We need strong enabling legislation, not this weak enabling bill.

It would be wrong to think that the bill’s serious weaknesses can later be corrected by passing strong regulations. The bill does not give the Federal Government the power to enact the regulations that would remove all these serious problems.

For example, the bill does not permit the Federal Government to pass regulations that would unsplinter this bill’s implementation and enforcement. Regulations cannot direct that only the Accessibility Commissioner will enforce this bill and only the Federal Cabinet will pass regulations under this bill. Only an amendment to the bill can achieve this.

Our concerns are amply reinforced by the recent blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the stronger Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. For example, our years of grassroots experience prove that when a Government lacks the political will to make a bill strong and effective, it can’t be expected to later have the political will to pass strong regulations.

To ensure a barrier-free Canada, Bill C-81 must be strong, clear and easy to navigate, not complex and confusing. The Government’s duties to act must be mandatory not optional.

It would be wrong to give up any effort here, and just accept this bill “as is”, no matter how deficient, because it might not otherwise be passed before the fall federal election. We will press all federal parties to commit that if this bill dies before the election, or is not amended to fix these serious problems, they will bring the bill back before Parliament after the 2019 election, and will correct these major flaws. That should not be difficult, since all parties supported this bill. In the House of Commons, the national opposition parties echoed the core concerns with the bill that we here outline.

Years of experience have also taught us never to settle for the palpably inadequate, without pressing for better, simply because that is all a government has offered. This is not a charitable hand-out to  be gratefully accepted, no matter how inadequate. This bill is about the fundamental equality and human rights of people with disabilities.

Contact the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance care of its chair David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont. Email:  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Visit our website: www.aodaalliance.org

A Modest Interim Victory for Joint Efforts by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition — Ford Government Agrees to Consult on Practices of Schools Refusing to Admit some Students with Disabilities to School for All or Part of The School Day

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

A Modest Interim Victory for Joint Efforts by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition — Ford Government Agrees to Consult on Practices of Schools Refusing to Admit some Students with Disabilities to School for All or Part of The School Day

March 14, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here is some potentially good news for students with disabilities in Ontario.

On Monday, March 11, 2019, the Ford Government made an announcement about measures it plans to take to address the expected influx of children and youth with autism into Ontario schools as a result of provincial cuts to pre-existing autism services that those children previously received. Amidst the details of that announcement by Ontario’s Ministry of Education were these two sentences on the Ministry’s website which got little attention.

“The ministry will also host a series of virtual sessions about exclusions and modified days to engage parents, educators, administrators and others in a dialogue about these complex issues. The details will be communicated at a later date.”

Here is a joint statement by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition:

“This is a small preliminary step in the right direction, for which we can claim a modest interim victory.

As the Globe and Mail exposed in articles earlier this year, students with a range of different disabilities, who have a right to an education in Ontario schools, too often can be directed by their school or principal either that they may not come to school at all or that they can only come to school for part of the school day. On January 30, 2019, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held a joint news conference at Queen’s Park and issued a joint news release. We called on the Ford Government to take action to redress this recurring and systemic unfairness, including two immediate steps:

  1. To now convene a summit of key stakeholders to get input on legislation and policy changes to fix this problem.
  1. In the interim, to immediately issue a policy direction to school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school for all or part of a school day.

It is helpful that the Ford Government has now announced that it is prepared to look into the issue of schools refusing to admit a student to school or reducing the length of their school day. This is the Government’s first implicit recognition that there is an issue here that the provincial government should address. It is also helpful that the Government will seek input from families, educators and others on this.

However, this should be done by face-to-face meetings with all stakeholders, not through “virtual” or online input-gathering. The Government must allow for the direct in-person engagement of all stakeholders together, which is necessary to find effective solutions. As part of this,

We repeat our call that the Government now bring together at a summit meeting leaders of key organizations of stakeholders such as parents and families of students with disabilities, students themselves, teachers, principals and school boards. Get us around one table.

As well, we need the Government to rein in the obvious excesses that can and do now occur at Ontario schools. The Government can issue a policy direction to school boards on this in no time.

For example, the Government should now direct all school boards that when a principal refuses to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day, the student and family should be given the reason for this. A time limit for this should be specified.

They should be told about their right to appeal. The Ontario Government should require each school board to record a student’s absence from school for all or part of a school day by a unique attendance code.

At present, it is harmful that the Ontario Government directs school boards to use a more general attendance code which makes it impossible to know how many students or how many school days are affected by these exclusions from school.

None of these new policy directions would cost any money. Who could oppose such obvious and simple measures?

The March 11, 2019 Government announcement was made in the context of ongoing problems with the Ford Government’s treatment of children with autism. This issue pertains to all students with any kind of disabilities, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. It is important for this issue to be seen as part of the broader need to tear down the many disability barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. It is also important for the tremendous outpouring and advocacy efforts in opposition to the Ford Government’s changes to the Ontario Autism Program to be seen in this broader context. Even though children and youth with autism have gotten a great deal of recent public and media attention, all students with disabilities  need to have their learning needs effectively met in Ontario’s education system. It is our shared aim that this recent outpouring can be effectively harnessed to ensure that all students with disabilities can benefit from improved Government action.”

The Globe and Mail today reported on this news. We set out that article below. This is the third time our issues have been in the media this week.

This Globe article bears an inaccurate headline. The headline makes it sound like the Ford Government is only looking into the issue of refusing to admit students to school who have autism. In fact, as the text of the article accurately reports (but not the headline), the announcement relates to students with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those with autism. This headline error was understandable since the Government’s announcement of this consultation is included in a larger Government announcement about students with autism.

The AODA Alliance is conducting a survey of all Ontario school boards to learn about their policies and practices regarding refusals to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day. So far, a clear majority of school boards have not answered our survey, even though it was sent to them some six weeks ago.

As we set out in the January 24, AODA Alliance Update, last year, the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board made a detailed recommendation on what the policy should be regarding the power to exclude a student from school for all or part of the school day.

More Details

The Globe and Mail March 14, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontario-to-look-into-school-exclusions-of-children-with-autism/

Ontario to look into school exclusions of children with autism

CAROLINE ALPHONSO EDUCATION REPORTER

The Ontario government will examine the issue of students with complex needs being excluded from school after demands from disability advocates that the practice be halted.

The government said earlier this week, as part of an announcement on supports for schools related to the province’s autism program, that it would hold “virtual sessions” on exclusions and modified days with parents, educators and others.

The details will be shared at a later date, Kayla Iafelice, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Lisa Thompson, said on Wednesday.

The issue of indefinite exclusions from school has been top-of-mind for many parents as Doug Ford’s government implements changes to the province’s autism program. Families who currently receive full funding for intensive therapy will receive only a fraction of it after April 1, when funding will be distributed based on a child’s age and household income.

School districts have said they are expecting a number of children with complex needs who were on modified schedules to attend full-time if their parents cannot make up for the lost funding.

The Ministry of Education said in its release on Monday that it would also survey school boards regularly “to assess the impact of increased school enrolment and attendance by children and youth with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] as they transition into the school system.”

Earlier this year, a Globe and Mail analysis found that families with children in many parts of the country who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up children early, start their school day later or keep them home for an indefinite period because of behavioural issues.

Aside from school districts in North Vancouver and Greater Victoria that passed motions in the fall to record how many children with special needs are being asked to stay home, most school boards do not formally track these exclusions.

But parent and advocacy groups surveys have documented a rise in frequency.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the government’s plan to have virtual discussions is a “small preliminary step in the right direction, for which we can claim a modest interim victory.”

Mr. Lepofsky’s group and the Ontario Autism Coalition, which advocates for families, have been calling on the government to hold public discussions on possible legislation and policy changes surrounding exclusions of special-needs students with behavioural issues. The groups have also asked the government to issue a policy directive to school boards in the interim that would require principals to tell families why a child is being excluded and specify a time limit.

The Globe’s story in January highlighted the plight of Grayson Kahn, a seven-year-old with autism and behavioural issues who was expelled from his school in Guelph, Ont. The expulsion followed an incident in which Grayson struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion. Expulsions such as Grayson’s are rare – they involve a principal’s report and a hearing by a school board committee. Disability advocates say exclusions are far more common and are typically informal; parents will be given oral notice of a decision made at a principal’s discretion.

Mr. Lepofsky said it is “helpful that the Ford government has now announced that it is prepared to look into the issue” of exclusions.

He added: “This is the government’s first implicit recognition that there is an issue here that the provincial government should address. It is also helpful that the government will seek input from families, educators and others on this.”

Come to the April 10, 2019 Queen’s Park Accessibility Town Hall – and – Powerful Toronto Star Editorial Calls on Ford Government to Swiftly Implement the Onley Report

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Come to the April 10, 2019 Queen’s Park Accessibility Town Hall – and – Powerful Toronto Star Editorial Calls on Ford Government to Swiftly Implement the Onley Report

March 13, 2019

          SUMMARY

1. Come to Queen’s park on April 10, 2019!

Here is a great chance to have your say and to show your support for action to achieve n accessible Ontario. We encourage one and all to come to Queen’s Park on April 10, 2019 to attend an Accessibility Town Hall that is being hosted by Ottawa Centre NDP MPP Joel Harden. Below we set out Mr. Harden’s announcement of this event. It includes a link for you to RSVP if you are going to attend.

We are honoured that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky will be speaking at this event. This is your chance to share information about the disability barriers you face and the actions that you need the Government to take.

The AODA Alliance is strictly non-partisan. We are open to take part in similar events, organized by any of the political parties. We encourage all the parties in the legislature to organize similar events.

2. A Powerful Toronto Star Editorial Calls for Swift Government Action to Implement the Onley Report on the Disabilities Act’s Implementation and Enforcement

Here’s another great development in the long road to an accessible Ontario for people with disabilities. A strong editorial in the March 13, 2019 Toronto Star, set out below, endorses the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. This is the fourteenth time a newspaper editorial has backed our cause since our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, was formed in the late fall of 1994.

That editorial, the Onley report itself, and the AODA Alliance’s March 8, 2019 news release on the Onley report, together are a great starting point for the April 10, 2019 Queen’s Park Town Hall on accessibility in Ontario. We encourage you to widely circulate both that editorial and the announcement of the April 10, 2019 Town Hall that are included below in this Update.

In our March 11, 2019 letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho, the AODA Alliance called on the Ford Government to act now on the Onley report’s findings and recommendations. We don’t want the Government to now drag its feet with months of study and pondering before it acts. It took the Ford Government fully nine months to lift its unnecessary freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees that are developing recommendations for new accessibility standards in the important areas of education and health care. We don’t want that kind of delay repeated here.

          MORE DETAILS

Text of MPP Joel Harden’s Announcement of the April 10, 2019 Queen’s Park Accessibility Town Hall

March 11, 2019

Friends,

I’ve had the pleasure to act as Critic for Accessibility & People with Disabilities; Seniors’ Affairs; Pensions in the Ontario Legislature, and in that time I’ve met with many folks in the disability rights community. I have had a lot to learn, and greatly benefited from conversations with passionate leaders.

Time and again, I’ve heard that we are not prepared to meet Ontario’s obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), most notably that Ontario be a fully accessible province by the year 2025. This message was powerfully reinforced recently by the Honourable David C. Onley’s Report on the Third Review of the AODA.

Ontario needs a plan of action on accessibility, and it’s time to open up the Ontario Legislature to hear from those directly impacted by failing to meet AODA targets.

And so, with that in mind, I write to invite you to an Accessibility Town Hall at the Ontario Legislature on April 10, 2019. Following Question Period, a lunch will be hosted in Room 351, followed by three hours of open presentations to listen to your perspectives.

I am pleased that David Lepofsky (Chair, AODA Alliance) and Sarah Jama (Disability Justice Network of Ontario) will be on hand to offer brief remarks prior to these open hearings. All necessary accommodations will be available to ensure you can participate.

Please join us! Ontario needs your ideas, expertise, and passion to ensure this province is accessible to all, where everyone can live their lives to the fullest.

RSVP here: http://www.joelharden.ca/accessibility_town_hall

My very best,

Joel Harden

MPP for Ottawa Centre

Official Opposition Critic for Accessibility & People with Disabilities; Seniors’ Affairs; Pensions

The Toronto Star March 13, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/03/12/ford-government-must-fulfill-ontarios-promise-to-people-with-disabilities.html

Editorial

Time to clear the way

Accessibility review

Fourteen years ago, Ontarians with disabilities might have been hopeful that the barriers that prevent them from fully participating in daily activities,

from getting to work to eating in a restaurant, would be dismantled.

After all, the government of the day was ahead of its time when it passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act with the goal of making

the province fully accessible by 2025. But last week their disappointments were given heartfelt voice in a scathing review that concludes the province

is nowhere near accomplishing its goal.

Indeed, Ontario’s former lieutenant governor David Onley found that for “most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless,

dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

This is clearly unacceptable. The Ford government must quickly implement Onley’s 15 sensible recommendations, starting with his request that Premier Doug

Ford make accessibility a government-wide priority.

As it stands, 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities are receiving the message that “you don’t belong here,” says Onley, who himself uses a wheelchair.

That should be viewed as a violation of both human and civil rights.

In fact, it’s no different, Onley says, than “the signs of a bygone era in foreign countries telling people which water fountains they could or could not

use and which restaurants and buses they could or could not use.”

The bottom line, he says, is that investing in accessibility is both the right thing to do and also provides social and economic benefits for everyone,

including the province’s increasing numbers of seniors.

Among Onley’s common-sense recommendations:

Offer tax breaks and other financial incentives to improve accessibility in public and private buildings alike.

Ensure that architects are trained in inclusive design.

Redesign Ontario’s education curriculum to educate students about accessibility issues, starting in kindergarten.

Reform the way infrastructure projects are managed to ensure public money is never spent on actually creating barriers to accessibility.

Review accessibility standards in building code amendments for new construction projects and major renovations, as well as in provincial guidelines for

how public space is designed.

Onley’s review is not the first to point out the glacial pace of progress on accessibility reform in this province. It is the third. It’s time the government

listened and acted.

AODA Alliance Writes Ontario’s Accessibility Minister to Urge Swift Action to Implement the Onley Report – and Media Coverage of the Onley Report and of Ongoing Public Transit Barriers

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

AODA Alliance Writes Ontario’s Accessibility Minister to Urge Swift Action to Implement the Onley Report – and Media Coverage of the Onley Report and of Ongoing Public Transit Barriers

March 11, 2019

          SUMMARY

On March 11, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho a letter that calls for swift action to implement David Onley’s withering report on the many years of deficient implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We set out that letter below. In our letter, we identify a short list of immediate actions that the Ford Government should now take to begin its implementation of the Onley report. We will have more to say later on other measures needed to implement this report. While listing these immediate actions, we recognize that beyond them, much more than these priority items will need to be done to implement this report, and to get Ontario back on schedule to become accessible to 1.9 Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.

Below we also set out two recent news articles that cover the Onley report:

* The excellent March 8, 2019 Canadian Press article by Michelle McQuigge, posted by CBC news. this article was also run by a number of other news outlets. The Saturday, March 9, 2018 print editions of the Toronto star and the Globe and Mail each ran it but did not include the quote of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, seen in the full article below.

* The great March 10, 2019 Toronto Star article on ongoing accessibility problems at the Toronto Transit Commission. It also refers to the Onley report, and also quotes AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.

We are tweeting up a storm in the wake of the Onley report. We invite you to follow @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance on Twitter, to retweet our tweets, and add your own comments on the Onley report in your tweets as well. If you are a Facebook user but not a Twitter user, please like the AODA Alliance’s Facebook page, and share our posts. Our tweets on Twitter all come out as well as Facebook posts.

^       MORE DETAILS

^Text of the March 11, 2019 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

March 11, 2019

To: The Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister of Accessibility and Seniors

Via Email: Raymond.cho@ontario.ca

Frost Building South

6th Floor

7 Queen’s Park Cres

Toronto, ON M7A 1Y7

Dear Minister,

Re: Implementing the Final Report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review

Thank you for making public the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). We write to ask your Government to now take important steps to effectively implement this ground-breaking report.

The Onley report demonstrates in strong, clear and convincing language that the Ontario Government must now take strong new action to substantially improve the many years of flagging implementation and enforcement of the AODA. As our March 8, 2019 news release makes clear, the AODA Alliance applauds the Onley report and agrees with most of its recommendations. Those few recommendations with which we don’t agree (which we will address at a later date) are secondary, and do not take away from the core of the report.

We are gratified that the Onley report largely echoes and incorporates input that we provided to the Onley AODA Independent Review in the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief. It also echoes and reflects input we have given to your Government. Finally, it closely parallels and builds on the findings and recommendations in the two earlier mandatory AODA Independent Reviews, the 2010 AODA Independent Review conducted by Charles Beer and the 2015 AODA Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran.

Your Government now has the benefit of powerful and substantial unanimity among these multiple sources of expert input. The time is now for your Government to take strong action on that advice.

To begin, we ask your Government to now clearly and publicly accept the findings in the Onley report regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. These findings should be the basis of the Government’s actions in the area of accessibility for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities who continue to face many serious disability barriers in this province.

We also ask you to act now to implement five of the Onley report’s key recommendations. These include actions that we have earlier identified for the Government as priorities, such as  when we wrote you on July 17, 2018 and/or when we wrote Premier Ford on July 19, 2018. Premier Ford referred our letter to him back to you, so we look to you to act on all of these priorities:

  1. Please appoint a new Standards Development Committee under the AODA to address the removal and prevention of all kinds of disability barriers in the built environment. The Onley report identified this as a top priority. That Standards Development Committee should be free to address, among other things, requirements in the deficient Ontario Building Code. It should be able to address built environment in residential housing. It should also conduct the mandatory 5-year review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Government remains in violation of the AODA, because it has not yet appointed a Standards Development Committee to conduct that mandatory review. It was obligatory to appoint that review by the end of 2017, when the former Ontario Government was still in power.
  1. Please now launch a short, focused public consultation leading to your Government’s identifying the other accessibility standards that need to be developed to ensure that the AODA leads Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.
  1. Please act now to substantially strengthen the Government’s enforcement of the AODA, which the Onley report showed to be substantially deficient and ineffective.
  1. Please launch a major reform to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, whether as a result of public spending on infrastructure, procurement, business grants or loans, or research grants. As part of this, a major reform is desperately needed regarding how Infrastructure Ontario deals with disability accessibility needs in the projects in which it is involved. We would add to the Onley report the fact that a similar reform is desperately needed at Metrolinx when it spends billions of public dollars on public transit infrastructure.
  1. Please now implement a program to ensure that students in Ontario schools receive curriculum on accessibility for and inclusion of people with disabilities in society, and to ensure that key professional, like architects, get much-needed training on accessibility for people with disabilities.

We will later have much more to say on the Onley report’s implementation. However, whatever else might come from the Onley report, these five top priorities cry out for immediate action.

We appreciate your Government announcing last week, in the wake of its release of the Onley report, that it has just lifted the nine-month freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. As you know, the AODA Alliance has been in the lead in campaigning to get that freeze lifted. We were earlier in the lead in getting the former Ontario Government to agree to create accessibility standards in the important areas of health care and education.

We urge you to get these existing advisory committees back to work as quickly as possible. The Onley report shows that Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching accessibility by 2025. The loss of these many months in the work of those Standards Development Committees made a bad situation worse.

Fortunately, you are well-positioned to quickly get these committees back to work. They and you are not starting from scratch. The members of those Standards Development Committees were all appointed under the AODA well before your Government took power. They were properly constituted under the AODA. Speaking for myself, as a duly-appointed member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, I’m eager to roll up my sleeves and get right back to the work in which we were immersed when last spring’s election halted our work.

We would welcome a chance to meet with you to discuss action on the balance of the Onley report, but don’t want anything to hold up progress on the items listed in this letter.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: Premier Doug Ford, doug@ontariopc.com

Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, marie-lison.fougere@ontario.ca

Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, ann.hoy@ontario.ca

CBC News Online March 8, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-nowhere-near-goal-of-full-accessibility-by-2025-review-finds-1.5049380

Ontario nowhere near goal of full accessibility by 2025, review finds

Report offers 15 recommendations to province’s Progressive Conservative government

Michelle McQuigge The Canadian Press Posted: Mar 08, 2019 4:08 PM ET | Last Updated:

Former lieutenant governor of Ontario, David Onley, says the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act continues to leave residents with disabilities facing daily, “soul-crushing” barriers.  (Kelda Yuen/CBC)

The accessibility law that took effect in Ontario 14 years ago and has served as a blueprint for similar legislation in other parts of Canada has fallen well short of its goals and continues to leave disabled residents facing daily, “soul-crushing” barriers, a former lieutenant governor has found.

David Onley, a wheelchair user tasked with reviewing the implementation of Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, delivered a withering indictment of nearly all aspects of the law in a report quietly tabled in the provincial legislature this week.

The scathing report said disabled residents are barred from full inclusion in the province at nearly every turn, likening some of the barriers they face to long-abolished Jim Crow laws that perpetuated racial discrimination in the United States.

He said Ontario is nowhere near realizing the goal at the heart of the act, which promises to make the province fully accessible by 2025. He said only urgent, wide-ranging action from the provincial government can put a stop to the ongoing cycle of human rights violations.

“This is a matter of civil rights, and people with disabilities are being discriminated against on a daily basis in multiple ways,” Onley said in a telephone interview. “We don’t like to use the word discrimination because it gets tossed around, but what other word describes the situation? It is discrimination.”

Onley said the most obvious manifestations of that discrimination can be found throughout Ontario’s public and private buildings, many of which have physical features that actively shut people out.

‘You don’t belong here’

Onley — Ontario’s first disabled lieutenant governor — said some personal examples include restaurants featuring automatic doors atop a flight of stairs or hotels with accessible washrooms but beds too high for him to climb into from his motorized scooter.

“For a person using a wheelchair, stairs are like a sign that says you can’t enter here. The same goes for a deaf student in a classroom without captioning or a blind woman trying to find her way in a building without accurate Braille signage,” he said in the opening chapter of his report. “The message is: you don’t belong here.”

Onley said design barriers are no different than “the signs of a bygone era in foreign countries, telling people which water fountains they could or could not use and which restaurants or buses they could or could not use.”

This is a matter of civil rights, and people with disabilities are being discriminated against on a daily basis in multiple ways.

While Onley identified built environment barriers as one of the most pressing concerns, he listed a host of other problems with the law he said the government has failed to properly address since it took effect in 2005.

Other issues included lack of enforcement, accessibility rules that are slow to be developed and even slower to be implemented, and information-technology standards that are already out of date although they haven’t been fully applied.

Some of the issues are even more fundamental, he said, citing the fact that the law does not currently define “accessibility” and leaves people across the province to come up with their own interpretations. Even the definition of “disability” is problematic, he said, saying AODA’s current language positions disability as a medical issue rather than one of social exclusion.

Clarifying those key terms is among the 15 broad recommendations Onley provided to the current Progressive Conservative government, who had frozen work by committees tasked with developing accessibility standards since taking power last June.

Others involve the government radically changing its approach. Onley urged Premier Doug Ford to lead the way in making accessibility a priority across all ministries, not just the one ostensibly handling the file.

He also urged the government to redesign the provincial education curriculum to make accessibility a focus starting as early as kindergarten and extending through the post-secondary years. He likened the efforts he wants to see with past campaigns that brought public smoking and environmental protection to greater public prominence.

Onley singled out architects as a particular target of educational efforts, noting trainees in the field learn next to nothing about inclusive design.

Other recommendations included offering tax breaks and other financial incentives to those improving accessibility in public buildings and private homes, significantly bolstering enforcement efforts, and lifting the freeze on developing new accessibility standards in areas like health care and education.

The government said it acted on the last recommendation already and will be meeting with committee heads to get work back underway.

No response to recommendations

Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho did not respond to Onley’s other recommendations, but thanked him for the report.

“We aim to modernize our approach to accessibility to make things easier for families, workers and businesses in today’s Ontario,” Cho said in a statement.

Accessibility advocates lauded Onley’s report, saying his “blistering” findings should be of particular concern to other Canadian jurisdictions.

David Lepofsky, chair of advocacy group AODA Alliance, said Manitoba and Nova Scotia both put legislation in place that’s weaker than Ontario’s in many respects. The federal government, he said, is poised to follow suit unless the senate makes amendments to strengthen the proposed Accessible Canada Act, the first national accessibility law in Canada’s history.

“The thing that we’ve learned, that the Onley report shows, is that just doing what Ontario did has helped, but nowhere near as much as what we need,” Lepofsky said. “(Other governments) need to learn from that and be better.”

^

Toronto Star March 10, 2019

News

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2019/03/10/a-look-at-ttc-accessibility-through-the-eyes-of-a-rider-who-uses-two-canes.html

UNEASY ACCESS

Navigating the TTC is a constant challenge for Jessica Geboers. Although provincial law requires transit stations to be fully accessible by 2025, currently only 45 of 75 TTC stations are. That is sparking worries that the deadline won’t be met

Francine Kopun Toronto Star

Jessica Geboers steps off a busy subway car at College station, a cane in each hand, and confronts her first obstacle: two flights of stairs, 10 stairs each.

The stairwell is narrow and passengers headed down the stairs stop to give her the room she needs to make her way up. On this day, at rush hour, a bottleneck forms in seconds.

Sometimes people stop to tell her that there’s an escalator – but Geboers can’t use it, because she can’t hang on to the moving handrails. She has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, affecting muscle control and coordination.

“They’re trying to be helpful and they mean well, but I’m pretty smart. I can see there is an escalator there, and I’m concentrating on not dying on these stairs,” says Geboers, 29.

Past the turnstiles she is confronted by two more flights of stairs: 14 steps and 21 steps respectively. This time the crowd bunches up behind her, infuriating a young man who bursts away from the pack and dashes around her to the top, muttering his complaint.

Making the TTC more accessible – which the transit service is legally bound to do by 2025 – can’t come soon enough for Geboers, who has a busy life that requires her to spend a lot of time on public transit. She works three days a week and attends physiotherapy appointments twice a week. She volunteers.

She rates the TTC’s accessibility as a six out of 10. “I see that they’re really trying and a good number of stations are accessible, but not as many as should be or could be,” she says.

Last week Mayor John Tory unveiled a newly installed elevator at St. Patrick station, calling it a milestone, but despite making significant progress, there are signs the TTC may be falling behind on its plan to ensure that all stations are accessible by 2025.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the province be fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, including transportation systems like the TTC.

The Act was passed in 2005, but, to date, only 45 of Toronto’s 75 subway stations are accessible.

In fact, the AODA has fallen well short of its goals and people with disabilities continue to face “soul-crushing” barriers, according to a report on the act tabled in the provincial legislature this week by former lieutenant-governor David Onley.

While advances have been made in the area of transportation, it remains the most important issue among people with disabilities, according to the report.

“The reason is perhaps obvious,” wrote Onley, who is disabled.

“If you can’t leave your home, there will be no job, recreation, shopping or other opportunities. Better transportation requires money and leadership.”

Among other challenges, the report points out that priority seating in some places is not working out as intended.

Seats intended for wheelchair access are being taken up by able-bodied people, baby strollers and people with grocery carts. Municipalities are urged in the report to bring in and enforce stronger rules around priority seating.

A total of 11 TTC subway stations will be under construction for accessibility by the end of 2019, but only Royal York station will be completed this year.

Only 26 of 41 objectives set out for the five-year period from 2014-18 were completed when the last status update was filed, in April. By the end of this year, 32 of 41 will be completed, according to the TTC.

The new five-year accessibility plan, covering 2019-2023, has not yet been filed.

“It’s clear that TTC needs to accelerate their work to improve accessibility of their infrastructure and service,” says Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 13 Toronto Centre), while acknowledging that the TTC has been working hard to meet the 2025 deadline.

“The year 2025 for AODA compliance is literally around the corner when it comes to major infrastructure upgrades,” she says, adding that if it does fall behind, city council and other government partners need to provide additional funding to make up for lost time.

Mayor Tory, at the launch of the elevator at St. Patrick station, seemed to agree, saying: “If by any chance we fall off track, we’re going to get back on track.”

The TTC says it has made significant progress. All TTC buses are now accessible, with low floors, ramps and seats that flip up to accommodate wheelchairs. It says all subway trains are accessible, with level boarding. Over half of 204 new low-floor accessible streetcars are in service and the rest are expected to arrive by the end of 2019. All of the older inaccessible streetcars will be decommissioned. The plan is to have elevators at all stations by 2025.

After fighting against it in court and losing, the TTC now has a system that audibly announces upcoming stops on subway trains, streetcars and buses, to assist the vision impaired. There are visual signs for the hearing impaired.

Mazin Aribi, chair of the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT), which advises the TTC, says meeting the 2025 target is a delicate balance – too much construction, too fast, triggers complaints from riders.

He thinks that if the TTC continues on its accelerated plan to finish all the subway stations, the 2025 deadline will be met. But he is concerned that planned takeover of the TTC by the province could lead to delays, because the province seems to be focused on saving money and making subways accessible costs money.

“The bottom line is, we do need inclusion,” Aribi says. “It’s public transit. Every person in Toronto is entitled to use and have access.”

The cost for making a station accessible varies, according to the TTC. Sometimes as many as three elevators are required to make a station accessible. The amount of excavation work required varies. Construction costs for St. Patrick were approximately $7.5 million for one elevator. Construction began in December 2016 and the elevator went into service in September.

A second elevator was built by Amexon Development Corp. as part of a Section 37 community benefit, providing access to street level, within the footprint of a property it owns at 480 University Ave., at a cost of $3.9 million to the company. (Section 37 of Ontario’s Planning Act allows developers to exceed height and density zoning regulations in exchange for contributions to neighbourhood projects.)

Several major projects, worth $615.3 million, have been budgeted in the 2018-2027 TTC capital budget, representing more than 9 per cent of the TTC’s overall capital requirements in the next 10 years.

The TTC says it is committed to finishing on time. “Not only is that deadline our commitment, it’s our obligation,” according to a statement from TTC chair Jaye Robinson’s office. Access advocate David Lepofsky, a lawyer who is blind and who fought the TTC in court to force the transit system to announce upcoming stops in streetcars and buses and subway trains, said that without dramatic reforms, the TTC will not meet the 2025 deadline.

While the focus seems to be on elevators, he says the TTC still makes design mistakes at new stations that hinder accessibility.

And the TTC already missed an earlier deadline of 2020, says Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“Do I have concrete, specific evidence that they aren’t going to meet the plan? No I do not, and I’m not suggesting I do,” Lepofsky says. “Am I worried because of the fact that they’ve been a moving target in the past and could be again? Yes. I am basing the concern on their past conduct.”

The issue should be of concern to everyone, Lepofsky says. As people age, they are likely to suffer from impaired mobility of one form or another.

Since suffering a mild stroke two years ago, Sidonio Ferreira has become well acquainted with a flight of stairs that used to have no impact on his life, at Keele subway station.

“They took my licence away. I have to take the subway,” says Ferreira, 83, who has lived in the same neighbourhood for decades.

He and his wife, 74, struggle with the subway stairs and he says they’re not alone – many of their friends and neighbours do, too.

“So far, I can do it. But it’s very hard.”

Construction of an elevator at Keele is scheduled to begin this year, according to the TTC.

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’s 2005 Disabilities Act and Calls for Major Reforms to Tackle Persisting Barriers Impeding 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE 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’s 2005 Disabilities Act and Calls for Major Reforms to Tackle Persisting Barriers Impeding 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

 

March 8, 2019 Toronto: At least 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities need the Ontario Government to take strong new action now to tear down the many disability barriers they still face when trying to get a job or education, or use public transit or shop for goods or services, according to a blistering Government-appointed report by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley that the Ford Government made public yesterday. In 2005, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become disability-accessible by 2025 by enacting and enforcing regulations (called accessibility standards) that spell out what employers and the providers of goods and services must do to tear down and prevent disability barriers.

In February 2018, the Ontario Government appointed Mr. Onley to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement and to recommend any reforms needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. Based on public feedback, Onley’s report finds that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With under six years left before 2025, the report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

Mr. Onley found “…this province is mostly inaccessible.” The Onley report correctly concluded:

“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this.”

The Onley report makes concrete, practical top-to-bottom recommendations to substantially strengthen the Government’s weak, flagging AODA implementation and enforcement. Set out at the end of this news release is the Onley report’s summary of its recommendations. Many if not most of them echo the findings and recommendations that the AODA Alliance submitted in its detailed January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley Review. Among other things, Mr. Onley calls for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for barriers in the built environment, strengthen the existing AODA accessibility standards, and reform the Government’s use of public money to ensure it is never used to create disability barriers.

“The Onley report recommends desperately needed major new action to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Disabilities Act. We strongly endorse the Onley report’s findings and almost all of his recommendations. Any with which we disagree are secondary and should not distract from the report’s core thrust,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which spearheads the campaign for accessibility in Ontario for people with disabilities. We call on the Ford Government to act now to implement this report. Premier Ford has the opportunity to do a much better job of implementing this law than did his predecessor.”

It is good but long overdue that when releasing the Onley report, the Ford Government also lifted its 258-day long freeze on the important work of two Government-appointed advisory committees. These committees were mandated under the AODA to recommend what regulations should be enacted to tear down disability barriers in Ontario’s education system impeding students with disabilities, and in Ontario’s health care system obstructing patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance led the fight for the past nine months to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze.

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

Twitter: @aodaalliance

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

 

David Onley AODA Independent Review Report SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.

Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.

Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers.

Lead by example.

Coordinate Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

  1. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA.

Define “accessibility”.

Clarify the AODA’s relationship with the Human Rights Code.

Update the definition of “disability”.

  1. Foster cultural change to instill accessibility into the everyday thinking of Ontarians.

Conduct a sustained multi-faceted public education campaign on accessibility with a focus on its economic and social benefits in an aging society.

Build accessibility into the curriculum at every level of the educational system, from elementary school through college and university.

Include accessibility in professional training for architects and other design fields.

  1. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.
  1. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.
  1. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.
  1. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.
  1. Develop new comprehensive Built Environment accessibility standards through a process to:

Review and revise the 2013 Building Code amendments for new construction and major renovations

Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards

Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

  1. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.
  1. Introduce financial incentives to improve accessibility in residential housing.

Offer substantial grants for home renovations to improve accessibility and make similar funds available to improve rental units.

Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

  1. Reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed by Infrastructure Ontario to promote accessibility and prevent new barriers.
  1. Enforce the AODA.

Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations.

Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

  1. Deliver more responsive, authoritative and comprehensive support for AODA implementation.

Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.

Establish a provincewide centre or network of regional centres offering information, guidance, training and specialized advice on accessibility.

Create a comprehensive website that organizes and provides links to trusted resources on accessibility.

  1. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.
  1. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.

Click here to watch the captioned video of the January 30, 2019 Joint News Conference by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition, Calling on the Ford Government to Rein In the Excessive Power of School Principals to Refuse to Admit Some Students with Disabilities to School

Click here to watch the captioned video of the January 30, 2019 Joint News Conference by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition, Calling on the Ford Government to Rein In the Excessive Power of School Principals to Refuse to Admit Some Students with Disabilities to School

Continued Radio Silence on Key Accessibility Issues So Far from the Ford Government – And Other Accessibility News

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Continued Radio Silence on Key Accessibility Issues So Far from the Ford Government – And Other Accessibility News

March 3, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here is a collection of sundry important updates on several fronts in our campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.

1. Still No Action from the Ford Government on Ending the Shutdown of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees and on the Forthcoming Release of the Final Report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review

There have now been a seemingly-endless 255 days since the Ontario Government shut down the work of the five Standards Development Committees working under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Three of those Standards Development Committees remain frozen, the two Education Standards Development Committees and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The Ontario Government has not announced when it will say what it will do about this.

The Government has no reason left for continuing to keep these important advisory committees shut down. It has given two successive reasons for this freeze. Both have now evaporated.

Last summer, the Ford Government first said it was freezing the work of those committees in order to give the new Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho, a chance to be briefed on these issues. The Ford Government has now had over eight months to brief that minister.

As its second reason, late last December, the Ford Government said it was awaiting the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Yet the Ford Government has now received that report. It was delivered over a month ago, on January 31, 2019.

We have repeatedly pressed the Government to let these advisory committees get back to work. When the Conservatives were in the opposition, they sided with us, pressing the former Ontario Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard and to promptly set up an Education Standards Development Committee.

We are still waiting for the Ford Government to make public the David Onley report on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. We are eager to analyze that report, and to work with the Government on getting the AODA’s implementation and enforcement substantially strengthened. The Government has not announced when it will make this report public.

Please tell your member of the Ontario Legislature to press the Government to end the freeze on the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees, and to immediately make public the report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review.

2. The Ford Government Has Still Not Acted on Our Call for Immediate Action to Rein In the Excessive Power of School Principals to Refuse to Admit Some Students with Disabilities to School

Over a month ago, on January 30, 2019, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held a joint news conference at Queen’s Park. We called on the Ford Government to rein in the excessive power of a school principal to refuse to admit some students with disabilities to school for an indefinite period, without even having to give the student or their family any reason for doing so.

We called on the Ford Government to take two immediate steps:

  1. The Minister of Education should now convene a summit of key stakeholders to get input on legislation and policy changes to fix this problem.
  1. In the interim, the Minister of Education should immediately issue a policy direction to school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school.

It has now been over a month since that news conference. The Ford Government has not taken either of these steps, nor has it committed to do so. It has given no reason for failing to act.

We invite you to read the joint AODA Alliance/Ontario Autism Coalition January 30, 2019 news release on this issue. You can also watch the captioned video of our January 30, 2019 Queen’s Park news conference on Youtube.

Please ask your member of the Ontario Legislature to press the Ford Government to take the two actions we list above on this issue. You can read more about this issue by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/education

3. No Date Yet Set for the Senate’s Public Hearings on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

The Senate has not yet set dates for its public hearings on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. The Senate still has the bill in the midst of its Second Reading debates.

Earlier this year, we made public our strategy for trying to get Bill C-81 strengthened before it is enacted. It is good that this bill aims to achieve a barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities. However, its good intentions are not matched by strong provisions. As now written, it does not require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented. People with disabilities deserve better.

4. More Media on Accessibility Issues

As always, disability accessibility issues continue to get good media coverage. Sometimes we bring an issue to the media. Sometimes others bring accessibility issues to the media. We are delighted that some of the time, when others bring a disability accessibility issues to the media, a reporter will ask us for a comment.

Below you will find three examples of media coverage that individuals themselves initiated. You can do this too whenever you encounter accessibility barriers:

* Text of the accessibility story that aired on CBC TV’s The National on February 24, 2019. CBC approached AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to comment on a troubling accessibility incident that took place in Alberta. CBC asked the AODA Alliance to comment on this issue in the story.

* Two excellent letters to the editor that appeared in the February 14, 2019 edition of the Toronto Star, which we had no role in, voicing the need for strong new provincial action on accessibility for people with disabilities.

* We also invite you to visit the AODA Alliance’s Youtube channel, where we collect past examples of such media coverage. The most recent is the February 2, 2019 CITY TV news story on accessibility problems that York University students with disabilities  face when the university fails to properly clear snow off sidewalks that a student must travel to get to and from classes. Here again, the AODA Alliance was called upon to comment in the story.

We invite you to subscribe to and spread the word about the AODA Alliance’s Youtube channel. It’s free!

          MORE DETAILS

CBC TV The National February 24, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/disabled-woman-banned-from-no-frills-1.5028056

GO PUBLIC

Woman with disability banned from No Frills store after failing to pack groceries fast enough

Cancer surgery left Linda Rolston with a voice prosthesis and limited mobility in her shoulders and arms

Rosa Marchitelli

Alberta’s Linda Rolston had her voice box removed due to cancer. The surgery left her with limited mobility in her shoulders and arms, which makes packing up groceries difficult.  (CBC)

A woman with disabilities is fighting back after she was told not to return to a popular No Frills grocery store unless she brought help — because she couldn’t pack her groceries fast enough.

When Linda Rolston complained to head office, Loblaw offered the Alberta woman $100 in compensation on the condition she keep quiet about what happened and not take action against the company.

“They can keep the $100. I’m going to tell anybody and continue with my human rights action,” said Rolston, who had her voice box removed in 2014 due to cancer. The surgery left her unable to speak without a prosthesis in her throat, and with limited mobility in her shoulders and arms.

David Lepofsky, a prominent advocate for people with disabilities, calls the company’s compensation offer “a microscopic Band-Aid, which doesn’t fix the problem.”

Lepofsky, who is volunteer chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says provinces need to set legal standards on accessibility for companies and crack down on those that fail to meet them.

“It’s not going to change just by raising awareness,” he said.

Lawyer David Lepofsky, an advocate for people with disabilities, says change requires government action, not just increased awareness.  (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Rolston often shopped at the No Frills in Whitecourt, Alta. She says she had to “beg and plead” staff for help packing big grocery runs but was often told they were too busy.

No Frills franchises are part of the Loblaw group of companies. It is the kind of grocery store where customers are required to pack their own items and in exchange, the idea is, they pay lower prices.

Fed up with having to beg for help, Rolston says in January she complained to the franchise owner, who promised to fix the problem.

But when she went back a few weeks later, nothing had changed, she says. As she worked to pack her items as quickly as she could, a lineup was forming behind her. That’s when the owner came over, Rolston says, and told her if she can’t bring someone to pack for her, she shouldn’t come back.

Rolston says she had to ‘beg and plead’ — often unsuccessfully — for staff to help her pack up her groceries at her local No Frills store. Until one day the owner told her she needed to go shop somewhere else.

“I was stunned,” she said.

“I said, ‘Are you telling me because I’m disabled I can’t shop here?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I don’t have anyone to help me and I have my prescriptions here.’ He said, ‘Well, you’re just going to have to go somewhere else.'”

Go Public contacted the owner but he declined to answer questions, calling it a “human resources thing.”

Accessibility policy doesn’t apply

Rolston complained again – this time to Loblaw’s head office. Customer service apologized and Rolston says she was  told she could continue shopping at the store as long as she called ahead to make sure someone was available to assist her. Rolston said that didn’t seem right since other customers weren’t expected to do the same.

“I’m an adult. I’m not going to phone to get permission to go shopping,” she said in an interview.

Go Public asked Loblaw specific questions about Rolston’s confrontation with the No Frills owner and about Loblaw’s response, including the $100 compensation offer from the company that followed. The compensation letter says Rolston must sign a release form agreeing not to talk about the case or pursue any further action in order to collect the $100.

Rolston says the owner of her local No Frills store told her she needed to bring someone to pack her bags for her if she wanted to shop there.

Loblaw replied with a general statement to Go Public that says it took “immediate action” when it heard what happened and addressed the issue “directly with the store owner.”

Spokesperson Karen Gumbs also wrote that Loblaw is “working with the store’s management to ensure staff at the store receive additional training” regarding the company’s customer service accessibility policy.

However, Gumbs also said that policy — which promises to ensure “equal access” for people with disabilities and provide training for new staff — only applies to “corporate grocery stores,” not the 257 No Frills franchises across the country.

‘Less human’

A lack of national, mandatory standards is the problem, according to Mary Ann McColl of the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance.

“[Rolston] was made to feel less human than other patrons in this store,” she said.

Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia are the only provinces with laws requiring public and private organizations to make all spaces accessible to people with disabilities. Penalties for those who don’t comply can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

McColl says that kind of approach is what’s needed in every province, because accessibility laws set the standard for organizations before problems occur. In most provinces, the only recourse is through human rights laws. While those are good, she says, they can only address individual complaints.

Queen’s University professor Mary Ann McColl says every province needs legislation requiring public and private organizations to make all spaces accessible to people with disabilities. Only three provinces currently have such a law.

“It’s a very slow way to make change in society, one person at a time. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that if a person is successful … that there will be a structural change as a result of that.”

People with disabilities account for the highest number of human rights complaints in Canada.

Rolston’s home province of Alberta is one of those without an accessibility law.

In November, the province appointed para-athlete Tony Flores as its first advocate for persons with disabilities. In an email to Go Public, Flores says he supports accessibility legislation and plans to “bring that forward to the government.”

He didn’t say when he’ll do that.

Rolston says telling her story publicly was hard.

“I was kind of scared for people to see me. I don’t like to have my picture taken or anything, but I was so upset about this — I wanted everyone to know what they did to me.”

She says she won’t go back to the No Frills store, and is now filling out the paperwork for a human rights complaint.

While Rolston appreciates the apology she got from customer service, she is still waiting for the one she requested from the No Frills owner.

Submit your story ideas

Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories you want to make public.

Submit your story ideas to gopublic@cbc.ca.

Follow @CBCGoPublicon Twitter.

About the Author

Rosa Marchitelli

@cbcRosa

Rosa Marchitelli is a national award winner for her investigative work. As co-host of the CBC News segment Go Public, she has a reputation for asking tough questions and holding companies and individuals to account. Rosa’s work is seen across CBC News platforms.

Toronto Star February 14, 2019

Letters to the Editor

Ontario is failing those with disabilities

Onley’s long road to accessibility a lesson for us all, Cohn, Feb. 9

Kudos to Martin Regg Cohn for demonstrating the “disconnect” between the perceptions of those with and without disabilities.

David Onley is right that those in power fail in their legal obligations to those with disabilities. Onley, as Ontario’s former lieutenant-governor, has privilege and power. It speaks mountains that he continues to face these physical barriers.

But what about the majority of the disabled, the largest group living in poverty, and their ability to have their voices heard?

What of those who can’t have their voices heard within the educational system, a fundamental right and one that opens doors for lifelong success?

What about those whose voices aren’t being heard by government agencies in regards to their mental health and well-being?

It is time for this government to review the legal requirements that are already in place for the protection of the rights of people with disabilities in relation to equity and inclusion. Premier Doug Ford has made it clear that he expects people to do their jobs or the government will act.

That means the government must diligently oversee compliance and enforcement of the Education Act and regulations therein, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Christin Ferreira, Scarborough

The fact that accessibility is not a reality in Ontario should not be a surprise – it is disappointing, but not surprising.

More than 30 years ago, I was working on an integrated studies unit on disability and accessibility with my Grades 4 and 5 students. I wanted to help them to be aware of the difficulties people face if they are not able to get around as well as the majority.

Those children understood the problems because they had to both experience and witness the difficulties faced in their schools, workplaces and their everyday world.

Fast forward to 2019 and where are we? We have progressed very little in making our world accessible. If David Onley continues to experience barriers, as he does, what is going on? Not much. And why not? The people who make the decisions do not care.

Claudine Goller, Scarborough

Does A Toronto Star Queen’s Park Columnist Hint that David Onley’s AODA Independent Review Will Find Ontario’s Disability Accessibility Situation in Need of Reforms?

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Does A Toronto Star Queen’s Park Columnist Hint that David Onley’s AODA Independent Review Will Find Ontario’s Disability Accessibility Situation in Need of Reforms?

February 11, 2019

SUMMARY

The February 9, 2019 Toronto Star includes a column by veteran Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn, set out below, that reports on David Onley’s great frustration with the accessibility barriers he continues to face. On January 31, 2019, Mr. Onley submitted his final report on his Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The Star column makes it clear that Mr. Onley did not reveal what he told The Ford Government in his report. However, a glimpse is evident from the article. Mr. Onley reportedly finds it very frustrating that he himself continues to face so many disability barriers, including in the built environment. The article says this about Mr. Onley:

“A longtime believer in the original legislation, which passed with all-party support, he now fears that its 2025 target for full accessibility will go unfulfilled.”

We hope that this means that David Onley’s report calls for substantial new action by the Ontario Government to kick-start and speed up the AODA’s sluggish implementation and enforcement that we recommended in our detailed brief to Mr. Onley. The article describes a concern of Mr. Onley’s which, we believe, may refer to a widely-viewed online video that the AODA Alliance made public in late 2017 about the serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre. The Star article states:

“Onley is especially vexed by the lack of foresight from the self-styled visionaries who make up the architectural community. He points to new buildings that win architectural awards but get a failing grade for accessibility, which should surely disqualify them from recognition.”

In light of this, it is even more obvious and urgent for the Ford Government to immediately lift its 235-day-long freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. These committees were appointed under the AODA to recommend what disability barriers must be removed and prevented in Ontario’s health care system and education system. They have a job they must do under the AODA. They should be allowed to do that job. As well, the Ford Government should immediately make public Mr. Onley’s report.

On February 6, 2019, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho, to take those two actions now. We will continue to press for action in this area.

Meanwhile, it is great that so many are continuing to tweet pictures and descriptions of disability barriers they face on Twitter using the hashtag #AODAfail that we invented three years ago. Keep them coming! You can learn more about our successful “Picture Our Barriers” campaign on our website.

MORE DETAILS

The Toronto Star February 9, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2019/02/08/david-onleys-long-road-to-accessibility-for-the-disabled-is-a-lesson-for-all-of-us-as-we-age-into-walkers-and-wheelchairs.html

Onley’s long road to accessibility a lesson for us all

Martin Regg Cohn OPINION

We all complain, habitually and self-pityingly, about punishing snowfalls. Especially lately.

But for David Onley, the snow banks and other barriers never truly melt away.

For a time, as Ontario’s lieutenant-governor, the obstacles were magically cleared away. Enveloped by an entourage, cocooned by bodyguards, he surmounted the roadblocks.

An elevator was installed in the vice-regal suite at Queen’s Park, and a ramp was retrofitted in front of the legislature. Thanks to the superhuman powers emanating from the Crown – which he embodied from 2007-14 – Onley not only made his way, but also paved the way for other wheelchair-bound Ontarians.

Ensconced in his scooter, chauffeured in a specially outfitted van, backed by his band of official enablers, his disability – or inaccessibility – seemingly diminished. But after a lifetime spent grappling with the fallout from a childhood bout of polio, Onley always knew it was only a matter of time before he was on his own again.

Now, Onley no longer speaks for the Crown. But he still has a voice.

He is using it to describe what he sees at ground level – and getting a hearing from the powers above. Appointed last year by Queen’s Park to conduct a formal review of accessibility in Ontario, he has just submitted his findings to the Progressive Conservative government.

There is still a stunning disconnect for the disabled, and a growing gap in how the able-bodied perceive the reality of inaccessibility.

Onley wouldn’t tip his hand about the details of his report, which will be shared with the public later. But he didn’t disguise his disappointment.

“We still have a very inaccessible society, a built environment that is very inaccessible,” he told me. “The people who believe it’s accessible are members of the able-bodied population.”

A longtime believer in the original legislation, which passed with all-party support, he now fears that its 2025 target for full accessibility will go unfulfilled.

Onley points a finger not only at politicians but bureaucrats, architects, developers, administrators and inspectors who fail to do their duty to the disabled.

And all of us. For the disabled are us, sooner or later.

The older we get – and our population is aging fast – the more likely we are to find ourselves in their shoes: First with canes, then walkers, then wheelchairs.

Eligible, ultimately, for those special parking permits in our windshields that confer priority access to reserved spots. Paradoxically, the advent of priority parking has helped to distort the reality of disability today in Ontario.

Those signs are ubiquitous, serving as a symbol of access and open doors. But the typical reserved parking spot is a dead end – leading only to barriers that leave the disabled out in the cold at most malls and public buildings.

“It’s shocking the number of places that are fully inaccessible and yet out front, you’ll see a wheelchair sign,” he said. “It depends on how angry you want to be.”

The problem isn’t just the false signal it sends to the disabled on the spot, but the facade it conveys to society at large that access is everywhere.

Onley is especially vexed by the lack of foresight from the self-styled visionaries who make up the architectural community. He points to new buildings that win architectural awards but get a failing grade for accessibility, which should surely disqualify them from recognition.

Over the years, I had watched Onley’s handlers help him navigate unforeseen obstacles and predictable impediments. This week, I watched him flying solo again, when he wended his way to a Ryerson University democracy forum I hosted for Onley and his successor as lieutenant-governor, Elizabeth Dowdeswell: A Conversation with the Crown.

Without government officials to smooth the way, it fell to Ryerson organizers to ensure that he didn’t stumble on his journey. In preparation, Onley patiently walked me through his detailed checklist to overcome any obstacles.

Yes, they had a ramp leading onto the stage, but had they verified its dimensions to ensure his scooter could mount the slope? Was the platform wide enough for him to pre-position without toppling over? Any stairs along the way leading to the campus venue?

Where was the nearest parking? Was it underground or at least sheltered? Was there an underground passageway leading to the event? If not (and there wasn’t), what about the weather? Who would shovel any snow in the way?

Presciently, as it turns out, Onley reminded me of the perils of ice and snow for someone in a scooter. Even a few centimetres can gum up his wheels, and a serious snow bank is a dead end.

Even before Toronto’s unexpected 20-centimetre snowfall that came after our chat, Onley had confided that he typically refuses all winter speaking engagements – too unpredictable and insurmountable. But he was making a rare exception to be with his successor, Dowdeswell.

Practiced in both logistics and logic, Onley made it onstage without a hitch, and expounded on vice-regal arcana without a verbal stumble.

While it’s always an education hearing him talk about the abstractions of our constitution, he also delivers enduring lessons on the reality of inaccessibility.

Twitter: @reggcohn

Now that The Ford Government Received David Onley’s Independent Review Report on the AODA, the AODA Alliance Has Called on Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to Immediately Lift the Government’s Freeze on the Work of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Now that The Ford Government Received David Onley’s Independent Review Report on the AODA, the AODA Alliance Has Called on Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to Immediately Lift the Government’s Freeze on the Work of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees

February 7, 2019

SUMMARY

1. The Ford Government’s Stated Reason for Maintaining its Freeze on the Work of Ontario’s Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees has now Vanished –It’s Time for the Government to Lift that Freeze

On January 31, 2019, David Onley submitted the final report of his Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to The Ford Government. The Ford Government had said it was waiting for that report before it would make a decision on lifting the seven-month freeze it has maintained on the work of the Education and the Health Care Standards Development Committees. Those committees were appointed under the AODA to recommend which barriers in Ontario’s education system and health care system should be removed or prevented. The freeze on those committees has dragged on for 231 days.

On February 6, 2019, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. In that letter, set out below, we call on the Government to:

* Now let the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees get back to work.

* Immediately make public the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review, in an accessible format, and

* Table the David Onley report with the Ontario Legislature immediately upon its resuming its sittings on February 19, 2019.

2. Let Us Know What Disability Barriers You Have Faced in Ontario’s Health Care System

In the hope that we will succeed in getting the Ford Government to lift its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, we are working, together with the ARCH Disability Law Centre, to prepare a joint brief to that Standards Development Committee. We plan to spell out in that brief what an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.

We need your help. Let us know about disability barriers you have had to face in Ontario’s health care system. Give concrete examples. We don’t need the names of specific patients, doctors, or other health care providers. We won’t make public any names or identifying details.

We would also appreciate receiving your suggestions on what health care facilities can do to provide barrier-free health care to patients with any kind of disability. Good success stories can help with this effort.

Send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

As you think about what to suggest to us, we recommend that you take a look at an earlier introductory brief on health care barriers that the AODA Alliance submitted to the Ontario Government on August 26, 2016.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliance’s February 6, 2019 Letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

February 6, 2019

To: The Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister of Accessibility and Seniors

Via Email: Raymond.cho@Ontario.ca

Frost Building South

6th Floor

7 Queen’s Park Cres

Toronto, ON M7A 1Y7

Dear Minister,

Re: The Need to Now End Your Government’s Freeze on the Work of AODA Standards Development Committees in the Areas of Education and Health Care

We write to ask you to now end your Government’s 7-month freeze on the important work of the AODA Standards Development Committees that have been appointed to develop recommendations on the disability barriers that need to be removed and prevented in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system. On December 20, 2018, you wrote the chairs of the two Education Standards Development Committees and, we believe, the Health Care Standards Development Committee, to say that you were awaiting the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act before deciding on this issue.

We understand that on Thursday, January 31, 2019, your Government received the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review. As such, you are now in a position to know what Mr. Onley recommended in this regard. As such, we ask you to immediately lift your Government’s freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees. Let them get back to their important work.

You have had our request to end this freeze on your desk as Minister for Accessibility for over seven months. The media has reported on it. You have had briefings on it. Moreover, the topic is not new to your Party. When in opposition, the Ontario Conservative Party helped us by pressing the former Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Your party criticized The former Government for dragging its feet before appointing an Education Standards Development Committee to recommend what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

It is also very important for the public, including Ontarians with disabilities to know what David Onley has found and what he has recommended regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. We therefore ask that you immediately make public the report that the David Onley AODA Independent Review has rendered to the Government. We also ask that pursuant to s. 41 of the AODA, you file that report with the Legislature immediately upon the Legislature’s resuming its sittings on February 19, 2019. Nothing in the AODA restricts your Government from making Mr. Onley’s report public now, before the Legislature resumes sitting.  Section 41(4) of the AODA provides:

”      (4)   The Minister shall submit the report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and shall cause the report to be laid before the Assembly if it is in session or, if not, at the next session.”

Please be sure that Mr. Onley’s report is made public in an accessible format. PDF format is insufficient for that purpose. Please make sure that when it is released, it is simultaneously available in an accessible format such as MS Word. When The former Government released the last AODA Independent Review report, prepared by Mayo Moran, it did so in PDF format. We had to intervene to get this accessibility barrier corrected. It was illustrative of the many preventable disability barriers that people with disabilities continue to face in Ontario.

We look forward to working with you on the implementation of Mr. Onley’s report.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: Premier Doug Ford doug@ontariopc.com

Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, marie-lison.fougere@ontario.ca

Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, ann.hoy@ontario.ca

Canada’s Senate To Debate Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act – Here’s Our Strategy to Strengthen this Weak Bill

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Canada’s Senate To Debate Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act – Here’s Our Strategy to Strengthen this Weak Bill

February 6, 2019

          SUMMARY

Last fall, Canada’s House of Commons passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It is now headed for debate in Canada’s Senate. We want to bring you up to date on what’s going on, and what to expect in the weeks ahead.

We and many in the disability community were very excited when the Federal Government commendably committed to bring forward national accessibility legislation, and have worked extensively with the Federal Government in an effort to ensure that it is a good law.

However, we are now disappointed that Bill C-81, while well-intentioned, is so weak. It says that it aims to achieve an accessible and barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities. Yet as now written, this bill does not require that a single disability barrier ever be removed or prevented. Good intentions don’t transform a weak law into a strong and effective law.

What does the AODA Alliance plan to do about this? This Update tells you about our strategy and offers you tips on how you can help. Further Updates over the next weeks will fill in more details as events unfold. We’ve been hard at work with a number of organizations in the disability community across Canada, to share our experience and to work towards a coordinated strategy.

In this Update we let you know:

* Why we need the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81.

* What our strategy is at the Senate, and how a bill proceeds at this stage.

* What improvements to Bill C-81 we are seeking.

* Why it would be strategically wrong and would hurt our cause to just settle for Bill C-81 as it now is written, without acting to get the bill improved.

* How we are continuing to work with the Federal Government to try to get Bill C-81 strengthened.

* What you can do to help.

As a good illustration of grassroots feelings about this bill that we have heard time and again, we set out the December 19, 2018 article by Michelle McQuigge of the Canadian Press that ran in the National Post about Bill C-81.

To learn more about the background and history of efforts in this area, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

As always, send us your feedback. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

          MORE DETAILS

Why Do We Need the Senate to Strengthen Bill C-81?

Bill C-81 that the House of Commons passed last fall and sent to Canada’s Senate is full of good intentions, but is very weak. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. It’s great that the bill says it aims to achieve an accessible and barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities. However the bill does not require any disability barriers to ever be removed. It doesn’t ensure that any new barriers will be prevented.
  1. It is good that this bill lets the Federal Government pass new enforceable accessibility standards as regulations. These regulations can spell out specific measures that must be taken by organizations that the Federal Government can regulate (like ViaRail, Air Canada or Bell Canada). However, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever enact any accessibility standards as regulations. If any are passed, the bill doesn’t require these regulations to be strong.
  1. Do you think the Federal Government should allow public money to be used to create new disability barriers? Nothing in the bill ensures that this won’t happen. For example, nothing in the bill ensures that the Federal Government won’t give public money to a hospital, university or public transit system to build new buildings that are replete with disability barriers.
  1. Under this bill, the Government can give itself or other organizations sweeping exemptions from having to obey key parts of the bill.

Last fall, an October 30, 2018 open letter was sent to the Federal Government, calling for 9 amendments to be made to Bill C-81. Fully 95 disability organizations, including the AODA Alliance, have now co-signed that letter so far. The improvements to Bill C-81 that the open letter seeks were supported by many of the disability organizations that made presentations to the House of Commons’ public hearings on Bill C-81 last fall. The reforms to the bill which the open letter requested were not made in the House of Commons.

What Is Our Strategy At the Senate?

We will call on the Senate to make the 9 amendments to Bill C-81 that the open letter requested. As a non-partisan coalition, we are ready to work with all political parties. We will coordinate our efforts with others in the disability community.

To become a law, a bill must be passed in the same wording by both houses of Parliament, the House of Commons and the Senate. For more details on this, check out the AODA Alliance’s introductory guide on how a law gets passed by Canada’s Parliament.

After the House of Commons passes a bill like Bill C-81, it then goes to the Senate. The Senate can approve the bill “as is”, or reject the bill, or amend the bill. The Senate can pass amendments to the bill if it wishes. If it does, then the bill goes back to the House of Commons. It won’t become a law unless the House of Commons approves the Senate’s amendments. If the House of Commons rejects the Senate’s amendments, the bill goes back once again to the Senate. In that case, we understand that the Senate would pass the bill as is, in the terms that the House of Commons passed it.

The Senate will begin debating Bill C-81 on or after February 19, 2019. We understand that the Senate will hold public hearings on the bill, likely in March or April.

We will ask to make a presentation to the Senate hearings, in order to call for amendments that the open letter seeks. Back on October 25, 2018, we made a presentation at the House of Commons public hearings, requesting improvements to the bill along similar lines (though the open letter wasn’t yet written)

A number of other disability organizations also plan to ask to appear before the Senate’s Bill C-81 public hearings, to ask for amendments, including those the open letter identifies. The more individuals and disability organizations that support this effort, the better is our chance of getting the bill strengthened. We have been working hard with other disability organizations to jointly coordinate our collective efforts. An organization that sits this one out would miss this important opportunity to help improve this bill.

What happens next if the Senate makes amendments to Bill C-81? Bill C-81 then goes back to the House of Commons. The House of Commons then has a chance to approve those amendments. We know that most if not all of the opposition parties should support at least some if not all amendments we seek. This is because the federal Conservatives, NDP and Greens all supported some or all of them in the House of Commons last fall. All pressed the Justin Trudeau Government to strengthen Bill C-81.

If the Senate makes the amendments we seek, and sends the bill back to the House of Commons, will the Justin Trudeau Liberals support those amendments when they come back to the House of Commons? Up to now, the federal Liberals didn’t support them. However, if an amended bill returns to the House of Commons later this spring, with a federal election just months away, we and others will try to get the Liberals to support these amendments. The Liberals will not want to go into the fall federal election as the only federal party that refused to strengthen Bill C-81.

No matter what we do, the Senate may not finish with Bill C-81 before Parliament breaks for the fall federal election. Even if the Senate finishes with Bill C-81, it is possible that before Parliament rises for the fall election, the House of Commons might not finish considering any amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate made.

We have a plan of action in case any of this happens. Our plan is to head into the fall federal election with a non-partisan campaign, building on the disability community’s efforts during the 2015 federal election. We’d ask each federal party to make an election pledge that they would bring back a bill before Parliament after the election — one that includes the ingredients in Bill C-81 and the amendments that the open letter seeks. This is because of the fact that if a bill does not get passed before an election, it must be re-introduced into Parliament after the election, if it is to be considered.

There’s good reason to expect that all parties would be willing to commit in the fall election to bring back Bill C-81 before Parliament after the election, if it has not passed by then. Bill C-81 passed unanimously in the House of Commons just over eight weeks ago. Each national party spoke about the need for national accessibility legislation.

What Core Improvements Are We Asking the Senate to Make to Bill C-81?

Bill C-81 must be strong enough to stand the test of time and effectively serve people with disabilities for many years, as ministers get shuffled into different posts, and as governments change. It is good that the Federal Government made some amendments to the bill last fall when it was before the House of Commons. However, these didn’t eliminate several serious problems with the bill that make it weak.

When we ask the Senate to make all the improvements to Bill C-81 that the Open Letter requests, we will summarize some key points as follows:

  1. It is good that Bill C-81 gives the Federal Government and certain federal agencies powers to take action, make regulations and impose orders to advance the cause of accessibility in Canada. However, with few and limited exceptions, the bill does not impose duties on the Federal Government or those federal agencies to take the needed action, nor does it impose timelines for their having to do so. Therefore, the bill may not result in any accessibility improvements at all, or may only bring about change at a painfully slow pace. It will be hard to hold anyone accountable.

Bill C-81 needs to be amended to set a deadline by when Canada must become accessible to people with disabilities. It needs to impose duties on federal implementation agencies to deploy the key powers Bill C-81 gives them, and to set timelines for the deployment of those powers.

  1. Bill C-81 now splinters the power to make regulations, including mandatory accessibility standards regulations, and the power to enforce this law among up to four federal agencies. This risks confusion, unnecessary complexity, and excessive cost. It will slow and weaken the bill’s implementation and enforcement. We need Bill C-81 amended so that there is “one-stop-shopping.” This splintering should be removed from the bill. People with disabilities should be able to go to one federal agency, the new Accessibility Commissioner, for all enforcement of the bill. All regulations to be made under the bill, including enforceable accessibility standards, should be made by the federal Cabinet.
  1. Bill C-81 now allows federal public money to continue to be used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. Bill C-81 needs to be amended to ensure that when the Federal Government spends public money, it can never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. For example, the bill should require federal accessibility strings to be attached when the Federal Government spends or transfers public money for infrastructure projects, when it procures (purchases or rents) goods or services, or when it grants or lends public money to other public or private organizations e.g. for business development projects.

Why Not Just Settle for Bill C-81 As It Is?

Why shouldn’t we just accept Bill C-81 as it is? No law is perfect. Why shouldn’t we just get it enacted and then try to work with it? Isn’t it better than nothing? Are we risking losing everything by trying to get this bill improved? Isn’t it hopeless to try to get the Federal Government to agree to improve this bill now?

That is not our strategy, for very good, time-tested  reasons that are based on many years of experience in the trenches, advocating for laws in this area. We have learned that the best way to ensure that we don’t make any further progress is to give up trying. Until a bill gets the last vote it needs to become a law, there is always an opportunity to get it improved. Our tenacity is our strength.

We have been told time and again that this or that goal is impossible, or is hopelessly uphill. That has never stopped us. Our track record of winning new laws , and of winning improvements to existing laws and policies, has proven our approach to be correct.

We have extensive real-world experience working with weak legislation that does not require any disability barriers to be removed and that does not require any enforceable accessibility standards to be enacted.  We have lots of experience with Governments that make encouraging and ambitious promises about what that law will achieve. We have seen how such laws remain weak after they are enacted. If a Government won’t offer stronger concrete provisions before a law is enacted, it is typically unwilling to do any more than that after the law is enacted.

We have little if anything meaningful to lose by our strategy, and everything to gain. Bill C-81 is so weak, that any improvement to it can only help. The best time to press for improvements like this is when a federal election is only months away. That is when politicians feel most compelled to listen.

Some others may choose to sit this round out. That of course, is their right. It is, however, important not to take action that would undermine the efforts by so many of us to now try to get this bill strengthened before it is passed. To simply accept and applaud this bill as it is would impede the efforts of so many who are working to strengthen it.

Are We Working with the Federal Government On Bill C-81?

When it comes to issues like Bill C-81, we don’t just criticize or go to the media. In our usual non-partisan spirit, we also work hard on coming up with constructive solutions. We have worked extensively with the Federal Government and the opposition parties on the proposed Accessible Canada Act. This has included:

* working to secure election commitments in 2015 from the federal parties.

* After the 2015 federal election, advising the Federal Government on how to conduct an inclusive and accessible public consultation on the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

* Well before Bill C-81 was introduced in Parliament, providing an extensive presentation to senior Government officials on what is needed in the Accessible Canada Act.

* In 2016, circulating a detailed (over 30 pages) Discussion Paper on what the promised Accessible Canada Act should include, after getting feedback on it from the grassroots.

* Giving senior federal officials numerous briefings on what is needed in the Accessible Canada Act, and once Bill C-81 was introduced, briefings on our concerns with the bill.

* Providing direct briefings to the successive federal ministers that have been responsible for the Accessible Canada Act over the past four years, and for their policy staff assigned to this issue.

* Developing a detailed brief (over 100) pages for the House of Commons on the amendments needed to Bill C-81. We were delighted that so many from the disability community endorsed our brief.

* On October 25, 2018, giving a detailed presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on amendments needed to Bill C-81.

* Briefing a number of individual Members of Parliament and Senators and their staff on key problems with Bill C-81 that require amendments.

* Working with a wide range of different voices in the disability community to focus all our efforts on key amendments to Bill C-81.

*  We have told the Federal Government that we are open to discussing the possibility of arriving at a package of amendments to Bill C-81 for the Senate that the Federal Government could support, and that could speed up the Parliamentary process while making the bill stronger than it now is.

What You Can Do to Help

We urge one and all to contact any Senators. Point them to the open letter on Bill C-81, and urge them to support amendments that the Open Letter seeks.

Please ask to appear before the Senate committee when it holds public hearings on Bill C-81. We will let you know which committee that will be, once we hear.

We urge you to contact any community disability organizations and organizations that serve people with disabilities in your community. Urge them to support the effort to get the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81.

National Post December 19, 2018

Originally posted at

https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/advocates-say-accessible-canada-act-is-too-weak-to-be-effective Advocates say Accessible Canada Act is too weak to be effective

Steve Estey, the Human Rights Officer for Disabled Peoples International, an international NGO, based in Canada which focuses on the human rights of people with disabilities, poses for a photo in Halifax on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Canadian Press

Michelle McQuigge

The cautious optimism that prevailed in Canada’s disabled community when the federal government tabled historic accessibility legislation earlier this year has given way to widespread concern that the law won’t lead to meaningful change.

Major disability organizations, grassroots advocacy groups and disabled individuals said they’ve raised numerous concerns about the power and scope of the Accessible Canada Act, which the Liberal government first introduced in June.

They said the government has largely ignored those concerns as the bill worked its way through debate in the House of Commons and are now calling on the Senate to introduce amendments that they say would make the bill more effective.

One the main concerns they raise is the fact that Bill C 81 does not contain timelines to ensure accessibility, contrary to similar provincial legislation on the books in three provinces.

They also criticize the bill for allowing the government to create accessibility measures without requiring it to actually enact them, spreading enforcement over numerous government agencies and failing to recognize sign language as an official language of deaf people.

Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair user in Vancouver, said the surge of hope she felt when the bill first came before Parliament has morphed into disappointment and worry based largely on the document’s vague language.

“They want to be able to say that they have an accessible act, but they don’t really want to play an active role in creating an accessible country,” Peters said.

The Accessible Canada Act states that its goal is to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction. These include built environments, federally run programs and services, banking, telecommunications and transportation that crosses provincial lines.

The government pledged $290 million over six years towards implementing the act, which will see Ottawa appoint an accessibility commissioner and create an organization tasked with developing accessibility standards for relevant areas.

When the bill was tabled, Peters said she hoped the government could change the conversation around disability issues by signalling that they form a national priority. The government’s choice of language throughout the legislation, however, has played a major role in sowing doubts.

The bill repeatedly uses “may” rather than “shall” when describing government actions, meaning the government is empowered to take actions but never required to follow through on them. The bill also gives the government broad powers to exempt organizations, including itself, from accessibility measures that are put in place.

Peters’ concerns are echoed in an open letter penned by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and signed by an additional 92 advocates from coast to coast. Signatories range from local service providers and self-advocacy groups to national organizations such as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, National Network for Mental Health and March of Dimes Canada.

The letter highlights a total of nine issues that it called on the government to address.

Chief among them was the absence of overarching timelines in the act. Comparable provincial legislation in Ontario indicates the province must achieve full accessibility by 2025. Legislators in Nova Scotia initially left timelines out of the provincial accessibility bill but eventually included them after lobbying from the province’s disabled community.

Timelines are no guarantee of progress, said Steve Estey of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, but they provide key accountability measures.

“While there’s ample evidence that these deadlines are challenges, and there are challenges attached to meeting them, those challenges are the embodiment of accessibility legislation,” said Estey, who was deafened later in life. “To simply set aside these timelines really is problematic.”

Estey also critiqued the government’s broad exemption powers, citing an example from parliamentary hearings in which airport operators argued small facilities should not be forced to comply with new accessibility standards.

Such exemptions, Estey said, would undercut the purpose of the bill.

“If one can only fly to and from large airports, how is this creating the culture of access that the bill envisions,” he said.

The letter also urges the government to designate both American and Quebec Sign Language as official languages for the deaf.

Failing to do so actively bars deaf people from basic civic and social interactions, said Frank Folino, president of the Canadian Association of the Deaf.

Lack of sign language prevents him from fully taking in political debates, reading government communications in emergency situations, or having equal access to airport staff when travelling within Canada or abroad, he said.

Granting official language status, he said, would address those barriers while also allowing deaf people equal access to the court system.

“Deaf Canadians are entitled to the same rights as any other Canadians,” he said in a written interview.

Carla Qualtrough, the federal accessibility minister, said adding sign language to Canada’s official languages would require complex amendments to the Constitution that are beyond the scope of the Accessible Canada Act.

She said timelines were left out because accessibility standards are continually evolving, adding the focus was on starting immediate conversations around accessibility rather than mandating when they may come to an end.

Qualtrough described the bill as “enabling legislation” which requires “permissive language” in order to be most flexible. She said 74 amendments proposed during parliamentary hearings were eventually adopted.

Advocates, however, said primary concerns they voiced went largely unaddressed despite having support from all three opposition parties.

They said they’re looking to the Senate to strengthen the bill, but Qualtrough said the legislation in its current form already represents significant progress.

“Everybody recognizes that this is a massive step forward,” she said. “People have views on how much further we should have taken it, and they’re entitled to those, but I am holding my head up high around what great law this will be and how fundamentally this is a game-changer for the disability community.”

The very flexibility Qualtrough touts as an asset strikes Peters as its greatest weakness.

“We exclude people in this country,” she said. “We exclude people by design, we exclude people by our policies, and this legislation is failing to prevent that.”

We’re In the Media Two Days in a Row! A Globe and Mail Article on our January 30, 2019 Joint News Conference on School Principals Excluding Students from School and a Toronto Star Letter to the Editor from the AODA Alliance

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

We’re In the Media Two Days in a Row! A Globe and Mail Article on our January 30, 2019 Joint News Conference on School Principals Excluding Students from School and a Toronto Star Letter to the Editor from the AODA Alliance

February 1, 2019

          SUMMARY

We’re starting 2019 with great media coverage early in the New Year:

* Below, check out an excellent January 31, 2019 Globe and Mail article. It reports on our January 30, 2019 joint Queen’s Park news conference with the unstoppable Ontario Autism Coalition. We there called on The Ford Government to act now to rein in the troubling excesses in the sweeping power of a school principal to block a student from coming to school, without justifying this by suspending or expelling the student under the law’s process for administering discipline. This article provides a good summary of the key points we made at that news conference, as spelled out in our January 3, 2019 joint news release.

We also set out below the January 30, 2019 statement by Ontario’s New Democratic Party. It supports our position presented at the AODA Alliance/Ontario Autism Coalition news conference. We very much appreciate that support.

You also might wish to check out the media coverage of this issue earlier this month in the Globe and Mail.

It is a step forward that the Globe article shows some potential interest in our proposal that the Ontario Government convene a summit to explore reforming the sweeping power of school principals to refuse to allow a student to come to school.

* We also set out below the letter to the editor by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky that ran in the January 30, 2019 Toronto Star on a broader and equally important topic. Back on January 20, 2019, the Toronto Star ran a guest column by Ms. Karen Stintz. In it, she questioned the need for and the usefulness of accessibility legislation. Ms. Stintz is the CEO of Variety Village. Our letter to the editor refutes her position and emphasizes the importance of accessibility legislation.

Below we set out the fuller version of our letter to the editor which appears in the online edition of the Toronto Star. A slightly shorter version ran in the print version of the newspaper on January 30, 2019.

A disturbing 225 days have now passed since the Ontario Government shut down the work of the AODA Standards Development Committees that were hard at work, developing recommendations for the Government on measures needed to tear down barriers that impede students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system, and patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. The weather is cold enough! We don’t need any more of the Government’s freeze on the important work of those Standards Development Committees.

David Onley was scheduled to deliver his final report of his Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement to The Ford Government yesterday. The Ford Government has said it is awaiting that report before deciding what to do about its freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees. We are hoping that Mr. Onley will recommend that the Government immediately end that freeze. Once the Government has seen what he recommends on this subject, it should act immediately.

          MORE DETAILS

The Globe and Mail January 31, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-advocates-call-on-ford-government-to-help-special-needs-children-who/ News

Groups call on Ford PCs to curb schools’ exclusion of special-needs children

By VICTORIA GIBSON

Staff

Disability advocates congregated at Queen’s Park on Wednesday morning demanding that the provincial government rein in the power of principals to exclude students with complex needs from schools across the province.

Both the Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA) called on Education Minister Lisa Thompson to hold a summit of key stakeholders – including parents, teachers, principals, school boards and students – where they can discuss possible legislation and policy changes surrounding exclusions of students with disabilities who are presenting behavioural issues. The groups also asked the minister to issue a policy directive to school boards imposing interim restrictions on when exclusions can be used.

“What is the Ford government going to do to rein in the excessive, unfair and arbitrary power of school principals to exclude students from school?” OAC president Laura Kirby McIntosh asked.

“We just can’t leave the status quo in place,” AODA Alliance chair David Lepovsky said.

The minister’s office responded Wednesday afternoon, with staff member Kayla Iafelice saying the government is aware of the issues cited by the OAC and AODA Alliance and looks forward to providing an update on them “in the near future.”

The Wednesday call to action comes after a story by The Globe and Mail this month that found families with children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up children early, start their school day later or keep them home for days. Most school districts don’t formally track these kinds of exclusions or shortened days. Parent and advocacy groups have informally documented school exclusions, and have seen them rise in frequency. In December, the OAC wrote a letter to Ms. Thompson asking to meet about the issue, which it says has gone unanswered.

“I want to emphasize how incredibly vulnerable a family feels in the face of the might and the resources of a publicly funded school board and all of their lawyers,” Ms. KirbyMcIntosh said. “They are terrified and they are distressed. This is not a new problem, but until recent coverage sparked by The Globe and Mail … it’s now a subject finally getting public attention.”

The Globe’s January story highlighted the plight of Grayson Kahn, a seven-year-old boy with autism and behavioural issues who was expelled from his school in Guelph, Ont. The expulsion followed an incident where the boy struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion. Expulsions such as Grayson’s are rare – they involve a principal’s report and a hearing by a school board committee. Advocates for students with disabilities say exclusions are far more common and are typically informal; parents will be given oral notice of a decision made at a principal’s discretion.

Luke Reid, a lawyer at ARCH Disability Law Centre, said there is no formal legislative or policy limit on how long exclusions can last, and that there is often an absence of due process. “It’s sort of the Wild West in some ways,” he said.

Ms. Kirby-McIntosh added there was “an appalling lack of data” chronicling the frequency at which such exclusions are occurring. “Each principal is essentially allowed to be a law unto themselves,” she said. “We are not saying principals are bad people. They are working with an antiquated funding formula, a shortage of qualified staff and an increasingly complex student population.”

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), said he agrees that long-term exclusions are “extremely problematic,” and endorsed the idea of a stakeholders meeting. The ETFO has been calling for an increase in direct funding for students with special educational needs, he said. “I say this with all due respect to parents of autistic children and autistic children: What are teachers and administrators supposed to do when they have gotten to the end of the supports and the resources that are available to them?” Mr. Hammond asked.

The OAC and the AODA Alliance didn’t ask for additional resources Wednesday; Mr. Lepovsky said that “especially in the current economic situation and the current discretions in terms of funding,” he thought such a request would slow down their potential progress. “This government’s got fiscal constraints. It’s not a big expenditure to just get us to the table and get us talking, and for them to listen. And it’s not a big constraint to impose the policy directive,” he said.

The Ontario Principals’ Council disputes the idea that decisions on exclusions are made exclusively by a principal, and says it has logged an “unfortunate increase” in incidents involving violent or aggressive student behaviour in recent years. It said on Wednesday that exclusions were used only after other strategies proved unsuccessful.

January 30, 2019 Statement by the Ontario New Democratic Party

Originally posted at https://www.ontariondp.ca/news/its-time-real-action-address-school-exclusions-ndp-mpps January 30th, 2019

It’s time for real action to address school exclusions: NDP MPPs

QUEEN’S PARK — Ontario NDP MPPs Joel Harden (critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities), Marit Stiles (Education critic) and Monique Taylor (critic for Child and Youth Services) released the following statement:

“More than half of all students with an intellectual disability have been excluded from school at least once, impacting the quality of their education and placing a burden on parents who have to stay home with them.

It should never have come to this, and Doug Ford’s cuts to education will only take the problem of exclusions from bad to worse. Instead of cutting back on special education that was already neglected by the previous government, we need new investment in classroom supports so the horrible option of exclusion is not exercised.

We also need to strengthen, not eliminate, class size caps so that students with disabilities get the one-on-one attention they require.

The Ford government must also immediately reconvene the AODA standards development committees that have been frozen since the June election, including one on K-12 education, to address barriers affecting students with disabilities.

It’s time for this government to stop neglecting accessibility in our education system, and start working with disability advocates to make sure students with disabilities can thrive.”

Contact

2069 Lakeshore Blvd West, Suite 201

Toronto, Ontario. M8V 3Z4

Toll free phone: 1-866-390-6637

Phone: 416-591-8637

Fax: 416-599-4820

Email: info@ontariondp.ca

Toronto Star Online January 30, 2019

Letters to the Editor

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2019/01/30/legislation-vital-to-improving-accessibility.html

Legislation vital to improving accessibility

The limits to legislating workplace accessibility, Jan. 20

Karen Stintz has great intentions, but the wrong idea. She’s proud of progress on accessibility for people with disabilities at Variety Village, where she’s CEO, but she’s wrong to blast the need for laws to tear down the many accessibility barriers impeding people with a physical, mental, sensory or other disability when trying to get a job or education, ride public transit, use public services, shop in stores or eat in restaurants.

Legislation alone isn’t the entire solution, but it’s proven here and abroad to be a vital and indispensable part. Stintz wrongly invents a false dilemma, claiming: “Accessibility and inclusion aren’t about legislation; they are about a social and cultural shift and deep understanding of community.” Countries lacking strong accessibility laws, or which don’t effectively enforce those laws, simply make far less progress on accessibility.

There was great promise when Ontario’s legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. We people with disabilities campaigned tirelessly for it for a decade. Where its impact has fallen short, is not because we don’t need a good law, it’s because the previous government did a poor job implementing and enforcing it. So far, the Doug Ford government hasn’t done any better.

Do you like TTC’s audible announcements of all route stops, for blind people like me? These didn’t come from a culture change at TTC. Those announcements exist because I used the law. I successfully sued under the Human Rights Code. The TTC fought me every step of the way. Thankfully we had laws on accessibility.

When Variety Village commendably offers accessibility training to others around Ontario, it will find audiences more receptive, because accessibility is the law. I encourage Stintz to give this a serious re-think and learn from those of us who’ve battled at the front lines of Ontario’s non-partisan campaign for over two decades, before claiming that accessibility laws have no role to play at all.

David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, Toronto

Toronto Star   January 20, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2019/01/20/the-limits-to-legislating-workplace-accessibility.html

The limits to legislating workplace accessibility

Karen Stintz Opinion

Accessibility and inclusion aren’t about legislation, they are about a social and cultural shift and deep understanding of community.

The Ontario government tried to legislate change when it passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. The act is intended to identify and break down barriers for people with a disability and is multi-faceted.

The legislation covers areas such as customer service, information and communication, employment standards, transportation standards and design of public spaces. Ultimately, the goal is to create a culture of inclusion in government, education and in workplaces.

Although the act has heightened our collective awareness of inclusion as a worthy goal, no government can legislate culture change within any organization.

In spite of the best efforts of governments and employers across the province, the culture of inclusion remains elusive to many.

At Variety Village, we have achieved a culture of inclusion; however, our success was not determined because we are better at implementing legislation.

Our success hinges on the fact that 50 per cent of the population we serve has a disability so we are already ahead of the curve. Since we have a critical

mass of individuals involved in the organization that either have a disability, or are knowledgeable about disabilities, we are constantly evolving and

responding to the changing needs of our environment.

Variety Village is a leader in inclusion and, now, our organization is taking what it has learned and is bringing that knowledge to communities across

Ontario.

We create agents of change for inclusion through programming that is designed so every child can participate.

Our programs are integrated, which means all participants have the opportunity to become the best version of themselves.

It takes resources and understanding but our programs teach children how to participate in, and create, a barrier-free environment.

Our staff are trained in a culture of inclusion and many go on to other occupations where they become the agents of change in those workplaces. For example,

many camp councillors at Variety Village have become special educational assistants for the school board.

If any organization wants to undertake major organizational change, there needs to be a critical mass of support. Very few organizations are going to have

50 per cent of their employees, students or customers with a disability but every organization needs to have a critical mass of individuals who truly understand

the importance of accessibility if there is going to be a culture of inclusion.

Anyone in an organization can become an agent of change for inclusion by believing the benefits of inclusion are not for the individuals who are accommodated

but for everyone in the community.

Karen Stintz is CEO of Variety, the Children’s Charity, and Variety Village.

News Release: Disability Advocates Call for Action Limiting When Principal Can Exclude Student from School

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

ONTARIO AUTISM COALITION

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Advocates Call for Action Limiting When Principal Can Exclude Student from School

January 30, 2019 Toronto: At a news conference in the Queen’s Park Media Studio today at 10:30 a.m., disability advocates will unite to demand that the Ford Government rein in the sweeping power of school principals to exclude a student from school. The Ford Government has so far announced nothing on this. It hasn’t answered the Ontario Autism Coalition’s December 13, 2018 letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson, which asks the minister to meet about exclusions. It hasn’t publicly responded to recent media focusing on this issue. See e.g. the Globe and Mail.

“School principals have a sweeping, unmonitored discretion to exclude students from school. It’s an especially unfair barrier for students with disabilities, who are too often forced to stay home because the school is failing to provide appropriate supports,” said Laura Kirby McIntosh, President of the Ontario Autism Coalition, a non-profit political advocacy group for people with autism and their families. The principal just has to think that the student “would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils;” (Education Act s. 265)

“In over 5,000 Ontario schools, each principal is allowed to be a law unto themselves. They are not required to keep track of how many students they exclude, or for how long, or for what reason, or to report this information to anyone. They don’t have to tell the student and their family the reason for their exclusion from school or to advise them of their right to appeal,” said David Lepofsky, visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance (which campaigns for disability accessibility, including in Ontario’s education system.)

“Many families have contacted ARCH Disability Law Centre when their child has been denied access to school via formal exclusions or otherwise. It is not unusual in these circumstances that the ultimate problem is that the school has failed to meet its duty to accommodate the student’s disability. With legal assistance, students are more likely to receive appropriate accommodations to facilitate their return to school. Without this assistance, there are many cases where students have endured many months of exclusion,” said Luke Reid, Staff Lawyer at ARCH.

At the news conference, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition will jointly call on the Ford Government to take these immediate actions:

  1. The Minister of Education should now convene a summit of key stakeholders to get input on legislation and policy changes to fix this festering mess.
  2. In the interim, the Minister of Education should immediately issue a policy direction to school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school.

Contact:

Background Facts

* There are at least 340,000 students with special education needs in Ontario or 1 out of every 6 students in Ontario-funded schools. That figure does not include all students with disabilities. Therefore at least one-third of a million students with disabilities are exposed to the principal’s arbitrary power to refuse to admit them to school.

* Section 265 of the Education Act requires each school principal to refuse to admit ‘a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils.’

* In the absence of proper oversight of school boards by the Ministry of Education, it is hard to find out whether a school board has a policy on the use of the principal’s power to exclude a student from school, or how often students are excluded from school, or for how long they are kept out. The AODA Alliance has a team of Osgoode Hall Law School law students now surveying the boards and their websites.

* It is wrong to confuse the issue of exclusions from school with the issue of when students with special education needs should be included in the regular classroom. When a principal refuses to admit a student to school, that means that the student is entirely shut out from school, pure and simple. They are excluded from any and all classrooms, be it inclusion in the regular classroom or taking part in a separate or special education class. Any discussion over whether a student should be placed in the regular classroom (inclusion or integration) or in a special education classroom cannot even begin when the principal forbids that student from even coming to school at all.

* In January 2018, the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board submitted a detailed recommendation to the school board trustees. It recommended that the TDSB place clear limits on when a principal can refuse to admit a student to school. One year later, the TDSB just circulated a draft procedure on exclusions from school, which incorporates some of SEAC’s recommendations.

* In a January 7, 2019 article, the Globe and Mail reported that:

“A Globe and Mail analysis found that families with children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up kids early, start the school day later or simply keep them home for days. Most school districts don’t formally track these exclusions or shortened days. Informally, parent and advocacy groups have documented the problem and have seen a rise in the incidence of these events.”

* “People for Education, an Ontario advocacy group, has reported an increase in the number of elementary and secondary school principals who report recommending a special-education student stay home for at least part of a day. The organization found 58 per cent of elementary school heads and 48 per cent of high school principals made the request, up from 48 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, in 2014.”

* A recent report by ARCH Disability Law Centre and its partners found that more than half of all students with intellectual disabilities experienced a “shortened day,” losing on average, almost 4 hours out of a 6 hour school day. Almost half of all parents surveyed reported that they had to keep their child home at one time or another as a result of accommodation issues. Finally, the report stated that 25% of parents reported that they had been “told” not to bring their child to school that day, with many of them stating that no reasons were given or that when they were given, they often related to staffing shortages or other accommodation issues.

* The Ministry of Education’s policy directive to school boards PPM-145, available at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/145.pdf  states:

“In Part X of the Education Act, clause 265(1)(m) permits a principal to “refuse to admit” to the school or to a class someone whose presence in the school would be “detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils”. This provision is frequently referred to as the “exclusion provision.” Exclusion is not to be used as a form of discipline. If a principal does decide that it is necessary to exclude a student from the school, the principal is expected to notify the student’s parents of the exclusion as soon as possible in the circumstances, and to inform them of their right to appeal under clause 265(1)(m).”

* Last September, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a policy on accessible education for students with disabilities. Its recommendations to the Ontario Government included, among other things:

  1. Identify and end the practice of exclusion wherein principals ask parents to keep primary and secondary students with disabilities home from school for part or all of the school day (and the role that an improper use of section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act may be playing in this practice).

* The AODA Alliance survey of school boards, still in progress, has yielded the following partial and interim results so far:

* Based on results so far, only about 10% of boards, or 9 boards, have provided a policy that addresses refusals to admit. Four school boards told the AODA Alliance that they wouldn’t say if they had a policy until research approval was obtained from a Research Advisory Committee.

* Before the 2018 Ontario election, a Government-appointed committee was investigating disability barriers in Ontario’s school system, in order to recommend reforms under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. He planned to put the problem of exclusions from school on that committee’s agenda. However, the work of that committee has been frozen for the past 7 months in the wake of last June’s Ontario election. This is so despite the fact that the Conservative Party, while in opposition, had demanded that the former Ontario Government establish that very committee. For more on that issue, visit www.aodaalliance.org/education

* If each school board used a unique attendance code to mark the absence of a student due to the principal’s refusing to admit the student to school, school boards and the Ontario Government would have instant access to comprehensive data on the amount of time that students are kept from attending school on this ground. However, the province does not direct that a unique attendance code be used for that purpose. The Ministry of Education’s policy direction entitled

Enrolment Register Instructions for Elementary and Secondary Schools” for 2018-2019 states: the following on the duty of school boards to keep records on the refusal to admit a student to school: (which, as far as we have ascertained, is not provincially monitored and enforced)

“Excluded Pupils

Pupils excluded under clause 265(1)(m) of the Education Act should not be demitted from the enrolment register as the school board is actively working to re-integrate the pupil back into the education system.

During the exclusion period, the pupil’s absence is recorded with a “G” on the Daily Attendance Record. An excluded student can remain on the enrolment register until the end of the current school year if the board is actively working to re-integrate the pupil back into the education system.

Retain the following for audit purposes:

  • Documentation that shows the reason for the exclusion.
  • Documentation of successful notification of exclusion and the response between the school board and the pupil (if the pupil is an adult) or the pupil’s parent or guardian
  • Documentation of the plan (signed by the principal) to re-integrate the pupil into the education system.
  • Documentation of communication with other parties involved with re-engaging the pupil (e.g. social agencies.)
  • Data on the number of students who have been excluded during the school year (including the name of the student, OEN, length of exclusion, and the reason for exclusion.)”

Will Ontario’s New Government Ensure that New Courthouses, Built Using Public Money, Are Barrier-Free for People with Disabilities? — The Previous Government’s Plans for the New Toronto Courthouse Still Have Significant Accessibility Barriers

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Will Ontario’s New Government Ensure that New Courthouses, Built Using Public Money, Are Barrier-Free for People with Disabilities? — The Previous Government’s Plans for the New Toronto Courthouse Still Have Significant Accessibility Barriers

January 28, 2019

          SUMMARY

Ontario’s new Ford Government has committed to be more responsible in the use of public money than was the former Ontario Government. Here is an example of where they can and should make a real difference.

We often emphasize that public money should never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. Yet the former Ontario Government’s plans for a new major courthouse in downtown Toronto still lack full and proper accessibility, even though some good steps have been taken to include some needed accessibility features. The AODA Alliance has been in the lead in bringing this issue to public attention.

Here is the latest installment in this story. To its credit, the team leading the design and construction of the New Toronto Courthouse, intended for the heart of downtown Toronto, recently built a mock-up of a courtroom, and a public service counter, to be included in that facility. The team commendably sought input from various stakeholders on this mock-up, including from an accessibility perspective. On January 16, 2019, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was given a hands-on tour. He found a number of helpful features in the design, but a number of serious accessibility barriers.

A number of the barriers we discovered are described in the January 21, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to Assistant Deputy Attorney General Dante Pontone. We set that letter out below. We earlier described other examples of accessibility problems with this courthouse’s design in the AODA Alliance’s October 5, 2017, and April 6, 2018 letters to the previous Attorney General, and in our May 22, 2018, letter to Assistant Deputy Attorney General Dante Pontone. More on this topic can be found in our May 31 2018 and June 1, 2018 letters to Mr. Pontone, which we set out below.

It is good that there are some helpful accessibility features in this mock-up. However, it is very troubling that there are the accessibility problems that we and others have identified, especially since construction of this courthouse is meant to begin later this year. We await word on what the Ontario Government is going to do about these concerns.

There has been another interesting and important development in our quest for a fully accessible court system. One important way for the public to participate in the justice system is as a member of a jury. Yet people with disabilities have faced barriers impeding them from serving as a juror. Last fall, in a break-through, a person with vision loss was permitted to serve as a juror. Below at the end of this Update is an article from the December 29, 2018 Toronto Star reporting on this event. It quotes AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, among others.

For more background on the courts accessibility issue, you might check out the ground-breaking 2007 official report entitled “Making Ontario’s Courts Open to Persons with Disabilities” which you can find on the website for the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Finally, on another accessibility topic, there have now been 221 days since the Ontario Government shut down the work of the AODA Standards Development Committees that were working on recommendations on what the Government should include in the Health Care Accessibility Standard and the Education Accessibility Standard. The longer this freeze goes on, the more students with disabilities and patients with disabilities have to continue enduring unfair accessibility barriers.

          MORE DETAILS

January 21, 2019 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario’s Assistant Deputy Attorney General Dante Pontone

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

January 21, 2019

To: Dante Pontone, Assistant Deputy Attorney General

Via email: dante.pontone@ontario.ca

CC: The Hon. Caroline Mulroney, Attorney General of Ontario

Caroline.Mulroney@ontario.ca

Paul Boniferro Deputy Attorney General for Ontario

Paul.boniferro@ontario.ca

Dear Sir,

Re: Disability Accessibility Issues in the New Toronto Courthouse

I am writing to bring to your attention further concerns regarding the plans for accessibility at the New Toronto Courthouse, which is supposed to begin construction later this year. As you know, the AODA Alliance has been raising concerns about this project over the past two years.

We appreciate your efforts and interventions to date to try to address our concerns. As a result of your efforts, there have been some improvements. However, as things now stand, we have no assurance that the courthouse that is to be built will in fact be properly accessible for court participants and other attendees with disabilities. We need your intervention now to fix this.

As you recall, as of the 2017 fall, three years into the design of this courthouse, the initial team setting the accessibility project specifications for this courthouse (which was later terminated), and the subsequent team that is to oversee the bidding process and compliance with the project by the winner as it relates to this issue had never consulted with any people with disabilities. It was only after our discovering this and pressing for change that the Government belatedly decided to form a disability advisory group to review the project plans and offer accessibility input. For the AODA Alliance, I am a member of that advisory group.

By the time our advisory group had been formed and met in the 2018 spring, the Government had already settled on the project accessibility requirements, had conducted the competitive bid, and had chosen the successful bidder and design. Our advisory group quickly discovered a series of serious accessibility problems with the planned design. I have detailed some salient accessibility concerns regarding this project in my October 5, 2017, and April 6, 2018 letters to the previous Attorney General, and in my May 22 and 31, and June 1, 2018 letters to you. Key correspondence on point is posted on the AODA Alliance website.

It is our understanding from what we have been told by Government representatives, the Government’s various consultants on this project, and the successful bidder Ellis Don, that some of the accessibility concerns that the disability advisory group has raised cannot be addressed, because it is too far along in the planning for this new courthouse. This is emblematic of the fact that accessibility must be centrally incorporated into a project’s planning from the very start. It should not be left, in whole or in part, to much later in the process, as was the case here.

This should not come as news to the Ministry of the Attorney General, or to Infrastructure Ontario. Both of those public organizations have known this for years but have evidently failed to effectively act on it. We regret that there appears to be within both organizations some systemic impediments to acting effectively on accessibility for people with disabilities.

It is good that the Government is working now on developing a new accessibility standard for new courthouses, and that this is being taken into account earlier in the design of the future Halton Courthouse project. However, the 2007 Weiler Committee report on disability accessibility barriers in the court system had pointed out some 12 years ago about the need to develop a new and update-to-date accessibility standard for courthouse design. Since then, several new courthouses have been built at huge public expense, but without ensuring their proper accessibility. All of this is going on years after the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005, and a third of a century after equality for people with disabilities was enshrined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

Let me turn to the specifics of the New Toronto Courthouse courtroom and service counters mock-up that I visited on January 16, 2019. It was good to see a number of accessibility features built into the mock-up. However, I identified a number of accessibility concerns. Evidently, others who have earlier visited the mock-up also pointed out the same or different concerns.

It is good that the Government had this mock-up prepared, and that it sought input on it, including on accessibility concerns. It is, however, deeply troubling that a number of these problems made their way into this design even at this late stage. This happened after the Government had consulted with our disability advisory group on the building’s design, after there were two accessibility consultants on retainer to advise on this project (one for the Government and one for EllisDon), and after advice on some of these issues had already been given by the disability advisory group.

  1. It appears that in the design of the courtroom mock-up, no account was taken of the space, line-of-sight, and lighting needs to accommodate sign language interpreters in the courtroom. During my review of the mock-up, I asked if the team had consulted a sign language interpreter on this. I was told only that a hard of hearing member of the disability advisory group had toured the mock-up (i.e. after the mock-up had already been designed)

During my tour of the mock-up, I explained that the design needs to accommodate the needs of Sign Language interpreters in several different positions in the courtroom, e.g. interpreting for counsel, or for an accused, or for a witness. More than one interpreter could be interpreting from different positions in the courtroom at the same time. The interpreter needs to have enough room. There must be a clear line of sight to the person for whom they are interpreting. The lighting needs to be appropriate.

I had raised this specific issue months ago, during a meeting the Government and EllisDon had with the disability advisory group. At that time, a lead design official for EllisDon had not even known that Sign Language interpretation had to take place in the courtroom, unlike other spoken language interpreters who can be situated in a remote booth elsewhere in the courthouse.

Because I had given this feedback months ago, it is difficult to understand why this was not further explored and addressed prior to designing the courtroom layout and going to the substantial expense of building the mock-up. Having learned of the failure by the Government and EllisDon to deal with this, I have just connected the Government’s accessibility consultants with a Sign Language Interpreter I know, who works in the Toronto courts, and who is readily available to advise the Government on this issue.

  1. It is good that there are power door openers e.g. for the courtroom doors. However, none of these that I examined had accessible Braille signage for them. There was also no Braille signage for security card readers. The card readers I saw were close to a power door operator, both unlabeled, and both similarly shaped. This should be an obvious and simple accessibility provision for all such controls.
  1. There is a serious barrier to effective communication at the proposed Court Services counters. The mock-up for the Court Services office has a Plexiglas barrier from the counter level to the ceiling for each public service counter. A couple of small openings are cut out for a member of the public to speak to the Court Services official, behind the barrier, and to pass documents back and forth.

I was told that this partition is intended for security for the Court Services workers. It is not meant as bullet-proof protection. Anyone entering the building is required to go through scanners to prevent weapons from entering the courthouse. Rather, this is to prevent a member of the public for lunging at a Court Services worker.

I pointed out the obvious fact that this Plexiglas partition presents a significant communication barrier for people who have difficulties hearing. I was told that there would be a hearing loop technology available. When I asked, I was told there had been no plans for a speaker to amplify the voice of the Court Services worker.

The designers were evidently aware that there is an issue here, as the mock-up presented three different kinds of openings, through which a member of the public can speak to a Court Services official. I was asked for feedback on which option for openings in the partition seemed more effective for talking to the Court Services staff.

I presented the fact that this communication barrier will be a big problem for many, not just for those who having hearing loss to the degree where they use assistive listening devices. I noted that according to the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Court Services officials, the most common request for disability accommodation in the courts is related to hearing loss issues.

I proposed the simple and, I would think obvious solution of replacing the Plexiglas partition with a series of bars, with openings to pass documents through. That would let sound pass through much more easily, while still providing the security needed.

I foresaw that if the Plexiglas design is retained, Court Services workers would have to spend their day yelling through opening in the Plexiglas, while sitting next to other Court Services workers who are similarly yelling through the openings in the partition. I doubt that is an optimal working situation.

I would add to my feedback given at the time that to require members of the public to have to raise their voices to ensure they are heard through the Plexiglas openings might require them to speak loudly about personal information that they would not wish to share with others, who are behind them, waiting in line.

  1. I was told that the intention was for only one out of every six or so public service counters in the Court Services office to be an accessible one. This in turn would require Court Services staff to use technology to give priority to members of the public who need the accessible counter, and then to route them to those counters. Not just for this reason, there is a plan for everyone who comes to that Court Services area to use a touch screen device to sign in, get their number, and know which counter to attend. I address this further below.

I asked why they don’t simply plan for all counters in that area to be at an accessible height. I was told that people who are standing prefer not to have to sign a document at the lower counter height. The counter height could be made adjustable. As an alternative, I suggested a simple low-cost solution. On any accessible counter height could be a moveable box, that would provide a signing surface that accommodates a person who is standing. With this, there would be no need to have to have some sort of process for identifying who needs an accessible counter, and for giving them priority and routing them to the right counter.

  1. I asked how a person would know that it is their turn to proceed to a Court Services counter. I was told that a light over that counter would illuminate. I explained that this was a clear barrier for people with vision loss. There should also be an audio prompt or announcement.

I explained that Service Ontario had a similar accessibility problem until we brought it to attention of senior Government officials. People coming to Service Ontario for help with such things as a health card used to be given a number and told to watch a screen for when their number came up. This happened to me a few years ago. I am blind, and use a readily visible white cane.

  1. As noted above, there is a plan for everyone who wants to go to the Court services counter to have to first get an electronic tablet, key in some information and then get a document printed out that will tell them where to go etc. I suggested the far less costly option of just having everyone line up and wait their turn, as is routinely done at banks and other like services.

The tablet threatens to present accessibility problems. I was told that a Court Services worker would be available to work with people with disabilities. However, this may not be evident to people with disabilities who are there. Moreover, apart from disability concerns, there is always the added confusion of learning to use a new app or tablet, compounded if the system goes out of order. A line-up has none of these problems. I suspect that court attendees would rather not have to learn to navigate some new app.

  1. We were told that the plan is for the prisoner’s box in each courtroom in this new courthouse to have a design that lacks accessibility. There is one step up into the prisoner’s box.

If an accused requires an accessible prisoner’s box, one will be brought in and assembled, when needed. We were told that this would take about an hour to do. It requires the court to be notified in advance of the need for this on a particular day. This in turn requires lawyers to all know that they need to request this in advance. It requires that any such request not get lost in the shuffle of a huge, busy courthouse.

I proposed that instead, they should simply design an accessible prisoner’s box for permanent use in each courtroom, rather than planning in advance to create new barriers. This avoids the need in a very busy courthouse to have to be notified in advance, and to have the accessible prisoner’s box brought in and assembled. The risk is real that the message can get lost and the accommodation not set up in time.

Moreover, in a very busy, rapid turnover courtroom like the one on the ground floor for first appearances, the prisoner’s box should always be an accessible one. An accused, arrested the night before, and brought in for a first appearance, will likely not have a lawyer who knows to request an accessible prisoner’s box.

I was told that the reason the inaccessible design was desired was because police would like the accused to be raised up one step, for when the officer reaches in to cuff the accused. I expect that other solutions to address this problem should be discoverable with some creativity, without needing to have an inaccessible prisoner’s box.

  1. On the wall just outside the courtroom mock-up is a sign listing points for courtroom decorum. We discussed options for making this available in an accessible format.

However, I also asked if the list of points in this public notice included any announcement of how to seek accessibility accommodations while at court. I was told this was not part of the text.

I have several times raised with Ministry officials at the Ontario Courts Accessibility Committee that they need to do a much better job of publicizing the availability of accessibility supports in the courts, including the availability of a Courts Accessibility Coordinator in each court facility. This sign would be an important place to include that information, for the public, as they wait in the hall to enter the courtroom.

I raised a number of other points. The foregoing ones rank among the most serious ones. On the one hand, it is good we are being consulted on this. On the other hand, the fact that these problems were designed into this plan shows that the Ministry and its successful bidder at this late date still are falling quite far short on accessibility.

At this consultation, there were two different accessibility consulting firms present. One was retained by the Government’s project compliance team. The other is retained by EllisDon. The taxpayer is paying for them both. We want to know what accessibility advice they have given on this design. At a recent Ontario Courts Accessibility Committee meeting, the Ministry had indicated that the Government was going to have its accessibility consulting firm report directly to the Ministry, rather than the private architect whom the Government has retained to head the project compliance team. I should note that the head of that team, Roman Mychajlowycz of the Kleinfeldt Mychajlowycz Architects firm, has not attended any of the consultation sessions last year at which I was present, where we gave input on the accessibility problems with this courthouse. He was also not present at the consultation on this mock-up I attended. I do not know if he attended any of the other consultation sessions on this mock-up. Given the seriousness of the recurring accessibility problems with the design of this courthouse, direct face-to-face involvement by the head of the compliance team, paid by the taxpayer, would seem to us to be appropriate, and not merely his subordinates.

Finally, we would like to know the status of the Government’s work on developing an accessibility standard for the design of future courthouse facilities. We have understood that the KMA firm was working on that. We earlier requested from the Government a draft of their proposals. We would also like to see any advice on the KMA proposals that have come from the accessibility consulting firm that are being paid by the taxpayer to advise on it.

We continue to be eager to help ensure that Ontario’s courts become fully accessible to people with disabilities, and that any new court facility be designed to be accessible.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

May 31, 2018 Letter from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Assistant Deputy Attorney General Dante Pontone

To: Dante Pontone, Assistant Deputy Attorney General for Ontario

From: David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance

Date: May 31, 2018

Thank you so much for attending the May 24, 2018 meeting of the Disability Sector Advisory Group that the Government convened this spring to get input on accessibility issues in the design of the New Toronto Courthouse. Construction of that courthouse is expected to commence sometime next year. We need your active assistance and intervention to ensure that accessibility is properly included in this project.

It was helpful to know that the courthouse design team is considering feedback that the Advisory Group had given at our earlier March 20, 2018 meeting. At the March 14, 2018 meeting we had identified serious accessibility problems in the design of the New Toronto Courthouse that the Government had selected in the competitive process. I want to summarize a few of the key points that the disability sector representatives made at the May 24, 2018 meeting.

* At the May 24, 2018 meeting, the information that the design team gave our Advisory Group revealed that in troubling ways, it appears that the private company that is building this courthouse is giving the building’s aesthetics an improper priority over ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities, with the Government’s evident agreement or silence. I offer two examples from this meeting.

First, back at the March 20, 2018 meeting, we had pointed out that the use of “open risers” in the feature staircase in the courthouse’s main lobby presents an accessibility and safety problem for people with vision loss, among others. The Government’s specific requirements for this building preclude the use of open risers. Yet EllisDon, whom the Government selected to build this courthouse, disregarded this, and included open risers in the building design. The Government selected that design in the competitive bid process, despite its direct contravention of this accessibility requirement in the Government’s Project Specific Output Specifications (PSOS).

At the May 24, 2018 meeting, we were told that the project design team is considering “options” for dealing with this issue. We asked what options are being considered. We did not get a direct answer. They did not want to say what options were being considered. We don’t understand why this was being withheld from us.

Moreover, one of the design team members in effect asked us at the May 24, 2018 meeting if there was no way that open risers could be included in the building. We said “no”. We explained there that they were treating aesthetics as more important than accessibility.

Second, we had indicated at our March 14, 2018 meeting that the three-storey atrium design of the building created several accessibility problems. There would be inconsistent lighting and glare during the day, creating problems for those with low vision. The acoustics present problems for people who are hard of hearing, or people with vision loss who use echo-location to help navigate. People with sensory integration problems, include some with autism, also experience sensory overload in such environments. Eliminating this atrium design would eliminate these problems and create more useable floor space.

At the May 24, 2018 meeting, the project team’s solution appeared to be to keep the atrium design, but to consider canopies, overhangs and blinds to control lighting, and some acoustic protections to reduce acoustic problems. We were told about sound and lighting studies being conducted to look into these effects.

We responded that the aesthetic tail appears again to be wagging the dog. If blinds must be adjusted throughout the day to regulate the light in the building, there is the real risk that this will not always happen. We won’t know that these palliative measures will work until the building is built, by which time it is too late. The acoustic studies did not explore the impact of the acoustic measures on echo-location for navigating the building. We could only be satisfied that these palliative measures all worked if we could now visit a comparably-designed building that includes all these lighting and audio features, to test to see if they are reliable and consistently effective.

* At the May 24, 2018 meeting, we were not shown the layout for any of the non-public secured areas of the building, but were assured that they would be accessible. We asked to be able to see those designs, on an undertaking of confidentiality if necessary, so we can give feedback. We appreciate that the project team agreed to look into this.

* We were told at the May 24, 2018 meeting that the seating area that was proposed for people with disabilities who are waiting for Wheeltrans would be inside the vestibule, just inside the main doors. The disability sector representatives identified several problems with this.

That seating location only has a direct line of sight to half of the pick-up spots where vehicles would arrive. There is an obstructed view to the rest of those drop-off spots. In addition, this seating is placed between the doors to the outside, and the doors to the main floor. As such, people sitting there will have to endure regular blasts of cold air when waiting during the winter, and hot air during the summer, each time the doors open and close.

* We noted that placing Court Services on the third floor presents real problems. This can be the first stop for many who arrive at the courthouse. They must clutter up the elevators to get there, and then head up from there to their destination. This first stop should be on the main floor.

* We understand that there is no location planned to situate the courthouse’s disability accessibility and accommodation coordinator on the ground floor. We emphasized that they should be readily available on the ground floor, to be a first contact, where needed, for court attendees with disabilities.

* We were told that the public was to be told by way of posted signs about the availability of disability services. We emphasized that this was insufficient, as it will not accommodate those with vision loss or dyslexia. I would add that this would not accommodate those with literacy issues.

* At our earlier March 14, 2018 meeting, we were told that only one interview room per floor would be accessible. At the May 24, 2018 meeting we learned that this information had been incorrect. We were told on May 24, 2018 that all of the interview rooms are accessible, but only one room per floor will accommodate a scooter. We were still not able to learn how these rooms are to be assigned, to ensure that they are not simply used by people who don’t need that accessibility feature.

* We learned at the May 24, 2018 meeting that some important accessibility concerns that we raised at our earlier meeting have not been corrected at all. The problematic layout of the six public elevators has not been changed, despite the accessibility concerns. There has also been no change to the plan to have a universal washroom on only eight of the building’s seventeen floors, and not on every floor. No reason for this was given.

* For some of the other concerns we had raised at the March 14, 2018 meeting, we were told that it is now too late in the planning process to change certain aspects of the building’s design. This demonstrates that it was wrong for the Government not to consult on accessibility some three years ago, at the design process’s outset.

We look forward to further meetings with the disability sector advisory group, to ensure that the accessibility concerns with this building are all effectively addressed.

June 1, 2018 Letter from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Assistant Deputy Attorney General Dante Pontone

To: Dante Pontone, Assistant Deputy Attorney General for Ontario

From: David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance

Date: June 1, 2018

Re: Accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities in New Courthouse Construction in Ontario

Thank you for taking the time to speak to me today about the future actions needed to ensure accessibility of the New Toronto Courthouse, about accessibility of the forthcoming new Halton Peel Courthouse (at an earlier stage of design) and about the development of a new Government accessibility standard for new court construction. Here are the key items which we requested and those to which you agreed. If I have anything incorrect, please let me know as soon as possible.

Re the New Toronto Courthouse

I asked that you continue to attend any upcoming meetings of the Disability Sector Advisory Group regarding the New Toronto Courthouse. Your oversight is critically important, in our view. Thank you for being agreeable to this.

We have not been told how many future meetings the Government plans for this Advisory Group regarding the New Toronto Courthouse. I recommended to you that this Advisory Group continue to meet with the Government and its contractors until all the accessibility concerns regarding this courthouse have been effectively resolved. I understood you to be supportive of this.

I explained that it is important in this project, and in each future project, that the Government directly retain the accessibility consultant, retained on these projects, and that this consultant report their accessibility advice directly to the Government. Otherwise, as at present, it appears that their accessibility advice is given to the private architecture firm or other private organization that hired them. What the Government and the public learn about that accessibility advice is only that which the retaining private organization chooses to pass along. The public is paying for that advice. The Government should receive that advice directly, and in its entirety. The public should be able to see this advice as well. I understood that you are going to consider this.

The Halton Peel Courthouse

I understand that the accessibility requirements for the future new Halton Peel courthouse have not yet been finalized. The Project Specific Output Specifications PSOS for that project are still under development.

I recommended that the Government now get advice from the disability community, e.g. from the Disability Sector Advisory Group, as these are being formulated, and certainly long before they are finalized. No longer should we ever be told that it is too late in the design process to take into account an accessibility concern. I understood you to be agreeable to and supportive of this.

I therefore asked that the Government now show us these accessibility requirements at whatever stage they have now reached. Even if they are at a draft or preliminary stage, it would help to see what has been developed so far, so that we can give our feedback. As the New Toronto Courthouse experience revealed once again, the earlier in the design development process this consultation occurs, the better will be the end product.

New Accessibility Standard for Future Courthouses

As we discussed, Bob Topping told the Disability Sector Advisory Group at our inaugural March 14, 2018 meeting that his accessibility consulting firm, DesignAble Environments, was working on a new accessibility standard for new court consultation. Corresponding to this, the lead architect for the EllisDon firm told us at that meeting that when they designed the plans for the New Toronto Courthouse, they used the old accessibility standard that the Ministry has had going back many years.

As a result, I asked you to find out who else, if anyone, is working on this new courthouse accessibility standard, beyond DesignAble Environments? We asked to see that standard in its present state of development. We also proposed that the disability community be consulted on this, as early as possible, in its development. I urged you to contact Mr. Topping to follow up on this and to get more information, since it was he who told us about this work at the March 14, 2018 Advisory Group meeting. You agreed to look into this, including speaking to Mr. Topping. Thank you for agreeing to get back to me on this.

In conclusion there is a clear long term need for problems such as these to be resolved on a Government-wide basis. However, in the meantime, resolving the accessibility needs of Ontarians with disabilities in these courthouse projects cannot await a resolution of broader Government-wide deficiencies in how it deals with planning for the accessibility of new infrastructure construction.

I look forward to hearing from you on the important issues we discussed, and especially on those listed in this letter.

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

The Toronto Star December 29, 2018

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/11/05/blind-juror-in-toronto-impaired-driving-case-was-almost-rejected.html

Blind juror was almost rejected

Disability advocates seek removal of courtroom barriers

Betsy Powell Toronto Star

A recent criminal trial at Toronto’s downtown Superior Court featured what may be a first in Ontario: a blind juror.

The fact that is, if not a first, an extremely rare occurrence in Ontario underscores that much more needs to be done to remove the barriers to equal treatment in the criminal justice system, disability advocates say.

“Certainly this applies to ensuring adequate representation of persons with disabilities on juries,” says Luke Reid, a lawyer with ARCH Disability Law Centre in Toronto.

The Criminal Code allows people with vision or hearing disabilities to serve on juries. However, an accused may challenge a juror’s service and the Juries Act deems jurors ineligible if they have “a physical or mental disability that would seriously impair his or her ability to discharge the duties of a juror.”

“However, human rights law would demand that this (or any) requirement not be interpreted in an overbroad way and that persons with disabilities have the right to the necessary accommodations,” Reid wrote in email.

Juror 29743 almost didn’t get picked. While there are likely numerous reasons preventing people with impaired vision from sitting on juries, there is still a “very active debate” around the ability of a “trier of fact” to see a witness’s demeanour in order to assess credibility, Reid noted in an email.

“I think courts tend to err on the side of caution where the right of an accused to a fair trial is potentially at issue.”

This fall, a day before jury selection in an impaired driving causing death trial, prosecutor Marnie Goldenberg told the judge she and defence lawyer Carolyn Kerr had some concerns about a prospective juror, who had shown up at the courthouse with a service dog. Goldenberg told the judge numerous photos would be introduced during the two-week trial.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Rob Goldstein told the lawyers while it was entirely appropriate to raise the issue, he didn’t intend to treat Juror 29743 any differently than other jurors.

“I think it’s something we canvass and we treat her the way we treat any other juror who has a health issue,” Goldstein said. The next day, after Juror 29743 entered the courtroom with her service dog, the judge asked her how she would “deal” with all the photos in the case.

“It would be through description … I cannot see them,” the woman, who works in human resources, told Goldstein.

“OK, all right, so if they are described – you can absorb what’s in them?” the judge asked. She said yes.

The jury selection process continued in the normal course with two already selected jurors, designated as “triers,” deciding whether or not she was an acceptable pick.

Juror 29743 said she had not heard about the case involving a man charged with impaired driving causing death on April 23, 2016, near Jane St. and Humberview Blvd. She also indicated she could consider the evidence without prejudice or bias after being told the accused was a visible minority and Muslim. Nevertheless, the triers immediately rejected her.

Goldstein, however, wasn’t satisfied. He told the triers he was going to reread their instructions and asked them to consult each other again. The test to decide is if a juror would approach jury duty with an open mind and decide the case based solely on the evidence and his legal instructions, the judge told them.

This time, the triers found Juror 29743 acceptable while counsel on both sides said they were “content” with the choice. After a few days of deliberations, the jury returned to court with a guilty verdict. The Star’s attempts to speak to Juror 29743 were unsuccessful.

Lawyer David Lepofsky, a retired Crown attorney who is blind and was not involved in the case, said having a blind juror not only makes the legal system more representative of society, it makes lawyers more effective.

There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in a courtroom that is visual and needs to be explained for the transcript, or audio recording, so having a blind juror will help ensure that happens, “so you get a better record, and it’s better for everybody,” Lepofksy said.

But there are some exceptions where a visually impaired juror might have to be excluded, he added. If, for example, the guilt or innocence of an accused is entirely based on whether a jury believes an accused looks like an assailant captured in a surveillance video.

Lepofksy, now a visiting professor at o University’s Osgoode Hall law school, said traditionally, appeal courts said trial judges were in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses, because they, unlike appeal judges, can access demeanour.

That view has evolved, and now appeal courts are increasingly warning “it’s wrong to over emphasize visual demeanour when assessing credibility.” He uses himself as an example to explain how everyone has different ways of doing that.

“Sighted people use eyes. I listen to a voice … and the whole idea of a jury is it’s a bunch of different people … pooling their different ways of assessing credibility and then voting as a group. Well, who’s to say visual is the only way to do it,” he said.

“Those of us who experience the world non visually, have our own experience too.”

While jurors don’t have to be statistically representative of society, there is an expectation that they bring to the courtroom their own life experience, “drawn from different parts of the community, and they pool to form a collective assessment, a very difficult assessment, who to believe about what happened.”

The Ford Government Continues Its Freeze on the Work to Remove Barriers in Ontario’s Education System Against Hundreds of Thousands of Students With Disabilities, While the Media Shines A Much-Needed Spotlight on One Troubling Barrier – The Sweeping Power of School Principals to Exclude a Student from School

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

The Ford Government Continues Its Freeze on the Work to Remove Barriers in Ontario’s Education System Against Hundreds of Thousands of Students With Disabilities, While the Media Shines A Much-Needed Spotlight on One Troubling Barrier – The Sweeping Power of School Principals to Exclude a Student from School

January 24, 2019

          SUMMARY

There have been 216 days since work on developing a new Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was frozen in the wake of the election of Ontario’s new Government. The work of the two Education Standards Development Committees, appointed to recommend reforms in Ontario’s school system (the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee) and in Ontario’s colleges and universities (the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee), still remains on hold. School boards, colleges and universities continue to leave disability barriers in place. They spend public money to create new barriers, without an AODA Education Accessibility Standard in place to stop that from continuing.

In the meantime, It is great that the Globe and Mail recently focused attention on one of the troubling and recurring barriers in Ontario’s school system that we have wanted to raise at the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee – one which the Ontario Human Rights Commission has identified as a human rights issue. It is the sweeping and arbitrary power of any school principal to exclude a student from school. The outdated section 265(1)(m) of Ontario’s Education Act provides:

“265.  (1)  It is the duty of a principal of a school, in addition to the principal’s duties as a teacher,…

… (m) subject to an appeal to the board, to refuse to admit to the school or classroom a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils; …”

We have been concerned that this power can be and is misused, especially to keep some students with special education needs away from school. Below we set forth a powerful article in the January 9, 2019 edition of the Globe and Mail focusing on this issue. An earlier January 5, 2019 Globe and Mail article also addresses this issue.

This unfair power is sometimes called the power to exclude a student from school and at other times is called the power to refuse to admit a student to school. It needs to be substantially reined in.

The status quo is unacceptable. Principals have a sweeping discretion to exclude students from school, without any real accountability. Students and their families need not be given proper notice, reasons or due process. Refusals to admit can go on for days, weeks or months. A school board need never track how often students are excluded from school, or for how long, or for what reason.

Last September, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a new policy on accessible education for students with disabilities. Its recommendations to the Ontario Government included, among other things:

“9. Identify and end the practice of exclusion wherein principals ask parents to keep primary and secondary students with disabilities home from school for part or all of the school day (and the role that an improper use of section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act may be playing in this practice).”

There is a much better way to deal with this issue. The Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) of the Toronto District School Board passed a detailed motion over one year ago, in January 2018. It called for TDSB to adopt a policy that will ensure that this power is not abused or misused. It includes great ideas on how to deal with this issue.

We support that TDSB SEAC recommendation, which we set out below. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky led the development of that recommendation while he served as chair of TDSB’s SEAC. All are still awaiting a new TDSB policy or procedure on refusals to admit a student to school. Earlier this month, TDSB staff told the TDSB SEAC that a draft policy would be shared with them shortly. We do not yet know how much, if any, of the SEAC recommendation will be adopted.

We offer two important observations on the January 9, 2019 Globe and Mail article that is set out below. First, the article, which is otherwise very commendable, incorrectly confuses the issue of exclusions from school or refusals to admit a student to school, on the one hand, with issues surrounding inclusion of students with disabilities in a regular classroom on the other. This can be a distraction from the problems with the use of the power to exclude a student from school.

When a principal refuses to admit a student to school, that means that the student is entirely shut out from school, pure and simple. They are excluded from any and all classrooms, be it inclusion in the regular classroom or taking part in a separate or special education class. Any discussion over whether a student should be placed in the regular classroom (inclusion or integration) or in a special education classroom does not even arise when the principal forbids that student from even coming to school at all. It is wrong to confuse the issue of exclusions from school with the issue of when students with special education needs should be included in the regular classroom.

Second, the Globe article focuses in part on situations where a principal excludes a student from school due to violence. Yet the concern has been raised that principals don’t only refuse students from school due to violence.

When will the Ford Government let us know what it is going to do with the Education Standards Development Committees? As we announced in the January 20, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Government now says it is awaiting the report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review before it decides what to do with these Standards Development Committees. The same goes for the Health Care Standards Development Committee, whose work has also been frozen since the June 2018 Ontario election. CBC asked the Ford Government about this freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees  in August and November 2018. Back then, the Ford Government did not say it was awaiting David Onley’s report. Had it done so, we would have pressed Mr. Onley to immediately issue an interim report addressing the need to lift that freeze.

We urge one and all to send David Onley a short email as soon as possible. Please tell him if you support the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief on how to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including our call for the Ford Government to immediately lift its freeze on the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees . You can email David Onley at david.onley@utoronto.ca

          MORE DETAILS

 Globe and Mail,  January 7, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-advocates-for-students-with-disabilities-call-on-ontario-to-stop/

Autism advocates push Ontario to ban school exclusions

By CAROLINE ALPHONSO

Staff

Autism advocates in Ontario are calling on the province to remove a principal’s power to exclude students from school for an indefinite period, saying it is being misused as a disciplinary measure that disproportionately targets children with special needs.

A Globe and Mail analysis found that families with children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up kids early, start the school day later or simply keep them home for days.

Most school districts don’t formally track these exclusions or shortened days. Informally, parent and advocacy groups have documented the problem and have seen a rise in the incidence of these events.

The Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) wrote in a recent letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson that principals are using what it deemed an “outdated” provision in the Education Act to exclude children from school. The group said it violates the rights of children to an inclusive education and has requested a meeting with the minister.

On Saturday, The Globe highlighted the story of Grayson Kahn, a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with autism who was expelled in November from his school in Guelph, Ont., after an incident in which he struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion. Expulsions such as Grayson’s are rare and involve a report by the principal and a hearing by a committee of the school board.

Advocates for students with disabilities say exclusions are much more common and are generally informal: Parents are often given verbal notice; it is usually done at a principal’s discretion; and it can last for months.

Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the OAC, said in an interview on Sunday that her parentrun group understands that principals are struggling to support children with very complex needs, but refusing to admit them to school is problematic. She said she’s seen one child being excluded from school for a year. Her own son was excluded for six months.

“We recognize as an organization that our kids are challenging to educate. The solution to that is complex. But the solution that’s being used now is we’ll just throw the kids out,” she said.

“Our kids are not disposable.

They’re not easy to educate. And for some of them, it may be that full inclusion is not the solution.

But neither is full exclusion.”

A spokeswoman for Ms. Thompson did not address the question of how the minister plans to address the situation.

In an e-mail statement, Kayla Iafelice said that exclusions are not to be used as a form of discipline. She added: “Our government’s top priority will always be to ensure that every student in Ontario has access to a meaningful education in safe and supportive school environments.”

Including special-needs students with behavioural issues in regular classrooms has become a matter of debate in many parts of the country, and some educators wonder if it’s gone too far without a rethinking of how children with diverse needs are taught.

Teachers report an increase in violence in schools, from threats to physical attacks, that they say makes teaching more difficult.

Glen Hansman, president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, said there has been some good work over the past few years to recognize and address the issue of violence in classrooms. But “we still have a long way to go because … the supports in the classrooms aren’t necessarily as they should be to make sure that people are safe,” he said.

People for Education, an Ontario advocacy group, noted an increase in the number of elementary and secondary school principals who report recommending a special-education student stay home for at least part of a day. The organization found 58 per cent of elementary school heads and 48 per cent of high school principals made the request, up from 48 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, in 2014.

Similarly, a survey of parents of children with special needs released in November, 2017, by the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils found that children with special needs were missing anywhere from half an hour to three hours of school a day, or being told to stay home because of staff shortages. A number of children, the survey found, were sent home because of behavioural incidents at school and these exclusions, which were undocumented, would continue for days or weeks.

The North Vancouver and Greater Victoria school districts passed motions this fall to record how many children with special needs are being asked to stay home, or are sent home early or dropped off late and being excluded from field trips.

“It is useful, for the school district and for parents, to have formally tracked information about modified instructional schedules. This can help to provide the best possible educational programs for all students,” said Deneka Michaud, a spokeswoman for the North Vancouver School District.

Toronto District School Board Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC)

Motion #6 Need for TDSB to Establish A Policy on “Refusals to Admit”

BACKGROUND

At its February 2017 meeting, SEAC received a presentation by the ARCH Disability Law Centre. It raised concerns that school boards, including TDSB, at times inappropriately use “refusals to admit” students to school. This issue can significantly affect students with special education needs and all students with disabilities. A school or principal may tell a their family to keep the student at home for hours, days, or longer, without giving reasons or following safeguards required when a student is suspended or expelled.

ARCH told SEAC it learned that TDSB did not then centrally collect statistics on how often these exclusions occur. ARCH expressed concerns (not limited to TDSB) for example, that a school may tell a family to keep a student with a disability at home, either because proper accommodations have not yet been arranged at school, or because supports, such as a Special Needs Assistant, were away. ARCH said when ARCH lawyers intervene, these situations are more likely corrected (again, not limited to TDSB).

TDSB staff made presentations to SEAC at its May, June and November 2017 meetings. TDSB staff said TDSB has no policy on the use of refusals to admit. Practices can vary from school to school. TDSB has a procedure (not a policy) regarding appeals from a refusal to admit. TDSB staff  have been working on draft reforms after SEAC raised this.

Recommendation

SEAC recommends as follows:

TDSB Needs a Refusal to Admit Policy
  1. TDSB should promptly adopt a comprehensive, mandatory policy on when TDSB will exercise any power to refuse to admit a student to school.
What is a Refusal to Admit?
  1. The refusal to admit policy should have no loopholes that would let a principal or teacher exclude a student informally without complying with the policy.
  2. a) A “refusal to admit” should include any time TDSB formally or informally asks or directs that a student not attend school, or that the student be removed from school, whether in writing or in a discussion
  3. b) A refusal to admit includes a TDSB request or direction that a student only attend school for part of the regular school day.
  4. c) A refusal to admit does not include a situation where a family requests that a student be absent from school for all or part of a school day, but TDSB is willing to let the student attend school.
Ensuring Alternative Education to Student Whom TDSB Refuses to Admit to School
  1. The “refusal to admit” policy should require TDSB to ensure that a student, excluded from attending school, is provided an equivalent and sufficient educational program, and that TDSB keeps record of and publicly accounts for its doing so.
When a Refusal to Admit is Allowed
  1. The policy should specifically spell out the situations when TDSB can consider refusing to admit a student, including:
  2. a) A refusal to admit should only be imposed when necessary to protect health and safety.
  3. b) A refusal to admit should go no further and last no longer than is necessary.
  4. c) A principal should only resort to a refusal to admit if the principal can demonstrate that the student presents an imminent risk to health or safety which cannot be addressed by lesser measures, such as suspension.
  5. d) If a refusal to admit is to take place, the first resort should be to exclude the student from a specific class, accommodating that student in another class. Only if that can’t be sufficient, should a principal consider excluding the student from that school, accommodating the student at another school. TDSB should only refuse to admit a student from any and all schools if it is impossible to accommodate them at any other school.
  6. e) The policy should give clear examples of the circumstances when a refusal to admit is permitted, and when it is not permitted.
  7. f) A refusal to admit should not be allowed to last more than five consecutive school days.
  8. g) TDSB should justify the refusal to admit. It should not be for the student or the student’s family to justify why the student should be allowed to attend school.
  9. h) When TDSB staff decide whether to refuse to admit a student, they should take into account all mitigating considerations that are considered when deciding whether to suspend or expel a student.
  10. i) TDSB should not refuse to admit a student with a disability on the ground that TDSB staff believe they cannot accommodate the student’s needs, e.g. because staff is absent.
Extension of Refusal to Admit
  1. The policy should set these terms:
  2. a) If after a refusal to admit expires, TDSB wants to extend it, TDSB staff must justify it.
  3. b) The student’s family need not prove why the student should be allowed to return.
  4. c) An extension of a refusal to admit must first consider excluding the student from a single class, and then the option of excluding the student from that school, and only as a last resort, excluding the student from all schools.
  5. d) An extension should not be permitted if TDSB has not put in place an effective alternative option for the student to receive education.
Fair Procedure
  1. The “refusal to admit” policy should set out fair procedures that TDSB must follow when refusing to admit a student. These procedures should ensure accountability of TDSB and its employees, including:
  2. a) A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when TDSB is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.
  3. b) The principal should be required to notify the school superintendent in writing that the principal is going to refuse to admit a student and the reasons for this.
  4. c) The prior review and approval of the superintendent should be required. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.
  5. d) The superintendent should independently assess whether TDSB has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit, and has met all the requirements of the TDSB refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).
  6. e) The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. That should include outlining steps that TDSB has taken or will be taking to expedite a student’s return to school and provide an expected timeline for the completion of these steps.
  7. f) The principal should immediately tell the student and the student’s family, in clear and plain language, in writing, what a refusal to admit is, its duration, the reasons for it, the steps TDSB is taking to expedite the student’s return to school and time lines for those steps, the TDSB’s process for reviewing that decision, and the family’s right to appeal it (including how to use that right of appeal). This should be provided in a language that the family speaks.
  8. g) These procedures should again be followed any time TDSB extends a refusal to admit.
  9. h) A refusal to admit should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the executive superintendent of the Learning Centre where that student ordinarily attends.
  10. i) No refusal to admit should be extended for an accumulated total of more than 20 days (within a surrounding 45 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of Education.
Appeals
  1. The refusal to admit policy should include a fair and prompt appeal process which includes:
  2. a) The appeal should be to officials at TDSB who had no involvement with the initial decision to refuse to admit or any extensions of it.
  3. b) TDSB should promptly inform the student and the student’s family about how to start an appeal, who decides the appeal, the procedures for the appeal, that the student and family can present reports, support people or experts or any other information they wish, and can have a representative, either a lawyer or other person, to speak for them or assist them with the appeal.
  4. c) The appeal should include an in-person meeting with the student and family.
  5. d) The appeal should be heard and decided very promptly.
  6. e) On the appeal, the TDSB should have the burden to prove that the refusal to admit was justified, that it went no further and lasted no longer than was necessary, and that proper alternative education programming was provided or offered.
  7. f) A decision on the appeal should promptly be provided in writing with reasons.
Accountability and Transparency of TDSB’s Refusals to Admit
  1. The policy should include:
  2. a) TDSB should set a unique code for marking attendance for a student who is absent from school for all or part of a day due to a refusal to admit.
  3. g) Each principal should be required to immediately report to their superiors in writing whenever a student is excluded from school, including the student’s name, whether the student has special education needs or otherwise has a disability, the reason for the exclusion, the intended duration of the exclusion, and the substitute educational programming that will be provided to the student while excluded from school.
  4. c) TDSB should centrally collect these reports.
  5. d) TDSB should make public quarterly aggregated data (without any names or identifying information) on the number of refusals to admit, reasons for them, percentage that involve , students with special education needs or any kind of disability, the number of days missed from school, and measures to provide alternative education during refusals to admit.
Funding for Emergency Disability Accommodation Needs
  1. To help ensure that refusals to admit are not used due to a failure to accommodate a student’s disability up to the point of undue hardship, the TDSB should create an emergency fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.

Interim Safeguards

Starting immediately, and until a new refusal to admit policy is approved, TDSB should require that any formal or informal refusal to admit a student be in writing, with reasons for it, and with the student’s family being told of their right to appeal under the existing TDSB appeal procedure. TDSB should require that any refusals to admit during this period be centrally reported in writing, with statistics reported quarterly to the Board, the public and SEAC.

Please Support the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Please Support the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement

January 18, 2019

          SUMMARY

We wish one and all a happy and barrier-free New Year! We are kicking off 2019 by making public the AODA Alliance’s finalized brief that calls for significant reforms to the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). We have just submitted this finalized brief to the hon. David Onley, whom the Ontario Government appointed last February to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

You can download our entire finalized brief in an accessible MS Word document by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Jan-15-2019-AODA-Alliance-brief-to-david-onley-AODA-Independent-Review-with-pagination.docx

If you want to just read the findings that we urge David Onley to reach, and the recommendations we urge him to make, you can see all of these gathered, chapter by chapter, in one place, in the brief’s appendix, which you can download in an accessible MS Word document by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/jan-15-2019-appendix-to-AODA-Alliance-brief-to-david-onley-with-pagination.docx

Late last fall, we made public a draft of this brief, and invited input. Thanks to all who shared their feedback. Our finalized brief includes everything that was in the draft brief. There have been some minor wording adjustments, typos fixed, and formatting adjustments.

We have added three short sections to the brief. We set these out below. They total 12 pages. In summary:

  1. In the introductory chapter, we added the new heading 6. It urges Mr. Onley to issue a strong and if at all possible, immediate recommendation that the Ontario Government now lift its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the 2 Education Standards Development Committees. We did so after learning that late last month; Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho wrote the Health Care Standards Development Committee and two Education Standards Development Committees to say that the Government is now awaiting David Onley’s report before deciding what to do about the Government’s seven-month-long freeze on the work of those AODA Standards Development Committees. This new part of the brief reproduces what the Ontario Government said in that letter.
  1. In Chapter 1, we added the new heading 6. It explains why, in our view, Ontario has fallen behind schedule for reaching its 2025 accessibility deadline.
  1. In Chapter 1, we added the new heading 10 at the end of that chapter. It spells out why, in our view, our recommendations fit well within the agenda of Ontario’s new Government. We encourage Mr. Onley to address that topic in his report.

We encourage one and all to send David Onley a short email, voicing your support for the findings and recommendations in the AODA Alliance finalized brief. You can email him at david.onley@utoronto.ca

If you don’t have time to say more, you might just say something like this:

“I support the findings and recommendations in the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to the David Onley AODA Independent Review.”

MORE DETAILS

Major New Additions in the AODA Alliance’s finalized January 15, 2019 Brief to the David Onley AODA Independent Review

Introductory Chapter

8. Right Off the Top – The Pressing Need for This Independent Review to Recommend that the New Ontario Government Immediately Lift Its Freeze on the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees

Before diving into the range of issues that this brief explores in depth in the following chapters, we wish as an important preliminary matter to urge this AODA Independent Review to recommend as soon as possible that the Ontario Government should immediately lift its 7-month freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees that have been appointed under the AODA. We encourage this Independent Review to issue a short interim report, in order to make this recommendation, and to get it in the Government’s hands as soon as possible.

Heading 7 in Chapter 5 of this brief addresses the need for Ontario to develop and enact an Education Accessibility Standard to tear down the disability accessibility barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system, and a Health Care Accessibility Standard to tear down the barriers facing patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. Students with disabilities face too many disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. Patients with disabilities face too many barriers in Ontario’s health care system.

That chapter addresses the pressing need for the new Ontario Government to lift its freeze on the work of three Standards Development Committees which were already at work before the 2018 Ontario election. These committees were developing recommendations for an Education Accessibility Standard and a Health Care Accessibility Standard.

It took us many years and tenacious advocacy to eventually get the former Ontario Government to agree to develop new AODA accessibility standards to address those barriers. In 2017, the former Government appointed a Health Care Standards Development Committee. In Early 2018, it appointed a K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and a Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. They were hard at work when their work was frozen last June, in the wake of the June 2018 Ontario election. Their work remains frozen to this day.

Chapter 5 explains why it is essential for these Standards Development Committees to be allowed to resume their work without further delay, and for this seven-month freeze to be lifted. In our unsuccessful efforts over the past seven months to get this freeze lifted, the new Government has never claimed that Ontario’s education system and health care system are barrier-free for people with disabilities, or that there is no need for people with disabilities to have accessibility in the areas of health care or education. However, just days ago, we learned that the Government has said that it is waiting for the report of this AODA Independent Review before it decides whether to lift its freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees.

On January 9, 2019, we received a copy of the December 20, 2018 letter from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho to the chair of the K-12 Standards Development Committee. In that letter, Minister Cho stated:

“I am writing to update you on the status of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

As you know, the Hon. David Onley’s Third Legislative Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is currently underway and nearing its submission date. At Mr. Onley’s request, he has been granted a one-month extension to complete his work, and his report is now due on January 31, 2019. I am looking forward to reading his assessment of the AODA and any proposed recommendations.

In this regard, we will be waiting to review Mr. Onley’s report before considering the best path forward to further improving accessibility in Ontario.

Since taking office in June, our new Government for the People has acted swiftly and with determination to implement change that will get Ontario back on track. Once we have analysed and carefully considered the Review, we intend to move forward with the same determination to break down barriers, improve accessibility and make Ontario open for business for everyone.

Your committee has already done meaningful work exploring barriers faced by kindergarten to Grade 12 students. As the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, I appreciate your valuable contribution. I wish you a happy holiday season and look forward to working with you in the New Year.”

Before this, the Government had not made any public statement that it was awaiting this AODA Independent Review’s report before deciding on the future of these Standards Development Committees. The Government has known of the existence of this AODA Independent Review for months. Had the Government earlier said that it was awaiting this Independent Review’s advice on point, we would have immediately urged this Independent Review to issue a short interim report to recommend that this freeze be lifted.

Much public attention in the past months has focused on the new Government’s concern to reduce the costs of government. Chapter 5 of this brief offers several recommendations on how the standards development process under the AODA can be conducted in a more cost-effective way.

The impact of this freeze has been an increased cost to the public, including people with disabilities. As long as Ontario continues without effective accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education, health care providers and facilities, as well as schools, colleges and universities will continue to create new disability barriers, including doing so with public money. (See further Chapter 7) It will cost the public more for those barriers to later be removed. It also costs the public more when the Government leaves it to each education organization and each health care organization to re-invent the accessibility wheel, rather than having the benefit of the directions of clear and strong accessibility standards in these areas.

There is no need for the Government to study and decide on the other issues that this Independent Review will address before it decides on lifting the freeze on these Standards Development Committees. Last fall, the Government was able to decide, without the benefit of this Independent Review’s report, to lift its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. As is documented in Chapter 5, the new Government, when in opposition, was sufficiently familiar with these issues to demand that the former Ontario Government agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard, and to appoint a Standards Development Committee to work on it.

Any further delay in deciding on lifting the freeze only continues to hurt students with disabilities and patients with disabilities. An immediate, short interim report making the recommendation requested here would help more swiftly bring that delay to an end.

If this Independent Review does not issue an interim report on this topic, then we encourage this Independent Review to place a recommendation to lift this freeze close to the start of its final report to the Government, so that it is prominent.

Chapter 1

6. Why is Ontario So Far Behind Schedule for Becoming Accessible to People with Disabilities by 2025?

Pervading this brief is a fundamentally important question: Why is Ontario so far behind schedule for becoming accessible by 2025? How did Ontario find itself in this predicament over 13.5 years after the AODA was enacted, and less than 6 years before the 2025 deadline for becoming accessible?

It is important for this AODA Independent Review to consider this question, in order to formulate appropriate reform recommendations that will hit the mark. We here identify several causes for Ontario’s current accessibility predicament. We do not list them in order of importance or significance. These causes combine together to produce the problem Ontario now faces.

Before listing these causes, we must address one factor that is clearly not a cause for this predicament. The problem is not that the Ontario Government didn’t know what needs to be done to get Ontario on schedule for full accessibility by 2025. What needs to be done has been very clear for years. The AODA spells much of it out in the legislation itself. Two successive Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews, the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, each gave the Ontario Government clear and productive recommendations.

The Government has had ample avenues to get input and advice. AODA Standards Development Committees have given the Government detailed recommendations. The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council has been available to advise the Government. For three years, the Government also had the benefit of the position of Special Advisor on Accessibility, reporting to the minister responsible for the AODA.

As well, community organizations like the AODA Alliance have given the Government advice and detailed recommendations through formal consultation sessions, and informal meetings and discussions. Time and again, this advice pointed in the same direction. As well, needed action has often been spelled out in election promises, by some or all of the political parties, including the Ontario Liberal Party that brought forward the AODA in 2004-2005 and that was in power for most of the time since then. Opposition parties raised concerns and suggestions in debates in the Legislature and through informal discussions with Government MPPs.

Thus, we turn our attention to the causes for this predicament. Prominent among these, especially in recent years, is the fact that there has been a troubling lack of concerted and effective leadership on this issue from Ontario’s Premier and from the Premier’s Office. This chapter later discusses this.

Both the 2010 Charles Beer AODA Independent Review Report and the 2014 Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review Report called for the Ontario Government to show new leadership on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Both reports called for the AODA’s implementation to be revitalized, and for new life to be breathed into it. The 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review specifically called for new leadership by the Premier, as a priority. Despite these strong recommendations from authoritative reviews that the former Ontario Government itself appointed, none of this new leadership and revitalization ever materialized.

For example, Premier Wynne never kept her 2014 written election promise to the AODA Alliance that she would instruct her ministers on their accessibility obligations and commitments. As this chapter and Chapter 10 discusses, she did not include many if not most of these commitments and obligations in her Mandate Letters to her ministers. No doubt, the ministers got the implicit message from this that these simply were not priorities.

Closely related to that cause for Ontario’s predicament, the lack of effective leadership on this issue thereafter appears to have trickled down to the senior political levels within the Ontario Government. Within any large organization like the Ontario Government, if there is a lack of effective leadership at the top on an issue, this risks spreading in the organization as a negative signal. When this persists over time, it becomes even more embedded within the organization’s DNA and harder to change.

That clearly appears to have occurred within the Ontario Government in the case of the accessibility issue. After the AODA was enacted, there has too often been a demonstrable lack of sustained political will on this issue in the party in power. Ministers periodically make encouraging speeches. During elections, political parties make encouraging pledges on accessibility. Yet at an operational level, it has quite infrequently gone beyond this at senior levels within the Ontario Government. This is so even though there were individuals within the governing party’s caucus, and even within its Cabinet, that wanted to do much more on accessibility.

By now, most of the MPPs who advocated for the enactment of the AODA and who voted for it have left politics. Their replacements came into public life without having taken part in the events leading to the AODA’s enactment.

Further contributing to this predicament are problems at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, addressed further later in this chapter and in Chapter 5. The Accessibility Directorate is the Government office that is responsible for leading the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Here again, within the Accessibility Directorate were any number of dedicated, hard-working individuals who wanted to do a good job. However, despite this, problems persisted. Our brief offers several recommendations to fix this recurring problem.

As Chapter 10 details, the Ontario Public Service appears more generally too often to have served as a barrier to progress on accessibility. There are some within the Ontario Public Service who are dedicated supporters on this issue. However, as an overall organization, it too frequently has served as a collective drag on progress, and even an impediment or opponent to progress.

Chapter 10 of this brief shows that the Ontario Government including the Ontario Public Service has not ensured that it is a fully accessible service-provider and employer. The Ontario Government repeatedly claims to lead by example, but continues to lead by a poor example. Over the years, we have met with successive deputy ministers responsible for the operations of the Ontario Public Service as an employer and service-provider, and with successive Secretaries of Cabinet to highlight this problem and to offer constructive solutions, too often without needed success for our efforts.

Making the foregoing worse as a cause of this problem has been the Government’s excessive secrecy around the operations of the Government on this issue, addressed later in this chapter and in Chapter 5. As but one example, the Ontario Government went to excessive lengths to throw obstacles in the AODA Alliance’s path when we tried to get access to information about the AODA’s enforcement in 2013 and 2015. They even sent an armada of fully five lawyers to an Information and Privacy Commission hearing in opposition to the AODA Alliance, in order to further that goal. Similarly, undue secrecy surrounds the work of AODA Standards Development Committees, and conceals the Government’s planning process for new public infrastructure. Thus, bureaucrats and private contractors can with impunity resist efforts at ensuring that this new infrastructure is accessible, without being subject to effective and timely public scrutiny or accountability. Chapters 1, 2, 5 and 7 7 further address this.

Also, slowing progress has been the lack of a multi-year provincial plan for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement to get Ontario to reach the 2025 deadline on time. This chapter later explores this.

Progress on accessibility has also been slowed by weak and ineffective AODA enforcement. Chapter 2 addresses this in detail. Those who violate the AODA, even knowingly and repeatedly, have little if anything to fear in the way of real and practical consequences. This is so despite the Government knowing of rampant AODA violations in the private sector for years, and despite ample unused funds being on hand for AODA enforcement.

Also, slowing progress on accessibility has been the fact that the AODA accessibility standards enacted to date, while helpful, are too weak and limited, as   Chapter 3 addresses. Even if fully obeyed, the existing AODA accessibility standards won’t ensure that obligated organizations will become accessible by 2025, or ever. The Ontario Government has done very little to address this problem which the 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review had amply documented. Chapter 4 of this brief also shows several important areas where new accessibility standards are needed under the AODA, including, for example, a strong, effective and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Our efforts to get the Ontario Government to develop and enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard for patients with disabilities and an Education Accessibility Standard for students with disabilities have met with years of foot-dragging by the previous Government, exacerbated by more foot-dragging by the new Ontario Government.

Creating new accessibility standards and reviewing the sufficiency of existing accessibility standards every five years is core to the AODA’s capacity to lead Ontario to 2025 as a fully accessible province. The process for developing new AODA accessibility standards and for conducting periodic reviews of existing standards is fraught with problems, as Chapter 5 demonstrates. Chapter 5 of this brief shows that there is a need to substantially reform and strengthen the process for developing AODA accessibility standards.

Also exacerbating this predicament, there remain serious problems with the Ontario Government’s efforts at educating the public, including obligated organizations, about accessibility and the AODA. As but two examples, there is a pressing need for schools to provide students with curriculum on accessibility standards, and for there to be mandatory accessibility training for professionals in fields like architecture and interior design. Chapter 6 describes this problem and recommends reforms.

Further slowing progress towards 2025, there remain in place several levers of readily available public power that the Ontario Government could easily and far more effectively use to promote progress on accessibility, but which the Government has not effectively used. Chapter 7 of this brief demonstrates that the Ontario Government has failed to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. Chapter 8 of this brief shows that the Ontario Government has not effectively reviewed all Ontario laws to ensure that they do not create or permit disability accessibility barriers. This is so even though all parties in the 2007 election promised that such a review would be completed. Chapter 9 of this brief explains that the Ontario Government has not acted effectively to ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities.

Finally, Chapter 11 shows that there is a pressing need for the Ontario Government to implement a strong and effective new strategy, beyond enacting an Employment Accessibility Standard, to substantially increase the opportunities for the employment of people with disabilities in Ontario. The former Ontario Government promised action in this area. Yet it dragged its feet for years, and then announced a strategy in June 2017 that is too weak and high-level.

All of the above explains the causes for Ontario being behind schedule up to the June 2018 Ontario election. Over the past seven months since then, an additional cause has arisen. The new Ontario Government has not implemented any new action to kick-start new efforts on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. In addition, it injected more delay, by maintaining for months a freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees. This is addressed in Chapters 4 and 5. That freeze was lifted later last fall in the case of two of the frozen Standards Development Committees. That freeze remains in effect for three other Standards Development Committees, as is addressed at several points in this brief, including in the Introduction.

It is, of course, entirely understandable that a new Government will take some time to get up to speed on the wide range of issues it must handle. However, to reduce this risk, we had provided assistance to Ontario’s new government early on, by:

* Briefing Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party over the months in advance of the election on key accessibility issues that the Government is facing.

* Last spring, sending all party leaders a detailed list of commitments on disability accessibility that we sought in the June 2018 election. It briefs all parties on the key issues.

* Sending Premier Doug Ford and Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho detailed letters in July 2018 that spell out the key actions needed in this area, as are referenced throughout this brief.

All political parties have agreed that Ontario should become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, and that the Ontario Government, through the AODA, should lead our concerted efforts towards that goal. Any comprehensive strategy to get Ontario back on schedule needs to address all the multiple causes for our current predicament of being far behind schedule. This brief offers concrete and constructive recommendations to that end. At one time or other, and often on many occasions, we have pressed the Ontario Government to take all of these measures. As this brief details, in a good number of cases, the former Ontario Government promised any number of these actions, but too often failed to keep its word. We urge this AODA Independent Review to make all the recommendations we propose so that Ontario’s new Government and the public have a constructive action plan that can be implemented to kick-start a new era of faster and more effective progress on accessibility.

Chapter 1

10. Why Strong Action on Accessibility Fits within the Agenda of Ontario’s New Government

Strong, effective Government action on accessibility fits well within the agenda of Ontario’s new Government. In addressing this, we emphasize that this AODA Independent Review, like the AODA Alliance, is strictly non-partisan.

Accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is a non-partisan issue. All parties in the Legislature have, at various times, brought forward legislation or amendments, and pressed for more action on accessibility. All parties have emphasized that disability barriers eventually hurt everyone, since everyone eventually is bound to get a disability. Each party has emphasized that accessibility is good for people with disabilities, for all members of the public, and for business.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party has made written election commitments on the need for disability accessibility legislation in elections in 1995, 2007, 2014 and 2018. These letters were signed by PC leaders Mike Harris, John Tory, Tim Hudak, and most recently, by Doug Ford.

On October 29, 1998, when Mike Harris was Ontario’s premier, the Legislature unanimously passed an historic resolution. It adopted eleven important principles that a strong and effective Disabilities Act should fulfil. Each PC MPP in the Legislature voted for that resolution.

In 2005, all parties, including each PC MPP, voted unanimously to pass the AODA, and gave it a standing ovation. The AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It requires the Government to lead Ontario to that goal by enacting and effectively enforcing regulations called accessibility standards.

During the 2005 clause-by-clause debate on the AODA, the PC Party proposed amendments at the request of our predecessor coalition, to make the bill even stronger. After the AODA was enacted, the PC leader congratulated the Government for passing it. On a number of occasions while in opposition, the Ontario PC Party has put questions to the Ontario Government at our request, to press for more action on the AODA’s implementation.

In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford continued the PC Party’s commitment to this legislation and its goal, reaffirming:

“Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”

That record fits within a bigger picture. In each of the three Canadian provinces which enacted accessibility legislation, namely Ontario (2005), Manitoba (2013) and Nova Scotia (2017), that legislation unanimously passed. Each Conservative Party supported it.

Similarly, last fall, when the House of Commons passed Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, it was unanimously supported, including by the Conservative Party of Canada. On behalf of the disability community, the Conservative Party of Canada proposed amendments in the House of Commons that would have strengthened Bill C-81 – amendments which the Federal Government voted down.

Looking more broadly. The Americans with Disabilities Act was proudly signed into law in 1990 by Republican US President George H.W. Bush. Earlier, when he was US Vice President, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to chair a national de-regulation task force. The Americans with Disabilities Act was supported in the US Congress by Democrats and Republicans alike, including by Senator Bob Dole, who later ran for president as Republican nominee.

The need for the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to disability accessibility by 2025 aligns with the PC Party’s current agenda. In Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, he committed:

“Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus”

and

“they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party.”

He committed during the 2018 election to lead a Government “for the people”. At least 1.9 million of the people of Ontario now have a disability. The rest are bound to later get a disability, as they grow older. “The people” are, at some time in their lives, all people with disabilities.

The Government has announced the goal to make Ontario open for business. This needs to include ensuring that Ontario is open for employees, job-seekers, business owners and customers with disabilities.

The new Government said it aims to be responsible in the use of taxpayers’ money. We suggest it was irresponsible for public money to be used in the past to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities, as we address further in Chapter 7.  An ounce of barrier prevention is worth many pounds of cure. A firm commitment to accessibility saves taxpayers the expense of re-doing projects after the fact, to fix accessibility barriers that should have been prevented. Clear and time-based accessibility standards promote stability for businesses, who can then plan with those standards in mind.

In Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, written during the 2018 election campaign, he made a number of important points. These show why it is so important for the AODA to be effectively implemented.

As we explain in Chapter 3, the 2011 AODA Employment Accessibility Standard, now under review by the Employment Standards Development Committee, needs to be strengthened to ensure that the workplaces of tomorrow are barrier-free for job-seekers and employees with disabilities. To do so fits well within the position of the PC Party. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford wrote:

“When it comes to people with disabilities, we have a moral and an economic responsibility to focus on their abilities and not just on what holds them back. Our family members, friends and neighbours who have a disability of some kind are a wellspring of talent and determination….

…It’s also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities can’t do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.”

As Chapter 9 of this brief shows, voters with disabilities can still encounter unfair voting barriers in elections in Ontario. Fixing this problem with new legislation is well within the PC Party’s record. It was commendable that in 2010, when the Legislature was considering bill 231 (intended to modernize Ontario elections), the PC Party proposed a number of good amendments at our request to make voting fully accessible to voters with disabilities. The previous Government defeated those amendments.

Further showing that action in this area fits within the new Government’s agenda, in his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford also wrote:

“There’s no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election.”

Creating, enacting and enforcing a strong Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA falls well within the PC Party’s platform and perspective. While in opposition, the PC Party helped us in Question Period over the past three years to get the previous Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Moreover, in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford also wrote:

“The Ontario PC Party believes our education system must minimize barriers for students with disabilities, providing the skills, opportunities and connections with the business community that are necessary to enter the workforce.”

Developing needed accessibility standards, including in the area of the built environment, is also well within the PC Party’s platform. As well, Doug Ford wrote:

“This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter highlighted Christine Elliot’s important role within the PC Party on disability issues. The PC Party designated her to speak on behalf of the Ontario PC Party at the May 16, 2018 provincial all-candidates’ debate on disability issues, held in Toronto. She there made important commitments on the PC Party’s behalf, on issues such as the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, on ensuring that students with disabilities can fully participate in education at school, colleges and university, on ODSP reform, on the need for affordable, accessible and, where needed, supportive housing, and other topics.

In his letter, Doug Ford expressed a strong desire to work with the AODA Alliance on disability accessibility issues. He wrote:

“Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.”

The new Government ran for office on a platform to try to make the Ontario Government a more efficient operation. This brief identifies a number of troubling inefficiencies in how the Ontario Government has approached accessibility and recommends cost-effective improvements.

The new Government ran for office on an agenda to reduce the number of regulations, particularly as they apply to businesses. That platform doesn’t stand in the way of the Government effectively implementing and enforcing the AODA, including through the enactment of needed accessibility standards under the AODA.

The points made above give illustrations where AODA accessibility standard regulations fit within the PC agenda. Moreover, it was not the new Government’s platform to eliminate all regulations in Ontario, or to refuse to ever enact any new regulations in any circumstance.

Conservative governments with a strong de-regulation agenda can nevertheless enact and enforce regulations where they are needed. As noted above, US Vice President Bush led a national de-regulation task force in the US, and yet, when later elected president, proudly supported the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark new regulatory law.

Moreover, Ontario’s Conservative Party had a similar platform in favour of a reduction in regulatory burdens when its MPPs unanimously voted to pass the AODA. That party, with that platform, made commendable efforts on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities to get the AODA’s regulatory requirements strengthened in 2005, when it was still a bill before the Legislature.

As well, nothing in Premier Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, quoted earlier, signals any reluctance to or objection to the use of regulatory measures to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. As just noted above, and as is addressed at various points in this brief, the PC Party did not run on a platform to reduce the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. When in opposition, the PC Party supported the AODA Alliance’s efforts to get a new regulation developed in Ontario under the AODA, an Education Accessibility Standard.

The new Government is concerned about regulatory burdens on small business. The AODA was carefully designed so that accessibility standards need not be “one size fits all.” accessibility standards can and do set different requirements for big business than for small businesses, and can set different timelines for big business than for small business. In fact all accessibility standards to date enacted under the AODA do so. If anything, accessibility standards to date exempt or provide substantially reduced provisions for small business.

Finally, in the end, any AODA accessibility standard regulations do not impose any new substantive obligations on businesses or other organizations. Rather, they implement the rights which are already guaranteed to people with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and where applicable, the Charter of Rights. If those regulations are developed properly and are effective, they can help businesses in Ontario make money. Accessibility means a business gets access to a wider customer base and a wider pool of potential employees. They help a business retain existing employees as they acquire disabilities, through illness, injury or the natural aging process. They are able to serve a huge international market. There are upwards of one billion people with disabilities around the world.

Therefore, Ontario’s new Government should be open to consider, to accept and to welcome the recommendations for action that this brief proposes.

Raise Public Transit Accessibility Barriers at the December 13, 2018 TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit -and – The AODA Alliance Sends the Ontario Government a Written Submission for the Provincial Consultation on Education in Ontario

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Raise Public Transit Accessibility Barriers at the December 13, 2018 TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit –and – The AODA Alliance Sends the Ontario Government a Written Submission for the Provincial Consultation on Education in Ontario

December 7, 2018

          SUMMARY

1. Your Chance to Alert TTC to Public Transit Barriers in Toronto

Have you run into accessibility barriers when using public transit in Toronto? Here is a great chance to try to press for reforms at TTC.

Below you can find the Toronto Transit Commission’s announcement of its 2018 Annual Public Forum on Accessible Transit. It will be held on the evening of Thursday, December 13, 2018 from 7 to 9 pm. You can come one hour earlier if you want to speak to TTC officials, one on one. We encourage one and all in the Toronto area to come to this event and raise accessibility problems you have experienced on the TTC. It is important to shine the light on accessibility issues that continue to plague people with disabilities on public transit in Canada’s biggest city.

Over two years ago, the Ontario Government appointed a new Transportation Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to review the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, and to recommend any needed changes to strengthen it. That Committee’s final reform recommendations are very weak. They won’t significantly improve that very limited accessibility standard.

Please contact your local media and encourage them to attend the TTC forum. Video record or photograph barriers on TTC you have experienced. Send them to the media. Publicize them on social media like Twitter and Facebook. Use the ever-popular hashtag #AODAfail in tweets about these barriers, as part of our “Picture Our Barriers” campaign.

TTC will again stream the event live. This may only be for those who pre-register for this event. Check out details below in the TTC announcement.

This TTC Public Forum originated in 2008 as a result of the 2007 Human Rights Tribunal order in Lepofsky v. TTC #2. Eleven years ago, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered TTC to hold one such event per year for the three years after the Tribunal ruled against TTC in Lepofsky v. TTC #2.

After starting to hold these events, to its credit, TTC decided to keep holding these events once per year, even though TTC originally and strenuously opposed David Lepofsky when he asked the Human Rights Tribunal to make this order.

Since 2011, TTC and all public transit providers in Ontario are required by law to hold a similar event each year in your community under section 41(2) of the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation, enacted under the AODA. If you live outside Toronto, ask your public transit provider when they are planning to hold their annual public forum on accessible transit. If your public transit authority has not done so, please contact Raymond Cho, Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors. He is the Ontario cabinet minister responsible for enforcing the AODA, to ask that this provision be strictly enforced. That section provides:

“41(2) Every conventional transportation service provider shall annually hold at least one public meeting involving persons with disabilities to ensure that they have an opportunity to participate in a review of the accessibility plan and that they are given the opportunity to provide feedback on the accessibility plan.”

Let us know if your public transit authority in Ontario is holding a similar event this year, or did so last year. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

There has always been a great turnout of hundreds of people at TTC’s public forums on accessible transit. Each wants a chance at the microphone to tell their story. Unfortunately, TTC each year uses up far too much time, as much as a third of the time in some instances, making speeches on what a great job TTC says it’s doing on accessibility. We have urged TTC to keep all of those speeches down to a total of five or ten minutes, maximum, to give as much time as possible to the attendees to speak, since they made the effort to come to this event. We hope TTC will listen to this suggestion this time. They have not done so in the past.

Under the Human Rights Tribunal’s order, all TTC Commissioners were required to attend each public forum. Since that order expired, many if not most TTC Commissioners have skipped these TTC accessible transit public forums. This is wrong. TTC chose the forum’s date well in advance. Its Commissioners should be able to make it. If hundreds of people with disabilities take the time out of their busy day to come to speak to the TTC Commissioners, the least that those TTC Commissioners can do is to themselves take the time to show up to this TTC community event and listen to the front-line experiences of TTC riders with disabilities.

2. AODA Alliance Sends the Ontario Government a Written Submission for the Government’s Current Consultation on Education in Ontario

The Ontario Government is holding a public consultation on how it should reform Ontario’s education system. On December 7, 2018, the AODA Alliance sent the Ontario Government a 34-page written submission.

Our submission makes 14 recommendations. In our submission, we emphasized points we have made time and again. Ontario’s education system has far too many barriers that hurt one third of a million students with disabilities. Ontario’s Ministry of Education needs to be substantially reformed to make it far more responsive to the needs of students with disabilities. the Government needs to lift its 170-day old freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees working on recommendations for an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.

You can download the December 7, 2018 AODA Alliance brief to the Ontario Government on the Provincial Consultation on Education by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/December-7-2018-AODA-Alliance-Submission-to-Ontario-Government.docx

Please email the Government to support our brief. Write the Ontario Government at: To: fortheparents@ontario.ca

You can find out more about the Government’s consultation by visiting https://www.ontario.ca/page/for-the-parents

You can send in your own submission by emailing the Government at fortheparents@ontario.ca

You can learn lots more about the AODA Alliance’s years of campaigning for accessibility for students with disabilities by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/education

3. It’s Time For a Break!

The time has come for the AODA Alliance to take a short holiday break, after this, our 76th AODA Alliance Update this year. We will be off-line and not answering emails, tweets, or even messages by carrier pigeon, until early in the new year.

We want to wish everyone a happy, safe, healthy and barrier-free holiday season and new year. We thank one and all of our many supporters for their encouragement, support and help over the past year. After a good rest, we’ll be ready to swing into action on the provincial and federal fronts with the same tenacity for which we are reputed. Thanks for being part of this important cause.

          more details

TTC Announcement of the 2018 Accessible Transit Public Forum

You are invited to the 2018 TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit.

New date: Thursday, December 13, 2018

One-on-One Discussions: 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Open Public Forum: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

New location: Metro Toronto Convention Centre

255 Front Street West, North Building

Rooms 205/206 (Main floor)

The purpose of the Forum is to update customers about TTC accessibility initiatives, including the Wheel-Trans 10-Year Strategy, Family of Services, Travel Training Pilot Program, and the Easier Access project, and gather feedback about possible improvements to the TTC’s accessible conventional and specialized services.

Customers can meet one-on-one with TTC staff, management, and the TTC’s Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT) between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. The open Public Forum will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The closest subway stations to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre are Union and St Andrew (both are accessible). For assistance in planning your trip using the conventional TTC call 416-393-4636.

Wheel-Trans customers may book trips to the Public Forum starting one week prior to the event. Please note that all return trips will be organized after the event finishes at 9:00 p.m. and will not be scheduled in advance.

ASL, captioning, and attendants will be available. Refreshments will not be provided.

Can’t attend in person? Join our webcast and participate from the comfort of your home. More information on the webcast is available at https://www.meetview.com/ttc20181213/

Excellent Toronto Star Article Reports on Our Call for Canada’s Senate to Hold Public Hearings and Amend the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

Excellent Toronto Star Article Reports on Our Call for Canada’s Senate to Hold Public Hearings and Amend the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

December 5, 2018

Summary

Page A-3 of the December 4, 2018 Toronto Star included a great report on our call for Canada’s Senate to hold public hearings early in 2019, and to amend the weak Bill C-81. That bill is the Federal Government’s proposed Accessible Canada Act. We set out the Toronto Star article below.

Proposed by the Federal Government, Bill C-81 is supposed to make Canada become barrier-free for people with disabilities. However, its well-intentioned provisions are quite weak. They let the Federal Government do a lot of things to advance the goal of accessibility, if it wishes. However this bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to do very much. It allows for the bill’s enforcement. However it creates a confusing and complicated enforcement process that people with disabilities will often find hard to navigate.

We will have lots more to say about this in the New Year. In the meantime, we welcome your help with this effort. Please contact any senators you can. Send them this article, and the AODA Alliance’s December 3, 2018 news release. Senators are identified by the province they represent. Feel free to reach out to any senator, whether or not they come from your province. You can find out which senators come from your province. For each senator, you can find out their political party affiliation, if any, and their contact information such as their email address and Twitter handle by visiting https://sencanada.ca/en/senators/

Emphasize to them that this is all about equality for people with disabilities, a vulnerable population in our society. Urge senators to agree to hold public hearings on Bill C-81 early in 2019. Urge them to amend Bill C-81, especially in light of the concerns set out in the October 30, 2018 Open Letter to the Federal Government on Bill C-81, which is included in our December 3, 2018 news release.

Let us know what you do and what response you get. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

In the build-up to the holiday break, there will be more AODA Alliance Updates than usual this week. All the news we will share is important. Please circulate our updates to your friends.

For tons of background on our campaign to get Bill C-81 strengthened, and to read all the debates in the House of Commons on this bill, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

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The Toronto Star December 4, 2018 Page A-3

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/12/03/advocates-urge-senate-to-improve-national-accessibility-law.html

News

National accessibility legislation ‘falls short’

Advocates for disabled cite lack of timeline in asking Senate for change

Laurie Monsebraaten Toronto Star

Disability activists say Ottawa has ignored their calls to strengthen Canada’s first national accessibility legislation and are urging the Senate to intervene.

More than 90 groups, including the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and Ontario-based ARCH Disability Law, say the proposed Accessible Canada Act, passed by Parliament on Nov. 27, is too weak to achieve its goal of making Canada barrier-free for over five million Canadians with disabilities.

They want the Senate to hold public hearings next year and make amendments to improve the legislation before it becomes law.

“People with disabilities still face too many accessibility barriers in areas that the federal government regulates, like air or train travel, cable and internet TV service, and dealing with the federal government,” said David Lepofsky, head of the AODA Alliance, an Ontario disability coalition working to ensure the province achieves its goal of becoming fully accessible by 2025.

“The federal legislation has good intentions, but falls short on implementation and enforcement,” said Lepofsky, whose coalition is leading the disability community’s appeal to the Senate.

Carla Qualtrough, minister for public services and procurement and accessibility, said the government is grateful for the participation and contribution of Canadians with disabilities in developing the law.

“Like other members of the disability community, I am eager to see meaningful progress in a timely manner,” said Qualtrough, who is blind.

“For that reason, we are working to achieve significant progress within the first year following the passage of the act. This includes opening the doors of the new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization in the summer of 2019.”

The Accessible Canada Act, introduced in June, covers federally regulated sectors such as banking, interprovincial and international transportation, telecommunications and government-run services such as Canada Post.

In an open letter Oct. 30 to Qualtrough and the federal standing committee studying the legislation, disability activists urged the government to make nine amendments to beef up the law.

Currently, the legislation sets no timetable for Ottawa to meet its goal of a “barrier-free” Canada and nothing in the legislation compels the government to act, activists say.

In the Legislature Yesterday, the Ford Government Refused to Lift Its 168-Day Freeze on Standards Development Committees that Were Working on Recommendations to Remove Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education and Health Care System – Yet Two Years Ago Tomorrow, It Was the Tory Party That Had Demanded in the Legislature that Ontario Create the Very Education Accessibility Regulation that the Ford Government Has Now Frozen Work on Developing

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

www.aodaalliance.org  aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

In the Legislature Yesterday, the Ford Government Refused to Lift Its 168-Day Freeze on Standards Development Committees that Were Working on Recommendations to Remove Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education and Health Care System – Yet Two Years Ago Tomorrow, It Was the Tory Party That Had Demanded in the Legislature that Ontario Create the Very Education Accessibility Regulation that the Ford Government Has Now Frozen Work on Developing

December 4, 2018

         SUMMARY

In light of events yesterday in the Ontario Legislature, tomorrow, December 5, 2018, looks to be a troubling anniversary in our non-partisan campaign in Ontario for accessibility for people with disabilities. Here is why!

Two years ago tomorrow, back on December 5, 2016, we were delighted that Ontario’s Conservative Party, then the opposition in the Ontario Legislature, rose during Question Period on our behalf, to demand that the Wynne Government finally agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We need an Education Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA because over one third   of a million students with disabilities in Ontario continue to face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s schools, colleges, universities and other education organizations, when they try to get an education. You cannot get a good job unless you first get a good education.

We were also delighted two years ago tomorrow, when Premier Wynne at last agreed, in the face of the Conservatives’ demands, to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Premier Wynne’s agreement in the face of questions from Conservative MPP Bill Walker two years ago, came after years of dithering by the former Ontario Government in this area. We document those years of dithering in Chapters 4 and 5 of our draft brief to the David Onley AODA Independent Review. Below we set out the transcript of the historic exchange that took place in Ontario’s  Legislature back on December 5, 2016.

Fast-Forward two years, to the present. We still do not have an Education Accessibility Standard. Why is this? After a year of further delay, the former Ontario Government finally appointed two Education Standards Development Committees under the AODA last winter. These independent committees are mandated under the AODA to develop recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include. One Education Standards Development Committee was appointed to make recommendations on the disability barriers that need to be removed in Ontario schools. The other Standards Development Committee was appointed to develop recommendations on the barriers that need to be removed in Ontario’s colleges and universities. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was appointed as a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

Those Standards Development Committees, as well as three others, were busy at work last spring, right up to the spring 2018 election. Then everything was called to a sudden and total halt. After the June 7, 2018 Ontario election, all the work of any Standards Development Committee under the AODA was frozen. We have been tenaciously campaigning to get this freeze lifted.

Over three months ago, on August 29, 2018, we wrote Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho a detailed letter. It spells out why The Ford Government should immediately lift its freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees. The Ford Government has not answered that letter.

This freeze has garnered media attention, including CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning program on August 30, 2018, CBC Radio Ottawa’s All in A Day Program on August 30, 2018, and CBC TV and Radio news reports on November 13, 2018.

Last month, the Ford government finally lifted its freeze on the work of two AODA Standards Development Committees. One is addressing barriers in employment. The other is addressing barriers in information and communication.

However, three important Standards Development Committees are still frozen. They have remained frozen for 168 days, right up to this day. This freeze includes the work of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. This freeze also includes the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. This latter committee has been working for some two years on recommendations to the Ontario Government on what the Government should include in a Health Care Accessibility Standard. That accessibility standard would tear down disability barriers that hurt patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

So what happened yesterday? Yesterday, December 3, 2018, was the International Day for People with Disabilities. To mark that day, opposition NDP MPP Joel Harden, the NDP critic for disability issues, rose in the Ontario Legislature on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities to raise this important issue. In the exchange, set out in full below, MPP Harden called on the Ontario Government to lift the freeze on the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees.

Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho was not in the Legislature. Conservative MPP Sylvia Jones dodged the question, stating in part:

“There is no doubt that everyone in Ontario deserves to fully participate in our lives, in the everyday lives, and that includes recreation, that includes our work force, that includes our families, our schools and our justice system.

But we need to do it in a reasonable and measured way. That is what my colleague is doing, that is what he is working on. We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.”

So in sum, two years ago tomorrow, the Tories stood for people with disabilities, to demand that the Ontario Government create an Education Accessibility Standard. Yesterday, almost two years later, the Tories are in power and can do something about it. Yet instead of moving forward on this, they have frozen work on it, with no end in sight.

What reasons has the Ford government given over the past 168 days for this freeze? These include:

* The Government earlier said the Government needs time to brief the new Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. He has now had 157 days since Ontario’s new Cabinet was sworn in. That is sufficient time to brief a minister. This is especially so, since, to the new Government’s credit, Ontario now has a full-time Minister for Accessibility and Seniors. This is a top priority in his portfolio.

* Yesterday, in the Legislature, the Ford Government said it needs to proceed “in a reasonable and measured way.” We respectfully suggest that this protracted delay is neither reasonable nor measured. It hurts hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities. It also hurts vulnerable patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

Yesterday, the Government also said:

“We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.”

Yet, the Education Standards Development Committee has the stakeholders directly involved in the process. Each Standards Development Committee is made up of disability c community representatives as well as representatives from the education or health care sectors. Each Standards Development Committee is required to consult the stakeholders as a core part of its work.

In answer to an earlier question from NDP MPP Joel Harden yesterday that called for the Government to create a plan to get Ontario to full accessibility by 2025, the Government said in part:

“It’s important that we work with all of our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we have the most open and accessible province, but we need to do it in a reasonable way that makes sure that no one gets hurt along the way. So we’re working with stakeholders, we’re working with the accessibility citizens and we’re making sure that we’re getting it right.”

This is the first time the Ford Government said it is concerned that “no one gets hurt along the way.” We do not know why or how anyone would “get hurt along the way” for the Education Standards Development Committees and the Health Care Standards Development Committee to get back to work.

During last spring’s Ontario election, Doug Ford wrote the AODA Alliance to set out his party’s election commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities. His May 15, 2018 letter included:

“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.”

We encourage you to contact your member of the Ontario Legislature. Urge them to help us press The Ford Government to end its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees.

         MORE DETAILS

Ontario Hansard December 3, 2018

Question Period

ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Mr. Joel Harden: Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities and, as I pose this question, I want to acknowledge some of our friends from the disability rights community in the Speaker’s gallery. Thank you for being here.

My question is to the Deputy Premier.

Today is a day that should be reminding us that our province is on a deadline. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act has to be set in place with a legitimate plan by 2025, but every disability rights leader and organization I’ve met has told us that we’re way behind in meeting that objective.

Does the minister believe that we’re on track to have a fully accessible province by 2025?

Hon. Christine Elliott: To the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: I’m really glad that you’ve asked this question, because my colleague, the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, has been working full out on these issues, and he’s actually away today doing a speech on this very issue.

It’s important that we work with all of our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we have the most open and accessible province, but we need to do it in a reasonable way that makes sure that no one gets hurt along the way. So we’re working with stakeholders, we’re working with the accessibility citizens and we’re making sure that we’re getting it right.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.

Mr. Joel Harden: Back to the Deputy Premier:

Achieving full accessibility, according to experts who I’ve talked to, requires two things: a commitment and a plan. But right now, three out of five AODA standards committees, which are actually doing the work about accessible and inclusive health care and education for people living with a disability, their work has been frozen since the election. It’s one thing to say we support accessibility, but it’s another thing to actually make it a priority by putting those AODA committees to work.

My question is very simple: Will the minister unfreeze the committees and will the minister work with people with disabilities to develop a multi-year accessibility plan so Ontario is fully accessible by 2025?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: There is no doubt that everyone in Ontario deserves to fully participate in our lives, in the everyday lives, and that includes recreation, that includes our work force, that includes our families, our schools and our justice system.

But we need to do it in a reasonable and measured way. That is what my colleague is doing, that is what he is working on. We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.

Ontario Legislature Question Period December 5, 2016

ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED

Mr. Bill Walker: My question is to the Premier. It has been 11 years since this Legislature passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Yet, today, over a third of a million students with disabilities continue to face far too many barriers when they try to go to school, college or university in Ontario.

Today’s Toronto Star reports that 22 respected community organizations wrote the Premier, urging her to finally say “yes” to creating an educational accessibility standard and tear down those unfair barriers.

Premier, on October 31, you told this House that you were considering this. Will you agree to do it today?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: As the member has said, I have already indicated that I think that this is important. I had a meeting with David Lepofsky, who is, I know, mentioned in the article. The Minister of Education and the Minister responsible for accessibility have also met with David Lepofsky and many other groups.

We recognize that, as we have developed standards in other areas, as a health standard is being developed, that also there needs to be a standard developed in the education sector.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Bill Walker: Back to the Premier: You’ve had 10 years and you spent $8 billion on the eHealth registry. I hope that this isn’t going to be another fiasco like that.

This government’s continued inaction on this file is inexcusable. This government has no comprehensive plan to ensure that our education system will become fully accessible by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. The AODA Alliance has pressed you for over half a decade to agree to develop the standard under the AODA to tackle these barriers.

Can you tell a third of a million students with disabilities and their families what the holdup is, after the five years of this issue being before your government?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: It’s interesting. Since we came into office in 2003—and when we came into office, under the previous Premier, there was legislation that was in place that had no teeth and would have produced no results in terms of accessibility. We scrapped that and started again, and put in place legislation that has, over time, developed standards and has put in place acceptable standards across our society.

There’s a lot more to do, which is why we are working in the health sector right now. There are billions of dollars that are spent within the education system, whether it’s on special education or the $1.1 billion in additional funding that is going into building and renovating schools—all of which goes toward building schools that are more accessible.

Because the reality is, when many of the schools were built—particularly in the Toronto District School Board, where there are many old buildings that are still being used as schools—they were not up to standard. They were not accessible in any way.

We recognize that there’s more to be done, and there will be an education standard developed.

On The International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, the AODA Alliance Calls on the Senate to Amend the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act” After the Trudeau Government Voted Down Key Amendments in the House of Commons

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On The International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, the AODA Alliance Calls on the Senate to Amend the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act” After the Trudeau Government Voted Down Key Amendments in the House of Commons

December 3, 2018 Toronto: A tenacious Ontario-based disability rights coalition, the AODA Alliance, unveils its plans to take a campaign for Canada to enact a strong national accessibility law to Canada’s Senate! The proposed “Accessible Canada Act” which the House of Commons passed last week, is too weak to achieve its goal of making Canada barrier-free for over five million people in Canada with disabilities. Therefore the Senate needs to hold public hearings next year, and to make key amendments that the Trudeau Government blocked in the House of Commons, according to the AODA Alliance, a non-partisan Ontario disability coalition.

To mark December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities, the AODA Alliance calls on the Senate to hold public hearings and to substantially strengthen Bill C-81, to fix its major deficiencies. Key deficiencies in the bill are spelled out in a powerful October 30, 2018 Open Letter to the Government, signed by 91 disability organizations including the AODA Alliance. (set out below)

“People with disabilities still face too many accessibility barriers in areas that the Federal Government regulates, like air or train travel, cable and internet TV service, and dealing with the Federal Government,” said David Lepofsky, who led the decade-long grassroots campaign for Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation, and now chairs the AODA Alliance which campaigns to get that Ontario law effectively implemented. “It’s good that the Trudeau Government said it wants to become a leader on accessibility by enacting a great law that will make Canada barrier-free, putting the disability community in a central role and relieving individuals with disabilities from having to battle each barrier they face, one at a time. However Bill C-81 is strong on good intentions but weak on implementation and enforcement. It’s strong on symbolism, but weak on substance.”

In October many disability organizations, of which the AODA Alliance is but one, each repeatedly pressed for substantial amendments during House of Commons Standing Committee hearings. Despite this, the Trudeau Government only allowed limited improvements to the bill, while systematically voting down opposition amendments that would have made this a strong law. Key problems with the bill include, e.g.

* It’s good the bill sets the goal of a barrier-free Canada, but it doesn’t set a deadline for achieving this, unlike Ontario’s accessibility law. People with disabilities must indefinitely wait for accessibility, possibly forever.

* It’s good the bill aims to be enforced, but it creates a confusing and complicated enforcement maze for people with disabilities to navigate. Many asked the Federal Government to simplify the bill, by designating one federal agency, the proposed new Accessibility Commissioner, to lead the bill’s enforcement. Instead, over strong objections from many, the bill splinters the bill’s enforcement among fully four federal agencies. Of these, the Canada Transportation Agency and the CRTC have poor track records and no expertise on accessibility. They and their procedures are feared to lean in favour of the industries they regulate.

* It’s good that the bill lets the Government enact enforceable regulations to set accessibility standards. However, the bill doesn’t require that any accessibility standard regulations ever be enacted, unlike Ontario’s accessibility law.

“We wouldn’t want the Canada Transportation Agency to ever enact an accessibility regulation under this legislation, as is,” said Lepofsky for the AODA Alliance. “That’s because the bill  preserves the CTA’s harmful power to set rules on accessibility that could weaken our access rights, and that would take away our right to seek greater accessibility at a hearing under the CTA’s legislation.”

During House of Commons Third Reading Debates, the Trudeau Government claimed that people with disabilities are “very happy” with this bill. Yet in a showing of a powerful consensus, 91 disability community organizations wrote the Federal Government the Open Letter, set out below, that details major problems with the bill that need to be fixed. The Trudeau Government’s limited amendments to the bill didn’t solve these concerns.

“The AODA Alliance chose the powerfully symbolic and internationally-celebrated International Day for People with Disabilities, December 3, to call on the Senate to hold public hearings early in 2019 on this bill, to listen to the disability community, and to pass amendments needed to make this bill live up to the Federal Government’s stated intentions,” said Lepofsky. “If the Senate does so, the amended bill can return to the House of Commons for a final vote, with the 2019 federal election looming.”

At least five million people in Canada now have a physical, sensory, mental, intellectual, communication, learning or other disability. All others in Canada are bound to get a disability as they age. Especially on the eve of a federal election, no politician can disregard the needs of people with disabilities, the minority of everyone.

Contact:  David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

Twitter hashtags: #AccessibleCanada #accessibility #IDPD #AODA

Key Background Links

For an updated list of the disability organizations that have signed the Open Letter (which is updated as more organizations sign on), visit http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/fda/Open-Letter-30October2018

To read the AODA Alliance’s detailed September 27, 2018 brief to the House of Common’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, showing the full spectrum of amendments that the AODA Alliance itself requested, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/please-tell-the-federal-government-if-you-support-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-that-requests-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act/

For further background on the campaign for a strong national accessibility law in Canada, and to see all the debates on Bill C-81  gathered in one place, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Open Letter Regarding the Need to Strengthen Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act forwarded to the Federal Government by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities

October 30, 2018

Dear Minister Qualtrough and HUMA Committee Members:

We the undersigned commend the Federal Government for committing to enact national accessibility legislation.  As provincial and national disability rights organizations, we write to express significant concerns regarding Bill C-81. The following highlights our key concerns and reflects the concerns raised by our communities before the HUMA Committee. Amendments are essential to effectively remedy these concerns.

  1. Bill C-81 requires timelines. Timelines are essential to ensure that key accessibility measures are taken. Timelines are also required so that progress on accessibility can be measured. In particular, we support recommendations for the Bill to include a timeline for achieving a Canada without barriers, and timelines by which accessibility standards are developed and enacted into law. Timelines are also needed for establishing the infrastructure necessary to implement the Bill.
  1. Bill C-81 imposes no duty on Government to use the powers available in the Bill. We support recommendations to change the word may to shall to ensure that the Government implements key steps for achieving accessibility.
  1. Bill C-81 requires federally-regulated organizations to establish accessibility plans. However, the Bill does not require these to be good plans. It does not require an organization to implement its accessibility plan.
  1. Bill C-81 wrongly splinters the power to make accessibility standards (regulations) and the power to enforce the Bill across numerous Federal agencies. This splintering will make the Bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated, more costly, and will increase delay.
  1. Bill C-81 wrongly gives the Federal Government and various federal agencies the sweeping, unjustified and unaccountable power to exempt organizations from a number of important accessibility obligations. The Government can even exempt itself.
  1. The Bill does not require the Federal Government to use its readily-available power to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate barriers. The Bill must be amended to leverage the federal spending power, in order to promote accessibility.
  1. The Federal Government is the largest organization that will have to obey this legislation. Therefore, the key federal agencies that will develop accessibility standards, oversee and enforce this legislation must be independent of the Federal Government. Under the Bill, they are not. They all report to the Federal Government. We support recommendations for amendments to ensure that CASDO, the Accessibility Commissioner and other key agencies are sufficiently independent.
  1. Bill C-81 does not sufficiently address barriers created by poverty and intersectional discrimination. Nor does it address the unique barriers experienced by Indigenous and First Nations persons with disabilities.
  1. Bill C-81 does not recognize ASL/lsq as the official languages of people who are Deaf.

We believe that if these priority changes are made, among the amendments to Bill C-81, this Bill has the potential to truly advance accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities in Canada. We ask that the Bill be amended to address the concerns and objectives outlined above. These amendments are indispensable to ensure that the Bill achieves its purpose and potential.

In Solidarity,

Council of Canadians with Disabilities – Conseil des Canadians avec déficiences (CCD)

Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)

In addition to the concerns outlined in this open letter, CDAC recommends that Bill C-81 address communication as a domain across all federal jurisdictions and includes the needs of people with speech and language disabilities. ARCH, CCD and other disability organizations support CDAC’s recommendations.

DAWN-RAFH Canada

Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL)

National Network for Mental Health (NNMH)

Independent Living Canada (ILC)

March of Dimes Canada

Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)

Barrier Free Canada – Canada sans Barrières

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)

People First of Canada

Canadian Centre on Disability Studies

Canadian Epilepsy Alliance/ L’Alliance canadienne de l’épilepsie  (CEA/ACE)

National Coalition of People who use Guide and Service Dogs in Canada

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

Muscular Dystrophy Canada

Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Association (CASDA)

Canadian Association of the Deaf – Association des Sourds du Canada

L’Arche Canada

Hydrocephalus Canada        

AODA Alliance

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Québec Accessible

Views for the Visually Impaired

Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)

Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation

Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO)

Community Living Ontario (CLO)

Barrier-Free Manitoba

Regroupement des associations de personnes Handicapées de l’Outaouais (RAPHO)

Barrier Free Saskatchewan

DeafBlind Ontario Services

Community Living Toronto (CLT)

Ontario Autism Coalition

Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec (COPHAN)

Canadian Multicultural Disability Centre, Inc. (CMDCI)

Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)

Northwest Territories Council for Disability

Voice of Albertans with Disabilities

Ontario Disability Coalition

SPH Planning and Consulting Ltd.

The Law, Disability & Social Change Project

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD)

Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)

Nova Scotia Association for Community Living

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunity

Disability Alliance of British Columbia 

Disability Positive 

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (NL)

Realize / Réalise

Calgary Ability Network Human Rights

Down Syndrome Association of Ontario

Southern Alberta Individualized Planning Association

Gateway Association (Edmonton)

BALANCE for Blind Adults

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians Toronto Chapter (AEBC Toronto Chapter)

The Keremeos Measuring Up Team

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Altergo

Aphasie Québec – Le réseau

Association multiethnique pour l’intégration des personnes handicapées

DéPhy Montréal

Ex aequo

Regroupement des organismes de personnes handicapées du Centre-du-Québec

Regroupement des Usagers du Transport Adapté et accessible de l’île de Montréal (RUTA Mtl)

Réseau international sur le Processus de production du handicap (RIPPH)

Société logique

North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre Inc.

Older Women’s Network

Association d’informations en logements et immeubles adaptés (AILIA)

Association du syndrome de Usher du Québec (ASUQ)

Réseau québécois pour l’inclusion sociale des personnes sourdes et malentendantes (ReQIS)

Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Québec (RAAQ)

Saskatoon Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (C.I.L.T.) Inc

The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada – Ligue des driots de la personne de B’nai Brith Canada

Barrier-Free New Brunswick

Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities

The BC Disability Caucus

The Independent Living Centre London and Area

Ontario Association of the Deaf (OAD)

Handicapped Action Group Inc. (HAGI)

Community Services for Independence North West (CSINW)

Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities (NSLEO)

Alberta Disability Workers Association

reachAbility Association 

Champions Career Centre

The Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities

Guide Dog Users of Canada

Action des femmes handicapées – Montréal

Transcript of the Vote in the House of Commons on Third Reading of Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, on November 27, 2018

Transcript of the Vote in the House of Commons on Third Reading of Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, on November 27, 2018

(Note from the AODA Alliance: During Third Reading debates, the opposition Conservatives brought a motion to have Bill C-81 referred back to the Standing Committee, so it could consider further amendments to address the unmet concerns that the disability community had raised. As set out below, describing it as a vote on “the amendment,” all opposition members voted in support of that motion. The federal Liberals all voted against it, so it was defeated. As also set out below, the House of Commons then voted to unanimously pass the bill, on Third Reading.)

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Speaker: The Honourable Geoff Regan

Canadian Accessibility Act

The House resumed from November 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

The Speaker:

Pursuant to order made Friday, November 23, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment of the member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte to the motion for third reading of Bill C-81.

The question is on the amendment.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

YEAS

Members

Aboultaif

Albas

Albrecht

Alleslev

Anderson

Arnold

Aubin

Benson

Benzen

Bergen

Bezan

Blaikie

Blaney (North Island—Powell River)

Blaney (Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis)

Block

Boucher

Boutin-Sweet

Brassard

Brosseau

Calkins

Cannings

Caron

Carrie

Choquette

Clarke

Cooper

Cullen

Davies

Deltell

Diotte

Donnelly

Dreeshen

Dubé

Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona)

Dusseault

Duvall

Eglinski

Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster)

Falk (Provencher)

Finley

Gallant

Garrison

Genuis

Gladu

Godin

Gourde

Hardcastle

Harder

Hughes

Jeneroux

Johns

Jolibois

Julian

Kelly

Kent

Kmiec

Kusie

Kwan

Lake

Laverdière

Liepert

Lobb

Lukiwski

MacKenzie

Maguire

Malcolmson

Martel

Mathyssen

May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)

McCauley (Edmonton West)

McColeman

McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo)

Moore

Motz

Nantel

Nater

Nicholson

Nuttall

Obhrai

O’Toole

Paul-Hus

Poilievre

Quach

Rankin

Rayes

Reid

Rempel

Richards

Saganash

Sansoucy

Saroya

Schmale

Shields

Shipley

Sopuck

Sorenson

Stanton

Stetski

Strahl

Stubbs

Sweet

Tilson

Trost

Trudel

Van Kesteren

Vecchio

Viersen

Wagantall

Warawa

Warkentin

Waugh

Webber

Weir

Wong

Yurdiga

Total: — 115

NAYS

Members

Aldag

Alghabra

Amos

Anandasangaree

Arseneault

Arya

Ayoub

Badawey

Bagnell

Bains

Barsalou-Duval

Baylis

Beaulieu

Bennett

Bibeau

Bittle

Blair

Bossio

Bratina

Breton

Brison

Caesar-Chavannes

Casey (Cumberland—Colchester)

Casey (Charlottetown)

Chagger

Champagne

Chen

Cuzner

Dabrusin

Damoff

DeCourcey

Dhaliwal

Dhillon

Drouin

Dubourg

Duclos

Duguid

Duncan (Etobicoke North)

Easter

Ehsassi

El-Khoury

Ellis

Eyking

Eyolfson

Fergus

Fillmore

Finnigan

Fisher

Fortin

Fraser (West Nova)

Fraser (Central Nova)

Freeland

Fuhr

Garneau

Gerretsen

Goldsmith-Jones

Goodale

Gould

Graham

Hajdu

Hardie

Harvey

Hébert

Hehr

Hogg

Holland

Housefather

Hussen

Hutchings

Iacono

Joly

Jordan

Jowhari

Kang

Khalid

Khera

Lambropoulos

Lametti

Lamoureux

Lapointe

Lauzon (Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation)

LeBlanc

Lebouthillier

Lefebvre

Leslie

Levitt

Lightbound

Lockhart

Long

Longfield

Ludwig

MacAulay (Cardigan)

MacKinnon (Gatineau)

Maloney

Marcil

Massé (Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia)

May (Cambridge)

McCrimmon

McDonald

McGuinty

McKenna

McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)

McLeod (Northwest Territories)

Mendès

Mihychuk

Morrissey

Murray

Nassif

Nault

Oliphant

Oliver

O’Regan

Ouellette

Paradis

Pauzé

Peschisolido

Petitpas Taylor

Philpott

Picard

Plamondon

Poissant

Qualtrough

Ratansi

Rioux

Robillard

Rodriguez

Rogers

Romanado

Ruimy

Rusnak

Sahota

Saini

Sajjan

Samson

Sangha

Schiefke

Schulte

Serré

Sgro

Shanahan

Sheehan

Sidhu (Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon)

Sidhu (Brampton South)

Sikand

Simms

Sorbara

Spengemann

Ste-Marie

Tabbara

Tan

Tassi

Thériault

Tootoo

Trudeau

Vandal

Vandenbeld

Vaughan

Virani

Whalen

Wrzesnewskyj

Yip

Young

Zahid

Total: — 163

The Speaker:

I declare the motion lost.

Pursuant to order made on Friday, November 23, 2018, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-81.

The hon. Chief Government Whip.

Hon. Mark Holland:

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it you will find consent to apply the result of the previous vote to this vote, with Liberal members voting for.

Mr. Mark Strahl:

Mr. Speaker, we agree to apply, with Conservative members voting yes.

Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet:

Mr. Speaker, the NDP agrees to apply the vote and will vote yes.

Mr. Simon Marcil:

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois agrees to apply the result of the previous vote and will vote yes.

Ms. Elizabeth May:

Mr. Speaker, the Green Party agrees to apply the result of the previous vote and will vote yes.

Hon. Hunter Tootoo:

Mr. Speaker, I agree to apply and will be voting yes.

Mr. Darshan Singh Kang:

Mr. Speaker, I agree to apply and will be voting yes.

Mr. Erin Weir:

Mr. Speaker, CCF is in favour of applying and of the motion itself.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

YEAS

Members

Aboultaif

Albas

Albrecht

Aldag

Alghabra

Alleslev

Amos

Anandasangaree

Anderson

Arnold

Arseneault

Arya

Aubin

Ayoub

Badawey

Bagnell

Bains

Barsalou-Duval

Baylis

Beaulieu

Bennett

Benson

Benzen

Bergen

Bezan

Bibeau

Bittle

Blaikie

Blair

Blaney (North Island—Powell River)

Blaney (Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis)

Block

Bossio

Boucher

Boutin-Sweet

Brassard

Bratina

Breton

Brison

Brosseau

Caesar-Chavannes

Calkins

Cannings

Caron

Carrie

Casey (Cumberland—Colchester)

Casey (Charlottetown)

Chagger

Champagne

Chen

Choquette

Clarke

Cooper

Cullen

Cuzner

Dabrusin

Damoff

Davies

DeCourcey

Deltell

Dhaliwal

Dhillon

Diotte

Donnelly

Dreeshen

Drouin

Dubé

Dubourg

Duclos

Duguid

Duncan (Etobicoke North)

Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona)

Dusseault

Duvall

Easter

Eglinski

Ehsassi

El-Khoury

Ellis

Eyking

Eyolfson

Falk (Battlefords—Lloydminster)

Falk (Provencher)

Fergus

Fillmore

Finley

Finnigan

Fisher

Fortin

Fraser (West Nova)

Fraser (Central Nova)

Freeland

Fuhr

Gallant

Garneau

Garrison

Genuis

Gerretsen

Gladu

Godin

Goldsmith-Jones

Goodale

Gould

Gourde

Graham

Hajdu

Hardcastle

Harder

Hardie

Harvey

Hébert

Hehr

Hogg

Holland

Housefather

Hughes

Hussen

Hutchings

Iacono

Jeneroux

Johns

Jolibois

Joly

Jordan

Jowhari

Julian

Kang

Kelly

Kent

Khalid

Khera

Kmiec

Kusie

Kwan

Lake

Lambropoulos

Lametti

Lamoureux

Lapointe

Lauzon (Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation)

Laverdière

LeBlanc

Lebouthillier

Lefebvre

Leslie

Levitt

Liepert

Lightbound

Lobb

Lockhart

Long

Longfield

Ludwig

Lukiwski

MacAulay (Cardigan)

MacKenzie

MacKinnon (Gatineau)

Maguire

Malcolmson

Maloney

Marcil

Martel

Massé (Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia)

Mathyssen

May (Cambridge)

May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)

McCauley (Edmonton West)

McColeman

McCrimmon

McDonald

McGuinty

McKenna

McKinnon (Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam)

McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo)

McLeod (Northwest Territories)

Mendès

Mihychuk

Moore

Morrissey

Motz

Murray

Nantel

Nassif

Nater

Nault

Nicholson

Nuttall

Obhrai

Oliphant

Oliver

O’Regan

O’Toole

Ouellette

Paradis

Paul-Hus

Pauzé

Peschisolido

Petitpas Taylor

Philpott

Picard

Plamondon

Poilievre

Poissant

Quach

Qualtrough

Rankin

Ratansi

Rayes

Reid

Rempel

Richards

Rioux

Robillard

Rodriguez

Rogers

Romanado

Ruimy

Rusnak

Saganash

Sahota

Saini

Sajjan

Samson

Sangha

Sansoucy

Saroya

Schiefke

Schmale

Schulte

Serré

Sgro

Shanahan

Sheehan

Shields

Shipley

Sidhu (Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon)

Sidhu (Brampton South)

Sikand

Simms

Sopuck

Sorbara

Sorenson

Spengemann

Stanton

Ste-Marie

Stetski

Strahl

Stubbs

Sweet

Tabbara

Tan

Tassi

Thériault

Tilson

Tootoo

Trost

Trudeau

Trudel

Van Kesteren

Vandal

Vandenbeld

Vaughan

Vecchio

Viersen

Virani

Wagantall

Warawa

Warkentin

Waugh

Webber

Weir

Whalen

Wong

Wrzesnewskyj

Yip

Young

Yurdiga

Zahid

Total: — 278

The Speaker:

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Transcript of the 2nd and Final Day of Third Reading Debates on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act in the House of Commons, on November 22, 2018

Transcript of the 2nd and Final Day of Third Reading Debates on Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act in the House of Commons, on November 22, 2018

Parliament of Canada House of Commons

Hansard November 22, 2018

Originally posted at https://openparliament.ca/debates/2018/11/22/procedural-2/

Debates of Nov. 22nd, 2018

House of Commons Hansard #356 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker   Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte has 11 minutes left in his remarks.

Conservative

Alex Nuttall   Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to continue talking about a bill that has a lot of hope in it from Canadians across the country who are living with disabilities. I started yesterday into my speech regarding Bill C-81, which is essentially an accessibility act for all Canadians.

The minister said we would be co-operating and working together, and that her department would provide us with the information that was needed in order to ensure the bill actually delivers for Canadians living with disabilities. Stakeholders from across the country, from all sides of this debate, whether they have hearing or sight disabilities or physical or cognitive disabilities, are all saying the same thing, that the bill is not actually doing anything.

There are no teeth in the bill, and there are no dates to deliver teeth or policies or regulations so that we know what is going to be done to actually help people living with disabilities.

One of the things I said at the first debate we had on this subject and repeated at committee was that my hope for the bill was that at the end of it I would be able to call my mother and tell her how her life is going to change after it is passed.

Unfortunately, all I can do today is call her and tell her that within two years a single regulation will be adopted. That single regulation will trigger a five-year time period, and within that five-year time period the government will then have to report back and essentially do an audit of the regulations it has in place. However, we are not going to see any tangible benefits out of this bill on day one.

We have asked why, and the Liberals have said regulations do not need to be in the bill. The staff in the department and the minister have said we need to consult more. That is not good enough. We have had three years of consultation on this subject. Surely at least one regulation could have come into effect with this accessibility legislation.

The minister said yesterday the good news is there are benchmarks. She said that Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia had put very forward-thinking legislation into place, and she commended their legislation. Their legislation had timelines.

She commends it, and she tells us there is a benchmark and we know what we need to do, but then does not include any of it in the bill, saying we might have one regulation within two years. It is just not good enough for Canadians living with disabilities. It is not good enough for Canadians who are living with either cognitive or physical disabilities.

It is incredible when we start thinking about all the things the most vulnerable in our society have to live and cope with. When we look at the issues of the day, such as Canada Post, we see another barrier put up. With Canada Post union employees going on strike, it creates a barrier for people living with disabilities, who perhaps cannot even get outside of their home to go and collect items they may need.

However, the minister does not put anything in place that will change things as of day one. It is not good enough, and stakeholders know it is not good enough.

Stakeholders were telling us they wanted change. That is why roughly