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AODA Alliance Calls on the Ford Government to Swiftly Post Online the Final Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Which It Received Today

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

AODA Alliance Calls on the Ford Government to Swiftly Post Online the Final Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Which It Received Today

January 28, 2022

SUMMARY

On Friday, January 28, 2022, the Ford Government received the final report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. It gives the Government detailed recommendations on what the Government should enact in the promised Education Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario-funded schools.

This is a major milestone on the road to a barrier-free Ontario for people with disabilities. The AODA Alliance campaigned from 2009 to 2016 to get the Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard. It has had to campaign time and again to move the process along to develop that much-needed regulation.

There is still much to be done to get the Government to act on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s final report. The first step is to get that report made public.

We immediately wrote the Ford Government, calling on it to swiftly fulfil its mandatory duty to publicly post that report “upon receiving” it. You can read that letter below.

As our letter notes, the Ford Government has a sorry track record in this regard. It took two years to publicly post the final report of the Employment Standards Development Committee. Given the chronic unemployment facing people with disabilities they certainly deserved better than that.

Last year, the Ford Government inexcusably delayed publicly posting the initial reports of three Standards Development Committees, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky had to resort to bringing a court application to press the Government to fulfil its duties under the AODA.

Please email, tweet or otherwise tell the Ford Government not to again delay the public posting of a Standards Development Committee’s report.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliances January 28, 2022 Letter to the Ford Government’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

January 28, 2022

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

Via email: raymond.cho@ontario.ca

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

Re: Fulfilling Your Statutory Duties Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Today, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee submitted its final report to you under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”). That report sets out that Committee’s important recommendations on what should be included in the promised Education Accessibility Standard for students with disabilities in Ontario K-12 schools.

We write to ask you to now publicly post that report online. Section 11(2) of the AODA requires you to post such a report from a Standards Development Committee upon receiving it.

When you received the initial report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on March 12, 2021, you took some two and a half months to post it online. That was far longer than was needed to do so. Ontarians, including one third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario-funded schools need you not to delay the public posting of this report.

As a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, I was extensively involved in the preparation of that report. You now have it in an accessible format. It has only minor revisions to the initial report that you received last March. That initial report is already coded and posted online in English and French. It should take, at most, only a few days, and certainly less than a week, for the final report to be translated and coded for posting in HTML. It can be posted immediately in MS Word format.

Your Government has a troubling track record in this area. For example, you were obliged to publicly post the final report of the Employment Standards Development Committee upon receiving it. However, your Government delayed two years before posting that report.

We make the same request for swift public posting of the forthcoming final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, when you receive them. I do not want to again have to file a judicial review application in court due to delays in getting these reports publicly posted online upon your receiving them, as you are required by the AODA to do.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont.

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

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

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

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

Disability Rights Advocate Files Court Application Today Against Ford Government for Discriminating Against Blind People Like Him by Only Allowing Online Renewal of an Expired Health Card if a Person Has a Driver’s License – Ontario’s Own Official Photo ID Card isn’t Accepted

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Rights Advocate Files Court Application Today Against Ford Government for Discriminating Against Blind People Like Him by Only Allowing Online Renewal of an Expired Health Card if a Person Has a Driver’s License – Ontario’s Own Official Photo ID Card isn’t Accepted

January 26, 2022 Toronto: Today, a blind disability rights advocate is filing an urgent court application contending that the Ford Government unlawfully discriminates against people with disabilities by only letting a person renew an expired Ontario Health Card online if they have a driver’s license. The Government will not accept its own Ontario Photo ID Card, created as official ID equal to a driver’s license.

“This is blatant disability discrimination in access to health care services in the midst of a pandemic”, said David Lepofsky, the case’s applicant, a lawyer and disability rights law professor. “We blind people can’t get a driver’s license!”

Yesterday, the story got more mind-boggling. At a virtual meeting yesterday, Government officials told Lepofsky that Ontarians will be able to renew an expired Health Card online using an Ontario Photo ID Card in lieu of a driver’s license, in effect conceding that this should be available. However, that won’t start until May. See Lepofsky’s letter to the Government about that meeting, below.

Also in effect conceding that the status quo is wrong, the Government told Lepofsky that starting in early February, the Government will let Ontarians apply by mail to renew an expired Ontario Health Card using an Ontario Photo ID Card in lieu of a driver’s license. While helpful for some, a mail-in application creates barriers for some people with disabilities.

There’s a more bizarre twist. In March 2020, the Government wisely decided that Ontarians can use expired Health Cards to get health services. This saved people from risking catching COVID-19 by going to Service Ontario in person to renew a Health Card. However, last fall, the Government declared that expired Health Cards must be renewed by February 28, 2022.

The Government has been asked to extend the February 28 deadline, so that people like Lepofsky don’t have to go to Service Ontario, and risk catching COVID, to preserve OHIP coverage. Yesterday, officials told Lepofsky that OHIP will tell physicians that after February 28, expired Ontario Health Cards are to continue to be treated as valid. However, inexplicably, the Government won’t extend the February 28 deadline for renewing expired Ontario Health Cards. It won’t tell the public that people with expired Health Cards can keep getting OHIP coverage after February 28.

“People have no way to know that they can continue to use an expired Health Card and receive health care with OHIP coverage after February 28,” said Lepofsky. “All they know is what the Government has publicly told them, which is that a Health Card must be renewed by February 28, to use it after that date.”

This means people will unnecessary risk getting COVID-19 by going to Service Ontario to renew their Health Card when they don’t need to do so. There is also a danger that some health care providers won’t get the word that they are to continue to accept expired Ontario Health Cards after February.

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

For background on

Text of January 25, 2022 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Senior Ford Government Officials

To: Alison Drummond, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility alison.drummond@ontario.ca

From: David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance

Date: January 25, 2022

Re: Disability Barriers to Renewing Health Cards Online

I set out key points from the virtual meeting you and I had with Assistant Deputy Ministers from the Ministry of Health and Service Ontario. Among those attending this meeting was the General Manager of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

At this follow-up to the December 16, 2021 meeting, I was told that the Government is working on enabling as soon as possible the ability for a person to renew an Ontario Health Card online, using an Ontario Photo ID Card in lieu of a driver’s licence. This is to be up and running by May 2022.

I was told that by early February 2022, the Government will have in place a means for a member of the public to renew their Health Card online, through a mail-in application, using one’s Photo ID Card in lieu of a driver’s license. Among other things, a person will fill in the number of their Photo ID Card on the mail-in application, and will not have to mail in their actual Photo ID Card.

I was also told that it has been decided that the Ministry of Health will notify physicians through the Ministry of Health’s avenues for sending out bulletins and notifications to them, that after February 28, 2022, an Ontario Health Card is to continue to be treated as valid even if it appears on its face to have expired. Those holding an expired Ontario Health Card will be able to continue after February 28, 2022 to receive OHIP coverage for insured health services.

However, I was also told that it had been decided that the Government would not extend the February 28, 2022 deadline for renewing an expired Ontario Health Card. The Government has also decided not to notify the public that individuals with an expired Ontario Health Card will be able to continue to receive OHIP coverage for insured health services after February 28, 2022.

I twice asked why the February 28, 2022 deadline is not being extended, given the foregoing, and why the Government decided not to tell the public that individuals can continue to receive OHIP coverage for insured services after February 28, 2022, even if their Health Card appears on its face to be expired by that date. I was given no reasons for this. I afforded all present a clear and fair opportunity to give reasons, and made it clear that in whatever was said to me at this meeting, I was not given any reasons for this.

I asked what plans, if any, the Government has to establish a means, such as a virtual Service Ontario office accessible via Zoom, for a member of the public to renew an expired Health Card, in circumstances where that person has no driver’s license and no Ontario Photo ID Card. I noted that before the pandemic, none of us would have known to get an Ontario Photo ID Card in order to be able to renew our Health Card online during a pandemic or otherwise.

I was told that this idea is on the Government’s radar, and that it is being looked into longer term, as the Government explores other digital options. However, there was no specific information to share with me about it at this meeting.

In response to all this information, I stated that while progress on this is appreciated, the information provided does not resolve the disability discrimination that now exists. For example:

  1. People holding an expired Ontario Health Card and a valid Ontario Photo ID Card will have no way to know that they can continue to present their expired Health Card and receive health care with OHIP coverage, after February 28, 2022. All they know is what the Government has publicly told them, which is the very opposite.
  1. This means that people in my situation will continue to experience the cruel and unfair choice of either losing health coverage, or having to go now to Service Ontario in person at the risk of being exposed to the highly-infectious and rapidly spreading Omicron virus.
  1. A mail-in option, while an improvement for some, can present disability barriers for people whose disability does not enable them to complete such a form by themselves. Some live alone. People will not want to have to expose themselves to the risk of getting infected by having someone help them with this in person.
  1. There is a real risk in this huge province that some health care providers, or those working at their front desks, won’t get the word from the Province that they are to continue to accept expired Ontario Health Cards after February 28, 2022. Indeed, what they all have heard up to now is the well-publicized fact that the opposite is the case. With the pandemic so pervasive, and with so many getting infected, there is an increased chance that people like me will encounter a replacement worker when we present our Health Cards for health services, who may well not have fully understood the confusing mixed messages that will have come from the Ontario Government.
  1. The measures to which the Government committed at our meeting, and detailed above, do nothing to remove the disability discrimination facing people with an expired Health Card, no driver’s licence and no Ontario Photo ID Card.

I asked to be given a chance to speak to the principals of those speaking to me at this meeting (such as the deputy ministers) who were further up the ladder in the Government, and who are deciding on these issues. I also explained that this is an urgent matter that needs to be corrected now. We cannot wait. At the very least, the Government should now widely and publicly announce to all, including the public, that expired Ontario Health Cards are extended past February 28, 2022 and that they can continued to be used to get insured health services after February 28, 2022.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CC: Patrick Dicerni

Assistant Deputy Minister, Executive Officer & General Manager | OHIP, Pharmaceuticals and Devices Division (Health) patrick.dicerni@ontario.ca

Pauline Ryan

Director | Health Insurance Branch (Health) pauline.ryan@ontario.ca

Joanne Anderson

Assistant Deputy Minister (Acting) | Operational Support Division (Government and Consumer Services) | Joanne.Anderson3@ontario.ca

2022 Begins with A Blast of New Media Coverage on Different Disability Accessibility Issues

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

2022 Begins with A Blast of New Media Coverage on Different Disability Accessibility Issues

January 21, 2022

SUMMARY

2022 has begun with a diverse number of disability accessibility issues already getting media coverage. Here is just a sampling, all of which is set out below. Some of these articles quote the AODA Alliance. In each case, it was the media that came to us, seeking comment:

  1. A January 13, 2022 CBC News report on people with disabilities facing disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system during the Omicron surge.
  1. A January 18, 2022 City News report on the disability barrier created by the Ontario Government’s requirement that one can only renew a Health Card online (rather than going to a Service Ontario location in person) if they have a driver’s license.
  1. A January 14, 2022 report in “The Maple” publication on disability barriers in the health care system in Ontario.
  1. A January 12, 2022 Globe and Mail article on disability barriers in websites relating to real estate, and the Ontario Government’s paltry enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
  1. A January 18, 2022 article in Niagara This Week, also published in the St. Catharines Standard, among other places, on the Ford Government’s poor implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and its impact on Niagara on the Lake.

The January 16, 2022 evening news report on City TV had an excellent report on disability barriers in the health care system in Ontario. However, we have not been able to find it online for you.

We are also happy to report that the National Post has finally posted a correction to its inaccurate quotation of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in its December 27, 2021 column on Toronto’s banning robots from public sidewalks. Better late than never.

There have now been 1,086 days since the Ford Government received former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation. We are still waiting for the Ford Government to announce a comprehensive plan to implement that report.

Send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

MORE DETAILS

CBC News January 13, 2022

People with disabilities ‘left out’ of Ontario’s pandemic response | CBC News Loaded

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ontario-covid-19-disability-accessibility-1.6311083

Ottawa

Activists say 2.9M Ontarians with disabilities are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic

Nicole Williams CBC News

People with disabilities in Ontario are calling on the province to make COVID-19 testing and vaccination appointments more accessible. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Advocates and people with disabilities say they have been left behind in Ontario’s COVID-19 pandemic response, particular its testing and vaccination efforts.

As Omicron continues to sweep through the province, with a soaring number of hospitalizations, local health units and Ontario’s Ministry of Health have called for people to get booster shots as quickly as possible. In December, the province also launched a campaign to hand out free COVID-19 rapid tests in order to curb the growing wave of infections.

Centres saw long lines of people eagerly waiting outside in the middle of winter to get their hands on a rapid test or a booster shot, which people with certain disabilities can’t safely do, says advocate Catherine Gardner, who also uses a wheelchair.

Pandemic-era patios still too often inaccessible, disability advocates say

“If you’re using a mobility device, a cane, walker, you just can’t stand in line that long,” Gardner said, adding there are usually no places for people to sit outside of these sites.

Gardner has gone to get rapid tests on several occasions where she has either had to wait for long periods of time outside in the cold, or forced to travel a fair distance from where accessible transit dropped her off.

Booking rides requires advance notice

Similar barriers have left people like John Redins tired and discouraged.

“It’s been like a roller coaster to watch [that] you have limited access to these things and to these type of events,” said Redins.

In a statement, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility pointed to its Accessible Drives to Vaccines program that launched last summer and helps people with mobility issues get to their vaccine appointments. Ottawa Public Health has similar accommodations available for people in need of transportation.

People with disabilities demand hike in income support, give province failing grade

However, many pop-up vaccine clinics or rapid test giveaways are hosted on short notice, sometimes on the same day they’re announced. Booking a ride through the provincial program and the city’s website requires at least 48 hours notice.

“It frustrates me because I feel like I’m being left out,” said Redins, who continues to recover from COVID-19 and laments his inability to get tested and vaccinated as soon as he would have liked.

Current response is ‘one size fits all’

There are 2.9 million Ontarians with disabilities, according David Lepofsky, a law professor and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

He said that segment of the population has faced barriers throughout the entire pandemic, when they should in fact be made a priority.

David Lepofsky is a law professor and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“People with disabilities are disproportionately prone to get COVID. They’re disproportionately prone to get its worst consequences,” Lepofsky said.

From long lines, to outdoor locations, to physical distancing signs that can’t be seen by those who are visually impaired, he said there is rarely adequate accommodation for people with disabilities.

“The Ford government too often has taken a one-size-fits-all approach to its emergency planning, assuming that people have no disabilities,” he said.

Lepofsky said the alliance wants to see the government ramp up emergency plans to ensure vulnerable people with disabilities are assured access to testing and safe access to vaccines. Gardner said having these sites indoors would go a long way for that population, too.

People with disabilities being disproportionately affected by pandemic response

Those in Ontario are calling on the province to reconsider accessibility to vaccine and testing appointments 5:37

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Williams

Video Journalist

Nicole Williams is a journalist with CBC Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter with CBC P.E.I. and as an associate producer with CBC News in Toronto.

 CityNews January 18, 2022

Originally posted at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2022/01/18/ontario-health-card-renewal-deadline/

It’s time to renew your Ontario health card; advocates call for deadline extension

Advocates seek deadline extension for renewing Ontario Health Cards

Advocates for seniors and vulnerable communities say the timing and deadline for health card renewal are far from ideal. Dilshad Burman of CityNews explains.

By Dilshad Burman

During the two years of the pandemic, many Ontario health cards have expired, and the province temporarily extended renewals due to COVID-19 and the various public health protocols that followed.

Over the holidays, Service Ontario sent out letters stating it is now time to renew your health card and “you must ensure you hold a non-expired Ontario photo health card by Feb. 28.”

Those who have a valid driver’s licence with their current address on the back are in luck — they can renew online. Everyone else has to do so in person.

Lousy timing for many vulnerable groups

Advocates for seniors and vulnerable communities say the timing and deadline for health card renewal are far from ideal.

“Maybe this isn’t the best time to be doing this kind of thing. We’re still dealing with the Omicron wave. There are a lot of people who are dealing with the downstream consequences of this pandemic,” says Dr. Naheed Dosani, palliative care physician and health equity lead at Kensington Health in Toronto.

Dosani points out that even before the pandemic, those who face structural vulnerabilities have long battled challenges to obtaining identification for access to healthcare.

“There are significant barriers … transportation, money, the time that people may not actually have because they’re working … or people who are dealing with mental illness or cognitive impairment,” he explained.

CEO of CanAge, Canada’s national seniors’ advocacy organization, adds that the health card renewal process will be both complicated and ill-timed for seniors during the midst of a substantial COVID-19 surge.

“When we’re asking people to stay at home … telling people — particularly vulnerable, older people — that they need to get this done in person is counter to everything we’re asking people to do to stay home and stay well,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, adding that the issue is further compounded for seniors who face literacy or language barriers.

Dosani also points out that many people have lost their support networks because of the pandemic — including case workers or volunteer support groups — making it even more challenging to show up in person for health card renewal.

Tamblyn Watts says the same is true for seniors isolated at home alone.

“Older adults or people with disabilities who do not have their care workers or even their informal family supporters to help them get a renewal in-person face additional challenges … particularly at a time where many older people are self-isolating, and this is especially true as school [begins again],” she explained. “So family members like adult children who may have been able to help their vulnerable older parent may not be able to do so now because of fear of exposure, because their kids are back in school.”

Call to make alternate arrangements and extend deadlines

“Knowing that many of the people I care for may not be able to actually show up in person by [the deadline] — what will this mean for people in their ability to access healthcare? I certainly hope that this doesn’t lead to people being turned away from healthcare. It could create barriers, and that could really impact people’s healthcare outcomes. That’s worrying me,” said Dosani.

Tamblyn Watts echoes those sentiments.

“We’re looking right now at how having fourth boosters rolling out for older people and people who have other immunocompromised vulnerabilities. The last thing we want to do is have outdated health cards be a block for them to get their booster shot,” she said.

Dosani opines that online renewal should perhaps be expanded to all Ontarians.

“There are lots of things that we do in our society that previously we didn’t do online, that we do online now,” said Dosani. “I know that people are doing their citizenship tests online, for example. And so you start to wonder — it’s probably time to just evolve the process.”

Tamblyn Watts says many seniors will not be able to navigate the process online without support, but both agree that the simplest solution is to move the deadline.

“We have extended other important services, and this is one we should be extending again. There’s no real pressing reason that this timeline be enforced right now. What we need to do is extend this timeline well into the spring when the weather is better, and Omicron has lessened,” said Tamblyn.

“It may be worthwhile to move this initiative down the road when it’s more feasible, and it’s potentially safer for people,” added Dosani.

CityNews reached out to the Ministry of Health about the possibility of a deadline extension and whether online solutions are being considered but did not hear back before publishing time.

The Maple January 14, 2022

Originally posted at https://www.readthemaple.com/people-with-disabilities-endangered-by-discrimination-amid-omicron-surge-ontario-advocate-warns/

People With Disabilities Endangered By Discrimination Amid Omicron Surge, Ontario Advocate Warns

“The healthcare system was already full of way too many disability barriers impeding access to service before COVID started, and the government’s response to COVID is making it worse in several ways.”

Stephen Andrews

An advocacy group has written to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott warning that people with disabilities are in danger because of her government’s failure to lift discriminatory barriers that prevent access to care amid the Omicron surge.

David Lepofsky, who chairs Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, told The Maple : “The healthcare system was already full of way too many disability barriers impeding access to service before COVID started, and the government’s response to COVID is making it worse in several ways.”

Lepofsky said the Doug Ford government has failed to undertake an effective strategy to ensure people with disabilities can get vaccinated. For example,

Lepofsky, who is blind, was given the option to register for a vaccine appointment at a pharmacy whose website was not accessible to people with visual impairments.

“The government did not make sure those websites were accessible because the government is not effectively enforcing its own accessibility rules,” said Lepofsky.

When Lepofsky went to get his booster shot, he spoke to someone in line who had been waiting for over an hour, with no chairs provided. The individual’s partner had to wait in their car, Lepofsky explained, because they could not stand for that length of time. Lepofsky said he has heard similar stories from many other people with disabilities.

Another key concern, Lepofsky explained, is the Ontario government’s triage protocols, which he said discriminate against people with disabilities. Triage protocols are enacted when health services become so overwhelmed that health professionals must prioritize allocating limited resources to some patients while denying care to others, often fatally.

Ontario has not yet reached a point where formal triage protocols have been enacted. According to Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, a total of 500 people – or 226.9 people per one million inhabitants – are currently in intensive care units. That figure represents a steep increase over the past two weeks, and is largely driven by unvaccinated patients.

An additional challenge for hospitals during the Omicron wave, Lepofsky noted, is the shortage of hospital staff, as many have fallen ill and need to self-isolate.

A year ago, a copy of the Doug Ford government’s critical care triage protocol was leaked to AODAA. It stated: “Patients who have a high likelihood of dying within twelve months from the onset of their episode of critical illness (based on an evaluation of their clinical presentation at the point of triage) would have a lower priority for critical care resources.”

At that time, Lepofsky stated the document “made many people with disabilities terrified, angry and distrustful.” Those concerns, he told The Maple, have flared up again amid the Omicron surge.

While the leaked document states that triage decisions cannot be made on the basis of a patient’s disability, the protocol includes a graded ranking of a patient’s ability to carry out basic daily tasks. The lowest grade is assigned to those who are “Completely disabled; cannot carry on any selfcare; totally confined to bed or chair.”

The Ontario government has not denied the authenticity of the critical care triage protocol document, AODAA said in a statement Thursday.

“It’s replete with disability discrimination problems,” said Lepofsky. “We’ve raised concerns, the Human Rights Commission’s raised concerns; the government has done, as far as we’ve seen, nothing to fix it.”

“They’ve embedded discriminatory triage rules in hospitals. Hospitals have been trained on how to use this thing,” he added, noting that a webinar hosted by Critical Care Services Ontario on January 23, 2021 provided training on the protocol.

Lepofsky said his organization has heard from many people with disabilities who are worried that they may be deprioritized for care in a triage scenario if they are admitted to hospital during the Omicron wave.

Another concern, Lepofsky added, is that the surge in hospitalizations due to Omicron is postponing elective surgeries that could have significant implications for some patients’ health. Lepofsky said he believes there are “ample reasons” to worry that physicians may apply similarly discriminatory attitudes when deciding which elective surgeries get postponed.

AODAA is also concerned that there are no measures in place to ensure that ambulance operators and emergency medical technicians also do not apply triage protocols that discriminate against people with disabilities.

In addition to calling on the Ford government to immediately rescind its critical care triage protocol, AODAA wants the province to make public all other triage protocols as well as information about the appeals process for those denied care.

“If there’s a discretion that makes decisions over how [services are] allocated, there should be accountability, and there should be due process, especially when it relates to your health,” said Lepofsky.

Globe and Mail January 12, 2022

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/article-visually-impaired-say-real-estate-sites-need-work/

Visually impaired say real estate sites need work

SHANE DINGMAN REAL ESTATE REPORTER

TORONTO

PUBLISHED JANUARY 12, 2022

To a visually impaired person, the average real estate listing website can be indecipherable.

Accessibility of most digital services remains a huge stumbling block in Canada, but one of the things a sighted person takes for granted when looking at Realtor.ca or some other online listings portal is how much work the pictures do to itemize the elements of a home that is for sale. A blind or visually impaired person may not be able to tell if there is a large bay window in the dining room; they can’t see that the kitchen has no upper cabinets or that there are unfinished floors in the house.

In a business where most home buyers start their search online, a large and growing population of visually impaired Canadians could be frustrated or shut out.

“There’s a misunderstanding about what disability is: [some people] think it’s a tiny sliver of the population but that’s not the case,” said Sam Proulx, who is blind and an accessibility advocate at Toronto-based consulting firm Fable Tech Labs Inc. The company has helped Walmart, Telus, Slack and Shopify, among others, to build accessible online systems.

A 2017 study from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind estimated 1.5 million Canadians self-identify as having sight loss. Millions more said they had conditions that could cause visual impairment in the future. Ontario has the largest cohort of visually impaired Canadians with more than 680,000, which is approximately the population of Hamilton (the province’s third-largest urban area). “One in five people lives with a disability, that’s only going to increase, especially in Canada with an aging population,” Mr. Proulx said.

For the visually impaired, text is king: Many blind people such as Mr. Proulx use screen-reader software that essentially creates an audio version of a website so they can access the internet. It can be difficult for a sighted person unfamiliar with accessibility software to assess the compliance of websites, but there are browser plug-ins that will check a site and provide tips for improving usefulness for the disabled.

Accessible website design frequently means adding descriptive text to such things as photos, infographics or images containing important contact information, including a business card.

A cursory check using one accessibility software tool at siteimprove.ca found serious deficiencies on some real estate sites. A typical listing found on Royallepage.ca – online home of Canada’s largest real estate holding company – drew 19 warnings that photos were missing appropriate descriptive text. Listings on the site for Canada’s largest realtor grouping, the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, typically had more than 50 images missing descriptive text. And Canada’s most-visited real estate site, Realtor.ca, had some listings with 70 or more images missing descriptive text or with text that was meaningless.

Mr. Proulx warns that some checkers can throw up false-negatives and that hiring a consultant to do a full site audit is preferable.

According to a statement from TRREB chief executive officer John DiMichele, its most recent accessibility survey found its listings service was just a little more than 70-per-cent compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that established standards designed to address some of the structural barriers disabled people face in accessing goods and services, including digital services and websites.

“We are awaiting the developer’s full report so that we can review the outstanding AODA compliance items and develop a plan to improve its compliance level,” Mr. DiMichele said in a statement. He added that TRREB had hired AccessiBe, an Israeli technology company, “to perform a compliance audit of our public website, as recommended by the Ontario government.”

But critics say many organizations have failed to meet the very generous compliance deadlines (in some cases organizations had 10 years to get to work), many of which elapsed in 2021, set by the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility.

“The problem generally is the government is doing an absolutely pathetic job of enforcing the AODA,” said David Lepofsky, a blind lawyer and law professor who runs the activist group Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. “They could be doing spot checks, such as saying ‘Hey, real estate sector’ and give them a head’s up to start cleaning up their act. But the government’s enforcement of the AODA has been incredibly paltry.”

Compliance with the AODA can mean as little as proving you have a policy that will address any accessibility issues in your business, and there are more than 400,000 organizations that are obligated to comply with the AODA in Ontario. In its 2017 AODA enforcement report, the ministry said it conducted 1,746 “compliance activities” (audits and inspections), 16 of which involved an inspector. Ten of those were closed without an enforcement order. In the other six, orders were issued, with three incurring an administrative monetary penalty.

The ministry said it has not yet produced annual reports for 2020 or 2021 because of delays related to COVID-19, but its 2019 report showed a slowdown in resourcing. In that year, 1,130 new audits were launched and only 80 per cent were completed, with the addition of 427 completed from the previous year. A total of 172 cases were escalated to inspector level and, of those, 21 were issued a director’s order, five of which came with a monetary penalty.

In 2017, 56,000 organizations were supposed to submit their own compliance report, but less than half, about 24,000, did so. Of those that sent in a report, 94 per cent said they were in full compliance.

In a statement to The Globe, the ministry didn’t say how many compliance reports were received in 2020 or 2021, but did say, “We have found that approximately 96 per cent of organizations come into compliance when made aware of their obligations without requiring any escalated enforcement action.”

Mr. Lepofsky bemoans the inability of Ontarians to directly sue a non-compliant organization, an option that has been available for decades in the U.S. under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But Mr. Proulx believes a less combative approach could pay better dividends: “We don’t want drive-by ADA lawsuits … if your entire strategy is built on fear, [companies and organizations] are going to do the bare minimum,” he said. Mr. Proulx points out that real estate listings with better descriptive text would be more searchable, and that other customizations – for example, one that might allow a person with mobility issues to narrow down those search results based on whether the home is one-level or has steps – would be welcomed by all real estate shoppers.

Mr. Lepofsky agrees that if AODA compliance is going to be more than just ticking a box, it must reward organizations that make services more useful to both those with disabilities and those without. A popular example is closed-captioning television: developed for the deaf but usable by everyone when sound is not available or desirable. “The steps that help us, help everyone,” Mr. Lepofsky said. “The button for a power door to get into a building? Lots of people who can walk use it.”

 Niagara this Week January 18, 2022

Originally posted at https://www.niagarathisweek.com/community-story/10553230-how-niagara-on-the-lake-can-take-charge-in-ontario-s-quest-for-full-accessibility-by-2025/

How Niagara-on-the-Lake can take charge in Ontario’s quest for full accessibility by 2025

‘It’s going to be a battleground’: Dave Antaya on potential pushback in NOTL against accessibility changes

Zahraa Hmood

Niagara-on-the-Lake Advance

The clock is ticking for the province of Ontario, a clock critics say the government hopes to hit the snooze button

Ontario is coming up on its 20-year anniversary since passing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in 2005, which stipulates Ontario must become fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.

With three years left until then, disability advocates say the provincial government isn’t moving fast enough to make it happen.

“There’s nothing proactively being pushed to provide assistance, or guidance to make this happen,” said Dave Antaya, a Niagara-on-the-Lake member of the region’s Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee.

“They’re ignoring it and hoping it can go away.”

As part of the accessibility committee, Antaya pays close attention to how accessible things in Niagara-on-the-Lake are for people with disabilities. He said while the town has made great changes to make its municipal buildings accessible, some local businesses have had a more challenging time with the task.

For example, he said, some businesses downtown on Queen Street have steps or ledges to get inside, which aren’t wheelchair accessible. Once inside, some buildings are hard to manoeuvre around for anyone with mobility issues or who is blind.

“It sounds like picky and small things, but they are barriers,” he said.

Removing these barriers is going to take commitment, money and outside help, Antaya said, and once 2025 comes around, he anticipates there’s going to be pushback from some who haven’t made all accommodations — especially if and when the province starts to enforce those changes.

“It’s going to be a battleground,” he said.

David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, spent a decade working on the legislation before Queen’s Park passed it in 2005. Since then, he said every government has dropped the ball on accessibility, which will make it “impossible” to meet the 2025 deadline.

“We’ve been betrayed,” he said. “A substantial number of the barriers we faced are still there.”

The problem, Lepofsky said, is threefold: first, the government hasn’t passed all the accessibility regulations required; second, the regulations they have passed are not strong or all-encompassing enough; third, those regulations aren’t being effectively enforced.

After asking the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility what the current government is doing to meet the AODA goals, an email statement sent from their communications department states they’re is working to support jobseekers and workers with disabilities through their Ontario Disability Support Program and Employment Ontario, through which they’re providing funding for eligible employment supports, including workplace accommodation needs.

Eduardo Lafforgue, president and CEO of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce, said they’ve been pushing for more funding from all levels of government, which is needed now more than ever: since the COVID-19 pandemic started, businesses are in survival mode and don’t have the ability — or will — to set aside funds to make accommodations.

“All the buildings are very difficult to adapt,” Lafforgue said. “You need funding, and you need specific funding.”

Alongside funding, Lafforgue and Antaya said old buildings in Niagara-on-the-Lake will also bump up against the municipal heritage committee’s rules when making any changes to their buildings.

“You’re looking at some pretty significant rules and regulations that retailers, businesses and homes must be compliant to,” Antaya said.

Public will may be the final piece of the puzzle. This is especially relevant in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Antaya said, where its aging population is more likely to need accessibility accommodations — either now or down the line.

“As a member of the committee, I don’t know that we have … ample strong influence,” he said. “We need to be dialed into the people to sell that this is something that needs to happen.”

Zahraa Hmood is a is a reporter for Niagara this Week, covering north Niagara. You can follow her on Twitter at @zahraahmood.

One Year After Disability-Discriminatory Critical Care Triage Protocol was Secretly Sent to Ontario Hospitals, Disability Advocates Sound the Alarm About the Danger of Disability Discrimination in Access to Health Care as the Omicron Variant Rapidly Overloads Hospitals

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

One Year After Disability-Discriminatory Critical Care Triage Protocol was Secretly Sent to Ontario Hospitals, Disability Advocates Sound the Alarm About the Danger of Disability Discrimination in Access to Health Care as the Omicron Variant Rapidly Overloads Hospitals

January 13, 2022 Toronto: As the Omicron variant rapidly spreads, the danger that some patients will lose their lives because hospitals are overloaded grows closer. Sounding the alarm, a major disability coalition wrote Ontario’s Health Minister, calling for immediate action to ensure that patients with disabilities face no disability discrimination in access to health care. The AODA Alliance’s January 12, 2021 letter below, warns:

“The highly-contagious Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire. Hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19 are daily breaking records. Intensive care beds with COVID-19 patients are shooting up at a frightening rate.

The media reports that hospital staffing levels are impaired by COVID-19-related absences, that emergency rooms are more backed up than ever, and that demand for ambulances is outstripping supply. People who are unvaccinated or who have not gotten a booster shot are at greater risk. The Ontario Government has still not ensured that people with disabilities can get barrier-free access to COVID-19 vaccinations.”

The AODA Alliance warns that there is an accelerating danger of disability discrimination against vulnerable patients with disabilities in access to life-saving health care, because:

  1. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, many pre-existing disability barriers were rampant in Ontario’s health care system. The pandemic made this worse.
  1. A disability discriminatory Ontario Critical Care Triage Protocol has been embedded in hospitals for a year. One year ago today, that Protocol was secretly sent to Ontario hospitals. The Ford Government never made it public. It was leaked to the AODA Alliance, and is posted on our website.
  1. There is a real danger of disability discrimination by ambulances and emergency medical technicians as the demand for hospital beds and ambulances skyrockets. The Ford Government has not made public any directions regarding triage for EMTs and ambulance services.
  1. Some kind of triage is necessarily inherent during the current cancellation of “elective” surgery. This will endanger the lives of some patients. There is no public protocol on how that triage is being conducted, nor is there any assured due process for patients whose lives are at stake.

“We have offered the Ford Government concrete, constructive recommendations for immediate action to protect patients with disabilities, but over the past year and a half, the Ford Government refused to answer any of our thoroughly-documented letters,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “This issue must be taken out of the back rooms and openly debated in the Ontario Legislature.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

For more background on this issue, check out the AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts regarding critical care triage and generally, its to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Text of The AODA Alliance’s January 12, 2022 Letter to Ontario’s Health Minister

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

January 12, 2022

To: The Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health

Via email: Christine.elliott@ontario.ca

Ministry of Health

5th Floor

777 Bay St.

Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister,

Re: The Danger of Disability Discrimination in Access to Health Care During the Pandemic’s Omicron Surge

We need you to immediately take action now to protect vulnerable people with disabilities from suffering disability-based discrimination in access to health care during the escalating health care crisis. The highly-contagious Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire. Hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19 are daily breaking records. Intensive care beds with COVID-19 patients are shooting up at a frightening rate.

The media reports that hospital staffing levels are impaired by COVID-19-related absences, that emergency rooms are more backed up than ever, and that demand for ambulances is outstripping supply. People who are unvaccinated or who have not gotten a booster shot are at greater risk. The Ontario Government has still not ensured that people with disabilities can get barrier-free access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

There is a clear and present danger of disability discrimination in access to health care. We present several reasons for this concern. We then list constructive, concrete action we ask you to now take.

1. Many Pre-Existing Disability Barriers are Rampant in Ontario’s Health Care System

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario’s health care system was replete with serious disability barriers. This is the finding of the Government-appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee in its initial report to the Government that was made public on May 7, 2021, two thirds of a year ago. It is amplified by the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The Ontario Government has in place no comprehensive plan for removing those disability barriers.

2. A Disability Discriminatory Critical Care Triage Protocol Is Embedded in Ontario Hospitals

Making this worse, a year ago tomorrow, on January 13, 2021, the Ontario critical care triage protocol was sent to Ontario hospitals, on your Government’s watch. As far as we have seen, the Government has still never made it public. It was leaked to us, and has been available to the public on the AODA Alliance website. The Government has not denied the authenticity of that document.

The official Ontario critical care triage protocol clearly directs disability discrimination, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. Under that protocol, if critical care must be rationed and if a cancer patient needs critical care, and if critical care triage has been invoked due to overloads at ICUs, those patients with disabilities will be deprioritized if a patient is “Completely disabled and cannot carry out any self-care; totally confined to bed or chair”. As another example that would be directed if critical care triage is invoked, if a patient needing critical care is over 65 and has a progressive disease (like MS, arthritis or Parkinson’s), their access to critical care is reduced depending on how few of eleven activities of daily living they can perform without assistance. This includes dressing, bathing, eating, walking, getting in and out of bed, using the telephone, going shopping, preparing meals, doing housework, taking medication, or handling their finances. The disability discrimination could not be clearer and more obvious, notwithstanding denials by one of the protocol’s authors.

Last winter, during an earlier COVID-19 surge, it was feared that Ontario would have to formally invoke its secret critical care triage protocol if ICU COVID patients numbered around 900, though no precise target number was set. In the past month, the number of ICU patients with COVID has raced up from under 200 to 505 as of today, with no end in sight. With a record 3,448 patients with COVID-19 in hospital, this escalating number will grow.

We anticipate that it may be necessary to formally trigger critical care triage protocol in Ontario even if COVID-19 patients in ICUs number less than 900. This is because there is a real potential that Ontario’s hospital ICU capacity is now lower than it was last spring. So many hospital staff are isolating at home with COVID.

Strong action is needed now to root out the disability discrimination that this has embedded within the health care system. That protocol has been left in place to fester unchecked for a full year, leading doctors to think that the disability-discriminatory conduct that it mandates is perfectly lawful and ethical.

More fuel has stoked the danger of this disability discrimination fire. Last year, your Government let hospital staff be trained on how to use the disability-discriminatory Ontario critical care triage protocol. That training was seriously deficient and misleading. For example, a January 23, 2021 webinar provided training for front line hospital physicians on the secret Ontario critical care triage protocol. It has been viewed over 2,300 times. That webinar did not alert physicians to the serious disability discrimination concerns that had been raised with Ontario’s critical care triage plans. Participants were told that Ontario’s critical care triage protocol was the result of consultations with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and community groups. They were misleadingly not told that the Ontario Human Rights Commission and community groups like the AODA Alliance publicly objected to key parts of the triage plan and the secretive way it has been developed.

The Government has strong reasons for retracting and replacing Ontario’s secret critical care triage protocol. Almost one year ago, We again documented in our February 25, 2021 report on critical care triage that it is seriously flawed. We warned physicians that they would use that protocol at their peril. Moreover, last spring, objections to Ontario’s critical care triage protocol were publicly raised by six members of the Government-appointed Bioethics Table. Your Government appointed that Bioethics Table to advise The Government on how to design a critical care triage protocol. The concerns of those six members of the Bioethics Table echoed disability community objections.

3. There is a Real Danger of Disability Discrimination by Ambulances and Emergency Medical Technicians

There is a real risk that directions are now also in place to emergency medical technicians, such as ambulances, to triage which cases are brought to hospital and given critical care supports en route there. We have seen nothing in place to ensure that disability discrimination is prevented here.

Normally, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) may start critical care supports for a patient en route to hospital, if the patient needs it. The public expects that if an ambulance arrives in an emergency to help a person, the EMTs will do all they can to help save the patient’s life. The public does not expect that an EMT would unilaterally refuse to provide a life-saving measure that the patient needs.

The national news story that ran on the April 18, 2021 edition of CBC’s The National established for the first time that we have seen in the media that critical care triage can include emergency medical technicians (EMTs) refusing life-saving care to a patient before they even get to the hospital. For example, EMTs arriving at a patient’s home to respond to a medical emergency may not resuscitate some patients.

In the April 18, 2021 edition of CBC TV’s The National, Dr. David Neilipovitz ICU director at the Ottawa Hospital had this exchange on camera:

“CBC: Will you get into a situation where ambulance attendants are told ‘Don’t intubate anyone?’

Dr. David Neilipovitz: Yeah, that can happen. It would be naïve for us to think that triage or changes in standard of care have not already in effect come about.”

The Ford Government has failed to release a single document or record in response to our inquiries about this. It has not answered a Freedom of Information application filed by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on this last May. We wrote You about this worrisome danger back on February 25, 2021. You and your Government have never answered. Since then, the danger that ambulances in Ontario are now engaging in some form of life-threatening triage at patients’ homes is all the more likely since the total number of COVID cases in hospitals is at an all-time high, and is daily increasing.

4. Triage is Inherent During the Current Cancellation of “Elective” Surgery

It is widely reported that elective surgeries are being cancelled in Ontario due to the hospital overloads. The delay of surgery, even if labelled “elective surgery”, can end up costing some patients their lives. The decision of whose surgery gets delayed and whose gets prioritized thereby amounts to a form of triage that, like critical care triage, is life-threatening for some patients.

We are aware of no public policy or triage protocol governing this, nor any due process to protect patients. We need immediate public accountability of who is deciding who lives and who dies as a result, and on what criteria or basis those decisions are being made. There should be a public accounting of how many lives are lost as a result.

We have a well-founded concern that in such decisions, disability discrimination could take place. The Government and its key critical care team have given a strong signal to the medical profession for at least one year in the Ontario critical care triage protocol that disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical care is perfectly acceptable. The trickle-down harm in attitudes towards the lives of patients with disabilities is incalculable.

5. Constructive Concrete Recommendations for Urgent Action

Please take these actions now:

  1. Make public the current version of the critical care triage protocol, all reports and recommendations regarding critical care triage by the Government’s external Bioethics Table since September 11, 2020, the Government’s plan of action for rolling out critical care triage if needed, and the content and results of drills or simulations of critical care triage held at any Ontario hospitals.
  1. Make public all directions and draft directions to ambulances and other emergency medical services on triaging who is to be brought to hospital, and to whom critical care is to be refused.
  1. Remove unlawful discrimination, including disability discrimination, from the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol, and from any protocols or directions to ambulances and other emergency services.
  1. Do not give a financial blank cheque to doctors and hospitals in advance (indemnification), nor should the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario give doctors a regulatory blank cheque, if they rely on disability-discriminatory directions.
  1. Immediately hold a public consultation on how critical care triage should be conducted, as well as triage over so-called “elective surgery.”
  1. Ensure that Ontario’s critical care triage plan and protocol are properly prescribed by law, by introducing legislation on critical care triage for debate in the Legislature, rather than dealing with it by an internal memo to hospitals.
  1. Publicly report on how decisions are being made on who gets prioritized or deprioritized for “elective surgery” while such surgeries are cancelled or cut back, and make public a clear, swift and fair avenue for patients to appeal such decisions, especially if they endanger their lives.
  1. If critical care triage is formally invoked, publicly account on a daily basis on the number of patients who need critical care but are refused it over their objection.
  1. Similarly, publicly Account for the number of lives lost due to implicit triage in access to so-called “elective surgery” while such surgery is cancelled or restricted.

There is a pressing need for a full public accounting and debate of these issues, before it is too late. We regret that up until now, your Government has decided not to be open and accountable on this issue, in the hope that it will go away. There has been no fulsome debate on this in the Legislature. You have not answered any of our nine earlier letters to you over the past seven months. Those letters detail serious and well-researched objections to disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage plans, including the AODA Alliance‘s September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, its December 15, 2020 letter, its December 17, 2020 letter, its January 18, 2021 letter, its February 25, 2021 letter and its April 26, 2021 letter to you. People with disabilities deserve better.

We are always eager to help you and the Government with these issues. Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC:

Premier Doug Ford premier@ontario.ca; doug.ford@ontariopc.com

Dr. Catherine Zahn, Deputy Minister of Health Catherine.zahn@ontario.ca

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility Raymond.cho@ontario.ca

Carlene Alexander, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility carlene.alexander@ontario.ca

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

Patricia DeGuire, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission cco@ohrc.on.ca

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre lattanr@lao.on.ca

A Misleading National Post Column Unfairly Misquotes the AODA Alliance, and Claims We are Untrustworthy on the Issue of Robots on Public Sidewalks – National Post Eventually Publishes a Correction After Our Repeated Requests

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

A Misleading National Post Column Unfairly Misquotes the AODA Alliance, and Claims We are Untrustworthy on the Issue of Robots on Public Sidewalks – National Post Eventually Publishes a Correction After Our Repeated Requests

January 10, 2022

SUMMARY

Happy New Year to all supporters of our non-partisan campaign for a fully accessible society for people with disabilities. Buckle up and get ready for another hectic year in our campaign. It starts right now!

Our campaign is waged on so many fronts at the same time. Here is an example you may never have imagined would be necessary.

Amidst all the upsetting developments last year, we ended 2021 with some good news. The disability community had convinced the City of Toronto to ban robots from sidewalks, as they would create new barriers for people with disabilities.

Yet out of the blue, the December 27, 2021 edition of the National Post included a very troubling column by columnist Adam Zivo, set out below. Mr. Zivo blasted the City of Toronto for banning robots from public sidewalks. His column repeats the party line argument from some of the corporate lobbyists for part of the robotics industry.

A column opposing our position is, of course, fair game in a democracy. However, Mr. Zivo went too far. Although he correctly identified the AODA Alliance as playing a leadership role in trying to get the City to Ban robots from sidewalks, he also called us hysterical luddites. Mr. Zivo accused AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky of getting his facts wrong, and not being a trustworthy source of information on this topic.

It is a cruel irony that it was Mr. Zivo who clearly misstated the facts when he accused AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky of incorrect facts. In his December 27, 2021 column, Mr. Zivo wrote that David Lepofsky had told the Toronto Star that robots on sidewalks endanger people with disabilities partially because they could come at a blind person like Lepofsky at 20 kph. You can find that Toronto Star article at: https://www.thestar.com/business/2021/12/11/torontos-pink-delivery-robots-have-been-pulled-off-the-streets-and-may-be-banned-next-week-but-is-that-the-right-move.html

Mr. Zivo then argued that under a proposed Ontario pilot with robots on sidewalks, the robots would have a permissible maximum speed of 10 kph. This supported his column’s overall claim that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is hysterical, untrustworthy, has his facts wrong, and does not know what he’s talking about. Mr. Zivo wrote:

“The Toronto Star recently interviewed AODA Alliance’s chair David Lepofsky, who does not fill one with confidence that he is a trustworthy voice in this debate.

According to Lepofsky, legalizing delivery robots would mean that, “At any time there could be a silent menace racing at me at 20 km/h. A sidewalk that was safe becomes one where I could go flying over.” That statement makes no sense – Tiny miles’delivery robots travel at 4km/hour and the maximum speed that would be allowed on sidewalks by Ontario’s pilot project is 10km/hour. Nor does this hypothetical situation remotely match Toronto’s actual experiences with delivery robots over the past year.”

That would be quite a great point for Mr. Zivo’s argument, except that it is utterly false. In the December 11, 2021 Toronto star article which Mr. Zivo quotes, David Lepofsky was clearly and obviously  talking about the dangers of electric scooters, and not robots, racing at 20 kph. It was not until later in that Toronto Star article that Lepofsky was quoted on the subject of robots. He never claimed in the Toronto Star Article that robots could hit pedestrians at 20 kph. Here is the relevant part of that Toronto Star article from which Mr. Zivo extracted his distorted quotation:

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

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

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

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

But then came the robots.

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

The same day that Mr. Zivo’s National Post column ran, David Lepofsky sent the National Post a responding letter to the editor. He was not the only person to dispute Mr. Zivo’s ringing endorsement of robots on public sidewalks. On the next day, December 28, 2021, David Lepofsky again wrote the National Post to re-submit his letter to the editor, and to ask the newspaper to publish a correction regarding Mr. Zivo’s column. In that email, Lepofsky wrote in part:

“This is not a question of opinion but of objective provable fact. When so clear a misquote is attributed to someone, especially when included in a national newspaper, basic principles of good journalism dictate that it merits a published correction in your paper. In my case, this supplements the fact that having been attacked by name in your paper, I hope and trust that my letter can run as a fair chance to respond to that attack.”

Normally, a newspaper runs letters to the editor within a day or two after an item is published to which the letters respond. Yet for days the National Post ran no correction to Mr. Zivo’s column, and as far as we could determine, published no letters to the editor disputing it. David Lepofsky again wrote the National Post on January 6, 2022, reiterating his concerns. The Post responded for the first time, stating that it was delayed over the holidays in addressing letters to the editor. It advised that the Post would run a slightly-edited version of Lepofsky’s letter to the editor in the print and online versions of the newspaper, as well as a correction. Additionally, the National Post advised that it would run another letter to the editor that disagreed with Mr. Zivo’s position.

Below, right after Mr. Zivo’s original column, you can read the letters to the editor from David Lepofsky and from Tim Nolan that ran in the January 8, 2022 National Post. Before them, you can read the correction that the National Post included in its print edition on that date.

This is progress. However, the story is not finished. As far as we can determine, the National Post has published no correction in its online newspaper. Moreover, it has left the original column by Mr. Zivo up on its website, including the misquote of David Lepofsky which the National Post has agreed is false. On January 8, 2022, David Lepofsky again wrote the National Post to ask that this be corrected. We are awaiting a response from the National Post. Lepofsky wrote in part:

“If the print version warranted a correction, then the identical online version deserved a correction.

As well, the initial online version of Mr. Zivo’s column remains on your website, replete with its false statement about me which the National Post has recognized as warranting a correction. That misstatement about me in Mr. Zivo’s column should not remain on the National Post’s website, much less should the column remain there without a notification to the reader that the National Post has recognized that it has included an incorrect statement of fact about me that warranted a correction. This is especially so since Mr. Zivo’s column remains on your site alleging that I am untrustworthy and that I get my facts wrong.

Can you please advise what corrective action will be taken. I would appreciate this being fixed quickly, since the Zivo article has remained on your website for 12 days, levelling those accusations at me, without being corrected.”

This saga shows how vigilant we must be, not only with the Ontario Government, but also with the media, even when the facts are on our side.

Stay tuned for more news on this and other fronts in our accessibility campaign. As the new year gets underway, there are now less than three years left for the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible for people with disabilities by 2025. For the Government to allow municipalities to conduct pilot projects with robots on public sidewalks will set Ontario even further behind on that score.

As of today, there have been 1,075 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that was conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has still not announced a comprehensive plan to implement all of that report’s recommendations.

Check our the AODA Alliance’s 2021 Year-End Report, if you have not done so already, to see what is likely in store for us over the next weeks and months. Your feedback is always invited. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

MORE DETAILS

National Post December 27, 2021

Originally posted at https://nationalpost.com/opinion/adam-zivo-these-delivery-robots-are-a-hazard-to-no-one-but-toronto-banned-them-anyway

Opinion

Toronto sticks it to benign little delivery robots

Throughout the past year, little pink robots were hauling deliveries across downtown Toronto, much to the delight of most local citizens. The robots provided a cheaper alternative to human couriers, which made them particularly useful for the disabled and elderly. However, Toronto city council banned them earlier this month, citing safety concerns, despite the fact that no evidence exists that the robots are actually dangerous.

Rather than supporting local innovation and attracting tech investment, it seems that Toronto’s political leaders have chosen to instead indulge a moral panic spread by a handful of luddites.

Prior to being banned, these delivery robots, also called “micro-utility devices” (MUDs), operated in a legal grey area. They weren’t prohibited, but neither were they recognized by any existing regulations, because, as is often the case, regulators lagged behind technological innovation.

In the face of this inertia, a Toronto-based company, Tiny Mile, launched a robot delivery service that couriered goods at a cost of $1 per kilometre. The robots were emblazoned with pink hearts for eyes and became a fixture in some downtown neighbourhoods, trudging at a careful pace of 4 kilometres an hour. The robots also appeared to be remarkably safe, with no reported collisions, accidents or complaints despite completing over 100,000 kilometres in deliveries.

Tiny Mile became a nascent success story and began planning for a quick expansion. The company seemed positioned to become a global leader in the deployment of delivery robot technology – something that should have been celebrated. Not only is entrepreneurship the lifeblood of any economy, it’s rare for a city to find itself on the cutting edge of an entirely new, globally-relevant innovation.

It seemed as if regulations were finally beginning to catch up. This autumn, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation proposed a pilot project that will eventually regulate MUDs – for example, setting maximum speeds (10km/hour on sidewalks; 20km/hour on road shoulders and bike lanes) and mandating certain safety features, such as lights for night deliveries. The Ontario pilot is still in development, but, by and large, Tiny Mile is already compliant with its rules.

While it seemed as if everything was aligning to the benefit of Toronto’s tech industry and local economy, discontent was brewing elsewhere. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance, a disability rights advocacy group, has been aggressively campaigning against normalizing delivery robots, calling them a menace to the disabled.

Their lobbying captured the attention of Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who began to parrot many of their talking points. Wong-Tam is chair of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, which, in early December, recommended banning MUDs.

That recommendation directly led to the municipal ban that was adopted by Toronto city council.

The fact that the AODA Alliance, in partnership with Councillor Wong-Tam, killed Toronto’s delivery robot industry wouldn’t be an issue if they had legitimate objections worth addressing – but their campaign seems rooted in technophobia and hysteria. It’s hard to come to a different conclusion when a group aggressively asserts that delivery robots are dangerous without providing any actual evidence to support that claim, all while ignoring local data that suggests that delivery robots are safe.

The Toronto Star recently interviewed AODA Alliance’s chair David Lepofsky, who does not fill one with confidence that he is a trustworthy voice in this debate.

According to Lepofsky, legalizing delivery robots would mean that, “At any time there could be a silent menace racing at me at 20 km/h. A sidewalk that was safe becomes one where I could go flying over.” That statement makes no sense – Tiny Miles’delivery robots travel at 4km/hour and the maximum speed that would be allowed on sidewalks by Ontario’s pilot project is 10km/hour. Nor does this hypothetical situation remotely match Toronto’s actual experiences with delivery robots over the past year.

Lepofsky also argued that if an unmanned robot breaks a rule or gets into an accident, it would be difficult to track down the person responsible because the robot operator is not physically present at the scene. Apparently it is inconceivable that someone could simply contact a delivery company to confirm who was operating a particular robot at the time of an incident.

Lepofsky is a retired lawyer and has spent months campaigning against delivery robots – so why is he getting basic facts wrong and forwarding such flimsy arguments? Whatever the answer, it’s a shame that Toronto city council chose to take claims like his at face value. The key takeaway is that if you want to effectively lobby the city, you can just fudge numbers and come up with scary hypotheticals, plausibility be damned.

The ideal outcome would have been for city council to simply adapt the regulations proposed by Ontario’s pilot project and then adjust them as needed.

Instead, council prioritized parochialism. This should anger anyone who is concerned about the economic harms of over-regulation. It should also anger those concerned about disability rights – because disabled and elderly residents, especially lower-income ones, would have disproportionately benefited from delivery robots. Going forward, they will have to pay more to have medication and other essentials delivered to their door – and that’s a real harm, not a hypothetical one.

Adam Zivo

National Post January 8, 2022

News

Correction

David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, was referring to e-scooters, not street robots, when he told the Toronto Star in an interview that “At any time there could be a silent menace racing at me at 20 km/h. A sidewalk that was safe becomes one where I could go flying over.”

Incorrect information appeared in an Adam Zivo column on Dec. 27.

National Post January 8, 2022

Originally posted at https://nationalpost.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor-columnist-got-it-wrong-on-street-robots

Letters

Columnist got it wrong on street robots; Letters of the day

Graphic: Supplied, Tiny Mile / Toronto’s banning of robots from sidewalks has been lauded by two letter writers who point out they provide obstacles and endanger safety for people with disabilities.;

Re: Toronto sticks it to benign little delivery robots, Adam Zivo, Dec. 27 I applaud Toronto’s banning of robots from sidewalks, contrary to Adam Zivo’s column. Robots, like ones delivering packages, endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors and others. This ban covers all robots, not just small ones.

Blind people like me risk not knowing a robot is silently heading right at us or is in our path. For people using wheelchairs, robots on sidewalks risk blocking their path. Have balance issues? Robots brushing by could send you toppling. Sidewalks already have too many accessibility barriers, street furniture, art, signs and more.

Zivo’s column robotically parroted corporate lobbyists. It also falsely branded me a technophobic Luddite. As a blind person, cutting-edge technology let me read his erroneous column. It enabled me to quickly confirm that he misrepresented me, by quoting something I had told another publication about electric scooters, while incorrectly claiming I was talking about robots.

Zivo claims banning sidewalk robots hurts people with disabilities, because they would reduce the cost of delivering medications. Check your facts. My pharmacy delivers my meds for free.

I only oppose technology that endangers safety. You cannot arrest, prosecute or sue a robot. You can’t prove who unleashed that robot onto the sidewalk. A robot might display a bogus company name. Just imagine what criminals could deliver using robots, if allowed on sidewalks. David Lepofsky Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

 National Post January 8, 2022

Originally posted at https://nationalpost.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor-columnist-got-it-wrong-on-street-robots

Letters

Columnist got it wrong on street robots

Hamilton, Ont. –

One of the greatest challenges in life is to understand the world around us from the perspective of others; that is to walk in someone else’s shoes. Based upon the opinion of Adam Zivo it does not appear that he does, or even tries, to truly understand the world of someone with a disability.

Zivo claims Toronto City Council came to its decision despite a lack of evidence. Yet, he, himself, provides no evidence in support of his opinion. Not until he, as a blind person, must navigate a sidewalk that is obstructed by restaurants, mailboxes, posts, garbage bins, flower planters, trees, bus shelters, wayward scooter riders, fire hydrants, parking meters, and many more obstacles, would Zivo be entitled to an opinion on matters for which he so clearly has no knowledge.

Zivo also clearly knows nothing about innovation and people with disabilities. Many of the technological advancements universally enjoyed by the public were developed or refined for, if not by, people with disabilities in order that they have access to the information that the world so casually enjoys. Technology is important, if not critical to people with disabilities. But, that technology must be thoughtfully designed and developed. The same regulatory processes which govern food, toys for children, vehicles on the roads, and more, should govern advancements in robots, e-scooters, sidewalk restaurants, light rail transit and many more changes to our environment that impose unnecessary barriers to the people we should care for above all else.

Technology can be as harmful as it can be helpful.

We must encourage advancement, critically and safely. And, Zivo might think about everyone and not just getting his pizza to his door without having to give a tip.

Hopefully other municipalities will demonstrate the same degree of courage as Toronto.

Tim Nolan, Hamilton, Ont.

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

December 24, 2021

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

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

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

  1. This year, we continued to raise serious disability issues in the Ford Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to offer constructive suggestions to those in positions of power. As a primary focus, we battled against the disability discrimination that is deeply rooted in the critical care triage protocol that the Ford Government allowed to be embedded in Ontario hospitals. In this effort, we collaborated closely with the ARCH Disability Law Centre and a team of other disability advocates and experts. We highlighted disability barriers in Ontario’s vaccine distribution and in its vaccine passport system.
  1. Working closely with supporters and allies in the disability community, we together convinced Toronto City Council to retain the ban on electric scooters. E-scooters endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.
  1. We also presented concerns on allowing e-scooters in public places to Hamilton’s and Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committees and to London City Council’s Civic Works Committee.
  1. Working with our allies, we convinced Toronto City Council to pass a ban on robots on sidewalks, which endanger us and others. This win secured media coverage as far away as the UK.
  1. We raised disability accessibility issues during the fall 2021 federal election and sought commitments on this topic from the major parties.
  1. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky waged a legal battle in court against the Ford Government for its unjustified delay in making public the initial reports it received from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The AODA requires the Government to publicly post those reports upon receiving them, not after long delays. Regrettably, Ontario’s Superior Court dismissed that case as moot, without ruling on the correctness of the claim. This is because the Government finally though belatedly posted those reports online before the case got to court for oral argument.

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

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

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

  1. We researched, wrote, and submitted a number of detailed briefs on important disability issues, including:
  1. a) A brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on the barriers facing people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.
  1. b) A brief to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on the barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s colleges and universities.
  1. c) A brief to the Ford Government on the disability barriers in the Ontario critical care triage protocol
  1. d) A brief to the Ford Government on why it should not allow a public pilot of robots on sidewalks in Ontario.
  1. e) A brief to Toronto City Council on why it should not allow e-scooters.
  1. f) A brief to London Ontario City Council on why it should not allow e-scooters.

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

  1. We continued to raise major objections to any Government reliance on the seriously flawed Rick Hansen Foundation private accessibility “certification” program. It does not provide an accurate and reliable assessment of a building’s accessibility. For details on these documented concerns, see the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program and the AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program.
  1. We again brought our message and a wide range of issues to the public through conventional media and through social media. For example, we issued thousands of tweets again this year on Twitter. In a wide spectrum of our advocacy activity, we secured media attention in print, on TV, and on the radio. In a good many cases, it was the media that came to us for comment, rather than the other way around.
  1. This year, we released new online captioned videos that help people with disabilities, the Government and the public learn more about our issues. These videos got an impressive number of views and very positive feedback. Prominent among these are the new video that introduces you to the duty to accommodate people with disabilities and the video that gives an in-depth explanation of the disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
  1. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky continued to serve on behalf of the AODA Alliance as a member of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. Its initial report on barriers facing students with disabilities was made public for public consultation on June 1, 2021. It received very positive feedback from the disability community and from educators. That Standards Development Committee is now in the last stages of finalizing revisions to the report based on all the public feedback. The Standards Development Committee aims to conduct its final vote on its final report in the first week of January 2022.
  1. Where positive steps are taken on accessibility, we remain ready to acknowledge and applaud them. We also have continued to hold the Ontario Government publicly accountable for its insufficient action on accessibility. For example, this year we continued to publicize our daily count of the number of days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act conducted by David Onley. As of today, that count has reached 1,058 days. We are still waiting for the Ford Government to announce a comprehensive plan to effectively implement that report’s recommendations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

December 23, 2021

            SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

            MORE DETAILS

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

December 23, 2021

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

Via email: raymond.cho@ontario.ca

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

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

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

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

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

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

NEWS RELEASE

Ontario Making Public Spaces More Accessible

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

December 20, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

December 22, 2021

            SUMMARY

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

  1. The December 9, 2021 City News report about the disability barrier experienced by people with disabilities at shopping malls in which the benches have been removed.
  1. The December 8, 2021 article in The Pointer about disability barriers to following the proceedings of some city council proceedings during the pandemic.
  1. The December 17, 2021 article in The Robot Report, reporting that Toronto City Council has banned robots from sidewalks due to the barrier they present for pedestrians with disabilities.
  1. The December 21, 2021 report in the British “Cities Today” publication on Toronto’s decision to ban robots from sidewalks. To our knowledge, this is the first time the AODA Alliance has been quoted in a British publication.
  1. The October 25, 2021 CTV News Toronto report on the disability barrier that can be created by a failure to plow snow in a way that ensures clear accessible paths of travel and the implications of a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.
  1. The November 21, 2021 CBC News report on the disability barrier facing people with disabilities because Ontario requires one to have a driver’s license to renew an Ontario Health Card online. The AODA Alliance is not quoted in this article and had no involvement in getting this great coverage. To learn more about that barrier, check out the AODA Alliance’s December 20, 2021 news release.
  1. The December 8, 2021 CTV report on the same barrier to renewing Ontario Health Cards. Here again, the AODA Alliance had no involvement in getting this great coverage of that issue.

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

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

            MORE DETAILS

1. CityNews December 9, 2021

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

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

A call to bring back mall benches

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

By David Zura

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Pointer December 8, 2021

 

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

 

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

By Isaac Callan – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He recalls the encounter vividly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email: isaac.callan@thepointer.com

Twitter: @isaaccallan

3. The Robot Report December 17, 2021

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

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

By

Brianna Wessling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiny Mile has operated in Toronto since September 2020.

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brianna Wessling

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

4. Cities Today December 21, 2021

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

Toronto city council votes to ban pavement robots

by Christopher Carey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovation challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deeply worrying

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

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

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

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

5. CTV News October 25, 2021

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

People with disabilities hope snow clearing ruling means more accessible streets

Jon Woodward

CTV News Toronto Videojournalist

@CTV_Jon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. CBC News November 21, 2021

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

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

Toronto

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

Samantha Beattie CBC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It boggles my mind.”

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

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

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

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

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

‘Level the playing field’

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

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

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

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

“It would equal the playing field for everybody.”

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

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

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

7. CTV News December 8, 2021

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

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

Hannah Alberga

Hannah Alberga

CTV News Toronto Multi-Platform Writer

@HannahAlberga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do they not work? Or not available?

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

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

December 21, 2021

            SUMMARY

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

            MORE DETAILS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more background, check out and widely share:

  1. The widely viewed captioned online video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky that explains the entire critical care triage protocol issue from a disability perspective, for those who don’t know the ins and outs.
  1. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report that thoroughly details serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage protocol.
  1. The unanswered letters on the critical care triage protocol issue sent to the Ford Government’s Health Minister, including the AODA Alliance‘s letters of September 25, 2020, November 2, 2020, November 9, 2020, December 7, 2020, December 15, 2020,­­ December 17, 2020, January 18, 2021, February 25, 2021, and April 26, 2021.
  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page.

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

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

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

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

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

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

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

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

Ford Government Piled Discrimination Upon Discrimination

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

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

Ford Government Has No Defence

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

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

Ford Government’s Broken Promises to Ontarians with Disabilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Clear, Obvious and Urgent Need for Corrective Action

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

  1. The Ford Government should immediately enable people to renew their health card online if they have an Ontario Photo Identification Card.
  1. The Ford Government should immediately enable people to renew their official Ontario Photo Identification Card online if it is expired.
  1. The Ford Government should immediately create and widely publicize an easy-to-use accessible means for people with disabilities to renew their health card if they cannot do so online, without having to personally go to a Service Ontario office and risk exposure to COVID-19, such as through a phone service that is sufficiently staffed to avoid long waits on hold.
  1. The Ford Government should investigate and report to the public on how it allowed this obvious disability barrier to be created in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, exposing people with disabilities to further dangers to their health.

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

For more background, read:

  1. The AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page, identifying the many new barriers people with disabilities have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, identifying the many barriers people with disabilities face in Ontario’s health care system.
  1. The AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 Letter to Ontario Party Leaders seeking election pledges on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  2. The widely-viewed captioned online presentation by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky (who is a visiting law professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School) on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

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

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

December 13, 2021

            SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee recommends as follows:

  1. a) The City of Ottawa not conduct any more pilots that allow electric scooters to be ridden in any public places in Ottawa, whether the e-scooter is owned by or rented by the rider.
  1. b) The City of Ottawa should not lift the legal ban now in effect on riding e-scooters in public places.
  1. c) The City of Ottawa should enforce the legal ban on riding e-scooters in public places.”

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

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

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

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

            MORE DETAILS

 

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

By Sean Frankling

Toronto Star December 11, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then came the robots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The key take-aways?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

December 10, 2021

            SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

            MORE DETAILS

toronto.com December 2019

Metroland News

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

Opinion

Toronto must ban service robots from its sidewalks

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

BY DAVID LEPOFSKY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The Globe and Mail December 10, 2021

(2021-12-10)

Report on Business

Toronto company temporarily pulls pink delivery robots off sidewalks

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

December 10, 2021

            SUMMARY

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

               MORE DETAILS

NOTICE OF A SPECIAL ACCESSIBILITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING

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

E-Scooters Pilot Project Update

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

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

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

December 8, 2021

            SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            MORE DETAILS

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

December 7, 2021

To: Mayor John Tory and Members of Toronto City Council

City Hall,

100 Queen St. W.

Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

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

Dear Mayor Tory and Members of Toronto City Council,

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CBC News December 7, 2021

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Measures not enough, says professor

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

December 3, 2021

            SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

            MORE DETAILS

Ontario Hansard December 2, 2021

Question Period

 

ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

November 22, 2021

To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier

Via Email: doug.ford@ontariopc.com

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition

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

Room 113, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5

Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:

Via email: leader@gpo.ca

Room 451 Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON M7A 1A2

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

Via email: steven@ontarioliberal.ca

344 Bloor St W,

Toronto On, M5S 1W9

Dear Party Leaders,

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

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

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

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

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

 These Commitments are Vital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What Went Wrong?

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

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

Our Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario In a Nutshell

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

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

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

Following Up on This Letter

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

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

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

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

 I. Leadership Commitments

 a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

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

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

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

 b) Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#7. Will you comply with the AODA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 a) Enact a Comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even if a new building fully complies with the weak Ontario Building Code and scant AODA accessibility standards that address tiny bits of accessibility in the built environment, that building routinely has significant accessibility barriers. This is illustrated in our widely-viewed online videos about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre and recent new Toronto public transit stations.

The AODA requires buildings in Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. Around 15 years ago, shortly after the AODA was enacted, the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend what should be included in a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Yet Ontario still has no comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA.

In December 2012, the Government only enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. It is an extremely narrow accessibility standard. It only deals with a few kinds of “Public Spaces” (e.g. recreational trails, sidewalks and parking spots). It mainly deals with some spaces outside buildings, but extremely little inside buildings.

For some four years, the Ontario Government has been in violation of the AODA’s requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government has announced no plans to comply with this legal requirement, despite our repeated requests.

In December 2013 and later, the Government enacted very limited new accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code. That Code only deals with the accessibility of new buildings and major renovations. Even after those amendments, the Ontario Building Code does not ensure that new buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. It is not a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It is not enforceable under the AODA. It does not effectively address all the disability barriers in buildings.

The Ontario Government has enacted nothing under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code to address the need for retrofits in existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. If accessibility requirements for the built environment continue to only address new construction and major renovations, then Ontario’s built environment will never become accessible for people with disabilities. Two AODA Independent Reviews have specifically called for new Government action under the AODA to address the need to retrofit the built environment, the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report.

#15. Will you adopt a comprehensive strategy to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, including enacting a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA? As part of this, within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA to make recommendations on what a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities? This should include accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations. It should include, but not be limited to, the overdue review of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions should also be strengthened to equal the requirements in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

We understand that the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards do not now set needed accessibility requirements in the location and operation of elevators. Ontario needs strong accessibility standards regarding elevators. For example, increasingly buildings are installing “destination elevator” facilities. These confuse the public as a whole, and create serious accessibility problems.

#16. Will you ensure that a new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard will include accessibility requirements for elevators?

 e) Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard and Create Accessible Housing Strategy

Ontario has a serious shortage of accessible housing where people with disabilities can live. This crisis will get worse as society ages.

The Ontario Building Code and current AODA accessibility standards now set no accessibility requirements for new residential homes, even if commercially built to go on the public market. Ontario has no comprehensive effective Government strategy for ensuring that Ontario will have a sufficient supply of accessible housing.

#17. Will you create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA? Within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include? We are open to this being part of the mandate of the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to above, or being a separate stand-alone AODA Standards Development Committee.

#18. Will you announce a comprehensive accessible housing strategy, (apart from an AODA accessibility standard), within six months of taking office, after consulting the public, including people with disabilities? This strategy should aim to effectively increase the supply of accessible housing in Ontario, including supportive housing.

 f) Strengthen the Weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard

Shocking many, people with disabilities continue to face disability barriers to accessible customer service in Ontario. In 2007, Ontario passed the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard enacted under the AODA.

In 2016, the Ontario Government made revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard after a mandatory five-year review of it. These did not significantly strengthen it, and in some ways, weakened it.

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard by June 2021, five years after it was last revised. Violating the AODA, the Ontario Government has not done so. It has not announced any plans to do so.

#19. Within three months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee under the AODA to review the 2007 AODA Customer Service Accessibility Standard? After that Committee reports, will you strengthen that accessibility standard to require accessible customer service in Ontario for people with disabilities?

 g) Develop Additional New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility

Even if the accessibility standards addressed above are enacted or strengthened, other new accessibility standards will also be needed. For example, it would be helpful to develop an accessibility standard to address procurement of goods and services, further addressed below.

#20. Over the six months after the June 2022 election, will you consult with the public, including the disability community, on all the additional economic sectors that other accessibility standards need to address to achieve the AODA’s purposes? Will you announce decisions on the economic sectors to be addressed in those additional standards within three months after that consultation, and appoint Standards Development Committees to address those areas within nine months after that announcement?

 h) Speed Up the Excessively Long Process for Developing AODA Accessibility Standards

Over the 16 years since the AODA was passed, each Government has taken far too long to develop each accessibility standard. The process has been bogged down in years of delays and bureaucracy.

Here are a few examples: It took over six years just to decide to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Once the Government decided to create a Health Care Accessibility Standard, it took some two years merely to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee to start to develop recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. After the Employment Standards Development Committee rendered its final report on the revisions needed to the Employment Accessibility Standard, it took the Government some two years just to make that final report public.

#21. Will you streamline, speed up and de-bureaucratize the development of accessibility standards under the AODA, in consultation with us and the public?

 III. Substantially Strengthen AODA Enforcement to Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced

On October 29, 1998, all parties voted for a unanimous landmark resolution in the Legislature that required the Disabilities Act to have teeth. In 2005, all parties unanimously voted to include in the AODA important enforcement powers, like audits, inspections, compliance orders, and stiff monetary penalties.

Ever since any AODA accessibility standards became enforceable, AODA enforcement has at best been weak and spotty. Yet the Government has known about years of rampant AODA violations. Where the Government takes enforcement action, compliance with the AODA increases. While enforcement is not the only way to get more compliance with the AODA, it is an important part.

#22. Will you substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers to enforce all enforceable requirements under the AODA, and in connection with all classes of obligated organizations?

#23. Will you Transfer operational AODA enforcement outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and assign it to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement, with a significant increase in the number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers?

#24. Will you immediately give Ontario Government inspectors and investigators under other legislation a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation? Years ago, the Ontario Government piloted this.

#25. Will you have the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario publicly release and promptly post detailed information on AODA enforcement actions at least every three months. It should report on how many obligated organizations are actually providing accessibility, and not how many organizations simply tell the Government that they are providing accessibility. This should include prompt reports of quarterly results and year-to-date totals, broken down by sector and size of organization. At a minimum, it should include such measures as the number of notices of proposed order issued, the total amount of proposed penalties, the number of orders issued and total amounts and number of penalties imposed, the number of appeals from orders and the outcome, the total amount of penalties including changes ordered by the appeal tribunal, and the orders categorized by subject matter. This is what the 2015 final report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review recommended.

#26. Will you make as a core feature of AODA enforcement the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities? It is not good enough for the Government, as at present, to mainly or only aim to ensure that obligated organizations keep good records on steps taken on accessibility. It is far more important for organizations to actually achieve accessibility.

#27. Will you establish and widely publicize an effective toll-free line for the public to report AODA violations? Will you also provide and widely publicize other online avenues to report AODA violations, including Twitter, Facebook and a web page? Will you publicly account on a quarterly basis on the complaints received and the specific enforcement action taken as a result?

#28. Will you create new ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement, such as the Government publicly posting all online AODA compliance reports from obligated organizations in a publicly-accessible searchable data base, and by requiring each obligated organization to post its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one?

Additional enforcement measures regarding accessibility of built environments are also needed.

#29. Will you require that before a building permit and/or site plan approval can be obtained for a construction project, the approving authority, whether municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in any AODA accessibility standards?

#30. Will you require that post-project completion inspections include inspecting for compliance with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards?

 IV. Effectively Use Other Levers of Government Power to Achieve Accessibility

Beyond implementing the AODA, the Ontario Government needs to effectively use all levers of power at its disposal to help promote disability accessibility. Here are examples.

 a) Substantially Reform and Improve How the Ministry of Education and Ontario School System Deal with the Needs of Students with Disabilities

Those working at Ontario’s Ministry of Education are often individually eager to ensure the best for students with disabilities. Despite this, the Ministry has been a major barrier to meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Its policies and directives are too often out-of-date and unresponsive to the needs of students with disabilities. They have perpetuated the operation of school boards as organizations designed first and foremost for students without disabilities. They harmfully handcuff teachers, principals and other educators who want to effectively teach students with disabilities.

In Ontario’s education system, students with disabilities are far too often treated as an afterthought. They are viewed and treated pejoratively as “exceptional pupils” and as students with “special education needs” (patronizing descriptions), seen too often as a major budgetary demand. Programming, budgeting and planning for students with disabilities is arbitrarily lumped together with that for gifted students who have no disabilities, even though there is no good policy reason for this. The Ministry of Education resisted our efforts to get the Government to agree to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report shows a pressing need for major reforms in Ontario’s education system, beyond enacted a strong AODA Education Accessibility Standard. Public feedback from the disability community, families and educators on that report shows that there is a strong consensus in support of the recommended reforms. The Ontario Government needs to lead this reform. Beyond the creation of the Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, we seek the following commitments:

#31. Will you undertake a comprehensive reform of Ontario’s education system as it relates to students with disabilities including its funding formula for students with disabilities in order to ensure it is sufficient to meet their needs, and to ensure that funding is based on the actual number of students with disabilities in a school board, and not on the basis of some mathematical formula of how many students with disabilities there hypothetically should be at that school board?

#32. Will you immediately create a new deputy minister or associate Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Education to be responsible for leading reform of Ontario’s education provided for students with disabilities, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be fully included in school programs?

 b) Ensure that New Generations of Design Professionals Are Not Trained to be New Barrier-Creators

At present, design professionals, such as architects, do not need to be effectively trained in designing accessible buildings and other built environment, to get or to keep their license. This is so even though in 2007, the Government of the day promised during the 2007 election to raise the need for this with the relevant professional bodies. Despite our repeatedly asking, we have seen no indication that any Government action on that pledge ever occurred.

#33. Will you make it mandatory for professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects and other design professionals, to require adequate training on accessible design to qualify for a license, and to require existing professionals, where needed to take continuing professional development training on accessible design? This should not include the problem-ridden Rick Hansen Foundation training for accessibility assessors, addressed further below.

The Government annually contributes substantial funding to several Ontario colleges and universities for the training of design professionals, such as architects. Thus, public funding is now being used to train generation after generation of these professionals, without ensuring that they know how to meet accessibility needs. Public money is thereby being used to train and license generations of new barrier-creators. That is not a responsible use of public money.

#34. Will you require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains professions, such as design professionals (like architects), that they include sufficient training on meeting accessibility needs, in their program’s curriculum?

 c) Ensure that Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars each year on capital and infrastructure projects, on procuring goods, services and facilities for use by itself or the public, on business development grants and loans, and on research grants. Ontario needs a new, comprehensive, effective strategy to ensure that no one ever uses Ontario tax dollars to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. This can be done within the existing budget for infrastructure, procurement and other such loans and grants.

#35. Will you enact, implement, enforce, widely publicize and publicly report on compliance with standards and create a comprehensive strategy, all to ensure that public money is never used by anyone to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, for example, in capital or infrastructure spending, or through procurement of goods, services or facilities, or through business development grants or loans, or research grants?

There are serious problems with the way the Government and other public sector organizations act to ensure accessibility in major projects. These are due in part to poor accessibility legal requirements, and to inadequate accessibility training for design professionals, as addressed above. This is also due to serious problems with the way the Ontario Government funds, plans and oversees major infrastructure projects, such as new public transit stations, new college and university buildings, new hospitals and new court houses. Accessibility issues are too often inadequately addressed behind closed doors without full proper public accountability. Infrastructure Ontario’s approach to accessibility has been troubling. The common “Alternate Finance and Procurement” AFP approach to building new infrastructure creates problems.

#36. Will you substantially reform and improve the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario, to ensure that accessibility is addressed far earlier, and more effectively in the project? This should include a requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, with input being required from the outset obtained from people with disabilities. Any accessibility advice from people with disabilities or accessibility consultants should be promptly made public. Any decisions by the Government or by project teams it hires to reject any accessibility advice should promptly be publicly reported, identifying who made that decision, and the reasons for it. The accessibility requirements for any infrastructure should be made public as soon as possible, and well before a bidding competition is closed.

#37. Will you require that when public money is used to create public housing, principles of universal design will be employed in the design of that public housing?

#38. Will you create a fund to increase the number of accessible public premises, which would be available to public buildings that agree to make their property available to the public, in the case of emergency?

 d) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations

Two Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews emphasized the need for the Ontario Government to provide far better technical advice and support for obligated organizations who want to take action on accessibility, but who don’t know what to do. The existing Service Ontario toll-free number gives general information. However, it is no substitute for detailed technical accessibility expertise. US experience shows that it is best when such technical advice is offered by a publicly-funded organization that is arms-length from the Government.

#39. Will you establish a publicly-funded centre, arms-length from the Ontario Government, that will provide expert detailed technical advice on accessibility to the public, including obligated organizations, modelled after successful US programs? For example, an Ontario “Job Accommodation Network”, designed to operate like the successful US service bearing that name, could help employers and employees in the public and private sectors.

 e) Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

Voters with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties each committed that if elected, they would implement an accessible elections action plan. Since then, legislative reforms, enacted over a decade ago, for Ontario provincial and municipal elections have not ensured that voters with disabilities face no barriers in the election process. We are aware of no plans to fix this.

#40. Will you consult with voters with disabilities by the end of 2022, and then introduce in the Legislature within 9 months after that, a bill that comprehensively and effectively addresses accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections?

#41. Will you commit that your candidates will not take part in any all-candidates’ debate during the June 2022 election campaign if the location is not accessible to people with disabilities??

 f) Substantially Improve the Accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s Workplaces, Services and Facilities

The Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government still does not now ensure that their services, facilities and workplaces are accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility is still too often inadequately dealt with in isolated silos in the Ontario Public Service. There is no strong, effective, systematic leadership, monitoring and public accountability.

In 2014, the second Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found a need for significant improvement in this area. Any minor changes since then have taken too long and accomplished too little.

#42. After promptly consulting with people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service and in the general public for no more than four months, will you announce and implement a plan to substantially re-engineer and strengthen how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are accessible? This should include, among other things, ensuring that the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces is regularly and comprehensively audited and that public servants are made accountable for ensuring their accessibility, with the results of that audit promptly made public.

#43. Will you ensure that in Mandate Letters, the Premier promptly directs the appropriate cabinet ministers and senior public officials to implement the Government’s accessibility obligations and commitments, and to make this direction public, once given?

#44. Will you establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister, who is responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Ontario Public Service Chief Accessibility Officer? Similar positions have been successfully established in leading large businesses.

#45. Will you ensure that in each Ontario Government Ministry, there is a full-time Accessibility Lead position directly reporting to that Ministry’s deputy minister? This should include establishing an Accessibility Lead position in the Cabinet Office, which reports directly to the Secretary of Cabinet, to ensure that accessibility is considered in all work of the Cabinet Office, and to ensure that all Cabinet Submissions are vetted in advance to ensure they do not create or perpetuate disability barriers.

#46. Will you include in the annual performance reviews of each deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and director below them, where feasible, specific annual commitments relating to their mandate on accessibility for people with disabilities? In 2007, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered this for senior management at the Toronto Transit Commission.

 g) Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Parties each promised that if elected, they would review all provincial laws for accessibility barriers. Almost fifteen years later, we have only been told of some 50 of Ontario’s 750 statutes being reviewed, and no regulations being reviewed. In contrast, back in 1982 the Charter of Rights gave governments three years to review all legislation for all equality issues, not just disability equality.

#47. Within four months of taking office, will you announce a detailed plan for lawyers at the Ministry of the Attorney General to undertake a review of all Ontario laws for disability accessibility barriers, and for ensuring that new legislation and regulations will be screen in advance to ensure that they do not authorize, create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

#48. Will you complete a review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2023 and the review of all regulations by the end of 2024? By June 2024, will you introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed as a result of this accessibility review?

#49. By the end of 2025, will Cabinet amend any regulations that the government deems needed to remove and prevent disability barriers as a result of the accessibility review?

 h) Root Out Recently-Created New Disability Barriers Traceable to the Ontario Government

Contrary to the AODA, Ontario has recently become less accessible to people with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, two successive critical care triage protocols were distributed to all Ontario hospitals under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario, a Government creation of which the Ontario Government is a part. These successive critical care triage protocols each directed clear and indefensible discrimination against some patients based on their disabilities.

The Ontario Government has never publicly explained or accounted for this, or even made these protocols public. They were leaked to the disability community. Ontario’s Government has declined to answer any of the letters we sent over the past year on this topic.

Beyond this, there are up to two additional critical care triage protocols that may be in circulation, and that we have never seen or been given. One addresses critical care triage for patients under the age of 18. The other would address critical care triage by emergency medical services such as ambulances.

#50. Will you immediately make public any critical care triage protocol for hospitals or for other health services such as emergency medical services, that have been issued since 2020, including those pertaining to any specific age group, and any drafts that have been circulated to hospitals or other health care providers?

#51. Will you immediately rescind any draft or final critical care triage protocols that have been sent to any hospitals or other health care providers?

#52. Will you consult directly with us and the disability community on any future plans or protocols regarding critical care triage?

#53. Within six months of taking office, will you appoint an independent inquiry to investigate and report on the effectiveness of the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the needs of people with disabilities, including in terms of such things as health care services, critical care triage protocols, education services and income supports?

In 2019, over strong objections from the disability community, the Ontario Government passed regulations under the Highway Traffic Act that permit municipalities to allow electric scooters in public places for a pilot of up to five years. It did so despite the fact that e-scooters present serious personal safety and accessibility dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

The Ontario Government thereby inflicted on people with disabilities the undue hardship of having to battle against e-scooter rental corporate lobbyists in one city after the next. In cities like Ottawa that permit them, e-scooters are creating the very safety and accessibility dangers about which we forewarned. Moreover, even though riding them in public places remains illegal in many places in Ontario, such as Toronto, stores and online venders continue to sell e-scooters for use in Ontario.

#54. Will you immediately repeal the Ontario regulations that permit municipalities to allow the use of e-scooters in public places?

#55. Will you pass legislation or regulations to provide for effective enforcement of the ban on riding e-scooters in public places, with strong penalties?

#56. Will you pass legislation or regulations to ban the sale of e-scooters for use in Ontario, with strong penalties?

The Ontario Government is conducting a consultation on whether to allow autonomous robots that can be used on public sidewalks, e.g., to deliver products to customers or to shovel snow. These robots endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others. Regulation that might try to set rules on their use will not be enforceable. Moreover, Ontario is proposing giving municipalities the power to allow a 10-year pilot with such robots. That too would impose an undue hardship on people with disabilities to have to fight against them in one city after the next.

#57. Will you ban robots on sidewalks, with effective enforcement such as a right to dispose of any robot on public sidewalks?

 i) Give No More Public Money to the Problematic and Unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility “Certification” Program

In its 2019 Budget, the current Ontario Government announced $1.3 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) private accessibility certification program, to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. This is a wasteful misuse of public money. In two years, there is no evidence it has led to the removal of any accessibility barriers.

We have documented serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. The RHF has authority to “certify” nothing. The RHF process for training assessors and for assessing a building’s accessibility is quite faulty, misleading and unreliable. It can result in a building being “certified” as accessible which is not in fact accessible.

#58. Will you commit not to spend any additional public money on any private accessibility certification program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program?

Due to Years of Government Foot-Dragging, Ontario Won’t Become Accessible to 2.6 Million People with Disabilities by 2025, Violating Disabilities Act

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Due to Years of Government Foot-Dragging, Ontario Won’t Become Accessible to 2.6 Million People with Disabilities by 2025, Violating Disabilities Act

December 2, 2021 Toronto: Because of years of Ontario Government foot-dragging and broken promises, it is now impossible for the Government to fulfil its legal duty to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, a leading non-partisan disability coalition declared on the eve of December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities. In a November 22, 2021 letter sent to all party leaders (set out below), the grassroots AODA Alliance wrote:

“The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. … With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. …We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.”

The Ford Government is certainly not being let off the hook for living up to its obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There’s still time for the Ford Government to take its foot off the brakes and hit the accelerator.

“Three successive premiers and a parade of ministers caused this hurtful failure,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities. “When the Ford Government took power in 2018, we needed him to speed up action on accessibility, but instead, he slowed progress even more and created new disability barriers that make things even worse.”

For example, the vaccination program and vaccine passport have too many disability barriers. On the Ford Government’s watch, hospitals trained doctors to deploy a blatantly disability-discriminatory secret protocol for rationing or triaging life-saving critical care, if overrun with COVID-19 cases. As well, people with disabilities, seniors and others are now in danger of serious injuries by joyriders on electric scooters.

Fully 1,036 days ago, Premier Ford received a blistering report from a government-appointed independent review of the AODA’s implementation, by former lieutenant-governor David Onley. It reported that progress on accessibility is “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal is nowhere in sight.

Ford’s accessibility minister said Onley did a “marvellous job.” Yet Ford still has no comprehensive action plan to implement Onley’s recommendations.

With next June’s Ontario election campaign already in effect underway, the AODA Alliance is getting out in front. It today releases the package of election commitments on disability accessibility that it seeks from all the political parties, detailed in its November 22, 2021 letter to the parties, below. Each party is asked to pledge to implement the AODA Alliance’s proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario laid out in that letter. In the meantime, the Ford Government should act now on all the actions spelled out in that plan.

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

For more background, visit www.aodaalliance.org

Text of the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 Letter to Ontario Party Leaders

 

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

November 22, 2021

To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier

Via Email: doug.ford@ontariopc.com

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition

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

Room 113, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5

Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:

Via email: leader@gpo.ca

Room 451 Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON M7A 1A2

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

Via email: steven@ontarioliberal.ca

344 Bloor St W,

Toronto On, M5S 1W9

Dear Party Leaders,

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

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

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

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

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

 These Commitments are Vital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What Went Wrong?

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

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

Our Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario In a Nutshell

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

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

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

Following Up on This Letter

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

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

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

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

 I. Leadership Commitments

 a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

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

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

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

 b) Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#7. Will you comply with the AODA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 a) Enact a Comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even if a new building fully complies with the weak Ontario Building Code and scant AODA accessibility standards that address tiny bits of accessibility in the built environment, that building routinely has significant accessibility barriers. This is illustrated in our widely-viewed online videos about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre and recent new Toronto public transit stations.

The AODA requires buildings in Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. Around 15 years ago, shortly after the AODA was enacted, the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend what should be included in a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Yet Ontario still has no comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA.

In December 2012, the Government only enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. It is an extremely narrow accessibility standard. It only deals with a few kinds of “Public Spaces” (e.g. recreational trails, sidewalks and parking spots). It mainly deals with some spaces outside buildings, but extremely little inside buildings.

For some four years, the Ontario Government has been in violation of the AODA’s requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government has announced no plans to comply with this legal requirement, despite our repeated requests.

In December 2013 and later, the Government enacted very limited new accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code. That Code only deals with the accessibility of new buildings and major renovations. Even after those amendments, the Ontario Building Code does not ensure that new buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. It is not a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It is not enforceable under the AODA. It does not effectively address all the disability barriers in buildings.

The Ontario Government has enacted nothing under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code to address the need for retrofits in existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. If accessibility requirements for the built environment continue to only address new construction and major renovations, then Ontario’s built environment will never become accessible for people with disabilities. Two AODA Independent Reviews have specifically called for new Government action under the AODA to address the need to retrofit the built environment, the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report.

#15. Will you adopt a comprehensive strategy to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, including enacting a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA? As part of this, within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA to make recommendations on what a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities? This should include accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations. It should include, but not be limited to, the overdue review of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions should also be strengthened to equal the requirements in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

We understand that the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards do not now set needed accessibility requirements in the location and operation of elevators. Ontario needs strong accessibility standards regarding elevators. For example, increasingly buildings are installing “destination elevator” facilities. These confuse the public as a whole, and create serious accessibility problems.

#16. Will you ensure that a new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard will include accessibility requirements for elevators?

 e) Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard and Create Accessible Housing Strategy

Ontario has a serious shortage of accessible housing where people with disabilities can live. This crisis will get worse as society ages.

The Ontario Building Code and current AODA accessibility standards now set no accessibility requirements for new residential homes, even if commercially built to go on the public market. Ontario has no comprehensive effective Government strategy for ensuring that Ontario will have a sufficient supply of accessible housing.

#17. Will you create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA? Within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include? We are open to this being part of the mandate of the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to above, or being a separate stand-alone AODA Standards Development Committee.

#18. Will you announce a comprehensive accessible housing strategy, (apart from an AODA accessibility standard), within six months of taking office, after consulting the public, including people with disabilities? This strategy should aim to effectively increase the supply of accessible housing in Ontario, including supportive housing.

 f) Strengthen the Weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard

Shocking many, people with disabilities continue to face disability barriers to accessible customer service in Ontario. In 2007, Ontario passed the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard enacted under the AODA.

In 2016, the Ontario Government made revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard after a mandatory five-year review of it. These did not significantly strengthen it, and in some ways, weakened it.

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard by June 2021, five years after it was last revised. Violating the AODA, the Ontario Government has not done so. It has not announced any plans to do so.

#19. Within three months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee under the AODA to review the 2007 AODA Customer Service Accessibility Standard? After that Committee reports, will you strengthen that accessibility standard to require accessible customer service in Ontario for people with disabilities?

 g) Develop Additional New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility

Even if the accessibility standards addressed above are enacted or strengthened, other new accessibility standards will also be needed. For example, it would be helpful to develop an accessibility standard to address procurement of goods and services, further addressed below.

#20. Over the six months after the June 2022 election, will you consult with the public, including the disability community, on all the additional economic sectors that other accessibility standards need to address to achieve the AODA’s purposes? Will you announce decisions on the economic sectors to be addressed in those additional standards within three months after that consultation, and appoint Standards Development Committees to address those areas within nine months after that announcement?

 h) Speed Up the Excessively Long Process for Developing AODA Accessibility Standards

Over the 16 years since the AODA was passed, each Government has taken far too long to develop each accessibility standard. The process has been bogged down in years of delays and bureaucracy.

Here are a few examples: It took over six years just to decide to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Once the Government decided to create a Health Care Accessibility Standard, it took some two years merely to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee to start to develop recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. After the Employment Standards Development Committee rendered its final report on the revisions needed to the Employment Accessibility Standard, it took the Government some two years just to make that final report public.

#21. Will you streamline, speed up and de-bureaucratize the development of accessibility standards under the AODA, in consultation with us and the public?

 III. Substantially Strengthen AODA Enforcement to Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced

On October 29, 1998, all parties voted for a unanimous landmark resolution in the Legislature that required the Disabilities Act to have teeth. In 2005, all parties unanimously voted to include in the AODA important enforcement powers, like audits, inspections, compliance orders, and stiff monetary penalties.

Ever since any AODA accessibility standards became enforceable, AODA enforcement has at best been weak and spotty. Yet the Government has known about years of rampant AODA violations. Where the Government takes enforcement action, compliance with the AODA increases. While enforcement is not the only way to get more compliance with the AODA, it is an important part.

#22. Will you substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers to enforce all enforceable requirements under the AODA, and in connection with all classes of obligated organizations?

#23. Will you Transfer operational AODA enforcement outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and assign it to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement, with a significant increase in the number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers?

#24. Will you immediately give Ontario Government inspectors and investigators under other legislation a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation? Years ago, the Ontario Government piloted this.

#25. Will you have the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario publicly release and promptly post detailed information on AODA enforcement actions at least every three months. It should report on how many obligated organizations are actually providing accessibility, and not how many organizations simply tell the Government that they are providing accessibility. This should include prompt reports of quarterly results and year-to-date totals, broken down by sector and size of organization. At a minimum, it should include such measures as the number of notices of proposed order issued, the total amount of proposed penalties, the number of orders issued and total amounts and number of penalties imposed, the number of appeals from orders and the outcome, the total amount of penalties including changes ordered by the appeal tribunal, and the orders categorized by subject matter. This is what the 2015 final report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review recommended.

#26. Will you make as a core feature of AODA enforcement the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities? It is not good enough for the Government, as at present, to mainly or only aim to ensure that obligated organizations keep good records on steps taken on accessibility. It is far more important for organizations to actually achieve accessibility.

#27. Will you establish and widely publicize an effective toll-free line for the public to report AODA violations? Will you also provide and widely publicize other online avenues to report AODA violations, including Twitter, Facebook and a web page? Will you publicly account on a quarterly basis on the complaints received and the specific enforcement action taken as a result?

#28. Will you create new ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement, such as the Government publicly posting all online AODA compliance reports from obligated organizations in a publicly-accessible searchable data base, and by requiring each obligated organization to post its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one?

Additional enforcement measures regarding accessibility of built environments are also needed.

#29. Will you require that before a building permit and/or site plan approval can be obtained for a construction project, the approving authority, whether municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in any AODA accessibility standards?

#30. Will you require that post-project completion inspections include inspecting for compliance with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards?

 IV. Effectively Use Other Levers of Government Power to Achieve Accessibility

Beyond implementing the AODA, the Ontario Government needs to effectively use all levers of power at its disposal to help promote disability accessibility. Here are examples.

 a) Substantially Reform and Improve How the Ministry of Education and Ontario School System Deal with the Needs of Students with Disabilities

Those working at Ontario’s Ministry of Education are often individually eager to ensure the best for students with disabilities. Despite this, the Ministry has been a major barrier to meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Its policies and directives are too often out-of-date and unresponsive to the needs of students with disabilities. They have perpetuated the operation of school boards as organizations designed first and foremost for students without disabilities. They harmfully handcuff teachers, principals and other educators who want to effectively teach students with disabilities.

In Ontario’s education system, students with disabilities are far too often treated as an afterthought. They are viewed and treated pejoratively as “exceptional pupils” and as students with “special education needs” (patronizing descriptions), seen too often as a major budgetary demand. Programming, budgeting and planning for students with disabilities is arbitrarily lumped together with that for gifted students who have no disabilities, even though there is no good policy reason for this. The Ministry of Education resisted our efforts to get the Government to agree to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report shows a pressing need for major reforms in Ontario’s education system, beyond enacted a strong AODA Education Accessibility Standard. Public feedback from the disability community, families and educators on that report shows that there is a strong consensus in support of the recommended reforms. The Ontario Government needs to lead this reform. Beyond the creation of the Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, we seek the following commitments:

#31. Will you undertake a comprehensive reform of Ontario’s education system as it relates to students with disabilities including its funding formula for students with disabilities in order to ensure it is sufficient to meet their needs, and to ensure that funding is based on the actual number of students with disabilities in a school board, and not on the basis of some mathematical formula of how many students with disabilities there hypothetically should be at that school board?

#32. Will you immediately create a new deputy minister or associate Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Education to be responsible for leading reform of Ontario’s education provided for students with disabilities, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be fully included in school programs?

 b) Ensure that New Generations of Design Professionals Are Not Trained to be New Barrier-Creators

At present, design professionals, such as architects, do not need to be effectively trained in designing accessible buildings and other built environment, to get or to keep their license. This is so even though in 2007, the Government of the day promised during the 2007 election to raise the need for this with the relevant professional bodies. Despite our repeatedly asking, we have seen no indication that any Government action on that pledge ever occurred.

#33. Will you make it mandatory for professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects and other design professionals, to require adequate training on accessible design to qualify for a license, and to require existing professionals, where needed to take continuing professional development training on accessible design? This should not include the problem-ridden Rick Hansen Foundation training for accessibility assessors, addressed further below.

The Government annually contributes substantial funding to several Ontario colleges and universities for the training of design professionals, such as architects. Thus, public funding is now being used to train generation after generation of these professionals, without ensuring that they know how to meet accessibility needs. Public money is thereby being used to train and license generations of new barrier-creators. That is not a responsible use of public money.

#34. Will you require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains professions, such as design professionals (like architects), that they include sufficient training on meeting accessibility needs, in their program’s curriculum?

 c) Ensure that Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars each year on capital and infrastructure projects, on procuring goods, services and facilities for use by itself or the public, on business development grants and loans, and on research grants. Ontario needs a new, comprehensive, effective strategy to ensure that no one ever uses Ontario tax dollars to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. This can be done within the existing budget for infrastructure, procurement and other such loans and grants.

#35. Will you enact, implement, enforce, widely publicize and publicly report on compliance with standards and create a comprehensive strategy, all to ensure that public money is never used by anyone to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, for example, in capital or infrastructure spending, or through procurement of goods, services or facilities, or through business development grants or loans, or research grants?

There are serious problems with the way the Government and other public sector organizations act to ensure accessibility in major projects. These are due in part to poor accessibility legal requirements, and to inadequate accessibility training for design professionals, as addressed above. This is also due to serious problems with the way the Ontario Government funds, plans and oversees major infrastructure projects, such as new public transit stations, new college and university buildings, new hospitals and new court houses. Accessibility issues are too often inadequately addressed behind closed doors without full proper public accountability. Infrastructure Ontario’s approach to accessibility has been troubling. The common “Alternate Finance and Procurement” AFP approach to building new infrastructure creates problems.

#36. Will you substantially reform and improve the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario, to ensure that accessibility is addressed far earlier, and more effectively in the project? This should include a requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, with input being required from the outset obtained from people with disabilities. Any accessibility advice from people with disabilities or accessibility consultants should be promptly made public. Any decisions by the Government or by project teams it hires to reject any accessibility advice should promptly be publicly reported, identifying who made that decision, and the reasons for it. The accessibility requirements for any infrastructure should be made public as soon as possible, and well before a bidding competition is closed.

#37. Will you require that when public money is used to create public housing, principles of universal design will be employed in the design of that public housing?

#38. Will you create a fund to increase the number of accessible public premises, which would be available to public buildings that agree to make their property available to the public, in the case of emergency?

 d) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations

Two Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews emphasized the need for the Ontario Government to provide far better technical advice and support for obligated organizations who want to take action on accessibility, but who don’t know what to do. The existing Service Ontario toll-free number gives general information. However, it is no substitute for detailed technical accessibility expertise. US experience shows that it is best when such technical advice is offered by a publicly-funded organization that is arms-length from the Government.

#39. Will you establish a publicly-funded centre, arms-length from the Ontario Government, that will provide expert detailed technical advice on accessibility to the public, including obligated organizations, modelled after successful US programs? For example, an Ontario “Job Accommodation Network”, designed to operate like the successful US service bearing that name, could help employers and employees in the public and private sectors.

 e) Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

Voters with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties each committed that if elected, they would implement an accessible elections action plan. Since then, legislative reforms, enacted over a decade ago, for Ontario provincial and municipal elections have not ensured that voters with disabilities face no barriers in the election process. We are aware of no plans to fix this.

#40. Will you consult with voters with disabilities by the end of 2022, and then introduce in the Legislature within 9 months after that, a bill that comprehensively and effectively addresses accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections?

#41. Will you commit that your candidates will not take part in any all-candidates’ debate during the June 2022 election campaign if the location is not accessible to people with disabilities??

 f) Substantially Improve the Accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s Workplaces, Services and Facilities

The Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government still does not now ensure that their services, facilities and workplaces are accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility is still too often inadequately dealt with in isolated silos in the Ontario Public Service. There is no strong, effective, systematic leadership, monitoring and public accountability.

In 2014, the second Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found a need for significant improvement in this area. Any minor changes since then have taken too long and accomplished too little.

#42. After promptly consulting with people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service and in the general public for no more than four months, will you announce and implement a plan to substantially re-engineer and strengthen how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are accessible? This should include, among other things, ensuring that the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces is regularly and comprehensively audited and that public servants are made accountable for ensuring their accessibility, with the results of that audit promptly made public.

#43. Will you ensure that in Mandate Letters, the Premier promptly directs the appropriate cabinet ministers and senior public officials to implement the Government’s accessibility obligations and commitments, and to make this direction public, once given?

#44. Will you establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister, who is responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Ontario Public Service Chief Accessibility Officer? Similar positions have been successfully established in leading large businesses.

#45. Will you ensure that in each Ontario Government Ministry, there is a full-time Accessibility Lead position directly reporting to that Ministry’s deputy minister? This should include establishing an Accessibility Lead position in the Cabinet Office, which reports directly to the Secretary of Cabinet, to ensure that accessibility is considered in all work of the Cabinet Office, and to ensure that all Cabinet Submissions are vetted in advance to ensure they do not create or perpetuate disability barriers.

#46. Will you include in the annual performance reviews of each deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and director below them, where feasible, specific annual commitments relating to their mandate on accessibility for people with disabilities? In 2007, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered this for senior management at the Toronto Transit Commission.

 g) Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Parties each promised that if elected, they would review all provincial laws for accessibility barriers. Almost fifteen years later, we have only been told of some 50 of Ontario’s 750 statutes being reviewed, and no regulations being reviewed. In contrast, back in 1982 the Charter of Rights gave governments three years to review all legislation for all equality issues, not just disability equality.

#47. Within four months of taking office, will you announce a detailed plan for lawyers at the Ministry of the Attorney General to undertake a review of all Ontario laws for disability accessibility barriers, and for ensuring that new legislation and regulations will be screen in advance to ensure that they do not authorize, create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

#48. Will you complete a review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2023 and the review of all regulations by the end of 2024? By June 2024, will you introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed as a result of this accessibility review?

#49. By the end of 2025, will Cabinet amend any regulations that the government deems needed to remove and prevent disability barriers as a result of the accessibility review?

 h) Root Out Recently-Created New Disability Barriers Traceable to the Ontario Government

Contrary to the AODA, Ontario has recently become less accessible to people with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, two successive critical care triage protocols were distributed to all Ontario hospitals under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario, a Government creation of which the Ontario Government is a part. These successive critical care triage protocols each directed clear and indefensible discrimination against some patients based on their disabilities.

The Ontario Government has never publicly explained or accounted for this, or even made these protocols public. They were leaked to the disability community. Ontario’s Government has declined to answer any of the letters we sent over the past year on this topic.

Beyond this, there are up to two additional critical care triage protocols that may be in circulation, and that we have never seen or been given. One addresses critical care triage for patients under the age of 18. The other would address critical care triage by emergency medical services such as ambulances.

#50. Will you immediately make public any critical care triage protocol for hospitals or for other health services such as emergency medical services, that have been issued since 2020, including those pertaining to any specific age group, and any drafts that have been circulated to hospitals or other health care providers?

#51. Will you immediately rescind any draft or final critical care triage protocols that have been sent to any hospitals or other health care providers?

#52. Will you consult directly with us and the disability community on any future plans or protocols regarding critical care triage?

#53. Within six months of taking office, will you appoint an independent inquiry to investigate and report on the effectiveness of the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the needs of people with disabilities, including in terms of such things as health care services, critical care triage protocols, education services and income supports?

In 2019, over strong objections from the disability community, the Ontario Government passed regulations under the Highway Traffic Act that permit municipalities to allow electric scooters in public places for a pilot of up to five years. It did so despite the fact that e-scooters present serious personal safety and accessibility dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

The Ontario Government thereby inflicted on people with disabilities the undue hardship of having to battle against e-scooter rental corporate lobbyists in one city after the next. In cities like Ottawa that permit them, e-scooters are creating the very safety and accessibility dangers about which we forewarned. Moreover, even though riding them in public places remains illegal in many places in Ontario, such as Toronto, stores and online venders continue to sell e-scooters for use in Ontario.

#54. Will you immediately repeal the Ontario regulations that permit municipalities to allow the use of e-scooters in public places?

#55. Will you pass legislation or regulations to provide for effective enforcement of the ban on riding e-scooters in public places, with strong penalties?

#56. Will you pass legislation or regulations to ban the sale of e-scooters for use in Ontario, with strong penalties?

The Ontario Government is conducting a consultation on whether to allow autonomous robots that can be used on public sidewalks, e.g., to deliver products to customers or to shovel snow. These robots endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others. Regulation that might try to set rules on their use will not be enforceable. Moreover, Ontario is proposing giving municipalities the power to allow a 10-year pilot with such robots. That too would impose an undue hardship on people with disabilities to have to fight against them in one city after the next.

#57. Will you ban robots on sidewalks, with effective enforcement such as a right to dispose of any robot on public sidewalks?

 i) Give No More Public Money to the Problematic and Unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility “Certification” Program

In its 2019 Budget, the current Ontario Government announced $1.3 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) private accessibility certification program, to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. This is a wasteful misuse of public money. In two years, there is no evidence it has led to the removal of any accessibility barriers.

We have documented serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. The RHF has authority to “certify” nothing. The RHF process for training assessors and for assessing a building’s accessibility is quite faulty, misleading and unreliable. It can result in a building being “certified” as accessible which is not in fact accessible.

#58. Will you commit not to spend any additional public money on any private accessibility certification program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program?

Stunning Sampling of 25 News Articles Show Serious Dangers that Electric Scooters Pose to the Public, Including People with Disabilities, Seniors and Children

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

 

Stunning Sampling of 25 News Articles Show Serious Dangers that Electric Scooters Pose to the Public, Including People with Disabilities, Seniors and Children

 

November 29 2021

 

          SUMMARY

 

Today, the 27th anniversary of the birth of Ontario’s grass roots non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities, we show you public overwhelming proof that Ontarians with disabilities are now exposed to a serious and unjustifiable new danger to their safety and accessibility, due to the Ford Government.

As we have been highlighting over the past two years, the Ford Government has decided to give every municipality the authority to allow electric scooters (e-scooters) in their community. We have repeatedly shown how this endangers public safety. This is especially so for vulnerable pedestrians, like people with disabilities, seniors and children. To date, the Ford Government and some municipalities such as the City of Ottawa have disregarded this danger. They have instead listened to the e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists.

We here provide a deeply troubling and stunningly vivid picture to date of exactly what kinds of dangers this poses for Ontarians, including Ontarians with disabilities. Below is a sampling of 25 news articles from around the world on this topic. These illustrate horrible examples of people being seriously injured or killed, due to e-scooters. If you read any of these stories, you cannot help but be enraged about this danger to the public. If you read all these stories, the feeling only grows.

Below you can read through a sampling of 25 articles from Canada and around the world demonstrating the serious dangers posed by the unchecked use of e-scooters in public spaces (full text of each article included further below). Just their headlines, listed here, is ample to tell the story:

  1. Altercation between e-scooter riders and occupants of vehicle before fatal stabbing in downtown Ottawa, police say
  1. Vernon woman spent two days in hospital after being struck by rental scooter
  1. National pedestrian safety campaign backs Chorley mum’s petition for stricter e-scooter laws after daughter hit
  1. Italy debates electric scooter safety after teenager dies in accident
  1. E-scooters: Sister of six-year-old boy who had skull fractured by teenage rider calls for under-21 ban
  1. Woman who can ‘barely dress’ herself after being hit by e-scooter lashes out
  1. Paris police search for two e-scooter riders after pedestrian killed
  1. Child taken to hospital following e-scooter collision
  1. Moment teenager on an e-scooter almost ploughs into a lorry while riding on the WRONG side of the road
  1. Three-year-old girl left with ‘life-changing’ injuries after collision with man riding e-scooter
  1. Electric scooters drive accident epidemic as young man, 20, latest to die in collision
  1. Teen e-scooter rider pleads guilty in incident which caused pedestrian severe brain injuries
  1. Girl’s jaw and gums had to be realigned after accident with e-scooter; rider arrested
  1. Canterbury woman struck by electric scooter suffers two broken limbs
  1. E-scooter casualties in London soar by 570% as number of pedestrians hurt DOUBLES in a year – putting pressure on Sadiq Khan over rental trial scheme
  1. 79-year-old woman in hospital after being knocked down by a scooter
  1. Actress Lisa Banes dies after being hit by scooter in Manhattan
  1. E-scooter drivers endanger other road users significantly more than cyclists
  1. He broke his bones, now no one wants to be liable: An e-scooter accident shows dangerous legal gaps
  1. E-Scooter riders have little, if any, protection in case of injury or accident
  1. Bronx man dies after falling off e-scooter hitting head on ground
  1. Man seriously hurt in Clifton e-scooter crash
  1. Moment passengers evacuated as e-scooter ‘explodes’ at London Tube station
  1. Oxford e-scooter crash involving pushchair leaves man and child injured
  1. Dental injuries on the rise thanks to e-scooter use: study by U of A prof

Please send these articles to your member of the Ontario Legislature, to your mayor and to your municipal councillor. Tell them to say no to e-scooters. Tell them to stand up for people with disabilities, and to stand up to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists.

To learn more about our two-year non-partisan campaign to protect the public, including people with disabilities, from e-scooters, visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

 

Read about the events 27 years ago today that led up to the birth of Ontario’s enduring disability accessibility movement.

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Altercation between e-scooter riders and occupants of vehicle before fatal stabbing in downtown Ottawa, police say

 

CTV News – July 28, 2021

Ottawa

 

Originally posted at: https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/altercation-between-e-scooter-riders-and-occupants-of-vehicle-before-fatal-stabbing-in-downtown-ottawa-police-say-1.5526698

Ottawa Police are looking for witnesses to a dispute between three e-scooter riders and the driver of a Volkswagen as the investigation continues into Ottawa’s 12th homicide of the year.

Eric Hewer, 19, of Nova Scotia died in hospital after being stabbed on Metcalfe Street near Albert Street Monday night. A second victim suffered non-life threatening injuries.

On Wednesday, police said the Homicide Unit has identified all persons involved in the dispute that resulted in the stabbing death of Hewer.

In a statement, police say anyone with information about an altercation between three riders on e-scooters and the occupants of a black Volkswagen at 8:40 p.m. on Metcalfe Street is asked to contact investigators.

You can contact the Ottawa Police Service Homicide Unit at 613-236-1222, ext. 5493.

Friends and family say Hewer had just moved to Ottawa to start a new job. A GoFundMe page in memory of Hewer said he was out celebrating the new job and his 19th birthday.

Vernon woman spent two days in hospital after being struck by rental scooter

Castanet, August 28, 2021

Vernon, BC

 

Originally posted at: https://www.castanet.net/news/Vernon/344210/Vernon-woman-spent-two-days-in-hospital-after-being-struck-by-rental-scooter

Isobella Zarathustra remembers very little about the actual impact.

But the Vernon woman does remember seeing a woman operating a bright orange e-scooter when it slammed in to her as she was walking out of the Freshco parking lot last week.

Zarathustra did not immediately realize the extent of the injuries she sustained to her right leg until a few hours after the incident.

She spent the next two days at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

“I checked in both directions and didn’t see the scooter. That’s how fast it was going,” said Zarathustra who was left lying on the sidewalk in pain as people gathered around.

“I was in a lot of pain. I had my femur bone jammed into my buttocks,” she said, adding she has extensive bruising from the collision.

While she does not know who was operating the scooter that is part of a rental program introduced to the city earlier this month, she does know it was a female at the controls.

“She was yelling at me ‘Don’t sue me. Just don’t sue me. I can’t afford it,’” Zarathustra said.

The woman then left the scene.

Zarathustra said there were a lot of witnesses to the incident and she is wondering if it was caught on surveillance video from either Freshco or the nearby Schell Motel.

Zarathustra said she is not against the scooter program as having the ability to get around town without creating pollution is a good idea, but she is encouraging people using the scooters to be more careful.

She is also reminding pedestrians to watch out for the battery-powered machines.

National pedestrian safety campaign backs Chorley mum’s petition for stricter e-scooter laws after daughter hit

 

Lancashire Post – September 1st, 2021

Chorley, UK

Originally posted at: https://www.lep.co.uk/news/people/national-pedestrian-safety-campaign-backs-chorley-mums-petition-for-stricter-e-scooter-laws-after-daughter-hit-3367313

Sarah Gayton, Street access campaigns coordinator for the National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK), is backing Naomi Moazzeny’s petition, arguing e-scooters should be completely eradicated.

The mum from Chorley set up her online petition, which needs to reach 10,000 signatures, after her five-year-old daughter was hit by a speeding scooter in St James’ Park in London earlier this month.

NFBUK is a charity working to improve the overall welfare and quality of daily life for all blind and vision-impaired people, campaigning for spaces where pedestrians are not forced to share spaces with motorised and moving vehicles.

And street campaign coordinator Sarah says that e-scooters are ‘an accident waiting to happen’ that should be permanently banned from being used and sold to the public.

The news comes as Councillor Keith Martin, who sits on South Ribble Borough Council and Penwortham Town Council, issued a warning to parents who buy their children e-scooters, saying “good luck trying to get cheaper car insurance.”

Sarah said: “We are mortified to hear yet again someone has been hit in this way by a scooter when enjoying a day with family in a park. It is so worrying that children can fall victim to these electronic scooters.

“People are being taken out left right and centre and it just isn’t good enough. We want the shops to stop selling them and for them to be completely taken off the streets before more people are hurt or killed.

“They should not be making a profit off other people’s danger. Even in areas where there are scooter trials, they are still being misused, may be damaged or have faulty breaks or tyres and pose a huge risk to pedestrians.

“In cities, you see them left all over the pavements, which is a trip hazard and just totally unacceptable that these city councils are just ignoring their dangers and letting them be used anywhere.

“Over the summer there seems to have been one incident after another involving these scooters. It might seem like a green and efficient way of travelling, but people are putting their lives in the hands of a narrow and flimsy machine.

“For blind and visually impaired people, it is even more concerning because they can’t move out of the way of a speeding scooter in time. It is terrifying because you can’t get them off the pavement and they could so easily hit someone.”

Trials of e-scooters are taking place in 32 UK cities, however, it is illegal to use an e-scooter in public unless it is rented as part of a recognised trial scheme.

Salford and Rochdale were among the two latest cities to be introduced to the new trial, with Sarah Gayton speaking to ManchesterWorld about the pilot scheme.

Currently, a petition is nearing 10,000 signatures for tougher requirements to be introduced for people using the scooters, including the need for a permit or drivers license.

There is a growing list of incidents involving e-scooters and at least four people in the UK have died in e-scooters crashes.

And according to an investigation by ITV’s Tonight programme, there have been 1,100 complaints and 210 people have suffered injuries in incidents involving e-scooters since trials began.

Italy debates electric scooter safety after teenager dies in accident

 

Milan, Italy

Wanted in Milan – September 7th, 2021

Originally posted at: https://www.wantedinmilan.com/news/italy-debates-electric-scooter-safety-after-teen-death.html

Five fatal electric scooter accidents in Italy so far this year.

The death of a 13-year-old boy in an electric scooter accident near Milan has reignited calls in Italy for stricter regulations to protect the safety of those using the popular mode of transport.

The teenager died on 30 August after being allowed to use the electric scooter of a 17-year-old who could now risk facing charges of manslaughter for “omitting due caution in giving his vehicle to a person under the age of 14”, reports news agency ANSA.

Helmets for e-scooter users

The boy’s death, in Sesto S. Giovanni in the outskirts of Milan, led the town’s mayor Roberto Di Stefano to introduce legislation obliging all electric scooter users to wear a helmet.

The mayor also brought in maximum speed limits of 20 km/h on cycle paths and 5 km/h in pedestrian areas.

Sesto S. Giovanni is reportedly the first town in Italy to introduce such sanctions, with the mayor announcing on Monday that five people have been fined by local police since the measures come into force last week.

Lombardia bill

Meanwhile the Lombardia region around Milan has approved a bill amending existing provisions governing electric scooters. The bill would ban under 18s from using e-scooters and enforce all electric scooter drivers to wear helmets.

Italian consumer group files complaint over Rome electric scooters

The move comes amid growing calls in Italy for compulsory helmets and speed limits for e-scooter users, with Italy’s association of driving schools saying that training courses and licenses should also be obligatory, reports ANSA.

Fatal accidents

So far this year five electric scooter users have died in Italy, including 13-year-old Fabio Mosca in Sesto S. Giovanni, reports newspaper La Stampa.

On 9 February a 34-year-old woman died in Genoa after being hit by a lorry.

A 52-year-old man lost control of his scooter in Infernetto near Rome on 23 June, hitting his face off the ground and dying from the impact.

A 27-year-old man from Sri Lanka died in the centre of Florence on 9 August after his e-scooter collided with a moped and he hit his head off the pavement.

In Rome, on the Via Gregorio VII cycle path near the Vatican, a 27-year-old man originally from the Philippines died in hospital in recent days, after three weeks in a coma following an incident whose dynamics remain unclear.

There was one fatal e-scooter accident in Italy in 2020: on 11 June last year a 60-year-old scooter user was hit by a car at a roundabout in Budrio, in the Bologna area, hitting his head off the ground and dying from his injuries the next day.

Italy: Florence wants to make helmets mandatory for electric scooter users

Official ACI-Istat data reveals that between May 2020 and the end of last year there were 564 road accidents in Italy involving at least one electric scooter.

E-scooters in Rome

Electric scooters have become extremely popular in Rome in recent years, particularly with young people, providing a convenient way to get from A to B, with several scooter rental companies operating in the capital.

However the e-scooters are not without their critics who point to the by-now normal sight of users (illegally) carrying passengers, travelling at speed on sidewalks or in the wrong direction on streets, as well as the anti-social “parking” of scooters abandoned on pavements and streets.

E-scooters: Sister of six-year-old boy who had skull fractured by teenage rider calls for under-21 ban

Sky News – May 1st, 2021

Originally posted at: https://news.sky.com/story/e-scooters-sister-of-six-year-old-boy-who-suffered-fractured-skull-after-being-hit-by-teenage-rider-calls-for-under-21-ban-12287604

 

The sister of a six-year-old boy who suffered a fractured skull after being hit by an e-scooter rider has called for a ban on the devices for under-21s.

It comes as latest figures show more than 70 people have been injured during the government’s e-scooter trials – including 11 people who were seriously hurt.

Brooklyn Smith said her little brother Jamie suffers anxiety attacks at the sight of e-scooters after he was knocked unconscious by a teenager riding one of the vehicles in Leicester.

The 17-year-old boy, who failed to stop after the collision, pleaded guilty to several offences over the incident including causing a serious injury by dangerous driving.

He was sentenced to a 12-month youth referral order and has been banned from the road for two years, Leicestershire Police said.

Privately-owned e-scooters are illegal to ride on public roads and pavements. Only rental e-scooters can be ridden on roads in areas taking part in the government’s official trials.

Ms Smith, 21, told Sky News that when her family walk past an e-scooter rider now they face Jamie in the opposite direction or change their route “because he has a complete anxiety attack”.

She said she continues to see e-scooter riders “flying around on them like there’s no tomorrow” near the family’s home, despite trials of the devices not running in Leicester.

Ms Smith told Sky News: “I don’t think they should be able to reach the speeds that they reach.

“It’s going to be stupid for us to sit here and say: ‘We want them banned. We never want them to be made again.’ That’s not realistic.

“They need to make sure that nothing like this is going to happen again.”

Jamie had to be airlifted to hospital after being struck by the e-scooter rider outside his home in August.

Ms Smith said her brother still suffers memory loss and it took him six weeks to be able to look in a mirror after the incident “because his own reflection genuinely frightened him”.

She has now called for people to be “at least over 21” before they can buy or rent e-scooters.

“They’re too easily accessible,” she added.

“At the end of the day, the speed they can reach, you’re asking for disaster.”

The government is trialling rental e-scooters in more than 40 towns and cities as it considers whether to legalise them on UK roads.

The Department for Transport (DfT) told Sky News that 11 incidents involving “serious” injuries have been recorded since the trials were launched last year, up to 25 March this year.

It said “serious injuries” meant those which required medical treatment such as fractures, concussion and cuts, but none required “in-patient” treatment.

A further 62 incidents involving “slight” injuries were recorded, such as sprains, bruises or cuts, that did not require medical treatment, the DfT added.

It said accident rates “appear to be low” as more than two million trips have been taken on rental e-scooters during the trials.

But the charity Guide Dogs said it believed the actual number of people injured by e-scooters is “much higher” as some incidents go unreported and the government’s figures do include those which are privately-owned.

Chris Theobald, the charity’s senior campaigns manager, said: “In the rush to roll out e-scooters in our towns and cities, people with sight loss are being forgotten.

“E-scooters operate quietly which makes them extremely difficult to detect if you can’t see very well.

“We need to make e-scooters safer, tackle dangerous and anti-social behaviour by e-scooter drivers and stop unregulated sales of high-speed e-scooters.”

A DfT spokesman told Sky News that “while feedback from the trials has been generally positive about their impact, we know there have been a small number of instances where e-scooters have been misused”.

Six students were banned from the road in March for drink-driving while riding rental e-scooters in Newcastle – including one who was almost four times over the limit.

However the DfT was unable to provide the total number of people convicted of riding e-scooters while over the alcohol limit during the trials.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) also refused to reveal how many people have been prosecuted for riding e-scooters while over the drink-driving limit in England and Wales.

Following a freedom of information request by Sky News, the CPS said a “manual review of cases” involving road traffic offences would be needed to determine if e-scooters were involved, which would exceed the cost limit set out by the FOI Act.

E-scooter trials are expected to launch in London in the coming weeks, with an announcement on the start date expected after the city’s mayoral election on 6 May.

People renting e-scooters from operators taking part in the trials need to have a full or provisional car, motorcycle or moped licence, and they have been urged to wear a helmet.

Only rental e-scooters are allowed on roads but not pavements, and they are limited to 15.5mph.

Privately-owned e-scooters cannot be used on the UK’s roads – one of the last countries in Europe where this is the case – due to their classification as a motor vehicle under the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Motor vehicles are required to have number plates, with users needing to have a driver’s licence, insurance and wear a helmet.

In October, MPs recommended that e-scooters should be legalised in the UK within 18 months to help make cities greener.

YouTube star Emily Hartridge became the first e-scooter rider to be killed in the UK in July 2019.

Woman who can ‘barely dress’ herself after being hit by e-scooter lashes out

Brisbane Times – September 2, 2021

Brisbane, Australia

 

Originally posted at: https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/queensland/woman-who-can-barely-dress-herself-after-being-hit-by-e-scooter-lashes-out-at-council-20210901-p58nyl.html

A Brisbane woman who can “barely dress” herself after she suffered a nose bleed, bruised face and a badly sprained wrist when she was hit by an e-scooter rider has criticised authorities for allowing the vehicles on footpaths.

Robyn Abell was on her way to meet her family at the Montague Markets in West End on Thursday, August 26 when she was hit by one of two riders on Beam e-scooters.

As a result, she fell to the ground and hit her nose, arm and wrist on the pavement.

The 73-year-old said she had X-rays the following morning at Mater Hospital Brisbane Adult Emergency Room.

“I didn’t sleep at all, and my arm was very painful,” she said.

“I can barely dress myself, so my daughter is having to take time off work to help me.

“There are no breakages, but my wrist is badly sprained. The worst thing is not looking after myself and I certainly can’t drive. I’m about $400 out of pocket.”

While Brisbane City Council has added 2000 ride-share e-scooters to city streets through a tender process, state government regulations allow them to be ridden on footpaths.

Ms Abell said she approached lawyers and was considering her legal options.

“There was something to do with this scooter company not having third-party insurance, but they said all I could do is ago ahead with a civil complaint against the riders,” she said.

“I don’t want to do that. I’d much rather see something done about the scooters being on the footpath. It’s dangerous.

“We’ve already had one person killed in West End. It’s only a matter of time until a child is killed.”

The council did not provide injury and crash data to Brisbane Times. However, a spokesman said operators were required to provide data to the council.

“This data only covers shared scheme incidents that have been reported to the operators themselves,” he said.

“Brisbane’s e-scooter operators are required to have public liability insurance and will be required to have third-party insurance when the insurance industry makes it commonly available.”

Greens councillor Jonathan Sri said he was concerned e-scooter crash reports were not being collected by the local and state governments.

“Residents like Robyn should be able to feel safe walking along the footpath. I’ve been hearing from quite a few residents who say that local footpaths aren’t wide enough for e-scooters to use them safely,” he said.

“Ideally e-scooters should not be sharing space with pedestrians or cars.”

Ms Abell reported the issue to council and police and was told “they couldn’t do anything”.

A Beam spokeswoman said two minor crashes had been reported in Brisbane since its launch.

“In all incidents, we work closely with our riders and community members to support them, and we encourage anyone who witnesses or is involved in an accident involving Beam to reach out directly to us,” she said.

A spokesman said Beam was developing third-party liability insurance tailored to a future of widespread micro-mobility.

“Beam has comprehensive rider insurance, subject to local regulations,” she said.

“Our personal accident insurance policy is written locally by local insurers – the only provider in Brisbane to do this – and is designed to take into account our target audience, which includes Australians under 18.”

A Transport and Main Roads spokeswoman said no changes to the laws around e-scooters were being considered at this time.

“Personal mobility devices, such as e-scooters, which have become popular following an initiative by Brisbane City Council, are considered pedestrians under the law,” she said.

The spokeswoman said riders needed to give way to pedestrians and share the path while travelling no more than 25km/h.

“They must also travel at a speed that allows them to stop safely, especially around pedestrians,” she said.

“PMDs are able to use bicycle paths, including the Brisbane City Council CityLink Cycleway.

“This is because the path is separated from the rest of the road by raised kerbing.”

The spokeswoman said riders were not permitted to travel on main roads, on-road bike lanes or on roads in central business district areas for safety reasons.

Paris police search for two e-scooter riders after pedestrian killed

The Guardian – June 19th, 2021

Paris, France

Originally posted at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/19/paris-police-search-for-two-e-scooter-riders-after-pedestrian-killed

 

Police are searching for two women after a pedestrian who was hit by an electric scooter while walking in Paris died.

The victim, a 31-year-old Italian named only as Miriam, had been in a coma since she was hit by the e-scooter, which was reportedly travelling at speed, while she walked along the Seine in the early hours of Monday.

Divers from the river police, who were patrolling the area, gave emergency treatment to the victim, who suffered a cardiac arrest after hitting her head on the pavement, until an ambulance arrived.

They restarted her heart after 30 minutes and she was taken unconscious to hospital, where she died on Wednesday.

The public prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into “murder, aggravated by failure to stop”. Police have appealed for witnesses to the fatal incident, which happened at 1am on the Voie Georges-Pompidou on the right bank of the Seine near the Île de la Cité, and are attempting to trace the e-scooter’s two female riders.

CCTV in the area is also being examined.

The death has rekindled controversy about the place of e-scooters in the French capital. Though hailed as an ecological means of urban transport and a welcome alternative to motorised vehicles, others have claimed they pose a risk to pedestrians, particularly as they are often used on pavements.

It also came as London embarked on a 12-month trial of electric scooters on 7 June, after pilot schemes in more than 40 towns and cities across the UK in advance of a government decision whether to legalise them on UK roads.

About 70 people are believed to have been injured since the trials were launched last year. Privately owned e-scooters are illegal to use on public roads, cycle lanes and pavements, but those rented in trial areas can be used on roads and cycle lanes.

A scheme operated by the Swedish firm Voi in Coventry was paused after five days because of people riding in pedestrianised areas.

There are three licensed private operators in Paris offering about 15,000 electric scooters, introduced to the city in 2018.

David Belliard, a deputy Paris mayor responsible for transport in the city, expressed his condolences to family and friends of the dead woman, originally from Capalbio in Tuscany, who worked in an Italian restaurant.

“The safety of the most vulnerable, that’s to say pedestrians, is one of my priorities,” he said, and called on the two riders to come forward.

Police in Balaruc-les-Bains in the Hérault region stopped a man riding at 98km/h (61mph) on an electric scooter in May.

Child taken to hospital following e-scooter collision

Daily Echo – September 4th, 2021

Bournemouth, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/19558409.child-taken-hospital-following-e-scooter-collision/

A FOUR-YEAR-OLD boy has been taken to hospital with a suspected fractured collarbone following a collision with an e-scooter on Bournemouth seafront.

The incident occurred at 1pm on Friday, September 3, on the promenade near to Boscombe Pier during the second day of the Bournemouth Air Festival.

The boy, from Christchurch, was taken to Poole Hospital following the incident.

The e-scooter rider, a man in his 30s from Lancashire, has been interviewed on suspicion of driving offences under The Road Traffic Act.

An investigation into the collision is underway.

Dorset Police is urging e-scooter riders to be aware of pedestrians and other road users.

The e-scooter involved was hired through Beryl as part of a trial currently operating in Bournemouth and Poole, which allows individuals to hire an e-scooter from an official government scheme and ride legally. These scooters have a reduced speed limit.

Privately owned e-scooters are currently illegal to use in public places such as pavements, cycle lanes, beach promenades or any publicly accessible land, such as parks.

Police Sergeant Lee Savage, of the traffic unit, said: “This collision happened during the Bournemouth Air Festival, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people visit the seafront with thousands more visitors expected over the weekend.

“We are yet again urging people not to ride either Beryl or privately-owned e-scooters inside the festival site because of the sheer number of people in the area and to help keep people safe.

“Throughout this weekend our officers and council staff will be stopping people riding e-scooters inside the festival site area. If they are privately-owned, they will be seized and if they are part of the Beryl scheme, riders will be encouraged to dismount. Should they commit any offences they will be dealt with under the Road Traffic Act.”

A spokesperson for Beryl said: ”We are very sorry to hear of this incident in Bournemouth, and will be supporting in any way we can. We send our very best wishes to the young boy who has been injured, and hope for a speedy recovery.

”All riders of Beryl e-scooters, as part of the ongoing Department for Transport trial, must do so sensibly and in line with our rules and guidelines.

”Users of all types of vehicles should take care when travelling in shared spaces, especially when there is a high number of pedestrians.”

The illegal use of e-scooters remains an important element of Dorset Police’s Operation Relentless anti-social behaviour priority and this summer the Force has carried out two days of action.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick said: “This must have been a horrible experience for the young child involved and I wish him a speedy recovery, but this incident once again highlights the dangers posed by using e-scooters in public places.

“Please, if you’re travelling to the Air Festival this weekend on a Beryl e-scooter, don’t use it at the event itself – it’s far too busy. And, if you’re travelling in a public place on a private e-scooter, you run the risk of having the item seized.”

In total since the beginning of the year, more than 40 riders of privately owned e-scooters have been stopped and spoken to before being issued with warnings.

Officers also have the power to seize e-scooters that are either found to be used illegally or involved in criminal activity.

 

Moment teenager on an e-scooter almost ploughs into a lorry while riding on the WRONG side of the road

 

Daily Mail – September 10th, 2021

Isle of Wight, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9977013/E-scooter-rider-ploughs-lorry-riding-WRONG-road.html

The moment an e-scooter rider almost ploughs into a lorry while travelling on the wrong side of the ride has been caught on video.

The near-miss was captured on Andy Phillips’ dash cam while he was driving his lorry in Nettlestone, Isle of Wight, on Wednesday evening.

The footage shows the fish and chip shop owner travelling along a dark road before the teenager on a hired electric scooter appears from a side road.

Travelling on the wrong side of the road, the teenager tries to stop as he sees Andy’s mobile chippy truck.

He skids and manages to scramble off the e-scooter and slips into the path of the lorry and hits the front of it.

Andy – who runs the Jolly Fryer, on the Isle of Wight – said the youth was fortunate to escape unharmed.

Andy, who runs the Jolly Fryer fish and chip shop on the Isle of Wight, said he ‘could so easily have been waking up with the thought of having someone die under the wheels of my truck’

But he added: ‘I could so easily have been waking up with the thought of having someone die under the wheels of my truck.

‘He was on the wrong side of the road.

‘He clearly didn’t expect other traffic to be on the roads. He appeared to be of school age.

‘His excuse? ‘It just went into a skid, I wasn’t going too fast’.’

Andy alerted police and was told the incident had been logged, but that no further action will be taken.

Andy said the teen was on a Beryl e-scooter that can be hired across the UK from councils – including in Bournemouth, Dorset and Norwich, Norfolk.

Andy added: ‘I phoned the Isle of Wight Council on Thursday, because according to blurb put out at the start of the scheme they were proud to be part of such a groundbreaking idea.

‘But they apparently have no idea who, on the Island, runs them and also didn’t want to know.’

Isle of Wight Council has been approached for comment.

A spokesman for Hampshire Constabulary said: ‘We received a report of a collision on Nettlestone Hill, at 8.57pm on 8 September.

‘An E-scooter had gone underneath a lorry. The rider was not on the scooter at the point of the collision and no-one was injured.’

In 2018, there were four recorded e-scooter collisions in London, which rose to 32 in 2019. Accident numbers are thought to be under-reported, as riders using them in prohibited areas are unlikely to tell police about collisions.

Figures show the number of riders harmed in collisions in London alone leapt from 27 in 2019 to 181 between January and November 2020.

The number of pedestrians hurt by e-scooters doubled over the same period, from 13 to 26, according to data released under Freedom of Information legislation.

A study by TfL, based on US data, found riders needed hospital treatment after accidents every 3.1 years on average, with many suffering head or neck injuries.

Three-year-old girl left with ‘life-changing’ injuries after collision with man riding e-scooter

 

The Independent – July 20th, 2021

London, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/toddler-escooter-accident-london-police-b1887563.html

A three-year-old girl has been left with “life-changing” injuries after a collision with a young man riding an e-scooter in a south London park, according to police.

The toddler and her family were at Myatt’s Fields Park in Lambeth when the incident took place, at about 8:30pm on Monday.

Electric scooters drive accident epidemic as young man, 20, latest to die in collision

 

Express – July 1, 2021

Wolverhampton, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1456898/electric-scooters-collision-deaths-accident-epidemic

Shakur Pinnock, 20, suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured skull, two severed arteries, a broken jaw and punctured lungs when his electric stand-up scooter was involved in a collision with a car in Wolverhampton last month. His girlfriend Chanté Hoosang, who was a passenger on the scooter, was also seriously injured. Just six days after the incident, Pinnock died from his injuries at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. His mother Celine Fraser-Pinnock posted the message on Facebook: “I miss you so much. My beautiful, gorgeous baby.”

Despite such obvious dangers, e-scooters are now a common sight on the streets of Britain. Many road users tell stories about nearly being hit or watching e-scooters weaving through traffic, across pavements or the wrong way up one-way streets.

Sometimes carrying passengers, often young children, their riders almost never wear helmets. Aside from Department for Transport-sanctioned trials staged around the UK right now, they are illegal except on private land. Riders risk a £300 fixed penalty notice and six points on their driving licence if stopped by police.

Predominantly made overseas, bought and sold online and costing as little as £300, which puts them within the reach of young people, their availability and ease of use has seen tens of thousands sold in the UK.

Research suggests they are 100 times more dangerous than bicycles, yet arrests and seizures by the authorities appear relatively uncommon. At least four people including Shakur Pinnock are now known to have died in accidents across the UK involving these new battery-powered scooters

Perhaps the most high-profile case was that of 35-year-old TV presenter Emily Hartridge who, in July 2019, was killed in a collision with a lorry in south London.

She is believed to be the UK’s first fatality involving such a vehicle.

“We all loved her to bits and she will never be forgotten,” her family said after the tragic accident. “She has touched so many lives.”

Emily’s boyfriend, Jake Hazell, a former contestant on the 2021 series of TV show SAS: Who Dares Wins, bought the e-scooter for her and later explained how much he regretted the gift.

“It is an adult toy and obviously there is a massive risk that comes with it,” he told the BBC. “The road had a massive part to play in Emily’s accident. The condition of the road was shocking. It wasn’t necessarily Emily’s, the scooter’s or the driver’s fault. I don’t blame the driver whatsoever.” Chief Superintendent Simon Ovens of the Metropolitan Police’s road and transport policing command, says e-scooters “remain notoriously dangerous, and illegal when driven in public areas or on the roads”.

He added: “Under the Road Traffic Act 1988, it is the equivalent of riding a motorcycle on the road without any MOT, tax or insurance.”

Last week police confiscated more than 500 e-scooters from the streets of London during “proactive patrols” across all boroughs. There are also suggestions they have become the ride-of-choice for criminals, with robberies, assaults and even in one alarming incident a drive-by shooting having been carried out on the devices.

The legal scooters being used in the Department for Transport trials are capped with a top speed of 15.5mph. However, Chief Supt Ovens is concerned that illegal users sometimes modify them to go faster. “Whilst we have seized e-scooters which can operate up to 40mph, there are some which can reach 70mph,” he said.

Most e-scooters are designed so that riders stand on a narrow deck, supported by small wheels – often with pneumatic tyres – which are propelled by an electric battery-powered motor. At the front, a stem rises up to handlebars where the brakes and accelerator are operated.

Users see these vehicles as a fast and convenient way to commute, while certain pedestrians view them as a menace. Used responsibly, they can transport riders around busy towns in record time.

But at full speed and without due care and attention – or carrying extra passengers – they risk injury and death.

In June 2020 57-year-old charity fundraiser Barrie Howes lost control of his scooter while speeding down a steep road in Chatham, Kent. He was thrown off and, despite wearing a helmet, suffered brain injuries. Nine days later he died in hospital. In September 2020 55-year-old Julian Thomas was killed when his e-scooter struck a parked car in Swansea.

The legal scooters being used in the Department for Transport trials are capped with a top speed of 15.5mph. However, Chief Supt Ovens is concerned that illegal users sometimes modify them to go faster. “Whilst we have seized e-scooters which can operate up to 40mph, there are some which can reach 70mph,” he said.

So far the Department for Transport has recorded more than two million trips, covering a total distance of more than 3.1 million miles.

“We believe that e-scooters can offer an affordable, reliable and sustainable way to travel during a time of social distancing, improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the UK,” a department spokesperson said. “E-scooters could help ease the burden on our transport network.”

Living Streets is a charity which campaigns for pedestrians.

“Pavements are for people, but more and more people are scooting on them illegally,” said chief executive Stephen Edwards.

“The speed, acceleration and quietness of e-scooters causes alarm to pedestrians. We need speeds to be capped and robust police enforcement against dangerous riders. We previously asked the Government to cap speeds at 12.5mph instead of the 15.5mph adopted for the trials.”

Edwards claims that e-scooters are more difficult to handle than bicycles.

“They have smaller wheels, the footplates are closer to the ground and if you meet a pothole you are much more likely to come off than if you are cycling.

“The poor state of our roads combined with high levels of traffic lead us to believe that we don’t have the right infrastructure currently in place to support e-scooters

 

 

Teen e-scooter rider pleads guilty in incident which caused pedestrian severe brain injuries

 

Strait Times – June 13th, 2018

Singapore

Originally posted at: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/teen-e-scooter-rider-pleads-guilty-in-incident-which-caused-pedestrian-severe

Just two months after his father gave him an electric scooter, a teenager knocked into a pedestrian, causing her to suffer severe brain injuries.

Nicholas Ting Nai Jie, 18, had failed to keep a proper lookout while riding the e-scooter on Sept 17, 2016.

Madam Ang Liu Kiow, a 55-year-old mother of three, was left in a month-long coma. Her husband told The Straits Times in a subsequent interview that his wife can no longer remember the past or express herself properly.

On Wednesday (June 13), Ting pleaded guilty to causing grievous hurt to Madam Ang, a housewife, while riding his e-scooter in a negligent manner.

The court heard that the 14kg device cost $1,600 and his father had bought it in July 2016.

On the day of the incident, Ting had his girlfriend with him on the e-scooter and they made their way to Pasir Ris East Community Club.

The instructions manual of his e-scooter had warned against riding with a pillion rider but he ignored it.

The teenager was moving at about 15kmh on a footpath in Pasir Ris Drive 1 when he approached a bus stop.

The court heard that he failed to keep a proper lookout and did not reduce his speed even though there were pedestrians in the vicinity. He also did not sound the horn to inform them that he was approaching the area.

When Madam Ang stepped onto the footpath in front of the bus stop, Ting applied the brakes but it was too late.

Assistant Public Prosecutor Dillon Kok said: “The e-scooter impacted the left side of the victim, causing her to fall and hit her head on the ground. After the collision, the victim sat on the footpath and appeared dazed.

“She was helped by pedestrians to rest on the seats of the bus stop. It was observed that her eyes were open but she was not responsive. She also vomited yellowish fluid a few times.”

Ting and his girlfriend remained at the scene and alerted the police. An ambulance took Madam Ang to Changi General Hospital, where she was found to be bleeding in her brain.

The court heard that her medical, hospitalisation and therapy fees have come up to more than $107,000. After government subsidies and an insurance payout, her out-of-pocket expenses were $2,470.65 as of August last year.

Ting is expected to be sentenced on Thursday.

On May 1 this year, new laws governing the use of personal mobility devices such as e-scooters were rolled out. As part of the Active Mobility Act, power-assisted bicycles are not allowed on footpaths while e-scooters are banned on public roads.

The speed limits are 15kmh on footpaths and 25kmh on park connectors and shared paths.

First-time offenders who flout the usage rules and speed limits may be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to three months, or both. Repeat offenders may have their fine and jail terms doubled.

The new law also sets limits on the size and speed of the devices that can be used on public paths. These cannot weigh more than 20kg each and must have their speeds capped at 25kmh.

Those who use devices that flout these rules can be jailed for up to three months and fined up to $5,000.

Girl’s jaw and gums had to be realigned after accident with e-scooter; rider arrested

 

Today Online – April 13, 2018

Singapore

Originally posted at: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/girls-jaw-and-gums-had-be-realigned-after-accident-e-scooter-rider-arrested

An 11-year-old girl had to have her jaw and gums realigned, after an e-scooter crashed into her on Thursday (April 12) evening along Pasir Ris Drive 1.

The child, who also lost two of her teeth and suffered multiple cuts and abrasions, “cried when she saw her face in the mirror”, said her father Rahmat Nizam Samat, 38, a civil servant.

The police say they have arrested the e-scooter rider, a 24-year-old man. Investigations are ongoing.

Recounting the incident, Mr Rahmat said his wife received a call from an unknown number at around 7.15pm on Thursday, telling her that her daughter had been involved in an accident and was “bleeding from her mouth outside Pasir Ris East Community Club”.

He rushed to the scene, where he was told that his daughter had been hit from the back by an e-scooter. She was later taken to the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, where a doctor had to realign her jaw and gums.

The child also suffered cuts and abrasions to her head, under the right eye, left palm, elbows and knees. She is currently on seven days of medical leave.

“She has not been able to eat anything except a few pieces of watermelons due to her swollen gums,” said Mr Rahmat.

He added that he will be seeking legal action against the e-scooter rider once the police have concluded their investigations.

Thursday’s incident is the latest in a series of accidents involving pedestrians and users of e-scooters and personal mobility devices.

Last month, three e-scooter drivers were charged in court for injuring pedestrians, among them a 61-year-old woman and two boys aged eight and 11, on three separate occasions in 2017.

Mandatory registration of e-scooters was announced in March this year by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), which had earlier introduced similar requirements for electric bicycles. Tough new penalties have also kicked in for unregistered or non-compliant e-bikes.

The authorities have been taking tougher action against errant users of personal mobility devices like e-scooters and e-bikes in the past year, amid growing complaints about speeding and reckless behaviour by the riders.

In January, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament that there were 30 e-scooter accidents involving pedestrians on footpaths and walkways between January and September last year. The Minister also noted that the LTA had issued more than 1,700 advisories for unsafe riding behaviour that year.

Canterbury woman struck by electric scooter suffers two broken limbs

 

Kent Online – November 27th, 2020

Canterbury, UK

Originally posted at: https://www.kentonline.co.uk/canterbury/news/i-was-hit-by-an-e-scooter-but-it-felt-like-a-car-238143/

A mum-of-three suffered two broken limbs when she was knocked down by an electric scooter while walking along a pavement.

Pauline Lilford, 58, has been left bed-bound and unable to care for her elderly mother who has dementia, following the “shocking” crash in Canterbury.

She says the incident has left her concerned about the roll-out of e-scooters across the city – fearing things could have been much worse had a child or elderly person been struck.

“You’d think ‘oh it’s just a scooter’, but with the injuries that have come from it, it’s more like I’ve been hit by a car,” she said.

Mrs Lilford was on a morning stroll with her husband at about 8am on November 10, when she was knocked to the floor by a man illegally riding a privately-owned scooter on St Thomas’ Hill.

“I was on the inside of the pavement,” she said. “We were just chatting about the day ahead.

“I didn’t hear anything. Then I was aware of somebody shouting and I turned slightly, and was hit from behind.

“I didn’t know what had hit me until I was on the ground. Then I realised it was a young chap on a scooter.

“My husband and I were both completely shocked.

“I tried to get up but I couldn’t. Then the pain kicked in, and I started shaking with shock.”

Mrs Lilford, of Forty Acres Road, thanked those who stopped to help her – including an off-duty doctor, and those who lent her a mobile phone and duvet.

She described the scooter rider as “very shaken up” by the crash. Police soon arrived, and he was issued with a Traffic Offence Report for use of a vehicle without insurance, while the scooter was seized.

Mrs Lilford was taken by ambulance to the QEQM hospital in Margate with fractures to her arm and leg.

She was in hospital for five days, requiring surgery to rewire her elbow which was “smashed up” in the crash.

She is now back at home on bed-rest, but is facing further repercussions on her family life.

Her 85-year-old mum, who has dementia and usually lives with Mrs Lilford, has had to be placed in a nursing home while she is unable to care for her.

“It’s just added to the trauma, really,” said Mrs Lilford.

Due to Covid-19 measures, the care home was unable to accept her mum if she had been in contact with Mrs Lilford after her stay in hospital.

“So mum had to go in before I came home, and I haven’t seen her since the crash,” she said.

Mrs Lilford is also facing up to two months off work, from her job as office manager at her husband’s chartered surveyors firm in Canterbury.

“Poor Mike is having to get extra help in to do my job, and then train people on what to do,” she said.

“And we’re very busy – we were run off our feet before this happened, so it’s very frustrating.”

A 12-month trial of e-scooters launched in Canterbury just a week before the crash.

The vehicles are currently operating on a restricted route serving students from the city’s universities, but it is hoped the trial will be expanded to cover large areas of the city in the coming year.

While the man who crashed into her was riding a privately owned e-scooter – which is currently illegal in public areas – Mrs Lilford says she has been left concerned about the wider roll-out of the vehicles.

“It’s made me feel quite frightened, and wary of it,” she said.

“You’d think ‘oh it’s just a scooter’, but with the injuries that have come from it, it’s more like I’ve been hit by a car.

“If it is going to happen, the regulations need to be so stringent. But how can they actually make sure that people are sticking to it?

“I’m not keen on them at all – I don’t think it’s such a good idea. I think what happened needs highlighting.

“Being 58, I think I’m reasonably fit. But if it had been someone frailer, or a child that was hit, it could have been a very different story.”

Trial safety

It is hoped safety features such as a speed cap will prevent similar incidents from occurring during the city’s e-scooter trial.

Bird – the electric scooter lending company appointed by Kent County Council to head up the trial – declined to comment on the crash and Mrs Lilford’s concerns.

Just days before the incident, city councillor Dave Wilson had raised concerns over the danger e-scooters could pose to pedestrians. But it is hoped that technology used by Bird – which remotely controls where the authorised scooters can go, and how fast – will prevent such incidents happening during the trial.

On main roads with cycle lanes, Bird scooters can go up to 15mph, while in pedestrian areas they are capped at 5mph.

Meanwhile other areas are designated “no ride zones” and they power down if they cross the trial boundary.

Bird has not had any incidents since launching in Canterbury.

Insp Guy Thompson, of Canterbury Community Safety Unit, warned e-scooters are subject to the same legal requirements as motor vehicles. He said anyone found using them illegally faces a potential fine and the scooter being seized.

 

E-scooter casualties in London soar by 570% as number of pedestrians hurt DOUBLES in a year – putting pressure on Sadiq Khan over rental trial scheme

 

Daily Mail – June 26th, 2021

London, UK

Originally posted at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9729033/E-scooter-casualties-London-soar-570-number-pedestrians-hurt-DOUBLES-year.html

E-scooter casualties in London soared by more than 570 per cent in just a year – but the true increase is likely to be far higher.

Figures show the number of riders injured in collisions in the capital leapt from 27 in 2019 to 181 between January and November 2020.

The number of pedestrians hurt by e-scooters doubled over the same period, from 13 to 26, according to data released under Freedom of Information legislation.

In an email to crash victims passed to The Mail on Sunday by a pedestrian hit by an e-scooter, a Metropolitan Police officer admitted: ‘We know collisions are increasing, but they are still incredibly under-reported.’

The force has recently cracked down on illegal e-scooter use in the capital, seizing more than 500 last week. Despite that, the sharp rise in collisions will put London Mayor Sadiq Khan under pressure after he gave the green light to a year-long e-scooter rental trial in six of the capital’s boroughs.

It comes as charities warn that e-scooters are endangering the lives of blind people, even forcing them to re-train their guide dogs.

Sarah Gayton, street access campaign co-ordinator at the National Federation of the Blind, said: ‘The mounting deaths, serious head injuries, broken bones and lives devastated or changed forever has to be a wake-up call to the very politicians who allowed the trials to start. When there are so many other mobility options available in cities and towns, why would you put your life at risk by jumping on an e-scooter?’

More than 70 per cent of the public have reported seeing an e-scooter being driven illegally on a pavement, according to a survey of over 2,000 people by the charity Guide Dogs. A spokesman said: ‘Fast-moving and silent vehicles such as e-scooters are always much more difficult for blind and partially sighted people to detect and thus it becomes very difficult for the dog’s training to be reinforced.’

Vaughan Rees, 79, who lost his sight 40 years ago in a car accident, was nearly knocked over by an e-scooter outside his local Tesco store in Warwickshire. ‘The incident has made me feel frightened and shaken up,’ he said. ‘Because the scooters are silent it gives me the added disadvantage of being oblivious to them. I have to heavily rely on my hearing, which is not good.’

Zoe Courtney, of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said: ‘E-scooters are fast-moving, difficult to detect and are often ridden on the pavement, despite this being illegal.

‘We want to see the rules on not using e-scooters on pavements enforced, adequate off-pavement parking provided, and the appropriate street infrastructure in place to keep pedestrians safe.’

79-year-old woman in hospital after being knocked down by a scooter

 

Majorca Daily Bulletin – July 20th, 2021

Majorca, Spain

Originally posted at: https://www.majorcadailybulletin.com/news/local/2021/08/20/88425/year-old-woman-mallorca-hospital-after-scooter-accident.html

Palma police say that barely a day passes without there being an accident involving an electric scooter. Some accidents are serious – a 17-year-old was badly injured on Wednesday when he went through a red light and was knocked down. The day before, 79-year-old Daniela was knocked down on a pedestrian crossing. She lost consciousness and was admitted to the Clinica Rotger (close to the scene of the accident) with fractures to an arm and to the face. Doctors have yet to decide if she will need an operation.

Daniela’s daughter, Cristina, says that her mother was on the pedestrian crossing when she was knocked down by a young man on a scooter. “She couldn’t react, she didn’t see him.” Cristina is outraged by his recklessness and by the fact that he has seemingly shown no interest in how her mother is. “We don’t ask for much more.”

Witnesses say that the scooter rider was aged around 25 and that he kept repeating to the police that he had stopped. Given witness statements and reports, the matter is likely to end up in court.

Cristina, meanwhile, believes that “politicians have to be aware of what is happening and take some kind of action”. “It’s not right that these vehicles circulate in the same places where people walk.”

Actress Lisa Banes dies after being hit by scooter in Manhattan

 

ABC 7 – June 15th, 2021

NYC, USA

Originally posted at: https://abc7ny.com/lisa-banes-gone-girl-nyc-dies-after-scooter-accident/10791816/

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) — Actress Lisa Banes, known for her supporting roles in “Gone Girl” and “Cocktail,” has died after being struck by a scooter on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

She was 65.

“I am brokenhearted to share that Lisa, my beautiful wife and my love, passed away last night,” wife Kathryn Kranhold said. “Lisa has remained unconscious since being the victim of a hit and run near Lincoln Center on June 4th. She suffered a traumatic brain injury. Lisa’s brother, Evan Sinclair, and sister-in-law, Hallie Atkinson, and I were by her side for the last 10 days, as well as some dear and loving friends. We appreciate the love, support and prayers from all of you across the country. Lisa was listening. We want to express our everlasting gratitude to the medical staff at Mount Sinai Morningside for their expertise and empathy. We look forward to celebrating Lisa, her life and work, in New York City in the fall.”

Banes was hit by a scooter around 7:30 p.m. on June 4 at the intersection of Amsterdam Avenue and West 64th Street.

The actress was crossing Amsterdam Avenue on the way to visit the Juilliard School, her alma mater, publicist David Williams said.

The driver of the scooter fled from the scene, and so far, there have been no arrests.

Williams said Banes was taken to Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital, where she eventually succumbed to her injuries.

“We are heartsick over Lisa’s tragic and senseless passing,” Williams said. “She was a woman of great spirit, kindness and generosity and dedicated to her work, whether on stage or in front of a camera and even more so to her wife, family and friends. We were blessed to have had her in our lives.”

Banes appeared in numerous television shows and movies, including “Gone Girl” with Ben Affleck in 2014 and “Cocktail” with Tom Cruise in 1988.

On television, she’s had roles on “Nashville,” “Madam Secretary,” “Masters of Sex” and “NCIS.”

Russian ballet dancer from Saint Petersburg’s famous Mariinsky Theatre in coma after falling from electric scooter at high speed

 

RT – May 18th, 2021

Saint Petersburg, Russia

 

Originally posted at: https://www.rt.com/russia/524105-mariinsky-theater-soloist-electric-scooter-incident/

A soloist from Saint Petersburg’s prestigious Mariinsky Theatre has been placed in a coma after crashing an electric scooter and falling hard on the pavement. He is now in critical condition, after suffering from cranial trauma.

David Zaleyev has been dancing at the Mariinsky since 2013, and has won multiple awards for his solo performances. According to the theatre’s press service, which spoke to local news outlet 78.ru, Zaleyev is currently in hospital, having undergone a cranial trepanation following a brain hemorrhage.

Videos of the incident published online show Zaleyev attempting to weave his way through a group of pedestrians. He appears to clip one of the men on the sidewalk, causing him to take a tumble and smash his head on the ground. According to newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda St. Petersburg, citing a source, the ballet dancer may have been intoxicated.

The man was found in a severe state of acute alcohol poisoning,” the source said. “It was impossible to question him – he had a closed cranial trauma and concussion of the brain.”

In recent years, electric scooter-sharing services have been popping up all around Russia. In Saint Petersburg, the Whoosh and Molnia apps have become popular as a convenient way to get around town.

E-scooter drivers endanger other road users significantly more than cyclists

 

Spiegel – January 7th, 2021

Germany

 

Originally posted at: https://www.spiegel.de/auto/e-scooter-2020-sieben-tote-und-hunderte-schwerverletzte-bei-unfaellen-von-januar-bis-september-a-49161708-627c-4c63-9b95-b055552c261e

Seven people were killed in accidents with e-scooters in the first nine months of last year. 269 drivers of the batteries-powered scooters were seriously injured, 1096 suffered minor injuries, according to the Federal Statistical Office.

In total, the police registered 1570 accidents with the smallest electric vehicles from January to September, in which there were deaths or injuries. Siegfried Brockmann, head of accident research at insurers (UDV), warns one value is alarming: “In 21 percent of e-scooter accidents with personal injury, the accident is not the driver, but another road user.” In the case of bicycle accidents, this value is only five percent, the accident researcher explains to SPIEGEL.

 

Scooter drivers often use the sidewalk

This is mainly due to the fact that scooter drivers often lead irregularly on the footpath. “One of our studies shows that in almost 60 percent of cases, people drive on the footpath, although you would actually have to use the road or the bike path,” says Brockmann.

However, many drivers apparently are not even aware of this violation. According to a survey, 25 percent of drivers think they are allowed to drive on footpath, complains the accident researcher. He is therefore in favor of a Europe-wide information campaign to sensitize drivers in this country, but also tourists.

However, the frequency of accidents can only be compared to a limited extent with that of other means of transport. “Unfortunately, there is no movement data for the e-scooters,” explains Brockmann. You don’t know at the moment how high the mileage of the scooters is – this is crucial for comparisons. “I therefore expect the providers to disclose this data,” says Brockmann.

 

2020 difficult to compare year

 

At the same time, 2020 is an atypical year, explains the accident researcher. Due to the corona pandemic, the providers have meanwhile restricted or completely suspended their operations. In addition, a large part of the tourists who otherwise often use the scooters fell away. In addition, the electric standing scooters are a comparatively new phenomenon.

The scooter accidents have only been collected separately since the beginning of 2020. The e-scooters have been approved for road traffic in Germany since June 2019. The number of e-scooter accidents with personal injury increased in the spring and summer of last year: 252 were recorded between January and March, between April and June 417. According to the information, the number was highest between July and September with 901 accidents: Four people were killed, 145 seriously injured and 627 slightly injured

He broke his bones, now no one wants to be liable: An e-scooter accident shows dangerous legal gaps

 

Business Insider – November 28th, 2021

Germany

 

Originally posted at: https://www.businessinsider.de/wirtschaft/mobility/er-brach-sich-die-knochen-jetzt-will-niemand-haften-ein-e-scooter-unfall-zeigt-gefaehrliche-gesetzesluecken-a/

As on any other day, Klaus Bopp set off for work around 8:35 a.m. this Tuesday morning. Bopp is blind from birth, orients himself with a long stick and has been walking this route in Bremen’s Neustadt for 30 years. He knows every millimeter. After about two minutes, it happens: Shortly before a crossroads, the 50-year-old falls over two e-scooters lying across the sidewalk. He still captures one with the stick, on the second he no longer has a chance. He falls on the right hip and contracts a femoral neck fracture.

“I had such anger, because the things are not standing in the way for the first time without warning,” recalls Bopp in conversation with Business Insider. It was clear to him: There had to be an accident at some point.

The anger will boil up again at Bopp even in the months after the accident. Gradually it turns out: Nobody wants to be responsible for the bone fracture. Neither the Swedish rental company Voi, which set up the e-scooters on the morning of the accident, nor Voi’s liability insurance, nor the city of Bremen, which granted an operating license for the scooters. The case is also tricky from a legal point of view, although it is well documented by the police and eyewitnesses. The question of who is to blame for the fall over the overturned e-scooters is completely unresolved and reveals large gaps in regulation in Germany.

Bopp’s lawyer wants to set a precedent

Neither the authorities nor the e-scooter company Voi contact the injured Bopp. At our request, the company says that they are very saddened by this tragic accident. “We are doing our best to find a suitable solution for everyone,” says Stockholm headquarters. However, the solution still does not exist today. Because Bopp cannot believe that his bone fracture should remain without consequences, he turns to the legal advice of the German Blind and Visually Impaired Association. There, the business lawyer Thomas Hiby takes over the case. He now wants to set a precedent and go to court with a claim for damages. According to the pain and suffering allowance table, a sum between 12,000 and 25,000 euros would be common. If Hiby succeeds in this, it would probably have consequences for the entire e-scooter industry in Germany.

The search for the culprit proves difficult. The police, who arrive at the scene of the accident a few minutes after the fall, initially assume property damage. Even in the ambulance, Bopp is questioned as a possible suspect, not as a victim. If you run against it, you are the cause and thus to blame for the accident, writes Bopp in the memory protocol. The accusation is quickly clarified, but further investigations are not carried out. Not even the police could contact Voi “in a reasonable time”, says the police report.

 

Vois lawyers and insurance companies point to liability gap

Lawyer Hiby also has to wait a few weeks for feedback: The company’s lawyers see “no basis for liability.” They refer to an unknown third party who is said to have knocked over the properly installed scooters. However, the company has no responsibility for this, write Voi’s lawyers.

The DEVK, with which Voi has taken out statutory liability insurance, also follows this line of argument. If the users of the e-scooters have parked them properly, the subsequent behavior of uninvolved third parties cannot be attributed to the owner Voi, says Business Insider. In addition, she explains that it only covers accidents from moving scooters. She wouldn’t step in for a fall over an upright e-scooter either.

A plausible scenario is establishing itself for both the company and insurance – one that relieves all parties involved from responsibility.

No matter how many people stumble over lying e-scooters, according to the law neither the insurance nor the owner of the e-scooters is responsible for this. Lawyer Hiby evaluates the facts differently. Anyone who creates a source of danger must also bear proportionate responsibility.

Eleven days of hospital

For Klaus Bopp, the fall had far-reaching consequences. After the accident, he was in hospital for eleven days, had to undergo surgery. The doctors assume that it will take three to six months for him to return to normal. Today, almost four months after the accident, he still cannot return to work. Since he works in the public sector, his professional association covers the treatment costs. Nevertheless, he suffers financial losses, because instead of full salary he receives sick pay. It is not only the physical and financial consequences that bother him. “I am also concerned psychologically about this. I’m no longer at the same pace as I used to, because I have to reckon with the things everywhere.”

 

There are almost no parking rules

In Germany, e-scooters are generally allowed to park anywhere on the sidewalk as long as the municipality does not prescribe stricter rules. That’s why the police apparently come to the conclusion in the Klaus Bopp case that the e-scooters were parked in accordance with the law, even though they protruded from the wall of the house across the sidewalk.

The legislator has not formulated clear rules on where e-scooters may be installed, says lawyer Hiby to Business Insider. He sees this as a serious legislative gap.

In many places, this regulatory gap leads to parking chaos on the sidewalks. Bopp’s hometown Bremen is one of the few cities that has established clear rules of the game. The city has prescribed to Voi that at least 1.50 meters of remaining walkway must remain when parking. If someone complains to the public order office, the e-scooter providers have 24 hours to change the vehicles.

 

Business model favors wildlife parking

The business model of the e-scooter companies is strongly based on the fact that the scooters can be found wherever possible. “Availability is crucial,” says a spokesman for Voi. In the industry, we speak of the “free floating model”. Every customer can borrow them and park them again where they feel like it.

For Hilke Groenewold, expert for accessibility at the German Blind and Visually Impaired Association, this is precisely the danger, especially for visually impaired and blind people. “Sighted people can also stumble upon it at night,” says Groenewold. The association wants fixed parking spaces, preferably on the street. “If they have to stand on sidewalks, it is only in defined areas that are tactile and visually rich in contrast,” says the expert. However, this is only moderately attractive for e-scooter companies, as this limits availability.

Voi partially outsources responsibility

Voi assured Business Insider that the company takes safety on the sidewalk very seriously. The Swedish company will be represented on German roads in June 2019 with its e-scooter offer. Today, she is active in twelve cities with a five-digit number of scooters. The problem with fleet management: Voi has outsourced control of the scooters to a large extent, as usual in the industry. The company offers the platform, the e-scooters and some local contacts. The actual work on the road, namely collecting, charging and distributing the scooters, is done by subcontractors.

According to Voi, it checks via digital tracking whether the scooters are parked correctly. Local Voi employees would instruct the external service providers and occasionally also check them on the road. They are in close contact with the subcontractors. What doesn’t seem to fit: Voi’s operations manager for Bremen lives and works in Berlin, 400 kilometers away. From lawyer Hiby’s point of view, the company deliberately goes at maximum distance: “Voi operates a purely virtual business from Sweden without tangible liability substrates.”

The current permit for Voi’s 500 e-scooters in Bremen expires at the end of November. The city is negotiating the conditions for next year with Voi these days. It is clear so far that the pavement width will be increased from 1.50 to 1.80 meters and that the company will have to react much faster in the future – probably within six instead of 24 hours – to incorrectly parked e-scooters. The Senate for Home Affairs said that Bremen is pushing e-scooter companies to solid storage spaces for a while longer.

Klaus Bopp, who is still struggling with the consequences of the accident, is still waiting for a personal apology today. He wants the e-scooters to no longer be allowed to stand and lie anywhere. “The project was simply not thought through to the end,” he says. Because he doesn’t want to relive the seconds of the fall. At that moment, I just felt helpless and powerless, because apparently nobody cares that the e-scooters are a traffic obstacle.

E-Scooter riders have little, if any, protection in case of injury or accident

 

ABC 7 – January 4th, 2021

Washington, USA

 

Originally posted at: https://wjla.com/features/i-team/e-scooter-riders-have-no-liability-insurance-protection-from-scooter-companies

If you haven’t ridden an e-scooter, chances are you’ve dodged one coming at you on the sidewalk or skirted one laying in the street.

The obvious hazards are well-documented, but we discovered one that could impact you even if you never step foot on an e-scooter.

”All of a sudden somebody in front of me jumps and screams ‘Whoa!’ and the scooter is, like, coming right at me,” said Jill Jefferson, whose life profoundly changed while walking down a D.C. sidewalk on her way to a meeting.

A woman on an e-scooter hit Jefferson with such force she flew into the air.

“I just thought, ‘Don’t let my head hit, don’t let my head hit first, don’t let my head hit first’,” said Jefferson.

The full weight of Jefferson’s body dropped to the concrete, leaving her with a broken back and traumatic brain injury.

Eighteen months later, the former government consultant is still recovering.

“It’s hard for me to bend down, or getting right and left mixed up,” said Jefferson. “I can’t read easily. I mean, I can read words, but my eyes get blurry or I can’t understand stuff.”

What happened to Jill Jefferson is not a one-off.

 

Rutgers University found facial and head injuries from e-scooters have tripled in the past decade.

The Henry Ford Health System reports that of the 92,353 scooter injuries treated in emergency rooms, nearly 28% were head and neck injuries.

And recently the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that most injuries happen on sidewalks.

While you may not be surprised by the accidents or even the injuries, given that there are no uniform laws about helmets or where e-scooters can operate, chances are you have no idea how unprotected you are if you are injured by, or on, an e-scooter.

“There’s no insurance to cover them,” said personal injury attorney Allan M. Siegel. “Certainly no insurance provided by the e-scooter company.”

He says it boils down to this: If you stumble over an e-scooter on the sidewalk and get hurt, are hit by one, or are hurt yourself on one, unless you can prove the scooter company was negligent, you would have no insurance protection through the scooter company.

And if you’re riding and hurt someone else, it’s unlikely your personal insurance would cover any of it, leaving all costs coming out of your pocket.

Siegel says all automobile ride shares must carry liability insurance in case the driver injures someone, and e-scooters — some of which can reach 30 miles per hour — should be no different.

“I think it is the responsibility of the e-scooter companies if they want to operate in the city,” said Siegel. “I think the council should make laws that say if you want operate in our cities you’re going to have liability coverage.”

Recently, the D.C. city council passed a bill that provides scooter users the same protection as cyclists, pedestrians, and other “vulnerable users.” A notion that was originally opposed by The Trial Lawyers of Washington, D.C. because the District had not defined or limited the way e-scooters could be used on DC streets and sidewalks.

In late October, however, the D.C. Council approved legislation for additional regulation of e-scooters that includes more rules for their use in the city and a requirement that they can be locked to racks or poles. That move gained the Council the support of the Association to classify e-scooter riders among “vulnerable users.” The chair of the Trial Lawyers Association of DC recently explained “vulnerable users” in an op-ed you can view here.

In mid-December D.C.’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee met and Jill Jefferson testified about her ordeal. Jefferson says the committee is considering additional protections for pedestrians in the case of being struck by an e-scooter.

Because Jill Jefferson was injured while walking to a work meeting, some of her medical bills were paid through worker’s comp. But the larger issues of regulating where e-scooters can operate and making sure the companies provide insurance to riders and those injured by them, is something she says she’ll fight for until it happens.

“Municipalities have the responsibility for protecting the health and safety and the general welfare of the public,” said Jefferson. “And that means to be able to walk freely in our nation’s capital without fear of getting mowed down by a random e-scooter.”

There’s a significant variation in state laws when it comes to e-scooters, including where they can be ridden. For example, Fairfax, Virginia allows the use of e-scooters on sidewalks but they cannot be operated above 10 miles per hour. In Arlington, Virginia, if a protected bike lane is available, the e-scooter cannot be used on the sidewalk. D.C. considers e-scooters “personal mobility devices” and therefore not subject to helmet laws, while other jurisdictions regulate them like bicycles.

In Maryland, e-scooters are not regulated by the state. Certain localities, including Baltimore City, have rules and restrictions for e-scooter companies. A 2019 law passed by Maryland’s General Assembly makes e-scooters subject to the same rules of the road as bicycles.

We reached out to six major e-scooter operators, all operating in the DMV, to talk to about these issues. Only one responded but did so only on the condition that we not name their company or attribute any information they provided to the company, rendering the information essentially useless.

As for Jefferson, she says she wants to do what she can to prevent another person from being injured. She’s working on putting together an e-scooter safety coalition. She’s already been asked to speak to the Virginia Association of Zoning Officials on the subject. Jefferson never got to speak to the person who hit her. All she knows is that the woman was visiting from another country. She made this video in the hopes of reaching the woman and of helping herself heal in all ways. For more information on scooter ordinances you can email: scootersafetycoalition@gmail.com

Bronx man dies after falling off e-scooter hitting head on ground

 

New York Post – November 18th, 2021

New York City, USA

 

Originally posted at: https://nypost.com/2021/11/18/nyc-man-marvin-campbell-dies-after-falling-off-e-scooter-hitting-head-on-ground/

A Bronx man died after losing control of his electric scooter last month and slamming his head on the ground, cops said.

Marvin Campbell, 45, was riding a Cycleboard Rover Scooter on Bronx Park East near Waring Avenue in Allerton on the evening of Oct. 27 when he fell off, according to police.

The Wakefield man was taken to Jacobi Hospital where he died last week, according to the NYPD.

Campbell was not wearing a helmet, cops said.

Helmets are not required for e-scooter riders 18 and older, but are “highly recommended,” according to the city’s Department of Transportation.

Man seriously hurt in Clifton e-scooter crash

 

BBC News – November 23rd, 2021

Nottingham, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-59379996

A man has been seriously hurt in a crash involving a vehicle and an e-scooter, police have said.

The man was taken to hospital following the collision at about 14:00 GMT on the A453 in Clifton, Nottingham.

The road was closed in both directions between Farnborough Road and Sunninghill Drive. One lane inbound has now reopened.

Nottinghamshire Police said officers remain at the scene as inquiries into the crash continue.

All outbound lanes are expected to remain closed for some time, the force added.

Motorists have been warned to expect delays and advised to use alternative routes.

Case investigator Sophie Law added: “We would like to thank people for their patience while we have the road closed.”

Anyone with any information or dashcam footage has been urged to come forward.

Moment passengers evacuated as e-scooter ‘explodes’ at London Tube station

 

Metro – November 5th, 2021

London, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://metro.co.uk/2021/11/05/moment-passengers-evacuated-as-e-scooter-explodes-at-parsons-green-15551238/

Passengers fled as smoke billowed down the platform at Parsons Green station on Monday evening after the lithium battery in the scooter exploded.

The incident happened in the front carriage of a District Line train at around 8pm. The flaming scooter was dragged onto the platform as it continued to burn.

In footage of the drama, people evacuating the train can be heard coughing and spluttering on the platform.

The e-scooter fire is the second of its kind reported in the capital in less than a month.

On October 26, firefighters were called to Stanmore station after the lithium battery of an e-scooter being held in lost property burst into flames.

E-scooters are currently allowed to be carried on the tube network but following the recent fires union bosses are calling for them to be banned.

TSSA organising director Lorraine Ward told the Evening Standard: ‘Without doubt the incident at Parsons Green raises very serious concerns.

‘It’s becoming all too clear that e-scooters pose a significant threat to the travelling public, our members and all workers at TfL.

‘There should be an immediate halt to transporting them on all TfL services until more research into these batteries has been carried out.

‘I’m therefore urging TfL to fully enforce the already existing ban on the use of e-scooters.

‘Indeed, a further ban across the wider travel network should be considered by the Secretary of State for Transport.’

Calling for an investigation into what caused the fires at Parsons Green and Stanmore, Ms Ward said: ‘Safety on our transport network will always be our union’s number one priority, there can be no compromises on that.’

A TfL spokesperson said: ‘We completely understand how worrying it was for our customers and staff when an e-scooter caught alight on a train.

‘Emergency services attended Parsons Green station and the e-scooter was removed at the first opportunity.

‘While incidents like this are very rare, we take safety on the network extremely seriously and are undertaking a full review, which includes liaising with the London Fire Brigade.

It is forbidden to ride e-scooters at stations or on trains, and failure to comply with this by-law is a criminal offence.

‘E-scooters may currently be carried but must be folded for the entirety of the journey.’

Oxford e-scooter crash involving pushchair leaves man and child injured

 

Oxfordshire Live – November 22nd, 2021

Oxfordshire, UK

 

Originally posted at: https://www.oxfordshirelive.co.uk/news/oxfordshire-news/oxford-e-scooter-crash-involving-6241178

An e-scooter has collided with a pedestrian and a pushchair on a foot path in Oxford.

The e-scooter’s rider failed to stop after hitting the pedestrian, a man in his forties and the pushchair, that a child was sat in.

The incident took place on the foot path next to Brookfield Crescent, with the pedestrian and child heading towards Headley Way.

Read more: British Transport Police investigate Oxfordshire train station upskirting incident

Thames Valley Police is now appealing to any witnesses to the collision – which took place between 8.30am and 8.40am on Sunday, November 21.

Both the man and the child suffered minor injuries, but did not require hospital treatment.

The person riding the e-scooter is described as a young male, aged in his early to late teens, wearing dark clothing.

He was riding an orange VOI e-scooter.

Currently, a council trial involving VOI e-scooters is running in Oxford for 14 months, although it’s not clear if the one used in the crash was a rented one or privately owned.

Investigating officer, PC Ruan Brink, based at Abingdon police station, said: “I am appealing for witnesses to this incident to please come forward.

“I’d also ask any motorists who have dash-cams and were in the local area around the time that this happened to please check any footage in case it may have captured something that could assist the investigation.

“Anyone with information can contact police by calling 101 or making a report online, quoting reference 43210526639.

“Alternatively, if you wish to remain anonymous, you can make a report to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their website.”

Dental injuries on the rise thanks to e-scooter use: study by U of A prof

Global News – September 22, 2021

Calgary

 

Originally posted at:https://globalnews.ca/news/7351143/dental-injuries-e-scooter-e-bike-alberta-study/

After running a study on the frequency and severity of dental and maxillofacial injuries associated with electric-powered bikes and scooters, a University of Alberta professor wants to see more education and possibly even more enforcement and legislation.

Dr. Liran Levin, a professor of periodontology at the School of Dentistry, and the president-elect of the International Association of Dental Traumatology, led a study. It was based on e-scooter- and e-bike-related injuries in Israel between 2014 and 2019.

Out of 3,686 hospital admissions from electric bikes and scooter injuries, 378 (10.3 per cent) were specific to oral and maxillofacial injuries.

“That should be alarming. It’s a constant rise, a constant increase in the numbers . . . We’re talking about not just simple injuries — even if you need a few stitches, you won’t be included in this study unless you were admitted to the hospital and stayed there for more than 24 hours.

“We saw that about 10 per cent of those injuries are involving the oral cavity . . . either the soft tissue or teeth or the jaw or bones that are in the oral area,” Levin said.

While similar data on this topic is not available in Canada, Levin said parallels can be drawn and municipalities can take a proactive approach to education and prevention.

“I think that [Israel] started a little earlier with the use of it so I think we can look at that as a forecast of what we’re going to experience,” Levin said.

“I think the main message is to be proactive and start with education and maybe better enforcement of prevention methods like helmets, maybe even mouth guards. It seems like a very simple and innocent tool — everyone can take it and have fun — but it’s not as innocent as it looks.”

Another important finding? E-bike and e-scooter injuries were being reported in both riders and pedestrians.

“Most of the pedestrians were either kids below the age of 15 or elderly, which probably means they’re more prone to be hurt in a more severe way and thus require hospitalization,” Levin said.

He also compared the injury rate of e-bikes and e-scooters to that of traditional bicycles.

“We see a lot more injuries in electronic bikes and scooters than we’re seeing in regular bicycles.

“The majority of those, surprisingly, do not involve other vehicles; it’s mainly the scooters with pedestrians or with something in the surroundings . . . There were still accidents with cars but let’s say about 60 per cent of them were without the involvement of another vehicle.”

Dr. Eddy Lang, an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, spoke with Global News in August 2019 about the number of hospital visits connected to e-scooters.

For a study, his team combed through the electronic health record used in Calgary to see when the word “scooter” was used by patients as they described to how they were injured.

By August 2019, some 60 patients had visited Calgary emergency rooms with e-scooter-related injuries. Of those, most were fractures but some were head injuries.

Lang said, because of riders’ “precarious vertical position, people are falling off of these and as a result, we’re seeing mostly upper extremity injuries – people are hurting their wrists and elbows.”

The maximum speed for the vehicles is 20 km/h and it’s illegal to use them while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Electric Scooters Continue to Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Kids and Others in Ontario – Register to Take Part in CNIB’s November 18, 2021 Virtual Town Hall on the Problems E-Scooters Create for People with Disabilities Living in or Visiting Ottawa

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Electric Scooters Continue to Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Kids and Others in Ontario – Register to Take Part in CNIB’s November 18, 2021 Virtual Town Hall on the Problems E-Scooters Create for People with Disabilities Living in or Visiting Ottawa

November 15, 2021

            SUMMARY

In Ontario, people with disabilities, seniors, children and others continue to be endangered by the silent menace of uninsured, unlicensed, untrained joy-riders racing at upwards of 20 kilometers per hour on electric-scooters, on sidewalks, roads park paths, and other public places. The e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists are continuing their feeding frenzy around Ontario, at the doors of municipal council members and municipal public officials.

The AODA Alliance along with other advocates for disabilities, seniors and others are continuing our grassroots efforts to get these politicians and public officials to stand up to the corporate lobbyists, and to stand up for people with disabilities. All our efforts are being coordinated by an informal group of disability organizations and individual advocates who have been conducting an excellent joint effort on this issue. Here’s the latest news on this front.

1. Ottawa—An Especially Bad Danger Zone for People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others

The City of Ottawa is continuing to be the most obviously under the thumbs of the e-scooter corporate lobbyists. Ottawa is now running its second “pilot project” with e-scooters. It has demonstrably created real dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Unsurprisingly, e-scooters are being ridden on sidewalks, even though that is not supposed to be allowed. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s office confirmed to the AODA Alliance during the 2020 summer, before Ottawa City Council under his leadership approved this e-scooter human experiment, that Ottawa had not budgeted any new funds for e-scooter law enforcement.

When this dangerous pilot project comes to an end this month, people with disabilities need Ottawa City Council not to extend it.

CNIB is hosting a virtual Town Hall on the Ottawa experience with e-scooters from 4:30 to 6 pm EST, on November 18, 2021. We set out the full announcement of that event, below. We encourage you to register to attend it, by simply writing Kate Riccomini@cnib.ca

A local Ottawa news report, the Capital Current, ran an article on November 10, 2021, explaining how Ottawa’s e-scooter “pilot” has represented a serious hardship for people with disabilities. We set that article out below.

The most thorough study of e-scooters and the dangers they pose was conducted this year and last year by Toronto city staff. We at the AODA Alliance have now sent the Ottawa city staff the excellent reports prepared by Toronto city staff on e-scooters, which have been available online for months. It is troubling that it was necessary for us to send those reports to Ottawa city staff responsible for the e-scooters project.

People with disabilities need the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee to now hold a public meeting and invite public input on this issue, and to strongly call for Ottawa not to allow e-scooters in public places. The Accessibility Advisory Committees in Toronto, Mississauga and London each passed strong motions recommending against e-scooters. The Ottawa accessibility should stand up for people with disabilities, and similarly recommend that Ottawa restore the ban on e-scooters. The AODA Alliance has asked the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee for a chance to present to it, which easily can be done virtually.

2. Toronto City Council Said No to E-Scooters But They Are Still All Over the City, With No Law Enforcement in Sight

Last spring, it was a huge victory for people with disabilities, seniors and others when the Toronto City Council unanimously voted not to allow e-scooters to be ridden in public places, whether rented e-scooters or an e-scooter that a rider privately owns. However, there are now many e-scooters being illegally ridden on Toronto streets, sidewalks, and public paths. There is absolutely no visible law enforcement. We have seen advertisements by those openly selling e-scooters, even though it is illegal to ride them in such public places.

The City of Toronto and other municipalities must vigorously enforce the ban on e-scooters, and must publicize the fact that it is illegal to ride them in public.

We need the Ontario Government to now give municipalities much better tools and rules for effectively enforcing such bans.

3. Will the City of Hamilton Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children by Allowing E-Scooters?

The City of Hamilton is apparently giving in to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists. It now plans to hold an e-scooter pilot next year. However, it is still not too late to get Hamilton to call that off.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky spoke to Hamilton’s Accessibility Advisory Committee on November 4, 2021. He gave that Committee tactical and strategic ideas on how it could help in efforts to get Hamilton to back down on those dangerous plans. We remain eager to help them in any way we can.

4. London Ontario Has Not Yet Decided Whether to Give In to the E-Scooter Corporate Lobbyists

The City of London’s staff are now investigating the e-scooters issue. To our knowledge, London city staff have not yet rendered a report to London City Council. We and other disability advocates have spoken to London’s Civic Works Committee and a city staff official working on this issue to raise our concerns, backed by the London Accessibility Advisory Committee’s opposition to e-scooters.

5. In Order to Look Like they are Responding to Disability Dangers Posed by E-Scooters, the E-Scooter Rental Companies are Claiming to Explore Measures that In Truth Won’t Solve the Problem

A few ineffective proposals are being considered by Ottawa city staff to respond to e-scooter dangers created for people with disabilities, in evident conjunction with some of the e-scooter rental companies.

The most obviously laughable option is for the e-scooter rental companies to put a braille label of some sort on their e-scooter. This is meant to help a blind person report to the City if an e-scooter is improperly used.

This will of course be useless for a blind person to identify an e-scooter that is improperly being ridden on the sidewalk. A blind person cannot be expected to run after the e-scooter, catch up to it, and reach out a hand to try to read the braille somewhere on it, while the e-scooter is racing forward at upwards of 20 KPH.

The only possible use of this braille could be in the case that the e-scooter is improperly left lying on the sidewalk, as too often happens in communities that allow rental e-scooters. Picture a blind person walking down a public sidewalk, where e-scooters are not supposed to be ridden or left lying around. The blind person unexpectedly finds it, possibly tripping over it. The e-scooter corporate lobbyists or city staff are imagining that the blind person will then walk or crawl over to the e-scooter, lying on the sidewalk, and start to feel all over it, somehow already knowing it is an e-scooter, and expecting it to have a braille label on it.

There are so many reasons why this is absurd. Many blind people don’t read braille. Of the minority of blind people who do read braille, why would any of them expect that the object over which they just tripped will have a braille label of some sort on it? None should reasonably be expected to engage in such public groping of an object lying on the ground, in hopes that a braille label can be found somewhere on it.

All of this is meant to enable the blind person to call in a complaint, either to the e-scooter company or the City. This all leaves the profit-making to the e-scooter companies, while shifting the burden to grope the e-scooter and then lodge complaints to blind people, who, after all, simply want to be able to safely walk on the sidewalk.

The second distraction that some e-scooter companies are promoting is to add some sort of audible beeping sound to the e-scooter, in order to warn people that one is coming. From the feedback we have received from some people with disabilities who took part in a demonstration of these that the Ottawa city staff coordinated with the e-scooter companies, the beeping is not loud enough to be heard if there is nearby construction, a lawn mower, or a loud truck driving by. Moreover, we have not heard any proposals that the e-scooter continue to emit a loud beep while it is parked and unaccompanied, to warn people of them lying on the sidewalk.

Finally, in an effort to spawn enthusiasm about futuristic technology, some e-scooter companies talk about using “geo-fencing.” Each e-scooter would have a GPS tracker on it, that won’t allow the e-scooter to ride on a sidewalk. Of course, anyone who uses a GPS on their smart phone or in their car knows only too well that GPSs are not so accurate as to reliably know when an e-scooter is on a sidewalk, and not the adjacent road.

It is important for such side-shows not to distract from the bottom line here. E-scooters should not be allowed in public places. Neither the Ford Government nor any city council should be allowing the creation of such new disability barriers. This is especially so when Ontario only has a little over three years to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.

6. Looking Ahead towards the 2022 Provincial and Municipal Elections

Ultimately, what Ontarians with disabilities need is for the Ford Government to now repeal its regulation that allows municipalities to permit e-scooters in public places. In the 2022 provincial election, we will ask all political parties to commit to do so, if the Ford Government has not done so by then.

We also need all municipal council members to stand up for people with disabilities and to oppose electric scooters in their communities. In next fall’s Ontario municipal elections, we will call on voters to hold their city council members to account on this issue. Stay tuned!

For more information on our campaign against e-scooters, visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

            MORE DETAILS

 Capital Current November 10, 2021

Originally posted at https://capitalcurrent.ca/sidewalk-snafus-accessibility-issues-are-dogging-the-e-scooter-pilot-program-in-ottawa/

Sidewalk snafus: Accessibility issues are dogging the e-scooter pilot program in Ottawa

By Sarah Malina,

The impact of e-scooters on sidewalk accessibility has been a source of frustration for Ottawa residents during the city’s 2021 e-scooter pilot program.

People have been concerned about the increase in sidewalk obstructions caused by e-scooter users.

“It’s a maze, it literally is,” said Ryan Lythall, who uses a wheelchair.

Lythall said he has had his path on a sidewalk impeded by e-scooters many times during the pilot program. This past summer, for example, he had a run-in with two teens riding on an e-scooter down the sidewalk.

“They pulled over to try to give me room, but I ran into a pole. There was simply no room for              me to get by,” he said.

Lythall says people with mobility concerns (such as physical disabilities and visual impairments) can have a harder time navigating sidewalks at the best of times and e-scooters bring an increased risk of collisions and obstruction when ridden or misparked on sidewalks.

People have shared their concerns on social media. Twitter has been full of photos of misparked scooters blocking sidewalks and expressions of frustration about having to move scooters out of the way — something that people with disabilities or limited mobility, like Lythall, might not be able to do on their own.

The City of Ottawa’s 2021 e-scooter pilot program, has 1,200 machines deployed across the city by rental companies Bird Canada, Neuron, and Lime until Nov. 30. As of Oct. 31, the city reported that the 2021 pilot season had 123,327 riders who had taken 452,808 trips.

The city promised in its announcement of the pilot that there would be a focus on reducing sidewalk riding and improper parking. Willem Klumpenhouwer, a transportation researcher and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, said that pilot programs often see issues such as these.

“There’s a lot of testing out what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully, the City has access to the      data, has access to certain measures of how these things are doing and then can react to that,             and make sure companies are trying to find ways to improve.”

Austin Spademan, the assistant general manager at Bird Canada, says the data the company collects on e-scooter rides in the city suggests that Twitter complaints don’t represent the reality on the ground.

“Twitter complaints don’t seem to align with reality, because as a percentage of total rides, the   compliance is exceptionally high right now. It’s not perfect, I totally agree. It’s not perfect, but         we’re at like 99 per cent appropriate parking compliance by riders.”

A press release that Neuron Mobility shared with Capital Current on Oct. 21, included data from a recent rider survey the firm conducted in Ottawa. According to the findings of the survey, 82 per cent of riders believe e-scooters have had a positive impact in the community. It should be noted that this finding is specific to the e-scooter riders and not the general Ottawa community. No data was shared on misparked scooters. Spademan said there are kinks to work out. E-scooters are a new technology in Ottawa. He said that Bird is working directly with people with disabilities to whom these accessibility concerns directly apply. Bird Canada has been working with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Canadian Council for the Blind. Lythall, among others, was an early stakeholder consulted by Spademan and Bird Canada.

“Those are the people I’m listening to,” said Spademan.

The city, which shares the right way to park an e-scooter on social media, says proper e-scooter parking s in what is called the sidewalk furniture zone, which is “the area closest to the curb in line with trees, benches and bike racks and out of the way of pedestrian travel.” But, not all city sidewalks have such zones. Ottawa has also created the “Electric Kick-Scooter Bylaw” to regulate and enforce proper scooter use. Offenders are liable for a substantial fine.

Bird Canada has set up an email created initially for people with disabilities based on feedback from the Canadian Council for the Blind (311_ottawa@birdcanada.co).

Messages go directly to the phones of Spademan and his operations team, allowing them to get to a site faster to move misparked e-scooters.

Neuron Mobility and Bird Canada are testing e-scooters with noise-emission technology to better alert pedestrians, particularly those with vision impairments, that an e-scooter is approaching. Neuron Mobility has also introduced braille identifiers and raised lettering on their e-scooters to help vision-impaired pedestrians to identify and report misparked e-scooters, and Bird Canada is also piloting a new model of e-scooters would prevent operation of the devices on sidewalks.

“Since we’ve implemented this program at Lansdowne, [we’ve had] zero cases of a scooter                being parked outside of the digital coral,” said Spademan.

Gwen McGuire, Neuron Mobility’s senior communications leader, said Neuron will be making an “exciting safety-focused innovation announcement” in a couple weeks. That timing is aligned with the end of the 2021 e-scooter pilot, which is set to finish at the end of the month.

Lime did not respond to Capital Current’s inquiry on the measures they are taking to alleviate sidewalk accessibility issues.

Klumpenhouwer thinks that the root of the issue lies more so in Ottawa’s lack of infrastructure for active transportation, such as parking options and bike lanes.

My worry is that people will label the whole project as a big mistake when a lot of the problems     that we’re seeing with scooters are because there’s not the right kind of infrastructure.”

Klumpenhouwer said he thinks if the proper infrastructure is provided people will use it, decreasing the obstructions to sidewalks and improve accessibility for people with disabilities and limited mobility.

“People are more inclined to park in a spot if it’s available and convenient. … So I think if you         provide a little more of the infrastructure people will start to park them in better spots.”

Spademan, who is also a biker, agrees better infrastructure is necessary, and suggests that e-scooters are a good business case for more bike lanes in the city.

“Being in this job, I can actually make compelling data-driven arguments to the city. … We’ve              now got a bunch of new people in the active mobility space and we’ve got the data to back it up     to be like, ‘hey, you need a bike lane right here, or you need e-scooter parking on this street.”

Despite this, Lythall said he believes there are still too many irresponsible users for the e-scooter initiative to be worthwhile. He wants the city to end the program, as is the case in Toronto.

 CNIB Online Announcement of Its November 18, 2021 Town Hall on Electric Scooters

Originally posted at https://cnib.ca/en/event/ottawa-e-scooter-experience-virtual-town-hall?region=on

The City of Ottawa is currently wrapping up the second year of its e-scooter pilot and we want to hear your thoughts.

Have you had encounters, good or bad, with e-scooters in your neighbourhood? Have you run into e-scooters in your travels to Ottawa? The second year of Ottawa’s e-scooter pilot is wrapping up, and we want to hear from you. You are invited to share your e-scooter experiences with us at a virtual Townhall meeting on November 18. We will be inviting City of Ottawa staff to hear your feedback as well, and incorporating it into a report to the City about e-scooters.

Date: Thursday, November 18

Time: 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Location: Online or via telephone using Zoom.

Registration is required. To register, contact Kate Riccomini@cnib.ca Program Lead, Advocacy & Accessible Community Engagement at Kate.Riccomini@cnib.ca

A Troubling Setback Two Decades Ago Today in the Campaign for Strong Accessibility Legislation Sowed the Seeds for Later Progress

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

A Troubling Setback Two Decades Ago Today in the Campaign for Strong Accessibility Legislation Sowed the Seeds for Later Progress

November 5, 2021

 SUMMARY

Let’s take an informative stroll down memory lane! Twenty years ago, today was an important, all be it frustrating day in the non-partisan grassroots campaign for a barrier-free Ontario for all people with disabilities.

On November 5, 2001, Ontario’s last Conservative Government, under premier Mike Harris, introduced into the Legislature its promised Disabilities Act. The Government had invited disability community representatives to Queen’s Park for the introduction of Bill 125, called the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The AODA Alliance’s predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, had been campaigning for a strong Disabilities Act for six long years, since late 1994.

The bill introduced in the Legislature twenty years ago today was a disaster. Yet within were the unexpected seeds of later progress in our campaign for accessibility.

            MORE DETAILS

The Long-Term Significance of the Frustrating Events Two Decades Ago Today

We quickly realized on November 5, 2005 that Bill 125 was a tremendous let-down. It was supposed to make Ontario accessible for people with disabilities. Yet it did not require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere in Ontario. Moreover, that bill only applied to the broader public sector, not the private sector. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it also had no enforcement, making it a voluntary law.

Bill 125 in substance did three things. First, it required each provincial ministry and broader public sector organization (like hospitals, school boards and public transit authorities) to make public an annual accessibility plan. However, those plans did not have to be any good. Those public sector organizations were not required to ever implement those plans.

Second, it required every municipality with at least 10,000 residents to establish a municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee. However, it did not require municipalities to ever listen to those advisory committees, or to give reasons when their advice was rejected.

Third, it made a series of amendments to a short list of other Ontario laws to promote accessibility.

The disability community widely slammed Bill 125 as toothless and grossly inadequate. The very short list of community organizations that applauded it later in substance agreed that Ontarians with disabilities needed much more. The media covered Bill 125’s serious deficiencies.

During public hearings at the Legislature later that fall, presenter after presenter (including the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) slammed the bill, and called for major amendments. The opposition Liberals and NDP presented many amendments on the disability community’s behalf. The Harris Government rejected those proposed amendments. The Conservative Government made at most only minor amendments.

When Bill 125 came up for Third Reading in the Legislature in December, 2001, the Liberals and NDP voted against it, arguing that people with disabilities deserved much more. The Harris Government used its majority in the Legislature to pass it. There were no celebrations in the disability community or in the Legislature when the bill passed.

Bill 125 was the last piece of legislation passed under Premier Mike Harris, before he stepped down. To us, that symbolized how low a priority it was for him. In the 1995 election, he had promised to pass the Ontarians with Disabilities Act in his first term in office, and to work with the disability community to develop it. However, it was not passed until halfway through his second term. Moreover, Premier Mike Harris, like Ontario’s current Premier Doug Ford, refused every request from the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee for a meeting.

So, twenty years later as we reflect on this event, was it all bad news for Ontarians with disabilities? No, it was not. Much the opposite!

Some feared that we’d give up when six years of advocacy resulted in such weak legislation. Yet Ontario’s grassroots disability advocates and the disability community did not give up at the end of 2001. Instead, we re-doubled our efforts to win strong disability accessibility legislation.

Our efforts led both the Liberals and NDP to promise in the 2003 Ontario election to bring forward a new Disabilities Act that was enforceable, that applied to the private sector as well as the public sector, and that was mandatory, rather than voluntary. The Liberals won the 2003 Ontario election. Premier Dalton McGuinty came back to the Legislature in 2004-2005 with a new bill, Bill 218, which became the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It fulfilled those election commitments.

In the sixteen years since it was passed, the AODA has not delivered all it promised. Its implementation and enforcement have fallen far short of what people with disabilities need. However, the AODA has certainly produced more for people with disabilities than would have ever been possible under the weaker Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001.

The disability community learned a great deal during the blitz in the fall of 2001 surrounding Bill 125. It did an effective job of coming forward to the Legislature with strong recommendations on how to strengthen that weak bill. Those ideas and that experience enriched the disability community in 2003 to 2005, as it worked with the McGuinty Government on the design of the proposed Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The abject failure of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 was eventually recognized by all. It was even recognized by the Conservatives. The Cabinet Minister who proudly introduced Bill 125 two decades ago today, Cam Jackson, was later to acknowledge in the Legislature during debates over the Liberal Government’s AODA bill in 2004-2005 that people with disabilities needed more than his own Ontarians with Disabilities Act delivered. Once they had moved from Government to the opposition, Ontario’s Conservative Party in fact voted in support of the Liberals’ AODA and congratulated the Government on it. They even proposed amendments to make it stronger.

Even leaders from the regulated organizations learned an important lesson from Bill 125. When the subsequent Liberal Government under Dalton McGuinty proposed to require the Government to enact enforceable accessibility standards, they heard about the need for such standards from some obligated organizations, and not just from the disability community. Everyone had learned that trying to come up with accessibility plans, one organization at a time, without accessibility standards in place, wastefully required each obligated organization to reinvent the same accessibility wheel over and over.

There are vestiges of Bill 125 still in place, even though the Ontarians with Disabilities Act itself was later repealed. Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees remain, though municipalities still don’t need to listen to them or give reasons for refusing to do so. Bill 125’s amendments to a short list of other Ontario laws also remain in place.

The lessons we learned two decades ago remains vital for us today. We don’t settle for weak half-measures or distractions. We remain tenacious.

Our message about the need for disability legislation has since spread over the past two decades to Manitoba, and then to Nova Scotia and BC, as well as to the federal sphere. When the Federal Government’s Accessible Canada Act included requirements for federally-regulated organizations to make accessibility plans, we responded that we learned from Mike Harris’ Bill 125 how toothless that was.

Fast-forwarding to the current Government under Premier Doug Ford, There have now been a deeply-disturbing 1,009 days since the Doug Ford Government received the withering report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, who conducted a Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There is still no comprehensive Government plan announced to implement the Onley Report. To learn about the significance of that delay, read the recent guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky published in several of the Toronto star’s Metroland newspapers.

We will again invoke our tenacity as we move forward over the next weeks and months with our non-partisan accessibility campaign.

Want to learn more about the history of the events that took place two decades ago today? How did the ODA Committee initially react to Bill 125? This is all set out in the ODA Committee’s November 7, 2001 analysis of Bill 125.

What did the ODA Committee tell the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance during its rushed public hearings on Bill 125? Read the December 5, 2001 ODA Committee presentation to the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance.

How can you learn more about these events? They are all documented on the ODA Committee website. Even though the ODA Committee was wound up in August 2005 and has been superseded by the AODA Alliance, the ODA Committee’s website remains online as a public archive of its work.

Download in an Accessible MS Word Format the AODA Alliance’s November 1, 2021 Brief to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on that Committee’s Initial Report on What the Promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard Should Include

Download in an Accessible MS Word Format the AODA Alliance’s November 1, 2021 Brief to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on that Committee’s Initial Report on What the Promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard Should Include

The AODA Alliance Sends a Detailed Brief with 53 Recommendations to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to Make Post-Secondary Education Accessible to Students with Disabilities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

The AODA Alliance Sends a Detailed Brief with 53 Recommendations to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to Make Post-Secondary Education Accessible to Students with Disabilities

November 1, 2021

            SUMMARY

Today is the final day for the public to send feedback to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on the measures needed to make colleges and universities in Ontario accessible for students with disabilities. The AODA Alliance has sent that Government-appointed Committee a detailed brief, set out below. It makes 53 recommendations.

Overall, our brief supports the Initial Report that the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted to the Ford Government last March, and which the Government made public on June 25, 2021 for public comment. Our brief points out a few areas where we disagree with that Initial Report, and several areas where we urge the Committee to add more detail to its recommendations to the Government. We congratulate the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on its efforts and are eager to meet with that Committee to discuss our recommendations in this brief.

We thank everyone who has shared their feedback with the AODA Alliance on this topic, including your thoughts on the draft Framework for the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard, which the AODA Alliance created and made public on March 11, 2020. Your input makes a huge difference.

While today is set as the final deadline for giving the Standards Development Committee your feedback, we encourage you to send a short email to them, supporting the AODA Alliance’s November 1, 2021 brief which we here make public. You can write the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee at: postsecondarySDC@ontario.ca

Today is also the final day to send your feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on its Initial Report that recommends measures to make K-12 education in Ontario schools accessible to students with disabilities. You can write that Standards Development Committee at educationsdc@ontario.ca

AODA Alliance Brief to the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee on Its Initial Recommendations for the Contents of the Promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard

November 1, 2021

Via email to: postsecondarySDC@ontario.ca

 1. Introduction

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government is required to do so by enacting and effectively enforcing accessibility standards. These are enforceable regulations. An accessibility standard is required to specifically spell out in detail the barriers that are to be removed or prevented, what specifically must be done to remove or prevent them, and the timelines required for these actions.

The Ontario Government has committed to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. In 2017, the Ontario Government appointed two Standards Development Committees, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. These Committees are mandated to make recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

On June 25, 2021, the Ontario Government publicly posted the initial or draft report of the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee, three and a half months after the Government received it. The public’s feedback has been invited on that Initial Report. That Initial Report sets out recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include in so far as Ontario colleges and universities are concerned. The public has been given up to November 1, 2021 to submit its feedback.

This brief sets out the AODA Alliance’s detailed feedback on the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report. Our recommendations are listed in Appendix 2 at the end of this brief. In summary, we congratulate the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee for a strong report with very helpful recommendations. In this brief, we recommend ways to fine-tune and strengthen them. With only a few exceptions, we do not disagree with anything the Standards Development Committee recommended.

The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report demonstrates over and over how Ontario desperately needs a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted as soon as possible. It shows that Ontario’s post-secondary education system is replete with far too many disability barriers. These barriers hurt students with disabilities and hand-cuff post-secondary educators who want them fully included in their post-secondary educational offerings.

It is especially important for the post-secondary education sector to become accessible to students with disabilities. A good post-secondary education is very important for getting a good job, or indeed getting a job at all. This is even more important for people with disabilities. People with disabilities chronically face a substantially higher unemployment rate than the public does as a whole. Barriers in the post-secondary education system can only make this situation worse. A strong and effective post-secondary Education Accessibility Standard is therefore an important measure for increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

 2. Who Are We?

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

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

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

Our coalition is the successor to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee advocated for more than ten years for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our supporters from the ODA Committee’s broad, grassroots base. To learn about the ODA Committee’s history, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net.

We have been widely recognized by the Ontario Government, by all political parties in the Ontario Legislature, within the disability community, and by the media, as a key voice leading the non-partisan campaign for accessibility in Ontario. In every provincial election since 2005, parties that made election commitments on accessibility did so in letters to the AODA Alliance.

Our efforts and expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities have been recognized in MPPs’ speeches on the floor of the Ontario Legislature, and beyond. Our website and Twitter feed are widely consulted as helpful sources of information on accessibility efforts in Ontario and elsewhere. We have achieved this as an unfunded volunteer community coalition.

Among other things, we led the campaign in Ontario from 2009 to the present to get the Ontario Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard. Our efforts on the education front are documented on the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past several years, the AODA Alliance has been active in advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. Our efforts influenced the development of the Accessible Canada Act. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue.

The AODA Alliance has spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on disability accessibility issues. We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, by parties from Israel and New Zealand.

 3. Our Big Message to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee

Before going into details, we offer six high-level themes and over-arching recommendations for the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, to help it finalize its report on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include regarding colleges and universities.

First, we heartily congratulate the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on its thorough, thoughtful Initial Report. It reflects mountains of very hard work.

The AODA Alliance strongly supports everything in that Initial Report except in the specific instances where the contrary is explicitly indicated in this brief. In each case, we show how the Initial Report can be refined to address the issues we identify. To address our concerns is eminently feasible. Our recommendations fit very well with the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s overall approach.

Second, at several points in the Initial Report, the Standards Development Committee correctly recognizes a need for standards to be created, but subsequently recommends that their creation be delegated to others, such as the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and/or the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). In each such case, we propose that it is more appropriate for that policy, standard, or direction to be set out in the Education Accessibility Standard itself.

In those instances, we agree that a standard needs to be created. However, its creation should not be delegated to the Ministry or the COU. The Ministry has no expertise in such areas as supervision of graduate students. Moreover, the whole idea of an AODA accessibility standard is that Cabinet enacts it. It does not get and indeed cannot be sub-delegated to someone else.

As noted earlier, an AODA accessibility standard is required to set specific accessibility standards that spell out in detail which barriers are to be removed and prevented, and what must be done to remove or prevent them. In the absence of an Education Accessibility Standard in Ontario, individual students with disabilities must each resort to the duty to accommodate their disabilities under human rights laws, because recurring disability barriers too often remain in place. If the Education Accessibility Standard directs the removal and prevention of specific disability barriers in the post-secondary education system, then students with disabilities will not have to resort to asking for many individualized accommodations to get around those barriers.

To illustrate, it is commendable that the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard does not tell each municipal transit authority to develop a plan on what to include in buses it procures to ensure that those buses are accessible to passengers with disabilities. Instead, it properly spells out in detail what a bus must include to be accessible.

In contrast, it is inappropriate that the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard does not spell out measures to remove and prevent many recurring workplace barriers. This is a major failing of that accessibility standard. It wrongly allows employers to leave existing barriers in place, while also allowing employers to erect new barriers. The Employment Accessibility Standard primarily attempts to encourage employers to effectively accommodate individual employees with disabilities. It does little to make workplaces accessible and barrier-free over the long term.

If the Education Accessibility Standard does not include specific and detailed barrier removal and prevention requirements in a particular area where a known recurring disability barrier exists, each college and university is left to determine what accessibility features it should include in its documents, websites, furniture, equipment, buildings, or services. This duplication of effort is wasteful and inefficient. Each college and university must re-invent the wheel. Students with disabilities at each college and university must repeatedly advocate for the mitigation and removal of the same recurring barriers. It leaves each college or university, or Colleges and the Council of Ontario Universities, to decide how much or how little each party will do. This risks accomplishing too little for students with disabilities.

Organizations want and need to know specifically what they must do to comply. Where it is proposed that each of the colleges and universities establishes a “guideline”, this is of little use. A “guideline” is not binding. In contrast, an accessibility standard is binding and enforceable.

For example, the Initial Report’s Recommendation 52 (Graduate supervision) includes:

“a) Ministry of Colleges and Universities, working with the Council of Ontario Universities, shall develop a common set of guidelines and resources for graduate faculty members in accessible and inclusive supervision of graduate students with disabilities, including best practices for virtual supervision.

  1. b) Postsecondary institutions shall mandate that all faculties of graduate studies and graduate departments have explicit policies, practices and guidelines on accessibility and accommodation for graduate students with disabilities, which are developed in a consultative manner. Policies should include consideration of disclosure, accommodation, student supervision and graduate assessments (for example, comprehensive exams and thesis defenses), and take into account the roles of graduate students as academic/research staff and university employees.
  2. c) Review of these policies shall be attached to the graduate program quality assurance process.”

We therefore recommend that:

  1. Wherever the Initial Report recommends the creation of a standard or the development of a policy or guideline, such a standard, policy or guideline should be mandatory and should be spelled out in detail in the Education Accessibility Standard, rather than delegating authority to create it to some organization or department.

Third, it is especially important not to confuse or conflate the separate concepts of accessibility on the one hand, and accommodation of students with disabilities under the human rights duty to accommodate, on the other. The Initial Report appears to focus in significant part on the duty to accommodate, though not exclusively so.

To become accessible, a college or university must identify and remove existing recurring disability barriers and prevent the creation of new ones. On the other hand, the duty to accommodate assumes the inaccessible status quo with all its accessibility barriers. It focuses on creating individual “work-arounds” to get around those barriers, while the barriers themselves tend to remain in place.

It will always be necessary at colleges and universities to have in place effective mechanisms for implementing the duty to accommodate students with disabilities. To that end, it is great that the Committee’s Initial Report makes excellent recommendations to fortify these mechanisms for individual accommodation. This is vital now, while those institutions still have many accessibility barriers. Later, when those recurring barriers are removed, there will be a reduced need for individualized accommodation. However, even then, there will remain some need for the duty to accommodate to come into play.

Fourth, while we support virtually all of the Initial Report, and largely only ask for it to be fine-tuned as identified in this brief, we do flag one significant concern. The Initial Report principally speaks to middle and senior management at colleges and universities. It does so in language and recommendations that reflect and focus that environment. As such, the report may not appear to speak directly to students with disabilities themselves, and to front-line course instructors. We do not for a moment suggest that the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee is not keenly focused on the needs of students with disabilities. The Initial Report is commendably all about meeting their needs. However, such vague notions as “disability lens” are hard if not impossible for students to enforce, and hard if not impossible for front-line instructors to understand what they are now expected to change, and when they are in compliance.

There is the risk that the Initial Report’s recommendations could wrongly be converted into an increase in administrative bureaucracy, even though the Committee is seeking substantially increased direct substantive action on removing and preventing barriers. We encourage the Standards Development Committee, as it finalizes its report, to fine-tune its recommendations to make them more concrete and enforceable, so that students will know what results to expect, and front-line instructors will know what they must do. After all, it is the frontline interaction between students and their instructors where all these measures come to fruition.

Fifth, at several places in the Initial Report, it is recommended that colleges and universities make public a document, report or data, or submit them to the Government. All of these reports, documents and other data should be made widely, accessibly available to the public in each case.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. Wherever the Education Accessibility Standard will require colleges and universities to file a document or data with the Government, or to make public any document, report, or data, it should also require that these be submitted electronically to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in an accessible format. The Standard should also require the Accessibility Directorate to make those documents, reports or data public on a publicly searchable database or hub.

Sixth, even if all the Standards Development Committee’s recommendations are adopted, we are deeply concerned that the AODA will continue to be weakly enforced. Stronger enforcement and compliance measures are needed. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee recommended such actions. With minor adjustments, they would readily fit the post-secondary sector.

For example, there is a pressing need for there to be on-site inspections, and not mere Government review of an obligated organization’s accessibility documents (such as policies and records of staff training). It is not good enough for colleges and universities to have good records on file. They need to deliver accessible education to students with disabilities

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee should endorse and echo the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial’ Report’s recommendations on enforcement of the AODA, with necessary changes to tailor them to the context of colleges and universities.

 4. Specific Recommendations

 a) General

Where this brief states that “a post-secondary education organization should …” or similar wording, this means that the Education Accessibility Standard should include a provision that requires the post-secondary education organization to take the step we describe.

The Standards Development Committee’s final report should make it clear that it applies to all disabilities covered by the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Charter of Rights and the AODA

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to add that where the Education Accessibility Standard refers to “students with disabilities “, this should include any student who has any kind of disability, including, for example, any kind of physical, mental, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health, communication, neurological, neurobehavioural or other kind of disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 b) Standards Development Committee Chair’s March 12, 2021 Letter Transmitting Its Initial Report to the Accessibility Minister

We agree with the Standards Development Committee chair’s March 12, 2021 cover letter to the Accessibility Minister, where it recommended the following – a point that the report itself should recommend:

“We also propose that the Postsecondary Education Accessibility Standards be applied beyond our mandate to include other educational contexts, such as privately funded colleges and universities and transitional job training programs.”

For example, it makes no sense that the Standard would apply to a law school, but not to the Law Society of Ontario’s Bar Admission course, which must be completed after law school graduation, to qualify for admission to the practice of law.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Standards Development Committee’s final report itself and not just the chair’s transmission letter should recommend that the Postsecondary Education Accessibility Standard apply to all other post-secondary educational contexts, such as privately funded colleges and universities and job training programs.

 c) Long Term Objective of the Post-Secondary Education Standard

We agree with the ideas and sentiments in the Initial Report’s discussion of the Standard’s long term objective, and with the Committee’s recommendation that its long term objective should be written right into the Standard itself. We also agree that the objective should be expressed in more focused and specific terms than have earlier AODA accessibility standards.

However, we believe that as written, the Initial Report’s long term objective is not strong or focused enough. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee Initial Report includes:

” Recommendation 1: The long-term objective of the standards:

With the support of the Ontario government, postsecondary publicly funded colleges and universities in Ontario will implement an intentional strategy:

that actively engages students with disabilities in the ongoing identification, removal and prevention of barriers

that recognizes disability as a critical aspect of the education sector’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion that creates policies, procedures and guidelines through an intersectional accessibility lens

where teaching and learning practices take into account the diversity of learning environments and needs throughout the academic journey

Realization of the long-term objective will result in all students with disabilities living and learning in an environment where they will:

  • feel valued, welcomed and a sense of belonging
  • navigate transparent systems without barriers
  • be provided with opportunities to realize their full potential both inside and outside of the classroom
  • have an equal opportunity to contribute, to learn and to demonstrate their knowledge”

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report’s proposed objective is preferrable.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The long term objective of the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that by 2025, post-secondary education in Ontario will be fully accessible and barrier-free for students with disabilities:
    1. By removing and preventing accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities from fully participating in, being fully included in, and fully benefitting from all aspects of post-secondary education in Ontario, and
  1. By providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process for students with disabilities to learn about and seek programs, services, supports, accommodations and placements tailored to the individual strengths and needs of each student with disabilities.”
  1. Eliminating or substantially reducing the need for students with disabilities to have to fight against post-secondary education accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for post-secondary education organizations to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one education program at a time.

 d) Barrier Area 1: Changing Public Attitudes and Awareness

The Standards Development Committee’s report places emphasis on and trust in public education campaigns, including within colleges and universities, to change attitudes towards people with disabilities, and to reduce or eliminate ablism. For example, the Committee’s Initial Report includes, under its Recommendation 18 (Awareness):

“The government will develop guidance documents for obligated organizations and conduct a sustained, multi-faceted ongoing public education campaign on accessibility.”

Respectfully, we disagree. We have been witness to and participants in more such campaigns and efforts than can be counted. They change very little. They let politicians and government claim to be doing something, and posture to look like they are doing something, when it turns out to be superficial optics at best.

We do not need another Government announcing yet another public education campaign, and to then say they are listening to and acting on the advice of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. That risks being an excuse for their not taking action on other important recommendations that the Standards Development Committee is advancing.

Sadly, ample experience shows that such public education campaigns too often do not materially change what people in positions of authority do. It is ineffective to hope to first change attitudes towards people with disabilities in the vain hope that this will sometime later change their actions.

Instead, we must now change actions. The attitudes will change as a result. Put another way, nothing raises awareness and changes attitudes and culture better than a clear, specific, mandatory law such as a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard, known to be backed by timely and effective enforcement. The detailed requirements, such as we recommend, to be included in that accessibility standard, then become the public education campaign.

An obligated organization may remove and prevent disability barriers because its attitudes have changed. It may do so because it is good for business. It may do so because it fears a Government inspection, enforcement and penalties. It may do so because it fears bad press if it doesn’t fix things. It may do so because it is the right thing to do. It may do so because of a combination of these motivations. We care principally that the obligated organization removes and prevents those barriers, and does so as soon as possible, for whatever reason.

 e) Barrier Area 2: Training

It is good that the Initial Report recommends training for post-secondary staff on AODA standards and the Ontario Human Rights Code. It should be expanded to also include their duties under s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (equality rights to people with disabilities), which the AODA also aims to implement.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (training) should be amended to include training on the duties of post-secondary institutions to people with disabilities under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and especially s. 15 (equality rights).

The Initial Report Recommendation 20-23 proposes that training should be provided at no cost to post-secondary institutions. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 20 includes:

“Online and in-person components shall be provided at no cost to postsecondary institutions across the province.”

If this means that The Government of Ontario should not charge for training resources, then we agree. If it means that post-secondary institutions should never have to pay anyone for such training, then we disagree. An accessibility standard can and should never purport to direct that an obligated organization never need pay for an accommodating or accessibility measure.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (Training) should be revised to either remove the statement that post-secondary institutions should not pay for disability accessibility/inclusion training, or to clarify that the Ontario Government should not charge a fee for providing such training to those obligated organizations.

The Initial Report’s recommendations regarding training should specifically include training on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, both employees and students with disabilities. We recognize that this is implicit in the Initial Report’s recommendations. It would be better to make it explicit.

We have found that there is a thirst for such training, and that training can start right now. In early October, 2021, the AODA Alliance made public a captioned training video on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, available at https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ which runs about one and a quarter hours. It is presented by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, and is posted on a post-secondary institution’s website, the Osgoode Hall Law School.

Within two weeks of being posted and publicized on social media by the AODA Alliance, it has been seen over 1,000 times and has received positive feedback. The Toronto District School Board sent it to all its principals and vice-principals.

With tools such as the video now available, action can start now.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations, Recommendations 20 and following, should be revised to explicitly require training on the duty to accommodate students and employees with disabilities, and to direct that this training begin immediately, using resources that are now readily available for free.

We support the need for training of college and university facility management officials on universal design. Colleges and universities have been the venue of some of the troubling new buildings with serious accessibility problems.

This training should include direct presentations by users with disabilities who have suffered as a result. It should also require the viewing of projects that have gone wrong.

For example, the AODA Alliance widely-viewed video about serious accessibility problems at the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, available at https://youtu.be/4oe4xiKknt0, is now being used for training in some design professional circles. The David Onley AODA Independent Review references that video. We encourage its use. We emphasize that we do not hold out Ryerson as an especially problematic place. Rather, that video illustrates problems that we find to be generally typical and troubling around Ontario.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. “Recommendation 29: Facilities Management/Design/Construction staff” Should be amended to require that training of those responsible for facilities at post-secondary institutions and those who design such facilities should be required to include direct live training from people with disabilities who have suffered from post-secondary institutions’ built environment barriers, and should include video depictions of such barriers, such as the AODA Alliance’s videos available at https://youtu.be/4oe4xiKknt0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgfrum7e-_0&t=87s

Training for all post-secondary employees, and especially for course instructors and other creators of electronic content (such as web site content) should be required to have up-to-date training on accessibility barriers in the area of documents and information and communication generally. For example, they need to be trained that if a document is posted in pdf, it MUST simultaneously be posted in html and/or MS Word. Too many still believe that pdf is or can be an accessible format. This is simply erroneous.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require up-to-date training on the creation of accessible digital content, such as in online posts and electronic documents, especially for course instructors and anyone else who creates digital content for use by students and others in the post-secondary community. This training should make it clear that if a document is posted or circulated in pdf, it must also be posted or circulated in MS Word and/or html.

Those involved in the procurement of technology for use in the college or university should be required to get training on procuring accessible technology. Though hard to believe, York University procured an entirely new phone system replete with new accessibility barriers, during the time that the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee was doing its work. This no doubt cost thousands of dollars to implement across the university. Those overseeing this were unaware of its obvious barriers, that became evident within moments of looking at the new phones.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require that college or university staff involved in the procurement of any technology or equipment be required to be trained on technology accessibility needs and requirements.

We offer additional proposals to supplement the Initial Report’s Training recommendations.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that:
  1. Each post-secondary education organization should provide teaching coaches with expertise in universal design in learning and differential instruction to support instructional staff.
  1. The Ontario Government should create templates or models for the training of college and university instructors on universal design in learning and differential instruction, so that each post-secondary education organization does not have to reinvent the wheel in this context.

 f) Barrier Group 3: Assessment, curriculum and instruction

The Initial Report correctly identifies the serious barrier here facing college and university students with disabilities. It is important for the Final Report to directly identify the cause of this problem. If we do not isolate the cause, we will not find the right cure.

Here is a cause that needs to be openly identified. The key product or service that colleges and universities provide to their students is education, through courses, classes and other supports. The direct provider of this product or service is the course instructor.

To be hired as a post-secondary course instructor, a person does not have to have any knowledge or training in universal design in learning (UDl), i.e. how to effectively teach all students with disabilities in their classes. To be hired as a professor or course instructor at a college or university, a candidate does generally not need to have any training, skill or background in how to teach.

This systemic barrier is deeply embedded in the college and university system. It differs markedly from K-12 schools. To be hired as a teacher, a person must have qualified as a teacher, through designated post-secondary training. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee has pointed out that even there, there is no requirement for teachers to know how to teach students with disabilities in order to get hired as a teacher. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee makes several recommendations to address that major shortcoming.

The solution is twofold. First, those already teaching in colleges and universities will need to receive substantial training on how to teach in a way that embeds UDL, so that all students with disabilities can learn in their courses. Second, the hiring, promotion and recruitment processes at Ontario colleges and universities must in future include requirements in this area, so that as new recruits join their teaching faculties, they will be better equipped from the beginning. Since getting a job teaching at Ontario colleges and universities is so competitive, there should be ample capacity to thereby make progress.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations on curriculum, assessment and instruction (Recommendations 31 and following) should be expanded
  1. to identify that a key systemic barrier is the fact that course instructors need not be able to teach, or to teach students with disabilities, to be hired, and to make recommendations for training existing instructor in this area, and
  1. to require such qualifications in the future for recruiting and promoting future faculty.

The Initial report calls for specific Government funding for colleges and universities to hire subject matter experts in the creation of accessible instruction materials. Recommendation 38 of the report includes:

“In consideration of the costs involved in hiring subject matter experts in accessible and inclusive pedagogy/andragogy, and creating accessible materials, the Ontario government should provide dedicated funding to the universities and colleges to support these standards.”

We understand the motivation underlying this recommendation, and other similar recommendations. However, it is critical that the Education Accessibility Standard does not itself perpetuate systemic discriminatory conduct. It would be unacceptable for any colleges and universities to refuse to meet a human rights obligation until and unless the Ontario Government specifically pays for new job posts to do this work. The Ontario Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights have included equality rights for students with disabilities for decades. This is not a new mandate, and should not be treated as such.

Of course, if the Government provides additional financing, that can be a positive step. However, there must be no linkage or precondition that the Government must first fund compliance by colleges and universities with their human rights obligations to students with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report, including recommendations such as Recommendation 38, should be revised to make it clear that whether or not the Ontario Government supplements their funding, they must fulfil their decades-old obligations to students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

We supplement the Initial Report’s recommendations in the area of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment to help make those recommendations fully effective.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each post-secondary education organization should:
  1. Promptly survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their instructional staff, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  1. Establish a dedicated office or resource within the post-secondary education organization, or shared among post-secondary education organizations, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis. A student should not be required to show proof that they own a hard copy of an item to be able to get it in an accessible format.
  1. The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ontario Government to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across post-secondary education organizations.

We do not know what is meant by the Initial Report’s Recommendation 57. It states:

“Recommendation 57: Jurisdiction of accessibility supports in work integrated learning settings (non-regulatory)

Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility should provide guidance to postsecondary institutions and employers with respect to the division of responsibilities and applicability of the act’s standards and accommodations (Ontario Human Rights Commission) for students with disabilities in required work integrated learning settings.”

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 57 should be explained and clarified, or removed.

It is important for each college and university to ensure barrier-free post-secondary program admission requirements. There is now a risk that admission requirements to a post-secondary program that unintentionally or inadvertently impede access to the program for otherwise-qualified students with disabilities. It is important to ensure that students with disabilities can have their eligibility for admission to a post-secondary program fairly and accurately assessed.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. Every post-secondary education organization should be required to review its admission criteria for gaining admission to any of its post-secondary education programs, to identify any barriers that would impede otherwise-qualified students with disabilities from admission, and shall adjust those criteria to either:
  1. Remove the admission criteria that constitute a barrier to admission, or
  1. Provide an alternative method for assessing students with disabilities for admission to the program.
g)  Barrier area 4: Digital learning and technology

The Initial Report calls for definitions certain terms regarding accessible technology to be established by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. This is not within that Ministry’s knowledge or expertise. Moreover, under the AODA, it is the accessibility standard that should set this definition to be enforceable. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 65 states:

“Recommendation 65: Accessible technology definitions

The Ministry of Colleges and Universities to provide and adopt clear and consistent definitions across the education sector for key terms relating to digital learning and technology.”

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 65 should be amended to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard, and not the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, should adopt clear and consistent definitions across the education sector for key terms relating to digital learning and technology.

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 68 (Digital learning and technology plan) proposes that all colleges and universities:

“must develop and make publicly available a plan to seamlessly include accessibility in the digital learning and technology used throughout the academic journey of all students with disabilities.”

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 70 would require colleges and universities to each consult with people with disabilities, including students with disabilities, on this plan.

This might at first all appear to be helpful. However, in the end, it requires all colleges and universities to undertake duplicative work, and to ask people with disabilities, including students with disabilities, the same questions about the same barriers, one institution after the next. The AODA is meant to avoid such duplication of efforts. The Education Accessibility Standard should set the detailed requirements for such a plan. All the plan needs to do is to implement the detailed accessibility requirements that the Education Accessibility Standard should itself set. The same goes for school boards under the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard.

If such plans are to be required, the Education Accessibility Standard should require that they be submitted to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, and that they be centrally posted on a searchable online hub.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 68 and following, regarding accessible technology, should be revised to:
  1. require that the Education Accessibility Standard itself set specific requirements for accessible technology, and
  1. require that each obligated organization submit its accessibility plan to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, which the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario would then be required to post online in a searchable accessible public online hub.

An excellent example of a meritorious recommendation in the Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report which is unfortunately listed as “non-regulatory” is Recommendation 76, regarding the establishment of a the accessible digital technology lead in all colleges and universities. We agree with the substance of this recommendation. However, it should not be “non-regulatory” and hence, voluntary and unenforceable. It should instead be included in the Education Accessibility Standard and be mandatory and enforceable.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 76 should be revised to make it mandatory for each college and university to appoint an accessible digital technology lead.

We respectfully but profoundly object to a key part of the Standards Development Committee’s Recommendation regarding so-called “Accessible PDFs”. We fully agree with the Standards Development Committee’s recommendation, where it would require alternative accessible formatted documents to be made available when a pdf is provided or posted. However, we disagree with the Initial Report’s proposal that colleges and universities should invest time, energy and resources into training their staff and instructors to create so-called “accessible pdfs” with a view to their becoming a long term option.

The Initial Report includes:

“Recommendation 87: Accessible PDFs

Postsecondary institutions shall provide all documents in an accessible format. In the case of a PDF, this committee is recommending a phased approach:

phase 1: postsecondary institutions shall use a PDF document only if an accessible alternative format is also simultaneously available

phase 2: postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for the creation of accessible PDFs to the PDF/UA 1 /ISO 14289 standard. Following this date, any document provided as a PDF must meet this international standard. However, to phase in this requirement it is expected that postsecondary institutions continue to publish PDF-based digital content to be as accessible as their training and applications permit, even if an accessible alternative is provided. This will lessen any remediation costs if there is a need to go back and ensure that currently produced PDFs meet the PDF/UA 1/ISO 14289 standard. This will also demonstrate the postsecondary institutions’ commitment and progress towards creating accessible PDFs.

Timeline: Phase 1: within six months of regulation being enacted. Phase 2: within two years of the regulation being enacted

Recommendation 88: Software and training for accessible PDFs

Postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for creation of accessible PDFs.

Timeline: Within six months of regulation being enacted

Recommendation 88: Software and training for accessible PDFs

Postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for creation of accessible PDFs.”

We strongly disagree that colleges and universities should invest any time, resources and energy into training themselves to be able to provide “accessible pdfs.” These resources can be far better used promoting accessibility in other areas. Here’s why:

First, the term “accessible pdf” is a misnomer. Even if the document’s creator spends a great deal of time trying to make their pdf accessible, it still is harder to use than formats such as MS Word.

The Initial Report’s recommendation relies on an ISO standard that we do not endorse or accept. It should not be the legislated standard.

Second, when a person with a disability receives a pdf, they have no idea before they open it whether it has any accessibility at all built into it. Users with disabilities should not be left wondering every time they get a pdf whether it has any accessibility features built into it.

Third, when an author types a document in a format such as MS Word, the starting point is that it is generally accessible unless the author starts doing things to the document that creates barriers. When they convert it to a pdf, its accessibility is thereby destroyed. The author then must spend time trying to rebuild its accessibility. It is better not to create the new barriers in the first place.

Fourth, the pdf software is still evolving. Right now, it is reported to have accessibility bugs. See e.g. https://acrobat.uservoice.com/forums/590923-acrobat-for-windows-and-mac/suggestions/44183082-accessibility-errors-with-pdf-maker-update-sept-20

Fifth, the Initial Repport’s recommendations here will not only require training now for existing staff. It will require ongoing training as new staff join. The risk that in the interim, someone will continue creating problematic pdfs is a substantial one. The message “don’t use pdf, or if you do, also share an accessible MS Word or html document” is far easier to convey, and is far more likely to stick.

Sixth, even if a course instructor is trained on steps to try to insert some accessibility into a pdf, and even if these current accessibility problems were eliminated from the software, which is all speculative, there is no assurance that this training will remain relevant by the time they must use it, and that it will remain relevant in the future.

In sum, it is wasteful to invest time and effort into an effort to get people to make so-called “accessible pdfs”, when they are not assured to be accessible, when there are much easier and no-cost alternatives to such training, and when there are so many other pressing needs for the training resources that would be invested into pdfs. It would be a far better use of such resources to spend the money on training staff and faculty on creating accessible content in the native application such as Word, PowerPoint and Google Docs.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 87 should be revised to eliminate “phase two”, which now provides:

“phase 2: postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for the creation of accessible PDFs to the PDF/UA 1 /ISO 14289 standard. Following this date, any document provided as a PDF must meet this international standard. However, to phase in this requirement it is expected that postsecondary institutions continue to publish PDF-based digital content to be as accessible as their training and applications permit, even if an accessible alternative is provided. This will lessen any remediation costs if there is a need to go back and ensure that currently produced PDFs meet the PDF/UA 1/ISO 14289 standard. This will also demonstrate the postsecondary institutions’ commitment and progress towards creating accessible PDFs.”

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 88 should be removed.

We ask the Standards Development Committee to add some additional recommendations that will help make the Digital Barriers recommendations as effective as possible.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to recommend that the Education Accessibility Standard will require each post-secondary education organization to ensure that its information technology support and help staff includes specialists in access technology, and that students with disabilities get prompt access to IT support when needed.

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, people with disabilities have come to experience that different remote classroom and conference platforms are much more accessible than others. When the pandemic is finally behind us, colleges and universities should benefit from lessons learned. Accessible virtual classroom and conference platforms should be available for students who, because of disability, are more effectively accommodated by attending virtually. This should take place even if the course is being taught in person.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to require that
  1. Only accessible conference and remote class platforms may be used.
  1. the Ontario Government should be required to report semi-annually to the public and to colleges and universities on the comparative accessibility of different virtual meeting and teaching platforms, so that colleges and universities do not have to repeat the same investigations.
  1. Even when classes are taught in person, students with disabilities should have the option of attending virtually via an accessible virtual meeting platform, where this accommodation would be helpful to them because of their disability.

It is essential for any learning management system to be accessible, and for all its accessibility features to remained turned on.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require that any learning management system only be procured and used if it is accessible, and for all its accessibility features to be locked in the “on” position so that they cannot be turned off.

Increasingly, electronic kiosks are being used, as well as inaccessible point-of-sale devices restaurant tablet ordering procedures. The 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation provisions regarding electronic kiosks have not been effective. They are too vague and are not effectively enforced.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to ban the use of inaccessible electronic kiosks, electronic point-of-sale devices and restaurant tablet ordering technology at any colleges and universities.

 h) Barrier area 5: Organizational barriers

We support the Initial Report’s Recommendation 91 (Access to Disability Accommodation Information), calling for all students to be notified about availability of disability supports. We encourage the Standards Development Committee to add some more specifics, to help ensure that this is as effective as possible.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 91 (Access to Disability Accommodation Information) should be expanded to ensure that the Education Accessibility Standard requires:
  1. The post-secondary education organization’s interactive voice response system for receiving incoming phone calls should announce to all callers the organization’s commitment to accommodate students with disabilities and the number to press to get introductory information about how to seek such.
  1. Programming handouts and broadcast email communications to incoming students should include similar general information.
  1. the post-secondary education organization’s broadcast email announcements and other communications to the student population should include summary information to this effect with relevant links.
  1. Classroom instructors should make announcements in their first week of classes to this effect.

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 92 addresses Documentation policies for academic accommodations. We agree that the Education Accessibility Standard should set standards in this area. We also agree that this process must comply with human rights requirements. However, we do not agree that the Initial Report where it recommends:

“Based on these requirements, postsecondary institutions shall develop in a collaborative manner, a consistent and clear set of policies and practices about the nature and extent of documentation required to establish eligibility for academic accommodation.”

The Education Accessibility Standard should set the standard, not colleges and universities. That is what an accessibility standard is for. It should, for example, set some base line requirements.

For example, we understand that some colleges or universities may ask students with disabilities to re-document their disability each academic year. This is entirely unjustified and an unfair burden on students with disabilities, in cases where their disability is a permanent one. If a student is deaf or blind or has autism, for example, that condition is obviously permanent.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 92 should be revised to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard itself should set a clear set of barrier-free requirements regarding a student’s documenting an academic accommodation need. For example, a student should not be required to re-document their disability each year, where it is a permanent or long term disability.

We support the Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 (Full participation). It requires colleges and universities to inform students “…as early as possible in a readily accessible and understandable way, of the institution’s recognition of its duty to ensure that all academically qualified students with disabilities have the right to full participation and full inclusion in all the postsecondary institution’s programming, events, orientations and academic life.”

To make this as clear as possible, it would be helpful if this explicitly includes a reference to the duty to accommodate students with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 should be amended to explicitly require that colleges and universities tell students with disabilities, as soon as possible, about the institution’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities.

In the Initial Report’s Recommendation 95: (Clear policies and procedures) the Standards Development Committee recommends that policies and procedures be adopted in colleges and universities:

“… outlining the process by which students with disabilities can access accommodations for academically related learning activities, including, but not limited to:

classroom

libraries

common areas

online learning tools including accessible software

tests/examinations

internships

practica

co-ops

field placements

apprenticeships

work integrated learning

other experiential learning that are part of their academic program of study”.

This is what the Education Accessibility Standard itself is supposed to specifically detail. Best practices, policies, guidelines and the like are not mandatory or enforceable. They can change on a whim.

Moreover, as noted earlier, the sooner colleges and universities have detailed and specific requirements to meet for barrier identification, barrier removal, and barrier prevention for recurring disability barriers, the fewer accommodations that students with disabilities will need.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94-95 be revised to set out specific accessibility requirements for colleges and universities in such areas as classrooms, libraries, common areas, online learning tools including accessible software, tests/examinations, internships, practica, co-ops, field placements, apprenticeships, work-integrated learning, other experiential learning that are part of their academic program of study, request for priority enrollment in a course, and accessible housing placement. For example, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a post-secondary education organization’s experiential learning programs, each such organization should:
  1. Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers;
  1. Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate are available;
  1. Ensure that its partner organizations that accept students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities;
  1. Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements;
  1. Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation; and
  1. Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.

We also support the Initial Report’s Recommendation 96 (Disability Accommodation Plans). However, it is especially important that the accommodation application and planning process for a student be made swift, simple, and de-bureaucratized. We have received feedback that at some post-secondary institutions, the procedure is overly bureaucratic.

Moreover, to succeed, colleges and universities must remove policies that create clear and obvious barriers. For example, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law has a policy forbidding the recording of classes. If students with disabilities need a class recorded, they must go through the process of applying for a disability accommodation. This is an unnecessary and inappropriate step.

In sharp contrast, the Osgoode Hall Law School commendably does not ban the recording of classes at all. To the contrary, it has for several years followed the practice of having all lecture classes automatically recorded, explicitly to be available as an accommodation. Law students at that law school do not have to go through any bureaucracy to access such recordings.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 and following should be revised to:
  1. Require obligated organizations to review their accommodation procedures for systemic barriers, such as a ban on recording classes to which an exception must be sought through the accommodation process; and
  1. Require that those disability barriers be removed and prevented.

It is a positive step that the Initial Report urges that annual reports be made by colleges and universities about their disability accommodation caseload in Recommendation 98 (Disability Accommodation Caseload – Reporting). We add that these figures should be required to be submitted to The Government and that The Government be required to make them publicly available on an institution-by-institution basis, and as provincial aggregations or averages.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 98 (Disability Accommodation Caseload – Reporting) be revised to require that each college or university disability accommodation caseloads be reported to The Government, with The Government being required to publish these online annually on an institution-by-institution basis, and as provincial aggregations or averages.

We share the goal in Recommendation 99 (Accessibility Lens), but not how the Standards Development Committee proposes to address that goal. The Initial Report delegates to the Accessibility Ministry responsibility to consult with key stakeholders to create an accessibility lens for colleges and universities to use in major decisions. That is in effect assigning them to create a de facto Education Accessibility Standard, but calling it a “disability lens”. Instead, it is the Standards Development Committee that through its consultation should set out the specific recurring disability barriers and the corrective measures to avoid them.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 99 (Accessibility Lens) be removed and replaced with specific recommendations on the recurring disability barriers to be removed and prevented, and what must be done to remove and prevent them.

We agree with Recommendations 104-106 (Accessible Procurement Policies and Procedures), but we ask that these be refined to clarify that these procurement standards must be detailed and specific, both on the procurement process and the kinds of barriers to be avoided (a non-exhaustive specification of barriers). The extremely vague wording in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation for the past decade has been ineffective. For example, section 5 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation now provides:

“Procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities

  1. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, except where it is not practicable to do so. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 5 (1); O. Reg. 413/12, s. 4 (1).

(2) If the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization determines that it is not practicable to incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, it shall provide, upon request, an explanation.”

The IASR’s “not practicable” standard wrongly falls short of the mandatory human rights standard of “undue hardship”. Moreover, the vague requirement of incorporating accessible features does not ensure that no new barriers are created.

There is no effective monitoring or enforcement of the current vague requirements. As noted above, York University purchased a new telephone system replete with accessibility barriers under that regime.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 104-16 ((Accessible Procurement Policies and Procedures) should be revised to require that the accessible procurement standards are mandatory, include detailed specifics, are more robust than the current section 5 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, and require public accountability/reporting to ensure that they can be effectively monitored and enforced.

We commend Recommendations 108-110 (Handling Accommodation Requests). We would add that at present, from feedback received, some of these processes are too slow and bureaucratic. There should be a simplified process required. Where the request is for a routine accommodation, it should go through a rapid process. Those which may be more unusual or complex and require more effort should be routed into a process designed to effectively address their greater complexity.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 108-110 (Handling Accommodation Requests) should be expanded to spell out mandatory baseline requirements for student accommodation request procedures, so that each college or university does not have to re-design their own procedures, and which:
  1. Require the de-bureaucratizing of the handling of accommodation requests by students;
  1. Require a fast-track process for routine accommodation requests which are suitable for such a process;
  1. Require a separate track for more unusual or complex requests to be addressed in an effective and time-sensitive way; and
  1. Ensure that if the student had an Individual Education Plan (IEP) from an Ontario school, or a finding by an Ontario school board’s Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) that identified them as having a disability (exceptionality), or a comparable form of documentation from another jurisdiction, then the post-secondary education organization should treat that as sufficient proof that the student has a disability, without requiring further assessments or proof, unless the post-secondary education organization has independent proof showing that the student no longer has that disability. In that case, the post-secondary education organization shall provide the student with that proof and shall provide the student with an opportunity to demonstrate that they have a disability-related accommodation need. The student’s IEP should not be treated as a ceiling on what a person can request, since a person’s accommodations needs may be different in the postsecondary environment.

In the Initial Report’s Recommendations 111 –113 (Service Animals), there are separate references to service animals and support animals. This incorrectly implies that a support animal is not a service animal. We doubt that this is the Standards Development Committee’s intention.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 111-113 (Service Animals) should be revised to replace the term “service animals and support animals” with the more accurate term “service animals, including support animals.”

We support the Standards Development Committees various university governance recommendations, but add one more to make them as effective as possible.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a permanent committee of its governing board of directors or trustees to be called the “Accessibility Committee”. This Accessibility Committee should have responsibility and authority to oversee the organization’s compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as far as they guarantee the right of students with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the education programs and opportunities that the organization provides.

It is very commendable that the Standards Development Committee made equity, diversity, and inclusion a core principle for its work. The Initial Report states:

“Therefore the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion underlie all aspects of the committee’s work.”

In recent years, there has been a commendable and growing recognition that it is important for an effective education system to focus at all levels on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts have, for example, expanded curriculum content and course offerings to address the needs and circumstances of women, racialized peoples, Indigenous communities, and the LGBTQ population.

Such equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts need to fully and equally include people with disabilities and effectively address their issues and needs. This is not an isolated concern. Across the broader K-12 and post-secondary education systems as well as in some other contexts, equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives have excluded disability altogether or have included but substantially underserved people with disabilities. In those instances, equity for some creates equity for none. An old hierarchy replaces a new hierarchy, in which people with disabilities remain in a position of chronic disadvantage.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Standards Development Committee should recommend that any equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy at any college or university should be reviewed and, where needed, revised to ensure that disability is a full and equal target and focus of that strategy.

People with disabilities working in post-secondary education organizations often face accessibility barriers in the workplace that also hurt students with disabilities. The experience and expertise of people with disabilities working in post-secondary education organizations should be effectively harnessed to help root out the accessibility barriers that impede students with disabilities. This is because workplace disability barriers and education service disability barriers are often the same or substantially overlap.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a committee of those employees and volunteers with disabilities who wish to join, to give the organization’s senior management feedback on the barriers in the organization that could impede employees or students with disabilities.

 i) Barrier area 7: Physical and architectural barriers Recommendations

The Initial Report’s Recommendations 127 proposes adoption of the Brock University technical requirements for accessible built environment design. We propose instead that the Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS) established at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD University) be adopted: https://www.ocadu.ca/sites/default/files/2021-06/OCADU_FADS_21-05-26.pdf

This version of FADS has been updated to include or remove any conflicts with the 2020 and 2022 changes to the Ontario Building Code. It also has improved details for some elements and for some facility types making it a more up-to-date standard for built environment design for education facilities, including the types of facilities that might be found at post-secondary education institutions.

This can be enriched by the built environment proposals set out in the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’ Initial Report, which are set out below in Appendix 1.

These standards must govern not only the buildings and structures, but the furniture as well.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 127-128 should be revised to recommend
  1. The adoption of the Education Accessibility Standards of the OCAD University Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS) https://www.ocadu.ca/sites/default/files/2021-06/OCADU_FADS_21-05-26.pdf enriched by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s built environment recommendations; and
  1. Set standards for accessibility of the furniture in the premises of colleges and universities.

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 139 (Identify Barriers and Provide Accommodations) states:

“Postsecondary institutions shall proactively identify barriers in the built environment that cannot be removed or avoided through alternative access due to legal or geographic barriers, such as heritage designation or zoning restrictions.”

This recommendation is incorrect. The Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms prevail over other regulatory and statutory instruments, such as zoning bylaws. Moreover, heritage is not itself an “undue hardship” that overrides the duty to accommodate. At most, when a heritage building is involved, an organization can first seek ways to add accessibility, with the least impact on the building’s heritage features.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 139 (Identify Barriers and Provide Accommodations) should be revised to remove an incorrect suggestion that zoning bylaws or heritage designation are a legal bar to implementing accessibility in a building.

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 153 (Signage and Wayfinding) contains some measures to address way-finding. We add that there is a need for each campus to be reviewed to ensure that there is effective cane-detectable way-finding both indoors and outside. As one example, York University’s Downsview campus can be extremely challenging for a person with vision loss to navigate because, among other barriers, outdoor paved paths curve into each other rather than having clearly defined cane-detectable intersections.

Here again, the OCAD University FADS should be adopted, not Brock University’s standard.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 153 (Signage and Wayfinding) should be revised to:
  1. Invoke the OCAD University FADS standard for signage and way-finding, instead of those by Brock University; and
  1. Require that each campus review its indoor and outdoor property for effective cane-detectable way-finding, and institute such way-finding if inadequate or non-existent.

It is important not to exacerbate existing barriers in the built environment at any colleges or universities.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations regarding the built environment should be expanded to require that, where possible, a post-secondary education organization should not renovate an existing facility that lacks disability accessibility, unless the organization has a plan to also make that facility accessible. For example, a post-secondary education organization should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a facility which is inaccessible, if the organization does not have a plan to make that second storey disability-accessible. Very pressing health and safety concerns should be the only reason for any exception to this.

Part of the built environment at a post-secondary institution is its gym facilities and equipment.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to require that each post-secondary education organization:
  1. Take inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor gym, sports, athletic and like equipment and spaces, and make this public, including posting this information online;
  1. Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of existing gym, sports, athletic or other like equipment or spaces, in consultation with students with disabilities; and
  1. Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that the purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing equipment or spaces is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the post-secondary education organization.

The Initial Report does not set out specific recommendations regarding the shoveling of snow. Each winter, every campus implements some sort of snow removal to ensure that the campus community can get around and into its buildings. However, this may not ensure that people with disabilities can also safely navigate the campus. Snow can be piled up along accessible paths of travel.

A few years ago, one law student’s video went viral and gained media attention. The video showed that snow was shoveled in a way that enabled walking people to use paths on one campus, but which did not enable safe passage by a person using a wheelchair. We include the February 2, 2019 CBC News report on this, as it fully illustrates this issue.

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/watch-this-york-student-struggle-to-get-to-class-in-a-wheelchair-due-to-uncleared-snow-1.5003306

“Ali Imrie’s Twitter video shows her struggling on a snow-covered path on university campus

Kelda Yuen

Osgoode Hall Law School student Ali Imrie says she missed one class and was late for another this week due to snow-covered sidewalks on the York University campus. (Ali Imrie/ Twitter)

Ali Imrie says it’s only 500 metres from her student apartment to Osgoode Hall Law School on the York University campus in Toronto, but even so, she wasn’t able to make it to all her classes this week due to uncleared snow.

“Honestly, this week hasn’t been any different than any other week in the snow,” she said.

But this time, she took a video and posted it on Twitter. The 17-second clip posted Thursday evening shows a friend struggling to push her home from class along a snowy path. At one point, they appear to get stuck. Within a day, the post garnered over 20,000 views and was shared almost 500 times.

The video is raising the issue of a lack of accessibility for students with mobility issues during weather events like the snowstorm the Toronto area experienced this week.

Imrie is quick to note she understands it is difficult to keep pathways clear with the “crazy amounts of snow” that fell, but she is frustrated at what she believes is a lack of initiative from the school to keep on top of snow clearing.

Barbara Joy, the spokesperson for York, told CBC Toronto Friday the university has reached out to Imrie and has since done checks to ensure all paths on campus are clear.

The specific path in Imrie’s video, Joy said, “was actually cleared several times since the snow began, but unfortunately it wasn’t adequate.”

Hoping for a permanent solution

Imrie says she has been flagging the problem for some time now, and she wants a more permanent solution.

This is her third year using a wheelchair since being diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, and her second year living on campus as a part-time law student.

When she first arrived, her mobility issues made it “difficult and isolating,” she said.

“It got to the point, last January, where I had a rotating schedule of which friend could meet me before or after class to help me get there,” she told CBC Toronto.

She says she contacted the school about it repeatedly, but the problem of uncleared snow persisted.

“The reaction will be reactive and in the moment — it’s fixed. But given it’s been a year and I keep needing to bring it up every time it snows, what’s missing is the proactive piece. There’s not really been any lasting change.”

Imrie says she understands York ‘is a really big campus and it’s difficult to keep it clear all the time,’ but she hopes the university can be more proactive in making sure paths remain clear.

Joy admits York needs to “do better.”

One thing she says the university will do is ensure employees perform more checks to make sure all pathways remain clear.

“With storms, there is blowing snow and other things that impact the way the path is covered in snow, so even if it was cleared in the morning, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t check it in the afternoon,” she said.

“We are going to keep on top of it to make sure it’s maintained.”

Joy also points out there is a shuttle that’s offered to students with mobility issues.

But Imrie says the shuttle can take up to an hour to arrive after being booked.

“For me, because (my illness) is so fatiguing, if I’m in a three-hour class, I can’t add another hour on either end to wait for a van.”

Joy says the school is looking into ways the shuttle can accommodate her better.

Not just a York University problem

Imrie, meanwhile, has another suggestion.

While it would be ideal to have the paths clear at all times, she says the ones heavily used by students with mobility issues should perhaps get priority when it comes to snow clearing.

“There’s different implications for me versus someone who’s walking.”

She is also quick to note that lack of accessibility is not just a problem her school needs to fix.

She says on her route to class, she has to travel on a sidewalk partially owned by the city.

She says it’s rarely cleared after a snowstorm.

“It’s an issue everywhere.””

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to include, in its built environment recommendations, specific mandatory requirements at all colleges and universities to ensure that snow-shoveling creates no disability barriers and is sufficient to enable people with disabilities to navigate the campus.

It is important for the Education Accessibility Standard to include protections regarding the Indoor air/environment quality to ensure accessibility for those with environmentally linked disabilities, such as Environmental Sensitivities (which includes Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, EMF Sensitivities, etc.), Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Cancer, Diabetes, Chemical Pneumonitis, Migraines, Chronic Fatigue, Lyme Disease, etc.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to include indoor air quality requirements for persons for whom this can create disability barriers.

It is important for students with disabilities and other people with disabilities to know where accessibility features are included in the campus, so they can plan their route of travel.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to require each college or university to create and make available an up-to-date guide on the accessibility features in its built environment, such as electric door openers and ramps.

Since college and university campuses now have many accessibility barriers in their built environment, it is important for students with disabilities to be assured that courses they wish to take will be offered in an accessible classroom.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to:
  1. Ensure that students with disabilities have available an earlier or accelerated process for getting their course selections confirmed; and
  1. Have in place a mandatory process for the college or university to make priority re-assignment of any classes from inaccessible classrooms to accessible classrooms, where needed.

Campuses can have paths of travel blocked due to construction. Without centralized control, students and others can encounter unpredictable barriers.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require each college and university to:
  2. Ensure to the extent possible that construction projects on campus do not block accessible paths of travel, and accessibility features such as ramps and accessible doors; and
  1. Maintain a publicly-accessible up-to-date web page or other easily-accessed public announcement of the location and expected timing of construction projects that may impede accessible travel.

Graduation ceremonies should always be accessible to students, family members, friends, and staff with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to specifically require that the venue of graduation ceremonies be accessible to students, family members, friends and staff members with disabilities, including the graduation platform.

The Ontario Government funds some building projects at colleges or universities. It must ensure that any such projects will be fully accessible before agreeing to that funding. In 2017, the Ontario Government agreed to invest $125 million in a new Markham campus for York University that had several serious accessibility barriers in its design.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard require that the Ontario Government ensure that public funds are never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers in the built environment.
  1. The Ontario Government be required to revise its funding criteria for construction of facilities at a post-secondary education organization to ensure that it requires, and does not obstruct, the inclusion of all needed accessibility features in that construction project.

 Appendix 1. Initial Recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on Ensuring Physical Accessibility of the Built Environment in Education Settings

(Note: Even though these recommendations are written to address the school setting, they can easily apply to a very wide range of other buildings)

Specific Accessibility Requirements Recommendations

Recommendation Part Three: Usable Accessible Design for Exterior Site Elements

The following should be required:

  1. Access to the site for pedestrians
  2. a) Clear, intuitive connection to the accessible entrance
  3. b) A tactile raised line map shall be provided at the main entry points adjacent to the accessible path of travel but with enough space to ensure users do not block the path for others
  4. c) Path of travel from each sidewalk connects to an accessible entrance with few to no joints to avoid bumps. The primary paths shall be wide enough to allow two-way traffic with a clear width that allows two people using wheelchairs or guide dogs to pass each other. For secondary paths where a single path is used, passing spaces shall be provided at regular intervals and at all decision points. The height difference from the sidewalk to the entrance will not require a ramp or stairs. The path will provide drainage slopes only and ensure no puddles form on the path. Paths will be heated during winter months using heat from the school or other renewable energy sources.
  5. d) Bike parking shall be adjacent to the entry path. Riders shall be required to dismount and not ride on the pedestrian routes. Bike parking shall provide horizontal storage with enough space to ensure users and parked bikes do not block the path for others. The ground surface below the bikes shall be colour contrasted and textured to be distinct from the pedestrian path.
  6. e) Rest areas and benches with clear floor space for at least two assistive mobility devices or strollers or a mix of both shall be provided. Benches shall be colour contrasted, have back and arm rests and provide transfer seating options at both ends of the bench. These shall be provided every 30m along the path placed adjoining. The bench and space for assistive devices are not to block the path. If the path to the main entrance is less than 30m at least one rest area shall be provided along the route. If the drop-off area is in a different location than the pedestrian route from the sidewalk, an interior rest area shall be provided with clear sightlines to the drop-off area. If the drop-off area is more than 20m from the closest accessible entrance an exterior accessible heated shelter shall be provided for those awaiting pick-up. The ground surface below the rest areas shall be colour contrasted and textured to be distinct from the pedestrian path it abuts
  7. f) Tactile directional indicators shall be provided where large open paved areas happen along the route
  8. g) Accessible pedestrian directional signage at decision points
  9. h) Lighting levels shall be bright and even enough to avoid shadows and ensure it’s easy to see the features and to keep people safe.
  10. i) Accessible duress stations (Emergency safety zones in public spaces)
  11. j) Heated walkways shall be used where possible to ensure the path is always clear of snow and ice
  1. Access to the site for vehicles
  2. a) Clear, intuitive connection to the drop-off and accessible parking
  3. b) Passenger drop-off shall include space for driveway, layby, access aisle (painted with non slip paint), and a drop curb (to provide a smooth transition) for the full length of the drop off. This edge shall be identified and protected with high colour contrasted tactile attention indicators and bollards to stop cars, so people with vision loss or those not paying attention get a warning before walking into the car area. Sidewalk slopes shall provide drainage in all directions for the full length of the dropped curb
  4. c) Overhead protection shall be provided by a canopy that allows for a clearance for raised vans or buses and shall provide as much overhead protection as possible for people who may need more time to load or off-load
  5. d) Heated walkways from the drop-off and parking shall be used to ensure the path is always clear of snow and ice
  6. e) A tactile walking directional indicator path shall lead from the drop-off area to the closest accessible entrance to the building (typically the main entrance)
  7. f) A parking surface will only be steep enough to provide drainage in all directions. The drainage will be designed to prevent puddles from forming at the parking or along the pedestrian route from the parking
  8. g) Parking design should include potential expansion plans for future growth and/or to address increased need for accessible parking
  9. h) Parking access aisles shall connect to the sidewalk with a curb cut that leads to the closest accessible entrance to the building. (so that no one needs to travel along the driveway behind parked cars or in the path of car traffic)
  10. i) Lighting levels shall be bright and even enough to avoid shadows and to ensure it’s easy to see obstacles and to keep people safe.
  11. j) If there is more than one parking lot, each site shall have a distinctive colour and shape symbol associated with it that will be used on all directional signage especially along pedestrian routes.
  12. Parking
  13. a) The provision of parking spaces near the entrance to a facility is important to accommodate persons with a varying range of abilities as well as persons with limited mobility. Medical conditions, such as anemia, arthritis or heart conditions, using crutches or the physical act of pushing a wheelchair, all can make it difficult to travel long distances. Minimizing travel distances is particularly important outdoors, where weather conditions and ground surfaces can make travel difficult and hazardous.
  14. b) The sizes of accessible parking stalls are important. A person using a mobility aid such as a wheelchair requires a wider parking space to accommodate the manoeuvring of the wheelchair beside the car or van. A van may also require additional space to deploy a lift or ramp out the side or back door. An individual would require space for the deployment of the lift itself as well as additional space to manoeuvre on/off the lift.
  15. c) Heights of passage along the driving routes to accessible parking is a factor. Accessible vans may have a raised roof resulting in the need for additional overhead clearance. Alternatively, the floor of the van may be lowered, resulting in lower capacity to travel over for speed bumps and pavement slope transitions.
  16. d) Wherever possible, parking signs shall be located away from pedestrian routes, because they can constitute an overhead and/or protruding hazard. All parking signage shall be placed at the end of the parking space in a bollard barricade to stop cars, trucks or vans from parking over and blocking the sidewalk.
  1. A Building’s Exterior doors
  2. a) Level areas on both sides of a building’s exterior door shall allow the clear floor space for a large scooter or mobility device or several strollers to be at the door. Exterior surface slope shall only provide drainage away from the building.
  3. b) 100% of a building’s exterior doors will be accessible with level thresholds, colour contrast, accessible door hardware and in-door windows or side windows (where security allows) so those approaching the door can see if someone is on the other side of the door
  4. c) Main entry doors at the front of the building and the door closest to the parking lot (if not the same) to be obvious, prominent and will have automatic sliders with overhead sensors. Placing power door operator buttons correctly is difficult and often creates barriers especially within the vestibule
  5. d) Accessible security access for after hours or if used all day with 2-way video for those who are deaf and/or scrolling voice to text messaging
  6. e) All exit doors shall be accessible with a level threshold and clear floor space on either side of the door. The exterior shall include a paved accessible path leading away from the building

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – General Requirements Recommendations

The following should be required:

85. Entrances:

  1. a) All entrances used by staff and/or the public shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all staff and public entrances accessible, at least 50% of all staff and public entrances shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all public entrances accessible, the primary entrances used by staff and the public shall be accessible.

86. Door:

  1. a) Doors shall be sufficiently wide enough to accommodate stretchers, wheelchairs or assistive scooters, pushing strollers, or making a delivery
  2. b) Threshold at the door’s base shall be level to allow a trip free and wheel friendly passage.
  3. c) Heavy doors and those with auto closers shall provide automatic door openers.
  4. d) Room entrances shall have doors.
  5. e) Direction of door swing shall be chosen to enhance the usability and limit the hazard to others of the door opening.
  6. f) Sliding doors can be easier for some individuals to operate and can also require less wheelchair manoeuvring space.
  7. g) Doors that require two hands to operate will not be used.
  8. h) Revolving doors are not accessible.
  9. i) Full glass doors are not to be used as they represent a hazard.
  10. j) Colour-contrasting will be provided on door frames, door handles as well as the door edges.
  11. k) Door handles and locks will be operable by using a closed fist, and not require fine finger control, tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate

87. Gates, Turnstiles and Openings:

  1. a) Gates and turnstiles should be designed to accommodate the full range of users that may pass through them. Single-bar gates designed to be at a convenient waist height for ambulatory persons are at neck and face height for children and chest height for persons who use wheelchairs or scooters.
  2. b) Revolving turnstiles should not be used as they are a physical impossibility for a person in a wheelchair to negotiate. They are also difficult for persons using canes or crutches, or persons with poor balance.
  3. c) All controlled entry points will provide an accessible width to allow passage of wheelchairs, other mobility devices, strollers, walkers or delivery carts.

88. Windows, Glazed Screens and Sidelights

  1. a) Broad expanses of glass should not be used for walls, beside doors and as doors can be difficult to detect. This may be a particular concern to persons with vision loss/no vision. It is also possible for anyone to walk into a clear sheet of glazing especially if they are distracted or in a hurry.
  2. b) Windowsill heights and operating controls for opening windows or closing blinds should be accessible…located on a path of travel, with clear floor space, within reach of a shorter or seated user, colour contrasted and not require punching or twisting to operate.

89. Drinking Fountains

  1. a) Drinking fountain height should accommodate children and that of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Potentially conflicting with this, the height should strive to attempt to accommodate individuals who have difficulty bending and who would require a higher fountain. Where feasible, this may require more than one fountain, at different heights. The operating system shall account for limited hand strength or dexterity. Fountains will be recessed, to avoid protruding into the path of travel. Angled recessed alcove designs allow more flexibility and require less precision by a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Providing accessible signage with a tactile attention indicator tile will help those who with vision loss to find the fountain.

90. Layout

  1. a) The main office where visitors and others need to report to upon entering the building shall always be located on the same level as the entrance, as close to the entrance as possible. If the path of travel to the office crosses a large open area, a tactile directional indicator path shall lead from the main entrance(s) to the office ID signage next to the office door.
  2. b) All classrooms and or public destinations shall be on the ground floor. Where this is not possible, at least 2 elevators should be provided to access all other levels. Where the building is long and spread out, travel distance to elevators should be considered to reduce extra time needed for students and staff or others who use the elevators instead of the stairs. If feature stairs (staircases included in whole or in part for design aesthetics) are included, elevators shall be co-located and just as prominent as the stairs
  3. c) Corridors should meet at 90-degree angles. Floor layouts from floor to floor should be consistent and predictable so the room number line up and are the same with the floors above and below along with the washrooms
  4. d) Multi-stall washrooms shall always place the women’s washroom on the right and the men’s washroom on the left. No labyrinth entrances shall be used. Universal washrooms shall be co-located immediately adjacent to the stall washrooms, in a location that is consistent and predictable throughout the building

91. Facilities

  1. a) The entry doors to each type of facility within a building should be accessible, colour contrasted, obvious and prominent and designed as part of the wayfinding system including accessible signage that is co-located with power door openers controls.
  2. b) Tactile attention indicator tile will be placed on the floor in front of the accessible ID signage at each room or facility type. Where a room or facility entrance is placed off of a large interior open area

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Circulation Recommendations

The following should be required:

92. Elevators

  1. a) Elevator Doors will provide a clear width to allow a stretcher and larger mobility devices to get in and out
  2. b) Doors will have sensors so doors will auto open if the doorway is blocked
  3. c) Elevators will be installed in pairs so that when one is out of service for repair or maintenance, there is an alternative available.
  4. d) Elevators will be sized at allow at least two mobility device users and two non-mobility devices users to be in the elevator at the same time. This should also allow for a wide stretcher in case of emergency.
  5. e) Assistive listening will be available in each elevator to help make the audible announcements heard by those using hearing aids
  6. f) Emergency button on the elevator’s control panel will also provide 2-way communication with video and scrolling text and a keyboard for people who are deaf or who have other communication disabilities
  7. g) Inside the elevators will be additional horizontal buttons on the side wall in case there is not enough room for a person using a mobility aid to push the typical vertical buttons along the wall beside the door. If there are only two floors the elevator will only provide the door open, close and emergency call buttons and the elevator will automatically move to the floor it is not on.
  8. h) The words spoken in the elevator’s voice announcement of the floor will be the same as the braille and print floor markings, so the button shows 1 as a number, 1 in braille and the voice says first floor not G for Ground with M in braille and voice says first floor.)
  9. i) Ensure the star symbol for each elevator matches ground level appropriate to the elevator. The star symbol indicates the floor the elevator will return to in an emergency. This means users in the elevator will open closest to the available accessible exit. If the entrance on the north side is on the second floor, the star symbol in that elevator will be next to the button that says 2. If the entrance on the south side of the building is on the 1st floor, the star symbol will be next to the button that says 1.
  10. j) The voice on the elevator shall be set at a volume that is audible above typical noise levels while the elevator is in use, so that people on the elevator can easily hear the audible floor announcements.
  11. k) Lighting levels inside the elevator will match the lighting at the elevator lobbies. Lighting will be measured at the ground level
  12. l) Elevators will provide colour contrast between the floor and the walls inside the cab and between the frame of the door or the doors with the wall surrounding in the elevator lobbies. Vinyl peel and stick sheets or paint will be used to cover the shiny metal which creates glare. Vinyl sheets will be plain to ensure the door looks like a door, and not like advertising
  13. m) In a retrofit situation where adding 2 elevators is not technically possible without undue hardship, platform lifts may be considered. Elevators that are used by all facility users are preferred to platform lifts which tend to segregate persons with disabilities and which limit space at entrance and stair locations. Furthermore, independent access is often compromised by such platform lifts, because platform lifts are often requiring a key to operate. Whenever possible, integrated elevator access should be incorporated to avoid the use of lifts.

93. Ramps

  1. a) A properly designed ramp can provide wait-free access for those using wheelchairs or scooters, pushing strollers or moving packages on a trolley or those who are using sign language to communicate and don’t want to stop talking as they climb stairs.
  2. b) A ramp’s textured surfaces, edge protection and handrails all provide important safety features.
  3. c) On outdoor ramps, heated surfaces shall be provided to address the safety concerns associated with snow and ice.
  4. d) Ramps shall only be used where the height difference between levels is no more than 1m (4ft). Longer ramps take up too much space and are too tiring for many users. Where a height difference is more than 1m in height, elevators will be provided instead.
  5. e) Landings will be sized to allow a large mobility device or scooter to make a 360 degree turn and/or for two people with mobility assistive devices or guide dogs to pass
  6. f) Slopes inside the building will be no higher than is permitted for exterior ramps in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s Design of Public Spaces Standard, to ensure usability without making the ramp too long.
  7. g) Curved ramps will not be used, because the cross slope at the turn is hard to navigate and a tipping hazard for many people.
  8. h) Colour and texture contrast will be provided to differentiate the full slope from any level landings. Tactile attention domes shall not be used at ramps, because they are meant only for stairs and for drop-off edges like at stages

94. Stairs

  1. a) Stairs that are comfortable for many adults may be challenging for children, seniors or persons of short stature.
  2. b) The leading edge of each step (aka nosing) shall not present tripping hazards, particularly to persons with prosthetic devices or those using canes and will have a bright colour contrast to the rest of the horizontal step surface.
  3. c) Each stair in a staircase will use the same height and depth, to avoid creating tripping hazards
  4. d) The rise between stairs will always be smooth, so that shoes will not catch on an abrupt edge causing a tripping hazard. These spaces will always be closed as open stairs create a tripping hazard.

The top of all stair entry points will have a tactile attention indicator surface, to ensure the drop-off is identified for those who are blind or distracted.

  1. e) Handrails will aid all users navigating stairways safely. Handrails will be provided on both sides of all stairs and will be provided at both the traditional height as well as a second lower rail for children or people who are shorter. These will be in a high colour contrasting colour and round in shape, without sharp edges or interruptions.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Washroom Facilities Recommendations

The following should be required:

95. General Washroom Requirements

  1. a) Washroom facilities will accommodate the range of people that will use the space. Although many persons with disabilities use toilet facilities independently, some may require assistance. Where the individual providing assistance is of the opposite gender then typical gender-specific washrooms are awkward, and so an individual washroom is required.
  2. b) Parents and caregivers with small children and strollers also benefit from a large, individual washroom with toilet and change facilities contained within the same space.
  3. c) Circumstances such as wet surfaces and the act of transferring between toilet and wheelchair or scooter can make toilet facilities accident-prone areas. An individual falling in a washroom with a door that swings inward could prevent his or her own rescuers from opening the door. Due to the risk of accidents, emergency call buttons are vital in all washrooms.
  4. d) The appropriate design of all features will ensure the usability and safety of all toilet facilities.
  5. e) The identification of washrooms will include pictograms for children or people who cannot read. All signage will include braille that translates the text on the print sign, and not only the room number.
  6. f) There are three types of washrooms. Single use accessible washrooms, single use universal washrooms, and multi-use stalled washrooms. The number and types of washrooms used in a facility will be determined by the number of users. There will always at least be one universal washroom on each floor.
  7. g) All washrooms will have doors with power door opening buttons. No door washrooms will be hard to identify for people who have vision loss.
  8. h) Stall washrooms accessible sized stalls – At least 2 accessible stalls shall be provided in each washroom to avoid long wait times. Schools with accessible education programs that include a large percentage of people with mobility disabilities should to have all stalls sized to accommodate a turn circle and the transfer space beside the toilet.
  9. i) All washrooms near rooms that will be used for public events shall include a baby change table that is accessible to all users, not placed inside a stall. It shall be colour contrasted with the surroundings and usable for those in a seated mobility device and or of shorter stature.
  10. j) At least one universal washroom will include an adult sized change table, with the washroom located near appropriate facilities in the school and any public event spaces. These are important for some adults with disabilities and for children with disabilities who are too large for the baby change tables. This helps prevent anyone from needing to be changed lying on a bathroom floor.
  11. k) Where shower stalls are provided, these shall include accessible sized stalls.
  12. l) Portable Toilets at Special Events shall all be accessible. At least one will include an adult sized change table.
  1. Washroom Stalls
  2. a) Size: Manoeuvrability of a wheelchair or scooter is the principal consideration in the design of an accessible stall. The increased size of the stall is required to ensure there is sufficient space to facilitate proper placement of a wheelchair or scooter to accommodate a person transferring transfer onto the toilet from their mobility device. There may also be instances where an individual requires assistance. Thus, the stall will have to accommodate a second person.
  3. b) Stall Door swings are normally outward for safety reasons and space considerations. However, this makes it difficult to close the door once inside. A handle mounted part way along the door makes it easier for someone inside the stall to close the door behind them.
  4. c) Minimum requirements for non-accessible toilet stalls are included to ensure that persons who do not use wheelchairs or scooters can be adequately accommodated within any toilet stall.
  5. d) Universal features include accessible hardware and a minimum stall width to accommodate persons of large stature or parents with small children.
  6. Toilets
  7. a) Automatic flush controls are preferred. If flushing mechanisms are not automated, flushing controls shall be on the transfer side of the toilet, with colour contrasted and lever style handles.
  8. b) Children sized toilets and accessible child sized toilets will be required in kindergarten areas either within the classroom or immediately adjacent to the facilities.
  9. Sinks
  10. a) Each accessible sink shall be on an accessible path of travel that other people, using other sinks or features (like hand-dryers), are not positioned to block.
  11. b) The sink, sink controls, soap dispenser and towel dispenser should all be at an accessible height and location and should all be automatic controls that do not require physical contact.
  12. c) While faucets with remote-eye technology may initially confuse some individuals, their ease of use is notable. Individuals with hand strength or dexterity difficulties can use lever-style handles.
  13. d) For an individual in a wheelchair and younger children, a lower counter height and clearance for knees under the counter are required.
  14. e) The insulating of hot water pipes shall be assured to protect the legs of an individual using a wheelchair. This is particularly important when a disability impairs sensation such that the individual would not sense that their legs were being burned.
  15. f) The combination of shallow sinks and higher water pressures can cause unacceptable splashing at lavatories.
  1. Urinals
  2. a) Each urinal needs to be on an accessible path of travel with clear floor space in front of each accessible urinal to provide the manoeuvring space for a mobility device.
  3. b) Urinal grab bars shall be provided to assist individuals rising from a seated position and others to steady themselves.
  4. c) Floor-mounted urinals accommodate children and persons of short stature as well as enabling easier access to drain personal care devices.
  5. d) Flush controls, where used, will be automatic preferred. Strong colour contrasts shall be provided between the urinal, the wall and the floor to assist persons with vision loss/no vision.
  6. e) In stall washrooms with Urinals, all urinals will be accessible with lower rim heights. For primary schools the urinal should be full height from floor to upper rim to accommodate children. Stalled washrooms with urinals will have an upper rim at the same height as typical non-accessible urinals to avoid the mess taller users can make. All urinals will provide vertical grab bars which are colour contrasted to the walls. Where dividers between urinals are used, the dividers will be colour contrasted to the walls as well.
  1. Showers
  2. a) Roll-in or curb less shower stalls shall be provided to eliminate the hazard of stepping over a threshold and are essential for persons with disabilities who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices in the shower.
  3. b) Grab bars and non-slip materials shall be included as safety measures that will support any individual.
  4. c) Colour contrasted hand-held shower head and a water-resistant folding bench shall be included to assist persons with disabilities. These are also convenient for others.
  5. d) Other equipment that has contrasting colour from the shower stall shall be included to assist individuals with vision loss/no vision.
  6. e) Shower floor drain locations will be located to avoid room flooding when they may get blocked
  7. f) Colour contrast will be provided between the floor and the walls in the shower to assist with wayfinding
  8. g) Shower curtains will be used for individual showers instead of doors as much as possible as it
  9. h) Where showers are provided in locker rooms each locker room will include at least one accessible shower, but an additional individual shower room will be provided immediately adjacent to allow for those with opposite sex attendants to assist them with the appropriate privacy.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Specific Room Requirements Recommendations

101. Performance stages

The following should be required:

  1. a) Elevated platforms, such as stage areas, speaker podiums, etc., shall be accessible to all.
  2. b) A clear accessible route will be provided along the same path of access for those who are not using mobility assistive devices as those who do. Lifts will not be used to access stage or raised platforms, unless the facility is retrofitting an existing stage and it is not technically possible to provide access by other means.
  3. c) The stage shall include safety features to assist persons with vision loss or those momentarily blinded by stage lights from falling off the edge of a raised stage, such as a colour contrasted raised lip along the edge of the stage.
  4. d) Lecterns shall be accessible with an adjustable height surface, knee space and accessible audio visual (AV) and information technology (IT) equipment. Lecterns shall have a microphone that is connected to an assistive listening system, such as a hearing loop. The office and/or presentation area will have assistive listening units available for those who may request them, for example people who are hard of hearing but not yet wearing hearing aids.
  5. e) Lighting shall be adjustable to allow for a minimum of lighting in the public seating area and backstage to allow those who need to move or leave with sufficient lighting at floor level to be safe

102. Sensory Rooms

The following should be required:

  1. a) Sensory rooms will be provided in a central location on each floor where there are classrooms or public meeting spaces
  2. b) They will be soundproof and identified with accessible signage
  3. c) The interior walls and floor will be darker in colour, but colour contrast will be used to distinctly differentiate the floor from the wall and the furniture
  4. d) Lighting will be provided on a dimmer to allow for the room to be darkened
  5. e) Weighted blankets will be available along with a variety of different seating options including beanbag chairs or bouncy seat balls
  6. f) They will provide a phone or other 2-way communication to call for assistance if needed

103. Offices, Work Areas, and Meeting Rooms

The following should be required:

  1. a) Offices providing services or programs to the public will be accessible to all, regardless of mobility or functional needs. Offices and related support areas shall be accessible to staff and visitors with disabilities.
  2. b) All people, but particularly those with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing, will benefit from having a quiet acoustic environment – background noise from mechanical equipment such as fans, shall be designed to be minimal. Telephone equipment that supports the needs of individuals with hearing and vision loss shall be available.
  3. c) The provision of assistive speaking devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. Where offices and work areas and small meeting rooms do not have assistive listening, such as hearing loops permanently installed, portable assistive hearing loops shall be available at the office
  4. d) Tables and workstations shall provide the knee space requirements of an individual in a mobility assistive device. Adjustable height tables allow for a full range of user needs. Circulation areas shall accommodate the spatial needs of mobility equipment as large as scooters to ensure all areas and facilities in the space can be reached with appropriate manoeuvring and turning spaces.
  5. e) Natural coloured task lighting, such as that provided through halogen bulbs, shall be used wherever possible to facilitate use by all, especially persons with low vision.
  6. f) In locations where reflective glare may be problematic, such as large expanses of glass with reflective flooring, blinds that can be louvered upwards shall be provided. Controls for blinds shall be accessible to all and usable with a closed fist without pinching or twisting

104. Outdoor Athletic and Recreational Facilities

The following should be required:

  1. a) Areas for outdoor recreation, leisure and active sport participation shall be designed to be available to all members of the school community.
  2. b) Outdoor spaces will allow persons with a disability to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff. Spaces will be accessible including boardwalks, trails and footbridges, pathways, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, grandstand and other viewing areas, and playing fields
  3. c) Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
  4. d) Noise cancelling headphones shall be available to those with sensory disabilities.
  5. e) Outdoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities undergoing rehabilitation.
  6. f) Seating and like facilities shall be inclusive and allow for all members of a disabled sports team to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.
  7. g) Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of persons with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.

105. Arenas, Halls and Other Indoor Recreational Facilities

The following should be required:

  1. a) Areas for recreation, leisure and active sport participation will be accessible to all members of the community.
  2. b) Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
  3. c) Noise cancelling headphones will be available to those with sensory disabilities.
  4. d) Access will be provided throughout outdoor facilities including to; playing fields and other sports facilities, all activity areas, outdoor trails, swimming areas, play spaces, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
  5. e) Interior access will be provided to halls, arenas, and other sports facilities, including access to the site, all activity spaces, gymnasia, fitness facilities, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
  6. f) Spaces will allow persons with disabilities to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff.
  7. g) Indoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities who are undergoing rehabilitation.
  8. h) Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of persons with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate or stigmatize anyone.

106. Swimming Pools

The following should be required:

  1. a) Primary considerations for accommodating persons who have mobility impairments include accessible change facilities and a means of access into the water. Ramped access into the water is preferred over lift access, as it promotes integration (everyone will use the ramp) and independence.
  2. b) Persons with low vision benefit from colour and textural surfaces that are detectable and safe for both bare feet or those wearing water shoes. These surfaces will be provided along primary routes of travel leading to access points such as pool access ladders and ramps.
  3. c) Tactile surface markings and other barriers will be provided at potentially dangerous locations, such as the edge of the pool, at steps into the pool and at railings.
  4. d) Floors will be slip resistant to help those who are unsteady on their feet and everyone even in wet conditions.

107. Cafeterias

The following should be required:

  1. a) Cafeteria serving lines and seating area designs shall reflect the lower sight lines, reduced reach, knee-space and manoeuvring requirements of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Patrons using mobility devices may not be able to hold a tray or food items while supporting themselves on canes or while manoeuvring a wheelchair.
  2. b) If tray slides are provided, they will be designed to move trays with minimal effort.
  3. c) Food signage will be accessible.
  4. d) All areas where food is ordered and picked up will be designed to meet accessible service counter requirements
  5. e) Self serve food will be within the reach of people who are shorter or using seated mobility assistive devices
  6. f) Where trays are provided, a tray cart that can be attached to seated assistive mobility devices or a staff assistant solution that is readily available shall be available on demand, because carrying trays and pushing a chair or operating a motorized assistive device can be difficult or impossible.

108. Libraries

The following should be required:

  1. a) All service counters shall provide accessibility features
  2. b) Study carrels will accommodate the knee-space and armrest requirements of a person using a mobility device.
  3. c) Computer catalogues, carrels and workstations will be provided at a range of heights, to accommodate persons who are standing or sitting, as well as children of different ages and sizes.
  4. d) Workstations shall be equipped with assistive technology such as large displays, screen readers, to increase the accessibility of a library.
  5. e) Book drop-off slots shall be at different heights for standing and seated use with accessible signage, to enhance usability.

109. Teaching Spaces and Classrooms

The following should be required:

  1. a) Students, teachers and staff with disabilities will have accessibility to teaching and classroom facilities, including teaching computer labs.
  2. b) All teaching spaces and classrooms will provide power door operators and assistive listening systems such as hearing loops
  3. c) Additional considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features specifically designated for use by students with disabilities, such as accessibility standard accommodations for complex personal care needs.
  4. d) Students, teachers and staff with disabilities will be accommodated in all teaching spaces throughout the school.
  5. e) This accessibility will include the ability to enter and move freely throughout the space, as well as to use the various built-in elements within (i.e. blackboards and/or whiteboards, switches, computer stations, sinks, etc.). Classroom and meeting rooms must be designed with enough room for people with mobility devices to comfortably move around.
  6. f) Individuals with disabilities frequently use learning aids and other assistive devices that require a power supply. Additional electrical outlets shall be provided throughout teaching spaces to -accommodate the use of such equipment.
  7. g) Except where it is impossible, fixtures, fittings, furniture and equipment will be specified for teaching spaces, which is usable by students, faculty, teaching assistants and staff with disabilities.
  8. h) Providing only one size of seating does not reflect the diversity of body types of our society. Offering seats with an increased width and weight capacity is helpful for persons of large stature. Seating with increased legroom will better suit individuals that are taller. Removable armrests can be helpful for persons of larger stature as well as individuals using wheelchairs that prefer to transfer to the seat.
  1. Laboratories will provide, in addition to the requirements for classrooms, additional accessibility considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features in laboratories.

111. Waiting and Queuing Areas

The following should be required:

  1. a) Queuing areas for information, tickets or services will permit persons who use wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices as well as for persons with a varying range of user ability to easily move through the line safely.
  2. b) All lines shall be accessible.
  3. c) Waiting and queuing areas will provide space for mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and scooters.
  4. d) Queuing lines that turn corners or double back on themselves will provide adequate space to manoeuvre mobility devices.
  5. e) Handrails, not flexible guidelines, with high colour contrast will be provided along queuing lines, because they are a useful support for individuals and guidance for those with vision loss.
  6. f) Benches in waiting areas shall be provided for individuals who may have difficulty with standing for extended periods.
  7. g) Assistive listening systems will be provided, such as hearing loops, will be provided along with accessible signage indicating this service is available.

112. Information, Reception and Service Counters

The following should be required:

  1. a) All information, reception and service counters will be accessible to the full range of visitors. Where adjustable height furniture is not used, a choice of fixed counter heights will provide a range of options for a variety of persons. Lowered sections will serve children, persons of short stature and persons using mobility devices such as a wheelchair or scooter. The choice of heights will also extend to any speaking ports and writing surfaces.
  2. b) Counters will provide knee space under the counter to accommodate a person using a wheelchair or a scooter.
  3. c) The provision of assistive speaking and listening devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. The space where people are speaking will have appropriate acoustic treatment to ensure the best possible conditions for communication. Both the public and staff sides of the counter will have good lighting for the faces to help facilitate lip reading.
  4. d) Colour contrast will be provided to delineate the public service counters and speaking ports for people with low vision.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Other Features Recommendations

113. Lockers

The following should be required:

  1. a) Lockers will be accessible with colour contrast and accessible signage
  2. b) In change rooms an accessible bench will be provided in close proximity to lockers.
  3. c) Lockers at lower heights serve the reach of children or a person using a wheelchair or scooter.
  4. d) The locker operating mechanisms will be at an appropriate height and operable by individuals with restrictions in hand dexterity (i.e. operable with a closed fist).

114. Storage, Shelving and Display Units

The following should be required:

  1. a) The heights of storage, shelving and display units will address a full range of vantage points including the lower sightlines of children or a person using a wheelchair or scooter. The lower heights also serve the lower reach of these individuals.
  2. b) Displays and storage along a path of travel that are too low can be problematic for individuals that have difficulty bending down or who are blind. If these protrude too much into the path of travel, each will protect people with the use of a trip free cane detectable guard.
  3. c) Appropriate lighting and colour contrast are particularly important for persons with vision loss.
  4. d) Signage provided will be accessible with braille, text, colour contrast and tactile features.

115. Public Address Systems

The following should be required:

  1. a) Public address systems will be designed to best accommodate all users, especially those that may be hard of hearing. They will be easy to hear above the ambient background noise of the environment with no distortion or feedback. Background noise or music will be minimized.
  2. b) Technology for visual equivalents of information being broadcast will be available for individuals with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing who may not hear an audible public address system.
  3. c) Classrooms, library, hallways, and other areas will have assistive listening equipment that is tied into the general public address system.

116. Emergency Exits, Fire Evacuation and Areas of Rescue Assistance

The following should be required:

116.1 In order to be accessible to all individuals, emergency exits will include the same accessibility features as other doors. The doors and routes will be marked in a way that is accessible to all individuals, including those who may have difficulty with literacy, such as children or persons speaking a different language.

116.2 Persons with vision loss/no vision will be provided a means to quickly locate exits – audio or talking signs could assist.

116.3 Areas of Rescue Assistance

  1. a) In the event of fire when elevators cannot be used, areas of rescue assistance shall be provided especially for anyone who has difficulty traversing sets of stairs.
  2. b) Areas of rescue assistance will be provided on all floors above or below the ground floor.
  3. c) Exit stairs will provide an area of rescue assistance on the landing with at least two spaces for people with mobility assistive devices sized to ensure those spaces do not block the exit route for those using the stairs.
  4. d) The number of spaces necessary on each floor that does not have a at grade exit should be sized by the number of people on each floor.
  5. e) Each area of refuge will provide a 2-way communication system with both 2-way video and audio to allow those using these spaces to communicate that they are waiting there and to communicate with fire safety services and or security.
  6. f) All signage associated with the area of rescue assistance will be accessible and include braille for all controls and information.

117. Other Features

The following should be required:

117.1 Space and Reach Requirements

  1. a) The dimensions and manoeuvring characteristics of wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices will allow for a full array of equipment that is used by individuals to access and use facilities, as well as the diverse range of user ability.

117.2 Ground and Floor Surfaces

  1. a) Irregular surfaces, such as cobblestones or pea-gravel finished concrete, shall be avoided because they are difficult for both walking and pushing a wheelchair. Slippery surfaces are to be avoided because they are hazardous to all individuals and especially hazardous for seniors and others who may not be sure-footed.
  2. b) Glare from polished floor surfaces is to be avoided because it can be uncomfortable for all users and can be a particular obstacle to persons with vision loss by obscuring important orientation and safety features. Pronounced colour contrast between walls and floor finishes are helpful for persons with vision loss, as are changes in colour/texture where a change in level or function occurs.
  3. c) Patterned floors should be avoided, as they can create visual confusion.
  4. d) Thick pile carpeting is to be avoided as it makes pushing a wheelchair very difficult. Small and uneven changes in floor level represent a further barrier to using a wheelchair and present a tripping hazard to ambulatory persons.
  5. e) Openings in any ground or floor surface such as grates or grilles are to be avoided because they can catch canes or wheelchair wheels.

118. Universal Design Practices beyond Typical Accessibility Requirements

The following should be required:

118.1 Areas of refuge should be provided even when a building has a sprinkler system.

118.2 No hangout steps* should ever be included in the building or facility.

* Hangout steps are a socializing area that is sometimes used for presentations. It looks similar to bleachers. Each seating level is further away from the front and higher up but here people sit on the floor rather than on seats. Each seating level is about as deep as four stairs and about 3 stairs high. There is typically a regular staircase provided on one side that leads from the front or stage area to the back at the top. The stairs allow ambulatory people access to all levels of the seating areas, but the only seating spaces for those who use mobility assistive devices are at the front or at the top at the back, but these are not integrated in any way with the other seating options.

118.3 There should never be “stramps”. A stramp is a staircase that someone has built a ramp running back and forth across. These create accessibility problems rather than solving them

118.4 Rest areas should be differentiated from walking surfaces or paths by texture- and colour-contrast

118.5 Keypads angled to be usable from both a standing and a seated position

118.6 Finishes

  1. a) No floor-to-ceiling mirrors
  2. b) Colour luminance contrast will be provided at least between:
  3. Floor to wall
  4. Door or door frame to wall

iii. Door hardware to door

  1. Controls to wall surfaces

118.7 Furniture – Arrange seating in square or round arrangement so all participants can see each other for those who are lip reading or using sign language

118.8 No sharp corners especially near turn circles or under surfaces where people will be sitting

119. Requirements for Public Playgrounds on or Adjacent to School Property

The following should be required:

119.1 Accessible path of travel from sidewalk and entry points to and throughout the play space. Tactile directional indicators would help as integrated path through large open spaces

119.2 Accessible controlled access routes into and out of the play space

119.3 Multiple ways to use and access play equipment

119.4 A mix of ground-level equipment integrated with elevated equipment accessible by a ramp or transfer platform

119.5 Where stairs are provided, ramps to same area

119.6 No overhead hazards

119.7 Ramp landings, elevated decks and other areas should provide sufficient turning space for mobility devices and include fun plan activities not just a view

119.8 Space to park wheelchairs and mobility devices beside transfer platforms

119.9 Space for a caregiver to sit beside a child on a slide or other play element

119.10 Provide elements that can be manipulated with limited exertion

119.11 Avoid recurring scraping or sharp clanging sounds such as the sound of dropping stones and gravel

119.12 Avoid shiny surfaces as they produce a glare

119.13 Colour luminance contrast will be provided at least at:

  1. a) Different spaces throughout the play area
  2. b) Differentiate the rise and run on steps. Include colour contrasting on the edge of each step
  3. c) Play space boundaries and areas where children should be cautious, such as around high traffic areas e.g. slide exits
  4. d) Entry to play areas with shorter doors to help avoid hitting heads
  5. e) Tactile edges where there is a level change like at the top of the stairs or at a drop-off
  6. f) Transfer platforms
  7. g) Railings and handrails contrasted to the supports to make them easier to find
  8. h) Tripping hazards should be avoided but if they exist, providing colour contrast, to improve safety for all. This is more likely in an older playground
  9. i) Safe zones around swings, slide exits and other play areas where people are moving, that might not be noticed when people are moving around the playground

119.14 Play Surfacing Materials Under Foot will be pour-in-place rubber surfacing that should be made of either

  1. a) Rubber Tile
  2. b) Engineered wood fiber
  3. c) Engineered carpet, artificial turf, and crushed rubber products
  4. d) Sand

119.15 Accessible Parking and Curbs, where provided, at least one clearly marked accessible space positioned as close as possible to the playground on a safe, accessible route to the play space

119.16 Accessible Signage

  1. a) Accessible signage and raised line map at each entrance to the park
  2. b) Provide large colour contrasted text, pictograms, braille
  3. c) provide signage at each play element with ID text and braille, marked with a Tactile attention paver to make it easier to find
  4. d) Identify the types of disability included at each play equipment/area

119.17 For Caregivers

  1. a) Junior and senior play equipment within easy viewing of each other
  2. b) Sitting areas that offer a clear line of sight to play areas and equipment
  3. c) Clear lines of sight throughout the play space
  4. d) Access to all play areas in order to provide assistance
  5. e) Sitting areas with back support, arm rests and shade
  6. f) Benches and other sitting areas should be placed on a firm stable area for people using assistive devices such as wheelchairs.

119.18 For Service Animals

  1. a) Nearby safe, shady places at rest area benches where service animals can wait with a caregiver with a clear view of their handlers when they are not assisting them
  2. b) Spaces where dogs can relive themselves – dog relief area with nearby garbage can

119.19 Tips for Swings

  1. a) Providing a safe boundary area around swings which is identified by surface material colour and texture
  2. b) Swings in a variety of sizes
  3. c) Accessible seat swings or basket swings that require transfer. If size and space allow provide two accessible swings for friends with disabilities to swing together

Platform swings eliminate the need to transfer should be integrated

119.20 Tips for Slides

  1. a) Double Slides (side by side) allow caregivers to accompany and, if needed, to offer support
  2. b) Slide exits should not be directed into busy play areas
  3. c) Transfer platforms at the base of slide exits
  4. d) Seating spaces with back support adjacent to the slide exit where children/caregivers can wait for their mobility device to be retrieved
  5. e) Metal versus Plastic Slides (Metal slides avoid static electricity which damaged cochlear implants, while sun exposure can leave metal slide hot, so shade devices are vital)
  6. f) Roller slides are usually gentler in slope and provide both a tactile and sliding experience or an Avalanche Inclusive Slide

Appendix 2: List of the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee

  1. Wherever the Initial Report recommends the creation of a standard or the development of a policy or guideline, such a standard, policy or guideline should be mandatory and should be spelled out in detail in the Education Accessibility Standard, rather than delegating authority to create it to some organization or department.
  1. Wherever the Education Accessibility Standard will require colleges and universities to file a document or data with the Government, or to make public any document, report, or data, it should also require that these be submitted electronically to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in an accessible format. The Standard should also require the Accessibility Directorate to make those documents, reports or data public on a publicly searchable database or hub.
  2. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee should endorse and echo the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial’ Report’s recommendations on enforcement of the AODA, with necessary changes to tailor them to the context of colleges and universities.
  1. The Initial Report should be revised to add that where the Education Accessibility Standard refers to “students with disabilities “, this should include any student who has any kind of disability, including, for example, any kind of physical, mental, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health, communication, neurological, neurobehavioural or other kind of disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  2. The Standards Development Committee’s final report itself and not just the chair’s transmission letter should recommend that the Postsecondary Education Accessibility Standard apply to all other post-secondary educational contexts, such as privately funded colleges and universities and job training programs.
  3. The long term objective of the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that by 2025, post-secondary education in Ontario will be fully accessible and barrier-free for students with disabilities:
  1. By removing and preventing accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities from fully participating in, being fully included in, and fully benefitting from all aspects of post-secondary education in Ontario, and
  2. By providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process for students with disabilities to learn about and seek programs, services, supports, accommodations and placements tailored to the individual strengths and needs of each student with disabilities.”
  3. Eliminating or substantially reducing the need for students with disabilities to have to fight against post-secondary education accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for post-secondary education organizations to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one education program at a time.
  1. The Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (training) should be amended to include training on the duties of post-secondary institutions to people with disabilities under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and especially s. 15 (equality rights).
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (Training) should be revised to either remove the statement that post-secondary institutions should not pay for disability accessibility/inclusion training, or to clarify that the Ontario Government should not charge a fee for providing such training to those obligated organizations.
  3.  The Initial Report’s Training recommendations, Recommendations 20 and following, should be revised to explicitly require training on the duty to accommodate students and employees with disabilities, and to direct that this training begin immediately, using resources that are now readily available for free.
  4.             “Recommendation 29: Facilities Management/Design/Construction staff” Should be amended to require that training of those responsible for facilities at post-secondary institutions and those who design such facilities should be required to include direct live training from people with disabilities who have suffered from post-secondary institutions’ built environment barriers, and should include video depictions of such barriers, such as the AODA Alliance’s videos available at https://youtu.be/4oe4xiKknt0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgfrum7e-_0&t=87s
  5. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require up-to-date training on the creation of accessible digital content, such as in online posts and electronic documents, especially for course instructors and anyone else who creates digital content for use by students and others in the post-secondary community. This training should make it clear that if a document is posted or circulated in pdf, it must also be posted or circulated in MS Word and/or html.
  6.  The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require that college or university staff involved in the procurement of any technology or equipment be required to be trained on technology accessibility needs and requirements.
  7. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that:
  1. Each post-secondary education organization should provide teaching coaches with expertise in universal design in learning and differential instruction to support instructional staff.
  2. The Ontario Government should create templates or models for the training of college and university instructors on universal design in learning and differential instruction, so that each post-secondary education organization does not have to reinvent the wheel in this context.
  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations on curriculum, assessment and instruction (Recommendations 31 and following) should be expanded
  1. to identify that a key systemic barrier is the fact that course instructors need not be able to teach, or to teach students with disabilities, to be hired, and to make recommendations for training existing instructor in this area, and
  2. to require such qualifications in the future for recruiting and promoting future faculty.
  1. The Initial Report, including recommendations such as Recommendation 38, should be revised to make it clear that whether or not the Ontario Government supplements their funding, they must fulfil their decades-old obligations to students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.
  2. To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each post-secondary education organization should:
  1. Promptly survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their instructional staff, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  2. Establish a dedicated office or resource within the post-secondary education organization, or shared among post-secondary education organizations, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis. A student should not be required to show proof that they own a hard copy of an item to be able to get it in an accessible format.
  3. The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ontario Government to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across post-secondary education organizations.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 57 should be explained and clarified, or removed.
  2. Every post-secondary education organization should be required to review its admission criteria for gaining admission to any of its post-secondary education programs, to identify any barriers that would impede otherwise-qualified students with disabilities from admission, and shall adjust those criteria to either:
  1. Remove the admission criteria that constitute a barrier to admission, or
  2. Provide an alternative method for assessing students with disabilities for admission to the program.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 65 should be amended to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard, and not the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, should adopt clear and consistent definitions across the education sector for key terms relating to digital learning and technology.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 68 and following, regarding accessible technology, should be revised to:
  1. require that the Education Accessibility Standard itself set specific requirements for accessible technology, and
  2. require that each obligated organization submit its accessibility plan to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, which the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario would then be required to post online in a searchable accessible public online hub.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 76 should be revised to make it mandatory for each college and university to appoint an accessible digital technology lead.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 87 should be revised to eliminate “phase two”, which now provides:

“phase 2: postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for the creation of accessible PDFs to the PDF/UA 1 /ISO 14289 standard. Following this date, any document provided as a PDF must meet this international standard. However, to phase in this requirement it is expected that postsecondary institutions continue to publish PDF-based digital content to be as accessible as their training and applications permit, even if an accessible alternative is provided. This will lessen any remediation costs if there is a need to go back and ensure that currently produced PDFs meet the PDF/UA 1/ISO 14289 standard. This will also demonstrate the postsecondary institutions’ commitment and progress towards creating accessible PDFs.”

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 88 should be removed.
  2. The Initial Report should be expanded to recommend that the Education Accessibility Standard will require each post-secondary education organization to ensure that its information technology support and help staff includes specialists in access technology, and that students with disabilities get prompt access to IT support when needed.
  3. The Initial Report should be revised to require that
  1. Only accessible conference and remote class platforms may be used.
  2. the Ontario Government should be required to report semi-annually to the public and to colleges and universities on the comparative accessibility of different virtual meeting and teaching platforms, so that colleges and universities do not have to repeat the same investigations.
  3. Even when classes are taught in person, students with disabilities should have the option of attending virtually via an accessible virtual meeting platform, where this accommodation would be helpful to them because of their disability.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require that any learning management system only be procured and used if it is accessible, and for all its accessibility features to be locked in the “on” position so that they cannot be turned off.
  2. The Initial Report should be expanded to ban the use of inaccessible electronic kiosks, electronic point-of-sale devices and restaurant tablet ordering technology at any colleges and universities.
  3. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 91 (Access to Disability Accommodation Information) should be expanded to ensure that the Education Accessibility Standard requires:
  1. The post-secondary education organization’s interactive voice response system for receiving incoming phone calls should announce to all callers the organization’s commitment to accommodate students with disabilities and the number to press to get introductory information about how to seek such.
  2. Programming handouts and broadcast email communications to incoming students should include similar general information.
  3. the post-secondary education organization’s broadcast email announcements and other communications to the student population should include summary information to this effect with relevant links.
  4. Classroom instructors should make announcements in their first week of classes to this effect.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 92 should be revised to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard itself should set a clear set of barrier-free requirements regarding a student’s documenting an academic accommodation need. For example, a student should not be required to re-document their disability each year, where it is a permanent or long term disability.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 should be amended to explicitly require that colleges and universities tell students with disabilities, as soon as possible, about the institution’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities.
  3. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94-95 be revised to set out specific accessibility requirements for colleges and universities in such areas as classrooms, libraries, common areas, online learning tools including accessible software, tests/examinations, internships, practica, co-ops, field placements, apprenticeships, work-integrated learning, other experiential learning that are part of their academic program of study, request for priority enrollment in a course, and accessible housing placement. For example, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a post-secondary education organization’s experiential learning programs, each such organization should:
  1. Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers;
  2. Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate are available;
  3. Ensure that its partner organizations that accept students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities;
  4. Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements;
  5. Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation; and
  6. Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 and following should be revised to:
  1. Require obligated organizations to review their accommodation procedures for systemic barriers, such as a ban on recording classes to which an exception must be sought through the accommodation process; and
  2. Require that those disability barriers be removed and prevented.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 98 (Disability Accommodation Caseload – Reporting) be revised to require that each college or university disability accommodation caseloads be reported to The Government, with The Government being required to publish these online annually on an institution-by-institution basis, and as provincial aggregations or averages.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 99 (Accessibility Lens) be removed and replaced with specific recommendations on the recurring disability barriers to be removed and prevented, and what must be done to remove and prevent them.
  3. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 104-16 ((Accessible Procurement Policies and Procedures) should be revised to require that the accessible procurement standards are mandatory, include detailed specifics, are more robust than the current section 5 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, and require public accountability/reporting to ensure that they can be effectively monitored and enforced.
  4. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 108-110 (Handling Accommodation Requests) should be expanded to spell out mandatory baseline requirements for student accommodation request procedures, so that each college or university does not have to re-design their own procedures, and which:
  1. Require the de-bureaucratizing of the handling of accommodation requests by students;
  2. Require a fast-track process for routine accommodation requests which are suitable for such a process;
  3. Require a separate track for more unusual or complex requests to be addressed in an effective and time-sensitive way; and
  4. Ensure that if the student had an Individual Education Plan (IEP) from an Ontario school, or a finding by an Ontario school board’s Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) that identified them as having a disability (exceptionality), or a comparable form of documentation from another jurisdiction, then the post-secondary education organization should treat that as sufficient proof that the student has a disability, without requiring further assessments or proof, unless the post-secondary education organization has independent proof showing that the student no longer has that disability. In that case, the post-secondary education organization shall provide the student with that proof and shall provide the student with an opportunity to demonstrate that they have a disability-related accommodation need. The student’s IEP should not be treated as a ceiling on what a person can request, since a person’s accommodations needs may be different in the postsecondary environment.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 111-113 (Service Animals) should be revised to replace the term “service animals and support animals” with the more accurate term “service animals, including support animals.”
  2. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a permanent committee of its governing board of directors or trustees to be called the “Accessibility Committee”. This Accessibility Committee should have responsibility and authority to oversee the organization’s compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as far as they guarantee the right of students with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the education programs and opportunities that the organization provides.
  3. The Standards Development Committee should recommend that any equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy at any college or university should be reviewed and, where needed, revised to ensure that disability is a full and equal target and focus of that strategy.
  4. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a committee of those employees and volunteers with disabilities who wish to join, to give the organization’s senior management feedback on the barriers in the organization that could impede employees or students with disabilities.
  5. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 127-128 should be revised to recommend
  1. The adoption of the Education Accessibility Standards of the OCAD University Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS) https://www.ocadu.ca/sites/default/files/2021-06/OCADU_FADS_21-05-26.pdf enriched by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s built environment recommendations; and
  2. Set standards for accessibility of the furniture in the premises of colleges and universities.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 139 (Identify Barriers and Provide Accommodations) should be revised to remove an incorrect suggestion that zoning bylaws or heritage designation are a legal bar to implementing accessibility in a building.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 153 (Signage and Wayfinding) should be revised to:
  1. Invoke the OCAD University FADS standard for signage and way-finding, instead of those by Brock University; and
  2. Require that each campus review its indoor and outdoor property for effective cane-detectable way-finding, and institute such way-finding if inadequate or non-existent.
  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations regarding the built environment should be expanded to require that, where possible, a post-secondary education organization should not renovate an existing facility that lacks disability accessibility, unless the organization has a plan to also make that facility accessible. For example, a post-secondary education organization should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a facility which is inaccessible, if the organization does not have a plan to make that second storey disability-accessible. Very pressing health and safety concerns should be the only reason for any exception to this.
  2. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to require that each post-secondary education organization:
  1. Take inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor gym, sports, athletic and like equipment and spaces, and make this public, including posting this information online;
  2. Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of existing gym, sports, athletic or other like equipment or spaces, in consultation with students with disabilities; and
  3. Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that the purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing equipment or spaces is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the post-secondary education organization.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to include, in its built environment recommendations, specific mandatory requirements at all colleges and universities to ensure that snow-shoveling creates no disability barriers and is sufficient to enable people with disabilities to navigate the campus.
  2. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to include indoor air quality requirements for persons for whom this can create disability barriers.
  3. The Initial Report should be revised to require each college or university to create and make available an up-to-date guide on the accessibility features in its built environment, such as electric door openers and ramps.
  4. The Initial Report should be revised to:
  1. Ensure that students with disabilities have available an earlier or accelerated process for getting their course selections confirmed; and
  2. Have in place a mandatory process for the college or university to make priority re-assignment of any classes from inaccessible classrooms to accessible classrooms, where needed.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require each college and university to:
  1. Ensure to the extent possible that construction projects on campus do not block accessible paths of travel, and accessibility features such as ramps and accessible doors; and
  2. Maintain a publicly-accessible up-to-date web page or other easily-accessed public announcement of the location and expected timing of construction projects that may impede accessible travel.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to specifically require that the venue of graduation ceremonies be accessible to students, family members, friends and staff members with disabilities, including the graduation platform.
  2. The Education Accessibility Standard require that the Ontario Government ensure that public funds are never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers in the built environment.
  3. The Ontario Government be required to revise its funding criteria for construction of facilities at a post-secondary education organization to ensure that it requires, and does not obstruct, the inclusion of all needed accessibility features in that construction project.

1,000 Days After Receiving The Onley Report’s Call for Major New Actions to Make Ontario Accessible to People with Disabilities, the Ford Government Responds to Questions in the Legislature with Non-Answers and Evasions

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

1,000 Days After Receiving The Onley Report’s Call for Major New Actions to Make Ontario Accessible to People with Disabilities, the Ford Government Responds to Questions in the Legislature with Non-Answers and Evasions

October 29, 2021

            SUMMARY

1. Good Questions on Accessibility in the Ontario Legislature, But What Answers?

Earlier this week, on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, NDP disabilities critic Joel Harden pressed the Ford Government during Question Period about its failure to take effective action on the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the Ford Government had received 1,000 days earlier. Neither Premier Ford nor Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho were in the Legislature to answer. Answers came from Conservative House Leader Paul Calandra. Mr. Calandra has had nothing to do with the accessibility file during the term of this office, and has never reached out to the AODA Alliance to learn anything about it.

Mr. Calandrea’s answers were not informative. On the Government’s behalf, he did agree that people with disabilities’ needs are not red tape.

Over two years ago, back on May 30, 2019, the Ford Government used its majority to defeat a resolution in the Ontario Legislature about Ontario’s Disabilities Act, that was proposed by NDP MPP Joel Harden. Worded in measured terms that tracked Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility, that resolution called on the Government to create a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

On May 30, 2019, the Ford Government repeatedly claimed that the measures proposed in Joel Harden’s resolution were wasteful, duplicative red tape that threaten to seriously harm businesses and impose high costs on them, with a particular emphasis on small business. This false claim revives old, ugly and harmful stereotypes about people with disabilities.

Achieving accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by effectively implementing the AODA is not red tape! It is helpful that Mr. Calandra now agrees that our needs are not red tape. It is unknown whether he realized on October 27, 2021 that he was contradicting his Government’s rhetoric in the Legislature two years earlier on May 30, 2019. We have seen no indication that there has been a change in Government policy or priorities regarding disability accessibility since then.

MPP Harden filed an objection that the Government’s answers in Question Period were insufficient. That entitled the MPP to raise this again at the evening sittings in the Legislature that day. We also set out below the exchange in the Legislature that resulted.

Speaking for the Ford Government, Conservative MPP Daisy Wai said nothing new. She said nothing about strengthening or speeding up the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. She said The Government has a plan. However, that “plan” announced over a year ago at earlier news conferences, includes very little if anything that was new. Rather, it re-announced existing activities, some which date back as far as to the NDP Government under Premier Bob Rae in the first half of the 1990s.

Read AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s guest column in the Toronto Star’s local Metroland newspapers on the significance of October 27, 2021, being 1,000 days since the Ford Government received the David Onley Report.

2. A Memorable 23rd Anniversary Today

It might seem like we are facing an uphill battle. We’ve faced and stared down many. Today, we can reflect back with pride on one of them.

Twenty-three years ago today, on October 29, 1998, with the Conservative Mike Harris Ontario Government was in office, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the predecessor to the AODA Alliance) convinced the Legislature to unanimously pass an historic resolution. We set it out below. It called for the enactment of a disability accessibility law that puts into effect the 11 principles that grass roots disability advocates had formulated.

That day’s events are described in a three-page excerpt, set out below, from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s article that summarizes the Disabilities Act movement’s history from 1994 to 2003. To read the debates in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998, leading to the passage of this resolution, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/hansard18.html

Twenty-three years later, we still measure the legislation we’ve won, the McGuinty Government’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 and any accessibility standards enacted under it, against the 11 principles that the Ontario Legislature adopted on October 29, 1998.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign since 2005 to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.

3. Time Marches On!

There have now been 1,002 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

            MORE DETAILS

Ontario Hansard October 27, 2021 (Day Session)

Question Period

Protection for people with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question’s for the Premier. It’s been exactly a thousand days since the government received the report on the third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act written by the Honourable David Onley. The Onley report is scathing in its indictment of Ontario’s glacial progress on accessibility. Onley writes in the introduction, “Ontario is full of soul-crushing barriers for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. They confront those every day.”

But instead of treating the Onley report like the wake-up call it is, the government has let this report collect dust on the shelf. They haven’t released a plan to implement its recommendations, including building accessibility standards, accessibility training for design professionals and making sure that public money is never again used to create barriers for people with disabilities.

But most insultingly, Speaker, when I tabled, a May 2019 motion to create an action plan, this government members called that plan red tape. People with disabilities remain insulted by the lack of momentum on this report. Can we expect an imminent and urgent plan to implement the Honourable David Onley’s recommendations?

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

Hon. Paul Calandra: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the question from the honourable member. It’s an important question. It is something that I know the minister has been seized with since day one. It again highlights, as so many of the questions today have done, the ineptitude of 15 years of Liberal government that preceded this government and amount of hard work that has to be done to bring Ontario back to a place where we can all be proud of what we’ve accomplished.

I agree with the honourable member. David Onley, in particular, was a Lieutenant Governor who broke boundaries in this province. The report is a very important one. We all want to ensure that we do better for those persons with disabilities.

Again, as I said, the minister has been working very closely with the community. I know he values the advice of the honourable member opposite. My understanding is that he has reached out to him often.

Again, it’s not really a partisan issue. I know the member would agree with that. It’s something we have to work on together as a Legislature, and it has to involve partnerships with our friends at the municipal level, as well as the federal level.

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

Mr. Joel Harden: I appreciate that response, but the government has an opportunity today to clear up a glaring problem, and that is the last time we had a fulsome debate on this in this House. In May 2019, members of this government called a task plan, a plan of action, red tape.

I invite the government today to clarify that that was a mistake, to clarify that having an action plan on the Honourable David Onley’s recommendations is essential, and to make sure that it’s important to say yes to people with disabilities. So, not no in making people on ODSP continue to live in poverty; not no for refusing to mandate accessible housing in our marketplace, not no in telling people with disabilities they have to shelter in their homes because their apartments and their living conditions are not accessible.

We need yes for people with disabilities. Can I please have a clear, certain and absolute answer from this government that people with disabilities and their needs are not red tape?

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

Hon. Paul Calandra: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

(Later)

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Pursuant to standing order 36(a), the member for Ottawa Centre has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the government House leader concerning the Onley report. This matter will be debated today following private members’ public business.

There being no further business at this time, this House stands in recess until 3 p.m.

Ontario Hansard October 27, 2021 Evening session

PROTECTION FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): The member for Ottawa Centre has given notice of dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given by the government House leader. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the minister or parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.

The member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr. Joel Harden: I want to be clear as I start here on the reason why I asked for a continuation of the discussion on this and why I was dissatisfied with the answer I got from the government House leader. I actually want to note off the top that there was some progress. We had a one-word answer this morning, but it was the right word. I asked the House leader—actually the whole government; the House leader responded. Does the government regret the fact that the last time, as disabilities critic for this province, I was urged by disability advocates to bring forward the necessity of a timeline and an action plan to implement the findings of this path-breaking report by the Honourable David Onley, many members of the government referred to that as “red tape provisions”?

Ever since that debate, I have been hearing from disability advocates across the province in Ontario who were deeply, deeply disappointed. So this morning, when the government House leader rose—does he agree with that connotation? The member said no, but that’s all we got.

But do you know what? Sometimes, Speaker, change happens in fits and starts. Sometimes change moves along at different paces. So I want to ask my friends in government tonight, as we pursue this debate—because that’s what I wanted to do—whether they can insist upon the leader of this province, the Premier of this province, to actually meet in person. I know the minister responsible, Minister Raymond Cho, has met with grassroots disability leaders, in particular the AODA Alliance and their leader, David Lepofsky, but I would like the Premier to sit down with David Lepofsky and the AODA Alliance, so that he can realize the gravity of the situation here.

We have a situation in which section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Ontario’s Human Rights Code—explicitly, since 1982, both of those statutes have prevented discrimination on disability grounds, but we have a situation in which that continues in the province of Ontario, because we are not meeting our accessibility targets.

We’re continuing to build—Speaker, if you can imagine it—public infrastructure that is not accessible to people with disabilities. What do I mean by that? Well, consider the Ryerson Student Learning Centre. It was built in 2015, not decades ago, and Mr. Lepofsky demonstrated through a video how, as someone who is sight-impaired, he could not climb the stairs of this particular facility without bumping into columns which had been placed in the middle of stairs; how it was also dangerous for dyslexic folks; how it was dangerous for people with mobility concerns. This was built in 2015, and the statute responsible for this—

Interjection.

Mr. Joel Harden: Members, I guess, find this humorous. I don’t find this humorous.

The statute responsible for this, the AODA, says that we need to make sure that built infrastructure in this province doesn’t discriminate. Something built under the previous Parliament did, and there needed to be a standard development committee on the built infrastructure by 2017. It didn’t happen.

Did the minister responsible in this government ensure that it did happen under the mandate of this Parliament? No, and that is why the minister, Minister Cho, recently found himself in court—which is not where anybody wants to be as a disability rights advocate, but Mr. Lepofsky took Minister Cho to court about whether or not it is a blemish on this government, a human rights infraction for people with disabilities, that we don’t have significant momentum and movement to make sure that we can do what the AODA asks us to do: have a fully accessible Ontario by 2025.

So we had some progress this morning. The rights of people with disabilities should not be understood as red tape—fantastic. What’s the action plan? How do we know that the standards development committees that are responsible for so many different aspects of the application of the AODA are going to meet, are going to design frameworks and give this government advice, so that we can actually implement something in the last eight months of this particular Parliament that will make us proud; that will show us on customer service, health care, education, built environment and recreational spaces that we’re making Ontario more accessible.

It’s worth noting, Speaker, one of the things Mr. Onley says in his report is that people with disabilities are “the only minority group in our society that faces blatant, overt discrimination and whose civil rights are infringed upon every day from multiple directions.” This theme goes on throughout the report. Mr. Onley went around the province of Ontario and heard this first-hand from persons with disabilities.

As the official opposition, we held our own town hall with people with disabilities so they could tell us what they thought. We need to hear from this government more than “people with disabilities are not red tape.” We need to know what the plan is. Where’s the action plan? That’s what I’m being asked to ask of you—

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bill Walker): Thank you.

Mrs. Daisy Wai: I appreciate the question from the honourable member. The short answer is yes, we have a plan. In response to the feedback the government received from many stakeholders, including Mr. Onley’s legislative review, we announced the Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework. This framework continues to guide our actions across the entire government as we move towards a more open and accessible province.

There are four areas of particular focus for our government. They are: (1) breaking down the barriers in the built environment; (2) government leading by example in its role as a policy maker; (3) service provider and employer increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities; (4) improving understanding and awareness about accessibility. We started announcing this framework more than a year before the member opposite introduced his private member’s bill.

Let us be clear, we appreciate the report provided by the Honourable David Onley. Our government believes everyone should have an equal opportunity to participate in the Ontario dream. That is why we are partnering with other levels of government, as well as not-for-profit and private sectors as, together, we continue the ongoing journey towards a fully accessible Ontario.

The Onley report highlights many interwoven areas where accessibility can be advantaged in our province. One of the elements he highlights is the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities are able to find meaningful employment. We know that people with disabilities have faced increased social and economic challenges, especially due to COVID-19. We also know that many businesses and organizations all across our province are actively seeking individuals with the skills which people with disabilities possess. That is why our government is helping job seekers to develop new skills and connect them with potential employment. We find this is the most important thing that they need as well.

What we have done includes the Employment Ontario programs and services that have expanded under the leadership of Minister McNaughton. We have been helping people get training, upgrading their skills and connecting them with meaningful employment. This is helping to ensure that Ontarians who are willing to work can find good jobs. Businesses that are accessible and inclusive can benefit from tapping into these deep talent pools. It also helps them to tap into new customers, unlocking the doors to a more diverse clientele overall. In fact, it will boost their profits.

When people with disabilities find meaningful jobs, they can more fully participate in our communities and our economy. So now, let’s work together to make workplaces more accessible and inclusive.

Thank you very much.

 RESOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY PASSED BY THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE OCTOBER 29, 1998

In the opinion of this House, since persons with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation;

and since all Ontarians will benefit from the removal of these barriers, thereby enabling these persons to enjoy equal opportunity and full participation in the life of the province;

And since Premier Harris promised in writing during the last election in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dated May 24, 1995 to:

  1. a) enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its current term of office; and
  1. b) work together with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, amongst others, in the development of such legislation.

And, since this House unanimously passed a resolution on May 16, 1996 calling on the Ontario Government to keep this promise, therefore this House resolves that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should embody the following principles:

  1. The purpose of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should be to effectively ensure to persons with disabilities in Ontario the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Ontario based on their individual merit, by removing existing barriers confronting them and by preventing the creation of new barriers. It should seek to achieve a barrier- free Ontario for persons with disabilities within as short a time as is reasonably possible, with implementation to begin immediately upon proclamation.
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s requirements should supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require government entities, public premises, companies and organizations to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the providers of goods, services and facilities to the public to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed to reasonably accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. Included among services, goods and facilities, among other things, are all aspects of education including primary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as providers of transportation and communication facilities (to the extent that Ontario can regulate these) and public sector providers of information to the public e.g. governments. Providers of these goods, services and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers within legislated timetables;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require public and private sector employers to take proactive steps to achieve barrier-free workplaces within prescribed time limits. Among other things, employers should be required to identify existing barriers which impede persons with disabilities, and then to devise and implement plans for the removal of these barriers, and for the prevention of new barriers in the workplace;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a prompt and effective process for enforcement. It should not simply incorporate the existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as these are too slow and cumbersome, and yield inadequate remedies;
  1. As part of its enforcement process, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a process of regulation- making to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry basis, or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also mandate the Government of Ontario to provide education and other information resources to companies, individuals and groups who seek to comply with the requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also require the Government of Ontario to take affirmative steps to promote the development and distribution in Ontario of new adaptive technologies and services for persons with disabilities;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the provincial and municipal governments to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or of purchasing any services, goods or facilities, that they be designed to be fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Any grant or contract which does not so provide is void and unenforceable by the grant- recipient or contractor with the government in question;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Ontario. It must have real force and effect.

Excerpt from The Long, Arduous Road To A Barrier-Free Ontario For People With Disabilities: The History Of The Ontarians with Disabilities Act — The First Chapter

Citation: (2004, 15 National Journal of Constitutional Law)

By David Lepofsky

8)            FALL 1998: THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE DECLARES WHAT THE ODA MUST INCLUDE AND THE GOVERNMENT BRINGS FORWARD ITS FIRST ODA BILL

  1. a) Enshrining The ODA Yardstick – The Legislature’s Second ODA Resolution Adopts Our Eleven Principles

Perhaps the most significant milestone in the first chapter of our campaign came in October 1998. In the Fall of 1998, after the Government’s 1998 ODA closed consultations ended, we turned our attention to a next big challenge. A Government ODA bill could come at any time. We had no reason to expect that the Government would forewarn us of the date when it would introduce an ODA bill into the Legislature. The Government hadn’t forewarned us of the July 1998 release of its ODA discussion paper.

We wanted to publicly set a clear benchmark or yardstick against which any Government’s ODA bill could be measured. We had no reason to expect that a Government ODA bill would be any better than its weak policy framework in its ODA discussion paper.

Early in the Fall of 1998, we were approached by Liberal Windsor MPP Dwight Duncan. Until then, Hamilton Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino had been the lead Liberal MPP championing the ODA in the Legislature. Agostino had announced at one of our news conferences that his father had been an injured worker. From this, he well understood the barriers persons with disabilities faced. He had brought a personal passion to the ODA issue.

Mr. Duncan told us he wanted to introduce a private member’s ODA bill in the Legislature for us. We welcomed his support. However, we were still very reluctant to put massive work into researching and drafting a private member’s bill, for the reasons discussed earlier. We also feared that the Government could skilfully focus a barrage of criticism on some minor, distracting target in a bill that we would crank out, such as some obscure inconsequential wording problem. It could thereby transform a red herring into the central public issue. This could drag us off our message.

Accordingly we asked Duncan to instead introduce another private member’s ODA resolution into the Legislature. This tactic had worked so well for us in May 1996, when NDP MPP Marion Boyd had successfully brought forward the first ODA resolution to the Legislature. If Duncan were to bring forward another ODA resolution, this could help increase the Liberal Party’s support for the ODA. It was very important for our coalition to be, and to be seen as non-partisan. Rotating our activities among both opposition parties helped us achieve this.

Duncan was open to our idea. We then had to decide what this second ODA resolution should say. It needn’t replicate the first ODA resolution. That had called on the Ontario Government to keep its 1995 ODA election promise. We again didn’t want the resolution to be a partisan attack on the Conservative Government. As in 1996, we didn’t want to give the Government an easy excuse to use its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution.

We came up with an idea which would move the ODA cause forward, and which would put all of the political parties to the test. We proposed to Duncan that his resolution call on the Ontario Legislature to pass an ODA which complies with our 11 principles. A legislative debate over those principles took the ODA discussion far beyond the realm of just discussing in the abstract whether a law called the ODA should be passed. Such a resolution would make the parties either vote for or against our core principles on what that legislation should contain.

Dwight Duncan agreed to introduce the resolution we proposed. He also secured the Liberal Party’s support for the resolution. The NDP also notified us that it would support the resolution. We did not know whether the Conservatives, who commanded a majority of votes in the Legislature, would support it. We had no reason in advance for any optimism.

The resolution was scheduled for a debate and vote in the Legislature on October 29, 1998. This was one week after our meeting with Citizenship Minister Bassett, where we had been treated to the overhead slide show. The date for the resolution’s debate and vote also came a mere two days before Hallowe’en. Carole Riback, an inspired and inspiring ODA activist, dreamt up a clever Hallowe’en slogan around which we rallied. This resolution vote raised the question: “Would the ODA be a trick or treat?”

In Fall 1998, the ODA movement made its main focus getting this resolution passed. We urged ODA supporters to lobby MPPs from all three parties to vote for it. We also urged them to go to their local media to publicize this issue. We were learning more and more that the ODA movement was increasingly effective when it channelled its energies over a period of weeks on one concrete short-term goal.

The ODA Committee again quickly pulled together a major event at the legislative building at Queen’s Park for the morning of the resolution’s debate and vote. ODA supporters came to the legislative building and met in committee rooms. We planned to break into small teams to each go to MPPs’ offices, door to door, to “trick or treat,” canvassing them for their support on the resolution.

All hurried planning for this event went well, until we were contacted the night before by the office of the Speaker of the Legislature. It confronted us with a huge problem. The Speaker would not let us go to any MPP’s office unless we had a prior appointment. We were told that there is a blanket rule that provides that no one can get near the MPPs’ offices without an invitation. We were threatened with all being refused admittance to the legislative building. Since the Conservatives had taken power in 1995, Queen’s Park building security had increased extraordinarily.

This threatened to eviscerate our plans. We explained to the Speaker’s office that we planned an informal door-to-door canvass. It was impossible for us at that late hour to call then, the very night before our event, to try to book meetings with each MPP. We feared that if asked, Conservative MPPs would not agree to meet with us. They had refused to come to most of our prior events, and had so often resisted meeting our supporters in their local communities. If we could even get through to their offices at that late hour (which was unlikely), we would likely be told that appointments cannot be booked on such short notice.

We hurriedly negotiated a solution with the Speaker’s office. Small groups of our supporters could go to MPPs’ offices without a prior appointment, if each group was escorted by one Queen’s Park security officer, one MPP staffer, and one ODA committee representative. We had to agree to immediately recall all groups if any complaints about their conduct were received.

Having removed this last-minute roadblock, October 29, 1998 was a dramatic day. We had no idea in advance whether the resolution would pass. The Conservative majority held the power to decide this. Our teams carried out their door-to-door trick or treat canvass without any complaint.

One group was larger than authorized. We persuaded the Queen’s Park security staff not to complain. That group was composed entirely of deaf people. They made no noise, and needed our sign language interpreters. Queen’s Park security officials who travelled with our teams seemed to be enjoying the process.

An ODA supporter on one of our “trick or treat” teams reported that a Conservative MPP happened to be quickly leaving his office as the ODA team approached. The MPP called out that he had no time to meet, but he would vote for us, whatever it was we wanted him to vote for. While behind a glass door, another Conservative MPP turned to a staff member and mouthed that he did not know what the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was all about. That MPP hadn’t foreseen that among those on the other side of the glass door was a hard-of-hearing ODA supporter who can read lips.

The trick or treat teams finished their tours of MPPs’ offices. They then converged in Queen’s Park legislative committee rooms to watch the MPPs debate Dwight Duncan’s resolution in the Legislature, again on video monitors. We again brought our own sign language interpretation. As in the past, the Legislature’s public galleries remained almost totally inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.

During the debate in the Legislature, Liberal and NDP MPPs predictably spoke in favour of the resolution. The governing Conservative MPPs boasted of their Government’s record, and sounded as if they would vote against the resolution. However, when the vote came, our second ODA resolution in the Ontario Legislature passed unanimously.

Immediately afterward, we held a triumphant news conference at the Queen’s Park media studio. Both opposition parties had MPPs in attendance. The Government again declined our invitation to participate.

As another important step forward for us, the new Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty attended our news conference. He announced on the record that if his party were elected, they would commit to passing an ODA which complies with Dwight Duncan’s resolution.44

Later that day Citizenship Minister Bassett was asked in Question Period whether her Government would honour the resolution that the Legislature had unanimously passed that morning. Minister Bassett had not attended the debate in the Legislature that morning when the resolution was under consideration, even though it directly related to legislation for which she had lead responsibility for the Government. In her evasive answer to the opposition’s question put to her in Question Period that afternoon, Minister Bassett condemned the resolution as calling for job hiring quotas.

It was self-evident from the resolution’s text that it did not call for job hiring quotas or even hint at them. When we realized that the Government was going to use the hot-button “job quotas” accusation to try to whip up public opposition against us, we immediately launched a province-wide letter-writing campaign addressed directly to Minister Bassett and Premier Harris. We proclaimed that we sought no job hiring quotas. We called on the Government to desist in their inaccurate claims. Within a short time, Minister Bassett candidly conceded on a CBC radio interview that we were not seeking quotas. The Government thereafter dropped that tactic.

The Legislature’s passage of Dwight Duncan’s October 29, 1998 resolution was likely the most critical victory for the ODA movement in its history to that date. From then on, we no longer referred to the 11 principles as simply “the ODA Committee’s 11 principles for the ODA.” From then on we could, and did point to them as “the 11 principles for the ODA which the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved by a resolution on October 29, 1998.” We were indebted to Duncan for spearheading this resolution in a non-partisan way. His resolution served to become the yardstick by which any future legislation would be tested. It was also the catalyst that brought the Liberal and New Democratic Parties officially on the record in support of our 11 principles for the ODA. Both parties would go on to campaign for these 11 principles in the 1999 and 2003 provincial elections, and would actively press the Conservative Government to live up to them.

In the end, October 29, 1998 was a decisive, indeed towering milestone on the road to a barrier-free Ontario. Ironically, we got no media coverage that day, despite our best efforts. This cannot be explained on the basis that this story wasn’t newsworthy. The story had all the hallmarks of newsworthiness. We have learned that this is an unfortunate fact of community advocacy life. It did not deter our tenacity.

44 This was Mr. McGuinty’s first public commitment to this effect. Of great importance to the as-yet unwritten second chapter of the ODA saga, five years later, Mr. McGuinty would be elected Premier of Ontario in the October 2, 2003 provincial election. His 2003 election platform included a pledge to fulfil the commitment he first gave at our news conference on October 29, 1998.

1,000 Days Ago Today, Doug Ford’s Government Received the David Onley Report, Calling for Strong New Action to Tear Down Disability Barriers – Where Is Premier Ford When We Need His Help the Most?

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

1,000 Days Ago Today, Doug Ford’s Government Received the David Onley Report, Calling for Strong New Action to Tear Down Disability Barriers – Where Is Premier Ford When We Need His Help the Most?

October 27, 2021

            SUMMARY

It’s truly jaw-dropping and hurtful. Fully 1,000 days ago, the Doug Ford Government received the final report of the Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report showed that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities desperately need Ontario’s premier to make it a priority to remove the many barriers that impede people with disabilities in this province, and to prevent the creation of new barriers. Yet 1,000 days later, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has still announced no comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report’s recommendations.

The AODA Alliance has run a daily count on Twitter of the number of days since the Ford Government received the Onley Report back on January 1, 2019. We’ve offered help to the Ford Government. We have asked to meet Premier Ford, in person or virtually. He has refused. In contrast, each of Ontario’s two previous premiers had several meetings with the AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky.

A quick glance at recent media shows how disability barriers persist in Ontario, as David Onley warned. Below we set out a sampling of four recent articles:

  1. The October 25, 2021 CTV News Toronto broadcast included a story on the disability barriers that people with disabilities can face when snow is shoveled in their paths, and how the Ford Government’s proposed plan to allow robots to shovel sidewalks could make this worse.
  1. The October 16, 2021 CBC News included coverage of disability barriers in Ontario’s new COVID-19 vaccine passport system.
  1. The September 26, 2021 CTV News reported on a Toronto restaurant that said it refuses to admit customers who have no vaccination, and who have a documented medical exemption.
  1. The September 4, 2021 CTV News reported on our forewarning of the risk of disability barriers in the forthcoming new Ontario COVID-19 vaccine passport system.

We invite you to read the recently-published guest column in various Metroland newspapers by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky entitled: “Doug Ford must fix his legacy on disability issues.”

MORE DETAILS

CTV News October 25, 2021

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

People with disabilities hope snow clearing ruling means more accessible streets

Jon Woodward

CTV News Toronto Videojournalist

@CTV_Jon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 CBC News October 16, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/vaccine-certificate-accessibility-1.6213934

Ontario’s enhanced vaccine certificate system not accessible to marginalized people, advocates say

Toronto

Enhanced system assumes people have smartphones, computers, printers, internet access

Muriel Draaisma, Dale Manucdoc

Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends a media briefing at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Friday. Ford announced that the province is making enhanced COVID-19 vaccine certificates with scannable QR codes available for download. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Advocates say Ontario’s enhanced COVID-19 vaccine certificate system is not accessible for marginalized groups.

The new system, announced on Friday, assumes people have smartphones, computers, printers, internet access, a data plan and the ability to navigate the provincial website, the advocates told CBC News on Saturday.

According to representatives of three organizations, the Ontario government failed to consider the needs of people with disabilities, including those who are cognitively impaired, have mobility issues or are legally blind, as well as seniors on a fixed income, low-income people and unhoused people.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the government didn’t properly test its enhanced system to ensure it met accessibility requirements. Lepofsky, who is completely blind, is a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School. The alliance is a disability consumer advocacy group.

“Yet again, unfortunately, the Ford government has shown that accessibility for people with disabilities, during COVID and more generally, is just not a priority for them,” Lepofsky said on Saturday.

Ontarians can begin downloading QR code COVID-19 vaccine certificates over next 3 days

Ontario’s vaccine verification app for businesses now available as 417 new COVID-19 cases reported

Lepofsky said he found the announcement, website and news release all to be confusing because he thought there would an app for individuals that people could load onto their phones that would show their COVID-19 vaccine certificates. However, the app, Verify Ontario, turns out to be for businesses.

The app for businesses also doesn’t accommodate the need for medical exemptions, he added.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says the Ford government has again ‘shown that accessibility for people with disabilities, during COVID and more generally, is just not a priority for them.’ (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Then, when Lepofsky began to fill out the fields required on the provincial COVID-19 vaccination portal, he found he had to ask his wife to read the number on the back of his green health card. She had to use a magnifying glass because the colour contrast is not good and the print is smaller on the back than on the front, he said.

Lepofsky said making provincial public health requirements, such as vaccine certificates, accessible is not difficult, but there has to be a commitment to doing so.

“Ultimately, there is a failure to take into account the needs of people who are not smartphone-owning, internet-connected, tech-savvy, sighted, not disabled people,” he said.

“It just creates a two-class society,” he added. “There are people with various disabilities who live independently and want to live independently, and they deserve the same access that people without disabilities are being given.”

Ford announced new enhanced system on Friday

On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that Ontarians who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can start downloading new QR codes this week, which officials say will allow for faster entry into settings that require proof of vaccination.

The enhanced system officially takes effect Oct. 22, but Ontarians can get their new scannable vaccine certificates before then, and businesses can already start using a new app to scan those codes.

Premier Doug Ford said on Friday that Ontarians who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can start downloading new QR codes this week. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

On Friday, residents whose birthdays fall between January and April were able to download the enhanced vaccination certificate through the province’s COVID-19 website. On Saturday, those born between May and August could download it, while on Sunday, those born between September and December will have their chance.

 

Seniors face obstacles to download certificates, group says

Elizabeth Macnab, executive director of the Ontario Society of Senior Citizens Organizations, said the government should have consulted with seniors advocacy groups and the provincial Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility before launching the enhanced vaccine certificate system.

Macnab noted that at least 20 per cent of Ontario’s population is over 65, but the people who designed the software are likely in their 40, 30s or 20s. “There’s a really deep divide in the understanding of technology and the intuitiveness as well, how to use it, how to access it and so on,” Macnab said.

“When you are an older person, it becomes an affordability issue in terms of technology,” Macnab said. “It becomes the basic necessities. The high cost of gas. I can’t drive to the grocery store, can’t socialize, let alone buy the technology too.”

Mobility and cognitive impairment also pose challenges. “If you’re a person with a mobility issue, you’re in a walker and you’re wandering around. Your hands are full. You’ve got to pull all of this stuff out. It’s a lot easier for somebody without the challenges of mobility level and cognitive impairment.”

Angie Peters, president and CEO of the Yonge Street Mission, says the process is complicated for unhoused young people or young people without stable housing because their contact information can change constantly. (CBC)

Angie Peters, president and CEO of the Yonge Street Mission, said unhoused young people or young people without stable housing do not always have income, leaving them without access to technology. The process is complicated because their contact information can change constantly.

“There are periods of time where they don’t have a phone, so if they had it loaded on a device, and they no longer have that device, now they don’t have it and they have to get it again,” Peters said.

Province says it knows access to technology is issue

Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for the Ontario Health Ministry, said in an email on Saturday that the government has worked to make the process accessible for all Ontarians.

“We understand that not everyone has access to technology, which is why we have worked to make vaccine certificates as accessible as possible,” Hilkene said.

Those who are unable to download the certificate themselves can contact the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre to have it mailed or emailed to them. The centre can be reached at 1-833-943-3900 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

She said people who do not have an Ontario health card can contact their public health unit to have their identity verified and get a COVID ID, which is a unique number assigned by a public health unit for the purpose of obtaining a copy of a vaccine certificate.

The province says people can print a copy of their enhanced vaccine certificate by visiting a local library, going to a ServiceOntario location, or asking a trusted friend or organization.

Enhanced certificates are not mandatory and Ontarians can continue using their current vaccine receipt if they wish.

CTV News Toronto September 26, 2021

Originally posted at https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/toronto-restaurant-says-it-won-t-accept-medical-exemptions-1.5601281

Toronto restaurant says it won’t accept medical exemptions

Jon Woodward

CTV News Toronto Videojournalist

@CTV_Jon

TORONTO — A midtown Toronto restaurant worries its staff won’t be able to tell the difference between real vaccine passport exemptions and potential fakers when it opens to indoor diners in just over a week — so, it’s only going to let fully vaccinated people in.

“Just for now I’m not going to be accepting doctor’s certificates as exemptions. I just want fully vaccinated people in here. For the past two years we’ve been incredibly safe, our staff are healthy, our customers are healthy, and I want to keep it that way,” Stern told CTV News.

Bistro on Avenue owner Cindy Stern said she’s still going to serve anyone who comes by through her take-out window, accommodating any medical issues that might come up. But for indoor dining, she said she’s worried about unvaccinated people trying to cheat, using notes from doctors that her staff won’t know how to evaluate if they are real or not.

“It could be abused and we don’t have the time or resources to vet it,” she said.

Ontario residents must show proof of vaccination when going into non-essential venues and businesses. There are two legal exemptions: people who had an allergic reaction to a vaccine component, or someone who had myocarditis or pericarditis after a first dose.

A restaurant has an obligation to serve anyone with a disability under Ontario’s Human Rights Code, and it’s possible that someone who fits either of those categories is disabled. But those cases are very rare, said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti.

“The number of people who can get a true medical exemption is going to be very small,” he said.

That leaves people who may be trying to forge an exemption. A doctor in Richmond Hill has reportedly paused his practice after a crowd was photographed outside his clinic looking for all-purpose exemption letters.

In Florida, a doctor was fired last month after it was discovered he was offering patients mask exemption letters for $50.

David Lepofsky, a lawyer with the AODA Alliance, said the restaurant must make sure it’s accommodating any disabled customers.

He said the job of providing credible exemption documents should have fallen to the provincial government, and hoped that it would be included in the digital vaccine passport app expected next month.

“The government should have sorted this out while they were dragging their feet on a passport in the first place, rather than creating a barrier now,” he said.

The last time Stern went public on her pro-vaccination stance, she got threats.

“We don’t take them too seriously. A brick through a window. Fires. Hopefully we take it with a grain of salt,” she said.

But this time, she said the response to a tweet describing the restaurant’s current situation was overwhelmingly positive.

Bistro on Avenue

Bistro on Avenue plans to only let fully vaccinated people into the establishment and will not be accepting doctors’ notes for vaccine exemptions.

CTV News Kitchener September 4, 2021

Originally posted at https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/concerns-raised-over-internet-access-ahead-of-digital-vaccine-passport-rollout-in-ontario-

Concerns raised over accessibility ahead of digital vaccine passport rollout in Ontario

Spencer Turcotte

CTV News Kitchener Multimedia Journalist

KITCHENER – As the Ontario government gets ready to roll out a digital vaccine passport system next month, some are wondering how they’ll be able to access the QR code and verification app.

Penny Frankland, 75, has a phone with no internet access on it, and is feeling forgotten after hearing about the vaccine passport plan.

“What does one do if you do not have internet on your phone?” she said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do, but they’re going to have to do something else so that we’re all included in this.”

The province has split its vaccine passport rollout into two stages. Starting on Sept. 22, fully vaccinated residents will need to print off their vaccination receipts as a PDF or save it to their phone. This will be used as proof of vaccination in non-essential settings.

On Oct. 22, the QR code and verification app will come into effect.

“We have no assurance, since we haven’t seen the app, that the app they create will be accessible for people with disabilities that do have a smart phone,” said David Lepofsky, the chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

In a statement, the government of Ontario says they will provide additional support in the coming weeks for people who don’t have an email, health card or ID. The province also says the QR code can be printed out and will be accepted in paper form.

“That presupposes that you have a computer and a printer, that you have access to technology to be able to use it, and that their website for delivering all this will also be accessible,” said Lepofsky.

Advocates aren’t sure what the passport system will look like for marginalized groups, but are asking for equal and accessible options.

Places like Quebec rolled out their own vaccine passport system this week, where iPhone users were able to download the app right away, but Android users had to wait several days.

The Ontario government says it will be watching closely to make sure those same mistakes don’t happen here.

1,000 Days of Inaction by the Ford Government on the David Onley Report on Accessibility for People with Disabilities is Marked in AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s Guest Column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland Newspapers

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

1,000 Days of Inaction by the Ford Government on the David Onley Report on Accessibility for People with Disabilities is Marked in AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s Guest Column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland Newspapers

October 25, 2021

This Wednesday, October 27, 2021 will mark a deeply-disturbing 1,000 days since the Doug Ford Government received the withering report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, who conducted a Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In a guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, appearing this week in the Toronto Star’s Metroland local newspapers, set out below, the Ford Government’s 1,000 days of inaction on that report is described. The Ford Government only has 1,165 days until the start of 2025, the deadline that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets for the Ontario Government to lead this province to become accessible to people with disabilities.

The AODA Alliance March 8, 2019 news release, issued after the Government made the Onley Report public, at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-ground-breaking-report-by-former-ontario-lieutenant-governor-david-onley-tabled-in-the-legislature-yesterday-blasts-poor-provincial-government-implementation-and-enforcement-of-ontario/

Toronto Star Website and Metroland newspapers October 22, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/local-toronto-scarborough/opinion/2021/10/22/doug-ford-must-fix-his-legacy-on-disability-issues.html

SCARBOROUGH MIRROR

OPINION

Doug Ford must fix his legacy on disability issues

By David Lepofsky

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

For 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities, Doug Ford’s record is abysmal. One thousand days ago, Ford received a blistering report from a government-appointed independent review of the implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act, by former lieutenant-governor David Onley. That 2005 law requires the government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

Onley reported that progress on accessibility is “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal is nowhere in sight.

Ford’s accessibility minister said Onley did a “marvellous job.” Yet Ford still has no comprehensive action plan to implement Onley’s recommendations.

Ford concealed expert recommendations for improving Ontario’s Employment Accessibility Standard for two years in contravention of Ontario’s Disabilities Act. He hasn’t assisted people with disabilities suffering unemployment and/or poverty.

Ford feebly enforced the Disabilities Act against violators. He’s enacted no new accessibility standards that people with disabilities and obligated organizations need.

The result? Creation of new buildings and other provincially-funded infrastructure, without ensuring that they are accessible. Half a billion dollars is being spent on new school buildings and additions, without ensuring that they are accessible to students, staff and parents with disabilities. Using public money to create new disability barriers is irresponsible.

Ford can’t duck, pleading COVID. He mostly ignored our calls to ensure that pandemic emergency plans address people with disabilities’ urgent needs. We’re disproportionately prone to get COVID-19 and to suffer its worst symptoms. Long-term-care residents with disabilities are a major proportion of those whom COVID-19 killed.

Distance learning wasn’t designed to accommodate many students with disabilities. It left many behind. Ford left it to 72 school boards to figure how to fix that. Ford’s TV Ontario offers distance learning resources with serious accessibility problems. Ford’s solution? Give TVO more responsibility for distance learning!

Last December, Ford received strong recommendations on how to remove disability barriers from health-care services — urgent during COVID. The law required Ford to publicly post them “upon receiving” them. Instead, he concealed them for months, during COVID’s worst phase.

The vaccination program and vaccine passport have too many disability barriers. On Ford’s watch, hospitals trained their doctors to deploy a blatantly disability-discriminatory secret protocol for rationing or triaging life-saving critical care, if overrun with COVID-19 cases. His government won’t answer our pleas on this.

Things got worse under Ford. His hurtful bungling of the plight of kids with autism is legendary. As well, in Ford’s Ontario, people with disabilities, seniors and others are now in danger of serious injuries by joyriders on electric scooters.

We non-partisan disability advocates are eager to meet with any leaders to offer our help. Unlike the last two Ontario premiers, Ford has refused to meet or talk with us. His accessibility minister holds news events, pledging that Ontario would lead by example on accessibility. The result was 1,000 days of inaction.

The Onley report urged the premier to make disability accessibility a priority. It’s not too late. Premier Ford, let’s talk!

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

Disability Advocates Call on Ford Government Not to Endanger People with Disabilities and Others By Allowing Robots on Public Sidewalks

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Disability Advocates Call on Ford Government Not to Endanger People with Disabilities and Others By Allowing Robots on Public Sidewalks

October 20, 2021

            SUMMARY

Here we go again! The Ford Government is proposing to create even more new barriers against people with disabilities, contrary to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Believe it or not, the Ford Government is now considering allowing the use of robots on public sidewalks. These could, for example, be used to deliver packages or shovel snow.

This threatens to create serious new disability barriers. These robots would present a danger to people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. We oppose them. So should you!

Below we set out an 8-page brief that we today sent to the Ford Government. It calls for robots to be banned from public and quasi-public places. We urge you to write the Ford Government. Support our strong opposition to robots on public sidewalks and other public places. Before the November 15, 2021 deadline we need as many individuals and community organizations to support us as possible. Write the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario by visiting its consultation web page at https://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view_posting.jsp;jsessionid=Nq4_XYOtWlMmWONQbeqo87q?language=en&postingId=39087

You can also send feedback via an email to registryfeedback@ontario.ca and send your feedback directly to the public servant with a role in this consultation, by writing janet.c.lee@ontario.ca

The Government is considering giving each municipality the option to allow robots. That would inflict on vulnerable Ontarians with disabilities the undue hardship of having to campaign in one municipality after the next, to protect our safety and accessibility. As our brief explains, the Ford Government did the same thing two years ago with electric scooters. We have suffered the hardship ever since, trying to battle corporate lobbyists who have pressured city councils to allow e-scooters, despite their serious proven danger to public safety and disability accessibility.

At the end of our 8-page brief, we set out the slide deck that the Ford Government presented at its October 18, 2021 virtual public consultation meeting on this topic. That slide deck states that it is confidential. We however never agreed to any such restrictions. If you read that slide deck, you’ll see there are no state secrets in it whatsoever!

As this is going on, there have now been a breath-taking 993 days since the Ford Government received the blistering Independent Review report by David Onley on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That report concluded that Ontario is still full of “soul-crushing” barriers facing people with disability people with disabilities, and that progress towards becoming accessible has taken place at a “glacial” pace. The Ford Government has still not made public a comprehensive plan to implement that report’s findings and recommendations. The Government has staged some media events with the Accessibility Minister to make announcements, but little if anything new was ever announced.

There are just a little over three years till 2025. Yet Ontario lags far behind the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Ford Government has announced no plan to get on schedule for that deadline.

Premier Ford, why don’t you leave these robots for the science fiction books, movies and TV shows where they belong, and keep them off our sidewalks!

Don’t Allow Robots on Public Sidewalks and In Other Public and Quasi- Public Places in Ontario

A Brief by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance to the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario

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

October 20, 2021

 1. The Bottom Line

This is the AODA Alliance’s written submission to the consultation by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation on the possibility of allowing robots, including autonomous robots, to be used in public and quasi-public spaces, e.g. to deliver packages and shovel snow. We Are strongly opposed to this. This cannot be solved by regulatory standards. Such robots must be banned from public or quasi-public places, with strong penalties that are effectively enforced. This ban should be enacted in provincial legislation, whose enactment is preceded by public hearings and  debates in the Legislature. The dangers that these robots pose cannot be effectively averted or minimized by permitting them in public places with regulations setting standards over their use or operations.

This brief does not take a position on the use of robots in private places to which the public is not customarily admitted, such as a factory or farm fields.

 2. Who Are We?

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

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

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

Our coalition is the successor to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee advocated more than ten years for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our membership from the ODA Committee’s broad grassroots base. To learn about the ODA Committee’s history, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net.

We have been widely recognized by the Ontario Government, by all political parties in the Ontario Legislature, within the disability community and by the media, as a key voice leading the non-partisan campaign for accessibility in Ontario. In every provincial election since 2005, parties that made election commitments on accessibility did so in letters to the AODA Alliance.

Our efforts and expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities have been recognized in MPPs’ speeches on the floor of the Ontario Legislature, and beyond. Our website and Twitter feed are widely consulted as helpful sources of information on accessibility efforts in Ontario and elsewhere. We have achieved this as an unfunded volunteer community coalition.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past several years, the AODA Alliance has been active in advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. Our efforts influenced the development of the Accessible Canada Act. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue.

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on disability accessibility issues. We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, in Israel and New Zealand.

3. The Danger

The Ontario Government is considering enacting regulations under the Highway Traffic Act to allow robots, whether autonomous or remotely driven, to use sidewalks in Ontario, to deliver products to customers. On October 18, 2021 the AODA Alliance took part in a Government consultation on a Government proposal that had been posted for public comment. Below we set out the text of the Ministry’s slide deck presented at its October 18, 2021 consultation.

The AODA Alliance strongly opposes any reform, whether permanent or by pilot project, that would allow autonomous or remotely driven robots to use public sidewalks or other public or quasi-public paths and places, including for such things as the purposes of delivering products to customers or shoveling snow. By “quasi-public places”, we include private property where the public is customarily admitted, such as stores and shopping plazas.

For the Government to allow these robots would be to knowingly create a substantial and worrisome new disability barrier impeding people with disabilities in their safe use of public sidewalks and other paths of travel. People with vision loss risk not knowing a robot is coming, or is in their path. They can pose a tripping hazard, or a danger of collision. For people with mobility limitations, including those who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs, they risk becoming a physical barrier in their path of travel, transforming an otherwise accessible route into an inaccessible one. For people with balance issues, they present a danger of losing balance from any inadvertent contact with a robot.

These barriers will be unpredictable, an unforeseeable in advance. People with disabilities cannot plan strategies to avoid them, short of simply staying home. These robots, by definition, will be on the move, not remaining permanently in any fixed location.

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

Disability activists in jurisdictions that allow automated delivery robots to roam their sidewalks experience accessibility issues associated with these devices. Emily Ackerman, a PhD student at Pittsburgh University and a wheelchair user, found herself unable to access the curb cut due to an automated delivery robot blocking her way. This forced her to remain on the street as the traffic light turned green. The robot did not understand that it was time for him to cross the street as the pedestrian signal turned green. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-11-19/why-tech-needs-more-designers-with-disabilities

Roads are created as the place for vehicles to travel, including powered vehicles. As it is, public sidewalks and other paths of travel have far too many accessibility barriers. They are becoming increasingly cluttered with street furniture, art, signage, plants and other obstacles. We cannot afford any more barriers being added. These barriers include the lack of accessible curb cuts in too many places, trees, potted plants, sidewalk restaurant eating areas, and other clutter. In residential areas, this also includes weekly residents’ garbage bins awaiting pickup.

These will create a new disability barrier for a wide spectrum of people with disabilities, old and young. For those who have just acquired a disability, they will inflict added hardships. For example, for a senior who is just lost some or all of their vision, they will need to undergo rehabilitation orientation and mobility training on how to get around independently. The added burden of coping with these robots will make that challenge more difficult.

As a result of Ontario Government action led in this context by the Premier’s Office and the Ministry of Transportation, this situation has been made even worse in recent months and years. In 2019, the Ontario Government harmfully allowed municipalities to permit electric scooters, over the strong objection of the disability community.

The Ford Government acted at the behest of corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies. It knowingly created safety dangers for the public, including for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. This has included creating a danger caused by e-scooters ridden on or parked on sidewalks. It has burdened people with disabilities to have to battle in one city after the next to avert this danger. They have had to battle against well-funded feeding frenzies by the e-scooter rental company corporate lobbyists. The new barriers that e-scooters have created for people with disabilities in Ontario are amply documented at www.aodaalliance.org/e-scooters

Making this even worse, during the COVID-19 pandemic, municipalities have understandably permitted restaurants to use some sidewalk space for outdoor public seating areas. Municipalities have not required that these new outdoor seating areas be barrier-free for people with disabilities, and that they not preclude accessible and safe pedestrian travel on the sidewalk to pass by the restaurant, for people with disabilities. This has had the effect of creating even more new barriers, forcing some to have to divert dangerously into the street in the face of oncoming traffic, just to get around a restaurant seating area that occupies the public sidewalk.

The marginalizing impact that such COVID-19 measures have on people with disabilities would be compounded by adding an additional layer of barriers to sidewalks in the shape of delivery robots. Haben Girma, an internationally acclaimed disability activist and lawyer, in an essay on accessibility issues created by delivery robots notes that, in the wake of the pandemic, “the last thing we need is cities adopting tech that excludes blind people and endangers pedestrians with mobility disabilities.” https://techcrunch.com/2020/08/11/the-robots-occupying-our-sidewalks/ .

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible by 2025. The Government-appointed 2019 Independent Review  of the AODA undertaken by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley found that Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching that goal. There are now just over three years left to get there. Ontario cannot afford to create any new disability barriers, like those that these robots would generate.

4. Enact Provincial Legislation and Do Not Address the Robots Issue by Mere Regulations Enacted Under the Highway Traffic Act

The Ontario Government is proposing to address this issue by enacting regulations under the Highway Traffic Act. We strongly recommend that instead, the Ontario Government should address this issue by introducing and publicly debating strong legislation into the Legislature to comprehensively deal with it. By passing legislation, the Legislature can deal comprehensively with it.

Only legislation can set requirements for public property, quasi-public property (such as shopping plazas) and private property. Regulations that the Government is contemplating under the Highway Traffic Act risk being far more limited in scope.

We realize that the Government may prefer the option of enacting regulations rather than bringing forward legislation, because Cabinet debates and decides what to do entirely in secret. However, for an issue that threatens public safety and disability accessibility, less secrecy and far more public accountability is required here. A very broad public consultation is needed, far more than the Ministry is now conducting.

It will be important for this ban to apply both to public property like sidewalks, and also to quasi-public private property, such as shopping plazas. A robot endangers the public in both such places. Legislation is the best if not the only effective tool for achieving this.

5. Ontario Government’s Stated Rationale for Wanting to Merely Regulate Robots is Wrong-Headed

At its October 18, 2021 consultation meeting, the Government explained why it is proposing to pass regulations that would permit use of these robots, while purporting to merely regulate some aspects of their use. The Government explained that right now there is no law governing these robots. They are being used in various parts of the province. It is a free-for-all. The Highway Traffic Act only gives the Government limited power to regulate them by way of regulations passed by Cabinet. As such, the Government is proposing to set minimum standards for their use where it can, and to give municipalities power to locally regulate them.

The fatal flaw in the Government’s reasoning is that it assumes that the only or best way to address this issue is by the Cabinet enacting mere regulations under the Highway Traffic Act. It disregards the option of the Legislature enacting legislation.

As noted above, legislation can ban the use of robots in any place, public, quasi-public or private, if the Legislature wishes. It can establish enforcement for that ban, such as the measures proposed in this brief.

The Government’s rationale is the same as the similarly erroneous arguments made by the corporate lobbyists for electric scooters. They claim that because people use them illegally, it is preferrable to legalize them and regulate them.

If these robots present a danger to the public’s health and accessibility, the proper public response is to ban then with effective enforcement, rather than legalizing them. By comparison, too many people now use dangerous drugs like crack cocaine. Current legal regimes do not prevent this. The solution is not to legalize crack cocaine.

6. No Way to Effectively Enforce Regulations Permitting Use of Robots in Public and Quasi-Public Places

If robots are permitted subject to Highway Traffic Act regulations or local bylaws, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult if someone is injured or endangered by a robot. The injured victim won’t know who to sue or prosecute for their injuries. Robots are not people with a legal duty to remain at the scene of an accident.

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

Even if those barriers are overcome, there is still no way to know who has deployed the robot. A robot might have a company name on it. However, there is no assurance that this company name is accurate.

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

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

The most effective enforcement would be to have a total ban on these robots in public and quasi-public places such as sidewalks, and to authorize their immediate confiscation and disposal. If police or members of the public encounter a robot in forbidden locations like a public sidewalk, they should be able to seize the robot and dispose of it. This would quickly and effectively put an end to the problem.

Ironically, under the Government’s proposal, a member of the public, endangered by a robot, risks prosecution for damaging private property if they disable a robot and dispose of it. However, the company endangering the public by sending out the robot into public places will for practical purposes face no risk of effective enforcement. The victims, and not the perpetrators, are the ones that the Government would leave at greatest legal risk.

It is unfair to burden a person suffering personal injury or property damage due to these robots to have to sue for damages. The costs and stresses of such litigation are substantial. People with disabilities traditionally have faced serious barriers in access to effective legal services, and barriers in the court system itself. Moreover, disproportionately, people with disabilities live at or near the poverty line. They thus cannot shoulder the costs of such litigation.

In addition, such a civil plaintiff would have the burden to prove who is responsible for their injuries. This presents all the monumental enforcement issues identified above, while dumping these hardships on private individuals with no public law enforcement and investigation powers. Add to this the possibility of a corporate defendant claiming that the fault lies with the robot’s designer, including software developers. Why should members of the public ever have to endure this?

7. No Effective Measures Available to Controvert These Dangers

The Ontario Government is asking if there are any measures it could enact to offset the safety and accessibility dangers that robots pose. The short answer is that there are none. Any effort by the Government to enact such is, as has been the case for electric scooters, doomed to fail.

 a) Requiring a Remote Driver Is No Solution

Autonomous robots present a huge danger to people with disabilities and others. These dangers are not eliminated or materially reduced if the law requires a robot to have a remote driver or monitor. There is no way for the public to enforce such a requirement. There is no way to know from looking at a robot, barreling towards you on the street or sidewalk, that there in fact is a remote driver somewhere, who is attentive to steering the robot.

If a company could even be identified as the robot’s source, there is no way for a prosecutor or plaintiff to affirmatively prove in court that there was no remote driver operating the robot. There is no way to know whether the robot is in fact operating autonomously some or all of the time, even if a remote driver or monitor exists.

If there were a remote driver, it is vital that they only be permitted to steer one robot at a time. There is no way to know if a remote driver is directing multiple robots at the same time, dangerously dividing their attention.

There are no prior standards for training a remote driver, akin to a driver’s education course for car-drivers. The simple fact that a human being is remotely involved does not ensure that they have the skills and knowledge needed to safely operate the robot.

There is a massive difference between having a driver in place in a motor vehicle on the one hand, and having a remote driver at some other location, on the other. The remote driver is not assured to have the same view as does a live driver on site in a vehicle. A live driver’s own safety is at stake if they get into a crash. A remote driver’s safety is never at risk from their remote driving of a robot.

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

 b) Speed Limits Are No Solution

Of course, the faster a robot goes, the greater is the damage it can inflict in a collision. Despite this, these dangers are not eliminated by speed limits imposed on robots. It is not possible to effectively enforce speed limits for robots. It would require police on every street, and sidewalk, equipped with hand-held radar for tracking their speed, constantly looking to see if a robot needs to be monitored. Especially in a society reeling from the added public and private costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, the enforcement costs would hardly be a societal priority, just so some mega-companies like Amazon can deliver their products without using delivery people.

Moreover, the dangers that these robots pose is not limited to the times when they are moving. When not moving, they are another form of unexpected sidewalk clutter that can be a tripping hazard for people with vision loss, and a barrier to mobility for people using mobility devices.

If a speed limit were to be set, it would need to be so slow that it would likely defeat the purpose of using robots. For example, if the speed were 3 KPH, businesses like Amazon will no doubt find that delivery people can get packages delivered more quickly by using human delivery people.

 c) Robots Emitting Sound Helps But Is No Solution

One option being considered is to require that the robot emit a beeping or other audible sound. This could alert some people to the robot’s presence. While this might help a little, it is also not an effective solution.

To be effective, there would have to be a universal sound, and a massive public education campaign to ensure that the entire public, including tourists from elsewhere, know that this is the sound of a robot.

Moreover, the audible alert must be ongoing, and not only when the robot approaches a person. It must be loud enough to be heard amidst city noises like traffic, construction, cars or restaurants blaring music, lawn mowers, etc. If not, a person might not be able to hear the robot sound, to localize its location and to know it is a robot.

 d) How Does a Robot Get Insurance?

Whenever a motorized vehicle is permitted to operate in public, decades of wise public policy requires that the vehicle be licensed and insured. One of the dangers arising from electric scooters arises from the fact that the Ontario Government wrongly departed from that basic public protection, for no valid public policy (except for the enrichment of e-scooter rental companies).

This rases the question whether the province can effectively require that robots be insured. There is likely no robot insurance available. Moreover, there is no way for a member of the public or law enforcement official to ask a robot to produce its insurance policy for verification.

 e) No National Safety Standards For Robots

Normally, motorized vehicles are not permitted on the road or other public places unless they have been tested and certified as meeting national safety standards. The Ontario Government has already endangered the public by not requiring this for electric scooters. It would make this even worse by not doing so for robots operating in public or quasi-public places.

As a first step, sufficient national safety standards would be needed. We are aware of none.

Such standards could include the permissible size, weight and shape of these robots. Just the shape alone of these robots is important. The severity of the injury they cause could be exacerbated by the shape, weight and size of the robot. If the robot is travelling at a higher speed, it gives people less time to become aware of their approach and to get out of the way. If the robot has sharp, hard edges and corners, not padded and rounded corners, they can inflict more damage. The heavier they are, the more damage they might inflict.

National standards could set requirements for permissible speeds, and for mandatory features to be included in the robots. They could set minimum requirements for a robot to be tested before its public use, including the tests that must be run. Whenever new software is added, they could add requirements for further testing before the robot might resume operation. We all know how new software can include bugs.

8. Snow-Shoveling robots Create Additional Dangers

One use for these robots would be for shoveling snow, e.g., on sidewalks. This presents additional dangers beyond other uses of robots on public sidewalks.

A recurring problem now facing people with disabilities during snowy periods is where snow is shoveled off a road or sidewalk, but piled up in another path of travel, such as a walkway from a house to the roadside. This results in new disability barriers being created that can make a hitherto accessible path inaccessible.

It must be a human being to be the one doing the snow shoveling, so that they can make sure this does not happen. Robots are less likely to avert the creation of these snow barriers.

9. Robots Can Also Damage Private Property

The foregoing addresses the risk of danger to people posed by robots. They also can damage a person’s property. This in turn would shift an unfair burden to those suffering property damage to have to prove who is at fault, and the value of the loss. If the person is not present when the damage is caused, this will be impossible to do. If the person has vision loss, they will likely not be able to provide the necessary information to prove the claim.

10. Leaving Approval of Robot Use to Each Municipality Creates Undue Hardship for People with Disabilities

The Ontario Government is considering giving each municipality the power to set local requirements for robot use and/or power to decide if robots will be permitted. This would create a huge undue hardship for people with disabilities and others.

This would shift to people with disabilities and charitable community organizations the massive burden to have to battle against approval of robots, one municipality at a time. The Government inflicted this on the disability community two years ago, when it gave each municipality the power to allow e-scooters. Since then, people with disabilities have had to battle in one city after the next to prevent the danger posed by e-scooters. As noted earlier, we have unfairly been pitted against e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists waging a well-funded lobbying campaign. In Toronto, we succeeded. In Ottawa, the corporate lobbyists succeeded. This has burdened our community with hours and hours of work, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. People with disabilities in Ottawa have already suffered from e-scooters left in public places and ridden in public.

This ordeal should not be replicated in the context of these robots. It wastes a great deal of time, and resources of municipal planning and policy officials. They already have many pressing issues on their plates.

11. Don’t Run a “Pilot” Project with Robots, Burdening People with Disabilities and Others to File Complaints

It is similarly wrong to authorize pilot projects with robots. It is wrong to experiment on non-consenting members of the public, as guinea pigs who will be subjected to this danger to their safety and accessibility. People are only supposed to be subjected to a human experiment if they consent to being involved in it.

Moreover, as the experience with e-scooters has shown, it is wrong to create this new danger, and then to shift the burden to the public to lodge complaints if they experience a problem. People have lots to do, without having this downloaded onto them without their agreement. Many won’t even know they can report problems, or to whom they should report.

 Appendix October 18, 2021 Ministry of Transportation Ontario Slide Deck for Public Consultation

MTO AV Program Enhancements 2021 Accessibility Seniors

Contents

Slide 1. 1

Slide 2. 1

Slide 3. 2

Slide 4. 3

Slide 5. 3

Slide 6. 4

Slide 7. 5

Slide 8. 6

Slide 9. 7

Slide 10. 7

Slide 11. 8

Slide 12. 9

Slide 13. 10

Slide 14. 11

Slide 15. 12

Slide 16. 13

Slide 17. 14

Slide 18. 14

 

Slide 1

Header: Ministry of Transportation

Title: Automated Vehicle Pilot Program

Consultations on Proposed Enhancements to the Pilot Program

October 2021

Slide 2

Title: Purpose of Consultations

Purpose of the proposals are to:

  • Reduce burden for Ontario businesses and other entities seeking to test automated vehicles (AV), while protecting road safety.
  • Facilitate innovation in connected and automated vehicle development and remain technology neutral, while protecting road safety.
  • Align Ontario’s Manufacturer Plate (M-Plate) and AV Pilot programs.

Purpose of the consultations are to:

  • Seek participant input on the impact to stakeholders, concerns on road safety and any accessibility issues.

Footer: Note: the deck is confidential, for discussion purposes only. Do not distribute.

Slide 3

Title: Context: Automated Vehicle (AV) Pilot

  • January 1, 2016: Ontario launched a pilot project to allow for the testing of automated vehicles (AVs) on public roads under certain conditions. Goals: establish rules, monitor industry developments, and evaluate the safety of AVs prior to them becoming widely available to the public.
  • January 1, 2019: In response to advances in AV technology, to ensure economic competitiveness, and in cooperation with key industry and road safety stakeholders, the province made enhancements to the AV Pilot program to:
    • Permit driverless testing under stringent conditions to ensure safety
    • Permit testing of connected “platooning” technology under stringent conditions to ensure safety, in which large trucks are able to travel closely together while tethered electronically, towards greater efficiencies, and
    • Permit the use of conditionally automated vehicles (specifically, Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 3 AVs) by Ontario consumers.

Slide 4

Title: Proposals

Connected and automated vehicle (CV/AV) technology is rapidly evolving and new opportunities have emerged. As such, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is exploring the following changes:

  • Proposal 1: Expand eligible entities for the AV Pilot
  • Proposal 2: Remove restrictions on modification or manufacture of automated vehicles by pilot participants
  • Proposal 3: Expand Manufacturer Plate Program eligibility to include approved AV Pilot participants
  • Proposal 4: Expand Manufacturer Plate Program to allow carrying freight/goods and charging a fee
  • Proposal 5: Add emerging types of AVs to the AV Pilot – automated farm vehicles only at this time
  • Proposal 6: Develop a pilot framework for the testing of automated micro-utility devices

Slide 5

Title: 1: Expand eligible entities for the AV Pilot

Current Status:

  • Eligibility for the AV Pilot is restricted to certain entities, such as: original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), technology companies, component and systems manufacturers, and academic and research institutions.
  • A non-eligible entity seeking to conduct AV testing may still engage in testing by partnering with an eligible entity. However, the eligible entity must be the applicant to the pilot and own the vehicle to be tested.

Proposal:

  • Remove regulatory restrictions and permit eligible entities that can demonstrate that they are able to meet all requirements entry to the pilot.
  • This could expand eligibility for participation in the pilot to, for example but not limited to, ineligible entities such as municipalities, indigenous groups, corporations, transit companies etc.
  • Any applicant must still satisfy all the requirements of the pilot program before they may be approved.

Slide 6

Title: 2: Remove restrictions on modifications of AVs by pilot participants

Current Status:

  • If a vehicle is originally manufactured as a Society of Automotive Engineer (SAE) Level 4 or 5 AV, only the OEM is eligible to modify and test the vehicle under the current AV Pilot framework. Other eligible entities for the AV Pilot are only able to test vehicles that they converted into AVs (SAE Level 3, 4 or 5) and must be responsible for the conversion.

Proposal:

  • Remove regulatory restrictions on the modification of vehicles by participants within the AV Pilot Framework. This would allow all eligible entities participating in the program to modify originally manufactured automated vehicles.

Footer: Please refer to Appendix for details on SAE Levels.

Slide 7

Title: Discussion Questions for Proposals 1 and 2

  1. What level of support would your organization have for these policy proposals? Why?
  2. Does your organization have any concerns with these policy proposals?
    1. Should the expansion be limited to only certain entities?
    2. Should the vehicle manufacturer/converter have continued involvement? If so, what?
    3. Should conditions be placed on any entities? If so, what?
  3. What impacts would these policy proposals have on your organization or the population your organization serves?
  4. Are there any alternatives which your organization would like to suggest?

Slide 8

Title: 3: Expand M-Plate Program eligibility to include approved AV Pilot participants

Current Status:

  • The Manufacturer Plate (M-Plate) Program allows for motor vehicles and motor vehicle component manufacturers to operate non-compliant vehicles on Ontario roads for the purposes of testing, demonstration, evaluation and exhibition.
  • The M-Plate Program is currently restricted to motor vehicle and component manufacturers, which is inconsistent with the eligibility of the AV Pilot.
  • Vehicles manufactured and equipped by the following parties are permitted in the AV Pilot:
    • Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)
    • Technology Companies
    • Academic/Research Institutions
    • Component and Systems Manufacturers

Proposal:

  • Expand the M-Plate Program to allow all entities eligible for the AV Pilot to test compliant and non-compliant Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) vehicles (e.g. driverless shuttles) on Ontario roads.
  • Applicants would need to be approved into the AV Pilot prior to applying for the M-Plate program. The programs have separate application forms and approval.

Slide 9

Title: 4: Expand M-Plate Program to allow carrying freight/goods and charging a fee

Current Status:

  • Under the M-Plate Program, participants are not permitted to carry freight/goods and to charge a fee.

Proposal:

  • Expand the M-Plate Program to allow approved AV Pilot participants using vehicles with an M-Plate to carry freight/goods, and to charge a fee.

Footer: Please refer to the appendix for further details on the Manufacturer Plate Program.

Slide 10

Title: Discussion Questions for Proposals 3 and 4

  1. What level of support would your organization have for these policy proposals? Why?
  2. Does your organization have any concerns with these policy proposals?
    1. Should there be restrictions on the M-Plate, such as limiting the number of plates that can be purchased to the number of AV vehicles to be tested?
    2. Should Ontario consider a new plate for AV Pilot participants?
    3. What restrictions, if any, should be placed on allowance to carry freight/goods and charging a fee (e.g. amount or type of goods, whether the entity should be able to make a profit etc.)?
  3. What impacts would these policy proposals have on your organization or population your organization serves?
  4. Are there any alternatives which your organization would like to suggest?

Slide 11

Title: 5: Add emerging types of AVs to the AV Pilot Program

Current Status:

  • The current regulatory framework does not capture automated farm vehicles as farm vehicles are not considered motor vehicles.

Proposal:

  • Allow for the testing of automated farm vehicles on public roadways, excluding 400-series highways
  • Current rules of the road for farm equipment continues to apply
  • Applicant would still need to satisfy all requirements of the AV Pilot Program before they can be approved
  • Most current rules for AV Pilot participation applies
  • Current driverless conditions in the AV Pilot continues to apply if it is a driverless vehicle
  • Some proposed differences:
    • Simpler data requirements
    • No transportation of hazardous goods, passengers or livestock
    • Platooning allowed (vehicles to travel close together to reap fuel efficiencies)

Slide 12

Title: 6: Develop a pilot framework for the testing of automated or remote-controlled micro-utility devices (MUDs)

Current Status:

  • The province does not currently have a regulatory framework in place governing automated or remote-controlled MUDs such as automated personal delivery devices or automated snow plows.

Proposal:

  • Create a new 10-year pilot regulation for micro-utility devices leveraging the pilot authority of section 228 of the Highway Traffic Act.
  • Will include micro-utility devices (MUDs) that:
    • May not qualify as motor vehicles under the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and will not be defined as a motor vehicle in Ontario due to its small dimensions and low operating speeds
    • May operate primarily off-road in spaces such as private property, sidewalks, trails, or shoulders of roads
    • Are not meant for the transport of passengers, and
    • Are task oriented and may be operated or modified primarily to provide services such as snow plowing, goods delivery, sidewalk inspections, waste collection etc.
  • Specialized MUD stream for automated sidewalk snow plows due to the need for their larger size/weight.

Slide 13

Title: 6: Proposed general MUDs framework

Size: Equal to or less than L120cm x W74cm, 125kg

Weight and speed proposals: Maximum speed – 10 km/h in pedestrian spaces, 20 km/h on shoulders or

  • Different speed limits for devices in different weight classes
    • g. 10 km/h speed limit for devices 125kg and less
    • 5 km/h speed limit for devices between 125kg and 250kg

Approval and Oversight: Municipal opt-in with authority to limit operations (e.g. where and when)

  • Mandatory operator oversight capable of creating safe stop

Operational requirements:

  • Yield to pedestrians
  • Display name and contact and unique device number on device
  • Collision reporting
  • Good working order requirement and secure loads requirement

Slide 14

Title: 6: Proposed MUDs framework continued

General safety requirements:

  • Audible alerts – either within proximity alert, or always on directional white noise
  • Lighting in low light settings, reflectors on sides
  • Prohibit carrying of dangerous goods and controlled substances requiring federal placard
  • General liability insurance of $5 million
  • Braking system that allows device to come to a controlled safe stop (i.e. pulled to one side, not blocking passage)
  • Follow pedestrian rules

Automated or remote-controlled sidewalk snow plows: follows general MUDs framework except:

  • No maximum weight or dimension restrictions
  • Maximum 10 km/h on sidewalks
  • Requires, in addition to all other safety requirements, emergency stop buttons that are easily accessible
  • Flashing blue light

Slide 15

Title: Discussion Questions for Proposals 5 and 6

  1. What level of support would your organization have for these policy proposals? Why?
  2. Does your organization have any concerns with these policy proposals?
    1. Do you agree with the proposed dimension and weight limits?
    2. Which speed limit option would fit your target population’s needs best?
    3. What type of audible alert would best fit your needs? What proximity should trigger the audible alert?
    4. Are there other safety considerations?
  3. What impacts would these policy proposals have on your organization or population your organization serves?
  4. Are there any alternatives which your organization would like to suggest or other emerging vehicles that should be considered in the future?

Slide 16

Title: Next Steps

  • Feedback received will be used to inform further policy development.
  • Stakeholders and the public will have further opportunity to provide direct comment on the proposals through the Regulatory and Environmental Registries.
  • If you have further comments or questions, please reach out to:

Janet Lee – Senior Policy Advisor

Road Safety Program Development Office

Ministry of Transportation of Ontario

T: (416) 562-7497

E: Janet.C.Lee@Ontario.ca

Slide 17

Title: Appendix: Manufacturer Plate (M-Plate) Program

  • January 1, 2016: Ontario introduced an M-Plate program.
  • The M-Plate Program allows motor vehicle and motor vehicle component manufacturers to operate vehicles on Ontario roads for the purposes of testing, demonstration, evaluation and exhibition.
  • To be authorized to purchase an M-Plate, motor vehicle or component manufacturers are required to complete and submit an application form to the ministry.
  • Once approved, the ministry issues the applicant a letter to authorize the purchase and use of M-Plates.
  • The M-Plate is eligible for use on a passenger vehicle, commercial vehicle, bus and a motorcycle.

Slide 18

Title: Appendix: Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Levels of Automation description

To summarize SAE Levels:

Zero to two – the driver is driving and must constantly supervise any vehicle features that support the driver.

Three – the driver is not driving when the automated driving features are engaged, but when the feature requests, you must be ready to take over and drive.

Four and five – the person in the vehicle is not driving when the automated driving features are engaged. These automated driving features will not require you to take over driving.

Footer: For more information, please visit the SAE website at: SAE Levels of Driving Automation™ Refined for Clarity and International Audience

Ford Government Extends to November 1, 2021 the Deadline for Sending In Feedback on the Disability Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools, Colleges or Universities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Ford Government Extends to November 1, 2021 the Deadline for Sending In Feedback on the Disability Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools, Colleges or Universities

October 13, 2021

To help students with disabilities overcome the many disability barriers they face in Ontario schools, colleges and universities, you still have a chance to press for long-overdue improvements. The Ford Government has extended to November 1, 2021 the deadline for giving feedback on the disability barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario schools, colleges and universities.

After years of advocacy spearheaded by the AODA Alliance, two Standards Development Committees were appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to make recommendations for the contents of a new enforceable regulation to be called the Education Accessibility Standard. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee will make recommendations on the mandatory measures that are needed to make K-12 education in Ontario schools barrier-free for students with disabilities. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will make recommendations on the measures needed to make education offered in Ontario colleges and universities barrier-free for students with disabilities.

Up to November 1, 2021, you can send the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee your feedback on its initial proposals for this recommendation, which were posted online for public comment on June 1, 2021. Write educationsdc@ontario.ca

Up to November 1, 2021, you can send the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee your feedback on its initial recommendations for measures to be enacted in the Education Accessibility Standard for colleges and universities, which were initially posted on June 25, 2021. Write postsecondarySDC@ontario.ca

For each of these two Standards Development Committees, here are four questions you might wish to address:

  1. Say if you agree with all the Standards Development Committee’s recommendations. If you disagree with any recommendations, say which ones. Explain why you disagree with them.
  1. Explain which of the recommendations you consider especially important. What are your biggest priorities? Why are they important to you?
  1. If there are any recommendations that you disagree with, explain what the Standards Development Committee might change in those recommendations to improve them.
  1. Are there any recommendations that you would like the Standards Development Committee to add? Did it leave out anything that you consider important?

We have a collection of resources that can help you take part in this important consultation.

  1. The AODA Alliance‘s action kit on how to give public feedback on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations. You can also use that Action Kit to help you give input on the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations.
  1. The AODA Alliance’s new captioned video summarizing the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations include, and why they are needed.
  1. The AODA Alliance’s 55-page condensed and annotated version of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
  1. The AODA Alliance’s 15-page summary of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
  1. A captioned video of tips for parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate at school for their child’s needs.
  1. The AODA Alliance’s new captioned video giving you an introduction to the duty to accommodate people with disabilities.
  1. For general background, the AODA Alliance website Education page.

There have now been 986 days since the Ford Government received the blistering Independent Review report by David Onley on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Ford Government has still not made public a comprehensive plan to implement that report’s findings and recommendations. The Government has staged some media events with the Accessibility Minister to make announcements, but little if anything new was ever announced. There are just a little over three years til 2025. Yet Ontario lags far behind the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Ford Government has announced no plan to get on schedule for that deadline.

Divisional Court Declines to Rule on Argument that Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Violated Ontario’s Disabilities Act — AODA Alliance Urges Accessibility Minister to Obey the Law He’s Mandated to Spearhead

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Divisional Court Declines to Rule on Argument that Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Violated Ontario’s Disabilities Act — AODA Alliance Urges Accessibility Minister to Obey the Law He’s Mandated to Spearhead

October 8, 2021

Summary

Here are two major updates in our campaign to get the Ontario Government to effectively implement the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

1. Ontario’s Divisional Court Dismisses David Lepofsky’s Court Application, Without Ruling On Whether Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho Violated the AODA

On Friday, October 1, 2021, the Ontario Divisional Court released its ruling in Lepofsky v. Cho. We set the 2-page ruling out below.

The Court dismissed the application by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, without ruling on his contention that Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho violated s. 10(1) of the AODA. That section requires the minister to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s initial report upon his receiving it. Minister Cho did not post the health care Standards Development Committee’s initial report until over four months after he received it. He did not post the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report until 3.5 months after he received it. He did not post the K-12 Education Standards Development Committees initial report until 2.5 months after he received it.

The Court decided not to rule on the merits of David Lepofsky’s claim, concluding that the application had become moot after the Government eventually publicly posted all three reports. The Court had the authority to rule on the case, even though it was moot, but decided not to, for the reasons set out below. Minister Cho had urged the Court not to rule on the question whether he had violated the AODA. David Lepofsky urged the Court to rule on the case even if it was moot.

This ruling does not vindicate the Ford Government’s conduct. There are at least two important developments arising from this case.

First, Minister Cho, through his lawyer, conceded in court for the first time that he must post a Standards Development Committees initial report after taking the steps that are reasonably necessary to prepare the report for public posting. See the ruling, below. Second, the evidence in the case showed that the Government had created bureaucratic barriers that delayed the public posting of these reports. For example, the Government requires Cabinet Office to give permission to post something online, in accordance with Government marketing priorities. Yet, the AODA gives Cabinet Office no right to veto or delay the public posting of these reports.

2. AODA Alliance Writes Accessibility Minister Cho to Call on Him to Fulfil His Unmet Statutory Duties

On October 8, 2021, the AODA Alliance sent a detailed letter to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, set out below. It gives some specific examples of how the Ford Government has violated the AODA. It asks the Government to give these three commitments:

“1. Will you commit to now appoint Standards Development Committees to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, after advertising for people to apply to serve on those Committees? Will you give the latter Committee a mandate to make recommendations generally addressing measures needed to make the built environment accessible?”

“2. Will you commit to strengthen the insufficient Transportation Accessibility Standard, Employment Accessibility Standard and Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in the next four months, after you consult us on the revisions needed to strengthen them?”

“3. Will you commit that you will now put in place effective procedures to ensure that the final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will each be made public within a few days of your receiving a final report, at the latest? To do this will you commit as follows:

  1. a) Will you agree that under the AODA, you as Minister are required to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s final report “upon receiving” it?
  1. b) When a Standards Development Committee submits its initial or final report to you, will you immediately let the AODA Alliance and the public know that it has been received?
  1. c) Since your Ministry officials work closely with a Standards Development Committee as it prepares and votes to approve an initial or final report, will you direct your officials to take all the steps that are reasonably necessary to publicly post the report as quickly as possible, and wherever possible, even before the report is formally transmitted to you? For example, most if not all of this work can be started and even completed after a Standards Development Committee formally votes to approve its report, and before that report is formally transmitted to you.
  1. d) Once you receive a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final report, will you have it immediately posted online as soon as it is translated into French and the minimum steps are taken that are needed to code the document for posting, e.g., as a downloadable file?
  1. e) Once you receive an initial or final report from a Standards Development Committee, will you agree not to delay its public posting in order for the Government to take steps that are not necessary for its public posting? For example, will you agree not to delay the report’s public posting until there are briefings of the minister, deputy minister or other public officials on it, and/or to prepare a public survey on it, and/or to prepare other web pages or communication web pages, or other strategies regarding it, and/or to seek permission of Cabinet Office for it to be publicly posted, and/or to edit it to conform to any Government style or writing standards for publicly posted documents, and/or to align the timing of its public posting with the Government’s political, marketing or other strategies or priorities?”

3. Getting Close to 1,000 Days of Ford Government Inaction on the David Onley Report

There have now been a breathtaking 981 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act undertaken by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is well behind schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s mandatory deadline. It found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” impeding people with disabilities. The Ford Government still has no comprehensive plan in place for implementing the Onley Report.

Send us your feedback. Write the AODA Alliance at aodafeedback@gmail.com

        MORE DETAILS

October 1, 2021 Divisional Court Ruling in Lepofsky v. Cho

CITATION: Lepofsky v. Cho, 2021 ONSC 6466

DIVISIONAL COURT FILE NO.: 364/21 DATE: 2021/10/01

SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE – ONTARIO DIVISIONAL COURT

RE: DAVID LEPOFSKY, Applicant

AND:

RAYMOND CHO, THE MINISTER FOR SENIORS AND ACCESSIBILITY, Respondent

BEFORE: Sachs, R. D. Gordon and Kristjanson JJ.

COUNSEL: David Lepofsky, on his own behalf

Michael J. Sims and Wan Yao Chen, for the Respondent

Dianne Wintermute, for the Intervenor, Citizens with Disabilities, Ontario

HEARD at Toronto by videoconference: September 27, 2021

ENDORSEMENT

The Applicant initially sought an order in the nature of mandamus compelling the Respondent to make public proposed accessibility standards the Minister had received from three committees (the “Reports”). The Reports have now been made available. The Applicant amended his application to seek a declaration that the Respondent breached his duty to make the Reports public upon receipt, as is required by s. 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “Act”).

We agree with the Respondent that the Application’s application is moot. The live controversy between the parties, namely, the failure to make the Reports available to the public, has now disappeared.

The Applicant argues that even if we find that the application is moot, we should proceed to hear it as to do so would provide guidance to the parties for future cases. We agree with the Applicant that accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is an urgent issue and that the deadline provided for in the Act for achieving the purpose of the Act is fast approaching. Thus, anything that can be done to eliminate delay in achieving the goal of accessibility should be done. We disagree that issuing a declaration in this case to the effect that the Respondent breached its duty to make the Reports public upon receipt would meaningfully advance this goal.

Page: 2

Issuing a declaration that would have a meaningful effect in the future requires adopting an interpretation of the term “upon receipt” used in the English version of s. 10(1) of the Act (the term does not appear in the French version) that is not dependent on the analysis of a particular set of circumstances. Yet, neither the Applicant nor the Respondent is advocating such an interpretation. Both agree that the Reports are required to be released only after the Respondent has taken the reasonable steps necessary to prepare the Reports for public release. Where they disagree is on the question of which steps were reasonably necessary in this particular case and how much time was reasonably required to take those steps. For example, the Respondent asserts that it was necessary to brief the government about the content of the Reports and to make sure that the Reports did not exceed the mandate of the committees who issued them and that the language in the reports is appropriate. The Applicant counters by stating that these steps were not necessary since in this case the Respondent had representatives on the committees that prepared the Reports, which should have obviated the necessity for any more review. Both parties agree that before the Reports could be released they had to be “coded” and translated into French. Where they disagree is on the question of how long this process should have taken.

The Respondent states that part of the delay in this case was due to COVID 19. The Applicant disputes this explanation. Determining whether the requested declaration should be issued would require this Court to assess the evidence about the circumstances in this particular case. If we were to conclude that in this case the Respondent breached its duty, this would say nothing about what a subsequent court might decide in a different case. The analysis is an individual and contextual one and will necessarily vary in each case. For the court to engage in this exercise when the desired objective (the release of the Reports) has been achieved would not be an appropriate use of its resources.

The Applicant argues that failing to hear his application would be deny him a remedy in the face of the Respondent’s breach of its statutory obligation. Again, we disagree. The Applicant’s remedy in this situation was to seek an order requiring the Respondent to comply with its obligation and make the Reports available. Due to the fact that the Reports have now been made available, there is no further need for court intervention.

For these reasons the application is dismissed. The parties agree that there should be no order as to costs.

Sachs J.

I agree

  1. D. Gordon J.

I agree

Kristjanson J.

Date: October 1, 2021

October 8, 2021 Letter from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

October 8, 2021

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

Via email: raymond.cho@ontario.ca

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

Re: Your Statutory Duties Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

We ask you to take specific overdue actions, required of you as Ontario’s cabinet minister responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. These actions would help you fulfil your duty under section 7 of the AODA to oversee the development and implement all the accessibility standards necessary to achieving the AODA’s purpose.

The AODA’s purpose is to lead Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. That looming deadline is only a little more than three years away. It is beyond dispute that Ontario is not on schedule for becoming accessible by 2025. A failure to swiftly take the actions we identify in this letter would push Ontario further behind in reaching that deadline.

The Duty to Appoint Standards Development Committees to Review the Sufficiency of an Accessibility Standard Enacted Under the AODA Within Five Years After It is Enacted

Within five years after an accessibility standard is enacted under the AODA, section 9 of the AODA requires the minister, responsible for the AODA, to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of that accessibility standard. You are in clear violation of that requirement in the following two instances.

  1. a) The Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard was enacted in December 2012. The AODA required that a Standards Development Committee be appointed to review it no later than December 2017. Yet in the almost four years since then, no Standards Development Committee has been appointed for that purpose.

The previous Kathleen Wynne Government is responsible for not taking this action over the last six months of its term in office, from December 2017 to June 2018. You and your Government have been in violation of that mandatory requirement for your entire term in office to date, well over three years.

We have brought this unfulfilled requirement to your Government’s attention. We and others have urged your Government on several occasions to develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard, in order to fulfil the AODA’s requirement that buildings become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Your Government has never agreed to do so. To the contrary, during debates on this idea in the Legislature on May 30, 2019, during National Access Awareness Week, you inaccurately and hurtfully condemned this idea as creating “red tape.”

  1. b) In 2007, the previous Ontario Government enacted the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard to be enacted under the AODA. In June 2016, the previous Government enacted revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. You were therefore required to appoint a Standards Development Committee no later than June 2021, to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. You have not done so. As far as we have seen, you have announced no plans to do so.

People with disabilities in Ontario continue to face recurring disability barriers in many areas, such as in the built environment and in access to customer service. In important areas, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this situation even worse for people with disabilities. Moreover, your own Ministry enforcement data has revealed over the years that there have been rampant AODA violations in the context of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

  1. Will you commit to now appoint Standards Development Committees to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, after advertising for people to apply to serve on those Committees? Will you give the latter Committee a mandate to make recommendations generally addressing measures needed to make the built environment accessible?

 The Pressing Need to Strengthen the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

In 2011, the Ontario Government enacted three important accessibility standards under the AODA, the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. These three standards are enacted together in one regulation, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 2011.

The AODA required the previous Government to appoint Standards Development Committees by 2016 to review the sufficiency of each of those three accessibility standards. It therefore appointed the Transportation Standards Development Committee, the Employment Standards Development Committee, and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee.

Quite some time ago, each of those advisory committees fully completed their reviews and submitted their final reports to the Ontario Government. The Transportation Standards Development Committee’s final report was made public in the spring of 2018, before the June 2018 Ontario election. The Employment Standards Development Committee submitted its final report to you over two and a half years ago, on January 22, 2019. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee submitted its final report to you over one and a half years ago, on February 23, 2020.

According to the AODA, once the Government receives a Standards Development Committee’s final report, the Government can amend the accessibility standard that it reviewed. It can enact some, all or none of the changes that the Standards Development Committee recommended, and/or can make other reforms to the standard that the Government thinks helpful.

Despite all this work having been done, and all the recurring barriers that people with disabilities continue to face in transportation, employment and information and communication, your Government has enacted no revisions to the Transportation Accessibility Standard the Employment Accessibility Standard or the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. In fact, your Government has not enacted or strengthened any accessibility standards at all in its entire term in office.

You have failed to do so, even though over two and a half years ago, you received the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA. He found that Ontario is well behind schedule for becoming accessible by 2025, and is full of “soul-crushing barriers” that hurt people with disabilities. In the Legislature, you said that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in preparing his report.

  1. Will you commit to strengthen the insufficient Transportation Accessibility Standard, Employment Accessibility Standard and Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in the next four months, after you consult us on the revisions needed to strengthen them?

Ensuring that the Forthcoming Final Reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee Are Made Public Upon Your Receiving Them, Without Delay

Three Standards Development Committees, appointed under the AODA, are to resume their work this fall. They are required to review public feedback on their respective initial reports received over the summer and fall. They must then come up with their final reports and submit them to you. They will address disability barriers facing people with disabilities in the health care system, in the K-12 education system, and the post-secondary education system.

It is very important that you make public each of those Committees’ final reports upon receiving each of them, and that you not continue the Government’s practice of delaying for months the public posting of initial and final reports of Standards Development Committees appointed under the AODA.

These three forthcoming reports will, taken together, address serious disability barriers in the important areas of health care and education. The initial reports of these three Government-appointed advisory Standards Development Committees already documented that Students with disabilities face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities. Their initial reports also reaffirm how patients with disabilities face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system.

The AODA requires the minister responsible for the AODA to make public the initial or final report of a Standards Development Committee “upon receiving” the report. Regarding a Standards Development Committee’s initial report, s. 10(1) of the AODA provides:

  1. (1) Upon receiving a proposed accessibility standard from a standards development committee under subsection 9 (5) or clause 9 (9) (c), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.

As for any progress report that a Standards Development Committee submits to you, including the Committee’s final report, s. 11(2) of the AODA provides:

Progress reports

  1. (1) Each standards development committee shall provide the Minister with periodic reports on the progress of the preparation of the proposed standard as specified in the committee’s terms of reference or as may be required by the Minister from time to time.

Progress reports made public

(2) Upon receiving a report under subsection (1), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.

The Government has a troubling track record of withholding the initial or final reports of Standards Development Committees from the public for months or even years after receiving them, despite the minister’s statutory duty to post these reports upon receiving them. One troubling example of these was your Government’s withholding the final report of the Employment Standards Development Committee for over two years, from the time you received it in January 2019 to the time you publicly posted it in February 2021. You did so while people with disabilities continued to languish, facing troubling barriers in access to employment.

Another troubling illustration of this pattern was your withholding the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee from the public for over four months after you received it. You did this during some of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when you knew that people with disabilities were facing added barriers and hardships during that pandemic, and that the initial report you withheld from the public called for strong action on health care barriers, including those which are COVID-19-related.

In the recent case of David Lepofsky v. Raymond Cho, a senior Ministry official took the incorrect and harmful position that the AODA does not even require you to ever make public a Standards Development Committees final report. The Government had never before claimed that it had no statutory duty to make a Standards Development Committee’s final report public upon receiving it. That official’s affidavit, filed on your behalf, stated:

While posting of Initial Recommendations Reports is required by the Act and follows the process as outlined above, the Act does not require that the Minister post Final Recommendations Reports. In practice, the Ministry has posted these final reports as well.

In Lepofsky v Cho, I had filed a court application for judicial review on May 7, 2021, seeking a court order to force you to fulfil your duty to make public the initial reports that you had already received from the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. You had withheld those reports from the public much longer than necessary to post them online. It remains my position that you were in violation of your duty under s. 10(1) of the AODA to post each of those initial reports upon receiving them.

Although the court dismissed my application, it did not conclude that you complied with your legal obligations. Instead, at your request and over my objection, the Divisional Court declined to rule on my application, based on the fact that you had subsequently made all those initial reports public.

Your delay in posting those three initial reports was inexcusable. The Health Care Committee’s initial report was posted over four months after you received it. The K-12 Committee’s initial report was posted two-and-a-half months after you received it. The Post-Secondary Committee’s initial report was posted three-and-a-half months after you received it.

You made public the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial report just moments after I filed my court application on May 7, 2021, and no doubt before you had learned of my court application. You made public the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report on June 1, 2021, over three weeks after I filed my court application. You made public the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report on June 25, 2021, over six weeks after I filed my court application.

During the September 27, 2021 oral argument on my court application, your counsel conceded that section 10(1) of the AODA requires you to post an initial report that you have received after taking the steps that are reasonably necessary to prepare the report for public posting. The evidence that you placed before the Court showed that in the case of each of those three initial reports, your Ministry delayed its public posting well beyond the time it took to translate the report into French and to code it for online posting. (Even if it were assumed that your Ministry needed as much time as it actually took for French translation and coding.

According to your Ministry’s own evidence, you and your Government injected additional bureaucratic steps that delayed their posting. This included time taken to brief you or your office, and/or other Government officials. It included time taken to get Cabinet Office’s approval for their public posting in according with the Government marketing priorities, even though s. 10(1) gives Cabinet Office no authority to veto or delay their public posting. It included time taken to develop an online survey about each initial report, even though this is unnecessary to ready a report for public posting. It included time taken for the Government to develop a communication strategy (even though this too is unnecessary before a report is publicly posted). Finally, included time taken to edit the report for conformity with the Government’s standard for online posts, even though the Government has no authority to alter a Standards Development Committees report before publicly posting it.

It is extremely significant that your lawyer conceded in the face of the Court’s questions that the time needed to translate a report into French and to code it for public posting was a small part of the time which the Government actually took before it publicly posted an initial report. There was no evidence that your Government tried to speed up the reports’ translation or coding as a priority, or that most if not all of this work could not be done during the days or weeks before each report was formally submitted to you. Your staff were intimately involved with the work of each Standards Development Committee from beginning to end.

Your delays in publicly posting those three initial reports has further delayed Ontario’s progress toward reaching the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. As noted earlier, Ontario is already well behind in reaching that goal, as the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA amply documented over two years ago. Moreover, you withheld those reports from the public at an especially harmful time, during pivotal months of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was especially urgent to let hospitals, other health care providers, schools, colleges, and universities know as soon as possible about their disability barriers, and about initial recommendations of what they should do to remove and prevent them. Instead, you stalled that process.

It is essential that the Health Care, K-12 and Post-Secondary Standards Development Committees are able to complete their work and submit their final reports to you as soon as possible. Your Ministry should take every step it can to facilitate this.

Once any of those Committees submit their final report to you, you should make public the fact that you have received it. You should publicly post it upon receiving it, without any delay. You should not hold up the public posting for such things as briefing ministers or other Government officials, for getting Cabinet Office approval, for formatting the report to meet Ontario Government posting standards, or for developing communication strategies or survey instruments.

The next Ontario election is only eight months away. We want to ask each party to make commitments to implement those final reports. For you to delay the public posting of any of those reports would impede and frustrate that effort.

  1. Will you commit that you will now put in place effective procedures to ensure that the final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will each be made public within a few days of your receiving a final report, at the latest? To do this will you commit as follows:
  1. a) Will you agree that under the AODA, you as Minister are required to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s final report “upon receiving” it?
  1. b) When a Standards Development Committee submits its initial or final report to you, will you immediately let the AODA Alliance and the public know that it has been received?
  1. c) Since your Ministry officials work closely with a Standards Development Committee as it prepares and votes to approve an initial or final report, will you direct your officials to take all the steps that are reasonably necessary to publicly post the report as quickly as possible, and wherever possible, even before the report is formally transmitted to you? For example, most if not all of this work can be started and even completed after a Standards Development Committee formally votes to approve its report, and before that report is formally transmitted to you.
  1. d) Once you receive a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final report, will you have it immediately posted online as soon as it is translated into French and the minimum steps are taken that are needed to code the document for posting, e.g., as a downloadable file?
  1. e) Once you receive an initial or final report from a Standards Development Committee, will you agree not to delay its public posting in order for the Government to take steps that are not necessary for its public posting? For example, will you agree not to delay the report’s public posting until there are briefings of the minister, deputy minister or other public officials on it, and/or to prepare a public survey on it, and/or to prepare other web pages or communication web pages, or other strategies regarding it, and/or to seek permission of Cabinet Office for it to be publicly posted, and/or to edit it to conform to any Government style or writing standards for publicly posted documents, and/or to align the timing of its public posting with the Government’s political, marketing or other strategies or priorities?

As always, we remain ready, willing and able to assist the Government on the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. May we ask for your prompt reply to this letter, including the three commitments that we seek.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

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

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, Denise.Cole@ontario.ca

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

A New Captioned Video Gives You a Practical Guide to the Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

A New Captioned Video Gives You a Practical Guide to the Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities

October 6, 2021

Have you heard something about the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, but wanted to know what it actually means? Who owes this duty? To which people with disabilities? What does the duty include? What kinds of accommodations does it require? When does the duty to accommodate arise? Have you heard before that it is a duty to accommodate up to the point of “undue hardship,” but wondered what “undue hardship means?

Here’s a brand new captioned video that answers all these questions. It is called “The Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities 101 – An Introduction to the Duty to Accommodate.” It is presented by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, who is also a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School.

This presentation talks about the duty to accommodate in a wide range of situations. It includes the duty of employers to accommodate employees and job applicants with disabilities. It also addresses the duty of those in the public and private sectors who provide goods, services or facilities to the public to accommodate people with disabilities. That includes a diverse range of organizations, like stores, restaurants, hotels, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and other health care providers, public and private transportation providers, and so on.

This video is intended to help you whether you are a person with a disability, or a family member or friend of a person with a disability, or a public or private sector provider of goods, services or facilities.

Anyone involved in human resources work, or in direct customer service, or the management of an organization in the public or private sector can also benefit from this video. You don’t need any background in the law to benefit from this video.

It can be helpful to you if you are a member of a municipality’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, or of a school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, or of a Standards Development Committee appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

We encourage you to watch this video and to share it with others, including via social media. Post a link to it on your organization’s website. If you teach a course in college, university or other educational setting, feel free to use all or part of it as part of your instructional materials. Use this video as a tool to help in the campaign to make Ontario fully accessible to all ,people with disabilities.

The video runs about one and a quarter hours. To make is easier to use, and for those who don’t have time to watch it all, we provide links below to each of the major headings or topics addressed in the video.

Let us know what you think of this video. Send your feedback to aodafeedback@gmail.com

An Introduction to the Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities”

The video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y32XvjWmDAQ

Here are links to key topics in the video:

  1. Introduction and Overview 00:00 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeKQHuxP9XU
  2. Where does the Duty to Accommodate Come From? 2:27 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=147
  3. Who Must Accommodate People with Disabilities? Who Has the Duty to Accommodate? 5:12 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=312
  4. What is the Purpose of the Duty to Accommodate? 8:25 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=504
  5. What are the Benefits of Fulfilling the Duty to Accommodate? 11:15 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=675
  6. What Disabilities are Included within the Duty to Accommodate? 15:40 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=941
  7. Examples of Accommodations that Can be Required 17:26

https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=1046

  1. What is the Content of the Duty to Accommodate? What Must an Organization Do? 26:05 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=1565
  2. Some Red Herrings We Can Eliminate from Discussion About the Duty to Accommodate 34:05 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2045
  3. When Does the Duty to Accommodate Arise? 35:25 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2125
  4. When, If Ever, Can You Ask a Person, Requesting Accommodation, for Medical Documentation of Their Disability? 37:50 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2270

12 The Undue Hardship Defence – General Principles 39:33 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2373

  1. When Can the Cost of Accommodation Justify a Failure to Accommodate? 49:14 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2954
  2. When Can Health and Safety Considerations Justify a Refusal to Accommodate? 57:42 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3461
  3. Can the Failure to Accommodate Be Defended on the Basis that It Adversely Affects the Morale of Other Workers? 59:10 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3546
  4. How Does the Duty to Accommodate Apply to Trade Unions and Collective Agreements? 1:00:49 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3649
  5. What Happens if Fulfillment of the Duty to Accommodate May Conflict with Other Rights of Other People? 1:03:48 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3829
  6. A Short, Punchy List of Defences or Arguments that Cannot Justify a Failure to Accommodate 1:06:56 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=4016
  7. Concluding Thoughts 1:11:18 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=4282

Today 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Today 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

September 27, 2021 Toronto: Today at 10 a.m., the Divisional Court of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice will hold a public virtual hearing for the oral argument of a case brought by blind lawyer, law professor, and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, against Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho. In Lepofsky v, Cho, Lepofsky asks the Court to issue a declaration that Minister Cho violated section 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This is the first time anyone has gone to court to contest the sufficiency of the Ontario Government’s implementation of the AODA, and to get a judicial interpretation of the AODA.

The case is scheduled for about two hours. It will be livestreamed to the public on Youtube at https://youtu.be/LuD6fKu0dlE

As far as is now known, it will only be available online for livestreaming in real time.

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to 2.6 million people with disabilities by 2025. The Government must create, enact and effectively enforce a series of regulations, called accessibility standards, that spell out what organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities, and by when. The Government must appoint a series of committees, called Standards Development Committees, to advise on what those regulations should include.

According to section 10 of the AODA, when an advisory Standards Development Committee submits initial recommendations to the Minister, the Minister is required to make those recommendations public upon receiving them, e.g., by posting them on the Government’s website. Yet the Ford Government failed to do so for months in the case of three sets of such initial recommendations.

The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government back on December 3, 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted their respective initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Government appointed those Committees to advise on the disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system, and the disability barriers obstructing students with disabilities in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities.

Mr. Lepofsky submits that the Minister contravened the AODA by withholding those sets of recommendations from the public for five months, three and a half months, and two and a half months, respectively. The Minister denies he violated the AODA.

When Mr. Lepofsky filed this application on May 7, 2021, none of the three sets of advisory recommendations had been made public. Over the intervening time since then, the Minister eventually made them all public. Lepofsky argues that the minister’s delay in doing so contravened the law and hurt people with disabilities by further delaying progress towards making Ontario accessible.

Mr. Lepofsky’s original court application was made public on May 7, 2021 at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/disability-rights-advocate-launches-court-application-against-the-ford-government-for-violating-the-accessibility-for-ontarians-with-disabilities-act/

Since May 7, 2021, all parties to this case have filed additional evidence and other legal documents with the Court.

David Lepofsky will present his own argument. He has been assisted on a pro bono basis by Martha McCarthy and Richard Glennie of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP. The Minister will be represented by the Crown Law Office Civil of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

The Court granted leave to Citizens with Disabilities Ontario to intervene in the case. CWDO is supporting David Lepofsky’s position, and will be represented at the hearing by ARCH Disability Law Centre.

Mr. Lepofsky and the AODA Alliance will not be making any public comment about the case before oral argument is completed today.

Contact: aodafeedback@gmail.com

We have been advised that section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act makes it an offence to take or attempt to take a photograph, motion picture, audio recording of a court proceeding,

More background at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/ and on Twitter @aodaalliance

Monday September 27, 2021 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday September 27, 2021 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

September 24, 2021 Toronto: On Monday, September 27, 2021 at 10 a.m., the Divisional Court of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice will hold a public virtual hearing for the oral argument of a case brought by blind lawyer, law professor, and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, against Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho. In Lepofsky v, Cho,. Lepofsky asks the Court to issue a declaration that Minister Cho violated section 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This is the first time someone has gone to court to contest the sufficiency of the Ontario Government’s implementation of the AODA, and to get a judicial interpretation of the AODA.

The case is scheduled for about two hours. It will be livestreamed to the public on Youtube at https://youtu.be/LuD6fKu0dlE As far as is now known, it will only be available online for livestreaming in real time.

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to 2.6 million people with disabilities by 2025. The Government must create, enact and effectively enforce a series of regulations, called accessibility standards, that spell out what organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities, and by when. The Government must appoint a series of committees, called Standards Development Committees, to advise on what those regulations should include.

According to section 10 of the AODA, when an advisory Standards Development Committee submits initial recommendations to the Minister, the Minister is required to make those recommendations public upon receiving them, e.g. by posting them on the Government’s website. Yet the Ford Government failed to do so for months in the case of three sets of such initial recommendations.

The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government back on December 3, 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted their respective initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Government appointed those Committees to advise on the disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system, and the disability barriers obstructing students with disabilities in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities.

Mr. Lepofsky submits that the Minister contravened the AODA by failing to publicly post those sets of recommendations for five months, three and a half months, and two and a half months, respectively. The Minister denies he violated the AODA.

When Mr. Lepofsky filed this application on May 7, 2021, none of the three sets of advisory recommendations had been made public. Over the intervening time since then, the Minister eventually made them all public. Lepofsky argues that the minister’s delay in doing so contravened the law and hurt people with disabilities by further delaying progress towards making Ontario accessible.

Mr. Lepofsky’s original court application was made public on May 7, 2021 at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/disability-rights-advocate-launches-court-application-against-the-ford-government-for-violating-the-accessibility-for-ontarians-with-disabilities-act/

Since May 7, 2021 all parties to this case have filed additional evidence and other legal documents with the Court.

David Lepofsky will present his own argument. He has been assisted on a pro bono basis by Martha McCarthy and Richard Glennie of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP. The Minister will be represented by the Crown Law Office Civil of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

The Court granted leave to Citizens with Disabilities Ontario to intervene in the case. CWDO is supporting David Lepofsky’s position, and will be represented at the hearing by ARCH Disability Law Centre.

Apart from announcing the forthcoming hearing, Mr. Lepofsky and the AODA Alliance will not be making any public comment about the case before oral argument is completed on Monday.

Contact: aodafeedback@gmail.com

We have been advised that section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act makes it an offence to take or attempt to take a photograph, motion picture, audio recording of a court proceeding,

More background at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/ and on Twitter @aodaalliance

After the Federal Election, New Opportunities for People with Disabilities in Canada and a Pressing Need for the Media to Take a Hard Look at the Short Shrift It Too Often Gave Disability Issues

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

After the Federal Election, New Opportunities for People with Disabilities in Canada and a Pressing Need for the Media to Take a Hard Look at the Short Shrift It Too Often Gave Disability Issues

September 21, 2021

1. Canada’s Media Must Take a Long Hard Look at Its Troubling Treatment of Disability Election Issues

We can be proud that we and the disability community managed to get more media coverage of at least some of this election’s disability issues than we have ever achieved in the past. As discussed further below, these issues got nowhere near the attention they deserve. However, the media coverage of them in the 2015 and 2019 federal elections was even worse. Very slowly we are making progress.

Canada’s media now needs to take a long and hard look at its troubling approach to disability issues, especially during an election. Six million people with disabilities in Canada matter and deserve better.

Some news outlets did not cover disability issues at all, as far as we have been able to tell. CBC gave the issue some coverage, but only over the past few days before the election.

For example, it was not until 2 pm on Sunday, September 19, 2021, the last day before the election, that CBC posted a specific report comparing the platforms of the parties on disability issues. We set that story out below. By that time, some six million voters had voted by mail or at advance polls. If it was newsworthy then, it was equally newsworthy weeks earlier.

A stunning illustration of the short shrift some media gave disability election issues concerns the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail. On September 14, 2021, both newspapers commendably printed a Canadian Press report on the fact that the mail-in ballot was inaccessible for voters with vision loss. However, the original CP story included a passage on the fact that of all the major parties, only the NDP had responded to the AODA Alliance’s request for accessibility pledges. Yet both the Globe and the Star cut that important paragraph right out of that story. Here is the pivotal information that both the Star and Globe decided was not newsworthy enough for their readers:

” Lepofsky, who is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group sent a letter last month to all main federal parties asking for 12 commitments on accessibility, including one on accessibility of the electoral process.

“Only one leader has answered us. And that is (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh,” he said.

“We don’t support anyone or oppose anyone. We try to get the strongest commitments we can, but we have not even gotten an answer from (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau or (Conservative Leader) Erin O’Toole.””

Below, we set out the September 13, 2021 CP report in full published by the Chat News website, and the edited version that the Globe and Mail published.

We know of no reporter who pressed party leaders on their failure to answer our request for election commitments on accessibility.

Late in the campaign, a number of reporters who spoke to the AODA Alliance about disability issues in the election commented that this is an important story, and it is too bad they had not known of it earlier. Yet we sent several news releases to the media during the election campaign, as no doubt did other disability organizations.

2. Voting Barriers Must Go

Voting barriers impeding voters with disabilities were even worse in this election than in the past. Because of COVID-19, more voters wanted to resort to the mail-in ballot. Yet the mail-in ballot lacks accessibility for voters with disabilities like vision loss who cannot mark their own ballot in secret and verify their choice.

Moreover, the reduction in the number of polling stations per riding in this election meant further distances to travel and longer lineups for voters. This obviously generates more voting barriers for voters with disabilities, such as those facing public transit barriers, and those who lack the stamina to stay in a long lineup for a long time.

This was covered in Karlene Nation’s interview with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on voting day September 20, 2021 on Sauga Radio in Mississauga. Below we set out a September 20, 2021 article from CBC News that reported on long lineups, fewer polling stations, and barriers facing voters with disabilities.

That CBC report incorrectly states:

” Lepofsky said accessibility was not considered by Elections Canada at polling stations.”

What AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky had said is that Elections Canada does not have a record of ensuring accessibility for voters with disabilities at polling stations.

In its August 3, 2021 letter, the AODA Alliance asked the major parties to commit to election reform to make federal elections accessible for voters with disabilities. Only the NDP agreed to this or even replied.

 3. What’s Next on the Federal Front

For many, the election’s outcome is frustrating. For us disability advocates, it presents new opportunities. We always are ready to work with any and all parties in our spirit of non-partisanship.

In Canada’s new Parliament, we aim to urge the NDP to act on its commitments to us. Even though no other party answered our August 3, 2021 letter, seeking election pledges, we intend to ask Erin O’Toole to stand by the Conservative Party’s 2018 commitment in the House of Commons to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, if elected. Stay tuned.

4. And It’s Time to Focus Again on Provincial Issues in Ontario

With the federal election behind us, we will now turn prime attention to accessibility battles on the provincial front. Will the new COVID-19 vaccine be disability-accessible? Is the return to school treating students with disabilities better than in the past? With the fourth COVID-19 wave upon us, will the Ford Government eliminate the disability discrimination that seriously infects the critical care triage protocol that has been embedded in Ontario hospitals since January? Here again, stay tuned!

MORE DETAILS

CBC News September 20, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/long-lines-polling-stations-toronto-1.6182540

 

GTA voters contend with long lines, missing voter lists as election day draws to a close

Many ridings had significantly fewer polling stations than last election

Voters at a University-Rosedale polling station on Monday. Some people reported it had been a busy, and at times frustrating day for voters in the city. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Some frustrated voters at polling stations across the Greater Toronto Area on Monday found themselves dealing with long queues as they attempted to cast their ballots.

Lines outside polling stations, which closed at 9:30 p.m. ET, were longer this year in some cases due to COVID-19 precautions, logistical errors in voter ID cards and lists and a greatly reduced number of polling stations for some ridings.

In some cases, long lines stretched well into the evening.

At a polling station in King-Vaughan, voters reported a lineup of more than two hours and very little parking.

Aaron Kaufman, who lives in the area, said he gave up trying to vote because the line was so long and he had trouble finding parking shortly before 8 p.m. He never got out of his car but rolled down his window. People on the sidewalk told him not to bother trying to vote, he said.

“It was more than a long lineup. It was absolutely ridiculous,” Kaufman said after the polls closed on Monday night.

“The lineup for the actual polling station went around a giant sportsplex, across the street, around another building, and down the off ramp to the 400 Highway.”

Staff Sgt. Dave Mitchell of York Regional Police said there was a surge of voters at a polling station at 601 Cityview Blvd. in the Teston Road and Highway 400 area near Canada’s Wonderland before 8 p.m.

An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people tried to vote at that time, he said.

Mitchell said some people, in an effort to find parking, were getting out of their vehicles on the off ramp of Highway 400 at Teston Road and walking up on the ramp.

Kaufman said the experience left him angry. Not enough planning and thought went into the logistics of voting, he said.

“It’s unacceptable, to be honest in a country like ours, the organization around voting was so poor that people couldn’t even make their voice heard.”

King-Vaughan had 28 fewer polling locations than in 2019, which was a 62 per cent drop in locations.

Earlier Monday at the Bentway polling station for Spadina-Fort York, voters lined up for about an hour or more before they got in, but the balmy weather helped keep frustrations at bay.

“It’s fine, I was able to take some work calls in line, [it’s] not too bad. The weather’s pretty nice, been waiting for about an hour,” one voter at the Bentway polling station said.

“We’re all outside, so that makes me feel good. People are reasonable.”

A polling station at Oriole Park Public School, like many across Toronto, had long queues for most of the day, frustrating some voters.

Some ridings have fewer polling stations this year

It’s important to note that some electoral districts in the Greater Toronto Area have remarkably fewer polling stations than they did in the 2019 federal election.

Toronto Centre had 91 in 2019, and has 15 polling stations this year. Spadina-Fort York had 56, but has 15 today. Those are the two ridings with the largest decrease in polling stations at 84 per cent and 73 per cent fewer than the last election, respectively.

In York Region, Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill went from 39 to 12, and in Peel Region, Brampton East and Mississauga-Malton are down to 12 and 15 stations from 26 and 31, respectively, in 2019.

Elections Canada website errors

 

Several people also reported being unable to locate their polling station on the Elections Canada website Monday.

“A message comes up saying they aren’t able to find my polling station,” Daniel Mustard said. “It then asks you to call a 1-800 number to speak to an agent, but when I did that the agency also can’t find the address.”

“I’m lucky as I have all day to figure this out and vote. Others who may not be as keen might give up at this point,” Mustard added.

Others who chose to vote by mail were experiencing similar frustrations. Barbara Allemeersch said she only received her ballot on Friday afternoon and was questioning whether her returned vote will be received in time. Mail-in votes had to be received by 6 p.m. Monday.

Elections Canada responded on Twitter to the numerous complaints and concerns of voters being unable to find their polling station.

“Please note that we are experiencing technical difficulties with the Voter Information Service application on our website,” the agency said in a tweet on Monday morning. “Please check your voter information card or call us at 1-800-463-6868 to find your assigned polling location.”

A couple of hours later that was followed by a tweet saying the online information system was back online.

Elderly, people with disabilities face obstacles

 

Meanwhile, advocates for seniors and people with disabilities also said they believe there could have been a drop in voter turnout in their communities this year due to accessibility issues and a lack of aid available due to the pandemic.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, the CEO of CanAge, a national seniors’ advocacy organization, said while Elections Canada had done as “much as possible” this year to ensure seniors were provided for at polling stations, “that doesn’t mean that seniors are able to get to polling stations easier.”

Many community and aid organizations, as well as political parties, were not offering seniors transport to polling stations this year due to the pandemic, she said. That, coupled with the fact that many seniors are reluctant to enter large group settings right now, will likely mean a drop in older voters this year, Tamblyn Watts said.

“Eighty per cent of all seniors vote in every election, but I think this year the barriers to voting are so significant that we will see a shift in voting patterns,” she said.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said it could be a similar story for his community.

Lepofsky, who is blind, said Canada had “never had properly accessible elections for Canadians with disabilities,” and this year was no exception.

“The private, secret ballot is a sacred thing. The ability to mark your own ballot in private and not to have to tell anyone else who you’ve voted for and to be able to verify that it’s been marked correctly is fundamental to a democracy and yet as a blind person, I don’t have that right in Canada,” he said.

Lepofsky said accessibility was not considered by Elections Canada at polling stations. While mail-in votes offered an alternative, many still relied on loved ones to fill out their ballots for them.

“If people have any disability that relates to marking your own ballet, if it’s a paper ballot, you’ve got a terrible choice: either go to a polling station where you face barriers or use a mail-in ballot where you face barriers.”

“For any number of people with disabilities in Canada we do not have barrier-free, accessible voting and we do not have a plan in place to get us there.”

With files from Ali Raza, Ashleigh Stewart, Muriel Draaisma and Chris Glover

CBC News September 19, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ask-party-promises-people-with-disabilities-1.6180063

What the parties have promised for people with disabilities

CBC News Loaded

Politics

ASK CBC NEWS

What the main political parties are pledging to do for the disabilities community

Tyler Bloomfield

CBC News

Posted: Sep 19, 2021 2:00 PM ET |

A taxi cab loads a walker into a wheelchair accessible van cab in Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

This story idea came from an audience member, like you, who got in touch with us. Send us your questions and story tips. We are listening: ask@cbc.ca.

Advocates for Canadians with disabilities say they feel like their needs have not been a priority for the major political parties as campaigns draw to a close.

Priorities for millions of Canadians with disabilities ‘left out’ of election campaign, say advocates

​​That could leave just over 1 in 5 Canadians on the outside looking in. There are more than six million Canadians aged 15 and over who say they have a disability, according to Statistics Canada. And the actual numbers could be even higher.

Ask CBC News heard from some of those Canadians and family members of those Canadians. They wanted to know what specifically the major political parties are promising for people with disabilities.

What the parties are promising

It’s worth noting that each party has a number of different platform planks that may not be covered below, many of which would affect all Canadians, including people with disabilities. With this in mind, here’s what each of the parties’ platforms say explicitly about some of the issues important to the disability community.

Liberals

If re-elected, the Liberals promise to reintroduce a Disability Benefit Act that will create a direct monthly payment for low-income Canadians with disabilities and between the ages of 18 to 64. They say the new benefit will reduce disability poverty, by using the same approach they took with the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Child Benefit.

The Liberals say in the Disability Statement in their platform that they “have moved to a human rights-based approach to disability inclusion and are moving away from the medical and charity models, to a social model of disability and a focus on poverty reduction.”

They also point to the fact that during their time in office they have established Accessible Standards Canada, appointed Canada’s first minister responsible for disability inclusion. As well as making investments in disability-specific programs, including the Opportunities Fund, Enabling Accessibility Fund, the Ready, Willing & Able inclusive hiring program ​​and Canada Student Grants for people with disabilities.

A Liberal government also promises a “robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities,” focused on support for workers and employers to create “inclusive and welcoming workplaces.”

They also say they are in the process of consulting the disability community to implement a Disability Inclusion Action Plan.

Conservatives

The Conservatives promise to double the Disability Supplement in the Canada Workers Benefit to $1,500, from $713. They are also committing to ensuring that going to work never costs a disabled person money, saying they want to work with the provinces to be sure that programs are designed to “ensure that working always leaves someone further ahead.”

They say in their platform that they will boost the Enabling Accessibility Fund with an additional $80 million per year to provide incentives for small business and community projects to improve accessibility, grants and support for accessibility equipment that disabled Canadians need to work. They say that would be on top of “enhancements to existing programs that will get more disabled Canadians into the workforce.”

The Conservatives want to make it easier to qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the Registered Disability Savings Plan. Conservatives say their changes to the DTC will save a qualifying person with disabilities an average of $2,100 per year.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole breaks down part of his party’s plan to help Canadians with disabilities during a campaign stop in Edmonton. 1:06

NDP

 

The New Democrats promise to uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to strengthen the Accessibility Act to empower all federal agencies to make and enforce accessibility standards in a timely manner.

For income security, the NDP says it wants to expand support programs to ensure Canadians living with a disability have a guaranteed livable income, and to work to deliver a new federal disability benefit “immediately.” The party says this benefit would come in at $2,200 per month.

In its platform, the party promises to extend Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits to 50 weeks of coverage, to allow workers with episodic disabilities to access benefits as needed and to expand employment programs to ensure quality job opportunities are available.

On the issue of accessible housing, the NDP says it will create “affordable, accessible housing in communities across the country.”

For people with disabilities, it’s also worth noting the NDP platform includes a publicly funded national pharmacare and dental care program, a national autism strategy and a commitment to restore door-to-door mail delivery.

Laura Beaudin, a student, single mother and disabled Canadian asks NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh about his plan to support people with disabilities during CBC The National’s Face to Face series. 1:11

Bloc Québécois

 

While there are no specific plans to specifically support people with disabilities laid out in the Bloc Québécois platform, some of its other policies might offer some relief to the community. For example, the Bloc has been vocal about wanting to establish its own standards for long-term care.

People’s Party of Canada

 

The people’s party of Canada doesn’t have much in their platform that pertains to people with disabilities, but it does offer some promises to veterans with disabilities.

It says it wants to “reinstate the fair disability pension as previously provided for by the Pension Act. The pension will apply retroactively to 2006 and lump sum payments received since then will be treated as advance payments.”

Green Party

 

A Green government promises to create a Canada Disabilities Act and to support a national equipment fund to provide accessibility tools to help persons with disabilities.

When it comes to accessible housing, the platform says the party will “invest in adaptable social housing to meet particular needs, with both rental and purchase options.”

The Greens say they are willing to work with the provinces on disability issues as well. They say they will provide federal health transfer payments to provinces and territories directed to rehabilitation for those who have become disabled. They also suggest their equipment fund could be a joint program with provinces, for the sake of “equal access and common standards.”

For income support for Canadians with disabilities, the Green Party wants to institute a guaranteed livable income to lift anyone living with disabilities out of poverty. They are also committed to enforcing the Employment Equity Act, converting the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) to a refundable credit and redesigning the Canada Pension Plan/Disability Benefit to incorporate the DTC definition of disability and permit employment.

The Globe and Mail September 14, 2021

News

Lawyer says lack of accessible, private voting options a violation of Charter

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA

David Lepofsky was not able to mark his choice independently on the mail-in ballot Elections Canada sent to him because he is blind.

He opted to not vote in person with his wife because she has a serious immune limitation and they don’t want to risk being infected with COVID-19.

Mr. Lepofsky, who is a lawyer advocating for accessibility for disabled people, said the voting options available for blind people don’t allow them to cast their ballots privately.

He said the lack of accessible voting options is a violation of Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which requires equal protection and benefit of the law to those living with mental or physical disabilities.

“This is just awful,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “The basic right we’re all supposed to enjoy is the right to mark our own ballot in private and to mark it independently, or ourselves, and to be able to verify this mark the way we want. And I currently don’t have that as a blind person at the federal level.”

Elections Canada responded to his complaint on Twitter on Sunday, saying the agency recognizes “the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently.”

Mr. Lepofsky said the other option of voting in-person at a polling station also would not allow him to vote in private because an Elections Canada officer would have to read and verify his voting choice.

An Elections Canada spokesperson said those who provide assistance to voters must take oaths to protect the secrecy of those ballots.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector,” Matthew McKenna said in a statement.

Chat News Today September 13, 2021

Originally posted at https://chatnewstoday.ca/2021/09/13/blind-lawyer-says-lack-of-accessible-private-voting-options-violates-charter/

Blind lawyer says lack of accessible, private voting options violates Charter

Maan Alhmidi

The Canadian Press

SEPTEMBER 13, 2021 01:31 PM

A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta

OTTAWA — David Lepofsky was not able to mark his choice independently on the mail-in ballot Elections Canada sent to him because he is blind.

He opted to not vote in person with his wife because she has a serious immune limitation and they don’t want to risk being infected with COVID-19.

Lepofsky, who is a lawyer advocating for accessibility for disabled people, said the voting options available for blind people don’t allow them to cast their ballots privately.

He said the lack of accessible voting options is a violation of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which requires equal protection and benefit of the law to those living with mental or physical disabilities.

“This is just awful,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“The basic right we’re all supposed to enjoy is the right to mark our own ballot in private and to mark it independently, or ourselves, and to be able to verify this mark the way we want. And I currently don’t have that as a blind person at the federal level.”

Elections Canada responded to his complaint on Twitter on Sunday saying the agency recognizes “the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently.”

Lepofsky said describing the situation as being “not ideal” is an “offensive understatement” because the mail-in ballots are not accessible.

He said the other option of voting in-person at a polling station also would not allow him to vote in private because an Elections Canada officer would have to read and verify his voting choice.

An Elections Canada spokesperson said those who provide assistance to voters must take oaths to protect the secrecy of those ballots.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector,” Matthew McKenna said in a statement.

According to Statistics Canada, about three per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, or about 750,000 people, have a seeing disability that limits their daily activities and 5.8 per cent of this group are legally blind.

Lepofsky, who is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group sent a letter last month to all main federal parties asking for 12 commitments on accessibility, including one on accessibility of the electoral process.

“Only one leader has answered us. And that is (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh,” he said.

“We don’t support anyone or oppose anyone. We try to get the strongest commitments we can, but we have not even gotten an answer from (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau or (Conservative Leader) Erin O’Toole.”

He said there should be voting options at the federal level for people with disabilities that allow them to vote without needing help from anyone. He said voting by phone through an automated system can be a good option.

“In New Zealand, they have a phone-in ballot which is not internet-connected. That’s available for voters with vision loss. There are different options around the world but we are lagging way behind,” he said.

“We’re in the dark ages.”

Last year, Elections BC provided a telephone voting option for voters who are unable to vote independently, including people who have vision loss, those who have a disability or an underlying health condition that prevents them from voting independently and those who were self-isolating during the last week of the campaign and unable to vote by mail.

McKenna said introducing other voting options requires a law change.

“Changes to the way Canadians vote, including telephone voting, would in almost all cases require authorization from Parliament, typically in the form of legislative change,” he said.

“When assessing new voting processes or services, we undertake significant planning and testing to ensure that the new option is accessible, and that the confidentiality, secrecy, reliability and integrity of the vote are preserved.”

Mr. Lepofsky said there should be voting options at the federal level for people with disabilities that allow them to vote without needing help from anyone. He said voting by phone through an automated system can be a good option.

“In New Zealand, they have a phone-in ballot which is not internet-connected. That’s available for voters with vision loss. There are different options around the world but we are lagging way behind,” he said.

“We’re in the dark ages.”

Neither Election Front-Runner, Trudeau or O’Toole, Ever Ended Up Answering the AODA Alliance’s Request for Disability Accessibility Election Pledges – And Other Last Minute Election News

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Neither Election Front-Runner, Trudeau or O’Toole, Ever Ended Up Answering the AODA Alliance’s Request for Disability Accessibility Election Pledges – And Other Last Minute Election News

September 19, 2021

Tomorrow is the final day to vote in the current federal election. Here is a last look at disability accessibility issues as they have been addressed in this election campaign.

We thank all those who lent their support to our effort to raise disability accessibility in this election campaign. Stay tuned for more federal and provincial news on accessibility issues after the votes are counted.

1. Election Front-Runners Trudeau and O’Toole Have Still Never Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for Disability Accessibility Election Pledges

With less than 24 hours to go, the AODA Alliance has still not received any election commitments from the two front-runners, the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau and the Conservatives’ Erin O’Toole, in response to our August 3, 2021 letter to all major federal party leaders. That letter sought 12 commitments to make Canada accessible to over six million people with disabilities, as the Accessible Canada Act aims to achieve.

The only party that has given commitments in response has been the New Democratic Party. We commend the NDP and have reminded the other parties over this last weekend that it was still not too late to meet or beat the NDP pledges.

Three days ago, the Conservative Party campaign emailed the AODA Alliance to ask for our letter in which we sought these commitments, stating that they had not received it. This is difficult to understand, since we have not only emailed it to them, but tweeted about it to Mr. O’Toole and to as many of their party’s candidates as we have been able. We quickly re-sent it to the Tories on September 16, 2021. We have still heard nothing back from them.

2. Minor Surge in Last-Minute Media Coverage of the Federal Election’s Disability Issues

There has been a bit of a surge in media coverage of disability issues in this election over the final weekend before election day. On Friday, September 17, 2021, City TV news included a story by reporter Mark McAllister entitled:

“Accessibility advocates feel left out of election”, which began:

“As the election campaign nears a close, a large portion of the population are still waiting for their concerns to be addressed. Mark McAllister reports on why accessibility may play into the final vote on Monday.”

We could not find the text of that report online, but the report itself is available at https://toronto.citynews.ca/video/2021/09/17/accessibility-advocates-feel-left-out-of-election/

As well, on Saturday, September 18, 2021, under 48 hours before the vote, CBC Radio’s health program White Coat Black Art with host Dr. Brian Goldman included an item on the election’s disability issues. It did not include the AODA Alliance or the specific issues we have raised. A transcript of that program is available at https://www.cbc.ca/radio/whitecoat/transcript-for-white-coat-black-art-rabia-s-family-1.6181372

We appreciate this issue receiving any coverage. It appears that CBC came to it quite late in the campaign. This presents a challenge, since by the time CBC got around to considering it, at least 5 million voters have reportedly voted already. For them, that coverage came too late.

Let’s all watch to see whether the reporters and pundits who spend hours on TV and radio on Monday night, and who write article after article for newspapers and websites on the election results, have much if anything to say on the election’s implications for people with disabilities. After this election is over, the media needs to seriously reflect on why it so systemically and repeatedly treats such issues as secondary, or leaves them out altogether.

3. A Quick Closer Look at Two Troubling Elements in the Liberal platform.

First, in its published platform, the Liberals promise to harmonize accessibility standards for people with disabilities across Canada. “Harmonization” at first sounds positive. However, this promise should worry us.

This could easily lead to a reduction in accessibility protections. Standards on accessibility could be brought in line with each other by reducing them to the lowest common denominator. That would harmfully take protections away from people with disabilities.

In any event, we do not know how the Federal Government has authority to reduce accessibility standards across Canada. An accessibility standard enacted in Ontario under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act cannot be altered by the Federal Government.

Second, the Liberals have promised that if they are re-elected, the Federal Government will use the definition of disability in the Accessible Canada Act for all federal programs. This too at first blush sounds appealing. However, it too is a bad idea that can hurt people with disabilities.

The definition of “disability” in any particular federal program must be tailored to the purposes of that program. For some programs, such as the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act, a broad definition of disability is desirable. For other programs, that broad definition would be harmful. A narrower definition of disability would be desirable.

For example, if the Federal Government used the Accessible Canada Act’s broad definition of disability for its employment equity programs, The Government could immediately claim that it has a massive number of people with disabilities now working in the Federal Government, and that no employment equity efforts are needed to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Yet people with disabilities face very troubling rates of unemployment and need to be front and center in any federal employment equity program.

On the Eve of the Federal Election, Tories Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance Request for Federal Election Commitments – Liberals Say They’ll Enact At Least Some Accessibility Standard Within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Passage

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

On the Eve of the Federal Election, Tories Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance Request for Federal Election Commitments – Liberals Say They’ll Enact At Least Some Accessibility Standard Within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Passage

September 17, 2021

        SUMMARY

The federal election is just three days away. We have more breaking news on our efforts to get the federal parties to all make strong commitments on making Canada accessible to over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada.

As of now, only the New Democratic Party has answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 written request for 12 election commitments on the topic of accessibility for people with disabilities. The NDP made many if not most of the 12 election pledges we requested.

We thank and congratulate the NDP for doing so. We urge all other parties to do the same, in our spirit of non-partisanship.

1. Federal Conservatives Say They Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 Letter

On September 16, 2021, the AODA Alliance received an email from the Conservative Party. It asks for a copy of the AODA Alliance’s request for election commitments, and says they will try to respond before voting day. The email indicates that they had not received our request for commitments before this.

We again quickly provided the Tories our August 3, 2021 letter to the federal parties in response to that email. We originally emailed it to Erin O’Toole on August 3, 2021. We posted it on the AODA Alliance website the next day. Over the past days, we have tweeted at Mr. O’Toole and many Conservative Candidates, trying to get them to answer this letter. Moreover, the September 6, 2021 report in the Hill Times, set out below, states that that newspaper reached out by email to the Tories about this issue but got no answer.

From the email we received from the Conservatives, it appears that they reached out to us because they had received a media inquiry on why they had not answered our request for commitments. This further shows how people with disabilities lose out when the media either do not cover this story at all, or delay coverage till late in the campaign.

2. Liberal Cabinet Minister Carla Qualtrough Says the Liberals Would Enact Accessibility Standards within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Enactment

The Liberal Party has also not answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, requesting 12 pledges on disability accessibility. However, in an interview published in the influential Hill Times newspaper dated September 6, 2021, set out below, federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough commits that the Federal Government would enact accessibility standards within four years of the Accessible Canada Act’s enactment. However, she did not say which accessibility standards would be enacted within that time frame. She also said that “hundreds” of accessibility standards would be needed.

Finally, she recognized that the Accessible Canada Act has room for improvement. However, she did not commit to making any specific improvements.

The September 6, 2021 Hill Times article, set out below, states that none of the federal parties had answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, that seeks election commitments. Since that article was written, the NDP answered our request, as noted above.

3. More Media Coverage of the Federal Election’s Disabilities Issues Days Before the Election

In an earlier AODA Alliance Update, we noted that CBC was one of the media organizations that had not been covering the election’s disability issues. The CBC has now started to do so, but only in the past two days. Two articles are set out below. One could say “better late than never.” However, we qualify this by noting that for the millions of voters who already have voted, late is the same as never!

We have also benefitted from coverage on Sauga Radio with Karlene Nation, CHML Radio Hamilton with Bill Kelly, and Sirius XM Radio with Dahlia Kurtz. We thank them all for shining the spotlight on this election issue.

        MORE DETAILS

The Hill Times September 6, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.hilltimes.com/2021/09/06/disability-groups-still-waiting-for-most-parties-to-address-accessibility/315130

Disability groups still waiting for parties to address accessibility

Advocates say they are the largest minority in Canada. Some groups say that in the long run they are ‘the minority of everybody,’ as the policies they are fighting for will impact everyone at some point in their life.

By Ian Campbell

Disability advocacy group says that it has yet to receive a reply from any of the federal parties after it sent them an open letter at the beginning of the campaign seeking specific commitments about making Canada more accessible.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance), which is chaired by Osgoode Hall law professor David Lepofsky, said they released their open letter on Aug. 3 because they knew an election was imminent and wanted their concerns to be on the radar of parties and voters throughout the campaign.

The letter listed twelve commitments the group is seeking from the parties related to the implementation and amendment of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), a law that was passed by the Liberal government in June 2019.

Some of the items the group is calling for include a commitment that federal government grants will not go to projects that do not meet accessibility standards, and the removal of loopholes in the ACA that allow some organizations to be exempt from its requirements. The AODA Alliance also wants a four-year timeline for enforcement of the accessibility standards required by the Act.

“We are concerned that the law itself is too weak and the government’s actions to implement it fall short,” said Mr. Lepofsky in an interview with The Hill Times. “Not that they’re doing nothing. They’re just not doing enough, and they’re not moving fast enough.”

 

The Hill Times reached out to each of the four main federal parties that are running candidates across Canada, asking for an interview with one of their candidates who identified as having a disability and who could speak to the party’s policies related to disability and accessibility. The Conservative Party did not reply to multiple emails. The Green Party replied with a policy statement but was not able to make a candidate available for an interview.

The AODA Alliance released a statement on Sept. 2, the day following the release of the Liberal party platform, criticizing the platform document as well as the continued lack of response from the other federal parties to their letter.

“[The Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP] mention needs of people with disabilities several times in their platforms,” said the statement. “This is a step forward from some past elections. However, they fall well short of what people with disabilities need.”

“The only party that says anything about strengthening the weak Accessible Canada Act is the NDP. [The Liberals and the Conservatives] don’t really say very much at all on this. But none of them make the 12 commitments that we seek,” Mr. Lepofsky said.

Mr. Lepofsky said his group always writes to parties in each election campaign, because platforms tend to offer a more general, high-level discussion of issues, and that seeking specific policy commitments is important to his organization.

“We know that a platform may only have a couple of sentences, which is why we write to the parties. So the first thing that’s worrisome is they’re not answering,” said Mr. Lepofsky.

“In so far as the issue of achieving accessibility for people with disabilities is concerned, the Liberal platform mainly repeats what it promised two years ago: namely, promising a disability lens on all government decisions, and pledging the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. The government’s record over the past two years on both commitments is unimpressive.”

As an example, Mr. Lepofsky pointed to the ArriveCan application, which can be used to facilitate the process of crossing the border into Canada. Mr. Lepofsky said the application has significant accessibility barriers for people who are visually impaired.

In an interview with The Hill Times, Carla Qualtrough (Delta, B.C.), who has served as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion in the Liberal government, said now that the Liberal platform has been released, she is able to make more specific commitments in response to the items raised by Mr. Lepofsky in the AODA Alliance’s Aug. 3 letter.

“I can tell him that there will be enforceable standards within four years,” said Ms. Qualtrough. “The goal in the act is a barrier-free Canada by 2040, and all the work that I think David and other advocates, and perhaps rightfully so, kind of worry will be at the back end of the next nineteen years is being done now.”

Ms. Qualtrough added that while she is committed to having enforceable standards within four years, she cannot yet say which ones. She said that implementing the act involves developing highly detailed standards across every federally regulated sector.

“We’re talking standards in every aspect of federal government jurisdiction. So if you think of banks alone, there will be a standard for ATMs, for entrances, for money, for customer service. There are hundreds of standards that need to be developed over the course of the years. And there’s big ones, like an employment standard, but then there will be super technical ones, like counter height at a bank. So all of this will take time.”

Ms. Qualtrough said she understands the urgency that advocacy groups feel.

“I think that 2040 feels like a long way away, and it is for people who’ve been discriminated against their entire life, of course it is. But that doesn’t mean that work hasn’t already started and won’t be done.”

Ms. Qualtrough said that the vast majority of time since the ACA has been in place was during the pandemic, but that progress was still made in that time.

“I think that what we’ve done under the ACA, in the midst of all that, is phenomenal,” she said. “We’ve set up Accessible Standards Canada. We’ve set up the board, on which half of the members are persons with disabilities. We’ve put in place technical groups that are headed by people with disabilities to work on the first four standards.”

Mr. Lepofsky and other advocates have expressed concern that two key positions related to the enforcement of the ACA, the Accessibility Commissioner and the Chief Accessibility Officer, have not yet been filled.

NDP candidate Sidney Coles, who is running in Toronto-St. Paul’s, said that part of her party’s commitment to improve the ACA relates to looking at issues of jurisdiction.

“[NDP leader Jagmeet Singh] has committed to work to improve the Accessibility Act. Where we’re not quite clear, jurisdictionally, is who is going to enforce standards,” said Ms. Coles, who has limited mobility due to a leg injury.

“We need to work with the provinces to figure out how we do that from the municipality, to the province, to the federal level, and specifically with jurisdictional overlays, transport being one. When you’re improving a train, that may be a federal issue if it’s a national train. The municipality also has to respond and make sure that once passengers are coming off that train that the stations are set up to also accommodate passengers.”

Ms. Qualtrough said she sees the ACA as a major accomplishment, but there remains room for improvement.

“We will always look at making this law better. In my mind—and I’m saying this as a human rights lawyer—this is probably the most significant advancement in human rights for people with disabilities since the Charter. Like, this is an entirely… new system of accountability and prospective barrier removal that’s going to prevent discrimination. We’re trying to make our disability conversations across the country about human rights. It’s not this medical or charity model. It’s a human rights and poverty reduction lens.”

Ms. Qualtrough, who is legally blind, said she is thrilled to see these issues getting discussed during a federal election campaign.

Poverty relief essential: Adair

Mr. Lepofsky’s organization is not the only one calling for attention to disability issues during this election.

Bill Adair, the executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada, said that poverty is one of the key issues his organizations would like to see addressed on the campaign trail.

“The reality is that almost four million people in Canada live in poverty. One third of those people are people with disabilities,” said Mr. Adair.

“So our call is for a basic income to be provided to people living with disabilities to ensure that they no longer live in poverty.”

Mr. Adair said that the Canada Disability Benefit, introduced by the Liberal government in June in the final days of the last Parliament, indicated the “intent to do something specific about this,” but there needs to be much more detail than was included in that announcement.

“It needs to be much more robust,” said Mr. Adair. “We’d like to know, how soon is it going to be created? How much will be provided? How will this be coordinated with provinces and territories to ensure that they do not claw back benefits that people with disabilities are already receiving?”

“We understand this is not a simple equation that can just be solved quickly, but we are looking for something with details. We are looking for something which lifts people out of the poverty that is preventing them from participating in our great democracy.”

Jewelles Smith, communications and government relations coordinator at the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), said that democratic participation is one of the most important topics of all, and that means making election campaigns accessible so that voters who have a disability can fully participate in the process of shaping the government.

“For people with disabilities to make an informed choice when casting their ballot they need full access to candidates’ campaigns,” said Ms. Smith.

She said that she has not consistently seen sign language interpreters appearing next to the party leaders, such as was seen next to the public health officers during the pandemic, and that many of the parties’ websites are lacking in accessibility features.

“I thought that with the pandemic it’s kind of a lesson learned,” she said. “I thought we would be seeing it from the primary candidates who are trying to get our votes.”

Ms. Smith said that Elections Canada now allows candidates to spend money on accessibility-related costs that will not go towards their campaign spending limits. A portion of these costs also qualify for reimbursement from Elections Canada.

Mr. Lepofsky said that, with his group’s focus on seeking public policy commitments related to accessibility, it is vital that all voters experience an accessible election process.

“We say that we’re the minority of everybody,” said Mr. Lepofsky. “Because everybody either has a disability now or gets one later. If you can see perfectly right now, as you get older, you might not be able to. So the barriers we’re fighting, if it’s not relevant to you now, it could be relevant to you later.”

icampbell@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

 CBC News September 17, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/priorities-for-millions-of-canadians-with-disabilities-left-out-of-election-campaign-say-advocates-1.6178053

Priorities for millions of Canadians with disabilities ‘left out’ of election campaign, say advocates

Kate McGillivray

CBC News

Toronto

An accessibility access point for a building through a parking garage in downtown Vancouver. It is behind a locked gate and has a grate that is difficult to cross with a wheelchair. (David Horemans/CBC)

One of Canada’s leading advocates for Canadians with disabilities says they are heading into election day on Monday with little confidence that their needs are a priority — and few firm promises from federal parties.

David Lepofsky, who is blind, is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance, or AODA Alliance.

His group, which is non-partisan, sent each party a letter in early August requesting they make 12 specific commitments related to accessibility.

The requests range from making sure voting is fully accessible to promising not to spend public money on projects that perpetuate or create new barriers.

As of Friday, with the election now three days away, only one major party has come on board.

“The NDP made many, if not most, of our commitments. As for the other parties, we got a response from the Trudeau campaign merely acknowledging receipt of our letter,” said Lepofsky.

The Conservatives, he said, did not respond to the group at all.

“It’s enormously frustrating, unfair and troubling that disability issues in this election have yet again been given short shrift,” said Lepofsky.

“Six million people with disabilities and their families and loved ones get left out.”

Concern about lack of follow-through

The AODA Alliance is far from the only voice expressing disappointment with how little focus has gone to accessibility issues since campaigning began.

A recent Angus Reid study found that 67 per cent of Canadians with disabilities thought that their needs had not received enough attention during the election.

Other groups, such as the Accessible Housing Network, have also tried to put the issue on the agenda, calling on all parties to require that “all new and refurbished housing be 100 per cent accessible” to increase the dignity, freedom, wellbeing and social inclusion of people with disabilities.

Luke Anderson, who serves as executive director of the Stopgap Foundation, told CBC Toronto he’s had to “go digging pretty deep” to find any mention of disability in the party platforms.

Luke Anderson says people with disabilities are once again being left out of the pre-election conversation. His StopGap Foundation builds ramps for single-step storefronts and raises awareness about barriers in our built environment. (Luke Anderson)

Even after reading what the parties have to say, he has little faith that what’s being promised will actually happen.

“I’m scared that their platforms on accessibility and disability aren’t going to be enforced and followed through on.”

Legislative failures

 

One area that both Lepofsky and Anderson say badly needs work is the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), passed back in 2019.

The act’s stated purpose was to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction — but Lepofsky says that in practice, implementation has been weak, and the rules are unclear.

“For example, this law does not require that when the federal government gives out billions for infrastructure projects that it ensures that those projects will be accessible to people with disabilities,” he said.

His group would like to see the act significantly strengthened, with loopholes closed, clear timelines for organizations to fall in line, and consequences for failing to do so.

David Lepofsky says: if the Liberal and Conservative leaders are ‘not prepared to respond to our inquiries now, in the middle of election, it doesn’t give you any confidence that they’re going to be any more responsive once the election is over.’

The AODA Alliance would also like to see improvements to the National Building Code, which it says “falls short of the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, applicable human rights codes and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Of the three major parties, only the Conservatives responded to a request from CBC News for details on their platform and an explanation for why they did not respond to the AODA Alliance.

The party says it plans to “boost the Enabling Accessibility Fund by $80 million per year, double the Disability Supplement in the Canada Workers Benefit from $713 to $1,500, [and] overhaul the complex array of disability supports and benefits,” among other steps.

The Conservatives did not address their lack of response to Lepofsky’s group.

 CBC News September 15, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ask-accessible-voting-election-disabilities-1.6175148

How accessible is voting for people with disabilities?

Tyler Bloomfield

CBC News

A lawn sign from a Disability Matters Vote (DMVote) campaign is seen in Manitoba in 2019. DMVote is a non-partisan public awareness campaign that supports Manitobans with disabilities so they can participate fully in election activities. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

This story idea came from an audience member, like you, who got in touch with us. Send us your questions and story tips. We are listening: ask@cbc.ca.

For some people, voting isn’t as simple as showing up to the polls on election day and casting a ballot.

From getting voter information to upholding the privacy of a ballot, there are barriers that exist in the voting process for people with disabilities.

CBC News readers have been asking us about them and the accessibility of the federal election in general.

From getting voter information to upholding the privacy of a ballot, advocates say there are barriers that exist in the voting process for people with disabilities. Listen to a text-to-speech version of this full story. 6:30

Getting the resources you need

Before someone with a disability even gets to the polls there are hurdles to clear. One, for example, is getting the voter information you need in a format that works for you.

Elections Canada offers voter information — like its guide to the federal election and list of accepted forms of ID to register and vote — as an American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) video with open captioning.

You can also order physical resources in braille, large print or as an audio CD.

Have an election question for CBC News? Email ask@cbc.ca. Your input helps inform our coverage.

For people who are deaf or partly deaf, Elections Canada also has an ASL version of a video explaining how it is making federal elections accessible and an ASL version of its video that covers voting assistance tools and services.

If a family member or friend has asked you for help voting, Elections Canada has a section on its website clarifying what is and is not allowed when offering support.

Accessibility at the polls

If you’re voting in person on election day, you’ll want to make sure your assigned polling station has everything you require to vote safely and accurately.

Returning officers use an accessibility checklist, which contains 37 criteria — 15 of which are mandatory.

A polling station, for example, is required to provide a level access instead of stairs to the entrance and the voting room must be on the same level as the entryway.

But Elections Canada does not mandate parking spaces for people with disabilities.

You can check to see exactly how accessible your nearest polling station is by searching your postal code on Elections Canada’s voter information service. If you are deaf or partly deaf you can Teletype (TTY) 1-800-361-8935 for more information.

If your assigned polling place does not meet your needs, the agency says to contact your local Elections Canada office and you may be issued a Transfer Certificate. This would allow you to vote at a more accessible polling place in your riding.

David Lepofsky is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and a visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. He points out that the COVID-19 pandemic also introduces barriers at the polls for electors with disabilities.

For instance, if a voter who is blind or partly blind shows up on their own, he says they might require another person to guide them, but “you can’t take someone’s arm and be guided if you’re trying to socially distance.”

Lepofsky adds that minimizing the distance between the doors of the polling station and where you go to cast your ballot could be one way to help address that issue, as well as including properly colour-contrasted tape and stanchions to assist people so they can know by touch.

Elections Canada says high-visibility physical distancing markers will be in place at polling places, so that electors who are partly blind can more easily see them and maintain physical distance.

Each polling station will also carry tools to make reading and marking your ballot more accessible. If you ask a poll worker they should be able to provide you with a large-print or braille list of candidates, tactile and braille voting templates, magnifiers, large-grip pencils and voting screens that let in more light.

The right to a private ballot

 

An issue Lepofsky says is harder to address is maintaining the right to a private ballot for people who are blind or partly blind.

“We have never had that right. We have had to either have somebody else mark our ballot for us, which means you have to tell someone else — a trusted friend or a public official — who you’re voting for,” he said.

“People without disabilities take this right for granted because they don’t even have to think about it.”

David Lepofsky, the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says people who are blind or partly blind have never had the right to mark and independently verify their own ballot in federal elections.

Elections Canada told CBC News in an email that the secrecy of those votes are maintained by the oaths taken by those who assist them.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector. It’s always done in the presence of a witness. If the elector requests assistance from someone they know, that person is required to sign an oath before they provide assistance,” said Matthew McKenna, a spokesperson for Elections Canada.

But Lepofsky says he believes the process still amounts to a systemic denial for people with disabilities to mark and verify a ballot on their own.

There are ways to ensure they can vote in private and to verify their choice, he says, but the federal government and Elections Canada have not applied those in this election.

More accessible voting methods

 

One of Lepofsky’s suggestions is to introduce more accessible ways of voting, like telephone voting. This method would allow electors to call in to vote and has been used in provincial elections across Canada.

In B.C., assisted telephone voting is available to voters who are blind, or who have a disability or underlying health condition that prevents them from voting on their own. It was also made available during the 2020 provincial election for people who had to self-isolate during the last week of the campaign period because of a positive COVID-19 test or exposure.

Introducing new technology and voting methods into federal elections raises security and accuracy concerns.

Aleksander Essex, an associate professor of software engineering at Western University in London, Ont., specializes in voting technology. He doesn’t recommend phone voting, he says, because of what he has seen in Ontario municipal elections that use the method.

He says there were instances where the call would drop, leading to more problems.

“The voter would call back and they would say, ‘Well, sorry, you can’t vote because you’ve already voted.’ So they had to go back and sort of work with the city to literally pull the vote out of the telephone system to have it reset.”

He acknowledges that methods like online voting could also reduce barriers, but he says the security risks outweigh the benefits.

“We can’t make this a zero-sum game between accessibility and cybersecurity. We have to have both.”

Lepofsky also mentioned that accessible voting machines are used in some places, but that they have had problems with reliability in the past.

Elections Canada says the voting methods used by Canadians are prescribed in the Canada Elections Act. Changes to the way votes are cast would require authorization from Parliament, typically in the form of legislative change.

“I don’t believe that we need to just accept the status quo, replete with disability barriers or do nothing,” said Lepofsky.

Some Media Cover the Federal Election’s Disability Accessibility Issues and/or the Inaccessibility of Mail-In Ballots

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Some Media Cover the Federal Election’s Disability Accessibility Issues and/or the Inaccessibility of Mail-In Ballots

September 14, 2021

        SUMMARY

Canada’s September 20, 2021 election is just six days away. We have been trying very hard to get the media to cover this election’s disability issues, especially as they relate to the requirement in the Accessible Canada Act that Canada become accessible by 2040. It should be extremely newsworthy that only one of the federal party leaders has even answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 written request for 12 specific commitments regarding disability accessibility.

As we have found in past elections, it is very hard to get the media to cover this election issue. This is so, even though major media outlets devote a great deal of time and space to election issues. Of course, the accessibility issue on which the AODA Alliance has concentrated is only one of several important disability issues in this election.

In this Update, we share three recent news reports:

  • CTV News Online on September 9, 2021
  • The September 13, 2021 report by the Canadian Press, published in different media, including that date’s Chat News Today. This article was picked up by a number of other news outlets, like the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, but the Star and Globe edited out its references to the party leaders who have not answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 request for election pledges on accessibility.

In addition to that coverage, CTV’s September 8, 2021 national “Your Morning”, included a six -minute interview on the federal election’s disability issues. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed, as well as accessibility consultant Thea Kurdi. This interview is now available with captions at https://youtu.be/ZJ6yEOvOm8I We are tweeting this interview to as many candidates as possible during the federal election. We invite you to share it with candidates, voters and anyone else. Use email, social media or any other way you can to circulate it. If you want to see the names, email address and Twitter handles for as many of the candidates as our volunteers could dig up, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/2021-federal-Election-Candidates-Final-List.docx

To date, we have not found CBC covering the election’s disability issues. We have reached out to CBC among many other media organizations.

One of the 12 commitments we have sought from the parties relates to making federal elections accessible to voters with disabilities. As with all of our requests, none of the parties have answered except the NDP. In the meantime, mail-in ballots have become much, much more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mail-in ballot system operated by Elections Canada is quite substantially inaccessible to voters with certain disabilities such as vision loss or dyslexia. Two of the articles set out below address this obvious barrier.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, himself totally blind, used the mail-in ballot. He tweeted about its inaccessibility. Elections Canada heard about these tweets and tweeted to David Lepofsky. David Lepofsky then responded to Elections Canada on Twitter. These tweets are all set out below.

MORE DETAILS

Sept 11 and 12 2021 tweets on accessibility of mail in votes by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

September 11, 2021

David Lepofsky: I voted by mail to avoid COVID-19 danger. Canada’s mail-in ballot is inaccessible to #blind voters like me. I can’t mark my ballot independently in private & verify my choice. This violates the Charter of Rights & Canada Human Rights Act. #elxn44 #CRPD

September 12, 2021

Elections Canada: @DavidLepofsky Hello David, we recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently. (1/3)

Elections Canada: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

Elections Canda: @DavidLepofsky You can find the contact information for your local office here: https://www.elections.ca/Scripts/vis/FindED?L=e&QID=-1&PAGEID=20 (3/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: Not ideal? The mail-in ballot process is totally inaccessible to #blind people like me. That’s much more than “not ideal”! #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #elxn55

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky Hello David, we recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently. (1/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: I don’t want any election officials seeing who I vote for. That violates the secret ballot. #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #Elxn44

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: I did not go to the polling station, in order to avoid unnecessary exposure. My wife, who would come with me, has a compromised immune system #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #Elxn44

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

 CTV News September 9, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/federal-election-2021/canadians-with-disabilities-say-they-re-missing-from-the-election-discussion-1.5577558

 

Canadians with disabilities say they’re missing from the election discussion

Jeremiah Rodriguez

CTVNews.ca Writer

@jererodriguezzz

TORONTO — Federal party leaders aren’t listening enough to the concerns of disabled Canadians, advocates say. They say key priorities missing from campaign pledges include equitable emergency relief, stronger housing, and workplace polices that address all types of disabilities.

Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, said this lack of scope boils down to a “lack of understanding of what systemic ableism looks like.”

“Nothing is prioritized by the government unless there’s people campaigning behind it,” she told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

She said this could be partially addressed by having more disabled candidates running for office or being key parts of campaign decision-making. Jama said people in power don’t always make appreciate just how many Canadians have some form of a disability.

Disabled people make up approximately 22 per cent of Canada’s entire population. And between 62 and 75 per cent of people with disabilities have disabilities which aren’t immediately apparent, such as deafness, blindness or autism.

One of the biggest issues that Jama says hasn’t received enough attention during this campaign is overhauling care for vulnerable people who currently receive care at home or live in long-term care homes.

Jama said she likes the NDP’s platform commitments to end the private long-term care home system, but wants to see the next government go even beyond that.

“We need to reimagine what long-term care looks like in Canada,” she said. She said she wishes party leaders put forth policies that give vulnerable people more affordable options to receive care at home, keeping them out of long-term care facilities.

Jama also said “it’s also embarrassing” that Canada doesn’t yet have universal pharmacare, and that she wishes all parties agreed that it was essential, especially for people with disabilities.

Both the NDP and the Greens have advocated for a national pharmacare program that would provide prescription drug coverage for all Canadians and permanent residents. And while the Liberals have spent the past few years saying they’re moving forward on pharmacare, their platform only notes existing progress on the file, including the signing of the first provincial-territorial agreement to accelerate its implementation. The Conservatives haven’t endorsed a national pharmacare plan but, in their platform, they promise to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry to reduce drug prices.

Jama also called for more concrete provisions for disabled people during natural disasters, to ensure they’re prioritized during evacuations.

Many disability advocates have also been critical of recent expansion of access to medical assistance in dying (MAID). They argue that instead of making it easier for disabled people to die, the government should be working to make workplaces and housing more functional for them.

Jama says she supports the parts of the Conservative platform around strengthening protections for disabled people when it comes to MAID, including reinstating the 10-day waiting period, to ensure decisions aren’t made at people’s lowest point. No other major party references further adjustments to MAID in its platform.

ACCESIBILITY TO HOUSING, WORKPLACES TOO MUCH AN ‘AFTERTHOUGHT’

Thea Kurdi, vice president of DesignABLE Environments INC, told CTV’s Your Morning that the situation for disabled people is “much worse than non-disabled people suspect.”

She said accessibility in housing or workplace policies is too often treated as an “afterthought,” instead of a priority aligning with Canada’s commitments to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Kurdi said that too often, although wheelchair access is prioritized, spaces aren’t also made to be truly accessible to deaf, blind or autistic people. Making spaces accessible for visually-impaired people for example, can mean ensuring braille materials or screen-reading software are available; and, for people with hearing concerns, ensuring there are clear fonts in materials and phone or video relay services.

Jama said any parties’ affordable housing policies must address accessibility concerns but only the Greens and NDP have explicitly connected the two.

The Greens are calling for housing developments receiving federal funding to ensure that 30 per cent of all units are affordable and/or available to people with disabilities. The NDP has advocated for accessibility in housing as well.

The Liberals’ platform says only that affordable housing should keep people with disabilities in mind, while the Conservatives haven’t explicitly linked housing and accessibility in their platform.

ACCESSIBLE CANADA ACT STILL TOO WEAK: ADVOCATE

David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said people with disabilities were left out of decision-making throughout the pandemic, including when it came to recovery programs and vaccine prioritization.

“We’ve disproportionately suffered the consequences of the pandemic, and disproportionately been left out of the proper planning for urgent needs during the pandemic,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. He cited the federal government’s one-time payment took months to get to recipients.

Lepofsky also said that the Accessible Canada Act, which passed two years ago, is still far too weak because it doesn’t include enforceable regulations nor adequate compensation for victims of discrimination.

“We’ve written all the parties to ask them if they will strengthen and offered 12 ways to make things better,” said Lepofsky. Only the NDP responded and pledged to make many of the commitments, he said.

Lepofsky said Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau– who promised ambitious implementation of the act – and his government have been “dragging their feet.”

As for Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole, he hasn’t pledged to make any of the commitments put forth by Lepofsky’s advocacy group — despite the fact that during parliamentary debates in 2018, his party said it would strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, if the Liberals didn’t.

“We’re not partisan. We want all of the party leaders to make those commitments,” he said.

 Chat News Today September 13, 2021

Originally posted at https://chatnewstoday.ca/2021/09/13/blind-lawyer-says-lack-of-accessible-private-voting-options-violates-charter/

Blind lawyer says lack of accessible, private voting options violates Charter

 

Maan Alhmidi

The Canadian Press

SEPTEMBER 13, 2021

A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021

David Lepofsky was not able to mark his choice independently on the mail-in ballot Elections Canada sent to him because he is blind.

He opted to not vote in person with his wife because she has a serious immune limitation and they don’t want to risk being infected with COVID-19.

Lepofsky, who is a lawyer advocating for accessibility for disabled people, said the voting options available for blind people don’t allow them to cast their ballots privately.

He said the lack of accessible voting options is a violation of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which requires equal protection and benefit of the law to those living with mental or physical disabilities.

“This is just awful,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“The basic right we’re all supposed to enjoy is the right to mark our own ballot in private and to mark it independently, for ourselves, and to be able to verify this mark the way we want. And I currently don’t have that as a blind person at the federal level.”

Elections Canada responded to his complaint on Twitter on Sunday saying the agency recognizes “the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently.”

Lepofsky said describing the situation as being “not ideal” is an “offensive understatement” because the mail-in ballots are not accessible.

He said the other option of voting in-person at a polling station also would not allow him to vote in private because an Elections Canada officer would have to read and verify his voting choice.

An Elections Canada spokesperson said those who provide assistance to voters must take oaths to protect the secrecy of those ballots.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector,” Matthew McKenna said in a statement.

According to Statistics Canada, about three per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, or about 750,000 people, have a seeing disability that limits their daily activities and 5.8 per cent of this group are legally blind.

Lepofsky, who is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group sent a letter last month to all main federal parties asking for 12 commitments on accessibility, including one on accessibility of the electoral process.

“Only one leader has answered us. And that is (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh,” he said.

“We don’t support anyone or oppose anyone. We try to get the strongest commitments we can, but we have not even gotten an answer from (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau or (Conservative Leader) Erin O’Toole.”

He said there should be voting options at the federal level for people with disabilities that allow them to vote without needing help from anyone. He said voting by phone through an automated system can be a good option.

“In New Zealand, they have a phone-in ballot which is not internet-connected. That’s available for voters with vision loss. There are different options around the world but we are lagging way behind,” he said.

“We’re in the dark ages.”

Last year, Elections BC provided a telephone voting option for voters who are unable to vote independently, including people who have vision loss, those who have a disability or an underlying health condition that prevents them from voting independently and those who were self-isolating during the last week of the campaign and unable to vote by mail.

McKenna said introducing other voting options requires a law change.

“Changes to the way Canadians vote, including telephone voting, would in almost all cases require authorization from Parliament, typically in the form of legislative change,” he said.

“When assessing new voting processes or services, we undertake significant planning and testing to ensure that the new option is accessible, and that the confidentiality, secrecy, reliability and integrity of the vote are preserved.”

 CTV News September 6, 2021

Originally posted at: https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/federal-election-2021/mail-in-ballots-still-inaccessible-for-blind-voters-advocates-say-1.5575148

Mail-in ballots still inaccessible for blind voters, advocates say

Alexandra Mae Jones

CTVNews.ca

A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.

TORONTO — The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is calling on the government to do more for blind Canadians, pointing out that the Special Ballot to vote by mail is useless to blind voters unless they gain aid from a sighted person, impeding their right to vote in secret.

In a press release Friday, the organization said it was time to fix the discrimination that leaves out these voters, saying they expected more since this election follows the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, which aiming to introduce more legislation to aid those with disabilities.

“Due to the pandemic, there are voters who want to vote by mail,” the release stated. “For blind voters, for whom print is a barrier, the mail-in Special Ballot, which is a printed paper ballot, is proving problematic.”

Since ballots need to be filled out exactly in order to be counted, a blind voter would need the assistance of a sighted person to verify that they had filled out the ballot correctly.

“The inaccessible Special Ballot robs blind voters of the right to vote in secret, which is a key principle of democracy,” the release states.

The release added that the requirement to upload scanned identification to register for mail-in ballots online also requires a blind voter to seek help from a sighted person, and that there is no information about candidates in Braille at advance polls.

“We have been hearing that the mail-in ballot process is not one that can be negotiated independently by all blind voters,” Heather Walkus, CCD 1st vice chair, stated in the release. “As this election follows the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, which promised no new barriers, this is all very disappointing. Blind voters were expecting to finally exercise their franchise in secret this election the same as other voters.”

Elections Canada said in an email statement to CTVNews.ca that they are “committed to responding to the diverse needs of Canadians.”

They said that among the accessibility services they offer, they have sign language interpretation and have redesigned the ballot to improve readability for people who use screen readers.

Elections Canada added that they have a number of tools and services for voting in person, such as large-print candidates lists on advance polling and election days, and Braille lists of candidates on election day. There are also Braille voting templates available on advance polling and election days, they stated.

“We recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for electors who are unable to mark their own ballot,” the statement continued. “Instead of voting by mail, electors who need help marking their ballot may contact their local Elections Canada office to make an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer, who will complete their registration and mark their ballot on their behalf.”

This does not address the issue of voters being entitled to a secret voting process, CCD pointed out. The CCD release stated that they have been calling for other methods to vote for years, such as adding the ability to vote through accessible voting machines and electronic voting.

“We are not seeking an end to the paper ballot, but the addition of accessible voting options so that all voters can exercise their franchise independently and in secret,” Walkus said.

The Accessible Canada Act, which came into effect in 2019, was intended to eliminate barriers and provide greater opportunities for disabled Canadians. It did not specifically include promises for making the voting process more accessible.

In this Close Election, Will Erin O’Toole Stand By the Tories’ 2018 Pledge in the House of Commons to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act?

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In this Close Election, Will Erin O’Toole Stand By the Tories’ 2018 Pledge in the House of Commons to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act?

September 8, 2021 Toronto: Will Erin O’Toole’s Tories keep their three-year-old pledge to six million people with disabilities in Canada to strengthen the 2018 Accessible Canada Act? Voters with disabilities await an answer from all the federal parties except the NDP on whether they would strengthen that legislation, enacted to make Canada accessible to people with disabilities by 2040.

When Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, was before Parliament in 2018, the NDP and Conservatives proposed lists of much-needed amendments to strengthen it, at the request of disability advocates including the non-partisan AODA Alliance. The governing Liberals used their majority in the House to defeat most if not all of those amendments.

During those debates, the Conservatives, including Erin O’Toole himself, argued that Bill C-81 was too weak, and commended disability advocates’ criticisms of that bill, including those from the AODA Alliance. (See quotations below) Tory MP John Barlow resolutely pledged during Third Reading debates on November 22, 2018 that if the Tories form the next Government, they will strengthen it. Among the key excerpts, set out below, Tory MP John Barlow said this:

Therefore, my promise to those Canadians in the disabilities community across the country is that when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81. I know how much work they have put into this proposed legislation. I know how much time and effort they put in working with us on the committee. I know what their vision was for Bill C-81. Unfortunately, this falls short. We will not make that same mistake in 2019.

With this election looming, On August 3, 2021, the non-partisan AODA Alliance wrote all party leaders, seeking 12 commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities, including the passage of those defeated amendments. On September 4, 2021, the NDP wrote the AODA Alliance, promising to pass all their amendments to the Accessible Canada Act, proposed in 2018. None of the other party leaders have responded so far.

“In such an extremely close election, all party leaders have even more reason to promise to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act and to speed up its sluggish implementation,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, a grassroots disability accessibility advocacy coalition. “It was great that in 2018 the Tories including Erin O’Toole pressed to get the Federal Government to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We’re eager for Mr. O’Toole to now reaffirm the solemn pledge his party made three years ago to strengthen this legislation if the Tories are elected.”

The non-partisan AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party. It is campaigning to get all the federal parties to make strong commitments on disability accessibility. So far, the federal Liberals, Conservatives, Green Party, and Bloc Quebecois have not made any of the 12 disability accessibility pledges that the AODA Alliance requested of them in its August 3, 2021 letter.

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

For background, check out:

The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter to all federal party leaders.

The New Democratic Party’s September 4, 2021 letter to the AODA Alliance.

The AODA Alliance’s August 24, 2021 news release slamming the Federal Government’s grant of up to 7.5 million dollars for the Rick