What’s New

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 Hansen Foundation’s problem-ridden private accessibility certification and training program.

The AODA Alliance website’s Canada page, setting out its efforts since 2015 to secure the enactment and effective implementation of the Accessible Canada Act.

Excerpts from Parliamentary Debates on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act

Second Reading Debates in the House of Commons on September 24, 2018

Originally posted at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/read-what-was-said-during-the-second-day-of-second-reading-debates-in-the-house-of-commons-on-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-september-24-2018/

Hon. Erin O’Toole (Durham, CPC):

Madam Speaker, the member from the NDP mentioned David Lepofsky. He has been a leading advocate for a barrier-free Canada and is probably one of the best examples of thoughtful advocacy I have seen in my time in public life. I recall him teaching, in my bar admission course in Ontario, through the Law Society of Upper Canada, issues related to people facing disabilities. I want to thank Mr. Lepofsky. He is also quite tenacious on social media in making sure that these issues are not forgotten.

The member highlighted a number of the areas where this falls short. All parties, I think, want to see fewer barriers, more engagement and more opportunities for people. The fact is, and this is what Mr. Lepofsky’s group has also highlighted, the government provides the ability for itself to set standards or regulations but sets no timeline for the government to lead by example with respect to future plans for its infrastructure in future federal jurisdiction areas, such as ports, airports and these sorts of things. Is that lack of a timeline and a commitment to federal leadership something the member feels is a bit of a shortcoming in Bill C-81?

Third Reading Debates in the House of Commons on November 22, 2018

Posted at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/transcript-of-the-2nd-and-final-day-of-third-reading-debates-on-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-in-the-house-of-commons-on-november-22-2018/

Erin O’Toole Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned by the comments from the Liberal parliamentary secretary suggesting my colleague and friend is misleading people. I spoke to my friend just yesterday about the conversation I had last week with David Lepofsky, probably the most prominent Canadian in terms of disability advocacy. He has the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada, as a constitutional lawyer and disability advocate.

What my friend is saying to the House today is exactly what is being said by people like David Lepofsky. One of the things I heard from him was the fact that there is no end date for accessibility within Bill C-81, no timeline. Ontario has set a 20-year goal of making sure accessibility is paramount. The other thing I heard from him was that there is no clear commitment in Bill C-81 to ensure no infrastructure dollars would go to new projects unless accessibility is at the centre of the project. There are no timelines and no teeth.

The Liberal member is suggesting that my friend is misleading Canadians. This is what disability advocates are asking for. Will my friend comment on the fact that we have an opportunity with Bill C-81 to get it right, if only the Liberals will listen?

Alex Nuttall Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to commit to the member that we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians. It is interesting the member brought up Mr. Lepofsky, because he said the following:

…the bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Those are the words of Mr. Lepofsky. It is unfortunate that the Liberal Party did not listen to them.

John Barlow Foothills, AB

We mentioned David Lepofsky today who is with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. I really want to put in his comment here today. He said:

The bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Mr. Lepofsky was speaking for Canadians across the country asking us as parliamentarians to not get cold feet. This is an opportunity to make some substantial, historic change for Canadians with disabilities, and we failed.

I have to share a little of the frustration on this, as we will be voting in support of Bill C-81. For those organizations, those stakeholders listening today, the reason we are voting in support of Bill C-81 is certainly not because we agree with it. In fact, I have outlined today in my speech the many reasons why we are not. We heard from the stakeholders time and time again of their disappointment. But their comments were always that, although it fell well short of what they wanted, it was a start, and I will grant them that, it is a start.

I know they were expecting much more from the minister, the Liberal government and from us as members of that committee. 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.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Is First and Only National Leader to Pledge to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. What Will the Other Parties Pledge in This Election to Make Canada Accessible for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities by 2040?

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Is First and Only National Leader to Pledge to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. What Will the Other Parties Pledge in This Election to Make Canada Accessible for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities by 2040?

September 4, 2021 Toronto: In the current federal election, the NDP is the first federal party to write the AODA Alliance to commit to strengthen the 2019 Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that public money is never used to create barriers against over six million people with disabilities. The NDP’s September 4, 2021 letter to the AODA Alliance is set out below.

In its August 3, 2021 letter to the party leaders, the non-partisan AODA Alliance requested 12 specific commitments to strengthen the ACA and to ensure its swift and effective implementation and enforcement. (12 requests set out and answered below in Mr. Singh’s letter). The NDP’s letter, set out below, Mr. Singh makes many of the commitments the AODA Alliance sought.

“We’ve now gotten commitments from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, so now we aim to get the other federal party leaders to meet or beat those commitments,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “We and other disability advocates together got the Accessible Canada Act introduced into Parliament, and then got it strengthened somewhat between 2018 and 2019 before it was passed. It has helpful ingredients, but is too weak. We are seeking commitments to ensure that this law gets strengthened, and that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced.”

In Parliament during debates over that bill in 2018-2019, the Liberals made promising statements about what the new law would achieve for people with disabilities. Commitments are sought in this election to turn those statements into assured action.

In the 2019 federal election, the Liberals promised the timely and ambitious implementation of this legislation. It repeated that pledge in its 2021 platform released days ago. Two years after first making this pledge, the Government has taken some steps, but has been dragging its feet. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

Even though Parliament unanimously passed the ACA, the federal parties were substantially divided on whether it went far enough to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The Tories, NDP and Greens argued in Parliament for the bill to be made stronger, speaking on behalf of diverse voices from the disability community. In 2018, the Liberals voted down most of the proposed opposition amendments that were advanced on behalf of people with disabilities.

In 2019, the Senate called for new measures to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities. The ACA does not ensure this.

Among the disability organizations that are raising disability issues in this election, the AODA Alliance is spearheading a blitz to help the grassroots press these issues on the actual and virtual hustings and in social media. The AODA Alliance is tweeting candidates across Canada to solicit their commitments and will make public any commitments that the other party leaders make. Follow @aodaalliance. As a non-partisan effort, the AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate.

The AODA Alliance is also calling on the Federal Government and Elections Canada to ensure for the first time that millions of voters with disabilities can vote in this election without fearing that they may encounter accessibility barriers in the voting process.

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

For background on the AODA Alliance ‘s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, and its efforts to get it effectively implemented since then, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Text of the New Democratic Party of Canada’s September 4, 2021 Email to the AODA Alliance

  1. Will you enact or amend legislation to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the ACA covers within four years of the ACA’s enactment? If not, will you commit that those regulations will be enacted under the ACA within four years of the ACA’s enactment?

We can do much more to make Canada an inclusive and barrier-free place. As a start, New Democrats will uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to cover all federal agencies equally with the power to make accessibility standards in a timely manner.

The NDP fought repeatedly to include implementation timelines in Bill C-81. During committee study of the bill, the Government there was overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to how the bill needed to be amended. The NDP listened and introduced amendments based on the feedback of the disability community but nearly all our amendments were defeated by the Liberals. A New Democrat government will work hard to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in a timely fashion.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the ACA is effectively and vigourously enforced?

 

Yes, it’s critical to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced. The NDP fought hard to amend Bill C-81 to ensure that the accessibility standards would be enforced, introducing amendments that were called for by Canadians living with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Liberals defeated nearly all of our amendments. An NDP government will strengthen the ACA to ensure accessibility standards are enforced.

  1. Will your party ensure by legislation, and if not, then by strong monitored public policy, that no one will use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g. payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity?

 

The Liberal government missed a sizable opportunity when they introduced the ACA. Federal money should never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The NDP fought to include this provision in the bill, putting forward an amendment at committee. Unfortunately, the Liberals voted against.

New Democrats want to build a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. We believe that this cannot happen until all of our institutions are open and completely accessible to everyone. The NDP would require that federal public money never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, including federal money received for procurement; infrastructure; transfer payments; research grants; business development loans or grants, or for any other kind of payment, including purpose under a contract.

 

  1. Will your party amend the ACA to provide that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the ACA or in any regulations enacted under it or in any actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law?

Yes, an NDP government will ensure that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.

  1. Will your party repeal the offending portion of section 172(3) of the ACA that reads “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.” and replace them with words such as: “and grant a remedy in accordance with subsection 2.”?

We will review section 172(3) of the ACA and take the appropriate corrective measures to make sure airlines and railways pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up.

  1. Will your party assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet? If not, then at a minimum, would your party require by legislation or policy that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner?

Yes. The ACA tabled by the Liberal government gave several public agencies and officials far too much sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions to specific organizations from important parts of the Act. The ACA separates enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. New Democrats believe it should be providing people with disabilities with what they need: a single service location or one-stop-shop.. We will assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet.

  1. Will your Party review all federal laws to identify any which require or permit any barriers against people with disabilities, and will your party amend Section 2 of the ACA (definition of “barrier”) to add the words “a law”, so that it will read:

 

“barrier means anything — including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice — that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation.”

The NDP has long been committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. It has been our longstanding position that all of government—every budget, every policy and regulation—should be viewed through a disability lens. The NDP has supported the establishment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act for many years.

  1. Will your party pass legislation or regulations and adopt policies needed to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities?

New Democrats recognize that our public institutions and our public policies are stronger when they are representative and allow for full participation. Within our own party, we have sought to address barriers for candidates with disabilities guided by the advice of our Persons Living With Disabilities Committee, and have established a fund specifically to support candidates living with disabilities.

We have also fought to create change for candidates in all parties, bringing forward amendments to C-81 that would have required the Accessibility Commissioner to appoint, within 12 months of the bill being enacted, an independent person (with no current or prior involvement in administering elections) to conduct an Independent Review of disability barriers in the election process, with a requirement to consult the public, including persons with disabilities, and to report within 12 months to the Federal Government. An NDP government will make sure that review happens, and bring forth legislation within 12 months of the completion of that review to address the barriers that were identified.

  1. Will your Party eliminate or reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes? Such as eliminating the power to exempt the Government of Canada, or a federal department or agency? If not, will your party commit not to grant any exemptions from the ACA?

Eleven years ago, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Though the Liberal government has introduced an Accessibility Act, its exemptions mean Canada’s accessibility legislation falls short of meeting Canada’s goal of creating an inclusive and barrier-free country. An NDP government will reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes.

  1. Will your party develop and implement a plan to ensure that all federally-operated courts (e.g., the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts), and federally operated regulatory tribunals (like the CRTC and CTA) become accessible to participants with hearing disabilities?

Our country cannot be barrier-free if our public institutions are not accessible to all Canadians, including Canadians with hearing disabilities. The NDP brought forward an amendment during hearings on the ACA that would have required the Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Government, to develop and implement a multi- year plan to ensure that all federally controlled courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts) as well as federally-created administrative tribunals become fully accessible to court participants with disabilities, by the bill’s accessibility deadline. An NDP government will implement this requirement and ensure that we remove barriers to justice for Canadians living with disabilities.

  1. Would your party pass the amendments to the ACA which the opposition proposed in the fall of 2018 in the House of Commons, which the Government had defeated, and which would strengthen the ACA?

Absolutely! The NDP fought to improve this bill and brought forward numerous amendments that were proposed by stakeholders in the disability community. We do not see this fight as over just because the Liberals have given up; an NDP government will work to fix the ACA, including the many issues that were flagged during hearings on Bill C-81.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the National Building Code meets the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Will your party commit that any efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes will never reduce or dilute accessibility protections for people with disabilities?

Yes, an NDP government will apply a disability lens to all government legislation, regulations, codes, and procedures to ensure that we are removing barriers to full inclusion and respecting the rights of Canadians living with disabilities. Where there are gaps or shortcomings in existing policies, we will work with the disability community to fix the legislation or policies, including with the National Building Code. We will apply this same lens to any conversations with the provinces and territories about harmonization of laws and regulations.

 

Ford Government Must Ensure the New Vaccine Passport System Does Not Create New Barriers for 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/

Ford Government Must Ensure the New Vaccine Passport System Does Not Create New Barriers for People with Disabilities

September 3, 2021

        SUMMARY

The Ford Government’s plan to require vaccination passports starting September 22, 2021 to access certain places is an important step to get as many people as possible to get fully vaccinated. However, it is very important that this new vaccination passport requirement and system not create any new barriers for people with disabilities in Ontario. This can be achieved if the Ford Government shows strong leadership, and takes the steps outlined here as a swift and clear priority.

As it is, people with disabilities face far too many disability barriers when seeking goods, services facilities and jobs. It is good that the Government’s introductory announcement plans for an exemption for people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. The Ford Government’s September 1, 2021 news release included:

Individuals who cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions will be permitted entry with a doctor’s note until recognized medical exemptions can be integrated as part of a digital vaccine certificate. Children who are 11 years of age and younger and unable to be vaccinated will also be exempted from these requirements.

This general statement, while helpful, does not protect people with disabilities from the creation of new barriers. Before this vaccination passport requirement goes into effect, the Ontario Government must immediately put in place several important measures to ensure that the Government creates no new disability barriers. While this requires further exploration, we know that the following is absolutely necessary:

  1. Any mobile app for vaccine passports must be designed and tested to ensure it is fully accessible to adaptive technology for smart phone users with disabilities, such as screen readers. The Federal Government did not do so for its COVID-19-related smart phone ArriveCan app for entering Canada.
  1. The Ontario Government must make available an easily-accessed alternative hard copy document to a smart phone app for vaccine passports. Too many people cannot afford smart phones, including many people with disabilities (who disproportionately live in poverty).
  1. It is not sufficient for the Government to impose the burden on those individuals with disabilities, who cannot take the vaccine for medical reasons, to get a letter from their physician. This is especially a hardship if it needs to be accomplished in under three weeks.

As it is, well before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, people with disabilities have faced far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system. The initial report of the Government-appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee documents this in detail. The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 brief to that Standards Development Committee amplifies its concerns. Disability barriers in the health care system got considerably worse during the pandemic. See generally, the AODA Alliance website’s health care page and COVID-19 page.

Some people with disabilities have no doctor to give them an exemption letter. For those who do have a doctor, getting to a doctor can involve disability barriers. The Government has not announced that it is going to pay doctors to provide those letters. We fear that doctors will be even harder to reach if flooded with requests for vaccine exemption letters.

As a result, the Ford Government should immediately provide a vaccine exemption passport for people with disabilities who are medically unable to get the vaccine. The process for obtaining these passports should be ensured to be free of disability barriers. The Ford Government’s related record is not good. To apply for a replacement for one’s expired health care card, one can use a Government website and avoid going to a Service Ontario office, but only if one has a driver’s license. This is an obvious barrier for people with disabilities who cannot qualify for a driver’s license, such as blind people.

  1. The Ontario Government’s problematic roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine over the past months included real problems facing some people with disabilities who wanted to get vaccinated. The Government did not include in its roll-out plans for the start a comprehensive plan to ensure that there was a barrier-free way for people with disabilities to get vaccinated.

While more vaccination opportunities now exist, the Government needs to now put in place a swift, pro-active, accessible and comprehensive strategy for people with disabilities needing and wanting the vaccine, to get swift, barrier-free and ready access to vaccination

  1. Public protections need to be put in place for any vulnerable people with disabilities for whom a substitute decision-maker is in place, to address situations where the substitute decision-maker has refused to let a person with a disability for whom they are responsible get vaccinated, in circumstances where there is no medical justification for that refusal.

People with disabilities have disproportionally suffered the worst hardships of the pandemic. It is essential that this understandable new passport requirement not make things worse for any people with disabilities.

As our AODA Alliance Updates have documented, time and again the Ford Government has failed to effectively accommodate the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the pandemic. Time and again, we and others from the disability community have come forward with constructive proposals to fix this.

Overall, the Ford Government has a poor track record, when it comes to achieving accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. We commend CTV news for focusing on this vaccine passport disability this issue, and for including it in a news report on August 31, 2021, set out below.

        MORE DETAILS

CTV News August 31, 2021

Originally posted at: https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/how-will-vaccine-passport-system-work-in-ontario-for-people-without-cellphones-1.5568573

How will vaccine passport system work in Ontario for people without cellphones?

Jon Woodward

CTV News Toronto Video Journalist

@CTV_Jon

TORONTO — Advocates are cautioning a headlong rush into implementing a vaccine passport using only smartphone apps — warning it could leave the elderly, the poor or the homeless out in the cold.

Angie Peters of the Yonge St. Mission said designing a vaccine passport to work for disadvantaged people has to be as creative and motivated as the push to get those people vaccines was.

“They may have a cellphone but need to print it because technology is fleeting for them. They have a cellphone this month, but not next month,” she said.

And the solution of a printed out code may also not solve all the problems, Peters said.

“If they have a printer, they may not be able to afford the ink. There are people that we work with that lose their ID, they get rolled on the street regularly. If they’re keeping a printed card, it’s going to get lost and it’s going to have to get replaced, just like other ID on a regular basis,” she said.

It all could add up to a barrier that could result in properly vaccinated people denied entry for factors other than just vaccination, she said.

The Ontario government is expected to introduce some form of vaccine passport this week after calls from the medical community that checking vaccine status at the door could prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside any non-essential venues.

The business community has pushed for a vaccine passport, reasoning that it would lead to more business to be done if capacity limits could be raised safely.

But for those without cellphones, with older cellphones, or those who would have a more difficult time navigating the steps to prove that they are vaccinated, this could be a major headache, said David Lepofsky of the AODA Alliance.

If there’s any reason why someone with a disability couldn’t get the passport, they would need an alternative passport, he said, pointing to people for whom there could be medical exemptions from vaccination.

“We don’t want this to become a long-term thing that could be used against people when the health situation has changed so it should be very time-limited and circumstance-dependent,” he said.

In Manitoba, an immunization card alternative has proved so popular that the government ran out of plastic to print it on.

In Quebec and in B.C.’s planned card, printing the code onto paper is an option as the readers can read the QR codes just as well from paper as from a screen.

New Federal Liberal Party Platform Offers None of the Commitments on Disability Accessibility that the AODA Alliance Requested – The New Democratic Party Added One Requested Commitment in Its Response to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

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 Federal Liberal Party Platform Offers None of the Commitments on Disability Accessibility that the AODA Alliance Requested – The New Democratic Party Added One Requested Commitment in Its Response to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

September 2, 2021

        SUMMARY

Here’s a rapid response to announcements we learned of yesterday by the federal Liberal and New Democratic Parties regarding accessibility for people with disabilities.

The three major parties mention needs of people with disabilities several times in their platforms. This is a step forward from some past elections. However, they fall well short of what people with disabilities need. No party leader has yet answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, seeking commitments on disability accessibility.

We encourage you to learn more about the federal parties’ disability commitments. Urge them to make the 12 accessibility pledges that the AODA Alliance sought in its August 3, 2021 letter to the party leaders. Below we set out a summary of the commitments we seek.

We remind you that the AODA Alliance is non-partisan. We do not support or oppose any party or candidate. We aim to get the strongest commitments we can get from all parties on achieving accessibility for people with disabilities in Canada.

We comment here only on party commitments addressing the issue of making Canada accessible for people with disabilities. This election has other important disability issues as well. We encourage a careful review of the party platforms on all issues important to people with disabilities.

1. The Liberal party of Canada

Yesterday, the Liberal Party of Canada released its full election platform. It includes a “Disability Statement.” Below we set out excerpts from the platform that make commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities.

On the accessibility issue, in substance this new platform includes little or nothing new that is positive. The Liberals make none of the 12 commitments that we requested in the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter to the federal party leaders. It mainly restates promises it made two years ago, in the 2019 election, promises it failed to keep. It also makes one new commitment that is a source of serious concern.

All federal parties had ample time to consider our requests. We also made 11 of the 12 requests in the 2019 election.

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 AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky wrote in his August 31, 2021 guest column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland newspapers:

No national accessibility standards have been enacted to require specific actions to remove and prevent disability barriers. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

There was no disability lens when the federal government released the ArriveCan app for people entering Canada, replete with accessibility barriers for blind users. The federal government pours billions into infrastructure projects without requiring their disability accessibility.

That column was written before the Liberal Party released its new September 1, 2021 platform document. We regret that nothing in that new platform document reduces the guest column’s concerns.

Making this worse, we are very concerned about the Liberal Party’s commitment to the “the harmonization of accessibility standards across Canada.” “Harmonization” initially sounds great. Yet there is a real danger that this could lead accessibility standards across Canada being reduced to the lowest common denominator. That would hurt people with disabilities. The Liberal Party needs to immediately rescind this platform pledge.

New Democratic Party of Canada

Yesterday, the New Democratic Party of Canada sent the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) a response to its request for election commitments. We set it out below as well.

The New Democratic Party’s response to the Questions from the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians makes one of the 12 commitments that the AODA Alliance requested of all the major political parties. It commits the NDP to:

… ensuring that all government spending, whether it is on infrastructure, transfer payments, research grants, or contracts, neither creates nor perpetuates barriers for people living with disabilities.

So far, the NDP commitments on accessibility are stronger than those from the other parties. However, the NDP commitments fall well short of what that party committed to us on the same issues two years ago in the NDP’s September 16, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance during the 2019 federal election campaign. We have no idea why the NDP hasn’t gone as far in this election as it did in the last one.

It is not too late for all parties to do better before voting day.

What We Requested of the Federal Parties

Here is a summary of the 12 commitments that the AODA Alliance asked each party to make in its August 3, 2021 letter to the leaders of the six major federal parties:

  1. Enforceable accessibility standard regulations should be enacted within four years of the enactment of the Accessible Canada Act.
  1. The ACA should be effectively enforced.
  1. Federal public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers.
  1. The ACA should never reduce the rights of people with disabilities.
  1. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.
  1. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in one federal agency, not splintered among several of them.
  1. No federal laws should ever create or permit disability barriers.
  1. Federal elections should be made accessible to voters with disabilities.
  1. Power to exempt organizations from some ACA requirements should be eliminated or reduced.
  1. Federally controlled courts and tribunals should be made disability-accessible.
  1. Proposed Opposition amendments to the ACA that were defeated in the House of Commons in 2018 and that would strengthen the ACA should be passed.
  1. Ensure that the National Building Code meets the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and commit that any efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes will never reduce or dilute accessibility protections for people with disabilities.

For More Background

For more background, check out:

  • The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter to the major federal party leaders, seeking election commitments on tearing down barriers impeding people with disabilities.
  • The AODA Alliance’s August 24, 2021 news release, explaining why it was wrong for the Federal Government to give up to 7.5 million dollars to the Rick Hanssen Foundation for its problem-ridden private accessibility certification and training program.
  • The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report and its August 15, 2019 supplemental report that each details serious problems with the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification and training program.
  • The August 27, 2021 AODA Alliance Update that sets out the commitments of the major federal parties as of that date on accessibility for people with disabilities, in their publicly-posted platform documents.
  • As a helpful point of comparison, read the AODA Alliance’s October 17, 2019 issue-by-issue comparison of the commitments that the federal parties made in that election on disability accessibility.

        MORE DETAILS

 Excerpts from the Liberal Party of Canada September 1, 2021 Platform

  1. a re-elected Liberal government will… Undertake a comprehensive review of access to the Disability Tax Credit, CPP-Disability and other federal benefits and programs to ensure they are available to people experiencing mental health challenges. (page 5)
  1. a re-elected government will… Double the Home Accessibility Tax Credit, to $20,000, putting up to $1,500 back in the of Canadians who need it. (page 17, helping seniors and people with disabilities live at home)
  1. a re-elected Liberal government will…
  • Develop and implement an employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities. This strategy will be focused on supports for workers and employers and creating inclusive and welcoming workplaces. It will also include an investment in the Ready, Willing and Able inclusive hiring program to support individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • Create a new stream of the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program (YESS) to support 5000 opportunities a year for young people. This would help young Canadians with disabilities gain the skills, experience, and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market and build successful careers (page 39)
  1. (from the Liberal Party Platform’s “Disability Statement”)

Moving forward, there is much more work to be done. A re-elected Liberal government will build on our previous investments through the implementation of the first-ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan, in consultation with the disability community.

The objectives of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan are to:

Improve the social and economic inclusion of Canadians with disabilities.

Reduce poverty among Canadians with disabilities.

Contribute to the realization of a barrier-free Canada.

Improve access to federal programs and services for persons with disabilities and ensure that disability inclusion is considered in all government programs, policies, and services.

Foster a culture of inclusion and a shift away from attitudes of disablism and discrimination.

As part of our Disability Inclusion Action Plan, a re-elected Liberal government will re-introduce and implement the Canada Disability Benefit Act, which will create a direct monthly payment for low-income Canadians with disabilities ages 18-64. This will reduce poverty amongst persons with disabilities in the same way the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Child Benefit have reduced poverty among seniors and families with children.

A Liberal Government will also develop and implement an employment strategy focused on supports for workers and employers, creating inclusive and welcoming workplaces, and building business disability confidence.

This strategy will include an investment in the Opportunities Fund and the Ready Willing and Able inclusive hiring program to support employment for persons with disabilities.

We will also commit to making permanent funding to support services that ensure equitable access to reading and other published works for Canadians with print disabilities so that more Canadians are able to fully participate in these activities.

We will proceed with the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act and the harmonization of accessibility standards across Canada. We will work across federal departments and agencies to uniformly adopt the definition of “disability” in the Accessible Canada Act. We will adopt a consistent approach to disability inclusion across the federal government. We will put a disability lens on decision making. This will specifically include our child care and infrastructure commitments. We will assume a more prominent role within the international disability inclusion community.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will build on the foundational work to date to support persons with disabilities in the post-pandemic recovery, by continuing to build back better, for everyone.

Response of the New Democratic Party of Canada to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

  1. It is well recognized that there are barriers in Canadian society that people with disabilities are facing on a daily basis. People who are blind, deafblind or partially sighted face barriers such as transportation accessibility, access to the built environment and access to print materials. What is your party prepared to do to reduce and eliminate these barriers?

We can do much more to make Canada an inclusive and barrier-free place. As a start, New Democrats will uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to cover all federal agencies equally with the power to make accessibility standards in a timely manner. We will also ensure that these accessibility standards are vigorously enforced.

We will make sure that the federal government is a leader in removing barriers, applying a disability lens to government decisions, policies, and regulations, and ensuring that all government spending, whether it is on infrastructure, transfer payments, research grants, or contracts, neither creates nor perpetuates barriers for people living with disabilities.

  1. Since many Canadians were eligible for the CERB (up to $38,000), and disabled Canadians receiving the Disability Tax Credit were given a paltry one-time payment of $600, what is your party prepared to do to reduce the chronic level of poverty among blind, deafblind, partially sighted and otherwise disabled Canadians? If elected, when can we expect this to happen?

Far too many Canadians living with disabilities are living in poverty. The Liberals have been promising a new Canada Disability Benefit since 2020, but with no plan to implement the benefit before 2024. Then they chose to cynically introduce Bill C-35, a bill that provides no details on benefit amount or eligibility and no timeline, right before the legislature adjourned for the summer, knowing full well the bill would never be debated.

An NDP government will not play politics with the livelihood of people living with disabilities. An NDP government will move quickly to lift all persons living with a disability above the poverty line as part of our plan to build towards a basic guaranteed livable income for all Canadians. We will not make people with disabilities wait three years to receive an unknown amount of money but will take action immediately.

  1. Many medical devices are currently not usable by blind, deafblind and partially sighted Canadians. Will your party require Health Canada to approve only devices that are usable by blind, deafblind and partially sighted Canadians? Will you commit to working with the provinces and territories to ensure all prescription and other healthcare information is made accessible?

New Democrats want to build a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. We will uphold the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and apply a disability lens to all of the decisions, policies, and programs of the federal government, including regulatory decisions. We will also apply this same lens to negotiations and management of shared programs with the provinces and territories to ensure that we are doing everything we can to remove barriers and promote full inclusion of people living with disabilities.

  1. As you know, job creation and “building back better” are major preoccupations for Canadians and, as you are aware, our community suffers from an approximate unemployment rate of 75%, what is your party prepared to do to increase the level of employment for those of us who are blind, deafblind or partially sighted?

The many barriers to employment that still exist are one reason why so many Canadians with disabilities are living in poverty. An NDP government will work to dismantle barriers and expand employment opportunities for people living with disabilities. We will uphold the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to ensure that accessibility is real, meaningful, and enforced. Finally, we will invest in training programs that will help workers with disabilities gain the skills they need to find employment.

  1. The National Housing Strategy requires that a mere 20% of new housing starts be accessible. As this is woefully inadequate, given the fact that our population is aging, by how much is your party committed to increasing this target?

Far too many Canadians don’t have access to affordable, accessible housing. But under the Liberal government, funding for affordable housing for low income Canadians has been declining and very few new homes have actually been built. An NDP government will get to work immediately to construct, repair, and preserve 1.7 million homes over the next decade. This will include investments in new, affordable, accessible housing for people living with disabilities and seniors in communities across the country. It will also include repairs to existing homes to make them more accessible and energy-efficient. We will also support innovative solutions for people living with disabilities and seniors such as co-housing.

Under 3 Weeks Before the Federal Election, None of the Party Leaders Answered the AODA Alliance’s Letter Seeking 12 Commitments to Tear Down Barriers Facing 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada, According to New Guest Column in Toronto Area Local 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/

Under 3 Weeks Before the Federal Election, None of the Party Leaders Answered the AODA Alliance’s Letter Seeking 12 Commitments to Tear Down Barriers Facing 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada, According to New Guest Column in Toronto Area Local Newspapers

September 1, 2021

        SUMMARY

Canada’s federal election campaign has entered its final three weeks. Yet absolutely none of the major federal party leaders have provided a substantive response to the August 3, 2021 letter to them from the AODA Alliance. In that letter, the AODA asked for 12 specific election pledges to tear down disability barriers facing six million people with disabilities in Canada.

A guest column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland local newspapers on this issue by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below, explores this election’s disability accessibility issues. We emphasize that achieving accessibility for people with disabilities is but one of the major disability issues in this federal election. We support and encourage efforts from the disability community to secure commitments on all the major disability issues.

Among other things, the guest column, set out below, identifies serious concerns with the Federal Government giving up to 7.5 million dollars to a non-profit for its private accessibility certification training program. This is the one provided by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

We urge you to share this guest column with all candidates in this federal election. It is not too late for any and all of the federal party leaders to make the 12 election pledges we seek on achieving accessibility for people with disabilities.

We also urge you to send this guest column to your local media. Urge them to cover all this election’s disability issues, including the specific disability accessibility issue on which the AODA Alliance is focusing.

For more background, check out:

The August 27, 2021 AODA Alliance Update that sets out the commitments of the major federal parties so far on accessibility for people with disabilities, in their publicly-posted platform documents.

Metroland August 31, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.toronto.com/opinion-story/10463855-federal-party-platforms-mostly-offer-thin-gruel-for-millions-of-canadians-with-disabilities/

Opinion

Federal party platforms mostly offer ‘thin gruel’ for millions of Canadians with disabilities

‘Voters, demand strong accessibility commitments from all parties,’ writes David Lepofsky

CITY CENTRE MIRROR

If this federal election is like past ones, media coverage and pundit gabfests will leave out key issues vital to six million people with disabilities.

Over the past two years, things got worse for us. We disproportionately suffered COVID’s worst hardships. Yet all levels of government emergency planning often left out our urgent needs.

The federal government harmfully liberalized medical assistance in dying, making it easier to die because of your disability, with state assistance. Ontario let hospitals ready themselves to blatantly discriminate against some patients with disabilities in access to life-saving critical care if COVID overloads hospital emergency rooms. Cities let restaurants open outdoor patios without ensuring an accessible way to get around them. As a blind person, I’ve been forced to walk into dangerous oncoming road traffic.

Something is wrong with this picture. Our governments should make it easier to live with a disability, not make it easier or more likely to die because of a disability.

What will national parties pledge in this election to make Canada become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040, the deadline unanimously enshrined in the 2019 Accessible Canada Act (ACA)?

We asked the parties for detailed commitments, to ensure that the ACA’s implementation is swift, strong and effective, including: making needed accessibility standard regulations within four years, effectively enforcing the ACA, establishing a single unified process for cases, ensuring that nothing done under the ACA cuts back on disability rights, and ensuring that public money is never used to create disability barriers.

We await answers. As for their published platforms, the NDP makes some helpful commitments on point, though not enough. The others offer thin gruel.

In the 2019 election, the Liberals promised the ACA’s “timely and ambitious implementation.” It pledged to use a disability lens for all government decisions.

Since then, Trudeau’s actions weren’t timely or ambitious. There’s been no appreciable improvement in disability accessibility.

No national accessibility standards have been enacted to require specific actions to remove and prevent disability barriers. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

There was no disability lens when the federal government released the ArriveCan app for people entering Canada, replete with accessibility barriers for blind users. The federal government pours billions into infrastructure projects without requiring their disability accessibility. It enacted no comprehensive, mandatory up-to-date national standards under the ACA for the accessibility of such projects or of the built environment generally.

Instead, the Liberals doled out up to $7.5 million to a private accessibility certification program, run by a third-party non-profit that doesn’t work. Due diligence would show that the foundation’s training program for its inspectors is not sufficiently comprehensive. It green-lights some buildings that aren’t really accessible. Premier Ford similarly announced $1.3 million on the same private process two years ago, with no resulting increase in accessibility to show for it. It’s an easy way for governments to try to claim they’ve accomplished something on accessibility.

Voters, demand strong accessibility commitments from all parties.

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

After Winning the Battle in Toronto Last Spring, AODA Alliance and Other Disability Advocates Now Call on London City Council Not to Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others by Allowing Electric Scooters

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 Winning the Battle in Toronto Last Spring, AODA Alliance and Other Disability Advocates Now Call on London City Council Not to Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others by Allowing Electric Scooters

August 30, 2021

        SUMMARY

Will it ever end? Now It’s London Ontario that is considering the possibility of legalizing electric scooters (e-scooters). Due to the Ford Government, we must fight this battle in one city after the next. It was the Ford Government that gave municipalities the power to allow e-scooters. Premier Ford ignored all disability concerns and acted instead at the behest of the e-scooter corporate lobbyists.

With this issue now rearing its ugly head in London Ontario, the AODA Alliance and other disability advocates are now hitting the ground running, in an effort to avert this danger to people with disabilities, seniors, children and others who live in or visit London. On Tuesday, August 31, 2021 at noon, this issue is an agenda item on the City of London’s Civic Works Committee. The AODA Alliance is one of the disability organizations that have sent in written submissions to that Committee, asking London to say no to e-scooters. The AODA Alliance’s August 27, 2021 brief to the London Civic Works Committee is set out below.

We understand that London’s Accessibility Advisory Committee has commendably recommended that London say no to e-scooters. Earlier this year, the AODA Alliance and several other disability organizations and advocates convinced the Toronto City Council to unanimously say no to e-scooters. We are now trying to convince London to do the same thing, without burdening people with disabilities with the hardship of having to mount another hard-fought campaign to protect our safety and accessibility. We need London City Council to stand up for people with disabilities, seniors and others, and to stand up to the e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists.

We have asked London’s Civic Works Committee to allow for a deputation by the AODA Alliance at its August 31, 2021 meeting. We understand that no final votes on the e-scooters issue are expected at that meeting.

You can watch the August 31, 2021 London Civic Works Committee meeting live-streamed on Youtube on the City of London’s Youtube stream at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmRugRQ2sUo

For more details on the battle that people with disabilities have fought in Ontario over the past two years to avert the danger that e-scooters pose for them, visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

Riding Electric Scooters in London is Dangerous and Must Remain Banned — AODA Alliance brief to the City of London Civic Works Committee

August 27, 2021

Via email: cwc@london.ca

On its agenda for its August 31, 2021 meeting, the Civic Works Committee of London City Council has an agenda item regarding the possibility of allowing electric scooters (e-scooters) in the City of London. The AODA Alliance submits this brief to London’s Civic Works Committee on that agenda item, and requests an opportunity to make a presentation or deputation at that meeting via whatever virtual platform is being used.

In summary, London City Council must not unleash dangerous e-scooters in London. Riding e-scooters in public places in London is now banned and remains banned unless City Council legalizes them.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance has played a leading role in raising serious disability safety and accessibility concerns with e-scooters. To learn more about the AODA Alliance’s advocacy efforts to protect people with disabilities and others from the dangers that e-scooters pose, visit its e-scooters web page.

The AODA Alliance strongly commends the London Accessibility Advisory Committee for recommending that e-scooters should not be allowed in London. The AODA Alliance asks the City of London Civic Works Committee to follow that advice, and to recommend the following:

  1. London should not permit the use of e-scooters, and should not conduct a pilot project with e-scooters.
  1. If the City of London is going to explore the possibility of allowing e-scooters, e-scooters should not be permitted if they present any risk to the health or safety of people with disabilities, seniors, children or others, or if they are prone to create new accessibility barriers that would impede people with disabilities within London.
  1. At the very least, if this issue is not simply taken right off the table, before proceeding any further, City staff should investigate the dangers that e-scooters pose for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. A public consultation on that issue should be held, beyond a purely online digital survey form.

London should benefit from the extensive and commendable work done on this issue in Toronto. This past spring, Toronto City Council voted unanimously not to allow e-scooters, after very extensive consideration of the issue. Toronto City Staff undertook the most thorough investigation of this issue of any Ontario municipality, as far as we have been able to discover.

An initial July 2020 Toronto City Staff Report, supplemented by a second February 2021 Toronto City Staff report, together amply show that e-scooters endanger public safety in communities that have permitted them. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured or killed. They especially endanger seniors and people with disabilities. Blind people cannot detect silent e-scooters that can accelerate at them at over 20 KPH, driven by unlicensed, untrained, uninsured, unhelmeted fun-seeking riders. Left strewn on sidewalks, e-scooters are tripping hazards for people with vision loss and an accessibility nightmare for wheelchair users.

It is no solution to just ban e-scooters from sidewalks. The Toronto City Staff reports, referred to above, document the silent menace of e-scooters continuing to be ridden on sidewalks in cities that just ban them from sidewalks. London would need police officers on every block. Toronto City Staff reported to Toronto City Council last summer that no city that allows e-scooters has gotten enforcement right.

E-scooters would cost taxpayers a great deal. This would include new law enforcement, OHIP for treating those injured by e-scooters, and lawsuits by the injured. London has far more pressing budget priorities.

Especially with COVID still raging, London City Council should not be considering the legalization of dangerous e-scooters. In Toronto, a stunning well-funded behind-the-scenes feeding frenzy of back-room pressure by corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies had inundated City Hall with for months. The corporate lobbyists want to make money on e-scooter rentals, laughing all the way to the bank, while injured pedestrians sob all the way to hospital emergency rooms. That the Toronto City Council unanimously said no to e-scooters despite this massive corporate lobbying should signal to London how important it is to stand up for people with disabilities and others endangered by e-scooters.

London City Council should not conduct an e-scooter pilot. A pilot to study what? How many of people living in or visiting London will be injured? We already know they will, from cities that have allowed them. It would be immoral to subject people in London to a City-wide human experiment, especially without their consent, where they can get injured. The call for a “pilot project with e-scooters is just the corporate lobbyists’ ploy to try to get their foot firmly planted in the door, so it will be harder to later get rid of e-scooters.

London, like the rest of Ontario, already has too many disability barriers that impede accessibility for people with disabilities. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires London and the rest of Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. To allow e-scooters would be to make things worse, not better, by creating new barriers impeding people with disabilities.

E-scooters create problems for businesses, as well as for people with disabilities. That is why Toronto’s Broadview Danforth BIA made an April 26, 2021 submission to the City of Toronto, set out below, that urged that e-scooters not be allowed. That BIA includes a part of Toronto that has similarities to downtown London.

Since we allow bikes, why not e-scooters? An e-scooter, unlike a bike, is a motor vehicle. As such, they should not be exempt from public safety regulations that apply to motor vehicles. A person who has never ridden an e-scooter can hop on one and instantly throttle up to race over 20 KPH. A person cannot instantly pedal a bike that fast, especially if they have never ridden a bike. In any event, London already has bikes. It does not need the dangers of e-scooters.

The July 2020 Toronto City Staff Report shows that e-scooters do not bring the great benefits for reduced car traffic and pollution that the corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies claim.

London should now call a stop to its exploration of e-scooters. Its residents with disabilities, its seniors and others should not have to mount an advocacy effort like the one that was necessary in Toronto to prevent the City from exposing its residents and visitors to the proven dangers that e-scooters pose. This is so especially while they along with all others must continue trying to cope with the pandemic.

Please make London easier and not harder for people with disabilities, seniors and others to get around. Protect those who need safe, accessible streets and sidewalks, not the interests of corporate lobbyists.

These references to banning e-scooters do not refer to the very different scooters that some people with disabilities use for mobility devices. Those mobility devices are now permitted and of course, should remain permitted.

Learn more about the dangers that e-scooters pose to people with disabilities, seniors, children and others, by visiting the AODA Alliance e-scooter web page and by watching the AODA Alliance’s short, captioned video on this issue. Read the AODA Alliance’s March 30, 2021 detailed brief to Toronto City Council on e-scooters. Read the January 22, 2020 open letter to all municipalities and to Premier Doug Ford co-signed by 11 disability organization, that oppose e-scooters in Ontario.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance by visiting www.aodaalliance.org, by following @aodaalliance on Twitter, by visiting our Facebook page at www.facebook.com or by emailing us at aodafeedback@gmail.com.

April 26, 2021 Written Submission to the City of Toronto by the Broadview Danforth Business Improvement Area

April 26, 2021

TO: Infrastructure and Environment Committee Clerk

FROM: The Broadview Danforth BIA

RE: Item: 1E21.7 Pilot Project: Electric Kick-Scooters

I’m writing on behalf of the 355 business members in the Broadview Danforth BIA to support the recommendation being made by the General Manager, Transportation Services to decline the option to participate in O.Reg 389/19 Pilot Project for Electric Kick-Scooters. Our comments below can be shared with the Infrastructure and Environment Committee — meeting on April 28, 2021.

We have reviewed the components related to this proposed pilot project and have serious concerns that it would be very difficult to implement in a manner consistent with public safety and order.

Following a presentation made by Janet Lo from Transportation Services to BIAs, our key concerns are as follows:

Safety issues related to people with disabilities who use our sidewalks and wouldn’t be able to safely continue doing so if e-scooters were allowed on sidewalks.

Safety issues related to all people using sidewalks — the potential of e-scooters being left on the sidewalks or tied to benches, tree guards etc. and falling over will lead to potential tripping hazards.

Lack of clarity on insurance coverage for riders, e-scooter rental companies and the general public who may be injured by e-scooter riders. Lack of City/police resources to enforce any kind of e-scooter laws. At the moment we have cyclists improperly using the roads and bike lanes and enforcement is almost non-existent. It’s impossible to believe that enforcement will be available for e-scooters. Our businesses are fighting for their survival during this pandemic and the last thing we need is for customers to feel unsafe using our sidewalks.

Thank you for your time and consideration of our feedback on this issue.

Albert Stortchak

Board Chair

Broadview Danforth BIA

What Do the Major Federal Political Parties Commit to Do in Their Published Election Platforms to Make Canada Accessible for Six Million 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/

What Do the Major Federal Political Parties Commit to Do in Their Published Election Platforms to Make Canada Accessible for Six Million People with Disabilities?

August 27, 2021

        SUMMARY

In the current federal election, what are the major national political parties promising to do, if elected, to make Canada accessible for people with disabilities? On August 3, 2021, we wrote the major parties to ask them to make 12 specific commitments. With less than a month left before voting day, none of the party leaders have written us back to make any commitments in response.

We have reviewed the publicly-posted platforms of the major national parties in this election to see if they make any commitments there on this issue. We set out below what we found. We emphasize that accessibility for people with disabilities is only one of the important disability issues in this federal election. The major national parties’ platforms have things to say on other issues that affect people with disabilities, beyond those excerpted below.

We will make public any commitments we receive in response to our requests. As always, we do not support or oppose any party or candidate. We urge all parties to make the commitments on disability accessibility that we seek.

The AODA Alliance is now tweeting as many federal candidates as we can to try to get them to make strong commitments on accessibility. Please follow @aodaalliance and @davidlepofsky on Twitter and retweet the tweets you find there. This will help put pressure on the candidates to make strong commitments.

2021 National Federal Parties’ Platform Key Excerpts on Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Liberal Party

More Accessible Workplaces and Schools

We will make it easier for people with disabilities to work or attend school.

Across Canada, nearly 650,000 people with disabilities have the potential to work or attend school, but aren’t able to do so because they don’t have access to the accommodations that would make this possible.

To help more people with disabilities go to school, enter the workforce, and join the middle class, we will move forward with a new $40 million per year national workplace accessibility fund, with a special focus on making small and medium-sized businesses more accessible. This fund will match costs with employers and schools, providing up to a combined $10,000 to cover the cost of an accommodation.

Employers and schools will continue to be required to meet their accessibility obligations under provincial and federal law. (Page 13)

New Democratic Party

Removing barriers for persons living with disabilities

We can do much more to make Canada an inclusive and barrier-free place. As a start, New Democrats will uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and strengthen the Accessibility Act to cover all federal agencies equally, with the power to make and enforce accessibility standards in a timely manner.

To help tackle the unacceptable rate of poverty among Canadians living with a disability and ensure that everyone has the chance to thrive and live in dignity, we will expand income security programs to ensure Canadians living with a disability have a guaranteed livable income. While the Liberal government spends years talking about a new federal disability benefit, New Democrats will get to work immediately to deliver it.

When it comes to employment, everyone deserves a fair shot at a good job that fits their unique abilities. A New Democrat government will continue and expand employment programs to make sure that quality employment opportunities are available to all.

For Canadians facing a serious illness, we’ll make Employment Insurance work better by extending sickness benefits to 50 weeks of coverage, and creating a pilot project to allow workers with episodic disabilities to access benefits as they need them.

Canadians living with disabilities shouldn’t need to worry about the cost of prescription medication, dental work, how to find housing, or how to get their mail. In addition to putting in place a universal, publicly funded national pharmacare and dental care program that will offer full benefits to all Canadians, a New Democrat government will restore door-to door mail delivery for those who lost it under the Conservatives, and create affordable, accessible housing in communities across the country.

Finally, we will work with Autistic Canadians to develop and implement a national Autism strategy that will coordinate support for research, ensure access to needs-based services, promote employment, and help expand housing options. (Page 62)

Conservative Party

Breaking Down Barriers for Canadians Living with Disabilities

One in five Canadians lives with a disability. They need our support – to live full lives and participate fully in society, including in the workforce. Canada’s Conservatives have a plan to break down the barriers faced by Canadians living with disabilities.

Doubling Disability Support in the Canada Workers Benefit

A disproportionate number of disabled Canadians are working part-time or for low wages.

  • Canada’s Conservatives will double the Disability Supplement in the Canada Workers Benefit from $713 to $1,500, providing a major boost to lower-income disabled Canadians on top of our increase in the Canada Workers Benefit. The most help will go to families where one member has a disability. We will help them achieve the security and financial independence they deserve.

Making Work Pay

Canada’s Conservatives will ensure that going to work never costs a disabled person money – as is too often the case today. The complex web of programs in place today means that someone can lose more than a dollar in benefit cuts and       higher taxes for every dollar they earn by working. This means               that for many disabled Canadians, the harder they work, the poorer they become.

This is simply wrong.

We will overhaul the complex array of disability supports and benefits to ensure that working always leaves someone further ahead. And we will work with the provinces to ensure that federal programs are designed to work with provincial programs to achieve this result.

This will augment the effect of our increase to the Canada Workers Benefit, which will help make work pay for disabled Canadians by boosting the        benefits of work.

Boosting the Enabling Accessibility Fund

We will  provide  an additional $80 million per year through the Enabling Accessibility Fund to provide:

  • Additional incentives for small business and community projects to improve accessibility.
  • Grants and support for all types of accessibility equipment that disabled Canadians need to work.
  • Enhancements to existing programs that will get more disabled Canadians into the workforce.

Making it Easier to Qualify for the Disability Tax Credit and Registered Disability Savings Plan

To give more Canadians with disabilities access to financial support, we will reduce the number of hours required to qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the Registered Disability Savings Plan from 14 to 10 hours per week.

In 2017, Justin Trudeau took away the support that thousands of Canadians relied on when he changed how Canadians qualify for the Disability Tax Credit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan. To some, this credit was worth thousands of dollars. Conservatives joined diabetes advocates to successfully fight back against this tax grab.

Our changes will save a disabled person made eligible for the tax credit or their family an average of $2,100 per year. Making it easier to qualify for the tax credit will also make it easier to qualify for the RDSP, which provides up to $3,500 per year in matching grants for Canadians with disabilities. (Pages 135-136)

Disability Coalition Slams Trudeau Government’s Giving Millions to Rick Hansen Foundation’s Seriously Deficient Building Accessibility Certification Training Program

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Coalition Slams Trudeau Government’s Giving Millions to Rick Hansen Foundation’s Seriously Deficient Building Accessibility Certification Training Program

August 24, 2021 Toronto: Just before calling a federal election, the Federal Government announced action that wastes public money, creates serious new problems for people with disabilities and lacks important due diligence needed before pouring millions of public dollars into an unaccountable private foundation.

On August 13, 2021, the Federal Government announced up to 7.5 million dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) to help finance its problem-ridden private accessibility certification program for buildings. Entirely unhelpful for six million people with disabilities in Canada, this wasteful federal announcement took a page from Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s troubling playbook, by using a wasteful diversion of public money to the RHF to deflect attention from protracted delays in implementing disability accessibility legislation.

The Federal Government claimed: “With this investment, the Foundation will establish a new standardized profession of “accessibility professionals,” which will increase expertise and information on how to build accessible spaces in a way that includes people of all abilities.”

1. RHF Program Does Not Accurately Measure a Building’s Accessibility

The RHF program provides an unreliable accessibility “certification”. It in reality certifies nothing. A building that the RHF says as accessible” is not assured to be accessible.

  1. a) A BC restaurant agreed to a human rights settlement due to its premises’ lack of accessibility even though the RHF had “certified” it as accessible. See Human Rights Tribunal to hear disabled customer’s complaint about Pat Quinn’sand “Disability advocate settles accessibility complaint against Pat Quinn’s Restaurant & Bar
  1. b) The RHF proudly gave the Vancouver International Airport a gold rating for accessibility, even though it had “hang out steps”, riddled with accessibility problems. See “Who gets to decide what is accessible—and who does that leave behind?”
  1. c) The Ontario Government is building a massive new courthouse in downtown Toronto replete with accessibility problems. Yet the Ontario Government told the AODA Alliance that the RHF program rated the building’s design as accessible. The RHF assessor never contacted the AODA Alliance to investigate the Alliance’s detailed and publicly documented accessibility concerns with that building.

2. Deficient RHF Training Does Not Make a Person an Accessibility Professional

The Federal Government makes the highly misleading claim that the RHF training that the Government is underwriting will create a new standardized profession of accessibility professionals. Yet two years ago, an AODA Alliance report detailed massive problems with the RHF’s seriously deficient training. A person completing that substandard training would mislead others if they claim to thereby be an “accessibility professional.” Even the RHF conceded in an August 19, 2021 report in the Burnaby Beacon:

“‘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.”

Far from being the gold standard for training accessibility professionals that the Federal Government should underwrite and that others should follow, the very short RHF training program is a model of how such training should not be done.

3. Ford Government Earlier Spending $1.3 Million on RHF Program Yielded No Improvement in Accessibility

In 2015, the Kathleen Wynne Government flirted with buying into the RHF program, but wisely dropped that idea. In 2019, the Ford Government claimed it was improving the accessibility of buildings in Ontario by giving the RHF private accessibility certification program 1.3 million dollars. The AODA Alliance led criticism of that misuse of public money. See the July 24, 2019 Toronto Star: “Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings.”

On August 6, 2019, the Toronto Star ran a strong editorial blasting the Ford Government for this use of public money. Over two years after the Ford Government bought into the RHF program, there’s no proof it led to the removal of any disability barriers.

4. Much Needed Federal Government Due Diligence is Strikingly Absent

Before pouring millions of public dollars into the RHF, an unaccountable private foundation, the Federal Government must not have undertaken obvious, rudimentary due diligence. A quick Google or social media search would quickly reveal serious concerns about the RHF program emanating from credible voices in the grass roots disability community that this federal spending supposedly is to benefit. For example, the Federal Government never contacted the AODA Alliance to explore its documented concerns with the RHF training and certification program. Two years ago, the AODA Alliance made public two detailed reports, dated July 3, 2019 and August 15, 2019. Those reports exhaustively proved in exquisite detail, based on RHF documentation, the many serious deficiencies with the RHF program. Since then, the RHF has not disproved these concerns.

5. RHF is not Expert in Training Accessibility Professionals or Assessing Building Accessibility

Mr. Hansen’s name and personal notoriety do not give the RHF the expertise it lacks in this area. In contrast, Canada RCanada has real accessibility professionals, with far more than a couple of weeks of accessibility training, who can competently assess a building’s accessibility and make recommendations where improvements are needed.

“By buying into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s problem-ridden program and misleadingly claiming to create a new profession of accessibility professionals, the Federal Government hurts people with disabilities. It’s substantially lowering the training needed to competently work in this area, and putting it in the hands of an unaccountable private foundation with a record of focusing primarily on some disabilities to the potential exclusion of others,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance that advocates for accessibility for people with all kinds of disabilities. “This public funding would have been far better used to develop a strong, effective, comprehensive, mandatory national standard for accessible design of buildings for all people with disabilities that could be enforced under the Accessible Canada Act.”

In this close election race, the non-partisan AODA Alliance wrote the major political parties on August 4, 2021, seeking specific election commitments to implement the Accessible Canada Act that was passed in 2019. In the 2019 federal election, the Liberal party committed “to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians.” It also pledged to use a disability lens for all Government decisions.

The Accessible Canada Act requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040, at least within federal jurisdiction. In the two years since the Accessible Canada Act was passed, there has been some progress. However, we have to date not observed any appreciable improvement in accessibility for people with disabilities.

The Federal Government has still not even hired the national Accessibility Commissioner or the Chief Accessibility Officer to lead the Accessible Canada Act’s implementation. No national accessibility standards have yet been enacted to require specific action to remove and prevent disability barriers.

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

For more background:

  1. The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program..
  2. The AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program certification program.
  3. The AODA Alliances widely viewed online video about accessibility problems with the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre. That building included the very inaccessible “hang out steps” that are also present at the Vancouver International Airport, the latter building being the first to receive an RHF gold rating for accessibility.

Another Media Report on Huge Problems with the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility “Certification” Program – RHF Concedes Its Training for Its Accessibility Assessors Does Not Make Them Experts in Accessibility

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/

Another Media Report on Huge Problems with the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility “Certification” Program – RHF Concedes Its Training for Its Accessibility Assessors Does Not Make Them Experts in Accessibility

August 20, 2021

        SUMMARY

An excellent, extensive article in the August 19, 2021 edition of the Burnaby Beacon, set out below, details many serious problems with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) private accessibility “certification” program. For more than two years, this program has been the centrepiece of the Ford Government’s failing efforts to address the many substantial barriers that people with disabilities face in the built environment. What Ontarians with disabilities need instead is for the Ford Government to agree to develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Over two years ago, the Ford Government announced that it would spend over 1.3 million public dollars on the RHF program over a two-year period. Two years later, there is no evidence that this has resulted in any improvement in the accessibility of the built environment in Ontario.

The AODA Alliance, quoted in this new article, as well as other credible voices, have together brought to public attention many serious failings in the RHF program. For example, the fact that the RHF calls a building “accessible” is no proof at all that it is accessible.

As another example, the very short training course that the RHF provides for those assessing a building’s accessibility is too short and riddled with problems. The RHF calls those who complete that inadequate course an “RHF accessibility professional”. This is an inaccurate and very misleading title. In this new news report, the RHF is quoted as in substance conceding this point. 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.”

This new article refers to a Toronto Star editorial that blasted the Ford Government for its strategy of using the RHF program. We set that editorial out below. It accords with criticisms of the RHF program that we have made public.

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program, entitled “A Problematic Government Strategy on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and An Inappropriate Use of Public Money

The AODA Alliance Report on the Ontario Government’s Proposal to Spend Public Money on the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Process” made these findings which have not been disproven in the past two years:

“* Ford’s Government says this plan will remove barriers facing people with disabilities. Yet the report reveals that the plan need not result in any barriers ever being removed.

* Instead of using properly trained Government inspectors, Ford’s plan uses private individuals who may have no prior experience with the highly technical area of building accessibility, and who just took a two-week course and passed a multiple choice exam. To acquire the needed expertise, it takes much more training on accessibility than a 2-week course.

* There are serious concerns with RHF’s private standard or yardstick to assess a building’s accessibility. For example, there is a real risk of leaving out people whose disabilities are not related to mobility, vision or hearing.

* There is a risk of conflict of interest if the RHF inspects an organization that has given or may give the RHF a charitable donation. It would be inexcusable for an organization to give money to a Government inspector.

* These private free-lance accessibility assessors appear to have a troubling incentive to give higher accessibility ratings, in hopes of getting more work. An organization chooses the RHF-trained free-lance assessor who will inspect their building. Assessors are paid by the job.

*Even though the taxpayer will fund these inspections, the public will have no right to know the inspection’s results, unless an organization agrees to make its results public.”

The AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program reached these 17 additional conclusions:

“1. It was wrong for the Ford Government not to hold an open competitive bidding process before deciding to give $1.3 million to the RHF.

  1. There are no measures in place to address serious conflict of interest concerns with the RHFAC.
  1. Key and basic aspects of this public funding program have still not yet been worked out months after it was announced.
  1. It is troubling that the RHFAC tries to shift responsibility and risk for accessibility ratings and advice onto others.
  1. The RHFAC accessibility ratings are clearly left in significant part to each free-lance assessor’s subjective discretion, despite the Government’s claims that these accessibility assessments are consistently applied.
  1. It is problematic for the RHFAC to take averages of the accessibility of a building’s features like bathrooms.
  1. The RHFAC program emphasizes the problematic idea of getting organizations to go “beyond code”, as if building code compliance is all that is required.
  1. The RHFAC adjudication process has serious flaws.
  1. There are insufficient safeguards to ensure that an RHF-certified building remains accessible after it is so-certified.
  1. The mandatory RHFAC course is even shorter than the two weeks we earlier announced.
  1. An instructor in the RHFAC course need not have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment.
  1. The RHF training course crams far too much curriculum into too short a time.
  1. The RHFAC course appears to emphasize barriers facing people with physical disabilities such as people using wheelchairs.
  1. It is misleading to suggest at points that building code compliance means that a building is accessible.
  1. It is inappropriate and potentially harmful for the RHF to use blindness or vision loss simulations as part of the RHFAC course.
  1. It is unhelpful for The RHFAC course to ask students to consider which disability they’d rather have or not have.
  1. RHFAC testing of course participants is not shown to be sufficient.”

Fully 932 days ago, the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review. Among other things, that report called for substantial new regulatory action to make the built environment in Ontario accessible to people with disabilities. That report did not make any recommendation for the Ontario Government to use the RHF program. Over two and a half years later, Ontarians with disabilities are still waiting for meaningful provincial action on this front.

        MORE DETAILS

Burnaby Beacon August 19, 2021

Originally posted at https://burnabybeacon.com/article/rick-hansen-foundation-parks-accessibility/

Who gets to decide what is accessible—and who does that leave behind?

The City of Burnaby is requiring all bidders on parks projects to have Rick Hansen Foundation certification—but advocates say standards shouldn’t be put in the hands of private foundations.

By Dustin Godfrey

Disabilities advocates are decrying a move by the City of Burnaby to require architects and other contractors looking to work with the city to have certification with the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Earlier this summer, city staff noted in a report to the parks, recreation, and culture commission that the parks department is working to improve accessibility in parks and trails.

“Following the principles of universal design, we strive to make our parks usable to the greatest extent possible, by everyone,” director of parks, recreation, and cultural services Dave Ellenwood wrote in the report.

Standards for accessibility at parks facilities, according to the report, are sourced from a combination of provincial and national regulations, including the BC Housing Code and the Canadian Landscape Architecture Association’s design standards for accessibility.

The report goes on to note that the city doesn’t have a direct relationship with the Rick Hansen Foundation, but an access advisory committee in the city is in touch with the foundation “semi-regularly.”

“Approximately 2 years ago, leadership from the Rick Hansen Foundation met with the mayor to inquire if the City would certify its corporate facilities; however, at the time there was substantial fee associated with the process, and it was not pursued,” Ellenwood wrote.

“Going forward, however, all new civic projects require Rick Hansen training/certification as criteria in its RFP [request for proposals] process for consultants/architects of new civic facilities, including the current recreation centre projects. This means that the Rick Hansen certification lens is applied to Burnaby civic projects.”

But advocates say this wrongly forces architects to patronize a foundation they say relieves pressure on senior levels of government to develop their own stricter rules for accessibility.

“It is exceedingly inappropriate and quite troubling,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, who described his organization as “among the leading voices you’ll see being quoted publicly as raising concerns about the RHF certification process and certifier training.”

And the issue draws questions about how accessibility should be regulated—by market forces, such as certifications drawn up by private foundations, or by public entities.

The City of Burnaby did not respond to requests for comment.

What is the Rick Hansen Foundation?

A statue of Rick Hansen at Rogers Arena in Vancouver before it was moved to the Vancouver General Hospital. (Flickr, Creative Commons)

The foundation was launched in the late 1980s as the Man in Motion World Tour Society by Rick Hansen, a paraplegic wheelchair user following a spinal cord injury at age 15 after he completed his famous 26-month Man in Motion World Tour.

The Paralympian’s 40,000-km wheelchair marathon, inspired by Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, covered 34 countries and earned Hansen broad recognition, including the Order of Canada and the Order of BC.

And the momentum of that tour carried into the foundation, whose original aim, according to its website, was “to raise money to improve the lives of people with disabilities and to support SCI research.”

The Rick Hansen Foundation has been the vessel for a number of accessibility investments, doling out grants on behalf of governments, and in 2017, it launched a certification program to rate buildings for accessibility. Since then, the foundation has sent evaluators to over 1,300 sites to determine an accessibility rating—certification requires 60% compliance, as well as full compliance with mandatory requirements, while a gold certification requires 80% compliance.

Of the 1,300-plus sites assessed, over 850 have received certification, while just over 70 have received gold certification.

Just last week, the federal government—ahead of an election call—announced a $7.5-million investment into the foundation to “establish a new standardized profession of ‘accessibility professionals,’ which will increase expertise and information on how to build accessible spaces in a way that includes people of all abilities.”

What’s the problem?

In recent years, while the foundation has managed to elicit the praise of governments, it has also drawn the ire of many accessibility advocates.

Advocates say various governments have come to rely too heavily on RHF’s certification program, effectively privatizing accessibility. And they say the program takes pressure off of governments to develop adequate accessibility legislation with teeth to enforce compliance.

Lepofsky pointed in particular to a move by the Ontario government to give Rick Hansen Foundation $1.3 million to do certification inspections on 250 buildings.

“They pointed to this, in multiple statements, when points are made publicly that they are not making progress on accessibility in anywhere near the way we need it,” Lepofsky said, adding the certification “proves nothing other than a PR gesture.”

“It’s a waste of money, but a lot of money for a photo op smokescreen to make it look like they’re doing something, so they can point to it and hope that that gets some good media.”

Gabrielle Peters, a disabled writer and policy analyst in Vancouver, said she has been frustrated with the level of interest RHF has gotten from governments and the private sector, particularly around its certification program.

“Accessibility is essentially, and should be, understood in terms of the built environment and the conditions of the built environment,” she said. “It’s sort of akin to a fire code, [or] health policy. So if you don’t follow the fire code, you can be shut down. Your business licence can be taken away. That’s my ideal situation.”

Filling the gaps

 

Rick Hansen Foundation bills its certification program as something that’s intended to fill the gaps not addressed by legislation, saying it agrees that the government also needs to take a role in the issue.

“RHF does not disagree with the position that there should be government regulation, however we do not see this as being mutually exclusive to our program. Both can exist. It’s important to have both enabling legislation and harmonized national codes and standards and a complementary national certification program that uses consistent methodology and recognizes industry leadership,” the foundation wrote in a statement to Burnaby Beacon.

“Legislation alone is not enough, according to a report from the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance (CDPA), public and private collaboration is essential.”

The foundation also pointed to a study by HCMA Architecture + Design that showed building to the national and Ontario building codes would get a building 35% and 42% respectively on the RHF certification rating.

“RHFAC was developed on national and international standards and research demonstrating best practices in accessibility. The program has been reviewed by a broad scope of stakeholders,” the foundation said, listing major disabilities organizations, a technical committee of private and public officials, and an advisory committee made up of city planners and operators of commercial spaces.

“People are always ready to tell us if they disagree with us—I’ve heard absolutely no one come to [RHF’s] defence.”

But Peters said accessibility should be defined by the public, through public institutions, comparing it to a fire code or food safety regulations.

“If you could just imagine putting those things into a privatized situation, I think you can imagine the myriad of problems that could occur. You don’t have to follow the fire code; you have to follow Dustin’s privately developed rules of fires,” Peters said.

“That would be a big problem, because it shouldn’t be up to Dustin to decide. It should be up to the fire department and the fire marshal to decide. It should be up to a health authority, which is publicly accountable and publicly run. And the same with accessibility.”

 

Legislation being implemented

 

BC and Canada have both recently passed accessibility legislation, including the Accessible Canada Act in 2019 and the Accessible BC Act signed in June this year.

The federal legislation only applies to federal agencies and federally regulated institutions in the private sector, such as banks, airlines, broadcasting and cross-provincial transportation.

Meanwhile, it’s still unclear how BC’s law will apply, with implementation taking place over 10 years. Its focuses over the next decade will include culture change, accountability requirements for BC government, monitoring and evaluation, and standards development.

As it stands, there’s little recourse for anyone with a disability in BC who can’t access services or even basics like curb cuts—ramps at the corners of sidewalks to allow wheelchairs and others to easily get onto the road—beyond going to the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

But advocates’ issues with RHF’s certification program aren’t just about who should be responsible for standardizing accessibility—they have concerns about the methodology and scope of the program.

 

‘We’ve been very public about this’

 

Peters said Rick Hansen Foundation has gained a particularly strong foothold in BC, where it’s based, often acting as a vessel for government grant money.

But that hasn’t been the case everywhere—Lepofsky said RHF doesn’t have the same standing in Ontario.

When Doug Ford’s government gave $1.3 million to RHF, Lepofsky’s coalition listed 17 concerns they have with RHFAC and with the Ontario government’s funding announcement. And his organization wasn’t the only one that pushed back on the funding announcement.

The Toronto Star’s editorial board penned a condemnation of the move, citing a number of similar qualms to Lepofsky’s concerns.

“People are always ready to tell us if they disagree with us—I’ve heard absolutely no one come to [RFH’s] defence,” Lepofsky said.

“Our positions are informed by feedback we get on an ongoing basis. … We’ve been very public about this, and I’ve had nobody from within the disability community pushing back and saying, ‘You’re wrong; this is a great thing.’”

Lepofsky’s concerns about RHF certification range from conflict of interest concerns to the short training period involved to the methodology around its ratings.

“If the Hansen folks go in and say something’s accessible, all you’ve got to do is move a garbage can in the path of travel, and that’s over. They get the label, they get the sign up [on the] front of their building, but it doesn’t mean anything,” Lepofsky said.

Lepofsky further took issue with the suggestion that RHF certification pushes building design beyond the bare minimum, with the implication that the building code is the minimum.

“The minimum is the human rights code of the Charter of Rights. So what Mr. Hansen and the foundation talk about is encouraging people to go beyond the minimum, grossly understating what the minimum is, and then applauding people for doing better than that substandard requirement,” Lepofsky said.

Human rights complaint

 

In fact, Lepofsky and Peters both pointed to a couple of notable shortcomings by Rick Hansen Foundation.

Last year, Pat Quinn’s Restaurant & Bar in Tsawwassen settled a human rights complaint filed against it by a wheelchair user, despite the building—and restaurant—having accessibility certification from the Rick Hansen Foundation.

And in 2018, the foundation awarded YVR Airport a gold certification. The problem, they said, is where they held the photo op—at a set of “hangout steps” or stepped seating, a feature that is loved by architects but derided by accessibility advocates.

“The very picture where they’re portraying it had a barrier in the picture,” Lepofsky said. “This is a design, a thing that should never take place. And here, [RHF is] not only giving them a gold, … but they’re giving them a gold [with hangout steps] in the picture. This is just proof positive of a complete bungle. So that’s a huge problem.”

RHF did not address a question about the YVR approval directly but said in an email statement that ratings provide “a ‘snapshot’ of the overall accessibility of their facilities.”

“Certification does not equal perfection. Using their scorecards, organizations are able to identify which areas have scored well and which areas require improvements in a simple and easily understood format,” the foundation said.

Rick Hansen Foundation awards YVR Airport a gold certification, with a photo op at hangout stairs in the airport.

And that gets to another point of contention many within the disability community have with the RHF certification program: a sense that it may offer a photo op and a plaque for the sake of PR without actually being adequately accessible.

For Peters, a big part of the issue is transparency around how the certification process is done. The foundation has a public checklist on its website, indicating the different factors that are considered in its accessibility certification test, and how they’re weighted. But when a business says it’s RHF certified, it’s not clear what that means.

The word “certification” is a misnomer, according to Lepofsky.

“They don’t certify anything. It’s not like you get a certificate that is now a defence to a human rights complaint. It’s not,” Lepofsky said.

 

Who certifies the certifiers?

 

Part of the issue, according to Thea Kurdi, an Ontario-based accessibility and universal design consultant with DesignAble who has been involved in writing accessibility standards, is how much training RHF certifiers get—just 10 days.

“If you’re doing an audit, none of my staff members are allowed to go out and do that independently for 2 years. We take 2 years to train people to make sure that they really understand what they’re doing,” Kurdi said.

That can pose a problem when many parts of the checklist are discretionary—each point is ranked on a scale—rather than simple yes or no questions.

In its written statement, RHF noted that its certification process does have prerequisites for its training, including a diploma in architecture, engineering, or urban planning, or a minimum of 5 years’ experience related to accessibility in buildings.

“Furthermore, RHFAC ratings are reviewed by an independent adjudication process,” the foundation said. Despite this, 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.

“However, it does change the way industry professionals see the built environment, help them to see barriers they didn’t see before, and to challenge the assumption that meeting code is equal to providing real access for people with disabilities.”

A focus on spinal cord injuries

 

One issue Kurdi, Lepofsky and Peters all noted were around where Rick Hansen Foundation’s focus has been for much of its existence. The foundation was originally created to raise money for spinal cord research, “which is a really important endeavour,” Kurdi said.

But all 3 said the foundation’s focus skews toward a specific type of disability—wheelchair users.

“While [the certification program] does talk about other types of disabilities, we have noticed—because we’ve been asked to review it for several clients to see, does that make sense for them to use—I find it’s still wheelchair-centric,” Kurdi said.

Peters noted one particular RHF point that suggested facilities use aromatic plants as a form of wayfinding assistance for people who are blind or have low vision. This, she said, ignores the existence of winter and the fact that accessibility includes accommodating people with scent sensitivities and allergies.

“RHFAC uses them as an example of an olfactory wayfinding clue for a building entrance but does not suggest their use in parks,” the foundation said in response to a question about the suggestion.

“We continue to value ongoing input from the community, and will discuss the feedback regarding aromatic plants with our Technical Advisory Committee during the development of RHFAC v4.0.”

Kurdi said: “I love it when people are trying to bring attention to accessibility and when they’re trying to move things going down the whole line. But I think people really need to understand the difference between a certification program and, for example, a building audit.”

A certification program can be a “fun way to celebrate accessibility and then raise awareness as a central improvement,” Kurdi said, but she noted some limitations.

“I don’t think that this really captures what’s required under the human rights code, and it certainly doesn’t encompass what we’re recommending in the accessible built environment industry.”

The foundation said its goal has, for 33 years, been to remove barriers for people with disabilities and to increase awareness of accessibility, along with its focus on spinal cord injury research.

“One of the most fundamental barriers that people with disabilities face is the lack of physical accessibility in the places we live, work, learn, and play. A key priority for RHF is to improve accessibility for people with physical disabilities affecting their mobility, vision, and hearing,” RHF said.

Laws with teeth

 

A person in a wheelchair uses a curb cut at a crosswalk.

Curb cuts are one basic area of accessibility that Gabrielle Peters says is woefully lacking in Metro Vancouver. (phaustov, Shutterstock)

Peters highlighted the Americans with Disabilities Act south of the border as an example of doing accessibility better than in Canada.

While Canada’s and BC’s laws have just been passed in the last couple of years, the ADA has been in place for 3 decades now. And while Peters said it isn’t perfect by any means, it’s still much stronger than existing legislation in Canada.

And a key issue, she noted, is how effective it is as a law—if something isn’t ADA compliant, a person can sue. This is what happened south of the border with curb cuts—and that bears results.

The City of Portland recently settled a class-action lawsuit filed against it by committing to creating 1,500 curb cuts per year.

In Vancouver, Peters said the city has 8,000 corners without curb cuts, and when she sat on that city’s transportation council, the projected completion date was 200 years out.

Here in Burnaby, meanwhile, many residential roads don’t have sidewalks, and the city even cancelled a sidewalks project at the behest of local families.

Free resources

Peters said one of her main issues with the Rick Hansen Foundation’s certification program is the price—described by the city in its own report as “substantial”—and the barriers that adds.

This, she said, makes the process inaccessible to people who could consult on disabilities, drawing from lived experience and community consultations but who don’t have RHF training.

“It makes me very sad that this is being turned into a money-making opportunity that seems to be replicating some of the [existing] oppressions and hierarchy,” Peters said.

All the while, she said, there are free resources the city could draw from for its parks facilities.

Because it’s publicly regulated, the ADA’s guidelines are freely available, including standards specific to parks. Peters said the guidelines aren’t comprehensive but still are more so than those from RHF, also pointing to more guidelines freely available from the City of Malibu in California.

Watch for our companion piece to this article coming on Friday, August 20, where a local resident offers some challenges around—and solutions for—accessibility in Burnaby’s parks facilities.

Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

The Toronto Star August 6, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/08/06/ontario-should-move-faster-on-tearing-down-barriers.html

Ontario should move faster on tearing down barriers

Editorial

Buildings must be for everyone

As accessibility advocates constantly warn, we’re all just one illness or accident away from becoming disabled.

And with 1,000 Ontario baby boomers turning 65 every day, more of us will be dealing with aging vision, hearing, hips and knees that will affect our quality of life and make our physical environment more difficult to navigate.

So it’s disappointing that six months after former lieutenant governor David Onley delivered a scathing report on the “soul crushing” barriers that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities face on a daily basis, the Ford government has yet to develop a clear way forward.

In March, Raymond Cho, Ontario’s minister for seniors and accessibility, finally authorized work to resume on three committees developing accessibility standards in the education and health-care systems.

But, so far, none of the committees have met and no dates have been set.

When NDP MPP Joe Harden introduced a motion in the legislature in May urging the government to implement Onley’s report, starting with the development of new accessibility standards for the built environment, Cho dismissed the idea as “red tape.”

Instead, Cho and the Ford government are trumpeting a two-year $1.3-million investment in a new accessibility certification program developed by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

By certifying 250 public and private buildings, the government says it will raise awareness and encourage the development industry to make accessibility a priority.

We have no quarrel with the foundation’s quest to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities and to fund research into spinal cord injury and care.

But we are concerned about a program that relies on building professionals who have completed just two weeks of accessibility training to conduct the certifications.

And we question why certifications will be given to entire buildings at a time when most accessibility advocates and seasoned consultants say few buildings are fully accessible.

For example, the foundation was recently criticized for awarding a “gold” rating to the Vancouver airport in 2018, even though the building includes so-called “hangout steps” for socializing, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs and are difficult to navigate for those with vision loss or difficulty with balance.

Far better for the foundation to give its stamp of approval on accessible design elements that are truly remarkable and worth highlighting as examples for others to follow.

But, for the province to be financially backing such a scheme – particularly when it was not among Onley’s 15 recommendations – is questionable.

Shouldn’t scarce public funds be spent on implementing Onley’s detailed blueprint to ensure that Ontario meets its 2025 deadline for becoming fully accessible

under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

As Onley rightly recommends, the province should be developing better provincial accessibility standards for public and private buildings and boosting enforcement of the few rules that currently exist.

And it should make accessibility courses mandatory in colleges and universities to ensure future architects and other design professionals get the training they need.

Just as physicians are trained to “do no harm,” architects and design professionals should be educated to create no barriers.

It’s hard to believe that during one of the biggest building booms in the history of Ontario, there are so few accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Nothing prevents a developer from building acres of single family homes inaccessible to people with disabilities.

And just 15 per cent of units in multiresidential buildings – condominiums and apartments – are required to be accessible.

Ottawa’s national housing strategy aims to ensure 20 per cent of homes created under the plan are accessible. And yet, according to the latest 2017 federal statistics, 22 per cent of Canadians report having a disability, a percentage that will only grow as the population ages.

Clearly, we are not addressing current need, let alone future demand. The Ford government must do better.

Ford Government Belatedly Extended to September 13, 2021 the Deadline for Sending Feedback on Recommendations to Remove Disability Barriers from Ontario’s Health Care System

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 Belatedly Extended to September 13, 2021 the Deadline for Sending Feedback on Recommendations to Remove Disability Barriers from Ontario’s Health Care System

August 18, 2021

        SUMMARY

1. Summary of All Deadlines for Sending Feedback to the Ford Government on What is Needed in New Education and Health Care Accessibility Standards

Last week, after the Ford Government’s deadline had already expired for submitting feedback on the barriers that people with disabilities face in the health care system, the Government extended that deadline. The Government never told us about that extension. After we heard a rumour about it, we asked the Government if there was an extension. The Government then put us on a list of people being notified about this extension. We do not know who else has been alerted to it.

You may understandably be very confused about when you can give the Ford Government this feedback, as well as your input on two other proposals that are out for public feedback, under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We here try to clarify things for you.

The bottom line is this: The Ford Government now has the initial reports of three different AODA Standards Development Committees publicly posted for your feedback and input. The Government has now extended two of the three deadlines it earlier announced for giving your feedback.

The AODA Alliance is taking part in all three consultations. We urge you to do so as well. We have submitted our detailed August 3, 2021 brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on its initial report. Please email that Committee to endorse the AODA Alliance brief. We know that the March of dimes of Canada and the Ontario Autism Coalition have already done so. Send them your endorsement of our brief by writing healthSDC@ontario.ca

The deadlines for sending the Government your feedback are now as follows:

  1. You have up to September 13, 2021 to give feedback on the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. It recommends what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard to tear down the disability barriers facing people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.
  1. You have up to September 29, 2021 to give the Government feedback on the initial report of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. It recommends what should be included in the Education Accessibility Standard to tear down the disability barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s colleges and universities.
  1. You have up to September 30, 2021 to give feedback on the initial report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. It recommends what should be included in the promised Education Accessibility Standard to tear down the disability barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system.

Where do you send your feedback? Here are the email addresses to use:

 2. What Comes Next

What happens after all this feedback is gathered? After these feedback periods expire, three Government-appointed Standards Development Committees are to go back to work. They are supposed to review all the public feedback they received, and make any changes to their recommendations to the Government. They then submit their finalized report to the Ford Government on what they think the Government should include in the AODA accessibility standard on which they are working.

Section 10(2) of the AODA requires the Government to publicly post each final report from a Standards Development Committee upon receiving it. After the Government receives a Standards Development Committees final report, it can enact the accessibility standard that the Committee recommended as is, or with any changes it wishes. The Government can also do nothing at all.

At the very lethargic and sluggish rate that the Ford Government has been acting on implementing the AODA, it is extremely unlikely that it will enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard or Education Accessibility Standard before next June’s provincial election. It has enacted no accessibility standards and made no revisions to any accessibility standards since it took office over three years ago.

Making this worse, the Ford Government has not made any changes to strengthen the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, even though the Government received a final report from the Transportation Accessibility Standard in the spring of 2018. It has not made any revisions to strengthen the Employment Accessibility Standard, even though it received the final report of the Employment Standards Development Committee over two years ago. It has not enacted any revisions to strengthen the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, even though it received the Information and Communication Standards Development Committees final report almost one and a half years ago.

The AODA Alliance campaigned for over half a decade to get the Ontario Government to agree to develop and enact accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in health care and education. The door is open for your input. These opportunities don’t often come along.

In next June’s provincial election, we plan to ask the major parties to commit to action to make Ontario’s education system and health care system fully accessible to people with disabilities. The current public consultations can help with that effort.

 3. Helpful Resources

a) On Disability Barriers in the K-12 Ontario School system

  1. The entire 185-page K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and initial recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include to make education in Ontario schools barrier-free for all students with disabilities.
  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. The AODA Alliance‘s action kit on how to give public feedback on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
  1. A captioned video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky explaining what is in the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report.
  1. A captioned video of tips for parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate at school for their child’s needs.
  1. For general background, the AODA Alliance website Education page.

b) On Disability Barriers in Ontario Colleges and Universities

  1. The initial report of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/PSE-SDC-Initial-Recommendations-Report_June-25-2021.docx
  1. The draft framework for the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard that the AODA Alliance sent to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee in March, 2020.
  1. You can learn more about our years of advocacy to make all parts of Ontario’s education system accessible for students with disabilities by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

c) On Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Health Care System

  1. The initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Health-Care-SDC-Initial-Report-As-Submitted.doc
  1. The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee giving feedback on its initial report is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/August-3-2021-finalized-AODA-Alliance-Brief-to-Health-Care-Standards-Development-Committee.docx
  1. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2020 Framework that it submitted to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.
  1. A comprehensive captioned video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the barriers facing people with disabilities in the health care system.
  1. A detailed captioned video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the dangers of disability discrimination in Ontario’s controversial critical care triage protocol during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  1. Background on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for barrier-free health care services for people with disabilities is available on the AODA Alliance website’s health care page.

 4. The Ford Government’s Confused and Confusing Handling of the current Public Consultations on AODA Accessibility Standards

So far, the Ford Government has shown poor leadership in how it has handled the current public consultations. For example:

  • It withheld publicly posting these three initial reports for a long time, even though the AODA s. 10(1) requires the Government to post each upon receiving the report. It delayed publicly posting the health Care Standards Development Committee initial report for over 5 months after receiving it. It delayed publicly posting the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report for 3.5 months after receiving it. It delayed publicly posting the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report for 2.5 months after receiving it. In the case of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, that Committee voted to approve its initial report back in September 2020, almost a full year ago.
  • The Government’s delay in publicly posting the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s typifies how this governmental lethargy hurts people with disabilities. That initial report includes recommendations for action needed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, it raises concerns about the Government’s critical care triage protocol that endangers some patients with disabilities in Ontario hospitals. The Government kept that report secret from the public over critical months when the danger to people with disabilities was especially high. During that same time, the Minister of Health refused to answer any of the AODA Alliance’s detailed letters raising serious human rights concerns about the Government’s critical care triage protocol and plans.
  • The Government did not announce the extension of the original August 11, 2021 deadline for submitting public feedback on the ‘Health Care Standards Development Committees initial report until August 13, 2021, after that feedback period had already expired. Organizations like the AODA Alliance therefore unnecessarily were forced to rush in the midst of the summer vacation period to submit their feedback before the August 11, 2021 period.
  • Rather than properly informing the entire public, the Ford Government appears to have only let some people know about the extension of the deadline for feedback on the Health Care Standards Development Committees initial report. As noted above, when we heard a rumour about this late last week, we wrote the Government to ask about it. It was only after that that the Government sent out an email to us announcing its extension.
  • The Government initially scheduled the public feedback period on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report to end on September 2, 2021, before the school year begins. This created hardships for giving feedback in connection with the school system. The Government only belatedly agreed to lengthen that feedback period.

 5. Will the Ford Government’s Delays on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Ever End?

For over three years, we have pressed the Ford Government to develop a detailed plan on accessibility, to lay out how it will get Ontario to the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It has never done so.

On January 31, 2019, the Government received the blistering final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation. Minister for Accessibility Raymond Cho publicly said on April 10, 2019, that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

The Onley report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing” barriers impeding people with disabilities. It concluded that progress on accessibility has taken place at a “glacial pace.” It determined that that the goal of accessibility by 2025 is nowhere in sight, and that specific new Government actions, spelled out in the report, are needed.

In the 931 days since receiving the Onley Report, the Ford Government has 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.

        MORE DETAILS

August 13, 2021 Broadcast Email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

Dear all,

We are pleased to share that the public feedback period for the Health Care SDC Initial Recommendations has been extended for an additional month, to September 13, 2021. The additional time is intended to recognize that organizations across the health sector and the disability community may require more time to review and respond given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As a reminder, the Initial Recommendations Report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee is available online here for public comment:

https://www.ontario.ca/page/consultation-initial-recommendations-development-health-care-accessibility-standards

 

As these recommendations may impact you or your community, we would encourage you to participate in this process. We would also encourage you to share this information broadly with your networks.

A survey has been developed to seek public feedback and is linked from the consultation page together with the report itself.

Written submissions can also be sent by email to healthSDC@ontario.ca. Members of the public or interested organizations can also reach out to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division by email at healthSDC@ontario.ca for any questions.

All feedback received will be considered by the Committee before finalizing their recommendations to the Minister. Identifying information will remain confidential as per the Government of Ontario’s Privacy Policy, and all survey responses will remain anonymous.

Sincerely,

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division

Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility

A Disability Perspective on the Enduring Legacy of the Late Premier Bill Davis

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 Disability Perspective on the Enduring Legacy of the Late Premier Bill Davis

August 9, 2021

Ontario collectively mourns the death yesterday of former Ontario Premier William Davis. The politicians and pundits properly recite his many accomplishments over his many years in public life. Among those lasting achievements, it is important to list what he did for Ontarians with disabilities.

Four decades ago, it was entirely lawful to discriminate against people with disabilities in Ontario. It was also constitutional for Canada’s Parliament or a provincial legislature to pass a law or operate a program or policy that discriminated against people with disabilities. The pivotal year when that all changed was 1982, forty years ago next spring.

In 1982, the Ontario Legislature amended the Ontario Human Rights Code to make it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in access to jobs, goods, services, facilities or a place to live. The Ontario Human Rights Commission, a public law enforcement agency, was given both the power and the duty to investigate, mediate and where appropriate, prosecute disability discrimination complaints.

As well, in the spring of 1982, Canada’s Constitution was amended to add the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to it. As a result of disability advocates’ efforts, the Charter of Rights includes a constitutional guarantee of equality to people with disabilities in section 15.

It was Premier Davis’ Government that agreed to add disability protection to the Ontario Human Rights Code. It did so despite a strong backlash along the way from some media outlets and writers, who condemned the entire package of amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code, of which disability protection was but one part.

Since the Davis Government’s 1982 amendments to the Ontario Human Rights Code, disability claims have been the largest group of any category of human rights claims in Ontario. We went from being totally excluded to being the most numerous of claimants.

The 1982 patriation of the Canadian Constitution replete with a new Charter of Rights was spearheaded by the Federal Government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Critical to that being adopted was the support from the outset from Premier Bill Davis. While many other provincial premiers opposed Trudeau, Davis crossed partisan political barriers to support him on this issue. Without Premier Davis’s support, there very likely would have been no patriated Canadian Constitution with a Charter of Rights.

The guarantees of equality to people with disabilities in the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Human Rights Code are the firm bedrock underpinning the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the grassroots movement that campaigned for its enactment. They also underpin our campaign to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.

Did Bill Davis know about his decisive role in laying the foundation for disability accessibility rights in the 21st century in Ontario? We doubt that most of the politicians and pundits that today eulogize Premier Davis know of it. We don’t know if Mr. Davis was himself fully aware of it.

The day-to-day work to get disability added to the Ontario Human Rights Code was undertaken by Davis’s Labour Minister, the late Dr. Robert Elgie. However, Dr. Elgie, whose accomplishments for people with disabilities are honoured in the April 7, 2013 AODA Alliance Update, could not have succeeded without Premier Davis and then-Attorney General Roy McMurtry tirelessly backing him.

Similarly, the battle to get disability into the Charter of Rights, detailed in a captioned online lecture by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, was waged in Ottawa at the federal level, not in Toronto at Queen’s Park. It was then-MP and later Senator David Smith who was pressing in the federal back rooms to get the Pierre Trudeau Government to eventually agree to pass the disability amendment to the Charter of Rights. The March 3, 2020 Toronto Star guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky commemorates David Smith’s contribution to disability rights. His important contribution to our rights, like Dr. Elgie’s, would not have been realized had it not been for Premier Davis, supporting the patriation of Canada’s Constitution with its new Charter of Rights.

Time and again, those who have achieved so much for people with disabilities may not themselves be fully aware of what they have accomplished. As well, the public too often knows far less about this than should be the case.

It is our hope that the picture of Premier Davis’ lasting legacy for Ontarians will be a complete one – one that shows that our ongoing battle for full inclusion in society would be an even harder one had it not been for the leadership that Bill Davis provided. May he rest in peace.

CBC Reports on Troubling Disability Barrier at Canada’s Wonderland – and – Ford Government Extends Deadline to September 30, 2021 to Send in Public Feedback on Disability Barriers in Ontario’s School system

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/

CBC Reports on Troubling Disability Barrier at Canada’s Wonderland – and – Ford Government Extends Deadline to September 30, 2021 to Send in Public Feedback on Disability Barriers in Ontario’s School system

August 6, 2021

SUMMARY

1. More Proof that the Ontario Government’s Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is Ineffectual

The AODA was passed in 2005 so that disability barriers in Ontario would be removed and prevented, without people with disabilities having to battle those barriers one at a time. Here is another inexcusable illustration of how still we must continue to battle those barriers, one at a time, even more than 16 years after the AODA was enacted.

CBC Radio Toronto reported yesterday on a recent incident where Canada’s Wonderland, a well-established amusement park north of Toronto, refused to allow a person with a disability to go on any rides whatsoever. We set out below the online report on CBC’s website. If Ontario had a strong, effective Customer Service Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and if the Ford Government enforced it effectively, such incidents would not continue to occur.

Even 918 days after the Ford Government received a strong call to beef up the AODA’s implementation and enforcement by the Independent Review Report prepared by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, The Government still has no comprehensive plan to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, under 3.5 years from now.

2. The Ford Government Has Extended to September 30, 2021 the Deadline for Submitting Public Feedback on the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee

The Ford Government has given you more time to send in your feedback on the disability barriers that impede students with disabilities in Ontario schools. You now have up to September 30, rather than September 2, 2021, to send in your feedback.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We encourage one and all to let that Standards Development Committee know what you think.

The Government’s original September 2, 2021 deadline was exceedingly unrealistic, since schools are closed for the summer. However, the Government earlier unfairly delayed the entire feedback process, because it withheld the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report for 2.5 months before publicly posting it. We are eager for all Standards Development Committees to have their final reports submitted to the Government by the end of this year, if possible, and to have them made public upon the Government receiving them, not months later.

We especially call on each school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee to take this extended opportunity to have their say by sending their feedback to The Government, and by urging their school board to now start implementing the recommendations that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee prepared.

The AODA Alliance website has helpful resources to make it easier to give your feedback:

  1. A 50 minute captioned video that explains what the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report recommends.
  1. The entire 185-page K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and initial recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include to make education in Ontario schools barrier-free for all students with disabilities.
  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. The AODA Alliance‘s action kit on how to give public feedback on 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. For general background, the AODA Alliance website Education page.

^MORE DETAILS

CBC News Online August 5, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/paraplegic-man-denied-access-to-rides-1.6129624

Man with disability feels ‘belittled’ after Canada’s Wonderland denies him access to all its rides |

By Jessica Cheung, CBC News

Ahmad El Nasser was looking forward to a visit to Canada’s Wonderland with his niece, but when they got there, he found out he wouldn’t be able to go on any of the rides due to his disability.

“When I was denied access. I kind of felt belittled. I felt a little bit humiliated,” El Nasser, who is paralyzed from the waist down due to a spinal cord injury, told CBC News.

“Being able to ride on these rides is not the big deal; the big deal is seeing my niece upset.”

When El Nasser arrived at the park on July 19 he was given a “boarding pass,” which allows guests with mobility restrictions or cognitive impairment to get on attractions at specified times via the alternate access entrance without having to be in lineups.

Then, El Nasser said he was asked a series of questions, such as “Can you transfer?” That means moving from a wheelchair to other locations — something he is able to do.

Ahmad El Nasser is paralyzed from the waist down after a motorcycle accident 10 years ago. He uses a wheelchair but says he is still very active and outgoing.

“I have full, complete upper body control … I can transfer. I can get on beds. I can get in my car. I can get in rides, no problem,” he said.

“I answered all of them as best I could.”

But the rider access form El Nasser received said he would not be allowed to go on any rides in the park and when he asked why, staff said it was due to manufacturers’ liability.

“I couldn’t even get on little kiddy rides,” he said.

“So it pretty much had nothing to do with my physical capabilities, whether I can transfer, whether I can do this or that. It was, ‘Hey, we don’t want to get sued, so you can’t go on.'”

In a statement, Canada’s Wonderland said it is committed to giving all guests with disabilities the same opportunity to enjoy and benefit from their services and attractions in a similar way as other guests.

“The ride admission policy at Canada’s Wonderland is developed in consultation with industry experts and based on the safety recommendations of the ride manufacturers,” the amusement park’s management said in a statement.

“The safety of our guests and associates is our first priority and we reserve the right to make the final decision regarding the eligibility of a rider to endure the dynamics of a ride without risk of injury to themselves or other riders.”

The company said it is equally committed to providing accommodations to people with disabilities.

El Nasser, whose injury is the result of a motorcycle accident about a decade ago, was refunded the money for his park pass. He said the experience felt discriminatory.

“Nobody really took the time on their end to understand each [of our] individual needs … I felt it was easier for them to just put us all in one bag and say, ‘This is the no section.'”

Laverne Jacobs, a faculty of law professor at the University of Windsor, said when El Nasser paid his admission fee for the park, he entered into a contract that gives him the right to be accommodated to the point of undue hardship under Ontario’s Accessibility Standards for Customer Service.

“What that means is that the park not only should be asking questions about what he can do, but should be trying to use that information in order to accommodate him to make sure that they can help to support and enable him to participate in the activities,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs says safety is a factor in this incident but believes the park created a blanket exclusion to “contract out their obligation to accommodate people with disabilities.”

“It seems that [the park] wanted to enter into a contract that says we don’t want to take on any risk of an accident whatsoever … the very problematic piece of this, though, is that in order to avoid all risk, they’ve essentially categorically excluded individuals with particular disabilities.”

David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says service providers like Canada’s Wonderland have a duty to accommodate customers with disabilities.

“If the individual can make an informed decision for themselves that they want to assume that risk, then it’s not for Canada’s Wonderland to unilaterally make that decision for them,” he said.

Canada’s Wonderland does have a guest assistance guide, but Lepofsky says individuals with disabilities need to be dealt with case-by-case.

“Canada’s Wonderland has a duty to investigate solutions,” he said.

“Including investigating it with the individual and find out if other amusement parks have allowed something similar before they could just slam the door on this individual.”

A petition launched by El Nasser’s sister is calling for an end to the exclusion of paraplegics and quadriplegics from rides at the park. It has since garnered hundreds of signatures. El Nasser said he hopes shedding light on this will spark some action.

“What I would like to see changed is for people with disabilities to have that confidence to know that [the park is] doing more and they’re treating us with respect individually, that they want to let us ride.”

Tell the Health Care Standards Development Committee If You Support the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations on What the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include, Spelled Out in the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief

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 the Health Care Standards Development Committee If You Support the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations on What the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include, Spelled Out in the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief

August 5, 2021

         SUMMARY

On August 3, 2021, the AODA Alliance submitted its final brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. It gives our feedback on its initial or draft recommendations on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard. The Health Care Accessibility Standard is needed to tear down the many barriers that impede people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

We want the Health Care Standards Development Committee to incorporate our recommendations into its final report to the Ontario Government. Our finalized brief includes all the recommendations and other content that was in our draft brief that we circulated for public comment on July 23, 2021. There has only been very minor editing and fine-tuning.

Below we set out the 67 recommendations that our brief makes. To download and read the entire brief that explains these recommendations, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/August-3-2021-finalized-AODA-Alliance-Brief-to-Health-Care-Standards-Development-Committee.docx

Help us build support for our cause. Please email the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Tell the Committee if you support our recommendations. You can write them at: healthSDC@ontario.ca

If you or an organization with which you are connected is writing a submission to the Health Care Standards Development Committee it would be great if your submission could state that you endorse the AODA Alliance ‘s recommendations in its August 3, 2021 brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. As well, any individual or organization can simply write that Standards Development Committee at the email address listed above, and just say something like:

“I support the recommendations that the AODA Alliance sent the Health Care Standards Development Committee in its August 3, 2021 Brief.”

The deadline for submitting feedback to the Committee is August 11, 2021. Even if you miss that deadline, it can always help to send in an email any time that supports our recommendations.

Do you want more background on this issue? Explore the time line of our efforts to get a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s health care page.

Now 917 days have passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has announced no plan to implement that report.

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

         MORE DETAILS

List of the AODA Alliance August 3, 2021 Brief’s Recommendations

Where the following recommendations by the AODA Alliance refer to the “Initial Report”, that is the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report in which that Committee sets out draft proposals for what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.

#1 Throughout the Initial Report, action recommendations should be revised to go beyond providing disability accommodations to patients with disabilities, and making plans for barrier-removal and prevention, so as to also spell out specific measures that must be undertaken to remove and prevent recurring disability barriers to health care services.

#2 The Health Care Accessibility Standard’s primary focus should be on specifying detailed actions to remove and prevent barriers, not by overloading people with disabilities with redundant separate consultations with one hospital after the next across Ontario.

#3 The Standards Development Committee should explicitly and comprehensively make recommendations for the entire health care system, and not merely for the small fraction of the health care system that hospitals comprise. At a minimum, the Standards Development Committee should make a strong recommendation that the Health Care Accessibility Standard must address disability barriers in the entire health care system, and not merely in the hospital sector. It should specify that all health care providers should be required to remove and prevent the same barriers, in terms at least as strong as the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

#4 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should cover and apply to all public and private health care programs, services and products available in Ontario, whether or not OHIP covers them. It should cover all health care providers and professions, whether or not Ontario recognizes, regulates or licenses them. It should cover ambulances and other vehicles which can transport patients in connection with health care services. It should cover all parts of Ontario. It should address accessibility barriers that are distinctive to the north, to remote communities, as well as the distinctive barriers facing different racialized, ethnic or other communities within Ontario.

#5 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should address the accessibility needs of patients with any kind of disability, and the accessibility needs of any patients’ support people with any kind of disability. The term “disability” should be defined broadly to include any permanent or episodic disability within the meaning of the AODA or the Ontario Human Rights Code.

#6 The Committee’s final report should clearly state that to make hospitals accessible to people with disabilities, much more is needed than addressing training, accountability and sensitivity within hospitals.

#7 The Initial Report should not recommend that smaller obligated organizations always or presumptively get more time to comply with the Health Care Accessibility Standard than do larger obligated organizations. This especially should not take place in circumstances where smaller organizations can comply more quickly than larger organizations.

#8 The Initial Report should be revised to describe the Standards Development Committee’s mandate as achieving the removal and prevention of disability barriers, the accessibility of health care services, and inclusion of people with disabilities in the health care system. It should not describe the goal as merely making the health care system more accessible or more inclusive, or merely reducing barriers.

#9 The long term objective of the Health Care Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that Ontario’s health care system and the services, facilities and products offered in it, become fully accessible to all patients with any kind of permanent or episodic disabilities and to any support people with disabilities for any patient, by 2025, the AODA’s deadline, by requiring the removal and prevention of the accessibility barriers that impede people with disabilities, and by providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process to learn about and seek disability-related accommodations tailored to a person’s individual disability-related needs. It should aim to ensure that patients with disabilities can fully benefit from and be fully included in the health care services and products offered in Ontario’s health care system on a footing of equality. It should aim to eliminate the need for patients with disabilities and any support people with disabilities to have to contend with and fight against health care accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for health care providers to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one health care facility or one health care provider at a time. It should aim for health care services, facilities and products in Ontario to be designed and operated based on accessibility principles of universal design.

#10 The Initial Report’s vision of an accessible health care system should be expanded to include the following:

  1. a) The health care system will be designed and operated from top to bottom for all its patients, including patients with all kinds of permanent or episodic disabilities, as disability is defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The health care system will no longer be designed and operated from an implicit starting point of aiming predominantly to serve the fictional “average” patient, who is too often assumed to have no disabilities.
  1. b) Patients with disabilities, and where needed, any patients’ support people with disabilities, will be able to effectively communicate with health care providers and health care staff in connection with requesting or receiving health care services and products throughout each stage of the healthcare process. This will include face-to-face interactions, telephone or alternates to telephone use, accessible information and forms as well as alternate arrangements for providing one’s signature. For example, health care facilities and ambulances will be equipped with needed equipment to ensure effective communication with people with communication-related disabilities.
  1. c) Patients with disabilities, and where needed, any patients’ support people with disabilities will be able to get and receive information relevant to their health care needs in private, e.g., when giving information at a health care provider’s office or when seeking or receiving information about their medication at a pharmacy, rather than in a public place where others can overhear. Effective procedures will protect the confidentiality of private information relating to patients with disabilities who rely on others to assist them with communication.
  1. d) Information technology and applications which patients can use at home, or at a health care facility in connection with seeking and receiving health care services, will be designed based on principals of universal design and will be accessible to and usable by patients with disabilities, and where needed, to patients’ support people with disabilities. Where needed for effective communication, health care facilities will also provide alternatives to telephone use including email, text, video and authorized human assistance.
  1. e) Health care products, and any instructions for their use, will be designed and available based on principles of universal design so that people with disabilities and not just people with no disability can use and benefit from them.
  1. f) Support services such as sighted guides for visually impaired patients and attendant care will be available to patients with disabilities who need them while going to or at a facility to receive health care services.
  1. g) Publicly funded appointments for receiving health care services will be sufficiently long to enable those patients with a disability, who need more time, to be able to receive the health care services they need. If a patient with disabilities cannot attend a health care provider’s premises due to their disability, there will be in place measures whenever therapeutically possible for remote appointments or home visits.
  1. h) Patients will be free to use their own accommodation supports, such as service animals, when seeking or obtaining health care services and products.
  1. i) New Government strategies, services and facilities in Ontario’s health care system will be proactively designed from the start and operated to fully include the needs of patients with disabilities. Those responsible at the provincial and local levels for leading, overseeing and operating Ontario’s health care system will have strong and specific requirements to address disability accessibility and inclusion in their mandates and will be accountable for their work on this issue. Ontario’s disability community will have effective input into public decisions on the design and operation of Ontario’s health care system to ensure that existing disability accessibility barriers are removed and no new ones are created.
  1. j) An accessible health care system is one where people with disabilities can work in a barrier-free workplace.

#11 The Initial Report should not merely recommend that an obligated organization “consider accessibility.” It should instead require specific actions that will achieve accessibility.

#12 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require each health care facility and health care provider to create a welcoming environment for patients with disabilities and any patients’ support people with disabilities to seek accommodations for their disabilities when receiving health care services.

#13 Each major health care facility such as each hospital should be required to establish a permanent committee of its board to be called the “Accessibility Committee.” This Accessibility Committee should have responsibility for overseeing the facility’s compliance with the AODA, and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in so far as they guarantee the right of people with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the health care services that the facility provides. It should endeavour to reflect the spectrum of disability needs.

#14 Each major health care facility such as each hospital should be required to establish or designate the position of Chief Accessibility/Accommodation Officer, reporting to the Chief Executive Officer. Their mandate, responsibility and authority should be to ensure proper leadership on the facility’s accessibility and accommodation obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the AODA, including the requirements of this accessibility standard. This responsibility may be assigned to an existing senior management official.

#15 Beyond the specific measures to remove and prevent barriers set out in the Health Care Accessibility Standard and in other accessibility standards enacted under the AODA, each health care facility and health care provider should be required to periodically and systematically review its health care services, facilities, equipment and products to identify recurring accessibility barriers that can impede the provision of health care services to patients with disabilities. A comprehensive plan for removing and preventing these accessibility barriers should be developed, implemented and made public with clear timelines, with clear assignment of responsibilities for action, monitoring for progress, and reporting to the facility’s accessibility committee. This plan should aim at all accessibility barriers that can impede patients with disabilities from fully benefiting from the facility’s health care services, whether or not they are specifically identified in the Health Care Accessibility Standard or in any other AODA accessibility standards.

#16 The Initial Report should be expanded to recommend specific, detailed accessibility requirements in the built environment of hospitals and other health care facilities such as those recommended in Appendix 1 to this brief. The goal of these should be that the built environment in the health care system, such as hospitals and any other places where health care services are provided, including the furniture there, will all be fully accessible to people with disabilities, and will be designed based on the principle of universal design. For example:

  1. a) The front area or drop-off areas for a hospital or other health care facility should be accessible, with automatic power doors that do not require a button to be found and pressed, and with tactile walking surface indicators both to warn when a person is walking into a driving area and to guide a person to the facility’s entrance. All other entrances and exits should be fully accessible, with automatic power door operators and an accessible path of travel to the door. This includes entrances from indoor or underground parking to the health care facility.
  1. b) Inside the health care facility, major public areas such as emergency room doors should always be fully accessible and have automatic power door openers.
  1. c) For the benefit of patients and others with learning and cognitive disabilities, vision loss or other disabilities that can affect mobility or way-finding, hospitals and other health care facilities should have way-finding markings in important areas such as the main lobby from the front door to the help desk and other major routes such as to main elevators, including colour contrasted markings such as a carpeted path or tactile walking surface indicators.
  1. d) Hospitals and other health care facilities with elevators should have accessible elevators that can accommodate people using mobility devices. They should also have accessible elevator buttons (with braille and large print on or beside each button), braille and large print floor numbers just outside elevator doors, and audible floor announcements on elevators. Elevator button panels should be consistent in layout from one elevator to the next.
  1. e) Health care facilities, including hospitals, should never install “destination elevators” which require a person to pre-select the floor to which they are going before entering the elevators. These present unfixable accessibility problems.
  1. f) Hospitals and other health care facilities should have accessible signage throughout, including braille and large print, for key locations. For example, public bathrooms should have accessible braille and large print signs on them. These signs should be placed in consistent and predictable locations.
  1. g) Where a health care facility has power doors that require a button to be pushed (i.e., they don’t open automatically), the button should always be located throughout the health care facility in a consistent place to make it easier to find. The button should be located near the door, so that a slow-moving individual can make it through the open door after pressing the button before the door closes. The button should always be located on the wall, and not on a free-standing post or bollard.
  1. h) Despite weaker requirements in other AODA accessibility standards, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should set out specific and strong requirements for the accessibility of any electronic kiosks in hospitals and other health care facilities, such as:
  1. i) specifying their required end-user functionality that effectively address recurring known needs arising from specific disabilities, and,
  1. ii) ensuring that they are at an accessible height e.g., for those using a wheelchair or other mobility device.

As a starting point, see the US Access Board’s standard for accessible electronic kiosks.

  1. i) Patient consultation or treatment rooms should have enough space to enable people using mobility devices to navigate in them and reach any treatment or consultation area. They should have enough space to enable a Sign Language interpreter to be positioned in the room to interpret for a deaf patient or support person.
  1. j) Movable furniture such as desks, tables or chairs should not obstruct accessible paths of travel around a facility where health care services are delivered, such as a doctor’s office, e.g., in their hallways or treatment rooms.
  1. k) Major health care facilities should provide accessible waiting areas for accessible transit pickup and drop-off, close to the pickup/drop-off point, with clear sight lines.
  1. l) Major health care facilities such as hospitals should be designed to avoid major sensory overstimulation or acoustic overloads, such as bright lights, loud music, large atrium areas, or frequent loud announcements. This is especially important in treatment areas or hospital rooms.
  1. m) Throughout a health care facility, proper colour contrasting should be required to assist people with low vision and cognitive disabilities, such as around elevator opening, doorways, and on the edge of stairs and handrails.
  1. n) Health care facilities should be required to have accessible bathrooms so that all patients can use the facilities, including adult change tables, sufficient transfer space and maneuvering room for mobility devices.
  1. o) Major health care facilities should include sensory rooms for people with sensory overload issues, such as in hospital emergency rooms.
  1. p) In a health care facility, all stairs and staircases, including “feature staircases” (included as aesthetic design enhancements) should be accessible, e.g., with tactile warnings at the top and bottom of each set of stairs, no open risers and with proper colour contrast on railings and step edges. There should never be curving staircases.
  1. q) Health care facilities should provide charging areas for electric mobility devices.
  1. r) Hospital rooms should be able to accommodate a patient’s mobility device so they can keep theirs with them and readily available when admitted to hospital.
  1. s) In a health care facility, waiting areas, isolation areas, breastfeeding rooms, staff areas and volunteer areas should be designed to be accessible.
  1. t) Accessible and bariatric paths of travel should be provided in health care facilities.
  1. u) Despite the more limited provisions regarding the provision of accessible parking spaces in other AODA accessibility standards, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should set higher and more specific requirements for accessible parking spaces for health care facilities, such as:
  1. i) requiring a greater number of accessible parking spots for the facility, where possible.
  1. ii) requiring that the accessible parking spots be located as close as possible to the doors of the health care facility.

iii) requiring that at least some of the accessible parking spots have larger dimensions to accommodate larger accessible vans, so that a passenger with a disability can park in that spot and have sufficient room to exit the vehicle, and

  1. iv) requiring that there be accessible curb cuts and an accessible path of travel from the accessible parking spots to the health care facilities’ entrances.
  1. v) Health Care facilities should have designated snow-piling areas outside, to prevent snow from being shoveled onto accessible paths of travel.
  1. w) Major health care facilities such as hospitals should provide service animal relief areas close to the facility’s door, covered wherever possible, with an accessible path of travel to them.
  1. x) When a major new health care facility like a hospital is being designed, or a major new wing or renovation is being planned, especially if public money is helping fund it, a properly trained and qualified accessibility consultant should be required to be engaged on the project from the very beginning. Their accessible design advice should be transmitted unedited to the Government or other organization for whom the project is being built and should be made public. Direct consultation with end-users with disabilities should be part of the design process from the beginning.

#17 The standard should require that:

  1. a) Each hospital patient’s bed should have an accessible means for a patient with disabilities to notify the nursing station of a health care need, not just a button or pull-string that they may not be able to reach and operate.
  1. b) Furniture such as seating in health care facilities should be designed with accessibility features and positioned in a manner that does not block accessible paths of travel.
  1. c) A Help Desk should be positioned immediately inside the main entrance of any major health care facility, including hospitals, to assist patients, including patients with disabilities, to get directions or help to their destination within the facility, or to request other accommodation supports.
  1. d) In any discrete department or area where health care services are provided, (such as an area for day surgery), the check-in desk should be located immediately adjacent to the entrance to that area, so that patients and support people with disabilities can easily reach it after entering the room or area.
  1. e) Accessible public service counters should be installed, even in existing health care facilities, with a specified height requirement, no glass barrier creating barriers for people with hearing loss and knee space for people using a mobility device.
  1. f) A large health care facility like a hospital should have rest areas along routes through the building so that people with fatiguing conditions can stop and rest along their route to get health care services.
  1. g) Health care facilities such as hospitals should have emergency areas of refuge with separate ventilation in case of fire, so that people with disabilities who cannot escape the building have safe areas to wait, while being protected from life-threatening smoke.
  1. h) The Ontario Government should make available to health care facilities and providers: guides on accessible procurement including procurement of accessible furniture, lists of vendors of accessible furniture. The Ontario Government should provide a hub for procuring accessible furniture to help health care facilities and providers reduce the cost of their acquisition.

#18 the Ministry of Health should within one year survey all offices of physicians, chiropractors, occupational and physiotherapists and other like health care providers where they provide direct health care services to patients, on the extent to which their premises are accessible for patients with disabilities. The Ministry should make public a report on the results of this survey (anonymized).

#19 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should set specific technical requirements for the accessibility of diagnostic and treatment equipment. As a starting point, the Health Care Standards Development Committee should consider the accessible medical diagnostic equipment standards that the US Access Board has formulated. The needs of patients with all kinds of disabilities, and not only those with mobility disabilities, should be met by the technical requirements that the Health Care Accessibility Standard sets.

#20 The Ontario Government should impose a strict funding condition on the purchase or rental of any new health care diagnostic or treatment equipment anywhere in the health care system requiring that it must be accessible to patients with disabilities and designed based on principles of universal design, in compliance with the technical standards to be included in the Health Care Accessibility Standard.

#21 The Ontario Government should be required to make readily available to health care providers and facilities, and to the public, an up-to-date list of accessible health care diagnostic and treatment equipment and venders, so that each health care provider and facility does not have to re-invent the wheel by re-investigating these same issues.

#22 To save money, the Ontario Government should be required to attempt to negotiate bulk purchasing of accessible diagnostic and treatment equipment so that health care facilities and providers can obtain them at lower prices.

#23 When health care facilities and providers purchase, rent or otherwise acquire new or replacement diagnostic or treatment equipment, these should be required to be accessible to patients with disabilities and to be designed based on principles of universal design.

#24 Health care facilities and providers should survey their existing diagnostic or treatment equipment, and take the following steps to address any accessibility problems they have, if that equipment is not now being replaced:

  1. a) Identify where the nearest place is where a patient can get diagnosis or treatment services where there is accessible diagnostic and treatment equipment, and to help facilitate the access of the patient with disabilities to health care services from that provider or facility.
  1. b) Adopt and implement an interim plan to make any readily achievable accessibility improvements to the health care facility’s or provider’s existing diagnostic or treatment equipment.
  1. c) Develop plans to purchase, rent or otherwise acquire accessible diagnostic or treatment equipment over a period of up to five years.

#25 These accessibility/universal design requirements should also apply to consumer health care products, such as for example, pill bottles.

#26 Because Ontario’s system for electronic health care records has been centrally created, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the Ontario Government and any provincial agency that is responsible for overseeing the design, procurement or operation of the system for electronic health care records to ensure that these records will be kept and available in accessible formats for patients and support people with disabilities, and, as a related benefit, to health care providers and their staff with disabilities, except where technically impossible. PDF format should not be treated as being an accessible format.

#27 Individual health care organizations or facilities, including laboratories, that create their own health care records in electronic form should also be required to ensure that they are readily available in accessible formats for patients with disabilities and any patients’ support people with disabilities, and, as a side benefit, for health care providers and their staff with disabilities, except where technically impossible.

#28 All the Initial Report’s recommendations on training on accessibility laws should be revised to explicitly include training on the accessibility requirements regarding people with disabilities in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

#29 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require training on disability accessibility, disability human rights and disability Charter obligations for existing health care professionals as a condition of continuing in practice.

#30 The Ontario Government should be required to impose a condition of its funding for post-secondary education programs to train anyone in a health care discipline, profession or field, that the college or university that offers that degree or course must include a sufficient designated and mandatory curriculum on meeting the needs of patients with disabilities.

#31 Wherever possible, any new health care facility or provider receiving public funds that is setting up a new location should be required to locate at or near an accessible public transit stop on an accessible public transit route, with an accessible path of travel from the public transit stop to the health care facility or provider. Similarly, where an existing health care facility or provider is going to move to another location, it should be required to attempt to relocate to a location that is on an accessible public transit route.

#32 Where it is medically possible for a patient to take part in a health care service without physically attending at the health care facility or provider, an option should be provided for taking part remotely, e.g., via Facetime or other remote video conferencing. The Health Care Accessibility Standard should also require the removal of the OHIP barrier to funded physicians house calls.

#33 Where OHIP or a health care facility or provider has a policy or practice of permitting only one health issue per visit, an exception should be created for patients with disabilities for whom transportation to the health care facility is impeded by accessibility barriers.

#34 A health care facility or provider should not be permitted to charge a late fee or a missed appointment fee where a patient with a disability has in good faith attempted to attend on time but was made late or precluded from attending by transportation barriers (such as being made late for the appointment by the community’s para-transit service).

#35 When the Ontario Government is undertaking planning for new health care services, or for improvements to health care services, it should be required to include in those plans, and to make public, requirements to ensure that wherever possible, health care services and facilities are provided in locations on accessible public transit routes, with an accessible path of travel from the accessible public transit stop to the facility or provider.

#36 The 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard should be amended to set accessibility requirements for public transit stations and stops, as the joint July 31, 2017 AODA Alliance/ARCH brief to the Transportation Standards Development Committee recommended.

#37 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should set technical specifications to ensure the full accessibility of ambulances and other vehicles that transport patients, including patients with disabilities, to or from health care services. See also below re: the need to include equipment in those vehicles for communication with patients with communication-related disabilities.

#38 Any health care facility or provider, including such places as doctors’ offices and pharmacies, should be required to designate an accessible private area where patients with disabilities can give and receive private information in connection with their health care services or products without others being able to overhear this.

#39 Health care facilities and providers should be required to notify all patients, including patients with disabilities, of their right to have their health care needs and issues discussed and information exchanged in a private location, and should instruct their staff, including any who deal with patients or the public, of their duty to fully respect this right.

#40 Without limiting the information and communications to which this part of the Health Care Accessibility Standard should apply, it should address:

  1. a) Information or communications needed to provide a health care provider with the patient’s history, needs, symptoms or other health problems.
  1. b) Information and communications regarding the patient’s diagnosis, prognosis or treatment, including any risks, follow-up or other health care services to secure.
  1. c) A health care facility’s discharge instructions.

#41 Health Care facilities should be equipped with assistive listening devices to enable patients with hearing loss and support people with hearing loss to be able to effectively communicate e.g., at nursing stations, help desks, and when dealing directly with health care providers.

#42 Health care-related products such as prescription and non-prescription medications should be provided when needed with accessible labels, instructions or users’ manuals, available in accessible formats. Those who sell or rent these to the public should be required to regularly notify the public, including their customers, that accessible labels, instructions, and users’ manuals are available on request. See e.g. work on developing standards and practices for accessible prescription drug container labels by the US Access Board. See also the February 6, 2020 news release announcing that the Empire chain of stores, including all Sobeys Stores, will provide accessible prescription labels to customers with disabilities free of charge on request. If they can, so can all other drug stores.

#43 Where a health care facility or health care provider provides information about their services or facilities in print or via the internet, they should be required to ensure that their website meets current international accessibility requirements along prompt time lines, even if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard does not now require this. Currently, the Information and Communication Accessibility Information and Communication Accessibility Standard has too many exemptions, leaves out too many providers of goods and services, and has timelines that are too long. Whether or not those exemptions, exclusions and long timelines are justified for other sectors, they are unjustified for a sector as important as the health care sector.

#44 Ambulances and other vehicles that transport patients should include equipment to facilitate communication with patients with communication disabilities, such as remotely-accessed sign language interpretation and other communication supports.

#45 The Ontario Government should be required to set up hubs or centralized services to enable health care facilities and providers, including small providers, to quickly and easily access communication supports needed for patients with communication-related disabilities (for example Sign Language interpreters and real time captioning). The Ontario Government should fund these services as part of its funding of the health care system, in furtherance of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Eldridge decision.

#46 Any prepared information on health care conditions, treatment instructions, prognoses, risks, laboratory or other test results and the like which a health care facility or provider makes available to patients, whether in print or electronic form, should be made available at the same time on request in an accessible format. The standard should direct that PDF format is not sufficient to be accessible, and that if information is available in a PDF document, it should also be posted in an accessible format such as HTML or MS Word. Health care facilities and providers should be required to notify patients, including patients and their support people with disabilities, that any hard copy or electronic documents provided to them can be requested and obtained in an accessible format on request.

#47 Where a health care facility or provider asks patients or their support people to use information technology hardware or software in connection with the delivery of health care services (such as asking them to fill out their medical history on a portable computer or tablet device), the facility or provider shall:

  1. a) In the case of new or updated information technology or equipment to be acquired, ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities and is designed based on principles of universal design;
  1. b) In the case of existing information technology now being used, retrofit to be accessible except where this would pose an undue hardship and,
  1. c) For those people who prefer this option, ensure that patients with disabilities or their support people with disabilities are assisted to use that technology, in private, at the same time as others would use it, where this would not reduce their access to the health care services to which it pertains.

#48 The Ontario Government should be required to develop and make public a strategy for ensuring that health care promotion initiatives in Ontario are accessible to people with disabilities. For example, it should require that:

  1. a) All advertisements for health care promotion should have captioning and audio description.
  1. b) All mail-out, printed and online materials focusing on health promotion should be required to be in accessible formats, regardless of any exemptions in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

#49 Hospitals and other major health care facilities should be required to provide support services for patients with disabilities when needed to ensure that those patients can fully access and benefit from the health care services that the facility offers, to let patients know about the availability of these services, and to annually publicly report on the number of staff available to provide this support, such as:

  1. a) Attendant care.
  1. b) Assistance with meals.
  1. c) Assistance with being guided to and getting around the health care facility e.g., for patients with vision loss or cognitive disabilities.

#50 In a hospital or other major health care facility, there should be one nurse at each nursing station designated to receive training and to be responsible for addressing the needs of patients with complex needs due to their disability.

#51 Each health care provider and facility should be required to put in place a system and designate a person to solicit and receive requests from patients or their support people for disability accommodations in connection with health care services or products.

#52 Each health care provider or facility should be required to make readily-available to the public, including to their patients, in an accessible format, information about how to identify themselves in advance to the health care provider as having disability-related accessibility or accommodation needs, and to ask to arrange for these needs to be met.

#53 Each hospital and larger health care facility should be required to collect anonymized information on disability-related accessibility and accommodation requests received from or on behalf of patients with disabilities, to assist that health care provider or facility in planning for future disability accessibility and accommodation. This anonymized information should be available for study by the Government or other health policy planners.

#54 The Chief Executive Officer of any hospital or large health care facility should be required to annually review the information that the facility has collected on the requests for disability accessibility and accommodation that the facility has received and report to the board of directors on measures that could improve the facility’s capacity to meet these needs.

#55 Each health care profession’s self-governing college should be required to:

  1. a) Review its public complaints process to identify any barriers at any stage in that process that could adversely affect people with disabilities filing a complaint, or about whom a complaint is filed.
  1. b) Develop a plan for removing and preventing any accessibility barriers identified, whether or not those barriers are specified in any current AODA accessibility standards.
  1. c) Publicly report to its governing board of directors and the public on these barriers and the college’s plans to remove and prevent such barriers, in order to achieve a barrier-free complaints process.
  1. d) Establish and maintain a standing committee of its governing board of directors responsible for the accessibility of the services that the college offers the public, including, but not limited to its public complaints process.
  1. e) Consult with the public, including people with disabilities, on barriers that people with disabilities experience when seeking the services of the health care professionals that that profession regulates, to be shared with the board’s Accessibility Committee. To avoid duplication of efforts and burdens on the disability community, several regulatory colleges can jointly undertake this consultation.

#56 The Ministry of Health should be required to designate a senior official at the “Assistant Deputy Minister” level as the leading public official who is responsible for ensuring accessibility, accommodation and inclusion for patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. They should be responsible for ensuring that any policies, plans or proposals regarding the health care system are screened to ensure that they will not create any new barriers for patients with disabilities, and will instead remove barriers.

#57 The Ministry of Health should be required to conduct a system-wide review of the health care system for any systemic barriers, in consultation with the public including people with disabilities. It should identify and make public a plan to remove and prevent systemic or system-wide barriers that impede patients with disabilities from receiving accessible health care, along time lines that the Health Care Accessibility Standard will set.

#58 Each hospital and other major health care facility should be required to establish and regularly publicize a dedicated disability accessibility/accommodation complaints hotline, to trigger prompt action when problems are raised.

#59 The Ministry of Health should be required to establish and regularly publicize a hotline to receive complaints about accessibility problems facing patients and support people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. The Ministry should be required to annually publish a report with an anonymized summary of the substance of complaints received and action taken to prevent their recurrence.

#60 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the creation of authoritative, well-trained system navigators to assist patients with disabilities and their support people to navigate Ontario’s health care system.

#61 The OHIP fee schedule should be revised to provide for added time to serve the needs of patients with disabilities who need more time for assessment, diagnosis and treatment, to eliminate the harmful financial incentive that the Ontario Government now creates for physicians to avoid treating taking on those patients.

#62 Each hospital and major health care facility should be required to establish a committee of those employees and volunteers with disabilities who wish to voluntarily join it, to give the facility’s senior management feedback on the barriers in the health care facility that could impede patients with disabilities or any patients’ support people with disabilities, and/or employees/volunteers with disabilities.

#63 The Health Care Standards Development Committee should endorse the recommendations regarding health care services in the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario schools.

#64 The Initial Report’s Recommendation 15 regarding the conduct of an after-the fact review of the problems facing people with disabilities in accessing health care during the COVID-19 pandemic should be revised so that this review is an Independent Review conducted by trusted and respected persons who are independent of the Government and of the health care system.

#65 The Initial Report should recommend that the Health Care Accessibility Standard

  1. a) Require the Government to immediately rescind the January 13, 2021 critical care triage protocol and all directions and training materials relating to it, and should direct that these are not to be followed or considered appropriate under any situation.
  1. b) Require the Ontario Government to immediately make public all versions of the critical care triage protocol that have been in force in Ontario, or distributed to hospitals, as well as any critical care triage protocol or directions to ambulances or other emergency services, and any reports that the government received from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.
  1. c) Require that if critical care triage is directed to occur during this or other emergencies, the Government shall make public on a daily basis the number of patients who are refused or denied critical care that they need and want, due to critical care triage.
  1. e) Require that the Clinical Frailty Scale shall not be used as a tool to decide who is to ever be refused critical care they need and want.
  1. f) Forbid the use or distribution of the “Short Term Mortality Risk Calculator” that was made available under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario to all Ontario hospitals.

#66 the Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the Government to ensure the availability of remote or distance delivery of health care services where medically feasible, and where patients with disabilities face barriers attending at a health care office or facility to receive such services.

#67 The Initial Report should be expanded to list a full range of disability barriers reported to the Standards Development Committee in access to health care during the pandemic.

With a Federal Election Impending, AODA Alliance Asks Party Leaders for Election Commitments on Accessibility for People with Disabilities in Canada

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/

With a Federal Election Impending, AODA Alliance Asks Party Leaders for Election Commitments on Accessibility for People with Disabilities in Canada

August 4, 2021

         SUMMARY

It seems very likely that there will be a federal election this fall.

Once again, the AODA Alliance swings into action. On August 3, 2021, we wrote the leaders of the major federal parties. We asked them for election pledges concerning accessibility for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada. We set that letter out below.

We will let you know what responses we receive. We will be active over the next weeks and months on social media and elsewhere, to raise these issues leading up to the federal election.

We don’t support or oppose any candidate or party. We try to get the strongest commitments on accessibility from as many candidates and parties as we can.

We encourage you to write the federal party leaders. Ask them to make the election commitments we seek. Our letter to them, set out below, includes their email addresses. Also,

Please let the media know that this federal election has important disability issues that the media should cover. Accessibility for people with disabilities is just one of those important issues.

To get background on this issue, watch two captioned videos by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The first video explains what the Accessible Canada Act needed to include. The second video explains the bumpy road that the Accessible Canada Act travelled through Canada’s Parliament. To learn about our efforts over the past six years to get a strong and effective Accessible Canada Act enacted and implemented, visit the AODA Alliance website’s Canada page.

         MORE DETAILS

August 3, 2021 Letter from the AODA Alliance to the Major Federal Party Leaders

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Website: www.aodaalliance.org

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

August 3, 2021

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Via email: justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

80 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A2

Twitter: @JustinTrudeau

The Hon. Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Loyal Opposition and the Conservative Party

Leader of the Conservative Party; MP, Regina-Qu’Appelle

Via email: Erin.OToole@parl.gc.ca

Leader of the Conservative Party

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6

Twitter: @erinotoole

The Hon. Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP

Via email: Jagmeet.Singh@parl.gc.ca

300 – 279 Laurier West

Ottawa, ON, K1P 5J9

Twitter: @theJagmeetSingh

Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada

Via email: leader@greenparty.ca

582 Parliament Street

Toronto, ON, M4X 1P8

Twitter: @AnnamiePaul

The Hon. Yves-François Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Québécois

Via email: Yves-Francois.Blanchet@parl.gc.ca

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6

Twitter: @yfblanchet

The Hon. Maxime Bernier, Leader of the People’s Party of Canada

Via email: info@peoplespartyofcanada.ca

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6 Canada

Twitter: @MaximeBernier

Dear Federal Party Leaders,

Re: Seeking Your Commitments to Ensure the Effective Implementation of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA)

It is widely reported that a federal election is fast approaching. We seek commitments from each federal political party regarding Canada’s new national accessibility legislation, the Accessible Canada Act (ACA).

It is good that Parliament passed the ACA over two years ago. That is only the first step on the road to making Canada accessible to people with disabilities in Canada by 2040, the deadline that the ACA requires.

In this letter, we explain what we seek, who we are, and why over six million people with disabilities in Canada need these strong election commitments. Founded in 2005, the AODA Alliance is a strictly non-partisan community coalition that advocates for accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario and at the federal level. We were one of the disability organizations that appeared before the House of Commons and Senate in 2018-2019 to call for amendments to strengthen Bill C-81, the bill that became the ACA. During debates in Parliament over this bill, several MPs and Senators relied on our submissions on the need to strengthen that bill.

In the 2019 federal election, short months after the ACA was passed and proclaimed in force, the federal Liberal party committed “to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians.” It also pledged to use a disability lens for all Government decisions. You can read a non-partisan comparison of the commitments of the federal parties in this area in the last election by visiting: https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/non-partisan-issue-by-issue-comparison-of-the-positions-of-the-6-major-federal-political-parties-on-achieving-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

The Accessible Canada Act requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040, at least within federal jurisdiction. In the two years since the Accessible Canada Act was passed, there has been some progress towards its implementation. However, we have to date not observed any appreciable improvement in accessibility for people with disabilities. The Federal Government has still not even hired the national Accessibility Commissioner or the Chief Accessibility Officer to lead its implementation. No accessibility standards have yet been enacted to require specific action to remove and prevent disability barriers.

The ACA requires the Government of Canada (at section 117(1.1) of the ACA), the CTA (at section 63(1.1) of the ACA), and the CRTC (sections 45(1.1) and 54(1.1) of the ACA) to enact at least one regulation in the first two years after the ACA comes into force, which was July 11, 2021. The AODA Alliance has been informed by ARCH Disability Law Centre that although the CRTC has passed a regulation (though not one that sets any detailed accessibility standards), the Government of Canada and the CTA have not, as of the date of this letter, enacted any regulations that have been published in the Canada Gazette.

In summary we ask your Party to make specific commitments to ensure that the implementation and enforcement of the ACA is swift, strong and effective, including, e.g. making needed accessibility standard regulations within four years, effectively enforcing the law, establishing a single unified process for complaints under the ACA, ensuring that nothing is done under the ACA that cuts back on the rights of people with disabilities, and ensuring that public money is not used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.

1. Enforceable Accessibility Standard Regulations Should Be Enacted Within Four Years of the ACA’s Enactment

The ACA’s centerpiece is the enactment and enforcement of accessibility regulations. These regulations will specify what an organization must do and by when, in order to become accessible. The ACA lets the Federal Cabinet, the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) and the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) enact these regulations. However, with one exception, it does not require them to ever be enacted, and if they are not enacted, the ACA will fail.

  1. Will you enact or amend legislation to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the ACA covers within four years of the ACA’s enactment? If not, will you commit that those regulations will be enacted under the ACA within four years of the ACA’s enactment?

2. The ACA Should Be Effectively Enforced

We have learned from extensive experience with provincial accessibility legislation that the ACA will be ineffective unless it is effectively enforced.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the ACA is effectively and vigourously enforced?

 3. Federal Public Money Should Never Be used to Create or Perpetuate Barriers

The ACA does not require the Federal Government to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient of those funds to create or perpetuate disability barriers. For example, the ACA doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach accessibility strings when it gives money to a municipality, college, university, local transit authority or other organization to build new infrastructure. Those recipients of federal money are left free to design and build new infrastructure without ensuring that it is fully accessible to people with disabilities. Also, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

It is helpful that the ACA lets the Federal Government impose accessibility requirements when it buys goods or services. However, it doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever do so.

This allows for a wasteful and harmful use of public money. The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs that held hearings on Bill C-81 in the spring of 2019 made this important observation in its May 7, 2019 report to the Senate:

“Your committee heard concerns that despite this legislation, federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that do not always meet accessibility standards. Therefore, we encourage the federal government to ensure that when public money is spent or transferred, the funding should never be used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided.”

Since then, the Federal Government continues to spend money without ensuring that the infrastructure, goods, services and facilities on which it is spent will be accessible to people with disabilities.

  1. Will your party ensure by legislation, and if not, then by strong monitored public policy, that no one will use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g. payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity?

4. The ACA Should Never Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

The ACA includes only limited and insufficient protection to ensure that nothing under the ACA reduces the rights of people with disabilities. The ACA provides:

“121.1 For greater certainty, nothing in any provision of this Act or the regulations limits a regulated entity’s duty to accommodate under any other Act of Parliament.”

  1. Will your party amend the ACA to provide that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the ACA or in any regulations enacted under it or in any actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law?

A discriminatory provision was included in the Accessible Canada Act. It is helpful that it was softened in the Senate, after extensive advocacy efforts by people with disabilities. However, it should be repealed altogether.

Making this worse, section 172(3) of the ACA unfairly takes away important rights from people with disabilities in a discriminatory way. It bars the CTA from awarding justly-deserved monetary compensation to a passenger with a disability, even if the Agency finds that an airline or other federally-regulated transportation-provider has imposed an undue barrier against them, so long as a federal transportation accessibility regulation wrongly states that the airline did not have to provide the passenger with that accommodation. Section 172 of the ACA provides:

“Inquiry — barriers to mobility

172 (1) The Agency may, on application, inquire into a matter in relation to which a regulation could be made under subsection 170(1), regardless of whether such a regulation has been made, in order to determine whether there is an undue barrier to the mobility of persons with disabilities.

Remedies

(2) On determining that there is an undue barrier to the mobility of persons with disabilities, the Agency may do one or more of the following:

(a) require the taking of appropriate corrective measures;

(b) direct that compensation be paid for any expense incurred by a person with a disability arising out of the barrier, including for any costs of                obtaining alternative goods, services or accommodation;

(c) direct that compensation be paid for any wages that a person with a    disability was deprived of as a result of the barrier;

(d) direct that compensation be paid up to a maximum amount of —       subject to the annual adjustments made under section 172.2 — $20,000,             for any pain and suffering experienced by a person with a disability arising               out of the barrier;

(e) direct that compensation be paid up to a maximum amount of —       subject to the annual adjustments made under section 172.2 — $20,000, if         the Agency determines that the barrier is the result of a wilful or reckless              practice.

Compliance with regulations

(3) If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”

This unfairly protects huge, well-funded airlines and railways from having to pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up to victims of their discriminatory practices.

  1. Will your party repeal the offending portion of section 172(3) of the ACA that reads “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.” and replace them with words such as: “and grant a remedy in accordance with subsection 2.”?

5. The ACA’s Implementation and Enforcement Should be Consolidated in One Federal Agency, Not Splintered Among Several of Them

The 105-page ACA is far too complicated and confusing. It is hard for people with disabilities and obligated organizations to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the overlapping powers to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the CTA, and the CRTC.

This harmfully makes the ACA’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated and more costly. It makes it take longer to get accessibility regulations enacted. It risks weak, contradictory or unnecessarily complex regulations.

This splintering makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities are burdened to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint. It also burdens people with disabilities with multiple public consultations on the same topic.

This splintering only helps existing federal bureaucracies that want more power, and any large obligated organizations that want to dodge taking action on accessibility. Those organizations will relish exploiting the bill’s confusing complexity to delay and impede its implementation.

It is wrong for the ACA to give near-exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and near-exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

  1. Will your party assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet? If not, then at a minimum, would your party require by legislation or policy that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner?

6. No Federal Laws Should Ever Create or Permit Disability Barriers

It is important to ensure that no federal laws impose or permit the creation of barriers against people with disabilities.

  1. Will your Party review all federal laws to identify any which require or permit any barriers against people with disabilities, and will your party amend Section 2 of the ACA (definition of “barrier”) to add the words “a law”, so that it will read:

“barrier means anything — including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice — that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation.”

7. Federal Elections Should Be Made Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

Voters with disabilities continue to face disability barriers in federal elections, including, for example, barriers that can impede them from voting independently and in private, and verifying their choice.

  1. Will your party pass legislation or regulations and adopt policies needed to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities?

8. Unfair Power to Exempt Organizations from Some ACA Requirements Should be Eliminated or Reduced

The ACA has too many loopholes. For example, it unfairly lets the Federal Government exempt itself from some of its duties under the ACA. The Government should not ever be able to exempt itself.

  1. Will your Party eliminate or reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes? Such as eliminating the power to exempt the Government of Canada, or a federal department or agency? If not, will your party commit not to grant any exemptions from the ACA?

9. Federally-Controlled Courts and Tribunals Should be Made Disability-Accessible

People with disabilities continue to face barriers when they try to take part in proceedings in courts for which the Federal Government is responsible.

  1. Will your party develop and implement a plan to ensure that all federally-operated courts (e.g., the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts), and federally operated regulatory tribunals (like the CRTC and CTA) become accessible to participants with hearing disabilities?

10. Other Measures Needed to Strengthen the ACA

In 2018, federal opposition parties proposed a number of amendments to strengthen Bill C-81 in the House of Commons. The Government defeated most if not all of them.

  1. Would your party pass the amendments to the ACA which the opposition proposed in the fall of 2018 in the House of Commons, which the Government had defeated, and which would strengthen the ACA?

11. Ensure the National Building Code Fulfills The Rights of People with Disabilities Under the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The National Building Code as well as provincial building codes fail to ensure that buildings they cover are accessible and embody universal design. These building codes fall short of the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, applicable human rights codes and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Current inter-governmental Efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes threaten to further dilute these inadequate laws, to the detriment of people with disabilities.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the National Building Code meets the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Will your party commit that any efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes will never reduce or dilute accessibility protections for people with disabilities?

We would appreciate a response by email in MS Word format. We will make responses public. We would be pleased to answer any questions you have.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Download in an accessible MS Word file the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 finalized brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee giving feedback on its Initial Report, recommending what the promised , Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include

Download in an accessible MS Word file the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 finalized brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee giving feedback on its Initial Report, recommending what the promised , Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include

Please Send Us Your Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on the Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Health Care System

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/

Please Send Us Your Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on the Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Health Care System

July 23, 2021

            SUMMARY

Did we get it right? Let us know!

We’ve been busy as can be, writing a brief that we plan to submit by August 11, 2021 to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The Ontario Government appointed that Committee back in 2017 to come up with recommendations on what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. The Health Care Accessibility Standard is a law that is to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to tear down the barriers that obstruct people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

We’ve come up with a draft brief. We want your feedback on it to help us finalize it.

Back on May 7, 2021, the Ford Government made public the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. That initial report makes a series of recommendations on what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. The Government is inviting public feedback on that initial report up to August 11, 2021. The Health Care Standards Development Committee will be given all that public feedback. It can use that feedback to finalize its recommendations to the Government. We want our brief to give as much help as possible to the Health Care Standards Development Committee.

Below we set out a summary of what our draft brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee recommends. We applaud and agree with most of what the Health Care Standards Development Committee wrote. However, we make a number of recommendations on how it can improve its report.

Our draft brief builds upon all the feedback we have received over the years about disability barriers in the health care system. You can download our draft brief by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/July-23-2021-Draft-AODA-Alliance-brief-on-health-Care-Standards-Development-Committee-initial-report.docx

Please send us your suggestions on our draft brief by August 1, 2021. We will then have to rush to turn our draft brief into a finished product.

Here are resources that you might find helpful:

  1. The Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial report, recommending what the promise Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.
  1. A captioned talk by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky two years ago about disability barriers in the health care system.
  1. A captioned talk earlier this year by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky about the disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol that is now embedded in Ontario hospitals.
  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, which documents our advocacy efforts over the past decade to make health care services accessible to people with disabilities.

A long 904 days ago, the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. It called for urgent action to speed up and strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Since then, the Ford Government has announced no comprehensive plan of action to implement that report.

            MORE DETAILS

Summary of the July 23, 2021 Draft AODA Alliance Brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee

  1. a) The Health Care Standards Development Committee should recommend more concrete actions to ensure that disability barriers are removed and prevented, rather than instead giving primary emphasis to individually accommodating patients with disabilities and having hospitals plan for accessibility.
  1. b) The Health Care Standards Development Committee should more forcefully address all barriers in the hospital sector and the broader health care system.
  1. c) The Health Care Accessibility Standard should ensure that all disability barriers are removed and prevented in hospitals, not just those the Accessibility Minister asked the Standards Development Committee to focus on.
  1. d) The Health Care Accessibility Standard should not assume that smaller hospitals always need more time to comply.
  1. e) The initial report incorrectly understates the role of the Health Care Standards Development Committee.
  1. f) The proposed long-term objective of the Health Care Accessibility Standard should be strengthened.
  1. g) The initial report’s vision of a barrier-free health care system should be strengthened.
  1. h) Additional recommendations are needed to ensure accountability for accessibility within a hospital or other health care provider’s organization.
  1. i) Specific requirements for accessibility of health care facilities’ built environment are needed.
  1. j) Specific actions should be recommended to ensure that diagnostic and treatment equipment are accessible.
  1. k) Specific actions are needed to ensure the accessibility of health records.
  1. l) The initial report’s recommendations on training of health care providers should be strengthened.
  1. m) Detailed recommendations are needed to protect the right of patients with disabilities and of any patients’ support people with disabilities to physically get to health care services.
  1. n) Action is needed to guarantee the right of patients with disabilities to the privacy of their health care information.
  1. o) Additional recommendations are needed to help ensure the rights of patients with disabilities and of patients’ support people with disabilities to accessible information and communication in connection with health care.
  1. p) The initial report’s recommendations should be strengthened to effectively protect the right of patients with disabilities to the support services they need to access health care services.
  1. q) Additional measures should be recommended to ensure right of patients with disabilities to identify their disability-related accessibility needs in advance and to request accessibility/accommodation from a health care provider or facility.
  1. r) Patients with disabilities and support people with disabilities should be assured accessible complaint processes at health care providers’ self-governing colleges, and to have those colleges ensure that the profession they regulate are trained to meet the needs of patients with disabilities.
  1. s) Systemic accessibility safeguards should be built into the health care system from top to bottom.
  1. t) The experience and expertise of people with disabilities working in the health care system should be harnessed to expedite the removal and prevention of barriers facing patients, and those facing their support people with disabilities.
  1. u) The Health Care Standards Development Committee should endorse the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report’s health care recommendations.
  1. v) Further steps should be recommended to supplement the initial report’s recommendations arising from the covid-19 pandemic.
  1. w) The initial report’s recommendations on strengthening AODA enforcement are heartily applauded.t

Attend CNIB’s July 27, 2021 Virtual Town Hall on Dangers that Electric Scooters Pose for People with Disabilities if London Ontario Allows Them – and— Please Fill Out an Important Online Survey About Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Courts

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/

Attend CNIB’s July 27, 2021 Virtual Town Hall on Dangers that Electric Scooters Pose for People with Disabilities if London Ontario Allows Them – and— Please Fill Out an Important Online Survey About Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Courts

July 22, 2021

            SUMMARY

Here’s a buffet of recent news from the trenches of the battle for accessibility for people with disabilities:

  1. Please come to CNIB’s July 27, 2021 Virtual Town Hall between 5 and 7 pm local time to discuss the dangers that e-scooters pose if the City of London Ontario allows them. Read on for details on how to register to take part.
  1. Please complete an important online survey before September 30, 2021 about disability barriers you have experienced in Ontario’s Courts. See below for more information on this.
  1. What do you think of the initial reports of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee or the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on what needs to be done to tear down the many disability barriers that impede students with disabilities in Ontario? Let us know! Once again, read on for more about this.

Believe it or not, 903 days ago, the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. It called for urgent action to speed up and strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Since then, the Ford Government has still announced no comprehensive plan of action to implement that report. Numbering at least 2.6 million, Ontarians with disabilities deserve better.

            MORE DETAILS

1. Come to CNIB’s July 27, 2021 Virtual Town Hall on Dangers to People with Disabilities if London, Ontario Allows E-Scooters

It is very troubling that London, Ontario is considering allowing e-scooters. After an incredibly tenacious effort, people with disabilities managed to convince the City of Toronto not to allow e-scooters because they endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Now it is time to mount a similar campaign in other cities in Ontario that are thinking of creating the same danger for people with disabilities.

London, Ontario is now actively considering the possibility of conducting a “pilot project” with e-scooters. The corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies are unquestionably behind this, as they were in Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor and elsewhere.

We are thrilled that on Tuesday, July 27, 2021 from 5 to 7 pm local time, CNIB will be hosting an on-line Virtual Town Hall for people with disabilities to discuss concerns about the possibility of London allowing e-scooters and to explore what you can do about this danger. Please plan to take part! To register for this event, contact Larissa Proctor Larissa.Proctor@cnib.ca and let her know if you have any accommodation needs.

For background you can check out our short, widely viewed, captioned online video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky about the dangers that e-scooters pose for people with disabilities. It formed part of our successful campaign against allowing e-scooters in Toronto.

Toronto City staff did a comprehensive job of documenting the dangers that e-scooters pose for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. That research led Toronto City Council to unanimously defeat a proposal to allow e-scooters, which was heavily backed by the e-scooters corporate lobbyists. We call on all other Ontario cities to show the same wisdom and concern for the safety of people with disabilities and others.

To learn all about our campaign over the past two years to protect Ontarians with disabilities from the dangers that e-scooters pose, visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooters page.

Why are we having to fight this battle one city at a time? Sadly, this is all due to Premier Doug Ford refusing to listen to us about this while listening instead only to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists. Two years ago, e-scooters were not allowed in public places in Ontario, thanks to Ontario law. As the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooters page amply documents, the Ford Government decided to change all that in 2019. It passed a harmful regulation that let each municipality conduct a pilot project if they wished with e-scooters over a 5-year period. We tried to convince the Ford Government not to do this, because of the dangers posed to people with disabilities and others. The Ford Government decided, however, to give in to the corporate lobbyists and to entirely reject our concerns.

People with disabilities won this uphill battle against the corporate lobbyists in Toronto. We can do the same in London and elsewhere, with your help. Please register to take part in the July 27, 2021 Virtual Town Hall to get involved.

2. Please Take Part In an On-Line Survey About Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Court System

Have you had experience encountering any disability barriers in any court proceedings in Ontario? Here is an amazing chance for you to anonymously share your experience and help with an ongoing effort to make Ontario’s courts barrier-free for people with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires.

In 2007, a major official report, the Weiler Report, mapped out actions needed to make Ontario’s courts fully accessible for court participants with disabilities. It was prepared by a group including representation from the courts, the Government, the legal profession and the disability community. That group was appointed by Ontario’s then Chief Justice Roy McMurtry. It was chaired by then Court of Appeal Justice Karen Weiler. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was a member of that group.

Among other things, the Weiler Report recommended that a permanent committee be established to monitor and oversee progress in this area. This led to the creation of the Ontario Courts Accessibility Committee (OCAC), which has been in action since then. A successor to the Weiler group, OCAC also includes representatives from the courts, the Government, the legal profession and the disability community. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has also been a member of that committee since it began.

To help OCAC with its ongoing work, an online survey is underway until September 30, 2021. It gives you a chance to give your input without sharing your identity. Please take part in the survey. Please publicize it to others, and urge them to take part as well.

The online survey about disability barriers in Ontario’s courts is available in English at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/OCACSurveyEN and in French at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/OCACSondageFR

To learn more about the AODA Alliance’s advocacy for accessibility in Ontario’s courts, visit the AODA Alliance website’s courts accessibility page.

3. Reminder to Send Us Input to Help Us Give Feedback on Barriers in Ontario Schools, Colleges and Universities Facing Students with Disabilities

As we earlier announced, we are preparing briefs to submit to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on its initial report and to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on its initial report. These reports address barriers facing students with disabilities in schools, colleges and universities respectively. Send your input to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com to help us with the preparation of our briefs.

We will also very shortly be sharing with you a draft of the brief on disability barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, to see how you like it. That brief, once finalized will be shared with the Health Care Standards Development Committee.

It is extremely rare that people with disabilities get a chance to have input into such important issues. They are all happening at the same time. Let’s take advantage and be sure we all have our say.

To help you, we have made available a captioned online education video that summarizes the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report. Check it out. We have also made available for you an Action Kit on how to take part, as well as a 15-page summary and a 55-page summary of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report. Choose which of these offerings is the most helpful for you.

Learn more about our advocacy efforts in the area of education for students with disabilities by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

Send Your Feedback on the Initial Report/Recommendations by the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on What Must Be Done to Make Ontario Colleges and Universities Accessible for 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/

Send Your Feedback on the Initial Report/Recommendations by the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on What Must Be Done to Make Ontario Colleges and Universities Accessible for Students with Disabilities

June 30, 2021

SUMMARY

There are now three different public consultations going on at the same time on the content of new accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. The first, ending on August 11, 2021, concerns the disability barriers facing patients with disabilities in Ontario hospitals. The second, ending on September 2, 2021, concerns the barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario schools between Kindergarten and Grade 12. The third, which ends on September 29, 2021, and which we are focusing on in this Update, concerns the barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario colleges and universities.

The AODA Alliance will be taking part in all three consultations. We urge you to do so as well. We will say more over the next weeks about each of them.

The AODA Alliance campaigned for over half a decade to get the Ontario Government to agree to develop and enact accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in each of these three areas. The door is now wide open for your input. These opportunities don’t often come along. We will make public tools available to make it easier for you to have your say. The Ontario Government has not enacted a new accessibility standard under the AODA in fully nine years.

            MORE DETAILS

1. Send Us Your Feedback on the Initial Report and Recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee

What needs to be done to tear down the many barriers that impede students with disabilities in college and university programs? The Ontario Government has promised to develop a Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard to address these barriers under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Since 2018, the Government-appointed Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee has been coming up with recommendations for the Ontario Government on what should be included in the promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard. On March 12, 2021, it submitted its initial or draft report and recommendations to the Ontario Government.

Three and a half months later, on June 25, 2021, the Ford Government made that initial report public. The public can send feedback on it. Feedback is invited until September 29, 2021. You can send your input to the Government by writing postsecondarySDC@ontario.ca

That feedback will be shared with the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. That Committee will then finalize its recommendations and submit them to the Government.

You can download the initial report and recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/PSE-SDC-Initial-Recommendations-Report_June-25-2021.docx

You can download the initial recommendations on student transitions, prepared jointly by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/MSAA-NP-K-12-SDC-Sub-Committee-Transition-Report-FINAL-EN.docx

You can download the Ford Government’s survey form for giving the Government feedback in this area by visiting the Government’s website, or by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Postsecondary_Education_Standards_Initial_Recommendations_Survey-June-25-2021.docx

The AODA Alliance will be making submissions on this initial report and its initial recommendations. We also welcome your feedback as we prepare our brief to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Don’t confuse the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard that we are discussing here with the promised new accessibility standard to address barriers facing students with disabilities in schools between Kindergarten and Grade 12. That would be addressed in the promised K-12 Education Accessibility Standard.

We will have more to say in the coming weeks about the initial report and recommendations by the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. Stay tuned.

You can learn more about this topic by looking at the draft framework for the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard that the AODA Alliance sent to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee in March, 2020. You can learn more about our years of advocacy to make all parts of Ontario’s education system accessible for students with disabilities by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

2. The AODA Alliance’s Video Summarizing the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Reports and Recommendations is Now Captioned

The AODA Alliance’s new online video that summarizes the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report and recommendations is now captioned. Please encourage educators and parents of students with disabilities to watch this video. It gives you all the information you need in order to take part in the current public consultation on the barriers that confront students with disabilities in K-12 education in Ontario schools.

If you know anyone that sits on a school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee or a municipality’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, urge them to watch this video. It is available to one and all at https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8

If you just want to watch part of that video, you can jump to any of the topics it covers, by using these links:

  1. Start of the video: https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8
  1. 2. What is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act? What is an accessibility standard? (3:30 minutes) https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=210
  1. What is the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee? (4:45 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=285
  1. What is the current public consultation? (6:45 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=405
  1. What can an accessibility standard include? (7:35 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=455
  1. Why do we need an Education Accessibility Standard? (8:10 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=490
  1. How to have your say. Different ways you can give your feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee up to September 2, 2021 (11 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=660
  1. What did the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee recommend in its initial report? Review of the 20 major themes in the initial recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (13:20 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=800
  1. Tips on what you can do right now to use the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report, in order to press for action to help students with disabilities (43 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=2580
  1. Conclusion and further resources for more information and to help you give feedback (46:50): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=2810

3. The Ford Government’s Delay on Accessibility Drags on as the 2021 Summer Begins

For three years, we have been urging the Ford Government to develop a detailed plan on accessibility, to lay out how it will get Ontario to the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It has never done so.

On January 31, 2019, the Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Minister for Accessibility Raymond Cho publicly said on April 10, 2019, that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

The Onley report found that Ontario is still full of “soul-crushing” barriers impeding people with disabilities. It concluded that progress on accessibility has taken place at a “glacial pace.” It determined that that the goal of accessibility by 2025 is nowhere in sight, and that specific new Government actions, spelled out in the report, are needed.

However, in the 881 days since receiving the Onley Report, the Ford Government has not made public a detailed and 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.

Download in MS Word format the initial report/recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on what a Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should include, which the Ontario Government made public on June 25, 2021.

Download in MS Word format the initial report/recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on what a Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should include, which the Ontario Government made public on June 25, 2021.

Check Out the New Video that Explains the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s 185-Page Initial Report and Gives Tips on How to Give Feedback

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/

Check Out the New Video that Explains the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s 185-Page Initial Report and Gives Tips on How to Give Feedback

June 24, 2021

            SUMMARY

We today unveil another new video! This video gives you helpful information on how and why to give feedback on the disability barriers that face students with disabilities in Ontario schools. The Ontario Government is conducting a public consultation this summer, ending on September 2, 2021. It is gathering feedback from the public on the initial recommendations in this area that have been prepared by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and posted for public comment. This new video is available at https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8

This public consultation is the first time in a generation or longer that the Ontario Government has taken a good look at Ontario’s school system from the perspective of students with disabilities. The AODA Alliance wants to help you have your say. This video will be helpful for you if you are:

* a student with disabilities;

* a family member of students with disabilities;

* a teacher or other education staff;

* a school principal or vice principal, or school board administrator;

* a member of an Accessibility Advisory Committee or Special Education Advisory Committee;

* connected with a disability community organization;

* teaching in a Faculty of Education, or

* studying in a Faculty of Education or Early Childhood Education.

The video is recorded by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. He is also a Visiting Professor of Disability Rights and Legal Education at the Osgoode Hall Law School. He is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, and a member and past chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board.

We hope this video helps you decide whether to give feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, and helps you think about what feedback to give. You could use all or part of it as part of a public forum to gather input for the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. If you are part of a committee or group that is going to collectively give feedback, such as a Special Education Advisory Committee, your members might find it helpful to watch this video before going to a meeting to discuss the feedback that you wish to give to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

This video is 49 minutes long. Some might only want to watch part of it. To help with this, we set out below links to each major heading or topic in the video. You can just jump right to the part that you find most helpful to you.

In the video, Lepofsky refers to various helpful resources for you to read, if you want more information. Below is a list of these resources, with links to them.

Please encourage others to watch this video. Publicize it on social media.

This video is now in the process of being captioned. This captioning (and not just Youtube’s automated captions) should be available in the next few days.

As this video makes clear, it was not produced by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

Did you find this video helpful? Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

            MORE DETAILS

1. How to Jump Directly to Each Topic in This New Video

  1. Start of the video: https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8
  1. 2. What is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act? What is an accessibility standard? (3:30: minutes) https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=210
  1. What is the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee? (5 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=285
  1. What is the current public consultation? (6:50 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=405
  1. What can an accessibility standard include? (7:35 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=455
  1. Why do we need an Education Accessibility Standard? (8 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=490
  1. How to have your say. Different ways you can give your feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee up to September 2, 2021 (11 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=660
  1. What did the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee recommend in its initial report? Review of the 20 major themes in the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial recommendations (13:20 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=800
  1. Tips on what you can do right now to use the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report, to get action to help students with disabilities (43 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=2580
  1. Conclusion and Further resources for more information and to help you give feedback (46:50): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=2810

2. Key Background Resources

  1. The entire 185-page K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and initial recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include to make education in Ontario schools barrier-free for all students with disabilities.
  2. The AODA Alliance’s 55-page condensed and annotated version of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
  3. The AODA Alliance’s 15-page summary of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
  4. The AODA Alliance‘s action kit on how to give public feedback on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
  5. The June 16, 2021 AODA Alliance Update, setting out the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee‘s recommendations for designing a barrier-free school building.
  6. A captioned video of tips for parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate at school for their child’s needs.
  7. For general background, the AODA Alliance website Education page.

Help Make Ontario Schools Accessible for Students with Disabilities Action Kit

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/

Help Make Ontario Schools Accessible for Students with Disabilities Action Kit

June 23, 2021

Help Tear Down the Many Disability Barriers Facing a Third of a Million Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools

Here’s an important and rare opportunity right now to help tear down the many barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario schools. A public consultation is underway on this topic from now until September 2, 2021. This Action Kit explains how you can help.

The AODA Alliance has campaigned for over a decade to get the Ontario Government to create a new law that would spell out what barriers must be removed from Ontario’s school system. This regulation would be called the “Education Accessibility Standard.” It would be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The Ontario Government committed to enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It appointed an advisory committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, to recommend what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

On June 1, 2021, the Ontario Government made public the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations. This initial report is the most comprehensive top-to-bottom review in a generation of Ontario’s school system from the perspective of students with disabilities. It is 185 pages. Below, you’ll read about the AODA Alliance’s 15-page summary of it, and our 55-page condensed and annotated version of it, for those who don’t have the time to read the whole report.

The Government gave the public to September 2, 2021 to send the Standards Development Committee feedback on its initial recommendations. The Standards Development Committee can use that feedback to refine and finalize its report and recommendations to The Government.

The AODA Alliance supports the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of that Standards Development Committee and took active part in the development of its initial recommendations, along with all the other members of that Committee.

How You Can Use the Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report

Here is how you can help students with disabilities right now:

  1. Send the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee your feedback on the Standards Development Committee’s report before September 2, 2021. See below for ideas on how to do this.
  1. Your local school board will be giving feedback to the Government on this report. Urge your school board to support the recommendations in this report, and not to try to weaken any of them. Contact your school board trustee to share your thoughts.
  1. Urge your local school board to implement as much of this report as it can right now. School boards don’t have to wait for action by the Ontario Government to create the promised Education Accessibility Standard. Unfortunately, that provincial action may not come for months if not years. School boards can act now. Grassroots pressure can help make that happen.
  1. Contact your school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee. Every school board must have a SEAC to give advice to the school board’s staff and elected trustees. Find their contact info on the school board website, or by asking the school board.

Give your SEAC your feedback on this report. Urge the SEAC to take these three actions:

  1. a) the SEAC should send the Standards Development Committee its feedback on this report by September 2, 2021. SEACs should be supportive of the Standards Development Committee’s report and could offer helpful suggestions on how to refine and supplement those recommendations.
  1. b) the SEAC should advise its school board to support the Standards Development Committee’s recommendations and not to try to get them weakened in any way. A SEAC can try to have a major impact on what feedback the school board sends to the Ontario Government.
  1. c) The SEAC should advise its school board to start to implement the Standards Development Committee’s recommendations now. For example, the SEAC could select key recommendations in the Standards Development Committee’s report that the school board should get an immediate start on.
  1. Tell your member of the Ontario Legislature that Ontario’s Ministry of Education should get to work now on implementing as many of the Standards Development Committee’s recommendations now as it can. Many if not most can be implemented now, if the Government agrees.
  1. Share your feedback with the AODA Alliance. Let us know what steps you take on the ideas we list in this Action Kit. What kind of responses did you get? Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

How The AODA Alliance Has Made It Easier for You to Read the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Report

We’ve made it easier for you to read and give feedback on this important report. Here are three options you have for reviewing what the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee recommended:

  1. If you only have a short time to look at this issue, read the AODA Alliance’s 15-page summary of the Standards Development Committees report, which is available on the AODA Alliance website at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/15-page-summary-of-the-k-12-education-standards-development-committees-initial-recommendations-summarized-by-the-aoda-alliance/
  1. If you have more time, read the AODA Alliance’s 55-page condensed and annotated version of the Standards Development Committees report, available on the AODA Alliance website at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/55-page-condensed-and-annotated-version-of-the-march-12-2021-initial-report-recommendations-of-the-k-12-education-standards-development-committee-on-what-an-education-accessibility-standard-should-in/
  1. If you have even more time, instead read the entire 185-page report, which is available on the AODA Alliance website in MS Word format at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/download-in-ms-word-format-the-ontario-governments-survey-on-the-initial-or-draft-recommendations-of-the-k-12-education-standards-development-committee/

The best statement of what the Standards Development Committee recommended is in the Committee’s full report. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee took no part in creating or approving the AODA Alliance’s 15-page summary or its 55-page condensed version of the Committee’s 185-page report. Any summary or condensed version of course leaves out some content. The AODA Alliance is solely responsible for those decisions.

What You Might Say in Your Feedback

The Government has posted an online survey to give feedback, which you are free to use, if you wish. We find it more complicated than helpful. You can also simply write out your feedback in whatever way you wish, and email it to the Standards Development Committee before September 2, 2021 by writing to educationsdc@ontario.ca

If you don’t have time to go through the Government’s online survey, you might find it easiest to answer this short list of questions:

  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?

The entire Committee report is long. If you don’t have the time to review it all, just comment on the parts you have time to read, either in the report itself, or in either of the 2 shorter versions that the AODA Alliance created.

To learn about the campaign that the AODA Alliance has waged for over a decade to win the enactment of a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard check out the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

55-Page Condensed and Annotated Version of the March 12, 2021 Initial Report/Recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on What An Education Accessibility Standard should Include, condensed and Annotated by the AODA Alliance

Condensed and Annotated Version of the March 12, 2021 Initial Report/Recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on What An Education Accessibility Standard should Include

Prepared by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

June 23, 2021

Explanatory Note from the AODA Alliance

The Ontario Government has committed to enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It appointed an advisory committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, to develop recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

On March 12, 2021, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (the Standards Development Committee) sent The Government its initial report that sets out its initial recommendations. The Government made that report and its recommendations public on June 1, 2021. The Government gave the public up to September 2, 2021 to send the Standards Development Committee feedback on its initial recommendations. The Standards Development Committee can use that feedback to refine and finalize its report and recommendations to The Government.

The Standards Development Committee’s initial report and recommendations is 185 pages long. To assist the public, the AODA Alliance prepared this 55-page condensed and annotated version of that 185-page document. The initial report and recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on what the Ontario Government should include in an Education Accessibility Standard, to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

This condensed version only presents a selection of the initial recommendations. The AODA Alliance supports all the recommendations. By including some of them here, we are not meaning to diminish the importance of all the Committee’s initial recommendations, which we support in their entirety.

The editing and annotations of this version are solely the responsibility of the AODA Alliance, and not the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. In This condensed version, some of the recommendations are presented in a different order than that in which they appear in the Standards Development Committee’s full report. In some cases, we have added our own headings. We also have tried to group together key recommendations under major themes. This is all done to help anyone wishing to understand them, put them into action now, and offer feedback to the Standards Development Committee about these important recommendations. Where any text is an addition after the fact by the AODA Alliance, it is clearly marked as a note from the AODA Alliance.

Introduction

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Students with disabilities continue to confront numerous barriers in Ontario’s publicly funded school system. Such barriers impede students with disabilities from fully participating in and benefitting from an accessible, equitable, and inclusive education system in Ontario. As such, the Ontario Government is enacting an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, (the Act). Under the Act, an accessibility standard is a regulation that spells out the barriers that are to be removed or prevented, what must be done to remove or prevent them, and the timelines required for these actions. The call for an Education Accessibility Standard to be developed and enacted under the Act initially came from the disability community. This call eventually achieved bi-partisan support by all three Ontario political parties, and support from key labour unions representing many of those working on the front lines of Ontario’s education system….

…In this report, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee brings forward for public comment and feedback a comprehensive series of initial recommendations on what the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should include. It is the result of the extensive joint efforts of Government-appointed representatives from the disability community and the education sector to identify the barriers that students with disabilities face and the measures needed to remove and prevent them…

…These initial recommendations are intended to help educators ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be on a footing of equality from all that Ontario’s education system has to offer. They aim to help school boards save the cost of having to re-invent the wheel when it comes to accessibility, and the cost of leaving barriers in place that disadvantage students with disabilities. They seek to ensure that in Ontario’s education system, public money is never used to create new barriers that negatively impact students with disabilities or to perpetuate existing barriers.

These initial recommendations also aim to implement the rights of students with disabilities to equity and equality in education, guaranteed to them since 1982 by the Ontario Human Rights Code and by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In addition to students with disabilities, there are others who will substantially benefit from these initial recommendations. For example, they will help parents, siblings, grandparents and other family members who have disabilities, teachers and other school staff and volunteers who have disabilities, and any members of the public with disabilities who might wish to interact with and benefit from Ontario’s education system.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee hopes that the promised Education Accessibility Standard will achieve a real change in the practices and culture regarding accessibility within the school system. This will unleash both the potential of all students with disabilities and of the professionals employed to educate them.

Initial Proposed Long-Term Objective for the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

That by 2025, the publicly funded K-12 education system will be fully accessible, equitable, inclusive and learner-centered:

  1. A) By removing and preventing accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities from fully participating in, and fully benefitting from all aspects of the education system, and
  2. B) By providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process to learn about and seek programs, services, supports, accommodations and placements tailored to the individual strengths and needs of each student with disabilities

…We envision an Ontario public education system K-12 where learning environments are barrier free and fully inclusive of learners with disabilities. All learners with disabilities will have full access to meaningful education and relevant learning experiences that include appropriate instructional supports.

Major Theme 1: Ensure that Ontario’s Schools Effectively Serve All Students with Any Kind of Disabilities

Note from the AODA Alliance:

At present, Ontario’s special education system is only designed to serve students with a condition that falls within the Ministry of Education‘s out-dated definition of “exceptionality. That definition leaves out some disabilities. It includes some students who have no disability at all.

As a theme, when they are read as a whole, the Standards Development Committee ‘s entire package of initial recommendations would replace the out-dated term “exceptionality” used throughout Ontario’s special education system. Instead, the focus of all disability-related education efforts should extend to all students with any kind of disabilities, as disability is defined in the Charter of Rights, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. For example, the ‘Standards Development Committee s initial recommendations include the following:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

The Ministry of Education shall:

40.1 Ensure that no student with a disability is excluded from eligibility for programs and services, including special education programs and services, that they require due to definitions or criteria that are inconsistent with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

40.3 Ensure that school boards fulfil their duty to accommodate the disability-related needs of students with disabilities, in relation to all school-related activities, and that the policies are in place to ensure that they do so.

Major Theme 2: Training on Disability Accessibility for Everyone Involved in Ontario’s Education System

Note from the AODA Alliance:

The Standards Development Committee makes several recommendations that school boards provide training on disability accessibility and inclusion for teachers, school staff, parents and all students. As well, it recommends that the Ministry of Education should develop models for this training, which school boards can use. This would avoid the need for each school board to have to re-invent the same training.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

2.1. The Ontario College of Teachers and the Ministry of Education require that, to graduate with a degree in education and to qualify to teach in an Ontario school, teachers receive specific curriculum and training, as part of their university program in education, on the need for our education system to be inclusive and accessible for students with disabilities, and on how to teach curriculum to all students on this topic; and…

3.1. Each school board provide specific training to all school board staff who deal with parents or students, on the importance of the inclusion of and full participation by students with disabilities, and on effective strategies for teaching and designing lesson plans in this area….

4.2 Each school board develop, implement and periodically evaluate a multi-year age-appropriate program/curriculum to teach all students, school board staff and families of school board students, about the inclusion of and full participation of students with disabilities. This program shall include the following:

  1. a) Communication posted in all schools and sent to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to the inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.
  2. b) Where possible:

(i)            Exercises having students, staff and, where interested, parents/guardians conduct a barrier assessment such as a “barrier scavenger hunt” in the school or nearby community, to catalogue disability barriers and invent suggestions on how these can be removed or prevented

(ii)           Hearing from, meeting and interacting with persons with disabilities [e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations].

  1. c) Online posting of resources on these activities to enable sharing with other school boards…

Scool Board Human resources Practices

5.1 Each school board develop and implement human resources policies targeted at full accessibility and the inclusion of and full participation by students with disabilities, including:

  1. a) Making knowledge and experience on implementing the inclusion of and full participation by students with disabilities an important hiring and promotions criterion especially for principals, vice-principals and teaching staff.
  2. b) Emphasizing accessibility and inclusion of and full participation by students with disabilities knowledge and performance in any performance management and performance reviews…
  1. school boards develop and deliver adaptive/assistive technology and services training programs …
  2. The Ministry of Education, Boards, schools and Faculties of Education responsible for teacher education and ongoing professional learning and leadership development ensure the principles and practices of Universal Design For Learning and Differentiated Instruction are applied in curriculum, assessment, and instruction including procurement requirements and use of instructional resources, optimizing teaching and learning for all.
  1. Require boards to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate comprehensive training programs for its staff on procuring and using accessible digital technology…

Ontario College of Teachers shall:

53.5 Ensure that the mandatory qualifications to teach students who are blind/low vision be enhanced to provide the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of these students.

53.6 Work with the Ministry of Education and select faculties of education to initiate a Master’s level program in both French and English for teaching students who are blind/low vision such that exists in other jurisdictions.

53.7 Revise the Guideline for Accreditation of Faculties of education:

  1. a) To add more credits on teaching students with disabilities in the pre-service program
  2. b) To add training on the duty to accommodate all students with disabilities

53.8 Create and distribute a professional advisory to all certified teachers on the duty to accommodate students with disabilities and understand how to assist in their support.

  1. As a part of efforts to educate the entire school community about inclusion of students and school community members with disabilities, all school boards will develop and implement workshops to educate on and address bullying and cyberbullying in schools and the impacts that they can have on students’ physical and mental health. These workshops need to be informed and facilitated by young persons with disabilities. The workshops are to be presented to all members of the school community…

 Major Theme 3: Removing and Preventing Digital Disability Barriers in Ontario Schools

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. Require school boards to designate an accessible “digital accessibility lead” (a board level staff appointment) that will support educators in the procurement and use of digital technologies and will be responsible for all digital information at the school and system level.
  2. Require all school boards to develop and make public in an accessible format a “Digital and Technology Action Plan” with specific policies, procedures, timelines and outcome evaluation metrics that identify, remove and prevent digital, technology and bureaucratic barriers that impede learning for students with disabilities. This plan shall be updated every two years in light of new and emerging technology. For example, the plan should include:

35.1 Establishing, publicizing and enforcing information technology procurement accessibility requirements, to ensure that no technology is purchased either by a school board unless it ensures full digital accessibility. Digital and information technology accessibility should be included as a requirement in all Requests for Proposal or other tenders for sale of products and services to a school board or the Ministry. If a vender provides a product that turns out to have accessibility problems, it should be a term of the procurement that the vender will remediate the product at its expense.

35.2 Ensuring that digital and other technology that is used by or with students is designed based on universal design principles and is accessible to students with disabilities, except where to procure such is impossible without undue hardship.

35.3 A process for researching, evaluating and acquiring new evidence informed accessible technologies;

35.4 Websites, intranet content and e-learning software and hardware use a variety of accessible formats;

35.5 Each board’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) is to be fully accessible to staff and students with disabilities, including those who use adaptive technology. The plan should ensure that no teacher or other, school board staff is able to turn off any feature of the Learning Management System that is accessible in favour of one that is not.

35.6 All accessibility features on digital equipment are turned on and available to ensure that information posted through them will be accessible to students with disabilities, including those using adaptive technology such as screen readers or voice recognition tools;

35.7 Board documents affecting students (report cards, assessments, Individual Education Plans etc.) are fully accessible. Software used to produce a school board’s documents such as report cards, Individual Education Plans, or other key documents should be designed to ensure that they produce these documents in accessible formats.

35.8 All technology procurement policies and procedures meet accessibility requirements. Any procurement of technology including information technology should include specific accessibility end-user functionality requirements. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vender must remediate any inaccessible product or service at its own expense.

35.9 Any textbook used in any learning environment must be accessible to teachers and students with disabilities at the time of procurement.

35.10 Electronic documents created at the school board for use in education and other programming and activities should be created in accessible formats unless there is a compelling and unavoidable reason requiring otherwise.

35.11 A school board shall not use PDF format for documents to be used by or in connection with students or their parents unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously available, including, for example, for any textbook or other instructional material, school or Ministry policy, or student-related document such as report card or Individual Education Plan. For example, if a textbook is available in EPUB format, the textbooks must meet the international standard for that file format. For EPUB it is the W3C Digital Publishing Guidelines currently under review. If a textbook is available in print, the publisher should be required to provide the digital version of the textbook in an accessible format at the same time the print version is delivered to the school/Board.

35.12 Ensure that students who are provided assistive technology for use at school can also take them home for home use as well;

35.13 School boards remove any barriers that prevent students with disabilities from fully accessing adaptive technologies such as restrictions on being able to install apps on laptop computers or mobile devices, or firewalls that restrict access to websites needed to facilitate the use of adaptive technology.

  1. Ensure the Ministry of Education provides sufficient long-term funding through the Grants for Student Needs (GSN) to support boards in acquiring and supporting assistive technologies and related hardware and software via enhancements to the Special Education Grant. This should also include funding for any student with any kind of disability defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act….

38.1 The ministry shall not use PDF formats for documents to be made available for students or parents/guardians, or for Special Education Advisory Committees, unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously made available.

38.2 The Ministry of Education should establish, implement, publicize and enforce information technology procurement accessibility requirements for any technology to be made available in schools, to ensure that no technology is purchased by the Ministry for use by school boards, unless it ensures full digital accessibility, along the same lines as is required above for procurement by school boards.

38.3 The Ministry’s program for funding adaptive technology for students with disabilities shall not bar the use of any category of technology, such as smart phones, which are needed by and effective for those students.

38.4 The Ministry of Education should immediately direct TVO to make its online learning content accessible to persons with disabilities, and to promptly make public a plan of action to achieve this goal, with specific milestones and timelines.

38.5 The Ministry of Education should make public a plan of action to swiftly make its own online learning content accessible for persons with disabilities, setting out milestones and timelines, and should report to the public on its progress.

39.1 For any real time classes (sometimes called synchronous learning), or any meetings with school board staff and students or families held virtually rather than in person (such as an Individual Education Plan or Identification, Placement, and Review Committee meeting), only accessible virtual platforms shall be used by a school board.

39.2 Each school board shall make public the name of the virtual platform or platforms it uses and publicly certify that it has confirmed that it is an accessible virtual meeting platform.

39.3 The Ministry of Education should regularly monitor and have tested the accessibility of major virtual meeting platforms, shall make public the results of its comparisons, and shall provide a list of approved accessible options for virtual platforms to school boards on a quarterly basis.

39.4 The Ministry of Education and each school board shall make public a phone number and email address for the public to contact to report accessibility problems experienced with virtual meeting platforms used in the education system. The aggregated feedback received shall be shared with the public and, school boards on a quarterly basis.

Major Theme 4: Ensuring Accessible Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction

Note from the AODA Alliance:

The Standards Development Committee made many recommendations aimed at the design of curriculum taught in school, at how students are taught in school, and at how student learning is assessed in school. “Curriculum” refers to the content to be taught. “Instruction” refers to how a teacher teaches that curriculum, such as the teacher’s lesson plans. “Assessment” refers to how the student is tested or assessed to see what they have learned.

Several recommendations taken together would require that curriculum, student instruction and student assessment should be reformed to ensure that they are all barrier-free and fully accessible for students with disabilities. This includes ensuring that the principles of universal design in learning and differential instruction are built into curriculum, student instruction and student assessment. Beyond the specific requirements below, the Ministry of Education would be required to develop models and tools to help school boards implement these requirements.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

9.1 The Ministry of Education and Boards incorporate Universal Design for Learning in the requirements for curriculum design.

9.3 The Ministry identify a ministry designated office or person with lead responsibility for the ongoing review of all provincially mandated curriculum (and secondary resources guidelines offered to school boards) for removal of accessibility barriers.

9.4 The Ministry mandate a strategy and action plan for continuous review of all curriculum. requiring that all reviewed and new curriculum address accessibility barriers and is barrier free.

9.5 Curriculum review and renewal in curriculum areas, include specific focus areas, such as:

  1. b) science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics
  2. c) alternative, expanded curriculum for students with disabilities that is barrier free and addresses relevant life skills
  3. g) new and developing curriculum areas and competencies such as multi-literacies, e.g., digital literacy, financial literacy that is designed and integrated within specific courses (e.g., career studies, mathematics) and across curriculum
  4. h) curriculum that addresses experiential learning, employability skills development, specialty pathways such as Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) and school to work transitions
  5. i) curriculum that focuses on the development of learning skills that specifically address executive functioning skills (e.g., emotional and physical self-regulation, working memory, self-monitoring, organizational planning and prioritizing, and task initiation). The development of these skills is critical to accessing learning for all, and student achievement and well-being.

These recommendations would among other things require that the timely access, use, and the benefits of curriculum materials, goods and services. Instructional learning materials need to be fully accessible through Universal Design for Learning that uses many differing, alternative methods of engaging, representing, expressing, and communicating learning. This requires:

  1. The Ministry and Boards require current and newly developed special programs, for example, French Immersion and Extended French, be open, fully accessible and barrier free for students with disabilities and that the programs be reviewed, monitored and developed utilizing open, transparent processes that provide for timely communication, accessibility and participation by students with disabilities.

This requires that:

24.1 The Ministry set direction and Board required practices that ensure specialized programs are accessible to and effectively accommodate students with disabilities. This requires provision for effective accommodations, accessible locations, instructional materials and program design that is accessible, and barrier free for the needs of students with disabilities.

  1. Boards ensure students with disabilities who participate in specialized and expanded programs receive the required adaptations to instructional design and assessment practices so that they have every opportunity afforded them to earn a diploma albeit 16 credits for an Ontario Secondary School Certificate (OSSC) or 30 credits for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). It is in the design process where many students for example, with intellectual disabilities can achieve credits and pursue diploma pathways (e.g., through apprenticeship programs and others).

25.4 The Ministry and Boards provide Adapted Physical Education (APE) by developing, implementing and monitoring carefully designed physical education programs for students across all disabilities, based on comprehensive assessments, so that students with disabilities develop skills and competencies to enable healthy personal living.

11.1 Ministry and Boards will ensure the design of instructional materials that are fully accessible on a timely basis for students with disabilities, including for example, materials that are accessible to those with vision and hearing loss, full captioned digital, visual accommodations, and non-verbal formats.

11.2 Ministry and Boards will establish procurement procedures requiring any new instructional materials be fully accessible, in timely, quality alternative formats and/or conversion ready.

11.3 Ministry and Boards will require that procurement procedures for approved educational resources meet accessibility, barrier free standards, be transparent, with quality design requiring ongoing timely review, monitoring and communication.

11.6 The Ministry and Boards establish dedicated shared resources within and among school boards, to assist efficient and effective, timely conversion ready materials that are in accessible format, where needed. This includes ensuring a board lead for oversight, coordination and response.

Note from the AODA Alliance:

Under these recommendations, the Ministry of Education should ensure that school boards use barrier-free assessments for student performance. The Ministry should provide guides and resources to school boards on how to do this. The Ministry should ensure that all provincial standardized tests are barrier-free for students with disabilities. The Ministry and school boards should monitor student assessments to ensure that they are barrier-free for students with disabilities.

Major Theme 5: Substantially Strengthen Requirements Regarding Individual Education Plans

Note from the AODA Alliance:

A centerpiece of how Ontario’s education system tries to serve students with disabilities is by having school boards develop and implement an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each student with special education needs. However, the Standards Development Committee found that there are important shortcomings with the existing regime for these. For example, Ontario’s requirements only apply for students whose disability falls within the out-dated and too narrow term “exceptionality. They should be available for all students with disabilities, whether or not their disability falls within that term “exceptionality. Among the Committee’s recommendations are the following:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. Each school board should notify the parents/guardians of students with disabilities, and where applicable, the students themselves, of their right to have an Individual Education Plan. All students with disabilities who want or need an Individual Education Plan shall have one provided.
  1. The Ministry of Education shall revise the format and content of the Individual Education Plan to include accommodations, as defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code, as well as supports or services that a student with disabilities needs to enable them to fully participate in and fully benefit from all opportunities available at school. It should include accommodations, supports or services in relation to all aspects of school life, including those needed for education and learning, for emergencies, for health and safety, behavior or social engagement. The aim should be to consolidate to the extent possible all such planning for the student in one place. The portions of the Individual Education Plan that are needed to be shared with specific school staff members to implement them shall be shared with those staff members. Otherwise, the student’s confidentiality in connection with the Individual Education Plan shall be maintained.
  1. The Ministry of Education shall publicly report on what changes have been made to the standards for Individual Education Plans, and regularly audit school board Individual Education Plans for compliance with the new standard.
  1. School boards shall conduct annual audits of Individual Education Plan compliance and publicly report on the results of the audit.

Major Theme 6: Expanding and Strengthening Parent and Student Participation In the Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Barrier: Parents /guardians of students with disabilities, and students with disabilities themselves, need direct, easy access to important information about the menu of programs, services, supports and accommodations available for students including students with disabilities, and how to request or advocate for them. They have a right to know all the important information they need including, for example what is available, what persons and what office to approach to get this information and to or to request or change the student’s placements, programs, supports, services or accommodations, or to raise concerns about whether the school board is effectively meeting the student’s disability-related education needs.

This information should be easy to find, and should be readily available in accessible formats, in plain language and in multiple languages. Parents report that too often, it is very difficult to find out this important and basic information. It is inefficient and unreliable to leave this responsibility to individual principals, spread across Ontario, to each deal with this as they choose. When it is left to each principal, without clear requirements and pre-prepared materials for parents, guardians and students, school boards won’t be able to ensure that this important need is met.

As well, parents/guardians of students with disabilities report that too often, they find it very difficult, frustrating, and demoralizing to advocate for their child’s needs in the school system. Depending on the board, the school and the people involved, it can be a welcoming, positive and cooperative process, or an alienating, bureaucratic and rigid process.

When there is a dispute about the Individual Education Plan contents or implementation, parent/guardians/students do not have a dispute mechanism and some parents, guardians or students resort to filing a human rights complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Filing a human rights complaint involves great legal expenses, delays, and hardships to a family. A dispute mechanism that is easy to use and that can resolve issues quickly is needed.

  1. We recommend: All of the students with disabilities and the parents/guardians of those students have the right to fully participate in the planning and implementation of the student’s educational plan/program.

The Ministry of Education shall:

49.1 Ensure effective processes and resources used for planning for all students with disabilities to ensure that students and parents/guardians are able to participate effectively in the process.

49.2 Develop a timely formal process/dispute resolution mechanism for parents/guardians and students to appeal the contents or implementation of Individual Education Plans, to make necessary changes if required, and to ensure that district school boards follow it.

49.3 In cases where disputes cannot be resolved at the school board level, appoint an arm’s length third party mediator when parents and/or students can show that the school is not effectively meeting their needs.

The District School Boards shall:

49.4 Provide parents/guardians of students with disabilities, and where applicable, students with disabilities themselves, with timely and effective information, in accessible formats, on the available services, programs and supports for students with disabilities (whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs under the Education Act and Regulations).

49.5 Ensure that parents, guardians, and students are informed, as early as possible, in a readily accessible and understandable way, about important information such as:

  1. a) What “special education” is and who is entitled to receive it.
  2. b) What the rights are to full participation in and full inclusion in all the school board’s education and other programming, and to be accommodated in connection with those programs under the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, whether or not the student is classified as a student with special education needs under Ontario’s Education Act and regulations.
  3. c) The menu of options, placements, programs, services, supports and accommodations available at the school board for students with disabilities.
  4. d) Who to approach at the school board to get this information, and how to request placements, programs, supports, services or accommodations for students with disabilities, including the development of Individual Education Plans, or to raise concerns about whether the school board is effectively meeting the student’s education needs.

49.6 Ensure parents and guardians of students with disabilities can easily find out and, where necessary visit, different placement, program, service and support options for a student with a disability, to ensure that the parent, guardian or the student, is knowledgeable about the options for placement, program or services that are available to be provided to that student.

49.7 Develop, implement, and make public an action plan to ensure parent/guardian/students have access to the information they need and meet the requirements of this section. The action plan should incorporate the following:

  1. a) The goal of the plan
  2. b) What information will be made available to parent/guardian/students with disabilities
  3. c) How information will be formatted to make it easy to understand and jargon free
  4. d) The types of formats that will be used to make the information available and accessible
  5. e) Where information will be available to parents/guardians/students (in schools and on-line including school and school board websites)
  6. f) The timelines for distributing information to all parent/guardians/students and the key transition points when information will be provided (such as at start of school, at least once annually, and as part of student planning, including Individual Education Plan development and review)
  7. g) Who will be responsible for ensuring information is provided to parent/guardian/students with disabilities
  8. h) How the distribution of information will be tracked or measured
  9. i) What measures will be used to evaluate the value and impact of providing the information
  10. j) How the action plan will be evaluated
  11. k) How the action plan will be shared publicly with regular progress updates

49.8 Ensure that each school shall send home an introductory pamphlet, or equivalent, to all parent/guardians at the start of each school year, or when first registering a student in the board, and not only to families of those students who are already being identified as having a disability.

49.9 Ensure provision of in-person and virtual events to help families learn how to navigate disability-related school board processes. Where possible these should be streamed online and archived online as a resource for families to watch at a convenient time.

49.10 Ensure an effective process for parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and, the students themselves, to effectively take part in the development and implementation of a student’s plans for meeting and accommodating their disability-related needs, including (but not limited to) their Individual Education Plan.

49.11 Consistent with the Ministry of Education policy recommendations, parents and guardians and students with disabilities must be invited to take part in a all school planning meetings, including meetings where accommodation plans will be made and where the Individual Education Plan will be developed or reviewed. Such meetings should include the following:

  1. a) The school board should bring to the table all key professionals who can contribute to the discussions,
  2. b) The family should be invited to bring to the table any supports and professionals that can assist the family and the planning process.
  3. c) Parents should have the right to bring with them anyone who can assist them in advocating for their child.
  4. d) Parents/families should be given a wide range of options for participating e.g. in person or by phone. They should be told in advance who will attend from the school board.
  5. e) Any proposal for accommodations including a draft Individualized education plan should include a summary of key points to assist families in understanding them.
  6. f) If a school board refuses to provide an accommodation, service, or support for a child’s disability that a parent, guardian, the student requests, or if the school board does not provide an accommodation or support that it has agreed to provide, the school board shall be required to promptly provide written reasons for that refusal. It should let the family and student know that they can request written reasons.

49.12 Consistent with the recommendations for a Ministry of Education policy on student and parent engagement, a school board level dispute resolution mechanism is available to parents of students with disabilities, and to those students, for concerns related to accommodations, including Individual Education Plan’s.

The dispute resolution process shall be:

  1. a) Fair, independent and impartial
  2. b) Respectful
  3. c) Non-adversarial
  4. d) Timely
  5. e) Accessible
  6. f) One where the decision is provided in writing.

49.13 After the dispute resolution process is completed, if the family is not satisfied, they have the right to bring their concerns regarding the proposed accommodations, including the Individual Education Plan, to a designated senior official at the school board with authority to approve the requested accommodations, for a further review.

49.14 In cases of dispute, the Ministry shall appoint a mediator.

49.15 No proposed services, supports or accommodations that the school board is prepared to offer shall be withheld from a student pending a review.

49.16 Notify parents and guardians, who themselves have a disability, that they have a right to have their disability-related needs accommodated in these processes, so that they can fully participate in them. For example, they should be notified that they have a right to receive any information or documents to be used in any such meeting or process in an accessible format.

49.17 Ensure that students with a disability who move from school board to school board, or school to school, have the right to an Individual Education Plan with same or comparable programs, services and accommodations. If the school board, or the school to which the student transfers proposes to deny or to reduce those accommodations or supports, the parent/guardian/student should be able to take their concern to the dispute resolution process. All accommodations shall be maintained until and unless, through the dispute resolution procedures set out in this accessibility standard, the school board has justified a reduction of those accommodations.

49.18 Ensure the training and development of a roster of helpers (sometimes known as system navigators) for parents of students with disabilities to help them navigate the often-complex world of supports for students with disabilities both within the system and with partner community agencies.

Major Theme 7: Access for Students with Disabilities to Timely Professional Assessments Needed for Disability Accommodation

Note from the AODA Alliance:

Often, students with disabilities need to have some sort of expert or professional assessment of their needs, for a school board to know how best to meet their needs. There are too often great delays in getting these assessments. Accordingly, the Standards Development Committee made several recommendations, such as the following:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard directed through Ministry of Education and Boards establishes measures and processes to address and eliminate administrative and other access barriers that impede or delay timely and fair/unbiased assessments for the identification of disability related need. These assessments include but are not limited to professional and clinical assessments such as psycho-educational, and other educational assessments in the identification of disability related needs.

17.1 Where there are barriers related to timely access to identification or needs assessments, the board will have a solution-based process to address the assessment needs which may include a plan to access clinical assessments through partnership with external service providers. And where the board provides evidence to the ministry that it is experiencing barriers to timely access of clinical professional services for assessment related to the identification of disability related needs, and the board continues to plan for a clear solutions-based process, the ministry will support the board in securing the necessary assessments.

17.2 District school Boards shall identify on an annual basis their unmet professional assessment needs of students with disabilities as evidenced through the Data Collection Standard (Standards Development Committee) and seek timely access to disability related assessments with the support of the Ministry of Education. The Ministry shall take action to review and address access barriers to disability related assessments.

17.3 Pending a necessary assessment, the school board has a duty to accommodate and cannot refuse to accommodate a student’s need due to delay in getting an assessment performed that has been requested by the board. There are many educational assessments including on-going evidence-based classroom assessments that can inform how a student learns best.

Major Theme 8: Reforming the Process for a School Board Identifying and Making the Placement of Student with Disabilities

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Barrier: The system for a school board‘s formal identification and placement of students with disabilities, Regulation 181/98 creates barriers for students with disabilities, beyond the fact that the definition of “exceptional pupil” does not include all students with disabilities as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Charter of Rights.

For a formal decision on a student’s identification and placement, one must apply to a school board committee called an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee. The review committee can only decide on whether the student falls within the definition of “exceptional pupil” and on the students’ “placement”. It can only make recommendations but not binding decisions on the student’s “program” or services”.

A student or their parents/guardians can appeal to the Special Education Appeal Tribunal about the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee’s decision on identification and placement (but not on recommendations regarding program or services). Courts can review that tribunal’s decision. Such appeals are rare.

Regulations for Identification, Placement, and Review Committees were created before the protections for equality for students with disabilities were enacted in the Charter of Rights and Ontario Human Rights Code, and the following problems have been identified:

  1. More than half of the students receiving special education services and who have an Individual Education Plan, were not identified through an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee. This strongly suggests this process is irrelevant to many.
  2. Many school staff and families complain about the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee’s administrative burden and delays that can create barriers to student success.
  3. Identification, Placement, and Review Committees are hampered by the arbitrary, undefined and confusing distinction between define “placement” on which the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee can decide, and inseparable issues concerning “program” or “services on which the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee cannot decide.”
  4. Families report that they don’t understand the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee process or feel included in it. Frequently the meetings are short, and families feel rushed. In addition, families who don’t understand the process may waive their right to a review.
  5. Some families feel forced into adversarial appeal processes, that may not address the family’s core concerns about the supports that the student needs.
  1. The Identification, Placement and Review Committee process and regulation should be reviewed to determine if it needs to be re-designed, retained or replaced.
  1. If the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee process is to be redesigned, the following principles should be included:
  2. a) A provincially consistent mandatory process, that is expeditious, fair, and user-friendly, for a student and/or parent/guardian to work collaboratively with the school board to develop an agreement as to how the needs of the student with a disability will be met.
  3. b) Decisions about a student’s placement should not be separated from decisions over a student’s program and services. The overlapping terms “placement”, “program” and “services”, if retained, should be defined and clarified.
  4. c) The student and/or parent/guardian should be assured of reasonable timelines to enable the consideration of options and provide input into the decision-making process.
  5. d) Dispute resolution or appeal processes should be available on all issues regarding decisions about how the school board will meet the student’s needs, and not limited to identification and placement only. These mechanisms should be prompt and user friendly.

Major Theme 9: Ministry of Education and Each School Board Needs to Embed Accessibility Oversight in Their Operations

Note from the AODA Alliance:

Several recommendations call for the Ministry of Education and each school board to put in place measures to ensure that school boards are effectively serving students with disabilities. For example:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

41.10 Dispute resolution mechanisms be developed at the student, school board and provincial level regarding access and delivery of student support services from provincial and community partners. The dispute mechanism for students and families should be user friendly and provide timely decisions, building on the approaches provided by the Supporting Success, A Guide to Preventing and Resolving Disputes Regarding Special Education Programs and Services (2007). The process for resolving systemic disputes should be solution focused and include accountability mechanisms to ensure follow up and evaluation of solutions provided.

  1. The Ministry of Education shall:

42.1 Ensure accountability and oversight to ensure that District School Boards are fulfilling their responsibilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

42.2 Create an ombudsman/oversight office where students’ and parents’ concerns regarding the provision of education for students with disabilities can be investigated and resolved.

52.6 The Ministry of Education should be required to designate an office or role, such as an Assistant Deputy Minister, responsible for achieving a barrier-free and accessible school system for students with disabilities. This office or person, should have in place a permanent advisory committee representing individuals with disabilities, including students, that are representative of both high-incidence and low-incidence disabilities. As part of the role, the office or lead should publicly report on the progress of the Ministry and school boards to improve accessibility annually.

52.10 The Ministry of Education should be required to annually:

  1. a) Analyze the barriers and accessibility problems identified by each school board ‘s Accessibility Committee, and the actions identified or proposed for corrective action.
  2. b) Post a report to the public that identifies the recurring barriers experienced in Ontario school boards and share actions that are being taken or proposed to correct these. This includes the requirement to identify areas where corrective action has not being taken or where more is needed.

42.4 Mandate that the designated Assistant Deputy Minister shall have in place a permanent advisory committee representing individuals with disabilities, including students with disabilities and their parents, that reflects the needs of high-incidence and low-incidence disabilities.

42.5 Ensure monitoring, auditing, surveying, and feedback of District School Boards’ provision of education to students with disabilities, including Special Education and Accessibility Plans, to ensure compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

42.6 Collaborate with the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility and make public and provide effective practices in terms of Special Education and Accessibility Planning.

School Board Accessibility Committees and Plans Recommendations

1.1 Each school board set up and maintain a network of teachers and other staff with disabilities, and a network of students with disabilities, to get input on accessibility issues at the school board and to get advice on barriers

  1. The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should require the following of any school board and of the schools operated by the Ministry of Education to:

52.1 Establish an Accessibility Committee and develop multi-year accessibility plans that identify barriers, establish plans to eliminate the barriers and ensure compliance with accessibility standards.

52.2 Designate an accessibility lead staff reporting to the Director of Education.

Ensure that the membership of the school board Accessibility Committee includes senior board officials with responsibility for human resources, teaching and learning, physical facilities, information technology, procurement, transportation, as well as students and individuals with disabilities.

52.3 Assign the respective responsibilities of the lead staff and committee members to oversee the planning and monitoring of accessibility compliance with the accessibility standards.

52.4 Systematically review educational programming, services, facilities, and equipment to identify recurring accessibility barriers within that organization that can impede the full and effective participation and inclusion of students with disabilities, as well as strategies to eliminate those barriers.

52.5 Mandate that the contents of the accessibility plan to include:

  1. a) Processes to identify accessibility barriers, including complaints/reports from schools, students, and community members
  2. b) Plans for removing and preventing accessibility barriers
  3. c) Clear assignment of responsibilities for action
  4. d) Performance measures for monitoring progress
  5. e) Requirements to report to the school board’s trustees regularly
  6. f) Requirements for seeking input from the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee
  7. g) An annual report on progress towards the elimination of accessibility barriers
  8. h) Feedback mechanisms to collect and review input from School Accessibility Committees, staff students and the community.
  9. i) Require school boards to publicly report on the Accessibility Plan and progress to implementation, as well as a summary of feedback on accessibility barriers and strategies.

District School Boards shall:

52.11 Establish at each school an Accessibility Committee that would include the Principal or designate, staff, students, families, and community groups, to identify accessibility barriers and possible solutions to address them. The committee will provide input to the School Board Accessibility Committee and/or lead staff responsible for accessibility. This will ensure that accessibility barriers unique to each school are identified and addressed as quickly as possible.

52.12 Establish a dedicated resource within the school board, or shared among school boards, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis.

52.13 Ensure that all schools create an accessible and welcoming environment for students with disabilities and their families, including those family members with disabilities. This includes ensuring schools encourage and make it easy to seek accommodations for their disabilities.

Major Theme 10: Recommendations Regarding Disability-Specific Needs

Note from the AODA Alliance:

Some of the Standards Development Committee‘s recommendations are disability specific, such as the following:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

41.8 An education advisory committee on autism should be established and include stakeholders from the education sector, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Ministry of Health, parents and autistic individuals consistent with the recommendations from the Ontario Advisory Panel Report (2019). The scope of the role of the committee is described in the detailed recommendations for a New Needs-Based Ontario Autism Program, Alignment with Other Ministries – Ministry of Education, Page 33-39.

Specialized Alternative and Expanded Curriculum and Pathways Recommendations

Curriculum development and learning expectations that support the learning needs of students with disabilities need to be accessible and responsive to specific individual needs. This includes extensions to curriculum and alternative curriculum resources and learning expectations.

There are limited provincially regulated resources for some disabilities, for example, low incidence disabilities such as vision loss. For example, references such as Expanded Core Curriculum are supported and resourced by some learning institutes. While individual boards provide a variety of differing supports, in specialized, learning centers and regular class there needs to be enhanced development, shared access, and staff development in these areas of expanded and alternative curriculum across the province. Additionally, students who participate in specialized and expanded programs require fair and impartial assessment practices. Instructional designs need to be inclusive and accommodate the needs of students with disabilities ensuring they have every opportunity to meet diploma and specialize certification requirements (e.g., apprenticeship programs, Specialist High Skills Major).

Curriculum and Instruction Recommendation:

  1. The Ministry of Education review, develop and provide alternative and expanded curriculum and learning expectations that support the specific learning needs of students with disabilities in access and use of learning resources.

27.1 This includes the requirement of specific curriculum, and /or recommended resources for students with disabilities, that address or are tailored to the needs arising from the student’s disability or combination of disabilities.

27.2 For students with vision loss, resources including the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) be adopted for required use across each board.

27.3 The Ministry upon consultation, review and development of any new provincial curriculum and supporting supplementary resource documents include specialized, expanded or additional curriculum that address the needs arising from specific disability or combination of disabilities.

Ontario College of Teachers shall:

53.5 Ensure that the mandatory qualifications to teach students who are blind/low vision be enhanced to provide the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of these students.

53.6 Work with the Ministry of Education and select faculties of education to initiate a Master’s level program in both French and English for teaching students who are blind/low vision such that exists in other jurisdictions.

Major Theme 11: Reducing the Exclusions/Refusals to Admit to School/Reduced School Hours

Note from the AODA Alliance:

These recommendations are consistent with the results of a detailed survey of all school boards that the AODA Alliance conducted in 2019-2020, that reviews in detail the policies of any school boards regarding the refusal to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/new-report-reveals-that-at-majority-of-ontarios-school-boards-each-school-principal-is-a-law-unto-themselves-with-arbitrary-power-to-exclude-a-student-from-school-real-risk-of-a-rash-of-exclusio/

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Barrier: Parents have concerns with the use of the principal’s power to exclude students from school. (Also called refusal to admit to school) Section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act requires principals to:

“Subject to an appeal to the board, to refuse to admit to the school or classroom a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well being of the pupils.”

Concerns are expressed that a significant proportion of those excluded from school are students with disabilities. The Ministry of Education does not track data on exclusions and does not require school boards to track data on them, in contrast to suspensions and expulsions.

Parents identified a lack of due process, such as:

  • Not being told the reason for the refusal to admit or how to challenge it
  • No limit on how long the refusal to admit can continue
  • The absence of a plan for the student’s return to school
  • No assured provision of alternative education program while the student is excluded
  • No consistent and fair process to appeal the refusal to admit

There are many stories from parents about formal and informal arrangements for a student with disabilities to attend for less than the full school day or school week without the parents’ voluntary consent. The school board places the student on a “modified school day.” There are no consistent practices for when or how this can occur, the documentation to be kept, or plans for return to full time school.

Concerns have been raised that in some situations, a student with disabilities is excluded from school directly or indirectly because the school has not effectively accommodated that student, as is required by the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

A survey of Ontario school boards showed that a majority of boards have no policy on how and when a principal may refuse to admit a student. Of the 33 boards for which a policy was obtained, these policies vary substantially. A student, excluded from school, and their parents are treated very differently from one board to the next. Students and parents across Ontario deserve the same safeguards. Principals are placed in a difficult position, not knowing what they can and should do.

These recommendations seek to reduce or eliminate the number and duration of exclusion of students with disabilities. References to “refusal to admit” includes formal and informal exclusions, and exclusions from school for all or part of the school day.

  1. The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should require the following of any school board and of the Ministry of Education where it operates schools:

50.1 Exclusions/Refusals to admit should only be imposed in rare cases when it is demonstrably necessary to protect the health and safety of students or others at school, and only after all relevant accommodations for the student up to the point of undue hardship have been explored or attempted.

50.2 Refusal to admit of a student shall not last more than five consecutive school days, unless formally extended following the due process requirements required for an initial refusal to admit.

50.3 Refusal to admit a student to school cannot be used, in whole or in part, for purposes of discipline of a student, or as a form of discipline of that student. A student shall not be subjected to a refusal to admit to school for purposes of facilitating a police investigation.

50.4 When considering whether to refuse to admit a student to school, the principal and school board should take into account the fact that excluding a student from school is contrary to the student’s right to an education. The principal and school board should also proceed from the starting point that the rights of students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, including their right to accommodation of their disability-related needs up to the point of undue hardship, take primacy over all other Ontario laws and policies.

50.5 The Principal must make a family aware of the possibility of exclusion as early as that option realistically presents itself as being under consideration. The school board shall have a mandatory meeting with the family before a refusal to admit is imposed, or if crisis circumstances arise without any warning, as soon after the refusal to admit as possible (a pre-exclusion meeting). The meeting should advise the student and/or family of the school’s intention to exclude the child, the reasons for the exclusion and underlying events, the process for the family to contest the exclusion, the demonstrated outcomes for which the school board shall be looking, and an explanation that a subsequent meeting day will be set within a reasonable timeframe where the Principal and parent(s) will review progress and discuss a re-entry plan for the student.

50.6 Parents and guardians who themselves have a disability shall be notified that they have a right to have their disability-related needs accommodated where needed to take part in any meetings, appeals or other procedures regarding an actual or contemplated refusal to admit. For example, they should be notified that they have a right to receive any information or documents to be used in any such meeting or process in an accessible format.

50.7 Any student excluded from attending school shall be provided an equivalent and sufficient educational program while away from school. A written plan for the student’s education should be required, prepared immediately, and shared with the family.

50.8 A mandatory fair procedure should be established that the school board must follow when refusing to admit a student. These procedures should ensure accountability of the school board and its employees, including:

  1. a) A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when a school board is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.
  2. b) The prior review and written approval of the superintendent should be required before a refusal to admit is imposed. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.
  3. c) superintendent should independently assess whether the school board has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit the student and has met all the requirements of the school board’s refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).
  4. d) The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing, co-signed by the superintendent, of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. The letter should be in plain language, translated if necessary, and include:
  5. what a refusal to admit is and the duration
  6. the permissible reasons

iii.           the school board’s process for reviewing that decision, and

  1. the student/family’s right to appeal (including how to use that right of appeal)
  2. steps that the school board has taken or will be taking to provide an alternative education and to expedite a student’s return to school,
  3. the expected timeline for the completion of these steps.
  1. e) A refusal to admit a student to school should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30-day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of the, school board or their designate.
  2. f) An extension of refusal to admit must first consider excluding the student from a single class, and then the option of excluding the student from that entire school, and only as a last resort, excluding the student from all schools at that school board.
  3. g) The refusal to admit shall be documented, and the record shall include information on:
  4. h) The reason for the refusal to admit
  5. i) The duration of the refusal to admit and any extensions
  6. j) The plan to provide an educational program to the student for the duration of the refusal to admit
  7. k) The plan for the student to return to full time school attendance
  8. l) While the student is excluded, the school board should undertake ongoing efforts to facilitate the student’s return to school as quickly as possible. The return to school plan shall include meetings with the family and student to plan for the return and review the additional supports that may be needed.

50.9 To ensure that appeals to the school board under section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act from a refusal to admit a student to school are prompt and fair, the following should be required:

  1. a) A student excluded from school or their parent/guardian should be permitted to launch an appeal from a refusal to admit at any time that the refusal to admit continues. No time limit for filing an appeal should be imposed.
  2. b) No school board shall set an arbitrary length of time that an appeal hearing can take. The appeal hearing should take as long as needed for a fair hearing. The excluded student or their family should not have an arbitrary prior time limit imposed on their oral presentation of their appeal. They should be allowed the time they need to present their appeal. They shall be permitted to present relevant evidence to support their appeal if they wish.
  3. c) At an appeal, the school staff should present their reasons first on why the exclusion is justified and should continue. The student or their family shall then be given a chance to present their case on why the student should not have been excluded and why they should be allowed to return to school.
  4. d) An appeal should be held quickly to minimize the time the student is away from school. The Board of trustees shall hear and/or determine the appeal within fifteen business days of receiving the notice of intention to appeal (unless the parties agree to an extension).
  5. e) Once an appeal is launched, the school board shall prepare for the student, their parents, and the trustees, a report on the reasons for the refusal to admit, the factual background, and the efforts to return the student to school since the exclusion began. The board staff shall arrange a meeting (pre- appeal meeting) with the student and their family to try to resolve the case or narrow the issues, explain the process, disclose any information the student and their family need, and canvass and address any other matter that might help ensure a smooth and timely appeal.
  6. f) The appeal should be heard in closed session by the entire Board of trustees, not a subcommittee (unless the Board can show it has legal authority to delegate this decision to a subcommittee). Any trustee that votes on a decision in an appeal must have been present for the entire argument of the appeal.
  7. g) A Board of trustees, hearing an appeal from a refusal to admit, should consider whether the school board has justified the student’s initial exclusion from school and its continuation. The burden should be on the School Board to justify the exclusion from school.
  8. h) If the student is not successful on the appeal, they should have a further avenue to appeal to court, with mediation available, or to an expert tribunal designated to hear such cases.

50.10 The school board shall create an emergency process and fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.

50.11 Information and data on refusals to admit shall be collected and aggregated data reported publicly by school boards and by the Ministry of Education.

50.12 The Ministry of Education should develop a central repository/mechanism for sharing effective practices of alternatives to exclusion/refusal to admits and modified days in order to support school board efforts to reduce the number and duration of refusal to admits and modified days.

Major Theme 12: Improving the Collection of Data Concerning Education of Students with Disabilities

Note from the AODA Alliance:

The Ministry of Education regularly requires school boards to collect and report very extensive data and statistics regarding teachers, staff, and other aspects of school board operations. Yet the Ministry collects far too little data on the numbers and needs of students with disabilities, and on what is being done to meet those needs. As such, the Standards Development Committee called for a substantial increase in the collection and public availability of such data regarding students with disabilities.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should require the following of any school board and of the Ministry of Education where it operates schools:

51.1 Collect data on students with all types of disability as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, using Individual Education Plans, or the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee, and such other methods that the Ministry and, school boards devise, rather than only collecting data on students with an “exceptionality” as defined under current Ontario special education laws.

  1. a) Data should be collected about students with disabilities that is consistent and comparable across the province according to the parameters below:
  2. b) Data collection should accurately report the numbers of students with each kind of disability. Where a student has more than one disability, each disability would be separately counted.

51.2 Data should also be collected on the accommodations, or programs and services that are to be provided to the student.

51.3 Collect student data on all incidences of exclusion/refusal to admit, consistent with the recommendations related to exclusions and modified days in Section 7. The data collected should include whether the student has a disability, the nature of the incident, the length of the exclusion/refusal to admit, reasons for the exclusion/modification in writing, the educational services provided to the student while excluded from school and the plan for return to full time school attendance.

51.4 Collect student data on the number of students who are on a modified day, including reason for modified day, duration, and appeals, if any, as well as about the alternative education program provided.

51.5 Collect and analyse annual data on the number of students who are accessing professional services and assessments provided by Regulated Health Professionals and other specialists, both from school board services and community partners who delivery services in schools. Further the data collected should be in compliance with a standardized protocol designed by the Ministry of Education (see also data collection recommendation four). Data collected should include the number of days students wait for the assessments and be publicly reported.

51.6 Collect information on the numbers of staff with specialized expertise relating to students with disabilities such as:

  1. a) Teachers of the Deaf and hard of hearing
  2. b) Teachers of the visually impaired
  3. c) Applied Behavioural Analysists
  4. d) Speech-Language Pathologists
  5. e) Audiologists
  6. f) Physiotherapists, occupational therapists
  7. g) Assistive Technology
  8. h) And other key personnel

51.7 Publicly report on an annual basis data related to disability, exclusions, modified day, wait times for professional assessments, and the number and types of staff who instruct students with disabilities.

Ministry of Education shall:

51.8 Collect all of the above data form each school board and:

  1. a) Publicly report on the data referred to above, as an aggregate and on a school board by school board basis
  2. b) Identify changes over previous year(s) and any gaps or deficits or areas for improvement.
  3. c) Develop a provincial action plan to resolve gaps or unmet needs.

51.10 Provide a standardized provincial rubric for documenting the number of professional and specialist assessments provided by each school board annually that includes information on the prioritization criteria used in referring students for assessments and the length of time from identification of the need for the assessment and the assessment completion and results shared.

Ministry of Education/Equity Secretariat shall:

51.11 Ensure the collection of student census data includes information about disability, including the type of disability, or disabilities, the intersectionality of disability with other key factors such as race, indigenous identity, sexual identity and socio-economic factors. Data collection should be based on processes and questions that are consistent for all school boards.

51.12 Analyse data related to disability and report publicly on information related to the number and types of disabilities and the intersectionality of disability with other factors. In addition, the data should be linked to student outcomes and achievements, including graduation rates, credit accumulation, course selection and other measures.

51.13 Use disability information and analysis to identify gaps and develop plans to improve the outcomes and achievement of students with disabilities.

Major Theme 13: Addressing Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Social Realms

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Educational and Online Events Recommendation

  1. Each school board should only hold educational events at venues on school board property or outside school board property whose built environment is accessible to students and staff with disabilities. The buses used to transport students to the off-site events should also be accessible, so that students with disabilities do not have to travel to the event separate from their classmates.

Educational events include, but are not limited to clubs, teams, field trips, dances, graduation, fundraisers, extracurricular groups or any school or school board event that includes students and school personnel.

Note: To assign specific staff at school board to facilitate transportation for students with disabilities.

  1. Each school board shall provide where needed or requested by a student with disabilities or their family, staff assistance for social interaction and play, particularly during unstructured or minimally supervised times, such as recess or lunch. This is to address social isolation that students throughout their educational journey from K-12. The Individual Education Plan shall include a detailed, specific plan for how to implement and achieve social inclusion both in the formal school activities and informal parts of the school day. Creative and flexible plans should include multiple organizations or programs both inside and outside school board designed to foster inclusiveness in the long term across all levels from students to the administration.

This recommendation is inclusive of all students with disabilities even those who require a communication device or use augmentative communication to communicate.

Major Theme 14: Addressing Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in School-Related Transportation

Note from the AODA Alliance:

In 2011, the Ontario Government enacted the Transportation Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It includes some provisions aimed at transportation of students with disabilities in connection with school. However, after a decade, it is clear that these have not ensured that these transportation services are accessible and barrier-free for students with disabilities. Moreover, the 2016-2019 review of the Transportation Accessibility Standard by the Transportation Standards Development Committee did not lead to any recommendations that would ensure that transportation for students with disabilities becomes accessible and barrier-free. Therefore, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee made recommendations in this area, amongst which are the following:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Rationale: Up to three organizations may be involved in the transportation of students: A School Board, a consortium of school boards that jointly arrange for student transportation, and private bus companies that are contracted to provide bussing in that area. Students with disabilities and their parents should not have to try to figure out who is responsible for their child’s transportation needs. The following should be required of all three organizations.

  1. To ensure that students with disabilities get the transportation services they need to attend school this recommendation will set criteria for creating monitoring and accountability. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that where a school board provides bussing or other transportation services to students with disabilities in order to enable them to attend school, the school board/bus company’s/transportation consortia shall review and develop policies and procedures that include:

61.1 Individual consultation with each family to identify accessibility and accommodation needs of the student with disabilities in relation to transportation,

61.2 Ensure the Transportation Consortia/bus companies and drivers have been properly trained to accommodate students with disabilities and their individual needs.

61.3 With any bus driver that is changed, they are given the same information and training prior to driving the student, or, in the case of an emergency replacement, as soon as possible.

61.4 Clearly reflect the responsibilities and duties of the school board/bus companies/transportation consortia and acknowledge that they have the shared responsibility to make sure the duties are fulfilled.

61.5 Retention of training records, including when it was provided and report to their respective boards on training twice per year.

61.6 Designate and provide a reachable official at the school board and the transportation, especially during the working hours when students are being transported, to receive and address phone calls, emails and text messages from a family about problems regarding the student’s transportation.

61.7 Documentation of all complaints reported on student transportation services, and the company to which it applies. A summary report including number of complaints, types of complaints and status, be provided to the school board, transportation consortia, Special Education Advisory Committees (SEAC), and accessibility committee on a quarterly basis. These reports shall be made public on the school board’s and transportation consortium’s website.

61.8 The Education Accessibility Standard should make it clear that the fact that the policies and procedures created does not remove or reduce the school board/bus companies/transportation consortia’s duties under this accessibility standard or otherwise under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that the student has been provided with barrier-free participation in the school board’s educational programs and opportunities. In any contract for bussing, the school boards/bus company’s/transportation consortia should be required to monitor compliance with all obligations regarding bussing, such as the duty to properly train each bus driver on the specific disability-related needs of each passenger, and to document this training. School Boards/bus company’s/transportation consortia should periodically audit consumer satisfaction and compliance with all applicable education accessibility standards and publicly report on the audit’s results. A bus company’s failure to consistently and reliably meet its obligations should trigger penalties and termination of the contract.

61.9 A valuation process for past performance and provision of transportation services for students with disabilities should be included in the Request for Proposal for bussing. A valuation of any company’s past performance on accessibility for students with disabilities should be given a major consideration in deciding the continued use of service.

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that where a school board provides bussing or other transportation to students with disabilities in order to enable them to attend school, the school board shall ensure, and shall monitor to ensure that:

62.1 The school board has individually consulted with each family to identify the accessibility and accommodation needs of the student with disabilities in relation to transportation, and the bus company and driver have been properly trained to accommodate that need.

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that the school board and, where applicable, a bus company with which it contracts, will ensure that pick-up and drop-off locations for a student’s bussing are accessible when needed to accommodate the parents or guardians of students with disabilities.

Major Theme 15: Addressing Disability Barriers to Experiential / Co-Op Learning Opportunities

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. Persons with disabilities face extraordinarily high unemployment rates. Getting the chance for an experiential learning or coop placement while in school can be the gateway, if not the only gateway, to that first letter of reference. Every student’s first letter of reference is essential to getting their first job and more importantly, if you have a disability. Therefore, these recommendations are essential to combating the high unemployment that youth with disabilities too often happen to face. For the success of these recommendations, it is extremely important that school boards provide informal advice and support to all employers, including small businesses.

To ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a school board’s experiential learning programs, each school board should:

65.1 Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers.

65.2 Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that there will be a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate.

65.3 Ensure that its partner organizations that accept its students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities.

65.4 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.

65.5 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.

65.6 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 Ministry of Education should provide templates or models for these policies and measures. It should be required to prepare and make available training videos for school boards and employers offering experiential learning programs to guide them on accommodating students with disabilities and the impacts in experiential learning placements.

Major Theme 16: Removing Disability Barriers to a Student Bringing a Trained Service Animal to School

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Some students on the autism spectrum and their families in Ontario have reported having difficulties at some school boards with being allowed to bring a service animal to school and have even had to take action before the Human Rights Tribunal against a school board. Others have been able to succeed without barriers in bringing their service animal to school.

68.1 When a student with disabilities or their parent/guardian request permission for the student to bring a trained service animal to school with them as an accommodation to their disability, the school board shall consider, decide upon that request, and give reasons for its decision, in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, with the duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, with the policy of the Ontario Human Rights Commission on the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities, available at http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-ableism-and-discrimination-based-disability and the Commission’s Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities available at http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-accessible-education-students-disabilities and with the following requirements set out in this Accessibility Standard. This includes requests regarding a trained service animal from an accredited training organization that provided training to the animal and to the student. Where the service animal was not trained by an accredited training organization, it is open to the student or their family to present to the school board satisfactory evidence that both the service animal and the student have received sufficient training.

68.2 The school board shall put in place a fair and speedy procedure for considering requests for a student to bring a service animal to school. This procedure should include the following:

  1. a) If the school board has any objection to or concerns about the request, the school board will immediately notify the student and family about the specific concerns, and shall work to resolve them, in a manner consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  2. b) If the school board does not believe that the service animal could assist the student at school, the school board should investigate the request, including how the student’ benefits from the service animal outside the school and in the home.
  3. c) If the school board has any concerns about the feasibility of allowing the student to bring the service animal to school, it shall investigate the experience of other school boards and schools which have successfully enabled a student to bring their service animal to school.
  4. d) If a concern is expressed that the service animal at school would interfere with the human rights of other students or staff, the school board shall take action to effectively accommodate their rights without sacrificing the human rights of the student using the service animal, in accordance with the policy of the Ontario Human Rights Commission on conflicting rights. For example, if an EA, assigned to work with the student, cannot work with the service animal for health or other human rights reasons, the school board shall facilitate the assignment of this responsibility to another staff member.
  5. e) A student shall not be refused the opportunity to bring a qualified service animal to school without the school board first allowing a trial or test period with the service animal at school.
  6. f) Where it is proposed to allow a student with disabilities to bring a service animal to school, the school board shall work out with the student, their family, and the organization providing the service animal, a plan to promote the success of the accommodation, including such things as:
  7. Allowing the service animal’s training organization to provide training in the school to school staff.
  8. Allowing the training organization to provide an orientation to the student population at the school to the presence of the service animal.

iii.           Providing information to other families to reinforce the inclusion of the service animal at school.

  1. g) If the school board does not agree to the service animal being allowed at school, or if there is a problem with implementing the school board’s plans to facilitate its inclusion, the school board shall make available a swift dispute resolution process, including independent mediation if needed, to resolve these issues.

68.3 The Ministry of Education shall obtain information from school boards on where service animals have been allowed in school, to make it easier for a school board to reach out to those schools to gather information, if needed.

68.4 Nothing in this accessibility standard shall reduce or restrict the rights of a person with vision loss who is coming to a school bringing with them their guide dog, trained by an accredited school for training guide dogs.

Major Theme 17: Addressing Physical and Architectural Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Ontario’s Education System

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

When it was passed in 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act required Ontario, including its schools, to become fully accessible to persons with disabilities by 2025. The Government did not effectively address the need to achieve this in schools’-built environments up until now. These recommendations are designed to achieve the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s goals. It will be for the Government to implement measures to ensure that school boards can fulfil them.

The intent/rationale of these recommendations is to ensure that as soon as possible, and no later than January 1, 2025, the built environment in the education system, such as schools themselves, their yards, playgrounds etc., and the equipment on those premises (such as gym and playground equipment) would all be fully accessible to persons with disabilities and would be designed based on the principle of universal design. Where school programs or trips take place outside the school, these will be held at locations that are disability accessible. The intent/rationale is also to ensure that no public money is used to create new barriers or perpetuate existing barriers in the school system.

  • Ontario Building Code (OBC) and existing accessibility standards do not set out all the modern and sufficient accessibility requirements for the built environment in Ontario.
  • The building code is largely if not entirely designed to address the needs of adults, not children or the specific types of spaces found in K through 12 schools.
  • The Government of Ontario and the Ministry of Education have no accessibility standard for the built environment in schools, whether old or new schools. The Government should develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard to substantially strengthen the accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code.
  • Neither the Ministry of Education nor the individual school boards have any expertise on staff on how to design a school to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Architects and design and construction teams have no standardized education for accessibility beyond building code minima. Many are not aware of or understand the current minimal requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s Design of Public spaces enacted in 2013.
  • When the Ministry reviews proposals from a school board for construction of a new school or renovation of an existing school, the Ministry does not require those plans to be accessible to persons with disabilities, but instead, leaves it to each school board to address accessibility as much or as little as it wishes.
  • It is left to each school board to come up with its own designs to address accessibility in the built environment in schools and at other school board locations even though the needs of persons with disabilities to an accessible built environment do not vary from community to community around Ontario. An inaccessible doorway is an inaccessible doorway, whether in Kingston or Chatham.

Summary of Recommendations for Mandatory Beyond Building Code Accessibility Requirements

This section includes 3 different areas of requirements for beyond code additional mandatory requirements for schools and associated facilities including the exterior site elements, the buildings interior elements, and universal design better practices.

The exterior site elements include five topics:

  1. Access to the site for pedestrians
  2. Access to the site for vehicles
  3. Parking
  4. Exterior doors
  5. Public Playgrounds on or Adjacent to School Property

The interior building elements include 10 topics:

  1. Entrances
  2. Door
  3. Layout
  4. Gates, Turnstiles and Openings
  5. Windows, Glazed Screens and Sidelights
  6. Circulation including Elevators, Ramps and Stairs
  7. Drinking Fountains
  8. General Facilities
  9. Washroom Facilities
  10. Specialty Room and Spaces

Finally, enhanced universal design best practice section includes 17 different elements and considerations have been provided based on feedback from a recognized accessibility and universal design expert for ways to improve building and facilities use for all users of the school and community.

Note from the AODA Alliance:

The Standards Development Committee’s detailed recommendations for the built environment in the education setting are set out in full in the June 16, 2021 AODA Alliance Update.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Ensuring a Fully Accessible Built Environment at Schools Recommendations

Barriers:

Too often, the built environment where K-12 education programming is offered, have physical barriers that can partially or totally impede some students with disabilities from being able to enter or independently move around. These barriers also impede parents, teachers and other school staff and volunteers with disabilities.

The Ontario Ministry of Education does not effectively survey all school buildings to ensure that they are accessible, or to catalogue what accessibility improvements are needed.

The Ministry of Education’s specifications for new school construction do not require all accessibility features or can even preclude needed accessibility features in a new school or other education facility.

Recommendations:

  1. The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific requirements for accessibility of the built environment in schools and other locations where education programs are to be offered. Accessibility requirements should not only include the needs of people with mobility disabilities. They should include the needs of people with other disabilities such as (but not limited to) people with vision and/or hearing loss, autism, intellectual or developmental disabilities, learning disabilities or mental health disorders. There should be no priorities among disabilities. These requirements should meet the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These should include:
  2. a) Specific requirements to be included in a new school to be built.
  3. b) Requirements to be included in a renovation of or an addition to an existing school, and
  4. c) Retrofit requirements for an existing school not slated for a major renovation or addition.
  1. Each school board should develop a plan to ensure that the built environment of its schools and other educational facilities becomes fully accessible to persons with disabilities as soon as reasonably possible, and in any event, no later than January 1, 2025. As part of this:
  2. a) As a first step, each school board should develop a plan for making as many of its schools’ disability-accessible within its current financial context.
  3. b) Each school board should identify which of its existing schools can be more easily made accessible, and which schools would require substantially more extensive action to be made physically accessible. An interim plan should be developed to show what progress towards full physical accessibility can be made by first addressing schools that would require less money to be made physically more accessible, taking into account the need to also consider geographic equity of access across the school board and a school building’s expected lifespan.
  4. c) When designing a new school or managing an existing school, wherever possible, a quiet room should be assigned in a school facility to assist with learning by those students with disabilities who require such an environment. For example, when a school board is deciding what to do with excess building capacity, it should allocate unused or under-used rooms as quiet rooms whenever possible.
  1. When a school board seeks to retain or hire design professionals, such as architects, interior designers or landscape architects, for the design of a new school or an existing school’s retrofit or renovation, or for any other school board construction or other infrastructure project, the school board should include in any Request for Proposal a mandatory requirement that the design professional must have sufficient demonstrated expertise in accessibility design, and not simply knowledge about compliance with the Ontario Building Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This includes the accessibility needs of people with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those with mobility impairments. It includes the accessibility needs of students and not just of adults.
  1. When a school board is planning to construct a new school, or expanding or renovating an existing school or other infrastructure, a properly qualified and experienced accessibility consultant should be retained by the school board (and not necessarily by a private architecture firm) to advise on the project from the outset, with their advice being transmitted directly to the school board and not only to the private design professionals who are retained to design the project. Completing the 8-day training course on accessibility offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation should not be treated as either necessary or sufficient for this purpose, as that brief course is substantially inadequate and has significant problems.
  1. A committee of the school board’s trustees, and the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee or Accessibility Committee should be required to review design decisions on new construction or renovations to ensure that accessibility of the built environment is effectively addressed. A school’s Accessibility Committee should also be involved in this review. Consultations should include getting input from students, parents, school employees and school volunteers with disabilities. These Committees should not be seen as technical experts, or as a substitute for the earliest engagement of accessible design experts.
  1. Where possible, a school board should not renovate an existing school that lacks disability accessibility, unless the school board has a plan to also make that school accessible. For example, a school board should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a school which lacks accessibility to the second storey, if the school board 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.
  1. When a school board decides which schools to close due to reduced enrollment, a priority should be placed on keeping open schools with more physical accessibility, while a priority should be given to closing schools that are the most lacking in accessibility, or for which retrofitting is the most costly.
  1. Each school board should hold off-site educational events at venues whose built environment is accessible.
  1. The Ministry of Education should be required to revise its funding formula or criteria for school construction to ensure that it requires and covers and does not obstruct the inclusion of all needed accessibility features in a school construction project. The following design features should be required by the Education Accessibility Standard and in any new school construction or renovation, and effectively addressed in the Ministry’s funding/approval requirements for school construction projects. Where an existing school is undergoing no renovation, any of the following measures which are readily achievable should be required. The Ministry should enact technical requirements for the following, as binding enforceable rules, not as voluntary guidelines:

Ensuring Accessibility of Gym, Playground and Like Equipment and Activities Recommendations

Barrier:

Schools or school boards that have gym, playground or other equipment not designed based on the principles of universal design, which some students with disabilities cannot use, as well as certain gym, sports and other activities in which students with disabilities cannot fully participate.

Section 80.18 of the Ontario Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, as amended in 2012, requires accessibility features to be considered when new outdoor play spaces are being established or existing ones are redeveloped. However, those provisions do not set the spectrum of detailed requirements that should be included. They do not require any action if an existing play space is not being redeveloped. They ultimately leave it to each school board or each school to re-invent the accessibility wheel each time they build or redevelop an outdoor play space. They do not require anything of indoor play spaces or gyms.

Recommendations:

  1. To ensure that gym equipment, playground equipment and other like equipment and facilities are accessible for students with disabilities, the Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific technical accessibility requirements for new or existing outdoor or indoor play spaces, gym and other like equipment, drawing on accessibility standards and best practices in other jurisdictions, if sufficient, so that each school board does not have to re-invent the accessibility wheel.
  1. Each school board should:
  2. a) Take an inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor play spaces and gym and playground equipment, and make this public, including posting this information online.
  3. b) Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of new gym or playground equipment, in consultation with the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee and Accessibility Committee, and widely with the families of students with disabilities.
  4. c) Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that the purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing playground is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the school board.
  1. Where playground or other school equipment or facilities to be deployed on school property for use by students is funded and/or purchased by anyone other than the school board, the school board should remain nonetheless responsible for approving the purchases and ensuring that only accessible equipment and facilities are placed on school property for use by students or the public. Decisions over whether accessibility features will be included, or which will be included, should not be totally left to community groups which may fund-raise for such equipment or facilities.

Major Theme 18: Accessible Transitions for Students with Disabilities

Note from the AODA Alliance:

Some of the Standards Development Committee recommendations on transitions are set out in the main initial report of the Committee. Some are in the joint report of the Technical Subcommittee. The following brings together some key recommendations from both places.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Committee Initial Report/Recommendations

  1. Each school board should develop and create the role of the Transition Facilitator/Navigator to work with students and their families in collaboration with school staff, and community agencies to explore pathways and develop transition plans. The Transition Facilitator/Navigator would assist students accessing special education supports, consult and liaison with community disability service providers and provide transition planning resource development for all school board and school staff.
  2. Ministry of Education should set up a centralized Transitions Hub. The Hub would support the role of the Transitions Facilitator / Navigator as well as provide a conduit of best practice transitions information and regular communication from across all publicly funded school boards and school authorities in Ontario. If needed it would provide smaller boards the ability to partner and develop successful programs.

From the Standards Development Committee‘s Technical Subcommittee Report

  1. Ensure that co-operative education programs include accommodations and supports for all students as needed, including transportation to and from placements and support staff at placement as needed.
  1. Where possible, and to the point of undue hardship, allow siblings of a student with a disability who attends a special education program outside of their home school, to attend that same school if requested by the family. Note: This does not include provincial schools, for example W. Ross MacDonald School.
  1. Offer learning strategies courses in secondary school that are responsive and aligned with the IEPs of participating students.
  1. Facilitate the participation of all students with disabilities in their IEPs and transition plans through teacher student conferences, beginning in elementary school.
  1. Ensure that students with disabilities receive all necessary accommodations and other supports as outlined in their IEPs and transition plans when accessing summer or night school continuing education courses during their secondary school education.
  1. Ensure that students with an Identification, Placement & Review Committee (IPRC), and their parents/guardians, are informed in grades 7 through 10 about the importance of updating their assessment during Grade 11 and 12.
  1. Ensure that students in Grades 11 and 12 are informed during their IEP review/renewal meetings and transition support meetings if/when their formal professional assessment must be updated.
  1. Ensure that students with an IEP only that includes a transition plan, and their parents/guardians, are informed in Grades 7 through 10 that they will need an IPRC if they will be requesting accommodations when they enter post-secondary education. As well as ensuring students and their parents/guardians understand accommodations in K-12 do not automatically translate to the post-secondary environment and an assessment of accommodations needs will be conducted in post-secondary.

Major Theme 19: Planning for Emergencies and Safety

Note from the AODA Alliance:

The following recommendations are inspired by experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. They identify what should be done to plan in advance for any future emergencies, as well as for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic as it continues.

Last summer, a subcommittee of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee submitted a detailed and comprehensive package of excellent recommendations to the Ontario Government on July 24, 2020 on how to address the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the pandemic. The AODA Alliance strongly endorses that report and all its recommendations. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee distilled those recommendations for future use in its March 12, 2021 initial report/recommendations. The following are some of the key recommendations.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. The Ministry of Education establish an independent review committee as soon as possible to assess the COVID-19 response by the Ministry of Education and School Boards by:
  2. a) Documenting the response by the Ministry and school boards to supporting students with disabilities
  3. b) Documenting the coordination and collaboration with other Ministries in responding to the needs of students with disabilities at school and at home during remote learning
  4. c) Identifying key decision points and changes in response activities
  5. d) Surveying key stakeholders, including student voice about the effectiveness of key response activities
  6. e) Assessing the information collected to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges in the response and preparedness to ensure access and delivery of education and health services for students with disabilities
  7. f) Making recommendations for future emergency planning and preparedness
  8. The independent review committee membership should include, but not limited to school boards, students and other individuals with disabilities, and 2 to 3 members of the Education Accessibility K to 12 Standard Development Committee and supported by Ministry of Education staff.
  9. The report of the committee, or interim reports if the COVID-19 pandemic last more than one year, shall be submitted to the Premiere and Cabinet, and made public.
  1. The Ministry of Education should make its own online learning content accessible for persons with disabilities, including TVO and TFO as a provider of centralized support for online learning in the English-language and French-language publicly funded education systems, respectively.
  2. The Ministry of Education should direct its entire staff and all School Boards that whenever making information public in a Portable Document Format (PDF), it must at the same time, make available a textual format such as an accessible Microsoft Word (MSWord) or accessible HTML document. Videos must be audio described (DV) and closed captioned (CC). Templates and technical guides should be developed and provided to school boards.
  3. The Ministry of Education collect and make readily available resources/information on practices, effective strategies in learning environment, and alternate approaches for students struggling with online learning, etc. from School Boards, agencies and disability specific associations to ensure resources are readily available during an emergency.
  4. That Ministry of Education should model leadership to School Boards and provide accessible virtual learning webinars, templates for learning, etc. to be utilized in training administrators and teachers to ensure all educational and training resources are accessible remotely in case of an emergency.
  5. The Ministry of Education should provide guidelines for a coordinated training delivery model to support parents of students with rehabilitation needs, mental health concerns or who have complex or significant medically needs to access and continue education and health services remotely during an emergency.
  6. School Boards should ensure that its hub of learning resources specific to students with disabilities is accessible and available remotely to support teachers and students in their learning during an emergency.
  7. School Boards should plan to provide solely dedicated or designated staff, who are available to support technology including accessibility needs to parents who are supporting the learning needs of students with disabilities.
  8. The Ministry of Education’s Emergency Plan shall include the creation of a Central Education Leadership Command Table with the responsibility of ensuring that students with disabilities have access to all accommodations and supports during an emergency. Structure and membership shall be outlined in the plan, ensuring all students with disabilities and educational partnership groups are represented on the Central Education Leadership Command Table.
  9. School Boards’ Emergency plans shall include the creation of a similar Board Command/Central table as the Ministry of Education’s Central Education Command/Central Table, to develop its own emergency plan following the Ministry of Education’s Guidelines for Emergency Plans for School Boards.
  10. The School Board Emergency Plan should include establishment of a Command/Central Table during an emergency that will be responsible for:
  11. a) Receiving and acting on feedback from teachers, principals and families about problems they are encountering serving students with disabilities during an emergency event. The Table will quickly network with similar offices/Tables at other school boards and can report recurring issues to the Ministry’s command table.
  1. School Boards should utilize the expertise of the Special Education Advisory Committee members by directly involving members in developing the School Board’s Emergency Plan and planning for the delivery of remote learning, other emergency plans, through regular meetings and frequent communications.
  2. School Boards should involve their Accessibility Committee which will review all plans at the school board and school level for mitigating risk of an emergency and to meet the accessibility requirements of all students or persons with disabilities in the case of an emergency.
  3. In the School Board’s Emergency Plan, assign its Senior Staff member responsible for accessibility to ensure that all changes at schools in response to an emergency maintain accessibility for all students with disabilities.
  4. The Ministry of Education develop a rapid response team to receive feedback from school boards on recurring issues facing students with disabilities and to help find solutions to share with school boards.and quickly and resolve issues for students with disabilities as they arise during an emergency.
  5. Ministries should review policies and regulations to allow therapy supports and services that have transitioned successfully to a virtual learning environment be shared to geographic areas that have no access to these services.
  6. The Ministry of Education should develop curriculum for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 to enable students to develop the skills and knowledge they need for learning in a virtual learning environment. In the interim, the Ministry should share existing, accessible resources on this topic to teachers and School Boards

Major Theme 20: Setting Timelines for Action and Measures to ensure Compliance and Accountability

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Serious concerns have been expressed for several years about deficiencies in the Accessibility Ministry’s compliance/enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The second Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran in 2014 and the third such review conducted by David Onley in 2018 both called for Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act enforcement to be substantially strengthened. Their reports demonstrate that the slow progress on accessibility in Ontario has been due in part to shortcomings in the Ministry`s compliance/enforcement actions in the past. Despite the findings of those Independent Reviews, these deficiencies remain.

The compliance/enforcement actions of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act are more likely to succeed where there is clear delegation of responsibility and accountability within obligated organizations for compliance with the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard and where there is a clear, visible and renewed demonstration by the Government of Ontario of its commitment to achieve Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act compliance through greater education and rigorous regulatory action for willful lawbreakers.

The focus of compliance/enforcement activities should not simply be whether an obligated organization such as the Ontario Ministry of Education or a publicly funded school board has posted a policy on an action required by the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard. It is important to assess the end result i.e. whether obligated organizations have in fact removed and prevented disability barriers that impede students with disabilities and to assess whether students with disabilities are being effectively included in and fully participating in the opportunities that Ontario’s public education system provides to students.

 

The focus of compliance/enforcement activities should not simply be whether an obligated organization such as the Ontario Ministry of Education or a publicly funded school board has posted a policy on an action required by the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard. It is important to assess the end result i.e. whether obligated organizations have in fact removed and prevented disability barriers that impede students with disabilities and to assess whether students with disabilities are being effectively included in and fully participating in the opportunities that Ontario’s public education system provides to students.

Accountability and Compliance Recommendations:

Implementation Planning and Outcomes Measurement

  1. We are proposing that each obligated organization develop a detailed implementation plan, with measurable performance metrics and timelines for achieving milestones towards the implementation of the Standard. The identified performance metrics should have process requirements such as establishing committees with impacted stakeholders (such as students with disabilities) to oversee the implementation planning as well as specific timelines for completion.

It is important to assess the end result i.e. whether obligated organizations have in fact removed and prevented disability barriers that impede students with disabilities and to assess whether students with disabilities are being effectively included in and fully participating in the opportunities that Ontario’s education system provides to students (see Appendix 1 for a model implementation planning template).

Public Reporting: School Boards, College of Teachers and Government

  1. In terms of reporting, each obligated organization should be directed by the Accessibility Directorate to have a section on their web site that publicly reports on the implementation of the Standard. This could be in the form of an annual report, or a completion matrix of the organizations progress to date.
  1. In addition, The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario should be required to promptly make public a detailed, comprehensive annual and multi-year compliance/enforcement plan for the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard. It should publicly report quarterly on actions taken and actual accessibility improvements achieved.
  1. To help promote accountability and compliance, the Ministry of Education should be required to establish and maintain a public searchable data base where all reports, annual plans and updates posted or prepared by school boards or by the Ministry in compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act will be made available in an accessible format to the public.
  1. As part of the Government’s compliance/enforcement plan, it should establish and widely publicize a provincial toll-free number, and dedicated email address to receive complaints and concerns from students with disabilities their families or others regarding accessible education for students with disabilities. Those contacting this number should be advised to take up their concern first with the relevant obligated organization through its process for addressing such concerns, before bringing it to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. The Ministry should assign a rapid response team to take action where appropriate on input received from this phone number or email address. A summary of input/complaints received (with no identifying information) should be made public quarterly.
  1. Those appointed with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act compliance/enforcement powers who will be addressing the implementation of the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should have knowledge and any building permit process for a new school or major renovation should be required to comply with the built environment provisions of the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard in order to get a building permit. The project should be checked for compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and not just the Ontario Building Code in that process. In addition, the Accessibility Directorate should have staff with experience in the area of education of students with disabilities or should have a resource team whom they can regularly and readily consult who have that expertise. To avoid conflicts of interest, the members of that resource team should be independent of any organizations that have obligations under the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard.

Internal: School Boards

  1. In terms of school boards, the implementation plan and its milestones should be tabled with and receive input from their Special Education Advisory Committees and Accessibility Advisory Committees every 6 months. In addition, the implementation plan should also be tabled with the school board or board of trustees every 6 months until 2025 (during public board meetings). Student transportation consortia should also report to their respective school boards on their implementation plan.
  1. In terms of implementation planning, boards should build into their multi-year strategic plans accessibility outcomes as part of the process and required goals.

Reporting to the Government: School Boards, College of Teachers, Transportation consortia

  1. In addition, although the Accessibility Directorate has regulatory authority over its obligated organizations, we believe Boards should be also be required to report to the Ministry of Education (and the Accessibility Directorate) each quarter on the results of their implementation actions and performance. Reports should detail successes and challenges in meeting the requirements of the Education Accessibility Standard recommendation with proposed solutions or remediation efforts. The College of Teachers should have the same reporting requirements.

Ensuring Compliance Obligations: Audits and Reviews

As noted above, recent reports have documented how little oversight and enforcement currently exists with respect to various accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Given the relatively short timelines for the full implementation of these recommendations (by 2025 at the latest), we are recommending:

  1. The Accessibility Directorate conduct on-site inspections of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their facilities and educational programs and services as addressed in the Standard, and not just an audit of their paper records on accessibility documentation.
  1. The Accessibility Directorate conduct “implementation reviews” of a select number of school boards and the College of Teachers within 6 months of the government’s enactment of the Education Standards regulation. The purpose of these reviews is to ensure boards and the College have developed an implementation plan with performance metrics and designated responsibility centers and have started to move forward with the implementation of the Standard.
  1. The Accessibility Directorate conduct a compliance review or audit of Government of Ontario on a quarterly basis.
  1. Under s. 26 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Government should designate a tribunal to hear appeals from monetary penalties and compliance orders under the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard to a tribunal that has expertise in disability, human rights and education, such as the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Those appeals should not go to the License Appeal Tribunal, as is now the case under other Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s accessibility standards, because that commercial tribunal lacks the needed knowledge or expertise in the field of education for students with disabilities.

15-Page Summary of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Recommendations, summarized by the AODA Alliance

15-Page Summary of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Recommendations

June 23, 2021

Introduction

What should be done under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to tear down the many barriers that impede students with disabilities in Ontario schools between Kindergarten and Grade 12, so they can fully participate in and fully benefit from Ontario’s education system? What should we include in a promised new law, to be called the “Education Accessibility Standard”, so Ontario’s school system becomes barrier-free for students with disabilities by 2025? Here is a summary of the 20 themes in the draft or initial recommendations by a Government-appointed committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. Its members are drawn from the disability community and the school system. They want your feedback. At the end of this summary is a backgrounder.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance prepared this summary. We urge one and all to read The Standard Development Committee’s entire 185-page report and to send The Government your feedback on it by September 2, 2021 by writing educationSDC@ontario.caz

Objective of the Education Accessibility Standard

The Education Accessibility Standard’s objective is that by 2025, the publicly funded K-12 education system will be fully accessible, equitable, inclusive and learner-centered:

  1. A) By removing and preventing accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities from fully participating in, and fully benefitting from all aspects of the education system, and
  2. B) By providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process to learn about and seek programs, services, supports, accommodations and placements tailored to the individual strengths and needs of each student with disabilities

…We envision an Ontario public education system K-12 where learning environments are barrier free and fully inclusive of learners with disabilities. All learners with disabilities will have full access to meaningful education and relevant learning experiences that include appropriate instructional supports.

Major Theme 1: Ensure that Schools Effectively Serve All Students with Any Kind of Disability

Ontario’s special education system is now designed to only serve students with a condition that falls within the Ministry of Education’s out-dated definition of “exceptionality.” That definition leaves out some disabilities. It includes some students who have no disability.

Under the Standards Development Committee ‘s recommendations, all disability-related education supports would be available to all students with any kind of disabilities.

Major Theme 2: Training on Disability Accessibility for Everyone Involved in Ontario’s Schools

School boards should provide training on disability accessibility and inclusion for teachers, school staff, parents and all students. Training standards and requirements for teachers and other educational staff who provide specialized support for students with disabilities should be increased.

The Ministry of Education should develop models for this training, which school boards could use. The Ontario College of Teachers and university Faculties of Education should ensure that people trained to be teachers receive effective training on how to teach students with disabilities. Knowledge and experience on inclusion of and full participation by students with disabilities should become an important hiring and promotion criterion for principals, vice-principals and teaching staff.

School curriculum should include lessons about the accessibility barriers facing people with disabilities, and how to remove and prevent them.

Major Theme 3: Removing and Preventing Digital Disability Barriers in Ontario Schools

School boards need to take extensive new proactive measures to tear down the digital accessibility barriers that impede students with disabilities. For example, school boards should design and implement a digital accessibility action plan. Each board should designate an accessible “digital accessibility lead” to support educators in the procurement and use of digital technologies, and to be responsible for all digital information.

Digital technology procured for students and teachers should be accessible, using universal design principles. Books and other instructional materials for use by students, parents or others in the school community should be in accessible formats, as should report cards and other important documents used with students and/or their families. If pdf is used, other accessible formats should be provided at the same time, because pdfs present accessibility problems.

Students who are provided assistive technology for use at school should be permitted to take it home for home use. School boards should remove barriers that prevent students with disabilities from fully accessing adaptive technologies such as restrictions on being able to install apps on laptop computers or mobile devices, or firewalls that restrict access to websites needed to facilitate the use of adaptive technology. The Ministry’s program for funding adaptive technology for students with disabilities should not bar the use of any category of needed adaptive technology, such as smart phones.

The Government should ensure that distance learning becomes accessible to students with disabilities. For example, TVO should make its online learning content accessible to persons with disabilities, and should promptly make public a plan of action to achieve this goal. The Ministry of Education should make public a plan of action to swiftly make its own online learning content accessible for persons with disabilities. Only accessible platforms for distance learning should be permitted in Ontario schools.

Major Theme 4: Ensuring Accessible Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction

The Standards Development Committee made many recommendations aimed at the design of curriculum taught in school, at how students are taught in school, and at how student learning is tested or assessed in school. Curriculum, student instruction and student assessment should be reformed to ensure that they are barrier-free and fully accessible for students with disabilities. This includes ensuring that principles of universal design in learning and differential instruction are built into them. The Ministry of Education should develop tools to help school boards implement these requirements. The Ministry should designate an office or person with lead responsibility for ongoing review of provincially mandated curriculum and resources offered to school boards, for removing accessibility barriers.

Specific strategies are needed to ensure that such things as STEM (science, technology, engineering and Math), physical education, French language immersion, and other specialty programs are accessible to and effectively accommodate students with disabilities.

The Ministry of Education should ensure that school boards use barrier-free tests and other assessments for student performance. The Ministry should provide guides and resources to school boards on how to do this. The Ministry and school boards should monitor student assessments to ensure that they are barrier-free for students with disabilities. The Ministry should ensure that all provincial standardized tests are barrier-free for students with disabilities.

Major Theme 5: Substantially Strengthen Individual Education Plans (IEPs)

A key way Ontario’s education system tries to serve students with disabilities is by having school boards develop and implement an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each student with special education needs. The Standards Development Committee found that there are important shortcomings with the current regime for these. For example, Ontario’s requirements only apply for students whose disability falls within the out-dated and narrow term “exceptionality.” IEPs should be available for all students with disabilities, whether or not their disability falls within the term “exceptionality.”

The Standards Development Committee recommends that any student with any kind of disability should be entitled to an IEP if they, their family or the school things one would help. An IEP should document in one place all the measures for the student’s disability-related accommodation. The content and implementation of IEPs should be periodically audited to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities are being met.

Major Theme 6: Expanding and Strengthening Parent and Student Participation In the Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Parents /guardians of students with disabilities, and students with disabilities themselves, need direct, easy access to important information about the menu of programs, services, supports and accommodations available for students including students with disabilities, and how to request or advocate for them. They have a right to know all the important information they need including what is available, what persons and what office to approach to get this information or to request or change the student’s placements, programs, supports, services or accommodations, or to raise concerns about whether the school board is effectively meeting the student’s disability-related education needs.

This information should be easy to find. It should be readily available in accessible formats, plain language and multiple languages. Parents report that too often, it is very difficult to find out this important and basic information. It is inefficient and unreliable to leave this responsibility to individual principals, spread across Ontario, to each deal with this as they choose. Each school should implement a series of measures to ensure that parents of students with disabilities and the students have ready access to all this information.

Parents/guardians of students with disabilities report that too often, they find it very difficult frustrating and demoralizing to advocate for their child’s needs in the school system. Depending on the board, the school and the people involved, it can be welcoming, positive and cooperative, or alienating, bureaucratic and rigid.

The school should offer every family of a student with disabilities a meeting to discuss what should be included in the IEP (an IEP meeting) If any participant in the meeting, such as the student or their parents, need a disability accommodation to participate, this should be provided.

School boards should offer families a system navigator to help them make their way through the bewildering process of trying to get their child’s disability-related needs accommodated. If the family or student think the IEP does not include measures they need, or that the school is not implementing all or part of the IEP, they should have access to a swift, fair, effective internal appeal within the school board. The appeal should be to a board employee or an outside mediator who have expertise in educating students with disabilities, and who was not involved in the actions under appeal.

Students with a disability who move from school board to school board, or school to school, should have the right to an Individual Education Plan with same or comparable programs, services and accommodations. If the school board, or the school to which the student transfers, proposes to deny or to reduce those accommodations or supports, the parent/guardian/student should be able to take their concern to the dispute resolution process. All accommodations shall be maintained until and unless, the school board has justified a reduction of those accommodations.

Major Theme 7: Access for Students with Disabilities to Timely Professional Assessments Needed for Disability Accommodation

Often, students with disabilities need an expert or professional assessment of disability-related needs. There are too often great delays in getting these assessments. The Standards Development Committee made recommendations to speed up these assessments.

Major Theme 8: Reforming the Process for a School Board Identifying and Making the Placement of Student with Disabilities

The current system for a school board’s formal identification and placement of students with disabilities creates barriers for students with disabilities. For a formal decision on a student’s identification and placement, one must have a hearing before a school board committee called an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC). The IPRC can only decide on whether the student falls within the definition of “exceptional pupil” and on the students’ “placement”. It can only make recommendations but not binding decisions on the student’s “program” or services”.

More than half of the students receiving special education services and who have an IEP were not identified through an IPRC. This strongly suggests this process is irrelevant to many.

Many school staff and families complain about the IPRC’s administrative burden and delays that can create barriers.

IPRCs are hampered by the arbitrary, undefined and confusing distinction between define “placement” on which the IPRC can decide, and inseparable issues concerning “program” or “services” upon which the IPRC cannot decide.

Families report that they don’t understand the IPRC process or feel included in it. Frequently the meetings are short, and families feel rushed. In addition, families who don’t understand the process may waive their right to a review.

The Standards Development Committee recommended that the IPRC system be reviewed, reformed or replaced with a process that is swift, fair, and user-friendly. Decisions over a student’s placement should not be arbitrarily hived off from decisions over their supports, programs, services and accommodations.

Major Theme 9: Ministry of Education and School Boards Should Each Embed Accessibility Oversight in Their Operations

Several recommendations call for the Ministry of Education and each school board to put in place new measures to ensure that school boards effectively serve students with disabilities.

The Ministry of Education should designate an office or role, such as an Assistant Deputy Minister, responsible for achieving a barrier-free and accessible school system for students with disabilities. A Ministry Ombudsman for complaints regarding disability-related needs of students with disabilities should be created. The Ministry should annually audit school board effectiveness at serving students with disabilities, review disability issues and barriers in Ontario schools, plan strategies to address them, and publicly report on these efforts.

Each school board should ensure that its schools create an accessible and welcoming environment for students with disabilities and their families, including family members with disabilities. This includes ensuring schools encourage and make it easy to seek accommodations for disabilities. Each school board should create a board accessibility committee, school level accessibility committees, and a network of teachers and staff with disabilities. Each board should designate a senior official with lead responsibility for advancing the goal of disability accessibility. Each school board should create and implement multi-year accessibility plans that address all disability barriers, and not just those identified in earlier limited AODA accessibility standards. The board should publicly report on the plan’s implementation.

Major Theme 10: Recommendations Regarding Disability-Specific Needs

Some Standards Development Committee recommendations focus on a specific disability, such as autism. As well, there is a recognized need to better serve students with low-incidence disabilities such as vision loss, which chronically receive less attention from the Ministry of Education and school boards.

Ontario should upgrade its substandard training requirements for teachers of the visually impaired. Where needed, specific added disability-focused curriculum should be required for teaching students with specific disabilities that need this. For example, each school board should be required to teach students with vision loss the Expanded Core Curriculum that has been internationally recognized.

Major Theme 11: Reducing the Exclusions/Refusals to Admit to School/Reduced School Hours

Parents voiced concerns with the principal’s power to exclude students from school. (Also called refusal to admit to school) Section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act requires principals:

“Subject to an appeal to the board, to refuse to admit to the school or classroom a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well being of the pupils.”

Concerns are expressed that a significant proportion of those excluded from school are students with disabilities. The Ministry of Education does not require school boards to track data on exclusions from school.

There is a lack of due process, such as parents not being told the reason for the refusal to admit their child to school, or how to challenge it. There is no limit on how long the refusal to admit can continue. There need not be a plan for the student’s return to school and no assured provision of alternative education program while the student is excluded. There is no consistent, fair process to appeal a child’s exclusion from school. Concerns have been raised that in some situations, a student with disabilities is excluded from school directly or indirectly because the school has not effectively accommodated that student’s disability.

There are many stories from parents about formal and informal arrangements for a student with disabilities to attend for less than the full school day without parents’ voluntary consent. There are no consistent practices for when or how this can occur, the documentation to be kept, or plans for return to full time school.

An AODA Alliance survey of Ontario school boards showed that a majority of boards have no policy on how and when a principal may refuse to admit a student. Of the 33 boards for which a policy was obtained, these policies vary substantially. A student, excluded from school, and their parents are treated very differently from one board to the next. Students and parents across Ontario deserve the same safeguards. Principals are placed in a difficult position, not knowing what they can and should do.

The Standards Development Committee’s recommendations seek to reduce or eliminate the number and duration of exclusion of students with disabilities. It makes detailed recommendations to reduce how and when a student can be excluded from school. The student and their family would be entitled to know the reason for the exclusion from school and its duration. An excluded student would have a right to receive their education while excluded from school. Students would have a right to a fair process before, during and after an exclusion from school. School boards should track and make public data on how often students are excluded from school.

Major Theme 12: Improving Collection of Data on Education of Students with Disabilities

The Ministry of Education regularly requires school boards to collect and report very extensive data on teachers, staff, students and other aspects of board operation. Yet the Ministry collects far too little data on the numbers and needs of students with disabilities, and on what is being done to meet those needs. The Standards Development Committee called for a substantial increase in the collection and public availability of data regarding students with disabilities.

Major Theme 13: Addressing Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Social Realms

The Standards Development Committee made detailed recommendations to better enable students with disabilities to participate in social activities in connection with school. This includes, for example, ensuring that activities to take place off school grounds are held in accessible locations, providing staff assistance to help ensure that students with disabilities can socialize with other students, and taking anti-bullying measures.

Major Theme 14: Addressing Disability Barriers in School Transportation

In 2011, the Ontario Government enacted the AODA Transportation Accessibility Standard. It includes provisions aimed at transportation of students with disabilities. After a decade, it is clear that these have not ensured that these transportation services are accessible for students with disabilities. Therefore, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee made recommendations to ensure that student transportation for students with disabilities is accessible.

The Standards Development Committee recommended that school boards consult individually with each family to identify accessibility and accommodation needs of the student with disabilities regarding transportation, and ensure drivers are properly trained to accommodate each student’s disability needs. If a bus driver is replaced, the school board should ensure that the replacement is given the same training before driving the student, or, in an emergency, as soon as possible.

Each school board should designate a reachable official especially during working hours when students are being transported, to receive and address phone calls, emails and text messages from a family about problems with a student’s transportation.

Major Theme 15: Addressing Disability Barriers to Experiential / Co-Op Learning

People with disabilities face extraordinarily high unemployment rates. Getting the chance for an experiential learning or co-op placement while in school can be the gateway, if not the only gateway, to that first letter of reference. A student’s first letter of reference is essential to getting their first job.

It is important for school boards to provide informal advice and support to all employers, including small businesses.

To ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in experiential learning programs, each school board should review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers and ensure that there will be a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate. School boards should ensure that partner organizations that accept its students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities.

Major Theme 16: Removing Disability Barriers to a Student Bringing a Trained Service Animal to School

Some students on the autism spectrum and their families have reported having difficulties at some school boards with being allowed to bring a service animal to school and have had to take legal action against a school board. Others succeeded in bringing their service animal to school.

The Standards Development Committee made recommendations to require any school board to follow a series of swift and fair steps, when a student with disabilities asks to bring a trained service animal to school with them. For example, if the school board has any objection to or concerns about the request, the school board will immediately notify the family about the specific concerns, and shall work to resolve them.

If the school board does not believe that the service animal could assist the student at school, the board should investigate the request, including how the student benefits from the service animal outside the school and at home. If the school board has concerns about the feasibility of allowing the student to bring the service animal to school, it shall investigate the experience of other school boards and schools which have successfully enabled a student to bring their service animal to school.

If a concern is expressed that the service animal at school would interfere with the human rights of other students or staff, the school board shall take action to effectively accommodate their rights without sacrificing the human rights of the student using the service animal. For example, if an EA, assigned to work with the student, cannot work with the service animal for health or other human rights reasons, the school board should assign this to another staff member.

A student shall not be refused the opportunity to bring a qualified service animal to school without the school board first allowing a trial or test period with the service animal at school. If the school board does not agree to the service animal being allowed at school, or if there is a problem with implementing the school board’s plans to facilitate its inclusion, the school board shall make available a swift dispute resolution process. Nothing in the accessibility standard shall reduce or restrict the rights of a person with vision loss bringing with them their guide dog, trained by an accredited school.

Major Theme 17: Addressing Physical and Architectural Barriers

Too often, the built environment where K-12 education programming is offered, have physical barriers that can impede some students with disabilities from being able to enter or independently move around. These barriers also impede parents, teachers and other staff and volunteers with disabilities.

The Ontario Ministry of Education does not effectively survey all school buildings to ensure that they are accessible, or to catalogue needed accessibility improvements. Ministry of Education’s specifications for new school construction do not ensure that news schools are accessible.

The Standards Development Committee recommends that the Education Accessibility Standard should include specific requirements to be included in a new school, requirements to be included in a renovation of or an addition to an existing school, and retrofit requirements for an existing school not slated for a major renovation. Its detailed recommendations, beyond what the Ontario Building Code and existing AODA standards minimally require, are set out in full in the June 16, 2021 AODA Alliance Update. They do not only include the needs of people with mobility disabilities. They include people with other disabilities such as (but not limited to) people with vision and/or hearing loss, autism, intellectual or developmental disabilities, learning disabilities or mental health disorders.

Each school board should develop a plan to ensure that the built environment of its schools and other educational facilities becomes fully accessible to persons with disabilities as soon as reasonably possible, and in any event, no later than 2025. As a first step, each school board should develop a plan for making as many of its schools’ disability-accessible within its current financial context. They should identify which existing schools can be more easily made accessible. An interim plan should be developed to show what progress towards full physical accessibility can be made by first addressing schools that would require less money to be made physically more accessible.

When a school board seeks to hire design professionals, such as architects, interior designers or landscape architects, for a school project the school board should include in any Request for Proposal a mandatory requirement that the design professional must have sufficient demonstrated expertise in accessibility design. This includes accessibility needs of people with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those with mobility impairments. A properly qualified and experienced accessibility consultant should be retained by the school board (and not necessarily by a private architecture firm) to advise on the project from the outset, with their advice being transmitted directly to the school board.

Where possible, a school board should not renovate an existing school that lacks disability accessibility, unless the school board has a plan to make that school accessible. For example, a school board should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a school which lacks accessibility to the second storey, if the school board 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.

When a school board decides which schools to close due to reduced enrollment, a priority should be placed on keeping open schools with more physical accessibility, while a priority should be given to closing schools that are the most lacking in accessibility, or for which retrofitting is the most costly.

Each school board should take an inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor play spaces and gym and playground equipment, and make this public. Each board should adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of new gym or playground equipment.

Major Theme 18: Accessible Transitions for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities can encounter difficulties with transitions from one school to another, from elementary school to high school, from school to post-secondary education or from school to work. Detailed recommendations are offered to help with these transitions. For example, each school board should develop and create the role of the Transition Facilitator/Navigator to work with students and their families in collaboration with school staff, and community agencies to develop and carry out transition plans.

To help with transitions, where possible, and to the point of undue hardship, each school board should allow siblings of a student with a disability who attends a special education program outside of their home school, to attend that same school within that school board if requested by the family.

Each school board should ensure that students with an IPRC, and their parents/guardians, are informed in grades 7 through 10 about the importance of updating their assessment during Grade 11 and 12. School boards should ensure that students in Grades 11 and 12 are informed during their IEP review/renewal meetings and transition support meetings if/when their formal professional assessment should be updated.

Major Theme 19: Planning for Emergencies

A subcommittee of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee submitted a comprehensive package of excellent recommendations to the Ontario Government on July 24, 2020 on how to address the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee distilled those recommendations for future use in its March 12, 2021 initial report/recommendations. The following are some key recommendations.

The Ministry of Education should establish an independent review committee as soon as possible to assess the COVID-19 response by the Ministry of Education and School Boards from the perspective of students with disabilities, and to make recommendations for future emergency preparedness.

The Ministry of Education’s future Emergency Plan shall include the creation of a Central Education Leadership Command Table with the responsibility of ensuring that students with disabilities have access to all accommodations and supports during an emergency. The Ministry of Education should develop a rapid response team to receive feedback from school boards on recurring issues facing students with disabilities and to help find solutions to share with school boards, and quickly and issues for students with disabilities as they arise during an emergency. The Ministry of Education should collect and make readily available resources/information on practices, effective strategies in learning environment, and alternate approaches for students struggling with online learning, etc.

School Boards’ Emergency plans shall include the creation of a similar Board Command/Central Table, to develop its own emergency plan. A senior school board staff member should be assigned to be responsible for accessibility, to ensure that all changes at schools in response to an emergency maintain accessibility for all students with disabilities. School Boards should plan to provide staff to support technology including accessibility needs to parents who are supporting the learning needs of students with disabilities during distance learning.

Major Theme 20: Setting Timelines for Action and Measures to Ensure Accountability

Serious concerns have been expressed for several years about deficiencies in the Accessibility Ministry’s compliance/enforcement of the AODA. The second Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran in 2014 and the third such review conducted by Hon. David Onley in 2018 both called for Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act enforcement to be substantially strengthened. Their reports demonstrate that the slow progress on accessibility in Ontario has been due in part to shortcomings in the Ministry’s compliance/enforcement actions in the past. These deficiencies remain.

The focus of compliance/enforcement should not simply be whether an obligated organization such as the Ministry of Education or a publicly funded school board has posted a policy on an action required by the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard. It is important to assess the end result i.e. whether obligated organizations have in fact removed and prevented disability barriers that impede students with disabilities and to assess whether students with disabilities are being effectively included in and fully participating in the opportunities that Ontario’s public education system provides to students.

The Accessibility Directorate should conduct on-site inspections of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their facilities and educational programs and services as addressed in the Standard, and not just an audit of their paper records on accessibility documentation.

To promote accountability and compliance, the Ministry of Education should establish and maintain a public searchable database where all reports, annual plans and updates posted or prepared by school boards or by the Ministry in compliance with the AODA will be made available in an accessible format to the public. As part of the Government’s compliance/enforcement plan, it should establish and widely publicize a provincial toll-free number, and dedicated email address to receive complaints and concerns from students with disabilities their families or others regarding accessible education for students with disabilities. The Ministry should assign a rapid response team to take action where appropriate on feedback there received. A summary of input/complaints received (with no identifying information) should be made public quarterly.

In addition, the Accessibility Directorate should have staff with experience in the area of education of students with disabilities or should have a resource team whom they can regularly and readily consult.

Any building project for a new school or major renovation should be required to comply with the built environment provisions of the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard to get a building permit. The project should be checked for compliance with the AODA and not just the Ontario Building Code.

Background to this Summary

The Ontario Government committed to enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It appointed an advisory committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, to develop recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

On June 1, 2021, the Ontario Government made public the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations. The Government gave the public up to September 2, 2021 to send the Standards Development Committee feedback on its initial recommendations. The Standards Development Committee can use that feedback to refine and finalize its report and recommendations to The Government.

The Standards Development Committee’s initial report and recommendations is 185 pages long. To assist the public, the AODA Alliance prepared a 55-page condensed and annotated version of it. For those who want an even shorter version, the AODA Alliance prepared this summary. The AODA Alliance, and not the Standards Development Committee, is solely responsible for the preparation of both that 55-page condensed version and for this shorter summary. Both the 55-page condensed version and this shorter summary add some of our own headings, and re-arrange the sequence of some of the recommendations. Of course, some content is inevitably omitted when summarizing so much information. In this summary the wording is an inextricable blend of the Committee’s own text and our effort at summarizing it.

The initial recommendations were approved by at least 75% of the entire Standards Development Committee. Half of the Standards Development Committee is made up of disability community representatives. The other half of the Committee comes from the education system. The AODA Alliance endorses the entire 185-page report.

Tell the Ford Government, School Boards and Others To Use Recommended New Standard for Ensuring Accessibility of the Built Environment

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 the Ford Government, School Boards and Others  To Use Recommended New Standard for Ensuring Accessibility of the Built Environment

June 16, 2021

            SUMMARY

Ontario desperately needs to modernize its outdated laws to ensure that buildings and the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The Ford Government has received a promising blueprint for this. This can help propel Ontario in the right direction towards becoming accessible to people with disabilities. Will the Ford Government act?

Below you can find one important part of the initial recommendations of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. These initial recommendations, which the Ford Government made public on June 1, 2021. This excerpt outlines what should be required for a school building to become physically accessible to students, school staff and family members with disabilities. We will have lots more to say in the coming days about the many other important initial recommendations that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee offered for public feedback.

Many incorrectly think that the Ontario Building Code and accessibility standards enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act require a new building or major renovations to be accessible for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the physical accessibility requirements in those laws are grossly inadequate. The AODA Alliance gives compelling examples of this in three captioned online videos. These videos have been viewed thousands of times. These show serious accessibility problems in the Ryerson University’s new Student Learning Centre, in Centennial College’s new Culinary arts Centre, and in several new public transit stations in Toronto.

Two different AODA Independent Reviews, the 2014 Independent Review by Mayo Moran and the 2019 Independent Review by David Onley, each identified the disability barriers in the built environment as a priority. They both called for strong new action under the AODA. That action has not taken place.

Here’s what we set out below that is new and helpful to combat this situation. Written in non-technical language, is a list of important features that should be included in a building’s design. It is in a report that specifically talks about barriers facing students with disabilities in school. However, the recommendations listed below can equally apply to virtually any kind of building, not just schools.

These proposed requirements should be incorporated into the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards for buildings generally. In the meantime, and until they are enacted in laws, they should be followed whenever buildings, and especially public buildings are designed. This includes schools, hospitals, colleges, universities, government or private offices and any other public building.

These initial recommendations are the product of a joint collaboration between disability community and education sector representatives. The membership of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee which approved these initial recommendations was appointed by the Ontario Government. Half of its members are drawn from the disability community, including AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other half of the committee’s members are drawn from the education sector at all levels, including teachers, school board staff, and school board trustees. For an initial recommendation to be approved, the Ontario Government requires that it be supported by at least 75% of the committee’s membership.

Here is how the Ford Government can get an immediate start. Last summer, the Ford Government announced that at least a half a billion dollars were to be spent on new schools, and on major additions to existing schools. However the Government made no commitments that those new construction projects would be accessible to people with disabilities, and announced no new measures to achieve that goal. The Ontario Government should now require that those new school construction projects incorporate the accessibility requirements below. As well, even if the Ford Government does not act, school boards that will be undertaking these or any other construction projects can and should themselves use these recommendations in their building designs.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee confirmed in its initial recommendations report that the Ministry of Education does not now have a standard that sets accessibility requirements for school construction projects that the Government funds. Neither the Ontario Building Code nor AODA accessibility standards impose the requirements set out below.

Up to September 2, 2021, it is open to the public to send feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on all its initial recommendations, including those set out below. We encourage everyone to send the Government that feedback. Send your feedback to the Government at educationSDC@ontario.ca

We again urge the Ontario Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to develop a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. The recommendations set out below would provide a great starting point for their discussions.

When he was seeking the public’s votes in the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford made specific commitments regarding the disability barriers in the built environment. Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s election commitments on disability accessibility, included:

  1. a) “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.”
  1. b) “Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.”
  1. c) “Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”
  1. d) “This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

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

To learn more about the campaign to get Ontario to enact a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard, visit the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

To learn more about the campaign to get the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard, visit the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page.

To download the entire set of initial recommendations by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/download-in-ms-word-format-the-ontario-governments-survey-on-the-initial-or-draft-recommendations-of-the-k-12-education-standards-development-committee/

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

At the AODA Alliance’s Request, CTV Commendably Corrects an Inaccurate Online News Report About Ontario’s Critical Care Triage Plans

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/

At the AODA Alliance’s Request, CTV Commendably Corrects an Inaccurate Online News Report About Ontario’s Critical Care Triage Plans

June 8, 2021

            SUMMARY

Who watches the watchers? Once again, the AODA Alliance has had to do so, when it comes to monitoring media coverage or lack of coverage of the danger since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic of disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical care in Ontario hospitals.

This is Part 2 of our own coverage on this important question. The June 7, 2021 AODA Alliance Update described how CBC’s flagship national daytime current affairs radio program “The Current” has failed to cover the dangers of disability discrimination in critical care triage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we look to another network and another story—one with an eventual  happy ending.

Back on April 28, 2021, CTV’s nightly national TV news program commendably covered the danger of critical care triage in Ontario. It is good that its report included a reference to disability concerns.

However, CTV’s online news report on this issue (unlike its shorter broadcast TV news item) inaccurately stated as a fact that under Ontario’s critical care triage protocol, people with disabilities are to be treated no differently than others. It stated:

“The triage guidelines specify that people with disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population…”

That statement of fact was absolutely and provably incorrect. We were not contacted by CTV before that story ran.

This story appeared to the AODA Alliance to possibly be one that the physicians at the centre of planning the Ontario critical care triage protocol may have brought to the media. It has the focus and sound of the message that they espoused.

On April 30, 2021, the AODA Alliance reached out by email to CTV news. We showed how that statement was factually wrong. To its credit, after some back-and-forth exchanges, at our request CTV news removed that harmfully inaccurate statement from its online report. We very much appreciate that this story was corrected.

Around May 6, 2021, CTV updated this online story in response to our concerns. However, the change was not an effective solution. The line, quoted above, was revised to read as follows, which was also factually inaccurate:

“The triage guidelines specify that people with pre-existing disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population…”

As well, the following was commendably added later in the story:

“Disability advocates, backed by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, have raised human rights and discriminatory concerns about the protocol in letters to the provincial government.”

On May 18 and 19, 2021, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky again wrote CTV about this story. While appreciating CTV’s effort to correct it, CTV was told that it was still inaccurate for the story to state as a fact that people with pre-existing disabilities are not to be treated any differently than the rest of the population under Ontario’s critical care triage protocol. Shortly after that, CTV again revised the online story to remove the entire unfactual statement. The following words were removed from it:

“The triage guidelines specify that people with disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population…”

As well the online CTV story now includes a link to the AODA Alliance’s detailed February 25, 2021 report on disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.

Below you can read the following:

  1. a) the original version of this CTV story as posted online on April 28, 2021.
  1. b) the AODA Alliance’s April 30, 2021 email to CTV news.
  1. c) The revised CTV online story as of May 6, 2021.
  1. d) The May 18 and 19, 2021 emails from the AODA Alliance to CTV, and
  1. e) The final version of the story as it now appears online.

We applaud CTV for correcting this story, and for being open to our feedback on it. We have urged CTV’s national news to do a story specifically focusing on the disability discrimination problems with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol. They have not yet done so. It remains an immediate and important story. Things are better in Ontario, but there has been no public accounting for the disability discrimination now embedded in hospital training across Ontario. As well, Manitoba is facing an immediate danger of possible critical care triage.

In contrast, CBC TV’s The National commendably ran a 7-minute story on that topic on 18, 2021. That was a very lengthy story for a national TV news program.

Who watches the watchers? The AODA Alliance and people with disabilities must do so!

For more background on this issue, check out:

  1. The online captioned video talk on this issue by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, seen over 1,000 times, and
  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page.

1          MORE DETAILS

 CTV News April 28, 2021

Originally posted at

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/ontario-hospitals-on-the-verge-of-enacting-last-resort-triage-protocols-1.5406746

Ontario hospitals on the verge of enacting ‘last resort’ triage protocols

Avis Favaro

Medical Correspondent, CTV National News

@ctv_avisfavaro

Elizabeth St. Philip

CTV News

@LizTV

Ben Cousins

CTVNews.ca Writer

@cousins_ben

Published Wednesday, April 28, 2021 10:00PM EDT

TORONTO — As intensive care admissions climb to dangerously high levels in Ontario, health-care workers in the province worry they might soon be forced into the worst-case scenario of choosing who gets the best care and who doesn’t.

On Wednesday, Ontario reported 3,480 new COVID-19 cases. Although a third wave in the province appears to be levelling off, the number of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care units (ICUs) is steadily climbing, to the point where the province is getting assistance from Newfoundland and Labrador and the Canadian military.

The province also reported on Wednesday that 2,281 patients are currently hospitalized, with 877 patients in intensive care.

It’s believed the province could be forced to enact triage protocols if ICU admissions related to COVID-19 exceed 900.

“I just can’t say strongly enough just what a horrible position we’re in the health-care sector right now and why it’s so important that we really drive these numbers to the ground,” Dr. Chris Simpson, a cardiologist and executive vice-president of Ontario Health, told CTV News.

“We simply have to get COVID under control if we’re going to have our health-care system back in a functional state again.”

Ontario’s triage protocols, developed in January, are meant as a last resort to determine who should be given intensive care when the demand for critical care exceeds the supply.

“It’s going to be extremely emotionally difficult for staff to have to make these decisions to tell family members that we’re not able to offer ICU-level treatments that we would have been able to offer in the past,” said Dr. Erin O’Connor, the deputy medical director of the University Health Network emergency departments.

The situation is already dire in the Toronto area, where health officials have been forced to transport patients to other districts as ICU beds in the city fill up. Ontario’s COVID-19 modelling numbers from April 16 suggest the province could see nearly 10,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by the end of May, even under strong public health restrictions.

“There is a wall that’s going to be hit at some point,” Simpson said. “We don’t know where that is yet. We do believe we can build about 200 new ICU beds per week for the next three weeks or so. It gets increasingly tougher, but we think that that will take us into mid-May and we can only hope that things will be cresting by that point.”

Under the triage protocols, all patients are assigned four colours — red, purple, yellow and green — depending on how doctors perceive a patient’s likelihood of surviving for another 12 months. Patients deemed red are predicted to have a 20-per-cent chance of surviving for the year, while patients deemed in the green have more than a 70-per-cent chance of surviving.

Under this system, ICU beds would be given to the green patients first, followed by yellow, purple and red.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not going to care for people,” O’Connor said. “We’re going to offer as much medical care as we possibly can, but some people won’t be able to be on a ventilator — people that we would have put on a ventilator in the past — simply because we’re in a situation where we’re dealing with scarce resources.”

The triage system puts doctors and other health-care workers in the unenviable position of deciding who does not receive the best possible care. It would even require doctors to decide who to withdraw from ICU care if they’re unlikely to survive for another year.

For O’Connor, the prospect having to tell a patient and their family that the province cannot provide them with the best care could have long-term consequences on the entire health-care system in Ontario.

“The hardest part really is going to be making these decisions,” she said. “This is going to take a really large emotional toll and I worry about my staff and I worry about people — after this — leaving medicine because they’re not going to be able to recover.”

“This is not what we’re trained to do. It’s not what we thought we would ever have to do in our careers.”

The triage guidelines are also terrifying for people with disabilities, advanced age or pre-existing conditions.

“There’s also this very real concern that I may be denied care based on protocols that say that I have a less likely chance of surviving,” said Jeff Preston, who has a neuromuscular disorder and works as an assistant professor of disability studies at King’s University College, an affiliate of Western University in London, Ont.

“It’s one thing to get COVID and die, it’s a whole other thing to say, as a Canadian citizen, I might not actually have the same access to health care that other Canadians are going to receive and that hurts in a different way.”

The triage guidelines specify that people with disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population, but Preston is skeptical in part because doctors sometimes incorrectly estimate life expectancy of people with these conditions.

“When I was first diagnosed as a baby, they did not believe I was going to survive more than a couple of years,” he said. “They predicted that I would probably die before four or five years old. Now here I am, almost 40 years old, many years later and that prognosis didn’t turn out to be true.”

QUEBEC ‘FAR FROM TRIGGERING’ TRIAGE PROTOCOLS

Other provinces have also developed similar triage protocols in the event ICU admissions exceed the available beds.

In Quebec for example, prioritization protocols are similar to Ontario’s and those who do not receive ICU admission “will not be abandoned; they will continue to receive other care, the most appropriate for their condition and possible in the context,” according to a statement from Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services.

The department added that it is “far from triggering” the prioritization protocols and has not done so since the start of the pandemic. It has also expanded ICU capacity for COVID-19 patients to hopefully make sure it doesn’t happen.

“This scenario is one of last resort that we want to avoid at all costs,” the statement read. “That is why we are asking Quebecers for their contribution by reducing their contact as much as possible and by rigorously applying the recommended health measures.”

In Saskatchewan, triage protocols will consider a patient’s chance at survival, but also the length of time a patient may require the most care.

“These assessments must be based on the best available scientific evidence,” the Saskatchewan Health Authority wrote in a statement.

“Patients who are not going to receive ICU level of care will receive compassionate care. The sick and dying would not be abandoned. If a patient is not expected to survive, palliative or comfort care would be provided to reduce pain and suffering.”

intensive care admissions

As intensive care admissions climb to dangerously high levels in Ontario, health-care workers in the province worry they might soon be forced into the worst-case scenario of choosing who gets the best care and who doesn’t.

April 30, 2021 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to CTV News

CTV’s online April 28, 2021 online news report on the issue of critical care triage in Ontario, entitled “Ontario hospitals on the verge of enacting ‘last resort’ triage protocols”, includes a seriously inaccurate and deeply disturbing statement that needs to be rectified. It states:

“The triage guidelines specify that people with disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population…”

In fact, and contrary to what CTV reports, the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol explicitly directs that a patient’s disability IS a factor that in some cases is to be weighed AGAINST their getting access to the life-saving critical care they need, if Ontario has more patients needing critical care than it has critical care beds and supports.

For example, if a cancer patient needs critical care, they 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, 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. In both examples, this is disability discrimination, pure and simple.

This is not open to factual debate. The secret January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol has been posted on the AODA Alliance website for over three months. No one has disputed that those two features are in the protocol. They can also be found in the terrifying online calculator that we made public, and that critical care doctors are being told to use if critical care triage takes place.

The presence of disability discrimination in the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol has led leading disability organizations to publicly demand that this disability discrimination be removed from it. See our efforts on this at www.aodaalliance.org/healthcare It has led the Ontario Human Rights Commission to raise serious concerns. As well, fully six members of the Ontario Government’s own advisory Bioethics Table have been publicly critical of the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol. This is all documented in detail at www.aodaalliance.org/healthcare

It is good that your story quotes Prof. Jeff Preston as being concerned about the triage protocol. The entire passage, excerpted above, states:

“The triage guidelines are also terrifying for people with disabilities, advanced age or pre-existing conditions.

“There’s also this very real concern that I may be denied care based on protocols that say that I have a less likely chance of surviving,” said Jeff Preston, who has a neuromuscular disorder and works as an assistant professor of disability studies at King’s University College, an affiliate of Western University in London, Ont.

“It’s one thing to get COVID and die, it’s a whole other thing to say, as a Canadian citizen, I might not actually have the same access to health care that other Canadians are going to receive and that hurts in a different way.”

The triage guidelines specify that people with disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population, but Preston is skeptical in part because doctors sometimes incorrectly estimate life expectancy of people with these conditions.

“When I was first diagnosed as a baby, they did not believe I was going to survive more than a couple of years,” he said. “They predicted that I would probably die before four or five years old. Now here I am, almost 40 years old, many years later and that prognosis didn’t turn out to be true.”

It is good that the CTV report notes that people with disabilities are terrified. However, the substantial misstatement of fact to which we here point is not corrected by that aspect of the CTV report. The reader is left with the uncontradicted categorical statement that

“The triage guidelines specify that people with disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population…”

At best, the triage protocol says that people with certain stable disabilities are not thereby to be assessed by the Clinical Frailty Scale that measures their ability to perform the eleven tasks of daily living, listed above, without assistance. However, the protocol goes on to apply that disability-discriminatory Scale to people with progressive disabilities (e.g. MS or arthritis, to name a few).

Especially in a national online news story dealing with a life-and-death issue, and its dangerous implications for society’s most vulnerable, it is essential for CTV to get its facts right. This is all the more so since people with disabilities disproportionately have born the brunt of COVID-19 and disproportionately died from it. It is also especially so since it has been so hard to get the media to cover this story. We’ve been trying for over a year, with success for the most part taking place only very recently.

It would be one thing for your report to include our position and then any defence the Ford Government wishes to offer. CTV did not do so. Instead, it categorically states as objective fact something which is 100% incorrect, and which your reporters on this story did not reach out to us to discuss. Our position on these issues has been widely publicized to the media, including to CTV, via news releases and Twitter.

In marked contrast to the April 28, 2021 CTV online report, on the same day, Global TV News Toronto aired a story commendably bearing the accurate headline: “Ontario’s COVID-19 triage protocol ‘discriminates because of disability,’ advocates say”.

We know from the January 23, 2021 online webinar that Critical care Services Ontario conducted for hospitals that the Government or its proxies planned to do some sort of public media strategy on the critical care triage protocol. Your story corresponds in large part to the core messages of that strategy. That could very well be a coincidence, and CTV may well have not known about those media relations strategic plans.

We urgently ask you to do a national report on the disability discrimination that is explicitly included in the Ontario critical care triage protocol, the bogus arguments that have been made on the Ontario Government’s behalf to defend it, and the objections to it from the disability community, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and some members of the Government’s own advisory Bioethics Table. We would be please to assist you in any way in such a story.

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CTV News Online Report Updated by May 6, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/ontario-hospitals-on-the-verge-of-enacting-last-resort-triage-protocols-1.5406746

Ontario hospitals on the verge of enacting ‘last resort’ triage protocols

Medical Correspondent, CTV National News

Contact @ctv_avisfavaro

Elizabeth St. Philip, CTV News

Contact @LizTV

Ben Cousins, CTVNews.ca Writer

Contact @cousins_ben

Published Wednesday, April 28, 2021 10:00PM EDT

TORONTO — As intensive care admissions climb to dangerously high levels in Ontario, health-care workers in the province worry they might soon be forced into the worst-case scenario of choosing who gets the best care and who doesn’t.

On Wednesday, Ontario reported 3,480 new COVID-19 cases. Although a third wave in the province appears to be levelling off, the number of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care units (ICUs) is steadily climbing, to the point where the province is getting assistance from Newfoundland and Labrador and the Canadian military.

The province also reported on Wednesday that 2,281 patients are currently hospitalized, with 877 patients in intensive care.

It’s believed the province could be forced to enact triage protocols if ICU admissions related to COVID-19 exceed 900.

“I just can’t say strongly enough just what a horrible position we’re in the health-care sector right now and why it’s so important that we really drive these numbers to the ground,” Dr. Chris Simpson, a cardiologist and executive vice-president of Ontario Health, told CTV News.

“We simply have to get COVID under control if we’re going to have our health-care system back in a functional state again.”

Ontario’s triage protocols, developed in January, are meant as a last resort to determine who should be given intensive care when the demand for critical care exceeds the supply.

“It’s going to be extremely emotionally difficult for staff to have to make these decisions to tell family members that we’re not able to offer ICU-level treatments that we would have been able to offer in the past,” said Dr. Erin O’Connor, the deputy medical director of the University Health Networkemergency departments.

The situation is already dire in the Toronto area, where health officials have been forced to transport patients to other districts as ICU beds in the city fill up. Ontario’s COVID-19 modelling numbers from April 16 suggest the province could see nearly 10,000 new COVID-19 cases per dayby the end of May, even under strong public health restrictions.

“There is a wall that’s going to be hit at some point,” Simpson said. “We don’t know where that is yet. We do believe we can build about 200 new ICU beds per week for the next three weeks or so. It gets increasingly tougher, but we think that that will take us into mid-May and we can only hope that things will be cresting by that point.”

Under the triage protocols, all patients are assigned four colours — red, purple, yellow and green — depending on how doctors perceive a patient’s likelihood of surviving for another 12 months. Patients deemed red are predicted to have a 20-per-cent chance of surviving for the year, while patients deemed in the green have more than a 70-per-cent chance of surviving.

Under this system, ICU beds would be given to the green patients first, followed by yellow, purple and red.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not going to care for people,” O’Connor said. “We’re going to offer as much medical care as we possibly can, but some people won’t be able to be on a ventilator — people that we would have put on a ventilator in the past — simply because we’re in a situation where we’re dealing with scarce resources.”

The triage system puts doctors and other health-care workers in the unenviable position of deciding who does not receive the best possible care. It would even require doctors to decide who to withdraw from ICU care if they’re unlikely to survive for another year.

For O’Connor, the prospect having to tell a patient and their family that the province cannot provide them with the best care could have long-term consequences on the entire health-care system in Ontario.

“The hardest part really is going to be making these decisions,” she said. “This is going to take a really large emotional toll and I worry about my staff and I worry about people — after this — leaving medicine because they’re not going to be able to recover.”

“This is not what we’re trained to do. It’s not what we thought we would ever have to do in our careers.”

The triage guidelines are also terrifying for people with disabilities, advanced age or pre-existing conditions.

“There’s also this very real concern that I may be denied care based on protocols that say that I have a less likely chance of surviving,” said Jeff Preston, who has a neuromuscular disorder and works as an assistant professor of disability studies at King’s University College, an affiliate of Western University in London, Ont.

“It’s one thing to get COVID and die, it’s a whole other thing to say, as a Canadian citizen, I might not actually have the same access to health care that other Canadians are going to receive and that hurts in a different way.”

The triage guidelines specify that people with pre-existing disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population, but Preston is skeptical in part because doctors sometimes incorrectly estimate life expectancy of people with these conditions.

“When I was first diagnosed as a baby, they did not believe I was going to survive more than a couple of years,” he said. “They predicted that I would probably die before four or five years old. Now here I am, almost 40 years old, many years later and that prognosis didn’t turn out to be true.”

Disability advocates, backed by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, have raised human rights and discriminatory concerns about the protocol in letters to the provincial government.

QUEBEC ‘FAR FROM TRIGGERING’ TRIAGE PROTOCOLS

Other provinces have also developed similar triage protocols in the event ICU admissions exceed the available beds.

In Quebec for example, prioritization protocols are similar to Ontario’s and those who do not receive ICU admission “will not be abandoned; they will continue to receive other care, the most appropriate for their condition and possible in the context,” according to a statement from Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services.

The department added that it is “far from triggering” the prioritization protocols and has not done so since the start of the pandemic. It has also expanded ICU capacity for COVID-19 patients to hopefully make sure it doesn’t happen.

“This scenario is one of last resort that we want to avoid at all costs,” the statement read. “That is why we are asking Quebecers for their contribution by reducing their contact as much as possible and by rigorously applying the recommended health measures.”

In Saskatchewan, triage protocols will consider a patient’s chance at survival, but also the length of time a patient may require the most care.

“These assessments must be based on the best available scientific evidence,” the Saskatchewan Health Authority wrote in a statement.

“Patients who are not going to receive ICU level of care will receive compassionate care. The sick and dying would not be abandoned. If a patient is not expected to survive, palliative or comfort care would be provided to reduce pain and suffering.”

intensive care admissions

As intensive care admissions climb to dangerously high levels in Ontario, health-care workers in the province worry they might soon be forced into the worst-case scenario of choosing who gets the best care and who doesn’t.

May 18, 2021 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to CTV News

To: CTVNews

From: David Lepofsky

Date: May 18, 2021

I regret that I must write to again raised concerns about the factual inaccuracy of CTV News’ online April 28, 2021 news report regarding Ontario’s critical care triage protocol. On April 30, 2021, I wrote to alert you to the fact that there was a serious factual error in that report, where it stated the following:

“The triage guidelines specify that people with disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population, but Preston is skeptical in part because doctors sometimes incorrectly estimate life expectancy of people with these conditions.“

In my April 30, 2021 email to CTV news, I explained that contrary to what CTV reported, the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol explicitly directs that a patient’s disability IS a factor that in some cases is to be weighed AGAINST their getting access to the life-saving critical care they need, if Ontario has more patients needing critical care than it has critical care beds and supports. That is disability discrimination.

I very much appreciate that as a result, CTV reporter Avis Favaro spoke to me about this issue and that CTV news looked into our objection.

As a result, CTV News made two changes to the online CTV News report, on or around May 6, 2021. I regret that the first of those changes included a serious factual inaccuracy. The first change was simply to add the word “pre-existing” before the word “disabilities” in the inaccurate statement in the original April 28, 2021 CTV news report. Report’s The revised statement now reads:

“The triage guidelines specify that people with pre-existing disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population, but Preston is skeptical in part because doctors sometimes incorrectly estimate life expectancy of people with these conditions.”

Second, the May 6, 2021 version later adds this accurate sentence:

“Disability advocates, backed by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, have raised human rights and discriminatory concerns about the protocol in letters to the provincial government.”

It is good that CTV attempted to correct it’s inaccurate April 28, 2021 news report. However, CTV has replaced one serious inaccuracy with another serious inaccuracy. The January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol does not specify that “people with disabilities” are not treated any differently than the rest of the population (as the inaccurate April 28, 2021 report originally claimed) or that people with pre-existing disabilities are not treated any differently than others (as the May 6, 2021 revision to that article claims. To the contrary, under that critical care triage protocol, if a cancer patient with pre-existing cancer needs critical care, they will be deprioritized if a patient is “Completely disabled and cannot carry out any self-care; totally confined to bed or chair”. That is disability discrimination, up front. Under that protocol, if a patient needing critical care is over 65 and has a progressive pre-existing 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. That too is disability discrimination, pure and simple, including disability discrimination based on a pre-existing disability. CTV’s insertion of the word “pre-existing” into the inaccurate statement did not reduce or correct its complete and demonstrable inaccuracy.

I would add that unless I am mistaken or missed something, nothing on the CTV web page displaying this report acknowledges that there previously was a factual inaccuracy in it. In contrast, newspapers regularly print corrections to earlier stories, that are entitled “correction”, to ensure that the reader is aware that an earlier report had been inaccurate. No one reading the original April 28, 2021 story would know that it was erroneous. No one reading the same report, as revised on or around May 6, 2021, would know that CTV had attempted to correct it. Of course, no one would know from that report that it is inaccurate where it states as a fact that under the protocol, people with pre-existing disabilities are to be treated like everyone else.

We would very much appreciate this story being corrected so that it is accurate. We also would again encourage CTV to run a story that reports specifically on this disability discrimination issue that is anchored in the very wording of the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol. Ontario is not out of the woods, even though ICU cases and overall new COVID-19 cases are reducing. This remains a live issue for your viewers and readers, including the many with disabilities. The newsworthiness of this disability discrimination standing alone is important. The inaccuracy on the CTV website makes the case for a further report even more compelling.

We would be delighted to assist in any way we can. Please stay safe.

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Twitter: @davidlepofsky

May 19, 2021 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to CTV News

Thank you for asking what correction or clarification to the April 28, 2021 CTV News story we would recommend. We respectfully propose that the sentence that requires a change is this:

“The triage guidelines specify that people with pre-existing disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population, but Preston is skeptical in part because doctors sometimes incorrectly estimate life expectancy of people with these conditions.”

May we propose two alternatives. The first and preferable alternative would read:

“The triage guidelines do not ensure that people with pre-existing disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population. Preston is skeptical in part because doctors sometimes incorrectly estimate life expectancy of people with these conditions.”

The second and less desirable alternative would be to simply delete the inaccurate words “The triage guidelines specify that people with pre-existing disabilities are not treated any differently than the rest of the population, but”. The paragraph would therefore read

“Preston is skeptical in part because doctors sometimes incorrectly estimate life expectancy of people with these conditions.”

You asked for a link to the AODA Alliance website. We again offer two alternatives. The more specific link to our report that exhaustively details the disability discrimination in the Ontario critical care triage protocol is https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/a-deeply-troubling-issue-of-life-and-death-an-independent-report-on-ontarios-seriously-flawed-plans-for-rationing-or-triage-of-critical-medical-care-if-covid-19-overwhelms-ontario-hospitals/

The more general link to all our posts on this issue is www.aodaalliance.org/healthcare

We Hope this helps. If a phone call would assist, let me know.

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CTV News Online Report As Revised Again on May 19, 2021

Originally posted at: jhttps://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/ontario-hospitals-on-the-verge-of-enacting-last-resort-triage-protocols-1.5406746

CTV News

Ontario hospitals on the verge of enacting ‘last resort’ triage protocols

Avis Favaro, Medical Correspondent

Contact @ctv_avisfavaro

Elizabeth St. Philip, CTV News

Contact @LizTV

Ben Cousins , CTVNews.ca Writer

Contact @cousins_ben

Published Wednesday, April 28, 2021 10:00PM EDT

Last Updated Wednesday, May 19, 2021 9:14AM EDT

TORONTO — As intensive care admissions climb to dangerously high levels in Ontario, health-care workers in the province worry they might soon be forced into the worst-case scenario of choosing who gets the best care and who doesn’t.

On Wednesday, Ontario reported 3,480 new COVID-19 cases. Although a third wave in the province appears to be levelling off, the number of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care units (ICUs) is steadily climbing, to the point where the province is getting assistance from Newfoundland and Labrador and the Canadian military.

Related Links

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance on triage protocols

The province also reported on Wednesday that 2,281 patients are currently hospitalized, with 877 patients in intensive care.

It’s believed the province could be forced to enact triage protocols if ICU admissions related to COVID-19 exceed 900.

“I just can’t say strongly enough just what a horrible position we’re in the health-care sector right now and why it’s so important that we really drive these numbers to the ground,” Dr. Chris Simpson, a cardiologist and executive vice-president of Ontario Health, told CTV News.

“We simply have to get COVID under control if we’re going to have our health-care system back in a functional state again.”

Ontario’s triage protocols, developed in January, are meant as a last resort to determine who should be given intensive care when the demand for critical care exceeds the supply.

“It’s going to be extremely emotionally difficult for staff to have to make these decisions to tell family members that we’re not able to offer ICU-level treatments that we would have been able to offer in the past,” said Dr. Erin O’Connor, the deputy medical director of the University Health Network emergency departments.

The situation is already dire in the Toronto area, where health officials have been forced to transport patients to other districts as ICU beds in the city fill up. Ontario’s COVID-19 modelling numbers from April 16 suggest the province could see nearly 10,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by the end of May, even under strong public health restrictions.

“There is a wall that’s going to be hit at some point,” Simpson said. “We don’t know where that is yet. We do believe we can build about 200 new ICU beds per week for the next three weeks or so. It gets increasingly tougher, but we think that that will take us into mid-May and we can only hope that things will be cresting by that point.”

Under the triage protocols, all patients are assigned four colours — red, purple, yellow and green — depending on how doctors perceive a patient’s likelihood of surviving for another 12 months. Patients deemed red are predicted to have a 20-per-cent chance of surviving for the year, while patients deemed in the green have more than a 70-per-cent chance of surviving.

Under this system, ICU beds would be given to the green patients first, followed by yellow, purple and red.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not going to care for people,” O’Connor said. “We’re going to offer as much medical care as we possibly can, but some people won’t be able to be on a ventilator — people that we would have put on a ventilator in the past — simply because we’re in a situation where we’re dealing with scarce resources.”

The triage system puts doctors and other health-care workers in the unenviable position of deciding who does not receive the best possible care. It would even require doctors to decide who to withdraw from ICU care if they’re unlikely to survive for another year.

For O’Connor, the prospect having to tell a patient and their family that the province cannot provide them with the best care could have long-term consequences on the entire health-care system in Ontario.

“The hardest part really is going to be making these decisions,” she said. “This is going to take a really large emotional toll and I worry about my staff and I worry about people — after this — leaving medicine because they’re not going to be able to recover.”

“This is not what we’re trained to do. It’s not what we thought we would ever have to do in our careers.”

The triage guidelines are also terrifying for people with disabilities, advanced age or pre-existing conditions.

“There’s also this very real concern that I may be denied care based on protocols that say that I have a less likely chance of surviving,” said Jeff Preston, who has a neuromuscular disorder and works as an assistant professor of disability studies at King’s University College, an affiliate of Western University in London, Ont.

“It’s one thing to get COVID and die, it’s a whole other thing to say, as a Canadian citizen, I might not actually have the same access to health care that other Canadians are going to receive and that hurts in a different way.”

Preston is skeptical of the triage guidelines in part because doctors sometimes incorrectly estimate life expectancy of people with these conditions.

“When I was first diagnosed as a baby, they did not believe I was going to survive more than a couple of years,” he said. “They predicted that I would probably die before four or five years old. Now here I am, almost 40 years old, many years later and that prognosis didn’t turn out to be true.”

Disability advocates, backed by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, have raised human rights and discriminatory concerns about the protocol in letters to the provincial government.

QUEBEC ‘FAR FROM TRIGGERING’ TRIAGE PROTOCOLS

Other provinces have also developed similar triage protocols in the event ICU admissions exceed the available beds.

In Quebec for example, prioritization protocols are similar to Ontario’s and those who do not receive ICU admission “will not be abandoned; they will continue to receive other care, the most appropriate for their condition and possible in the context,” according to a statement from Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services.

The department added that it is “far from triggering” the prioritization protocols and has not done so since the start of the pandemic. It has also expanded ICU capacity for COVID-19 patients to hopefully make sure it doesn’t happen.

“This scenario is one of last resort that we want to avoid at all costs,” the statement read. “That is why we are asking Quebecers for their contribution by reducing their contact as much as possible and by rigorously applying the recommended health measures.”

In Saskatchewan, triage protocols will consider a patient’s chance at survival, but also the length of time a patient may require the most care.

“These assessments must be based on the best available scientific evidence,” the Saskatchewan Health Authority wrote in a statement.

“Patients who are not going to receive ICU level of care will receive compassionate care. The sick and dying would not be abandoned. If a patient is not expected to survive, palliative or comfort care would be provided to reduce pain and suffering.”

Correction:

A previous version of this story suggested triage guidelines

With CBC’s Strong Commitment to Diversity and Equity in Its Programming, Why Won’t Its Flagship National Radio Program “The Current” Cover Disability Discrimination Dangers in Critical Care Triage Plans During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

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/

With CBC’s Strong Commitment to Diversity and Equity in Its Programming, Why Won’t Its Flagship National Radio Program “The Current” Cover Disability Discrimination Dangers in Critical Care Triage Plans During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

June 7, 2021

            SUMMARY

Who watches the watchers? The AODA Alliance has had to do so, when it comes to monitoring media coverage or lack of coverage of the danger since the start of the COVID-19pandemic of disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical care in Ontario hospitals.

Since this danger was first revealed by disability advocates in early April 2020, we and others have been trying hard to get the media to cover this story. From the start, it has had all the hallmarks of a compelling news and public affairs story that is immediate, important and interesting. It has serious ramifications for millions of vulnerable people.

It is a life-and-death topic. It deals with secret Government policies and plans. It raises important human rights issues. Media scrutiny is an important way to hold public officials accountable.

For over a year, it has been an extremely uphill battle to get the media to cover this story. After months of effort, we managed to get some good local and national coverage in recent weeks. That shows how newsworthy it is. Yet the difficulties in even belatedly getting that coverage is itself worthy of attention and scrutiny.

The media often portrays itself as the public’s watchdog, but who watches the watchers? We offer an important illustration in this update.

As a powerful example, CBC’s flagship current affairs radio program “The Current” has refused to cover this story. That program has a great track record on diversity issues, such as those relating to women, Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities, and LGBT issues. It has chronically had a far worse record on covering disability issues. Its stated reasons for refusing to cover this story, documented below in an email from its executive producer to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, are transparently unpersuasive. One is left wondering what is really going on there. Read on.

In pointing to this example, we acknowledge with thanks that a number of news organizations have covered the issue of disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage plans. Moreover, a number of journalists have tried to get their own media organizations to cover this issue, only to run into disturbing resistance. Moreover, some other CBC programs later did cover this story, though some gave it lesser or no examination.

This critical care triage issue remains a current story (pun intended). The Current should cover it, as should other news and public affairs programs that have not yet looked into it. Even with infection rates dropping in Ontario, there has still been no proper public accounting for the disability discrimination that has been embedded in Ontario hospitals and potentially in emergency ambulance services. With the pandemic’s surge in Manitoba, people with disabilities there now face the same dangers that Ontarians with disabilities have feared for months.

CBC at all levels needs to now carefully investigate and reflect upon its own troubling track record on covering disabilities issues, as it is serious failure to meet CBC’s commendable public commitment to diversity and equity in its coverage. This Update provides one stark and clear illustration of this broader failure. By this we don’t mean that CBC never covers disability issues. Rather, its attention to them pales in comparison to its coverage of other equity and diversity perspectives, as this Update’s example exemplifies.

To learn more about this issue, and to read the media coverage that we have managed to secure, check out the AODA Alliance’s health care page. You can also watch our newest captioned video on the critical care triage issue, which has been seen over 1,000 times in its first four weeks online.

 More Details

 1. The Current Is Certainly Not Current When It Comes to Disability Issues

Some two years ago, when the previous host of CBC’s program The Current was soon to retire, CBC held focus groups to get input into the future of The Current. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to take part in one of those focus groups, to offer a disability perspective on the program. In preparation for that focus group, Lepofsky conducted a detailed review of months of broadcasts of The Current.

At this focus group (which looked at The Current from a wide range of perspectives), Lepofsky explained that this excellent CBC public affairs program does a great job of fulfilling CBC’s important public commitment to diversity in its coverage when it comes to some equity-seeking groups, such as racialized communities, Indigenous Peoples, women and the LGBTQ+ community. However, it has a poor record of far less attention to disability issues. Equity for some is in reality equity for none. No one disputed the observation that CBC’s The Current program has not given disability issues the kind of attention that it has repeatedly given other equity-seeking groups.

Sadly, nothing has significantly improved at The Current since that focus group two years ago, from the disability perspective. This is so even though we have sent the program any number of story ideas both before and after that focus group session.

The Current’s failure to address the disability issues in critical care triage during the COVID-19pandemic at any time over the past 15 months is a blistering illustration of this systemic failure. That program has commendably covered the pandemic from a multitude of perspectives. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky sent The Current’s executive producer Raj Ahluwalia a detailed email on January 4, 2021, (set out below. It described this story idea, explained its importance, and offered to help the program look into it.

Raj Ahluwalia replied by email on January 5, 2021 (also set out below). He rejected the story as a topic for The Current. That rejection has never changed.

On January 8 and 18, 2021, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky wrote him back (see below). He refuted The Current’s reasons for rejecting the story. Mr. Ahluwalia did not answer those emails. After this email exchange, The Current never reached out to the AODA Alliance to investigate the possibility of covering disability issues in critical care triage.

Raj Ahluwalia’s written reasons for rejecting this story are seriously flawed, both for reasons that David Lepofsky gave at the time, and in light of subsequent events. For example:

  1. Mr. Ahluwalia told us that the critical care triage topic is not suited for the format of The Current. Yet Just 13 days later, on January 18, 2021, The Current devoted a segment of its program to the critical care triage issue. Moreover, as David Lepofsky pointed out to Mr. Ahluwalia, TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, a very similar TV public affairs program, devoted a 30-minute segment on January 13, 2021 to the disability issues in critical care triage. If it is suitable for The Agenda, it is hard to see why it would be unsuitable for The Current.
  1. When The Current did discuss the critical care triage issue on its January 18, 2021 program, it did not include any disability experts or advocates. It only included physicians. The host Matt Galloway had a great record covering disability issues earlier when he had been the host of CBC’s Toronto radio program Metro Morning. However, in this edition of The Current, he asked no questions of the physicians he interviewed, that raised any of disability issues.
  1. Mr. Ahluwalia wrote on January 5, 2021 that the disability critical care triage issue was not suitable because it was hypothetical i.e. No one had died from a critical care triage decision. Yet that reason did not stop The Current from interviewing physicians about critical care triage just 13 days later on its January 18, 2021 program. Moreover, as David Lepofsky pointed out to Mr. Ahluwalia, The Current has elsewhere covered hypothetical topics.

We point to this example not to single out this one senior, very experienced CBC executive. Rather, we point it out because it is the best, and possibly the only example where a refusal to cover this important disability issue is based on reasons that were put in writing for us. When the reasons given are so transparently unconvincing, one is left to wonder whether there were other reasons at play, even unconsciously.

We urge CBC at the highest levels to look into this, and to consider why it has failed to live up to its commitment to diversity in its coverage in the disability context, especially when it has done so much better at implementing its diversity goals for certain other equity seeking groups. We are encouraged that CBC weeks later gave more coverage on some other programs to the disability-related critical care triage issue. However, that coverage was the product of months and months of efforts by us and others to get CBC to cover it at all.

As stated earlier, equity for some is equity for none. Diversity for some, is diversity for none. Equality for some is equality for none. It merely replaces and old hierarchy with a new one. In the new one, just as in the old one, those left at or near the bottom, like people with disabilities, remain wrongly languishing at the bottom.

 2. January 4, 2021 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to CBC The Current Executive Producer Raj Ahluwalia

Happy new year Raj! In a nutshell, the story I’m proposing is summarized in the news release set out below. We can supply it to your program based on on-the-record and publicly-posted sources and multiple on-the-record people.

The issue is this: If the surging pandemic exceeds hospital capacity to provide life-saving critical care to all the patients who need it, who will be refused that care, and thus, who will die from a lack of health care? Who will decide who will be denied that care? What rules or standard will govern that life-and-death decision? Will there be any independent check is in place to protect patients, like an independent appeal process? Is there any foundation in law for any of this to take place in Ontario?

This is an important issue now. South of the border, NPR has done excellent investigative work revealing terrifying and appalling disability-based discrimination in access to critical care. Check out https://www.npr.org/2020/12/21/946292119/oregon-hospitals-didnt-have-shortages-so-why-were-disabled-people-denied-care

People with disabilities are already fearful of going to hospital, even if no critical care triage is now going on, because they fear the danger of being de-prioritized now or in the near future.

We and other disability advocates have been waging an incredibly frustrating uphill battle on this issue for months. In the past weeks, it has gotten very little media coverage, including from CBC. We have no idea why. On the rare occasion that an opposition MPP or reporter probes the Ford Government on this issue, the Government scrambles, dodges or prevaricates. The whole record on this is available to you at

www.aodaalliance.org/healthcare

People with disabilities are especially vulnerable here. They are disproportionately bearing the brunt of COVID-19 and are disproportionately dying from it. It would be a cruel irony indeed for them, of all people, to be exposed to the risk of disability-based discriminatory critical care triage. Happy to fill in the details any time. … Please do not leave any voice mails on that number.

****

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Just-Revealed Previously Secret Recommendations for Rationing Critical Medical Care in Ontario that the Ford Government is Considering Are Frightening for People with Disabilities

December 21, 2020 Toronto: Could it soon be that if COVID-19 overwhelms Ontario hospitals, doctors could be told to decide to select some critical care patients to be taken off life-saving critical care that the patients are receiving, still need and want, on the ground that these services must be rationed and given to some other patients? Could a patient who objects to critical care being withdrawn from them be denied a right of appeal to an independent court or tribunal, even though their life is endangered? Could the health professionals making such decisions be insulated from any liability for their actions?

Despite excitement over new vaccines, frightening unreported new details have emerged that would allow all of this to happen, if the record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases requires hospitals to ration or “triage” life-saving critical care services and beds. The Ford Government is considering a recommendation, made public on the AODA Alliance website, to direct doctors to remove life-saving critical care from some patients already in intensive care who don’t consent to this, if triage becomes necessary. This is even worse than rationing scarce unfilled critical care beds when more patients need them than there are available services.

“Ford’s Government hasn’t shown it has legislative authority to take the drastic, highly-objectionable actions that it is considering,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance that allies with other disability advocates to protect patients with disabilities against discrimination if triage becomes necessary. “Triage recommendations that Ford’s Government is considering just came to light in the past days, and only because disability advocates campaigned for three months to get the Government to reveal those secret recommendations.”

In those newly revealed September 11, 2020 recommendations, the Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table commendably called on the Government to rescind the Government’s controversial earlier March 28, 2020 critical triage protocol that it had sent Ontario hospitals last spring, because that protocol discriminated against patients based on their disabilities – a concern disability advocates have pressed since April. But last Thursday, at a rushed roundtable that the Ontario Human Rights Commission held with disability, racialized and Indigenous communities’ representatives, those community representatives said the newly revealed triage recommendations, while an improvement, also have numerous human rights problems, even though the recommendations say that human rights should be respected.

These new triage recommendations would give patients, whose lives are in jeopardy, no appeal beyond the health care system (e.g., to an independent tribunal or court). They would insulate health care professionals against liability for refusing or withdrawing life-saving critical care.

On October 29, 2020, the Government, under pressure from people with disabilities and seniors, belatedly rescinded its discriminatory March 28, 2020 triage protocol, but put nothing in place to fill the vacuum. The time when critical care triage may be needed is rapidly getting closer. Health Minister Christine Elliott hasn’t answered any of the six successive AODA Alliance letters to her extensively detailing our concerns.

At last Thursday’s roundtable, a Government representative spoke up for the first time, revealing more disturbing news. A member of the Ford Government’s internal “Critical Care Command Table” responded to feedback at the roundtable, saying that a new approach to triage, addressing human rights concerns raised at the roundtable (with which he seemed to find merit), would have to wait until after this pandemic is over.

“That’s like saying we can be given an umbrella only after the rain has stopped. After months of the Government delaying, refusing to talk to us, and hiding behind its external advisory Bioethics Table for months, we cannot accept that it is now too late to ensure that critical care triage, if necessary, cannot be done without disability discrimination,” said Lepofsky. “We need the Ford Government to speak directly to us, and to obey the Ontario Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights.”

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

For more background on this issue, check out:

  1. The Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, finally revealed days ago.
  2. The December 3, 2020 open letter to the Ford Government from 64 community organizations, calling for the Government to make public the secret report on critical care triage from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.
  3. The AODA Alliance’s unanswered September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, its December 15, 2020 letter and its December 17, 2020 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.
  4. The August 30, 2020 AODA Alliance submission to the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table, and a captioned online video of the AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 oral presentation to the Bioethics Table on disability discrimination concerns in critical care triage.
  5. The September 1, 2020 submission and July 20, 2020 submission by the ARCH Disability Law Centre to the Bioethics Table.
  6. The November 5, 2020 captioned online speech by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the disability rights concerns with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
  7. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts 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.

 3. January 5, 2021 Email from CBC The Current’s Executive Producer Raj Ahluwalia to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

I’ve looked through some of what you’ve included here. And while I appreciate and understand your concerns and see that there may be a news story here but it doesn’t work for The Current.

Please allow me to explain.

The situation you describe is hypothetical. Unless there is an actual case of someone, disabled or not, who’s denied care in this manner, I have a hard time “seeing” where a story could editorially go.

I’m also not keen in comparing much from the U. S healthcare system with that of Canada’s. That’s not to say that we’re better than them, it’s just that

the systems are so different that any comparisons are inaccurate.

As you may know our stories run anywhere from 12-to 20-minutues, usually through a series of interviews. And unless there were to be an actual case, as I mentioned, any real discussion of the issues you bring up won’t sustain that length of time on our program.

I will, however, keep your suggestions in mind should there be such a case.

 4. January 8, 2021 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to CBC The Current’s Executive Producer Raj Ahluwalia

Thank you for taking the time to explain why you do not consider the critical care triage story to be appropriate now for The Current. Exceptional as this may be, may I invite you to reconsider.

You said this story is hypothetical until triage of critical care actually takes place, leading a person to die from a refusal of critical care. Yet this issue is not hypothetical.

The top story on CBC national radio’s January 5, 2021 “The World at 6” (within hours of your writing me) reported that in some Ontario cities, intensive care units are full and tents are being erected. The first line of that newscast reported that the health care system is stretched beyond capacity. It reported that urgent measures are being taken because the system reached the breaking point. Moreover, the US mainstream media is reporting that critical care triage is in fact happening in some US venues.

It is therefore not hypothetical that our society and health care system must ensure that it is ready to administer critical care triage in this pandemic, even if such triage has not taken place. It is not hypothetical that this is a difficult issue and that Ontario has no prior experience triaging life-saving critical care.

It is not hypothetical that the Ontario Government had a secret protocol prepared last spring for this very purpose. It is not hypothetical that the Government was eventually driven to rescind that protocol just weeks ago. It is not hypothetical that it was only rescinded after it was criticized as disability-discriminatory by disability advocates, by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and, eventually, by the very Bioethics Table that initially designed it.

It is not hypothetical that the Government has not announced a new protocol, and that it has been very secretive about this issue. The Government has not answered any of our letters this fall raising such concerns. It is similarly not hypothetical that some people with disabilities are afraid to seek out the health care system, for fear that they could end up being the victims of triage.

In any event, even if it were hypothetical, this should not be a reason to consider this story inappropriate for The Current. The Current has covered issues that are, by your terms, clearly hypothetical. On December 10, 2020, your program aired an item entitled: “Trump Could Push Baseless Election Cheating Claims Well Past Inauguration, Says Journalist.” Of course, that was an important topic to cover. However, by your definition of “hypothetical”, that story should not have run until after inauguration, and until Trump actually repeats his baseless claims at that time.

This story is well-suited for your program’s format, with which I, as a listener, am well familiar. Your program does not inflexibly always require an initial interview with a victim before an important issue is addressed. This meaty issue can fill your typical program time allocation with a great deal still left unaddressed. Ontario’s flagship provincial public affairs program, “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” aired a 26 minute item on the issue (with no disability advocates) back on April 14, 2020 that ran for a full 26minutes https://www.tvo.org/video/deciding-who-lives-ethics-in-a-pandemic

There is much more to say about the subject now, more than 8 months later. As one example, look at the coverage that has just gone online from one local Mississauga online publication, https://thepointer.com/article/2021-01-08/already-in-crisis-mode-ontario-hospitals-have-no-protocol-for-who-gets-priority-treatment-human-rights-advocates-say

There are a number of people on different sides of this issue worth speaking to. We would be happy to assist your program in learning about those issues and seeking out people with whom to speak.

We regret that CBC news has, until now, not covered our issues that we have raised for months on this issue, despite numerous news releases, and tweets directed at CBC. As Canada’s public broadcaster, its failure to do so is troubling and puzzling.

We will continue to try to raise this with CBC news, but it remains a story that is extremely well-suited for The Current. Please let me know if you might reconsider, and if we can help.”

 5. January 18, 2021 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to CBC The Current’s Executive Producer Raj Ahluwalia

Dear Raj,

It is good that The Current today included a discussion of the COVID-19 critical care triage issue, as this is an immediate and important story. The item included a discussion with two doctors expressing their views and concerns on this issue.

Could your program now consider including a discussion of this issue from the perspective of people with disabilities? That would provide a much-needed balanced look at it, especially since we have identified and documented serious disability human rights concerns with Ontario’s brand new secret triage protocol (one which we have posted on line). It is vital that this issue not be seen or treated as some preserve of doctors and bioethicists. People with disabilities are disproportionately bearing the hardships of COVID-19 and its harshest impact. They are at risk of the cruel irony of facing discriminatory deprioritization if they need critical care, once triage begins.

Two years ago, CBC invited me to take part in a focus group on the future of The Current. At that meeting, I detailed how The Current does an excellent job of addressing a spectrum of important issues on the issue of diversity from the perspective of a number of equality-seeking groups, for which it should be strongly commended. However, it is far weaker at covering important disability issues.

For you to get a good sense of how this story merits the disability perspective, and not just the medical/bioethics perspective, please check out the panel on which I participated last Wednesday on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkq1NmaXLwk&feature=youtu.be

I’d be happy to do whatever I can to assist your program.

Stay safe.

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Ford Government Finally Makes Public the Initial Recommendations by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on How to Make Ontario Schools Accessible for 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/

Ford Government Finally Makes Public the Initial Recommendations by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on How to Make Ontario Schools Accessible for Students with Disabilities

June 1, 2021

At long last, the Ford Government today belatedly made public the initial or draft recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include. The Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee submitted these initial or draft recommendations to the Government over two and a half months ago.

These will be available online for the public to submit feedback up to September 2, 2021, according to the Government announcement. That feedback will be sent to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee is then required to review that feedback and take it into account as it works to finalize its recommendations for the Government.

In addition to finding them on the Ford Government’s website, you can go to the AODA Alliance’s website to find the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Committee-Approved-K-12-Initial-Recommendations-Report-Submission-2021.docx

In addition to finding it on the Government’s website, you can also go to the AODA Alliance website to download the survey that the Government created and is inviting the public to answer to give feedback on these draft recommendations at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/K-12-Initial-Recommendations-Report-Survey-Word-Version.docx

In contravention of s, 10(1) of the AODA, the Ford Government has still not publicly posted the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. On May 7, 2021 AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky had to resort to filing a court application, arguing that the Ford Government is in breach of its duty to post the initial or final recommendations it receives from these Standards Development Committees upon receiving them. You can read more about that court application in the May 7, 2021 AODA Alliance Update.

The Government finally posted the initial recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee today, just two days before an upcoming conference call, scheduled for June 3, 2021 with a Superior Court judge. Lepofsky requested that call to ask that the Court schedule a hearing in court on his application as soon as possible on an urgent or expedited basis.

We will later have much to say about these initial or draft recommendations. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. He took active part in the development of these initial recommendations. Lepofsky believes that the members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee with whom he worked did an excellent job of undertaking the most thorough top-to-bottom review of Ontario’s education system in decades, if not ever, from the perspective of students with disabilities. He shares the committee’s eagerness for public feedback to help with the finalization of these recommendations.

The AODA Alliance welcomes your feedback on these initial or draft recommendations. To assist us in preparing a written brief to submit to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com.

We want all Standards Development Committees that are now underway to get their finalized recommendations completed, submitted to the Ford Government, and posted publicly well before the Ontario Election campaign begins next spring. We want to be able to press all major political parties and candidates for commitments to detailed reforms in Ontario’s education and health care systems, to make them barrier-free for people with disabilities. Any delay in posting a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final recommendations hurts people with disabilities, delays progress on accessibility, and makes it harder for us to effectively avail ourselves of the democratic process during a provincial election.

Parents of students with disabilities can benefit from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky‘s captioned online video, already seen over 2,000 times. It offers practical tips on how to advocate for students with disabilities in the school system. This video fits well within the focus of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations.

For more background on the AODA Alliances multi-year campaign to tear down the barriers facing students with disabilities at all levels of Ontario’s education system, check out the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

You can also read the AODA Alliance’s October 10, 2019 Framework for what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include.

In honour of this week, National AccessAbility Week, read the report card that the AODA Alliance made public on the Ford Government’s performance on disability accessibility issues during its first three years in office. The Ford Government was awarded an “F” grade.

In a Detailed Report Card Delivered During National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government Gets a Blistering “F” Grade for Its Three Year Record Since Taking Office on Action to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In a Detailed Report Card Delivered During National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government Gets a Blistering “F” Grade for Its Three Year Record Since Taking Office on Action to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

May 31, 2021 Toronto: During National AccessAbility Week, the non-partisan grassroots AODA Alliance releases a report card (set out below) on the Ford Government’s record for tearing down the barriers that people with disabilities face, awarding the Government an “F” grade.

When he was campaigning for votes in the 2018 election, Doug Ford said that our issues “are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus” and that:

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

Yet three years after taking office, people with disabilities are no better off, and in some important ways, are worse off, according to today’s new report card. Passed unanimously in 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead this province to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Ontario is nowhere near that goal with under four years left. The Ford Government has no effective plan to meet that deadline.

This report card’s key findings include:

  1. The Ford Government has no comprehensive plan of action on accessibility, 851 days after receiving the Report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review.
  1. The Government has not ensured that public money will never be used to create new accessibility barriers.
  1. The Ford Government has failed to enact or strengthen any accessibility standards under the AODA.

 

  1. The Ford Government has announced no new action to effectively ensure the accessibility of public transportation.

 

  1. The Ford Government imposed substantial and harmful delays in the work of Five important AODA Standards Development Committees that was underway before the Government took office.

 

  1. The Ford Government has repeatedly violated its mandatory duty under the AODA to make public the initial or final recommendations of a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee “upon receiving” those recommendations.

 

  1. The Ford Government has failed for 3 years to fulfil its mandatory duty to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.

 

  1. The Ford Government has made public no detailed plan for effective AODA enforcement.

 

  1. In a waste of public money, the Ford Government diverted 1.3 million dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s controversial private accessibility certification process. This has resulted in no disability barriers being removed or prevented.

 

  1. The Ford Government unfairly burdened Ontarians with disabilities with having to fight against new safety dangers being created by municipalities allowing electric scooters.

 

  1. The Ford Government’s rhetoric has been harmfully diluting the AODA’s goal of full accessibility.

 

  1. The Ford Government has given public voice to false and troubling stereotypes About disability accessibility.

 

  1. The Ford Government has failed to effectively address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

  1. The lives of vulnerable Ontarians with disabilities are endangered by the Ford Government’s secret plans for critical care triage during the COVID-19 pandemic, If hospitals cannot serve All critical care Patients.

“We keep offering the Ford Government constructive ideas, but too often, they are disregarded,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities. “Premier Ford hasn’t even met with us, and has turned down every request for a meeting.”

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has had to resort to a court application (now pending) to get the Ford Government to fulfil one of its important duties under the AODA, and a Freedom of Information application to try to force the Ford Government to release its secret plans for critical care triage if the COVID-19pandemic worsens, requiring rationing of critical care.

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

Twitter: @aodaalliance

 A Report Card on the Ford Government’s Record, After Three Years in Office, on Achieving Disability Accessibility

May 31, 2021

Prepared by the AODA Alliance

 Introduction

This year’s National AccessAbility Week takes place when Ontario’s Ford Government is completing its third year of a four year term in office. This is an especially appropriate time to take stock of how well the Ford Government is doing at advancing the goal of making Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the deadline which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act enshrines in Ontario law.

It is with a strong sense of frustration that we award the Ford Government a failing “F” grade for its record on this issue.

The Ontario Public Service includes quite a number of public officials who are deeply and profoundly dedicated to the goal of tearing down barriers impeding people with disabilities, and preventing the creation of new disability barriers. They have commendably found quite a number of willing partners within the disability community (both individuals and disability organizations), and among obligated organizations in the public and private sectors. These partners are also committed to the goal of accessibility, and have in their spheres of influenced tried to move things forward. To all these people we and people with disabilities generally are indebted.

For example, several Standards Development Committees have been appointed under the AODA to craft recommendations on what enforceable AODA accessibility standards should include to be strong and effective. They have invested many hours, trying to come up with workable recommendations.

As well, over the past three years, the Ontario Government has continued to operate voluntary programs that have existed for years to contribute to the goal of accessibility. The Ford Government has also, we believe, improved things by freeing its Standards Development Committees from excessive involvement by Public Service staff. This has enabled those staff to support the work of those committees, while leaving them free to do their own work, devising recommendations for the Government.

However, all of that cannot succeed in bringing Ontario to the goal of an accessible province by 2025, without strong leadership by the Ontario Government and those who steer it. This has been the conclusion of three successive Independent Reviews, conducted under the AODA, by Charles Beer in 2010, by Mayo Moran in 2014 and by David Onley in 2018.

Over the past three years, we regret that that leadership has continued to be lacking. The result is that Ontario is falling further and further behind the goal of an accessible province by 2025. Less and less time is available to correct that.

This report details several of the key ways that the Ontario Government has fallen far short of what Ontarians with disabilities need. As the Government’s mandatory annual report on its efforts on accessibility back in 2019 reveals, the Government’s prime focus has been on trying to raise awareness about accessibility. As has been the Ontario Government’s practice for years, that 2019 annual report was belatedly posted on line on the eve of the 2021 National AccessAbility Week, two years after many of the events reported in it.

Decades of experience, leading to the enactment of the AODA in 2005, has proven over and over that such awareness-raising and voluntary measures won’t get Ontario to the goal of accessibility by 2025, or indeed, ever. As always, the AODA Alliance, as a non-partisan coalition, remains ready, willing, able, and eager to work with the Government, and to offer constructive ideas on how it can change course and fulfil the AODA’s dream that the Legislature unanimously endorsed in May 2005.

1. The Ford Government Has No Comprehensive Plan of Action on Accessibility, 851 Days After Receiving the Report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review

We have been urging the Ford Government to develop a detailed plan on accessibility since shortly after it took office, to lay out how it will get Ontario to the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It has never done so.

In December 2018, the Ford Government said it was awaiting the final report of former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, before deciding what it would do regarding accessibility for people with disabilities. On January 31, 2019, the Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Minister for Accessibility Raymond Cho publicly said on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

The Onley report found that Ontario is still full of “soul-crushing” barriers impeding people with disabilities. It concluded that progress on accessibility has taken place at a “glacial pace.” It determined that that the goal of accessibility by 2025 is nowhere in sight, and that specific new Government actions, spelled out in the report, are needed.

However, in the 851 days since receiving the Onley Report, the Ford Government has not made public a detailed 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. The Government repeated pledges to lead by example on accessibility, and to take an all-of-Government approach to accessibility. But these pledges were backed by nothing new to make them mean anything more than when previous governments and ministers engaged in similar rhetorical flourishes.

2. The Government Has Not Ensured that Public Money Will Never Be Used to Create New Accessibility Barriers

In its three years in office, we have seen no effective action by the Ford Government to ensure that public money is never used to create new disability barriers or to perpetuate existing barriers. The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars on infrastructure and on procuring goods, services and facilities, without ensuring that no new barriers are thereby created, and that no existing barriers are thereby perpetuated.

As but one example, last summer, the Ford Government announced that it would spend a half a billion dollars on the construction of new schools and on additions to existing schools. However, it announced no action to ensure that those new construction projects are fully accessible to students, teachers, school staff and parents with disabilities. The Ontario Ministry of Education has no effective standards or policies in place to ensure this accessibility, and has announced no plans to create any.

3. The Ford Government Has Enacted or Strengthened No Accessibility Standards

In its three years in power, the Ford Government has enacted no new AODA accessibility standards. It has revised no existing accessibility standards to strengthen them. It has not begun the process of developing any new accessibility standards that were not already under development when the Ford Government took office in June 2018.

As one major example, the Ford Government has not committed to develop and enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to ensure that the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. No AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard now exists. None is under development.

This failure to act is especially striking for two reasons. First, the last two AODA Independent Reviews, the 2014 Independent Review by Mayo Moran and the 2019 Independent Review by David Onley, each identified the disability barriers in the built environment as a priority. They both called for new action under the AODA. Second, when he was seeking the public’s votes in the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford made specific commitments regarding the disability barriers in the built environment. Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s election commitments on disability accessibility, included this:

  1. a) “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.”
  1. b) “Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.”
  1. c) “Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”
  1. d) “This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

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

4. The Ford Government Has Announced No New Action to Effectively Ensure the Accessibility of Public Transportation

Just before the 2018 Ontario election, the Ontario Government received the final recommendations for reforms to the Transportation Accessibility Standard from the AODA Transportation Standards Development committee. Since then, and over the ensuing three years in office, the Ford Government announced no action on those recommendations. It has not publicly invited any input or consultation on those recommendations. At the same time, the Ford Government has made major announcements about the future of public transit infrastructure in Ontario. As such, barriers in public transportation remained while the risk remains that new ones will continue to be created.

 5. The Ford Government Imposed Substantial and Harmful Delays in the Work of Five Important AODA Standards Development Committees that was Underway Before the Government Took Office

When the Ford Government won the 2018 Ontario election, the work of five AODA Standards Development Committees were all frozen, pending the new Minister for Accessibility getting a briefing. Any delay in the work of those committees would further slow the AODA’s sluggish implementation documented in the Onley Report.

Those Standards Development Committees remained frozen for months, long after the minister needed time to be briefed. We had to campaign for months to get that freeze lifted.

Over four months later, in November 2018, the Ford Government belatedly lifted its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. However it did not then also lift the freeze on the work of the three other Standards Development Committees, those working on proposals for accessibility standards in health care and education.

We had to keep up the pressure for months. The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 before it announced that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. It was as long as half a year after that announcement that those three Standards Development Committees finally got back to work.

In the meantime, the many unfair disability barriers in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system remained in place, while new ones continued to be created. The final enactment of new accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education was delayed commensurately, as was the enactment of revisions to strengthen Ontario’s 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard and Ontario’s 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard.

6. The Ford Government Has Repeatedly Violated Its Mandatory Duty Under the AODA to Make Public the Initial or Final Recommendations of a Government-Appointed Standards Development Committee “Upon Receiving” Those Recommendations

Section 10(1) of the AODA requires the Government to make public the initial or final recommendations that it receives from a Standards Development Committee, appointed under the AODA “upon receiving” those recommendations. The Ontario Government under successive governments and ministers has wrongly taken the approach that it can delay making those recommendations public for months despite the AODA‘s clear, mandatory and unambiguous language.

The Ford Government has certainly taken this troubling approach. It delayed some two years before making public the final recommendations of the Employment Standards Development Committee earlier this year. It delayed some six months before making public the final recommendations of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee last year. It delayed over five months before making public the initial recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee earlier this month. It has delayed over two months so far in making public the initial recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

As a result, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has brought a court application, now pending, to seek an order compelling the Ford Government to obey the AODA. This is especially disturbing, because the Government is leading by such a poor example when it comes to the AODA. Its delay in complying with s. 10 of the AODA slows the already-slow process of developing and enacting or revising accessibility standards under the AODA.

7. The Ford Government Has for 3 Years Failed to Fulfil Its Mandatory Duty to Appoint A Standards Development Committee to Review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017. Neither the previous Wynne Government nor the current Ford Government have fulfilled this legal duty. This is a mandatory AODA requirement.

The Ford Government has had three years in office to learn about this duty and to fulfil it. We flagged it for the Government very soon after it took office in 2018.

8. The Ford Government Has Made Public No Detailed Plan for Effective AODA Enforcement

During its three years in office, the Ford Government has announced no public plan to substantially strengthen the AODA’s weak enforcement. Three years ago, the Ford Government inherited the previous McGuinty Government’s and Wynne Government’s multi-year failure to effectively and vigourously enforce the AODA. What little enforcement that took place fell far short of what people with disabilities needed, as is confirmed in both the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report. The failure to effectively enforce the AODA has contributed to Ontario falling so far behind the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

 

9. In a Waste of Public Money, the Ford Government Diverted 1.3 Million Dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Controversial Private Accessibility Certification Process

The only significant new action that the Ford Government has announced on accessibility over its first three years in office was its announcement over two years ago in the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget that it would spend 1.3 million public dollars over two years to have the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process “certify” some 250 buildings, belonging to business or the public sector, for accessibility. In two years, this has not been shown to lead to the removal or prevention of a single barrier against people with disabilities anywhere in the built environment. It has predictably been a waste of public money.

The Ford Government did not consult the AODA Alliance or, to our knowledge, the disability community, before embarking on this wasteful project. It ignored serious concerns with spending public money on such a private accessibility certification process. These concerns have been public for well over five years. The Ford Government gave no public reasons for rejecting these concerns.

A private accessibility certification risks misleading the public, including people with disabilities. It also risks misleading the organization that seeks this so-called certification. It “certifies” nothing.

A private organization might certify a building as accessible, and yet people with disabilities may well find that the building itself, or the services offered in the building, still have serious accessibility problems. Such a certification provides no defence to an accessibility complaint or proceeding under the AODA, under the Ontario Building Code, under a municipal bylaw, under the Ontario Human Rights Code, or under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If an organization gets a good -level accessibility certification, it may think they have done all they need to do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be misled to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This can turn out not to be the case, especially if the assessor uses the Rick Hansen Foundation’s insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if the assessor’s only training is the inadequate short training that the Rick Hansen Foundation created.

For example, the Ford Government got the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify as accessible the huge New Toronto Courthouse now under construction. Yet we have shown that its plans are replete with serious accessibility problems. The Rick Hansen Foundation’s assessor never contacted the AODA Alliance to find out about our serious concerns with the courthouse’s design before giving it a rating of “accessible.”

The Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process lacks much-needed public accountability. The public has no way to know if the private accessibility assessor is making accurate assessments. It is not subject to Freedom of Information laws. It operates behind closed doors. It lacks the kind of public accountability that applies to a government audit or inspection or other enforcement. For more details on the problems with private accessibility certification processes, read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process.

10. The Ford Government Unfairly Burdened Ontarians with Disabilities with Having to Fight Against New Barriers Being Created by Municipalities Allowing Electric Scooters

It is bad enough that the Ford Government did too little in its first three years in office to tear down the many existing barriers that impede people with disabilities. It is even worse that the Government took action that will create new disability barriers, and against which people with disabilities must organize to battle at the municipal level.

When the Ford Government took office in June 2018, it was illegal to ride electric scooters (e-scooters) in public places. In January 2019, over the strenuous objection of Ontario’s disability community, the Ford Government passed a new regulation. It lets each municipality permit the use of e-scooters in public places, if they wish. It did not require municipalities to protect people with disabilities from the dangers that e-scooters pose to them.

Silent, high-speed e-scooters racing towards pedestrians at over 20 KPH, ridden by an unlicensed, untrained, uninsured joy-riders, endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Leaving e-scooters strewn all over in public places, as happens in other cities that permit them, creates physical barriers to people using wheelchairs and walkers. They create tripping hazards for people with vision loss.

Torontonians with disabilities had to mount a major campaign to convince Toronto City Council to reject the idea of allowing e-scooters. They were up against a feeding-frenzy of well-funded and well-connected corporate lobbyists, the lobbyists who clearly hold sway with the Ontario Premier’s office.

Unlike Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor have allowed e-scooters, disregarding the danger they now pose for people with disabilities. Some other Ontario cities are considering allowing them.

Thanks to the Ford Government, people with disabilities must now campaign against e-scooters, city by city. This is a huge, unfair burden that people with disabilities did not need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a cruel irony that the Ford Government unleashed the danger of personal injuries by e-scooters at the same time as it has said it wants to reduce the number of concussions in Ontario.

11. The Ford Government’s Rhetoric Has Been Harmfully Diluting the AODA’s Goal of Full Accessibility

A core feature of the AODA is that it requires Ontario become “accessible” to people with disabilities by 2025. It does not merely say that Ontario should become “more accessible” by that deadline.

Yet, the Ford Government too often only talks about making Ontario more accessible. In fairness, the previous Ontario Liberal Government under Premier Dalton McGuinty and later Premier Kathleen Wynne too often did the same.

This dilutes the goal of the AODA, for which people with disabilities fought so hard for a decade. It hurts people with disabilities. It is no doubt used to try to lower expectations and over-inflate any accomplishments.

 

12. The Ford Government Has Given Public Voice to False Troubling Stereotypes About Disability Accessibility

 

Two years ago, the Ford Government publicly voiced very troubling and harmful stereotypes about the AODA and disability accessibility during National AccessAbility Week.

In 2019, during National AccessAbility Week, NDP MPP Joel Harden proposed a that the Legislature pass a resolution that called for the Government to bring forward a plan in response to the Onley Report. The resolution was worded in benign and non-partisan words, which in key ways tracked Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. The proposed resolution stated:

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

Premier Ford had every good reason to support this proposed resolution, as we explained in the June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update. Yet, as described in detail in the June 11, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Doug Ford Government used its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution on May 30, 2019, right in the middle of National Access Abilities Week.

The speeches by Conservative MPPs in the Legislature on the Government’s behalf, in opposition to that motion, voiced false and harmful stereotypes about disability accessibility. Those statements in effect called into serious question the Ford Government’s commitment to the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. They denigrated the creation and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards as red tape that threatened to imperil businesses and hurt people with disabilities.

13. The Ford Government Has Failed to Effectively Address the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

All of the foregoing would be enough in ordinary times to merit the “F” grade which the Ford Government is here awarded. However, its treatment of people with disabilities and their accessibility needs during the COVID-19 pandemic makes that grade all the more deserved.

In the earliest weeks, the Government deserved a great deal of leeway for responding to the pandemic, because it was understandably caught off guard, as was the world, by the enormity of this nightmare. However, even well after the initial shock period when the pandemic hit and for the year or more since then, the Ford Government has systemically failed to effectively address the distinctive and heightened urgent needs of people with disabilities in the pandemic.

People with disabilities were foreseeably exposed to disproportionately contract COVID-19, to suffer its worst hardships and to die from it. Yet too often the Government took a failed “one size fits all” approach to its emergency planning, that failed to address the urgent needs of people with disabilities. This issue has preoccupied the work of the AODA Alliance and many other disability organizations over the past 14 months.

Two of the areas where the Government most obviously failed were in health care and education. This is especially inexcusable since the Government had the benefit of a Health Care Standards Development Committee, a K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and a Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to give the Government ideas and advice throughout the pandemic. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee delivered a detailed package of recommendations for the pandemic response four months into the pandemic. Yet those recommendations have largely if not totally gone unimplemented.

The Government repeatedly left it to each school board, college, university, and health care provider to each separately figure out what disability barriers had arisen during the pandemic, and how to remove and prevent those barriers. This is a predictable formula for wasteful duplication of effort, for increased costs and workloads, all in the middle of a pandemic.

For example, the Ford Government largely left it to each frontline teacher and principal to figure out how to accommodate the recurring needs of students with different disabilities during distance learning. The Government relied on TVO as a major partner in delivering distance learning to school students, even though TVO’s distance learning offerings have accessibility barriers that are unforgivable at any time, and especially during a pandemic.

As another example, the Ford Government did not properly plan to ensure that the process for booking and arranging a COVID-19 vaccine was disability-accessible. There is no specific accessible booking hotline to help people with disabilities navigate the booking process from beginning to end.

There is no assurance that drug stores or others through whom vaccines can be booked have accessible websites. We have received complaints that the Government’s own online booking portal has accessibility problems. Arranging for a barrier-free vaccination for People with Disabilities is even harder than the public is finding for just booking a vaccination for those with no disabilities.

14. The Lives of Vulnerable People with Disabilities are Endangered by the Ford Government’s Secret Plans for Critical Care Triage During the COVID-19 Pandemic, If Hospitals Cannot Serve All Critical Care Patients

The AODA Alliance, working together with other disability organizations, has also had to devote a great deal of effort to try to combat the danger that vulnerable people with disabilities would face disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical care if the pandemic overloads hospitals, leading to critical care triage. The Ford Government has created new disability barriers by allowing clear disability discrimination to be entrenched in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol. Even though formal critical care triage has not yet been directed, there is a real danger that it has occurred on the front lines without proper public accountability e.g. by ambulance crews declining to offer critical care to some patients at roadside, when called via 911.

The Ford Government has allowed a concerted disinformation campaign to be led by those who designed the Ontario critical care triage protocol, and who are falsely claiming that there is no disability discrimination in that protocol.

Further Background

Further background on all of the issues addressed in this report card can be found on the AODA Alliance’s web site. It has separate pages, linked to its home page, addressing such topics as accessibility issues in transportation, health care, education, information and communication, the built environment, AODA enforcement, and disability issues arising during the COVID-19 pandemic, among others. Follow @aodaalliance

Disability Rights Advocate Resorts to Freedom of Information Application to Unearth the Ford Government’s Secret Plans for Critical Care Triage if Overcrowded Hospitals Can’t Serve All Critically-Ill Patients

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Rights Advocate Resorts to Freedom of Information Application to Unearth the Ford Government’s Secret Plans for Critical Care Triage if Overcrowded Hospitals Can’t Serve All Critically-Ill Patients

May 20, 2021 Toronto: To Mark today, Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the AODA Alliance makes public a Freedom of Information application by its chair, David Lepofsky, filed to finally enable the public to see the Ford Government’s secret plans for critical care triage. Since the pandemic began over 14 months ago, the Ford Government has kept a tight lid on its critical care triage plans. This new Freedom of Information application tries to drag into public light The Government’s plans on this life-and-death issue. (Key excerpt from the Freedom of Information application set out below).

“It’s great that daily infections are dropping and vaccines are reaching more people, but the risk remains that critical care may have to be triaged if this positive trend reverses, if there’s new variants or if there’s a fourth wave,” said David Lepofsky, who leads the non-partisan AODA Alliance, which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities, including in the health care system. “The public has a right to know exactly what instructions have been given to ICU hospital staff and ambulance crews on who lives and who dies, if critical care triage becomes necessary. The public also has a right to know who is making these life-and-death decisions for the Government, and that is what my Freedom of Information application aims to unearth.”

This Freedom of Information application is necessary because the Ford Government has refused to answer any of the nine detailed and well-researched letters that the AODA Alliance has sent over the past eight months to Health Minister Christine Elliott, 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 27, 2021 letter. It has refused to directly consult with the AODA Alliance or other disability advocates on this issue, hiding behind its external Bioethics Table, an advisory body that makes no decisions on this issue.

“If you want to see the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol, you won’t find it on a Government website. You will only find a leaked copy on the AODA Alliance website. We have no idea whether it has been changed since we got a leaked copy back in January,” said Lepofsky. “While critical care triage has not been publicly launched, Ontario hospitals have been doing practice drills behind closed doors using the Government’s secret instructions.”

The AODA Alliance, other disability groups and the Ontario Human Rights Commission have raised serious objections to disability discrimination in those parts of Ontario’s critical care triage plans that have been leaked to the public. When the Government is confronted with these concerns, it deflects inquiries to doctors, rather than publicly owning up to the critical care triage plans that are being readied under the Ford Government’s auspices.

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

For more background on this issue, check out:

  1. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 independent report on Ontario’s plans for critical care triage if hospitals are overwhelmed by patients needing critical care,
  1. The AODA Alliance’s captioned new online video detailing the disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
  1. The May 7, 2021 guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the Toronto Star and
  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and its COVID-19 page, detailing its efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID pandemic

Excerpt from the May 18, 2021 Freedom of Information application by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

  1. A record or records from on or after January 1, 2021 (including draft instructions or directions that have not yet been approved or activated) that directs hospitals and/or physicians in hospitals on how and/or when to conduct triage or rationing of critical care including refusing critical care to a patient needing critical care, including but not limited to any document purporting to set out an “Emergency Standard of Care” in relation to critical care. This includes any protocols or directions, draft or final, in relation to patients age 18 or older as well as any such directions or instructions, draft or otherwise, that relate to patients under the age of 18.
  1. A record or records dated on or after March 28, 2020 to ambulance services, ambulance crews, emergency medical technicians or other emergency patient transportation services, that directs (or includes draft directions that have not yet been activated or approved) emergency transportation staff on how or when to conduct triage or rationing of critical care in which critical care may be refused to patients needing critical care, including but not limited to any document purporting to set out an “Emergency Standard of Care” in relation to critical care.
  1. Any document or documents that include any or all of the following:
  1. a) Membership of the Critical care COVID Command Centre
  1. b) the Mandate and or assigned responsibilities of the Critical Care COVID Command Centre
  1. c) Any instructions since January 1, 2021 from or on behalf of the Critical care COVID Command Centre, in addition to those documents requested in paragraphs 1 or 2 above, to hospitals/and/or doctors, and/or ambulance crews or emergency medical technicians or emergency patient transportation services and/or any other health care professionals, on how and/or when to conduct any form of critical care triage so as to decline to provide critical care to a patient who needs critical care (including draft directions or instructions that have not yet been activated or approved).
  1. Any correspondence between the Ministry of Health and/or Ontario health and/or the Critical Care COVID Command Centre on the one hand, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) on the other, dated September 11, 2020 or afterwards, on the topic of critical care triage and how and/or when critical care triage is to be conducted.
  1. Any document from September 11, 2020 and afterwards setting out plans or options or draft plans (whether or not they have been activated, approved or implemented) for legalizing, permitting or directing hospitals and/or physicians to withdraw critical care from a patient who needs critical care and does not consent to the withdrawal of critical care.

Ontario is Not Out of the Woods When It Comes to the Danger of Disability Discrimination in Critical Care Triage

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/

Ontario is Not Out of the Woods When It Comes to the Danger of Disability Discrimination in Critical Care Triage

May 19, 2021

            SUMMARY

It is very good that new daily COVID-19 infection rates are dropping and that more and more people are getting vaccinated. This makes it less likely that Ontario must resort to critical care triage in the immediate future.

However, disability discrimination in critical care triage remains a critical issue (pun intended). We have learned that things can take a turn for the worse very rapidly. With new COVID-19 variants, there is a risk of a later fourth surge. As well, emergency and ambulance crews may well be engaging in critical care triage right now, with no public accountability for it.

We know that behind closed doors, Ontario hospitals have been training their staffs to make critical care triage decisions. They are using the disability-discriminatory January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol in that training. As such, disability discrimination is getting more and more embedded in our health care system, all publicly financed.

We will continue bringing these issues to the public’s and media’s attention. Here is the latest news on this issue.

 1. Urge Doctors, Nurses, Ambulance Crews and Hospital Administrators You Know to Watch the AODA Alliance’s Informative New Captioned Video on Disability Discrimination Problems with Ontario’s Critical care Triage Protocol

Do you know any doctors, nurses or others who work in hospital emergency rooms or intensive care units (ICUs)? Do you know any hospital administrators or people who work as part of ambulance crews?

Please encourage them all to watch the AODA Alliance’s new captioned video that explains the serious disability discrimination problems with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol. Those health care staff may have gotten some training on that protocol. We fear they are getting no training on the disability discrimination that permeates it.

We also recommend that you ask your family doctor to watch this video. If you end up in hospital, and if critical care triage is going on, you will want your doctor to help advocate for you in the face of the critical care triage protocol’s disability discrimination.

If you have not seen it, we invite you to also watch this video. This video is available for one and all at https://youtu.be/Ju8cyH7TbQo Hundreds have watched it in the two weeks since it was publicly posted. We’ve gotten very positive feedback about it. Please help us reach those on the front lines of Ontario’s health care system.. We believe that they won’t want to be engaging in any disability discrimination, and will wanted to be forewarned about it.

 2. Media Shines Much-Needed Spotlight on the Ford Government’s Relentless Secrecy over Its Critical Care Triage Plans

The Ford Government’s relentless secrecy still persists when it comes to its critical care triage protocol and plans. No doubt, senior Government officials think that the recent drop in new daily COVID infections and ICU occupancy means this whole issue may go away without them having to face public scrutiny for their disability discriminatory critical care triage plans. If so, we beg to differ.

Below we set out an excellent report in the May 6, 2021 edition of the online publication Press Progress. It reports on this protracted Government secrecy, and on criticism of it from the disability community and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

This article reports on the fact that we and some others from the disability community have had a chance, months ago, to speak to the Ontario Government-appointed advisory Bioethics Table. We emphasize that that Table does not make any decisions in this area. It only gives advice. We don’t know what happens with that advice once the Bioethics Table gives it.

We don’t know what the Bioethics Table has advised the Government at any time after September 11, 2020. We don’t have any proof that the Bioethics Table ever reviewed and advised on the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol itself, or if it did, whether the Government accepted and implemented that advice. It is all shielded behind the Government-created fog of secrecy.

In this article, the argument is made that among other things, we need clarity on the Government’s critical care triage plans. We add that people with disabilities need much, much more than clarity about those plans. We have utter clarity that these plans are replete with disability discrimination. We need that disability discrimination removed.

In sharp contrast to Ontario’s paternalistic secrecy over its critical care triage protocol and plans, the media has reported that Alberta has made public its critical care triage protocol. We set out below an Edmonton Journal news report on this. We have not had an opportunity to review the Alberta critical care triage protocol and cannot comment on its contents.

 3. A Unique Chance to Read the Ford Government’s Talking Points For Defending Its Disability Discriminatory Critical Care Triage Protocol

The Ford Government’s strategy for several months has been to avoid saying anything about Ontario’s critical care triage protocol and plans wherever possible. When the media asks the Ford Government questions in this area, and if the Government responds at all, it typically deflects media questions to doctors. The doctor who seems to be very often the person to whom the Ford Government points, and who is in effect serving as the Government’s spokesperson, is Dr. James Downar. Dr. Downar has often been identified as the author or co-author of the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol. He is also a member of the Government-appointed advisory Bioethics Table.

Below we set out a statement which Dr. Downar has sent to a media outlet in response to a media inquiry. We offer these reflections on it:

  1. a) Dr. Downar’s response is similar to or the same as other quotations attributed to him that we have seen in other media reports. It reads like it is a set response.
  1. b) This statement reads like it could have been carefully written or vetted by someone within Ford Government. It has the flavour of a Government-drafted or Government-approved communications document.
  1. c) Dr. Downar’s statement is demonstrably inaccurate and misleading on important points. It is misleading where it talks about consultations being ongoing. We have repeatedly sought chances to get the Government to consult us on this issue. We have been very public about the fact that the Government has refused to do so.

This statement is also inaccurate and misleading where it seeks to claim that disability discrimination plays no part in the Ontario critical care triage protocol. Contrary to what this statement claims, the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol explicitly directs that a patient’s disability IS a factor that in some cases is to be weighed AGAINST their getting access to the life-saving critical care they need, if Ontario has more patients needing critical care than it has critical care beds and supports.

For example, if a cancer patient needs critical care, they 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, 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. In both examples, this is disability discrimination, pure and simple.

This statement tries to defend Ontario’s critical care triage protocol by arguing that it does not make the Clinical Frailty Scale (which we have shown to be disability-discriminatory) because, among other things it does not apply that tool to assessing patients with a stable disability. As we have publicly emphasized, this is no defence. You cannot justify discriminating against some people with disabilities, e.g. those with progressive disabilities, by pleading that you don’t also discriminate against those with stable non-progressive disabilities. In the same way, you cannot defend discrimination against Muslims by pleading that you don’t also discriminate against Catholics.

It is deeply troubling that the Government’s defender keeps repeating these bogus arguments long after we have shown them to be so obviously incorrect. The Government has certainly not disavowed these statements that are made in its defence.

 4. The Call for the Ontario Government to Remove the Disability Discrimination from Its Critical Care Triage Protocol Has Come From the Trade Union Sector

Below we set out a recent public statement by the Canadian Union of Public Employees CUPE Ontario echoing our concerns about Ontario’s critical care triage protocol and plans. We welcome support from any and all parts of our society.

 5. Delay and Delay and Delay

There have now been 839 days, or over 2 and a third years, 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 effective plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. The Ontario Government only has 1,323 days left until 2025, the deadline by which the Government must have led Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities.

            MORE DETAILS

 Press Progress May 6, 2021

Originally posted at https://pressprogress.ca/disability-groups-say-ontario-government-did-not-consult-them-on-life-and-death-covid-19-triage-decisions/

Disability Groups Say Ontario Government Did Not Consult Them on Life and Death COVID-19 ‘Triage’ Decisions

Ontario Human Rights Commission Chief Commissioner says vulnerable groups deserve certainty on ’life and death triage decisions’

by PressProgress

May 6, 2021

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott promised to involve disability advocates in the drafting of possible “triage protocols” to decide who may be health denied care should hospitals be overwhelmed.

But the province’s major disability advocacy groups say they haven’t been consulted by the Ministry on the current drafts. They worry those drafts could be discriminatory and that they could be implemented on short notice.

According to The Globe and Mail, hospitals across Toronto were practicing triage protocols to reserve Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds for those most likely to survive, through last week.

Draft triage protocols, which were sent to hospitals on January 13, have not been finalized according to Ontario’s Health Minister. But the drafts’ emphasis on testing patients’ abilities to live “without assistance” — to weigh whether care should be allocated — has many advocates for people with disabilities worried.

On April 21, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott told the legislative assembly:

“I asked that this issue be dealt with—with the people with disabilities groups as well as with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. There have been numerous discussions, but nothing has been activated yet, and I can assure you that nothing has been approved at this point.”

Lawyer and AODA alliance chair David Lepofsky says the January 13 draft protocols discriminate against certain disabled people by ranking patients based on their ability to conduct Instrumental Activities Of Daily Living.

“For a person with cancer they look explicitly at whether a person is disabled and can’t get out of bed or less,” Lepofsky told PressProgress. “If it’s a person over 65 with a progressive disease it asks if they can do 11 Activities of Daily Living — getting up, shopping, eating, using the phone, doing your finances — without assistance. If not, you rank lower.”

“That’s disability.”

Yet, Lepofsky said he hasn’t been able to discuss the organization’s concerns with the minister or ministry representatives. “The only consulting that’s gone on at all is a body external to the government called the Bioethics Table. Our consultations with them were last summer — ending August 31 — and then one meeting virtually on December 17. Many of us said we needed more time and needed to prepare.”

Since the draft was leaked, on January 13, Lepofsky said the group has received no further contact.

Ontario Human Rights Commission Chief Commissioner Ena Chadha told PressProgress the OHRC has been telling the government for over a year it needs to consult with concerned advocates for people with disabilities on any triage protocol. Chadha said that wasn’t done.

While an advisory body, the Bioethics Table, consulted some affected groups ahead of the January 13 drafts, since December 2020, Chadha said no other notable consultations appear to have followed. “Since then human rights experts, and vulnerable groups disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including people with disabilities, older persons, Indigenous peoples and racialized communities, have not been consulted on these latest protocols.”

“They have a right to clarity and certainty on how life and death triage decisions would affect them. Health care practitioners who would be compelled to make these difficult decisions deserve the same clarity and certainty,” Chadha said.

“Human rights groups are concerned that, despite the Minister’s expressed comments, the reality on the ground will be that the Emergency Standard of Care document circulated to hospitals in January will be used anyway out of necessity.”

On April 28, the Ontario Medical Association hosted a panel featuring Peel Region Medical Officer Lawrence Loh and OMA head Samantha Hill titled Making Difficult Decisions During the Pandemic. Included on the agenda was “Who should be ventilated if resources are limited?”

A spokesperson for the OMA confirmed the discussion was “focusing on existing guidelines” as per the January 13 proposals from Critical Care Services.

“We were sent notice that the triage protocol could be initiated within days,” a doctor at Markham Stouffville hospital told PressProgress. “They’ve been talking about this for sometime. I can’t believe I and my colleagues will be asked to make life and death decisions for people.”

Further, an early May memo obtained by the Globe from Ontario’s “critical care command centre”signalled the health system had plans to utilize the existing drafts. The memo noted, cautiously, that recent increases in capacity may mean “we will not need to activate the Emergency Standard of Care or recommend the use of the triage protocol.”

Community Living CEO Chris Beesley said his organization has been frustrated by a lack of communication from Ontario’s Ministry of Health.

“Since last Spring, we’ve been working with a coalition of disability focused organizations, to try and get some transparency on the triage protocol,” Beesley told PressProgress.

However, Beesley said, “Neither Minister Elliott nor anyone from her staff had communicated with us since last July.”

Arch Disability Law Centre lawyer Mariam Shanouda also told PressProgress “We have never been consulted by the Ministry of Health.”

“We have met several times now with the Bioethics Table which is a Table that was struck by the Ministry to advise them on the Triage Protocol. The last time we were invited to meet with the Bioethics Table was in December 2020, which is especially concerning since the latest version of the Triage Protocol is dated January 13, 2021,” Shanouda said. The organization said it has not been consulted since.

Six members of Ontario’s Bioethics Table additionally warned April 15 that “without public discussion, the vulnerability of already marginalized groups is intensified and trust eroded.”

PressProgress contacted Critical Care Services to respond to concerns advocates had that the consultations were insufficient and the draft it sent out could be discriminatory. CCSO referred PressProgress to Bioethics table member Dr. James Downar, who, CBC News reports, wrote the January 13 drafts.

Dr. Downar told PressProgress:

“The Emergency Standard of Care is a contingency plan to be used as an option of last resort. It was based on recommendations that were developed by the Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics table, which conducted extensive consultations with multiple stakeholders including disability advocates and the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The consultations are continuing, and the process of generating, reviewing and updating any triage plan should always be an ongoing process, responding to changing conditions, emerging evidence and an evolving understanding of the ethical, social and legal implications.”

Ontario’s Ministry of Health did not respond to requests for comment from PressProgress.

On April 27, the Ministry called for special medical assistance from Canada’s armed forces as hospitals face a surge in COVID-19 ICU patients.”

PressProgress

PressProgress is an award-winning non-profit news organization focused on uncovering and unpacking the news through original investigative and explanatory journalism.

@pressprogress

PressProgress is a news division of the Broadbent Institute

 Written Statement in April 2021 to News Outlet by Dr. James Downar in Response to Media Inquiry Regarding Critical Care Triage Protocol

  1. Critical care triage has not yet been initiated anywhere in Ontario. The focus of the critical care community is on building capacity to see us through this surge.
  2. The Emergency Standard of Care is a contingency plan to be used as an option of last resort. It was based on recommendations that were developed by the Ontario COVID-19 Bioethics table, which conducted extensive consultations with multiple stakeholders including disability advocates and the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The consultations are continuing, and the process of generating, reviewing and updating any triage plan should always be an ongoing process, responding to changing conditions, emerging evidence and an evolving understanding of the ethical, social and legal implications.
  3. The only criterion used to prioritize critical care would be short-term mortality risk. This is always based on an individualized assessment, and clinical guidance is provided to help assess risk in people depending on their medical condition. But assessment tools should only be used in situations where they help indicate mortality risk, and with respect to disabilities, there are clear and explicit instructions not to use the Clinical Frailty Scale for people under the age of 65, or for anyone with chronic, stable disabilities or other conditions where it would not indicate mortality risk. For other conditions, mortality risk can be determined without any assessment of function. In other words, people with identical disabilities would be prioritized very differently if their mortality risks were different, and people with no disabilities at all receive a lower priority if their mortality risk is high. The focus is squarely on mortality risk, not ability or function. This is very important.”

 Edmonton Journal April 30, 2021

Originally posted at https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/ahs-releases-triage-protocol-outlining-which-patients-would-receive-care-if-icus-become-overwhelmed-by-covid-19

AHS releases triage protocol outlining which patients would receive care if ICUs become overwhelmed by COVID-19

Author of the article: Anna Junker

The Royal Alexandra Hospital is pictured in Edmonton. The hospital’s ICU unit has seen COVID-19 surges during the pandemic. PHOTO BY SHAUGHN BUTTS /Postmedia, file

Alberta Health Services has released a triage plan for determining who will receive critical care in the event that COVID-19 patients outnumber available ICU beds in the province.

The 50-page Critical Care Triage plan, unveiled Friday, would not be activated until the health authority has exhausted all other options, such as transferring patients, health-care staff, equipment and medication between different hospitals in the same health zone or across the province. It would be implemented based on direction from the AHS CEO, in consultation with the executive leadership team.

“When activated the triage protocol will be utilized in all health-care facilities and critical care units in Alberta to prioritize patients who have the greatest likelihood of overall survival,” the report states.

The plan lays out four “pandemic or disaster” stages, which would determine whether triaging is necessary.

In a “minor surge,” the number of patients requiring critical care would exceed resources. As a result, staff may be pulled from other critical care units to help with care and patients may be moved into recovery rooms.

A “moderate surge” would see staff brought in from other areas of hospitals and patients moved to recovery rooms or subspecialty ICUs. Transfers for patients in emergency departments would be delayed.

Triaging may be required in a “major surge,” which would occur when 90 per cent or more of available ICU beds in the province are occupied. The first phase of triaging would only allow patients who are predicted to have more than 20 per cent likelihood of surviving one year to enter the ICU.

A “large-scale surge” would see 95 per cent or more of available ICUs in the province occupied and could see the second phase of triaging activated. Under that scenario, those with a 50 per cent chance of surviving one year would be admitted to the ICU. Pediatric triaging will be considered.

“Information about a patient’s underlying illness, disease, or disability will not be taken into consideration unless they directly impact a patient’s likelihood of surviving the next year,” the report states.

Decisions for critical care eligibility will not include a person’s age, sex, socioeconomic status, race, disability, employment status, or the cost of future care. Once a decision has been made on who gets care, it cannot be appealed by the patient or family.

Alberta has the capacity to fully staff 425 ICU beds for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. As of Friday, there are 152 COVID-19 patients in the ICU – the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.

Kerry Williamson, spokesman for AHS, said in a statement the Edmonton Zone currently has 102 ICU beds open — a base of 72 general adult beds and an additional 30 spaces.

This week, the Edmonton Zone was between 86 and 88 per cent capacity for all ICU beds.

‘I just can’t imagine’

Dr. Noel Gibney, co-chair of the Strategic COVID-19 Pandemic Committee for the Edmonton Zone, said the triage plan is well-developed, but it is not a situation to ever want to be in.

“I just can’t imagine, explaining to the patients or their families why these individuals are not going to get the care that they need,” Gibney said. “I can’t imagine doing that day after day after day, or multiple times in the day. I mean that the moral distress associated with that would be extreme.”

He said the postponement of surgeries and release of the triage protocol suggests AHS is extremely worried about a “disaster-type situation.”

Gibney said the public health restrictions that are currently in place are “absolutely not” enough, and warned that the protocol could need to be activated this month.

“I get the sense that the government has some notion that they may be able to just vaccinate the province out of trouble this time. But we’re not going to do that,” Gibney said.

“We’re in a situation where modelling shows that in about three weeks, so that by May 22, we will be at a point where we may reach Phase 1 of the pandemic triage protocol.”

He said the province needs to implement a strict lockdown and use the same health measures that were in place last April – moving all schooling online, limiting retail to essential-only, closing non health-related personal services like hair and nail salons, severely limiting or close places of worship, and closing patios.

Adequate sick pay also needs to be implemented, he said.

“Some of the components of what the government has been doing with targeted vaccinations, I think that’s great, but it simply isn’t going to be enough in time to get us out of that danger that we’re in,” Gibney said.

ajunker@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JunkerAnna

 Financial Post May 12, 2021

f

Originally posted at https://financialpost.com/pmn/press-releases-pmn/business-wire-news-releases-pmn/theres-no-room-for-discrimination-against-people-with-disabilities-cupe-ontario-and-joel-harden-call-for-consultation-and-revision-of-triage-protocol

Press Releases Business Wire News Releases

“There’s No Room for Discrimination Against People With Disabilities”: CUPE Ontario and Joel Harden Call for Consultation and Revision of Triage Protocol

Author of the article: Business Wire

Business Wire

Publishing date: May 12, 2021 • 23 hours ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation

TORONTO — The Ontario Government’s draft plan to ration access to at-capacity critical-care is discriminatory and must be revised immediately, said the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario and Joel Harden, NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre and the Critic for Accessibility & Persons with Disabilities.

“The fact that the draft plan says that doctors will look at your short-term mortality risk or your capacity for self-care to decide if you get access to limited intensive care units is nothing more than blatant discrimination against people with disabilities,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “This dangerously violates the foundational rights of Ontarians our members care for and the rights of many of our members themselves.”

While Health Minister Christine Elliott recently said that Ontario may not need to resort to rationing, due to reduced demand for ICUs, concerns raised by CUPE Ontario, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), disability organizations, and the six bioethicists on the government’s advisory Bioethics Table remain.

“I’m not reassured by that at all,” said Michele Gardner, member of CUPE Ontario’s Workers with Disabilities Committee. “This discriminatory triage protocol can still be used at any time. It makes it clear that people with disabilities are at risk of not getting the critical-care they need because of explicitly biased criteria.”

“The protocol must be revised to remove any discrimination and we must be consulted moving forward,” added Gardner. “The OHRC has raised the problem of lack of consultation, and so have the six members of the bioethics table, who rightly said that without it this government is only intensifying the vulnerability of people with disabilities.”

“More than a year has passed since over 200 community organizations wrote to the Ford government urging it to remove disability discrimination from its triage protocol. The response so far has been silence,” said Harden. “It’s time to stop the secrecy surrounding critical care triage and for the Ford government to remove disability discrimination from its protocol.”

Contacts

Daniel Tseghay

Communications Representative, CUPE

dtseghay@cupe.ca

AODA Alliance Writes Toronto Mayor John Tory and City Council to Thank Them for Maintaining the Ban on Electric Scooters

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 Writes Toronto Mayor John Tory and City Council to Thank Them for Maintaining the Ban on Electric Scooters

May 12, 2021

            SUMMARY

In the wake of the disability community’s major victory in Toronto last week, the AODA Alliance has just written Toronto Mayor John Tory and all members of Toronto City Council. We thank them for unanimously voting last week to keep in place the ban on riding electric scooters in public places. We set out that letter below. In our letter we also urge the City of Toronto to move swiftly to implement City Council’s commendable unanimous decision to conduct a public education campaign to ensure that the public knows that it is illegal to ride e-scooters in public and to beef up enforcement of the ban on riding e-scooters in Toronto.

Our attention now turns to other cities in Ontario that are allowing e-scooters or that are considering this possibility. They should act on the strong message from Toronto’s wise decision that e-scooters must remain banned to protect the safety of people with disabilities, seniors, children and others, and to avoid creating new disability accessibility barriers. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

If you live in a community outside Toronto where e-scooters are allowed or are being considered, we invite you to press your municipal government to ban e-scooters. If you want to learn more about this, check out the AODA Alliance‘s short captioned video on this topic that helped with our blitz in Toronto. It has been seen over 1,000 times. Even though it speaks about Toronto, all the points in it are relevant wherever you live. If your city is one of the few conducting a pilot project with e-scooters, nothing prevents the city from cancelling that pilot due to its dangers to the public.

Feel free to let us know what you do. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

You can thumb through all our advocacy efforts on this issue around Ontario over the past two years by visiting the AODA Alliance e-scooter web page.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliance’s May 12, 2021 Letter to Toronto Mayor John Tory and All City Council Members

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/

May 12, 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 in Toronto From the Dangers Posed by Electric Scooters

We write to thank you very much for unanimously voting on May 5, 2021 to keep in place the ban on riding e-scooters in public spaces in Toronto, and not to conduct an e-scooter pilot project. It is a major relief to people with disabilities, seniors and others that they will not face the dangers to their safety and accessibility that would have been created, had the vote gone in the other direction. We thank you for standing up for people with disabilities, and standing up to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists.

You should be proud of Toronto’s handling of this issue, for several reasons. City staff did thorough impartial professional work on this issue, in the highest tradition of the public service. They produced an excellent report to guide you in your deliberations, after carefully researching the subject, and after affording to all sides of the debate a complete and fair opportunity to address the issues raised by e-scooters.

You should also be proud of the important role that accessibility for people with disabilities played in the decision on this issue. City Council’s unanimous decision last week implements the two unanimous recommendations on e-scooters that the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee submitted to City Council, in order to protect personal safety and accessibility for people with disabilities. Once the disability concerns regarding e-scooters were raised by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee and by deputants from the disability community before Toronto’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee last year, City Council commendably directed City staff on July 28, 2020 to do more research on these disability issues, before Council would ultimately vote on the e-scooters issue. The further research that City staff thereafter undertook again verified these disability concerns and documented that there was no effective solution for them, short of a continued ban on public riding of e-scooters. City Council was wise to follow the City staff recommendation.

We thank every member of City Council who took the time to speak with us and/or other representatives from the disability community, as well as those of your staffs that did so. It is so important for you to hear directly from us as you think through public policy issues that can affect us.

It was very commendable that on May 5, 2021, City Council unanimously adopted the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee recommendation that the City undertake a public education strategy to inform the public that riding privately-owned e-scooters in public places is unlawful. As well, Council wisely adopted the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee recommendation that the City effectively enforce the ban on riding privately-owned e-scooters in public. That unanimous Toronto City Council decision reads in material part:

“1. City Council request the Toronto Police Services Board, the General Manager, Transportation Services, and the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards to consult with accessibility stakeholders to:

  1. develop a public education campaign to effectively convey the existing by-laws on the prohibition of e-scooters use in all public spaces; and
  2. actively scale up city-wide enforcement of the by-law prohibiting use of e-scooters in all public spaces.”

It is more than ironic that mere days after the City Council vote on e-scooters, I encountered an incident with a privately-owned e-scooter when walking on a public path in a City park. A child, likely no older than 14 or 15, was racing very close to me over and over, back and forth, on an e-scooter on that path. As I am blind, a sighted friend with me, himself a senior citizen whom the e-scooter barely missed, noted for me that the child had no helmet. We told the child that riding that e-scooter was illegal. The child seemed to have no idea of that. A little later, the child’s grandfather belligerently told my wife that it is not illegal to ride that e-scooter, and that he should know, since he is a lawyer. This typifies the need for strong action by the City.

City Council should be proud as well of the important leadership and strong signal that Toronto has provided for other municipalities around Ontario that may now be considering the possibility of lifting the ban on e-scooters, or that are carrying on an e-scooter pilot. Sadly, and contrary to the needs of Ontarians with disabilities, the Ontario Government did not do the much-needed research into disability concerns that Toronto City staff commendably undertook before Ontario exposed us all to the dangers that e-scooters have been proven to pose. Smaller communities don’t have the City staff capacity and expertise that Toronto is fortunate to have. They can all now benefit from the research undertaken by Toronto City staff.

We know that the well-financed e-scooter corporate lobbyists, who inundated Toronto City Hall for over two years on this issue, will target other cities. Toronto’s wise decision not to allow e-scooters will help give those other Ontario communities pause in the face of that corporate lobbying. Once the pandemic is behind us, we will be encouraging tourists and conferences that are looking for destinations in Ontario to choose as their destinations only those Ontario municipalities that ban e-scooters, in order to avoid the dangers of e-scooters.

We ask that City Council and the City of Toronto build on its commendable decision on e-scooters by taking the following important steps, with which we would be pleased to assist:

  1. Please immediately implement the Council’s recommendation for a public education blitz and for an enforcement plan regarding illegal riding of privately-owned e-scooters in public places.
  2. Please ensure that throughout the development of future City planning regarding micro-mobility, disability accessibility and safety concerns are front and centre, so that people with disabilities do not have to wage so exhausting a volunteer campaign as was the case over the past year and a quarter regarding e-scooters.
  3. Please ensure that the impact of City policies are always thoroughly vetted in advance for accessibility issues, as part of the City’s business routine. The City of course can benefit from the advice of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee which did excellent work here. However, this cannot all be left to that committee, especially in a City Government as large and complex as Toronto’s.
  4. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, please continue to afford to the public, including to people with disabilities, the opportunity to make deputations via virtual online participation. This can go a long way to overcoming disability barriers to participation in City Government decision-making.

We again congratulate and thank City Council and hope you will all stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

Send Us Your Feedback on the Initial or Draft Recommendations for What the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include that Were Prepared by the Government-Appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee

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/

Send Us Your Feedback on the Initial or Draft Recommendations for What the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include that Were Prepared by the Government-Appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee

May 10, 2021

            SUMMARY

It is more important than ever for the Ontario Government to remove and prevent the many disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government’s response to it have made those barriers worse. That flies in the face of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which requires the Ontario Government to lead our health care system and our entire society to become accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.

We now seek your feedback once again on the barriers that people with disabilities face in Ontario’s health care system. Last week, on Friday, May 7, 2021, the Ford Government belatedly and at last posted online for public comment the initial or draft recommendations in this area that were prepared by the Government—appointed advisory Health Care Standards Development Committee. We are going to write a brief to that Committee, giving it our feedback on their recommendations. We aim for that Committee’s final recommendations to be as strong and effective as possible. We need your input.

We have posted the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial or draft recommendations on the AODA Alliance website at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Health-Care-SDC-Initial-Report-As-Submitted.doc. The Government also has them posted, at least for now, on its website, with the link set out below.

Please give The Committee’s recommendations a read, and send us your thoughts. What do you like about them? Are they missing anything that should be added? Are they strong and comprehensive enough?

We welcome and invite your feedback to help us as we work on our brief. Send your thoughts to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Of course, you are also strongly encouraged to send your feedback and recommendations directly to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. You have up until August 11, 2021 to do that. The contact information for the Health Care Standards Development Committee is set out below, in the Government’s announcement.

If you want helpful background on the barriers people with disabilities face in the health care system,, including what the AODA Alliance has recommended in the past to the Health Care Standards Development Committee (based on feedback from our supporters), take a look at these resources:

  1. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2020 Framework that it submitted to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. We developed that Framework in consultation with our supporters, after getting input from multiple sources.
  1. The captioned November 26, 2019 online video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky where he describes many of the disability barriers in the health care system that the Health Care Accessibility Standard needs to remove and prevent. This video has been viewed over 1,000 times.
  1. The more recent April 27, 2021 captioned video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on one specific and frightening barrier that people with disabilities, face, namely Ontario’s disability-discriminatory critical care triage protocol, which was created in case hospitals must ration life-saving critical care due to COVID-19 overloads.
  1. The saga of the AODA Alliance’s non-partisan campaign that it has waged for over a decade to get the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA, documented on the AODA Alliance’s health care web page.

There has been a series of inexcusable Government delays in getting to this important interim stage on the road to the enactment of a strong and effective Health Care Accessibility Standard in Ontario. As a result of our five or more years of advocacy up to that point, on February 13, 2015, the Ontario cabinet minister then responsible for the AODA, Eric Hoskins, announced that the Government of Ontario would develop and enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA. That was six years ago.

Under the AODA, the first step required for the government to develop an accessibility standard is for the Minister responsible for the AODA to appoint an advisory committee (a “Standards Development Committee”) to make recommendations on what the specific accessibility standard should include. That Standards Development Committee is required to include representatives from the disability community as well as representatives from the obligated sector, such as health or education.

Some two years later, in or around 2017, the government appointed the advisory Health Care Standards Development Committee to develop recommendations on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard. It should not have taken the previous Kathleen Wynne Government some two years just to appoint an advisory committee.

Under the AODA, a Standards Development Committee is first required to develop initial or draft recommendations for the government. These initial or draft recommendations on what the accessibility standard in issue should include are to be submitted to the Minister. Under s. 10(1) of the AODA, upon receiving initial or draft recommendations from a Standards Development Committee, the minister is required to make those initial or draft recommendations public for at least 45 days, including posting them on the internet. The public is to be invited to give feedback on those initial or draft recommendations. That is the interim stage we have now reached.

That public feedback is to then be given to the Standards Development Committee. After that public feedback is received, the Standards Development Committee meets to review the feedback and to finalize its recommendations for the government on what the accessibility standard in issue should include.

Once finalized, the Standards Development Committee then is required to submit its final recommendations to the Minister. Section 10(1) of the AODA requires the Minister to make those final recommendations public upon receiving them. Thereafter, the government can enact some, all, or none of what the Standards Development Committee recommended.

Here we are, some four years after the Health Care Standards Development Committee was appointed, and we are now just getting to the stage of being able to review their initial or draft recommendations. This illustrates why progress towards an accessible Ontario has been so painfully slow.

The delays in the health care context are certainly not the sole fault of the previous Wynne Government. The Ford Government left the Health Care Standards Development Committee frozen and unable to work for over a year after it took office. Precious time was lost.

After it finally got back to work, the Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Ford Government by the end of last December, over five months ago. Yet the Ford Government only made them public last Friday. Section 10 of the AODA required the Government to make them public upon receiving them.

Had the Government made these initial or draft recommendations public upon receiving them, the public consultation could have wrapped up by now. The Health Care Standards Development Committee could have now been going back to work, drawing on that public input to finalize its recommendations. Instead, that Committee won’t be able to resume its work until some time this fall, depending on the extent of further Government delays. More time is wasted due to the Government.

Will the Ford Government’s delays on disability accessibility ever stop? There have now been 830 days, or over 2 and a quarter years, 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 effective plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. The Ontario Government only has 1,332 days left until 2025, the deadline by which the Government must have led Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities.

More Details

The Ford Government’s May 7, 2021 Announcement on the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial or Draft Recommendations

In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 outlines the legislated process for the development of new accessibility standards through Standards Development Committees.

Standards Development Committees are responsible for developing and reviewing accessibility standards in Ontario. These accessibility standards help move Ontario forward on its journey to create a more accessible and inclusive province.

The Health Care Standards Development Committee was tasked with developing recommendations for proposed accessibility health care standards for hospitals. The Committee is a group of representatives comprised of people with disabilities, disability organizations and health sector experts.

The Initial Recommendations Report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee is now available for public comment.

https://www.ontario.ca/page/consultation-initial-recommendations-development-health-care-accessibility-standards

The Report will be posted online for a period of 65 business days. Members of the public can submit feedback until August 11, 2021.

The initial report contains 22 recommendations that the committee developed and on which it voted.

As these recommendations may impact you or your community, we would encourage you to participate in this process. We would also encourage you to share this information broadly with your networks.

A survey has been developed to seek public feedback and is linked from the consultation page together with the report itself.

Written submissions can also be sent in by email to

healthSDC@ontario.ca.

Members of the public or interested organizations can also reach out to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division by email at

healthSDC@ontario.ca

for any questions.

All feedback received will be considered by the Committee before finalizing their recommendations to the Minister. Identifying information will remain confidential as per the Government of Ontario’s Privacy Policy, and all survey responses will remain anonymous.

Sincerely,

Mary Bartolomucci

Assistant Deputy Minister (A)

Disability Rights Advocate Launches Court Application Against the Ford Government for Violating the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Rights Advocate Launches Court Application Against the Ford Government for Violating the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

May 7, 2021 Toronto: Today, blind lawyer, law professor and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky filed a court application against the Ford Government in the Ontario Divisional Court for violating a mandatory provision in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). He asks the Court to order Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility to immediately post on line and otherwise make public the initial recommendations for measures needed to tear down barriers in Ontario’s education system plaguing students with disabilities and in Ontario’s health care system, impeding patients with disabilities, that the Minister received from three advisory committees appointed under the AODA. Text of the notice of application and Lepofsky’s supporting affidavit are set out below.

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to over 2.6 million people with disabilities by 2025. It must enact and effectively enforcing 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 or draft 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 sat on three sets of such initial or draft recommendations for months. The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government by the end of December 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Government around the same time.

Just as this application was being served on the Government, the Government belatedly announced that it made public the initial recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Lepofsky does not claim that this was triggered by the court application. However, the Government has still not made public the other two Standards Development Committees’ recommendations. Therefore this court application remains important and urgent.

“The Ford Government’s inexcusable contravention of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act hurts people with disabilities, by delaying overdue progress on accessibility. It is leadership by a poor example, from a Government that pledged to lead on this issue by a good example,” said Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with any kind of disability. “The fact that for over five months in the middle of a pandemic, the Government sat on important recommendations on how to tear down disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system impeding patients with disabilities is especially hurtful.”

Lepofsky will argue that schools, colleges,, universities and health care providers deserved and were entitled to see all these initial recommendations immediately, so that they can try to put them into action where possible long before the Government enacts new regulations in this area.

“People with disabilities should not have to resort to going to court to get the Ford Government to obey the law,” said Lepofsky. “Fortunately, I’m blessed to have excellent pro bono representation by Martha McCarthy of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP, and I have my own legal training, but no one should have to go through this.”

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

More background at www.aodaalliance.org

Text of the May 7, 2021 Notice of Application

APPLICATION

  1. The applicant makes application for:
  1. Judicial review of the respondent’s failure to act in accordance with s. 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the “AODA”), more specifically:
  1. The respondent’s failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable;
  2. The respondent’s failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable; and,
  • The respondent’s failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable.
  1. An order for mandamus, directing the respondent to make the documents listed in paragraph 1. a., above, immediately available to the public by posting them on a government website and by such other means the Minister considers advisable;
  2. If necessary, leave for this application to be heard urgently pursuant to s. 6(2) of the Judicial Review Procedures Act and Part I of the Consolidated Practice Direction for Divisional Court Hearings;
  3. The applicant’s costs in this proceeding on a full indemnity basis; and,
  4. Such further and other relief as counsel may request and as to this court seems just.
  5. The grounds for the application are:
  1. In or about 2017, the Government of Ontario appointed the Health Care Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Health Care Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. A Health Care Accessibility Standard would outline disability barriers that should be removed and prevented in Ontario’s health care system that impede people with disabilities.
  2. In or about 2018, the Government of Ontario appointed the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. A Kindergarten to Grade 12 Accessibility Standard could require the removal and prevention of disability barriers in Ontario schools that impede students with disabilities.
  3. In or about 2018, the Government of Ontario appointed the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. A Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard could require the removal and prevention of disability barriers in post-secondary educational organizations such as colleges and universities in Ontario that impede students with disabilities.
  4. In or about December 2020, the Health Care Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
  5. In or about March 2021, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
  6. In March 2021, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
  7. Pursuant to s. 10 of the AODA, the respondent has a mandatory duty to post those initial or draft recommendations upon receiving them. Section 10(1) of the AODA provides:
  8. (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.
  9. The respondent has not posted any of the initial or draft recommendations from any of the Committees on the Government of Ontario website or otherwise made them public.
  10. The respondent’s failure to fulfil his mandatory statutory duty post those initial or draft recommendations of the Committees on the internet and otherwise make them public is contrary to and flies in the face of the spirit and purpose of the AODA, which is to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. This failure delays Ontario from reaching the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities in the important contexts of health care and education – fields in which a lack of accessibility has dire consequences.
  11. The AODA aims to effectively implement the right to equality in areas like health care and education for people with disabilities that is guaranteed by s. 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and s. 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  12. The applicant has a strong public interest in this application’s issues, both as a blind person and having acted as a volunteer disability accessibility community organizer and advocate for decades. The applicant led the volunteer campaign from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA The applicant is currently the chair of the AODA Alliance, a non-partisan coalition that leads the campaign to get the AODA implemented in a meaningful and timely manner.
  13. The Government of Ontario appointed the applicant as a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, on which he has served since the Committee was established.
  14. The applicant is a member and past chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board, established under O. Reg. 464/97.
  1. The following documentary evidence will be used at the hearing of the application:
  2. The Affidavit of the Applicant, David Lepofsky; and,
  3. Such further and other material as counsel may request and this Honourable Court will permit.

Text of the May 7, 2021 Affidavit of David Lepofsky

I, David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont., LLB (Osgoode Hall), LLM (Harvard University), LLD (Hon. Queen’s University, University of Western Ontario, Law Society of Ontario), of the City of Toronto, in the Province of Ontario,

AFFIRM:

  1. I am the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (the “AODA Alliance”) and am blind. As such, I have knowledge of the matters to herein deposed.
  2. I affirm this affidavit in support of my application for judicial review, in which I am seeking mandamus directing the Minister of Seniors and Accessibility to fulfil his statutory duties under s. 10(1) the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”), and for no other or improper purpose.

The AODA Alliance

  1. The AODA Alliance is an unincorporated, volunteer-run, non-partisan community coalition of individuals and organizations.
  2. The AODA Alliance was established in the fall of 2005, shortly after the Ontario legislature enacted the AODA. Its mission is to contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free society for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the AODA. Its activities are documented in detail on its website at https://www.aodaalliance.org.
  3. The AODA Alliance is the successor to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the “ODA Committee”). From 1994 to mid-2005, the ODA Committee led a non-partisan province-wide campaign, advocating for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation in Ontario, culminating in the enactment of the AODA in 2005.
  4. The AODA Alliance builds on the ODA Committee’s work, and draws its membership from the ODA Committee’s broad grassroots base. The work of the ODA Committee from 1994 up to the time when it finished its work in mid-2005 is documented in detail at: http://www.odacommittee.net.
  5. The AODA Alliance has received broad recognition as a credible non-partisan voice on disability accessibility issues. For example:
    1. The Government of Ontario and members of the provincial legislature have repeatedly and publicly recognized and commended the efforts of the AODA Alliance, and before it, the ODA Committee, for its volunteer advocacy on the cause of accessibility for people with disabilities.
    2. In every provincial election starting in 1995, at least two of the major Ontario political parties have made election commitments concerning accessibility for people with disabilities. In every case where such commitments were made, they were set out in letters from the party leader to the ODA Committee up to 2005, and after that, to the AODA Alliance. For example, Premier Dalton McGuinty made his 2011 election promises on disability accessibility in his August 19, 2011 letter to me, as chair of the AODA Alliance. In the 2014 election, Premier Kathleen Wynne made her party’s disability accessibility election pledges in her May 14, 2014 letter to me, as chair of the AODA Alliance. In the 2018 election, Doug Ford made his party’s commitments on disability accessibility in his May 15, 2018 letter to me as chair of the AODA Alliance. All these letters are posted on one or other of the websites referred to above.
    3. Our input on accessibility issues has been provided to community groups and government officials in several Canadian provinces, by the Government of Canada, and in other countries, such as Israel and New Zealand.

My Involvement with the AODA Alliance

  1. I am intimately familiar with the work of the AODA Alliance, and of its predecessor, the ODA Committee because:
    1. I served as Co-Chair, and later as Chair, of the ODA Committee from early 1995 up to its dissolution in August 2005.
    2. I was present during the establishment of the AODA Alliance and was a driving force behind its establishment as the successor to the ODA Committee. Its initial Chair was Catherine Dunphy Tardik. I initially took no leadership role with the AODA Alliance although I remained available to assist as requested.
    3. In early 2006, the AODA Alliance appointed me as its Human Rights Reform Representative. I served as lead spokesperson for the AODA Alliance during controversial public and legislative debates over Bill 107, a reform to the Ontario Human Rights Code. Over that period, I worked very closely with the AODA Alliance Chair.
    4. In February 2009, I became the Chair of the AODA Alliance, a position I have held to the present time.
  2. My extensive work for the AODA Alliance and the ODA Committee is documented on the two websites identified above. All my work for these coalitions has been conducted as a volunteer. I have never been an employee of the AODA Alliance or the ODA Committee and have never received any salary from either organization.
  3. Over more than two decades, I have had very extensive dealings with the Government of Ontario at all levels, both in my capacity with the AODA Alliance, and prior to that, as co-chair and then chair of the ODA Committee. In these capacities, I have met with Ontario Premiers, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Secretaries of Cabinet, Assistant Deputy Ministers, and a myriad of other public officials in the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Public Service. I have similarly had extensive dealings with opposition parties and their staffs throughout my time doing volunteer work in this area.
  4. I have received several awards for my volunteer activities on disability accessibility issues, including my volunteer work for the ODA Committee and later for the AODA Alliance. Among these, I was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 1995, as a member of the Order of Ontario in 2008 and in the Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 2003. I have received honorary doctorates from Queen’s University, the University of Western Ontario, and the Law Society of Ontario arising from this activity.

The Non-Partisan Campaign to get the Government of Ontario to Enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard and an Education Accessibility Standard

  1. The AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Under the AODA, an Ontario cabinet minister is to be designated to be responsible to lead the Act’s implementation and enforcement.
  2. Since June 2018, that designated lead Minister has been the respondent, Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Hon. Raymond Cho (the “Minister”).
  3. Among other things, the Minister is responsible for leading the development, enactment, and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards, in accordance with the powers, duties, and procedures set out in the AODA.
  4. From 2003 to 2005, I was extensively involved in the negotiations with the Government of Ontario concerning the development of the provisions of the AODA, in my capacity as Chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
  5. In my capacity as AODA Alliance Chair, I have been extensively involved for years in grassroots non-partisan disability advocacy to ensure that strong and effective accessibility standards are enacted and enforced under the AODA. This has included an ongoing push since 2009 to remove and prevent the barriers that people with disabilities face in Ontario’s education and health care systems.
  6. If enacted, the enforceable regulations we seek would respectively be called the “Education Accessibility Standard” and the “Health Care Accessibility Standard”. Our efforts to secure the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard are documented at aodaalliance.org/education. Our efforts to secure the enactment of a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard are set out at www.aodaalliance.org/healthcare.
  7. As a result of our years of advocacy, on February 13, 2015, the Ontario cabinet minister then responsible for the AODA, the Hon. Eric Hoskins, announced that the Government of Ontario would develop and enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Over one year later, on December 5, 2016, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced during Question Period in the Ontario Legislature that the Government of Ontario would develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  8. Under the AODA, the first step required for the government to develop an accessibility standard is for the Minister responsible for the AODA to appoint an advisory committee (a “Standards Development Committee”) to make recommendations on what the specific accessibility standard should include. That Standards Development Committee is required to include representatives from the disability community as well as representatives from the obligated sector, such as health or education.
  9. In or about 2017, the government appointed the “Health Care Standards Development Committee” (or the “Health Care Committee”) to develop recommendations on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard.
  10. In early 2018, the government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations on what should be included in the promised Education Accessibility Standard.
    1. One committee was appointed to deal with barriers impeding students with disabilities from kindergarten to grade twelve. That committee is called the “K-12 Education Standards Development Committee” (or the “K-12 Committee”).
    2. The other committee was appointed to deal with barriers facing students with disabilities in post-secondary education. It is called the “Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee” (or the “Post-Secondary Committee”).
  11. I was appointed to serve on the K-12 Committee and have spent a great many volunteer hours working on that Committee since it was established.

The Standards Development Procedure Established by the AODA

  1. Under the AODA, a Standards Development Committee is first required to develop initial or draft recommendations for the government. These initial or draft recommendations on what the accessibility standard in issue should include are to be submitted to the Minister. Under s. 10(1) of the AODA, upon receiving initial or draft recommendations from a Standards Development Committee, the minister is required to make those initial or draft recommendations public for at least 45 days, including posting them on the internet. The public is to be invited to give feedback on those initial or draft recommendations.
  2. That public feedback is to then be given to the Standards Development Committee. The public feedback can serve as an important aid for the Standards Development Committee to refine, improve, and finalize the Committee’s recommendations, drawing on input from people with disabilities, the obligated sector of the economy, and the public. After that public feedback is received, the Standards Development Committee meets to review the feedback and to finalize its recommendations for the government on what the accessibility standard in issue should include.
  3. Once finalized, the Standards Development Committee then is required to submit its final recommendations to the Minister. Section 10(1) of the AODA requires the Minister to make those final recommendations public upon receiving them. Thereafter, the government can enact some, all, or none of what the Standards Development Committee recommended.

These Three Standards Development Committees Have Provided their Draft Recommendations to the Government

  1. By December 31, 2020, the Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister. Those initial or draft recommendations have not been made public, despite the statutory requirement for the Minister to do so.
  2. On or about March 12, 2021, the K-12 Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister. Just like the draft recommendations submitted by the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Committee’s recommendations have still not been released to the public.
  3. I understand that the Post-Secondary Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister around the same time as did the K-12 Committee. The Post-Secondary Committee’s recommendations have also not been released to the public.
  4. I asked the Ministry of Senior Accessibility to provide the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Committee to me, in my capacity as a member of the K-12 Committee. To date, the Ministry has not provided the Post-Secondary Committee’s recommendations to me.
  5. I requested a copy of the Post-Secondary Committee’s recommendations because there is an obvious and substantial connection between its work and the work of the K-12 Education Committee. Both committees are making recommendations concerning barriers in education for students with disabilities.
  6. As members of the K-12 Committee, we know about some of what the Post-Secondary Committee is recommending, because a joint subcommittee exists with representatives of the two Standards Development Committees to address technical overlap issues. There is thus no reason why we should not now have seen all of what the Post-Secondary Committee has recommended, and vice versa.
  7. I have been urging the Government to quickly make public all these Standards Development Committee recommendations, on Twitter and otherwise. On April 29, 2021, I along with the rest of the K-12 Committee received the following email from the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility:

Dear K-12 Standards Development Committee members:

We hope this message finds you doing well.

We would like to provide an update on the progress of the committee’s initial recommendations report.

As you know, your committee Chair, Lynn Ziraldo, submitted the report – and the accompanying report of the Technical Sub-Committee on Transitions – to MSAA Minister Raymond Cho on March 12.

We have been busy preparing the reports for online posting, as well as translating them into French and preparing the survey that will accompany the postings. All of this work goes towards ensuring that the reports receive the most comprehensive feedback possible from the public.

As well, we understand the importance of posting this document as soon as possible, so that respondents will have a chance to consider providing input before the end of the school year. As I am sure you understand, our government is facing unprecedented challenges in delivering services to the public, and must prioritize all public-facing initiatives.

We look forward to notifying you when these postings are going to occur and appreciate your patience and understanding as we move closer to the posting date.

As always, you can reach out to the Chair, Lynn Ziraldo or the Ministry anytime with questions.

Thank you.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division

Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility

A copy of the email dated April 29, 2021 is attached as Exhibit A.

  1. Since receiving this email, the initial or draft recommendations of these three Standards Development Committees have not been publicly posted.

No Justification for Delaying Public Posting of the Initial or Draft Recommendations of the Three Standards Development Committees

  1. The Government has not provided a compelling reason why it could not have earlier posted these initial or draft recommendations.
  2. The government was throughout well-aware of the work and the progress of each Standards Development Committee. The Ministry had staff organize and take part in committee meetings. Ministry staff had regular communications with each committee Chair and its members.
  3. As of the date of this affidavit, the Ministry has had the final text of each set of initial or draft recommendations for ample time – over five months in the case of the ones regarding health care, and almost two months in the case of those regarding education. The Ministry knew these were coming, well in advance, and what they would contain.
  4. It would take little or no time to make these documents available in an accessible format. That cannot justify this delay.
  5. Referring to the April 29, 2021 email quoted above, the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic do not justify this delay. The staff of the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility are not responsible for leading the government’s pandemic response.
  6. Moreover, that email states that the during the pandemic, the Government “…must prioritize all public-facing initiatives.” From my 33 years working in the Ontario Government before my retirement at the end of 2015, and from my extensive interaction with the Government as a disability rights community organizer and advocate, I understand this to mean that the Government wants to set priorities in the timing of messages it transmits to the public. Yet the Government can and does regularly transmit many different messages to the public at any one time. It can post multiple messages or documents on the internet on the same day. Its preferences or priorities over political messaging are not identified in s. 10 of the AODA with regard to the duty to make public a Standards Development Committee’s initial or draft recommendations upon the minister receiving them.

Harmful Consequences of the Delay in Making these Initial or Draft Recommendations Public

  1. Ontario only has 1,335 days left before January 1, 2025, the date by which the AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. This includes, among other things, a requirement that Ontario’s education system and health care system must have become accessible to people with disabilities by that date.
  2. I, and many other people with disabilities, are concerned about the delay that is facing accessibility initiatives in Ontario. Ontarians with disabilities are concerned about the delay that is facing accessibility initiatives in Ontario. According to the Final Report of the Third Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement, by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, prepared pursuant to s. 41 of the AODA, Ontario was not on schedule for reaching that goal on time, as of that report’s date (January 31, 2019). While I have linked to the Final Report, I have not attached it as an exhibit as I am conscious of the need to keep my materials brief.
  3. The delay in releasing these initial or draft recommendations hurts students with disabilities and patients with disabilities. Until Ontario enacts and effectively enforces strong and effective accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education, patients with disabilities and students with disabilities respectively will continue to suffer from the many barriers that they must face in Ontario’s health care and education systems.
  4. The unfortunate reality is that this is just one of many delays that has already plagued the development of the Health Care Accessibility Standard and Education Accessibility Standard, at the hands of the government.
  5. The previous government contributed to delay by taking some two years to just appoint the Health Care Committee. It also took that government over one year to appoint the K-12 Committee and the Post-Secondary Committee. In contrast, it took the government one year to develop the entire AODA and to introduce it into the Legislature for first reading in October 2004.
  6. The committees’ work was paused during the provincial 2018 election. However, upon the current government taking office, it left the committees frozen for months. The AODA Alliance had to campaign to get the government to permit the committees to continue their work. The committees eventually returned to work in the fall of 2019. This delay, at the hands of this government, further unnecessarily delayed the eventual enactment of a Health Care Accessibility Standard and an Education Accessibility Standard.
  7. I am particularly concerned about the government’s inaction because it delays progress on accessibility in health care and education that could begin immediately. For example, in a speech I gave last month, I encouraged senior officials of Ontario’s school boards to immediately study the K-12 recommendations and implement as many of them as possible, once the draft is public. I have been told by some officials at the Toronto District School Board (Canada’s largest school board) that they want to see the initial or draft recommendations so that they can start to use the recommendations. The government’s inaction is delaying this.
  8. Compounding my concern about delays is the impending summer break for school boards. Boards are seldom fully operational during the summer, and further delay risks the boards not providing feedback until the fall.
  9. I am also a member and past Chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee (“SEAC”) of the Toronto District School Board. Ontario regulations require each school board to have a SEAC to give advice on how to meet the needs of students with special education needs. I am eager for our SEAC and for each of the SEACs at every Ontario school board to see the K-12 Committee’s initial or draft recommendations as soon as possible, so they can recommend actions that their school boards should take now, drawing on the Standards Development Committee’s thorough and detailed work product.
  10. In the same way, it is my aim that the Health Care Standards Development Committee draft recommendations spawn action on disability barriers in Ontario hospitals.
  11. I similarly aim for the release of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees initial or draft recommendations to lead colleges and universities to act now to tackle the many barriers that students with disabilities face in those institutions. The government’s delay in releasing these initial or draft recommendations further delays those much-needed actions.
  12. Publicly, the government has claimed to lead by example on accessibility for people with disabilities, and to take an “all of government approach” to disability accessibility. For example, these commitments were made at a media event staged on February 28, 2020. It is difficult to reconcile the government’s promises with its unnecessary and inexplicable delay in the release of these initial or draft recommendations.
  13. The irony of the government attempting to explain its delay using the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic should not be lost on anyone. The harm caused to people with disabilities by the government’s delay in fulfilling its duty to make public the committees’ draft recommendations is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two key examples come to mind:
    1. First, people with disabilities are disproportionately adversely affected by COVID-19, including having higher rates of severe infection and death. For five months of the pandemic, the government has sat on the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial or draft recommendations, that could make health care more accessible to people with disabilities.
  1. Second, during the pandemic, students with disabilities have faced even more barriers in Ontario’s education system. I have been involved in advocating against these, on behalf of the AODA Alliance. The government is stalling efforts to help improve the plight of students with disabilities during the pandemic by keeping secret the draft or initial recommendations of the K-12 Committee and Post-Secondary Committee. While the government waits, these students fall further behind their peers.

New Toronto Star Guest Column Blasts the Ford Government’s Critical Care Triage Plans and the Government’s Harmful Secrecy Surrounding Those Plans

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 Toronto Star Guest Column Blasts the Ford Government’s Critical Care Triage Plans and the Government’s Harmful Secrecy Surrounding Those Plans

May 7, 2021

            SUMMARY

Below is an important guest column that ran in the May 7, 2021 Toronto Star in the print newspaper and online, by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. It summarizes the serious problems with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol and plans. Even if the crisis in Ontario hospitals seems to be levelling off for the moment, it is still very important that the Ford Government address these issues which people with disabilities have been raising for over a year.

We encourage you to:

  1. Write a letter to the editor at the Toronto Star with your comments on this guest column. Email the Star at: lettertoed@thestar.ca

Encourage the Star to give this topic as much attention as possible.

  1. Forward this guest column to your member of the Ontario Legislature with your comments.
  1. Share this guest column on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Encourage others to read it and to share it with others. The link to post that takes people right to the Toronto Star guest column is https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/05/07/ontarios-triage-protocol-unlawfully-discriminates-against-people-with-disabilities.html
  1. Send this guest column to your local media and to any reporters you know. Encourage them to cover this disability issue, which touches the lives of so many Ontarians. Phone in to call-in radio programs to raise this issue. Tell them how you feel about the danger of disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.

For more background, check out and widely share:

  1. The new 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 details serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage protocol.
  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page.

Toronto Star May 7, 2021

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/05/07/ontarios-triage-protocol-unlawfully-discriminates-against-people-with-disabilities.html

Editorial

Triage protocol unlawfully discriminates against disabilities

David Lepofsky Contributor

People with disabilities are disproportionately prone to get COVID-19, to suffer its worst effects and to die from it. Cruelly compounding this, Ontario’s protocol for triage of critical care would explicitly discriminate against some patients with disabilities who need life-saving critical care. People with disabilities deserve better.

If overloaded ICUs can’t accommodate all patients, rationing or “triage” means some patients will die because doctors will deny them needed critical care. We need a lawful protocol to govern such decisions. Ontario’s protocol isn’t lawful in part because of its disability discrimination.

For example, Ontario’s protocol would rank a cancer patient lower depending on their disability’s severity. That’s blatant disability discrimination. As well, patients over 65 with progressive diseases (e.g., MS, arthritis or Parkinson’s) are ranked lower for each of these activities they can’t do independently: get out of bed, eat, shop, use the phone or do finances.

Ontario’s protocol treats you like a blob on a gurney with no due process and no say. Two doctors rank you and give you the bad news.

With your life at stake, you cannot get the decision reviewed, even on a lightning-fast basis.

No wonder the Ontario Human Rights Commission, disability organizations and six bioethicists on Premier Ford’s advisory Bioethics Table all voiced serious objections. Ford’s approach is dangerously wrong. The protocol was developed and sent to hospitals in secret, with no public consultation by the government’s decision-makers. It isn’t on the government website. (We posted a leaked copy on www.aodaalliance.org.)

Some doctors and others are calling the shots in government back rooms. That is unfair to the public, people with disabilities and triage doctors.

Doctors use this protocol at their peril. Premier Ford is tap-dancing in a constitutional minefield. It’s wrong to direct doctors on who lives or dies by memo. Even worse, Ford may try to suspend the requirement that a patient must consent before needed care is discontinued.

Those defending the protocol argue it doesn’t discriminate because it says a patient’s stable disability, like autism, mustn’t be held against them. Yet the protocol discriminates against others based on progressive disabilities.

Government must remove disability discrimination from Ontario’s critical care triage protocol. It must afford due process to patients whose lives are in jeopardy. Instead of hiding and ducking questions, the premier should hold an open debate and pass legislation governing this, with public input.

The government must commit that if critical care triage occurs, it will daily report the number of people who are refused needed critical care due to triage. If Ford sombrely announces that the pandemic emergency requires critical care triage, remember he’s secretly planned for this possibility for over a year.

David Lepofsky is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

New Captioned Video Tells the Whole Disability Discrimination Story in Ontario’s Critical Care Triage Plan – and – More Media Reports Reveal More Cause for Worry

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 Captioned Video Tells the Whole Disability Discrimination Story in Ontario’s Critical Care Triage Plan – and – More Media Reports Reveal More Cause for Worry

May 6, 2021

            SUMMARY

Here are six more important developments in our campaign to protect people with disabilities from disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.

 1. New Captioned Video — Learn About the Disability Issues in Ontario’s Critical Care Triage Protocol

Day after day, you are getting so much information from us and others about the critical care triage issue for people with disabilities. That includes all the new information we report in this AODA Alliance Update.

Are you eager for a video that will explain what this is all about, from beginning to end? Check out the new captioned video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky where the whole story is explained. The video brings you up to date as of now. It explains the disability objections to the Ontario critical care triage, the troubling way the Ontario Government his dealing with this issue, and the bogus defences that the Government’s defenders have been giving the media, in their attempt to justify what the Government is doing.

We invite you to watch the video and share it with others. If you are teaching a course where this might be helpful, feel free to use this video. It is available at https://youtu.be/Ju8cyH7TbQo

Let us know what you think. Email your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

 2. Where is the Public Accountability for Critical Care Triage Now Being Conducted by Ambulance Crews?

We have been warning for months about the danger of “trickle down triage”. For example, an ambulance crew, called to a medical emergency at your home, could decide whether or not to give a patient life-saving care, before they even get to hospital. We expect ambulance crews to do all they can to save lives, and not to decide whether or not to even try to save a life.

The Ford Government has refused to answer questions about this, whether from the AODA Alliance in writing or from the opposition in Question Period in the Legislature. In a very upsetting article in the April 28, 2021 Toronto Sun, set out below, it is evident that this triage is already going on.

This is a life and death issue. The public should daily be told how many lives are lost due to any form of triage, including this roadside triage. The Ford Government should now make public any directions to ambulance and emergency crews on this kind of triage. Protections need to be put in place to avert the danger of disability discrimination. We know that there is clear disability discrimination in the directions already sent to Ontario doctors, should they have to triage critical care services. There is no reason to be confident that there is no such danger if triage is done by ambulance crews before even reaching a hospital.

 3. Who Exactly Will Live and Who Will Die if There is Critical care Triage in Hospitals? Behind Closed Doors, Practice Drills Have Been Going on For Months with No Public Accountability

The April 27, 2021 report by Global News, set out below, confirms that hospitals have been training for months on how to conduct critical care triage, in case it becomes necessary. This is all happening behind closed doors. We have no idea who ends up living and who ends up dying, according to these practice drills or simulations. We have no idea how differently the same case is decided from one hospital to the next, or from one doctor to the next. We have no word that anyone with human rights expertise is part of this, to alert doctors when they are running afoul of the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Human Rights Code. We have no idea if the Ford Government is monitoring any of this, to find out where its disability discriminatory Ontario critical care triage protocol needs to be fixed.

 4. Pulling Back the Curtain on A Troubling and Misleading Media Strategy Now In Place, Seemingly Led by Those Behind Ontario’s Disability-Discriminatory Critical Care Triage Protocol

Those who are behind the creation and implementation of Ontario’s disability-discriminatory critical care triage protocol appear now to be conducting some sort of media public relations strategy to get out their version of this controversial issue. This appears to be underway to manage public expectations about critical care triage and to respond to some bad press that The Government has gotten on this issue. In the January 23, 2021 online webinar for doctors on the critical care triage protocol, those evidently at the centre of this indicated that they were planning such a communications strategy, to be later rolled out close to the time that critical care triage may become necessary.

Among the key people quoted in these stories include Dr. James Downar, co-author of the disability-discriminatory Ontario critical care triage protocol, and Dr. David Neilipovitz, a lead at the Ford Government’s secretive Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre. We have asked the Ford Government who are the members of that command centre, and what its mandate includes. As with all our other inquiries, the Ford Government has refused to answer.

Part of this communication strategy seems to be the repetition of bogus arguments to defend the critical care triage protocols disability discrimination. In the April 20, 2021 AODA Alliance Update, we listed some of those bogus arguments.

In the April 26, 2021 Metroland report set out below, yet another bogus defence is offered, as follows, quoting Dr. Downar:

“Regarding disability concerns, he added that the protocol will also ensure patients are being compared across different conditions the same way.

“There’s cancer guidance that applies only to people with cancer, heart failure guidance that only applies to people with heart failure, the frailty scale is only applied to people with frailty,” he explained. “It’s not applied to everybody who has a disability.””

As in other contexts which we document in the April 20, 2021 AODA Alliance Update, this absurd argument presupposes that disability discrimination only exists if you discriminate against all people with disabilities at the same time. By that bankrupt approach, Nazi Germany’s viciously anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws did not discriminate because of religion. That is because they only applied to Jews and equally applied to all Jews. It would similarly justify separate schools for black children, as was the case in the US for decades, under the widely denounced 1896 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson.

The Supreme Court of Canada wisely rejected such an impoverished approach to equality decades ago, in Andrews v. Law Society of BC, where the Court stated:

“The test as stated, however, is seriously deficient in that it excludes any consideration of the nature of the law. If it were to be applied literally, it could be used to justify the Nuremberg laws of Adolf Hitler. Similar treatment was contemplated for all Jews. The similarly situated test would have justified the formalistic separate but equal doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 637 (1896), …”

We encourage the Ford Government to get their human rights legal advice from the Ontario Human Rights Commission and human rights experts, and not from physicians.

Another bogus and misleading part of this communication strategy is to try to misleadingly water down what critical care triage is. If a patient is refused critical care triage, they are bound to die. Yet part of the communication strategy on which we pull back the curtain is to claim that no one will be refused care. The April 26, 2021 Metroland article, set out below, includes this:

“What would triaging look like in Ontario?

“It’s really important to note that with emergency standards of care, no patient is not going to get care,” said Dr. Randy Wax, a critical care doctor who is also a lead at the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre.”

Let’s decode this. If you are refused critical care you need, you won’t be kicked right out of the hospital. You will be offered some lesser form of care, like palliative care. However, that is not the care you need to have any hope o of surviving.

This would be like someone who gets a gunshot wound who is told that they can’t have surgery they need to survive, and then being told: “But we are not refusing you care. Here’s an aspirin.”

Later in this Update, a May 5, 2021 article from CBC news online includes some of the same dubious defences. It gives no attention to voices from the disability community. This appears to be another story that could well be part of the communication strategy being conducted on behalf of the Ford Government’s Critical Care COVID Command Centre, to manage public expectations.

 5. Due to Protracted and Harmful Government Secrecy, Media Must Continue to Rely on Leaks to Report on Ontario’s Critical Care Triage situation

In a May 4, 2021 news report set out below, The Globe and Mail reported that Ontario’s ICU overload may be levelling off. This could avoid the need for The Government to green light rationing or triage of critical care, even though, as noted above, this appears to be going on already in our health care system in one form or another.

It is worrisome that the Globe and Mail report is based on a leaked internal memo. Those making these decisions are still cloistered behind closed doors.

That leak could have come from an aggrieved doctor working in the system. On the other hand, it could well have come from an official at the Ministry of Health, the Premier’s office or Ontario Health. They are taking heat for the critical care triage issue. Such a leak would help deflect some of that pressure. It could lead some reporters to think (wrongly, if so) that there is no longer a story here to cover, when it comes to disability discrimination in critical care triage. However, Ontario is certainly not out of the woods by any means.

 6. Disability Accessibility, the Ford Government and the Big Picture

The Ford Government’s delays on disability accessibility just carry on. There have now been 826 days, or over 2 and a quarter years, 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 effective plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. The Ontario Government only has 1,336 days left until 2025, the deadline by which the Government must have led Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities.

            MORE DETAILS

 Toronto Sun April 28, 2021

Originally posted at https://torontosun.com/news/local-news/to-live-or-die-waves-of-covid-reality-hit-torontos-paramedics

TO LIVE OR DIE: Waves of COVID reality hit Toronto’s paramedics

Struggling to keep up with Toronto’s third wave, city paramedics say they’re having to ‘triage’ cardiac arrest patients

Author of the article: Bryan Passifiume

Paramedics wheel a patient into the emergency department at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. PHOTO BY COLE BURSTON /The Canadian Press

As soon as the call clears, another one’s loaded and ready.

And these days, it’ll most likely be another COVID patient.

That’s the reality for Toronto’s paramedics, who say nobody among their ranks thought COVID-19’s third wave would be this bad.

“You just don’t believe the news, the news says hospitals are overwhelmed, but are they?” said a veteran Toronto advanced-care paramedic, whom the Toronto Sun agreed not to identify.

“From the horse’s mouth: we’re seeing it — that’s something we’re all now realizing.”

While Toronto’s professional lifesavers have indeed been busy this past year, he told the Sun things really started to get bad earlier this month.

In fact, he remembers the exact call.

“Honestly, it was three weeks ago,” he said, describing the short-of-breath 30-something male he and his partner were dispatched to assist.

“This guy had a fever and couldn’t get up, and we’re like, ‘Oh, damn,’” he recalled.

“He had a room-air sat of 50%.”

Patients with blood-oxygen levels that low are almost always unconscious. In fact, anything below 90% is cause for concern.

Called “silent hypoxia,” it’s one of this pandemic’s biggest medical mysteries: how patients with such dangerously low oxygen levels show little outward evidence of their dire condition.

“They don’t even look tired,” he said.

“Then you check them and realize … ‘Dude, really?! You don’t feel this?! We need to go to the hospital.’”

It’s this deceptive pathology that makes COVID such a challenge.

“It causes moments where the patient looks OK, but they’re actually really, really bad,” he said, adding those patients often crash quickly and catastrophically.

What sticks out the most are the ages — and a lack of comorbidities — of those going into the back of his ambulance.

“Waves one and two were elderly people,” he said.

“Now we’re averaging late 40s.”

What irks him and his co-workers most are those who dismiss COVID as a bad flu.

“Influenza doesn’t make your O2 (oxygen) saturation drop below your age,” he said.

“We’re seeing patients with oxygen levels not seen without opioids in play, and neither Narcan nor oxygen are going to fix it.”

Emergency rooms and ICUs are full, he said — with many receiving care in the ER normally seen in intensive care.

“That’s what overcapacity means,” he said.

“It means that there’s people in emerge receiving ICU treatment — and that’s not the place for it.”

A paramedic transports a patient to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, April 17, 2020.

City Council orders check-up on Toronto paramedics

Erik Sande is the president of Medavie Health Services.

SANDE: Paramedics answer the call — across Ontario’s health system

A Region of Durham Paramedic Services ambulance.

Gravely-ill patients more likely to be pronounced dead at scene

As city hospitals steel themselves for worst-case triage protocols, paramedics say it’s a reality they’re already experiencing.

Overrun emergency rooms and intensive-care units put paramedics in the position — as well as the base physic

ians overseeing them — of having to pronounce gravely ill patients, particularly in cases of cardiac arrest, deceased on scene rather than going through the usually hopeless motions of seeking hospital treatment.

“I haven’t actively run a cardiac arrest in the past five I’ve done,” said the Toronto advanced-care paramedic.

“We just said to the family, ‘Do you want anything done?’”

Cardiac arrest, particularly in older patients, is a dire medical emergency with less than 10% survival rates, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

The COVID emergency, the paramedic said, means they’re more likely to pronounce such patients dead over pursuing lifesaving efforts that only serve to prolong the inevitable.

Except in cases of obvious and catastrophic trauma, paramedics seek guidance on pronouncing death from physicians over the phone.

“I got a pronouncement in 20 seconds the other day,” the paramedic said.

The alternative, he said, is often worse.

“If you get them back, where are they going to go, into the ICU to live for a day on a vent and die?” he said.

“The family’s able to see them now, be with them — there’s no closure bringing (the patient) to the hospital where, oh by the way, they can’t come.”

This leads to paramedics forced into end-of-life discussions with grieving family members.

“You know who does those? Doctors. Doctors have those conversations,” he said.

“Now, it’s us.”

Experts, including outspoken critical care physician Dr. Michael Warner, are warning Toronto’s hospitals are just days away from ICU triage, where decisions are made on who is and isn’t entitled to lifesaving care.

“The way Dr. Warner’s talking about how we don’t want to have to triage ICU patients, we are now triaging cardiac arrest patients,” the paramedic said. “If bringing this person back or giving them hope means only living for one more day on a ventilator … man, no. Let them go.”

Families forced to make this decision, he said, are almost always grateful.

“They say ‘Thank you for not working on them, thank you for letting them pass as peacefully as possible,” he said.

“Then you walk out, do your paperwork, grab a coffee, then go on to the next one.”

bpassifiume@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @bryanpassifiume

 Global News April 27, 2021

Originally posted at https://fm96.com/news/7812658/covid-ontario-icu-emergency-triage/

Pushing Ontario’s ICUs to the brink: How some hospitals are preparing for the worst FM96 London

Rachael D’Amore GlobalNews.ca

More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario doctors and nurses may have more experience treating the disease but are increasingly staring life-or-death decisions in the face.

The spike in cases has strained intensive care capacity across the province. There are about 875 COVID-19 patients in Ontario hospital ICUs as of Tuesday — an all-time high — and 589 people in intensive care units (ICUs) on a ventilator. With staffing shortages — particularly the lack of ICU-trained nurses — and beds rapidly filling up, discussions about the possible need to triage life-saving care are mounting.

A “critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus, could be enacted, meaning health-care providers may have to decide who gets potentially life-saving care and who doesn’t.

“If you’ve ever participated in a fire drill, you understand what we’re talking about here,” said Dr. James Downar, a palliative and critical care physician in Ottawa who co-wrote Ontario’s ICU protocol.

“The purpose of training is to be prepared because if a crisis arrives and you run out of your resources and you don’t have a plan and you’re not prepared to institute your plan, things will get very, very bad.”

Ontario hospitals received a document in January laying out guidelines on how to deal with critical care triage. In other words, what to do if there aren’t enough ICU beds.

Under those guidelines, patients are essentially ranked on their likelihood to survive one year after the onset of a critical illness. The process came under criticism from human rights advocates, saying it is discriminatory, particularly toward people with disabilities and seniors.

At this point, the province has not finalized the protocol nor has it officially been published, but a widely circulating draft titled “Adult Critical Care Clinical Emergency Standard of Care for Major Surge” – said patients could be scored by doctors on a “short-term mortality risk assessment.”

The aim would be to “prioritize those patients who are most likely to survive their critical illness,” the document reads.

“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,” it said.

The lists three levels of critical care triage:

  • Level 1 triage deprioritizes critical care resources for patients with a predicted mortality greater than 80 per cent.
  • Level 2 triage deprioritizes critical care resources for patients with a predicted mortality greater than 50 per cent.
  • At Level 3 triage, patients with predicted mortality of 30 per cent — or a 70 per cent chance of surviving beyond a year — will not receive critical care.

At this level, clinicians may abandon the short-term mortality predictions in favour of randomization, which the document noted is to be used “as a last resort” and should be conducted by an administrator, not by bedside clinicians.

The leaked document was prepared by the province’s critical care COVID-19 command centre, which would ultimately declare when to use it.

Hundreds of COVID-19 ICU patient transfers planned as Ontario braces for ‘horrific’ 2 weeks

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors on April 8 that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” and that it would support such a tool once it is “initiated by the command tables of the province” and “even when doing so requires departing from our policy expectations.”

Downar emphasized that the protocol has not been instituted, echoing Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott who on April 7 said “there are some emergency protocols out there” but they “have not finalized any of that yet.”

“None of us want to be in this position, none of us want to be doing this,” said Downar. “We are prepared for it if it comes to that, but we are focused on not letting it come to that.”

While a standard provincial protocol has not been formally established, some Ontario hospitals have been preparing anyway.

The University Health Network (UHN), which includes Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret hospitals, have started virtual training sessions for staff on what to do if the virus’ growth gets the better of all other efforts to expand and accommodate the ICU system.

Dr. Niall Ferguson, the head of critical care at UHN, said while preparations for worst-case scenarios are happening, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be enacted.

“We’re not expecting to be implementing them anytime in the near future… I think the likelihood is probably low,” he told Global News.

“COVID is more like a controlled train crash as opposed to an actual train crash where you’ve got a thousand critically ill people all on the same day — then triage is inevitable. When you’re getting a thousand critical care patients over the course of weeks, which we are here, then there is an opportunity to adapt the system and grow capacity and do things differently.”

Ontario’s latest modelling predictions cast doubt on short-term improvements. Even as cases slow or plateau, hospitalizations and ICU numbers are so-called “lagging indicators” of the severity of the virus in a certain jurisdiction. The provincial data predicts a peak of at least 1,500 virus cases in ICUs by the first week of May — that’s next week — and it could be higher, pushing Ontario’s total 2,000-ICU-bed capacity over the edge.

Downar said some training around emergency care standards has been “going on for months.”

He said avoiding the worst-case scenario depends on a lot of things and is not as simple as “staring at the number of COVID cases.”

“It’s tough. Everybody wants to know a number and everybody wants to know where that line is, but it’s just not something that is easily put into numbers at the moment.”

What’s unfolded over the past few weeks exemplifies just how bad it’s gotten — but also how the system has been forced to adapt, as Ferguson said. Hundreds of patients from already over-capacity hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area are being transferred to other hospitals hours away. The province has directed hospitals to “ramp down” all elective and non-emergency surgeries to help alleviate pressure on the health-care system.

“Transfers are not completely benign. There is a risk when we transfer people from one place to another,” Downar said. “It’s important for everybody to recognize that there already consequences to what we’ve been doing.”

 Metroland DurhamRegion.com April 26, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.durhamregion.com/news-story/10381003-what-would-triaging-patients-look-like-in-ontario-s-hospitals-if-invoked-/

What would triaging patients look like in Ontario’s hospitals if invoked?

Protocol created to ‘counteract implicit biases and subjectivity’

Veronica Appia

OurWindsor.Ca

Monday, April 26, 2021

This story is Part Two of a two-part explainer about the current surge of patients in Ontario’s intensive care units amid the third wave of COVID-19, and the possibility of the province invoking the Emergency Standard of Care protocol. Read Part One here.

Amid a rise in ICU admissions across the province, medical experts have been discussing the possibility of invoking the Emergency Standard of Care protocol, released by the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre earlier this year, which includes three triaging scenarios.

Dr. David Neilipovitz, the department head of critical care at the Ottawa Hospital and a lead at the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre, said it’s important to note that the Emergency Standard of Care protocol has different aspects to it and “not everything is triage.”

“Triage has a different connotation,” he said, adding that this would typically mean withdrawing care from patients without their family’s consent.

Neilipovitz said that while the Emergency Standard of Care protocol has similar aspects, there is no withdrawal of care.

What would triaging look like in Ontario?

“It’s really important to note that with emergency standards of care, no patient is not going to get care,” said Dr. Randy Wax, a critical care doctor who is also a lead at the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre.

Rather, he said, it would be a matter of determining other appropriate ways to support the patients that would not have access to critical care.

“The whole principle of triage is to try to maximize the number of lives saved with the resources that you have and so, in general, the concept is we want to be able to identify patients who are most likely to benefit from receiving IC services,” Wax noted.

Dr. James Downar, a palliative and critical care specialist who was responsible for creating the protocol, added that the decision as to who would have access, under the protocol, would solely be determined by mortality risk.

Is triaging patients a likely reality for Ontario’s hospitals?

“Everybody who would be considered for critical care would have two separate assessments performed by qualified physicians to assess what would be felt to be their short-term mortality risk and they would use their clinical judgment, aided by the guidance provided,” he said, adding that in cases where there is insufficient data or disagreement between physicians, the hospital would take the most optimistic approach.

What are the human rights implications?

The concept of triaging has been cause for concern for human rights advocates and disability groups.

In an April 22 statement to Metroland, Ena Chadha, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), said the Emergency Standard of Care protocol “includes potentially discriminatory triage criteria, should doctors be forced to decide who gets access to critical care and who does not.”

She stated that since December 2020, human rights groups and vulnerable populations have not been consulted on the protocol.

On April 9, the OHRC issued a public statement asking the government to provide the status of the Emergency Standard of Care protocol, confirm that the Health Care Consent Act prevails to protect the rights of patients and families, consult human rights stakeholders and require hospitals to collect data about the populations most affected by COVID-19.

In response to these concerns, Downar said that the reason the protocol was created in the first place was to ensure there wouldn’t be any human rights concerns in these scenarios.

“When human beings are overwhelmed and confronted by difficult decisions in emotional situations, that’s where implicit biases and subjectivity become major factors and undermine decision-making,” he said.

“You counteract that with explicit guidance and consistent rules.”

Regarding disability concerns, he added that the protocol will also ensure patients are being compared across different conditions the same way.

“There’s cancer guidance that applies only to people with cancer, heart failure guidance that only applies to people with heart failure, the frailty scale is only applied to people with frailty,” he explained. “It’s not applied to to everybody who has a disability.”

Veronica Appia is a reporter with Torstar Corporation Community Brands, covering COVID-19 news across Ontario.

 The Globe and Mail May 4, 2021

Memo says Ontario hospitals may avoid triage protocol

By JEFF GRAY

Staff

Ontario’s hospitals, despite facing an unprecedented strain from COVID-19, will likely escape the pandemic’s third wave without resorting to a triage protocol that would have forced doctors to decide who lives and who dies, according to a memo obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Doctors and hospital officials warn that weeks of tough public-health restrictions are still needed to keep slowing the virus’s spread. Hospitals will also need to keep increasing their already ballooned intensive-care capacity, postponing non-emergency operations and helicoptering patients from jammed facilities in hot spots to other beds across the province.

As of Monday, Ontario had 881 COVID-19 patients in its ICUs, more than double the total from just a month ago.

But the rate of increase appeared to be slowing. (In all, there were just over 2,000 patients of all kinds in the province’s ICUs.)

In a message to hospital chief executives dated May 2, Andrew Baker, the incident commander of the province’s critical-care COVID-19 command centre, says recent provincial modelling is still “concerning,” even as it shows a lower estimated number of COVID-19 ICU admissions than it did two weeks ago.

The memo asks hospitals to put 284 more ICU beds, already identified as ready to go at short notice, into operation and to prepare to receive more transferred patients. And it says the command centre will monitor staffing levels, and the effects of recent moves to transfer more elderly patients into long-term care homes, to determine whether hospitals should try to create even more critical-care capacity.

But the memo adds that it now looks as though the worst can be avoided: “I also wanted to share with you and your teams that we are increasingly confident that we will not need to activate the Emergency Standard of Care or recommend the use of the triage protocol.”

Requests for comment from Dr. Baker, who is chair of the critical-care department at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, were referred to Ontario Health, the government agency that oversees health care in the province.

Ontario Health executive vice-president Chris Simpson, also a Kingston cardiologist, said the worst-case scenario from the most recent modelling by the province’s external COVID-19 Science Table – which projected the potential for more than 1,400 COVID-19 patients in the province’s ICUs by month’s end – would mean triage could be necessary.

But the province appears to be tracking the modelling’s mid-range scenario, in which ICU admissions crest around 1,000 before descending gradually.

“I think that scenario, if that were to unfold, does keep us out of triage-tool territory,” Dr. Simpson said. “But only because of the extra capacity that we have been able to bring online.”

He cautioned that the stresses on the system were already having effects on the quality of care for patients. He also raised concerns there could be “tremendous pressure” to reopen the province too quickly if cases continue to plateau or fall.

Doing so, he warned, could plunge the province into a fourth wave.

Kevin Smith, president and CEO of University Health Network, which includes Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret hospitals, said even as numbers appear to be levelling off, hospitals and their staff are stretched past their normal limits. To avoid the worst, he said Ontarians need to keep following strict public-health rules, get vaccinated as quickly as possible and not let their guard down over the May long weekend.

“I would certainly hate for anyone to think that this is a time to relax,” he said.

“Absolutely that is not the case.”

Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said the science table predictions are cause for hope, noting that daily new infection numbers have been moderating. (Ontario recorded 3,436 new cases on Monday, down from a peak of more than 4,800 in mid-April.)

But he said nothing about COVID-19 can be taken for granted. Even if these encouraging trends continue, he said, the health care system will still be in a state of massive disruption for months, noting that more than 250,000 operations have been postponed in the pandemic.

“There’s nothing natural or normal about any of this,” Mr. Dale said.

Ontario’s triage protocol has been clouded by secrecy. A draft was only made public after a leaked copy was obtained by a disability rights group. Under the plans, incoming patients would be assessed for their likelihood of survival after 12 months. Those with the best chances would be prioritized for ICU beds.

 CBC Online News May 5, 2021

Originally posted at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/doctors-describe-critical-care-triage-training-as-surreal-emotional-1.6013411

Doctors express relief, cautious optimism at news Ontario will likely avoid triage protocol

Province says no triage model has been activated in Ontario at this time

Talia Ricci CBC News

Dr. Shajan Ahmed says most of his colleagues had never done any kind of triage training before. He was part of a group of physicians at UHN who participated in mock scenarios during the second wave. (Submitted/Shajan Ahmed)

Dr. Shajan Ahmed says he always thought of triage training as something needed in other countries or in war zones, where doctors must decide who gets potentially life-saving care and who doesn’t.

So when the emergency room physician with Toronto’s University Health Network found himself watching a webinar about it to help prepare doctors for the third wave of COVID-19, he says he was in a bit of shock.

“To come to grips with this being right at our [doorsteps] here in Toronto, a place where we have all kinds of resources, it was really bizarre, it was surreal,” he told CBC Toronto.

“None of us had trained for it before and none of us really signed up for this, to be honest with you.”

Ahmed was among a group of around 60 physicians who received the training earlier this year. It included running through mock cases, reading material and referencing online resources. The virtual sessions were conducted over Zoom with experts in simulation, ethics and palliative care.

The province says no triage model has been activated in Ontario at this time, and although the overall number of ICU admissions climbed to 900 for the first time last Saturday, the rate of increase appears to have started to slow down. In a memo obtained by CBC News directed to hospital CEOs, Andrew Baker, the incident commander of the province’s critical-care COVID-19 command centre, says projections remained “very concerning.” But the memo also adds they are “increasingly confident” that they will not need to recommend the use of the triage protocol.

But the prospect still weighs on the minds of some doctors, and for Ahmed, the training made the situation feel “very real.”

Hospitals in Ontario may not have to use triage protocol, memo says

“You read about it and you think it may come, but until you are actually doing the training it doesn’t feel real until that point,” he said, adding the sessions were more challenging than he anticipated.

“We would debrief after the sessions to talk about how it felt, and what was going through our minds and collectively everyone had to take a deep breath and, I guess, also a bit of a sigh of relief because we aren’t actually in this situation.”

Despite describing the current situation in GTA hospitals as “bursting at the seams,” Ahmed wants people to know if the triage model is activated, patients will still be cared for. The decision is not whether someone lives or dies but whether the person would be offered ICU level care.

“It’s very complex and there’s a lot of logistics involved but I don’t want the public to think we’re making decisions as to booting people to the street without providing care,” he said.

“We absolutely will provide care.”

Compassionate conversations part of the training

Dr. Erin O’ Connor, the deputy medical director of the University Health Network’s emergency departments, was part of the team that led the training.

“There’s a lot of emotion around this and this isn’t something any physician or any health-care provider wants to do, but when we were getting ever closer to it we realized we needed to prepare ourselves,” she said.

She adds that conversations with patients and their families were a big part of it.

“It helped people find the right way to say this kindly and empathetically and to also recognize and process their own emotions around it.”

Dr. Erin O’Connor is the deputy medical director of emergency departments at Toronto’s University

Health Network. O’Connor describes the process as an application of tools to help determine how likely someone is to survive and their likelihood of survival after a year of any acute illness, not just COVID-19. She says the team looked at five cases that represented typical situations in the emergency department and had participants evaluate the patients’ chances of survival.

“It was a little bit of how you would apply the tools to different cases, so it wasn’t so abstract,” she explained. She says the whole point of developing the short term mortality risk tools was to remove any bias from the system.

Canadian Armed Forces sending teams to Ontario as COVID-19 cases strain critical care capacity

“It was very clearly laid out that decisions cannot be made based on race, gender, economic status, disability, or age. This is really looking at as much as possible the medical factors that contribute to whether someone has a high chance of survival at a year,” she said.

Resources have been expanded through bringing health-care workers from other parts of the country, redeploying and retraining health-care workers, cancelling surgeries, bringing in more ventilators and transferring patients from hot-spot areas, among other measures. The Ministry of Health says the province continues to create additional hospital beds in the province, including the creation of two mobile health units.

“The logistics have been massive. But all of these things are being done to prevent us from getting into a position where we have to triage resources,” O’Connor said.

She says she’s feeling cautiously optimistic given the recent trends.

“We’re not out of the woods yet because we know patients stay in the ICU for a long time but we are slightly backing away from the need to use this.”

But Ahmed still thinks about it, and is still concerned about the current state of ICUs. He’s encouraging people to have conversations with loved ones about their goals of care.

“A lot of us lose sleep over it.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Talia Ricci

Talia Ricci is a CBC reporter based in Toronto. She has travelled around the globe with her camera documenting people and places as well as volunteering. Talia enjoys covering offbeat human interest stories and exposing social justice issues. When she’s not reporting, you can find her reading or strolling the city with a film camera.

After a Major Outpouring from People with Disabilities, Toronto City Council Unanimously Votes to Leave in Place the Ban on Electric Scooters

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

After a Major Outpouring from People with Disabilities, Toronto City Council Unanimously Votes to Leave in Place the Ban on Electric Scooters

May 5, 2021 Toronto: As a major victory for people with disabilities, Toronto’s City Council Today unanimously voted not to allow e-scooters in public and not to conduct a pilot project. Terrified of the danger to them that e-scooters pose, people with disabilities have been working hard to oppose the efforts of corporate lobbyists on this issue.

City staff, Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee made strong recommendations to City Council against allowing e-scooters in Toronto, and against conducting a pilot project. In the same direction, an impressive spectrum of disability advocates told the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on April 28, 2021 that Toronto City Council must not unleash dangerous electric scooters in Toronto (now banned, unless Council legalizes them).

A City Staff Report, which the Toronto City Council unanimously supported, amply shows e-scooters endanger public safety in places allowing them. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured or killed. They especially endanger seniors and people with disabilities. Blind people can’t tell when silent e-scooters rocket at them at over 20 KPH, driven by unlicensed, untrained, uninsured, unhelmetted fun-seeking riders. Left strewn on sidewalks, e-scooters are tripping hazards for blind people and accessibility nightmares for wheelchair users.

The Infrastructure Committee was told last week that Toronto has been getting less accessible to people with disabilities. Allowing e-scooters would make that worse.

Last week, the Infrastructure and Environment Committee was also told over and over that it accomplishes nothing to just ban e-scooters from sidewalks. The City Staff Report documents the silent menace of e-scooters continue to be ridden on sidewalks in cities that just ban them from sidewalks. We would need cops on every block. Toronto law enforcement told City Councilors last July 9 that they have no resources to enforce such new e-scooter rules.

E-scooters would impose significant costs on taxpayers for new law enforcement, OHIP for treating those injured by e-scooters, lawsuits by the injured, etc. Toronto has more pressing budget priorities.

The AODA Alliance has exposed the stunning well-funded behind-the-scenes feeding frenzy of back-room pressure that corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies have inundated City Hall with for months.

“We applaud the Toronto City Council for its unanimous vote and we congratulate all the disability organizations and individual disability advocates who devoted their volunteer efforts to help protect our safety and accessibility,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “The small number of Ontario cities that started an e-scooter pilot project should now suspend those pilot projects, and learn from the wise Toronto decision, in the interest of protecting their vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and others that e-scooters endanger. We need Ontario cities to become more accessible to people with disabilities, and not allow any new disability barriers to be created.”

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

Twitter: @aodaalliance

For more background, check out the AODA Alliance’s March 30, 2021 brief to the City of Toronto on e-scooters, the AODA Alliance video on why e-scooters are so dangerous (which media can use in any reports), and the AODA Alliance e-scooters web page.

Toronto City Council Must Reject E-Scooter Corporate Lobbyists’ Attempt to Delay the May 5, 2021 Vote on City Staff’s Recommendation not to Conduct an E-Scooter Pilot Project

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/

Toronto City Council Must Reject E-Scooter Corporate Lobbyists’ Attempt to Delay the May 5, 2021 Vote on City Staff’s Recommendation not to Conduct an E-Scooter Pilot Project

May 3, 2021

            SUMMARY

1. Where Do We Stand?

We must fend off any last-minute efforts by the corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies, over the last days before Toronto City Council gets to vote on this issue at the Wednesday, May 5, 2021 meeting. Those corporate lobbyists want to delay the vote and drag out this issue so they can continue their backroom lobbying at City Hall. We call on all members of City Council to oppose any such stalling tactics.

Several important developments overwhelmingly support our call for City Council to say no to e-scooters on May 5, 2021, and to say no to holding a pilot project on e-scooters:

  1. Last month, City staff submitted an excellent, detailed, well-researched report on e-scooters. It recommends that Toronto should not lift the ban on e-scooters and should not conduct a pilot project with e-scooters. This is because e-scooters endanger the personal safety of people with disabilities, seniors and others. They would also create serious new accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. There is no option that would eliminate these serious dangers.
  1. Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee twice passed unanimous recommendations that Toronto not allow e-scooters at all, on February 3, 2020 and February 25, 2021. Both times, that Committee made those recommendations after receiving deputations from the public.
  1. The City staff report and recommendation was unanimously supported on April 28, 2021 by the Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee. That unanimous vote came after the Committee heard from an impressive number of deputations, including many from Toronto’s disability community. Those people with disabilities and disability organizations strongly and unanimously called for Toronto to retain the ban on e-scooters that is now the law, and for Toronto not to conduct a pilot project. Over and over, serious fears were voiced about the additional dangers that e-scooters pose to people with disabilities and seniors, beyond the great number of barriers they already face when trying to get around in Toronto. In recent years, Toronto has gotten less accessible, not more accessible, deputants said.
  1. E-scooters are also bad for the business community. Below we set out the excellent written submission in opposition to e-scooters that was sent to the City of Toronto from the Broadview Danforth Business Improvement Area BIA, speaking for small businesses in the Danforth area.
  1. As well, e-scooters are bad for Toronto residents more generally. The Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations spoke in opposition to e-scooters at the April 28, 2021 Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee. Below we set out that Federation’s April 27, 2021 written submission to the City of Toronto.

We still don’t know where Toronto Mayor John Tory stands on this issue. For months he has said he’s waiting for a City staff report. Well, now he has that report. It gives a clear and strong recommendation not to conduct a pilot project with e-scooters due to their dangers. We call on him to follow the City staff recommendation for which he has been waiting.

2. What Will the E-scooter Rental Corporate Lobbyists Try Now?

With things not looking good for them, we anticipate that e-scooter corporate lobbyists are now unleashing a last-ditch effort to get the access they seek to the Toronto market. Their last-minute strategy appears to be to ask City Council to direct that City staff conduct more research on the disability accessibility concerns regarding e-scooters. It is clear that this is just a stalling tactic, to give those corporate lobbyists more time to infest City Hall with even more of their well-financed back room lobbying efforts.

We are reaching out to all members of Toronto City Council to warn them of this tactic, and to ask them to oppose any effort to delay a May 5, 2021 Toronto City Council vote on the City staff recommendations regarding e-scooters. For example, below we set out the AODA Alliance ‘s May 2, 2021 letter emailed to Toronto Mayor John Tory.

We are telling members of Toronto City Council that any effort to delay the vote to get more research done is bogus. City staff have been very thorough. There is nothing more to research. No one from the disability community has been asking for more such research. The e-scooter corporate lobbyists have not approached those of us advocating from the disability perspective, to identify any further research that they say is needed, or to ask if we see any need for further research.

City staff were assigned to further research this issue back on July 28, 2020. That was nine months ago. They did what they were assigned to do. If anyone wanted to bring more to their attention or ask for more research, they had ample chance to do so before now.

How do we know this is the strategy of the corporate lobbyists? Some of them publicly sought such delays in their deputations to the April 28, 2021 meeting of the Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee.

As well, at the April 28, 2021 Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting, Councillor Paul Ainslie urged that instead of there being a vote now on the City staff report, City staff should be directed to do another five months of research on the accessibility concerns regarding e-scooters from the disability community. Commendably, the Committee did not take up that bad idea. It voted instead unanimously to support the City staff recommendation. No one on the Committee spoke in favour of Councillor Ainslie’s disturbing and inappropriate proposal. Councillor Ainslie is not a member of that Committee.

We were taken aback by Councillor Ainslie’s April 28, 2021 effort to delay a vote on the City staff e-scooter recommendation. As noted above, all the April 28, 2021 deputants from the Toronto disability community strongly supported the ban on e-scooters. None asked for more research. None suggested that there is any more research that is needed.

Moreover, Councillor Ainslie himself did not reach out to us or, to our knowledge, to any other disability organizations doing advocacy on this issue, in advance of his effort at the April 28, 2021 Infrastructure and Environment Committee. He did not ask us if there is any more research needed, or whether we supported the idea of a delay in the vote so that more research could be done. We have contacted all members of Toronto City Council over the past months to raise our concerns regarding e-scooters.

After he tried to get the e-scooters issue delayed for five months at the April 28, 2021 Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee, we immediately reached out to Councillor Ainslie to ask if we could speak about this. He has not agreed to do so. We wrote Councillor Ainslie a detailed letter via email on May 2, 2021, which we set out below.

For more background, check out the AODA Alliance’s March 30, 2021 brief to the City of Toronto on e-scooters, the AODA Alliance video on why e-scooters are so dangerous (which media can use in any reports), and the AODA Alliance e-scooters web page.

            MORE DETAILS

 April 26, 2021 Submission from Broadview Danforth Business Improvement Area Regarding Electric Scooters

April 26, 2021

TO:         Infrastructure and Environment Committee Clerk

FROM:  The Broadview Danforth BIA

RE:         Item: IE21.7 Pilot Project: Electric Kick-Scooters

 

I’m writing on behalf of the 355 business members in the Broadview Danforth BIA to support the recommendation being made by the General Manager, Transportation Services to decline the option to participate in O.Reg 389/19 Pilot Project for Electric Kick-Scooters. Our comments below can be shared with the Infrastructure and Environment Committee – meeting on April 28, 2021.

We have reviewed the components related to this proposed pilot project and have serious concerns that it would be very difficult to implement in a manner consistent with public safety and order.

Following a presentation made by Janet Lo from Transportation Services to BIAs, our key concerns are as follows:

  • Safety issues related to people with disabilities who use our sidewalks and wouldn’t be able to safely continue doing so if e-scooters were allowed on sidewalks.
  • Safety issues related to all people using sidewalks – the potential of e- scooters being left on the sidewalks or tied to benches, tree guards etc. and falling over will lead to potential tripping hazards.
  • Lack of clarity on insurance coverage for riders, e-scooter rental companies and the general public who may be injured by e-scooter riders.
  • Lack of City/police resources to enforce any kind of e-scooter laws. At the moment we have cyclists improperly using the roads and bike lanes and enforcement is almost non-existent. It’s impossible to believe that enforcement will be available for e-scooters.
  • Our businesses are fighting for their survival during this pandemic and the last thing we need is for customers to feel unsafe using our sidewalks.

Thank you for your time and consideration of our feedback on this issue.

Albert Stortchak Board Chair

Broadview Danforth BIA

April 27, 2021 Written Submission on E-Scooters to the City of Toronto from the Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations

April 27, 2021

10th floor, West Tower, City Hall 100 Queen Street West Toronto, ON M5H 2N2 Attention: Matthew Green

Re: IE21.7 – E-scooters – Accessibility and Insurance Issues

Dear Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, Chair, and Members of Infrastructure and

Environment Committee,

FoNTRA represents over 30 residents associations in Midtown, North Toronto and North York. We strongly support the staff report analysis and recommendation, dated April 14, 2021. We continue to have serious concerns with the proposal, consistent with our comments submitted in regard to the earlier staff report on this important matter.1

We appreciate the extensive research and stakeholder consultations now being reported on by Transportation Services Division staff, including the learning from other jurisdictions with more experience on the matter. Experiments in large cities such as Chicago, New York, London, and Amsterdam, which have comparable population size and density to Toronto, point to many unresolved issues associated with the use of e-scooters. The experience of e-scooter-associated issues in those cities are more likely to be similar and relevant, than that of smaller cities like Ottawa and Calgary. However, we note that even Ottawa, one of those smaller cities, has banned e-scooters from its most popular destination, the Byward Market, and from National Capital Commission walkways and paths.

The staff report outlines in detail the unique risk factors associated with Toronto’s existing public infrastructure – both road and sidewalk design – that did not contemplate the addition of e-scooters. These include:

  • Risks to public safety
  • Risks to public health
  • Impacts on the vulnerable, seniors and people with disabilities • Community nuisance
  • Burden and costs to health care resources
  • Liability and cost to the City

1 (July 8, 2020) Letter from Geoff Kettel and Cathie Macdonald, Co-Chairs, Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations (IE.New.IE14.10.10) (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2020/ie/comm/communicationfile-108188.pdf)

  • Lack of available medical and disability coverage for e-scooter users and non-users when injured

For example, some of the key concerns related to these risks that have not been resolved:

  • • additional barriers created for pedestrians and persons with disabilities who use sidewalks out of necessity, especially people living with no vision/low vision, users of mobility assistive devices, or older adults encountering illegal sidewalk riding or poorly parked e-scooters;
  • • significant challenges and difficulties with enforcing moving violations (i.e., lack of policing resources to witness/enforce illegal e-scooter use on sidewalks, ‘hit and runs’, and the inability to identify the e-scooter rider); and
  • • how someone injured by an e-scooter rider or trip hazard caused by an improperly parked e-scooter would be compensated for damages (i.e. rehabilitation, lost wages, and medical costs).
  • • e-scooters tend to replace bike share programs, and would certainly make walking less safe.

FONTRA supports alternative modes of transportation, especially climate friendly modes that reduce GHG emissions; however we believe that devoting increased City resources to improving pedestrian and biking infrastructure would provide more benefit, and safer transportation to more of the City’s population, than e-scooters, and without the increased risks and costs associated with them.

FoNTRA recommends:

  • that Planning and Housing Committee recommend to City Council that it decline the option to participate in O.Reg 389/19 – Pilot Project – Electric Kick-Scooters

Yours truly,

Geoff Kettel Co-Chair, FoNTRA

gkettel@gmail.com

Cathie Macdonald Co-Chair, FoNTRA

cathie.macdonald@sympatico.ca

Cc: Barbara Gray, General Manager, Transportation Services Division

Elyse Parker, Director, Policy and Innovation, Transportation Services Division Janet Lo, Senior Project Manager, Transportation Services Division

The Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations (FoNTRA) is a non-profit, volunteer organization comprised of over 30 member organizations. Its members, all residents’ associations, include at least 170,000 Toronto residents within their boundaries. The residents’ associations that make up FoNTRA believe that Ontario and Toronto can and should achieve better development. Its central issue is not whether Toronto will grow, but how. FoNTRA believes that sustainable urban regions are characterized by environmental balance, fiscal viability, infrastructure investment and social renewal.

 May 2, 2021 Letter from AODA Alliance to Toronto Mayor John Tory

May 2, 2021

To: Toronto Mayor John Tory

Via email: mayor_tory@toronto.ca

Dear Mayor Tory,

At the Wednesday, May 5, 2021 meeting of Toronto City Council, a vote is expected on whether Toronto should lift the ban on e-scooters. A City staff report recommends that Toronto not lift the ban on e-scooters, and not conduct a pilot project with e-scooters. We strongly agree.

We write to ask if you will vote to approve the City staff recommendation, and to urge you to do so. The excellent, thorough City staff report is based on extensive, impartial, professional research and investigation. It fully explored all sides of the issue. E-scooter corporate lobbyists were given a full and fair opportunity to give input, and to respond to concerns that have been raised about e-scooters.

Mayor Tory, you have been saying for over a year that you were waiting for a report from City staff before taking a position on whether to lift the ban on e-scooters in Toronto. You now have received that City staff report. It is clear and unambiguous. We Will you now act on that City staff advice for which you have been waiting?

Further showing why you should approve that report, the City staff report and recommendation was unanimously supported on April 28, 2021 by the Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee. That unanimous vote came after the Committee heard from an impressive number of deputations, include many from Toronto’s disability community. Those people with disabilities and disability organization strongly and unanimously called for Toronto to retain the ban on e-scooters that is now the law, and for Toronto not to conduct a pilot project. Over and over, serious fears were voiced about the additional dangers that e-scooters pose to people with disabilities and seniors, beyond the great number of barriers they already face when trying to get around in Toronto.

Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee twice passed unanimous recommendations that Toronto not allow e-scooters at all, on February 3, 2020 and February 25, 2021. Both times, that Committee made those recommendations after receiving deputations from the public.

You should also support the City staff report because it has received endorsements from the local business and residents’ association perspectives. The Danforth Business Improvement Area’s written submission to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee called for e-scooters to be banned, and supported the City staff report. A local residents’ association took the same position in an oral deputation to that Committee on April 28, 2021.

As you know, the core pressure for Toronto to allow e-scooters comes from the corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies. We have fully documented the feeding frenzy of corporate lobbying with which they have been inundating City Hall. Several members of City Council have observed that this is the largest corporate lobbyist campaign now underway at City Hall. One can only imagine how much money they are spending to wage their campaign

Our March 30, 2021 brief to the City of Toronto further details the dangers that e-scooters present for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. It also shows that the arguments that the e-scooter corporate lobbyists present are entirely unpersuasive. They often are inaccurate or misleading.

We anticipate that those e-scooter corporate lobbyists are now unleashing a last-ditch effort to get access they seek to Toronto. Their last-minute strategy appears to be to ask City Council to direct that City staff conduct more research on the disability accessibility concerns regarding e-scooters. It is clear that this is a stalling tactic, to give those corporate lobbyists more time to infest City Hall with even more of their back room lobbying efforts.

Please oppose any effort to delay a May 5, 2021 Toronto City Council vote on the City staff recommendations regarding e-scooters. Any effort to delay the vote to get more research done is bogus. City staff have been very thorough. There is nothing more to research. No one from the disability community has been asking for more such research. The e-scooter corporate lobbyists have not approached those of us advocating from the disability perspective, to identify any further research that they say is needed, or to ask if we see any need for further research. City staff were assigned this further research on July 28, 2020, nine months ago.

At the April 28, 2021 Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting, Councillor Paul Ainslie urged that instead of there being a vote now on the City staff report, City staff should be directed to do another five months of research on the accessibility concerns regarding e-scooters from the disability community. Commendably, the Committee did not take up that idea. It voted instead unanimously to support the City staff recommendation. No one on the Committee spoke in favour of Councillor Ainslie’s proposal. Councillor Ainslie is not a member of that Committee.

We were taken aback by Councillor Ainslie’s April 28, 2021 effort to delay a vote on the City staff e-scooter recommendation. As noted above, all the April 28, 2021 deputants from the Toronto disability community strongly supported the ban on e-scooters. None asked for more research, or suggested that there is any more research that is needed.

Councillor Ainslie did not reach out to us or, to our knowledge, to any other disability organizations doing advocacy on this issue, in advance of his effort at the April 28, 2021 Infrastructure and Environment Committee. He did not ask us if there is any more research needed, or whether we supported the idea of a delay in the vote so that more research could be done. We immediately reached out to Councillor Ainslie to ask if we could speak about this. He has not agreed to do so.

On May 5, 2021, please vote to approve the ban on e-scooters, and not to conduct a pilot project. Please vote against any effort to stall this issue, and to drag it out. People with disabilities have been through enough hardship during this COVID-19 pandemic. Please free us from the lurking fear that we will face the dangers to our safety and accessibility against which the City staff report, the unanimous Infrastructure and Environment Committee and the unanimous Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee all warned. Please stand up for people with disabilities and stand up to the well-financed, well-connected e-scooter corporate lobbyists.

Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

 May 2, 2021 Letter from AODA Allianceto Toronto City Councillor Paul Ainslie

May 2, 2021

To Toronto City Councillor Paul Ainslie

Via email: councillor_ainslie@toronto.ca

Twitter: @cllrainslie

Dear Councillor Ainslie,

At the Wednesday, May 5, 2021 meeting of Toronto City Council, a vote is expected on whether Toronto should lift the ban on e-scooters. As you know, a City staff report recommends that Toronto not lift the ban on e-scooters, and not conduct a pilot project with e-scooters. We strongly agree with that report.

We write to ask if you will vote to approve the City staff recommendation, and to urge you to do so. The excellent, thorough City staff report is based on extensive, impartial, professional research and investigation. It fully explored all sides of the issue. E-scooter corporate lobbyists were given a full and fair opportunity to give input, and to respond to concerns that have been raised about e-scooters.

The City staff report and recommendation was unanimously supported on April 28, 2021 by the Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee. That unanimous vote came after the Committee heard from an impressive number of deputations, include many from Toronto’s disability community. Those people with disabilities and disability organization strongly and unanimously called for Toronto to retain the ban on e-scooters that is now the law, and for Toronto not to conduct a pilot project. Over and over, serious fears were voiced about the additional dangers that e-scooters pose to people with disabilities and seniors, beyond the great number of barriers they already face when trying to get around in Toronto.

Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee twice passed unanimous recommendations that Toronto not allow e-scooters at all, on February 3, 2020 and February 25, 2021. Both times, that Committee made those recommendations after receiving deputations from the public.

You should also support the City staff report because it has received endorsements from the local business and residents’ association perspectives. The Danforth Business Improvement Area’s written submission to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee called for e-scooters to be banned, and supported the City staff report. A local residents’ association took the same position in an oral deputation to that Committee on April 28, 2021.

As you also know, the core pressure for Toronto to allow e-scooters comes from the corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies. We have fully documented the feeding frenzy of corporate lobbying with which they have been inundating City Hall. Several members of City Council have observed that this is the largest corporate lobbyist campaign now underway at City Hall. One can only imagine how much money they are spending to wage their campaign

Our March 30, 2021 brief to the City of Toronto further details the dangers that e-scooters present for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. It also shows that the arguments that the e-scooter corporate lobbyists present are entirely unpersuasive. They often are inaccurate or misleading.

Those e-scooter corporate lobbyists are no doubt now unleashing a last-ditch effort to get access that they seek to the Toronto market. Their last-minute strategy appears to be to ask City Council to direct that City staff conduct more research on the disability accessibility concerns regarding e-scooters. It is clear that this is a stalling tactic, to give those corporate lobbyists more time to infest City Hall with even more of their back room lobbying efforts.

Please oppose any effort to delay a May 5, 2021 Toronto City Council vote on the City staff recommendations regarding e-scooters. Any effort to delay the vote to get more research done is bogus. City staff have been very thorough. There is nothing more to research. No one from the disability community has been asking for more such research. The e-scooter corporate lobbyists have not approached those of us advocating from the disability perspective, to identify any further research that they say is needed, or to ask if we see any need for further research. Had there been any need for further research, they could have identified it weeks or months ago. City staff were assigned this further research on July 28, 2020, nine months ago.

We were deeply troubled by the fact that at the April 28, 2021 Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting, you urged that instead of there being a vote now on the City staff report, City staff should be directed to do another five months of research on the accessibility concerns regarding e-scooters from the disability community. Commendably, the Committee did not take up your proposal.

You are not a member of that Committee. It is very good that the Infrastructure and Environment Committee unanimously voted instead to support the City staff recommendation. No one on the Committee spoke in favour of your delay proposal.

We were taken aback by your unexpected April 28, 2021 effort to delay a vote on the very commendable City staff e-scooter recommendations. As noted above, all the April 28, 2021 deputants from the Toronto disability community strongly supported the ban on e-scooters. None asked for more research, or suggested that there is any more research that is needed.

Before that meeting, you did not reach out to us or, to our knowledge, to any other disability organizations advocating on this issue, in advance of your effort at the April 28, 2021 Infrastructure and Environment Committee. You did not ask us if there is any more research needed, or whether we supported the idea of a delay in the vote so that more research could be done.

Via Twitter, we immediately reached out to you on April 28, 2021 to ask if we could speak with you about this. You and your staff have not agreed to do so or responded to that request.

Please do not try at the May 5, 2021 City Council meeting to delay a decision on the City staff report. Please do not take steps that will hurt people with disabilities. Please do not invoke accessibility for people with disabilities as a reason for trying to delay this vote. Such a delay would only serve the interests of the well-financed and well-connected e-scooter corporate lobbyists. It would hurt vulnerable people with disabilities.

On May 5, 2021, please vote to approve the ban on e-scooters, and not to conduct a pilot project. Please vote against any effort to stall this issue, and to drag it out. People with disabilities have been through enough hardship during this COVID-19 pandemic. Please free us from the lurking fear that we will face the dangers to our safety and accessibility against which the City staff report, the unanimous Infrastructure and Environment Committee and the unanimous Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee all warned. Please stand up for people with disabilities and stand up to the well-financed, well-connected e-scooter corporate lobbyists.

Stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

In One Day, Advocacy Action on 3 Accessibility Fronts- Critical Care Triage, Electric Scooters and B.C. 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/

In One Day, Advocacy Action on 3 Accessibility Fronts– Critical Care Triage, Electric Scooters and B.C. Disabilities Act

April 29, 2021

            SUMMARY

The grassroots volunteer campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities must be waged on so many fronts. Yesterday, we saw action at the same time on three of those fronts. In a nutshell:

  1. On its April 28, 2021 evening TV news broadcast, Global News included a superb report on the disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol by senior journalist Caryn Lieberman. We set out below the slightly longer text version of that report that Global also posted online. This is another in Ms. Lieberman’s consistently excellent reportage on disability issues in recent years.

For more on this issue, visit the AODA Alliance health care web page.

  1. On Wednesday, April 28, 2021, after tenacious grassroots efforts by so many, the City of Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee unanimously voted to not allow e-scooters in Toronto, and not to conduct a pilot project with e-scooters. E-scooters endanger the safety and accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, and frankly, endanger everyone. Disability concerns were at the centre of this decision.

Thanks to all who joined in this grassroots campaign. However, we are not done yet. On May 5, 2021, the entire Toronto City Council will vote on the question. We must keep up the pressure. To help us press all members of Toronto City Council, please follow @aodaalliance on Twitter and retweet our tweets over the next days. Call as many members of Toronto City Council as possible to urge them to vote no to e-scooters, and no to conducting a Toronto e-scooter pilot project.

The disability campaign against e-scooters has gotten more media attention. Below we set out a letter to the editor in today’s Toronto Star by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, and two articles on this issue in the Star over the past two days. You can also watch a good report by reporter Jessica Ng on this topic that appeared on the April 28, 2021 6 o’clock Toronto news broadcast on CBC TV.

Yesterday was an unusual if not unique day for the AODA Alliance. At the same time over the supper hour, two different TV networks, Global and CBC, each aired news reports that included the AODA Alliance, each addressing different issues. On CBC, it was the dangers that e-scooters pose for people with disabilities. On Global, it was the dangers that Ontario’s critical care triage protocol poses for people with disabilities.

The April 28, 2021 report on the e-scooters issue in the Toronto Star, set out below, that ran before the Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee voted on this issue, included this information:

“The chair of Bird Canada is John Bitove. His brother Jordan Bitove is the publisher of the Toronto Star and co-proprietor of Torstar, the company that owns the newspaper.”

Bird Canada is one of the two biggest e-scooter rental companies that are aggressively lobbying Toronto City Council to let them rent e-scooters in Toronto, despite their danger for people with disabilities and others.

For more background, check out the AODA Alliance’s March 30, 2021 brief to the City of Toronto on e-scooters, the AODA Alliance video on why e-scooters are so dangerous (which media can use in any reports), and the AODA Alliance e-scooters web page.

  1. While all this was going on in Ontario, great news reached us from Canada’s west coast. Following the lead that Ontario set back in 2005 with the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the BC Government introduced a bill for first reading in the B.C. Legislature, Bill 6, the Accessible British Columbia Act. We have not yet had a chance to review the bill itself.

We congratulate B.C. disability advocates, led by the grassroots Barrier-Free BC, for this major milestone event. The AODA Alliance has been proud to lend assistance to their efforts from afar, when asked. Back in October 2015, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was the keynote speaker at a town hall event that led to the birth that day of Barrier-Free B.C. From there on in, it was the excellent work of grassroots disability advocates in B.C. that carried the ball, did the hard work, and got their province to this important point. We remain eager to help B.C. in any way we can as this bill makes its way through the B.C. Legislature.

The Ford Government’s delays on disability accessibility seem endless. There have now been 819 days, or over 2 and a quarter years, 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 effective plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. The Ontario Government only has 1,343 days left until 2025, the deadline by which the Government must have led Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities.

            MORE DETAILS

Global News April 28, 2021

Originally posted at https://963bigfm.com/news/7816548/ontario-covid-triage-protocol-discriminates-disability-advocates/

Ontario’s COVID-19 triage protocol ‘discriminates because of disability,’ advocates say

Caryn Lieberman GlobalNews.ca

With Ontario’s ICUs being pushed to the brink, hospitals are preparing for the worst. For health-care workers, that means staring difficult life-changing choices in the face. If there aren’t enough beds, who gets one? As Caryn Lieberman reports, there would be a process to follow, but some says it discriminates against people with disabilities.

When Tracy Odell experienced bleeding in her stomach last summer during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, she went to hospital but vowed she would not return.

“I don’t feel safe in hospitals and a lot of people with disabilities similar to mine, where you need this much assistance, don’t feel safe in a hospital,” she said.

Odell was born with spinal muscular atrophy and requires assistance to complete many daily tasks.

Now, amid the third wave and with critical care units filling up, Odell said she fears if she ever needed the care, she would not be able to get it.

“I, personally, wouldn’t go to a hospital. I would feel it would be a waste of time and I’d feel very unsafe to go there … It’s a real indictment, I think, of our system, that people who have disabilities, have severe needs, don’t feel safe in a place where everyone’s supposed to be safe,” she said.

Odell is most concerned about a “critical care triage protocol” that could be activated in Ontario.

It would essentially allow health-care providers to decide who gets potentially life-saving care and who doesn’t.

Under the guidelines, as set out in a draft protocol circulating among hospitals, patients would be ranked on their likelihood to survive one year after the onset of critical illness.

“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,” states the document.

Odell says it’s tough to predict who will survive an illness.

“They have to guess who’s going to last a year … As a child with my disability, my projected life expectancy was like a kid … they didn’t think I’d live to be a teenager and here I am retired, so it’s a very hard thing to judge,” said Odell.

Disability advocates have been raising alarm bells over the triage protocol for months.

David Lepofsky, of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, sent multiple letters to Minister of Health Christine Elliott demanding transparency, arguing “the Ontario government’s pervasive secrecy over its critical care triage plans has made many people with disabilities terrified, angry and distrustful.”

“People with disabilities have disproportionately had to suffer for the past year from the most severe aspects of COVID … People with disabilities are disproportionately prone to end up in intensive care units and die from the disease,” said Lepofsky.

“Now we face the double cruelty that we are disproportionately prone to get told, ‘No, you can’t have that life-saving care.’”

Lepofsky said the document that is circulating, while not finalized, is problematic, unethical and discriminatory.

“The rules that have been given to intensive care units for deciding who gets critical care and who doesn’t, if they have to ration, may look fine because they’re full of medical jargon, but they actually explicitly discriminate because of disability,” he said.

“We agree there should be a protocol, but it can’t be one that discriminates because of disability. That’s illegal.”

John Mossa, who is living with muscular dystrophy, has been homebound for more than a year, afraid he would contract COVID-19 if he went outside and not survive it.

“COVID is a very serious disease for me … if I do get COVID, I would probably become very ill and pass away because of my poor respiratory condition. I have about 30 per cent lung capacity due to my muscular dystrophy so COVID is very serious. It’s been a very scary time,” he said.

Never more frightening than right now, Mossa said, amid a surging third wave with a record number of patients in Ontario’s critical care units and the potential for triaging life-saving care.

“The people that would be affected the most are the least considered to get care … I’m afraid, I’m totally afraid to go to hospital right now,” he said.

A few weeks ago, Mossa said, he had a hip accident but he has avoided the hospital, even though he is suffering and should seek medical help.

“I should be considering going to hospital, but I’m not going to go to hospital because I know that I won’t get the care I need and if it gets any worse. I know that I wouldn’t be given an ICU bed,” he said.

On Wednesday, when asked about the triage protocol, Elliott said it has not yet been activated.

That was echoed by Dr. James Downar, a palliative and critical care physician in Ottawa who co-wrote Ontario’s ICU protocol.

“I don’t think that there’s any plan to initiate a triage process in the next couple of days. I think a lot is going to depend on which way our ICU numbers go. They have been climbing at a fairly alarming rate,” he said.

On concerns by advocates that the protocol discriminates against people with disabilities, Downar said, “The only criterion in the triage plan is mortality risk.”

“We absolutely don’t want to make any judgments about whose life is more valuable, certainly nothing based on ability, disability or need for accommodations … If you value all lives equally, that, I think, is the strongest argument for using an approach that would save as many lives as you can,” he said.

Toronto Star April 29, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2021/04/29/e-scooters-are-a-danger-to-people-with-disabilities.html

Letters to the Editor

E-scooters are a danger to people with disabilities

Scoot over, progress. Not in this town, April 27

Matt Elliott is wrong to urge Toronto to allow e-scooters; city council must not unleash dangerous electric scooters in Toronto, now banned, unless council legalizes them.

A city staff report shows e-scooters endanger public safety. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured. They especially endanger seniors and people with disabilities. Blind people, like me, can’t know silent e-scooters rocket at us at over 20 kph, driven by unlicensed, uninsured, unhelmeted fun-seeking riders.

It is no solution to just ban e-scooters from sidewalks.

As a blind person, if I get hit by a silent e-scooter racing towards me, it injures me just as badly, whether the rider owns the e-scooter or rents it.

Toronto has too many disability barriers. E-scooters would make it worse.

Toronto’s Disability Accessibility Advisory Committee and disability organizations unanimously called on Toronto not to allow e-scooters.

Mayor John Tory should stand up for people with disabilities, and should stand up to the corporate lobbyists conducting a high-price feeding frenzy at City Hall.

David Lepofsky, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

 Toronto Star April 29, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/04/28/committee-votes-unanimously-to-uphold-torontos-e-scooter-ban.html

Greater Toronto

Committee upholds T.O. e-scooter ban

Final decision on vehicles to be debated at council next month

Ben Spurr Toronto Star

A city committee has voted to uphold Toronto’s ban on e-scooters, setting up a final decision on the controversial vehicles at council next month.

More than 40 people signed up to speak to a city staff report on e-scooters at a remote meeting of the infrastructure and environment committee Wednesday.

The debate largely pitted transportation experts and representatives of e-scooter companies, who argued the vehicles are an innovative and sustainable transportation option, against disability and seniors advocates, who said e-scooters pose a danger to people with accessibility challenges.

Patricia Israel, a 69-year-old wheelchair user, told the committee she was scared of being hit by someone riding an e-scooter, which are quiet and can have top speeds of more than 40 km/h, although provincial guidelines say they should top out at 24 km/h.

“When a senior crashes to the sidewalk with a broken hip, he or she may die … do you want that?” she asked.

“E-scooters are left scattered all over sidewalks in cities around the world. Some people in wheelchairs cannot pick them up to move them … We’ll be on the sidewalk saying, ‘What do I do now?'” she added.

Jen Freiman, general manager of Lime Canada, an e-scooter sharing company, countered that cars represent the most serious threat on Toronto’s streets, and the city should be allowing safer alternatives.

“I’m not worried about my two young children being hit by someone (on) a scooter in Toronto,” she said. “What does scare me though is a frustrated driver ripping down the side streets by my house.”

She said that e-scooter companies operating in dozens of other cities have found ways to mitigate concerns about safety, street clutter and other issues raised by critics.

E-scooters have become popular in big cities around the world, both for private use and as part of sharing operations that allow users to hop on and off rented vehicles for short trips.

Both uses are currently prohibited on Toronto streets, sidewalks and other public spaces, and the staff report recommended against joining a provincial pilot project that allows cities to legalize the vehicles, subject to conditions.

Staff cited numerous concerns, including the vehicles becoming tripping hazards, unsafe riding on sidewalks, a lack of insurance coverage and insufficient enforcement resources.

Councillors on the committee voted unanimously to support the staff recommendation. Committee member Mike Layton (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) said he was “very conflicted” about the decision, because he believed that the city and e-scooter companies could likely find solutions to the objections critics raised about the vehicles.

But he said the disability community had “very real concerns” and he couldn’t vote against staff advice on a safety issue.

City council will debate the report at its May 5 meeting.

Toronto Star April 28, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/04/22/as-city-committee-debates-e-scooters-concerns-over-a-missed-opportunity.html#:~:text=GTA-,As%20city%20committee%20debates%20e%2Dscooters,concerns%20over%20’a%20missed%20opportunity’&text=They’re%20fun%2C%20fast%20and,to%20ride%20on%20city%20streets.&text=In%20the%20U.S.%2C%20there%20were,Association%20of%20City%20Transportation%20Officials.

Greater Toronto

E-scooters look for green light on T.O. streets

Method of transportation can be ‘useful part of the puzzle,’ one expert says

Ben Spurr Toronto Star

They’re fun, fast and for the moment, they’re illegal to ride on city streets.

But some transportation experts say Toronto is being too timid in its approach to e-scooters, and council should take a stab at legalizing the zippy two-wheeled vehicles on municipal roads, at least on a trial basis.

E-scooters are prohibited on Toronto streets and other public spaces, and in a report released last week, city transportation staff recommend maintaining the status quo. The city’s infrastructure committee will debate the report Wednesday, before the recommendation goes to council next month.

Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s former chief city planner, argues the city should “work toward safely integrating e-scooters into the transportation landscape … because they can be a useful part of the puzzle.”

Keesmaat said the disruption to travel patterns caused by COVID-19 has presented cities with a golden opportunity to rethink policies that have historically prioritized private cars above other modes. She argued e-scooters could provide an additional, more sustainable transportation alternative and help make cities “greener and quieter places.”

“If we take as a given that we need more micro mobility in the city, and that we want to move away from assuming that getting around in a car is the best or only approach, overcoming the challenges associated with scooters is in the best interest of the city over the long term,” she said, while acknowledging there have been problems with the rollout of e-scooters elsewhere.

Motorized electric stand-up scooters have exploded in popularity in recent years and they’re now used in dozens of cities around the world by both private owners and as part of e-scooter sharing operations, which allow riders to hop on and off rented vehicles for short trips.

In the U.S., there were 86 million trips taken on e-scooters in 2019, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials. The average trip length was about 1.6 kilometres. Around one-third of all car trips in the U.S. are less than about three kilometres, which is why some experts believe the two-wheeled devices have the potential to significantly displace car use.

Shauna Brail, an urban planner and associate professor at the Institute for Management & Innovation at the University of Toronto Mississauga, said she’s not convinced e-scooters represent the transformative change their proponents sometimes pitch them as.

But Brail said there’s evidence the electric-powered vehicles have potential to help solve the first mile/last mile problem of connecting people to transit hubs at the beginning or end of their commutes, and not testing them out would be “a missed opportunity.”

Raktim Mitra, co-director of TransForm Laboratory of Transportation and Land Use Planning at Ryerson University, agreed that city staff are being overly conservative.

He said misgivings about safety, liability and street clutter related to e-scooters are valid, but those problems could likely be addressed through “a combination of technology and regulations.”

There is