Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
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
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:
- A 50 minute captioned video that explains what the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report recommends.
- 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.
- The AODA Alliance’s 55-page condensed and annotated version of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
- The AODA Alliance’s 15-page summary of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
- The AODA Alliance‘s action kit on how to give public feedback on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
- A captioned video of tips for parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate at school for their child’s needs.
- For general background, the AODA Alliance website Education page.
CBC News Online August 5, 2021
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.”