Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Clause-by-Clause Review of Bill C-22 Deferred from Yesterday to Today – and – Recent Media Reveals Accessibility Barriers that the Ford Government Hasn’t Prevented
December 13, 2022
Yesterday, the December 12, 2022 meeting of HUMA, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, was cancelled at the last minute. This is because of the untimely death of MP Jim Carr. HUMA will resume its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-22 today at 3:30PM. It is to be streamed live on the HUMA website. To learn what happened at the first day of clause-by-clause review of this bill, see the December 12, 2022 AODA Alliance Update. To find out about our campaign to strengthen the proposed Canada Disability Benefit Act, visit the AODA Alliance website’s Bill C-22 page.
We’re taking a day away from our ongoing coverage of Bill C-22. We want to catch you up on other accessibility issues covered in the past weeks in media reports, set out below:
- The December 12, 2022, London Free Press reports that a London hospital resisted allowing a woman with a disability to bring her service dog into the emergency room. This flies in the face of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
For almost a decade, the Ontario Government has had a horrible record of poorly enforcing the AODA, including the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, as the AODA Alliance website’s enforcement page shows. The Customer Service Accessibility Standard bans discrimination against people with disabilities using service animals, as does the Ontario Human Rights Code. In 1983, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal held that a hospital violated that province’s Human Rights Code by impeding a blind woman from bringing her guide dog into the hospital. Take a look at Peters v. University Hospital Board, 1983 CanLII 4738 (SK CA). How long is it going to take for a 40-year-old court decision on disability rights to be taken seriously in all hospitals?
Such inexcusable disability barriers to emergency health care services shows once again why we need the Ford Government to enact the long-overdue Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA. The Government has had in hand the final report and recommendations of the Government-appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee for months. Yet all we get from the Ford Government is radio silence. You can learn all about our campaign for over a decade to get the Health Care Accessibility Standard enacted by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s health care page. Other similarly appalling examples of customer service accessibility barriers can be found on the AODA Alliance website’s customer service page.
- We still face the possibility in Ontario of delivery robots on sidewalks, creating safety and accessibility barriers for people with disabilities until the Ford Government passes provincial legislation to ban them. According to a report in the December 4, 2022, Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, there are companies operating elsewhere in Canada trying to push delivery robots. Last year, we and others won a bylaw in Toronto banning robots on sidewalks. To learn more about this issue, visit the AODA Alliance website’s robots page.
- Poles are an accessibility danger that people with various disabilities can face in public places, as are other obstructions that lean or project into the path of travel on a public sidewalk or walkway. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky brought one such danger to the media two months ago, as covered by City News on October 6, 2022.
For more about our efforts to achieve a barrier-free built environment, take a peek at the AODA Alliance’s built environment page. The Ford Government did not even give the AODA Alliance or others the chance to apply to be appointed to the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee, where issues like this can be addressed. We have led the campaign for over a decade to get Ontario to enact a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA but were shut out of that advisory committee.
Only 750 days remain until 2025. That is the deadline for the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities, according to the AODA.
London Free Press December 12, 2022
Woman mulls formal complaint after London ER turns away service dog
Author of the article: Jennifer Bieman
Alyssa Harvey, 25, said she is considering launching a formal complaint after facing pushback from hospital staff at a London emergency room for bringing her service dog Bailey. Harvey has had the trained golden retriever for three years to help her manage a mental health condition. (Contributed/Alyssa Harvey)
A London woman is pushing for more public acceptance of service animals, particularly in hospitals, after an unkind reception to her dog by staff at a London emergency room.
Alyssa Harvey, a 25-year-old student at Western University, was angered by the way she says London Health Sciences Centre responded to her dog Bailey, a trained golden retriever she has had for three years to help her manage a disability.
Harvey said she was brought by professionals to the Victoria Hospital emergency room early Friday with her service dog. Staff at the emergency room immediately took issue with Bailey’s presence, she said.
“They were highly resistant from the start. When staff came to talk to me, they wouldn’t let me bring Bailey,” Harvey said in a text exchange Friday. “Someone had to stay with him in the triage area and they wouldn’t admit me until he left.”
Bailey was picked up from the hospital by Harvey’s friend and advocate Arbor Morris when she was admitted.
“They (hospital staff) were very resistant to him even entering the hospital. They voiced that they had a policy against him being in the hospital,” Morris said.
Harvey said she was also separated from Bailey when she was admitted to LHSC last year.
In a statement Sunday, LHSC officials said it strives to provide care and access to its facilities in a way that “respects the dignity and independence of all.”
“As per the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, persons with disabilities may be accompanied by their service animals to parts of LHSC’s premises that are open to the public and other third parties,” the hospital said in a statement.
“Where there is a need to exclude a service animal from part of the premises (e.g. for infection control reasons, sound associated with MRI), staff/affiliates will ensure other measures are available to enable the person with a disability to obtain, use and benefit from LHSC’s care and services.”
Service dogs can be used to help people with a wide variety of disabilities and conditions, from guide dogs for visually impaired people to seizure-detecting dogs and ones that help individuals manage mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
There is no single registry of service animals in Ontario, but there are specific requirements.
Service animals must be easily identifiable as linked to the owner’s disability, such as a guide dog wearing a vest or harness. The provincial rules also say an owner can provide documentation from a regulated health professional that the animal is required for their disability.
The list of regulated health professionals able to provide this documentation includes audiologists, speech-language pathologists, chiropractors, nurses, doctors, optometrists and psychologists, psychotherapists or mental health therapists.
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, service animals do not require certificates or ID cards but owners may be asked for documentation, such as a letter from a health professional or identification from the Ministry of the Attorney General for people who are visually impaired and use a guide dog.
Harvey said she keeps her doctor’s note, a note from Bailey’s training program and a copy of his vaccination record with her. Bailey wears a vest at all times when he’s on duty, she said.
Harvey is considering launching a formal complaint, adding the resistance to her service animal was “extremely frustrating” and made an already difficult emergency room visit even worse.
She said Bailey provides comfort and connection and is a deeply important part of her life.
“He gives me my independence back and he helps me so much in my day-to-day life to mitigate my disabilities,” she said. “He is like an extension of myself and our bond is so strong.”
Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal December 4, 2022
Originally posted at https://www.chroniclejournal.com/business/national_business/food-delivery-robots-hit-canadian-sidewalks-but-many-challenges-delay-mass-adoption/article_85b0ecda-e3cc-5d5c-b323-d6d00489867a.html
Food delivery robots hit Canadian sidewalks, but many challenges delay mass adoption
Tara Deschamps The Canadian Press Dec 4, 2022
TORONTO – When customers in downtown Vancouver placed orders with Pizza Hut in September, many of the pies landed on their doorsteps without a courier in sight.
Instead, diners were met by Angie, Hugo or Raja — autonomous robots resembling a cooler on four wheels with eyelike lights. They travelled by sidewalk to customers, who used unique codes to open their lids and reveal their food.
The value proposition for Serve Robotics — a spinoff of Uber’s 2020 food delivery acquisition Postmates that created the trio and a fleet of zero-emission robots — is simple: with slim restaurant margins, a labour crunch and climate change worries ‘”why move a two-pound burrito in a two-ton car?”
A handful of other robotic delivery companies have the same ethos, but their paths to ubiquity are facing several roadblocks.
Delivery robots have been banned from some major cities like Toronto, which argued they are a hazard for people with low mobility or vision, as well as seniors and children. Cyclists already gripe about e-scooters in bike lanes and don’t want robots there either.
“They’re drawing a lot of attention from pedestrians while they’re out on the sidewalk because they’re not seeing them that often and people are excited to see them, but as usage continues to increase, this can cause a lot of congestion on already narrow sidewalks,” said Prabhjot Gill, a McKinsey & Co. associate partner focused on retail.
There’s also worries autonomous robots or ones manned by staff overseas will take jobs away from couriers.
Ali Kashani, Serve’s Vancouver-bred chief executive, considers the criticism to be a natural part of innovation that even the bicycle experienced, when it was invented and many thought it would cause divorce.
He’s tried to quiet concerns by ensuring his robots (Kashani won’t say how many there are) chime and flash their lights to alert people they are around. They are equipped with automatic crash prevention, vehicle collision avoidance and emergency braking.
Ultimately, he thinks they are “a win-win for everybody” because they reduce traffic, boost local commerce and help merchants get food to consumers in a less expensive way.
The environment benefits too because Serve replaces delivery vehicles. Kashani estimates roughly half the deliveries made in the country cover less than 2.5 miles and 90 per cent are completed by car. About two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are attributable to people using personal cars for local shopping and errands.
“There’s a lot of reasons to replace our cars with these robots as quickly as we really can, but there’s no reason for us to make anyone an enemy,” Kashani said.
Knowing how much opposition new ideas can face, Serve is careful to engage with governments and authorities before launching in a city, even if it has no legislation allowing or banning robots.
However, David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said there’s no way for such robots and humans to coexist because they will always present a tripping hazard and worse, they could be used to transport contraband or explosives.
He insists the fight he and others have waged to keep robots off sidewalks is not an attack on innovation.
“It’s not like we’re denying people a service,” he said. “We’ve got a way to deliver pizzas that we’ve had since we’ve had pizza delivery. It’s called human beings.”
Manish Dhankher, Pizza Hut Canada’s chief customer officer, agrees no pizza delivery is worth risking somebody’s safety, but said his company only partnered with Serve once the robots had made thousands of injury-free trips.
Serve robots only made nearby deliveries for Pizza Hut’s 1725 Robson St. location for two weeks, but the pilot generated “childlike excitement” from customers and had a 95 per cent satisfaction rate.
Dhankher stresses the goal was modernizing pizza deliveries, not cost reduction. Couriers made the same number of deliveries they did before the robots were in use.
But Pizza Hut isn’t ready to roll out robots permanently.
“We want to learn more,” he said. “What happens when you put this in the snowy areas of Saskatchewan and what happens when there is freezing rain?”
Another question: what happens when cities won’t welcome the robots?
Tiny Mile, a company behind a series of pink, heart-eyed robots named Geoffrey, knows the answer.
Years after Geoffrey started making Toronto deliveries for delivery services like Foodora, Lepofsky and others argued people may be impeded by stopped or stalled devices or unable to quickly detect their presence.
Toronto’s city council voted last December to prohibit the devices that run on anything but muscle power from sidewalks, bike paths and pedestrian ways until the province implements a pilot project for such devices.
Geoffrey was then spotted in Ottawa before the city confirmed such robots aren’t permitted there either and Tiny Mile decamped from Canada completely.
“We almost went bankrupt,” said Ignacio Tartavull, Tiny Mile’s chief executive.
“It was basically a miracle we survived.”
To keep Geoffrey alive, Tiny Mile headed to Florida and North Carolina.
“It was love at first sight,” Tartavull said. “We spoke with cities and they were basically competing for us to go there.”
He believes that adoration will spread as the cost of robot deliveries — now roughly $1 — sink to 10 cents in the next seven years.
“It’s likely going to take a few years before we have it in the big cities but in the long term, it’s kind of undoubtable because the technology is here, it works and we can deliver on time and at a much lower cost,” he said.
As for Serve, it’s focused on Los Angeles right now, but Kashani said its mission is to get five per cent of delivery vehicles off the road in the next five years.
“But I definitely hope that if you fast forward one or two decades, these robots would be doing more local transportation of goods… so that we can not rely on cars.”
CityNews October 6, 2022
Toronto election 2022: How will the mayoral frontrunners help persons with disabilities?
How will Toronto’s mayoral frontrunners address disability concerns?
Nick Westoll looks at how the two Toronto mayoral frontrunners say they’ll address the issues being raised by persons with disabilities.
By Nick Westoll
With the Toronto election less than three weeks away, advocates for persons with disabilities want to ensure issues affecting them and the community are front of mind for city council candidates.
“There is no excuse for Ontario, for Toronto to lag decades behind. We didn’t just invent people with disabilities last week,” David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance and a visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, said.
CityNews recently met with Lepofsky on Roselawn Avenue in Toronto’s Forest Hill area to look at an example of his advocacy efforts to get the municipality to address a myriad of obstacles.
In mid-June, he was walking on the sidewalk on the south side near Latimer Avenue when he hit his head on a traffic sign that was leaning on an angle over the sidewalk at head level.
“When I, as a totally blind person, walk, my cane follows the shoreline, the edge of the sidewalk and the beginning of the grass – that’s how I navigate. Well, that took me right into this (sign),” Lepofsky said.
“Either the City installed it this way in the first place, which is outrageous, or it somehow got knocked over sideways and it should have been fixed.”
He said he quickly called the City of Toronto’s 311 line and spoke with a friendly person. Lepofsky received an email receipt saying it was classified as an “investigate temporary condition sign” issue. However, he later learned the issue would be resolved within three months.
“I said this is a safety issue, a health and safety issue, and that didn’t change anything. Well, it’s been more than three months and nothing’s changed. It’s still here and it’s still dangerous,” he said on Wednesday.
CityNews took Lepofsky’s concern to City of Toronto staff Wednesday afternoon to ask why the matter wouldn’t be prioritized given it’s a safety issue and why it wasn’t fixed in the three-and-a-half months since it was first reported.
“The repair to the service request will be made within the next 24 hours,” a municipal spokesperson told CityNews in an email Thursday afternoon.
“David’s request was filed under the incorrect service type which is why the repair was delayed to be resolved. We will be providing relevant coaching to the staff who processed this request.”
As Lepofsky noted, barriers are easy to find in Toronto.
“This isn’t the only such protrusion. There should never be something sticking out at head level on a sidewalk in the path of travel. It’s dangerous for people who are blind. It’s dangerous for people who are looking at their phone texting … it’s inexcusable,” he said.
On Yonge Street beside the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, a TTC project closed part of the sidewalk and road on the west side. A sign can be seen telling residents to turn right to navigate around the obstruction, but if someone misses that sign or can’t see it they will end up walking some distance before ending up at a dead-end fence.
On Queen Street West, CityNews found part four bolts sticking out of a concrete section of sidewalk marked with some spray paint.
Outside Union Station, a bunch of debris can be seen stored on the side of the sidewalk out front.
CityNews contacted Gil Penalosa and John Tory to ask what they would do to ensure the City of Toronto makes required accessibility improvements before the 2025 deadlines under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
“In a Toronto for everyone, people with disabilities are going to be a top priority,” Toronto mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa said in an interview with CityNews on Thursday, adding he’d like to expedite the needed work before the deadline.
“I think we should have been taking care of people with disabilities a long time ago and I think we have failed, we have failed.
“If I don’t have a disability and I get up and I fall and I break my leg, tomorrow I’m going to be in a wheelchair. So anybody can be at any one time, so we need to give this a top priority.”
Penalosa also reacted to the general issue of delays in getting matters reported through 311 fixed.
“Why does it take two hours to move the post if it’s blocking cars but it takes over three months if it’s blocking pedestrians? It’s because pedestrians don’t matter in the existing city, have not mattered in the last eight years,” he said.
“That’s why who you elect as mayor is important.”
Highlights of Penalosa’s policy proposals include:
Widen and build sidewalks, extend traffic signal timing to help pedestrians
Improve TTC response during escalator, elevator outages by having customer service staff at the standby along with improved signage when it happens
More lighting over sidewalks
Prioritize pedestrian access in construction zones
Reduce speed limits on neighbourhood streets
Limit length of curb cut ramps to create flat sidewalks
Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory’s campaign pointed to his record versus a list of platform commitments.
“The mayor is committed to making the city liveable and accessible for all Torontonians, particularly those with disabilities,” Jenessa Crognali, the director of communications for the John Tory Re-Election Campaign, said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“He is a strong advocate for accessibility in Toronto and has a track record of advancing positive change. That’s why he has committed to ensuring all public facing City divisions are AODA compliant by 2025. Under the mayor’s leadership, Citystaff have already undertaken work to make sure the timeline is met.
“Further, the mayor championed accessibility guidelines by leading City Council in adopting the Toronto Accessibility Design Guidelines that work towards making Toronto a barrier-free community. ”
She also pointed to the TTC’s plan to make all subway stations accessible by 2025 and the HousingTO goal of “creating 18,000 supportive housing units by 2030 for those who need it most, including people with physical and developmental disabilities.”