Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Come to A November 5, 2019 Windsor Area Public Forum on Accessibility – CBC’s “The National” Reveals A Troubling Barrier to Accessible Housing Facing Too Many People with Disabilities – and Another Memorable Anniversary on the Road to A Barrier-Free Ontario
October 29, 2019
1. Come to the November 5, 2019 Essex County Town Hall Forum on the AODA and Accessible Canada Act
Want to hear the latest news in our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities, at the municipal, provincial and federal levels? Want to know how you can make a big difference for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada?
If you live in Windsor, or anywhere in Essex County, please come to the Essex County Civic Centre on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, beginning at 1 p.m. for a Town Hall Public Forum on making the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Accessible Canada Act work for you. The speaker will be AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. Below is the announcement of this event by the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee. We commend that Committee and the municipal staff that supports them for organizing this event and for reaching out to the AODA Alliance to have our chair take part. Information on how to RSVP is available at a link in the announcement, set out below.
2. CBC’s “The National” TV Program Shines Light on Another Troubling Disability Accessibility Barrier
For the third time this year, CBC TV’s unstoppable reporter Rosa Marchitelli shone a bright light on another troubling accessibility barrier that faces too many people with disabilities in Canada. This time, it was a barrier to accessible housing. A condo refused to install an automatic door opener to accommodate a woman with a disability who needs it to get in and out of the building where she lives. We set that story out below, and commend CBC, Rosa Marchitelli and her team for covering this barrier.
This story is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the critical shortage of accessible housing in Canada, needed by a growing population that needs an accessible place to live. Federal, provincial and municipal action is needed to address this. We are honoured that CBC has come to us with this story and sought our comment on it.
3. Today is An Important Anniversary for the Campaign for Accessibility
Twenty-one years ago today, tireless and tenacious grass roots disability advocacy paid off, with long term consequences for over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities!
On October 29, 1998, when the Conservative Government of Premier Mike Harris was in power, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the predecessor to the AODA Alliance) got the Ontario Legislature to unanimously pass a powerful resolution. It called for the enactment of a provincial disability accessibility law that puts into effect the 11 principles that grass roots disability advocates had formulated. You can read that resolution by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/today-is-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-ontario-legislatures-historic-unanimous-resolution-calling-for-ontario-to-enact-strong-and-effective-disability-accessibility-legislation-how-far-have-1-9-mil/
The events of that dramatic day are summarized in a three-page excerpt, set out below, from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s detailed article which summarizes the Disabilities Act movement’s history from 1994 to 2003. To read the debates in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998, leading to the passage of this resolution, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/hansard18.html
Over two decades later, we still measure the legislation we’ve won, the McGuinty Government’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, against the 11 principles that the Ontario Legislature adopted on October 29, 1998. We also continue to measure any accessibility standards and other actions taken under the AODA 2005 against the 11 bedrock principles which the Ontario Legislature adopted on that historic day.
It is troubling that on this anniversary, a seemingly-endless 273 days have passed since the Ontario Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ontario Government has still not announced a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report. In the meantime, public money continues to be freely available to create new barriers against people with disabilities in Ontario and to perpetuate existing barriers.
Learn more about the ODA Committee’s campaign that led to the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005.
Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign since 2005 to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.
Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign to get the Federal Government to enact strong national accessibility legislation.
Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee Announcement of November 5, 2019 Town Hall Public Forum on Accessibility for People with Disabilities
Accessibility Champion to Speak at Essex County Civic Centre
David Lepofsky, a prominent and passionate champion for accessibility and the rights of persons with disabilities, will speak at a free event hosted by the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee at the Civic Centre on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
An author, advocate, professor, lawyer and community organizer, Lepofsky will speak about accessibility in municipal settings and the need for continued advocacy in pursuit of an inclusive society accessible to all. The ECAAC is thrilled to welcome such an experienced, engaging and dynamic speaker on such an important topic.
Lepofsky has been advocating for laws to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Canada since the 1970s. In the early 1980s, he was part of a successful effort to ensure the rights of those with disabilities were protected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He began fighting for those with vision loss in the 1990s and won cases against the Toronto Transit Commission before the Human Rights Tribunal, which ordered the TTC in 2005 to announce all subway stops and in 2007 to announce all bus and streetcar stops.
From 1994 to 2005, Lepofsky led the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, which campaigned for a decade to secure passage of two provincial laws to make Ontario fully accessible – the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.
He is presently the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which advocates for the strong accessibility standards outlined in provincial legislation. The Alliance successfully secured in 2010 amendments to electoral legislation to address barriers to voting in Ontario and is currently working for the expansion of telephone and internet voting.
Lepofsky is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Osgoode Hall Law School, where he is a visiting professor of Disability Rights and Legal Education. He is also an adjunct member of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. He is the author of one law book, the author or co-author of 30 law journal articles or book chapters and his work has been cited in several decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada.
He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1995, the Order of Ontario in 2007 and inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 2003. He has honorary doctorates from multiple Canadian universities and awards from several organizations including the March of Dimes Canada and Community Living Ontario. Canadian Lawyer magazine named him one of Canada’s 25 most influential lawyers in 2010.
Lepofsky has been a featured speaker across Canada and the United States as well as Israel, Denmark, Belgium, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland. He will speak at the Essex County Civic Centre on Tuesday, Nov. 5, beginning at 1 p.m.
The event is free but space is limited, so participants are asked to register by visiting the County of Essex’s website.
CBC TV News The National October 13, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/go-public-disabled-automatic-door-1.5313633
Calgary GO PUBLIC
‘If there’s a fire I’m dead’: Quadruple amputee battles condo board for access to her own building
Governments need to ‘get with the program,’ fix building codes and laws, advocate says
Rosa Marchitelli CBC News
Verna Marzo says she’ll never forget the embarrassment of being stuck outside her Calgary condo building — in the cold for almost two hours, waiting for someone to let her in — because as a quadruple amputee she can’t open the doors on her own, and her condo board has refused to install automatic doors she can use.
“Someone helped me [get] out, but when I wanted to go back in, there was no one to open the door,” said Marzo, 46.
“It was cold. I called my sister but my sister was at work … so I waited until my caregiver arrived.” She says none of the other doors in the building is an option.
“That means I get stuck behind the doors. If there’s an emergency … if there’s a fire, I’m dead, there’s no way I can get outside.”
According to an advocate for people with disabilities, situations like Marzo’s are “all too common,” because weak building codes and a lack of provincial accessibility laws are causing a “chronic and pervasive shortage” of accessible housing.
“Imagine that you’re in a building where you paid good money to live … and you can’t get in or out without having someone there,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.
“Imagine you go to sleep at night knowing — God forbid — if there’s a fire, you can’t let yourself out. No one would want to live that way and people with disabilities shouldn’t have to live that way.”
Homebound and frustrated
Two years ago, after having emergency abdominal surgery, Marzo contracted sepsis — a reaction to a severe blood infection that leads to organs shutting down. Doctors amputated both legs and arms to save her life.
Earlier this year, she started shopping for a condo that would allow her to get around with her wheelchair or prosthetics. She says she knew the place she bought wasn’t perfect, but it was one of the few she could afford. She hoped to deal with issues as they came up, but never expected to be fighting for a door.
In May, a few months after she was locked outside in the cold, she asked the building manager if automatic doors could be installed.
She was told the condo board decided not at this time. Marzo’s social worker tried again, contacting the board on her behalf.
She was told the board already had a plan for new doors but there would be no automatic push-button system due to security concerns of the doors being open too long.
That explanation is “a total red herring,” according to Lepofsky.
“You could design doors with optical sensors to protect against that. But even a manual door, with a lock, there’s no guarantee that requires it to be held open only long enough for the person with the key to get through.”
Meanwhile, Marzo remains homebound and frustrated.
“I don’t want to only benefit me. I want people who have lesser mobility to benefit as well. Because it’s not easy to just be staying at home and be depressed,” she said.
The property management company declined to answer Go Public’s questions, claiming it was a legal matter and referring us to the condo board.
Go Public made repeated requests to board members for comment; all went unanswered.
‘Get with the program’
Automatic doors would cost between $2,500 to $7,500, depending on the design, according to Sean Crump from Universal Access, a Calgary company that provides advice to businesses on how to make buildings more accessible.
Crump says there is public funding available to qualified candidates to help pay for building modifications, though it’s not clear if Marzo’s building qualifies.
“There are a few resources. The federal government has an Enabling Access Fund that allows funds to be put into accessible design for spaces and buildings — and it’s done a lot of good.”
More than three million people over the age of 15 have at least one physical disability according to the most recent Statistics Canada numbers from 2017.
On July 11, the Accessible Canada Act came into force. Lepofsky says it’s a well intentioned effort at mandating barrier-free access, but it, too, falls short by covering only sectors within Ottawa’s jurisdiction like banking, telecommunications and the federal government.
He says that leaves a mish-mash of accessibility laws — or none at all — at the provincial level. Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia are the only provinces with that kind of legislation.
“We need the seven provinces in Canada that don’t have a provincial accessibility law to enact one — to get with the program,” Lepofsky said.
But even in those provinces, Marzo would have little or no recourse. Manitoba and Nova Scotia’s legislation don’t address the responsibilities of condo boards.
Ontario’s does, but since it was implemented in 2005, it’s done little to help people with disabilities, according to a review released in January by former lieutenant governor David Onley.
“We are almost 14 years later,” Onley, who was Canada’s first lieutenant governor with a physical disability, wrote, “and the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.”
“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”
Changing the building codes could also help, according to Lepofsky. But, though national and provincial codes cover new buildings and major renovations, older buildings like Marzo’s are under no obligation to renovate.
All of this, Lepofsky says, leaves people with disabilities to deal with problems “one battle at a time” through human rights complaints.
The national and provincial human rights codes say buildings used by the public need to be accessible.
Fight for doors ‘hideous’
Marzo says everywhere she turned no one could — or would — help. She says her call to the Alberta Human Rights Commission wasn’t returned and the City of Calgary told her there is nothing it can do.
“They just keep [telling me] call this person or this person and eventually someone from City of Calgary called me and said they cannot force the condo board to put the door in because it’s not the law.”
Go Public took Marzo’s situation to provincial and federal lawmakers.
Jennifer Dagsvik, spokesperson for Alberta’s Ministry of Community and Social Service, says the province is “monitoring” the new federal and existing provincial laws.
She says while Alberta lacks an accessibility law, people with disabilities can seek help under the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
Ottawa’s most recent minister of public services and procurement and accessibility didn’t answer Go Public’s questions directly.
Instead Carla Qualtrough sent a general statement, referring to the Accessible Canada Act and the accessibility review board — the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO) — it created.
“While CASDO is still in its early stages of development, it has been made evident by Canadians and members of the disability community that standards in new and existing buildings is a priority,” Qualtrough said.
Marzo says she won’t give up, saying it’s “hideous” she’s had to fight this hard to be able to enter and exit the building she lives in.
She’s planning to talk to a lawyer for advice on what to do next.
“They will get old too,” she says, referring to members of her condo board. “And they will lose their strength. And they will thank me for that door if they will do it now.”
Rosa Marchitelli is a national award winner for her investigative work. As co-host of the CBC News segment Go Public, she has a reputation for asking tough questions and holding companies and individuals to account. Rosa’s work is seen across CBC News platforms.
With files by Jenn Blair
Excerpt from The Long, Arduous Road To A Barrier-Free Ontario For People With Disabilities: The History Of The Ontarians with Disabilities Act — The First Chapter
(2004, 15 National Journal of Constitutional Law)
By David Lepofsky
8) FALL 1998: THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE DECLARES WHAT THE ODA MUST INCLUDE AND THE GOVERNMENT BRINGS FORWARD ITS FIRST ODA BILL
- a) Enshrining The ODA Yardstick – The Legislature’s Second ODA Resolution Adopts Our Eleven Principles
Perhaps the most significant milestone in the first chapter of our campaign came in October 1998. In the Fall of 1998, after the Government’s 1998 ODA closed consultations ended, we turned our attention to a next big challenge. A Government ODA bill could come at any time. We had no reason to expect that the Government would forewarn us of the date when it would introduce an ODA bill into the Legislature. The Government hadn’t forewarned us of the July 1998 release of its ODA discussion paper.
We wanted to publicly set a clear benchmark or yardstick against which any Government’s ODA bill could be measured. We had no reason to expect that a Government ODA bill would be any better than its weak policy framework in its ODA discussion paper.
Early in the Fall of 1998, we were approached by Liberal Windsor MPP Dwight Duncan. Until then, Hamilton Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino had been the lead Liberal MPP championing the ODA in the Legislature. Agostino had announced at one of our news conferences that his father had been an injured worker. From this, he well understood the barriers persons with disabilities faced. He had brought a personal passion to the ODA issue.
Mr. Duncan told us he wanted to introduce a private member’s ODA bill in the Legislature for us. We welcomed his support. However, we were still very reluctant to put massive work into researching and drafting a private member’s bill, for the reasons discussed earlier. We also feared that the Government could skilfully focus a barrage of criticism on some minor, distracting target in a bill that we would crank out, such as some obscure inconsequential wording problem. It could thereby transform a red herring into the central public issue. This could drag us off our message.
Accordingly we asked Duncan to instead introduce another private member’s ODA resolution into the Legislature. This tactic had worked so well for us in May 1996, when NDP MPP Marion Boyd had successfully brought forward the first ODA resolution to the Legislature. If Duncan were to bring forward another ODA resolution, this could help increase the Liberal Party’s support for the ODA. It was very important for our coalition to be, and to be seen as non-partisan. Rotating our activities among both opposition parties helped us achieve this.
Duncan was open to our idea. We then had to decide what this second ODA resolution should say. It needn’t replicate the first ODA resolution. That had called on the Ontario Government to keep its 1995 ODA election promise. We again didn’t want the resolution to be a partisan attack on the Conservative Government. As in 1996, we didn’t want to give the Government an easy excuse to use its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution.
We came up with an idea which would move the ODA cause forward, and which would put all of the political parties to the test. We proposed to Duncan that his resolution call on the Ontario Legislature to pass an ODA which complies with our 11 principles. A legislative debate over those principles took the ODA discussion far beyond the realm of just discussing in the abstract whether a law called the ODA should be passed. Such a resolution would make the parties either vote for or against our core principles on what that legislation should contain.
Dwight Duncan agreed to introduce the resolution we proposed. He also secured the Liberal Party’s support for the resolution. The NDP also notified us that it would support the resolution. We did not know whether the Conservatives, who commanded a majority of votes in the Legislature, would support it. We had no reason in advance for any optimism.
The resolution was scheduled for a debate and vote in the Legislature on October 29, 1998. This was one week after our meeting with Citizenship Minister Bassett, where we had been treated to the overhead slide show. The date for the resolution’s debate and vote also came a mere two days before Hallowe’en. Carole Riback, an inspired and inspiring ODA activist, dreamt up a clever Hallowe’en slogan around which we rallied. This resolution vote raised the question: “Would the ODA be a trick or treat?”
In Fall 1998, the ODA movement made its main focus getting this resolution passed. We urged ODA supporters to lobby MPPs from all three parties to vote for it. We also urged them to go to their local media to publicize this issue. We were learning more and more that the ODA movement was increasingly effective when it channelled its energies over a period of weeks on one concrete short-term goal.
The ODA Committee again quickly pulled together a major event at the legislative building at Queen’s Park for the morning of the resolution’s debate and vote. ODA supporters came to the legislative building and met in committee rooms. We planned to break into small teams to each go to MPPs’ offices, door to door, to “trick or treat,” canvassing them for their support on the resolution.
All hurried planning for this event went well, until we were contacted the night before by the office of the Speaker of the Legislature. It confronted us with a huge problem. The Speaker would not let us go to any MPP’s office unless we had a prior appointment. We were told that there is a blanket rule that provides that no one can get near the MPPs’ offices without an invitation. We were threatened with all being refused admittance to the legislative building. Since the Conservatives had taken power in 1995, Queen’s Park building security had increased extraordinarily.
This threatened to eviscerate our plans. We explained to the Speaker’s office that we planned an informal door-to-door canvass. It was impossible for us at that late hour to call then, the very night before our event, to try to book meetings with each MPP. We feared that if asked, Conservative MPPs would not agree to meet with us. They had refused to come to most of our prior events, and had so often resisted meeting our supporters in their local communities. If we could even get through to their offices at that late hour (which was unlikely), we would likely be told that appointments cannot be booked on such short notice.
We hurriedly negotiated a solution with the Speaker’s office. Small groups of our supporters could go to MPPs’ offices without a prior appointment, if each group was escorted by one Queen’s Park security officer, one MPP staffer, and one ODA committee representative. We had to agree to immediately recall all groups if any complaints about their conduct were received.
Having removed this last-minute roadblock, October 29, 1998 was a dramatic day. We had no idea in advance whether the resolution would pass. The Conservative majority held the power to decide this. Our teams carried out their door-to-door trick or treat canvass without any complaint.
One group was larger than authorized. We persuaded the Queen’s Park security staff not to complain. That group was composed entirely of deaf people. They made no noise, and needed our sign language interpreters. Queen’s Park security officials who travelled with our teams seemed to be enjoying the process.
An ODA supporter on one of our “trick or treat” teams reported that a Conservative MPP happened to be quickly leaving his office as the ODA team approached. The MPP called out that he had no time to meet, but he would vote for us, whatever it was we wanted him to vote for. While behind a glass door, another Conservative MPP turned to a staff member and mouthed that he did not know what the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was all about. That MPP hadn’t foreseen that among those on the other side of the glass door was a hard-of-hearing ODA supporter who can read lips.
The trick or treat teams finished their tours of MPPs’ offices. They then converged in Queen’s Park legislative committee rooms to watch the MPPs debate Dwight Duncan’s resolution in the Legislature, again on video monitors. We again brought our own sign language interpretation. As in the past, the Legislature’s public galleries remained almost totally inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.
During the debate in the Legislature, Liberal and NDP MPPs predictably spoke in favour of the resolution. The governing Conservative MPPs boasted of their Government’s record, and sounded as if they would vote against the resolution. However, when the vote came, our second ODA resolution in the Ontario Legislature passed unanimously.
Immediately afterward, we held a triumphant news conference at the Queen’s Park media studio. Both opposition parties had MPPs in attendance. The Government again declined our invitation to participate.
As another important step forward for us, the new Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty attended our news conference. He announced on the record that if his party were elected, they would commit to passing an ODA which complies with Dwight Duncan’s resolution.44
Later that day Citizenship Minister Bassett was asked in Question Period whether her Government would honour the resolution that the Legislature had unanimously passed that morning. Minister Bassett had not attended the debate in the Legislature that morning when the resolution was under consideration, even though it directly related to legislation for which she had lead responsibility for the Government. In her evasive answer to the opposition’s question put to her in Question Period that afternoon, Minister Bassett condemned the resolution as calling for job hiring quotas.
It was self-evident from the resolution’s text that it did not call for job hiring quotas or even hint at them. When we realized that the Government was going to use the hot-button “job quotas” accusation to try to whip up public opposition against us, we immediately launched a province-wide letter-writing campaign addressed directly to Minister Bassett and Premier Harris. We proclaimed that we sought no job hiring quotas. We called on the Government to desist in their inaccurate claims. Within a short time, Minister Bassett candidly conceded on a CBC radio interview that we were not seeking quotas. The Government thereafter dropped that tactic.
The Legislature’s passage of Dwight Duncan’s October 29, 1998 resolution was likely the most critical victory for the ODA movement in its history to that date. From then on, we no longer referred to the 11 principles as simply “the ODA Committee’s 11 principles for the ODA.” From then on we could, and did point to them as “the 11 principles for the ODA which the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved by a resolution on October 29, 1998.” We were indebted to Duncan for spearheading this resolution in a non-partisan way. His resolution served to become the yardstick by which any future legislation would be tested. It was also the catalyst that brought the Liberal and New Democratic Parties officially on the record in support of our 11 principles for the ODA. Both parties would go on to campaign for these 11 principles in the 1999 and 2003 provincial elections, and would actively press the Conservative Government to live up to them.
In the end, October 29, 1998 was a decisive, indeed towering milestone on the road to a barrier-free Ontario. Ironically, we got no media coverage that day, despite our best efforts. This cannot be explained on the basis that this story wasn’t newsworthy. The story had all the hallmarks of newsworthiness. We have learned that this is an unfortunate fact of community advocacy life. It did not deter our tenacity.
44 This was Mr. McGuinty’s first public commitment to this effect. Of great importance to the as-yet unwritten second chapter of the ODA saga, five years later, Mr. McGuinty would be elected Premier of Ontario in the October 2, 2003 provincial election. His 2003 election platform included a pledge to fulfil the commitment he first gave at our news conference on October 29, 1998.