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 indication that e-scooters are “one of the most interesting innovations to solve the first mile/last mile problem,” Mitra said. “If it was up to me, I would probably support at least a pilot to try it out.”

The Toronto staff report flagged concerns about the devices, chief among them the potential risk they could pose to Torontonians with accessibility challenges if they were left on the street or improperly ridden on sidewalks. The report also warned insurers won’t cover the vehicles, and the city lacks enforcement resources to ensure users follow the rules.

Staff are advising that council vote against joining a five-year pilot project the Ontario government launched in 2020 that allows cities to legalize e-scooters. Under the terms of the pilot, the vehicles must have a top speed of 24 km/h, and weigh no more than 45 kg. Windsor and Ottawa are among those taking part.

Ahead of the Toronto council vote, global e-scooter sharing companies like Bird and Lime have lobbied city hall in an effort to open up the market to their operations.

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.

Matti Siemiatycki, a professor of geography and interim director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, said city staff are right to not embrace e-scooters.

“I think that with every technology there’s trade-offs, and with e-scooters, especially the shared approach, the negative consequences of this technology (outweigh the benefits),” he said, citing the hazards they pose to people with disabilities.