Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Media Coverage, Health Cards, Electric Scooters, Disability Barriers in schools, and Another Ford Government Accessibility Blunder
February 17, 2022
In short order, here are five new developments in our ongoing accessibility campaign:
- On February 15, 2022, the influential QP Briefing publication (owned by the Toronto Star) ran an excellent article, which we include below. It reports on the Ford Government finally agreeing to extend the deadline to renew expired Ontario Health Cards to September 30, 2022. It also reports on the Government being forced to agree to allow people to use their Ontario Photo ID Card (if they have one) in place of a driver’s license when renewing their Health Card online.
QP Briefing is widely read within Queen’s Park. We invite the Toronto Star to also share this important news with their broad readership outside Queen’s Park, who deserve to know that they don’t have to rush to service Ontario before February 28, 2022 to renew their Health Card.
Learn more about this issue by reading the AODA Alliance’s February 9, 2022 news release.
- Last spring, Toronto City Council voted unanimously to ban electric scooters from the city. There are nevertheless many e-scooters bombing around in the nice weather. Stores keep selling them. There is no visible enforcement of the ban on e-scooters.
It is very good that the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee will address this topic at its February 22, 2022 virtual meeting, starting at 9:30 a.m. You can ask to make a 5-minute deputation to that Committee. We encourage you to sign up to do so. You can explain why you think Toronto should do a better job of enforcing the ban on e-scooters, which endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children, and others.
To sign up to speak to the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, send an email requesting to talk about e-scooters at the meeting to firstname.lastname@example.org. The AODA Alliance has already signed up to speak at that meeting. The meeting will be live streamed on YouTube.
Learn more about the e-scooter issue by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.
- This week, the Ford Government told the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee that it is aiming to make public that Committee’s final report by the end of February or early March. Below, we set out the email from Ontario’s acting Assistant Deputy Minister for Accessibility to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (of which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member).
Section 11(2) of the AODA requires The Government to publicly post that report “upon receiving it”, not a month or more later. Last year, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky had to bring a court application against the Ford Government, because it had delayed making public the initial reports of three AODA Standards Development Committees. For more on that court case, read the AODA Alliance’s May 7, 2021 news release.
The Ford Government’s explanation of this new delay, set out in its February 15, 2022 email below, does not hold water. All the steps that the Government lists as being necessary before it posts this report were in fact completed last spring for the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report. The final report is the same as the initial report, with just a few short additions and revisions. They do not have to start all over again, as most of the work was already done.
Moreover, Ministry staff had direct access to this final report as it was being developed, and indeed put it in its final form during the week before it was finally voted on and approved by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. This is not a document that suddenly arrived at the Ministry for the first time.
We call on the Ford Government to hurry up and release the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s final report. We also call on it to quickly release the final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee when the Government receives them.
- The Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho has done it again. He sent out another inaccessible letter, this time a letter to members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky immediately wrote the minister to object to this. The Minister’s office replied later that day, admitting to this letter’s inaccessibility, and apologizing. This email exchange is set out below.
This is not the first time this has happened. Two years ago, Minister Cho sent out a broadcast email invitation to publicize his October 29, 2020, virtual media event, where he was to talk about what a great job the Ford Government is doing on advancing the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities. Then, as here, he sent it out in an inaccessible document. The Government admitted this blunder, as was reported in the October 27, 2020 AODA Alliance Update.
It is more than ironic that the final report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, which Minister Cho was corresponding about this time, itself points out this very kind of disability barrier and made strong recommendations to prevent it.
- How many days has it been since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, calling for far more action to make Ontario Accessible to people with disabilities by 2025? A total of 1,113 days!
How many days are left before January 1, 2025, the deadline for the Ontario Government to lead the province to becoming accessible to people with disabilities? Just 1,050 days. Do you think it’s time for the Ford Government to finally announce a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report, and to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025?
QP Briefing February 15, 2022
Deadline extended for health card renewal after looming court battle
Thanks to an extension, expired health cards have until Sept. 30 to be renewed.
In addition to extending the renewal deadline for health cards, Ontario’s government recently announced it’s also working to allow online renewals using Ontario Photo Cards — something disability advocates have been asking for since Jan. 2020.
The province shared on Feb. 9 that Ontarians now have until Sept. 30 to renew their health cards, an extension of seven months from the previous Feb. 28 deadline. The announcement came just as the government was getting ready to head to court, brought there by David Lepofsky, chair of the advocacy group Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance.
Lepofsky, who is blind, filed an application with the Ontario Superior Court on Jan. 26, arguing the Ford government had discriminated during the pandemic against people with disabilities who didn’t have a driver’s licence and were forced to renew their health card in-person. Currently, only people with a valid driver’s licence can renew their health card online.
While Lepofsky lauded the extension as a “big victory for people with disabilities, after a battle we should never have had to fight,” he says the court case will remain an option until the online renewal process opens to those with a photo ID card instead of a licence.
A day after the extension for health card renewals was announced by the government, Lepofsky published the affidavit he filed with the Superior Court, which shows the government was first notified that driver’s licences were a barrier to health card renewals in February 2020, when the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s executive director wrote to both the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Government and Consumer Services notifying them of the accessibility barrier. On December 20, 2021, the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Patricia De Guire, also wrote to the government to ask that photo ID cards be permitted for online renewals.
Lepofsky said he had his first meeting with representatives from the Ministries of Health, Government and Consumer Services, and Seniors and Accessibility in November 2021. By Jan. 25, in a meeting attended by OHIP General Manager Patrick Dicerni, government officials told Lepofsky that an online renewal process utilizing an Ontario photo ID card instead of a driver’s licence would be ready by May 2022, according to Lepofsky’s affidavit. He said that in that same meeting, government officials told him a mail-in process allowing the same photo ID for health card renewal would be implemented for early February 2022, however this process hasn’t been created yet.
Lepofsky also says in his affidavit that the government declined to comment on why it had not extended the renewal deadline, which was still Feb. 28 at the time, and why it had not been advertised that individuals with expired health cards could still seek out treatment.
The ministries involved in the meetings with Lepofsky declined to answer questions regarding the court case, the decision to extend the renewal deadline and progress on the online health card renewal process, instead deferring to statements made in the press release announcing the extended health card deadline.
February 15, 2022 Email from the Ford Government’s Assistant Deputy Minister for Accessibility to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee
Dear K-12 SDC members,
I understand the Chair has received some questions about when your Final Recommendations Report will be posted, and we have also been fielding some questions here at the ministry. Accordingly, I’d like to give you an update on our work.
Since your Committee submitted its final recommendations to the Minister on January 28, 2022, the ministry has been working to prepare your report for public posting. We are currently making it a very high priority to work through the operational steps that must be completed before the final report (in both English and French) can be posted on Ontario.ca. website, which we anticipate completing by end of February/early March.
This preparation work entails:
- Reviewing the report for grammar, style (e.g. correct use of acronyms, capitalization, hyphenation, etc.) and format (e.g. numbering, paragraph style, etc.) to comply with Ontario Public Service Communication Standards for posting of documents on the Ontario.ca website;
- Translating it into French as required by the French Language Services Act, 1990;
- Converting the report into HTML format for posting on the Ontario.ca website, in order to remove all accessibility barriers in the report (including the cost of specific software such as Microsoft Word) and to meet the website accessibility requirement specified in the Information and Communications standards set out in Ontario Regulation 191/11: Integrated Accessibility Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005; and
- Performing a final quality assurance check on the material prior to posting.
Doing this work takes time, and the longer the document, the more time it takes to complete the above tasks/steps.
Thank you for your patience, my apologies for sending this so late in the day, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to Mary or myself if you have any questions about this.
A/Assistant Deputy Minister | Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division
Ministry for Seniors & Accessibility
February 15, 2022 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho
February 15, 2022
To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
Via email: email@example.com
College Park 5th Floor
777 Bay St
Toronto, ON M7A 1S5
Re: Accessibility of Your Letter Today to Members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee
I have just received an email from you, attaching a letter to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. As you know, I am a member of that Committee, and am blind. You attached your letter in pdf format, without also including it in an alternative format that is accessible, such as MS Word.
Minister, this may seem to some like a small point, but it is most assuredly not. You have claimed that your Government would lead by example on accessibility. This is a terrible example by which to lead.
This is made all the more troubling, since I have asked your Ministry time and again to ensure that I am provided an alternative format document whenever you send a pdf document. Moreover, the final report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, about which you were writing, itself makes recommendations to ensure that alternative accessible formats are also provided when a pdf is provided.
As well, may I note that you received the final report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on Friday, February 4, 2022, eleven days ago. Section 1 1(2) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires you to publicly posted it “upon receiving it”. You have not yet done so. When will you publicly post it? School boards cannot start using it, to the benefit of students with disabilities, until you fulfil your legal duty and publicly post it.
In closing, as the Minister for Accessibility, could you please set a good example by ensuring that the documents you send to blind people like me are accessible?
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford firstname.lastname@example.org
Carlene Alexander, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, email@example.com
Alison Drummond, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, firstname.lastname@example.org
Text of February 15, 2022 Email from the Office of of Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to K-12 Education Standards Development Committee
Dear K – 12 Education SDC members,
My sincere apologies to SDC members, for our oversight when sharing the recent communication from Minister Cho that lacked the usual plain text content in the body of the email, and therefore was clearly not in an accessible format.
I’m resending the communication on behalf of Minister Cho in the usual plain text format with attached PDF.
Shilpa Kotecha (she/her)
Manager, Issues, Media Relations and Correspondence
Ministry for Seniors & Accessibility (MSAA)
February 14, 2022
Ms. Lynn Ziraldo
Chair, K-12 Education Standards Development Committee
Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
1181 Yonge Street, Unit 221
Richmond Hill ON
Dear Ms. Ziraldo:
Congratulations on the completion of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Final Recommendations Report.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again express my appreciation for all the hard work and dedication you and your committee members have shown in developing your recommendations. Your perseverance in facing the additional challenge of completing this work via on-line sessions is admirable and much appreciated.
As you are aware, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) requires communication from me to you as the Chair of the committee, to advise you of the decision on how to proceed with the proposed accessibility standard and whether to recommend that all, part, or modifications become a regulation. This letter is to inform you of next steps regarding your committee’s final recommendations for the development of a proposed K-12 Education Standard, which you submitted to my office on January 28, 2022.
I have instructed ministry staff to commence the work and analysis necessary for me to determine whether the proposed accessibility standards require any changes or modifications in order to bring them forward for broader government consideration. This includes taking the time necessary to research the full impact of any proposed change and to coordinate with other ministries and experts where necessary.
Removing barriers for students in Ontario’s K-12 education system is an important area of focus for our government. Once again, I thank you and all committee members for your commitment to ensuring accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.
c: The Hon. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education
Jay Jung, Chief of Staff, MSAA Minister’s Office
Carlene Alexander, Deputy Minister, Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility
Matthew Shaw, Chair, Accessibility Standards Advisory Council
Members of K-12 Standards Development Committee