Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Media Coverage of Ford Government’s Backing Down on the Disability Barrier in Ontario Health Card Renewal– and – More That the Government Needs to Do
February 14, 2022
City News Ottawa reported last week on the Ford Government’s caving in just before a court scheduling hearing, on the disability barrier in the process for renewing Ontario expired Health Cards. We include that news report below.
As we told you last week in the February 9, 2022 AODA Alliance news release, the Ford Government belatedly agreed to extend the grace period to September 30, 2022 to renew an expired Health Card. Up to September 30, 2022, Ontarians can continue to use an expired Ontario Health Card to receive health services in Ontario.
As well, the Ford Government announced that it will revise the process for renewing an Ontario Health Card online, so that a person will be able to use an official Ontario Photo ID Card in lieu of a driver’s license. Up to now, only people who have a driver’s license could renew their Health Card online, which constitutes blatant disability discrimination contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.
Two important items of unfinished business remain, when it comes to the process for renewing an Ontario Health Card. First, it is important for the Ford Government to ensure that a Health Card can be renewed online using an Ontario Photo ID Card well before the September 30, 2022 grace period comes to an end for using expired Health Cards. The court application by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky remains outstanding, if the Ford Government does not do so in a timely way.
Second, it is important for the Ford Government to create a way for people to remotely renew their Ontario Health Card where possible, even if they don’t have a driver’s license or an Ontario Photo ID Card. We have heard back from a number of people who fit in this category. We have told the Ford Government that it needs to devise an avenue for those persons to renew their Health Card remotely, well before the September 30, 2022 deadline for renewing an expired Health Card. This is especially so if the pandemic has not come to an end.
There are many people in Ontario who have an Ontario Health Card, but who have neither a driver’s license nor an Ontario Photo ID Card. They are unable to drive due to a disability, or may have lost their driver’s license at age 80 instead of taking a test to renew it, or may simply have chosen not to learn to drive.
We have proposed, for example, that the Government could create a “virtual ServiceOntario” which people could attend via Zoom or by phone, to transact as much of the process of Health Card renewal as possible by without having to personally go to a ServiceOntario office. All we have heard about this from the Government so far is that it is on their radar.
In the Ford Government’s February 9, 2022 news release, (where the Government capitulated in the face of David Lepofsky’s impending court scheduling hearing), it made a vague reference to the fact that members of the public can call ServiceOntario for help, stating:
” An individual who faces difficulties renewing their health card, for whatever reason, should contact ServiceOntario at 1-866-532-3161 (TTY: 1-800-387-5559) to inquire about options for their specific situation.”
We encourage members of the public to call that number and ask to remotely renew their Ontario Health Card. Let us know how it goes! We’d like to know how useful that toll-free number is for addressing this issue.
As much as ever, we welcome your feedback. Email us at email@example.com
City News Ottawa February 10, 2022
Ontario extends health card renewal deadline to September 30
Ontario’s Ministry of Health previously said the deadline would not be extended but that Ontarians could continue to access insured health services with expired cards.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health (MOH) is extending the deadline to renew health cards from Feb. 28 to Sept. 30.
In a release on Wednesday, the MOH said expired health cards will continue to be accepted, including red and white ones.
Currently, only a valid driver’s licence can be used to renew a health card online. Service Ontario is working on enabling health card renewal using the Ontario photo ID card in the coming months.
The ministry had previously said in a statement to CityNews that the deadline would not be extended, but Ontarians could continue to access insured health services with expired cards.
Seniors and disability advocates have long been calling for a deadline extension, citing safety and accessibility concerns for vulnerable populations during the Omicron surge.
Blind disability rights advocate David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, calls the announcement a “big victory for people with disabilities.”
Lepofsky filed a court application against the Ford government two weeks ago, stating the policy was discriminatory against those with disabilities as it only allowed for those with a driver’s licence to renew their health cards online.
“Because blind people and some other people with disabilities cannot get a driver’s license, they’d be forced to go in person to Service Ontario to renew their health card, risking exposure to the Omicron variant,” he said in a release.
Lepofsky added that the decision came moments before the Ford government’s lawyers were to appear in Superior Court to respond to his request to get his case scheduled for an urgent hearing in the next few days.
“The Government is now finally announcing measures that it would not agree to just two weeks ago at a January 25, 2022 virtual meeting with me,” said Lepofsky. “They should have made this announcement back then, rather than leaving me no option but to file this court application.”
He is also demanding an explanation from the government as to why it took this long to announce an extension.
“The Ford government owes the public a complete and candid explanation of why it so seriously mishandled this issue. Why did it not agree much sooner to accept the Ontario Photo ID card in lieu of a driver’s license, when the government itself created the Photo ID card to be equivalent to a driver’s license?” he said.
Lepofsky has adjourned his request to schedule his case for a hearing pending further discussions with the government’s lawyers.