November 2, 2017
There has been great media coverage of the new AODA Alliance video on accessibility problems at Ryerson University’s new Student Learning Centre, in the Toronto Star on November 2, 2017 and on CITY TV on October 29, 2017. We set those articles out below. Our new video on the Ryerson Student Learning Centre has also gotten a good deal of attention on social media like Twitter and Facebook.
As well, in just four days since we released this video in its 12-minute version and more detailed 30-minute version, between the two versions, it has been viewed an amazing 2,700 times, with that number still growing. It has already surpassed the 2,561 times that people have viewed the AODA Alliance’s earlier video one year ago, depicting serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre. That earlier video about Centennial College, had both a 6-minute version and a more detailed 18-minute version.
Organizations with new buildings under design now, and the design professionals who design them, should be alert to the fact that no one knows what building we or other accessibility advocates might choose for a future video. They should be sure to make accessibility a major priority in their design and construction, well beyond what the Ontario Building Code and the accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act require.
Please use our new video to help us press the Wynne Government to announce a new action plan to address accessibility problems in the built environment. The Wynne Government has announced nothing new in this area. The Government has not answered the AODA Alliance’s October 23, 2017 letter, again asking the Government to announce a plan for dealing with accessibility problems in Ontario’s built environment. the Government has also not answered the AODA Alliances October 5, 2017 letter to the Attorney General of Ontario, raising concerns about the Government’s planning for accessibility at a forthcoming huge new courthouse planned for the heart of downtown Toronto.
We encourage you to:
* Watch our new video about accessibility problems in the Ryerson Student Learning Centre, if you have not done so already.
* Widely circulate the links to this video to your family and friends. Use social media like Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about it. Encourage others to watch it too, and to circulate it.
* Use email, Twitter or any other way (including carrier pigeon) to ask your MPP at Queen’s Park and his or her staff to watch this video. Ask them to press Premier Wynne to watch it too, and to announce a new plan to address the recurring disability accessibility barriers in Ontario, including among others, disability accessibility barriers in the built environment. If your MPP belongs to an opposition party, ask their party to make commitments to take action on this issue if the Wynne Government does not do so before the June 2018 provincial election.
A few key points arise from these two news reports:
* The Toronto Star reported that the architecture firm that designed the new Ryerson building deflected questions about this building’s design problems to Ryerson University. It is troubling that those design professionals did not respond to the concerns about this building design, in which they reportedly were involved.
* The Toronto Star reported that an Ontario Accessibility Ministry spokesperson said that “…the province is well on its way to removing barriers so that people with disabilities can participate in all aspects of daily life, but recognizes that there is more to do.”
Yet Ontario is clearly not on schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025, the AODA’s requirement which Premier Wynne promised she’d ensure she’d keep us on schedule to reach. It is good the Government recognizes there is more to do. It is time for the Government to actually do it.
* The Toronto Star also reported that the Accessibility Ministry’s spokesperson deflected responsibility for regulating the accessibility of buildings to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and deflected responsibility for enforcing this to municipalities.
Those at Ontario’s Accessibility Ministry should re-read the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, for which the Accessibility Ministry has lead responsibility. Its very first section specifically refers to the accessibility of “buildings, structures and premises”. Section 1 of the AODA states:
“1. Recognizing the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario, the purpose of this Act is to benefit all Ontarians by,
(a) developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025; and
(b) providing for the involvement of persons with disabilities, of the Government of Ontario and of representatives of industries and of various sectors of the economy in the development of the accessibility standards.”
* The Toronto Star reports that Ryerson has already being taking steps to address accessibility problems at the new Ryerson Student Learning Centre. This is commendable. This corroborates the fact that that brand-new building has accessibility problems, as the AODA Alliance video aims to show. The fact that Ryerson has to take such steps is yet more proof that Ontario needs to strengthen both its accessibility laws for buildings, and training for design professionals, like architects.
* CITY TV reported that concerns about accessibility of the Ryerson Student Learning Centre have also been expressed by a senior representative of the Ryerson Student Learning Centre. This also reinforces our video.
To read the AODA Alliance’s October 29, 2017 news release, announcing the release of our Ryerson Student Learning Centre video.
For background on our multi-year campaign to get the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
As always, when some of our efforts focus on one accessibility issue (here the built environment), we do not mean to imply that it is the only accessibility issue that we need the Ontario Government to address.
In other accessibility news, there have now been an inexcusable 331 days since Premier Wynne pledged that her Government would create a new Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Yet Premier Wynne has not yet taken the first step required of her, to appoint an Education Standards Development Committee to come up with recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include. The Education Accessibility Standard is needed to tear down the many disability accessibility barriers that impede over one third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system.
The Wynne Government is taking as long to just appoint a Standards Development Committee for education, as the Liberal Ontario Government took to design the entire Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. How long can it take to appoint a committee?
The Toronto Star November 2, 2017
A TOUGH CLIMB; New, yet inaccessible buildings a product of weak building laws, advocate says
In a video, Toronto disability advocate David Lepofsky demonstrates the challenges of walking up the stairs at Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre, which opened in 2015. Aoda alliance/YouTube
A publicly funded building that opened two years ago is inaccessible to people with disabilities and is another example of how weak provincial regulations are failing to ensure new buildings can be used by everyone, says a Toronto lawyer.
Ryerson University’s $112-million Student Learning Centre poses safety risks for people with disabilities, advocate David Lepofsky says.
Lepofsky released a video on Sunday showing how Ryerson’s building poses what he says are risks for people with blindness, low vision, mobility disabilities, dyslexia and balance issues.
The video follows Lepofsky walking with his white cane trying to navigate the centre’s steep staircases and student socializing areas.
Several times in the video, he walks into pillars, including one that stands in the middle of the staircase in the path of a handrail.
Two other pillars lean in an angled position, one in front of an elevator and next to a ramp, so it’s difficult for a walking stick to detect.
“Ryerson tried to do the right thing, they wanted to make the building accessible,” said Lepofsky, head of a grassroots alliance that monitors progress on the province’s landmark Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
“But the problem is twofold – one: Ontario’s building laws are weak and don’t require buildings to meet the needs of those with disabilities; and two: architects are not properly trained in accessibility and nor do they give it priority.”
The eight-storey structure, which opened in February 2015 at the corner of Yonge and Gould Streets, provides space on campus for students to socialize and work. The building won an award from Canadian Architect Magazine for its proposed design in 2012.
It was designed by the architectural team of Zeidler and Snøhetta. Zeidler Partnership Architects could not be reached for comment, while a spokesperson for Snøhetta directed all questions to Ryerson.
Andreas Kyprianou, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Accessibility, said the province is well on its way to removing barriers so that people with disabilities can participate in all aspects of daily life, but recognizes that there is more to do.
“Accessibility in buildings, including accessible washrooms, wheelchair ramps and elevators, are regulated by Ontario’s Building Code and is administered by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs,” Kyprianou said in an email.
“It is the responsibility of municipalities to enforce the Building Code, including reviewing building plans, issuing permits, and conducting construction inspections.”
A spokesperson for Ryerson said the university has been taking immediate measures to make the Student Learning Centre more accessible.
“The SLC held an open, community wide charrette to hear concerns and share ideas on how to improve accessibility at the SLC,” said spokesperson Johanna VanderMaas.
“Ryerson University is committed to providing an accessible learning and employment environment for students, employees and members of the Ryerson community.”
It’s the second time that Lepofsky has used a video to show his concerns regarding accessibility laws and new buildings in Ontario. Lepofsky made a video last year showing accessibility issues at Centennial College’s Culinary Arts Centre shortly after it opened.
Lepofsky argues that many of the accessibility issues at the Ryerson student centre could have been easily avoided, but that architects and designers gave priority to the building’s esthetic instead of focusing on whether it can be used by everyone.
In the video, he also shows how the building has angled railings that make it difficult for people who are blind or have balance issues to climb stairs and how braille labels in the elevators are mislabelled.
“People generally assume that new buildings are more accessible than old buildings because we improved the laws and it’s not something we have to worry about anymore,” Lepofsky said.
“That’s not true. Here you see a very new building with significant accessibility problems.”
In a letter dated Oct. 23 to the Ontario Ministry of Accessibility, Lepofsky asked the government to launch a new strategy to address the recurring accessibility barriers in the province.
The student centre, Lepofsky said, would not have been built with these issues if the Ontario Building Code and Ontario’s Disabilities Act had more strict regulations and standards. The government and other institutions must also focus on training architects on accessibility, he added.
“If we don’t change the laws and if architects are not being trained sufficiently about accessibility, then we are creating more generations of problems and paying for it,” he said.
“Someone shouldn’t be getting a license to be an architect or a design professional without being really trained to design a building that everyone could use.”
Miriam Katawazi Toronto Star
CITY TV News October 29, 2017
Ryerson’s new learning centre gets failing grade for accessibility
by Nitish Bissonauth
Ryerson’s new state-of-the-art Student Learning Centre is less than three years old but it’s already receiving a failing grade when it comes to accessibility.
According to David Lepofsky, a lawyer and the chair for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance, the building presents barriers with its zig-zag ramps, slanted pillars and the angled railings – to name a few problems.
“It’s especially shocking that a building with this many accessibility problems actually won an architecture award from the Canadian Architect Magazine,” Lepofsky explained.
“It shows how out of touch our design laws [and] our building codes are, that they allow these barriers to happen.”
Lepofsky, who has been advocating for better accessibility for the past 40 years, recently posted a video highlighting these challenges in detail.
And he is not the only one concerned.
The Ryerson Student’s Union (RSU) will be rolling out an accessibility audit that has been put together by an accessibility justice organization. The audit will go through every single building on campus to get metrics before sitting at the table with the university.
Camryn Harlick, the vice-president of equity for the RSU, admits the new building was designed for style and less for accessibility.
“People sit along the steps of the ramp, it’s hard to get by,” Harlick said.
“The elevator has restricted access and even then, it only brings you to the main floor.”
CityNews reached out to Ryerson University for comment but has yet to receive a reply.
This past weekend marks the 19th anniversary of a landmark unanimous provincial resolution calling for strong accessibility laws. But Lepofsky believes his video shows Ontario is falling further behind on its goal of becoming accessible by 2025.
Lepofsky thinks it’s up to the government to take more responsibility and stay true to their promises.
“This is a serious problem. To her credit, Premier Wynne, in the 2014 election, promised the coalition that I serve, in writing, that public money would never be used to build building with barriers for people with disabilities,” Lepofsky stated.
“Here, millions of public dollars have gone towards building this building and the results are new barriers for people with disabilities.”
May 14 2014 Letter to Aoda Alliance From Kathleen Wynne by CityNewsToronto on Scribd
Lepofsky said he and the AODA are not after Ryerson University. AODA has done several videos in the past highlighting challenges at other buildings.
But that they want to see better building codes and accessibility laws province-wide, as well as better training for design professionals and architects.
For More Background
You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at email@example.com
Have you taken part in our “Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our “Picture Our Barriers” campaign by visiting www.www.aodaalliance.org/2016
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We encourage you to use the Government’s toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.
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