Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
New Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in Metroland Papers Explains that Toronto Should Ban Robots on Sidewalks because of the Danger They Pose for People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others
December 10, 2021
Here’s a new way you can help people with disabilities get Toronto City Council to ban robots on sidewalks when it meets on December 15 and 16, 2021. Please widely circulate a new guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below. It appears in the Toronto Star’s local Metroland papers. It explains why robots on sidewalks endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.
Also, send this guest column to your member of the Ontario Legislature. The Ford Government is planning to allow an exceptionally long 10-year pilot with robots on sidewalks whenever a municipality opts into the pilot. We need the Ford Government to call off those plans which are still under consideration. The Ford Government should instead impose a provincewide ban on robots on sidewalks.
The December 10, 2021 edition of the Globe and Mail reports that one company that already unleashed its robots on Toronto sidewalks has now decided to temporarily pull those robots off the sidewalks up until Toronto City Council votes on the proposed ban next week. In that article, set out below, the company in question expressed a passionate desire to work with “the accessibility community” to ensure the safety of its delivery robots. This sounds remarkably like what the corporate lobbyists for the electric scooter rental companies said on the eve of Toronto City Council voting last spring against allowing e-scooters in Toronto.
For more on this, read the AODA Alliance’s December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto City Council, urging them to vote to ban robots on sidewalks. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page to learn about our battle to protect people with disabilities, seniors, kids and others from the dangers that e-scooters pose when ridden in public places.
toronto.com December 2019
Toronto must ban service robots from its sidewalks
‘Robots can be a tripping hazard or a collision danger,’ writes David Lepofsky
BY DAVID LEPOFSKY
David Lepofsky is a lawyer and advocate for people with disabilities in Toronto. – David Lepofsky photo
Toronto must ban robots from sidewalks, like robots delivering packages. They endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. People can remain free to use robots on their property.
Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and Infrastructure Committee wisely recommended banning sidewalk robots. On Dec. 15 to 16, city council votes on this.
Ford’s Government said robots on sidewalks are unregulated, causing a free-for-all. Ford’s proposed solution, a ten-year sidewalk robots pilot at municipal option, shirks much-needed provincial leadership.
Blind people like me risk not knowing that a robot is heading right at us or in our path. Those robots can be a tripping hazard, or a collision danger.
For people who use wheelchairs, those robots risk becoming an access barrier in their path. If you have balance issues, robots brushing by could send you toppling.
Sidewalks are publicly funded, created for pedestrians. Roads are for vehicles. Sidewalks already have too many accessibility barriers, increasingly cluttered by street furniture, art, signs, plants and restaurant seating.
To allow these robots would be to knowingly create a serious new disability barrier. The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create new barriers.
If police or the public encounter a robot on a public sidewalk, they should be free to dispose of it. That would end the problem.
If robots are allowed on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult. The victim won’t know who to sue or prosecute for their injuries.
A robot might have a bogus company name on it. You cannot prosecute or sue a robot, or make it produce an insurance policy.
It’s no solution to require the robot’s company name to also be in braille. Imagine a blind person chasing a robot, with one hand on their white cane, and their other hand searching for the robot’s braille label.
It’s also no solution to require robots to have a remote driver. That cannot be policed. You can’t know from looking at a robot whether it has a remote driver somewhere at all, much less a sober one who is properly trained and attentive to steering. A remote driver could undetectably steer several robots simultaneously, dangerously dividing their attention. The public can’t know if a remote driver is in Ontario, or halfway around the world, unreachable by Ontario police.
We don’t oppose innovation. We daily innovate in our lives and regularly use innovative technology. We just oppose innovations that endanger us.
Before any government allows robots on sidewalks, they must consult police on how robots, disguised as a store’s delivery vehicle, could in the wrong hands be perverted into a dreadful weapon. Pedestrian safety is our top priority.
David Lepofsky is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and visiting professor, Osgoode Hall Law School.
The Globe and Mail December 10, 2021
Report on Business
Toronto company temporarily pulls pink delivery robots off sidewalks
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO – A technology company says it will temporarily take its food delivery robots off Toronto’s streets as the city considers whether to ban such devices from sidewalks.
Tiny Mile, the company behind a series of pink, heart-eyed robots named Geoffrey, says it is making the temporary move because it wants to collaborate with authorities and the accessibility community.
Toronto’s city council will vote next week on whether to ban devices that run on anything but muscle power from bike lanes, sidewalks and pedestrian ways.
The ban was put forward by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, which felt the robots are a hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as seniors and other children.
The ban cleared its first hurdle last week, when it was approved by the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee, but Tiny Mile vowed to fight the move and circulated a petition on its social-media pages.
The company now says on Instagram that it will seek feedback from the public and people with disabilities while it pauses public use of its robots.
“Tiny Mile is keenly interested in working with the accessibility community, hence we are calling out people who will be interested in shaping our technology with their immediate expertise and experience to help us not only make our robots safer for our community, but also greatly benefit people with disabilities,” the company said.