On the 20th Anniversary of the Launch of the Public Battle to Get TTC to Announce all Subway Stops, the AODA Alliance Calls on Voters with Disabilities Across Ontario to Seek Strong Accessibility Commitments from Candidates for Mayor, City Council and School Board, in the Lead-Up to the October 27, 2014 Ontario Municipal Elections

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

September 8, 2014


The grassroots campaign to make Ontario fully accessible to persons with disabilities gets a new focus today. All eligible Ontario voters have a great chance to help speed up efforts on disability accessibility during the October 27, 2014 municipal elections. Wherever you are in Ontario, please press candidates for mayor, municipal councillor or school board in your community to make strong commitments to ensure your municipality and school board become fully accessible to all persons with disabilities no later than 2025.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. Among other things, that requires each municipality and school board to become fully accessible to persons with disabilities by 2025. Right now, we are behind schedule. Each municipality and school board must beef up its accessibility agenda.

This Update offers ready-to-use ideas for action that voters can take in your community right now. The non-partisan AODA Alliance does not endorse or oppose any candidate.

This AODA Alliance Update comes on an important and timely anniversary in the battle to win accessibility for persons with disabilities at the municipal level. Twenty years ago today, a 12-year long battle began to get Canada’s largest public transit service, the Toronto Transit Commission, to audibly announce route stops. So simple and obvious an accommodation required a very long, uphill struggle.

Twenty years ago today, on September 8, 1994, David Lepofsky filed an individual  human rights complaint against TTC to require that all subway stops be audibly announced for the benefit of passengers with vision loss like himself. He also gave an interview that day on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning program. That interview publicly broke this news story for the first time.

A twelve-year legal battle ensued. It resulted in two cases before the Human Rights Tribunal. In 2005 the Tribunal ruled that TTC must audibly announce all subway stops. In 2007, the Tribunal ruled that TTC must also announce all bus and streetcar stops. TTC spent years, and a staggering $450,000, on lawyers to oppose Lepofsky’s claim. We need to ensure that municipal politicians never permit this kind of resistance and misuse of public money to accessibility to happen again.

In the upcoming municipal elections, we urge you to ask municipal candidates to commit to:

  1. Ensure your municipality and school board will reach full accessibility no later than 2025, if not sooner, and to act to ensure that your municipality and school board implements a comprehensive plan to make sure that it reaches that goal on time.
  2. Commit to specific plans to ensure fully accessible public transit and taxi services in your community.
  3. Support the designation of one senior public servant within the municipality or school board with lead responsibility for all efforts on accessibility, and who reports directly to the top; and
  4. Commit to a municipal or school board policy that no public funds will ever be used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.

Please find any opportunity you can to raise disability accessibility issues with municipal candidates and municipal voters in your community. To help with this, below you will find:

* The TTC’s announcement of its 2014 Public Forum on Accessible Transit, to be held on the evening of September 17, 2014. We encourage anyone in the Toronto area to come to this event and raise accessibility problems you have experienced on the TTC. This event is very timely. Public transit is such a huge issue in the current Toronto municipal election.

We plan to attend this event and to “live tweet” during it. We expect to use the hashtag #TTCAccess. That is the hashtag TTC used last year. If TTC announces a different hashtag for this event, we will announce this on Twitter as soon as we learn about it.

This TTC Public Forum originated in 2008 as a result of the 2007 Human Rights Tribunal order in Lepofsky v. TTC #2. TTC was required to hold one such event per year for the three years after the Tribunal ruled against TTC in Lepofsky v. TTC #2. After that, to its credit, TTC decided to keep holding these events once per year, even though TTC originally opposed Lepofsky when he asked the Tribunal to make this order.

Since 2011, TTC and all public transit providers are required to hold a similar event each year in your community under section 41(2) of the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation, enacted under the AODA. Ask your public transit provider when they are planning to hold their annual public forum on accessible transit. If your public transit authority has not done so, you should contact Brad Duguid, the Ontario cabinet minister responsible for enforcing the AODA, to ask that this provision be strictly enforced. That section provides:

“41(2) Every conventional transportation service provider shall annually hold at least one public meeting involving persons with disabilities to ensure that they have an opportunity to participate in a review of the accessibility plan and that they are given the opportunity to provide feedback on the accessibility plan.”

* A web announcement of the September 22, 2014 public debate among candidates for mayor of Toronto on disability issues. This is the second such debate on that topic during this campaign. If you are in the Toronto area, this is a great place to raise accessibility issues with mayoralty candidates. If you are outside Toronto, we urge you to get a community organization in your municipality to hold a similar event for any candidates for either mayor, or school board or city council.

* A great announcement from Spinal Cord Injury Ontario (SCIO), unveiling its focused strategy on promoting accessible public transit during the current municipal election campaign in Toronto. You can also take part in SCI Ontario’s excellent letter-writing campaign for accessible public transit services.

* More background on the Lepofsky v. TTC battle over audible route stop announcements on public transit vehicles, and an explanation of what that case signifies for our ongoing accessibility campaign.

Needless to say, the Accessibility Clock keeps on ticking. A troubling 294 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the AODA, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised plan for the AODA’s effective enforcement. Two hundred days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan “in short order.”

To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement.

To read the Government’s February 20, 2014 pledge to publish in “short order” its plan for enforcing the Disabilities Act.

As well, 376 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games. Only 305 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!

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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario .


TTC Web Posting on the September 17, 2014 TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit

URL posted at: http://www.ttc.ca/TTC_Accessibility/Public_Forum_on_Accessible_Transit/2014_Public_Forum_on_Accessible_Transit.jsp

2014 Public Forum on Accessible Transit
September 17, 2014

You are invited to give us ideas on how to make the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) services and facilities better for people with disabilities.

TTC Board, TTC Staff, and members of the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT) will be on hand to hear from the public about the accessibility of conventional TTC and door-to-door (Wheel-Trans) public transit services in Toronto. Let us know how the TTC can make the system accessible for everyone.

ASL, captioning, and attendants will be available.

If you cannot attend, but would like to contribute suggestions about TTC conventional and Wheel-Trans services, call 416-393-3030 (TTY, Hearing Impaired Service at 416-338-0357) daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., except statutory holidays.

Date and Location

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Queen Elizabeth Exhibit Hall
Exhibition Place – 180 Princes’ Boulevard

One-on-One Discussions:
6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Take the opportunity to have a conversation with TTC Staff on your own.

Open Public Forum:
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.


1. Discussion of previous Public Forum concerns and progress made.
2. Review of new service initiatives.
3. Opportunity for the community to voice concerns or suggestions for accessible transit improvement.

How to get there

An accessible shuttle bus service will operate from Bathurst Station to the Queen Elizabeth Hall starting at 5:00 p.m. Return buses will start at 9:00 p.m. Regularly scheduled accessible bus service is also available on the 29 Dufferin route. For assistance in planning your trip using the TTC Accessible Transit Network, call TTC Customer Info at 416-393-4636.

Learn more

The 2014-2018 TTC Multi-Year Accessibility Plan summarizes the TTC’s current activities to improve the accessibility of its facilities and services.

The 2013 Public Forum on Accessible Transit page summarizes issues raised during the 2013 Public Forum and staff responses.

Web Posting Announcing  the September 22, 2014 Mayor’s Debate on Disability Issues

Posted at URL: http://www.scaddingcourt.org/mayoral_debate_on_disability_issues

Mayoral Debate on Disability Issues

How will Toronto’s next Mayor create a more accessible and inclusive Toronto?
Find out on September 22nd at the
Mayoral Debate on Disability Issues

When: Monday September 22, 2014 (NEW DATE)
1:00pm – 3:30pm

Where: Ryerson Student Centre
Tecumseh Auditorium
55 Gould St.
(south-west side of Gould Street and Church Street)

Moderated by Helen Henderson, Disabilities Journalist.

Real-time captioning, ASL interpretation and attendant services will be available.

To rsvp for the event and for more information, please contact Effie Vlachoyannacos at 416-392-0335 or effie@scaddingcourt.org


Campaign Details

SCI Ontario is launching a Mayoral Elections Campaign on TTC Accessibility and we need your help in convincing the mayoral candidates and the TTC that making every Subway/RT stop wheelchair accessible is the responsible thing to do.

In 1990 the TTC set a goal to make all subway stations accessible. Eventually the TTC committed to full station accessibility by 2020. Subsequently it introduced a new “target” of 2024. Three years ago, the TTC revealed it would only achieve subway/RT accessibility by 2025, the year mandated by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005).

Sadly, this spring the TTC reneged on its commitment to full accessibility. The TTC revealed it intends to contravene the law. It has no intention of making all stations accessible. Its current plan leaves 17 stations inaccessible in 2025, and provides no commitment that these stations will ever be accessible. After 35 years the job will not be done.

How do you feel about this? Why is it so easy for a government-funded organization to plan to break the law? Why do I matter less because I or my loved ones can’t walk down a flight of stairs?

Here is what you can do in addition to the letter writing campaign, here is the link:  http://www.sciontario.org/ttc-accessibility-campaign

1.         Vote for TTC Accessibility in the Toronto Star Big Ideas survey in partnership with the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/big-ideas-vote.html

2.         Attend the TTC Public Forum on September 17th and voice your opinion http://www.ttc.ca/TTC_Accessibility/Public_Forum_on_Accessible_Transit/2014_Public_Forum_on_Accessible_Transit.jsp

3.         Register to attend the Big Transit Mayoral Debate on September 15 at 55 Gould St., Ryerson University http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-big-transit-mayoral-debate-of-2014-tickets-12423118883?aff=es2&rank=1

4.         Register to the All Mayoral Candidates Debate from the Big Ideas Survey on October 20th http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/ProfessionalDevelopment/Events/UpcomingEvents/20141020Mayoral.aspx

5.         Meet with your local councillor or candidates and discuss TTC Accessibility. Find out who to speak to in your community here: http://app.toronto.ca/vote/candidateListAll.do

6.         There are over 30 All Mayoral Candidates Debates scheduled across Toronto over the next 2 months. Plan to attend the one closest to you and voice your opinion on TTC Accessibility http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/upcoming-2014-toronto-mayoral-election-debates-1.1937000

If you require any assistance in getting more involved, contact

Peter Athanasopoulos
416 422-5644 ext. 260
SCI Ontario

Background on Lepofsky v. TTC

From the AODA Alliance

When David Lepofsky launched his public battle to get TTC to announce all subway stops twenty years ago today, he had no idea that the battle would take so long, or be so frustrating. He also did not then know that just over two months later, on November 29, 1994 (unconnected with the start of this public battle with TTC), the organized movement for Ontario accessibility legislation for persons with disabilities would be born.

It is always hard to predict in advance whether a single media interview will trigger action. Lepofsky’s interview on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning program twenty years ago today resulted in TTC calling Lepofsky within hours to ask for a meeting. At that meeting, held days later, TTC caved, and agreed to order its subway operators to announce all station stops. As a result, Lepofsky decided not to proceed with his human rights complaint.

However, when the TTC subway stop announcements on the subways started in early 1995, they were not consistent or reliable. After six more years of trying to get TTC to keep its word, David Lepofsky decided in 2001 that he had to go back to the Human Rights Commission for action. His case came before the Human Rights Tribunal in 2005. After a hotly-contested hearing, the Human Rights Tribunal ruled in Lepofsky’s favour in Lepofsky v. TTC #1. It concluded that TTC had been violating the human rights of Torontonians with vision loss for at least a decade. The Tribunal ordered TTC to consistently and reliably announce all route stops.

Shortly before that Human Rights Tribunal hearing, Lepofsky also asked TTC to have its drivers audibly announce all bus stops. TTC refused, saying its drivers would only announce major stops, and passenger-requested stops. Lepofsky had to again resort to a human rights complaint. His second case came before the Human Rights Tribunal in 2007. After a second hotly-contested hearing, the Tribunal again ruled in his favour. In Lepofsky v. TTC #2, the Tribunal ordered TTC to direct its drivers to audibly announce all bus and street car stops.

In both cases, TTC argued that it planned to eventually install automated stop announcements, but should not have to get its drivers or crews to make the announcements themselves in the meantime. In both cases, this argument failed.

After winning these two cases, Lepofsky brought a freedom of Information application to find out how much TTC spent on its legal defence of these cases. The total bill of $450,000 was revealed. We have never had an accounting from TTC of who authorized this, and why. That money could have funded a lot of accessibility, had it not been used to fight against accessibility.

Also after these rulings, the Ontario Human Rights Commission surveyed all Ontario public transit providers to see what their plans were to call all route stops, as the Human Rights Code requires. Of those that eventually complied, several only went along with this ruling, with their feet dragging.

Under the AODA, the Ontario Government appointed a Transportation Standards Development committee to develop proposals for a Transportation Accessibility Standard. It initially recommended that municipal transit services be given an excessive 18 yearsto start providing this basic accommodation. We objected that this was far too long.

Eventually, in June 2011, the Government enacted the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation. Section 52 of that regulation required that those announcements start on July 1, 2011.

That winning this simple accommodation required twelve years and two separate cases before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, illustrates so much about our long, arduous campaign to make Ontario fully accessible for all persons with disabilities. It again shows why we need strong, effective accessibility legislation, so that an individual doesn’t have to take on such battles on their own. The AODA was enacted in 2005 so that persons with disabilities would not have to fight accessibility barriers one at a time, via individual human rights complaints.

This battle also  shows why we need the Ontario Government to finally keep its unkept promise to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Government has not provided its promised effective enforcement to ensure that a public transit authority will be brought to swift justice if it violates that accessibility regulation.

This case also shows why we need strong measures in place to ensure that no public official ever uses public money to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.