February 2, 2015
1. Catch Great Coverage Tonight on the Fight to Make Ontario Barrier-free for Ontarians with Disabilities on TVOntario
Tonight at 8 and 11 pm, Ontario’s highly-influential provincial public affairs program, TVOntario’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” includes a 26-minute interview on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the fight to make Ontario fully accessible to all people with disabilities. Host Steve Paikin interviews both Ontario’s former Lieutenant Governor David Onley and AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky. Within a couple of days, this interview will also be available on YouTube. We encourage you to watch this show. Get friends and family members to watch it.
Why not use this popular show to help our campaign to re-build strong support for disability accessibility in the Ontario Legislature, one MPP at a time. Call the office of your member of the Ontario Legislature (MPP) today. Urge him or her, and their staff to watch this interview.
For a list of all MPPs and their contact information, visit our website at http://www.www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/new2015/contact-information-for-members-of-the-ontario-legislature-as-of-january-20-2015/ or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for that list.
Do you want ready-to-use ideas on what else you can do to help build support for our accessibility campaign in Ontario? Check out our new Action Kit.
2. Recent Media Coverage of the Campaign to Make Ontario Barrier-Free Shows You How to Use the Media to Spread the Word on Disability Accessibility
Getting the media to do stories on accessibility barriers still facing people with disabilities really helps our accessibility campaign. The media especially like news stories about individual barriers facing people in their local community, ten long years after the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed in 2005, and under ten years before the AODA requires Ontario to become fully accessible.
Below we set out great examples of recent news reports on disability accessibility issues around Ontario. Approach your local newspaper, or radio or TV station. Tell them about specific disability barriers you or your friends and family face. Urge them to do a story about this newsworthy topic. If you have a smart phone, photograph or video the barrier to show your media and to post on Facebook and Twitter.
Link your local story to the need for the Ontario Government to speed up its efforts on accessibility. You can invite your local media to contact the AODA Alliance by email at email@example.com for a comment on the broader province wide blitz to get more action on accessibility. In some of the articles that we set out below, the media reached out to us for just such a comment.
Encourage reporters at your local media to watch TVOntario’s February 2, 2015 interview with former Lieutenant Governor David Onley and AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky. That interview shows that this is a current and important issue locally and across Ontario.
Here is a quick summary of the articles we set out below:
* The February 1, 2015 Toronto Star reported on barriers facing people with disabilities who go to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto to watch NHL hockey games. This story links this local barrier to the huge problem that the Ontario Government still has no plan to ensure sufficient accessible tourism and hospitality services for this summer’s 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games.
It is staggering that with just under six months left before the 2015 Toronto games, the Ontario Government has still not announced any plans to substantially increase the accessibility of tourism, hospitality and public transit services for the Greater Toronto Area. According to this Toronto Star report, all the Government has stated is that it plans to make public a list of those tourism and hospitality services that are now accessibility. The Toronto Star article states:
“While workplace and transit accessibility certainly take priority for the 1.5 million Ontarians with physical, mental or sensory disabilities, Bronfman’s ACC experience “is illustrative of what we face over and over again,” said Lepofsky, citing the upcoming taxpayer-funded Pan Am and Parapan Games.
“They’re expecting upwards of a quarter of a million people to (attend the Games this summer), which will include people with disabilities, but we don’t have a comprehensive plan to ensure that our tourism and hospitality industry can accommodate them. They don’t even know whether they’re going to have accessible transit to get to the Games. If you can’t get there, who cares what goes on at them?”
Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Michael Coteau has said the government is working with the tourism industry on an Accessibility Tourism Directory that will list the most accessible hotels, restaurants and other venues.“
We already know that existing tourism, hospitality and public transit services are too few to adequately serve our own population of people with disabilities. We need a dramatic improvement in accessibility if we are to cope with an influx of an expected 250,000 people for the 2015 Games, which will no doubt include people with disabilities.
For the Government to merely publish a list of the adequate tourism, hospitality and public transit services in the GTA is to sadly and seriously miss the point. Time is running out.
* The December 31, 2014 Sudbury Star, along with a number of other newspapers in the Sun chain, included a report on the new accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code that went into effect on January 1, 2015. The article quotes the AODA Alliance on the inadequacy of these amendments to meet the accessibility needs of people with disabilities.
* The January 16, 2015 Globe and Mail included an article on the troubling local opposition in a Toronto neighbourhood to the City of Toronto’s commendable plans to build an accessible path through a local park. This article led a good number of people with disabilities to attend a City of Toronto consultation on this proposed accessible path, to support it and fend off the local opposition. We took part in a public consultation, to speak out in favour of strong accessibility of any new park trail construction.
* The January 20, 2015 edition of CBC TV News in Toronto reported on an 82 year old woman’s seemingly-endless 20 year campaign to try to get the Toronto Transit Commission to make the nearby Rosedale subway station accessible in her lifetime. CBC invited us to comment on the battle for accessible public transit.
* The December 11, 2014 on-line York Region publication reported on local efforts in Aurora Ontario to advance local accessibility for people with disabilities.
* The December 17 2014 on-line edition of Durham Region reported on local efforts on accessibility in Whitby Ontario.
* A December 3, 2014 report on CBC identified a controversy about inadequate para-transit services in Sudbury Ontario.
* A January 19, 2015 report in the Sudbury Star expanded on the controversy about the inadequacy of paratransit services in Sudbury. It quotes the Ontario Human Rights Commission pointing out the need for paratransit to meet the needs of all people with disabilities who require these services.
3. Another Visit to the Accessibility Clock
What does the Accessibility Clock have to say on Groundhog Day? The Government has only nine years and 333 days left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities, as the AODA requires.
A breathtaking 441 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 detailed plan for the AODA’s effective enforcement. The Government’s November 7, 2014 web posting on AODA enforcement includes little new. It does not constitute the promised detail AODA enforcement plan.
Three hundred and forty-seven 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.” Two hundred and sixty-two days have passed since Premier Wynne promised to establish a toll-free line for members of the public to alert the Government to accessibility barriers against people with disabilities in the community. None has been announced.
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.
As well, 523 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 158 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!
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Toronto Star February 1, 2015
PHOTO: Canadian film mogul Paul Bronfman, who uses a scooter for mobility, is frustrated with the disabled seating at the Air Canada Centre. The longtime Leafs seasons-ticket holder can’t see the ice any time those in front of him get to their feet. He is seen at a game with girlfriend Isabel Fortea. Richard Lautens/The Toronto Star
By: Ashante Infantry, Business Reporter, Published on Sun Feb 01 2015
Business, Paul Bronfman, Air Canada Centre
A wealthy businessman complaining about the poor sightlines of his NHL seats hardly elicits sympathy; and Paul Bronfman doesn’t want any. He just wants parity.
The Canadian film mogul’s charmed life includes his main gig as chairman and CEO of Comweb Group Inc., a multimillion-dollar operation that contributes either equipment, services or studio space to about 60 per cent of all film and television work shot in Canada; a swank downtown condo; and a private jet to maintain a high-flying style despite the multiple sclerosis that has taken the use of his arms and legs, requiring round-the-clock assistants and the most advanced communication technology.
While Bronfman’s company spends about $70,000 annually on seven gold and platinum Toronto Maple Leafs seats, a good view for himself at the Air Canada Centre is the thing his money can’t help.
“It’s a constant battle trying to see,” said the Montreal native of the $175 seats he occupies in the stadium’s non-luxury Accessible Seating section. According to Bronfman, the row directly in front of the disability seating is too high and when patrons jump to their feet after a goal or exciting play, those behind, who can’t stand, also can’t see.
“At a concert – I’ve never seen an encore, I’ve never seen the band say goodbye, because everybody’s standing up,” he explained. “The kids that come in wheelchairs, hospital beds, they don’t see a thing.
“If it was a proper wheelchair section it wouldn’t be an issue; they did it exactly according to code – the bare minimum,” said Bronfman. “The law says that people with disabilities have the right to enjoy the same experience. That hasn’t been happening at the ACC for 15 years.”
A Leafs season ticket holder since 1978, Bronfman said over the years he has voiced his concerns at the highest levels – to Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and executive Bob Hunter. He believes a solution could be found in raising the accessible seating or lowering the row in front.
“They gave me every reason why they couldn’t,” said Bronfman. “I know there’s a fix. I’m into facilities. I’ve built film studios.”
In email provided to the Star, Wayne Zronik, vice president of Facilities and Live Entertainment for MLSE, said: “Working to continually enhance the experience for every patron with accessible needs is a constant priority for Air Canada Centre. While our accessible seating area was built to code, we strive to go above and beyond to ensure that every fan has a first-class experience at every event we host.
“In the case of Mr. Bronfman, our inability to resolve his concern to date is not a function of economics, but a function of engineering. We will continue to explore every new technology, and other seating options within Air Canada Centre, to address this issue.”
Long-time disability rights advocate David Lepofsky said building codes are a poor excuse for companies serving the public.
“The building code has always been out of date on accessibility,” he explained. “Issues like how to position seats in a stadium are typically not adequately addressed, which is why we need the government to do a better job under the Disabilities Act.”
Lepofsky chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which has been lobbying the province for better regulation and enforcement of the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which is being phased in with full public accessibility legislated by 2025.
“The organizations think the building code is it; how about the Human Rights Code, which guarantees the rights of equal treatment in services and facilities, like the ACC, not just jobs, without discrimination because of disability?
“It’s not enough for an organization to say ‘Oh well, this is what we did, but that’s what we got’. If people come forward and say ‘It’s not working’ and if their request is a reasonable one, then it’s only in their interest to be able to serve as broad an audience as they can. And our society is aging, so there are going to be more people who are going to need those seats.”
While workplace and transit accessibility certainly take priority for the 1.5 million Ontarians with physical, mental or sensory disabilities, Bronfman’s ACC experience “is illustrative of what we face over and over again,” said Lepofsky, citing the upcoming taxpayer-funded Pan Am and Parapan Games.
“They’re expecting upwards of a quarter of a million people to (attend the Games this summer), which will include people with disabilities, but we don’t have a comprehensive plan to ensure that our tourism and hospitality industry can accommodate them. They don’t even know whether they’re going to have accessible transit to get to the Games. If you can’t get there, who cares what goes on at them?”
Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Michael Coteau has said the government is working with the tourism industry on an Accessibility Tourism Directory that will list the most accessible hotels, restaurants and other venues.
Bronfman said his overall experience at the other big Toronto venues is better.
“Rogers Centre has done a pretty good job,” putting the wheelchair area “in the top of the first grandstand, so people in wheelchairs are sitting far away from the action, but at least the seats in front of that, which is really Level 100 when you come in from the street, are lower.
“At Molson Amphitheatre, maybe because they’re owned by an American company, they seem to be more tuned in to the accessibility issue. They did have handicapped seating in the front row of the first section; now they put you in the back row, but they built these risers, so you roll up the riser and you’re above everybody.”
The sports lover and avid music aficionado, who also owns a luxe South Beach condo, can’t help but make access and seating comparisons for disabled people to American arenas where he routinely attends games and concerts. He is a champion of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which governs access for the disabled in public spaces.
“You come in, you valet park your car, as soon as they see you on a scooter they instantly come to life,” he said of Florida’s American Airlines Arena, where he saw the Miami Heat play on Christmas Day. “The whole arena is accessible and there’s a wheelchair section in every section.”
There are no plans to boycott the ACC, however.
“I’m not giving up my Leafs seats,” Bronfman said ruefully, “and I’ll continue to go to concerts and I’ll suck it in, because I have no choice.”
The Sudbury Star Wednesday December 31, 2014
Province moves to make buildings more accessible for disabled
By Antonella Artuso, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief
Changes coming to the provincial building code will result in the construction of more accessible buildings for people with disabilities in the new year.
The Ontario Building Code will require that new or substantially renovated structures include features such as visual fire alarms starting Jan. 1.
Mark Cripps, a spokesperson for Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McMeekin, said the amendments to the Ontario Building Code follow from the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) which set a target date of 2025 for an accessible province.
“Greater accessibility benefits all Ontarians, strengthening our communities and the economy,” Cripps said in a statement. “Increased accessibility in employment, retail and tourism spaces can help create significant economic benefits for Ontario.”
David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, warned that the pace of change is so slow the government is unlikely to meet its 2025 target.
The new code amendments still do not require that a building be fully accessible, and do not apply at all to buildings where no major renovations are underway, he said.
“The government has a long history of having the building code’s accessibility provisions lag far behind the needs of people with disabilities,” Lepofsky said.
Lepofsky added the government also has to do a far better job in educating builders about how to comply with the new standards.
The amended building code includes a number of measures to improve access such as power door operators at entrances to more buildings and at barrier-free washrooms and common rooms in multi-unit residential buildings.
The code will also demand more accessible and adaptable seating spaces in public assembly buildings like theatres, lecture halls and churches. New public pools and spas will need to be barrier-free.
Most of the new accessibility Ontario Building Code changes do not apply to single family houses except for a requirement to add a visual component to smoke alarms for the assistance of the hearing impaired.
The revamped Ontario Building Code also helps communities prepare for an aging population, Cripps said.
“With each edition of the building code, accessibility requirements for new buildings and renovations have been expanded and enhanced to reflect advancements in barrier-free design standards,” he added.
The Globe and Mail January 16, 2015
PHOTO: David Townley, president of the South Rosedale Residents’ Association, stands beside the stump of a tree cut down last year by the city of Toronto. It was one of more than 100 trees cut down for a planned trail between Chorley Park and the Beltline Trail. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
In Rosedale, a trail becomes a dividing line
Special to The Globe and Mail
Standing on a scrubby slope overlooking the Evergreen Brickworks, investment banker David Townley rustles a pair of landscape diagrams as he picks his way down a snow-dusted trail from Chorley Park to the Mud Creek ravine.
Mr. Townley, president of the South Rosedale Residents’ Association (SRRA), points to a stand of protected butternut elms and a crumbling wooden staircase.
“This is where the new path is proposed to go,” he says, tracing the route with his finger. “What you see here is a very naturalized situation.”
The city’s plans to alter this hillside have led to a fierce debate over the future of an exclusive park little known outside Rosedale, pitting some locals against cycling and accessibility advocates. Signs calling on the city to “Stop the Chorley Switchback” have sprouted on lawns across the neighbourhood.
At issue is a $1-million proposal to replace the trails with a 535-metre zig-zagging path buttressed by stone retaining walls. The city’s plan introduced last year, called for meandering asphalt paths with railings, which keep people from wearing down the ravine slope and also provide far easier access to seniors, cyclists, and those with mobility problems. But some Rosedale residents felt the city’s scheme was “excessive” and “over-engineered” and suggested that the accessibility measures would too fully alter the landscape.
The showdown sets an important precedent for other Toronto ravines, many of which are threatened by over-use. As Robert Wright, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Toronto, says, “The Don Valley is in an ecological crisis. It is a failing ecosystem.”
Chorley Park was once the site of the sprawling official residence of Ontario’s lieutenant governor-general, a grand chateau-style house which later became a hospital and was demolished in 1959.
At one end, it slopes down to a ravine connected to the Don Valley; it was here that conflict came to a head last spring after the city removed 138 small-diameter trees and shrubs from the slope in preparation for summer construction. But after a volley of complaints from the SRRA and an ad hoc Friends of Chorley Park network, the city last summer halted the project and set up a working group, with representatives from several residents’ associations, the Brickworks, and cycling and disability advocacy organizations. They have been meeting under the supervision of an external facilitator since the summer to hammer out a solution.
Rosedale residents, however, ponied up several thousand dollars – Mr. Townley declined to give a precise figure – to hire their own landscape architect. Their proposal called for a shorter and steeper pathway with grass swales instead of railings, fewer switchbacks and a smaller footprint than the initial plan.
Two public meetings will be held in coming weeks to solicit feedback on a new, as-yet-approved plan developed by city landscape architects. It bears some resemblance to the Rosedale residents’ proposal, but is longer and wider.
Kristyn Wong-Tam, the area councillor, said she’s “optimistic” the players can come to a consensus. Mr. Townley agrees. But in an interview, Ms. Wong-Tam added the city fully intends to settle on a final plan very shortly. “It is going to happen soon,” she said. “I don’t want to miss another construction season.”
The overgrown trails and rotting staircases between Chorley Park and the ravine have been on the city’s radar for a decade. Then, when council in 2012 approved a plan to build more off-road cycling routes, parks officials identified that slope as a potential “quick win,” says Ms. Wong-Tam. The new path would connect Rosedale to the Beltline Trail.
While some Rosedale activists, such as Mr. Townley and Kathleen Hanly, a lawyer who heads the Friends group, say they were caught off-guard by the removal of the trees, Ms. Wong-Tam stresses the city had already held meetings and advertised the project with north Rosedale residents.
Ms. Hanly says her group doesn’t care for features such as railings. “I think there’s a real dislike of being channelled into these fenced areas.” But Ms. Wong-Tam insists the city can use natural materials, plantings and “beautiful” design to ensure that the structure blends to the landscape. “Having a ramp without rails,” she adds, “would be potentially dangerous.”
As for the accessibility provisions, when municipalities upgrade infrastructure they must comply with building code regulations and provincial accessibility laws, which specify paving surfaces, grades and rest stops. With this and other such projects, the design must also pass muster with a panel of individuals with physical disabilities. A slope of 8 to 10 per cent, as in the Friends’ proposal, is considered too difficult for those with mobility problems.
Ms. Wong-Tam casts the issue in terms of human rights. “When we design spaces for residents, we’re not only designing for able-bodies residents or residents who just live in the catchment area.”
Others agree: “The notion of accessibility should trump everything,” says Blaine Pearson, who speaks for Love the Ravines, an advocacy network that is pushing to have Ontario’s Greenbelt extend to include Toronto’s ravines.
The Friends group and the SRRA initially balked at the use of asphalt paving on the slope, although Mr. Townley concedes they’ve moved on that point. But they remain unenthusiastic about including a paved path through Chorley Park, leading from the street to the top of the proposed trail. Ms. Wong-Tam says that will be built within a year or two once the city determines natural use patterns.
While Rosedale residents insist they aren’t trying to block access to Chorley Park, some participants at public meetings have expressed concerns that a new switch-back trail leading to a side entrance to the Brickworks will increase traffic, and spur conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians negotiating the path.
Mr. Townley suggests that there are alternatives. Disabled users, he says, can access Rosedale’s ravines either by Wheel-Trans to the Brickworks parking lot or via Milkman’s Lane, an unpaved and somewhat eroded trail a bit further west. (It has also been recently fitted out with railings to keep users off the slopes.)
Ms. Hanly also raises the spectre of thrill-seeking skateboarders gravitating towards a paved switchback, citing a website that touts its potential. She says long-boarders have been spotted using a similar path recently built in the Brickworks.
But Evergreen spokesperson Anthony Westenberg says he’s only seen a few skateboarders there. While the city would have to address reckless usage it if escalated, he adds that this particular issue isn’t at the top of his list of concerns.
With a decision looming, Ms. Wong-Tam is taking the long view on a political headache that has meandered across the northern flank of her ward for a year. “When you’re building for the next 50 or 60 years, [you] better get it right.”
CBC TV Toronto January 20, 2015
Rosedale station still without elevator after woman’s 20-year wait
82-year-old Toronto woman with arthritis first asked for an elevator at subway station in 1990s
Jean Gemmell can see Rosedale subway station from her home, but she has trouble getting to the trains.
The 82-year-old Toronto woman has arthritis and poor vision, but the subway station has no elevators.
“If you fell down those concrete steps, you would be lucky to survive,” she told CBC Toronto. “It is that dangerous.”
Gemmell said she has been asking the TTC to install an elevator at Rosedale station for nearly two decades, but keeps getting different promises. She is now voicing her frustration with the accessibility of the city’s transit system.
Gemmell said she asked the TTC in the 1990s to make Rosedale station more accessible, because her now-late husband used a wheelchair.
“I was told by somebody in the TTC that it was on the list to be done in the next five to seven years,” she said.
She phoned back this week and was told that the date has been pushed to 2017. Gemmell said her arthritis has gotten worse in the meantime.
But that new date she was told appeared to have been pushed back again, as TTC confirmed to CBC Toronto on Tuesday that an elevator won’t be installed at Rosedale station until 2024.
Lack of funding causes delays, TTC says
TTC spokesman Brad Ross attributed the delay to lack of funding, as the transit system faces a capital funding shortfall of $3 billion.
“Stations like Rosedale need to be accessible. We’re completely committed to that, but the funding challenge is such that some of these dates are unfortunately getting pushed out,” he said.
Previous plans had called for all stations to be accessible by the end of 2020, but that date has now been set for 2025.
It’s all taken far too long for accessibility advocate David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Alliance.
“The TTC has been bobbing and weaving and dodging on its commitments to make all subway stations accessible,” he said.
Lepofsky said TTC stations should have been built to be accessible during construction.
“They didn’t just invent people with disabilities last week, they had people with disabilities back when they built these stations,” he said.
Gemmell isn’t convinced by the TTC’s latest promises, either.
“I have not thought that they’re going to keep it because they keep moving it every two years — you get another answer,” she said.
The next-nearest station at Yonge and Bloor streets does have an elevator, but Gemmell said it’s dangerously crowded.
With files from CBC’s Kate Adach
December 11 2014 from website yorkregion.com
Residents can expect better accessibility at Aurora facilities
By Teresa Latchford
The town will provide the tools needed to increase accessibility and remove barriers to ensure its facilities are inclusive.
Earlier this year, the Town of Aurora’s accessibility advisory committee asked town staff to investigate and report back on what education and devices, including auditory and visual aids, town facilities provide to improve barrier-free access to visually and hearing-impaired residents.
This week, a staff report reiterated the town’s commitment to being inclusive at all facilities and has provided a number of aids and devices to assist those in need.
Aurora is committed to providing equitable treatment to people with disabilities with respect to the use of town programs, a four-page report, written by director of building and bylaw services Techa van Leeuwen stated, adding assistive devices exist within the corporation, specifically for individuals with visual and auditory challenges.
These initiatives include page magnifiers at each department counter, personal listening devices in council chambers, a hearing induction loop system in the Leksand, Holland and Tannery rooms, portable FM assistive device system, documentation provided in different formats, electronic note taking and sign language interpretation for meetings, audible and visual fire alarms and TTY telephone line for the deaf available on the first and second floors of town hall.
Many of the devices and services are duplicated throughout the town’s facilities, including recreation facilities and the Aurora Public Library.
The library also has an adaptive technology workstation featuring JAWS, allowing users to zoom text, scan, write and read with special software and includes a Braille translator. Large print and talking books are also available.
In addition, accessibility training is given to all staff and specific accessible community groups speak at the town’s lunch-and-learn sessions throughout the year, coinciding with themed events such as National Access Awareness Week and International Day of disabilities.
The report also states the town continues to meet the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, including the installation of audible pedestrian signals at intersections and software enhancements of aurora.ca.
The report was received for information at this week’s general committee meeting at town hall.
December 17 2014 from website durhamregion.com
The business of becoming accessible in Whitby
Deadline for private and non-profit sectors to submit compliance report to Province is Dec. 31
Whitby This Week
By Parvaneh Pessian
WHITBY — With another deadline looming for organizations to adhere to Ontario’s accessibility law, the Whitby Chamber of Commerce is doing its part to keep local businesses up to date.
The chamber recently issued a notice to its members — specifically large organizations with 20 or more employees — reminding them to report their compliance to the government by the end of the month.
“I know that folks are aware of it but it’s just to make sure that if they haven’t had it on their radar, that they’ve got it on their radar,” said Tracy Hanson, CEO of the Whitby Chamber of Commerce, which is comprised of 780 members.
She added that the chamber previously had a committee in place to discuss ongoing efforts to meet provincial accessibility standards and how to reach out to those in need of guidance.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was established in 2005 with a goal of making Ontario accessible by 2025. All levels of government, non-profits, and private sector businesses with one or more employees are required to comply with the Act and all of its applicable standards, including customer service, transportation, information and communications, the design of public spaces and employment.
The accessible customer service standard, which ensures organizations offer goods, services or facilities in ways that take the needs of people with disabilities into account, was the first standard to come into effect in 2008. The Ontario government and other designated public sector organizations were required to comply by Jan. 1, 2010 while Ontario’s non-profits and businesses had to comply by Jan. 1, 2012.
This year, organizations with 20 or more employees will need to file a second report with the government confirming their continued compliance with the customer service standard. And as of this past January, organizations with 50 or more employees must comply with certain requirements, such as creating a multi-year plan to meet accessibility requirements, establishing policies to meet AODA requirements and informing their employees and customers, considering accessibility when purchasing or designing electronic kiosks, and making their websites accessible. The deadline to report compliance is Dec. 31.
On the public sector side, the Town of Whitby has undertaken several projects over the past five years to bring its facilities and public services up to accessibility standards. A notable example is Iroquois Park Sports Centre where enhancements in 2011 included installation of two elevators, larger family change areas, and an accessible entrance into Anne Ottenbrite Pool.
“It’s not just about facilities,” explained Peter LeBel, Whitby’s commissioner of community and marketing services.
“It’s about accessible customer service, policies and training that we’ve provided for our employees, establishment of accessibility policies — we’ve done that — we have a multi-year accessibility plan, we have an accessibility advisory committee that’s appointed by council to provide us with advice and review our plans going forward.”
Mr. LeBel said the changes were undertaken in part due to the legislation but also because “it was the right thing to do.”
The Whitby Chamber of Commerce is planning to hold a roundtable discussion in the new year to address any issues businesses may be facing and continue to highlight the importance of ensuring accessibility for all.
“What we’d like to do is establish a roundtable of those in the know and those who need to be in the know, not just around the new legislation and the new standards but how we look at promoting the hiring of employees of all abilities and those kinds of things,” said Ms. Hanson.
“Like we do with all our roundtables, we really want to get to the heart of the conversation and understand what really needs to be done so that we’re not just picking low-hanging fruit — that we’re really focused on that bigger, broader community perspective.”
CBC December 3, 2014
The future of Greater Sudbury Handi-Transit will be high on city council’s agenda in the new year.
The debate will centre around whether people with cognitive disabilities should be allowed on the special buses.
A dozen people, most of them with cognitive disabilities, are appealing the city’s decision to keep them off the special bus service.
Rejected Sudbury Handi-Transit users get to appeal their cases
The city says Handi-Transit was always intended only for those with physical challenges.
But the executive director of Sudbury Developmental Services said a precedent has been set by allowing people with cognitive disabilities to ride for the last decade.
“Did they get a cure? No, there was no miracle that happened here,” Mila Wong said.
“Their needs are the same. They cannot navigate public transportation.”
Such is the case for Tracy Shaver, who rides Handi-Transit every day from her home in Val Caron to her job in the west end of Sudbury.
But if her eligibility for Handi-Transit changes, she will have to start taking the conventional transit buses, because she is able to walk.
Her mother, Lois, is appealing the city’s decision.
“She functions [at the level of] about, say, an eight-year-old,” she said.
“Would you send your eight-year-old downtown to transfer downtown onto another bus?”
Linda Whiteside, who gets around in a wheelchair and is a long-time handi transit rider, said Handi-Transit is getting so busy, it’s often hard to get a reservation.
But she points out another issue she sees: able-bodied people who are taking the specialized transit bus.
“They’d run to get to the bus and get on it. I didn’t feel they were qualified.”
Sudbury city council is set to debate a report on the future of Handi-Transit early in the new year.
Wong said if the city doesn’t change its policy, she will take the case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.
The Sudbury Star January 19 2015
Commission warns city on changes to Handi-Transit rules
By Mary Katherine Keown, The Sudbury Star
Handi-Transit was on the agenda briefly at last night’s meeting of the operations committee — the first for this council.
During an orientation session, city staff introduced the new politicians to the nuts and bolts of the city’s infrastructure services.
Roger Sauve, director of transit and fleet services, told councillors Handi-Transit aims to serve those with physical disabilities who are unable to use conventional public buses. He conceded that supply often exceeds demand and noted staff members are occasionally forced to ask riders to alter their plans.
“We are certainly at capacity — there are days when we have turn-downs,” Sauve told the committee. “We try to ask the individual if they could go at a different time or a different day, but at this point, with the continued growth of Handi-Transit, there are times we cannot accommodate everyone.” Ridership has ballooned from about 40,000 in 2000 to more than 120,000 last year, due in large part to amalgamation and the city’s aging population.
Last December, Tony Cecutti, the city’s general manager of infrastructure services, told councillors that due to budget constraints, staff was reviewing the qualifications for those accessing the service. The system, which currently serves individuals with cognitive, intellectual and mental health impairments, could be revised to prioritize Sudburians with physical disabilities, while excluding or marginalizing others.
Rosemary Bennett, a senior communications officer with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, says barring individuals from accessing Handi-Transit based on their type of disability constitutes a violation of the provincial human rights code.
“The human rights code doesn’t deal any differently with (different) disabilities, whether you’re talking about the code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA),” Bennett told The Star on Monday. “A disability is a disability.”
Bennett said the human rights commission does not recognize a hierarchy of disability. Both the provincial human rights code and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act identify developmental, mental and learning impairments.
“It sounds like what they’re wanting to do is put one kind of disability on top of another, which isn’t exactly the best, in my opinion, way to proceed,” she said. “I’m thinking that it’s almost differential treatment, and the goal of the (act) and the code is to get equitable treatment — it’s leveling the playing field.”
The point, Bennett said, is equal access to services that exist. The commission understands operational costs play a role in service provision, but she contends the onus rests with organizations or corporations to disburse those costs “so that no one area becomes destitute.”
Simply put, transportation is a vital service that needs to be maintained.
“As a service, they have a duty to accommodate, based on disability and all the other grounds of the human rights code,” Bennett added.
She understands the financial constraints facing municipalities, but argues staffers must make provisions to serve their constituents.
“We totally understand that cities don’t have a bottomless pit of money, but I would caution against pitting one group of disabilities against another group, for any occasion, whether or not it’s a money issue,” Bennett told The Star.
There are about 4,000 people in Greater Sudbury registered to use Handi-Transit. Close to 3,000 have applied to use the service and 12 are waiting to have their appeals heard by the hearing committee. All 12 continue to access Handi-Transit in the interim.
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