May 6, 2008
On May 6, 2008, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released an important 24 page report that has significant implications regarding the McGuinty Government’s implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That report documents what Ontario public transit authorities have agreed to do to comply with the 2007 Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruling in Lepofsky v. TTC #2. The report is available at:
Download the Commission’s report as a Word Document
In that case, the Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Human Rights Code requires the Toronto Transit Commission to have its bus drivers announce each bus stop, for the benefit of blind and vision impaired passengers. The Tribunal gave TTC 30 days to implement these announcements. Anticipating this litigation, TTC had contracted for the future installation of an automated route stop announcement system. The Tribunal held that TTC violated the Human Rights Code, because it refused, for the months before installing that technology, to direct its bus drivers to use their mouths to announce each route stop.
In fall 2007, the Human Rights Commission announced its intention to survey all Ontario transit authorities to see what steps they are taking to comply with this ruling. See:
In the Commission’s May 6, 2008 report, summarizing the results of this survey, these results are reported:
“At the outset of the inquiry, only the TTC was announcing all transit stops, in accordance with HRTO decisions. As of the end of March 2008, of the 38 provincially regulated transit providers: 
- 25 committed to begin announcing all stops by June 30, 2008
- 2 more appeared likely to do so.
Of the remaining 11 provincially regulated organizations:
- 4 indicated that they would begin announcing all stops announcements in the fall of 2008
- 2 described plans for longer term compliance over the next 2-4 years
- 2 made no commitments to our inquiry, referring instead to commitments to meet any future AODA standard
- 3 did not provide sufficient information about their intentions or timelines for implementation.
Two of the three federally regulated agencies contacted indicated plans for partial or long-term compliance; the other did not reply.”
This report is very important for implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Last year, the Transportation Standards Development Committee, established under the AODA, released a very weak proposed transit access standard. It would give transit authorities an excessive 18 years to provide this obvious, simple accommodation. See:
The AODA Alliance and other voices from the disability community, as well as the Ontario Human Rights Commission, slammed that proposed transit access standard for being so weak, and for having such excessively long time lines. This Human Rights Commission report is further proof of how inadequate is that proposed transit standard. If most transit authorities will implement this accommodation within one year of the Lepofsky v. TTC #2 ruling, rather than needing 18 years, it is clear that other accessibility measures in the proposed transit standard can also be implemented far more quickly than that proposed standard would demand.
It is more clear than ever that the proposed transit access standard was the result of unwarranted foot-dragging by Ontario transit authorities. They dominated the Transportation Standards Development Committee. It is important that the McGuinty Government ensure that the final transportation accessibility standard that it enacts is far stronger, and its time lines are far more prompt.
In the Human Rights Commission’s report, the Human Rights Commission commends those transit authorities that are moving to implement announcements of all route stops by the end of June 2008. For those who haven’t committed to do so, the Commission’s response is rather tepid in its tone:
“A few transit providers felt that their current accommodation practices for persons with visual impairment, such as access to separate specialized transit systems, or stop call-out on request, were sufficient. The Lepofsky decision has already established that “on request” call-out is unreliable and insufficient. These responses also fail to take into account the human rights principles of integration, inclusive design and the dignity of the person.  …
The Commission continues to encourage those transit providers who have not yet begun announcing all stops to do so before June 30, 2008. The transit sector has been aware of the issue for a number of months, and, as many other transit providers have shown, manual call-out can be implemented in short time-frames, even in large organizations. Those who have delayed in their response therefore leave themselves vulnerable to human rights complaints. Ideally, organizations will use their resources to immediately implement manual stop announcements, rather than defending delays and barriers to accessibility.”
David Lepofsky, the complainant in the case against TTC, has released the following statement in response to the Human Rights Commission’s report:
“I’m delighted my decade-long battle against TTC is yielding benefits around many parts of Ontario. I commend those transit authorities that are providing audible announcements of all route stops on or before the end of June 2008.
Yet it’s inexcusable that some transit authorities still won’t have bus drivers announce all stops by then, or pending installing automated announcements. My case against TTC said that’s illegal. I’m also concerned the Human Rights Commission hasn’t committed to promptly launching human rights proceedings against those hold-outs. That’s their job. After June, McGuinty’s Liberals are privatizing human rights enforcement. No blind person should have to wage a battle like I had to fight.”
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