November 10, 2016
Here are three late-breaking developments on the road to a barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities that leap to our attention this week. After these, we offer reminders of other important items on the accessibility agenda that can help you.
1. Come to this Saturday’s Durham Region AODA Accessibility Public Forum, as the AODA Grassroots Express Blazes its Way into Another Part of Ontario, With Ontario’s New Accessibility Minister to Join Us There
This Saturday, November 12, 2016, the unstoppable AODA Express will blaze its way into yet another new community as we succeed in grassroots organizing all around Ontario! On Saturday, November 12, 2016, from 10 a.m. to noon, an AODA Accessibility Forum will be held at the Abilities Centre in Whitby, part of Durham Region.
Speakers will include not only AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and Durham Region’s extraordinary disability rights advocate Scott Bremner, but key politicians from that community. The list includes Ontario’s new Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles, Ontario NDP MPP from Oshawa, Jennifer French, Oshawa Mayor John Henry, and Whitby’s Member of Federal Parliament Celina Caesar-Chavannes.
This is the very first time since the AODA was passed in 2005 that any Ontario minister, responsible for leading the AODA’s implementation, has attended one of the AODA Alliance’s community events. Below we set out a news item in the Durham Region news publication, reporting in advance on this event.
This event comes on the heels of seven earlier AODA Accessibility Public Forums around Ontario. Each led to the launch of local Regions of the AODA Alliance. The AODA Express has successfully found its way so far this year to organize new Regions of the AODA Alliance in Kingston (January), Windsor (March), York University/ north Toronto (March), peel Region (April), Ottawa (September), London (September), and Burlington (just last weekend in November). Our September 30, 2016 launch of the London Region of the AODA Alliance was attended by an Ontario MPP, a federal MP and a London City Council member.
We are already looking to plans to reach further around Ontario in 2017. These events help us press all Ontario political parties to support strengthened implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This weekend we will emphasize, among other things, the need for the Ontario Government to at last agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and to keep its promise to effectively enforce the AODA.
If you want to get active, let us know by emailing us at email@example.com
We again thank all those who have helped organize these community forums, and all who took the time to come out to them.
2. Nova Scotia Disability Advocates Score a Major Interim Victory – They Got the Nova Scotia Government to Back Down on Its Plan to Rush a Very Weak Accessibility Law Through the Legislature, and Convinced that Government to Consider Strengthening that Bill Before Returning it for Legislative Debates
In the 2013 Nova Scotia provincial election, the Liberal Party pledged to enact a Disabilities Act. This was inspired by Ontario passing the AODA in 2005, and Manitoba passing the Accessibility for Manitobans Act in 2013.
Last week, the Nova Scotia Government introduced Bill 59 into their Legislature, the proposed Accessibility Act. That Government signaled an intention to rush it through their Legislature.
Disability advocates in Nova Scotia quickly rallied to object because the bill was so weak and the process was so rushed. Last weekend, when they reached out to the AODA Alliance for our thoughts, we quickly made public a preliminary analysis of Bill 59. We made it public last Sunday, November 6, 2016, to lend a hand to the impressive group of Nova Scotia’s disability advocates. We concluded that while Bill 59 was a start, it was too weak, and, if passed, would be weaker than any comprehensive disability accessibility law now in force in any province that had enacted one. To read the AODA Alliance’s analysis of Nova Scotia’s Bill 59.
The next day, Monday, November 7, 2016, a team of impressive and talented Nova Scotia disability rights advocates converged on the Nova Scotia Legislature. With precious little time to prepare, they very effectively presented their serious concerns with Bill 59. As a result, the Nova Scotia Government agreed to put the bill on hold, and to go back to the drawing board. Below we set out news articles on this great grassroots interim victory, which appeared on CBC and Global.
The great grassroots advocacy efforts in Nova Scotia teach us several lessons – ones we have seen time and again elsewhere in Canada. If people with disabilities boldly but responsibly bring our message to the public, we can make progress. We must build our progress one step at a time. We should never compromise on our principles or settle for inadequate efforts on accessibility. We also must be very vigilant. Even when governments make well-intentioned promises on accessibility can later turn them into a product that is so watered-down that it offers little or nothing. Perhaps the most important message of all is that Even on very short notice, with almost no time to prepare, a small group can raise a loud, credible voice that brings about a real victory.
We encourage all supporters of the AODA Alliance and of the cause of accessibility to remember and build on these lessons as we reach out to organize at the grassroots around Ontario. Even one person, acting alone, tweeting photos or stories about local accessibility barriers, can help us so much to bring about real change, using our highly-successful “Picture Our Barriers” campaign. You can find all you need to get started on your own, or together with friends.
3. A New Grassroots Accessibility Movement is Launched in Newfoundland and Labrador
After a public accessibility forum that included a speech by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on Friday November 4, 2016 in St. Johns Newfoundland, a new grassroots coalition, Barrier-Free Newfoundland and Labrador, has been established. They have already reached out to the AODA Alliance in Ontario, to Barrier-Free BC, and to Barrier-Free Canada for tips on how to get started.
Barrier-Free NL starts with a wonderful advantage. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has already included a commitment to enact new disability accessibility legislation in the Mandate Letter for one of its cabinet ministers. We are eager to do whatever we can to help them.
4. Reminders, and Some Links that Were Earlier Broken
The AODA Alliance and ARCH Disability Rights Law Centre are still gathering your feedback on accessibility barriers you face in public transportation in Ontario, including main public transit, para-transit, taxis and Uber. Send us your stories. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We apologize for the fact that some links in our earlier updates did not work for some of you. We are trying to iron this out. If you click on a link and you get an error, try to copy and paste the link into your browser and make sure there is no break or space between any of the letters in the link. We regret that sometimes when we paste our Update into an email, a break in a link can be generated. Any tips from IT geeks are welcomed!
In the meantime, here again are a few key items we have offered you in recent weeks:
Please raise disability issues in the fast-approaching November 17., 2016 Ontario by-elections in the Ottawa Vanier and Niagara West-Glanbrook ridings. For an Action Kit on how to raise disability accessibility issues in these upcoming by-elections.
To read the AODA Alliance’s November 9, 2016 Analysis of the KPMG Report on education accessibility barriers, which helps us show why Ontario needs an Education Accessibility Standard.
Do you want to give the Federal Government your input on what it should include in the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act?
For a short two-page leaflet on what we need in the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act, visit: Use new 2page leaflet on what promised #CanadiansWithDisabilitiesAct should include.
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
To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.
Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates.
Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance
Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is proud to be the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org
The Durham Region November 6, 2016
Whitby accessibility forum will address “sluggish” Implementation of Ontario Legislation
Liberal MPP Tracey MacCharles, minister responsible for accessibility, scheduled to attend
WHITBY — Residents from across the region are invited to the attend the Durham Region Accessibility Forum to have their say on disability issues including the implementation of accessibility legislation in Ontario.
The event will be held at the Abilities Centre, 55 Gordon St. in Whitby, on Saturday, Nov. 12 from 10 a.m. to noon in the multi-purpose room on the second floor. Real-time captioning, ASL interpreters and personal care attendants will be available.
Forum organizers say MPP Tracey MacCharles, the minister responsible for accessibility in Ontario, as well as MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes will be in attendance.
The forum will be hosted by former DurAbility TV host Scott Bremner and David Lepofsky, chairman of AODA Alliance, a disability advocacy group campaigning for the effective implementation of Ontario’s accessibility standards.
Event organizers point out that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed in 2005 but implementation has been sluggish and they question whether Ontario will reach its target of being fully accessible by 2025.
For more information and to RSVP for the event, e-mail DRaccessforum@yahoo.com .
CBC TV News November 7, 2016
Disabled Nova Scotians Roundly Criticize Accessibility Act
‘We have a moral obligation to get this bill right,’ says Liberal caucus chair Iain Rankin
Jean Laroche · CBC News
November 7, 2016
Diane Pothier, a retired law professor who is visually impaired, said the government needs to rethink this legislation. (CBC)
The governing Liberals have put the brakes on legislation aimed at making the province more accessible for disabled Nova Scotians in light of a barrage of criticism Monday from the very people Bill 59 is supposed to help.
Diane Pothier, a retired law professor who is visually impaired, didn’t mince words.
“We need a fundamental rethink and this legislation, a little bit of tinkering is not going to do it,” she told members of the legislature’s law amendments committee. “It needs to go back to the drawing board.”
The proposed legislation will create an advisory board, and aims to develop accessibility standards in phases over several years for government, businesses and non-profit organizations.
It could affect everything from building design to how disabled people are treated in the workplace. Last week, Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard called the bill “historic.”
But that’s not how others see it.
Nova Scotia a human rights ‘backwater’
Archie Kaiser, Pothier’s former colleague at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, called the bill “simply inadequate” and “weak”.
“I don’t want to be the backwater of human rights in Canada,” said Kaiser. “I want this province to be a leader and I believe we can be.”
Lois Miller, the retired executive director of Independent Living Nova Scotia, a group dedicated to assisting people with disabilities, took particular issue with the government’s focus on advocating for change that would not be onerous to businesses or create more red tape.
She likened it to not inconveniencing businesses with another fundamental right — women’s right to receive equal pay for work of equal value.
Paul Vienneau, who uses a wheelchair to get around, said he worries about the influence of business. (CBC)
Rights not a business issue
“Can you imagine if that ever would have been enshrined as a right for women in Canada if it were made contingent on no red tape for business?” she told the committee.
Paul Vienneau, who uses a wheelchair to get around, also expressed fear with that provision of the proposed law.
“My fear with the business community having a say in our rights is that this is what it’s going to come down to, dollars and cents,” he said.
‘We have a moral obligation to get this bill right’
After the submissions, Liberal caucus chair Iain Rankin proposed a motion to “stand” Bill 59. That freezes the proposed law where it is in the law-making process.
“We have a moral obligation to get this bill right,” he told reporters after during a break in the committee’s work.
“It affects a lot of people and it was my firm view that we could just pause for a moment and see what we could do to make it better.”
Rankin could not say how long the government would be willing to stall passage of the proposed law.
Bernard said the bill will remain before the law amendments committee, which will sit over the next couple of months to hear from anyone who has something to say about the legislation. It will not proceed this fall as planned.
Global TV News November 6, 2016
Nova Scotia’s Liberal government is rethinking a key piece of legislation after a blistering takedown from people with disabilities and accessibility advocates.
At Monday’s law amendments committee witnesses critiqued the new accessibility bill which Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard hailed as “precedent-setting,” when it was announced last week.
“What the hell happened,” asked Parker Donham. “How could a shining promise of your government, a commitment with the full-throated support of the minister, a cause that appears to have the sincere backing of your premier, how could it lead to a bill that is so seriously deficient.”
Nova Scotia is the third province in Canada to table such legislation but witnesses at committee said this legislation is far weaker than legislation in Ontario and Manitoba.
“The bill is too weak, it doesn’t adequately protect and advance the human rights of persons with disabilities in Nova Scotia,” Dalhousie professor Archibald Kaiser said.
“It does not go as far as other comparable provincial statutes.”
Criticism of the bill fell along several key themes: an inaccessible process, an unequal weighting of accessibility and cost, a lack of hard timelines, and a badly crafted bill in the wrong department. There were nine witnesses who spoke to the bill.
Inaccessible accessibility legislation
The timing of the committee meeting made the process inaccessible to many people, according to witnesses. For example, individuals who rely on Access-a-Bus couldn’t attend because the service usually requires seven-days notice. Witnesses were told about the committee meeting on Friday.
“That may account for why there are so few wheelchairs in this room,” Donham told the committee.
The short notice also meant that people with care assistants weren’t able to reschedule them in order to attend the committee hearing on time, Lois Miller said. She also pointed out that it was too short a timeline for people who work or those with medical appointments.
READ MORE: Nova Scotia’s accessibility legislation hits accessibility hiccup
“The process has in fact denied accessibility to the very people for whom this act was intended to serve,” Miller said.
Another concern raised was that the bill wasn’t transcribed into brail for people with visual impairments, or into plain language for persons with learning disabilities. Pat Gates said she struggled to read the bill and so she relied on information from other people.
‘Business community having veto power’ over accessibility rights
The proposed act requires any new accessibility standards to be weighed against cost considerations. For example, it requires an “economic impact assessment” of any new standard.
Advocates perceived that to mean the cost of implementing an accessibility standard could be used to reject a legitimate accessibility concern. Miller pointed to the government news release of the act as confirmation of that fear. It cites Bernard saying “we want to develop standards that will reduce barriers, while not creating unnecessary red tape for the private sector.”
Reminding the committee that disability rights are human rights, Miller said the bill would make the rights “subject to economic considerations.”
In a separate presentation, inclusivity advocate Paul Vienneau compared the wording around costs to historic cases. For example he said women would never be denied the right to vote because of cost. “It sounds stupid when you put it in a point like that,” he said. “But for us it’s somehow acceptable.”
“This ties into my concern that our rights will be negotiable, with the business community having veto power.”
‘No evidence’ of timelines for implementation
The bill doesn’t set out timelines for when new standards need to be in place or when older buildings need to be brought up to current code. Advocate Gerry Post called that “unacceptable.”
“There’s no evidence in the act itself of any timeliness of it being implemented other than a statement that the act will be reviewed every four years — well that’s just not good enough.”
He’s suggesting the province commit to making all government-owned buildings accessible by 2022, and all municipally-owned buildings accessible by 2025.
Last Wednesday, Global News asked the province for an inventory of publicly-owned buildings that were accessible and ones that still need to be brought up to standard, but as of Monday, none was provided.
‘Extraordinary extent of ministerial authority’
Witnesses also argued that the bill should be relocated to the justice department. Citing the fundamental human rights that it covers, they almost unanimously argued that it was the responsibility of justice to enforce the rights and that it shouldn’t be up to community services which is also responsible for many services to people with disabilities.
If community services continues to be in charge of the bill and the services, Dalhousie University law professor Sheila Wildeman said, it would place people “in a deep conflict should they wish to raise concerns about physical or attitudinal barriers affecting equal access.”
She also said the bill rests too much power in the hands of the minister, with an “extraordinary extent of ministerial authority and discretion in the sections on devising and enforcing accessibility standards.”
Retired law professor Dianne Pothier said the bill “reads like the drafting instructions were: go away and come up with the weakest accessibility act you can.”
“We need a fundamental rethink,” she said. “A little bit of tinkering is not going to do it, it needs to go back to the drawing board, get it done right.”
Bill will be reviewed, returned to the legislature next year
Late Monday afternoon, Bernard said the legislation would be reviewed before moving ahead.
“What we heard today are concerns from people from the disability community, they will be addressed,” she said. To make sure all critiques are heard she said the law amendments committee will meet in the coming months to hear from more people.
“It is a historic piece of legislation, we have to get it right,” Bernard said.
Asked if the bill was a failure, Bernard said “absolutely not, this is the way democracy works.”
New accessibility legislation was a key promise in the 2013 election campaign.