Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities
Our Disability Accessibility Concerns and Issues Again Get Good Attention in the Media and the Ontario Legislature in the Wake of Last Week’s Pre-election Ontario Budget
April 2, 2018
Please expect more frequent AODA Alliance Updates over the next days and weeks. With the June 7 Ontario general election looming ever closer, our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities gets good attention in the media and in the Ontario Legislature, in the wake of last week’s pre-election Ontario budget.
Below you can find:
* An excellent article by Michelle McQuigge of the Canadian Press, published on March 31, 2018 by CTV and a number of other news outlets, giving a disability accessibility perspective on last week’s Ontario budget.
* The March 30, 2018 Toronto Star’s article on disability barriers facing people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, when riding on the Toronto Transit Commission.
* A March 30, 2018 City TV news item about barriers facing people with mobility disabilities on the TTC.
In each case, the media came to the AODA Alliance for comment on the broader implications of these stories for people with disabilities. The transportation accessibility barriers in the Toronto Star and City TV stories are just one illustration of the many transportation barriers that remain in Ontario, because the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was too weak. Draft recommendations from the Government’s Transportation Standards Development committee, made public last summer, were themselves too weak to prevent these barriers from continuing to recur. The new Budget’s commitments of infrastructure spending on public transit remains a concern, since Ontario has no rules in place to ensure that the new transportation infrastructure is designed to be barrier for passengers with disabilities.
Below we also set out a question which Progressive Conservative MPP Bill Walker asked the Government in the Legislature during Question Period on March 28, 2018, about the lack of specific commitments on accessibility in the recent Ontario Throne Speech. We also set out the news release that MPP Bill Walker sent out on March 29, 2018.
We appreciate any MPP from any party raising our concerns in the Legislature.
On March 12, 2018, we wrote the new leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, Doug Ford, asking for a meeting so we can brief him and his team on the upcoming election’s disability accessibility issues. He has not yet responded to that letter.
At the end of this Update, we give you links to key background information on accessibility issues in Ontario, and information on how to sign up for or unsubscribe from these AODA Alliance Updates.
CTV Online Saturday March 31, 2018
Originally posted at:
Accessibility advocates express cautious optimism about Ontario budget
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, March 31, 2018 1:01PM EDT
Accessibility advocates are expressing cautious optimism about measures in the latest Ontario budget that fund programs for developmentally disabled people, enhance social assistance and boost mental health support.
But some say they still question whether the province’s Liberal government places a high enough priority on the estimated 1.9 million Ontarians living with physical, intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Over the next three years, the budget promises to pump $1.8 billion into services for developmentally disabled people and invest $2.3 billion into social assistance programs, which will loosen restrictions recipients have long contended keep them in poverty.
Advocates say disabled residents also stand to benefit from measures such as a $2.1 billion investment in mental health supports and a $650 million boost to home care programs.
But they say the budget, which comes ahead of a spring election, doesn’t address concerns about the province’s accessibility laws, since the fiscal plan doesn’t contain funding to help the government enforce existing standards or develop new ones.
Implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) — which promises full accessibility — has fallen behind in recent years, advocates say, arguing the budget contains no plan to ensure the law is completely in place by 2025 as promised.
“It seems that whenever the government talks about listing people and making sure everybody’s included, they just keep forgetting to explicitly include people with disabilities,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of advocacy group AODA Alliance.
“I don’t think they’re against us, it’s just we keep falling below the radar.”
The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, a government body, said the budget has several programs targeting disabled residents, some of which it described as historic.
“This budget has committed to a number of initiatives specifically aimed at improving the lives of people with disabilities,” it said, noting the government was making “important progress” toward full accessibility.
The government also said a legislative review of the AODA led by former Lt. Gov. David Onley will soon begin. Lepofsky, however, questioned the transparency of the review, noting Onley once served as the province’s special advisor on accessibility issues.
Ontario made Canadian history in 2005 when it enacted the AODA, legislation held up by some as a model for the federal equivalent set to be unveiled later this year.
But the law has faced controversy as advocates challenge the perceived weakness of standards it put in place. The government itself once declared that the move toward full accessibility had seen “a flag in momentum” as far back as 2015, and has also cut back the number of staff enforcing rules that do exist.
Most of the government’s latest spending pledges, which encompass everything from transportation to schools to hospitals, do not explicitly contain language ensuring they’d be equally accessible to people with disabilities, Lepofsky said.
That, coupled with what he described as the inadequacy of existing laws, leaves him concerned Ontario’s disabled population won’t reap the same benefits from the government’s spending spree as the rest of the province’s residents.
But Lepofsky had praise for some budget measures, particularly the expansion of mental health supports and efforts to reform social assistance.
People enrolled in the Ontario Disability Support Program, for instance, will see their annual income rates rise nine per cent over the next three years.
The government also pledged to scrap tight limits on the amounts recipients were allowed to save up before having benefits clawed back, as well as loosen restrictions on the amount of employment income people could earn before losing provincial support.
Unlike many big spending commitments spread out as far as a decade, some of these income support measures are to take effect this year.
The same applies to expansions of a program supporting adults with developmental disabilities living in the community. The budget commits to giving participants extra funding that will bring their annual total up to $5,000.
Chris Beesley, chief executive officer of Community Living Ontario, hailed the measures as a significant step forward.
“Did they go all the way? Did they do everything that needs doing? No. But they did address a lot of the things we asked for,” Beesley said.
At least one advocacy group, however, said their views are not fully represented.
Anne Borden of Autistics for Autistics Ontario said nearly all government funding measures for people with autism focus on behavioural interventions for children.
Educators and parents are staunch supporters of such measures, but Borden said many adult autistics disagree with those interventions and feel the government’s $62-million commitment should have been spent elsewhere.
“We looked at the budget and we asked ourselves, where are the job programs,” she said. “Where are the higher education initiatives? … Where are the services and programs that autistic people of all ages need?”
She urged the government to broaden future consultations to further include adults living with the disabilities the programs are intended to support.
The Toronto Star Friday March 30, 2018
TTC is hard for hearing impaired; Transit agency failing in its obligation to communicate with all passengers, rider says
Originally posted at:
More than a decade after an advocate for the blind won a landmark human rights case against the TTC, a hearing-impaired transit user is calling on the agency to improve its communication with riders who have hearing loss.
Leona Zultek argues that by not devising ways to provide hearing-impaired customers with the same information as other riders, the TTC is failing in its obligation to communicate with all passengers regardless of their abilities.
While the public transit agency does provide high-level information about service changes in written format displayed on screens throughout the transit system, it often relies on audio announcements to alert passengers to unexpected disruptions or short turns on buses and streetcars.
Zultek, 73, is late-deafened, which means she had some hearing when she was younger but later in life suffered sudden and profound hearing loss.
She said not being able to hear TTC announcements can be distressing, especially in cases such as when passengers are ordered off a vehicle because it’s being diverted or taken out of service.
“I’m looking at people, they’re getting up and leaving, I have absolutely no idea why,” she said.
“I don’t know whether it’s an emergency, a medical emergency, whether it’s a technical problem … It’s completely frustrating.”
Provincial accessibility standards don’t require transit agencies to display all announcements visually. But under the TTC’s accessibility policy, the agency has committed to “communicate with persons with disabilities in a manner that takes into account their disability” and to ensure information is “available in accessible formats to persons of all abilities, across all modes of transit.”
Zultek argues the TTC isn’t living up to its own policy. “It’s just words. There’s no substance,” she said.
According to TTC spokesperson Stuart Green, the agency has multiple ways to communicate with hearing-impaired passengers. A vehicle’s next stop is posted on text displays on streetcars, buses, and newer model subway trains, although not on older subway trains or the Scarborough RT.
Real-time service alerts are communicated on more than 600 display boards at transit stations and stops, as well as online via the agency’s Twitter account and website.
Buses and streetcars have a system to display pre-recorded service alerts in text form. But on all vehicle types, on-board announcements about unexpected changes for are only made in audio.
Green said the agency is implementing a new dispatch system that will eventually allow the TTC to communicate real-time service alerts on buses and streetcars via text display, but the project is not yet complete.
The new subway cars used primarily on Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) are equipped with display screens, but Green said they’re not able to display real-time service alerts because of “technical challenges.”
“We’ve taken some steps but we know there is more that can and should be done in this area. We continue to look at new and existing technologies to ensure the TTC is meeting the needs of our customers,” Green said.
According to the Canadian Hearing Society, roughly 5 per cent of Canadians have hearing loss and 1 per cent are deaf. The problem is much more common among older citizens, and 65 per cent of people between the ages of 70 and 79 are hard of hearing.
Zultek has expressed her concerns to the TTC, and though she’s yet to lodge a formal complaint she sees a precedent for her case in one launched by lawyer David Lepofsky. In 2005 Lepofsky won a decade-long battle against the TTC that resulted in ordering the transit agency to audibly announce all subway stops.
Ben Spurr Toronto Star
City TV News March 30, 2018
Originally posted at:
Man in a wheelchair delays TTC bus while demanding answers
by Adrian Ghobrial and Victoria Revay
Posted Mar 30, 2018 7:45 pm EDT
Imagine waiting in the rain for a bus to pick you up, only for it to pass you by.
And then another full bus zips by and then another, but that one is out of service. Finally after an hour of waiting, you are let onto a bus.
Now imagine this happening, but you’re in a wheelchair.
This is one man’s claim, captured on video, by CityNews viewer Skye Marchment. The 20-year-old TTC passenger says she pulled out her phone when the incident began around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, in part because she wanted answers as to why the man in a wheelchair was holding up her bus.
Marchment says she was waiting for the No. 54 bus on Lawrence Avenue one stop west of Don Mills and that two packed buses and one out of service bus passed her before she finally boarded. One stop later the disgruntled man got on board.
She says the man in the wheelchair told the other passengers on the bus he wanted answers as to why he had to wait over an hour in the rain for a bus to let him on, despite being in a wheelchair. He said the TTC should have given him priority boarding and let him on the bus first but this didn’t happen.
“Right away he said, ‘I’m sorry, but I’m upset and if I don’t stand up for my principles nobody will do it for me,’” says Marchment. “This is courageous to me as much as it is kind of careless in some ways. It took a lot of guts to do what he did, especially someone with a disability.”
“If you can stand, then you can stand in the back and wait. If you can have six strollers on one bus, why can’t you have one disabled person on one bus?” Marchment adds. “I hope that it just reminds people, as a commuter, we should not have to be asked by a TTC employee to get off those blue seats. It’s common courtesy. We can do better”
CityNews reached out to the TTC for an explanation about what might have led to this passenger outburst and if in fact the passenger in the wheelchair was declined service or if others boarded a packed bus leaving him unable to board, as it’s alleged.
All they could tell us by our deadline is that a fare inspector did arrive on scene and took the gentleman’s statement. He was then instructed to go online to also fill out a formal report.
David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance says while he can’t speak to this incident, scenarios like this speak to the general realities people with disabilities face each and every day on transit.
“I could tell you that generally people with disabilities riding public transit in Toronto and Ontario are like second class citizens,” says Lepofsky. “The government passed legislation back in 2005 requiring that our society, including public transit, become fully accessible by 2025. We are not on schedule for that role.”
Lepofsky also adds that while transit authorities are supposed to provide accessible environments, there may be no way to enforce it.
Ontario Hansard March 28, 2018
Accessibility for persons with disabilities
Mr. Bill Walker: My question is to the Premier. Your pre-election throne speech included big promises to voters but, shamefully, none for the accessibility community. In fact, the words “disability” and “accessibility” were mentioned zero times in the throne speech.
Premier, is accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities that far off your radar, or did you just forget to include them in your vote-buying scheme?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know that the minister will want to comment in the supplementary, but I would ask the member opposite again to be in the House and pay close attention to the budget this afternoon and then vote for the supports that we are putting in place to help people care for themselves and the people they love.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Bill Walker: Back to the Premier: The Liberal government will say anything and promise anything to stay in power. You talk a lot about care. For 15 years you’ve talked about care, but you have not delivered. It is clear that the only thing you actually care about is clinging to power.
Considering the 3,300-word-long throne speech was not long enough to include Ontarians with disabilities, I ask the Premier: How can the accessibility community possibly trust you after you continue to leave them behind? Is it just another election ploy?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The minister responsible for accessibility.
Hon. Tracy MacCharles: I know the member opposite has been very distracted with the PC leadership race and all that is entailed in trying to figure out where those cuts are coming from, but if he paid attention, Speaker, he would know that we’ve been very active on this file. He would know we introduced an employment strategy for persons with disabilities. He would know we established two new education standards committees under the accessibility legislation for K to 12 and post-secondary. He would know we had a forum last week on the built environment and public spaces. He would know that stakeholders are heavily engaged, Speaker. He would know we’re moving the yardsticks on accessibility to make Ontario an accessible province by 2025.
I haven’t heard from him, Speaker. I’d love to talk to him about all these things I just mentioned and more that we’re doing to promote accessibility, inclusion and helping everyone reach their full potential.
Ontario Conservative MPP Bill Walker’s March 29, 2018 News Release
Liberal government offers nothing on Accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with Disabilities
QUEEN’S PARK – Accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with Disabilities is far off the government’s radar and certainly not a priority for the Liberal government, said Bruce-Grey Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker.
“Their pre-election budget and Throne Speech included big promises to voters, but nothing tangible for the Accessibility Community,” Walker said in Question Period earlier this week. “In fact, the words disability and accessibility were mentioned zero times in both the budget and Throne speeches this week.”
Walker said the Liberal government has a record of leaving behind the accessibility community.
“It took this government as long as five years to just set up a committee on education accessibility standards. But it took them one day to shut down Durham region’s award-winning employment hub that served people with disabilities over 25 years,” he said. “It’s clear where this government’s true intentions lie.”
Sadly, this same government was quick to waste billions of dollars on scandals like eHealth ($8 billion), smart meters ($2 billion), cancelling gas plants ($1.1 billion), and paying an exorbitant $4.5-million salary to the CEO at Hydro One but wouldn’t put another dollar into this successful employment office in Durham region. As a result, people with disabilities continue to face very high unemployment rates that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, the government’s Accessibility Advisor, called a “national shame”.
“What’s worse, the Liberal government has had 15 years, and yet Ontario is not on schedule for full accessibility by 2025,” warned Walker.
“How can the accessibility community possibly trust this government? They know Wynne-Liberals can’t be trusted, and that this regime will continue to leave behind 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities.”
**Video link: https://youtu.be/x6n3Vr5WTvA
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