Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Premier Ford Pledged to Protect the Most Vulnerable During the COVID-19 Crisis — Watch Online and Widely Circulate the May 8, 2020 Interview on TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” Showing How Premier Ford is Repeatedly Failing to Protect Vulnerable Ontarians with Disabilities
May 11, 2020
You can now watch the 20-minute interview on the May 8, 2020 episode of TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” any time on YouTube. In just over a day after it aired, it had already gotten over 1,000 views and lots of positive feedback.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford pledged that his Government would protect the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. During this interview, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and the executive director of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) Wendy Porch explain in vivid detail how the Ford Government has repeatedly failed to protect the most vulnerable, namely the 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.
This video is now an important tool in our advocacy efforts for people with disabilities. You can quickly and easily use this interview to help us try to improve this situation. The public link to the interview is https://youtu.be/KmMlTrNbud8
Please take one or more of these steps today and get others to do so too!
* Share this link with your family and friends. Urge them to watch the interview and to share it with others they know.
* Post this interview link on your social media, like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Encourage your social media friends and followers to watch the interview and to share the link with their social media friends and followers. If you have done this already, do it again! Each social media reminder and blitz helps!
* If you are connected with a disability organization or group, or any religious or other community group, get them to post this link on their website and social media pages. Urge them to press the Ford Government to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities in its emergency COVID-19 planning.
* Email your Member of the Ontario Legislature. Send them this link. Demand that the Government address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during its emergency COVID-19 planning.
* Call the Premier’s office at 416-325-1941. Tell whoever answers your call that the Premier must address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities in the Government’s emergency COVID-19 planning.
* Let your local media know about specific barriers and hardships that you know any people with disabilities are facing during the COVID-19crisis. During the interview on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, David Lepofsky and Wendy Porch only had time to talk about some of those serious hardships.
The media responds most readily to specific incidents that you bring to them. These can be shown to be part of a much bigger picture of recurring provincial failures to address our urgent needs. You can send your local media the link to the interview on The Agenda with Steve Paikin to show how much of a recurring issue this is for Ontarians with disabilities, and indeed, for people with disabilities across the country during COVID-19. Let the media know that they can contact us for more general background and comment. We are always standing by at firstname.lastname@example.org
Below we set out just one illustration of this. A family brought to the media the wrenching story of an Ontario hospital refusing to allow a patient with serious communication disabilities to use a vital communication aid for more than one hour a day, and the failure of the Ford Government to fix this barrier. We alerted you to that report in the May 6, 2020 AODA Alliance Update. We also reached out to the reporter to provide more background for a follow-up story that that reporter had decided to write. Below you can find the May 9, 2020 follow-up story in the May 9, 2020 Toronto Sun.
If a reporter wants more background, urge them to check out:
* The May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall that the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held to share practical tips for teachers and parents on how to meet the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19crisis. In just one week since we held that event, it has gotten over 1,000 views.
* The earlier April 7, 2020 virtual Town Hall, also organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition, which more broadly address the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
* The April 30, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, which sets out a list of concrete and constructive requests for action that the AODA Alliance presented to Ontario’s Ministry of Education.
* The AODA Alliance’s education web page, that documents its efforts over the past decade to advocate for Ontario’s education system to become fully accessible to students with disabilities
* The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page, setting out our efforts to advocate for governments to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
Believe it or not, there have been 466 days since the Ford Government got the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
There have been 47 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The Premier’s office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.
Send us your feedback! Write us at email@example.com. Please stay safe!
Toronto Sun May 9, 2020
LEVY: People who can’t communicate treated terribly during COVID-19
Tommy Jutcovich, a 69-year-old former educator with multiple systems atrophy, has been told by Toronto Grace Health Centre officials he can’t use his tablet — his sole means of communication — consistently throughout the day for fear it will act as a “surveillance” tool.
In British Columbia, a 40-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, Ariis Knight, died alone April 18 in a Vancouver hospital because her family was not permitted inside and she could not communicate without a family member or a caregiver. She didn’t have COVID-19.
Closer to home, my father-in law, who passed away a week ago (not from the novel coronavirus), was forced to enter hospital completely alone during the pandemic restrictions.
He was there for days without his caregiver, who would have ensured the less-than-compassionate doctors and nurses who saw him understood his medication and food needs. Despite several pleas from his daughters that the caregiver could be tested for COVID-19 and properly protected, the hospital adamantly refused to relent.
These are some of the heartbreaking stories of COVID-19, which have shone a light on the lack of proper practices by hospitals, long-term care and group homes to deal with people who are either unable to, or have trouble speaking for themselves, says a disabilities advocate.
Barbara Collier, executive director of Communications Disabilities Access Canada, says there have been very few policies for years and years to accommodate people with communications disabilities in the health-care system.
Without “explicit” guidelines, hospitals are taking it upon themselves to make decisions — often draconian and inflexible ones, I say.
“It’s the vulnerable groups that are completely marginalized and disempowered again because of this,” Collier said Saturday.
Tommy Jutcovich, 69, is bedridden in Toronto Grace hospital but staff are no longer allowing him unlimited use of his iPad — his lifeline to the outside world during the COVID-19 pandemic — because it is considered a “surveillance tool.” SUPPLIED PHOTO/FAMILY Supplied photo / Family
“This is happening in every hospital across Canada for years and years and we didn’t have good policies in place to ensure people could effectively communicate.”
There are at least 500,000 people with speech and language disabilities in Canada — including those on the autism spectrum or suffering from cerebral palsy, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, early dementia, MS, Lou Gehrig’s disease and people such as Tommy Jutcovich, who has multiple systems atrophy, Collier said.
She said most people have a “fair idea” of the duty to accommodate those with disabilities when it means getting into a building or opening a door, or with those who are deaf or have visual impairments.
The “missing piece” is how accommodation is handled (or mishandled) for those who have a speech and language disability — those with little or no speech, or who have difficultly comprehending information before providing informed consent.
Collier says the hospital “no visitor policy” is denying patients access to support people who can assist them with communication.
“There are many people who haven’t fared well in a health-care setting if they don’t have somebody who can interpret their speech or provide access to their visual display or iPad,” she said.
“The support people are not visitors, they’re essential.”
She said caregivers or support people could easily be “gowned-up” to protect their safety against this vicious virus.
She says those with disabilities should have the right to a range of communication aids available to them in hospital or in long-term care homes.
Collier adds that speech language pathologists should also be stationed around the hospital to help those with communication issues so they understand their treatment and are truly able to give informed consent.
She said the Toronto-based ARCH Disability Law Centre just released a COVID-19 tool kit that helps those with disabilities advocate to have their support person or communications assistant with them while in hospital — in other words to have an exemption from the hospital ban.