Raise Public Transit Accessibility Barriers at the September 19, 2017 TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit — and – AODA Alliance’s Advice on Accessibility Reaches All the Way to New Zealand

September 13, 2017


1. Come to TTC’s Annual Public Forum on Accessible Transit on September 19, 2017

Below you can find the Toronto Transit Commission’s web announcement of its 2017 Annual Public Forum on Accessible Transit. It will be held on the evening of Tuesday, September 19, 2017 from 7 to 9 pm. We encourage one and all in the Toronto area to come to this event and raise accessibility problems you have experienced on the TTC. With the Federal and Ontario Governments promising to spend more and more public money on infrastructure, including on public transit, it is important to shine the light on accessibility issues that continue to plague people with disabilities on public transit in Canada’s biggest city.

Two years ago, the Ontario Government appointed a new Transportation Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to review the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, and to recommend any needed changes to strengthen it. So far, that Standards Development Committee’s recommendations have been extremely limited. They do not fix the majority of disability accessibility barriers that persist in transportation services in Ontario.

We have encouraged all the members of the Transportation Standards Development Committee to attend the TTC’s public forum on accessible transit, to hear about the real-life experiences of public transit riders with disabilities and about the disability accessibility barriers they continue to face, twelve years after the AODA was enacted. To read the joint brief by the AODA Alliance and ARCH Disability Law Centre, listing improvements needed to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard.

We encourage you to contact your local media and encourage them to attend the TTC forum. Video record or photograph barriers on TTC you have experienced. Send them to the media. Publicize them on social media like Twitter and Facebook. Use the ever-popular hashtag #AODAfail in tweets about these barriers, as part of our “Picture Our Barriers” campaign.

We understand that TTC will again stream the event live. This may only be for those who pre-register for this event. Check out details below in the TTC announcement.

We plan to attend this event and to “live tweet” during it. We will use the hashtag #TTCAccess. That is the hashtag TTC has used in recent years. You can search on that phrase on Twitter and follow all the tweets that evening, if you can’t yourself attend.

This TTC Public Forum originated in 2008 as a result of the 2007 Human Rights Tribunal order in Lepofsky v. TTC #2. A decade ago, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered TTC to hold one such event per year for the three years after the Tribunal ruled against TTC in Lepofsky v. TTC #2. Below we set out further background about that case.

After starting to hold these events, to its credit, TTC decided to keep holding these events once per year, even though TTC originally and strenuously opposed David Lepofsky when he asked the Human Rights Tribunal to make this order. Below we set out more background on that case.

Since 2011, TTC and all public transit providers in Ontario are required by law to hold a similar event each year in your community under section 41(2) of the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation, enacted under the AODA. If you live outside Toronto, ask your public transit provider when they are planning to hold their annual public forum on accessible transit. If your public transit authority has not done so, please contact Tracy MacCharles, the Ontario cabinet minister responsible for enforcing the AODA, to ask that this provision be strictly enforced. That section provides:

“41(2) Every conventional transportation service provider shall annually hold at least one public meeting involving persons with disabilities to ensure that they have an opportunity to participate in a review of the accessibility plan and that they are given the opportunity to provide feedback on the accessibility plan.”

Let us know if your public transit authority in Ontario is holding a similar event this year, or did so last year. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

There has always been a great turnout of hundreds of people at TTC’s public forums on accessible transit. Each wants a chance at the microphone to tell their story. Unfortunately, TTC each year uses up far too much time, as much as a third of the time in some instances, making speeches on what a great job TTC says it’s doing on accessibility. We have urged TTC to keep all of those speeches down to a total of five or ten minutes, maximum, to give as much time as possible to the attendees to speak, since they made the effort to come to this event. We hope TTC will listen this time. They have not done so in the past.

Under the Human Rights Tribunal’s order, all TTC Commissioners were required to attend each public forum. Since that order expired, many if not most TTC Commissioners have skipped these events. This is wrong. TTC chose the forum’s date well in advance. Its Commissioners should be able to make it. If hundreds of people with disabilities take the time out of their busy day to come to speak to the TTC Commissioners, the least that those TTC Commissioners can do is to themselves take the time to show up to this TTC community event and listen to the front-line experiences of TTC riders with disabilities.

2. New Zealand Welcomes Ideas, Advice and Strategy from the AODA Alliance

It is a credit to all the work of the AODA Alliance’s supporters  at the grassroots across Ontario that from September 3 to 10, 2017, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was the guest of New Zealand’s “Access Alliance”. The Access Alliance is a new coalition of 12 New Zealand disability organizations, which formed six months ago to advocate for the enactment of a strong and effective New Zealanders with Disabilities Act. This coalition drew on the strategies and policy ideas of Ontario’s grassroots accessibility campaign led from 1994 to 2005 by the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, and since then, by its successor, the AODA Alliance.

This speaking tour came at an amazing time. New Zealanders are heading to the polls for a national election on September 23, 2017. In a non-partisan campaign akin to what we have waged in Ontario, New Zealand’s Access Alliance has asked all of the seven major New Zealand parties to commit to support national accessibility legislation. Three of the seven parties have made commitments of varying degrees. The Access Alliance is now trying to get the other four parties on board.

Organized and sponsored by the Blind Foundation of New Zealand, last week’s fast-paced five-city speaking tour by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky included presentations in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill. It included chances to meet and speak with a Member of the New Zealand Parliament from several parties, including the governing National Party’s Minister for Disability Issues Nicky Wagner.

This speaking tour included speeches or meetings at three New Zealand Law Schools, being keynote speaker at a national conference for accessibility advocates and activists organized by the Blind Foundation of New Zealand, serving on an experts panel that commented during an all-candidates’ debate on disability issues in Auckland, and meeting with leadership in New Zealand’s trade union movement.

This speaking tour led to great local media coverage. We set out below media coverage on Radio New Zealand and in the Otago Daily Times (the key newspaper in Dunedin). AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was one of two guests during a wide-ranging half-hour interview on Radio New Zealand on September 5, 2017, which has been re-tweeted many times since then.

The speaking tour ended and culminated with the wonderful opportunity for David Lepofsky to serve as keynote speaker at a national conference of blind Maori, whose organization is called Kapo Maori.

Throughout this tour, New Zealanders were encouraged to learn from what we have done well in Canada, and to do better in areas where we have done poorly (such as in the case of Ontario’s poor enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). New Zealanders were especially appreciative to have access to our 2016 Discussion Paper on what Canada’s national accessibility law should include, and the video of the August 22, 2017 policy experts conference on what Canada’s national accessibility law should include (organized under the auspices of the Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada).

Six months ago, when the New Zealand Access Alliance was just getting launched, it was extraordinary that Ontario’s own Dr. Marie Boutrogianni was on hand in New Zealand to offer her words of encouragement and support. In 2003-2005, she was the Ontario cabinet minister responsible for developing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and leading it through the Ontario Legislature. Now, as a private citizen, she has been generous in offering her time to those exploring the idea of advocating for or enacting accessibility legislation.

It is great that AODA Alliance supporters in Ontario have shown their support on Twitter for our counterparts in New Zealand, by retweeting tweets about the New Zealand accessibility campaign. The Twitter hashtag to follow is #AccessMattersNZ

We hope our experience in Canada, good and bad, will help New Zealanders chart their path. There are some areas where they are clearly ahead of us. For example, there are far more audible pedestrian traffic signals around New Zealand’s cities than in Ontario’s cities. Moreover, unlike Ontario’s wrong-headed practice, New Zealand’s audible pedestrian signals don’t require a person with vision loss to find the traffic pole and push a button before audible traffic signals are triggered (an Ontario practice which renders so many of Ontario’s audible pedestrian signals far less helpful). Moreover, unlike in a national Canadian election, voters with disabilities in New Zealand have the option of voting by telephone dictation. We should learn from New Zealand on both scores.

As always, this Update concludes with links to helpful background information, including information on how to sign up for or unsubscribe from these Updates.


1. Toronto Transit Commission Announcement of the September 19, 2017 Annual Accessible Transit Public Forum

You are invited to the 2017 TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

One-on-One Discussions: 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Open Public Forum 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Beanfield Centre (formerly Allstream Centre) at Exhibition Place
105 Princes’ Boulevard, Toronto

The purpose of the Forum is to update customers about TTC accessibility initiatives, including the Family of Services Pilot, Community Bus Pilot Project and the Easier Access Project, and gather feedback from customers about possible improvements to the TTC’s conventional and specialized services.

Customers can meet one-on-one with TTC staff, management, and the TTC’s Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT) between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. The open Public Forum will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

An accessible shuttle bus will be available from Bathurst Station starting at 5:00 p.m.

Regularly scheduled accessible service is also available on the 509 Harbourfront streetcar from Union Station to the nearest stop to the Beanfield Centre at Strachan Avenue (approximately 300 metres walk), or the 121 Fort-York Esplanade bus from Union Station to Princes’ Gates Loop (approximately 200 metres walk).

Wheel-Trans customers may book trips to the Public Forum starting one week prior to the event. Please note that all return trips will be organized after the event finishes at 9:00 p.m. and will not be scheduled in advance.

ASL, captioning, and attendants will be available. Refreshments will not be provided.

Visit http://www.ttc.ca/Public_Meetings/Public_Forum_Accessible_Transit_2017.jsp for information on the event, or to review responses to questions asked in 2016, visit: http://www.ttc.ca/TTC_Accessibility/Public_Forum_on_Accessible_Transit/2016/index.jsp

For anyone unable to attend in person, we will also be offering a live video stream of the Forum, which will begin at 7 p.m. More information on the live stream is available at http://www.meetview.com/ttc20170919/

2. Background on Lepofsky v. TTC From the AODA Alliance

When David Lepofsky launched his public battle to get TTC to announce all subway stops twenty years ago, he had no idea that the battle would take so long, or be so frustrating. He also did not then know that just over two months later, on November 29, 1994 (unconnected with the start of this public battle with TTC), the organized movement for Ontario accessibility legislation for persons with disabilities would be born.

It is always hard to predict in advance whether a single media interview will trigger action. Lepofsky’s interview on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning program twenty years ago yesterday (September 8, 1994) resulted in TTC calling Lepofsky within hours to ask for a meeting. At that meeting, held days later, TTC caved, and agreed to order its subway operators to announce all station stops. As a result, Lepofsky decided not to proceed with his human rights complaint.

However, when the TTC subway stop announcements on the subways started in early 1995, they were not consistent or reliable. After six more years of trying to get TTC to keep its word, David Lepofsky decided in 2001 that he had to go back to the Human Rights Commission for action. His case came before the Human Rights Tribunal in 2005. After a hotly-contested hearing, the Human Rights Tribunal ruled in Lepofsky’s favour in Lepofsky v. TTC #1. It concluded that TTC had been violating the human rights of Torontonians with vision loss for at least a decade. The Tribunal ordered TTC to consistently and reliably announce all route stops.

Shortly before that Human Rights Tribunal hearing, Lepofsky also asked TTC to have its drivers audibly announce all bus stops. TTC refused, saying its drivers would only announce major stops, and passenger-requested stops. Lepofsky had to again resort to a human rights complaint. His second case came before the Human Rights Tribunal in 2007. After a second hotly-contested hearing, the Tribunal again ruled in his favour. In Lepofsky v. TTC #2, the Tribunal ordered TTC to direct its drivers to audibly announce all bus and street car stops.

In both cases, TTC argued that it planned to eventually install automated stop announcements, but should not have to get its drivers or crews to make the announcements themselves in the meantime. In both cases, this argument failed.

After winning these two cases, Lepofsky brought a freedom of Information application to find out how much TTC spent on its legal defence of these cases. The total bill of $450,000 was revealed. We have never had an accounting from TTC of who authorized this, and why. That money could have funded a lot of accessibility, had it not been used to fight against accessibility.

Also after these rulings, the Ontario Human Rights Commission surveyed all Ontario public transit providers to see what their plans were to call all route stops, as the Human Rights Code requires. Of those that eventually complied, several only went along with this ruling, with their feet dragging.

Under the AODA, the Ontario Government appointed a Transportation Standards Development committee to develop proposals for a Transportation Accessibility Standard. It initially recommended that municipal transit services be given a ludicrous 18 years to start providing this basic accommodation. We objected that this was far too long.

Eventually, in June 2011, the Government enacted the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation. Section 52 of that regulation required that those announcements start on July 1, 2011.

That winning this simple accommodation required twelve years and two separate cases before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, illustrates so much about our long, arduous campaign to make Ontario fully accessible for all persons with disabilities. It again shows why we need strong, effective accessibility legislation, so that an individual doesn’t have to take on such battles on their own. The AODA was enacted in 2005 so that persons with disabilities would not have to fight accessibility barriers one at a time, via individual human rights complaints.

This battle also shows why we need the Ontario Government to finally keep its unkept promise to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Government has not provided its promised effective enforcement to ensure that a public transit authority will be brought to swift justice if it violates that accessibility regulation.

This case also shows why we need strong measures in place to ensure that no public official ever uses public money to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.

3. Radio New Zealand National News September 5, 2017

Originally posted at:

Four in five NZers want accessibility standards – study |

A poll has found 80 percent of New Zealanders support setting minimum standards for disabled access for public areas and work places.

The proposed standards would cover access to buildings, transport, information and services, including website access for people with sensory or dexterity disabilities.

Currently there are no specific standards on what organisations must do to become fully accessible.

Access Alliance spokesperson Amy Hogan told Nine to Noon accessibility in New Zealand was “pot luck” and enforceable standards were essential to allow those with disabilities to fully take part in society.

Ms Hogan said the decision to improve access standards was a “no-brainer” and would benefit the economy by allowing disabled people into workplaces and customers to buy goods and services.

‘Rather than feel like a professional, you feel like a problem’ – Amy Hogan

A report commissioned by the Blind Foundation in February estimated a potential $300 million annual reduction in jobseeker disability costs if access barriers to public areas and workplaces were removed.

The report also showed making these areas more easily accessible could significantly lift the value of the economy by an estimated $862 million.

Canadian disability activist and lawyer David Lepofsky said firms and organisations could be missing out on attracting disabled customers and potential staff if they were not thinking about access issues.

“What makes economic sense for society and for the individuals is to set out detailed standards, to let obligated organisations know what they have to do and when they have to do it by.

“Good accessibility standards should be a money maker for businesses,” Mr Lepofsky said.

There are 1 billion people worldwide with some form of disability, according to the World Health Organisation.

Mr Lepofsky said by making access for disabled people commonplace, New Zealand could tap into the disability tourist market.

“Can New Zealand afford to say ‘we don’t want access to that market? We don’t want tourists with disabilities’, of course not – that’s a huge market.

“Any country that decides they want access to that market, through legislation, can make sure that tourism and hospitality services are taking the necessary steps to become accessible so they can get that new business.”

According to a 2013 Statistics New Zealand survey, one in four New Zealanders have a physical, sensory or learning disability.

Mr Lepofsky said access was an important issue for all, particularly as older people increasingly struggled with mobility.

A commitment to introduce the legislation has been made so far by the Labour, Green and Māori parties.

4. The Otago Daily News September 11, 2017

Originally posted at: https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/disabled-accessibility-law-gathering-support

Disabled accessibility law gathering support
By John Gibb

Canadian disability advocate David Lepofsky believes there is growing political backing to pass “accessibility” legislation in this country.

“Accessibility legislation can only help, if it’s done right,” Mr Lepofsky said in Dunedin recently.

New Zealand could adopt what he termed a “buffet” dining approach, by picking up aspects of Canadian accessibility legislation that had worked well, to improve access for people with disabilities to buildings, public transport, as well as information and services.

The best ideas could also be gleaned from other sources.

New Zealand had much to gain by passing legislation which clarified what was needed to achieve accessibility.

This would enable the country to attract more of the many overseas tourists with disabilities who were keen to travel but could be deterred by access barriers.

Many New Zealand firms would also benefit from being able to attract talented staff who would otherwise be unable to work for them because of access issues, he said.

The Blind Foundation brought Mr. Lepofsky, an Ontario lawyer and academic, to New Zealand for talks in Dunedin and Invercargill.

He spoke on behalf of the Access Alliance Access Matters campaign on the need for Parliament to pass accessibility legislation.

Mr. Lepofsky helped pass key pieces of Canadian accessibility legislation, including the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.


5. Background Resources and Information

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.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.

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

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.

Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance’s YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign.

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Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.www.aodaalliance.org