Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Tell Ottawa City Council Not to Use People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others as Unwilling Guinea Pigs in the Dangerous Third Pilot Project with E-Scooters that Ottawa City Staff Proposes
March 7, 2022
Please contact Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the members of Ottawa City Council as soon as possible. Tell them not to approve a third pilot project this year with e-scooters. Two years of endangering people with disabilities, seniors, children, and others was more than enough.
We need you to do this if you live in Ottawa, or if you ever plan to visit Ottawa! Ottawa City staff have given short shrift to serious disability concerns with e-scooters in a report that recommends this third pilot project with e-scooters. That Ottawa City Staff Report reads as if it could as easily have been written by the corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies.
We have written Ottawa’s mayor and City Council to explain why they should reject this proposal. Our letter shows why it was wrong and unfair for Ottawa City Council’s Transportation Committee to support the proposed third pilot, with only minor changes that won’t ensure safety or accessibility for people with disabilities. You can read that letter below. Please circulate it widely, post it on social media, and send it to conventional media.
It is bad enough that Ottawa’s Transportation Committee did not reject the proposed third pilot with e-scooters. Even worse, it did so at a March 2, 2022, meeting which had unfair disability barriers that impeded the AODA Alliance from full and equal participation. Our letter, set out below, explains this inexcusable conduct.
The names and email addresses for Ottawa’s mayor and all members of Ottawa City Council are included at the start of the AODA Alliance’s letter to them, set out below.
To learn more about the battle across Ontario to protect people with disabilities, seniors, and others from the dangers posed by e-scooters, visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooters page.
Text of the AODA Alliance’s March 6, 2022, Letter to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa City Council
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
March 6, 2022
To: The Mayor and City Council of Ottawa
Carol Anne Meehan
Dear Mayor Watson and Members of Ottawa City Council,
Re: Protecting People with Disabilities in Ottawa from Dangers of Electric Scooters
Please reject the proposal by an Ottawa City Staff Report, and by Ottawa’s Transportation Committee, that Ottawa conduct a third pilot this year with electric scooters. Stand up to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists. Stand up for people with disabilities in Ottawa.
Don’t use people with disabilities, seniors, and others as unwilling guinea pigs.
Ottawa should not again endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children, and others by allowing e-scooters. Ottawa has overwhelming proof that during the first two pilots with e-scooters in 2020 and 2021, e-scooters created serious twin dangers to safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children, and others.
First, e-scooters were ridden on sidewalks even though it was prohibited. The silent menace of an uninsured, unlicensed, untrained, e-scooter joy-rider racing at 20 KPH endangered pedestrians with disabilities, seniors, and others. Second, e-scooters were abandoned on public sidewalks. This created a tripping hazard for blind people and a barrier to mobility for people using wheelchairs.
Before Ottawa embarked on its first pilot in 2020, we warned the Mayor’s office about these very dangers which had occurred when e-scooters were allowed in other cities. Our advice was ignored. Therefore, for two years, innocent pedestrians in Ottawa suffered from these twin dangers. They should not have to face them again this year.
Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committee strongly recommended that no third e-scooter pilot be conducted. This parallels advice by Toronto’s, Hamilton’s, Mississauga’s, and London’s Accessibility Advisory Committees. Ottawa City staff and the Ottawa Transportation Committee wrongly rejected that advice. Given the many disability barriers people with disabilities continue to face in Ottawa and the proven twin dangers of e-scooters, this wise advice from the City’s Accessibility Advisory Committee deserves far more respect.
The Ottawa City Staff Report on e-scooters documents that a stunning 83% of people responding to a City survey reported problems with mis-parked e-scooters. 79% of respondents reported problems with e-scooters being ridden on sidewalks. The vast majority of survey respondents who observed these dangerous situations did not report them. This left the City unaware of them, and unable to fix them.
Does Ottawa need more proof? Deputants with disabilities to the Ottawa Transportation Committee and the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee consistently reported these twin dangers. Feedback to a CNIB Ottawa virtual town hall last fall corroborated these twin dangers. Members of Ottawa’s Transportation Committee remarked at its March 2, 2022, meeting that they got calls daily from the public with e-scooter complaints.
In the face of these facts, how can Ottawa allow a third pilot? The proposed third pilot will not ensure elimination of those proven dangers.
Ottawa City staff’s deeply flawed solution is to buy into the e-scooter corporate lobbyists’ claims, that after two years of creating these twin dangers, they are suddenly now ready to deploy spiffy new e-scooters with zippy better technology. The AODA Alliance’s detailed March 1, 2022 brief to the Ottawa Transportation Committee showed in detail that the new safeguards that the Ottawa City Staff Report proposes are palpably inadequate and unproven.
This is not the first time we have heard dubious over-inflated sales pitches from these e-scooter corporate lobbyists. They have had two ample chances to get it right in Ottawa and in other cities where they operate, having known full well for years about their product’s twin dangers for people with disabilities.
Ottawa City Council should not rely on that sales pitch for a third kick at the can, given the safety and accessibility dangers that those corporate lobbyists have already created. People with disabilities and others in Ottawa should not be used as unwilling guinea pigs to test out their new e-scooters.
Please reject the City Staff proposal that City Council give City staff wide discretion to approve a third pilot on vague terms that don’t ensure public safety and disability accessibility. Instead, if City Council wants to proceed any further with e-scooters despite their proven dangers, Council should direct City staff to study this issue further, and to bring it back to Council if they have actual solid proof that the twin e-scooter dangers have been eliminated. They should do so without subjecting people with disabilities to being involuntary guinea pigs in the process.
We cannot simply leave this to Ottawa City staff, and trust them to get it right, when our safety and accessibility is at stake. This is the same Ottawa Public Service that recommended the two past pilot projects that created this danger, that used the public, including people with disabilities, as unwilling guinea pigs, and that recommend a third pilot contrary to the evidence and the strong recommendation from the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee. At the Ottawa Transportation Committee meeting on March 2, 2022, Ottawa staff wrongly downplayed the danger to people with disabilities of e-scooters being ridden on sidewalks, by saying that the prime concern is mis-parked scooters. Sidewalk riding is as much an issue and should not be minimized.
Making this worse, we suffered from unfair accessibility barriers at the March 2, 2022, Ottawa Transportation Committee meeting where e-scooters were voted on. People with disabilities were not effectively accommodated at that meeting. The City knew in advance of the strong interest in this topic by people with disabilities. Despite this, during the week before that meeting, the Ottawa City Staff Report and its supporting documents were publicly posted in an inaccessible format.
We only belatedly got all this documentation in an accessible format late on March 1, on the eve of the Transportation Committee meeting. We asked the Committee to defer e-scooters to a future meeting, so we would have time to read all those documents before making deputations. The Committee did not do so. Unlike us, e-scooter corporate lobbyists at the Transportation Committee meeting could read all those documents in advance, some of which they wrote.
We also encountered accessibility problems with the Transportation Committee’s online meeting platform. These impeded the Committee from being able to hear my full deputation. At the last minute, I had to make my deputation over the phone to the Committee Clerk, who held his phone up to his computer microphone. The sound cut in and out.
One Council member stated they could not hear parts of my deputation. I asked to be able to present again by means that enabled the Committee to hear my entire deputation. I was not given that opportunity. The Committee simply forged ahead, and ultimately voted against our position regarding e-scooters.
This fundamentally unfair treatment flies in the face of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This is especially unfair when safety and accessibility for people with disabilities was at stake in the e-scooter issue before the Committee.
Please reject the Ottawa City Staff Report. Direct City staff to come back only if or when they can present solutions that have been proven to work, and only after substantial additional consultations with people with disabilities, including the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee.
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance