Toronto Star Runs A Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the need for the Ontario Government to Come Up with a Plan to Meet the Urgent Needs of 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities During the COVID-19 crisis

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

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Toronto Star Runs A Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the need for the Ontario Government to Come Up with a Plan to Meet the Urgent Needs of 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities During the COVID-19 crisis

April 21, 2020

          SUMMARY

Here is an important guest column that ran in the online version of the Toronto Star on April 20, 2020 by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. In about 750 words, it summarizes key points we have been revealing in our last ten AODA Alliance Updates since March 20, 2020.

We encourage you to:

* Write a letter to the editor at the Toronto Star with your comments on this guest column. Email the Star at: lettertoed@thestar.ca Encourage the Star to give this topic as much attention as possible.

* Forward this guest column to your member of the Ontario Legislature with your comments.

* Share this guest column on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Encourage others to read it and to share it with others. Use our new hashtag: #DisabilityUrgent. The link to post that takes people right to the Toronto Star guest column is https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2020/04/20/ontario-needs-emergency-plan-for-urgent-needs-of-millions-with-disabilities.html

* Send this guest column to your local media. Encourage them to cover this issue, which touches the lives of so many Ontarians.

For more background, check out and widely share:

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis. It has American Sign Language interpretation and captioning. This event was jointly organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition. It expands on key points made in this Toronto Star guest column.

* The AODA Alliance’s April 14, 2020 Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities.

* Action tips on how to help ensure that patients with disabilities don’t face discrimination in access to critical health care.

* The April 8, 2020 open letter to Premier Ford, organized by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, voicing concerns about the Ontario Government’s protocol for rationing medical care during the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford, which has gone unanswered.

There have been a total of 446 days since the Ford Government received the groundbreaking 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 still announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. This is so even though the Government staged a glitzy media event on February 28, 2020 to promise that it would “lead by example” on accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.

There have now been 27 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 ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is made even worse by that delay.

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

          MORE DETAILS

Toronto Star Online April 20, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2020/04/20/ontario-needs-emergency-plan-for-urgent-needs-of-millions-with-disabilities.html

Opinion

Ontario needs emergency plan for urgent needs of millions with disabilities

By David Lepofsky Contributor

Media have reported on some of the most extreme COVID-19 impacts on people with disabilities, the tip of a horrific iceberg, like the government’s scandalous failure to effectively protect residents in nursing homes and independent living residences. Let me reveal a worrisome but unreported thread running through those reports that connects hitherto-unconnected dots.

People with disabilities suffer a brutal triple whammie during this crisis, beyond what the broader public faces. First, many people with disabilities are disproportionately medically prone to contract COVID-19 and to suffer its harshest physical impacts.

Second, a cruel confluence of government policies and neglect makes people with disabilities even more prone to contract COVID-19.

Third, people with disabilities can fear going to hospital. They face a health care system replete with disability barriers pre-dating COVID-19. The COVID-19 crisis is triggering even more disability barriers in hospitals. We’ve battled uphill for a decade to get the Ontario government to remove these health care barriers. In this crisis, we need Ontario to speed up efforts in this area. Doug Ford instead temporarily hit the brakes, further reducing the snail’s pace of progress.

Add to this the fact that Ford’s government has a secret COVID-19 medical rationing protocol. It would unfairly discriminate against some patients with disabilities who need critical care, should medical rationing be required. There is a justified fear in the disability community, if they need urgent care and there is a ventilator shortage, due to Ford’s triage protocol or its trickle-down effect on nurses and EMTs.

The government claims this secret protocol is just a draft. Then why isn’t it marked draft, as government drafts are always marked? Why hasn’t the Government rescinded it? Ford’s lead doctor drafting that protocol claimed on TVO that it’s a “top priority” to consult the public on it. So why is it still secret? Where’s Ford’s invitation and avenue for public input?

To kick-start public discussion, we’ve made public our own Discussion Paper, giving examples of situations in which patients with disabilities must not be denied critical medical care. Ford’s response? Radio silence.

It is inexcusable that the Ontario government has announced no systematic, comprehensive plan to address the urgent needs of people with disabilities in its emergency COVID-19 planning, nor any intent to create one. We’ve repeatedly called for action for five weeks.

To help the government, we organized a constructive and widely viewed online virtual public forum two weeks ago. Ten experts described practical priority actions needed in this crisis.

It’s good Doug Ford talks about protecting the most vulnerable. Yet key line ministries, such as health, education, colleges and universities, long-term care, community and social services and the premier’s office have not tried to contact us. We’ve only had a few chats with the small accessibility ministry, which has no line responsibility here.

Some pundits claim Premier Ford has surprised many by appearing to do a great job during this crisis, better than some expected. For over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities, this is not the case. We’re getting more of the recurring lip service and neglect we’ve been getting from the Ontario government for several years, since well before the last provincial election.

This issue vitally affects millions of us. It meets every measure of newsworthiness. With the media filled with all COVID-19 all the time, there’s far more airtime and newsprint space to give it attention. We need the premier and his ministers to be pressed on important hitherto-unasked questions for Ontarians with disabilities. We can’t do that in person, while we’re self-isolating.

Premier Ford, why do you have no plan to meet the urgent needs of hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities, for whom online learning can create learning barriers? Ford announced schools were moving online but no plan to deal with students with disabilities. School boards are left in chaos, each trying to figure it out on their own.

Premier Ford, where’s your plan to ensure that the new emergency health facilities you’re creating won’t have barriers impeding patients with disabilities? Your medical triage protocol is just one of those barriers.

Premier Ford, where’s your plan to eradicate the policies and practices that make people with disabilities disproportionately prone to contract COVID-19?

Premier Ford, why not reach out to the grassroots disability community and take up their offer to help? They’re the experts in what they are facing.

We’re eager to help. Premier Ford — give us a call.

David Lepofsky is chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and visiting professor, Osgoode Hall Law School.