New 5-year e-scooter pilot begins New Year’s Day in Ontario

TORONTO – A five-year pilot project allowing the use of electric scooters on provincial roads launches in Ontario on Wednesday, despite safety concerns raised by some advocates for the disabled.

The Ontario government announced the pilot in November after holding several weeks of consultations, saying the move will expand business opportunities and help cut down congestion on provincial roads.

But a long-time accessibility advocate said this week he still hopes to convince Premier Doug Ford’s government to require strict enforcement when the e-scooters hit the roads in the coming months.

Ontario government to allow e-scooters on roads in 5-year trial period

“Premier Ford seems to want to motor ahead with this plan,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. “We’d like him to put the brakes on. What’s the hurry?”

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The Ministry of Transportation floated the idea of legalizing e-scooters during the summer, allowing them to be driven anywhere a bicycle can operate.

The two-wheeled, motorized vehicles are currently illegal to operate anywhere other than private property. Under the new regulations, they will be permitted on roads but cannot exceed a maximum operating speed of 24 kilometres per hour and must also have a horn or bell.

Riders must be at least 16 years old and must wear a helmet while driving one of the vehicles, which cannot weigh more than 45 kilograms.

The ministry said Tuesday that municipalities can pass their own individual bylaws to permit e-scooter use and set safety standards in their communities.

“We expect the municipalities that participate in the pilot to make safety a priority and establish rules that promote the safe operation and integration of e-scooters in their communities,” spokesman Jacob Henry in a statement.

Lepofsky said the vehicles move quickly and quietly and will present a safety threat for the disabled and non-disabled alike.

“As a blind person, I want to walk safely in public,” he said.

“I fear an inattentive, unlicensed, uninsured person, as young as 16, with no training, experience or knowledge of the rules of the road, silently rocketing towards me at 24 kilometres per hour on an e-scooter.”

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Lepofsky said provincial laws should require e-scooter drivers to have a licence and insurance. They should also ensure that if an e-scooter is left in a public place like a sidewalk, it should be forfeited and confiscated, he said.

Company behind Toronto e-scooter pilot blindsided by recommendation to ban scooters on city property

E-scooter rental companies should have mandatory liability for any injuries that the vehicles cause, and limits on the number of e-scooters, he added.

Earlier this year, the CNIB Foundation, which advocates for the blind or people living with vision loss, said it was concerned about the rules spelled out in the government’s proposal not taking into account the potential for the vehicles to be improperly driven on sidewalks.

The CEO of Bird Canada, an e-scooter rental company preparing to launch in Toronto this spring, said the company is committed to safety.

Stewart Lyon said he has met with organizations that advocate on behalf of the disabled, including the CNIB Foundation and the City of Toronto’s accessibility committee, to address their concerns.

“We have bells on the scooters and we work very hard to make sure they are parked correctly,” he said. “It’s not in our interest to be a pain in anyone’s side. It’s not in our interest to impinge the accessible community in any way.”

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© 2019 The Canadian Press

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Jasmin Simpson Challenges Discriminatory Student Loans Programs

BakerLaw, December 9, 2019

From January 14-16, 2020, Jasmin Simpson will finally get her day in court.

Jasmin, who is blind, Deaf, and has lupus, has been waiting for this for nearly two decades. She graduated from Gallaudet University with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Social Work in 2008. Jasmin took 60% longer to complete her degrees than her peers without disabilities. She also accrued 60% more debt.

This is because student loan debt is capped by year, not by program or by degree. As a result, students who take longer to graduate because of their disabilities (because of the need to take a preparatory course, the decision to enroll in programs specifically designed for students with disabilities, the need to withdraw due to illness or disability, the need to take a reduced course load, or other disability-related reasons) can graduate with twice as much – or even more – debt relative to non-disabled students.

As a result, Jasmin is challenging the federal and Ontario governments’ student loan programs –
the Canada Student Loan Program and Ontario Student Assistance Plan respectively – under section 15(1) of the Charter, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. The Charter is being used to challenge the application of the cap, rather than a program cap to students with disabilities who take longer because of their disability.

The federal government tried to settle the case by making two irrelevant changes to its program and offered to cancel 100% of Jasmin’s debt (not just the extra 60%). She refused, because the changes didn’t redress the discrimination she experienced and because she believes other students with disabilities should not accumulate discriminatory debt like she did.
(To find the links for the following references go to the link at the bottom of the article)
You can read Jasmin’s written submissions here (link). Canada and Ontario’s responses can be found here (link) and here (link). Jasmin’s written reply to the governments’ arguments can be found here (link).

This case is similar to the “1 person, 1 fare” decision of the Canadian Transportation Agency, which held that persons with disabilities who require more than 1 seat on an aircraft due to their disability should only be required to pay 1 fare. You can read the decision of the Canadian Transportation Agency below. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld this decision by refusing leave to appeal.

Jasmin’s case will be heard at the Superior Court of Justice, located at Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, from January 14-16, 2020. Two sign language interpreters will be present to interpret the proceedings.

Laura LepineLaura Lepine is an Associate at BakerLaw

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Queens Borough Public Library Sued for Excluding Persons with Disabilities from Full and Equal Access to Hunters Point Library

Disability Rights Advocates calls out shocking disregard for community, seeks to force library to fix this unjust and discriminatory situation

NEW YORK (November 26, 2019) – Today, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed a class action lawsuit against Queens Borough Public Library, The Board of Trustees of the Queens Borough Public Library, and the City of New York, challenging the inaccessibility of Queens’ newest library branch, Hunters Point Library. Read the complaint below.

Plaintiffs Tanya Jackson and Center for Independence of the Disabled – New York (CIDNY) are suing to require the library to fix this unjust and discriminatory situation.

Under longstanding disability rights laws, newly constructed buildings must be made fully accessible to people with disabilities. Yet Hunters Point Library, which is an entirely new $41.5 million building constructed after years of in-depth planning, shockingly excludes persons with mobility disabilities from full and equal access to its services through reliance on stairs and other inaccessible features.

The barriers at Hunters Point Library are numerous:

  • There are at least three levels completely inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.
  • The children’s section contains multi-level wooden lounging and small-group meeting space inaccessible to children and caregivers with mobility disabilities.
  • The upper level of the rooftop terrace-which provides with spectacular views of Manhattan’s East River-has no access for persons with mobility disabilities.
  • There are long waits for the heavily-utilized single elevator, which does not even stop at every level.
  • The stunning panoramic views are most visible from inaccessible staircases.
  • The designated stroller “parking” areas block the path of travel from the elevator to some of the Library’s main features.

“It is shocking to me that a brand-new public library would not be fully accessible to people with mobility disabilities like myself. Libraries should welcome everyone, not exclude whole populations of people,” said Tanya Jackson, a plaintiff who resides in Long Island City.

“Twenty-nine years after the ADA promised open doors and equal opportunities for people with disabilities, we find the doors of a brand new library shut to children and adults with disabilities. This should not be allowed to happen. The Queens Borough Public Library and the City of New York must obey the law and make this right,” said Susan M. Dooha, Executive Director of plaintiff Center for Independence of the Disabled – New York.

“The ADA is not a new requirement, and it is not hard to understand. It is baffling that this $41.5 million building is missing these fundamental elements. It’s as though the library didn’t care about these requirements, or worse didn’t even consider the needs of these members of the community. People with disabilities should be able to browse, relax, and enjoy the library just like everyone else,” said Andrea Kozak-Oxnard, a Staff Attorney at DRA.

“Hunters Point Library was meant to be a model, a state-of-the-art institution designed to serve the needs of the community. The Library’s total disregard for adults and children with disabilities must be addressed,” said Michelle Caiola, Managing Director of Litigation at DRA.

DRA’s goal is that the lawsuit will rectify the exclusion of people with disabilities by requiring Defendants to develop and implement a remedial plan to provide equal access to Hunters Point Library. The suit alleges violations of the federal and local civil rights laws designed to eliminate disability-based discrimination.

DRA provides free legal services and takes on complex class-action cases for people with disabilities whose civil rights have been violated. It is the leading nonprofit disability rights legal center in the country and has won nearly all its cases, knocking down barriers for people with all types of disabilities. Rather than delivering monetary rewards, these class-action suits are brought to force reforms to systems and practices that discriminate against people with disabilities.

About Disability Rights Advocates: With offices in New York and California, Disability Rights Advocates is the leading nonprofit disability rights legal center in the nation. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with all types of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to education, health care, employment, transportation, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing. For more information, visit


Jennifer Barden
[email protected]
(646) 676-4486

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Incentive Agreements For Accessibility Services

Under the AODA, the minister in charge of the act can make incentive agreements with organizations. Incentive agreements encourage organizations to provide more accessible services than the AODA requires them to. These agreements may help businesses find new and creative ways to serve citizens with disabilities.

Incentive Agreements

Incentive agreements provide support to businesses that choose to become more accessible than the law requires. For instance, customer service providers can offer more extensive AODA training for workers. Similarly, small businesses, not required to document their customer service policies, can do so. Furthermore, businesses can enhance their hiring practices and actively recruit qualified workers with disabilities. Likewise, small private businesses, not required to create processes for writing accommodation plans, can do so.

In addition, businesses can prepare accessible formats and communication supports in advance, instead of waiting until a customer makes a request. Similarly, businesses with older websites can make that web content accessible. Moreover, transportation providers can offer more in-depth AODA training for transportation workers. Likewise, providers with older vehicles can retrofit them for accessibility or buy new vehicles. Finally, businesses can retrofit their spaces to include accessible features, such as parking. Similarly, small businesses, not required to have accessible outdoor eating areas, can install them.

When businesses make agreements with the minister, the two parties decide which requirements the business will exceed. In addition, they will agree on a timeframe, so that the business has a deadline for its goal. Finally, the minister may exempt some businesses from filling in part of their accessibility reports. This exemption may help businesses focus on meeting their new requirements.

Businesses may begin making incentive agreements because they value the incentives they receive. However, they may come to value how their efforts allow new customers, clients, and workers to access their spaces and services.

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Accessibility Audits for Public Sector Organizations

Under the AODA, public sector organizations must complete accessibility reports every two years. The next accessibility reports for public sector organizations are due on December 31st, 2019. The Ontario government will not give any extensions after December 31st, 2019. In addition, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division (AODT) audits organizations to verify compliance. Accessibility audits for public sector organizations help everyone obey the law.

Accessibility Audits for Public Sector Organizations

Every year, the AODT inspects organizations to find out whether they are compliant. Moreover, some organizations choose “no” when answering some questions in the accessibility report. When the AODT finds organizations non-compliant, it offers tools and resources to help them learn and obey the law. Moreover, the AODT helps organizations develop new deadlines for full compliance. A new deadline gives workers time to educate themselves and to implement full compliance.

However, some organizations may still not make the effort to change their policies or practices. For instance, an organization might refuse to comply with various AODA standards, including:

When organizations refuse to learn about and obey the law, the AODT will order them to comply. If they do not obey this order, they may be fined or taken to court.

In contrast, organizations can educate themselves about the AODA and how to comply. This knowledge will help organizations serve every client, patient, student, or traveller, not just those without disabilities. People with disabilities are part of the public, and their numbers are increasing. Therefore, only by obeying the AODA can organizations truly serve the whole public. Accessibility audits for public sector organizations help ensure that laws for the public good are upheld.

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Physically Disabled Employee Sues Apple Inc. for Constructive Dismissal

News provided by
Monkhouse Law

TORONTO, Dec. 17, 2019 /CNW/ – As Apple opens a new ‘flagship’ store in Canada a 33-year-old person with a disability who was employed for more than eight years as an “Apple Genius” working at an Apple Inc. store in Ontario is claiming that he was dismissed by the computer giant because he requires a wheelchair and is suing for lost wages and damages.

Robert Shaw alleges in a Statement of Claim that Apple repeatedly refused to work on an individual accommodation plan with him, opting instead to provide piecemeal solutions to his disability. He claims he was never provided with a legitimate reason for a denial of his request for an individual accommodation plan and his health suffered as a result of, harassment, bullying and a toxic work environment. Allegations made in the Claim must still be proven in court.

The action was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice by Toronto employment lawyer Andrew Monkhouse, managing partner of Monkhouse Law, who says Apple may well have failed to comply with Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and that the constructive dismissal of Robert constitutes discriminatory conduct under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Monkhouse says, “These actions paint a very different picture than being ranked as one of Canada’s top employers by Forbes and are shocking for one of the world’s most valuable companies.”

Robert has been confined to a wheelchair his entire life and began his career at Apple in March 2011 at the company’s Square One store in Mississauga. He worked there for six years before moving to Apple’s Sherway Gardens store for two years until his constructive dismissal in July 2019.

According to the Claim, Robert requested that accommodations be made so he could work safely and comfortably from his wheelchair at Sherway Gardens. Robert was told that the store would be outfitted with an appropriate table and automatic doors in time for his arrival in 2017, but this never happened. Four months after starting at the store, Robert began experiencing soreness and numbness in his arms and hands due to working long hours on tables that were too high. The Claim states that Robert was never provided with an adequate table.

According to the Claim, only three of seven doors at the store were eventually made automatic and, instead of installing a button to open the door, Apple provided Robert with a remote control that repeatedly failed. Apple formally declined to automate the four remaining doors due to the expense.

The Claim also states that Robert was told by a senior manager at Apple that he wouldn’t be promoted if he continued to be unhappy in his role. The manager further suggested the company might not be the right place for him.

Employment lawyer Andrew Monkhouse says his client was a long-tenured, hard-working and dedicated employee at Apple and the company had a duty under Ontario law to accommodate his disability to the point of undue hardship.

Under provisions in the AODA, Apple was obligated to put in place an individual accommodation plan for Robert as well as to protect the privacy of his personal information.

Remarking on the irony of Apple’s alleged failure to accommodate Robert Shaw, Andrew Monkhouse stated: “On its company website, Apple proudly displays its work on accessibility technology. Apple has also used their work on accessibility in its marketing materials. The company has received awards and a great deal of positive press for its efforts in accessibility technology. Yet, these accusations seem to indicate that the company does not appear to be practicing what it preaches in its own retail stores.”

Toronto-based Monkhouse Law is an employment law firm that specializes in employment law litigation, human rights law, and disability insurance law.

SOURCE Monkhouse Law

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Accessibility Report Questions for Public Sector Organzations

Under the AODA, public sector organizations must complete accessibility reports every two years. The next accessibility reports for public sector organizations are due on December 31st, 2019. The Ontario government will not give any extensions after December 31st, 2019. Here, we answer some accessibility report questions that workers should know how to answer.

Accessibility Report Questions: Public Sector 

To begin with, the yes-or-no questions in accessibility reports for public sector organizations ask whether an organization complies with mandates in the AODA. Furthermore, each question should include a link to the mandate or rule it asks about. Likewise, other links lead workers to resources that help them learn what they should do to follow the rules. Workers can use these links to remind themselves what the mandates are and think about whether their organization complies. Then, workers complete the form by responding to each question with yes or no. Moreover, they can also write comments under each question.

Accessibility Report Questions about Customer Service

Organizations providing customer service will need to answer questions about whether they comply with AODA customer service requirements. For instance, whether they:

Accessibility Report Questions about Employment

Additionally, organizations also need to respond to questions about how accessible their employment practices are. For instance, they may be asked whether they:

Accessibility Report Questions Questions about Information and Communications

Similarly, organizations will need to confirm that they provide information in ways that people with disabilities can access. For instance, they may need to state whether they have:

Accessibility Report Questions Questions about Transportation

Likewise, organizations that provide transportation will need to answer questions about the accessibility of their vehicles and services. For example, they may be asked whether they have:

Accessibility Report Questions about Public Spaces

Finally, organizations that have built or renovated public spaces will need to verify that these spaces are accessible. For instance, they may need to confirm that people with disabilities can access:

In other words, these questions in accessibility reports for public sector organizations help workers learn how well their business obeys the law. Our next article will cover how the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division (AODT) audits organizations to verify compliance.

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Accessible Homes for Ontarians of All Ages and Abilities

Nearly 2 million Ontarians live with some form of disability that affects their mobility, vision, or hearing – and the country is aging at a faster rate than ever before. That’s why experts are saying we need to embrace universal design By Kevin Spurgaitis- Published on Dec 16, 2019

ST. CATHARINES – Diane Foster doesn’t have it easy coming and going from her modest brick-and-siding bungalow in St. Catharines. The four stairs leading up to the front entrance can’t accommodate her wheelchair; over the years, the lift to the back door has rusted out, seized up, or broken down altogether. And the home’s interior presents its own challenges.

“My house was built in 1919, and, over the years, I’ve required many modifications to my home,” says Foster, 67, who lives alone and has fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, three forms of arthritis, and spinal stenosis – a condition that results in the narrowing of the spinal canal – and has been using a wheelchair for 12 years.

“Originally, I had a clawfoot bathtub in here, which, of course, I couldn’t get in and out of I also removed my bedroom door and lowered the light switches.” But Foster’s house, which is filled with the usual household furnishings and keepsakes – family photos, plush toys – “simply isn’t big enough to accommodate” her power wheelchair, which is easier to manoeuvre than her standard one.

It would be better, she says, if her 750-square-foot house were open-plan – or if it at least had wider passageways and doorways, low thresholds, and rooms large enough for either of her wheelchairs. What’s more, smooth floors, easy-to-operate windows, storage and work surfaces that are easy to see and reach, and stainless-steel handrails (which, she says would mean that she wouldn’t need to “wall and furniture surf” whenever she needs to get up from her wheelchair) would improve her quality of life significantly.

“What about those of us who have owned their own home for a number of years and don’t want to move just because we have a disability?” she asks. “I’d like to be able to afford to improve this house to make it more accessible.”

The kinds of features Foster is talking about form part of an approach known as universal design. The demand for universally designed homes has grown in recent years in Ontario and the rest of Canada, and, partly thanks to the aging baby-boomer demographic, it’s expected only to increase. Although recent federal and provincial legislation has included more provisions for people with disabilities, and updated building codes have provided basic safety standards, disability advocates say that they don’t take into account all the needs that arise from the differences in human characteristics and abilities – and they’re calling for the wider application of universal-design principles.

Architect and educator Ron Mace, who coined the term in the 1980s, has said that the approach involves “designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life” –
allowing more residents to engage easily and intuitively with their environments, even as their abilities and needs change over time. This means doorways at least 36 inches wide and hallways at least 42 inches wide, non-slip flooring, easy-access storage, raised front-loading appliances, low- or no-threshold stall showers, and at least one step-free entrance. Other accessible design features include lever-style door handles and faucets, and easy-to-use rocker light switches.

“[Universal design] is friendly, useable, and caters to just about everybody from the time that they’re an adolescent up to the time that they’re a senior, especially someone living with Alzheimer’s,” says Sandy Faugh, the team lead for AccessAbility Advantage, a proprietary service that consults on accessibility strategy as part of March of Dimes Canada. “That’s not only good for people with disabilities, especially seniors,” she says. “It’s good for the parent that’s pushing their child in a stroller and the person who has just undergone a hip replacement or busted their collarbone – both of whom find out pretty darn fast how non-accessible their home is.”

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the country’s housing agency, has had an eye on accessibility for a number of years. As part of the CMHC’s national housing strategy, organizations can access certain funds if they can show that their projects involve a certain level of accessibility that’s going to help people with disabilities. “Universal design is getting more attention now, as there’s more of a need for it and a lot more examples of it,” says Arlene Etchen, a regional consultant at the CMHC who focuses on accessibility and outreach. “And we know that’s only expected to increase.”

Nearly 2 million Ontarians – or about 15 per cent of the population – live with some form of disability that affects their mobility, vision, or hearing, according to Statistics Canada. Across the country, the number of people with a physical disability is expected to increase from roughly 3 million – or 10 per cent of the population – to nearly 4 million by 2030. And, with one in six Canadians now over the age of 65, the country is aging at a faster rate than ever before, StatsCan says.

On Foster’s bathroom wall hangs a small red and white canvas that reads “Life is a beautiful ride.” She says that she was a healthy, active grandmother who cycled about 5,000 kilometres every summer, walked everywhere all winter, and played several musical instruments. Then, one “devastating morning” in 2009, she couldn’t get out of bed.

Foster says that she didn’t know which was worse when it came to her psoriatic arthritis: the pain from staying in one position or the pain of trying to move at all. She could no longer turn a door handle, hold a pen, lift a book, comb her hair, or brush her teeth. In a way, it felt as if her own body had “betrayed” her, she says.

“I tried to retain my independence but soon realized that I was unable to do the simple tasks required for daily living,” Foster says. “My life changed drastically. I went from being self-sufficient to being totally dependent on others.”

Medication now makes the pain tolerable, Foster says – and she receives help from three personal support workers who visit her twice daily in rotation.

“If my kitchen was more accessible, at least, I’d be able to prepare my own meals and not wait for somebody to prepare them for me,” says Foster, who is co-chair of St. Catharines Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Through the CMHC and March of Dimes Canada’s Assistive Devices Program, she’s been able to make modifications to her century home that have cost tens of thousands of dollars. But, as her monthly Old Age Security pension payment is about $1,400, she can’t afford to remove the other barriers – and doing so could cost tens of thousands of dollars more. Even if she wanted an affordable, accessible apartment, most would not be large enough for her service dog, a black Labrador retriever named Olla, and mobility equipment. And the wait times for such units are between 10 and 15 years.

“I’d never burden my [two children] with having to look after me, and I’m not old enough to go into a seniors’ residence,” she says. “I’m comfortable in my own home. I’d just like to be able to access it.”

Rebekah Churchyard, acting president of the Toronto Council on Aging, which, as part of the Councils on Aging Network of Ontario, works to address issues facing older adults, says that “it’s an excellent symbol both for our global and national health that we’ve now got unprecedented longevity.” But, she adds, “we’re living in a world where, increasingly and painfully, it’s obvious that people [with age-related disabilities] need to remain in particular spaces – or visit others – and they simply can’t anymore.”

Churchyard points to the concept of “aging in place,” which is about the maintenance of an older adult’s independence and choice to live in their home. “Maybe it’s their matrimonial home, maybe it’s their own home, or maybe it’s their home shared with friends,” she says. “But every single older person who I have ever spoken with has a very strong desire to stay in their home –
and “age in place’ there – as long as possible. We have to start planning for it now.” And, she notes, “What we’re not always considerate of is the cost of their built environment within the home … There isn’t a whole lot of base funding for the increasingly aging population.”

But she says that she’s “enthused and encouraged” by how public systems have supported people with physical differences and intellectual differences in recent years: “In that respect, governments have done a better job than ever before to promote accessible environments.”

Ontario made Canadian history when it passed the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act in 2005. The AODA mandates that the province develop accessibility standards in areas such as built environments and ensure that the public and private sectors meet them by 2025. Still, despite the province’s 2015 accessibility action plan –
called “Path to 2025” – the implementation of the AODA has fallen behind in recent years, according to such consumer-advocacy groups as the AODA Alliance.

In 2015, changes to the Ontario Building Code also came into effect, essentially upping accessibility requirements for multi-unit residential buildings. Fifteen per cent of all new units – and the majority of renovations –
must incorporate basic accessibility features, such as barrier-free entrances. Living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms must be large enough to allow a wheelchair to turn around within them, and feature reinforced walls to accommodate grab bars and other assistive devices. Visual fire alarms are now mandatory, too.

But the province’s building code doesn’t apply to existing houses or to new single-family or semi-detached homes or townhomes. And the rules don’t produce benefits for everyone: kitchen counters remain unreachable for some, while acoustics present challenges for others.

According to Faugh, it costs only 2 per cent more to build an accessible home. “It doesn’t cost you anything to make a four-foot hallway instead of a three-foot hallway,” she says. “You’re just placing the walls in a different spot, right?”

Some municipalities, such as Caledon, have gone ahead and adopted universal-design policies. Developers looking to build there must offer a model or drawings based on universal design, according to the CMHC. And, in 2015, Deep River created the Citizen Housing Advisory Committee to help come up with new policies and procedures that would accurately represent older people’s “needs, wants, and values.”

These are “small steps” in the right direction, Etchen says. And, according to the U.K.-based social-housing provider Habinteg, such steps can pay dividends: its research shows that universal design reduces social isolation, prevents extended hospitalization and long-term unemployment, and facilitates the economic participation of people with disabilities.

Building accessible homes while retrofitting others is about getting the “right players at the table” so that they can actually “drive a doable solution for the residential market,” Faugh says. “We’ve got to show the architects, the engineers, the designers, and the interior designers what universal and accessible design looks like, teach them to do things a little bit differently and make that the new standard right off the bat.”

In the meantime, both March of Dimes Canada and the CMHC recommend that seniors and people with disabilities – and their friends, families, and neighbours – consider various low- to no-cost modifications, including painting thresholds in a contrasting colour to create a visual signal for anyone with impaired vision, removing the storm or screen doors to make entry easier for those with arthritis or limited upper-body strength, using swing-away hinges to allow an extra few inches of clearance for a wheelchair or walker, and merely removing any obstacles, such as area rugs, from hallways and main rooms.

A smile flashes across Foster’s face as she approaches her wheelchair lift after a short outing. She admits that it doesn’t take very long to lower and raise it during the warmer seasons. But it can “feel like an eternity” in the ever-deepening cold.

“Maintaining my independence is part of maintaining my dignity and just being respected as a functioning, contributing member of society,” Foster says.

For her, the question remains whether more governments, businesses, and organizations will get behind people with disabilities – who are already taking active roles in their own communities – and commit to accessibility plans that’ll make universally designed homes more widespread in the years to come. After all, Foster says, universal design “does help everybody.”

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Wellesley Man Noticing Disturbing Trend of People Wrongfully Parking in Handicap Spots at Wilmot Recreation Complex

Happens more frequently during New Hamburg Firebirds games
News Dec 13, 2019 by Namish Modi – New Hamburg Independent|

A local resident is concerned with a disturbing trend he continues to see at the Wilmot Recreation Complex.

Carl Richardson, who resides just outside Wellesley, is a frequent user of the WRC where he takes aqua classes. He says that ever since he’s been using the pool and even more recently, he has noticed that cars have been parking in handicap parking spots without a permit.

Richardson has taken the issue on himself and has been in contact with bylaw at Wilmot Township to get it corrected.

“All I really want isn’t for people to get tickets, not for people to get fines, but just be considerate of other people.” said Richardson, in an interview with the Independent at the WRC on Dec. 12.

Richardson has seen it happen frequently and says it’s more common on busier weeknights when more activities are taking place at the complex. He said it’s happened during New Hamburg Firebirds games as well.

He described instances where people either don’t have accessibility stickers, or they do but appear not to need them.

“Right now, we’re getting winter, and people with disabilities are going to have to walk further, and it’s just not fair to them,” said Richardson.

He says he even knows someone that has stopped coming to the WRC because of the persisting issue. There are 12 accessibility parking spots on the Highway 7-facing side of the WRC and six on the back side for a total of 18.

Richardson has been in contact with manager of municipal enforcement Erin Merritt, who has made it a point of patrolling the WRC more this week and planned to do so during the Dec. 13 Firebirds game.

In an interview with the Independent, Merritt confirmed her discussions with Richardson and says that municipal enforcement will be keeping an eye on the situation, again mentioning the Firebirds game.

“It’s always of concern. We want everyone to be able to access the WRC and use it in the community and if people, especially in the winter, have mobility issues and do have these permits, those are people that should be using the spots,” said Merritt.

On Dec. 12, Richardson noticed that two of the signs for accessible parking spots were removed (the painted spots were still present). In this case, Merritt explained that municipal enforcement isn’t allowed to issue fines for people parking in the accessible parking spaces if there is no sign present, despite them being marked by paint.

Director of facilities and recreation services Scott Nancekivell said permanent metal posts were removed because they were damaged. He said temporary signs will go up next week (Dec. 16-20) while a permanent solution will be implemented in the spring.

by Namish Modi

Namish Modi is a news reporter for the New Hamburg Independent with more than five years experience in journalism.

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Accessibility Reports for Public Sector Organizations

Under the AODA, public sector organizations must complete accessibility reports every two years. The next accessibility reports for public sector organizations are due on December 31st, 2019. Moreover, the Ontario government will not give any extensions after December 31st, 2019. Therefore, public sector organizations should try to complete their reports early. In addition, if organizations have technical difficulties, they should let the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility know. The Ministry can help resolve technical problems.

Accessibility Reports for Public Sector Organizations

Public sector organizations that must complete accessibility reports include:

  • Public hospitals
  • School boards
  • Universities
  • Colleges of applied arts and technology
  • Public transportation organizations

How to Complete Accessibility Reports for Public Sector Organizations

Organizations complete the report by filling in a form on the Ontario government’s website. They must download the form and open it with Adobe Reader, not in their browsers. The first two pages of the form are instructions. Then, workers must click to open the rest of the form. However, once the whole form is opened, the instructions will no longer appear on the workers’ screens. Therefore, workers filling in the form should print off these two pages to look at as they complete the form. Furthermore, one or more workers in an organization can complete a form. Workers can save the form and send it to coworkers so that they can complete it together.

Workers start completing the form by selecting their organization category (public sector organization). Selection ensures that all questions on the form will apply. Workers must then input their organization’s legal name and business number (BN9), from federal or provincial tax returns. Organizations without a BN9 should contact the government to receive an AODA identifier. Next, the form asks for organizations’ number of workers. Finally, one senior member of the organization must give their name and contact information. This senior member, called the certifier, will later confirm that the report is complete and accurate. The certifier must have legal authority to make this claim.

Workers must then answer the yes-or-no questions on the form. Once they have answered all questions, organizations submit the form by clicking a button at the bottom.

Our next article will discuss some of the questions in accessibility reports for public sector organizations.

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