Clearview Woman Says She Missed Funeral Reception for Friend Because the Hall Wasn’t Accessible


News 06:00 AM by John Edwards Simcoe.com

Heather Prosser’s friend recently passed away.

When family and friends gathered at the Sunnidale Hall to pay their respects and share stories, she was unable to attend.

Prosser, who has arthritis in her hip and shoulder and other ailments, uses a walker to get around and is unable to make it up the stairs at the hall.

“I couldn’t attend. I couldn’t get in,” she said. “There were those people I would have liked to have talked to and catch up with what is going on in their lives, and I couldn’t.”

Recently Clearview Township received a report that showed it will take about $8 million to upgrade all of the small halls in the municipality to be compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The township will be holding public sessions in the coming months on how to move forward.

“This is taxpayer money and they are taxpayer halls, I think we need to hear from them,” CAO Steve Sage said at a recent council meeting.

He said the township also needs to take a long look at the lifespan of some of the buildings.

“We’re going to be talking about investing millions of dollars in some buildings that are over 70 years old,” he said.

Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson recently called on the government in the legislature to assist Clearview Township.

“Will the township have to close the halls or will the Ontario government help to keep them open?” Wilson asked. “Will there be any stopgap measures that can be undertaken that would allow the municipality to prioritize renovations?

“While the township values these facilities and wants to do the right thing to keep them open, the cost may be too prohibitive. These buildings are important to the communities they serve. They are the lifeblood of rural Ontario in the areas they serve, and they’re significant to my riding. As such, I look forward to the government’s response to this important issue.”

Prosser said she would like to attend more events at the halls, but is unable to do so.

“I haven’t been to a small hall festival because I can’t get in,” she said. “I’m not a big card player but if somebody said to me, ‘Would you like to go play cards at the hall tonight?’ I might do that, but I can’t get in.”

by John Edwards

John Edwards is a reporter at The Connection, covering Collingwood and The Blue Mountains You can reach him at [email protected] .

Original at https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/9906464–i-couldn-t-get-in-clearview-woman-says-she-missed-funeral-reception-for-friend-because-the-hall-wasn-t-accessible/




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Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness


Today is Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness!

Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness takes place around the world on March 26th every year. On this day, people wear purple to raise awareness about what epilepsy is and the different ways it impacts people. In addition, community organizations host events to help the public learn more about epilepsy.

Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes people to have seizures. A seizure happens when brain activity is disrupted for a few seconds to a few minutes. Moreover, the kind of seizure a person has depends on which parts of the brain are affected.

Some people experience tonic-clonic seizures, which involve loss of consciousness and convulsions. Alternatively, other people have seizures that cause less severe symptoms, such as:

  • Confusion for a few moments
  • Staring
  • Brief involuntary twitching of one part of the body, such as eyelid movement

After seizures, people’s ordinary brain function returns, although they may be confused at first. They may also need to rest for a few minutes or an hour, depending on the severity of the seizure.

Many people with epilepsy can reduce or eliminate their seizures through medication or other treatments. Increased research may lead to more types of treatment.

Raising Awareness

Many people do not have friends, family members, or colleagues who have epilepsy. As a result, they may assume that someone with epilepsy cannot do every-day things, such as:

  • Work
  • Raise families
  • Make friends and have fulfilling social lives
  • Travel

Furthermore, people may feel uncomfortable when someone discloses that they have epilepsy. This lack of knowledge may lead to discrimination. For instance, someone may not want to hire a person who has epilepsy. Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness is a chance to help the public learn more about all the things people with epilepsy are capable of. Raising awareness should reduce the discrimination that people with epilepsy may live with.

People who have epilepsy experience it in different ways. As a result, each person who discloses epilepsy may explain:

  • What usually happens during a seizure
  • How often they have seizures
  • Whether seizures usually happen at certain times of day
  • How long their seizures usually last
  • Whether seizures happen randomly or in patterns
  • Whether seizures are triggered by certain environmental conditions, such as:
    • Flashing lights
    • Increased stress
  • If they have warning signs before seizures, and if so:
    • What the warning signs are
    • How much time there is between warning signs and seizures
  • Whether they need to rest after seizures, and for how long

Moreover, some people with epilepsy have service animals, while other people’s epilepsy is invisible. Similarly, some people with epilepsy can drive, while others travel independently by bus, cab, or walking.

In short, epilepsy can affect people’s lives in various ways. Nonetheless, people who have epilepsy can live full lives. When people know how their epilepsy affects them, they can be fully involved in their work, families, and social lives.

Happy Purple Day to all our readers!




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AODA Alliance Writes Premier Doug Ford to Urge Actions to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with disabilities During the Covid Crisis


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

March 25, 2020

SUMMARY

The current COVID crisis is especially threatening for people with disabilities. As a result, we today wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford to call for strong action to protect the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during this critical time. Our letter is set out below.

In our letter, we:

* Ask Premier Ford to direct his senior officials to act on the recommendations for action in the March 20, 2020 AODA Alliance Update, which lists vital action that Ontarians with disabilities need our governments at all levels to take.

* Ask Premier Ford not to totally freeze during this COVID crisis the work of Standards Development Committees appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, even if some of their work must briefly be delayed, and

* Urge Premier Ford to convene via virtual meetings the available members of the Standards Development Committees now in place to brainstorm options for The Government could take to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during The Governments emergency planning to deal with the COVID crisis.

We again offer The Government our assistance with any efforts to ensure that the needs of Ontarians with disabilities are safeguarded during this crisis.

We also set out below the March 23, 2020 letter to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho from NDP MPP Joel Harden. Mr. Harden offers good ideas for Government action during this crisis.

A total of 419 days have passed since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODAs implementation that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley conducted. We are still waiting for The Government to announce a serious plan of action to implement its recommendations regarding the AODAs implementation and enforcement.

We always welcome your feedback on these issues, and any others! Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

March 25, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Premier Doug Ford

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: [email protected]
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

March 25, 2020

Via Email: [email protected]
To: Hon. Doug Ford, Premier
Room 281, Legislative Building
Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Ford,

Re: Ensuring that the Urgent Needs of 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Are Fully Addressed in The Governments emergency Planning for the COVID Crisis

We appreciate all the hard work that the Government has been shouldering in the face of the horrible COVID virus crisis that is engulfing our province and the entire world. We know that at all levels, The Government is working under very difficult circumstances to head off unprecedented health and economic crises that we all now face.

It is vital that The Governments emergency planning include strong and effective measures to ensure that the emergency needs of 2.6 million people with disabilities are effectively met. Ontarians with disabilities are already a vulnerable and disadvantaged part of our society. They will disproportionately suffer this crisiss hardships.

On March 20, 2020, the AODA Alliance made public a comprehensive call for strong government action on this front. We ask you to share it with your Governments senior officials. Please direct them to take the emergency actions listed there to address this part of the crisis.

It is also essential that The Government not over-react to this crisis by taking action that works against the important needs of Ontarians with disabilities. For example, yesterday, in the wake of this crisis, the Accessibility Ministry announced that it has put on hold the ongoing work on developing new accessibility standards for the time being. Its March 24, 2020 email to members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (of which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member) included the following:

Note: SDC stands for Standards Development Committee.

Please be advised that due to the current circumstances, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility will be suspending all planned SDC meetings, whether in person or teleconference, as well as any technical sub-committee/small team meetings until further notice.

At the request of the Chair, please release your April dates but continue to hold the May and June dates until further notice. We will keep you updated over the coming weeks.

The Ministry will continue to work on developing a revised workplan, in conversation with yourself on the restart of the SDC meetings when it becomes possible to do so.

It is understandable that The Government cancelled the April 1, 2020 meeting of the K-12 Standards Development Committee, even as a virtual meeting, given the immediacy of the crisis. However, there was no need for The Government to have made an announcement that suspends all work of Standards Development Committees, even the informal work of sub-committees. Those sub-committees use email and conference calls to informally brainstorm ideas to bring forward when the full Standards Development Committee next meets. They have important work now in progress. No Government staff take part in those meetings.

Of course, some Standards Development Committee members may have limited time on hand due to the crisis, as well as work or family obligations. However, for any who are isolated at home, with time on their hands, The Government should encourage them to feel free to carry on with their work. The Government should not send out a message that will sound to some like everything is to be entirely frozen until further notice.

Far from now shutting down the work of Standards Development Committees for the time being, The Government should now hurry to draw on these expert committees for help with emergency planning for the COVID crisis. Their membership was hand-picked based on their expertise in important areas concerning accessibility for people with disabilities.

We call on The Government to quickly convene virtual meetings of these Standards Development Committees to brainstorm ideas for measures that The Government should implement as part of its emergency planning, to help reduce this crisiss disproportionate hardships for Ontarians with disabilities. For example:

1. The Health Care Standards Development Committee should be asked to identify hardships facing people with disabilities in the health care system during this crisis, and to identify urgent measures that The Government could include in its current emergency health care planning to prevent the creation of new barriers against patients with disabilities. A good source of ideas for that discussion is the AODA Alliances recent Framework for ensuring that the health care system is accessible to patients with disabilities.

2. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee should be asked to identify important emergency steps that colleges and universities can now take to ensure that post-secondary students with disabilities can fully take part in their programs, especially as they rapidly shift to remote online learning and testing.

3. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee should be asked for ideas on what the Ministry of Education and school boards should be offering for home learning and remote learning opportunities and supports for students with disabilities during school closures.

4. The Employment Standards Development Committee should be asked for recommendations for urgent measures to help ensure that employees with disabilities can continue to work remotely, free from accessibility barriers.

5. The Information and Communications Standards Development Committee should be asked for recommendations for urgent measures that employers, school boards, colleges, universities, health care providers (like hospitals) and governments can take, as so much is moving to the online realm during this crisis, to ensure that digital accessibility is ensured. As well, recommendations for urgent measures could be sought for ensuring that people with communication disabilities can effectively communicate with such critical services as first responders during this crisis.

Some Standards Development Committee members may be unavailable to take part in this brainstorming. Lets just get whomever is available around the virtual table as soon as possible to put their heads together in the public interest.

There is no need to comply with the full procedural strictures that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act spells out for formal Standards Development Committee proceedings. This is because the aim would not be for these committees to formulate and vote on formal collective recommendations for new accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. Rather, The Government should call on their members to simply brainstorm ideas which individual members could offer and which The Government could collect, share with the public, and infuse into its emergency planning where appropriate.

We dont suggest for a moment that only Standards Development Committee members should be consulted on these important issues. However, with the crisis now upon us all, these Committees are an easily-reached and readily available source of expertise that is right at hand.

In conclusion, we repeat what our March 20, 2020 call for action had emphasized. In this crisis, we are all experiencing more than ever the harms caused by past Government failures to effectively act on accessibility for people with disabilities. As but one example, there are real harms now flowing from the Governments having left the work of Standards Development Committees frozen from the day it took office in June 2018 up until months later. Had the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee not been frozen for over a year after June 2018, The Government would now have the benefit of its final recommendations as it rushes to put in place emergency health care services to combat the COVID virus.

Lets learn the lessons of the past, and not stop the work of Standards Development Committees any longer than necessary and any more than necessary. Lets accelerate their work where it will help us combat the societal effects of the COVID virus.

We remain at your service to help in any way we can. We wish you and all those working for the Government, as well as all Ontarians, health and safety in the wake of this crisis.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Copies to:
The Hon. Raymond Cho Minister for Accessibility and Seniors [email protected]
Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Deputy Premier [email protected]

March 23, 2020 Letter to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho from NDP MPP Joel Harden

Hon. Raymond Cho
Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility
College Park
5th Floor
777 Bay St.
Toronto, ON, M5G 2C8

March 23, 2020

Dear Minister Cho,

At this extraordinary time, we must do everything we can to support those who need it most. That is why I am writing to share with you two ideas for your Ministry that will ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for seniors and people with disabilities.

In our constituency of Ottawa Centre, the Good Companions Seniors Centre runs an innovative program called the Seniors Centre Without Walls. The initiative allows seniors and people with disabilities to call a toll-free number and connect with each other remotely, allowing them to participate in educational seminars, music, interactive games and more.

During this public health emergency where seniors and people with disabilities are asked to stay home for their own safety, there is a heightened risk of social isolation. As I write to you, thousands of seniors and people with disabilities are living alone, cut off the from the activities that previously provided them with human to human connection.

That is why I am asking the Ministry of Seniors & Accessibility to work with Seniors Active Living Centres to expand the Seniors Centre Without Walls so that every senior or adult with a disability in Ontario can access this service. In doing so, special consideration should be paid to ensuring that Francophone and minority language speaking seniors are able to participate.

On a related note, we must ensure that Ontarians who are deaf or hard of hearing are able to receive crucial information on the availability of government services, business closures, and public health updates in the midst of this crisis.

Thats why I am requesting ASL interpretation for all government press conferences related to COVID-19, and the publication of official announcements in accessible formats. We need to make sure that all 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities have the information they need to protect themselves and their families.

Minister, thank you for your consideration of this letter and its requests. I look forward to working with you to support our vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities in the days ahead.

My very best,

Joel Harden
Official Opposition Critic for Seniors, Accessibility and People with Disabilities MPP for Ottawa Centre

CC: Monique Doolittle-Romas
David Lepofsky
Sarah Jama




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AODA Alliance Writes Premier Doug Ford to Urge Actions to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with disabilities During the Covid Crisis


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

AODA Alliance Writes Premier Doug Ford to Urge Actions to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with disabilities During the Covid Crisis

March 25, 2020

          SUMMARY

The current COVID crisis is especially threatening for people with disabilities. As a result, we today wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford to call for strong action to protect the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during this critical time. Our letter is set out below.

In our letter, we:

* Ask Premier Ford to direct his senior officials to act on the recommendations for action in the March 20, 2020 AODA Alliance Update, which lists vital action that Ontarians with disabilities need our governments at all levels to take.

* Ask Premier Ford not to totally freeze during this COVID crisis the work of Standards Development Committees appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, even if some of their work must briefly be delayed, and

* Urge Premier Ford to convene via virtual meetings the available members of the Standards Development Committees now in place to brainstorm options for The Government could take to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during The Government’s emergency planning to deal with the COVID crisis.

We again offer The Government our assistance with any efforts to ensure that the needs of Ontarians with disabilities are safeguarded during this crisis.

We also set out below the March 23, 2020 letter to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho from NDP MPP Joel Harden. Mr. Harden offers good ideas for Government action during this crisis.

A total of 419 days have passed since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley conducted. We are still waiting for The Government to announce a serious plan of action to implement its recommendations regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

We always welcome your feedback on these issues, and any others! Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

 March 25, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Premier Doug Ford

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email: [email protected]

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

March 25, 2020

Via Email: [email protected]

To: Hon. Doug Ford, Premier

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario

M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Ford,

Re: Ensuring that the Urgent Needs of 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Are Fully Addressed in The Government’s emergency Planning for the COVID Crisis

We appreciate all the hard work that the Government has been shouldering in the face of the horrible COVID virus crisis that is engulfing our province and the entire world. We know that at all levels, The Government is working under very difficult circumstances to head off unprecedented health and economic crises that we all now face.

It is vital that The Government’s emergency planning include strong and effective measures to ensure that the emergency needs of 2.6 million people with disabilities are effectively met. Ontarians with disabilities are already a vulnerable and disadvantaged part of our society. They will disproportionately suffer this crisis’s hardships.

On March 20, 2020, the AODA Alliance made public a comprehensive call for strong government action on this front. We ask you to share it with your Government’s senior officials. Please direct them to take the emergency actions listed there to address this part of the crisis.

It is also essential that The Government not over-react to this crisis by taking action that works against the important needs of Ontarians with disabilities. For example, yesterday, in the wake of this crisis, the Accessibility Ministry announced that it has put on hold the ongoing work on developing new accessibility standards for the time being. Its March 24, 2020 email to members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (of which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member) included the following:

Note: SDC stands for Standards Development Committee.

“Please be advised that due to the current circumstances, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility will be suspending all planned SDC meetings, whether in person or teleconference, as well as any technical sub-committee/small team meetings until further notice….

At the request of the Chair, please release your April dates but continue to hold the May and June dates until further notice. We will keep you updated over the coming weeks.

The Ministry will continue to work on developing a revised workplan, in conversation with yourself on the restart of the SDC meetings when it becomes possible to do so….”

It is understandable that The Government cancelled the April 1, 2020 meeting of the K-12 Standards Development Committee, even as a virtual meeting, given the immediacy of the crisis. However, there was no need for The Government to have made an announcement that suspends all work of Standards Development Committees, even the informal work of sub-committees. Those sub-committees use email and conference calls to informally brainstorm ideas to bring forward when the full Standards Development Committee next meets. They have important work now in progress. No Government staff take part in those meetings.

Of course, some Standards Development Committee members may have limited time on hand due to the crisis, as well as work or family obligations. However, for any who are isolated at home, with time on their hands, The Government should encourage them to feel free to carry on with their work. The Government should not send out a message that will sound to some like everything is to be entirely frozen until further notice.

Far from now shutting down the work of Standards Development Committees for the time being, The Government should now hurry to draw on these expert committees for help with emergency planning for the COVID crisis. Their membership was hand-picked based on their expertise in important areas concerning accessibility for people with disabilities.

We call on The Government to quickly convene virtual meetings of these Standards Development Committees to brainstorm ideas for measures that The Government should implement as part of its emergency planning, to help reduce this crisis’s disproportionate hardships for Ontarians with disabilities. For example:

  1. The Health Care Standards Development Committee should be asked to identify hardships facing people with disabilities in the health care system during this crisis, and to identify urgent measures that The Government could include in its current emergency health care planning to prevent the creation of new barriers against patients with disabilities. A good source of ideas for that discussion is the AODA Alliance’s recent Framework for ensuring that the health care system is accessible to patients with disabilities.
  1. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee should be asked to identify important emergency steps that colleges and universities can now take to ensure that post-secondary students with disabilities can fully take part in their programs, especially as they rapidly shift to remote online learning and testing.
  1. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee should be asked for ideas on what the Ministry of Education and school boards should be offering for home learning and remote learning opportunities and supports for students with disabilities during school closures.
  1. The Employment Standards Development Committee should be asked for recommendations for urgent measures to help ensure that employees with disabilities can continue to work remotely, free from accessibility barriers.
  1. The Information and Communications Standards Development Committee should be asked for recommendations for urgent measures that employers, school boards, colleges, universities, health care providers (like hospitals) and governments can take, as so much is moving to the online realm during this crisis, to ensure that digital accessibility is ensured. As well, recommendations for urgent measures could be sought for ensuring that people with communication disabilities can effectively communicate with such critical services as first responders during this crisis.

Some Standards Development Committee members may be unavailable to take part in this brainstorming. Let’s just get whomever is available around the virtual table as soon as possible to put their heads together in the public interest.

There is no need to comply with the full procedural strictures that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act spells out for formal Standards Development Committee proceedings. This is because the aim would not be for these committees to formulate and vote on formal collective recommendations for new accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. Rather, The Government should call on their members to simply brainstorm ideas which individual members could offer and which The Government could collect, share with the public, and infuse into its emergency planning where appropriate.

We don’t suggest for a moment that only Standards Development Committee members should be consulted on these important issues. However, with the crisis now upon us all, these Committees are an easily-reached and readily available source of expertise that is right at hand.

In conclusion, we repeat what our March 20, 2020 call for action had emphasized. In this crisis, we are all experiencing more than ever the harms caused by past Government failures to effectively act on accessibility for people with disabilities. As but one example, there are real harms now flowing from the Government’s having left the work of Standards Development Committees frozen from the day it took office in June 2018 up until months later. Had the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee not been frozen for over a year after June 2018, The Government would now have the benefit of its final recommendations as it rushes to put in place emergency health care services to combat the COVID virus.

Let’s learn the lessons of the past, and not stop the work of Standards Development Committees any longer than necessary and any more than necessary. Let’s accelerate their work where it will help us combat the societal effects of the COVID virus.

We remain at your service to help in any way we can. We wish you and all those working for the Government, as well as all Ontarians, health and safety in the wake of this crisis.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Copies to:

The Hon. Raymond Cho Minister for Accessibility and Seniors [email protected]

Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Deputy Premier [email protected]

 March 23, 2020 Letter to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho from NDP MPP Joel Harden

Hon. Raymond Cho

Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility

College Park

5th Floor

777 Bay St.

Toronto, ON, M5G 2C8

March 23, 2020

Dear Minister Cho,

At this extraordinary time, we must do everything we can to support those who need it most. That is why I am writing to share with you two ideas for your Ministry that will ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for seniors and people with disabilities.

In our constituency of Ottawa Centre, the Good Companions Seniors’ Centre runs an innovative program called the “Seniors Centre Without Walls”. The initiative allows seniors and people with disabilities to call a toll-free number and connect with each other remotely, allowing them to participate in educational seminars, music, interactive games and more.

During this public health emergency where seniors and people with disabilities are asked to stay home for their own safety, there is a heightened risk of social isolation. As I write to you, thousands of seniors and people with disabilities are living alone, cut off the from the activities that previously provided them with human to human connection.

That is why I am asking the Ministry of Seniors & Accessibility to work with Seniors Active Living Centres to expand the “Seniors Centre Without Walls” so that every senior or adult with a disability in Ontario can access this service. In doing so, special consideration should be paid to ensuring that Francophone and minority language speaking seniors are able to participate.

On a related note, we must ensure that Ontarians who are deaf or hard of hearing are able to receive crucial information on the availability of government services, business closures, and public health updates in the midst of this crisis.

That’s why I am requesting ASL interpretation for all government press conferences related to COVID-19, and the publication of official announcements in accessible formats. We need to make sure that all 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities have the information they need to protect themselves and their families.

Minister, thank you for your consideration of this letter and its requests. I look forward to working with you to support our vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities in the days ahead.

My very best,

Joel Harden

Official Opposition Critic for Seniors, Accessibility and People with Disabilities

MPP for Ottawa Centre

CC:       Monique Doolittle-Romas

David Lepofsky

Sarah Jama



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Accessible Online Learning in the COVID-19 Pandemic


As Ontarians continue social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities are implementing online learning. Moreover, elementary and high schools may also turn in-person classes into remote lessons students access online. Remote learning will allow students to complete their current year of study while staying healthy and safe. To ensure that all students have the benefit of remote learning at this time, schools and school boards must make the process accessible to students and educators with disabilities. Accessible online learning in the COVID-19 pandemic will help all students in Ontario learn in a safe environment.

Accessible Online Learning in the COVID-19 Pandemic

When a school or school board offers lessons online, it must first choose the  educational apps or online platforms that will host courses. To reach every student, schools and school boards must choose platforms that are accessible for students and educators using assistive technology. For example, the website students log onto should be accessible using:

  • Screen readers
  • Screen magnification
  • Keyboard or voice commands, instead of a mouse

However, because schools have turned to online learning quickly, they may not have thought about accessibility when choosing a learning platform. Nonetheless, they must still provide access to lessons for students who cannot access the learning platform. Therefore, they should work with the student, and their school’s accessibility professionals, to find solutions. For instance, schools may need to provide lesson content through email.

Accessible Slides, Audio, and Video

When teachers present lessons in-person, they often use slides, audio, or video. Moreover, teachers should have experience making these formats accessible to learners of all abilities. For instance, students who do not process visual information may not be able to read slides. Instead, they will rely on the spoken words of the lecture. Alternatively, they may find other ways to access visual elements of the lesson, such as:

For instance, a teacher may reproduce them in an accessible format, such as Braille or large print.

In contrast, learners who do not process audio information may not hear a lecture or the sound on a video. Instead, they will rely on the text and images on the slides. Alternatively, they may access information through communication supports, such as Sign language interpretation or real-time captioning.

As teachers turn their in-person lectures into online lessons, schools and school boards must ensure that all students can continue to receive the support they need to access lesson content. For instance, students may connect to a Sign language interpreter remotely. Likewise, teachers can create detailed verbal descriptions of visual elements.

Exercises and Tests

In addition, schools and school boards should ensure that the online versions of class activities and tests are accessible to all students. For instance, educators should avoid activities that rely on seeing, hearing, or moving and clicking a mouse. Types of exercises to avoid include questions that ask learners to:

  • Choose one item in a picture
  • Identify a sound
  • Click and drag items on the screen to move them around

There are easy ways to avoid these kinds of questions. Educators can:

  • include lists of choices and ask students to select all that apply
  • use buttons screen readers recognize, such as radio buttons or checkboxes

A range of question types, such as multiple choice, true or false, check-all-that-apply, and short-answer, can provide variety while remaining accessible.

Accessible online learning in the COVID-19 pandemic should be available for learners of all abilities. There are many things schools, school boards, and teachers can do to make online courses that everyone can learn from.




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Accessibility = Inclusion and Belonging for Kids with Physical Disabilities


TORONTO: Kids with physical disabilities are often left out because a building isn’t accessible, there is no accessible transportation or a program won’t accommodate someone in a wheelchair.

Easter Seals Ontario has been an advocate for improving accessibility for children with disabilities in the community for 98 years.

Accessibility means more than just ramps, elevators and electric door openers. It is also being able to join a group and play together, enabling a child with a disability to be included and have a sense of belonging.

Having an accessible building or offering an accessible program sends a very positive message to child with a physical disability, says Jennifer Green, an Easter Seals parent. It says ‘Yes, you can’ instead of ‘No, you can’t.’ At Easter Seals camp, when asked ‘Who wants to …..?’ my son, Cameron, always raises his hand and shouts ‘Yah.’ He always knows he will be able to participate in anything being offered at camp whether it’s sailing, crafts, cooking or swimming.

We have heard from the kids we serve that the feeling of being different and excluded leads to tremendous stress and anxiety. Easter Seals’ services are so important because they enable kids to get out into the community or attend Easter Seals camp and experience a sense of belonging, says Kevin Collins, President and CEO, Easter Seals Ontario. Last summer, a mother had tears in her eyes when she picked up her teenage daughter from Easter Seals camp and learned that she had made her very first friend. It’s not easy for kids with disabilities to make friends or have a social life. Through the support of our donors, Easter Seals helps kids with physical disabilities get essential mobility and accessibility equipment and offers opportunities for inclusion and participation at our fully accessible camps.

March kicks off Easter Seals annual campaign to raise funds and bring awareness to the challenges and needs of kids with physical disabilities.

Initiatives include

The Easter Seals annual giving campaign containing the traditional seals arrives in homes across the province.
The launch of Easter Seals Ontario’s new Services website, https//services.easterseals.org/, featuring information on our programs and services as well as resources for parents and caregivers.
Easter Seals segments air on the CKWS Morning Show in South Eastern Ontario throughout the month
The Easter Seals Paper Egg Campaign takes place March 20 to April 12 in retailers across Ontario, including Sobeys, Foodland, FreshCo, Avondale, Highland Farms, Giant Tiger and Booster Juice, where shoppers can lend their support by purchasing a $2 paper egg.
Annual Easter Seals Telethons air on Sunday, March 22 in Sudbury and on Sunday, March 29 in Peterborough, Sault Ste. Marie, Toronto and Windsor-Essex. For more information, visit http://www.EasterSeals.org.

Easter Seals Ontario has been a champion for children and youth with physical disabilities from all ethnic and religious backgrounds for the past 98 years. Programs include funding for essential mobility and accessibility equipment, fully accessible summer camp opportunities at its two properties, Camp Merrywood and Camp Woodeden, public awareness and information resources. Easter Seals is only able to provide its programs and services with the generous support of its donors and sponsors. For more information, visit http://www.EasterSeals.org.

Original at https://www.newkerala.com/news/2020/47564.htm




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Accessible Remote Work in the COVID-19 Pandemic


As Ontarians continue social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, workplaces are encouraging people to work from home. In addition, some workplaces are providing workers with the technology they need to do their jobs at home. For many Ontario workers, remote work may be a new and strange experience. However, some workers with disabilities already benefit from the accommodation of remote work. Employers who already accommodate employees who work remotely may have an advantage as they extend the same accommodation to non-disabled workers. Workers and employers with previous remote work experience may be able to offer best practices for accessible remote work in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accessible Remote Work in the COVID-19 Pandemic

When the world is healthy, working from home is useful or preferable for some workers, but not for everyone. Likewise, remote work is usually helpful for some workers with disabilities, but not others. Nonetheless, remote work can be a valuable accommodation for many reasons, such as:

  • Enhanced focus in quiet locations
  • Physical barriers in the workplace

Alternatively, some people may work part of the time from home and come to their workplace for specific job tasks. This is another accommodation that may increase the health and safety of workers who need to be on the worksite for part but not all of the day during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The accommodation of remote work ensures that people can continue to earn their living and use their skills to help colleagues. Remote work also helps people keep busy and gives them a reason to interact with others despite physical isolation. These benefits have allowed many remote workers in the past, with or without disabilities, to thrive at work. Now, this useful option has become a necessity throughout the province. Here are a few best practices for accessible remote work in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Best Practices

Remote workers can easily miss the social benefits of working and of being part of a team. In a traditional worksite set-up, workers greet each other when they walk in together and wish each other a good evening when they all leave. They chat and get to know each other when they work in the same space and they keep each other posted about major and minor life events. Now that workers are avoiding in-person contact, they may miss this level of social interaction with colleagues. However, workers can find ways to have that same interaction at a distance. For instance, they can extend any Skype meetings or conference calls they have arranged. Remote workers can then stay online for a few extra minutes and chat. When conference calling is not a good option, workers may set up departmental email threads, group chats, or group texts. Having these channels open throughout the workday creates an atmosphere where colleagues can casually turn to each other and ask questions, point things out, or share jokes and stories just as they would when in the same physical space.

Workplaces that try one or more of these strategies should find that morale is boosted during this difficult time. In this way, all people can do their best work while also feeling valued and supported socially.




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Disability Advocacy Coalition Calls for Strong Action by Governments At All Levels to Address the Emergency Needs of People with Disabilities during the Covid Crisis


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

March 20, 2020

SUMMARY

The Covid-19 virus crisis has serious implications for people with disabilities in our community. This cries out for immediate and major action by all levels of government. We call on our federal, provincial and municipal governments and other major public institutions to ensure that planning for the most vulnerable in our society, including people with disabilities, is a key part of all emergency planning in this area. We urge one and all to do what they can to stay isolated and safe.

We here offer concrete ideas. We are ready to help in any way we can. In this Update, we:

* outline some of the serious additional hardships that this Covid crisis is inflicting on over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.

* Offer concrete proposals for immediate action by all levels of government and

* Outline some important lessons that our government must learn after this crisis is behind us all.

We recognize that our governments at all levels are rushing to address an unbelievable crisis. They have many huge pressures on them. They are working around the clock.

We deeply appreciate all the efforts made to date to help protect the public. We here offer constructive suggestions on how to ensure that their efforts include the pressing needs of people with disabilities in this crisis. In offering these ideas, we don’t want to leave any impression whatsoever that no one is doing anything for people with disabilities. We just want to ensure that our public institutions are collectively doing all we and they can on this front. It may well be that more is going on than we have seen. Whatever be the case, we hope the following ideas will help.

MORE DETAILS

1. The Covid Pandemic’s Serious Impact on People with Disabilities

Of the great many people whom the Covid virus will affect, the 2.6 million Ontarians who have a disability will disproportionately feel its harmful effects. We offer a few important reflections on the particular needs of people with disabilities as our society copes with the Covid-19 virus crisis that has so swiftly engulfed us all.

Specific Government Planning for the Needs of People with Disabilities Is especially vital, for several reasons. Here are the ones we’ve identified on short notice. There are, no doubt, many other similar impacts on people with disabilities beyond those listed here.

First, those who are most vulnerable to the dangers of the Covid virus are seniors and people with disabilities. Disproportionately, seniors have disabilities. Whether or not one is a senior, those with fragile or compromised medical conditions are especially at risk. While not all people with disabilities are medically fragile or compromised, there are a higher proportion of medically vulnerable people among our population of people with disabilities.

Second, the media has reported that the virus has had an especially serious impact on some living in care homes. Of course, those living in such facilities are typically (if not entirely) people with disabilities.

Third, self-imposed isolation at home is vital for everyone at this dangerous time, in order to contain this virus. This self-isolation at home can present additional hardships for some people with disabilities. For them, eliminating all close contact with other people may not be possible.

Fourth, the much-needed cancellation of school and day care programs is hard on all kids. For children with certain disabilities, this can be even harder.

For example, for children with disabilities like autism, the need for a structured and predictable day is important. That structured and predictable day has been blown away by the closure of schools and many programs for children with disabilities. Some children with disabilities get critically important services at school, beyond the school’s education program. Their families must now struggle to find those services elsewhere, and try to get them brought into the home, lest they have to venture out into the community. Some of those services will be closed now, due to the economic shutdown that is hitting so much of our economy.

Some of the important support workers and service providers will face serious economic peril as they are closed or laid off during these closures. Their economic survival may be in jeopardy.

Fifth, effective self-isolation requires a person or family to dig into their savings. A disproportionate number of people with disabilities live at or below the poverty line. They won’t have the savings one needs for this.

Sixth, the homeless too often include people with addiction and/or other mental health conditions. For them, self-isolation at home to avoid this virus is not even an option.

Seventh, we have all been told that frequent hand-washing is extremely important to protect ourselves from getting this virus. As one person with a disability pointed out on Twitter, this is hard to do in washrooms where the soap dispenser is not in an accessible location.

Eighth, for those who were away from home as this crisis escalated, and who have to travel to get home, the many disability barriers in our transportation sector will feel even more amplified now. It has at times been hard to get through on the phone to an airline. Now it is even worse. Long waits at airports are hard on everyone. On passengers with disabilities with frail medical conditions or fatiguing conditions, this is much harder.

Ninth, as the spread of this virus gets worse, we are going to need to rely more and more on our health care system. Our governments are expected to plan for a major surge in demand for hospital services.

Yet patients with disabilities now still face far too many barriers in the health care system. After years and years of our advocacy, the Ontario Government is belatedly working on developing a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
However, at the rate at which the Ontario Government has been going on this issue, a new regulation to set standards for accessibility in the health care system is likely still years away from being enacted and implemented. Last month we made public our detailed Framework that lists what needs to be done to make our health care system truly and fully accessible to patients with disabilities.

Tenth, as schools are closed and post-secondary education organizations such as colleges and universities move their teaching to online platforms, the recurring barriers in education facing students with disabilities become all the more hurtful.

For example, if any colleges and universities have not ensured the full accessibility of their digital learning environment, the move to online learning risks becoming the move to a world of even more education barriers. In that regard, last week the AODA Alliance made public a draft Framework for the promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard. We seek your input on that draft before we finalize it. Given the crisis facing us all, it is all the more important for post-secondary education organizations to move very fast now to ensure that their digital learning environments are barrier-free for students with disabilities.

Eleventh, the additional burdens of this virus can be felt differently in different disability contexts. For example:

a) We are all warned to avoid touching surfaces if they have not been recently sanitized. Yet for many people with vision loss, their hands can either intentionally or accidentally contact surfaces around them as they navigate.

b) For people with balance issues or fatiguing conditions, they have an increased need to hold on to railings on staircases or other public places.

c) This Covid crisis is happening as the Ontario Government continues its months of delay in deciding and announcing how it is going to fix the chaos it created last year in its Ontario Autism Program. The Ford Government has left parents of children with autism hanging for months, wondering what services their children will receive. As well, for children with other disabilities that have similar needs but do not get similar provincially-supported services, the situation is also very troubling.

2. What Should We As a Society DO?

Today, the maxim “It takes a village” rings loud and clear. As individuals, we can each reach out to others to see what assistance we can rally. Many are doing so. The business sector can also do a great deal to help, by planning measures to ensure that people with disabilities are accommodated during this crisis.

We commend everyone who is trying to help others, on a one-to-one basis, or through more collective efforts. We applaud those retail stores like grocery stores and drug stores that have announced plans to allocate special shopping hours for customers who are seniors or people with disabilities. We encourage the entire business community, and especially those in the food, restaurant, banking, and other retail and service areas, to implement and announce similarly creative strategies to ensure that customers with disabilities are effectively served.

Such commendable localized and individualized volunteer measures are only one part of the picture. it is absolutely essential for our governments at all levels to take a strong lead and to show decisive leadership on these disability concerns. They need to quickly plan and implement specific strategies to ensure that people with disabilities are safe, are fully protected from the community spread of the Covid-19 virus and are able to live in the isolation to which we all must commit ourselves. Our governments at all levels need to proactively build strong and effective disability considerations into all aspects of their emergency planning.

This makes good policy sense. It is so obvious to Ontarians with disabilities. However, over the years, we have found over and over that our governments too often fail to effectively take into account the needs of people with disabilities in their policy planning. This is so even though government after government congratulates itself on supposedly leading by example on disability accessibility and inclusion.

Multiple reports have told the Ontario Government about this serious unmet need and the lack of effective provincial leadership. This has continued even years after enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

What we seek is a sensible thing to do. It is also an obligation on the part of our government.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees to people with disabilities the constitutional right to equality before and under to the law, and to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on disability. The Supreme Court of Canada made this obligation clear almost a quarter century ago in the landmark case of Eldridge v. British Columbia. It held that governments have a strong duty to take into account and accommodate the needs of people with disabilities when they design and implement public programs, including, most notably, health care. The AODA itself is a law which the grassroots disability community fought for over a decade, to turn Eldridge’s powerful language into a reality in the lives of people with disabilities. However, since the AODA was enacted in 2005, Government after Government has achieved progress on accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities at a glacial pace, according to the 2019 report of the Third Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley.

The accessibility standards enacted to date under the AODA include some requirements regarding emergency planning for people with disabilities. We set these out at the end of this Update. They only cover a small part of what people with disabilities now need in Ontario from their governments and leading public sector organizations like hospitals and public transit providers.

The AODA Alliance has repeatedly revealed that successive governments have done a poor job of enforcing the AODA. In this crisis, the harm to people with disabilities from that failure is even more harmful.

We offer a list of actions that governments should immediately take. This is not the last word on this issue. This list is only the first word. Proper planning and feedback from people with disabilities will reveal other important actions to add to this list.

1. All emergency announcements and supports must be communicated to the public through multiple fully accessible means. Governments must ensure that people with disabilities can learn about them and find them. The public is desperate to know the latest official news, as things keep changing hour by hour.

For example, announcements by the Prime Minister of Canada or Ontario’s Premier should be simultaneously available with captioning and Sign Language interpretation. Public websites where emergency information is posted should be fully barrier-free. Plain language options should be available for persons with intellectual or cognitive disabilities.

2. It is good that there are some government efforts underway to assist people with the serious financial hardships that this crisis is causing. Specific targeted measures need to be announced to address the added needs and vulnerabilities facing people with disabilities as they deal with this crisis.

This could include emergency supplements to social assistance like ODSP, the Disability Tax Credit and other financial supports. Emergency expedited procedures to process those claims should be implemented. There should be a moratorium on Government efforts to cut off such social assistance supports as ODSP. Protections against credit card penalties during this crisis should also be on the agenda. Those who lead the advocacy efforts for income security for people with disabilities should be at the forefront of discussions on this issue.

3. It is good that our health care system is trying to gear up for the anticipated onslaught of patients with the Covid virus. This planning must include emergency efforts to ensure that patients with disabilities will be able to get needed health care services, and to eliminate the barriers that they now must endure throughout the health care system.

As but one example, the Covid testing centres that governments are rushing to open should be designed to be fully barrier-free for patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance’s Framework for barrier-free health care services is a good starting point for this.

4. It is essential that people with disabilities who need health care services can get prompt accessible transportation to those services. If those services can be delivered at home through new measures, that would avoid this issue. To the extent that patients with disabilities need to use para-transit services to get to our health care system, e.g. for Covid testing, there should now be put in place an expedited process to call into para-transit services and book such urgently-needed transportation. This is all the more urgent since the Ford Government has been sitting on recommendations to strengthen the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard since it took office, with no reforms having been announced. See further our long term efforts to ensure accessible public transit in Ontario.

5. While schools are closed, some efforts are underway to provide parents with educational activities for their kids at home. At the same time, specific and dedicated resources need to be provided for parents of students with disabilities who may not be able to benefit from educational resources that too often are only designed to meet the learning needs of students who have no disabilities. For ideas on what is needed to make education accessible in Ontario, consult the AODA Alliance’s Framework for accessible K-12 education.

6. Our health care providers in the community must now cope with an inexcusable shortage of safety health supplies such as masks and gloves. Our governments must now rush to get these mass-produced in huge quantities.

However, these safety masks and gloves must also be made available widely to people with disabilities who need them to be used by care-givers, attendant care providers, group home staff, and other like people with whom they must closely deal.

7. Governments must immediately deploy emergency strategies to protect homeless people from the devastating impact of this health crisis. It must take into account that disproportionately, homeless people have disabilities. This should include an emergency strategy to protect people with disabilities from becoming homeless during this crisis, because they live in a rental apartment but are on the verge of eviction.

8. Emergency strategies must be put in place to assure needed supports to people with disabilities who are self-isolating, such as needed attendant care and other in-home services.

9. From the experience in other countries where the pandemic has quickly spread, we know that horrible decisions may be made about rationing scarce health care services, when the demand for those services out-strips the supply. It is essential that people with disabilities not get the short end of that stick, based on harmful stereotypes about the quality of life when one is living with a disability. Such stereotypes too often have been present in our health care system. We cannot afford for them to surface now, and be used to justify denying needed medical services because a patient has a disability.

10. Our governments should now undertake a quick multi-level coordinated outreach to people with disabilities to ensure that they know what impacts can make a more informed decisions on how to ensure that disability needs are taken into account in this emergency planning. That should include, among other things, establishing and publicizing a hotline for people with disabilities to report hardships they face during this crisis.

11. Government disability or accessibility offices should be immediately included in all emergency planning.

12. Governments should immediately survey readily-available online resources in this area. For example, we set out below a list of recommendations available online from the International Disability Alliance. While we are not familiar with that organization, it offers good ideas.

Governments are scrambling to deal quickly with this Covid crisis. It is vital to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are not again left out of the policy planning process, where the stakes for everyone are so high.

3. Long Term Disability-Related Lessons that Our Society Can Learn from the Covid Crisis

When we get this crisis behind us, there will be much-needed efforts to figure out what went wrong, and how we can learn from the events that are now unfolding. Our governments, public institutions and private sector organizations must learn some key lessons from the experience of people with disabilities.

One big lesson to be learned is that we are now all suffering the consequences of grossly-inadequate past government efforts at making our society fully accessible to people with disabilities. As one example, for years, the disability community has faced far too much resistance when seeking to get requirements enacted to install such helpful accessibility features as automatic water faucets, soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers in public bathrooms. The same goes for requiring automatic power doors, so that one does not have to either physically open the door or press a button to get the door to open. Yet in the face of the Covid crisis, these basic accessibility features are now vital to protect everyone from the dangerous spread of the Covid virus when we use a public washroom.

Similarly, in the past, some employees with disabilities have encountered resistance when they have asked some employers to let them work from home. Other employers were supportive. With this virus, employers have rapidly made this accommodation widely available to many of their employees, as a good public health measure to prevent the spread of the virus. ` We need to more effectively ensure that no employees with disabilities ever have to face such resistance to such workplace accommodations in the future.

One can imagine many more such illustrations of this broader lesson to be learned. These examples help show that the failure of government after government in Ontario to effectively implement and enforce the AODA must dramatically change in the future. Three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement have called for major reforms and strong new provincial leadership. The current Ontario Government has had 414 days since it received the most recent of these reports, and still has no effective plan to implement it.

4. Toward a Disability-Inclusive COVID19 Response: 10 recommendations from the International Disability Alliance

March 19, 2020

)Note: The AODA Alliance encourages all governments to consider the following recommendations which one of our supporters brought to our attention.)

In the light of the COVID19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities, the International Disability Alliance (IDA) has compiled the following list of the main barriers that persons with disabilities face in this emergency situation along with some practical solutions and recommendations. This document is based on inputs received from our members around the world aiming to assist global, regional, national and local advocacy to more efficiently address the range of risks persons with disabilities face.
If you have any updates on how COVID 19 is affecting persons with disabilities in your area of work, or want to share any good practices or lessons learnt, please contact IDA Inclusive Humanitarian Adviser Ms Elham Youssefian via emailing [email protected]

I. People with disabilities are at higher risk of contracting COVID19 due to barriers accessing preventive information and hygiene, reliance on physical contact with the environment or support persons, as well as respiratory conditions caused by certain impairments.

Recommendation 1: Persons with disabilities must receive information about infection mitigating tips, public restriction plans, and the services offered, in a diversity of accessible formats
* Mass media communication should include captioning, national sign language, high contrast, large print information.
* Digital media should include accessible formats to blind persons and other persons facing restrictions in accessing print. * All communication should be in plain language.
* In case the public communications are yet to become accessible, alternative phone lines for blind persons and email address for deaf and hard of hearing may be a temporary option.
* Sign language interpreters who work in emergency and health settings should be given the same health and safety protections as other health care workers dealing with COVID19.
* There may be appropriate alternatives for optimum access, such as interpreters wearing a transparent mask, so that facial expressions and lip movement is still visible,
* Alternatives are particularly important as remote interpretation is not accessible for everyone, including people with deaf-blindness. Solutions should be explored with concerned people and organizations representing them.
* Assistive technologies should be used such as FM systems for communicating with hard of hearing persons especially important when face masks make lipreading impossible.
Recommendation 2: Additional protective measures must be taken for people with certain types of impairment.
* Disinfection of entrance doors reserved for persons with disabilities, handrails of ramps or staircases, accessibility knobs for doors reserved for people with reduced mobility.
* Introducing proactive testing and more strict preventive measures for groups of persons with disabilities who are more susceptible to infection due to the respiratory or other health complications caused by their impairment.
* The COVID19 crisis and confinement measures may generate fear and anxiety; demonstrating solidarity and community support is important for all, and may be critical for persons with psychosocial disabilities

Recommendation 3: Rapid awareness raising and training of personnel involved in the response are essential
* Government officials and service providers, including emergency responders must be trained on the rights of persons with disabilities, and on risks associated to respiratory complications for people who have specific impairments (e.g. whose health may be jeopardized by coughing).
* Awareness raising on support to persons with disabilities should be part of all protection campaigns.

Recommendation 4: All preparedness and response plans must be inclusive of and accessible to women with disabilities
* Any plans to support women should be inclusive of and accessible to women with disabilities
* Programs to support persons with disabilities should include a gender perspective.

II. Implementing quarantines or similar restrictive programs may entail disruptions in services vital for many persons with disabilities and undermine basic rights such as food, health care, wash and sanitation, and communications, leading to abandonment, isolation and institutionalization.
Recommendation 5: No disability-based institutionalization and abandonment is acceptable
* Persons with disabilities should not be institutionalized as a consequence of quarantine procedures beyond the minimum necessary to overcome the sickness stage and on an equal basis with others.
* Any disruptions in social services should have the least impact possible on persons with disabilities and should not entail abandonment.
* Support family and social networks, in case of being quarantined, should be replaced by other networks or services.
Recommendation 6: During quarantine, support services, personal assistance, physical and communication accessibility must be ensured
* Quarantined persons with disabilities must have access to interpretation and support services, either through externally provided services or through their family and social network;
* Personal assistants, support workers or interpreters shall accompany them in quarantine, upon both parties agreement and subject to adoption of all protective measures;
* Personal assistants, support workers or interpreters should be proactively tested for COVID 19 to minimize the risk of spreading the virus to persons with disabilities
* Remote work or education services must be equally accessible for employees/students with disabilities.
Recommendation 7: Measures of public restrictions must consider persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others
* In case of public restriction measures, persons with disabilities must be supported to meet their daily living requirements, including access to food (as needed with specific dietary requirements), housing, healthcare, in-home, school and community support, as well as maintaining employment and access to accessible transportation.
* Government planners must consider that mobility and business restrictions disproportionately impact persons with reduced mobility and other persons with disabilities and allow for adaptations. For example, Australia has reserved specific opening hours in supermarket for persons with disabilities and older persons
* Providers of support services must have the personal protective equipment and instructions needed to minimize exposure and spread of infection, as well as should be proactively tested for the virus.
* In case of food or hygienic products shortage, immediate measures must be taken to ensure that people with disabilities are not left out as they will be the first group to experience lack of access to such items.
* Any program to provide support to the marginalized groups should be disability-inclusive, e.g. distribution of cash may not be a good option for many people with disabilities as they may not be able to find items they need due to accessibility barriers.

III. When ill with COVID19, persons with disabilities may face additional barriers in seeking health care and also experience discrimination and negligence by health care personnel.
Recommendation 8: Persons with disabilities in need of health services due to COVID19 cannot be deprioritized on the ground of their disability
* Public health communication messages must be respectful and non-discriminatory.
* Instructions to health care personnel should highlight equal dignity for people with disabilities and include safeguards against disability-based discrimination.
* While we appreciate that the urgency is to deal with the fast-rising number of people infected and in need of hospitalization, rapid awareness-raising of key medical personnel is essential to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind or systematically deprioritized in the response to the crisis.
* Communications about the stage of the disease and any procedures must be to the person themselves and through accessible means and modes of communication.

IV. Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) particularly at national and local levels may not be prepared to take immediate action and may not be fully aware how to approach the situation. Some measures OPDs can take include:
Recommendation 9: OPDs can and should play a key role in raising awareness of persons with disabilities and their families.

* Prepare COVID19 instructions and guidance in various accessible formats in local languages; please see existing resources produced by IDA members and their members, which we will keep updating
* Help establish peer-support networks to facilitate support in case of quarantine; * Organize trainings on disability inclusion for responders
* Compile an updated list of accessible health care and other essential service providers in each area

Recommendation 10: OPDs can and should play a key role in advocating for disability-inclusive response to the COVID19 crisis
* Proactively reach to all related authorities including the health system, the national media, the crisis response headquarters and education authorities to:
* Sensitize authorities on how the pandemic as well as the response plans may disproportionally impact persons with disabilities;
* Offer tailored practical tips on how to address accessibility barriers or specific measures required by persons with disabilities
* Based on available resources and capacity, contribute to the national or local emergency response.

*For updated resources on inclusion of persons with disabilities in Covid19 prevention and response, please regularly check the webpage dedicated by the International Disability Alliance at http://www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org/covid-19

5. Key Emergency Provisions in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 2011 Enacted Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, enacted in 2011 under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, includes the following emergency-related provisions.

Emergency procedure, plans or public safety information

13. (1) In addition to its obligations under section 12, if an obligated organization prepares emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and makes the information available to the public, the obligated organization shall provide the information in an accessible format or with appropriate communication supports, as soon as practicable, upon request.

(2) Obligated organizations that prepare emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and make the information available to the public shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2012.

Workplace emergency response information

27. (1) Every employer shall provide individualized workplace emergency response information to employees who have a disability, if the disability is such that the individualized information is necessary and the employer is aware of the need for accommodation due to the employee’s disability. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 27 (1).

(2) If an employee who receives individualized workplace emergency response information requires assistance and with the employee’s consent, the employer shall provide the workplace emergency response information to the person designated by the employer to provide assistance to the employee. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 27 (2).

(3) Employers shall provide the information required under this section as soon as practicable after the employer becomes aware of the need for accommodation due to the employee’s disability.

(4) Every employer shall review the individualized workplace emergency response information,

(a) when the employee moves to a different location in the organization;

(b) when the employee’s overall accommodations needs or plans are reviewed; and

(c) when the employer reviews its general emergency response policies.

(5) Every employer shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2012.

28. (1) Employers, other than employers that are small organizations, shall develop and have in place a written process for the development of documented individual accommodation plans for employees with disabilities. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 28 (1).

(2) The process for the development of documented individual accommodation plans shall include the following elements:

1. The manner in which an employee requesting accommodation can participate in the development of the individual accommodation plan.

2. The means by which the employee is assessed on an individual basis.

3. The manner in which the employer can request an evaluation by an outside medical or other expert, at the employer’s expense, to assist the employer in determining if accommodation can be achieved and, if so, how accommodation can be achieved.

4. The manner in which the employee can request the participation of a representative from their bargaining agent, where the employee is represented by a bargaining agent, or other representative from the workplace, where the employee is not represented by a bargaining agent, in the development of the accommodation plan.

5. The steps taken to protect the privacy of the employee’s personal information.

6. The frequency with which the individual accommodation plan will be reviewed and updated and the manner in which it will be done.

7. If an individual accommodation plan is denied, the manner in which the reasons for the denial will be provided to the employee.

8. The means of providing the individual accommodation plan in a format that takes into account the employee’s accessibility needs due to disability. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 28 (2).

(3) Individual accommodation plans shall,

(a) if requested, include any information regarding accessible formats and communications supports provided, as described in section 26;

(b) if required, include individualized workplace emergency response information, as described in section 27; and

(c) identify any other accommodation that is to be provided.

Emergency preparedness and response policies

37. (1) In addition to any obligations that a conventional transportation service provider or a specialized transportation service provider has under section 13, conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers,

(a) shall establish, implement, maintain and document emergency preparedness and response policies that provide for the safety of persons with disabilities; and

(b) shall make those policies available to the public. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 37 (1).

(2) Conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers shall, upon request, provide the policies described in subsection (1) in an accessible format. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 37 (2).

(3) Conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2012.

Regarding para-transit services, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation requires:

Emergency or compassionate grounds

65. (1) Specialized transportation service providers shall develop procedures respecting the provision of temporary specialized transportation services earlier than in the 14 calendar days referred to in subsection 64 (1),

(a) where the services are required because of an emergency or on compassionate grounds; and

(b) where there are no other accessible transportation services to meet the person’s needs. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 65 (1).

(2) A person shall apply for the services described in subsection (1) in the manner determined by the specialized transportation service provider. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 65 (2).

(3) Specialized transportation service providers shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2014.

LKM




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Disability Advocacy Coalition Calls for Strong Action by Governments At All Levels to Address the Emergency Needs of People with Disabilities during the Covid Crisis


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Disability Advocacy Coalition Calls for Strong Action by Governments At All Levels to Address the Emergency Needs of People with Disabilities during the Covid Crisis

March 20, 2020

          SUMMARY

The Covid-19 virus crisis has serious implications for people with disabilities in our community. This cries out for immediate and major action by all levels of government. We call on our federal, provincial and municipal governments and other major public institutions to ensure that planning for the most vulnerable in our society, including people with disabilities, is a key part of all emergency planning in this area. We urge one and all to do what they can to stay isolated and safe.

We here offer concrete ideas. We are ready to help in any way we can. In this Update, we:

* outline some of the serious additional hardships that this Covid crisis is inflicting on over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.

* Offer concrete proposals for immediate action by all levels of government and

* Outline some important lessons that our government must learn after this crisis is behind us all.

We recognize that our governments at all levels are rushing to address an unbelievable crisis. They have many huge pressures on them. They are working around the clock.

We deeply appreciate all the efforts made to date to help protect the public. We here offer constructive suggestions on how to ensure that their efforts include the pressing needs of people with disabilities in this crisis. In offering these ideas, we don’t want to leave any impression whatsoever that no one is doing anything for people with disabilities. We just want to ensure that our public institutions are collectively doing all we and they can on this front. It may well be that more is going on than we have seen. Whatever be the case, we hope the following ideas will help.

          MORE DETAILS

1. The Covid Pandemic’s Serious Impact on People with Disabilities

Of the great many people whom the Covid virus will affect, the 2.6 million Ontarians who have a disability will disproportionately feel its harmful effects. We offer a few important reflections on the particular needs of people with disabilities as our society copes with the Covid-19 virus crisis that has so swiftly engulfed us all.

Specific Government Planning for the Needs of People with Disabilities Is especially vital, for several reasons. Here are the ones we’ve identified on short notice. There are, no doubt, many other similar impacts on people with disabilities beyond those listed here.

First, those who are most vulnerable to the dangers of the Covid virus are seniors and people with disabilities. Disproportionately, seniors have disabilities. Whether or not one is a senior, those with fragile or compromised medical conditions are especially at risk. While not all people with disabilities are medically fragile or compromised, there are a higher proportion of medically vulnerable people among our population of people with disabilities.

Second, the media has reported that the virus has had an especially serious impact on some living in care homes. Of course, those living in such facilities are typically (if not entirely) people with disabilities.

Third, self-imposed isolation at home is vital for everyone at this dangerous time, in order to contain this virus. This self-isolation at home can present additional hardships for some people with disabilities. For them, eliminating all close contact with other people may not be possible.

Fourth, the much-needed cancellation of school and day care programs is hard on all kids. For children with certain disabilities, this can be even harder.

For example, for children with disabilities like autism, the need for a structured and predictable day is important. That structured and predictable day has been blown away by the closure of schools and many programs for children with disabilities. Some children with disabilities get critically important services at school, beyond the school’s education program. Their families must now struggle to find those services elsewhere, and try to get them brought into the home, lest they have to venture out into the community. Some of those services will be closed now, due to the economic shutdown that is hitting so much of our economy.

Some of the important support workers and service providers will face serious economic peril as they are closed or laid off during these closures. Their economic survival may be in jeopardy.

Fifth, effective self-isolation requires a person or family to dig into their savings. A disproportionate number of people with disabilities live at or below the poverty line. They won’t have the savings one needs for this.

Sixth, the homeless too often include people with addiction and/or other mental health conditions. For them, self-isolation at home to avoid this virus is not even an option.

Seventh, we have all been told that frequent hand-washing is extremely important to protect ourselves from getting this virus. As one person with a disability pointed out on Twitter, this is hard to do in washrooms where the soap dispenser is not in an accessible location.

Eighth, for those who were away from home as this crisis escalated, and who have to travel to get home, the many disability barriers in our transportation sector will feel even more amplified now. It has at times been hard to get through on the phone to an airline. Now it is even worse. Long waits at airports are hard on everyone. On passengers with disabilities with frail medical conditions or fatiguing conditions, this is much harder.

Ninth, as the spread of this virus gets worse, we are going to need to rely more and more on our health care system. Our governments are expected to plan for a major surge in demand for hospital services.

Yet patients with disabilities now still face far too many barriers in the health care system. After years and years of our advocacy, the Ontario Government is belatedly working on developing a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

However, at the rate at which the Ontario Government has been going on this issue, a new regulation to set standards for accessibility in the health care system is likely still years away from being enacted and implemented. Last month we made public our detailed Framework that lists what needs to be done to make our health care system truly and fully accessible to patients with disabilities.

Tenth, as schools are closed and post-secondary education organizations such as colleges and universities move their teaching to online platforms, the recurring barriers in education facing students with disabilities become all the more hurtful.

For example, if any colleges and universities have not ensured the full accessibility of their digital learning environment, the move to online learning risks becoming the move to a world of even more education barriers. In that regard, last week the AODA Alliance made public a draft Framework for the promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard. We seek your input on that draft before we finalize it. Given the crisis facing us all, it is all the more important for post-secondary education organizations to move very fast now to ensure that their digital learning environments are barrier-free for students with disabilities.

Eleventh, the additional burdens of this virus can be felt differently in different disability contexts. For example:

  1. a) We are all warned to avoid touching surfaces if they have not been recently sanitized. Yet for many people with vision loss, their hands can either intentionally or accidentally contact surfaces around them as they navigate.
  1. b) For people with balance issues or fatiguing conditions, they have an increased need to hold on to railings on staircases or other public places.
  1. c) This Covid crisis is happening as the Ontario Government continues its months of delay in deciding and announcing how it is going to fix the chaos it created last year in its Ontario Autism Program. The Ford Government has left parents of children with autism hanging for months, wondering what services their children will receive. As well, for children with other disabilities that have similar needs but do not get similar provincially-supported services, the situation is also very troubling.

2. What Should We As a Society DO?

Today, the maxim “It takes a village” rings loud and clear. As individuals, we can each reach out to others to see what assistance we can rally. Many are doing so. The business sector can also do a great deal to help, by planning measures to ensure that people with disabilities are accommodated during this crisis.

We commend everyone who is trying to help others, on a one-to-one basis, or through more collective efforts. We applaud those retail stores like grocery stores and drug stores that have announced plans to allocate special shopping hours for customers who are seniors or people with disabilities. We encourage the entire business community, and especially those in the food, restaurant, banking, and other retail and service areas, to implement and announce similarly creative strategies to ensure that customers with disabilities are effectively served.

Such commendable localized and individualized volunteer measures are only one part of the picture. it is absolutely essential for our governments at all levels to take a strong lead and to show decisive leadership on these disability concerns. They need to quickly plan and implement specific strategies to ensure that people with disabilities are safe, are fully protected from the community spread of the Covid-19 virus and are able to live in the isolation to which we all must commit ourselves. Our governments at all levels need to proactively build strong and effective disability considerations into all aspects of their emergency planning.

This makes good policy sense. It is so obvious to Ontarians with disabilities. However, over the years, we have found over and over that our governments too often fail to effectively take into account the needs of people with disabilities in their policy planning. This is so even though government after government congratulates itself on supposedly leading by example on disability accessibility and inclusion.

Multiple reports have told the Ontario Government about this serious unmet need and the lack of effective provincial leadership. This has continued even years after enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

What we seek is a sensible thing to do. It is also an obligation on the part of our government.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees to people with disabilities the constitutional right to equality before and under to the law, and to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on disability. The Supreme Court of Canada made this obligation clear almost a quarter century ago in the landmark case of Eldridge v. British Columbia. It held that governments have a strong duty to take into account and accommodate the needs of people with disabilities when they design and implement public programs, including, most notably, health care. The AODA itself is a law which the grassroots disability community fought for over a decade, to turn Eldridge’s powerful language into a reality in the lives of people with disabilities. However, since the AODA was enacted in 2005, Government after Government has achieved progress on accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities at a glacial pace, according to the 2019 report of the Third Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley.

The accessibility standards enacted to date under the AODA include some requirements regarding emergency planning for people with disabilities. We set these out at the end of this Update. They only cover a small part of what people with disabilities now need in Ontario from their governments and leading public sector organizations like hospitals and public transit providers.

The AODA Alliance has repeatedly revealed that successive governments have done a poor job of enforcing the AODA. In this crisis, the harm to people with disabilities from that failure is even more harmful.

We offer a list of actions that governments should immediately take. This is not the last word on this issue. This list is only the first word. Proper planning and feedback from people with disabilities will reveal other important actions to add to this list.

  1. All emergency announcements and supports must be communicated to the public through multiple fully accessible means. Governments must ensure that people with disabilities can learn about them and find them. The public is desperate to know the latest official news, as things keep changing hour by hour.

For example, announcements by the Prime Minister of Canada or Ontario’s Premier should be simultaneously available with captioning and Sign Language interpretation. Public websites where emergency information is posted should be fully barrier-free. Plain language options should be available for persons with intellectual or cognitive disabilities.

  1. It is good that there are some government efforts underway to assist people with the serious financial hardships that this crisis is causing. Specific targeted measures need to be announced to address the added needs and vulnerabilities facing people with disabilities as they deal with this crisis.

This could include emergency supplements to social assistance like ODSP, the Disability Tax Credit and other financial supports. Emergency expedited procedures to process those claims should be implemented. There should be a moratorium on Government efforts to cut off such social assistance supports as ODSP. Protections against credit card penalties during this crisis should also be on the agenda. Those who lead the advocacy efforts for income security for people with disabilities should be at the forefront of discussions on this issue.

  1. It is good that our health care system is trying to gear up for the anticipated onslaught of patients with the Covid virus. This planning must include emergency efforts to ensure that patients with disabilities will be able to get needed health care services, and to eliminate the barriers that they now must endure throughout the health care system.

As but one example, the Covid testing centres that governments are rushing to open should be designed to be fully barrier-free for patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance’s Framework for barrier-free health care services is a good starting point for this.

  1. It is essential that people with disabilities who need health care services can get prompt accessible transportation to those services. If those services can be delivered at home through new measures, that would avoid this issue. To the extent that patients with disabilities need to use para-transit services to get to our health care system, e.g. for Covid testing, there should now be put in place an expedited process to call into para-transit services and book such urgently-needed transportation. This is all the more urgent since the Ford Government has been sitting on recommendations to strengthen the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard since it took office, with no reforms having been announced. See further our long term efforts to ensure accessible public transit in Ontario.
  1. While schools are closed, some efforts are underway to provide parents with educational activities for their kids at home. At the same time, specific and dedicated resources need to be provided for parents of students with disabilities who may not be able to benefit from educational resources that too often are only designed to meet the learning needs of students who have no disabilities. For ideas on what is needed to make education accessible in Ontario, consult the AODA Alliance’s Framework for accessible K-12 education.
  1. Our health care providers in the community must now cope with an inexcusable shortage of safety health supplies such as masks and gloves. Our governments must now rush to get these mass-produced in huge quantities.

However, these safety masks and gloves must also be made available widely to people with disabilities who need them to be used by care-givers, attendant care providers, group home staff, and other like people with whom they must closely deal.

  1. Governments must immediately deploy emergency strategies to protect homeless people from the devastating impact of this health crisis. It must take into account that disproportionately, homeless people have disabilities. This should include an emergency strategy to protect people with disabilities from becoming homeless during this crisis, because they live in a rental apartment but are on the verge of eviction.
  1. Emergency strategies must be put in place to assure needed supports to people with disabilities who are self-isolating, such as needed attendant care and other in-home services.
  1. From the experience in other countries where the pandemic has quickly spread, we know that horrible decisions may be made about rationing scarce health care services, when the demand for those services out-strips the supply. It is essential that people with disabilities not get the short end of that stick, based on harmful stereotypes about the quality of life when one is living with a disability. Such stereotypes too often have been present in our health care system. We cannot afford for them to surface now, and be used to justify denying needed medical services because a patient has a disability.
  1. Our governments should now undertake a quick multi-level coordinated outreach to people with disabilities to ensure that they know what impacts can make a more informed decisions on how to ensure that disability needs are taken into account in this emergency planning. That should include, among other things, establishing and publicizing a hotline for people with disabilities to report hardships they face during this crisis.
  1. Government disability or accessibility offices should be immediately included in all emergency planning.
  1. Governments should immediately survey readily-available online resources in this area. For example, we set out below a list of recommendations available online from the International Disability Alliance. While we are not familiar with that organization, it offers good ideas.

Governments are scrambling to deal quickly with this Covid crisis. It is vital to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are not again left out of the policy planning process, where the stakes for everyone are so high.

3. Long Term Disability-Related Lessons that Our Society Can Learn from the Covid Crisis

When we get this crisis behind us, there will be much-needed efforts to figure out what went wrong, and how we can learn from the events that are now unfolding. Our governments, public institutions and private sector organizations must learn some key lessons from the experience of people with disabilities.

One big lesson to be learned is that we are now all suffering the consequences of grossly-inadequate past government efforts at making our society fully accessible to people with disabilities. As one example, for years, the disability community has faced far too much resistance when seeking to get requirements enacted to install such helpful accessibility features as automatic water faucets, soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers in public bathrooms. The same goes for requiring automatic power doors, so that one does not have to either physically open the door or press a button to get the door to open. Yet in the face of the Covid crisis, these basic accessibility features are now vital to protect everyone from the dangerous spread of the Covid virus when we use a public washroom.

Similarly, in the past, some employees with disabilities have encountered resistance when they have asked some employers to let them work from home. Other employers were supportive. With this virus, employers have rapidly made this accommodation widely available to many of their employees, as a good public health measure to prevent the spread of the virus. ` We need to more effectively ensure that no employees with disabilities ever have to face such resistance to such workplace accommodations in the future.

One can imagine many more such illustrations of this broader lesson to be learned. These examples help show that the failure of government after government in Ontario to effectively implement and enforce the AODA must dramatically change in the future. Three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement have called for major reforms and strong new provincial leadership. The current Ontario Government has had 414 days since it received the most recent of these reports, and still has no effective plan to implement it.

4. Toward a Disability-Inclusive COVID19 Response: 10 recommendations from the International Disability Alliance

March 19, 2020

)Note: The  AODA Alliance encourages all governments to consider the following recommendations which one of our supporters brought to our attention.)

In the light of the COVID19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities, the International Disability Alliance (IDA) has compiled the following list of the main barriers that persons with disabilities face in this emergency situation along with some practical solutions and recommendations. This document is based on inputs received from our members around the world aiming to assist global, regional, national and local advocacy to more efficiently address the range of risks persons with disabilities face.

If you have any updates on how COVID 19 is affecting persons with disabilities in your area of work, or want to share any good practices or lessons learnt, please contact IDA Inclusive Humanitarian Adviser Ms Elham Youssefian via emailing [email protected]

  1. People with disabilities are at higher risk of contracting COVID19 due to barriers accessing preventive information and hygiene, reliance on physical contact with the environment or support persons, as well as respiratory conditions caused by certain impairments.

Recommendation 1: Persons with disabilities must receive information about infection mitigating tips, public restriction plans, and the services offered, in a diversity of accessible formats

  • Mass media communication should include captioning, national sign language, high contrast, large print information.
  • Digital media should include accessible formats to blind persons and other persons facing restrictions in accessing print.
  • All communication should be in plain language.
  • In case the public communications are yet to become accessible, alternative phone lines for blind persons and email address for deaf and hard of hearing may be a temporary option.
  • Sign language interpreters who work in emergency and health settings should be given the same health and safety protections as other health care workers dealing with COVID19.
  • There may be appropriate alternatives for optimum access, such as interpreters wearing a transparent mask, so that facial expressions and lip movement is still visible,
  • Alternatives are particularly important as remote interpretation is not accessible for everyone, including people with deaf-blindness. Solutions should be explored with concerned people and organizations representing them.
  • Assistive technologies should be used such as FM systems for communicating with hard of hearing persons especially important when face masks make lipreading impossible.

Recommendation 2: Additional protective measures must be taken for people with certain types of impairment.

  • Disinfection of entrance doors reserved for persons with disabilities, handrails of ramps or staircases, accessibility knobs for doors reserved for people with reduced mobility.
  • Introducing proactive testing and more strict preventive measures for groups of persons with disabilities who are more susceptible to infection due to the respiratory or other health complications caused by their impairment.
  • The COVID19 crisis and confinement measures may generate fear and anxiety; demonstrating solidarity and community support is important for all, and may be critical for persons with psychosocial disabilities

Recommendation 3: Rapid awareness raising and training of personnel involved in the response are essential

  • Government officials and service providers, including emergency responders must be trained on the rights of persons with disabilities, and on risks associated to respiratory complications for people who have specific impairments (e.g. whose health may be jeopardized by coughing).
  • Awareness raising on support to persons with disabilities should be part of all protection campaigns.

Recommendation 4: All preparedness and response plans must be inclusive of and accessible to women with disabilities

  • Any plans to support women should be inclusive of and accessible to women with disabilities
  • Programs to support persons with disabilities should include a gender perspective.
  1. Implementing quarantines or similar restrictive programs may entail disruptions in services vital for many persons with disabilities and undermine basic rights such as food, health care, wash and sanitation, and communications, leading to abandonment, isolation and institutionalization.

Recommendation 5: No disability-based institutionalization and abandonment is acceptable

  • Persons with disabilities should not be institutionalized as a consequence of quarantine procedures beyond the minimum necessary to overcome the sickness stage and on an equal basis with others.
  • Any disruptions in social services should have the least impact possible on persons with disabilities and should not entail abandonment.
  • Support family and social networks, in case of being quarantined, should be replaced by other networks or services.

Recommendation 6: During quarantine, support services, personal assistance, physical and communication accessibility must be ensured

  • Quarantined persons with disabilities must have access to interpretation and support services, either through externally provided services or through their family and social network;
  • Personal assistants, support workers or interpreters shall accompany them in quarantine, upon both parties agreement and subject to adoption of all protective measures;
  • Personal assistants, support workers or interpreters should be proactively tested for COVID 19 to minimize the risk of spreading the virus to persons with disabilities
  • Remote work or education services must be equally accessible for employees/students with disabilities.

Recommendation 7: Measures of public restrictions must consider persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others

  • In case of public restriction measures, persons with disabilities must be supported to meet their daily living requirements, including access to food (as needed with specific dietary requirements), housing, healthcare, in-home, school and community support, as well as maintaining employment and access to accessible transportation.
  • Government planners must consider that mobility and business restrictions disproportionately impact persons with reduced mobility and other persons with disabilities and allow for adaptations. For example, Australia has reserved specific opening hours in supermarket for persons with disabilities and older persons
  • Providers of support services must have the personal protective equipment and instructions needed to minimize exposure and spread of infection, as well as should be proactively tested for the virus.
  • In case of food or hygienic products shortage, immediate measures must be taken to ensure that people with disabilities are not left out as they will be the first group to experience lack of access to such items.
  • Any program to provide support to the marginalized groups should be disability-inclusive, e.g. distribution of cash may not be a good option for many people with disabilities as they may not be able to find items they need due to accessibility barriers.
  • When ill with COVID19, persons with disabilities may face additional barriers in seeking health care and also experience discrimination and negligence by health care personnel.

Recommendation 8: Persons with disabilities in need of health services due to COVID19 cannot be deprioritized on the ground of their disability

  • Public health communication messages must be respectful and non-discriminatory.
  • Instructions to health care personnel should highlight equal dignity for people with disabilities and include safeguards against disability-based discrimination.
  • While we appreciate that the urgency is to deal with the fast-rising number of people infected and in need of hospitalization, rapid awareness-raising of key medical personnel is essential to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind or systematically deprioritized in the response to the crisis.
  • Communications about the stage of the disease and any procedures must be to the person themselves and through accessible means and modes of communication.
  1. Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) particularly at national and local levels may not be prepared to take immediate action and may not be fully aware how to approach the situation. Some measures OPDs can take include:

Recommendation 9: OPDs can and should play a key role in raising awareness of persons with disabilities and their families.

 

  • Prepare COVID19 instructions and guidance in various accessible formats in local languages; please see existing resources produced by IDA members and their members, which we will keep updating
  • Help establish peer-support networks to facilitate support in case of quarantine;
  • Organize trainings on disability inclusion for responders
  • Compile an updated list of accessible health care and other essential service providers in each area

Recommendation 10: OPDs can and should play a key role in advocating for disability-inclusive response to the COVID19 crisis

  • Proactively reach to all related authorities including the health system, the national media, the crisis response headquarters and education authorities to:
  • Sensitize authorities on how the pandemic as well as the response plans may disproportionally impact persons with disabilities;
  • Offer tailored practical tips on how to address accessibility barriers or specific measures required by persons with disabilities
  • Based on available resources and capacity, contribute to the national or local emergency response.

*For updated resources on inclusion of persons with disabilities in Covid19 prevention and response, please regularly check the webpage dedicated by the International Disability Alliance at http://www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org/covid-19

5. Key Emergency Provisions in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 2011 Enacted Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, enacted in 2011 under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, includes the following emergency-related provisions.

Emergency procedure, plans or public safety information

  1. (1) In addition to its obligations under section 12, if an obligated organization prepares emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and makes the information available to the public, the obligated organization shall provide the information in an accessible format or with appropriate communication supports, as soon as practicable, upon request.

(2) Obligated organizations that prepare emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and make the information available to the public shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2012.

Workplace emergency response information

  1. (1) Every employer shall provide individualized workplace emergency response information to employees who have a disability, if the disability is such that the individualized information is necessary and the employer is aware of the need for accommodation due to the employee’s disability. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 27 (1).

(2) If an employee who receives individualized workplace emergency response information requires assistance and with the employee’s consent, the employer shall provide the workplace emergency response information to the person designated by the employer to provide assistance to the employee. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 27 (2).

(3) Employers shall provide the information required under this section as soon as practicable after the employer becomes aware of the need for accommodation due to the employee’s disability.

(4) Every employer shall review the individualized workplace emergency response information,

(a) when the employee moves to a different location in the organization;

(b) when the employee’s overall accommodations needs or plans are reviewed; and

(c) when the employer reviews its general emergency response policies.

(5) Every employer shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2012.

  1. (1) Employers, other than employers that are small organizations, shall develop and have in place a written process for the development of documented individual accommodation plans for employees with disabilities. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 28 (1).

(2) The process for the development of documented individual accommodation plans shall include the following elements:

  1. The manner in which an employee requesting accommodation can participate in the development of the individual accommodation plan.
  1. The means by which the employee is assessed on an individual basis.
  1. The manner in which the employer can request an evaluation by an outside medical or other expert, at the employer’s expense, to assist the employer in determining if accommodation can be achieved and, if so, how accommodation can be achieved.
  1. The manner in which the employee can request the participation of a representative from their bargaining agent, where the employee is represented by a bargaining agent, or other representative from the workplace, where the employee is not represented by a bargaining agent, in the development of the accommodation plan.
  1. The steps taken to protect the privacy of the employee’s personal information.
  1. The frequency with which the individual accommodation plan will be reviewed and updated and the manner in which it will be done.
  1. If an individual accommodation plan is denied, the manner in which the reasons for the denial will be provided to the employee.
  1. The means of providing the individual accommodation plan in a format that takes into account the employee’s accessibility needs due to disability. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 28 (2).

(3) Individual accommodation plans shall,

(a) if requested, include any information regarding accessible formats and communications supports provided, as described in section 26;

(b) if required, include individualized workplace emergency response information, as described in section 27; and

(c) identify any other accommodation that is to be provided.

Emergency preparedness and response policies

  1. (1) In addition to any obligations that a conventional transportation service provider or a specialized transportation service provider has under section 13, conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers,

(a) shall establish, implement, maintain and document emergency preparedness and response policies that provide for the safety of persons with disabilities; and

(b) shall make those policies available to the public. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 37 (1).

(2) Conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers shall, upon request, provide the policies described in subsection (1) in an accessible format. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 37 (2).

(3) Conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2012.

Regarding para-transit services, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation requires:

Emergency or compassionate grounds

  1. (1) Specialized transportation service providers shall develop procedures respecting the provision of temporary specialized transportation services earlier than in the 14 calendar days referred to in subsection 64 (1),

(a) where the services are required because of an emergency or on compassionate grounds; and

(b) where there are no other accessible transportation services to meet the person’s needs. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 65 (1).

(2) A person shall apply for the services described in subsection (1) in the manner determined by the specialized transportation service provider. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 65 (2).

(3) Specialized transportation service providers shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2014.

LKM



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Incentives for Housing Accessibility


In the third review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends needed improvements to the Act. One of these improvements is the need for housing that is accessible for people with disabilities. Currently, there are no AODA standards that require houses and apartments to be accessible. Most housing developers do not think about the needs of people with disabilities when they build living spaces. Instead, they assume that everyone living in the spaces they design can use features like stairs and narrow doorways. As a result, there is a shortage of accessible housing. Therefore, Onley’s review recommends that the government should create an AODA standard for housing. In addition, the review recommends that the government create incentives for housing accessibility.

Incentives for Housing Accessibility

During the public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees outline barriers they have encountered in inaccessible housing. For instance, some common barriers in houses and apartments are:

  • Steps without ramps, elevators, or lifts
  • Lack of automatic or push-button doors at apartment-building entrances
  • Narrow entrances, doorways, or hallways
  • No accessible Parking in apartment buildings or condominiums
  • Bathrooms without room for people in wheelchairs to turn around
  • Counters, cabinets, and other fixtures too high for people to access from their wheelchairs

For example, people sometimes live in houses where bathrooms are too small for their wheelchairs. As a result, they cannot use the bathrooms in their own homes independently. Furthermore, many people must live in these conditions for ten years or more, because of the accessible housing shortage. Although new houses and apartments are built every year, few of them are accessible. In addition, when houses are built accessibly, they are not always affordable. Therefore, Onley’s review recommends rules and incentives for housing accessibility.

Rules for Accessibility in New Housing

Onley’s review recommends that the barrier-free requirements of the Ontario Building Code should apply to living spaces. Moreover, review attendees suggest that a certain percentage of new living spaces should be accessible. For instance, in a new apartment building, a certain percentage of the apartments should be barrier-free. Likewise, a certain percentage of the houses in a subdivision should also be built without barriers. These requirements would ensure that people with accessibility needs have places to live that meet those needs. In addition, attendees suggest that living spaces should be built in ways that allow accessible features to be easily added later. For example, someone who gains a disability as they age may need an elevator in their home.

Furthermore, the review recommends tax deductions for the sale or land transfer of buildings or subdivisions offering accessible housing. These deductions will encourage developers to include accessible living spaces in new apartment buildings or subdivisions.

Incentives for Retrofitting Existing Housing

To meet the need of retrofitting existing houses for accessibility, Onley’s review recommends grants and tax incentives. For instance, the review mentions that twenty years ago, the government offered grants for people to add accessible features to their homes. This grant program allowed people to buy inaccessible houses and make the changes needed to live in them independently. Furthermore, older adults who gained disabilities could make their houses accessible and remain living in their homes. Therefore, the review recommends that the government should offer this home renovation program again. In addition, owners of rental properties should have access to similar funding to make their properties accessible to tenants with disabilities.




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