AODA Alliance Asks Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce to Take Important Actions to Meet the Urgent Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis


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

April 29, 2020

SUMMARY

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has been in the public spotlight a great deal speaking about the Ford Government’s plans to meet the needs of students during the COVID-19 crisis. But what is he and his Ministry planning to do for students with disabilities during this crisis?

Today the AODA Alliance wrote Mr. Lecce. Our letter is set out below. We ask the Ford Government to take immediate action to address the urgent needs of students with disabilities in Ontario during this crisis. These students number up to a third of a million, if not more. We offer the Minister our help.

Meanwhile, as we announced last Friday, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition are exploring the possibility of holding a Virtual Town Hall meeting next week to share ideas on what school boards, teachers and parents can do to help with the education of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We’re inviting the Ontario Government partner with us in this effort. Stay tuned for more news on this important issue.

To learn more, check out and widely share:

* The AODA Alliance’s efforts over the past decade to advocate for full accessibility and inclusion for students with disabilities in Ontario schools.

* The AODA Alliance’s efforts on the COVID-19 crisis are available on our COVID-19 web page. Our long-term efforts to make education in Ontario accessible to and inclusive for students with disabilities are available on our education web page.

* The efforts by the Ontario Autism Coalition can be found on its web page and its Facebook page.

* The guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the April 20, 2020 online Toronto Star, which summarizes our major COVID disability issues in one place.

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis.

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

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

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

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

There have been a jaw-dropping 454 days since the Ford Government received the groundbreaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 35 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

MORE DETAILS

April 29, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
[email protected] www.aodalliance.org Twitter: @aodaalliance

April 29, 2020

Via Email
To: The Hon Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education
[email protected]

Dear Minister,

Re: Ensuring that Students with Disabilities Fully Benefit from Education at Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

We hope you are staying safe and healthy in the midst of this public health crisis. We write to ask your Government to take immediate, strong action to ensure that the urgent needs of at least a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario are effectively met by Ontario’s education system as part of your Government’s COVID-19 emergency planning. We offer our help, and set out constructive suggestions for action. We need your Government to show strong leadership in this important area.

Since the latter part of March and at least up to the end of May, your Government has closed Ontario’s publicly-funded schools due to the COVID-19 crisis. Your Government had to move education for Ontario students to the online setting.

This move is entirely understandable, given the COVID-19 crisis. However, it creates quite a number of serious barriers and hardship for a third of a million or more students with disabilities in Ontario-funded schools.

For years, Ontario’s education system has been plagued by many serious accessibility barriers that impede learning by students with disabilities. The Ontario Government has not had a comprehensive strategy to remove those barriers and to prevent the creation of new barriers against students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. That is why the Ontario Government is now in the process of developing an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act . For over a decade, the AODA Alliance has led a non-partisan grassroots campaign to get the Ontario Government to develop and enact a strong and effective AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

The necessary swift move from the physical classroom to online learning during the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated those disability barriers. For that reason, students with disabilities as well as their parents, teachers, schools and school boards need the Ontario Government to quickly develop and implement a comprehensive action plan to ensure that the urgent needs of students with disabilities are effectively met during the COVID-19 crisis. From what we have seen, no such strong and effective provincial action plan is now in place. The Ontario Government has not committed to develop and implement one.

For example, in your April 26, 2020 statement, extending school closings to the end of May, you made no mention of students with disabilities. They number up to one in every six students in Ontario-funded schools. The only reference you made to any disabilities during your answers to the media’s questions was toward funding for a help line for students with mental health issues. That is a commendable initiative, but one which leaves out the unmet needs of the vast majority of students with disabilities .

Premier Ford has commendably stated that during the COVID-19 crisis, the Government is addressing the needs of the most vulnerable. Yet Ontario’s many school boards, schools and teaching staff have all been left largely to flounder on their own to figure out what to do for students with disabilities. This means they each must re-invent the wheel one school board, or even one teacher, at a time. This is an ineffective way to address the needs of Ontario’s most vulnerable students. It is especially unfair to parents of students with disabilities, who have to take a leading role in educating their own children at home, and who often have to try to work from home at the same time. It is also an inefficient use of public money.

Since the onset of this crisis in March, we have been publicly raising the pressing need for strong provincial action to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities in the Government’s COVID-19 emergency planning. For example, we wrote Premier Ford to this effect back on March 25, 2020. The needs of students with disabilities in the COVID-19 crisis figure prominently among concerns we have publicly raised. We repeatedly offered to help your Government, and emphasized the need for the Government to work closely with the grassroots disability community. We regret that your government has largely not taken us up on those offers. For example, our March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford remains unanswered five weeks after we sent it.

We offer the following recommendations to you as examples of major priorities for students with disabilities. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you and your Government to implement them, and to identify further priorities:

1. Your Government should now announce that it will swiftly develop and implement a comprehensive action plan for meeting the urgent needs of students with disabilities during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, to assist and support students with disabilities, as well as their families, their teaching staff, their schools and school boards.

This plan should address the needs of students with any kind of disability as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should not be limited to the out-dated and unduly narrow definitions that the Ministry of Education uses for students with special education needs or students with “exceptionalities” or for “exceptional pupils”.

2. This provincial action plan should be developed, implemented and overseen in close consultation with the grassroots disability community among others, and with front-line educators.

It is helpful that you have apparently met twice with your Government’s Ministry’s Advisory Committee on Special Education MACSE to get ideas. However, that is no substitute for consulting extensive grassroots disability community participation that is needed. We understand that a significant number of positions on MACSE remain vacant due to the Government’s not appointing people to fill those vacancies. Also, MACSE is designed to focus on “special education” which is not addressed to students with all kinds of disabilities, due to the Government’s unduly narrow definition of special education students.

As of the time of writing, your Government has not acted on our recommendation shared with the Premier five weeks ago that you get input on this topic from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, appointed under the AODA. Your Government cancelled that Committee’s April 1, 2020 meeting, rather than using that opportunity to get input on this urgent topic.

3. As part of this provincial action plan, your Government should set up a command table for students with disabilities akin to the command table that is overseeing action on COVID-19 generally. It should be headed by a senior public official with demonstrated expertise in delivery of education to students with disabilities in the K-12 school setting. That senior public official should have full-time responsibility for leading the development and implementation of the provincial action plan for students with disabilities .

4. As a fundamental and immediate part of this provincial action plan, your Government should quickly gather and make publicly available to school boards, teaching staff, and to students with disabilities and their families, practical strategies and action tips for remotely teaching students with different disabilities. The Ministry of Education should canvass school boards, Faculties of Education, families, community disability organizations, Special Education Advisory Committees, as well as sources of experience and expertise elsewhere inside and outside Ontario (such as across Canada and in the US).

The Government should not simply create web pages with a blizzard of links to other websites. Parents, teachers and school board officials struggling with this crisis won’t have the time to plow through innumerable links in hopes of finding something helpful.

To this end, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition are trying now to organize an online Virtual Town Hall to give practical tips to teaching staff and parents on how to effectively teach students with different disabilities remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. We have publicly offered to partner with the Ontario Government on this. No one from the Ontario Government has answered. We would still welcome your participation in this project. We would welcome a speaker from the Ontario Government. Time is tight, as you will understand.

5. Your Government should include in this provincial action plan urgent measures to ensure that school boards are not creating new disability barriers while they move to online learning. For example, school boards are using a range of different platforms for holding online meetings and classes. Some have significant accessibility barriers. In contrast, the Zoom platform is designed with very substantial accessibility features. Ironically, we understand that Zoom is not being used in some parts of Ontario’s education system, thereby creating disability barriers. the Ontario Government should ensure that school boards know which platforms, like Zoom, are accessible, and ensure that only those platforms are used.

6. As part of this provincial action plan, new additional accessible resources and accessible online learning opportunities should be established to support students with disabilities during the summer months. You have announced that there will be some summer learning resources made available to students this summer. However we have seen no announcements of any provincial plans to ensure that these have full disability-accessibility. We have not seen any announcement of any plan to make resources or supports available to students with disabilities to help remediate the lost learning opportunities students with disabilities suffered during the COVID-19 school closures.

7. You have announced that TVO and its online resources are an important partner in the Government’s education strategy during the COVID-19 crisis. The provincial action plan we seek should include detailed plans to ensure that TVO’s online learning resources become fully accessible to students with disabilities. We have concerns about their accessibility.

On April 27, 2020, we wrote TVO to inquire about the steps they have taken to ensure the full accessibility of their online education resources. TVO has not answered. We would appreciate a prompt answer from TVO. We would also like to know what your Government did to investigate the accessibility of TvO’s online resources, before deciding to make TVO a key partner in your COVID-19 education strategy.

As but one example, we have not found an easy-to-use tool on TVO’s website to locate fully accessible course content and resources. This leaves school boards, teachers and families in a difficult position when trying to locate accessible online education resources and tools from your key partner, TVO.

8. This provincial action plan should include plans or proposals for school boards on what they should include for students with disabilities in their plans for re-opening schools, when the Ontario Government deems school re-opening to be possible. Many students with disabilities will face substantial added hardships when they return to school. They will need a surge of added supports to address these hardships. School boards must include this in their school re-opening plans.

9. The Government should not hold back on announcing this provincial action plan until all of its ingredients are finalized. Instead, the Government should start immediately to roll it out, and then announce new elements as they are ready to go. School boards, educators, parents and students need action now. They cannot await layers of protracted Government deliberative processes.

10. It is essential to avoid the longstanding Government education practice of producing long, detailed policy documents that call on school boards to themselves create long, detailed policy documents. That will only take time, waste money and delay progress. This provincial action plan must focus on getting action tips, tools and resources into the hands of school boards’ frontline educators, and to parents who are teaching their children at home, as quickly as possible. We are not looking for school boards to create policies that get posted on their websites and which may not translate into front-line action for students.

A week ago, on April 22, 2020, I spoke with your Ministry’s acting Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for special education Mr. Jeff Butler. During that conversation, (the first one we have had with anyone in your Ministry since the COVID-19 crisis began) it was evident that there was no provincial plan in place akin to what we are seeking. We described the critical need for such a plan, and for the Ministry to get right to work on it.

Mr. Butler kindly asked me to provide any resources to him and his staff that might be helpful to share with school boards. We appreciate that offer. However, we emphasized the need for the Government to reach out not only to us via that phone call, but to all key players, such as parents, teachers, school boards , and Special Education Advisory Committees among others.
We are now over seven weeks into this crisis. We would welcome an urgent phone meeting with you to follow up on this. We ask you to be sure to update the public on what the Government is doing for students with disabilities in each of your major public statements and announcements on education during the COVID-19 crisis. We are eager to do what we can to help you, your Government and your Ministry.

Sincerely,

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

CC: Premier Doug Ford
Via Email: [email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility
[email protected]

Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education
[email protected]

Jeff Butler, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister of the Student Support and Field Services Division [email protected]

Yael Ginsler, Assistant Deputy Minister of Education (Acting) for the Student Achievement Division [email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
[email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario [email protected]

Claudine Munroe, Director of the Special Education/Success for All Branch [email protected]

Demetra Saldaris, Director of the Professionalism, Teaching Policy and Standards Branch [email protected]




Source link

AODA Alliance Asks Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce to Take Important Actions to Meet the Urgent Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

AODA Alliance Asks Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce to Take Important Actions to Meet the Urgent Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis

April 29, 2020

          SUMMARY

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has been in the public spotlight a great deal speaking about the Ford Government’s plans to meet the needs of students during the COVID-19 crisis. But what is he and his Ministry planning to do for students with disabilities  during this crisis?

Today the AODA Alliance wrote Mr. Lecce. Our letter is set out below. We ask the Ford Government to take immediate action to address the urgent needs of students with disabilities in Ontario during this crisis. These students number up to a third of a million, if not more. We offer the Minister our help.

Meanwhile, as we announced last Friday, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition are exploring the possibility of holding a Virtual Town Hall meeting next week to share ideas on what school boards, teachers and parents can do to help with the education of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We’re inviting the Ontario Government partner with us in this effort. Stay tuned for more news on this important issue.

To learn more, check out and widely share:

* The AODA Alliance’s efforts over the past decade to advocate for full accessibility and inclusion for students with disabilities in Ontario schools.

* The AODA Alliance’s efforts on the COVID-19 crisis are available on our COVID-19 web page. Our long-term efforts to make education in Ontario accessible to and inclusive for students with disabilities are available on our education web page.

* The efforts by the Ontario Autism Coalition can be found on its web page and its Facebook page.

* The guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the April 20, 2020 online Toronto Star, which summarizes our major COVID disability issues in one place.

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis.

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

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

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

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

There have been a jaw-dropping 454 days since the Ford Government received the groundbreaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 35 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

          MORE DETAILS

April 29, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

[email protected] www.aodalliance.org Twitter: @aodaalliance

April 29, 2020

Via Email

To: The Hon Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education

[email protected]

Dear Minister,

Re: Ensuring that Students with Disabilities Fully Benefit from Education at Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

We hope you are staying safe and healthy in the midst of this public health crisis. We write to ask your Government to take immediate, strong action to ensure that the urgent needs of at least a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario are effectively met by Ontario’s education system as part of your Government’s COVID-19 emergency planning. We offer our help, and set out constructive suggestions for action. We need your Government to show strong leadership in this important area.

Since the latter part of March and at least up to the end of May, your Government has closed Ontario’s publicly-funded schools due to the COVID-19 crisis. Your Government had to move education for Ontario students to the online setting.

This move is entirely understandable, given the COVID-19 crisis. However, it creates quite a number of serious barriers and hardship for a third of a million or more students with disabilities in Ontario-funded schools.

For years, Ontario’s education system has been plagued by many serious accessibility barriers that impede learning by students with disabilities. The Ontario Government has not had a comprehensive strategy to remove those barriers and to prevent the creation of new barriers against students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. That is why the Ontario Government is now in the process of developing an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act . For over a decade, the AODA Alliance has led a non-partisan grassroots campaign to get the Ontario Government to develop and enact a strong and effective AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

The necessary swift move from the physical classroom to online learning during the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated those disability barriers. For that reason, students with disabilities as well as their parents, teachers, schools and school boards need the Ontario Government to quickly develop and implement a comprehensive action plan to ensure that the urgent needs of students with disabilities are effectively met during the COVID-19 crisis. From what we have seen, no such strong and effective provincial action plan is now in place. The Ontario Government has not committed to develop and implement one.

For example, in your April 26, 2020 statement, extending school closings to the end of May, you made no mention of students with disabilities. They number up to one in every six students in Ontario-funded schools. The only reference you made to any disabilities during your answers to the media’s questions was toward funding for a help line for students with mental health issues. That is a commendable initiative, but one which leaves out the unmet needs of the vast majority of students with disabilities .

Premier Ford has commendably stated that during the COVID-19 crisis, the Government is addressing the needs of the most vulnerable. Yet Ontario’s many school boards, schools and teaching staff have all been left largely to flounder on their own to figure out what to do for students with disabilities. This means they each must re-invent the wheel one school board, or even one teacher, at a time. This is an ineffective way to address the needs of Ontario’s most vulnerable students. It is especially unfair to parents of students with disabilities, who have to take a leading role in educating their own children at home, and who often have to try to work from home at the same time. It is also an inefficient use of public money.

Since the onset of this crisis in March, we have been publicly raising the pressing need for strong provincial action to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities in the Government’s COVID-19 emergency planning. For example, we wrote Premier Ford to this effect back on March 25, 2020. The needs of students with disabilities in the COVID-19 crisis figure prominently among concerns we have publicly raised. We repeatedly offered to help your Government, and emphasized the need for the Government to work closely with the grassroots disability community. We regret that your government has largely not taken us up on those offers. For example, our March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford remains unanswered five weeks after we sent it.

We offer the following recommendations to you as examples of major priorities for students with disabilities. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you and your Government to implement them, and to identify further priorities:

  1. Your Government should now announce that it will swiftly develop and implement a comprehensive action plan for meeting the urgent needs of students with disabilities during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, to assist and support students with disabilities, as well as their families, their teaching staff, their schools and school boards.

This plan should address the needs of students with any kind of disability as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should not be limited to the out-dated and unduly narrow definitions that the Ministry of Education uses for students with special education needs or students with “exceptionalities” or for “exceptional pupils”.

  1. This provincial action plan should be developed, implemented and overseen in close consultation with the grassroots disability community among others, and with front-line educators.

It is helpful that you have apparently met twice with your Government’s Ministry’s Advisory Committee on Special Education MACSE to get ideas. However, that is no substitute for consulting extensive grassroots disability community participation that is needed. We understand that a significant number of positions on MACSE remain vacant due to the Government’s not appointing people to fill those vacancies. Also, MACSE is designed to focus on “special education” which is not addressed to students with all kinds of disabilities, due to the Government’s unduly narrow definition of special education students.

As of the time of writing, your Government has not acted on our recommendation shared with the Premier five weeks ago that you get input on this topic from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, appointed under the AODA. Your Government cancelled that Committee’s April 1, 2020 meeting, rather than using that opportunity to get input on this urgent topic.

  1. As part of this provincial action plan, your Government should set up a command table for students with disabilities akin to the command table that is overseeing action on COVID-19 generally. It should be headed by a senior public official with demonstrated expertise in delivery of education to students with disabilities in the K-12 school setting. That senior public official should have full-time responsibility for leading the development and implementation of the provincial action plan for students with disabilities .
  1. As a fundamental and immediate part of this provincial action plan, your Government should quickly gather and make publicly available to school boards, teaching staff, and to students with disabilities and their families, practical strategies and action tips for remotely teaching students with different disabilities. The Ministry of Education should canvass school boards, Faculties of Education, families, community disability organizations, Special Education Advisory Committees, as well as sources of experience and expertise elsewhere inside and outside Ontario (such as across Canada and in the US).

The Government should not simply create web pages with a blizzard of links to other websites. Parents, teachers and school board officials struggling with this crisis won’t have the time to plow through innumerable links in hopes of finding something helpful.

To this end, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition are trying now to organize an online Virtual Town Hall to give practical tips to teaching staff and parents on how to effectively teach students with different disabilities remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. We have publicly offered to partner with the Ontario Government on this. No one from the Ontario Government has answered. We would still welcome your participation in this project. We would welcome a speaker from the Ontario Government. Time is tight, as you will understand.

  1. Your Government should include in this provincial action plan urgent measures to ensure that school boards are not creating new disability barriers while they move to online learning. For example, school boards are using a range of different platforms for holding online meetings and classes. Some have significant accessibility barriers. In contrast, the Zoom platform is designed with very substantial accessibility features. Ironically, we understand that Zoom is not being used in some parts of Ontario’s education system, thereby creating disability barriers. the Ontario Government should ensure that school boards know which platforms, like Zoom, are accessible, and ensure that only those platforms are used.
  1. As part of this provincial action plan, new additional accessible resources and accessible online learning opportunities should be established to support students with disabilities during the summer months. You have announced that there will be some summer learning resources made available to students this summer. However we have seen no announcements of any provincial plans to ensure that these have full disability-accessibility. We have not seen any announcement of any plan to make resources or supports available to students with disabilities to help remediate the lost learning opportunities students with disabilities suffered during the COVID-19 school closures.
  1. You have announced that TVO and its online resources are an important partner in the Government’s education strategy during the COVID-19 crisis. The provincial action plan we seek should include detailed plans to ensure that TVO’s online learning resources become fully accessible to students with disabilities. We have concerns about their accessibility.

On April 27, 2020, we wrote TVO to inquire about the steps they have taken to ensure the full accessibility of their online education resources. TVO has not answered. We would appreciate a prompt answer from TVO. We would also like to know what your Government did to investigate the accessibility of TvO’s online resources, before deciding to make TVO a key partner in your COVID-19 education strategy.

As but one example, we have not found an easy-to-use tool on TVO’s website to locate fully accessible course content and resources. This leaves school boards, teachers and families in a difficult position when trying to locate accessible online education resources and tools from your key partner, TVO.

  1. This provincial action plan should include plans or proposals for school boards on what they should include for students with disabilities in their plans for re-opening schools, when the Ontario Government deems school re-opening to be possible. Many students with disabilities will face substantial added hardships when they return to school. They will need a surge of added supports to address these hardships. School boards must include this in their school re-opening plans.
  1. The Government should not hold back on announcing this provincial action plan until all of its ingredients are finalized. Instead, the Government should start immediately to roll it out, and then announce new elements as they are ready to go. School boards, educators, parents and students need action now. They cannot await layers of protracted Government deliberative processes.
  1. It is essential to avoid the longstanding Government education practice of producing long, detailed policy documents that call on school boards to themselves create long, detailed policy documents. That will only take time, waste money and delay progress. This provincial action plan must focus on getting action tips, tools and resources into the hands of school boards’ frontline educators, and to parents who are teaching their children at home, as quickly as possible. We are not looking for school boards to create policies that get posted on their websites and which may not translate into front-line action for students.

A week ago, on April 22, 2020, I spoke with your Ministry’s acting Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for special education Mr. Jeff Butler. During that conversation, (the first one we have had with anyone in your Ministry since the COVID-19 crisis began) it was evident that there was no provincial plan in place akin to what we are seeking. We described the critical need for such a plan, and for the Ministry to get right to work on it.

Mr. Butler kindly asked me to provide any resources to him and his staff that might be helpful to share with school boards. We appreciate that offer. However, we emphasized the need for the Government to reach out not only to us via that phone call, but to all key players, such as parents, teachers, school boards , and Special Education Advisory Committees among others.

We are now over seven weeks into this crisis. We would welcome an urgent phone meeting with you to follow up on this. We ask you to be sure to update the public on what the Government is doing for students with disabilities  in each of your major public statements and announcements on education during the COVID-19 crisis. We are eager to do what we can to help you, your Government and your Ministry.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC: Premier Doug Ford

Via Email: [email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education

[email protected]

Jeff Butler, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister of the Student Support and Field Services Division

[email protected]

Yael Ginsler, Assistant Deputy Minister of Education (Acting) for the Student Achievement Division

[email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

[email protected]

Claudine Munroe, Director of the Special Education/Success for All Branch

[email protected]

Demetra Saldaris, Director of the Professionalism, Teaching Policy and Standards Branch

[email protected]



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Serving Customers with Invisible Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic


Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with invisible disabilities. In our last article, we described some invisible disabilities. In this article, we outline some best practices for serving customers with invisible disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Serving Customers with Invisible Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Since customers with invisible disabilities do not use assistive devices or service animals, service providers may not know that a customer has an invisible disability until the customer tells them about it. For instance, a customer may tell a salesperson that they cannot stand in line or while they are being served. The customer may request to wait in a seating area and have the provider alert them when it is their turn, or to be served at an accessible counter.

In another example, a customer may tell a salesperson that they are deaf or have a communication disability. The customer may then explain how the salesperson can easily communicate with them, such as by writing, speechreading in good lighting, or using a communication device.

Likewise, a customer may tell a provider that they have a learning disability that affects how they process verbal information. They may ask the provider to write things down instead of speaking.

Recognizing Invisible Disabilities

In contrast, a provider may sometimes notice a customer’s disability. For instance, a provider might notice a customer limping. Providers may assume that a customer needs help simply because the customer has a disability. Providers may also assume that they know what kind of help the customer needs. For instance, providers might think they should try to help by holding the customer’s hand as they move through a line. However, providers should remain physically distant from the customer. Moreover, some forms of help might be harmful to the customer for reasons other than COVID-19. For instance, if a provider tries to help without asking first, they may accidentally throw a customer’s balance off. Therefore, providers should ask the customer first if they need help and how to offer it.

Customers with invisible disabilities are used to moving in the ways they do. They will know best about when and how they need help. Providers should say that they are willing to help in the same way they would greet any customer. The customer can then explain whether they need help, and, if they do, how the provider can offer it.

General Tips for Serving Customers with Invisible Disabilities

Some customers may explain what their disabilities are and describe how these disabilities impact the ways they perform tasks. However, other customers may choose not to identify their disabilities. Instead, they may simply state what tasks they perform differently or need assistance with.

Therefore, if providers want to better understand how to serve a customer, they should ask how they can help with specific tasks, instead of asking exactly what the customer’s disability is.

Providers should make all customers aware that staff are willing to assist with any disability-related needs a customer may have. They should also encourage customers to let them know how they can best serve them. In addition, providers should advertise any accessible features, equipment, or services they have. Customers may appreciate finding out how to benefit from accessible services without having to find and ask staff. Providers can make customers aware:

  • On signs
  • On staff badges
  • In person
  • Through their websites
  • Through messages on their automated phone-answering systems

Service providers who follow these best practices can easily serve customers with invisible disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic.




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Customers with Invisible Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic


As Ontarians continue physical distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, essential services are offering hours of service especially for seniors and customers with disabilities. During these times, only customers who are seniors or who have disabilities are allowed to come into stores. As a result, store staff must understand that they cannot always tell by looking at a person whether or not that person has a disability. The term “disability” often brings to mind visible disabilities. In other words, staff can tell that a customer has a disability if they use an assistive device or a service animal. However, many people with disabilities do not use assistive devices or service animals. Instead, their disabilities are invisible. Nonetheless, providers must offer accessible service to customers with invisible disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Customers with Invisible Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Types of Invisible Disabilities

There are many types of invisible disabilities. For example, invisible physical disabilities may affect people’s:

  • Balance
  • Coordination skills
  • Motor skills
  • Energy level
  • Pain level
  • Ability to walk or stand for long periods of time

Customers with invisible physical disabilities may have conditions such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic pain
  • Heart or lung conditions
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Neuropathy (reduced sense of touch)

Alternatively, other invisible disabilities affect how people communicate. For instance, people with communication disabilities may be deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing. People may also have speech impairments, stutters, or voice disorders.

Moreover, other invisible disabilities are neurological. They impact people’s learning or their mental well-being, in areas such as:

  • Ability to read, write, or calculate
  • Ability to understand or process verbal information
  • Concentration
  • Short-term memory
  • Thought processes, moods, or behaviours
  • Social skills
  • Ability to cope with stress

Customers with invisible neurological disabilities may have conditions such as:

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Hyperactivity Disorder (HD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Brain injury
  • Intellectual disabilities, such as Down Syndrome
  • Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia
  • Mental health challenges, such as depression

Furthermore, some customers will have one disability while others will have more than one.

Accessible Service

Providers need to understand that customers with invisible disabilities need accessible service, even though their disabilities are not obvious. For instance, customers who do not look disabled may ask for accessible parking or for a staff member to read something aloud. These customers may not use wheelchairs or white canes. Instead, they have invisible disabilities that affect the distance they can walk or their ability to process written information.

Service providers may still have questions about what to do when a customer explains that they have an invisible disability. Our next article will offer some best practices for serving customers with invisible disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic.




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The AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition Are Considering Organizing An Online Virtual Town Hall Event on How to Effectively Teach Students with Different Disabilities at Home During the COVID-19 Crisis – We’re Looking for Your Suggestions on Who Would be Good Speakers


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/

The AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition Are Considering Organizing An Online Virtual Town Hall Event on How to Effectively Teach Students with Different Disabilities at Home During the COVID-19 Crisis – We’re Looking for Your Suggestions on Who Would be Good Speakers

April 24, 2020

          Summary

Here is a message jointly from two grassroots disability coalitions, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition:

Teachers and parents all over Ontario are struggling to figure out how to effectively teach students with disabilities at home while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 crisis. They are eager for some practical ideas. The AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition are looking into the possibility of holding another online virtual town hall meeting, this time focusing on action tips for teachers and parents of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. As we explore this idea, we’re looking for suggestions of possible speakers from Ontario or elsewhere who can share practical ideas. Please suggest to us good speakers so we can try to hold this online event, which is much needed especially because the Ontario Government is not providing school boards with the help they need for delivering effective distance education to hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities at home. Send your suggestions to:

[email protected]

          More details

Please send us the names of people we should consider having on as speakers at a virtual town hall online on how teachers and parents can effectively teach students with different disabilities while they are at home, because of school closures during the COVID-19 crisis. We are looking for possible speakers who can focus on the overall topic, or who can give tips tailored to the needs of a student with a particular disability. This might be someone with ideas for a student who has a learning disability, or an intellectual disability, or a physical disability, or blindness or low vision, or deafness or hearing loss, or a mental health condition, or autism, or a communication disability, or some other disability, or some combination of disabilities. We’re open to consider a speaker who is a teacher, or a parent, or some other person with experience and expertise to share. We are open to possible speakers from inside Ontario or from anywhere else in the world. We have no funds to pay speakers, so we can only consider speakers who are prepared to volunteer to take part in this. We want speakers who can give practical tips that teachers and parents can put right to use.

Two weeks ago, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition held a very successful online virtual public forum on what the Ontario Government needs to do to address the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Over 2,000 people watched that event online within 2 weeks of the event. During that event, we only had time to spend a few minutes on the many barriers facing hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. That is why we are thinking of doing a follow-up event addressing the important issue of education for students with disabilities.

To date, the Ontario Government has not announced a comprehensive plan on how the learning needs of students with disabilities will be met during this crisis. As the COVID-19 emergency raced forward, the Government moved Ontario into the world of online learning without giving Ontario’s many school boards the tools and action tips they need to serve students with disabilities. It’s been over three weeks since the Government announced the move to province-wide online learning. Parents, teachers, and school boards are still being left to flounder.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education is responsible for the delivery of education to two million students in Ontario, including over a third of a million students with special education needs. We believe the Ontario Government should be bringing together helpful tips and action ideas for school boards, teachers, and parents. It should not be left to each school board and each teacher to have to reinvent the wheel in this crisis situation. Premier Ford commendably said he wants to protect the most vulnerable in this crisis. Students with disabilities are clearly among the most vulnerable.

Once we hear responses from our request for ideas for speakers, we will figure out if we can successfully put together this virtual town hall meeting, and will publicize it. We have not yet set a date. We invite the Ontario Government to take over and work with us on this project, as it has far more resources and capacity to make it a success than do we.

To learn more, check out and widely share:

* The AODA Alliance’s efforts on the COVID-19 crisis are available on our COVID-19 web page. Our long-term efforts to make education in Ontario accessible to and inclusive for students with disabilities are available on our education web page.

* The efforts by the Ontario Autism Coalition can be found on its web page and its Facebook page.

* The guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the April 20, 2020 online Toronto Star, which summarizes our major COVID disability issues in one place.

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis.

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

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

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

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



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The AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition Are Considering Organizing An Online Virtual Town Hall Event on How to Effectively Teach Students with Different Disabilities at Home During the COVID-19 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/

April 24, 2020

Summary

Here is a message jointly from two grassroots disability coalitions, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition:

Teachers and parents all over Ontario are struggling to figure out how to effectively teach students with disabilities at home while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 crisis. They are eager for some practical ideas. The AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition are looking into the possibility of holding another online virtual town hall meeting, this time focusing on action tips for teachers and parents of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. As we explore this idea, we’re looking for suggestions of possible speakers from Ontario or elsewhere who can share practical ideas. Please suggest to us good speakers so we can try to hold this online event, which is much needed especially because the Ontario Government is not providing school boards with the help they need for delivering effective distance education to hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities at home. Send your suggestions to:

[email protected]

More details

Please send us the names of people we should consider having on as speakers at a virtual town hall online on how teachers and parents can effectively teach students with different disabilities while they are at home, because of school closures during the COVID-19 crisis. We are looking for possible speakers who can focus on the overall topic, or who can give tips tailored to the needs of a student with a particular disability. This might be someone with ideas for a student who has a learning disability, or an intellectual disability, or a physical disability, or blindness or low vision, or deafness or hearing loss, or a mental health condition, or autism, or a communication disability, or some other disability, or some combination of disabilities. We’re open to consider a speaker who is a teacher, or a parent, or some other person with experience and expertise to share. We are open to possible speakers from inside Ontario or from anywhere else in the world. We have no funds to pay speakers, so we can only consider speakers who are prepared to volunteer to take part in this. We want speakers who can give practical tips that teachers and parents can put right to use.

Two weeks ago, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition held a very successful online virtual public forum on what the Ontario Government needs to do to address the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Over 2,000 people watched that event online within 2 weeks of the event. During that event, we only had time to spend a few minutes on the many barriers facing hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. That is why we are thinking of doing a follow-up event addressing the important issue of education for students with disabilities.

To date, the Ontario Government has not announced a comprehensive plan on how the learning needs of students with disabilities will be met during this crisis. As the COVID-19 emergency raced forward, the Government moved Ontario into the world of online learning without giving Ontario’s many school boards the tools and action tips they need to serve students with disabilities. It’s been over three weeks since the Government announced the move to province-wide online learning. Parents, teachers, and school boards are still being left to flounder.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education is responsible for the delivery of education to two million students in Ontario, including over a third of a million students with special education needs. We believe the Ontario Government should be bringing together helpful tips and action ideas for school boards, teachers, and parents. It should not be left to each school board and each teacher to have to reinvent the wheel in this crisis situation. Premier Ford commendably said he wants to protect the most vulnerable in this crisis. Students with disabilities are clearly among the most vulnerable.

Once we hear responses from our request for ideas for speakers, we will figure out if we can successfully put together this virtual town hall meeting, and will publicize it. We have not yet set a date. We invite the Ontario Government to take over and work with us on this project, as it has far more resources and capacity to make it a success than do we.

To learn more, check out and widely share:

* The AODA Alliance’s efforts on the COVID-19 crisis are available on our COVID-19 web page. Our long-term efforts to make education in Ontario accessible to and inclusive for students with disabilities are available on our education web page.

* The efforts by the Ontario Autism Coalition can be found on its web page and its Facebook page.

* The guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the April 20, 2020 online Toronto Star, which summarizes our major COVID disability issues in one place.

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis.

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

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

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

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




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Communication Devices in the COVID-19 Pandemic


The Customer Service Standards of the AODA state that service providers must communicate with customers in ways that take their disabilities into account. For instance, some customers will need information in accessible formats, such as Braille, large print, or accessible websites. Likewise, some customers will need communication supports, such as American Sign language (ASL) interpretation, speechreading, or captioning. In addition, providers must serve customers who use communication devices. When people think of communication devices, they may think of in-person interactions with someone using a hearing aid or a communication board. However, there are many other ways to make communication accessible remotely. As a result, organizations should be committed to serving people who use communication devices in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Communication Devices in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids amplify sound. Some hearing aids can connect directly to other devices, such as phones. They can also connect to assistive listening systems, devices that transmit one speaker’s voice straight to a person’s ear and bypass background noise.

Some people with hearing aids hear background noise at the same volume as nearby sounds. For instance, a person might hear someone on the other side of the room as clearly as they can hear the person they are talking to. Some people might ask the person they are conversing with to move to a quieter location. Other people might prefer to use a different way of communicating, such as speechreading or writing.

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants are prostheses in people’s inner ears that transmit sound directly to the brain. People receive a great deal of training to learn to use their implants. Some people who have implants communicate by speaking and listening. However, other people with implants prefer different ways of communicating, such as speechreading, signing, or writing.

Communication Boards

Communication boards display images that the user can point to or focus on one by one. Boards can include combinations of:

  • letters
  • Words
  • Phrases
  • Pictures
  • Symbols

Some people use communication boards of their own. In addition, providers may have communication boards containing words, phrases, or pictures related to their services. In either case, people may use communication boards remotely through video-calls.

Augmentative or Alternative Communication Devices

Some people type their side of a conversation into an augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) device, or use other inputting methods, such as a mouse or joystick. Others have devices that contain pre-programmed words, phrases, pictures, or messages the user can choose from. Some devices have screens that display the user’s side of the conversation. Other devices have speech output. Some people pre-record what they want to say and play it back. People may use any of these devices in a conversation over video-call.

Best Practices for Serving Customers with Communication Devices

Service providers should speak to a customer with a communication device directly instead of addressing a companion or support person. Moreover, if a provider wants clarification about how someone uses their communication device, they should ask the owner of the device, not a companion or support person. People who use communication devices are used to explaining how they work, and they may have written explanations prepared in advance.

Similarly, providers should speak naturally when talking to a customer using a communication device. Customers’ hearing aids, cochlear implants, or speechreading skills allow them to understand speech at natural speed and volume. Moreover, people using communication boards or AACs often have average hearing.

Furthermore, providers should not assume that a customer needs help simply because the providers notice the customer’s disability. Instead, providers should approach the customer and say that they are willing to offer assistance in the same way they would greet any customer. The customer can then request assistance or explain the best way for the provider to help.

It is acceptable to use language or figures of speech related to hearing or speaking, such as “Have you heard about…” or “Can you say that again?”.

Providers should focus on what customers are saying, not how they are saying it.

In addition, providers should give customers time to express themselves at their own pace. Providers should wait for customers to finish what they are saying, not state what they think the customers’ ideas are. However, once a customer is finished, a provider who wishes to make sure they have understood the customer correctly may state what they think the customer has said.

Service providers who follow these best practices can easily serve customers using communication devices in the COVID-19 pandemic.




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Still More Media Reports Reveal Disproportionate Harm to Ontarians with Disabilities Due to the Ontario Government’s Failure to Effectively Plan for Urgent Disability Needs in its COVID-19 Emergency Efforts


and – Federal Government Announces Disability COVID-19 Advisory Panel, So We Offer Our Advice

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/

April 23, 2020

SUMMARY

Here are yet more helpful media reports that illustrate how people with disabilities are disproportionately suffering the consequences of the Ontario Governments failure to effectively include the urgent needs of people with disabilities in its emergency COVID-19 planning. Our ongoing advocacy efforts are showing some signs of success, but the battle remains an uphill one. We remain tenacious as we join in that battle!

Below you will find:

* An excellent April 22, 2020 City TV news report by reporter Pam Seatle, on the Ford Governments failure to effectively plan for the COVID-19 needs of Ontarians with disabilities.

* A great April 22, 2020 report on CBC Radio Kitchener Waterloo by reporter Paula Duhatschek on the cruel impact on one individual with disabilities of the Ford Governments unjustified and inexplicable closure of the Adaptive Devices Program during the COVID-19 crisis as a supposedly non-essential program. We commend the individual who brought that issue to CBC.

* An earlier superb April 11, 2020 Canadian Press report by reporter Michelle McQuigge that appeared in a number of media outlets including the Globe and Mail, on the Federal Governments announcement of a federal advisory panel on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities.

We also set out below the Federal Governments actual April 10, 2020 announcement of its federal disability advisory panel on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. We commend the Federal Government for Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtroughs acknowledging:

We recognize that some groups of Canadians are significantly and disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, in particular Canadians with disabilities. For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19. Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services, and health care. For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.

We first learned of the Federal Governments plans in this regard at the same time as did the public when it was publicly announced. It is good that the Federal Government has recognized the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. However, as we noted in the April 11, 2020 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, 95% of the problems people with disabilities face in this crisis are within provincial responsibility, and are not the responsibility of the Federal Government.

It is very important for the Federal and provincial governments across Canada to also directly reach out to, hear from and follow the advice of anyone with the best front-line experience with the impact of COVID-19 on the grassroots disability community. That would include, for example, the ten experts that were interviewed on the April 7, 2020 virtual public forum on COVID-19 and people with disabilities organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.

In the federal sphere, we offer these recommendations:

* The Federal Government pledged in the fall 2019 federal election that it would apply a disability lens to all its decisions. Beyond creating a new advisory panel, it is important for the Federal Government to let us and the entire public know what it is doing and has done since this crisis began to apply that disability lens to all its decisions in the COVID-19 crisis.

* The new federal disability advisory group should itself watch the April 7, 2020 virtual public forum on COVID-19 and disability, and advocate for the recommendations made there.

* The Federal Government should immediately make public the work of its new federal disability advisory group, when it is meeting, what it is recommending, and what actions the Federal Government is taking as a result to protect people with disabilities during this crisis. Openness and transparency by our governments is especially important during a crisis like this one.

We are not recommending that the Ford Government create a similar advisory panel. It would take the Government too long to set it up, and risk being a distraction. Instead, the Ford Government should immediately reach out to the grassroots disability community to learn about the hardships they are facing during this crisis. The Ford Government should also recognize, as has the Federal Government, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. As we have been urging for weeks, the Ford Government should quickly develop and make public a comprehensive plan of action to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities as part of its emergency COVID-19 planning.

Our non-partisan campaign is substantially fortified when individuals bring to the media their personal stories about the hardships and barriers they are facing during the COVID-19 crisis due to their disability. The AODA Alliance remains ready and willing to provide broader comments to the media on these issues, as we do in the stories set out below. To help you with this, you can get more background, check out and widely share:

* The guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the April 20, 2020 online Toronto Star, which summarizes our major COVID disability issues in one place.

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis.

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

* Action tips on how to help ensure that patients with disabilities dont face discrimination in access to critical health care.

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

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

There have been an inexcusable 448 days since the Ford Government received the groundbreaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 29 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

We are sending you more AODA Alliance Updates than usual because of the influx of important news that is important to people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We are doing our best to stay on top of the rapidly changing events, and to effectively advocate for efforts so that people with disabilities are equally served by government emergency COVID-19 planning.

MORE DETAILS

City News April 22, 2020

Originally posted at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/04/22/advocates-say-coronavirus-planning-leaves-out-people-with-disabilities/

Advocates say coronavirus planning leaves out people with disabilities BY PAM SEATLE AND DILSHAD BURMANPOSTED APR 22, 2020

Summary
Disabilities advocates say their community has been overlooked in the government’s COVID-19 planning

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the province to provide in-home testing for people with disabilities

No plans have been announced but Minister of Health Christine Elliott says those with disabilities will be accommodated

As the country continues to wage battle against the novel coronavirus, vulnerable populations have been highlighted repeatedly including seniors, those with compromised immune systems, and more recently, those living in low-income neighbourhoods.

While there is no doubt all of those groups are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, disabilities advocates say their community is also a large and highly vulnerable group that has been entirely overlooked by the government in many areas.

People with disabilities in Ontario number at 2.5 million. [They] are facing, really, a triple whammy during this COVID crisis, beyond what everybody else is facing, says David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA).

Lepofsky says the problem includes the following issues:

* People with disabilities are disproportionately prone to contracting COVID-19 and also likely to suffer its most severe medical impacts
* A combination of government neglect and failure to plan is making them even more prone to getting COVID-19 than they already are
* If they do get the disease and have to visit a hospital, they face serious existing accessibility barriers in the healthcare system

The solution is as clear as it is obvious as it is missing. We need the Premier and the Government of Ontario to say we gotta plan. We gotta include in our emergency planning for COVID, specific plans to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities, who are among the most vulnerable, says Lepofsky.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is also calling on the Ford government to address the needs of Ontarians with disabilities.

They are worried and concerned that theyve been left behind, says Horwath.

She says there is no plan to ensure that people with disabilities will get tested if they begin to show symptoms of COVID-19 and there are concerns in the community that they will not have access to testing like everybody else.

Weve asked the government to put in place a plan to have testing available for those folks that would include ensuring that they can get tested at home, says Horwath, adding that this would help mitigate the issues of barriers to transit and navigating public spaces for those with mobility issues.

Lets not leave these folks out. Lets do some proactive testing, lets get to people in their homes and lets give them the peace of mind that others are able to get by having mobility and being able to go out to testing centres and get that testing done.

However, testing and care are not the only ways in which Lepofsky says people with disabilities are falling through the cracks.

He adds that thousands of children with disabilities are being left behind as the government implements online learning which is not accessible to many such students. Plus, he says people with disabilities who live independently at home but still need assistance, are being overlooked as well.

Wendy Porch, the head of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto, manages a program for about a thousand Ontarians who live independently but need assistance with daily tasks such as eating, getting washed and dressed.

She agrees with Lepofsky and says the people she works with have been ignored.

The folks that we work with have not been considered a priority in any of the priority populations that weve seen defined, she says. There has been no particular guidance thats been released around people with disabilities living at home.

In addition, she says when the issue is raised with authorities, they are told theyre just not there yet.

Theres no attention paid to this population at this point, says Porch.

Making matters arguably worse is that those who care for people with disabilities at home are not receiving any government assistance with personal protective equipment (PPE), despite being essential workers with close physical contact with clients.

Our program is not a medically oriented program, but the people who receive these supports at home, they see the same personal support workers that work in long-term care facilities and theyre certainly at risk. But because theyre at home, it seems as though theyve fallen through the cracks, she says. Because we were named as an essential service, if we could be included in the kind of supply chain relationships that exist between the Ministry of Health and some of these suppliers [of PPE], that would go a long way towards solving this problem for our folks.

In addition to these worries, Lepofsky says one of his biggest concerns is what he calls the provinces secret plans on how patients will be prioritized should critical equipment such as respirators fall into short supply. He says the governments plans to ration critical medical care if such a situation were to arise leaves out those with disabilities.

In an open letter, the province responded to such concerns saying all will be treated equally.

We believe that a human life cannot be valued differently. As such, Ontario Health has been asked to consult with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as well as human rights and key community experts, to make certain that any medical protocols that may be required during this outbreak do not disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, older persons, Indigenous communities and racialized people, they said

Health Minister Christine Elliott was asked about the issue at the provinces daily briefing on Wednesday. She said the government is willing to accommodate everybody.

If people need to be tested, we can take the testing to them, especially people with disabilities who maybe have significant mobility challenges, she said. We want to make sure, if they need to be tested, that they will be tested and if they need care that they will receive the care that they need, including hospital admissions or if theyre doing self-isolation making sure that they have the supplies and equipment and assistance that they need.

At this time, the province has not yet put forth a definitive plan for at-home testing and care.

CBC News Kitchener Waterloo April 22, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/man-stuck-hours-daily-on-floor-while-province-closes-assistive-devices-office-1.5540041

Man stuck hours daily on floor while province closes Assistive Devices office
Michael Wilson says wheelchair broke while awaiting a replacement, then COVID-19 hit Paula Duhatschek

A Kitchener man has spent nearly a month stuck in his apartmentafter his wheelchair fell apart and a replacement has been delayed.

Meanwhile, the province has shuttered its Assisted Devices Program office, which helps people access funds to pay for their wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

Michael Wilson, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around, receivesa replacement every five years, paid for through the province’s program.

This year, he says he was due for a new wheelchairbut that the process was delayed after the province initially rejected his applicationand he had to file an appeal.

Wilson was still using his old wheelchair on March 24 when he left his apartment to stock up on essentials.The motor and wheel fell offmid-trip, he says. Without a functional wheelchair, Wilson been unable to venture out for grocery or banking trips, and has mostly been eating delivery pizza. He also can’t comfortably change positions or move himself around his apartment.

“It’s awkward,” he said.

Office not processing applications
Although the province pays mostof the cost of devices provided through the Assisted Devices Program, it’s up to individual vendors to supply them. Corrinne Cave, who is witha localhome care company working with Wilson, said she couldn’t comment on individual cases for privacy reasons. But she saysher business’soperations have been complicated by the fact that the program office was closed due to COVID-19 and is no longer answering the phone or processing new funding applications.

“We’re trying to figure out a balance on how to get these [devices] to people who do need it” while also considering what costs they can absorb, she said.

France Gélinas, NDP health critic and Nickel Belt MPP, told CBC News that vendors and people with disabilities have been left in a tough position following the closure of the office. She saystheprogram itself has long been due for an upgrade, so that people who need new wheelchairs and other devices can get them based on need rather than “arbitrary” rules.

For the time being, Gelinas saysthe office should at least have someone around topick up the phone. “Right now, to not even be able to talk to them I don’t understand it,” Gelinas told CBC News.

“It is disrespectful, it is causing a lot of real hardship to people who often have severe disabilities,depend on those wheelchairs, to anything else to live their lives, and now they’re stuck.”

Pandemic creates urgency
Ontario disability advocate David Lepofsky agrees. He saysassistive devices are even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, now people have been told to physically distanceand can’t ask their friends and neighbours for extra help.

“The first thing [the province] should do is immediately re-open the assistive devices program and declare it essential,” said Lepofsky. “The second thing they should do is essentially do a short-term surge to try to clear the backlog that will have now been created.”

Province ‘evaluating options’
A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province couldn’t comment on individual cases. She said vendors will still receive payments based on historical invoicesand can dispense and repair devices for clients who are eligible. “We’re currently evaluating options to provide greater continuity of services under the assisted devices program during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.

He says they should replace wheelchairs more frequently, before safety becomes an issue. He thinks the programshould also be more cautious about rejecting applications and requiring appeals for needed devices like wheelchairs, especially when it comes to situations like his.

As of Monday, Wilson was still without a wheelchair. But after CBC News contacted the vendor and province about his story, Wilson was told his wheelchair would be delivered Wednesday. When it arrives, he says,he looks forward to finishing up the errands he started back in March.

The Globe and Mail April 11, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-federal-government-names-group-to-ensure-disabled-canadians-included-2/ Federal government names group to ensure disabled Canadians included in COVID-19 response MICHELLE MCQUIGGE THE CANADIAN PRESS

Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Thursday March 26, 2020.

Qualtrough did not elaborate on specific systemic barriers in place, but members of Canadas disabled community have been sounding alarms since the beginning of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS figure

The COVID-19 pandemic takes a particularly heavy toll on Canadians with disabilities and more efforts are needed to ensure theyre included in national efforts to respond to the crisis, the minister overseeing accessibility issues said Friday as she appointed an advisory group to take on the task.

Disability Inclusion Minister Carla Qualtrough said disabled residents have been sounding alarms about a host of concerns related to the outbreak, which has already killed at least 550 Canadians and sickened a minimum of 22,000 others. In a statement announcing the advisory group, Qualtrough said greater efforts are needed to ensure disabled voices are heard during a troubling time.

For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19, Ms. Qualtrough said in the statement. Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services and health care. For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.

As we continue to address the COVID-19 outbreak, our priority will remain helping persons with disabilities maintain their health, safety, and dignity.

Ms. Qualtrough did not elaborate on specific systemic barriers in place, but members of Canadas disabled community have been sounding alarms since the beginning of the outbreak.

Early public-health messages and briefings at all levels of government often failed to include accessibility measures, such as sign language interpreters for the deaf or simplified messaging for those with intellectual disabilities.

Since then, more concerns have been raised about access to overtaxed health-care resources, the availability of educational supports for disabled students, and the greater vulnerability of those living in confined settings such as prisons, homeless shelters and long-term care institutions. At one assisted living facility in Markham, Ont., the executive director confirmed an outbreak had infected 10 of 42 residents and two staff members. Shelley Brillinger said news of the outbreak prompted the rest of the staff at Participation House to walk off the job, leaving residents without the care they need.

Our residents are the most vulnerable in society, she said. They dont have a voice, and my message would be its our responsibility to speak up for those who cant speak for themselves and ensure that they have the care that they deserve.

The 11-member advisory group, consisting of academics and organization leaders spanning a range of physical and intellectual disabilities, has been tasked
with apprising the government of the barriers their communities face and ensuring their needs are adequately addressed.

Committee member Bonnie Brayton, executive director of the DisAbled Womens Network Canada, said the issues before the group are matters of equality and fundamental access to human rights.

She said the proliferation of the novel coronavirus has laid bear many systemic issues that dogged the community for decades, but have taken on increased urgency as the disease continues to spread.

What the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that the question of equality rights for people with disabilities apparently is still on the table in the legal system, in the health system, and I think in the soul of Canadians, Ms. Brayton said in a telephone interview. Its the last piece of our really becoming the country we need to become in terms of human rights.

Other advocates welcomed the federal governments recognition of the need for action, but expressed reservations about the impact such a move could have. David Lepofsky, founder of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and a long-time crusader for accessibility rights, said federal governments do not have jurisdiction over most of the programs with the greatest impact on the lives of disabled residents.

Only provincial governments can take 95 per cent of the action people with disabilities desperately need to avert the disproportionate hardships that the COVID-19 crisis inflicts on them, including the horrifying risk that their disability could be used as a reason to deny them medical services during rationing, he said. Were disproportionately vulnerable to get this disease, to suffer its harshest impacts and then to slam into serious barriers in our health care system.

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director of the Arch Disability Law Centre, shared Mr. Lepofskys concern. He said there is currently no uniform approach to disability inclusion during the COVID-19 crisis. While he applauded the federal government for acknowledging as much, he expressed hope that the advisory group would continually seek input from those without seats at the government table. The disproportionate impact of this pandemic on persons with disabilities is undisputed, but it is playing out very differently across different provinces, territories, cities, and towns, Mr. Lattanzio said. We need voices from people with disabilities who are on the ground and who understand the complexity and nuances of what is actually happening. April 10, 2020 Announcement by Federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough

Originally posted at https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/04/statement-by-minister-qualtrough-on-canadas-disability-inclusive-approach-to-its-covid-19-pandemic-response.html Statement by Minister Qualtrough on Canadas Disability-Inclusive approach to its COVID-19 pandemic response From: Employment and Social Development Canada

April 10, 2020 Gatineau, Quebec Employment and Social Development Canada

The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, today issued the following statement:

From the onset of the outbreak of COVID-19, the Government of Canada has taken significant steps to curb the spread of this virus and to reduce its impacts on the health of Canadians and our economy.

We recognize that some groups of Canadians are significantly and disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, in particular Canadians with disabilities. For some persons with disabilities, underlying medical conditions put them at greater risk of serious complications related to COVID-19. Others face discrimination and barriers in accessing information, social services, and health care. For others, the need for self-isolation and physical distancing create additional challenges.

As we continue to address the COVID-19 outbreak, our priority will remain helping persons with disabilities maintain their health, safety, and dignity. This includes through more formal communication channels and touch points with the disability community.

To this end, we are establishing the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, comprised of experts in disability inclusion. This Group will provide advice on the real-time lived experiences of persons with disabilities during this crisis; disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps; and strategies, measures and steps to be taken. Areas of particular focus will be equality of access to health care and supports; access to information and communications, mental health and social isolation; and employment and income supports.

From the onset, our Government has worked hard to ensure that the interests and needs of persons with a disability are being taken into consideration in our decisions and measures adopted in response to COVID-19. We have put a disability lens on decision-making and have been consulting national disability organizations and other stakeholders. We are also working with other levels of government. We are making strides on accessibility of public announcements and Government of Canada communications.

But we know that there is much more to do.

We have heard the concerns expressed by individuals and organizations for persons with disabilities, as well as their recommendations for ensuring a disability-inclusive approach to this pandemic.

Rest assured that as we support Canadians through this crisis, our Government is unequivocal in our commitment to the rights of every citizen and the value of every life, including the right to equal access to medical treatment and care. This is in keeping with our Governments commitment to nothing without us, and in line with the principles and objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Accessible Canada Act.

April 10, 2020 Federal Government Backgrounder

Originally posted at https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/04/backgrounder–covid-19-disability-advisory-group.html

Canada.ca Employment and Social Development Canada

Backgrounder : COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group
From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Backgrounder

During this time of public health and economic crisis, in the spirit of Nothing Without Us and the Accessible Canada Act, and in recognition of Canadas domestic and international human rights obligations, the Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that it considers, respects and incorporates the interests and needs of persons with disabilities into its decision-making and pandemic response.

Persons with disabilities face unique and heightened challenges and vulnerabilities in a time of pandemic, including equality of access to health care and supports, access to information and communications, mental health and social isolation and employment and income supports. Additional vigilance is also required to protect the human rights of persons with disabilities during these times. This necessitates a disability inclusive approach to Government decision-making and action.

The Government of Canada is taking immediate, significant and decisive action by announcing the establishment of the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group (CDAG). The CDAG will advise the Minister on the real-time lived experiences of persons with disabilities during this crisis on disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps and on strategies, measures and steps to be taken.

Co-chaired by Minister Qualtrough, the Advisory Group will be comprised of individual experts from the disability community:

Co-Chair: Al Etmanski, is a writer, community organizer and social entrepreneur. He was welcomed into the world of disability in 1978 when his daughter was born. He led the closure of institutions, segregated schools, and sheltered workshops in BC, founded Canadas first Family Support Institute, and initiated the precedent setting right-to-treatment court case for Stephen Dawson. In 1989, he co-founded Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) with his wife Vickie Cammack. PLAN lobbied into existence the Registered Disability Savings Plan. Mr. Etmanski sparked a national conversation about belonging, and was instrumental in establishing a grass roots alternative to legal guardianship and expanding the legal definition of capacity. His last book, Impact: 6 Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation is a national bestseller. His forthcoming book is The Power of Disability: 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving and Changing the World. He blogs at aletmanski.com.

Bill Adair, Executive Director, Spinal Cord Injury Canada. Mr. Adair offers a depth of provincial and national experience in the spinal cord rehabilitation field. As a former Ontario government employee, national task force leader and Director of the National Patient Services Program with the Canadian Cancer Society, he has nearly three decades of expertise in non-profit management and strategic leadership. Prior to joining Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, he was Director of the National Patient Services Program with the Canadian Cancer Society for 13 years. His involvement in providing services to people with disabilities includes serving as the Director of the International Year for Disabled Persons, the Executive Director of a national task force that designed a system to coordinate cancer control efforts throughout Canada, and the Founding Executive Director of Wellspring.

Neil Belanger, Executive Director of the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS). Mr. Belanger has over 30 years of experience working within in Canadas Indigenous and non-Indigenous disability and health sectors. Since 2013, BCANDS has been the recipient of eight provincial, national and international awards, the most recent being the Zero Project International Award presented to the Society in Vienna, in February 2019. He also serves in a variety of disability related advisory roles, some of which include: Canada Posts Accessibility Advisory Committee; Ministers Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction; Ministers Council on Employment and Accessibility; Ministers Registered Disability Savings Plan Action Group and Board Member with Inclusion BC. He is a member of the Lax Se el (Frog Clan) of the Gitxsan First Nation and resides in Victoria with his wife and two children.

Diane Bergeron, President, CNIB Guide Dogs and Vice President, International Affairs.As President of CNIB Guide Dogs, Ms. Bergeron brings lived experience to the position. As a guide dog handler for more than 35 years, she raises her voice to challenge stigma and support equal rights. In addition, as vice president of International Affairs for the CNIB Foundation, she is actively engaged in regional, national and international initiatives that enable people impacted by blindness to live the lives they choose. Before joining CNIB, Ms. Bergeron held senior roles with the Government of Alberta and the City of Edmonton.

Bonnie Brayton, A recognized leader in both the feminist and disability movements, Ms. Brayton has been the National Executive Director of the DisAbled Womens Network (DAWN) of Canada since May 2007. In this role, she has proven herself as a formidable advocate for women with disabilities here in Canada and internationally. During her tenure with DAWN Canada, Ms. Brayton has worked diligently to highlight key issues that impact the lives of women and girls with disabilities. Since 2016, Ms. Brayton has served as a member of the Federal Department of Women and Gender Equality (WAGE, formerly known as Status of Women Canada), Ministers Advisory Council on Gender-Based Violence. She also presents regularly to Parliamentary and Senate Committees, at public consultations and has represented women and girls with disabilities in both Canadian and International spheres.
Krista Carr, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL). Ms. Carr was previously the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL). She had been working with the NBACL for 21 years, the last 16 as Executive Director. She also holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of New Brunswick.

Maureen Haan: Ms. Haan has been the President & CEO of the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW) since 2012. CCRW is the only national organization with the sole vision of equitable and meaningful employment for people with disabilities, in operation for over 40 years. Under her leadership, CCRW has seen an increase in direct program service throughout Canada, as well as a more transparent, stream-lining of understanding the business case of hiring a person with a disability. She has been very active in the cross-disability sector, currently focusing on employment issues. Ms. Haan has been involved with numerous committees and groups that increase awareness of and access for the disability sector and the Deaf community, including involvement with civil society on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and co-development and leadership of the pan-Canadian Strategy on Disability and Work.

Hélène Hébert, President, Réseau québécois pour l’inclusion sociale des personnes sourdes et malentendantes (REQIS). Ms. Hébert is the president of Reqis, a provincial organization defending the collective rights and promoting the interests of deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Its mission is also to contribute to the development and influence of its members through networking and knowledge exchange. She is also a member of VoirDire, a bi-monthly publication serving the deaf population of Quebec since 1983.

Dr. Heidi Janz, University of Alberta, Assistant Adjunct Professor with the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre. Dr. Janz specializes in the field of Disability Ethics and has been affiliated with the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre since 2006. She was previously the Curriculum Coordinator for an emerging Certificate Program in Disability Ethics in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta. In her other life, Dr. Janz is a writer and playwright. Dr. Janz is also Chair of the End-of-life ethics committee for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD).

Rabia Khedr, CEO, Disability Empowerment Equality Network Support Services and Executive Director, Muslim Council of Peel. Rabia is a community leader who helps others with issues of fairness and justice that affect persons with disabilities, women and diverse communities. She was recently the Commissioner for the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Ms. Khedr created the Canadian Alliance on Race and Disability, which represents persons with disabilities and organizations at local, provincial and national meetings. She is also a member of the Mississauga Accessibility Advisory Committee. She is a motivational speaker and documentary commentator and has been awarded many awards, including a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Dr. Michael Prince, Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria. He teaches courses on public sector governance and public policy analysis in the School of Public Administration and the School of Public Health and Social Policy. As a policy consultant, Dr. Prince has been an advisor to various federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal government agencies; four Royal commissions; and, to a number of parliamentary committees federally and provincially. An active volunteer, Dr. Prince has been a board member of a community health clinic, a legal aid society, a hospital society and hospital foundation, the BC Association for Community Living, and the social policy committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.




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