More Helpful Media Coverage and More Organizations Endorse the AODA Alliance Brief to the Ford Government on How to Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic


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/

More Helpful Media Coverage and More Organizations Endorse the AODA Alliance Brief to the Ford Government on How to Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

June 30, 2020

          SUMMARY

With the delight of summer and the ongoing terrible stress of COVID-19 both upon us, here is a grab-bag of latest news in our multi-front campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities. We wish one and all a safe, happy and accessible Canada Day.

1. Support Keeps Growing for the June 18, 2020 AODA Alliance Brief to the Ford Government on Protecting Students with Disabilities During the Transition to School Re-opening

An impressive list of 12 disability-related organizations have now endorsed the 19 recommendations to the Ford Government in the June 18, 2020 AODA Alliance brief on what needs to be done to meet the needs of students with disabilities during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the transition to school re-openings. Those organizations now include:

  1. March of Dimes of Canada
  2. Citizens with Disabilities Ontario
  3. Community Living Ontario
  4. Spinal Cord Injury Ontario
  5. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind
  6. the Inclusive Design Research Centre of the Ontario college of Art and Design University
  7. Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy
  8. Balance for Blind Adults
  9. The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network – Elgin, London, Middlesex, Oxford
  10. Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children (Views for the Visually Impaired)
  11. Ontario Autism Coalition
  12. Integration Action for Inclusion

As we announced on June 26,2020, our brief’s recommendations have also been endorsed by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. OSSTF is the union that represents thousands of public high school teachers. Thus our recommendations have a broad consensus of support from a diversity of voices within the front lines of the disability community and from teachers who work at the front lines of our education system.

It is not too late for you as an individual, or for an organization with which you are connected, to write the Ministry of Education to endorse the AODA Alliance’s June 18, 2020 brief on school re-openings. Email the Ontario Government at [email protected] to support our June 18, 2019 brief. We’d welcome the chance to add more organizations to this list.

 2. What Has TVO Done to Fix Its Website Accessibility Problems?

The Ford Government has repeatedly announced that it has partnered with TVO to deliver online learning content to students during distance learning, while schools are closed due to COVID-19. Back on May 4, 2020, we made public the fact that there are significant accessibility problems with the online learning resources offered on the website of TVO, Ontario’s publicly-owned and operated public education TV network. This was revealed during the May 4, 2020 virtual town hall that was jointly organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition on meeting the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We are proud that since then, over 1,600 people have watched that virtual town hall. It is still available online for you to watch, and for you to share with others to watch!

Since we revealed this problem, the AODA Alliance has expressed its concerns in detail to TVO in a 30-minute phone call on May 14, 2020 between AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and the TVO vice president for digital content. The AODA Alliance followed this up with a detailed letter to TVO’s digital content vice president on May 21, 2020. We have also raised this issue at the highest levels within the Ministry of Education. The Ministry oversees TVO.

Since then, we have not heard a word from TVO. TVO has not told us of anything it has done, if it has done anything, to act on the serious accessibility problems we identified and the concrete recommendations for action that we offered.

 3. More Media on the Impact of COVID-19on People with Disabilities

For more than three months, our media has devoted most of its attention to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite that, it has been incredibly hard for the disability community to get sufficient and appropriate media attention on the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on people with disabilities, and on the failure of our governments to effectively address the unmet needs of people with disabilities during this pandemic. We have tried hard and will continue to try hard to get the media to properly cover these issues.

Set out below are three good media reports that have accrued over the past weeks that we’ve wanted to share with you:

  1. An article in the June 23, 2020 Mississauga News on the barriers for people with disabilities that are threatened by Mississauga’s approach to allowing restaurants to open patios to serve the public. For practical suggestions on how to ensure such patios are accessible to people with disabilities, and don’t create barriers to people with disabilities, check out a list of tips from DesignAble Environments, an accessible design consulting firm.
  2. The May 6,2020 Global News report on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, and
  3. The May 5, 2020 report in QP Briefing on the virtual town hall organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition on meeting the needs of students with disabilities during COVID-19.

 4. Delay and Delay and More Delay from the Ford Government

There have now been 516 days, or a full year and a half, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking 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 serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been fully 97 days, or over three months, 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 Premier’s office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Visit the AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page to see what we have been up to, trying to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis are properly addressed. Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected]. Please stay safe!

          MORE DETAILS

 Mississauga News June 23, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.mississauga.com/news-story/10039099–waived-all-the-red-tape-mississauga-to-allow-more-bar-and-restaurant-patios-starting-wednesday/

‘Waived all the red tape’: Mississauga to allow more bar and restaurant patios starting Wednesday

Patios could be ‘navigational nightmare,’ accessibility advocate says

NEWS Jun 23, 2020 By Steve Cornwell Mississauga News

When Ontario allows Mississauga bars and restaurants to serve customers outdoors starting Wednesday, June 24, you may see proliferation of patios in the city.

Mississauga council is moving forward with a temporary bylaw relaxing restrictions and fees on restaurant patios in strip mall parking lots, public streets and on sidewalks.

Prior to the new bylaw, restaurants patios were permitted on private property in Mississauga’s downtown area, Port Credit or where the city has allowed them through a zoning variance.

The new rules apply to the city’s five business improvement areas and wherever restaurants have their own entrances.

Restaurant patios can extend for free once establishments reopen: province

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the move is meant to help restaurants and bars revive revenues impacted by the COIVD-19 pandemic.

“We’ve waived all the red tape,” she said. “We’ve waived all the fees and we’re just telling them to get ready because as soon as they get the green light from the province to open Phase 2 they can start serving.”

Peel Region, including Mississauga, is not yet in the province’s Stage 2 reopening phase, which allows restaurants and bars to host patrons on outdoor patios. The province will allow Peel to move to that stage June 24.

Until then, the city would continue to enforce COVID-19 emergency orders forbidding restaurants and bars from having services beyond takeaway and delivery, according to Mississauga’s planning commissioner, Andrew Whittemore.

Patios on sidewalks and on public streets would still require a temporary permit. Parking lot patios in strip malls would also need to be permitted by property managers.

Crombie also said inspectors will be out ensuring that the patios meet Mississauga’s building standards.

But accessibility advocate David Lepofsky said a sudden surge of new furniture on sidewalks could be a big proplem for individuals that use mobility devices or have low vision.

“For people like me who are blind, those patios that stick out on the sidewalk are just a big navigational nightmare in the best of times,” said Lepofsky, who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. “And they can be unpredictable. It’s there one day; it’s not there the next day.”

He said problems for people with accessibility needs could be intensified during the pandemic as there are more concerns around interacting with others for help to get around obstacles.

“Ordinarily if you got something that’s a little uncertain (in your path) you could just ask a stranger,” he said.

“But that means that I take your arm. Well, I don’t want to take your arm and you don’t want me taking your arm because now we’re not two metres apart.”

City council still needs to hold a July 8 planning and development meeting to officially pass the temporary bylaw. However, it voted to relax enforcement on patios that would be allowed under the new rule — after Mississauga enters Stage 2 — in the meantime.

Toronto is moving ahead with a similar program, CaféTO, which aims to streamline the placement of temporary sidewalk and curb lane patios, once permitted.

That program requires a minimum 2.1 metres of clearance for pedestrians and for any patio installation to be cane-detectable, meaning individuals with low or no vision can use their white-cane to navigate around it.

 Global News Online May 6, 2020

Originally posted at https://globalnews.ca/news/6906216/coronavirus-canadians-disabilities/

‘I need help’: Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities – National

BY EMERALD BENSADOUN- GLOBAL NEWS

Prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, 27-year-old Marissa Blake was rarely ever home. Now, Blake, who lives in Toronto supportive housing and needs assistance to walk, can only have one visitor a week for three hours and can’t see her friends in-person. An appointment to discuss surgery on her legs was cancelled, and her sleep and care schedule are in flux because her personal support workers keep changing.

“It’s difficult,” she said. “I feel like I’m in jail.” Disability advocates say B.C.’s woman’s death shows need for clearer COVID-19 policy. Her exercise program with March of Dimes Canada, a rehabilitation foundation for disabled persons, was cancelled, and Blake said she’s been less physically active than usual.

“It’s been really making me tight, really making me feel like I’m fighting with my body,” she said. “I can’t just get up and walk. I need help.”

But for Blake, isolation and exclusion are having the largest impact. “The biggest thing for me is support,” she said.

“I miss my friends. I miss interacting with people. Because when you look at a computer, it’s great but it’s not the same as seeing them face-to-face.”

One in four Canadians — about 25 per cent of the population — has a disability, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. Despite this, advocates say they are often left out of emergency planning.

David Lepofsky, who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, likened the situation to a fire raging inside of an apartment building complex, where the people inside are alerted by a fire alarm and loudspeaker that tells them to exit by taking designated stairs illuminated by clearly-indicated markers.

A person who is deaf wouldn’t hear the fire alarm. A person in a wheelchair would be trapped inside. And those designated markers will do nothing for someone who can’t see. Unless they receive support, Lepofsky said anyone with disabilities living in the building will likely not survive. Similarly, he said the government has applied a mostly one-size-fits-all approach to COVID-19 measures that offer little support the country’s disabled.

“It’s because of their disability and it’s because no one planned for them in the emergency,” he said.

Often, Canadians with more severe disabilities will get placed in long-term care facilities, where health officials said over 79 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths occur. Lepofsky said that poses a danger to those with disabilities, as well. He said comparable problems arise in Ontario’s virtual elementary and secondary education system, called Learn At Home. The program isn’t user-friendly for students with disabilities who may be deaf, blind or unable to use a mouse, said Lepofsky. Despite making up upwards of one-in-six of the student population, he said much of the program was made with only able-bodied students in mind. When asked about this, the Ontario Ministry of Education said in a statement to Global News that Education Minister Stephen Lecce had convened two “urgent” discussions with the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education where they discussed how best to support students and families during this period and has consulted the K-12 Standards Development Committee struck by the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. They said all resources were reviewed for accessibility based on the standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005), but that school boards were ultimately responsible for making decisions on the use of digital learning resources and collaboration tools to support students’ learning online.

“The Ministry has provided clear direction to school boards on how to support students with special education and mental health needs during school closures,” they said.

March of Dimes Canada president Len Baker said even before the existence of COVID-19, people with disabilities were facing “significant” challenges every day, including already-existing barriers like attitudinal ones about disability.

“Those historic barriers become exacerbated during a time such as this pandemic, where now not only do they have to address the issues that they need to be able to complete their goals and feel connected to the community, but with social distancing and the isolation that the pandemic brings, it causes us concern that many individuals are going to feel even a greater sense of isolation and loneliness during this time,” he said.

Baker said around 50,000 students with disabilities rely on the organization for opportunities to read, learn skills, get out in the community, to participate and connect with others. But since the pandemic started, he said they’ve had to revamp their services to be available virtually or over the phone.

Marielle Hossack, press secretary to the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a statement to Global News the federal government has increased human resources for support services for Canadians with disabilities over the phone and online, and is looking into implementing ALS and LSQ into current and future emergency responses.

The federal government has also established the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, which is comprised of experts in disability inclusion, that provide advice on “real-time live experiences of persons with disabilities.” Hossack wrote the group discusses disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps as well as strategies, measures and steps to be taken.

But some advocates don’t think that’s enough.

Karine Myrgianie Jean-François, director of operations at DisAbled Women’s Network Canada, told Global News that despite making up such a large percentage of the population, many are not getting support services typically provided by provincial health departments or social services. This is due to a lot of factors, she said — because there’s a lack of protective equipment, because people are getting sick, because it’s too dangerous. For children with disabilities, Jean-François said the pandemic means they’re often relying on their parents for mental and physical support they would have received at school.

“A lot of the measures that have been made to prepare for this pandemic have been done to think about the greatest number of people, which often means that we forget about people who are more marginalized and people who have a disability are included in that,” she said.

Jean-François said that includes the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Currently, 70 per cent of Canadians eligible for the disability tax credit will receive the enhanced GST/HST benefit based on their income levels due to COVID-19, but that may not add up to much for Canadians with disabilities who may also need to hire food deliveries, in-house care, or those that would be deemed ineligible for the aid because they’re unable to work.

The money “doesn’t go as far as it used to,” she said. When factored to include the rising cost of living, Jean-François said most Canadians with disabilities — many of whom are already living at or near the poverty line — end up barely scraping by. “We’re not all equal under COVID-19,” she said. “We need to be looking at… who stands up to make sure that people get what they need, and how to make sure that they’re supported in what they’re doing both financially but also mentally, because it’s it’s really hard work to support people who were left alone.”

 QP Briefing May 5, 2020

Some Ontario e-learning doesn’t work for students with disabilities

Jack Hauen

Some TVO and ministry course content isn’t accessible to people with low vision, said Karen McCall, a professor who teaches about accessible media at Mohawk College and owns an accessible design firm. She was one of several experts who spoke at a virtual town hall hosted on Monday by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, a member of the province’s K-12 AODA standards committee, and Ontario Autism Coalition President Laura Kirby-McIntosh, who is also a high school teacher.

None of the stories in the “math storytime” section worked for McCall, who has low vision herself and uses a screen reader. She couldn’t find any homework in the “homework zone.”

Teachers did a good job of describing what was going on in the videos she watched, until they didn’t, she said. For instance, one math teacher didn’t read out the main formula students were to use.

“She said this formula equates to one quarter, but if I’m a student who’s trying to learn this, I have no idea what equates to one quarter,” McCall said.

Another gap came during a science class. “Everything was fine, everything was explained, until the teacher said, ‘Watch what happens,’ and then did not describe what was happening,” she said.

But the biggest problems came with the ministry of education’s own course preview site, McCall said, where her screen reader couldn’t make heads or tails of what it said.

“If they’re going to rely on this kind of content, they’ve got to make sure it’s properly accessible,” Lepofsky said of the provincial government.

Kirby-McIntosh noted that Zoom is the most accessible streaming service, but some school boards have banned teachers from using it. More top-down direction is needed to avoid these types of errors, she said.

Other experts during the town hall provided tips for educators and parents such as making sure videos were the highest quality possible, so kids with hearing loss can better lip read; and sticking to routines as much as possible, which helps many kids on the autism spectrum.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has held two meetings with the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE) during the pandemic, and is also consulting the K-12 standards development committee that Lepofsky sits on, said ministry of education spokesperson Ingrid Anderson.

Lepofsky confirmed that he’ll be speaking with Lecce on Wednesday.

“TVO has been working to make all their online content and resources accessible and compliant to AODA regulations. The Ministry will continue to work with the Agency to consider ways to enhance accessibility beyond the AODA requirements,” Anderson said in a statement. “School boards remain independently accountable for making decisions on the use of digital learning resources and collaboration tools to support students’ learning online.”

The minister’s advisory committee is “no substitute for consulting extensive grassroots disability community participation that is needed,” the AODA Alliance wrote in an April 29 letter to Lecce. A number of positions on the committee remain vacant, the group said. “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.”

The town hall’s last guest was Jeff Butler, the acting assistant deputy minister of student support and field services in the ministry of education. He pointed to actions the ministry has taken already, like directing school boards to consult with their special education committees and honour individual education plans; as well as working with boards to distribute assistive technology that usually lives in schools to families.

The ministry has also hosted a series of webinars for teachers to learn about special education during the pandemic. About 500 educators have attended them so far, and more are planned, he said.

Responding to McCall’s feedback about sites not working with screen readers, he said: “I absolutely am listening on that and will take that input back. It is important to us that those resources that are there are accessible for students with disabilities and students with special needs.”

He promised to continue to engage with experts, saying that their input has been “incredibly valuable.”

It’s critical for the government to carry these lessons through to when schools eventually re-open, Lepofsky said.

For instance, some students won’t be able to socially distance or wear masks due to their disabilities, if they require a close by aide or are hypersensitive to touch. “We can’t tell those kids, ‘Oh, sorry kid, you stay home, everybody else is going back to school.’”

A “surge” in education hours will be needed for some kids with disabilities, who will have fallen further behind some of their peers, Lepofsky said, giving the example of kids learning to read braille who require hand-over-hand instruction that’s impossible to conduct online.

“This is really something we can’t leave to every single school board again to try to reinvent the same wheel,” he said, calling for the provincial government to “take on leadership here.”

Kirby-McIntosh ended the stream with a message for Lecce: don’t just assemble a “spiffy webpage with a blizzard of links,” but consult with experts and provide school boards with top-down direction on best practices.

“Please learn from this town hall,” she said, and gather ideas from the front-line people teaching kids with disabilities during the pandemic.

“The premier committed at the beginning of this crisis to protecting those who are most vulnerable,” she said. “Well, surely a third of a million Ontario students with disabilities are among those most vulnerable.”



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More Helpful Media Coverage and More Organizations Endorse the AODA Alliance Brief to the Ford Government on How to Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic


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/

June 30, 2020

SUMMARY

With the delight of summer and the ongoing terrible stress of COVID-19 both upon us, here is a grab-bag of latest news in our multi-front campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities. We wish one and all a safe, happy and accessible Canada Day.

1. Support Keeps Growing for the June 18, 2020 AODA Alliance Brief to the Ford Government on Protecting Students with Disabilities During the Transition to School Re-opening

An impressive list of 12 disability-related organizations have now endorsed the 19 recommendations to the Ford Government in the June 18, 2020 AODA Alliance brief on what needs to be done to meet the needs of students with disabilities during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the transition to school re-openings. Those organizations now include:

1. March of Dimes of Canada
2. Citizens with Disabilities Ontario
3. Community Living Ontario
4. Spinal Cord Injury Ontario
5. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind
6. the Inclusive Design Research Centre of the Ontario college of Art and Design University 7. Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy
8. Balance for Blind Adults
9. The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network Elgin, London, Middlesex, Oxford
10. Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children (Views for the Visually Impaired) 11. Ontario Autism Coalition
12. Integration Action for Inclusion

As we announced on June 26,2020, our briefs recommendations have also been endorsed by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. OSSTF is the union that represents thousands of public high school teachers. Thus our recommendations have a broad consensus of support from a diversity of voices within the front lines of the disability community and from teachers who work at the front lines of our education system.
It is not too late for you as an individual, or for an organization with which you are connected, to write the Ministry of Education to endorse the AODA Alliances June 18, 2020 brief on school re-openings. Email the Ontario Government at [email protected] to support our June 18, 2019 brief. Wed welcome the chance to add more organizations to this list.

2. What Has TVO Done to Fix Its Website Accessibility Problems?

The Ford Government has repeatedly announced that it has partnered with TVO to deliver online learning content to students during distance learning, while schools are closed due to COVID-19. Back on May 4, 2020, we made public the fact that there are significant accessibility problems with the online learning resources offered on the website of TVO, Ontarios publicly-owned and operated public education TV network. This was revealed during the May 4, 2020 virtual town hall that was jointly organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition on meeting the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We are proud that since then, over 1,600 people have watched that virtual town hall. It is still available online for you to watch, and for you to share with others to watch!
Since we revealed this problem, the AODA Alliance has expressed its concerns in detail to TVO in a 30-minute phone call on May 14, 2020 between AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and the TVO vice president for digital content. The AODA Alliance followed this up with a detailed letter to TVOs digital content vice president on May 21, 2020. We have also raised this issue at the highest levels within the Ministry of Education. The Ministry oversees TVO.

Since then, we have not heard a word from TVO. TVO has not told us of anything it has done, if it has done anything, to act on the serious accessibility problems we identified and the concrete recommendations for action that we offered.

3. More Media on the Impact of COVID-19on People with Disabilities

For more than three months, our media has devoted most of its attention to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite that, it has been incredibly hard for the disability community to get sufficient and appropriate media attention on the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on people with disabilities, and on the failure of our governments to effectively address the unmet needs of people with disabilities during this pandemic. We have tried hard and will continue to try hard to get the media to properly cover these issues.
Set out below are three good media reports that have accrued over the past weeks that weve wanted to share with you:
1. An article in the June 23, 2020 Mississauga News on the barriers for people with disabilities that are threatened by Mississaugas approach to allowing restaurants to open patios to serve the public. For practical suggestions on how to ensure such patios are accessible to people with disabilities, and dont create barriers to people with disabilities, check out a list of tips from DesignAble Environments, an accessible design consulting firm.
2. The May 6,2020 Global News report on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, and
3. The May 5, 2020 report in QP Briefing on the virtual town hall organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition on meeting the needs of students with disabilities during COVID-19.

4. Delay and Delay and More Delay from the Ford Government

There have now been 516 days, or a full year and a half, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking 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 serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
There have been fully 97 days, or over three months, 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 Premiers office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Visit the AODA Alliances COVID-19 web page to see what we have been up to, trying to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis are properly addressed. Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected] Please stay safe!

MORE DETAILS

Mississauga News June 23, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.mississauga.com/news-story/10039099–waived-all-the-red-tape-mississauga-to-allow-more-bar-and-restaurant-patios-starting-wednesday/ Waived all the red tape: Mississauga to allow more bar and restaurant patios starting Wednesday Patios could be navigational nightmare, accessibility advocate says NEWS Jun 23, 2020 By Steve Cornwell Mississauga News
When Ontario allows Mississauga bars and restaurants to serve customers outdoors starting Wednesday, June 24, you may see proliferation of patios in the city.
Mississauga council is moving forward with a temporary bylaw relaxing restrictions and fees on restaurant patios in strip mall parking lots, public streets and on sidewalks.
Prior to the new bylaw, restaurants patios were permitted on private property in Mississaugas downtown area, Port Credit or where the city has allowed them through a zoning variance.
The new rules apply to the citys five business improvement areas and wherever restaurants have their own entrances. Restaurant patios can extend for free once establishments reopen: province
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the move is meant to help restaurants and bars revive revenues impacted by the COIVD-19 pandemic.
We’ve waived all the red tape, she said. We’ve waived all the fees and we’re just telling them to get ready because as soon as they get the green light from the province to open Phase 2 they can start serving.
Peel Region, including Mississauga, is not yet in the provinces Stage 2 reopening phase, which allows restaurants and bars to host patrons on outdoor patios. The province will allow Peel to move to that stage June 24.

Until then, the city would continue to enforce COVID-19 emergency orders forbidding restaurants and bars from having services beyond takeaway and delivery, according to Mississaugas planning commissioner, Andrew Whittemore.
Patios on sidewalks and on public streets would still require a temporary permit. Parking lot patios in strip malls would also need to be permitted by property managers.
Crombie also said inspectors will be out ensuring that the patios meet Mississaugas building standards.
But accessibility advocate David Lepofsky said a sudden surge of new furniture on sidewalks could be a big proplem for individuals that use mobility devices or have low vision.
For people like me who are blind, those patios that stick out on the sidewalk are just a big navigational nightmare in the best of times, said Lepofsky, who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. And they can be unpredictable. It’s there one day; it’s not there the next day.
He said problems for people with accessibility needs could be intensified during the pandemic as there are more concerns around interacting with others for help to get around obstacles.
Ordinarily if you got something that’s a little uncertain (in your path) you could just ask a stranger, he said.
But that means that I take your arm. Well, I don’t want to take your arm and you don’t want me taking your arm because now we’re not two metres apart.
City council still needs to hold a July 8 planning and development meeting to officially pass the temporary bylaw. However, it voted to relax enforcement on patios that would be allowed under the new rule after Mississauga enters Stage 2 in the meantime.
Toronto is moving ahead with a similar program, CaféTO, which aims to streamline the placement of temporary sidewalk and curb lane patios, once permitted.
That program requires a minimum 2.1 metres of clearance for pedestrians and for any patio installation to be cane-detectable, meaning individuals with low or no vision can use their white-cane to navigate around it. Global News Online May 6, 2020
Originally posted at https://globalnews.ca/news/6906216/coronavirus-canadians-disabilities/
I need help: Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities National BY EMERALD BENSADOUN- GLOBAL NEWS

Prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, 27-year-old Marissa Blake was rarely ever home. Now, Blake, who lives in Toronto supportive housing and needs assistance to walk, can only have one visitor a week for three hours and cant see her friends in-person. An appointment to discuss surgery on her legs was cancelled, and her sleep and care schedule are in flux because her personal support workers keep changing.

Its difficult, she said. I feel like Im in jail. Disability advocates say B.C.s womans death shows need for clearer COVID-19 policy. Her exercise program with March of Dimes Canada, a rehabilitation foundation for disabled persons, was cancelled, and Blake said shes been less physically active than usual.
Its been really making me tight, really making me feel like Im fighting with my body, she said. I cant just get up and walk. I need help.
But for Blake, isolation and exclusion are having the largest impact. The biggest thing for me is support, she said.
I miss my friends. I miss interacting with people. Because when you look at a computer, its great but its not the same as seeing them face-to-face.
One in four Canadians about 25 per cent of the population has a disability, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. Despite this, advocates say they are often left out of emergency planning.
David Lepofsky, who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, likened the situation to a fire raging inside of an apartment building complex, where the people inside are alerted by a fire alarm and loudspeaker that tells them to exit by taking designated stairs illuminated by clearly-indicated markers.
A person who is deaf wouldnt hear the fire alarm. A person in a wheelchair would be trapped inside. And those designated markers will do nothing for someone who cant see. Unless they receive support, Lepofsky said anyone with disabilities living in the building will likely not survive. Similarly, he said the government has applied a mostly one-size-fits-all approach to COVID-19 measures that offer little support the countrys disabled.
Its because of their disability and its because no one planned for them in the emergency, he said.
Often, Canadians with more severe disabilities will get placed in long-term care facilities, where health officials said over 79 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths occur. Lepofsky said that poses a danger to those with disabilities, as well. He said comparable problems arise in Ontarios virtual elementary and secondary education system, called Learn At Home. The program isnt user-friendly for students with disabilities who may be deaf, blind or unable to use a mouse, said Lepofsky. Despite making up upwards of one-in-six of the student population, he said much of the program was made with only able-bodied students in mind. When asked about this, the Ontario Ministry of Education said in a statement to Global News that Education Minister Stephen Lecce had convened two urgent discussions with the Ministers Advisory Council on Special Education where they discussed how best to support students and families during this period and has consulted the K-12 Standards Development Committee struck by the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. They said all resources were reviewed for accessibility based on the standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005), but that school boards were ultimately responsible for making decisions on the use of digital learning resources and collaboration tools to support students learning online.

The Ministry has provided clear direction to school boards on how to support students with special education and mental health needs during school closures, they said.
March of Dimes Canada president Len Baker said even before the existence of COVID-19, people with disabilities were facing significant challenges every day, including already-existing barriers like attitudinal ones about disability.
Those historic barriers become exacerbated during a time such as this pandemic, where now not only do they have to address the issues that they needto be able to complete their goals and feel connected to the community, but with social distancing and the isolation that the pandemic brings, it causes us concern that many individuals are going to feel even a greater sense of isolation and loneliness during this time, he said.
Baker said around 50,000 students with disabilities rely on the organization for opportunities to read, learn skills, get out in the community, to participate and connect with others. But since the pandemic started, he said theyve had to revamp their services to be available virtually or over the phone.
Marielle Hossack, press secretary to the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a statement to Global News the federal government has increased human resources for support services for Canadians with disabilities over the phone and online, and is looking into implementing ALS and LSQ into current and future emergency responses.
The federal government has also established the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, which is comprised of experts in disability inclusion, that provide advice on real-time live experiences of persons with disabilities. Hossack wrote the group discusses disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps as well as strategies, measures and steps to be taken. But some advocates dont think thats enough.
Karine Myrgianie Jean-François, director of operations at DisAbled Womens Network Canada, told Global News that despite making up such a large percentage of the population, many are not getting support services typically provided by provincial health departments or social services. This is due to a lot of factors, she said because theres a lack of protective equipment, because people are getting sick, because its too dangerous. For children with disabilities, Jean-François said the pandemic means theyre often relying on their parents for mental and physical support they would have received at school.
A lot of the measures that have been made to prepare for this pandemic have been done to think about the greatest number of people, which often means that we forget about people who are more marginalized and people who have a disability are included in that, she said.
Jean-François said that includes the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Currently, 70 per cent of Canadians eligible for the disability tax credit will receive the enhanced GST/HST benefit based on their income levels due to COVID-19, but that may not add up to much for Canadians with disabilities who may also need to hire food deliveries, in-house care, or those that would be deemed ineligible for the aid because theyre unable to work.

The money doesnt go as far as it used to, she said. When factored to include the rising cost of living, Jean-François said most Canadians with disabilities many of whom are already living at or near the poverty line end up barely scraping by. Were not all equal under COVID-19, she said. We need to be looking at who stands up to make sure that people get what they need, and how to make sure that theyre supported in what theyre doing both financially but also mentally, because its its really hard work to support people who were left alone.

QP Briefing May 5, 2020
Some Ontario e-learning doesnt work for students with disabilities Jack Hauen
Some TVO and ministry course content isn’t accessible to people with low vision, saidKaren McCall, a professor who teaches about accessible media at Mohawk College and owns an accessible design firm. She was one of several experts who spoke at a virtualtown hallhosted on Monday by AODA Alliance ChairDavidLepofsky, a member of the province’s K-12AODA standards committee,and Ontario Autism Coalition PresidentLaura Kirby-McIntosh, who is also a high school teacher.
None of the stories in the “math storytime” section worked for McCall, who has low vision herself and uses a screen reader. She couldn’t find any homework in the “homework zone.”
Teachers did a good job of describing what was going on in the videos she watched, until they didn’t, she said. For instance, one math teacher didn’t read out the main formula students were to use.
She said this formula equates to one quarter, but if Im a student whos trying to learn this, I have no idea what equates to one quarter, McCall said.
Another gap came during a science class. Everything was fine, everything was explained, until the teacher said, Watch what happens, and then did not describe what was happening, she said.
But the biggest problems came with the ministry of education’s own coursepreview site, McCall said, where her screen reader couldn’t make heads or tails of what it said.
If theyre going to rely on this kind of content, theyve got to make sure its properly accessible, Lepofsky said of the provincial government.
Kirby-McIntosh noted that Zoom is the most accessible streaming service, but some school boards have banned teachers from using it. More top-down direction is needed to avoid these types of errors, she said.
Other experts during the town hall provided tips for educators and parents such as making sure videos were the highest quality possible, so kids with hearing loss can better lip read; and sticking to routines as much as possible, which helps many kids on the autism spectrum.

Education MinisterStephen Leccehas held two meetings with the Ministers Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE) during the pandemic, and is also consulting the K-12 standards development committee that Lepofsky sits on, said ministry of education spokespersonIngrid Anderson. Lepofsky confirmed that he’ll be speaking with Lecce on Wednesday.
“TVO has been working to make all their online content and resources accessible and compliant to AODA regulations. The Ministry will continue to work with the Agency to consider ways to enhance accessibility beyond the AODA requirements,” Anderson said in a statement. “School boards remain independently accountable for making decisions on the use of digital learning resources and collaboration tools to support students learning online.”
The minister’s advisory committee is “no substitute for consulting extensive grassroots disability community participation that is needed,” the AODA Alliance wrote in an April 29letterto Lecce. A number of positions on the committee remain vacant, the group said. “Also, MACSE is designed to focus on ‘special education’ which is not addressed to students with all kinds of disabilities, due to the Governments unduly narrow definition of special education students.”
The town hall’s last guest wasJeff Butler, the acting assistant deputy minister of student support and field services in the ministry of education. He pointed to actions the ministry has taken already, like directing school boards to consult with their special education committees and honour individual education plans; as well as working with boards to distribute assistive technology that usually lives in schools to families.
The ministry has also hosted a series of webinars for teachers to learn about special education during the pandemic. About 500 educators have attended them so far, and more are planned, he said.
Responding to McCall’s feedback about sites not working with screen readers, he said: I absolutely am listening on that and will take that input back. It is important to us that those resources that are there are accessible for students with disabilities and students with special needs.
He promised to continue to engage with experts, saying that their input has been “incredibly valuable.”
It’s critical for the government to carry these lessons through to when schools eventually re-open, Lepofsky said.
For instance, some students won’t be able to socially distance or wear masks due to their disabilities, if they require a close by aide or are hypersensitive to touch. We cant tell those kids, Oh, sorry kid, you stay home, everybody else is going back to school.
A “surge” in education hours will be needed for some kids with disabilities, who will have fallen further behind some of their peers, Lepofsky said, giving the example of kids learning to read braille who require hand-over-hand instruction that’s impossible to conduct online.
This is really something we cant leave to every single school board again to try to reinvent the same wheel,” he said, calling for the provincial government to “take on leadership here.”

Kirby-McIntosh ended the stream with a message for Lecce: don’t just assemble a spiffy webpage with a blizzard of links, but consult with experts and provide school boards with top-down direction on best practices.
Please learn from this town hall, she said, and gather ideas from the front-line people teaching kids with disabilities during the pandemic.
The premier committed at the beginning of this crisis to protecting those who are most vulnerable,” she said. “Well, surely a third of a million Ontario students with disabilities are among those most vulnerable.




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Accessible Public Transportation After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, transportation providers have adapted to new ways of serving the public during the pandemic. In the post-COVID-19 future, more transportation providers may recognize the value of adapting their vehicles and services to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more service providers may offer accessible public transportation after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accessible PublicTransportation After the COVID-19 Pandemic

As physical distancing continues, transportation providers have made changes to the services they offer. For instance, busses have changed their schedules and seating arrangements. Similarly, many bus companies have waived fees in order to allow riders to board through back doors. All these changes make vehicles safer for essential workers and other people who need to travel on public transit, such as buses and trains. In the same way, transportation companies can adapt just as proactively to better serve travellers with disabilities.

Current AODA Requirements for Conventional Transportation Providers

Currently, the Transportation Standards of the AODA only mandate accessibility in public transit vehicles if:

  • The vehicles were made on or after January 1st, 2013
  • The vehicles were purchased on or after July 1st, 2011

In addition, if companies update one feature of their vehicles, such as signage, the updated feature must be accessible. However, remaining features continue to be inaccessible. This limitation to the standards means that older vehicles may not be welcoming to passengers with disabilities.

Some individuals responsible for vehicle oversight at public transit companies may feel that they do not need to worry about making older vehicles accessible because the AODA does not require them to do so. They may also fear that installing accessible features will be costly, time-consuming, or inconvenient. However, companies with accessible vehicles better serve both drivers and passengers.

Vehicle Accessibility

For example, different vehicle set-ups offer passengers different levels of independence. The wheelchair-accessible seats on some vehicles allow many people to secure their own assistive devices. In contrast, other vehicles require drivers to secure passengers’ wheelchairs, scooters, and other devices. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these differences in vehicle accessibility impact drivers and passengers in new ways.

The Transportation Standards require drivers to provide assistance securing passengers, upon request. However, some drivers feel that providing this assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic is not safe. Like workers in all essential services, bus drivers deserve to be safe and supported as they do their important work. Nonetheless, serving passengers with disabilities, including securing passengers, is part of that essential work. People of all abilities need to travel to their jobs and essential services, like stores or doctors.

When public transit companies invest in vehicles with more accessibility features, their drivers and passengers will be less likely to face this dilemma. In other words, the more accessible vehicles are, the safer they are for drivers and passengers. When transportation companies choose to improve their vehicle accessibility, the changes they make may later bring benefits they do not expect.




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People with disabilities, autism carry a heavier pandemic burden, advocates say – National


People with intellectual disabilities and autism are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than other people in at least two states in the U.S., according to new data collected by NPR.

In Pennsylvania, people with intellectual disabilities and autism are dying at a rate twice as high as other people who contract the virus. In New York, they’re dying at 2.5 times the rate of others.

One in four Canadians — about 25 per cent of the population — has a disability, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada, and experts worry the numbers are similar when it comes to COVID-19 deaths in Canada.

READ MORE: Disability advocates say B.C. woman’s death shows need for clearer COVID-19 policy

“We know that … when you look at the response (to COVID-19) and the (exclusion) of certain populations … people with disabilities is one of those populations,” said Meenu Sikand, executive lead of equity, diversity and inclusion at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto.

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While there isn’t any Canadian data available yet, it would make sense that people with disabilities and autism are disproportionately affected by the virus, according to Valorie Crooks, a professor of health geography at Simon Fraser University who currently holds the Canada Research Chair in Health Service Geographies.

“This is a population that we know experience ongoing systemic challenges in accessing and experiencing preventative care,” Crooks said.

“If we had a group of people that we know have typically been on the margins of having access to preventative margins of healthcare, including how that intersects with the social care system, I think it’s quite logical to expect that this would be a group of people … that has higher rates of COVID-19.”






Recognizing the unique challenges COVID-19 presents to people with disabilities


Recognizing the unique challenges COVID-19 presents to people with disabilities

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, people with disabilities were facing “significant” challenges every day, March of Dimes Canada president Len Baker previously told Global News. March of Dimes is an organization which provides services for people with disabilities in Canada.

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“Those historic barriers become exacerbated during a time such as this pandemic,” he said.

“Now, not only do they have to address the issues that they need to be able to complete their goals and feel connected to the community, but with social distancing and the isolation that the pandemic brings, it causes us concern that many individuals are going to feel even a greater sense of isolation and loneliness during this time,” he said.

U.S. data

Pennsylvania and New York state are two of the only states collecting data about people with intellectual disabilities and autism as it relates to COVID-19 deaths.

In Pennsylvania, the numbers are tallied by the Office of Developmental Programs of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

As of June 2, the data showed 801 confirmed cases and 113 deaths among people with intellectual disabilities and autism. This includes anyone who receives state support while living in group homes, state institutions or their own homes.

READ MORE: Federal panel aims to ensure Canadians with disabilities included in coronavirus response

In New York, NPR calculated the data based on numbers collected by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

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As of early June, 2,289 people who receive services from this office were tested for the novel coronavirus and 368 had died.

In Canada, advocates are frustrated with the lack of data collection.






Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors


Warning ignored from B.C. disability advocate about essential hospital visitors

As someone who works with people with disabilities and autism on the front lines, Sikand knows the disabled community is being disproportionately affected by COVID-19 — but Canada isn’t collecting any national data to back this up and drive policy.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Without the data to support her claims, there is less pressure on the government to make a change.

“It’s already three months ⁠— almost four ⁠— into the pandemic response, and we missed all those opportunities,” Sikand said.

“The government was moving forward with a (plan), trying to make sure that it includes different communities … but our community has been left out of this conversation because there’s no real data.”

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‘Ableist lens’

The lived experience of a person with a disability or autism is extremely unique to that person, Sikand said, and the current policies regarding COVID-19 don’t take this into account.

“I think … social distancing and visitation policies were created using an ableist lens,” Sikand said.

She uses the example of Ariis Knight, a 40-year-old woman with cerebral palsy who died alone in a B.C. hospital in April.

READ MORE: Autism and isolation — How coronavirus is affecting kids on the spectrum and their parents

Knight communicated with her family and support workers through her eyes and facial expressions. She was admitted to Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock on April 15 with symptoms of congestion, fever and vomiting but did not have COVID-19.

Her support staff were not permitted access due to restrictions put in place during the pandemic. Not long after being admitted, Knight was put on end-of-life care and died days later.

“She was cut off from the people who understood how she communicated … her support system was not considered,” Sikand said.

“People with disabilities are marginalized because (policy) decisions are being made by people who don’t have disability.”

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Inclusive emergency planning

Advocates say people with disabilities are often left out of emergency planning in Canada.

David Lepofsky, who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, likened the situation to a fire raging inside of an apartment building complex. People inside are alerted by a fire alarm and speaker that tells them to exit by taking designated stairs illuminated by clearly indicated markers.

A person who is deaf wouldn’t hear the fire alarm. A person in a wheelchair would be trapped inside. And those designated markers would do nothing for someone who can’t see. Unless they receive support, Lepofsky said anyone with disabilities living in the building would likely not survive.

READ MORE: ‘I need help’ — Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities

Similarly, he said the government has applied a mostly one-size-fits-all approach to COVID-19 measures that offer little support to the country’s disabled.

“It’s because of their disability and it’s because no one planned for them in the emergency,” he previously told Global News.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

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Often, Canadians with more severe disabilities will get placed in long-term care facilities, where health officials said more than 79 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths occur. Lepofsky said that poses a danger to those with disabilities as well.

Marielle Hossack, press secretary to the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a statement to Global News that the federal government has increased human resources for support services for Canadians with disabilities over the phone and online.

The federal government has also established the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, which is comprised of experts in disability inclusion that provide advice on “real-time live experiences of persons with disabilities.”






Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba premier announces $200 support for people with disabilities


Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba premier announces $200 support for people with disabilities

Hossack wrote that the group discusses disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps as well as strategies, measures and steps to be taken.

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But some advocates don’t think that’s enough.

“A lot of the measures that have been made to prepare for this pandemic have been done to think about the greatest number of people,” Karine Myrgianie Jean-François, director of operations at DisAbled Women’s Network Canada, previously told Global News.

READ MORE: B.C. woman with disability dies alone in hospital due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions

“(This) often means that we forget about people who are more marginalized and people who have a disability.”

Jean-François said that includes the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

Currently, 70 per cent of Canadians eligible for the disability tax credit will receive the enhanced GST/HST benefit based on their income levels due to COVID-19, but that may not add up to much for Canadians with disabilities who may also need to hire food deliveries or in-house care, or those who would be deemed ineligible for the aid because they’re unable to work.

The money “doesn’t go as far as it used to,” she said.

“We’re not all equal under COVID-19.”

Possible solutions

Sikand wants to see the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group actually consult with people with disabilities and autism.

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“I’m a person with disability myself. (So far), I don’t know the impact of that committee on my quality of life and the response from the government,” Sikand said.

“Nothing about us without us.”






Coronavirus: One of Quebec’s most vulnerable groups says they are getting ignored by the government


Coronavirus: One of Quebec’s most vulnerable groups says they are getting ignored by the government

She also thinks policy needs to be created through the lenses of both disability and race.

“The disabled racialized community are even further on that marginalized side,” she said. “Unless we have them included in the planning process going forward, people will be harmed.”

Crooks agrees ⁠— change needs to be “community-driven and user-defined.”

READ MORE: Sore back, neck from working from home? Quick fixes to improve your workspace

“Changes can be difficult to implement overnight, and (they) require support,” Crooks said. “That’s why our most important first step is to actually look at what’s happening and to talk to people who are affected.

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“We need to actually hear solutions coming from all these people who are part of the care networks of individuals, including individuals themselves.”

Sikand says it’s urgent that these changes take place now before something like another COVID-19 outbreak happens again.

“We know this is not the first or the last pandemic we’ll see,” she said.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

⁠— With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and the Canadian Press

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[email protected]



© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation OSSTF and Ten Disability Organizations Have Already Endorsed the AODA Alliance’s 19 Recommendations on What the Ontario Government Must Now Do to Meet the Needs of A Third of A Million Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools


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/

June 26, 2020

SUMMARY

Last week, the AODA Alliance made public a detailed brief showing the Ontario Government what it must now do to address the needs of a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario schools during the transition to schools eventually re-opening, hopefully this fall. This brief draws on grassroots feedback we have received from many sources both before and during the COVID-19 crisis.

We are delighted that in just over one week since we submitted it to the Ontario Government, the AODA Alliance’s June 18, 2020 brief on what should be done to meet the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis has already won important endorsements. As an important step forward, our brief’s 19 recommendations, set out below, were just endorsed by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation OSSTF. OSSTF is the union that represents thousands of secondary school teachers who work at the front lines in Ontario’s public schools. OSSTF’s June 26, 2020 public statement, sent to the AODA Alliance, says:

“Supporting students with disabilities A statement from OSSTF/FEESO

June 26, 2020 – Over the past four months, educators have done their best to work with students in this unprecedented environment of emergency remote learning. The start of the new school year in September will come quickly, and it is critical that the Ontario government prepare a plan for reopening schools that meets the learning needs of all students.

It is essential for the government to ensure that they meet the learning needs of the thousands of students with disabilities in our school system now, and during the transition to school reopening.

OSSTF/FEESO supports the 19 recommendations of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance as outlined in its June 18, 2020 brief on this topic. These recommendations effectively speak to the needs of students with disabilities, their families, and those of us committed to providing those students and all students with an excellent education.”

Seven years ago, when we were in the midst of our multi-year campaign to get the Ontario Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to tackle the many barriers that impede students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system, We were fortified and helped in our efforts when the OSSTF wrote , the Ontario Government to support our call for an Education Accessibility Standard. Several other teachers unions supported our efforts back then.

As well, we have been notified that ten key organizations in the disability community have endorsed our brief’s recommendations, including March of Dimes of Canada, Citizens with Disabilities Ontario, Community Living Ontario, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Inclusive Design Research Centre of the Ontario college of Art and Design University, Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy, Balance for Blind Adults, the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Elgin, London, Middlesex, Oxford Network), and Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children (Views for the Visually Impaired).

We commend all those who have already supported our brief. We urge other organizations and individuals, whether within the disability community or not, to email the Ontario Government at [email protected] to support our June 18, 2019 brief. Both individuals and organizations can write the Ontario Government to voice this support. Please help us get more individuals and organizations to do so.

There have been 512 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking 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 serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 93 days, or over three months, 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 Premier’s office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Visit the AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page to see what we have been up to, trying to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis are properly addressed. Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected] Please stay safe!

MORE DETAILS

List of Recommendations in the AODA Alliance’s June 18, 2020 Brief to the Ontario Government

#1. The Ministry of Education should immediately develop, announce and implement a comprehensive plan for meeting the learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. This plan should include during this time of distance learning, during an eventual return to school, and in case of a future COVID-19 wave that requires another round of school closures. To the extent possible, this plan should be an integral part of the Ministry’s overall plan it is developing for school re-opening.

#2. The Ministry of Education should immediately establish a “Students with Disabilities Education Command Table” to oversee the development and implementation of a Government action plan for meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, and to swiftly react to issues for students with disabilities as they arise.

#3. The Ministry of Education should immediately issue a policy direction to all school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school, including directions that:

a) During the re-opening at schools, students with disabilities have an equal right to attend schools for the entire school day as do students without disabilities. The power to refuse to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day should not be used in a way that disproportionately burdens students with disabilities or that creates a barrier to their right to attend school.

b) A principal who refuses to admit a student to school during the school re-opening process should be required to immediately give the student and their family written notice of their decision to do so, including written reasons for the refusal to admit, the duration of the refusal to admit and notice of the family’s right to appeal this refusal to admit to the school board.

c) A principal who refuses to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day should be required to immediately report this in writing to their school board’s senior management, including the reasons for the exclusion, its duration and whether the student has a disability. Each school board should be required to compile this information and to report it on a bi-monthly basis to the board of trustees, the public and the Ministry of Education (with individual information totally anonymized). The Ministry should promptly make public on a provincial basis and a school board by school board basis the information it receives on numbers, reasons and durations of refusals to admit during post- COVID-19 school re-opening.

#4. For each student with disabilities, each school board should now:

a) Contact the family of each student with disabilities, preferably by phone rather than email, to discuss and identify the student’s progress during the school shutdown, the student’s specific and individualized disability-related deficits and needs arising from and during distance learning due to the COVID-19 crisis and the student’s needs and challenges related to eventual transition to school (including any vulnerabilities of other family members due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and;

b) Create a COVID-19 IEP to set specific goals and activities to effectively address their disability-related needs during distance learning, and in connection with transition back to school.

#5. The Ministry of Education should assign staff to assist its Students with Disabilities Command Table by serving as a central rapid response team to receive feedback from school boards on recurring issues facing students with disabilities and to help find solutions to share with school boards.

#6. The Ministry should direct that each school board shall establish a similar central rapid response team within the board to receive and act on feedback from teachers, principals and families about problems they are encountering serving students with disabilities during the COVID-19 period, that will quickly network with other similar offices at other school boards, and that can report recurring issues to the Ministry.

#7. The Ministry of Education should plan for, fund and coordinate the provision by school boards of a surge in specialized disability supports to those students with disabilities who will need them when students return to school.

#8. The Ministry of Education’s plan for school re-openings must include detailed directions on required measures for ensuring that students with disabilities are safe from COVID-19 during any return to school. This requires additional planning in advance by school boards and additional funding to school boards to hire and train the additional SNAs and EAs they will need to ensure the safety of students with disabilities. It also requires safeguards to ensure that an EA or SNA does not work at multiple sites and risk transmitting the COVID-19 virus from one location to another.

#9. The Ministry of Education should immediately engage an arms-length digital accessibility consultant to evaluate the comparative accessibility of different digital meeting platforms available for use in Ontario schools. This should involve end-user testing. The Ministry should immediately send the resulting report and comparison to all school boards and make it public. This should be revisited as the fall approaches, in case there have been changes to the relative accessibility of different virtual meeting platforms. The Ministry should direct which platforms may be used and which may not be used for virtual or synchronous classes or parent/school meetings, based on their accessibility.

#10. The Ministry of Education should immediately direct TVO to make its online learning content accessible to people with disabilities, and to promptly make public a plan of action to achieve this goal, with specific milestones and timelines.

#11. The Ministry of Education should make public a plan of action to swiftly make its own online learning content accessible for people with disabilities, setting out milestones and timelines, and should report to the public on its progress.

#12. The Ministry of Education should direct all its staff and all school boards that whenever making digital information public in a PDF format, it must at the same time also be made available in an accessible format such as an accessible MS Word document.

#13. The provincial plans for return to school should include these features:

a) Rather than having all students across Ontario return to school at once, in a one-size-fits-all strategy, the Ontario Government should lead a strategic return to school process, trying out different approaches to see what works most effectively. For example, opening a few schools first to detect recurring problems and plan to prevent them would assist with opening of other schools across Ontario.

b) The COVID-19 IEP of each student with disabilities should tailor their plans for the return to school to meet their individual needs. Students with disabilities who need this accommodation should be afforded a chance to return to the school facility early so they can be oriented to any changes to which they need to adjust in the COVID-19 era.

#14. The Ministry of Education should immediately put in place an effective proactive team to gather teaching strategies for students with disabilities during distance learning from frontline teachers, parents and school boards and make these easily available to the frontlines on an ongoing basis, in formats that are accessible to people with disabilities. These should be supplemented by strategies that the Ministry researches from other jurisdictions that have innovated creative solutions.

#15 The plans for return to school must include measures for ensuring that those who cannot return to school at the same time can secure effective distance learning, including home visits (with social distancing) from teaching staff.

#16. The Ministry of Education should prepare teaching materials for teachers and parents to use, addressing different disability-related learning needs, for preparing students with disabilities for the return to school, to address such changes as social distancing.

#17. The Ministry of Education should create, fund and effectively enforce new standards for safe bussing practices for students with disabilities during any return to school while COVID-19 remains a community threat.

#18. Each school board should ensure that its Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) meets at least once per month, and preferably more often, during the COVID-19 crisis, to give its board ongoing input into planning for students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

#19. To get the most from the volunteer work of SEACs around Ontario, the Ministry of Education should:

a) Create and maintain a listserv or other virtual network of all Ontario SEACs, to enable them to share their efforts with all other SEACs around Ontario, and

b) Frequently gather input from SEACs around Ontario about the experiences of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.




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The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation OSSTF and Ten Disability Organizations Have Already Endorsed the AODA Alliance’s 19 Recommendations on What the Ontario Government Must Now Do to Meet the Needs of A Third of A Million Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools


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 Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation OSSTF and Ten Disability Organizations Have Already Endorsed the AODA Alliance’s 19 Recommendations on What the Ontario Government Must Now Do to Meet the Needs of A Third of A Million Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools

June 26, 2020

          SUMMARY

Last week, the AODA Alliance made public a detailed brief showing the Ontario Government what it must now do to address the needs of a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario schools during the transition to schools eventually re-opening, hopefully this fall. This brief draws on grassroots feedback we have received from many sources both before and during the COVID-19 crisis.

We are delighted that in just over one week since we submitted it to the Ontario Government, the AODA Alliance’s June 18, 2020 brief on what should be done to meet the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis has already won important endorsements. As an important step forward, our brief’s 19 recommendations, set out below, were just endorsed by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation OSSTF. OSSTF is the union that represents thousands of secondary school teachers who work at the front lines in Ontario’s public schools. OSSTF’s June 26, 2020 public statement, sent to the AODA Alliance, says:

“Supporting students with disabilities – A statement from OSSTF/FEESO

June 26, 2020 – Over the past four months, educators have done their best to work with students in this unprecedented environment of emergency remote learning. The start of the new school year in September will come quickly, and it is critical that the Ontario government prepare a plan for reopening schools that meets the learning needs of all students.

It is essential for the government to ensure that they meet the learning needs of the thousands of students with disabilities in our school system now, and during the transition to school reopening.

OSSTF/FEESO supports the 19 recommendations of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance as outlined in its June 18, 2020 brief on this topic. These recommendations effectively speak to the needs of students with disabilities, their families, and those of us committed to providing those students and all students with an excellent education.”

Seven years ago, when we were in the midst of our multi-year campaign to get the Ontario Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to tackle the many barriers that impede students with disabilities  in Ontario’s education system, We were fortified and helped in our efforts when the OSSTF wrote the Ontario Government to support our call for an Education Accessibility Standard. Several other teachers unions supported our efforts back then.

As well, we have been notified that ten key organizations in the disability community have endorsed our brief’s recommendations, including March of Dimes of Canada, Citizens with Disabilities Ontario, Community Living Ontario, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Inclusive Design Research Centre of the Ontario college of Art and Design University, Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy, Balance for Blind Adults, the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – Elgin, London, Middlesex, Oxford Network), and Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children (Views for the Visually Impaired).

We commend all those who have already supported our brief. We urge other organizations and individuals, whether within the disability community or not, to email the Ontario Government at [email protected] to support our June 18, 2019 brief. Both individuals and organizations can write the Ontario Government to voice this support. Please help us get more individuals and organizations to do so.

There have been 512 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking 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 serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 93 days, or over three months, 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 Premier’s office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Visit the AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page to see what we have been up to, trying to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis are properly addressed. Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected]. Please stay safe!

          MORE DETAILS

List of Recommendations in the AODA Alliance’s June 18, 2020 Brief to the Ontario Government

#1. The Ministry of Education should immediately develop, announce and implement a comprehensive plan for meeting the learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. This plan should include during this time of distance learning, during an eventual return to school, and in case of a future COVID-19 wave that requires another round of school closures. To the extent possible, this plan should be an integral part of the Ministry’s overall plan it is developing for school re-opening.

#2. The Ministry of Education should immediately establish a “Students with Disabilities Education Command Table” to oversee the development and implementation of a Government action plan for meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, and to swiftly react to issues for students with disabilities as they arise.

#3. The Ministry of Education should immediately issue a policy direction to all school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school, including directions that:

  1. a) During the re-opening at schools, students with disabilities have an equal right to attend schools for the entire school day as do students without disabilities. The power to refuse to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day should not be used in a way that disproportionately burdens students with disabilities or that creates a barrier to their right to attend school.
  1. b) A principal who refuses to admit a student to school during the school re-opening process should be required to immediately give the student and their family written notice of their decision to do so, including written reasons for the refusal to admit, the duration of the refusal to admit and notice of the family’s right to appeal this refusal to admit to the school board.
  1. c) A principal who refuses to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day should be required to immediately report this in writing to their school board’s senior management, including the reasons for the exclusion, its duration and whether the student has a disability. Each school board should be required to compile this information and to report it on a bi-monthly basis to the board of trustees, the public and the Ministry of Education (with individual information totally anonymized). The Ministry should promptly make public on a provincial basis and a school board by school board basis the information it receives on numbers, reasons and durations of refusals to admit during post- COVID-19 school re-opening.

#4. For each student with disabilities, each school board should now:

  1. a) Contact the family of each student with disabilities, preferably by phone rather than email, to discuss and identify the student’s progress during the school shutdown, the student’s specific and individualized disability-related deficits and needs arising from and during distance learning due to the COVID-19 crisis and the student’s needs and challenges related to eventual transition to school (including any vulnerabilities of other family members due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and;
  1. b) Create a COVID-19 IEP to set specific goals and activities to effectively address their disability-related needs during distance learning, and in connection with transition back to school.

#5. The Ministry of Education should assign staff to assist its Students with Disabilities Command Table by serving as a central rapid response team to receive feedback from school boards on recurring issues facing students with disabilities and to help find solutions to share with school boards.

#6. The Ministry should direct that each school board shall establish a similar central rapid response team within the board to receive and act on feedback from teachers, principals and families about problems they are encountering serving students with disabilities during the COVID-19 period, that will quickly network with other similar offices at other school boards, and that can report recurring issues to the Ministry.

#7. The Ministry of Education should plan for, fund and coordinate the provision by school boards of a surge in specialized disability supports to those students with disabilities who will need them when students return to school.

#8. The Ministry of Education’s plan for school re-openings must include detailed directions on required measures for ensuring that students with disabilities are safe from COVID-19 during any return to school. This requires additional planning in advance by school boards and additional funding to school boards to hire and train the additional SNAs and EAs they will need to ensure the safety of students with disabilities. It also requires safeguards to ensure that an EA or SNA does not work at multiple sites and risk transmitting the COVID-19 virus from one location to another.

#9. The Ministry of Education should immediately engage an arms-length digital accessibility consultant to evaluate the comparative accessibility of different digital meeting platforms available for use in Ontario schools. This should involve end-user testing. The Ministry should immediately send the resulting report and comparison to all school boards and make it public. This should be revisited as the fall approaches, in case there have been changes to the relative accessibility of different virtual meeting platforms. The Ministry should direct which platforms may be used and which may not be used for virtual or synchronous classes or parent/school meetings, based on their accessibility.

#10. The Ministry of Education should immediately direct TVO to make its online learning content accessible to people with disabilities, and to promptly make public a plan of action to achieve this goal, with specific milestones and timelines.

#11. The Ministry of Education should make public a plan of action to swiftly make its own online learning content accessible for people with disabilities, setting out milestones and timelines, and should report to the public on its progress.

#12. The Ministry of Education should direct all its staff and all school boards that whenever making digital information public in a PDF format, it must at the same time also be made available in an accessible format such as an accessible MS Word document.

#13. The provincial plans for return to school should include these features:

  1. a) Rather than having all students across Ontario return to school at once, in a one-size-fits-all strategy, the Ontario Government should lead a strategic return to school process, trying out different approaches to see what works most effectively. For example, opening a few schools first to detect recurring problems and plan to prevent them would assist with opening of other schools across Ontario.
  1. b) The COVID-19 IEP of each student with disabilities should tailor their plans for the return to school to meet their individual needs. Students with disabilities who need this accommodation should be afforded a chance to return to the school facility early so they can be oriented to any changes to which they need to adjust in the COVID-19 era.

#14. The Ministry of Education should immediately put in place an effective proactive team to gather teaching strategies for students with disabilities during distance learning from frontline teachers, parents and school boards and make these easily available to the frontlines on an ongoing basis, in formats that are accessible to people with disabilities. These should be supplemented by strategies that the Ministry researches from other jurisdictions that have innovated creative solutions.

#15 The plans for return to school must include measures for ensuring that those who cannot return to school at the same time can secure effective distance learning, including home visits (with social distancing) from teaching staff.

#16. The Ministry of Education should prepare teaching materials for teachers and parents to use, addressing different disability-related learning needs, for preparing students with disabilities for the return to school, to address such changes as social distancing.

#17. The Ministry of Education should create, fund and effectively enforce new standards for safe bussing practices for students with disabilities during any return to school while COVID-19 remains a community threat.

#18. Each school board should ensure that its Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) meets at least once per month, and preferably more often, during the COVID-19 crisis, to give its board ongoing input into planning for students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

#19. To get the most from the volunteer work of SEACs around Ontario, the Ministry of Education should:

  1. a) Create and maintain a listserv or other virtual network of all Ontario SEACs, to enable them to share their efforts with all other SEACs around Ontario, and
  1. b) Frequently gather input from SEACs around Ontario about the experiences of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.



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Library Accessibility After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, organizations, from media outlets to stores, have adapted to new ways of providing information during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make information more accessible for viewers with disabilities. More information is being offered online, in accessible formats, or with communication supports. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting information to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, cities and towns may want to improve their library accessibility after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Library Accessibility After the COVID-19 Pandemic

When libraries re-open, workers will need to adjust to new protocols ensuring public safety. For example, when people return books, staff will not reshelve them right away. Instead, staff may need to wait several days before touching the books. Alternatively, libraries may work with publishers to offer more copies of digital media, such as ebooks or digital audio. Similarly, rules for library programming may also change. For instance, programming may be:

  • In-person, but open to fewer people because of physical distancing requirements
  • Online, through video-conferencing

In short, libraries will need to adapt in order to continue serving the public during the later stages of the pandemic. In the same way, libraries can adapt just as proactively to make their programs and services more accessible to patrons who have disabilities.

Materials and Resources

Under the Information and Communications Standards of the AODA, public libraries must offer accessible-format versions of resources, such as:

  • Literature
  • Music
  • Reference works
  • Dramatic or artistic works
  • Archival materials
  • Special collections
  • Rare books
  • Donated materials

When possible, libraries should have their own copies of resources in accessible formats, such as:

  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Audio
  • Accessible digital files, such as ebooks or digital audio
  • Described video

Alternatively, libraries can partner with the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) or the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS), organizations that make works available in these formats for patrons with print disabilities.

When librarians plan to buy new books or subscribe to new publications, they should try to find copies in accessible formats. Moreover, when librarians are choosing online resources to subscribe to or partner with, they should create partnerships with websites that comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

Training Staff

Libraries must ensure that their staff are trained to interact with patrons who have disabilities. Staff should understand how to communicate with patrons, both in person and remotely. In addition, staff should know where accessible content is shelved as well as how patrons can access library materials in alternative ways, such as:

  • through the library website
  • from other branches
  • from CELA or NNELS

In addition, staff should know how to provide a welcoming experience for patrons if their branches are lacking certain structural features. For instance, staff should:

  • Retrieve resources from inaccessible sections or floors upon request
  • Know where the nearest accessible washrooms are
  • Offer remote service for patrons who cannot enter the space

Accessible Equipment and Services

In addition, libraries can offer a variety of equipment that will allow all patrons to use computers on-site. Staff should also know how their libraries’ accessible computer equipment works. This knowledge allows them to help first-time patrons learn the basics or troubleshoot if computers malfunction, the same way they help non-disabled patrons using their computers.

Similarly, libraries can offer communication devices for patrons to use on-site, such as assistive listening devices or communication boards.

Accessible Programs

Moreover, libraries can make their premises and programs accessible to patrons of all abilities. Some accessible set-ups and services libraries could implement include:

  • Wide aisles between shelves and tables
  • Programs that include communication supports like Sign language interpretation or captioning
  • Quiet study or work spaces

Contact Information

Finally, libraries should provide multiple contact methods for patrons to get in touch with them, including:

  • Phone and teletypewriter (TTY) numbers
  • email addresses
  • Accessible online catalogues for ordering resources, and contact forms on websites

In the coming weeks, library staff will likely develop new ways to serve the public in response to COVID-19. They will be using new rules and procedures to solve the problems the pandemic has posed for their staff and patrons. Therefore, library boards and staff can use the same strategies in the future to offer more library accessibility after the COVID-19 pandemic.




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AODA Training for Educators After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, organizations, from media outlets to stores, have adapted to new ways of providing information during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make information more accessible for viewers with disabilities. More information is being offered online, in accessible formats, or with communication supports. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting information to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more schools and school boards may offer high-quality AODA training for educators after the COVID-19 pandemic.

AODA Training for Educators After the COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to the pandemic and physical distancing, school boards have needed to develop new ways for teachers, support staff, and other educators to communicate with their students. For instance, some classes may be happening in real time through video conferencing. In contrast, some school boards may not allow video-conferencing, especially for young children. Instead, these school boards must support their staff as they learn to contact and teach their students in other ways.

For example, teachers may post written lessons, handouts, or assignments online. Alternatively, they may post brief videos of their lessons. In addition, they may contact students by email to clarify lesson content or explain something a student has not understood. Moreover, teachers may need to coach students about the online learning process itself. Finally, teachers have learned to mark assignments that students submit online and to give online feedback.

In short, school boards have quickly needed to train educators to teach in ways that may be new or daunting for them. In the same way, school boards can adapt just as proactively to provide their staff with high-quality training on best practices for serving students with disabilities.

Current Requirements for AODA Educator Training

Under the Information and Communications Standards of the AODA, all educators must receive training on how to create accessible courses and lessons. Educators must also learn how to teach in ways that accommodate the needs of students with different disabilities. For instance, educators should learn about how different disabilities may affect the ways their students learn. Moreover, they should know about the barriers these students may face when accessing spaces, information, and technology. Furthermore, educators should know that some barriers can come from sections in school or school board policies. Likewise, other barriers can come from negative ideas that some staff or students may have about disability. In addition, educators should learn how they can create solutions to prevent or remove some of these barriers. Finally, educators should learn about resources and materials they can use to achieve all these goals.

Training Formats

Educators can have training in many different formats, including workshops, handouts, or online learning. On one hand, this lack of direction can be helpful. For instance, school boards can tailor training to their own students and staff. On the other hand, this variety may create differences in the quality of the training educators receive. For instance, the different possible formats lend themselves to different levels of knowledge. A teacher who attends a workshop will talk about course content with other trainees. This teacher will likely gain much more understanding than a teacher who is given a handout and does not look at it again.

Some school boards may offer brief training modules because their leaders lack experience interacting with people who have disabilities. Alternatively, some school boards may assume that only specialized teachers should need to work directly with students who have disabilities. As a result of this discomfort or false belief, some teachers and other professionals may not receive enough training about ways to teach students with various visible and invisible disabilities. For instance, school staff could learn about:

School boards have succeeded in training their staff on new protocols in response to COVID-19. School board leaders have researched or consulted experts to develop solutions to the problems the pandemic has posed for their students and teachers. Therefore, school boards can use the same strategies in order to offer high-quality AODA training for educators after the COVID-19 pandemic.




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Accessible School Resources After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, organizations, from media outlets to stores, have adapted to new ways of providing information during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make information more accessible for viewers with disabilities. More information is being offered online, in accessible formats, or with communication supports. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting information to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more educators may offer accessible school resources after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accessible School Resources After the COVID-19 Pandemic

Remote learning requirements mean that more school and library resources are now online. Teachers, school staff, and school board personnel are presenting lessons and other school information in new ways. For instance, teachers are now receiving and grading student work online, rather than in hard copies. Similarly, students may be using online learning resources more often than print textbooks.

School staff, and other producers of educational resources, are adapting to the need for school resources in new formats. In the same way, schools, school boards, and other educational institutions can learn to improve the accessibility of school resources.

Accessible Formats for School Resources

School staff may now upload lessons or handouts in formats that are not accessible. For example, many portable document format (PDF) documents are not accessible. Due to the rapid transition to online learning, some staff may think about accessibility as an afterthought. For instance, staff may post accessible versions of documents after PDFs have already been posted. Instead, staff should make these documents accessible from the start by creating the original documents in accessible formats, such as Word or HTML.

Likewise, ebooks can be an important alternative to hard-copy print books. Currently, many publishers have ebook options available, but the ebooks are not always accessible. As a result, publishers must convert an ebook into an accessible format after a school or student has bought or requested it. However, if all ebooks were accessible from the start, publishers would not need to convert them later.

Similarly, all academic publishers could create accessible-format versions of all the books or journals they publish. Therefore, accessible formats would be available for all books school libraries buy, and all journals they subscribe to. As a result, school library staff would be better prepared to meet the research needs of students with disabilities.

Schools and school boards are becoming accustomed to providing information in different ways. They can adapt just as easily to making more learning resources accessible. In this way, they can better serve students, educators, and parents with disabilities.




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Communication Supports After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, organizations, from media outlets to stores, have adapted to new ways of providing information during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make information more accessible for viewers with disabilities. More information is being offered online, in accessible formats, or with communication supports. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting information to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more service providers may improve their communication supports after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Communication Supports After the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the pandemic progresses, media and government are providing communication supports to reach a wider audience. For example, the Premier’s speeches now include American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. In the same way, businesses, the media, and other organizations can just as easily implement other supports to communicate with more people. For instance, Real-Time Captioning (RTC) would allow more people to access media releases. Likewise, more people can access TV shows and movies when they include described video and closed captions.

In addition, businesses are adapting to customers’ needs to use other communication supports or communication devices. For instance, people using ASL or speechreading need to see others’ faces clearly. However, the masks that people now wear in public make reading facial expressions difficult or impossible. As a result, it is difficult for people to communicate with medical or other staff who must wear masks. However, one student is designing partially transparent masks to remove this barrier.

In short, media, businesses, and other organizations have started adapting the ways they communicate in order to reach a wider audience. Moreover, these organizations may recognize the benefits of these supports and offer them on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, other organizations are becoming accustomed to providing information in different ways. These organizations may want to start making their information accessible, to welcome new viewers and customers.




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