For People with Disabilities, Home Ownership is a Two-Headed Monster


PUBLISHED: DEC 28, 2021
Federally, the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment and services under federal jurisdiction, including housing, and the National Housing Strategy Act recognizes adequate housing as a human right.

Provincially however, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) – legislation with the stated goal of making Ontario fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025 – does not mention housing. While the Ontario Building Code (OBC) only requires 15% of suites in new condos or apartment buildings constructed after 2015 to be visitable – not livable – by people with disabilities. This means these suites must have some accessibility features, be level on the main floor, and have barrier-free access to a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and/or living room.

Accessibility standards in the OBC do not apply to houses of any kind and the code itself as currently written doesn’t even come close to 100% accessibility in residential buildings, despite housing discrimination being federally prohibited.

“For housing requirements, the OBC mostly exempts houses, except apartments, which, from a policy standpoint, makes no sense with our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code,” says Thea Kurdi, senior vice-president of DesignAble Environments Inc., a Toronto-based accessibility consulting firm that’s been in business for over 33 years and specializes in universal design for built environments.

But accessibility is only one barrier to adequate housing for Ontarians with disabilities, the other is affordability.

According to the Canadian Survey on Disability, released by Statistics Canada in 2018, only 59% of those with disabilities age 25 to 64 are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities. Meanwhile, 28% of people with more severe disabilities age 25 to 64 are more likely to be living in poverty than those without (10%) or those with milder disabilities (14%).

The 28%, and some of the 14%, are likely beneficiaries of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) which provides income support, dental, medication, and assistive device benefits for people with disabilities who demonstrate a financial need (i.e. their expenses must exceed their income).

The program is so complex and so focused on not only initial eligibility but maintaining eligibility that its difficult for those with disabilities on the program to progress past maintaining their basic needs, let alone think about the possibility of buying a home.

“If you don’t have enough money to cover your basic needs, you’re constantly living in emergency mode. If you don’t have enough to cover the month, then you are out scrambling to deal with that and that leaves you with no time to work or it leaves you without a cell phone, transportation, or access to the internet and all the other things you might need to find or go to a job,” says Ron Malis, a financial advisor with Mississauga’s Reegan Financial that specializes in helping those with disabilities navigate the financial programs available to them.

Currently, the maximum income benefits a single individual on ODSP can receive is $672 for basic needs and a $497 shelter allowance for a total of $1,169 per month. If you are a couple with two children, it’s the highest it can be at $969 for basic needs and a $918 maximum shelter allowance for a total of $1887 per month.

According to a recent report from Rentals.ca, the average rental for a one bedroom in Toronto is $2,040 and $2,764 for a two bedroom, which puts the average rental completely out of reach (not to mention the idea of purchasing a home).

“If you don’t have other resources beyond ODSP and you’re not able to work, then you’re stuck living on just ODSP. The problem there is the increases have not been sufficient to keep up with inflation and now people are finding themselves living 30 to 35% below the poverty line. You also have to think about the extra costs that come with having a disability, so ODSP is like giving a drowning person a life preserver, but not pulling them to shore,” says Malis.

The Waiting Game

The benefit amounts are even lower if you are trying to work and receive income support at the same time. To be eligible for ODSP, a person must keep all assets below $40,000 (or $50,000 if part of a couple) and for every dollar you earn, 50% is deducted from your support cheque after the first $200, which is exempt. Still, while ODSP makes it very difficult to save money for a home it’s not altogether impossible.

This is because, along with the $40,000 asset limit, $100,000 in segregated funds are exempt from deductions as well as any money in a Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP). However, if you dip into that before age 60 you will have to pay back any matching grants or bonds the government put into the account over the last 10 years.

“Being on ODSP when you don’t have the resources at hand means it’s going to be pretty difficult to save for a down payment that’s large enough that you could then pay the mortgage payments that go with it. However, I don’t think it would be reasonable to expect a government to provide a benefit that would make that an easy thing to accomplish,” says Malis.

“If you don’t have other resources, then you’re stuck living on just ODSP and if you’re lucky, living in rent-geared-to-income housing, which is very difficult to obtain. The supply is just not there.”

In 2016, Toronto Community Housing – the city’s largest provider of subsidized housing – faced a repair backlog on its 60,000 properties estimated at the time to be $2.6 billion, with many of its buildings deemed unliveable.

“There had always been the will from a Toronto Community Housing standpoint to provide quality housing for our tenants, but from a capital perspective, we didn’t have enough funding to keep up with the backlog and we had an over $3 billion backlog,” says Allen Murray, vice-president of facilities management at Toronto Community Housing.

A couple of years ago, things turned around considerably when Toronto Community Housing became fully funded for the next decade, securing $1.34 billion from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and $1.6 billion from the city.

They’ve since instituted a program called R-Path, empowering residents to be directly involved in the management of these buildings on a committee level that allows them to request accessibility upgrades unique to their personal needs.

“I started R-Path in 2013 to push the Toronto Housing Corporation to meet their legislative obligations as mandated by the AODA. We are made up of a group of tenants who live in Toronto Community Housing who have physical disabilities and we started advocating for the work to be done and as a team created build standards that work for currently used mobility devices,” says Cathy Birch, the R-Path founder and chair who herself uses a power wheelchair.

But, even with full-funding, improved accessibility, and resident empowerment efforts, the waitlist remains a significant barrier for people with disabilities to even have a shot at securing a rent-geared-to-income home. The average wait time reported by the City is seven years (or more) for a bachelor, 12 years (or more) for a one bedroom, and 10 years (or more) for larger unit sizes.

However, as a recent Toronto Star article points out, you would have needed to be on the waitlist since 1985 to gain access to certain buildings in 2021. The city’s own stats don’t make things look any better; as of Q2 of 2021, 78,177 people remain on the waitlist with just 1,463 (less than 2%) being housed.

So, is there another way? Is there an affordable strategy to owning a home that isn’t pie-in-the-sky?

The good news is at least one Toronto condo developer is working to make housing in the city more affordable. The Daniels Corporation – a company that also offers standard accessibility upgrades in its newest pre-construction condos at no extra cost – offers no interest or low payback second mortgages on some of its properties in Regent Park, down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers, and a program called M-Hip that allows residents of a Daniels rental property to take $100 of their monthly rent and put it towards a down payment on a Daniels home.

“Two years ago, we partnered with L’Arche Toronto, which focuses on supporting adults with intellectual disabilities in independent living by selling them 10 units in our Artworks Building at a discounted cost where we custom designed a 10-bedroom complex for them within one of our condos to facilitate their program and help their people live and work in that space,” says Jacob Cohen, Daniels Chief Operating Officer.

“We’re always trying to find creative solutions to help people get into the market. Whether through affordability or partnering up with organizations like L’Arche, it’s something we always think about doing.”

Written By
Aaron Broverman
Aaron is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. His work has appeared in NOW Magazine and on Huffington Post and Yahoo Canada. When he’s not writing, he hosts a podcast called ‘Speech Bubble’ on which he interviews those involved in Toronto’s comic book industry.

Original at https://storeys.com/homeownership-people-with-disabilities-accessibility-affordability/




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On-Demand Transit a Boon for City’s Residents With Accessibility Needs


Rural residents finally have access to transit system
James Culic
Port Colborne Leader
Sunday, December 26, 2021

Nobody wants to feel like a burden, but when Tom Slow has to board the community bus in Port Colborne with his wheelchair, that’s exactly how he feels.

“It always seems like the driver is annoyed they have to do something extra,” said Slow, who has relied on the community bus for years in order to get around the city. “Then, once I get on the bus, people sort of have to move out of the way and shift around to make room. It makes me feel like I’m a burden on people as they try to use the bus.”

With the community bus shutting down, Slow was initially apprehensive about what would happen, but after meeting with staff from the region and discussing how the new NRT OnDemand system will work, he’s now excited about the prospect of an entirely new transit model coming to Port Colborne.

“This is going to be great,” said Slow as he checked out one of the NRT OnDemand vans which was parked outside city hall Dec. 10 to spread awareness of the transit changeover. At the event, Slow was able to speak with regional representatives about how the new system will work for those with accessibility needs.

According to regional staff, 40 per cent of the new NRT OnDemand fleet of vehicles are wheelchair accessible. When booking his trip, Slow simply needs to click the button at the bottom of the app saying he wants to be picked up by one of the accessible vans, and the NRT OnDemand app does the rest.

“For me, this is going to be a lot better than the system we have now,” said Slow. “And it’s not just me, there are actually quite a few people in Port Colborne who use a wheelchair, and this is going to be an improvement for all of us.”

The traditional community stopped running at the end of 2021, and was replaced in the new year by the on-demand system. Riders are able to book trips in real time by using the NRT OnDemand mobile app, or by calling 289-302-2172, and selecting a pickup and drop-off location within the service zone. Anyone who lacks access to a smartphone is able to purchase transit passes at Port Colborne City Hall and Vale Health and Wellness Centre.

Financially, the change has no impact on city hall, as the new system and the old system are costing local taxpayers the same amount. The new transit system is not only more accommodating for those will accessibility needs, but for the first time ever, the entirety of Port Colborne is now covered by the transit system. That means transit riders young, old, and differently abled all now have access to transit.

“That’s the biggest thing for me, the fact that it’s no longer just a closed loop around the city’s core, but instead covers our entire community,” said the city’s chief administrative officer, Scott Luey. “That means if you are a kid living in Sherkston, and you’ve got a job working downtown, you no longer have to bug mom for a ride into the city, you can use this on-demand service. If you are a senior citizen and live out near our border with Wainfleet, you can easily get to a medical appointment here in the city. That’s never been an option in Port Colborne before, so this is a big change.”

NRT OnDemand will operate in the city Monday to Saturday between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Fares are $3 per local trip, and $6 for intermunicipal trips. Face masks are mandatory for all riders.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY

This week the Port Colborne Leader decided to look at how the transit change will impact the city’s vulnerable residents.

James Culic is an Ottawa-expat, reporting the news around Niagara’s southern tier. He also writes a weekly opinion column which people seem to love to hate-read.

Original at https://www.niagarathisweek.com/news-story/10538466-on-demand-transit-a-boon-for-city-s-residents-with-accessibility-needs/




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Grim Days to Come for Seniors, Residents With Disabilities: York Region Legal Clinic


Community Legal Clinic of York Region executive director Jeff Schlemmer points a finger at the provincial and federal governments for not doing enough to ward off a worsening homelessness crisis Michele Weisz
December 23, 2021

Homelessness may be in the cards this holiday season for seniors and residents with disabilities, according to Community Legal Clinic of York Region.

“The federal government is making it pretty grim for seniors, while the provincial government is making it grim for disabled people,” the clinic’s executive director, Jeff Schlemmer, said.

Emergency pandemic relief received by seniors last year may actually be contributing to an increase in senior homelessness, Schlemmer said. If they knew what would happen, they wouldn’t have accepted the emergency relief funding, he added.

Guaranteed income supplement (GIS) is a monthly payment to low-income seniors who receive old age security pension (OAS). GIS is calculated by the previous year’s tax return, so seniors who accepted the $2,000 a month taxable Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) last year are seeing a reduction or complete loss of their GIS – which could be up to $950 – because they received too much income.

Tens of thousands Canadian seniors have found themselves in this predicament.

In past years, the income calculation isn’t an issue since seniors are on a fixed income that doesn’t vary much from year to year.

“The CERB threw a monkey wrench into that,” said Schlemmer. “It’s quite a hit when they’re living on not that much to start with.”

Seniors could fall into arrears and not be able to find a more affordable option, he said, which is one of the paths to homelessness.

After complaints from seniors and critics, the federal government announced Dec. 14 it would compensate those seniors affected by earmarking $742.4 million in 2022-23.

“Though no word on when it may come. In the meantime, (we) have to hope that landlords are willing to wait for it,” said Schlemmer.

“It would almost seem self-defeating but I’m not in the position to confirm whether that’s the case,” said Newmarket-Aurora MP Tony Van Bynen when asked if the one-time compensation to seniors for the loss of GIS would once again affect their income. “I think there were a lot of learnings throughout, one of which was what the effect would be on the GIS, so I’d be surprised if that wasn’t a consideration.”

Individuals on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) aren’t dealing with a benefit oversight but with the high cost of housing, so the support they receive is no longer enough.

The monthly shelter and basic needs allowance provided by the ODSP is based on family size. If the family size is one individual, the maximum allowance is $1,169.

Of that amount, according to the ODSP website, individuals can put $497 toward shelter, including rent and utilities, while the remainder is to be used for basic needs like food, clothing and personal items.

Krystle Caputo, director of communications and media, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services confirmed the lump sum figure of $1,169 and that $497 of that total is calculated for shelter costs, yet also said, “We do not direct individuals on how they allocate that money in their household budgets.”

Blue Door program manager Amanda Freer has dealt with many individuals on ODSP and said in an email the program may allow individuals to spend more than $497 for shelter.

“Usually up to $800 and this is still only going to allow someone to rent a room in a house. But this doesn’t amount to them receiving more money, it just means they have less to spend on their basic needs allowance.”

Regardless of the confusion over how the monthly sum is calculated or divided, with one bedroom rentals in Newmarket averaging more than $1,800 even if the shelter portion alone matched the current maximum total, it wouldn’t cover the cost of a month of rent.

That value, said Schlemmer, hasn’t changed in years and is not reflective of the cost of housing in York Region. The province is out of touch with current housing costs.

“When we formed government, we raised the social assistance rates by 1.5 per cent. . . . We are working across government to ensure that our most vulnerable have the supports they need. (Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Service Merrilee) Fullerton recently met with our federal counterparts and we look forward to them delivering on their campaign commitment to create the Canada Disability Benefit to increase the level of supports for those receiving the Ontario Disability Supports Program funding to more closely align with the Canadian Recovery Benefit levels,” said Caputo in an email.

In response, Van Bynen referred to the prime minister’s mandate letter, sent to ministers in January, requesting a review and implementation of the Canada Disability Benefit Act.

“I think it’s time. I quite agree that it is time,” said Van Bynen. “It’s very much on the radar . . . The added benefit is that I have the good fortune of being appointed to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, so I’ll be able to be more actively engaged in advancing those initiatives. I’m quite positive with the direction we’re going into. ”

If someone is on ODSP and is forced to move, they won’t find a reasonable, comparable place. If they rent a room instead of an apartment, they will lose the protection of the residential tenancy act and could be evicted at any time, said Schlemmer.

“Everybody agrees that disabled people are not at fault for being disabled. We all agree they shouldn’t have to live in abject poverty because they’re disabled … but what’s happened is the government knows the rents have gone up the way they have and hasn’t done anything about keeping up with it.”

So like seniors, these individuals may end up in shelters where they may or may not find themselves homeless.

“In both cases the federal and provincial governments know these things are happening and are letting them happen,” said Schlemmer.

In August 2021, HelpSeeker, a federally funded AI company, predicted that homelessness in York Region could potentially expand to 75 times the national average in the coming year. The information is based on 3,000 variables entered into an algorithm that tracked social and economic impacts of the pandemic. The information tracked suicides and domestic abuse, as well as homelessness.

Original at https://www.newmarkettoday.ca/local-news/grim-days-to-come-for-seniors-residents-with-disabilities-york-region-legal-clinic-4872090




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AODA Alliance’s Year-End Report on Our Advocacy Efforts in 2021 – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

AODA Alliance’s Year-End Report on Our Advocacy Efforts This Year

December 24, 2021

An exhausting year is reaching its conclusion. With this, our 100th AODA Alliance Update of the year, we give you, our valued supporters, an update on what we have accomplished together in 2021. We also look forward to what to expect in 2022.

What a year! The battles too often feel that they are uphill. Yet we always retain our optimism. We never give up. We never surrender!

Here are some of the year’s major highlights in our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.

  1. This year, we continued to raise serious disability issues in the Ford Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to offer constructive suggestions to those in positions of power. As a primary focus, we battled against the disability discrimination that is deeply rooted in the critical care triage protocol that the Ford Government allowed to be embedded in Ontario hospitals. In this effort, we collaborated closely with the ARCH Disability Law Centre and a team of other disability advocates and experts. We highlighted disability barriers in Ontario’s vaccine distribution and in its vaccine passport system.
  1. Working closely with supporters and allies in the disability community, we together convinced Toronto City Council to retain the ban on electric scooters. E-scooters endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.
  1. We also presented concerns on allowing e-scooters in public places to Hamilton’s and Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committees and to London City Council’s Civic Works Committee.
  1. Working with our allies, we convinced Toronto City Council to pass a ban on robots on sidewalks, which endanger us and others. This win secured media coverage as far away as the UK.
  1. We raised disability accessibility issues during the fall 2021 federal election and sought commitments on this topic from the major parties.
  1. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky waged a legal battle in court against the Ford Government for its unjustified delay in making public the initial reports it received from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The AODA requires the Government to publicly post those reports upon receiving them, not after long delays. Regrettably, Ontario’s Superior Court dismissed that case as moot, without ruling on the correctness of the claim. This is because the Government finally though belatedly posted those reports online before the case got to court for oral argument.

As a step forward for us, during oral argument of that case, the Ford Government’s lawyer conceded for the first time that the Government must post such Standards Development Committee reports online once the steps needed for their posting (coding and translation to French) are completed. In this case, the Ford Government delayed posting those three reports longer than the time needed to complete those steps.

  1. With next year’s June Ontario election approaching, we have written to the Ontario political party leaders well in advance to list the election commitments we seek on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities. This includes a comprehensive Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we developed and to which we ask each party to commit. This Plan will serve as our major agenda for action over the next year and beyond. We are ready to brief any political party on our requests for commitments.

This is especially important since it was towards the end of 2021 that the AODA Alliance publicly recognized that at the present rate, it will not be possible for Ontario to reach the mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, just three years from now. This is due to many years of insufficient action by the Ontario Government to implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

  1. We researched, wrote, and submitted a number of detailed briefs on important disability issues, including:
  1. a) A brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on the barriers facing people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.
  1. b) A brief to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on the barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s colleges and universities.
  1. c) A brief to the Ford Government on the disability barriers in the Ontario critical care triage protocol
  1. d) A brief to the Ford Government on why it should not allow a public pilot of robots on sidewalks in Ontario.
  1. e) A brief to Toronto City Council on why it should not allow e-scooters.
  1. f) A brief to London Ontario City Council on why it should not allow e-scooters.

You can look through all the briefs that the AODA Alliance has prepared and submitted over the years on various accessibility issues by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s briefs page.

  1. We continued to raise major objections to any Government reliance on the seriously flawed Rick Hansen Foundation private accessibility “certification” program. It does not provide an accurate and reliable assessment of a building’s accessibility. For details on these documented concerns, see the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program and the AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program.
  1. We again brought our message and a wide range of issues to the public through conventional media and through social media. For example, we issued thousands of tweets again this year on Twitter. In a wide spectrum of our advocacy activity, we secured media attention in print, on TV, and on the radio. In a good many cases, it was the media that came to us for comment, rather than the other way around.
  1. This year, we released new online captioned videos that help people with disabilities, the Government and the public learn more about our issues. These videos got an impressive number of views and very positive feedback. Prominent among these are the new video that introduces you to the duty to accommodate people with disabilities and the video that gives an in-depth explanation of the disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
  1. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky continued to serve on behalf of the AODA Alliance as a member of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. Its initial report on barriers facing students with disabilities was made public for public consultation on June 1, 2021. It received very positive feedback from the disability community and from educators. That Standards Development Committee is now in the last stages of finalizing revisions to the report based on all the public feedback. The Standards Development Committee aims to conduct its final vote on its final report in the first week of January 2022.
  1. Where positive steps are taken on accessibility, we remain ready to acknowledge and applaud them. We also have continued to hold the Ontario Government publicly accountable for its insufficient action on accessibility. For example, this year we continued to publicize our daily count of the number of days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act conducted by David Onley. As of today, that count has reached 1,058 days. We are still waiting for the Ford Government to announce a comprehensive plan to effectively implement that report’s recommendations.

Thus, it has been a busy year for our volunteer efforts. Next year will be at least as busy as 2021 was for advocacy by Ontarians with disabilities. Our foreseeable challenges in the next year include raising disability issues in the June 2022 Ontario provincial election and in the October 2022 Ontario municipal and school board elections.

We will have to continue battling disability barriers created during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic racing out of control, we face the terrible need to again battle against the disability-discriminatory Ontario critical care triage protocol. We also need to get the Ford Government to remove disability discrimination from its process for renewing the Ontario Health Card online. Those are just two prominent examples of health care barriers facing people with disabilities.

Final reports are expected in the new year from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. We will press for the swift enactment of accessibility standards that implement those reports’ recommendations.

We will need to continue to battle new barriers, traceable to the Ford Government, created by allowing electric scooters and potentially by allowing robots on sidewalks.

No doubt, there will also be new disability issues that we have not been able to predict. We’ll be ready!

Once again, we thank all our supporters for their help and their encouragement as we together press forward with our non-partisan accessibility campaign. We also thank all those, including the silent heroes who cannot speak out, within the Ontario Government, school boards, city governments and private organizations and businesses who have tried in their own way to make progress on accessibility for people with disabilities. We wish one and all a safe, happy and barrier-free holiday season.

The AODA Alliance is now going offline for a while to re-charge our advocacy batteries. We’ll be back in full flight in January 2022. Stay safe, and have a healthy and happy new year.



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Why Did the Ford Government Fail to Hold an Open Merit-Based Competition for the Chair of the Long-Overdue Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee, under Ontario’s Disabilities Act?


          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/

Why Did the Ford Government Fail to Hold an Open Merit-Based Competition for the Chair of the Long-Overdue Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee, under Ontario’s Disabilities Act?

December 23, 2021

            SUMMARY

After years of failing to take needed action to tear down disability barriers in the built environment, the Ford Government failed to hold a fair, open, merit-based competition before announcing the appointment of a person as Chair of the long-overdue AODA Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. Below we set out the AODA Alliance’s December 23, 2021 letter to the Ford Government. It raises our serious concerns. It calls on the Government to hold a fair, open and merit-based competition for both the Chair and the membership of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. We also set out the Government’s December 20, 2021 announcement to which we are responding.

Since it took office in the summer of 2018, we have been pressing the Ford Government to fulfil its legal duty to appoint the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on the standard that needs to be enacted to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to all people with disabilities by 2025. In its three and a half years of stalling on this, the Ford Government had ample time and opportunity to take the obvious and important step of announcing and holding a fair, open, merit-based competition. There is no justification for the Ford Government’s failure to do so.

To learn about the AODA Alliance’s efforts to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, visit the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page. The Ford Government still has no comprehensive plan to fully implement the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that David Onley conducted. The Ford Government received the Onley Report 1,057 days ago. That report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities and that progress on making Ontario disability-accessible has been “glacial.”

Send us your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

            MORE DETAILS

December 23, 2021 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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/

December 23, 2021

To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

Via email: [email protected]

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

Re: Appointment of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee

We have serious concerns about your December 20, 2021 announcement about your appointment of a person to chair a Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We ask you to take specific corrective action identified below.

This would have been a “good news” announcement by your Government, had it not been for the serious objection that we here outline. We have been waiting a long four years for the Ontario Government to fulfil its obligation under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to conduct the mandatory five-year review of the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard that was enacted in December 2012, nine years ago. We have asked you over and over to fulfil that obligation, starting as far back as our July 17, 2018 letter to you. No explanation or justification has ever been offered for the multi-year failure to appoint the mandatory Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee.

It is good that the Government is finally starting to take steps to comply with its clear legal obligation. It is also good that your announcement states that this new Standards Development Committee will review accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code as well as those in the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.

However, your recent appointment of the Chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee should have been preceded by a proper open merit-based competition for the position. It was not. We understand that there was no public posting of this position and no invitation for members of the public to apply for the position, so that they could be considered on their merits. Only through such a process could the Government obtain the best pool of candidates and select the most qualified person for the position. Ontarians with disabilities deserve nothing less.

The Ford Government had ample time and opportunity to hold an open merit-based competition for this position and to invite applications and nominations. There is no justification for your failing to do so.

We have been very concerned for some time about your Government’s overall view on whether we even need a strong accessibility standard under the AODA to address the many barriers facing people with disabilities in the built environment. During National Access Ability Week in 2019, you and your Government denounced such measures as “red tape.” In contrast, two successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA by Mayo Moran which reported in 2014 and by David Onley, which reported in 2019, emphasized as a priority the need for the Government to take effective action to tear down the disability barriers in Ontario’s built environment.

For a Standards Development Committee to be credible and successful, the public, including the disability community, must have strong confidence in it and in the process for appointing it. Your failure to undertake a merit-based open competition for chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee undermines that needed public confidence.

Important qualifications for someone to chair an AODA Standards Development Committee include demonstrated expertise in leadership, team building, consensus-building, dispute resolution, and mediation of conflicting views. It also requires a strong knowledge of and experience with public policy development, and where possible, extensive knowledge of the regulatory context.

Nothing in your announcement suggests that the person you nominated has any of this experience and demonstrated expertise. A key qualification that you emphasize in your December 20, 2021 announcement is your nominee’s having taken the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) training course to conduct building accessibility assessments as part of the RHF private accessibility “certification” program. We have been on record for over two years demonstrating that that training program is woefully inadequate. It is far too short, being some eight days long as of the 2019 summer. It wrongly prioritizes some disabilities over others. It trains on how to conduct an RHF building assessment which is, in and of itself, fatally deficient. It includes troubling elements that are inappropriate for such training. All in all, it is not capable of effectively training someone to be an “accessibility professional,” the over-inflated label which the RHF gives to those completing this very short course.

We have amply documented that the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility “certification” program is fundamentally flawed. There is no assurance that a building is in fact accessible when it has been “certified” as such by the RHF program. Indeed, even calling its assessments a “certification” of accessibility is false and misleading. For details on our concerns, see the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program and the AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program.

In the period of over two years since the AODA Alliance publicly and thoroughly documented the many deficiencies with the RHF program and its training course, neither your Government nor the RHF has disproven the flaws we identified. Feedback that we have received from the disability community has supported and endorsed our objections to the RHF program.

An excellent article in the August 19, 2021 edition of the Burnaby Beacon details many serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. In this news report, the RHF is quoted as in substance conceding that its training course does not make a person an expert in accessible design. The article states in part:

“‘We agree that the 2-week RHFAC training course is not sufficient to provide students with enough knowledge to consider themselves experts in the application of universal design,’ the foundation said.”

When it comes to assessing the accessibility of buildings, Ontario has a number of true experts who have taken more than eight days of training. It has experts who are trained to know about the accessibility needs of people with a wide spectrum of disabilities and not just the ones that the RHF prioritizes.

In raising these concerns, we do not wish to single out in any way the person whom you nominated to chair this Standards Development Committee. We do not question her commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities nor do we suggest or imply that she has no knowledge to bring to bear in this area. In a fair, open merit-based competition, she could be evaluated along with all others who apply.

It is very troubling that the Government did not take the time to conduct a proper, open, merit-based competition for the chair of this Standards Development Committee. That could be done at the same time as the Government conducts its recruitment for all the members of that Standards Development Committee. To date, we have seen no public announcement of any such competition, nor any invitation to apply to serve on that Standards Development Committee.

We are also very troubled by your December 20, 2021 announcement’s substantially watering down the purpose of the Standards Development Committee and of the AODA. Your announcement repeatedly spoke of the goal of making Ontario “more accessible.” The AODA does not simply require that Ontario become “more accessible” to people with disabilities by 2025. It requires that Ontario become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Simply replacing one staircase with a ramp somewhere in Ontario is all that is needed to make Ontario “more accessible.” People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

We urgently request that you now hold a proper, fair, open merit-based competition for the position of Chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee and for the membership of that committee. We have had no contact with your office for many months. We request a virtual meeting with you to discuss this.

Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford [email protected]

Carlene Alexander, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]

Alison Drummond, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]

Ontario Government’s December 20, 2021 Announcement on the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee

Originally posted at https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1001367/ontario-making-public-spaces-more-accessible

NEWS RELEASE

Ontario Making Public Spaces More Accessible

New Chair Julie Sawchuk to lead work on behalf of province to review and improve accessibility of public spaces for people with disabilities

December 20, 2021

TORONTO — The Ontario government continues the ongoing work of identifying, removing and preventing barriers for people with disabilities. Julie Sawchuk has accepted an invitation to be the chair of the Standards Development Committee that will lead the province’s review of the Design of Public Spaces accessibility standards for outdoor and indoor public spaces. The committee will include people with disabilities from all across the province, as well as businesses, municipalities, and other impacted stakeholders. It will review existing accessibility standards, and consider whether new standards might be needed to improve accessibility in Ontario’s public spaces.

“I am honoured that Julie Sawchuk has accepted the role of chair of this Standards Development Committee,” said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. “Her expertise and insights will be incredibly valuable in guiding the review of standards for accessibility in outdoor and indoor public spaces.”

Ms. Sawchuk is a best-selling author, professional speaker, and accessibility strategist. She holds Bachelors of Science and Education degrees and is a designated professional for Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification. Ms. Sawchuk’s lived experience as a person who has a spinal cord injury offers an important perspective for the committee’s work.

As part of the government’s commitment to making Ontario more accessible and inclusive, it is breaking down barriers in outdoor public spaces such as bike paths, parks and playgrounds and indoor public spaces in buildings such as service counters and accessible washrooms. This is a key area of focus in the cross-government Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework. The government is working with all levels of government, community partners, and businesses to identify, prevent, and remove barriers for people with disabilities.

“Creating accessible public spaces in Ontario is not the job of one person, it is the responsibility of all,” said Ms. Sawchuk. “I’m both grateful and incredibly proud to be asked to lead this discussion and look forward to adding a rural perspective as often as I can. This is an opportunity to bring people together to share what is working and what needs to be done differently in design and construction and to listen to all the voices who are looking for change.”

The Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee is expected to begin work in early 2022 and continue into 2023.



Source link

Smorgasbord of Recent Media Coverage of Disability Barriers Shows Why the Ford Government Must Ramp Up Action to Make Ontario Accessible to 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities


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

December 22, 2021

SUMMARY

As 2021 nears a close, we want to catch you up on a mix of different news items that have run on disability accessibility issues in Ontario that our earlier AODA Alliance Updates did not include. These seven stories show the very wide spectrum of different disability accessibility issues that are going on simultaneously in the lives of Ontarians with disabilities. The first four of these articles quote the AODA Alliance’s chair, David Lepofsky:

1. The December 9, 2021 City News report about the disability barrier experienced by people with disabilities at shopping malls in which the benches have been removed.

2. The December 8, 2021 article in The Pointer about disability barriers to following the proceedings of some city council proceedings during the pandemic.

3. The December 17, 2021 article in The Robot Report, reporting that Toronto City Council has banned robots from sidewalks due to the barrier they present for pedestrians with disabilities.

4. The December 21, 2021 report in the British “Cities Today” publication on Toronto’s decision to ban robots from sidewalks. To our knowledge, this is the first time the AODA Alliance has been quoted in a British publication.

5. The October 25, 2021 CTV News Toronto report on the disability barrier that can be created by a failure to plow snow in a way that ensures clear accessible paths of travel and the implications of a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

6. The November 21, 2021 CBC News report on the disability barrier facing people with disabilities because Ontario requires one to have a driver’s license to renew an Ontario Health Card online. The AODA Alliance is not quoted in this article and had no involvement in getting this great coverage. To learn more about that barrier, check out the AODA Alliance’s December 20, 2021 news release.

7. The December 8, 2021 CTV report on the same barrier to renewing Ontario Health Cards. Here again, the AODA Alliance had no involvement in getting this great coverage of that issue.

With 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities facing so many different disability barriers, it is even more wrong for the Ford Government to still have no comprehensive plan in place to fully implement the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that David Onley conducted. The Ford Government received the Onley Report a deplorable 1,056 days ago. That report concluded that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities and that progress on making Ontario disability-accessible has been “glacial.

Send us your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

1. CityNews December 9, 2021

Originally posted at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/12/09/calls-to-return-bench-seating-in-public-settings-such-as-shopping-malls/ Calls to return bench seating in public settings such as shopping malls

A call to bring back mall benches

It was done to protect public health but now one disability advocate says the time has come to return corridor seating to local shopping malls. David Zura explains. By David Zura

In the early part of the pandemic, the decision was made to remove benches and public seating areas from within malls as part of public health measures to protect the public. But now, Toronto area shoppers are saying it might be time to bring them back.

Many people with disabilities, they cant walk long distances without taking a rest, says David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Lepofsky says many people have conditions that cause fatigue or chronic pain and need places to periodically sit to shop comfortably. He adds, mall benches are easily cleaned and dont impact vaccine status, mask use or distancing.

This isnt rocket science. So, the solution of leaving people with disabilities, who need a bench to rest on, out in the cold, is no solution.

You kind of feel it as you walk around, that theres nowhere to sit, says one shopper at Yorkdale Mall Thursday evening. Another saying It would make sense to put the benches back.

In a statement, Yorkdale Mall explains both benches and planters were removed from the mall at the request of Toronto Public Health.

There is seating available in the food court, at restaurants and near valet. Wheelchairs are available for Yorkdale shoppers who require assistance at Guest Services, read the statement.

Officials of the mall go on to say they look forward to reinstating corridor seating once public health restrictions are lifted.

Until then, Lepofsky says the lack of benches remains a barrier to those with a disability, as well as for businesses in urgent need of shoppers.

Our stores are hurting after this pandemic, they want more customers.

2. The Pointer December 8, 2021

Originally posted at https://thepointer.com/article/2021-12-08/they-are-engaging-in-a-fundamental-violation-of-the-human-rights-code-virtual-council-meetings-a-nightmare-for-local-accountability

They are engaging in a fundamental violation of the Human Rights Code: Virtual council meetings a nightmare for local accountability

By Isaac Callan – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It isnt uncommon for Bramptons 11 council members to be confused. They constantly mix up technical terms like referral or deferral and they often find themselves mired in tangential discussions during council meetings.

None of them have two full terms of experience and five are rookies in their first term.

It falls to Peter Fay, the City Clerk, to put them right. With his mask strapped beneath his chin and a mop of sometimes misbehaving hair, the veteran bureaucrat battles to keep council within the rules meant to govern their conduct.

Fay helps councillors navigate the pesky procedures designed to keep the process of local government open and democratic, always responsive to the people who put them in office. Members of the public hoping to keep track and help ensure accountability are too often on their own.

Obviously its impossible to follow what theyre talking about because you dont have the text to follow what the propositions are, David Lepofsky told The Pointer.

He had reviewed a video of Bramptons October 20 council meeting and was left somewhat dismayed.

Lepofsky is a blind lawyer and leading advocate for people living with disabilities. He is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA) and has pushed forward key concerns for those living with disabilities, including strong opposition to electric scooters.

I can tell you, by comparison, when for example in the Ontario legislature we took part in debates over legislation like 10, 20 years ago, if a standing committee received amendments they were read out and they voted on them.

Peter Fay coordinates Bramptons meetings (Image from City of Brampton/YouTube)

Inside Bramptons legislative chamber, things can be chaotic, especially for those who are unable to see what councillors are seeing.

At the beginning of the meeting, there was the added item 14.5 regarding a request from Blackthorn Developments for a Ministers Zoning Order resolution, and there was a consideration to deal with both of the items together, Fay explained to councillors on October 20, trying to stickhandle a last-minute discussion about two requests made by Mayor Patrick Brown to bypass the traditional development planning process by using a provincial approval tool instead. So we just need a moment to bring them up because we need them to be introduced before we can put them on the screen. So, Charlotte has on the screen the first motion as it relates to 14.3 and just momentarily we’re going to bring up the second motion as it relates to 14.5. There it is there, Charlotte.

Bramptons agenda promises these sorts of basic communication barriers should not exist.

Meeting information is also available in alternate formats upon request, it states. The claim is not backed by the typical communications offered for public meetings, as issues around accessibility for residents living with and without disabilities abound.

The videos of council meetings on Bramptons website dont offer accessible navigation in the standard player, for example. Video files matched to agendas have some options to skip through by clicking on specific items, but the buttons to fast forward and rewind cannot be used[1][2] by those with visual impairments. Anyone who uses accessible technology has to watch the full meeting to catch a particular moment or exchange.

Councillors walk motions onto the floor without providing written materials to the public and motions are drafted on the spot often without being read out in full. Sometimes decisions flash across a non-accessible online projection for mere seconds.

Brampton councillors race through meetings, sometimes approving items or allowing procedural advancement without any discussion or description of what has happened, referencing items using short-form and agenda item numbers and barely drawing a breath before moving toward adjournment.

Its a joke, Lepofsky said, its a joke. These guys are on there and Im going to gamble that most city councillors who are one meeting after the next going on Webex may well be oblivious they are engaging in a fundamental violation of the Human Rights Code. Theyre flying in the face of the objectives of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. These laws require that they not create new barriers well, they did.

The City of Mississauga began reading its items and bylaws out in full at meetings during 2020 to make them more accessible. The same practice was introduced at the Region of Peel. But the broader issue of accessibility, including for those less comfortable with various technology platforms used during the pandemic and now, in some cases, being taken up more routinely, is a systemic problem.

Its often older residents most engaged in the civic process who feel most cut off from a system thats supposed to serve them.

Before the pandemic, Brampton councillors met in-person (Image from The Pointer files)

Many accessibility issues existed before the pandemic, with chaotic council meetings cutting people out. The transition to virtual meetings has compounded the situation. Access to technology and the quality of internet connections are now often a prerequisite to present to council.
In Caledon and Brampton, in particular, key decisions are being rushed through without public notice. Some community members have found their attempts to present shut down and their audio connections muted before they feel they have been able to make key arguments.

I do not like virtual meetings because they result in people not really able to express themselves, Joe Grogan, a long-time resident of Bolton, told The Pointer. Some people are intimidated by the process because the technology is so depersonalizing. In my opinion, the process does not encourage or facilitate citizen engagement.

When COVID-19 forced the end of in-person gatherings in March 2020, the Province amended the rules governing councils to allow them to meet digitally. Elected officials and bureaucrats switched almost instantly to a virtual format. A return to in-person meetings has been more drawn out, and in some jurisdictions, like Brampton, one gets the impression elected officials such as Mayor Patrick Brown prefer the lack of direct public scrutiny.

Even before the pandemic, more and more debate was being conducted in-camera, behind closed doors, away from public view, an issue that some Brampton councillors have openly raised during the so-called public portion of meetings.

In consideration of the current COVID-19 public health orders prohibiting large public gatherings and requiring physical distancing, in-person attendance at Council and Committee meetings will be limited to Members of Council and essential City staff only, reads a note that has sat at the top of Bramptons agendas in some form for almost two years.

Mayor Brown recently said in-person meetings would return whenever it is deemed appropriate without offering a timeline. This is the same person who was pushing to re-open restaurants and bars during the height of the pandemic. Meanwhile, many other cities have returned to in-person meetings.
As of September 7, Mississauga resumed in-person meetings for council and all standing committees, with an option for virtual participation for those who still prefer the digital format.

Its unclear why Brampton has not done the same.

Potential advantages to online meetings remain. Councillors can take part in discussions from anywhere in the world when exceptional circumstances force them to miss a meeting, while residents can present without travelling to City Hall if they dont have the time or access to transportation. Advocacy groups can appear virtually at councils across Ontario from a single office, maximizing the often limited resources of non-profit organizations.

These advantages dont all come automatically, and there are clear trade-offs.

Lengthy motions in Brampton flash across a screen briefly before being adopted (Image from Isaac Callan/The Pointer)

Grogan, who professes to not love technology, says the pandemics impact on local council killed his engagement. He went from a regular council watcher and an engaged taxpayer to a frustrated citizen.

In my case, I used to follow agendas and meetings religiously. Not anymore, he said. The effort required is just not worth it. In the past, it would be easier to raise last-minute concerns from the floor of the meeting; this is less possible with virtual meetings. Moreover, how can citizens challenge items as in the past? The entire situation is orchestrated and controlled.

Councillors also no longer have to appear in person at the meetings. Residents or members of the media cannot catch their attention after meetings to raise concerns or ask questions; both groups are often forced to deal with faceless email accounts instead.

Lepofsky experienced the extreme limits of poorly thought-out virtual meetings last summer.

In the heat of a battle between electric scooter lobbyists and disability advocates, he planned to appear before Toronto City Council. His speech was a key moment for the campaign to limit e-scooters on Torontos sidewalks after months of lobbying efforts. He only had a few minutes to put the concerns of Ontarians living with disabilities on the table.

The meeting was scheduled to take place using Webex, a system that lacked accessibility features, especially early in the pandemic. Its icon-heavy design, with limited keyboard shortcuts, meant Lepofsky was forced to call into the meeting by phone instead of using his computer. Im a blind guy, for me to use my computer I have a program called a screen reading program, he said.

He recalls the encounter vividly.

To make sure he didnt miss his spot, Lepofsky had to call into the meeting 30 minutes early. He listened to the clerks organizing the agenda until the meeting began at 9:30 a.m. and then sat through a further hour of discussions unrelated to his item. Finally, e-scooters came up and Lepofsky paid close attention to the lobbyists, preparing to make his remarks and rebut some of their arguments.

Our next speaker is David Lepofsky, the chair said. His sentence was followed by a heavy silence.

On the other end of the phone, Lepofsky was growing more frustrated by the second: This is David Lepofsky, can you hear me?

Mr. Lepofsky? Has Mr. Lepofsky called in? We have no indication hes not here, the chair continued.

Lepofskys heart was pumping. He began desperately sending emails to City staff and council members telling them he was in the meeting trying to speak. The presentation he planned to make was pushed to one side in his mind, as he scrambled to secure a speaking spot he had already been granted.

Im screaming into the phone like my blood pressure is going through the roof, he recalled. Theres no phone number to call and Im starting to email as many people as I can, and this is all because theyre using an inaccessible app.

It is one of many barriers to accessing local council that have developed through the pandemic. These obstacles are more than inconvenient: they actively limit residents rights to take part in the democratic process.

A lack of public participation in local democracy leaves councillors to govern people, not listen to residents (Image from Google Maps)

It is unclear when all councils in Ontario will return to full in-person meetings. Brampton is currently considering plans for a hybrid system to be implemented in January, although it is unclear how new variants or provincial health measures could impact this plan.

Following the Provinces announcement of its Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term, the City is planning to expand its safe reopening and resumption of in-person services including Council meetings, a Brampton spokesperson told The Pointer in October. Well have more information in the coming days. That was a month after Mississauga had already moved to an in-person option.

On November 16, a spokesperson said to keep waiting. Discussions on timeline and other aspects such as vaccination proof requirements are underway, they said. We can provide more details once they are available.

The failure to do what Mississauga and other jurisdictions did, to ensure democratic participation, has meant the Brampton budget process for 2022 has been done virtually, shutting some residents out of the debate to decide how their money will be used.

In-person meetings are also rife with barriers to accessibility that are borne from ignorant or lazy meeting structures. An example of this is councillors springing new motions at the start of a meeting so that those who require an accessible agenda are unable to read the details of what has been proposed. The switch to a virtual format has made things worse.

Inaccessible technology put up more walls, and made many parts of the local democratic process less accessible to a range of local residents.

I sort of dont need to parse out whether they know better or they should have known better, they know better and dont care or should have known better and didnt think about it, Lepofsky said. In 2021, there is no way an elected politician could reasonably expect anybody watching [the Brampton October 20 council meeting] to have the slightest idea what theyre deciding.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @isaaccallan

3. The Robot Report December 17, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.therobotreport.com/toronto-city-council-votes-to-ban-sidewalk-robots/

Toronto City Council votes to ban sidewalk robots – The Robot Report By
Brianna Wessling

Tiny Miles robots have operated in Toronto for over a year, but were pulled from the streets last week. | Source: Tiny Mile

Today, the Toronto City Council voted to ban sidewalk robots until the council has the opportunity to further study the effects they have on the community.
The ban will prevent all robots that operate on anything other than muscular power, are automated or remote controlled, and dont transport passengers from traveling on the sidewalks and in bike lanes. Violators will face a $150 fine.

Councillors approved important amendments to the ban today to leave room for potentially opening the sidewalks of Toronto back up to robots in the future.

It will be in effect until the Ontario Ministry of Transportations pilot program is implemented and the City Council decides if they want to opt into the project.

I cant go around doing all the boasting I do about all the smart people, and the great tech ecosystem and why this is a great place for people to invest and create jobs, especially for innovative tech companies, and then say that were not going to welcome innovation, Mayor John Tory said. But at the same time, it cant just be a free-for-all

The ban proposal was put forward by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, in response to a proposed ten year pilot program by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, which municipalities can opt into. The Committee expressed concerns about sidewalk robots being hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as elderly people and children.

The pilot program did set specifications on how robots should operate. Robots must be marked with the operators name and contact details, and would be required to have audible signals, reflectors with lights, brakes, insurance and must yield to pedestrians. The program also states that robots couldnt travel about 10 km/hr, about 6 mph.

Sidewalks are an important publicly-funded public resource, created for pedestrians to safely use, David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said in a letter to the Council. Their safe use should not be undermined for such things as private companies delivery robots.

The Council also approved what Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, an advocate for the bill, called a friendly amendment that would issue a Transportation Innovation Challenge in the second quarter of 2022.

This event would give the City Council an opportunity to explore and support local economic development with respect to the sidewalk robots. The amendment requests that the general manager of transportation services consult with local entrepreneurs, sidewalk robot manufacturers, accessibility community members, law enforcement and more. The general manager would then report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on their findings. Last week,

Tiny Mile, a company operating delivery robots in Toronto, announced on its
Instagram that it would temporarily remove its robots from the city in the spirit of good faith.

Yesterday, Ignacio Tartavull, the CEO of Tiny Mile, expressed dissatisfaction with the now adopted Transportation Innovation Challenge, and the Councils offer to allow sidewalk robots to use the Canadian National Exhibition for testing ground.

Under this challenge we will be able to operate at the Canadian National Exhibition, Tartavull said in a LinkedIn post.

The only problem is that there are no deliveries to be done there how do you fundraise as a startup if you have no customers using your product?

Tiny Mile has operated in Toronto since September 2020.

The robots arent autonomous, but are controlled remotely by human operators. Ryan Lanyon, the manager of strategic policy and innovation in transportation and chair of the Automated Vehicles Working Group, stated during the meeting that the city had not received any 311 complaints about the robots.

However, a concern for the council was that the sidewalk robots dont fall under a specific jurisdiction, and citizens may not be sure where to file complaints.

The Toronto City Council isnt the first governing body to put limitations on delivery robots. In December 2017, San Francisco voted to ban delivery robots on most sidewalks, and greatly restrict use in permitted areas. The ban prevented robotics companies from operating sidewalk delivery robots in San Francisco until 2019, when Postmates Serve (now the independent company Serve Robotics) was approved for the first permit to test sidewalk deliveries in the city.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brianna Wessling
Brianna Wessling is an Associate Editor, Robotics, WTWH Media. She joined WTWH Media in November 2021, and is a recent graduate from the University of Kansas. She can be reached at [email protected]

4. Cities Today December 21, 2021

Originally posted at https://cities-today.com/toronto-city-council-votes-to-ban-pavement-robots/

Toronto city council votes to ban pavement robots

by Christopher Carey

Toronto City Council has voted to ban automated robots from operating on pavements and cycle lanes until a provincial pilot scheme is in place.

The decision prohibits the use of automated micro-utility devices such as food delivery robots operated by robotics company Tiny Mile, which some city restaurants have been using to courier orders.

The ban came after the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee composed of members of the public and the City Council asked city councillors to restrict the devices over safety concerns.

We applaud Toronto City Council for stopping the creation of a serious new disability barrier and for requiring City staff to consult with people with disabilities as well as law enforcement and public safety experts about the dangers that robots on sidewalks pose for the public, said David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance).

The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto cant afford to create these new disability barriers.

Speaking at an earlier hearing, City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said: We want to remove external barriers so that people can participate in public life.

With people who are facing barriers, with disabilities, our job is to make sure that that community has a voice to city council.

Innovation challenge
The committees recommendation was aimed at reducing hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as the elderly and children, who may be impeded by the devices or unable to detect their presence.

But the City Council plans to hold a Transportation Innovation Challenge in the second quarter of 2022, which would explore and support local economic development with respect to pavement robots.

The amendment requests that Torontos General Manager of Transportation Services Barbara Gray consult with local entrepreneurs, sidewalk robot manufacturers, accessibility community members and law enforcement before reporting back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on their findings.

We of course would rather not have to fight this battle again next year, but are ready to do so if necessary, Lepofsky told Cities Today.

We are also happy to see that a City staff investigation of this issue requires consultation with people with disabilities and to law enforcement.

People need to seriously talk about how such robots could be misused if allowed on sidewalks.

Deeply worrying
Tiny Miles delivery robots, nicknamed Geoffrey, began delivering in Toronto in September 2020.

The devices, which can travel at a speed of up to 6 kmph, are remotely controlled by human operators from a central office.

Governments like most organisations make decisions based on information, many times incomplete information which leads to the wrong decisions, Tiny Mile CEO Ignacio Tartavull said on LinkedIn.

Whats deeply worrying is that the process that led to this decision didnt include any research but only brainstorming ways to mislead the public on the reasoning and the outcome.

5. CTV News October 25, 2021

Originally posted at https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/people-with-disabilities-hope-snow-clearing-ruling-means-more-accessible-streets-1.5637918 People with disabilities hope snow clearing ruling means more accessible streets Jon Woodward
CTV News Toronto Videojournalist
@CTV_Jon

TORONTO — Advocates for people with disabilities say they are hoping a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that makes cities more accountable for accidents related to snow clearing will lead to more accessible streets across the country.

Observers say the decision could extend to legal liability for other municipal activities from filling potholes to swimming pools to garbage collection, which may bring improved service but also higher costs.

The case based on a woman injuring herself while clambering over a snowbank that had been left on a sidewalk by city workers in Nelson, B.C. could have implications for cities across Canada, said lawyer David Lepofsky.

I hope its going to make municipalities sit up and take a listen, and make sure they get it right, said Lepofsky, a lawyer who is legally blind and represents the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance.

He said he knows people with disabilities who have navigated into the roadways to avoid snowbanks left by city crews.

They can create very serious barriers for people with disabilities, he said.

The far-reaching decision stems from the snow piles that the city of Nelson, B.C. created when a worker cleared snow from downtown streets after a storm in early January 2015.

Nurse Taryn Joy Marchi, 28 at the time, parked in an angled spot on the street and tried to cross the snow pile to get to the sidewalk. She claimed her right foot dropped through the snow and her leg was seriously injured.

She said the city should have left openings in the sidewalk to allow safe passage, as other cities in the area did. But the trial judge dismissed the case, saying that cities were immune from lawsuits relating to policy decisions.

However, on appeal first to the B.C. Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court, judges found that clearing the snow was not a core policy decision and so the regular principles of negligence apply.

I think its going to help improve snow clearing if we can do it correctlyso we dont leave snowbanks in the way or potential hazards for members of the disability community, said Anthony Frisina of the Ontario Disability Coalition.

Those hazards have been an issue for Toronto resident Alison Brown, who is legally blind and navigates the city with the help of Ellis the vision dog. She says sometimes the city doesnt make it easy for her.

Weve experienced many situations where the snow is blocking the sidewalk. It becomes a stress factor and makes our ability to maneuver challenging, she said.

She said she’s not sure what the court decision means to her — but hopes that cities get the message to “clear the snow.”

The Supreme Court decision can apply to other things a city does, or doesnt do, said personal injury lawyer Melissa Miller with Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP.

This case is more far-reaching than simply snow removal, which is whats so significant about it, she said.

A pothole that isnt filled in downtown Toronto that bottoms out your car and causes you a significant injury is potentially now the subject of a lawsuit, she said.

Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said the ruling is a sign that cities must take the responsibilities of clearing snow seriously for all people.

We have now heard a statement that says everybody get your house in order, she said. You have a responsibility to make sure roads and sidewalks are safe.

Wong-Tam seconded a motion at Toronto city council in May that asked the General Manager of Transportation Services to report on the feasibility of clearing snow from accessible parking spaces by July. That date was pushed to September but she said the report still had yet to happen.

This is a very wealthy city. Things should not be falling apart as long as we maintain it, she said.

Lepofsky said the case may lead to more scrutiny for snow-clearing city employees, and snow-clearing robots, which are being tested right now in Ontario.

No matter how clever a robot is, and I dont think its that clever, the danger is that they will also shovel snow into the path of a person with disabilities, he said.

In that case, it may be less obvious who to sue if there is not a clear connection between the robots actions and the person who programmed it or is monitoring it, he said.

The City of Toronto, which intervened in the lawsuit, said through a spokesperson that it will “continue to deliver a comprehensive snow and ice clearing service this winter, with council approval, has the capability to adjust service levels if required.”

6. CBC News November 21, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-s-online-health-card-renewal-system-excludes-people-with-disabilities-advocates-say-1.6255828

Ontario’s online health-card renewal system excludes people with disabilities, advocates say | CBC News Loaded Toronto
Province looking at upgrading its system but declined to comment on the record Samantha Beattie CBC News

People line up outside at a Service Ontario location in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Derek Hooper/CBC)
The thought of driving her son to a Service Ontario centre to renew his health card fills Jane Toner with dread.

Ben, 22, suffers from chronic pain and nerve damage, which makes the bumps, vibrations and cold temperatures that inevitably come with a ride in a car excruciating not to mention the wait in line outside the provincial centre’s location, Toner said.

But soon they’ll have no other choice. In Ontario, only people with a driver’s licence can renew their health cards online, leaving those who use photo ID cards like Ben with few other options than to physically go to a centre.

Toner says it’s “shameful” that the province is imposing such a limitation on people living with disabilities and on seniors with mobility issues.

“Really, what it’s saying is that if you have a disability, we don’t care, they don’t matter,” she said.

“It boggles my mind.”

Ben’s health card expired about a year ago, but he hasn’t had to renew it yet because the province extended the validity of Ontario cards to Feb. 28, 2022 in response to the pandemic. Toner has tried acting on his behalf, filling out and dropping off all the required paperwork at Service Ontario, but was informed Ben still needed to come in to have a new photo taken.

Ben Toner was diagnosed with a rare condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome as a child and has undergone surgeries and treatments to help ease his chronic pain. (Submitted by Jane Toner)
Toner hopes changes will be made before then, but said so far calls to elected officials on both sides of the aisle have gone unheard.

“These are the people who need their help most,” she said. “I thought maybe somebody would take up the torch for us, but obviously not.”

The government’s stance is that it’s looking at expanding online services and encourages anybody who is having difficulties renewing their health card to call Service Ontario. The province refused to provide an on-the-record statement for this story.

‘Level the playing field’
Crystal Barnard has been in and out of hospital for months following major back surgery. Like Ben, she also has an expired health card and no driver’s licence and is faced with a similar dilemma where there’s “no way” she can go to a Service Ontario herself.

“When it comes to disabled people, we end up having all sorts of hoops and cracks to jump over in order to do things ourselves,” said Barnard.

Come February, she said she will have to find a doctor to sign a medical exemption form. To complicate matters she doesn’t have a family doctor. Then she’ll have to get her father who requires two canes to walk to drop off the forms at a Service Ontario location for her. They’re hoping she can reuse her photo from her old health card.

“If they could find a way that renewing online could be made possible for everybody involved, disabled and able-bodied people alike, it would just be so much easier all around,” said Barnard.

“It would equal the playing field for everybody.”

Anthony Frisina, a disability advocate who uses a wheelchair, said the current system is a “huge complication.” It doesn’t factor in that people without driver’s licences face more challenges getting to a Service Ontario location than those who drive, such as needing to rely on public transportation and facing accessibility barriers.

And getting someone to go in their place is problematic, too, he said.

“You want to be in control of your own issues, your own quality of life and your actual activities of daily living.”

7. CTV News December 8, 2021

Originally posted at https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/health-experts-say-it-s-concerning-that-those-without-a-driver-s-licence-can-t-renew-their-ohip-cards-online-1.5699182

Health experts say it’s ‘concerning’ that those without a driver’s licence can’t renew their OHIP cards online Hannah Alberga
Hannah Alberga
CTV News Toronto Multi-Platform Writer
@HannahAlberga

Published Wednesday, December 8, 2021 4:28PM EST
A person is seen typing. (Pressmaster/shutterstock.com)

Healthcare experts are calling on the province to address inequities in Ontarios online OHIP card renewal requirements.

At the moment, Ontario health cards can only be renewed online if the individual has a drivers licence. While government issued identification that shows proof of residency and personal identity is acceptable for in-person renewal, the requirements are different online.

This is concerning at any time, and it is particularly concerning during a pandemic, said Sarah Hobbs, CEO of Alliance for Healthier Communities, in a release issued on Tuesday.

She pointed to people with disabilities as just one group that could be disproportionately impacted by these rules.

People made more vulnerable by the pandemic, and at higher risk, are also faced with inequitable access to this system, she said.

Katie Hogue, a nurse practitioner in Ontario, added that there are a wide range of medical reasons that could prevent a person from driving, such as mobility challenges, vision impairment, dementia and epilepsy.

The system is not considering these people or their needs, Hogue said.

According to the government website, if you cannot visit a Service Ontario for a medical reason, a physician or nurse practitioner can fill out a medical exemption form. Although, once the form is completed, someone must deliver the documents to a Service Ontario to finish the renewal process.

More widely, the pandemic has highlighted inequities that span across the entire healthcare system, Caroline Lidstone-Jones, CEO of the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council, said.

This discrimination is one example of an inequitable system but this one has a quick solution, Lidstone-Jones said. Allow people with a photo card to renew their health card online, the same way those with a drivers licence can.

When Minister Ross Romano was asked to address the subject at Queens Park earlier in the week, he said that the government is working towards modernizing the process of renewing OHIP cards, making it digital first not digital only.

But I want to be crystal clear that the way in which you would have renewed your health card in the past, you can still do the same renewal processes you always could and we are just making it better, he added.

Romano acknowledged how important it is to have access to OHIP renewal throughout the province and said he will have more to say about the topic at a future date.

Do they not work? Or not available?
So they hover over the video, so you cannot use them if yoiu can’t see them. David told me when I sent him the video to watch




Source link

Smorgasbord of Recent Media Coverage of Disability Barriers Shows Why the Ford Government Must Ramp Up Action to Make Ontario Accessible to 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities


          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/

Smorgasbord of Recent Media Coverage of Disability Barriers Shows Why the Ford Government Must Ramp Up Action to Make Ontario Accessible to 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

December 22, 2021

            SUMMARY

As 2021 nears a close, we want to catch you up on a mix of different news items that have run on disability accessibility issues in Ontario that our earlier AODA Alliance Updates did not include. These seven stories show the very wide spectrum of different disability accessibility issues that are going on simultaneously in the lives of Ontarians with disabilities. The first four of these articles quote the AODA Alliance’s chair, David Lepofsky:

  1. The December 9, 2021 City News report about the disability barrier experienced by people with disabilities at shopping malls in which the benches have been removed.
  1. The December 8, 2021 article in The Pointer about disability barriers to following the proceedings of some city council proceedings during the pandemic.
  1. The December 17, 2021 article in The Robot Report, reporting that Toronto City Council has banned robots from sidewalks due to the barrier they present for pedestrians with disabilities.
  1. The December 21, 2021 report in the British “Cities Today” publication on Toronto’s decision to ban robots from sidewalks. To our knowledge, this is the first time the AODA Alliance has been quoted in a British publication.
  1. The October 25, 2021 CTV News Toronto report on the disability barrier that can be created by a failure to plow snow in a way that ensures clear accessible paths of travel and the implications of a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.
  1. The November 21, 2021 CBC News report on the disability barrier facing people with disabilities because Ontario requires one to have a driver’s license to renew an Ontario Health Card online. The AODA Alliance is not quoted in this article and had no involvement in getting this great coverage. To learn more about that barrier, check out the AODA Alliance’s December 20, 2021 news release.
  1. The December 8, 2021 CTV report on the same barrier to renewing Ontario Health Cards. Here again, the AODA Alliance had no involvement in getting this great coverage of that issue.

With 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities facing so many different disability barriers, it is even more wrong for the Ford Government to still have no comprehensive plan in place to fully implement the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that David Onley conducted. The Ford Government received the Onley Report a deplorable 1,056 days ago. That report concluded that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities and that progress on making Ontario disability-accessible has been “glacial.”

Send us your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

            MORE DETAILS

1. CityNews December 9, 2021

Originally posted at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/12/09/calls-to-return-bench-seating-in-public-settings-such-as-shopping-malls/

Calls to return bench seating in public settings such as shopping malls

A call to bring back mall benches

It was done to protect public health but now one disability advocate says the time has come to return corridor seating to local shopping malls. David Zura explains.

By David Zura

In the early part of the pandemic, the decision was made to remove benches and public seating areas from within malls as part of public health measures to protect the public. But now, Toronto area shoppers are saying it might be time to bring them back.

“Many people with disabilities, they can’t walk long distances without taking a rest,” says David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Lepofsky says many people have conditions that cause fatigue or chronic pain and need places to periodically sit to shop comfortably. He adds, mall benches are easily cleaned and don’t impact vaccine status, mask use or distancing.

“This isn’t rocket science. So, the solution of leaving people with disabilities, who need a bench to rest on, out in the cold, is no solution.”

“You kind of feel it as you walk around, that there’s nowhere to sit,” says one shopper at Yorkdale Mall Thursday evening. Another saying “It would make sense to put the benches back.”

In a statement, Yorkdale Mall explains both benches and planters were removed from the mall at the request of Toronto Public Health.

“There is seating available in the food court, at restaurants and near valet. Wheelchairs are available for Yorkdale shoppers who require assistance at Guest Services,” read the statement.

Officials of the mall go on to say they look forward to reinstating corridor seating once public health restrictions are lifted.

Until then, Lepofsky says the lack of benches remains a barrier to those with a disability, as well as for businesses in urgent need of shoppers.

“Our stores are hurting after this pandemic, they want more customers.”

2. The Pointer December 8, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://thepointer.com/article/2021-12-08/they-are-engaging-in-a-fundamental-violation-of-the-human-rights-code-virtual-council-meetings-a-nightmare-for-local-accountability

 

‘They are engaging in a fundamental violation of the Human Rights Code’: Virtual council meetings a nightmare for local accountability

By Isaac Callan – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It isn’t uncommon for Brampton’s 11 council members to be confused. They constantly mix up technical terms like referral or deferral and they often find themselves mired in tangential discussions during council meetings.

None of them have two full terms of experience and five are rookies in their first term.

It falls to Peter Fay, the City Clerk, to put them right. With his mask strapped beneath his chin and a mop of sometimes misbehaving hair, the veteran bureaucrat battles to keep council within the rules meant to govern their conduct.

Fay helps councillors navigate the pesky procedures designed to keep the process of local government open and democratic, always responsive to the people who put them in office. Members of the public hoping to keep track and help ensure accountability are too often on their own.

“Obviously it’s impossible to follow what they’re talking about because you don’t have the text to follow what the propositions are,” David Lepofsky told The Pointer.

He had reviewed a video of Brampton’s October 20 council meeting and was left somewhat dismayed.

Lepofsky is a blind lawyer and leading advocate for people living with disabilities. He is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA) and has pushed forward key concerns for those living with disabilities, including strong opposition to electric scooters.

“I can tell you, by comparison, when for example in the Ontario legislature we took part in debates over legislation like 10, 20 years ago, if a standing committee received amendments they were read out and they voted on them.”

Peter Fay coordinates Brampton’s meetings (Image from City of Brampton/YouTube)

Inside Brampton’s legislative chamber, things can be chaotic, especially for those who are unable to see what councillors are seeing.

“At the beginning of the meeting, there was the added item 14.5 regarding a request from Blackthorn Developments for a Minister’s Zoning Order resolution, and there was a consideration to deal with both of the items together,” Fay explained to councillors on October 20, trying to stickhandle a last-minute discussion about two requests made by Mayor Patrick Brown to bypass the traditional development planning process by using a provincial approval tool instead. “So we just need a moment to bring them up because we need them to be introduced before we can put them on the screen. So, Charlotte has on the screen the first motion as it relates to 14.3 and just momentarily we’re going to bring up the second motion as it relates to 14.5. There it is there, Charlotte.”

Brampton’s agenda promises these sorts of basic communication barriers should not exist.

“Meeting information is also available in alternate formats upon request,” it states. The claim is not backed by the typical communications offered for public meetings, as issues around accessibility for residents living with and without disabilities abound.

The videos of council meetings on Brampton’s website don’t offer accessible navigation in the standard player, for example. Video files matched to agendas have some options to skip through by clicking on specific items, but the buttons to fast forward and rewind   by those with visual impairments. Anyone who uses accessible technology has to watch the full meeting to catch a particular moment or exchange.

Councillors walk motions onto the floor without providing written materials to the public and motions are drafted on the spot often without being read out in full. Sometimes decisions flash across a non-accessible online projection for mere seconds.

Brampton councillors race through meetings, sometimes approving items or allowing procedural advancement without any discussion or description of what has happened, referencing items using short-form and agenda item numbers and barely drawing a breath before moving toward adjournment.

“It’s a joke,” Lepofsky said, “it’s a joke. These guys are on there and I’m going to gamble that most city councillors who are one meeting after the next going on Webex may well be oblivious they are engaging in a fundamental violation of the Human Rights Code. They’re flying in the face of the objectives of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. These laws require that they not create new barriers — well, they did.”

The City of Mississauga began reading its items and bylaws out in full at meetings during 2020 to make them more accessible. The same practice was introduced at the Region of Peel. But the broader issue of accessibility, including for those less comfortable with various technology platforms used during the pandemic and now, in some cases, being taken up more routinely, is a systemic problem.

It’s often older residents most engaged in the civic process who feel most cut off from a system that’s supposed to serve them.

Before the pandemic, Brampton councillors met in-person (Image from The Pointer files)

Many accessibility issues existed before the pandemic, with chaotic council meetings cutting people out. The transition to virtual meetings has compounded the situation. Access to technology and the quality of internet connections are now often a prerequisite to present to council.

In Caledon and Brampton, in particular, key decisions are being rushed through without public notice. Some community members have found their attempts to present shut down and their audio connections muted before they feel they have been able to make key arguments.

“I do not like virtual meetings because they result in people not really able to express themselves,” Joe Grogan, a long-time resident of Bolton, told The Pointer. “Some people are intimidated by the process because the technology is so depersonalizing. In my opinion, the process does not encourage or facilitate citizen engagement.”

When COVID-19 forced the end of in-person gatherings in March 2020, the Province amended the rules governing councils to allow them to meet digitally. Elected officials and bureaucrats switched almost instantly to a virtual format. A return to in-person meetings has been more drawn out, and in some jurisdictions, like Brampton, one gets the impression elected officials such as Mayor Patrick Brown prefer the lack of direct public scrutiny.

Even before the pandemic, more and more debate was being conducted in-camera, behind closed doors, away from public view, an issue that some Brampton councillors have openly raised during the so-called public portion of meetings.

“In consideration of the current COVID-19 public health orders prohibiting large public gatherings and requiring physical distancing, in-person attendance at Council and Committee meetings will be limited to Members of Council and essential City staff only,” reads a note that has sat at the top of Brampton’s agendas in some form for almost two years.

Mayor Brown recently said in-person meetings would return “whenever it is deemed appropriate” without offering a timeline. This is the same person who was pushing to re-open restaurants and bars during the height of the pandemic. Meanwhile, many other cities have returned to in-person meetings.

As of September 7, Mississauga resumed in-person meetings for council and all standing committees, with an option for virtual participation for those who still prefer the digital format.

It’s unclear why Brampton has not done the same.

Potential advantages to online meetings remain. Councillors can take part in discussions from anywhere in the world when exceptional circumstances force them to miss a meeting, while residents can present without travelling to City Hall if they don’t have the time or access to transportation. Advocacy groups can appear virtually at councils across Ontario from a single office, maximizing the often limited resources of non-profit organizations.

These advantages don’t all come automatically, and there are clear trade-offs.

Lengthy motions in Brampton flash across a screen briefly before being adopted (Image from Isaac Callan/The Pointer)

Grogan, who professes to not love technology, says the pandemic’s impact on local council killed his engagement. He went from a regular council watcher and an engaged taxpayer to a frustrated citizen.

“In my case, I used to follow agendas and meetings religiously. Not anymore,” he said. “The effort required is just not worth it. In the past, it would be easier to raise last-minute concerns from the floor of the meeting; this is less possible with virtual meetings. Moreover, how can citizens challenge items as in the past? The entire situation is orchestrated and controlled.”

Councillors also no longer have to appear in person at the meetings. Residents or members of the media cannot catch their attention after meetings to raise concerns or ask questions; both groups are often forced to deal with faceless email accounts instead.

Lepofsky experienced the extreme limits of poorly thought-out virtual meetings last summer.

In the heat of a battle between electric scooter lobbyists and disability advocates, he planned to appear before Toronto City Council. His speech was a key moment for the campaign to limit e-scooters on Toronto’s sidewalks after months of lobbying efforts. He only had a few minutes to put the concerns of Ontarians living with disabilities on the table.

The meeting was scheduled to take place using Webex, a system that lacked accessibility features, especially early in the pandemic. Its icon-heavy design, with limited keyboard shortcuts, meant Lepofsky was forced to call into the meeting by phone instead of using his computer. “I’m a blind guy, for me to use my computer I have a program called a screen reading program,” he said.

He recalls the encounter vividly.

To make sure he didn’t miss his spot, Lepofsky had to call into the meeting 30 minutes early. He listened to the clerks organizing the agenda until the meeting began at 9:30 a.m. and then sat through a further hour of discussions unrelated to his item. Finally, e-scooters came up and Lepofsky paid close attention to the lobbyists, preparing to make his remarks and rebut some of their arguments.

“Our next speaker is David Lepofsky,” the chair said. His sentence was followed by a heavy silence.

On the other end of the phone, Lepofsky was growing more frustrated by the second: “This is David Lepofsky, can you hear me?”

“Mr. Lepofsky? Has Mr. Lepofsky called in? We have no indication — he’s not here,” the chair continued.

Lepofsky’s heart was pumping. He began desperately sending emails to City staff and council members telling them he was in the meeting trying to speak. The presentation he planned to make was pushed to one side in his mind, as he scrambled to secure a speaking spot he had already been granted.

“I’m screaming into the phone like my blood pressure is going through the roof,” he recalled. “There’s no phone number to call and I’m starting to email as many people as I can, and this is all because they’re using an inaccessible app.”

It is one of many barriers to accessing local council that have developed through the pandemic. These obstacles are more than inconvenient: they actively limit residents’ rights to take part in the democratic process.

A lack of public participation in local democracy leaves councillors to govern people, not listen to residents (Image from Google Maps)

It is unclear when all councils in Ontario will return to full in-person meetings. Brampton is currently considering plans for a hybrid system to be implemented in January, although it is unclear how new variants or provincial health measures could impact this plan.

“Following the Province’s announcement of its Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term, the City is planning to expand its safe reopening and resumption of in-person services – including Council meetings,” a Brampton spokesperson told The Pointer in October. “We’ll have more information in the coming days.”

That was a month after Mississauga had already moved to an in-person option.

On November 16, a spokesperson said to keep waiting. “Discussions on timeline and other aspects such as vaccination proof requirements are underway,” they said. “We can provide more details once they are available.”

The failure to do what Mississauga and other jurisdictions did, to ensure democratic participation, has meant the Brampton budget process for 2022 has been done virtually, shutting some residents out of the debate to decide how their money will be used.

In-person meetings are also rife with barriers to accessibility that are borne from ignorant or lazy meeting structures. An example of this is councillors springing new motions at the start of a meeting so that those who require an accessible agenda are unable to read the details of what has been proposed. The switch to a virtual format has made things worse.

Inaccessible technology put up more walls, and made many parts of the local democratic process less accessible to a range of local residents.

“I sort of don’t need to parse out whether they know better or they should have known better, they know better and don’t care or should have known better and didn’t think about it,” Lepofsky said. “In 2021, there is no way an elected politician could reasonably expect anybody watching [the Brampton October 20 council meeting]… to have the slightest idea what they’re deciding.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @isaaccallan

3. The Robot Report December 17, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.therobotreport.com/toronto-city-council-votes-to-ban-sidewalk-robots/

Toronto City Council votes to ban sidewalk robots – The Robot Report

By

Brianna Wessling

Tiny Mile’s robots have operated in Toronto for over a year, but were pulled from the streets last week. | Source: Tiny Mile

Today, the Toronto City Council voted to ban sidewalk robots until the council has the opportunity to further study the effects they have on the community.

The ban will prevent all robots that operate on anything other than muscular power, are automated or remote controlled, and don’t transport passengers from traveling on the sidewalks and in bike lanes. Violators will face a $150 fine.

Councillors approved important amendments to the ban today to leave room for potentially opening the sidewalks of Toronto back up to robots in the future.

It will be in effect until the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s pilot program is implemented and the City Council decides if they want to opt into the project.

“I can’t go around doing all the boasting I do about all the smart people, and the great tech ecosystem and why this is a great place for people to invest and create jobs, especially for innovative tech companies, and then say that we’re not going to welcome innovation,” Mayor John Tory said. “But at the same time, it can’t just be a free-for-all”

The ban proposal was put forward by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, in response to a proposed ten year pilot program by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, which municipalities can opt into. The Committee expressed concerns about sidewalk robots being hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as elderly people and children.

The pilot program did set specifications on how robots should operate. Robots must be marked with the operator’s name and contact details, and would be required to have audible signals, reflectors with lights, brakes, insurance and must yield to pedestrians. The program also states that robots couldn’t travel about 10 km/hr, about 6 mph.

“Sidewalks are an important publicly-funded public resource, created for pedestrians to safely use,” David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said in a letter to the Council. “Their safe use should not be undermined for such things as private companies’ delivery robots.”

The Council also approved what Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, an advocate for the bill, called a “friendly” amendment that would issue a Transportation Innovation Challenge in the second quarter of 2022.

This event would give the City Council an opportunity to explore and support local economic development with respect to the sidewalk robots. The amendment requests that the general manager of transportation services consult with local entrepreneurs, sidewalk robot manufacturers, accessibility community members, law enforcement and more. The general manager would then report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on their findings. Last week,

Tiny Mile, a company operating delivery robots in Toronto, announced on its

Instagram that it would temporarily remove its robots from the city in the spirit of good faith.

Yesterday, Ignacio Tartavull, the CEO of Tiny Mile, expressed dissatisfaction with the now adopted Transportation Innovation Challenge, and the Councils offer to allow sidewalk robots to use the Canadian National Exhibition for testing ground.

“Under this challenge we will be able to operate at the Canadian National Exhibition,” Tartavull said in a LinkedIn post.

“The only problem is that there are no deliveries to be done there … how do you fundraise as a startup if you have no customers using your product?”

Tiny Mile has operated in Toronto since September 2020.

The robots aren’t autonomous, but are controlled remotely by human operators. Ryan Lanyon, the manager of strategic policy and innovation in transportation and chair of the Automated Vehicles Working Group, stated during the meeting that the city had not received any 311 complaints about the robots.

However, a concern for the council was that the sidewalk robots don’t fall under a specific jurisdiction, and citizens may not be sure where to file complaints.

The Toronto City Council isn’t the first governing body to put limitations on delivery robots. In December 2017, San Francisco voted to ban delivery robots on most sidewalks, and greatly restrict use in permitted areas. The ban prevented robotics companies from operating sidewalk delivery robots in San Francisco until 2019, when Postmates Serve (now the independent company Serve Robotics) was approved for the first permit to test sidewalk deliveries in the city.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brianna Wessling

Brianna Wessling is an Associate Editor, Robotics, WTWH Media. She joined WTWH Media in November 2021, and is a recent graduate from the University of Kansas. She can be reached at [email protected]

4. Cities Today December 21, 2021

Originally posted at https://cities-today.com/toronto-city-council-votes-to-ban-pavement-robots/

Toronto city council votes to ban pavement robots

by Christopher Carey

Toronto City Council has voted to ban automated robots from operating on pavements and cycle lanes until a provincial pilot scheme is in place.

The decision prohibits the use of “automated micro-utility devices” such as food delivery robots operated by robotics company Tiny Mile, which some city restaurants have been using to courier orders.

The ban came after the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee – composed of members of the public and the City Council – asked city councillors to restrict the devices over safety concerns.

“We applaud Toronto City Council for stopping the creation of a serious new disability barrier and for requiring City staff to consult with people with disabilities as well as law enforcement and public safety experts about the dangers that robots on sidewalks pose for the public,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance).

“The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create these new disability barriers.”

Speaking at an earlier hearing, City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said: “We want to remove external barriers so that people can participate in public life.

“With people who are facing barriers, with disabilities, our job is to make sure that that community has a voice to city council.”

Innovation challenge

The committee’s recommendation was aimed at reducing hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as the elderly and children, who may be impeded by the devices or unable to detect their presence.

But the City Council plans to hold a ‘Transportation Innovation Challenge’ in the second quarter of 2022, which would explore and support local economic development with respect to pavement robots.

The amendment requests that Toronto’s General Manager of Transportation Services Barbara Gray consult with local entrepreneurs, sidewalk robot manufacturers, accessibility community members and law enforcement before reporting back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on their findings.

“We of course would rather not have to fight this battle again next year, but are ready to do so if necessary,” Lepofsky told Cities Today.

“We are also happy to see that a City staff investigation of this issue requires consultation with people with disabilities and to law enforcement.

“People need to seriously talk about how such robots could be misused if allowed on sidewalks.”

Deeply worrying

Tiny Mile’s delivery robots, nicknamed Geoffrey, began delivering in Toronto in September 2020.

The devices, which can travel at a speed of up to 6 kmph, are remotely controlled by human operators from a central office.

“Governments – like most organisations – make decisions based on information, many times incomplete information which leads to the wrong decisions,” Tiny Mile CEO Ignacio Tartavull said on LinkedIn.

“What’s deeply worrying is that the process that led to this decision didn’t include any research but only brainstorming ways to mislead the public on the reasoning and the outcome.”

5. CTV News October 25, 2021

Originally posted at https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/people-with-disabilities-hope-snow-clearing-ruling-means-more-accessible-streets-1.5637918

People with disabilities hope snow clearing ruling means more accessible streets

Jon Woodward

CTV News Toronto Videojournalist

@CTV_Jon

TORONTO — Advocates for people with disabilities say they are hoping a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that makes cities more accountable for accidents related to snow clearing will lead to more accessible streets across the country.

Observers say the decision could extend to legal liability for other municipal activities from filling potholes to swimming pools to garbage collection, which may bring improved service but also higher costs.

The case — based on a woman injuring herself while clambering over a snowbank that had been left on a sidewalk by city workers in Nelson, B.C. — could have implications for cities across Canada, said lawyer David Lepofsky.

“I hope it’s going to make municipalities sit up and take a listen, and make sure they get it right,” said Lepofsky, a lawyer who is legally blind and represents the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance.

He said he knows people with disabilities who have navigated into the roadways to avoid snowbanks left by city crews.

“They can create very serious barriers for people with disabilities,” he said.

The far-reaching decision stems from the snow piles that the city of Nelson, B.C. created when a worker cleared snow from downtown streets after a storm in early January 2015.

Nurse Taryn Joy Marchi, 28 at the time, parked in an angled spot on the street and tried to cross the snow pile to get to the sidewalk. She claimed her right foot dropped through the snow and her leg was seriously injured.

She said the city should have left openings in the sidewalk to allow safe passage, as other cities in the area did. But the trial judge dismissed the case, saying that cities were immune from lawsuits relating to policy decisions.

However, on appeal first to the B.C. Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court, judges found that clearing the snow was not a “core policy decision” and so the regular principles of negligence apply.

“I think it’s going to help improve snow clearing — if we can do it correctly—so we don’t leave snowbanks in the way or potential hazards for members of the disability community,” said Anthony Frisina of the Ontario Disability Coalition.

Those hazards have been an issue for Toronto resident Alison Brown, who is legally blind and navigates the city with the help of Ellis the vision dog. She says sometimes the city doesn’t make it easy for her.

“We’ve experienced many situations where the snow is blocking the sidewalk. It becomes a stress factor and makes our ability to maneuver challenging,” she said.

She said she’s not sure what the court decision means to her — but hopes that cities get the message to “clear the snow.”

The Supreme Court decision can apply to other things a city does, or doesn’t do, said personal injury lawyer Melissa Miller with Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP.

“This case is more far-reaching than simply snow removal, which is what’s so significant about it,” she said.

“A pothole that isn’t filled in downtown Toronto that bottoms out your car and causes you a significant injury is potentially now the subject of a lawsuit,” she said.

Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said the ruling is a sign that cities must take the responsibilities of clearing snow seriously for all people.

“We have now heard a statement that says everybody get your house in order,” she said. “You have a responsibility to make sure roads and sidewalks are safe.”

Wong-Tam seconded a motion at Toronto city council in May that asked the General Manager of Transportation Services to report on the feasibility of clearing snow from accessible parking spaces by July. That date was pushed to September — but she said the report still had yet to happen.

“This is a very wealthy city. Things should not be falling apart as long as we maintain it,” she said.

Lepofsky said the case may lead to more scrutiny for snow-clearing city employees, and snow-clearing robots, which are being tested right now in Ontario.

“No matter how clever a robot is, and I don’t think it’s that clever, the danger is that they will also shovel snow into the path of a person with disabilities,” he said.

In that case, it may be less obvious who to sue if there is not a clear connection between the robot’s actions and the person who programmed it or is monitoring it, he said.

The City of Toronto, which intervened in the lawsuit, said through a spokesperson that it will “continue to deliver a comprehensive snow and ice clearing service this winter, with council approval, has the capability to adjust service levels if required.”

6. CBC News November 21, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-s-online-health-card-renewal-system-excludes-people-with-disabilities-advocates-say-1.6255828

Ontario’s online health-card renewal system excludes people with disabilities, advocates say | CBC News Loaded

Toronto

Province looking at upgrading its system but declined to comment on the record

Samantha Beattie CBC News

People line up outside at a Service Ontario location in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Derek Hooper/CBC)

The thought of driving her son to a Service Ontario centre to renew his health card fills Jane Toner with dread.

Ben, 22, suffers from chronic pain and nerve damage, which makes the bumps, vibrations and cold temperatures that inevitably come with a ride in a car excruciating — not to mention the wait in line outside the provincial centre’s location, Toner said.

But soon they’ll have no other choice. In Ontario, only people with a driver’s licence can renew their health cards online, leaving those who use photo ID cards like Ben with few other options than to physically go to a centre.

Toner says it’s “shameful” that the province is imposing such a limitation on people living with disabilities and on seniors with mobility issues.

“Really, what it’s saying is that if you have a disability, we don’t care, they don’t matter,” she said.

“It boggles my mind.”

Ben’s health card expired about a year ago, but he hasn’t had to renew it yet because the province extended the validity of Ontario cards to Feb. 28, 2022 in response to the pandemic. Toner has tried acting on his behalf, filling out and dropping off all the required paperwork at Service Ontario, but was informed Ben still needed to come in to have a new photo taken.

Ben Toner was diagnosed with a rare condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome as a child and has undergone surgeries and treatments to help ease his chronic pain. (Submitted by Jane Toner)

Toner hopes changes will be made before then, but said so far calls to elected officials on both sides of the aisle have gone unheard.

“These are the people who need their help most,” she said. “I thought maybe somebody would take up the torch for us, but obviously not.”

The government’s stance is that it’s looking at expanding online services and encourages anybody who is having difficulties renewing their health card to call Service Ontario. The province refused to provide an on-the-record statement for this story.

‘Level the playing field’

Crystal Barnard has been in and out of hospital for months following major back surgery. Like Ben, she also has an expired health card and no driver’s licence and is faced with a similar dilemma where there’s “no way” she can go to a Service Ontario herself.

“When it comes to disabled people, we end up having all sorts of hoops and cracks to jump over in order to do things ourselves,” said Barnard.

Come February, she said she will have to find a doctor to sign a medical exemption form. To complicate matters she doesn’t have a family doctor. Then she’ll have to get her father — who requires two canes to walk — to drop off the forms at a Service Ontario location for her. They’re hoping she can reuse her photo from her old health card.

“If they could find a way that renewing online could be made possible for everybody involved, disabled and able-bodied people alike, it would just be so much easier all around,” said Barnard.

“It would equal the playing field for everybody.”

Anthony Frisina, a disability advocate who uses a wheelchair, said the current system is a “huge complication.” It doesn’t factor in that people without driver’s licences face more challenges getting to a Service Ontario location than those who drive, such as needing to rely on public transportation and facing accessibility barriers.

And getting someone to go in their place is problematic, too, he said.

“You want to be in control of your own issues, your own quality of life and your actual activities of daily living.”

7. CTV News December 8, 2021

Originally posted at https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/health-experts-say-it-s-concerning-that-those-without-a-driver-s-licence-can-t-renew-their-ohip-cards-online-1.5699182

Health experts say it’s ‘concerning’ that those without a driver’s licence can’t renew their OHIP cards online

Hannah Alberga

Hannah Alberga

CTV News Toronto Multi-Platform Writer

@HannahAlberga

Published Wednesday, December 8, 2021 4:28PM EST

A person is seen typing. (Pressmaster/shutterstock.com)

Healthcare experts are calling on the province to address inequities in Ontario’s online OHIP card renewal requirements.

At the moment, Ontario health cards can only be renewed online if the individual has a driver’s licence. While government issued identification that shows proof of residency and personal identity is acceptable for in-person renewal, the requirements are different online.

“This is concerning at any time, and it is particularly concerning during a pandemic,” said Sarah Hobbs, CEO of Alliance for Healthier Communities, in a release issued on Tuesday.

She pointed to people with disabilities as just one group that could be disproportionately impacted by these rules.

“People made more vulnerable by the pandemic, and at higher risk, are also faced with inequitable access to this system,” she said.

Katie Hogue, a nurse practitioner in Ontario, added that there are a wide range of medical reasons that could prevent a person from driving, such as mobility challenges, vision impairment, dementia and epilepsy.

“The system is not considering these people or their needs,” Hogue said.

According to the government website, if you cannot visit a Service Ontario for a medical reason, a physician or nurse practitioner can fill out a medical exemption form. Although, once the form is completed, someone must deliver the documents to a Service Ontario to finish the renewal process.

More widely, the pandemic has highlighted inequities that span across the entire healthcare system, Caroline Lidstone-Jones, CEO of the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council, said.

“This discrimination is one example of an inequitable system but this one has a quick solution,” Lidstone-Jones said. “Allow people with a photo card to renew their health card online, the same way those with a driver’s licence can.”

When Minister Ross Romano was asked to address the subject at Queen’s Park earlier in the week, he said that the government is working towards “modernizing” the process of renewing OHIP cards, making it “digital first not digital only.”

“But I want to be crystal clear that the way in which you would have renewed your health card in the past, you can still do the same renewal processes you always could and we are just making it better,” he added.

Romano acknowledged how important it is to have access to OHIP renewal throughout the province and said he will have more to say about the topic at a future date.

Do they not work? Or not available?

So they hover over the video, so you cannot use them if yoiu can’t see them. David told me when I sent him the video to watch





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Debriefing Large-scale Emergency Response in Education


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommendations for debriefing accessible large-scale emergency response in education.

Debriefing Large-scale Emergency Response in Education

At the end of a large-scale emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Education should analyze its response. This analysis or debriefing will help the Ministry make improvements to its:

Therefore, after any large-scale emergency, both the Ministry and school boards should update their emergency response plans. These updates should concentrate on ways to improve access to learning and healthcare services for students with disabilities. For example, the updated plans should ensure that the Ministry and school boards have all the equipment and supplies they need to support students during an emergency. Likewise, plans should include updates and maintenance of any infrastructure changes. As a result, the Ministry’s plan should include funding for all these goods, services, and facilities.

Moreover, debriefings should be based on feedback from students with disabilities, their families, and staff who work with them. For instance, students and parents can provide feedback about their experiences with online learning. School boards should use this feedback, and Ministry requirements, to identify, remove, and prevent barriers to online learning, including:

Furthermore, the Ministry can learn through debriefing about how practices to solve emergency problems can continue to support students in non-emergency conditions. For example, many students have succeeded in accessing services or therapies remotely, because of the pandemic. As a result, the Ministry should consider the benefits of continued access to these remote services. For instance, the Ministry can create policies authorizing remote services for students who lack local access to in-person services.

Removing Barriers

Conversely, the Ministry’s debriefing should note barriers that students have experienced, and implement solutions. For example, school boards should have steps to implement public health guidelines in accessible ways that reduce risks and allow more students to safely access school buildings and spaces. Similarly, school boards should ensure continued access to non-educational but vital programs through partner organizations that take place in schools, including:

  • Food or nutrition programs
  • Clothing donations

Likewise, school boards should have protocols for safely accommodating students who need support for the process of:

  • Detecting symptoms of illness, including:
    • Viruses
    • Flu
    • Respiratory infections
  • Isolating
  • Contact tracing

Furthermore, the Ministry’s plan should involve ways to work with other government departments to provide remote mental health supports for students. Similarly, school boards should recognize and meet any needs for increased staff and services, such as:

  • Psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Guidance counsellors
  • Educational assistants

Likewise, volunteers with disabilities should be able to continue offering their services safely during emergencies. While some people may volunteer virtually, others should be able to volunteer safely in-person.

In addition, all students should have the knowledge needed to access these and other learning resources remotely. Therefore, students in Kindergarten to Grade Twelve should receive lessons in class to introduce them to the online learning platforms their schools use. These lessons will prepare students for any future sudden transitions to remote learning. While it is developing these lessons, the Ministry should provide school staff with access to resources that will help students learn this information. Moreover, school boards should have procedures to reduce security risks within their online learning platforms. Furthermore, students’ remote learning should include access to social activities.

Additionally, the Ministry should also provide guidelines to help families access childcare for students who must learn remotely during an emergency.




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Omicron Surge Amplifies the Need for The Ford Government to Remove the Disability Discrimination From the Critical Care Triage Protocol in Ontario Hospitals


and — Correction to the December 20, 2021 News Release on Online Health Card Renewals

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

December 21, 2021

SUMMARY

The Ford Government has still not fixed the disability discrimination in Ontario’s controversial critical care triage protocol. We explain why this is even more important in light of the Omicron variant. We also provide a correction to the AODA Alliances December 20, 2021 news release regarding disability discrimination in the Ford Government’s process for online renewal of Ontario Health Cards.

MORE DETAILS

1. Eliminating the Festering Disability Discrimination in Ontario’s Critical Care Triage Protocol is Long Overdue Where is the Ford Government’s Pledge to Protect the Most Vulnerable During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

With the rapid and raging spread of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, it is high time that the Ford Government comes clean about the secret protocol that it has allowed to be entrenched in hospital emergency and intensive care wards across Ontario all year. If hospitals get overloaded and cannot provide life-saving critical care to every patient who needs it, the critical care triage protocol directs blatant disability discrimination against some patients with disabilities, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. The AODA Alliance and other disability advocates have been sounding the alarm about this concern since early after the COVID-19 pandemic began. It has secured national media attention.

Yet for over a year, the Ford Government has misled, dodged and avoided many important questions. It has refused to answer any of the nine detailed letters that the AODA Alliance has sent to Premier Ford’s Health Minister. Those letters are all set out on the AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page.

The AODA Alliance, the ARCH Disability Law Centre, and others have amply documented the flagrant disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage plans. The Ontario Human Rights Commission is on record also raising such concerns. Even several members of the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table have sounded alarms. The Government’s defenders have responded with justifications that we have shown to be demonstrably false.

Thankfully, the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs (intensive care units) is now less than 200. That is reportedly well below the point where critical care triage would be formally triggered. However, there are several strong reasons why this disability discrimination needs to be fixed now, before an impending critical care triage crisis:

First, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant will clearly put more and more demand on Ontario hospitals, as it is already doing elsewhere. Second, the Ford Government’s very slow roll-out of booster vaccine shots, dragging well into the new year, means many Ontarians who want a booster shot will have to wait weeks for them. Without that booster shot, many Ontarians will remain vulnerable to the Omicron variant.

Third, the Ford Government has never made public any critical care triage directives issued to emergency medical services, such as ambulances. As the Omicron variant spreads, we have no way to know if some kind of informal or unreported critical care triage is going on in ambulances, before patients ever get to the hospital.

The critical care triage protocol in Ontario hospitals was leaked last January to the AODA Alliance. You can find it on the AODA Alliance website. In contrast, we are still awaiting action from the Ford Government under a Freedom of Information application that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky filed last May on this topic.

Fourth, well before a critical care triage protocol might be formally declared, there is a form of backdoor triage that can go on during the pandemic, in which there is a danger of disability discrimination. There is a backlog of surgeries in Ontario that risks getting worse if Omicron surges. When hospitals decide who to prioritize for surgery during those backlogs, the danger of disability discrimination creeping into their deliberations is made more serious by the discriminatory attitudes and requirements that lie at the core of Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.

Finally, the Ford Government has allowed rank disability discrimination to be deeply embedded in the critical care triage training of frontline medical staff in hospital emergency wards and ICUs around Ontario for upwards of a year, if not longer. The longer physicians wrongly believe that such practices are permitted and condoned, the harder it will be to root them out. We have warned doctors that they would use Ontario’s critical care triage protocol at their peril.

The discriminatory approach towards patients with disabilities enshrined in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol threatens dangerous consequences for patients with disabilities well beyond the context of overt critical care triage.

For more background, check out and widely share:

1. The widely viewed captioned online video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky that explains the entire critical care triage protocol issue from a disability perspective, for those who don’t know the ins and outs.

2. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report that thoroughly details serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage protocol.

3. The unanswered letters on the critical care triage protocol issue sent to the Ford Government’s Health Minister, including the AODA Alliance’s letters of September 25, 2020, November 2, 2020, November 9, 2020, December 7, 2020, December 15, 2020, December 17, 2020, January 18, 2021, February 25, 2021, and April 26, 2021.

4. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page.

2. Correction to the December 20, 2021 News Release Regarding Online Renewals of Ontario Health Cards

The December 20, 2021, AODA Alliance news release correctly described how the Ford Government is engaging in obvious disability discrimination where it requires a person to have a driver’s license to renew their Ontario Health Card online. However, that news release incorrectly stated that a person who has an Ontario Photo Identification Card (created as official ID for those with no driver’s license) cannot renew that Photo Identification Card online. It turns out that one can renew the Ontario Photo Identification Card online at a Government web page designed for that purpose.

We regret the error. Accuracy of our news releases and AODA Alliance Updates is very important to us. We thank the AODA Alliance supporter who quickly contacted us to report to us the inaccuracy of our news release.

That inaccuracy in our original news release (which we quickly corrected on the AODA Alliance website) does not take away from the fact that the Ford Government needs to now remove the disability discrimination from its online process for renewing one’s Ontario Health Card and needs to publicly account for how it let this happen in the first place.




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Omicron Surge Amplifies the Need for The Ford Government to Remove the Disability Discrimination From the Critical Care Triage Protocol in Ontario Hospitals – and — Correction to the December 20, 2021 News Release on Online Health Card Renewals


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/

Omicron Surge Amplifies the Need for The Ford Government to Remove the Disability Discrimination From the Critical Care Triage Protocol in Ontario Hospitals – and — Correction to the December 20, 2021 News Release on Online Health Card Renewals

December 21, 2021

            SUMMARY

The Ford Government has still not fixed the disability discrimination in Ontario’s controversial critical care triage protocol. We explain why this is even more important in light of the Omicron variant. We also provide a correction to the AODA Alliances December 20, 2021 news release regarding disability discrimination in the Ford Government’s process for online renewal of Ontario Health Cards.

            MORE DETAILS

1. Eliminating the Festering Disability Discrimination in Ontario’s Critical Care Triage Protocol is Long Overdue – Where is the Ford Government’s Pledge to Protect the Most Vulnerable During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

With the rapid and raging spread of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, it is high time that the Ford Government comes clean about the secret protocol that it has allowed to be entrenched in hospital emergency and intensive care wards across Ontario all year. If hospitals get overloaded and cannot provide life-saving critical care to every patient who needs it, the critical care triage protocol directs blatant disability discrimination against some patients with disabilities, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. The AODA Alliance and other disability advocates have been sounding the alarm about this concern since early after the COVID-19 pandemic began. It has secured national media attention.

Yet for over a year, the Ford Government has misled, dodged and avoided many important questions. It has refused to answer any of the nine detailed letters that the AODA Alliance has sent to Premier Ford’s Health Minister. Those letters are all set out on the AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page.

The AODA Alliance, the ARCH Disability Law Centre, and others have amply documented the flagrant disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage plans. The Ontario Human Rights Commission is on record also raising such concerns. Even several members of the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table have sounded alarms. The Government’s defenders have responded with justifications that we have shown to be demonstrably false.

Thankfully, the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs (intensive care units) is now less than 200. That is reportedly well below the point where critical care triage would be formally triggered. However, there are several strong reasons why this disability discrimination needs to be fixed now, before an impending critical care triage crisis:

First, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant will clearly put more and more demand on Ontario hospitals, as it is already doing elsewhere. Second, the Ford Government’s very slow roll-out of booster vaccine shots, dragging well into the new year, means many Ontarians who want a booster shot will have to wait weeks for them. Without that booster shot, many Ontarians will remain vulnerable to the Omicron variant.

Third, the Ford Government has never made public any critical care triage directives issued to emergency medical services, such as ambulances. As the Omicron variant spreads, we have no way to know if some kind of informal or unreported critical care triage is going on in ambulances, before patients ever get to the hospital.

The critical care triage protocol in Ontario hospitals was leaked last January to the AODA Alliance. You can find it on the AODA Alliance website. In contrast, we are still awaiting action from the Ford Government under a Freedom of Information application that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky filed last May on this topic.

Fourth, well before a critical care triage protocol might be formally declared, there is a form of backdoor triage that can go on during the pandemic, in which there is a danger of disability discrimination. There is a backlog of surgeries in Ontario that risks getting worse if Omicron surges. When hospitals decide who to prioritize for surgery during those backlogs, the danger of disability discrimination creeping into their deliberations is made more serious by the discriminatory attitudes and requirements that lie at the core of Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.

Finally, the Ford Government has allowed rank disability discrimination to be deeply embedded in the critical care triage training of frontline medical staff in hospital emergency wards and ICUs around Ontario for upwards of a year, if not longer. The longer physicians wrongly believe that such practices are permitted and condoned, the harder it will be to root them out. We have warned doctors that they would use Ontario’s critical care triage protocol at their peril.

The discriminatory approach towards patients with disabilities enshrined in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol threatens dangerous consequences for patients with disabilities well beyond the context of overt critical care triage.

For more background, check out and widely share:

  1. The widely viewed captioned online video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky that explains the entire critical care triage protocol issue from a disability perspective, for those who don’t know the ins and outs.
  1. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2021 report that thoroughly details serious problems with the Ontario critical care triage protocol.
  1. The unanswered letters on the critical care triage protocol issue sent to the Ford Government’s Health Minister, including the AODA Alliance‘s letters of September 25, 2020, November 2, 2020, November 9, 2020, December 7, 2020, December 15, 2020,­­ December 17, 2020, January 18, 2021, February 25, 2021, and April 26, 2021.
  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page.

2. Correction to the December 20, 2021 News Release Regarding Online Renewals of Ontario Health Cards

The December 20, 2021, AODA Alliance news release correctly described how the Ford Government is engaging in obvious disability discrimination where it requires a person to have a driver’s license to renew their Ontario Health Card online. However, that news release incorrectly stated that a person who has an Ontario Photo Identification Card (created as official ID for those with no driver’s license) cannot renew that Photo Identification Card online. It turns out that one can renew the Ontario Photo Identification Card online at a Government web page designed for that purpose.

We regret the error. Accuracy of our news releases and AODA Alliance Updates is very important to us. We thank the AODA Alliance supporter who quickly contacted us to report to us the inaccuracy of our news release.

That inaccuracy in our original news release (which we quickly corrected on the AODA Alliance website) does not take away from the fact that the Ford Government needs to now remove the disability discrimination from its online process for renewing one’s Ontario Health Card and needs to publicly account for how it let this happen in the first place.



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