The Doug Ford Government’s Controversial Plan to Divert $1.3 Million into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program Is Plagued with Even More Problems Than Earlier Revealed, according to the AODA Alliance’s New Supplemental Report Made Public Today


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance August 15, 2019

SUMMARY

There have now been 197 days since the Doug Ford Government received the blistering report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley that called for strong new action to implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Instead of announcing a plan to take the key new actions that the Onley Report recommended, the Ford Government has just doubled down on its troubled plan to divert $1.3 million to the voluntary private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF). A new supplemental report by the AODA Alliance, made public today, shows that the Government’s plan has even more problems than earlier discovered.

Over three and a half years ago, the AODA Alliance showed that there are serious problems with the entire idea of a private building accessibility certification process, no matter who conducts it. Last month, in an AODA Alliance report that we made public on July 25, 2019, we unearthed serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan to give $1.3 million of public funds to the specific program that the RHF offers, the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.

Today’s supplemental report digs deeper into the RHF program. It is based on an AODA Alliance review of some of the documents from the RHF that the Government has recently disclosed to the AODA Alliance. Today’s supplemental report also analyzes the Ford Government’s first detailed response to concerns which the AODA Alliance has raised about this plan.

Below, we show you the AODA Alliance’s supplemental report on the RHFAC. It includes a summary near the start that lists its key findings. At the end of this report is the text of the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance in which the Government answers a number of the questions we have asked about that program. We appreciate the Government providing a detailed response, although we are deeply troubled by much of its contents, as the supplemental report explains in detail.

Our serious concerns with the Ford Government’s plans have gotten good media coverage and were in significant part echoed in a strong editorial that the Toronto Star ran on August 6, 2019. We repeat our call for the Government to put on hold its plan to fund the RHFAC, and to immediately convene a steakholders’ roundtable or summit to explore strategies for effectively addressing the many barriers that people with disabilities still face in the built environment. We also call on the Government to now make public a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Supplemental Report on the Ontario Government’s Proposal to Spend Public Money on the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC)

August 15, 2019

Introduction and Summary

In the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it plans to spend 1.3 million dollars on having the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) conduct a private accessibility certification process on some 250 buildings in the public and/or private sector in Ontario over the next two years. The Ford Government has said that the RHF will be conducting these accessibility assessments for “us” i.e. the Ontario Government.

On July 25, 2019, the AODA Alliance made public its detailed July 3, 2019 report which shows serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan. That report garnered good print, broadcast and online media coverage. On August 6, 2019, the Toronto Star ran a strong editorial echoing a number of the AODA Alliance’s concerns with the Ford Government’s plan.

On July 3, 2019 the AODA Alliance sent the Ford Government a copy of its report on the proposed public funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC). The AODA Alliance also wrote the Ford Government, asking a series of important questions about the Government’s plans.

On July 29, 2019, the Ford Government wrote back to the AODA Alliance. It provided a number of answers and disclosed several documents regarding the RHFAC.

In this supplemental report, the AODA Alliance makes public a series of its supplemental and additional concerns with the Government’s plan to provide public funding to the RHFAC. These are based on the new information that the Government has disclosed to us. We thank the Government for providing this information. At the end of this supplemental report, we make public the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to us and its answers to our earlier questions, as an appendix to this supplemental report.

This supplemental report is based on our review of the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter, and two of the documents from the RHF. Those documents are the RHFAC Instructor’s Guide and the RHFAC Student’s Guide. These are used in the course which the RHF has provided for people who want to train to conduct accessibility assessments of buildings as part of the RHFAC.

The AODA Alliances a non-partisan grassroots disability coalition which advocates for the effective implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s landmark 2005 disability accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Learn more about the AODA Alliance by visiting www.aodaalliance.org

In summary, this supplemental report concludes that:

1. It was wrong for the Ford Government not to hold an open competitive bidding process before deciding to give $1.3 million to the RHF.

2. There are no measures in place to address serious conflict of interest concerns with the RHFAC.

3. Key and basic aspects of this public funding program have still not yet been worked out months after it was announced.

4. It is troubling that the RHFAC tries to shift responsibility and risk for accessibility ratings and advice onto others.

5. The RHFAC accessibility ratings are clearly left in significant part to each free-lance assessor’s subjective discretion, despite the Government’s claims that these accessibility assessments are consistently applied.

6. It is problematic for the RHFAC to take averages of the accessibility of a building’s features like bathrooms.

7. The RHFAC program emphasizes the problematic idea of getting organizations to go “beyond code”, as if building code compliance is all that is required.

8. The RHFAC adjudication process has serious flaws.

9. There are insufficient safeguards to ensure that an RHF-certified building remains accessible after it is so-certified.

10. The mandatory RHFAC course is even shorter than the two weeks we earlier announced.

11. An instructor in the RHFAC course need not have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment.

12. The RHF training course crams far too much curriculum into too short a time.

13. The RHFAC course appears to emphasize barriers facing people with physical disabilities such as people using wheelchairs.

14. It is misleading to suggest at points that building code compliance means that a building is accessible.

15. It Is inappropriate and potentially harmful for the RHF to use blindness or vision loss simulations as part of the RHFAC course.

16. It is unhelpful for The RHFAC course to ask students to consider which disability they’d rather have or not have.

17. RHFAC testing of course participants is not shown to be sufficient.

1. The Ford Government Held No Open Competitive Bidding Process Before Deciding to Give $1.3 Million to the RHF Private Accessibility Certification Program

It is clear from the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that the Government did not hold an open competitive bidding process before it decided to award $1.3 million to the RHF. The Ford Government was elected in 2018 on a core pledge to be responsible in the use of public money. It is fundamental that a competitive bidding process be held before such a large sum of money is awarded to any private organization for a public project.

The Ford Government gave poor reasons for refusing its not doing so. For example, in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance it said:

“For over three decades the Foundation has worked to improve the built environment through rating, certification and awareness programs, and professional training.”

To the extent that that sentence could create the impression that the RHF has been operating its accessibility rating service for 30 years, this would be a substantial exaggeration. The RHF only started its private accessibility certification program within the past three or four years. It has not been operating it for 30 years, as the Ford Government claimed.

The Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter suggested that the RHF private accessibility certification program is somehow unique. It states:

“The RHFAC program is unique. Ratings are conducted by trained professionals and measures the level of meaningful access based on the nationally and internationally recognized Accessible Design for the Built Environment Standard developed by the CSA Group.”

This does not justify the failure to hold an open competitive bidding process. The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report and this supplemental report show that there are serious problems with each of the Government’s core claims about the RHF program. Beyond them, the RHF program at bottom gives an organization its advice on the accessibility of a building. The RHF is not unique in this regard. Ontario has several private organizations which have been providing accessibility advice on the built environment to organizations for a fee. There are such organizations that have been doing so for much longer than has the RHF. There are examples of such organizations that use far more experienced and qualified people than an RHF-trained free-lance assessor who has only taken a two-week course.

The Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter emphasized the RHF’s reputation and years of work in the area of accessibility. Yet that is no excuse for not providing others who do accessibility consulting with the same chance to compete for public funding for their accessibility advisory services, if the Ford Government wishes to provide public funding for such services. Just because one bidder is believed to have a good reputation is no reason to prevent others from bidding on the same project.

To generally support its decision to fund the RHFAC program, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance relied on the fact that the RHF accessibility program has been deployed in BC and Nova Scotia. That does not disprove any of our documented concerns or displace the need for a proper and open competition. The Ford Government has not presented any proof from the BC or Nova Scotia experience that shows that our concerns are unfounded. Much to the contrary, we have shown that the RHF gave a gold certification to the Vancouver International Airport, even though it has hangout steps an identified accessibility problem.

2. There are No Measures in Place to Address Serious Conflict of Interest Concerns with the RHFAC

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHFAC program raised serious concerns about the risk that the RHF itself and its free-lance accessibility assessors could encounter conflict of interest situations. We asked the Ford Government what the Government was doing to address this.

In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government identified no measures that it has put in place or that it plans to put in place to address these serious conflict of interest concerns that we have raised both regarding the RHF itself, and its free-lance assessors. Even more troubling, the Government did not even acknowledge that there is any conflict of interest concerns.

To answer the possibility of RHF conflicts of interest, the Government points to the RHF’s background and reputation. However, that is no answer. The most accomplished and esteemed lawyer or law firm can nevertheless find itself in a conflict of interest position. That lawyer or law firm must then take action to avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest. It is no answer that the lawyer or law firm has a great reputation and track record. A conflict of interest is a conflict of interest, no matter how reputable is the person or organization that has that conflict of interest.

To answer the conflict of interest concern regarding the free-lance assessors, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter in substance emphasized that they are professionals and have no gain to falsify assessments. Yet the Government’s calling them “professionals” is no answer. A professional can in some situations experience a conflict of interest. Being a professional does not mean one is immune from conflicts of interest.

Moreover, this specific professional designation is an invention of the RHF itself. It does not have the same safeguards as apply to other self-governing professionals, like doctors, lawyers or social workers.

As well, the issue of conflict of interest goes beyond the risk of deliberate falsification of an accessibility assessment. As shown later in this supplemental report, these RHF accessibility assessments have a clear and significant discretionary element to them. The risk of conflicts of interest can especially arise when exercising that discretion.

As the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter acknowledges, this is the livelihood for some of these assessors. As such, they have a clear financial interest in getting more organizations to hire them to do more assessments. That is the very genesis of this conflict of interest problem. They risk leaning in favour of finding more accessibility in order to get more organizations to hire them to do their accessibility assessments.

3. Key and Basic Aspects of this Public Funding Program Have Still Not Yet Been Worked out Months After it was Announced

From the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, it is clear that key aspects of this Government program have still not yet been worked out, even though it was first announced back on April 11, 2019, over four months ago. For example, it is not yet known which buildings will be assessed, or who will choose them, or what role if any the RHF will have in this, or by which criteria they will be chosen, or whether the Government will subsidize all or only part of the cost of this assessment. We only know that the Government says it is working on these important and rather basic details with the RHF.

This illustrates how Ontarians with disabilities are being effectively excluded from the very table where key decisions are to be made and where they deserve a central role. We only know that the RHF is at that table.

4. It is Troubling that the RHF Accessibility Certification Program Tries to Shift Responsibility and Risk onto Others

The public, including organizations that seek to have the RHF assess their buildings, would reasonably believe that it is the RHF that is doing the assessing and certifying. This is an obvious conclusion to draw from the program’s name, the “Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification” or RHFAC program. The RHF has gone to the effort of trademarking this name.

Passers-by who see a sign on a building that it is certified as accessible by the RHFAC would very likely conclude that it was the RHF that did the accessibility certifying. It is also an obvious conclusion to draw from the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 media announcement of this public funding program. It states:

“Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.”

We would expect that the RHF would have seen that wording before the Ford Government made it public. We have seen no statement by the RHF asking the Ford Government to correct that statement.

Yet on our closer inspection, the reality seems very different. The RHF has taken clear and troubling steps to distance itself from responsibility for key aspects of any accessibility certification that is done in its trademarked name.

As a first illustration of this, the RHF makes it clear that it is not responsible in any way for the activity of those free-lance assessors who conduct an RHFAC accessibility assessment. The RHF strongly encourages those free-lance assessors to carry their own liability insurance, presumably at their own expense. This is a clear shifting of responsibility for these assessments to these individuals, and away from the RHF. The RHF Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation states:

“Professional Liability: A designated RHFAC Professional shall assume any and all personal liability associated with their work or conduct. RHF shall not assume any responsibility or liability, of any kind, whatsoever, for a designated RHFAC Professionals work or conduct. RHFAC Professionals are strongly encouraged to obtain professional liability insurance.”

As a second illustration of this, the RHFAC Student’s Guide includes a very strong disclaimer. It says it absolves the RHF from any responsibility for its contents. Therefore, a student in the RHF course is supposed to assume all the risk. RHF takes no responsibility for the contents of its curriculum that it requires an assessor to complete.

The RHFAC Student’s Guide sets out the course curriculum. It is what a student is required to read and learn. The RHFAC Student’s Guide disclaims right near the start:

“None of the parties involved in the funding or creation of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (“RHFAC”) Program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees or contractors, assume any liability or responsibility to the user of this handbook or any third parties for the accuracy, completeness, or use of or reliance on any information contained in the RHFAC Program, or for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) arising from the use of any materials for the RHFAC Program.

New construction, site alterations, repairs and demolitions in all jurisdictions are or may be subject to federal, provincial, municipal and local statutes, codes, ordinances, decrees, rules, regulations, bylaws, policies, requirements, standards and guidelines in their governing jurisdiction (“Building Laws”). These Building Laws may even include building codes, standards or requirements that are specific to accessibility by persons with disabilities. These Building Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and may change over time. The user is advised that the ratings, certification levels, recommendations and build specifications used or included in the RHFAC Program are functional recommendations, not represented or guaranteed to meet, comply with or be consistent with the requirements of any Building Laws at any time in force or effect in any jurisdiction. It is the sole responsibility of the party undertaking any construction to consult with knowledgeable consultants (including code consultants) and applicable authorities having jurisdiction in the governing jurisdictions, to confirm that the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program intended to be used comply with Building Laws so that any build, renovation and demolition undertaken is in compliance with the Building Laws. The user acknowledges that it is aware that it may be required to amend or adapt the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program to ensure compliance with Building Laws.

As a condition of use, the user hereby waives the user’s right of any and all claims, demands and causes of action against the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees or contractors (the “RHF Personnel”), and further releases the RHF Personnel of any and all claims, demands and causes of action, for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) that the user may now or hereafter have against the RHF Personnel by reason of or arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any materials for the RHFAC Program.”

It would be very troubling if a law professor or an architecture professor began their class or course by disclaiming responsibility for what they teach when it comes to the law, or to design principles.

As a third illustration of this, the RHFAC Instructor’s Guide includes a similar disclaimer. The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide sets out the RHF’s instructions to the instructors that teach the RHF course. This disclaimer also says it absolves the RHF for responsibility for the course’s contents, in so far as the course instructors are concerned. The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide states:

“None of the parties involved in the funding or creation of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (RHFAC) Program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees, or contractors, assume any liability or responsibility to the user of this handbook or any third parties for the accuracy, completeness, or use of or reliance on any information contained in the RHFAC Program, or for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) arising from the use of any materials for the RHFAC Program.

New construction, building alterations, repairs, and demolitions in all jurisdictions are or may be subject to federal, provincial, municipal and local statutes, codes, ordinances, decrees, rules, regulations, by laws, policies, requirements, standards and guidelines in their governing jurisdiction (Building Laws). These Building Laws may even include building codes, standards or requirements that are specific to accessibility by persons with disabilities. These Building Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and may change over time. The user is advised that the ratings, certification levels, recommendations and build specifications used or included in the RHFAC Program are functional recommendations, not represented or guaranteed to meet, comply with or be consistent with the requirements of any Building Laws at any time in force or effect in any jurisdiction. It is the sole responsibility of the party undertaking any construction to consult with knowledgeable consultants (including code consultants) and applicable authorities having jurisdiction in the governing jurisdictions, to confirm that the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program intended to be used comply with Building Laws so that any build, renovation and demolition undertaken is in compliance with the Building Laws. The user acknowledges that it is aware that it may be required to amend or adapt the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program to ensure compliance with Building Laws.

As a condition of use, the user hereby waives the users right of any and all claims, demands, and causes of action against the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees, or contractors (the RHF Personnel), and further releases the RHF Personnel of any and all claims, demands, and causes of action, for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) that the user may now or hereafter have against the RHF Personnel by reason of or arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any materials for the RHFAC Program.”

Taken together, it appears as if the RHF is trying to shift as much responsibility as possible onto the free-lance assessors and course instructors, and away from the RHF itself. This is so even though the so-called accessibility certification and the training course are heavily and repeatedly branded with the RHF name and related RHFAC trademark. This is also so despite the fact that the RHF appears to have set the course contents and requirements.

5. The RHFAC Accessibility Ratings are Clearly Left in Significant Part to Each Free-Lance Assessor’s Subjective Discretion, Despite the Government’s Claims that These Accessibility Assessments are Consistently Applied

The Ford Government indicated in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that:

“The RHFAC program’s approach of consistent training and consistent methodology, provides consistent results.”

Yet documents that we obtained from the Ontario Government have demonstrated our concern that the RHFAC program leaves a great deal of discretion to each free-lance assessor. Assessors can readily differ on what they consider to be accessible. As such, an RHF “accessibility certification” may not demonstrate that the building is in fact accessible.

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

” The instructor should emphasize the following:
The importance of using the Professional Handbook.
In conducting an assessment, there is much ambiguity. It is not a black and white science, and there will often be differing opinions. Thus, it is essential that students understand the importance of providing clear rationale to defend their positions.”

The Instructor’s Guide also shows that an assessment of a building’s accessibility under the RHFAC program is subject to the highly discretionary and open-ended criterion of “appropriate access.” No doubt, what is “appropriate access” can easily vary from one free-lance assessor to another, or from one adjudicator to another. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“Assessors also need to consider the impact of human rights issues on a buildings rating. For example, if a facility does not provide appropriate access for people with disabilities, this could be considered a show-stopper, meaning the building may not meet minimum requirements for even a base-level rating.”

The Student Guide similarly shows that the assessment process is ultimately left to the personal or subjective discretion of each assessor. Each assessor can form their own personal view of what ratings are “reasonable.” The Student Guide states:

” Preview the results to see if they look reasonable.”

The Government and the RHF suggest that consistency in the accessibility assessments of buildings is assured by the fact that the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) reviews each RHFAC assessment’s documents. However, there is no plausible way that the CSA can rectify this risk of inconsistency from one assessor to the next, when the standard each assessor ultimately uses to evaluate a building’s accessibility ends up being so subjective and discretionary. This is made worse since there is no suggestion that the CSA visits any of the buildings being assessed, to monitor and ensure that each assessor’s assessments are consistent.

6. It is Problematic for the RHFAC to Take Averages of the Accessibility of a Building’s Features Like Bathrooms

According to the Student Guide, a rating of the accessibility of a feature, such as a building’s bathrooms, is an average of the accessibility rating point scores of each of the building’s bathrooms. The Student Guide states:

“Important: If an element, such as a parking area, is provided in multiple locations for the facility, then rate each area individually and take an average of the assessment values for each feature.”

This is problematic. A person with a disability does not use an average of the building’s bathrooms. He or she uses a specific bathroom. An average figure may leave a person with the wrong impression that there is good accessibility across the board among bathrooms. In fact, some of those bathrooms may have real accessibility problems.

We offer a stark example to illustrate this point. Assume that a building has two bathrooms. One is fully accessible and gets a 5 point score. The other is completely inaccessible and gets a 1 point score. The resulting average would be a 2.5 points out of 5 overall score for the buildings bathrooms. This would lead an observer to think that the building’s bathrooms are at least partially accessible. Yet in fact, one of the two bathrooms is entirely inaccessible. There is only one place in the building where people with disabilities who need such accessibility can go to the bathroom.

7. The RHFAC Program Repeatedly Emphasizes the Problematic Idea of Getting Organizations to Go “Beyond Code”, As If Building Code Compliance Is All That Is Required

At some points in the RHFAC program’s documents that we have reviewed, the RHF makes the repeated error of talking about the goal of getting organizations to go “beyond Code.” By this, the RHF clearly means going beyond the accessibility requirements of the applicable Building Code. The RHF speaks of this as a virtue to be rewarded, as if it means that an organization is doing more than they are required to do.

This fundamentally misconceives and understates an organization’s accessibility obligations. An organization’s accessibility obligations also include those under the applicable human rights code, and in the case of the public sector, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These can well exceed what the applicable Building Code requires. Moreover, local municipal bylaws can set accessibility requirements that are higher than the applicable Building Code. Elsewhere in the RHFAC Student’s Guide and Instructor’s guide, these points are at times made. However, the repeated reversion to “going beyond Code” risks confusing students, and/or leaving them with the wrong impression.

It is not unusual for public and private sector organizations and designers to mistakenly think that all they need to do on accessibility is to comply with the applicable Building Code. The RHFAC materials at times appear to reinforce that mistaken view.

For example, the Student Guide makes this mistake where it states:

“The main triggers that stimulate demand for an RHFAC rating are as follows:

1. Any site that involves design and construction.
For buildings, this includes both new construction and major retrofits or conversions. In terms of design, the minimum requirement regarding accessibility is compliance with building code. The site owner, and hence designers and builders, are legally bound only to meet requirements set out in the building code. As those in the construction industry develop an increased awareness of Universal Design concepts and its long-term benefits, they may seek the advice and assistance of a trained assessor to help them go beyond building code compliance.”

8. The RHFAC Adjudication Process Has Serious Flaws

The RHFAC program depends heavily on an RHF adjudicator assessing the quality and sufficiency of the free-lance assessor’s evaluation of a building’s accessibility. Yet the RHF adjudicator appears not to go to the building themselves, in so far as we can discern from the documents we have reviewed. We found no requirement that the adjudicator themselves visit the building in issue. They instead depend on the free-lance assessor to take enough photos and videos of the building, which the adjudicator can then review.

The Student Guide places a burden on the assessor to record everything an adjudicator might need to know about the building. The Student Guide states:

“Make sure you provide any information you think the adjudicator may need in order for them to understand your rating for each line entry.”

Accordingly, the adjudicator’s review can only be as good as the photos and videos they are given to review. If the assessor does not take sufficient photos, the adjudicator may not know it. The adjudicator may agree with the free-lance assessor’s evaluations depicted in the photos and videos received, even though the building could have serious accessibility problems that the assessor did not photograph.

If, for example, a free-lance assessor does not take a picture of “hangout steps” at a building, the adjudicator won’t know that the building has hangout steps. The AODA Alliance’s widely-viewed online video on the serious accessibility problems at the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre demonstrated how hangout steps can present serious accessibility problems.

The RHF has pointed to oversight by the CSA as reinforcing the validity of this accessibility certification process. Yet from our review, it appears that the CSA, like the RHF adjudicator, is entirely dependent on the quality and sufficiency of the photos and videos that the free-lance assessor takes. This is not a reliable system.

As well, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance makes it clear that to qualify to be an RHFAC adjudicator, a person needs only to have completed the RHFAC course. We have detailed earlier, and further show here, that this training is insufficient to be an effective assessor. The same goes for an adjudicator.

9. There Are Insufficient Safeguards to Ensure that an RHF-Certified Building Remains Accessible After It Is So-Certified

Based on information the Ford Government provided, it is possible for a building to get an RHFAC accessible or gold rating, and then make changes that impede accessibility, without this necessarily changing the organization’s rating for months, if at all. There are several concerns:

a) According to the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, an organization must declare “substantial changes to the site” to the RHF. This appears to be entirely self-policing.

b) Substantial changes is a highly discretionary, flexible and subjective standard.

c) The Government indicated that if such changes are reported, the RHF “may” investigate such reported changes. That provides no assurance that they will be investigated. The Government did not say the RHF “will” investigate any such changes.

d) The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter also stated:

“In order to maintain certification during this period, Sites must complete a short mid-term questionnaire after two-and-a-half years to confirm there are no changes affecting the Site’s accessibility.”

That too appears entirely self-policing. If an organization does not self-declare a change to accessibility, there is no assurance that such changes will affect their accessibility rating.

e) Beyond an organization self-reporting changes to its building’s accessibility, the Government was palpably silent on there being anything in this process to enable members of the public to report accessibility problems at a building that the RHF has rated as accessible. The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter repeated our earlier question to the Government, as follows, without answering it. We asked:

“what protections will Ontarians with disabilities and the public have against an organization making any changes to the building or its interior or environs that create new disability barriers, sometime after it receives an RHF certification?”

10. The Mandatory RHFAC Course Is Even Shorter Than the Two Weeks We Earlier Announced

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report expressed the serious concern that to be qualified as an RHF accessibility assessor, a person with no prior knowledge or experience with accessibility must only complete a two-week RHF course. A review of RHF documents shows that it is even less than two weeks in length.

According to RHF documentation, the course is only 8 days long. The 8th day is an on-site day, not a classroom training day. A person in the course is only required to attend 80% of the seven days of classroom instruction, which is only 5.6 days. The Student Guide states:

“A minimum of 80% classroom attendance and 100% field experience attendance is required to pass the course.”

11. An Instructor in the RHFAC Course Need Not Have Demonstrated Expertise in the Accessibility of the Built Environment

A person does not need to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment to be an instructor in the RHFAC course. The AODA Alliance asked the Government what requirements a person must meet to be qualified to teach in that course. In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government said in material part:

“All RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course instructors have extensive experience in the built environment and have completed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.”

A person can have extensive experience in the built environment and yet have no demonstrated knowledge or expertise about accessibility of the built environment. As amplified by the concerns documented here, completion of the RHFAC course does not qualify someone to be an instructor in that course.

To try to show the sufficiency of the RHFAC course, the Ford Government listed in its July 29, 2019 a series of colleges and universities where this course has been offered. However, it is clear from the documents disclosed to us that it is the RHF that designed this course, and not any of those colleges and universities. It is also clear that the instructors do not need to come from any of the faculties of those colleges or universities.

12. The RHF Training Course Crams Far Too Much Curriculum into Too Short a Time

It is totally unrealistic to expect a student to effectively learn all or even most of the information and analytical skills which the RHF jams into its training course for its accessibility assessors. We reached this conclusion based on our review of the RHF Instructor’s Guide, for those teaching the RHF curriculum, and the Student’s Guide, for students taking the course.

The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide specifies that a student, taking this short course, should end up in the end with these huge results:

“Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
1. Explain the impact of the social and physical environment on people with disabilities.
2. Integrate relevant legislation, regulations and standards when planning and executing an assessment.
3. Integrate Universal Design principles and standards when planning and executing an assessment. 4. Interpret and navigate a set of construction drawings.
5. Communicate and support assessment findings to clients, reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and inclusive standards.
6. Prepare a formal recommendation report of the assessment findings reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and Universal Design standards. 7. Display professionalism and promote inclusiveness when working with clients.”

In this course, the RHF expects a person with no required prior background in the law to be able, after the course, to locate, become familiar with, learn and be ready to advise an organization about the different laws governing the built environment at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. This includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which is part of Canada’s Constitution), federal and provincial human rights codes, federal and provincial building codes, provincial accessibility laws such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and municipal bylaws that set requirements for the accessibility of the built environment in different municipalities. The RHF also expects its assessors to learn how to figure out which of these laws governs the accessibility in a particular building. That can require assessments of constitutional questions as well as the interpretation of different provincial laws and municipal bylaws. These can be complicated legal questions.

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“The intent of this unit is to explain the legal environment related to human rights and disability. Assessors need to be able to interpret the intent and requirements of relevant legislation and to understand the roles of various organizations, agencies and levels of government in promoting accessibility.”

Referring to one of the discussions of law in the course, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“By the end of this unit, participants will be able to:
Explain human rights and disability legislation and their impact on accessibility.
Explain the relationship and hierarchy among employment & human rights and disability legislation.”

As well, the Student Guide states:

“Locate Applicable Building Code or Standards
For a building assessment, you need to determine building classification, ownership and jurisdiction and to locate/review applicable building code and accessibility standards. Make sure you know and understand the accessibility provisions of CSA B651-12 that are applicable to the site to be reviewed (these are covered in Unit 5.2 Accessibility Legislation, Regulations and Standards).”

An RHF free-lance assessor is expected to end this course with sufficient expertise to form judgements on whether a proposed building meets Building Code accessibility requirements. The Student Guide states:

“Recommendations provided for new construction must ensure that sites meet code requirements for basic accessibility.”

Elsewhere the Student guide states:

“Compliance equals only minimal levels of accessibility.
Compliance with legislation is essential. It is the law. You must confirm that the rights of people with disabilities are protected and that minimum site specifications are adhered to. This includes human rights legislation and disability legislation, which protect people from discrimination, as well as building code regulations, which provide minimal levels of accessibility requirements. This is covered in Section Five: Legal Framework and Compliance.”

The Instructor’s Guide also makes it clear that a student is expected to learn to write a report on their assessment of a building that will include showing where the building complies or does not comply with relevant laws on accessibility, including accessibility legislation and human rights laws. The Instructor’s Guide sets as an outcome of one of its units:

“Prepare a formal recommendation report of the assessment findings reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and inclusive design standards.”

We had asked the Ford Government if an RHF assessor needs to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario, or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter’s long response does not give a clear and unequivocal “yes” to this important question.

Moreover the RHF does not give students in this course a copy of the relevant voluntary accessibility standard from the CSA on which the RHF relies. It does not give students the relevant accessibility provisions of the Ontario Building Code, the AODA, or municipal bylaws dealing with accessibility of the built environment. it appears to be the responsibility of each student to get these for themselves.

Beyond those substantial legal topics, in this course, a student is also expected to be able to learn at least in a preliminary way how to read technical professional drawings such as blueprints for a proposed new building. This is so even if the student has no prior background on how to read such technical drawings.

The student is expected to learn how to evaluate those drawings, in order to assess whether or how much they meet the accessibility needs of people with disabilities. A student is also expected to learn how to visit a construction site when the building construction is underway, to advise whether the actual accessibility corresponds to the technical drawings. Here again, a student need not have any background in any of this to enroll in the course.

The Student Guide states:

“With new construction, an assessor will review construction documents or drawings based on the RHFAC Rating Survey to establish the level of access provided in the design. The assessor must identify and review elements related to accessibility solely from sketches, construction drawings and sometimes from only an artists rendering.”

The Student Guide also states:

“In addition to drawing reviews, assessors may need to conduct site inspections at various stages of construction to ensure the requirements developed in the design stage are transferred to the construction site.”

In this connection, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“The intent of this unit is to provide participants with a high-level introduction to construction documents such that they can identify and interpret the main building elements, and in particular, elements related to accessibility.

NOTE: As construction documents can be highly technical and complex, this will serve only as a basic introduction for those who have limited prior exposure to the construction industry. Participants who intend to develop their practice as RHFAC Professionals and who do not have prior experience would benefit by taking additional training. This unit may not be relevant for experienced contractors, or for professional architects or engineers.”

The Instructor’s Guide also states:

“Goals
The main goal of this unit is to help students who have limited or no prior experience with construction documents to understand construction documents at a basic level.

Objectives
By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
Explain standard types of construction drawings.
Identify standard information displayed on construction drawings. Explain key features and symbols displayed on construction drawings.”

It would be too much to try to fit into such a short course all of the foregoing content regarding the law and regarding the reading of technical drawings. Yet the RHF course aims to also teach much more. The course materials present the student with a veritable blizzard of detailed information about the kinds of accessibility features or needs for which they should be looking, when they assess a building. This appears to be far more of such information than a person could effectively learn in up to 7 days of classroom learning.

There is still more content that this course covers. The course materials also aim to ensure that the student is up to speed on the RHF internal process for conducting an assessment of a building. this includes visiting the building, documenting observations, scoring the results, and providing for an internal review or adjudication.

Taken together, the course contents do not just bear upon a pile of facts or data that a student can memorize and then recall when needed, whether on a test or when assessing a building. The course focuses on key topics that require analytical skills. These include, for example, deciding which accessibility law applies to a building, how to interprete and apply those laws, analyzing technical drawings of a planned building, and, of course, analyzing the design features of a building for accessibility problems. A student cannot effectively develop these analytical skills in such a short course. they cannot be effectively acquired through a teaching format that is largely (though not exclusively) lectures, PowerPoint slides, and reading materials supplemented by some group discussions.

13. The RHFAC Course Appears to Emphasize Barriers Facing People with Physical Disabilities Such as People Using Wheelchairs

The Ford Government said in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that the RHFAC uses “all components of the CSA B651 standard” and that the RHFAC thereby measures “holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities.” This further demonstrates our concern that this gives primary if not exclusive emphasis to the accessibility needs of only people with some disabilities. Our review of the RHFAC Instructor’s and Student’s Guides reinforces this concern, even though at some points, other disabilities are to some extent addressed.

Even though the course materials at times refer to other disabilities or to all disabilities, there are a number of points in the course materials that clearly suggest that a primary focus is on people with physical disabilities, including those using wheelchairs. If so, there is a real risk that the RHFAC program will continue that emphasis, to the disadvantage of people with other disabilities that can face barriers in the built environment.

14. It is Misleading to Suggest that Building Code Compliance Means that a Building is Accessible

At one point, the Instructor’s Guide makes the incorrect if not misleading suggestion that if a building complies with a Building Code, then it is accessible. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“As a general guideline, code compliance warrants an Accessibility Certified (AC) level rating. However, assessors also need to understand that there are situations in which this does not apply. For example, ramps are often not designed to code, but they are still accessible to most people.”

Yet elsewhere, the Student’s Guide appears to give a contradictory message. The Student’s Guide states:

“The RHF Accessibility Certification Program is intended to encourage meaningful access. Thus, an RHFAC rating goes beyond compliance with building code or adherence to standards or guidelines and provides a snapshot of the real level of accessibility of a site. Site owners or managers can then use this information to make positive changes that will help to ensure all users of their facilities feel welcome.”

Moreover, the Instructor’s Guide seems at at least one point to contradict the view that Building Code compliance is sufficient to amount to accessibility, where the Instructor’s Guide states:

“Assessors also need to consider the impact of human rights issues on a buildings rating. For example, if a facility does not provide appropriate access for people with disabilities, this could be considered a show-stopper, meaning the building may not meet minimum requirements for even a base-level rating.”

15. It Is Inappropriate and Potentially Harmful to Use Certain Disability Simulations as Part of the Course

It is wrong, potentially harmful and deeply troubling for the RHF course to include subjecting students to simulations of trying to walk with vision loss, e.g. by blindfolding them or putting vision-obstructing goggles on them and having them try to navigate using a white cane. We do not here comment on the RHF course’s use of simulations for hearing loss or mobility loss.

The RHF Instructor’s Guide and Student’s Guide each seek to train a student on the accessibility needs of people with certain disabilities. To enroll in the course, a student does not have to have any prior knowledge or experience with any disability. The course materials are written as if the students have no such background whatsoever. Of course, it is possible that some students who take the course have some background or experience with at least some disabilities.

The Instructor’s Guide includes:

“This lesson aims to shift students attitudes and motivate them to become agents of change. Through simulation experiences, participants will gain a first-hand experience, albeit limited, of how people with disabilities experience the environment and the barriers they face at both a physical and emotional level.”

It also states:

“By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
Describe how people with different disabilities navigate and adapt to the physical and social environment”

Such simulation exercises that seek to have a student experience blindness or vision loss through vision-obstructing goggles and through attempting to navigate with a white cane are extremely problematic. Except perhaps in very rare and extremely controlled circumstances that do not apply here, this should never be done. The RHF course is not one of those rare and controlled exceptions.

It is wrong to lead students to think that undergoing such a “simulation” has them experience anything like the experience of living with blindness or some degree of vision loss. Placing a blindfold or vision-obstructing goggles on a sighted person for a short period of time does not simulate the experience of a person living with blindness or vision loss.

A person who has lived with blindness or vision loss for years has had a chance to acquire a series of vital skills, such as the effective use of a white cane while walking. To acquire those skills, a person needs extensive time and practice, and a qualified and highly trained orientation and mobility specialist as their instructor.

In sharp contrast, when a sighted person dons a blindfold or vision-reducing goggles, they experience something extraordinarily different. They suddenly face the sudden loss of their full vision, for which they have had absolutely no prior training or time to adjust. They typically experience disorientation, confusion and palpable fear.

These so-called “simulations” are properly frowned upon because they produce such harmful and inaccurate stereotypes about living with vision loss. It is not unusual for some sighted people undergoing such “simulations” to project their feelings of fear and disorientation on people with vision loss, believing that such is what people with vision loss daily experience. It is hard to counter-act such strong emotional reactions. Indeed, it is reasonable to fear that pervasive pity and stereotypes about vision loss have their genesis in no small part to people trying to “experience blindness” by closing their eyes and trying to find their way around.

It is manifestly insufficient to simply caution students, going under blindfold, not to project those strong feelings on people with vision loss. The risk is that the memory of the stress and disorientation will far outlast any memory of that verbal caution.

The Student’s Guide treats as accurate the very harmful and incorrect stereotype about vision loss that gives rise to our objection to this simulation exercise. The Student’s Guide states:

“Vision Experience
Participants will be provided with vision loss simulators that mimic some of the functional limitations and abilities that may be experienced with different types of visual impairments. Spending some time wearing a simulator and attempting to do various everyday tasks can quickly give a fully sighted person a sense of some of the issues involved and how frustrating even the simplest of tasks can be. Often, participants become impressed with the capabilities of a person with limited sight.”

Making this worse, there is no assurance that the RHFAC instructor will have sufficient experience and expertise with the disabilities to be “simulated”. The Instructor’s Guide recommends but does not require that a more expert facilitator be recruited for this exercise. That Guide places very substantial responsibility on the course instructor, as follows:

” Plan the route. Find a suitable route for the vision and mobility simulation experiences. Participants will be required to navigate these routes using a vision kit and wheelchair respectively.
Create a Disability Simulation Exercise Schedule and post on a whiteboard. The following is an example of a schedule:

Time Vision Mobility (wheelchair)
1:00 2:00 Group 1 Group 2
2:00 3:00 Group 2 Group 1

Trained Facilitators
It is important that simulation exercises are facilitated by trained industry professionals who preferably are themselves people with disabilities. Having a facilitator with a disability present will help to put a face on disability. It also adds credibility and ensures the most relevant information is available to the course participants.

Note: If trained industry professionals or additional support staff are not available, students may be asked to assist each other in the simulations by rotating roles of participant and facilitator. In this case, the instructor should simplify the simulation activities to ensure they are completely without risk.

Facilitators should accompany participants throughout the simulation exercise to provide guidance and ensure safety. Accordingly, the role of the facilitator is as follows: To provide guidance regarding the use of equipment.
To ensure the safety of participants. This includes making any adjustments required to meet the individual abilities or needs of participants.
To offer a genuine perspective by sharing personal stories and anecdotes. The more personal anecdotes and stories that the facilitators can share with the class, the more effective the session will be. It is important that these stories are short, light-hearted and on point.
To stimulate discussion about disabilities in a safe environment that allows participants to be open, honest and curious.

Prior to conducting simulation exercises, the simulation facilitators will: Explain the mobility aids and technology that will be used in the simulation.
Determine if anyone has any physical restrictions that could be aggravated by participating in the simulations (shoulder, back, wrist, etc.) and determine if possible to/how to accommodate. Explain safe use of the equipment and safety procedures.
Explain the timing and logistics of the simulation exercise. Explain the route and key features.
Give participants a sense of the level of access provided in the environment in which the simulation is being staged is it a good example of accessibility or not?
Provide participants with broad understanding about the scope of disability in the community and the impact that a steadily increasing population of older adults and seniors and an increasingly active community of people with disabilities is having on the built environment.”

In this connection, the Instructor’s guide dives into several different kinds of vision loss. It shows that the instructor should be able to explain how a white cane is used. Yet an instructor (whose only relevant qualification needs to be a background in the built environment and prior completion of the RHFAC course) is not required to have any of the training or knowledge that a qualified Orientation and Mobility Specialist would have. Those are the professionals who teach white cane use, a complex subject. It shows that a long walking experience is expected. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“Vision Experience
Participants will be provided with vision loss simulators (white cane and goggles) that mimic some of the functional limitations and abilities that may be experienced with different types of visual impairments. The most common conditions of low vision are macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and retinitis pigmentosa. Each of these conditions can be simulated for participants. If simulators are not available, the instructor can provide more basic options to block vision for students, such as a blindfold.

Session facilitators should give detailed instructions for using a white cane and for ways of navigating with a vision impairment. The facilitator should also accompany participants to ensure their safety at all times. Some participants become quite frightened when they are unable to see where they are going.

Note: Participants in this simulation should be prepared to walk fairly long distances; therefore, appropriate footwear and casual clothing is advised.”

A very narrow and rare exception when such simulations of vision loss can be appropriate is in the case of the extensive post-secondary programs that provide professional training of orientation and mobility specialists for people with vision loss. In those highly controlled situations, a student only goes under blindfold or other vision obstructions when supervised by a qualified orientation and mobility faculty member at a college or university that offers a post-secondary course for such specialists. They do so in the context of an entire lengthy course (much more than an 8 day course) on orientation and mobility instruction. They may be expected to repeatedly and systematically go under blindfold for an hour or more each day, day after day, for a period of weeks or months of training.

In such training, the white cane is gradually introduced, but not at the very start of this process. White cane skills are slowly and systematically taught. The RHFAC course is far, far different from such a rare exceptional case where such simulations should be considered.

16. It is Unhelpful for The RHFAC Course to Ask Students to Consider Which Disability They’d Rather Have or Not Have

While trying to cram too much into too short a time, the RHFAC course also gives instructors the suggestion of having the students consider which of three disabilities they would like or not like to themselves have. The Instructor’s Guide includes:

“Ideas for Additional Learning Activities
Group Questioning Activity: Provide students with the following list of disabilities: Deaf
Blind
Mobility impaired
Pose the question, If you had a disability, which would you choose and why? Facilitate a group discussion asking individuals to articulate their choice/answer.

Pose another question, this time reversing the question, Which disability would you not want to have? Facilitate a group discussion asking individuals to articulate their choice/answer.

For the disability that you have chosen to have, how would it impact your current job or your family?”

This is problematic. This exercise risks reinforcing stereotypes and fears about acquiring these disabilities. Unless the students have a very thorough understanding of each disability, their views will be influenced by stereotypes or insufficient knowledge.

Unless a student is planning on injuring themselves in a way that will cause one of these disabilities, this question is not relevant to assessing a building’s accessibility. Whether or not a student would prefer to have a mobility, vision or hearing disability, the fact is that people in the community have these disabilities.

17. RHFAC Testing of Course Participants Is Not Shown to Be Sufficient

To pass the RHFAC course, a student must pass a multiple choice examination. We cannot fully assess the sufficiency of the test, since we have not seen it. However, we seriously question whether a multiple-choice test is a sufficient way to test rigourous analytical skills, such as those on which the course focuses, and the information that this course tries to cover.

In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government did not give a specific answer to the question, inquiring what the specifics are of the knowledge assessed in the RHF test at the end of the course. all the Government said in its July 29, 2019 letter is that the test

” is designed to test understanding of the concepts and principles taught in the Training Course.”

That tells us nothing new.

As well, a student must complete and submit a written accessibility assessment of a building of the instructor’s choosing. Here again, we have concerns. This written report gets a pass-fail grade, which is a minimal marking threshold.

The Student Guide states:

“Students will conduct a review of the site and complete an RHFAC rating.
As this is a class exercise only, students will submit their results to the instructor for adjudication. They will not submit results to the RHFAC Registry.”

The Student Guide also states:

“Criteria for successful completion of this assignment
Appropriate categories, elements and features are identified and assessed. Clear rationale to support the rating is provided.
All required supporting documentation is submitted.
Key areas of success and key areas for improvement are aligned with the assessment findings.
Writing is clear and relatively free of any grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors.”

Appendix Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho’s July 29, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate hearing the concerns you have raised regarding the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC). Please be assured that we take your feedback very seriously, and your comments will be carefully considered as we continue discussions with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

We are proud to partner with RHF, a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity with a proven track record across the country. The RHFAC program has also been successfully implemented in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. In 2016, British Columba piloted the program and conducted 129 assessments. Given the success of the program, in 2018 that government committed to a second expanded partnership with the RHF to roll out the program province-wide.

We know that many buildings in Ontario continue to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. And when buildings are not accessible, people are shut out from fully participating in everyday life, businesses fail to reach their full potential, and communities are not as welcoming as they should be.

Given the alignment with government commitments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, the government was pleased to announce its intent to partner with the Foundation through a $1.3M investment and to launch the RHFAC program in communities across the province.

Through this partnership, the government is investing in an Ontario focused certification program that will allow organizations to understand their level of accessibility, based on nationally recognized standards, and learn in a concrete way what they can do to make improvements.

Through the governments investment, RHF will undertake ratings of 250 facilities. This will include accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings as well as not-for-profit organizations.

We are working with the Foundation on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected. The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of Ontarians.

As always, we welcome and will consider continued feedback from the disability community.

Please refer to the background section below for additional information and detailed responses to your questions.

Thank you again for writing and please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,
Raymond Cho
Minister

Confidentiality Warning: This e-mail contains information intended only for the use of the individual emailed above. If you have received this e-mail in error, we would appreciate it if you could advise us through the ministry’s website at https://www.ontario.ca/page/ministry-seniors-accessibility and destroy all copies of this message. Thank you.

Enclosure

Q and As
Process for Selecting the RHF for Funding
Q1. Did the Ontario Government issue a “request for proposal” or otherwise conduct an open competitive bid process before deciding to award this funding to the RHF? If not, why not?

* The Rick Hansen Foundation is not a private sector business. It is a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity that leads a global movement to remove barriers for people with disabilities.
* For over three decades the Foundation has worked to improve the built environment through rating, certification and awareness programs, and professional training.
* The Ontario Government provides transfer payments to recipients external to government to fund activities that benefit the public and are designed to achieve public policy objectives.
* The Rick Hansen Foundation submitted a proposal to help the Government improve accessibility in the built environment through the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.
* Given the alignment with government commitments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, as part of Budget 2019, the government was pleased to announce its intent to partner with the Foundation through a $1.3M investment and to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across the province.
* The RHFAC program is unique. Ratings are conducted by trained professionals and measures the level of meaningful access based on the nationally and internationally recognized Accessible Design for the Built Environment Standard developed by the CSA Group.
* As is the case with all transfer payments, this partnership will be implemented in line with the accountability framework for oversight set out in Ontarios Transfer Payment Accountability Directive. Standard for Assessing a Building’s Accessibility
Q2. What specific accessibility standard will the RHF use when it assesses the accessibility of a building? The RHF website and its “Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation” states that its accessibility assessments are “based upon CSA B651 standards”, produced by the Canadian Standards Association. How much of that CSA Standard does the RHF use? All or only part of it? If only part, then which parts are included and which are excluded? If any are excluded, why were they excluded?

* The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program is the first and only program in Canada that uses a rating system to identify and rate accessible built environments, creating a national benchmark and aspirational goal for the industry.
* The program was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility in the built environment, including all components of the CSA B651 standard. The RHFAC Guide to Certification provides a step-by-step process for RHFAC ratings currently available across the country.
* Please find enclosed the RHFAC Guide to Certification, outlining the step-by-step process for RHFAC ratings: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
* Trained professionals use the RHFAC Professional Handbook and RHFAC Rating Survey for the assessments, these can be found in the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0 * These tools are reviewed regularly by the following:
* RHFAC Advisory Committee – The purpose of the RHFAC Advisory Committee is to advise RHF staff on the design, scope, development, and distribution of RHF Accessibility Certification program, and related topics as required. Committee members are chosen from leaders in the built environment (e.g. architects, engineers, developers, municipal planners, code consultants, etc.) with representation nationally.
* RHFAC Experts Taskforce The purpose of the RHFAC Experts Taskforce is to serve as a platform for detailed review, feedback and discussion in regards to the RHFAC program materials. Committee members are chosen from leaders from a selected list of national disability organizations with experience in built environment accessibility.
* RHFAC Technical Advisory Subcommittee – The purpose of the RHFAC Technical Subcommittee is to advise the RHFAC Advisory Committee on the technical components of the RHFAC Rating Survey and Handbook. This Subcommittee will serve as a platform for review, feedback, and discussion of the technical components of the RHFAC materials. Subcommittee members are chosen from leaders in the built environment (e.g. architects, engineers, developers, municipal planners, code consultants, etc.) with representation nationally.
Q3. The RHF says it assesses the “meaningful access” of a building. What specific criteria, measures and rating scales are used to assess if a building has “meaningful access”? Who decides if the access is meaningful? Is it the individual assessor? What safeguards are there to prevent this from arbitrarily varying from RHF assessor to assessor or from RHF adjudicator to adjudicator?

* The RHFAC term meaningful access is based on CSA Group’s B651 standard, which considers the holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities.
* Only trained RHFAC Professionals can submit RHFAC ratings into the RHFAC Registry, hosted by CSA. Please find below step-by-step process for how to become an RHF Accessibility Certification Professional. Further, additional information is available in the RHFAC Guide to Professional Designation, enclosed: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
* Pass the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor Training Course. Participants in this course will learn about: * The impact of the social and physical environment on people with disabilities;
* The relevant legislation, regulations, and standards needed when planning and executing an assessment;
* The Universal Design principles and standards when planning and executing an assessment; * How to interpret and navigate a set of construction drawings; and
* How to communicate and support assessment findings to clients, and prepare a recommendation report of the assessment findings, reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and Universal Design standards.
* Further, there are prerequisites for taking RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course including the following:
* Diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program; or
* Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction; or * Engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer; or * Architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; or
* Minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in the built environment and/or building construction.
* Pass the examination. The RHFAC Professional Exam must be taken within 12 months of completing the above Training Course. This exam is designed to test understanding of concepts and principles taught in the Training Course and is administered separately through the CSA Group and its third party test provider, Kryterion.
* The exam is accessible, computer-based and can be taken at one of 45 test centres across Canada, or online with remote monitoring. Applicants must register for the exam, pay a fee, and take the exam before they can qualify for the RHFAC Professional designation.
* Uphold the designation. To uphold the designation, RHFAC Professionals must follow: (1) The RHFAC Professional Code of Ethics; and (2) Continuing education requirements; and (3) Policies regarding the use of RHF logos and marks.
* To complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.
Q4. Can we please have a copy of the RHF assessor’s and adjudicator’s checklist score criteria. How does the RHF score meaningful access on a barrier-by-barrier basis? What are the scoring instructions and scales that the RHF gives to its assessors, not only for each kind of barrier, but also for determining what overall level of accessibility RHF will award? We seek detailed specifics on this. For example, is each bathroom assessed and rated separately, with a distinct score attached to it, or are the scores for all bathrooms averaged into one figure?

* Please find enclosed the RHFAC Professional Handbook and RHFAC Rating Survey, outlining all program detail, including references as provided: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
Q5. How has the RHF tested out its assessment training and forms to see if different assessors or adjudicators reach different conclusions on the same building or features within that building?

* Early in the development stages of the RHFAC program, it was recognized that it would be essential for each RHFAC Professional to reach the same conclusions on any given site.
* As part of the development process, numerous single sites were reviewed by a number of RHFAC Professionals to check that the outcomes were consistent. This is where the RHFAC program strengths lay, because instead of a self-assessment / checklist approach, the RHFAC puts a trained professional on each site that understand access on a cross-disability basis. The RHFAC Professional is not reliant only on code requirements without any real understanding of how these required elements are used by people with disabilities.
* The RHFAC programs approach of consistent training and consistent methodology, provides consistent results.
* During the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course, the instructors also go through each feature with students and complete a mock ratings.
* Further, as outlined above, to complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.

RHF Accessibility Certification Duration of Buildings
Q6. Will the Ontario Government require that there be a time limitation affixed to an RHF accessibility certification of a building? Otherwise, what protections will Ontarians with disabilities and the public have against an organization making any changes to the building or its interior or environs that create new disability barriers, sometime after it receives an RHF certification?

* An RHFAC Certification is valid for five years from the date of the adjudication. All substantial changes to the Site must be declared to RHF.
* An RHFAC Professional and/or RHFAC adjudicator may investigate any declared changes to determine if the Site continues to meet certification levels. RHF reserves the right to withdraw RHFAC Certification at its own discretion.
* In order to maintain certification during this period, Sites must complete a short mid-term questionnaire after two-and-a-half years to confirm there are no changes affecting the Site’s accessibility. Training for RHF Assessors and Adjudicators
Q7. What are the required qualifications or credentials for a person to be able to teach the RHFAC course? Are the course instructors required to have anything more than their own credentials as an RFHAC assessor? Are they required to be a member of the faculty of the college or university where the course is offered, and to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment?

* Each post-secondary institution is responsible for all RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course administration, including hiring of appropriate instructors.
* All RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course instructors have extensive experience in the built environment and have completed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course. * The RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course is offered across the country at: * George Brown College
* Carleton University
* Vancouver Community College
* Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
* and Nova Scotia Community College
* In addition, RHF has partnered with Athabasca University to launch an online course in January 2020.

Q8. What are the detailed specific contents of the curriculum taught in the two-week RHFAC course for RHF assessors? What specific techniques are used in the course to educate the participants in the experience of people with disabilities?

* Please find enclosed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course Instructor Manual and Student Manual, including details in regards to the disability simulation: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0

Q9. What are the specifics of the knowledge assessed in the RHFAC test at the end of the two-week course?

* The RHFAC Professional Exam must be taken within 12 months of completing the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.
* This exam is designed to test understanding of the concepts and principles taught in the Training Course and is administered through a separate process and independently through the CSA Group and its third party test provider, Kryterion.
* The exam is accessible, computer-based and can be taken at one of 45 test centres across Canada, or online with remote monitoring.
* Applicants must register for the exam, pay a fee, and take the exam before applicants can qualify for the RHFAC Professional designation.
Q10. Does an RHF assessor need to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario? Or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

* RHFAC Professionals are trained to identify barriers to people with disabilities on a cross- disability basis.
* RHFAC Professionals are expected to have knowledge of local code requirements in whichever province or region they may be operating in. However, they are not Building Code auditors.
* Their job is to identify barriers based on their training, which uses CSA B-651 as a baseline. Their training and the RHFAC rating system itself takes them well beyond code minimum requirements in the identification of barriers to people with disabilities for example emergency entrances and wayfinding.
Q11. Do course participants get a copy of the specifics of the CSA B621 voluntary built environment accessibility standard? Do they get copies of all the built environment accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code, in AODA accessibility standards, and in applicable municipal bylaws in Ontario? Does the course teach detailed knowledge of these? Does testing at the end of the course assess a person’s detailed knowledge of these?

* While CSA materials are provided in the classroom during training, it is the responsibility of the individual participant to purchase copies of various CSA materials (B651, B-44, etc.) as well as provincial or municipal code documents as required in the jurisdiction they are operating in.
* RHFAC Professionals are expected to have knowledge of local code requirements in whichever province or region they may be operating in However, they are not Building Code auditors.
* The RHFAC rating is intended as a snapshot of the current accessibility conditions vis-à-vis the ability for people with disabilities to use that facility.
* The RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course curriculum includes units on legal framework and compliance which focus on integrating legislation, regulations and standards when planning and executing an assessment. The CSA exam covers all units of the curriculum to ensure proper understanding of the RHFAC program. It is also important to note that not everyone taking the course will take the exam. Further, the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course prerequisites include the following:
* Diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program; or
* Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction; or * Engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer; or * Architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; or
* Minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in the built environment and/or building construction.

Conflicts of Interest
Q12. What measures have been put in place to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest with any organizations seeking its accessibility certification? To that end, will organizations be precluded from taking part in Government-funded RHF accessibility assessments if the organization does not have an arms-length relationship with the RHF, or has made a donation to the RHF, or may do so in the future?

* The Rick Hansen Foundation is a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity that leads a global movement to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

* Over the past 30 years, the RHF has worked consistently to raise awareness around accessibility and improve the built environment, wherever and whenever possible, across Canada. It is known for its transparency and has a reputation of being a forthright organization interested in the public good. The RHF is also known for engaging Canadians from all backgrounds including people with disabilities, engineers, designers, architects, business, developers and builders in its quest to achieve its mission.

* The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility in the built environment, including all components of the CSA B651 standard.

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected. All RHFAC ratings in Ontario will be conducted by independent RHFAC Professionals.

* To complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.

* The RHFAC programs approach of consistent training and consistent methodology provides consistent results.

Q13. What measures are to be put in place to avoid the risk that an assessor will lean in favour of a more favourable accessibility rating in order to be better-positioned to get more organizations to hire them to do an RHF accessibility assessment?

* Like all self-employed professionals, those who are trained to conduct accessibility ratings are armed with only their skills, dedication and their reputations. There is no gain for trained RHFAC professionals to falsify assessments.

* As this is a livelihood for some trained professionals, it is in their best interest as well as that of the RHFs that transparency and accuracy are paramount.

* The trained professionals who will conduct accessibility ratings are contracted by the Foundation as independent professionals, who have received the RHFAC Professional designation after taking the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course (offered at George Brown College and Carleton University in Ontario and other post-secondary institutions throughout Canada) and have successfully passed examination by the CSA Group.

* To complete a rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification trained professionals evaluation to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by the CSA Group.

Sufficiency of RHF Off-Site Accessibility Adjudication Process
Q14. What measures will be put in place to ensure that an RHF adjudicator’s off-site review of a building’s accessibility assessment is fair, accurate, open and transparent?

* The trained professionals who will conduct the ratings are independent professionals who have gained the RHFAC Professional designation with examinations administered by the CSA Group after taking the RHFAC course.

* As mentioned above, this is where the RHFAC program strengths lay, because instead of a self-assessment / checklist approach, the RHFAC puts a trained professional on each site that understand access on a cross-disability basis.

* The RHFAC process has been successfully applied on a national level and ratings have been conducted across Canada.

* Furthermore, to complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate.

Choice of Buildings to Assess for Accessibility
Q15. Which organizations’ buildings will be checked for accessibility by the RHF certification process? What proportion of them will be private businesses and what proportion will be public sector organizations?

* As announced in the 2019 Budget, the RHFAC program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings as well as not-for-profit organizations.

* Through this investment, the RHFs and Government of Ontarios joint objective is to facilitate the creation of a better built environment in a cross section of Ontario communities and help as many Ontarians as possible within the rating of 250 facilities.

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected.

* The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of the people of this province.

Q16. Will organizations be able to apply to be chosen for an RHF assessment? Who will choose which organizations and which buildings will be subject to these accessibility assessments, the Ontario Government, the RHF or some combination of the two? If the RHF has any role to play in decisions over which organizations’ buildings will be assessed, what measures will be implemented to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest?

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program. This includes developing a criteria for how buildings will be selected.

* The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of Ontarians.

Q17. What public accountability and openness safeguards will be in place regarding the decisions over which organizations will have their building assessed? What criteria will be used to choose which organizations and which buildings will be assessed?

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program. This includes developing a criteria for how buildings will be selected.

Q18. Will the Ford Government invite the public, including Ontario’s disability community, to indicate which organizations and which buildings should be assessed by the RHF?

* As always, we welcome and will consider continued feedback from the disability community.

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and associated processes, more details to come at a later date.

Amount of Government Funding for RHF Accessibility Assessment
Q19. Will an organization that is chosen for a Government-financed RHF accessibility assessment have the entire cost of the assessment paid for by the taxpayer? If a business is highly-profitable, for example, will it be required to contribute to any part of the cost of the assessment?

* As noted earlier, the objective of this investment on the part of the Government of Ontario is to facilitate the creation of a better built environment in a cross section of Ontario communities and help as many Ontarians as possible within the rating of 250 facilities.

* The Ministry and RHF are working on the detailed design of the program and will release more details at a later time.




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