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
September 3, 2019
According to a troubling CityTV report, the Doug Ford Government admitted it had compromised between protecting public safety on the one hand, and advancing business opportunities and consumer choice on the other, when it designed its controversial proposal to permit electric scooters in Ontario for a 5-year pilot. The Ford Government tried to hold a meager 2-day public consultation on this proposal last week, on the eve of the Labour Day weekend when it is well-known that many are away on holidays. After the AODA Alliance and others in the disability community publicly objected and the media took interest in the story, the Ford Government backed down, and extended this consultation by a short two additional weeks.
The August 30, 2019 City TV television news story that aired in Toronto in the evening news revealed this troubling new information, and included a comment by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on it:
“We reached out to the Ministry of Transportation, who told City News in a statement: the proposed pilot project is another example of how the province is helping businesses expand and give consumers more choice. When asked why the project is set to last a long five years, it said: ‘This proposed time line creates a compromise between road safety and access for businesses and consumers. If approved, the five year pilot will take a measured approach that will promote road safety, foster business innovation and open the Ontario market to this new and growing sector.’”
But Lepofsky fears the Government is prioritizing business over safety.
(Quotation from David Lepofsky in the news story) “the Government’s obligation is to protect public safety, not to decide, well, we’ll do some compromise between making sure people don’t get hurt and making sure other people can make some more money.”
We add the following to that news report’s disturbing revelation:
“We’ve called on the Ford Government to put the brakes on this proposal and to ensure that there is no risk to public safety, before even contemplating any pilot project with electric scooters,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “The Government must never compromise on the safety of the public, such as vulnerable people with disabilities, especially when it does so in the interests of some businesses wishing to expand into Ontario. Public Safety must always come first, and its protection should be unremitting and uncompromising.”
Now that it has been revealed that the Government’s ill-conceived pilot project was based on an unacceptable compromise on public safety, the proposed pilot project should be withdrawn. The Government should go right back to the drawing board.
This pilot project raises safety concerns for the entire public, but Ontarians with disabilities are especially vulnerable to this safety risk. E-scooters are motor vehicles, pure and simple. At a bare minimum, e-scooters, like other motor vehicles, should have to be licensed. Their drivers should also have to be licensed, only after they have completed needed and specific training. Both the driver and the motor vehicle should have to carry sufficient insurance. Their other risks should be subject to strict safety regulations.
The Government’s proposal to allow e-scooters has secured important media coverage. For example, the article by the Canadian Press, set out below, appeared in the August 31, 2019 Toronto Star as well as a number of other publications.
The AODA Alliance is hurrying to prepare a submission to the Ford Government’s rushed public consultation, and is gathering feedback from the disability community. Feedback can be sent to the AODA Alliance by email at [email protected] or tweeted on Twitter to @aodaalliance
The Ford Government’s rush to deal with its proposal to allow e-scooters stands in troubling contrast to its long delay in addressing the serious barriers that over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities still face. There have been 216 days, or over seven months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Doug Ford Government has announced no plan of action to implement the Onley report.
The Onley report found that Ontario remains full of “soul-crushing” barriers against Ontarians with disabilities, and that Government action to redress these has been far too inadequate. The AODA Alliance is deeply concerned that the Government’s e-scooter proposal risks creating even more barriers impeding people with disabilities, such as the blight of e-scooters being left to block public sidewalks that has reportedly been a problem in other places where they are permitted. That would present a serious barrier, for example, to blind people and people using wheelchairs on public sidewalks.
The AODA Alliance is spearheading a “Dial Doug” campaign. It is urging members of the public to call or email Premier Doug Ford, and to ask him where is his plan to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Ford Government repeatedly says it is focusing on the things that matter the most to Ontarians. We urge the public to call the Premier to remind him that uncompromising protection of public safety matters the most to Ontarians!
Doug Ford’s office number is +1 (416) 325-1941. His email address is [email protected]
Action tips on how to take part in the #DialDoug blitz are available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/join-in-our-new-dial-doug-campaign-a-grassroots-blitz-unveiled-today-to-get-the-doug-ford-government-to-make-ontario-open-for-over-1-9-million-ontarians-with-disabilities/
The Toronto Star August 31, 2019
E-scooters concern disability advocates
Experts say trial program poses significant risks and requires more study
Shawn Jeffords The Canadian Press
A proposed five-year pilot program that would see e-scooters allowed onto Ontario’s roads poses significant safety risks that need more in-depth consideration than the government is allowing, advocates for disabled residents said Friday.
The Ministry of Transportation floated the idea this week of legalizing e-scooters and allowing them to be driven anywhere a bicycle can operate. The two-wheeled
motorized vehicles are currently illegal to operate anywhere other than private property.
The government’s proposal states that the scooters currently fall short of existing federal and safety regulations.
The government initially offered the public 48 hours in which to weigh in on the proposal, but later extended the deadline to Sept. 12. Accessibility advocates
said the extension still doesn’t allow enough time for meaningful feedback on a plan that poses risks to the disabled and non-disabled alike.
“These scooters are motor vehicles driven in a public space by someone who is not licensed, they don’t have a licence plate and are not insured,” said
David Lepofsky, a longtime advocate and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. “This presents a safety issue for the entire public.”
The government sets out a series of rules for the proposed pilot but does not provide a potential start date.
Prospective rules for drivers include a minimum age of 16 and a ban on carrying passengers. The e-scooters cannot exceed a maximum operating speed of 32
km/h, the proposal said. They must also have a horn or bell, front and back lights, and cannot weigh more than 45 kilograms.
Lui Greco, a spokesperson for the CNIB Foundation, which advocates for the blind or people living with vision loss, said that organization was relieved when Mulroney announced the extended consultation period.
The rules spelled out in the government’s proposal don’t take into account the potential for the vehicles to be improperly driven on sidewalks, he said,
calling such misuse inevitable and noting it poses particular risks for the blind.
“If you’re a person with poor or no sight and something comes at you at 32 km/h on the sidewalk, how quickly are you going to be able to react?” he said.
Greco said some North American cities have legalized e-scooter sharing services and urged the province to consult with those municipalities before proceeding any further.
Currently illegal on Ontario streets, the province is considering allowing e-scooters to be driven anywhere a bicycle can operate. ROBYN BECKAFP/GETTY