One Year After Disability-Discriminatory Critical Care Triage Protocol was Secretly Sent to Ontario Hospitals, Disability Advocates Sound the Alarm About the Danger of Disability Discrimination in Access to Health Care as the Omicron Variant Rapidly Overloads Hospitals


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 13, 2022 Toronto: As the Omicron variant rapidly spreads, the danger that some patients will lose their lives because hospitals are overloaded grows closer. Sounding the alarm, a major disability coalition wrote Ontario’s Health Minister, calling for immediate action to ensure that patients with disabilities face no disability discrimination in access to health care. The AODA Alliance’s January 12, 2021 letter below, warns:

“The highly-contagious Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire. Hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19 are daily breaking records. Intensive care beds with COVID-19 patients are shooting up at a frightening rate.

The media reports that hospital staffing levels are impaired by COVID-19-related absences, that emergency rooms are more backed up than ever, and that demand for ambulances is outstripping supply. People who are unvaccinated or who have not gotten a booster shot are at greater risk. The Ontario Government has still not ensured that people with disabilities can get barrier-free access to COVID-19 vaccinations.”

The AODA Alliance warns that there is an accelerating danger of disability discrimination against vulnerable patients with disabilities in access to life-saving health care, because:

1. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, many pre-existing disability barriers were rampant in Ontario’s health care system. The pandemic made this worse.

2. A disability discriminatory Ontario Critical Care Triage Protocol has been embedded in hospitals for a year. One year ago today, that Protocol was secretly sent to Ontario hospitals. The Ford Government never made it public. It was leaked to the AODA Alliance, and is posted on our website.

3. There is a real danger of disability discrimination by ambulances and emergency medical technicians as the demand for hospital beds and ambulances skyrockets. The Ford Government has not made public any directions regarding triage for EMTs and ambulance services.

4. Some kind of triage is necessarily inherent during the current cancellation of “elective” surgery. This will endanger the lives of some patients. There is no public protocol on how that triage is being conducted, nor is there any assured due process for patients whose lives are at stake.

“We have offered the Ford Government concrete, constructive recommendations for immediate action to protect patients with disabilities, but over the past year and a half, the Ford Government refused to answer any of our thoroughly-documented letters,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “This issue must be taken out of the back rooms and openly debated in the Ontario Legislature.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @aodaalliance

For more background on this issue, check out the AODA Alliance websites health care page, detailing its efforts regarding critical care triage and generally, its to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Text of The AODA Alliance’s January 12, 2022 Letter to Ontario’s Health Minister

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

January 12, 2022

To: The Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health
Via email: [email protected]
Ministry of Health
5th Floor
777 Bay St.
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister,

Re: The Danger of Disability Discrimination in Access to Health Care During the Pandemic’s Omicron Surge

We need you to immediately take action now to protect vulnerable people with disabilities from suffering disability-based discrimination in access to health care during the escalating health care crisis. The highly-contagious Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire. Hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19 are daily breaking records. Intensive care beds with COVID-19 patients are shooting up at a frightening rate.

The media reports that hospital staffing levels are impaired by COVID-19-related absences, that emergency rooms are more backed up than ever, and that demand for ambulances is outstripping supply. People who are unvaccinated or who have not gotten a booster shot are at greater risk. The Ontario Government has still not ensured that people with disabilities can get barrier-free access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

There is a clear and present danger of disability discrimination in access to health care. We present several reasons for this concern. We then list constructive, concrete action we ask you to now take.

1. Many Pre-Existing Disability Barriers are Rampant in Ontario’s Health Care System

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario’s health care system was replete with serious disability barriers. This is the finding of the Government-appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee in its initial report to the Government that was made public on May 7, 2021, two thirds of a year ago. It is amplified by the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The Ontario Government has in place no comprehensive plan for removing those disability barriers.

2. A Disability Discriminatory Critical Care Triage Protocol Is Embedded in Ontario Hospitals

Making this worse, a year ago tomorrow, on January 13, 2021, the Ontario critical care triage protocol was sent to Ontario hospitals, on your Government’s watch. As far as we have seen, the Government has still never made it public. It was leaked to us, and has been available to the public on the AODA Alliance website. The Government has not denied the authenticity of that document.

The official Ontario critical care triage protocol clearly directs disability discrimination, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. Under that protocol, if critical care must be rationed and if a cancer patient needs critical care, and if critical care triage has been invoked due to overloads at ICUs, those patients with disabilities will be deprioritized if a patient is Completely disabled and cannot carry out any self-care; totally confined to bed or chair. As another example that would be directed if critical care triage is invoked, if a patient needing critical care is over 65 and has a progressive disease (like MS, arthritis or Parkinsons), their access to critical care is reduced depending on how few of eleven activities of daily living they can perform without assistance. This includes dressing, bathing, eating, walking, getting in and out of bed, using the telephone, going shopping, preparing meals, doing housework, taking medication, or handling their finances. The disability discrimination could not be clearer and more obvious, notwithstanding denials by one of the protocol’s authors.

Last winter, during an earlier COVID-19 surge, it was feared that Ontario would have to formally invoke its secret critical care triage protocol if ICU COVID patients numbered around 900, though no precise target number was set. In the past month, the number of ICU patients with COVID has raced up from under 200 to 505 as of today, with no end in sight. With a record 3,448 patients with COVID-19 in hospital, this escalating number will grow.

We anticipate that it may be necessary to formally trigger critical care triage protocol in Ontario even if COVID-19 patients in ICUs number less than 900. This is because there is a real potential that Ontario’s hospital ICU capacity is now lower than it was last spring. So many hospital staff are isolating at home with COVID.

Strong action is needed now to root out the disability discrimination that this has embedded within the health care system. That protocol has been left in place to fester unchecked for a full year, leading doctors to think that the disability-discriminatory conduct that it mandates is perfectly lawful and ethical.

More fuel has stoked the danger of this disability discrimination fire. Last year, your Government let hospital staff be trained on how to use the disability-discriminatory Ontario critical care triage protocol. That training was seriously deficient and misleading. For example, a January 23, 2021 webinar provided training for front line hospital physicians on the secret Ontario critical care triage protocol. It has been viewed over 2,300 times. That webinar did not alert physicians to the serious disability discrimination concerns that had been raised with Ontario’s critical care triage plans. Participants were told that Ontario’s critical care triage protocol was the result of consultations with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and community groups. They were misleadingly not told that the Ontario Human Rights Commission and community groups like the AODA Alliance publicly objected to key parts of the triage plan and the secretive way it has been developed.

The Government has strong reasons for retracting and replacing Ontario’s secret critical care triage protocol. Almost one year ago, We again documented in our February 25, 2021 report on critical care triage that it is seriously flawed. We warned physicians that they would use that protocol at their peril. Moreover, last spring, objections to Ontario’s critical care triage protocol were publicly raised by six members of the Government-appointed Bioethics Table. Your Government appointed that Bioethics Table to advise The Government on how to design a critical care triage protocol. The concerns of those six members of the Bioethics Table echoed disability community objections.

3. There is a Real Danger of Disability Discrimination by Ambulances and Emergency Medical Technicians

There is a real risk that directions are now also in place to emergency medical technicians, such as ambulances, to triage which cases are brought to hospital and given critical care supports en route there. We have seen nothing in place to ensure that disability discrimination is prevented here.

Normally, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) may start critical care supports for a patient en route to hospital, if the patient needs it. The public expects that if an ambulance arrives in an emergency to help a person, the EMTs will do all they can to help save the patients life. The public does not expect that an EMT would unilaterally refuse to provide a life-saving measure that the patient needs.

The national news story that ran on the April 18, 2021 edition of CBCs The National established for the first time that we have seen in the media that critical care triage can include emergency medical technicians (EMTs) refusing life-saving care to a patient before they even get to the hospital. For example, EMTs arriving at a patient’s home to respond to a medical emergency may not resuscitate some patients.

In the April 18, 2021 edition of CBC TVs The National, Dr. David Neilipovitz ICU director at the Ottawa Hospital had this exchange on camera:

CBC: Will you get into a situation where ambulance attendants are told Dont intubate anyone?
Dr. David Neilipovitz: Yeah, that can happen. It would be naïve for us to think that triage or changes in standard of care have not already in effect come about.

The Ford Government has failed to release a single document or record in response to our inquiries about this. It has not answered a Freedom of Information application filed by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on this last May. We wrote You about this worrisome danger back on February 25, 2021. You and your Government have never answered. Since then, the danger that ambulances in Ontario are now engaging in some form of life-threatening triage at patients’ homes is all the more likely since the total number of COVID cases in hospitals is at an all-time high, and is daily increasing.

4. Triage is Inherent During the Current Cancellation of “Elective” Surgery

It is widely reported that elective surgeries are being cancelled in Ontario due to the hospital overloads. The delay of surgery, even if labelled “elective surgery”, can end up costing some patients their lives. The decision of whose surgery gets delayed and whose gets prioritized thereby amounts to a form of triage that, like critical care triage, is life-threatening for some patients.

We are aware of no public policy or triage protocol governing this, nor any due process to protect patients. We need immediate public accountability of who is deciding who lives and who dies as a result, and on what criteria or basis those decisions are being made. There should be a public accounting of how many lives are lost as a result.

We have a well-founded concern that in such decisions, disability discrimination could take place. The Government and its key critical care team have given a strong signal to the medical profession for at least one year in the Ontario critical care triage protocol that disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical care is perfectly acceptable. The trickle-down harm in attitudes towards the lives of patients with disabilities is incalculable.

5. Constructive Concrete Recommendations for Urgent Action

Please take these actions now:

1. Make public the current version of the critical care triage protocol, all reports and recommendations regarding critical care triage by the Government’s external Bioethics Table since September 11, 2020, the Governments plan of action for rolling out critical care triage if needed, and the content and results of drills or simulations of critical care triage held at any Ontario hospitals.

2. Make public all directions and draft directions to ambulances and other emergency medical services on triaging who is to be brought to hospital, and to whom critical care is to be refused.

3. Remove unlawful discrimination, including disability discrimination, from the January 13, 2021 Critical Care Triage Protocol, and from any protocols or directions to ambulances and other emergency services.

4. Do not give a financial blank cheque to doctors and hospitals in advance (indemnification), nor should the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario give doctors a regulatory blank cheque, if they rely on disability-discriminatory directions.

5. Immediately hold a public consultation on how critical care triage should be conducted, as well as triage over so-called “elective surgery.”

6. Ensure that Ontarios critical care triage plan and protocol are properly prescribed by law, by introducing legislation on critical care triage for debate in the Legislature, rather than dealing with it by an internal memo to hospitals.

7. Publicly report on how decisions are being made on who gets prioritized or deprioritized for “elective surgery” while such surgeries are cancelled or cut back, and make public a clear, swift and fair avenue for patients to appeal such decisions, especially if they endanger their lives.

8. If critical care triage is formally invoked, publicly account on a daily basis on the number of patients who need critical care but are refused it over their objection.

9. Similarly, publicly Account for the number of lives lost due to implicit triage in access to so-called “elective surgery” while such surgery is cancelled or restricted.

There is a pressing need for a full public accounting and debate of these issues, before it is too late. We regret that up until now, your Government has decided not to be open and accountable on this issue, in the hope that it will go away. There has been no fulsome debate on this in the Legislature. You have not answered any of our nine earlier letters to you over the past seven months. Those letters detail serious and well-researched objections to disability discrimination in Ontarios critical care triage plans, including the AODA Alliances September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, its December 15, 2020 letter, its December 17, 2020 letter, its January 18, 2021 letter, its February 25, 2021 letter and its April 26, 2021 letter to you. People with disabilities deserve better.

We are always eager to help you and the Government with these issues. Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance CC:
Premier Doug Ford [email protected]; [email protected] Dr. Catherine Zahn, Deputy Minister of Health [email protected] Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]
Carlene Alexander, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]
Alison Drummond, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]
Patricia DeGuire, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission [email protected]
Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre [email protected]




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A Misleading National Post Column Unfairly Misquotes the AODA Alliance, and Claims We are Untrustworthy on the Issue of Robots on Public Sidewalks


National Post Eventually Publishes a Correction After Our Repeated Requests.

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

January 10, 2022

SUMMARY

Happy New Year to all supporters of our non-partisan campaign for a fully accessible society for people with disabilities. Buckle up and get ready for another hectic year in our campaign. It starts right now!

Our campaign is waged on so many fronts at the same time. Here is an example you may never have imagined would be necessary.

Amidst all the upsetting developments last year, we ended 2021 with some good news. The disability community had convinced the City of Toronto to ban robots from sidewalks, as they would create new barriers for people with disabilities.

Yet out of the blue, the December 27, 2021 edition of the National Post included a very troubling column by columnist Adam Zivo, set out below. Mr. Zivo blasted the City of Toronto for banning robots from public sidewalks. His column repeats the party line argument from some of the corporate lobbyists for part of the robotics industry.

A column opposing our position is, of course, fair game in a democracy. However, Mr. Zivo went too far. Although he correctly identified the AODA Alliance as playing a leadership role in trying to get the City to Ban robots from sidewalks, he also called us hysterical luddites. Mr. Zivo accused AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky of getting his facts wrong, and not being a trustworthy source of information on this topic.

It is a cruel irony that it was Mr. Zivo who clearly misstated the facts when he accused AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky of incorrect facts. In his December 27, 2021 column, Mr. Zivo wrote that David Lepofsky had told the Toronto Star that robots on sidewalks endanger people with disabilities partially because they could come at a blind person like Lepofsky at 20 kph. You can find that Toronto Star article at: https://www.thestar.com/business/2021/12/11/torontos-pink-delivery-robots-have-been-pulled-off-the-streets-and-may-be-banned-next-week-but-is-that-the-right-move.html Mr. Zivo then argued that under a proposed Ontario pilot with robots on sidewalks, the robots would have a permissible maximum speed of 10 kph. This supported his column’s overall claim that AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is hysterical, untrustworthy, has his facts wrong, and does not know what he’s talking about. Mr. Zivo wrote:

“The Toronto Star recently interviewed AODA Alliance’s chair David Lepofsky, who does not fill one with confidence that he is a trustworthy voice in this debate.

According to Lepofsky, legalizing delivery robots would mean that, “At any time there could be a silent menace racing at me at 20 km/h. A sidewalk that was safe becomes one where I could go flying over.” That statement makes no sense – Tiny miles’delivery robots travel at 4km/hour and the maximum speed that would be allowed on sidewalks by Ontario’s pilot project is 10km/hour. Nor does this hypothetical situation remotely match Toronto’s actual experiences with delivery robots over the past year.”

That would be quite a great point for Mr. Zivo’s argument, except that it is utterly false. In the December 11, 2021 Toronto star article which Mr. Zivo quotes, David Lepofsky was clearly and obviously talking about the dangers of electric scooters, and not robots, racing at 20 kph. It was not until later in that Toronto Star article that Lepofsky was quoted on the subject of robots. He never claimed in the Toronto Star Article that robots could hit pedestrians at 20 kph. Here is the relevant part of that Toronto Star article from which Mr. Zivo extracted his distorted quotation:

“Lepofsky has already spent the last couple of years campaigning against an Ontario government pilot project that allows municipalities to decide for themselves whether to allow e-scooters on public roads and sidewalks, which he calls a nightmare for people with disabilities.

He wants them banned province-wide, not just in some cities.

“At any time there could be a silent menace racing at me at 20 km/h. A sidewalk that was safe becomes one where I could go flying over.”

He wasn’t expecting to have to arm himself against another pilot project – at least, not so soon.

But then came the robots.

In November, the Ministry of Transportation concluded public consultation on a proposed 10-year pilot project that would allow companies across Ontario to operate so-called micro-utility devices –
autonomous or remotely piloted robots – on public sidewalks for purposes like delivery service and snow shovelling.”

The same day that Mr. Zivo’s National Post column ran, David Lepofsky sent the National Post a responding letter to the editor. He was not the only person to dispute Mr. Zivo’s ringing endorsement of robots on public sidewalks. On the next day, December 28, 2021, David Lepofsky again wrote the National Post to re-submit his letter to the editor, and to ask the newspaper to publish a correction regarding Mr. Zivo’s column. In that email, Lepofsky wrote in part:

“This is not a question of opinion but of objective provable fact. When so clear a misquote is attributed to someone, especially when included in a national newspaper, basic principles of good journalism dictate that it merits a published correction in your paper. In my case, this supplements the fact that having been attacked by name in your paper, I hope and trust that my letter can run as a fair chance to respond to that attack.”

Normally, a newspaper runs letters to the editor within a day or two after an item is published to which the letters respond. Yet for days the National Post ran no correction to Mr. Zivo’s column, and as far as we could determine, published no letters to the editor disputing it. David Lepofsky again wrote the National Post on January 6, 2022, reiterating his concerns. The Post responded for the first time, stating that it was delayed over the holidays in addressing letters to the editor. It advised that the Post would run a slightly-edited version of Lepofsky’s letter to the editor in the print and online versions of the newspaper, as well as a correction. Additionally, the National Post advised that it would run another letter to the editor that disagreed with Mr. Zivo’s position.

Below, right after Mr. Zivo’s original column, you can read the letters to the editor from David Lepofsky and from Tim Nolan that ran in the January 8, 2022 National Post. Before them, you can read the correction that the National Post included in its print edition on that date.

This is progress. However, the story is not finished. As far as we can determine, the National Post has published no correction in its online newspaper. Moreover, it has left the original column by Mr. Zivo up on its website, including the misquote of David Lepofsky which the National Post has agreed is false. On January 8, 2022, David Lepofsky again wrote the National Post to ask that this be corrected. We are awaiting a response from the National Post. Lepofsky wrote in part:

“If the print version warranted a correction, then the identical online version deserved a correction.

As well, the initial online version of Mr. Zivo’s column remains on your website, replete with its false statement about me which the National Post has recognized as warranting a correction. That misstatement about me in Mr. Zivo’s column should not remain on the National Post’s website, much less should the column remain there without a notification to the reader that the National Post has recognized that it has included an incorrect statement of fact about me that warranted a correction. This is especially so since Mr. Zivo’s column remains on your site alleging that I am untrustworthy and that I get my facts wrong.

Can you please advise what corrective action will be taken. I would appreciate this being fixed quickly, since the Zivo article has remained on your website for 12 days, levelling those accusations at me, without being corrected.”

This saga shows how vigilant we must be, not only with the Ontario Government, but also with the media, even when the facts are on our side.

Stay tuned for more news on this and other fronts in our accessibility campaign. As the new year gets underway, there are now less than three years left for the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible for people with disabilities by 2025. For the Government to allow municipalities to conduct pilot projects with robots on public sidewalks will set Ontario even further behind on that score.

As of today, there have been 1,075 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that was conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has still not announced a comprehensive plan to implement all of that report’s recommendations.

Check our the AODA Alliance’s 2021 Year-End Report, if you have not done so already, to see what is likely in store for us over the next weeks and months. Your feedback is always invited. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

National Post December 27, 2021

Originally posted at https://nationalpost.com/opinion/adam-zivo-these-delivery-robots-are-a-hazard-to-no-one-but-toronto-banned-them-anyway

Opinion
Toronto sticks it to benign little delivery robots
Throughout the past year, little pink robots were hauling deliveries across downtown Toronto, much to the delight of most local citizens. The robots provided a cheaper alternative to human couriers, which made them particularly useful for the disabled and elderly. However, Toronto city council banned them earlier this month, citing safety concerns, despite the fact that no evidence exists that the robots are actually dangerous.

Rather than supporting local innovation and attracting tech investment, it seems that Toronto’s political leaders have chosen to instead indulge a moral panic spread by a handful of luddites.

Prior to being banned, these delivery robots, also called “micro-utility devices” (MUDs), operated in a legal grey area. They weren’t prohibited, but neither were they recognized by any existing regulations, because, as is often the case, regulators lagged behind technological innovation.

In the face of this inertia, a Toronto-based company, Tiny Mile, launched a robot delivery service that couriered goods at a cost of $1 per kilometre. The robots were emblazoned with pink hearts for eyes and became a fixture in some downtown neighbourhoods, trudging at a careful pace of 4 kilometres an hour. The robots also appeared to be remarkably safe, with no reported collisions, accidents or complaints despite completing over 100,000 kilometres in deliveries.

Tiny Mile became a nascent success story and began planning for a quick expansion. The company seemed positioned to become a global leader in the deployment of delivery robot technology – something that should have been celebrated. Not only is entrepreneurship the lifeblood of any economy, it’s rare for a city to find itself on the cutting edge of an entirely new, globally-relevant innovation.

It seemed as if regulations were finally beginning to catch up. This autumn, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation proposed a pilot project that will eventually regulate MUDs – for example, setting maximum speeds (10km/hour on sidewalks; 20km/hour on road shoulders and bike lanes) and mandating certain safety features, such as lights for night deliveries. The Ontario pilot is still in development, but, by and large, Tiny Mile is already compliant with its rules.

While it seemed as if everything was aligning to the benefit of Toronto’s tech industry and local economy, discontent was brewing elsewhere. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance, a disability rights advocacy group, has been aggressively campaigning against normalizing delivery robots, calling them a menace to the disabled.

Their lobbying captured the attention of Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who began to parrot many of their talking points. Wong-Tam is chair of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, which, in early December, recommended banning MUDs.

That recommendation directly led to the municipal ban that was adopted by Toronto city council.

The fact that the AODA Alliance, in partnership with Councillor Wong-Tam, killed Toronto’s delivery robot industry wouldn’t be an issue if they had legitimate objections worth addressing – but their campaign seems rooted in technophobia and hysteria. It’s hard to come to a different conclusion when a group aggressively asserts that delivery robots are dangerous without providing any actual evidence to support that claim, all while ignoring local data that suggests that delivery robots are safe.

The Toronto Star recently interviewed AODA Alliance’s chair David Lepofsky, who does not fill one with confidence that he is a trustworthy voice in this debate.

According to Lepofsky, legalizing delivery robots would mean that, “At any time there could be a silent menace racing at me at 20 km/h. A sidewalk that was safe becomes one where I could go flying over.” That statement makes no sense – Tiny Miles’delivery robots travel at 4km/hour and the maximum speed that would be allowed on sidewalks by Ontario’s pilot project is 10km/hour. Nor does this hypothetical situation remotely match Toronto’s actual experiences with delivery robots over the past year.

Lepofsky also argued that if an unmanned robot breaks a rule or gets into an accident, it would be difficult to track down the person responsible because the robot operator is not physically present at the scene. Apparently it is inconceivable that someone could simply contact a delivery company to confirm who was operating a particular robot at the time of an incident.

Lepofsky is a retired lawyer and has spent months campaigning against delivery robots – so why is he getting basic facts wrong and forwarding such flimsy arguments? Whatever the answer, it’s a shame that Toronto city council chose to take claims like his at face value. The key takeaway is that if you want to effectively lobby the city, you can just fudge numbers and come up with scary hypotheticals, plausibility be damned.

The ideal outcome would have been for city council to simply adapt the regulations proposed by Ontario’s pilot project and then adjust them as needed.

Instead, council prioritized parochialism. This should anger anyone who is concerned about the economic harms of over-regulation. It should also anger those concerned about disability rights – because disabled and elderly residents, especially lower-income ones, would have disproportionately benefited from delivery robots. Going forward, they will have to pay more to have medication and other essentials delivered to their door – and that’s a real harm, not a hypothetical one. Adam Zivo

National Post January 8, 2022
News
Correction
David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, was referring to e-scooters, not street robots, when he told the Toronto Star in an interview that “At any time there could be a silent menace racing at me at 20 km/h. A sidewalk that was safe becomes one where I could go flying over.”

Incorrect information appeared in an Adam Zivo column on Dec. 27.

National Post January 8, 2022

Originally posted at https://nationalpost.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor-columnist-got-it-wrong-on-street-robots Letters Columnist got it wrong on street robots; Letters of the day
Graphic: Supplied, Tiny Mile / Toronto’s banning of robots from sidewalks has been lauded by two letter writers who point out they provide obstacles and endanger safety for people with disabilities.;
Re: Toronto sticks it to benign little delivery robots, Adam Zivo, Dec. 27 I applaud Toronto’s banning of robots from sidewalks, contrary to Adam Zivo’s column. Robots, like ones delivering packages, endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors and others. This ban covers all robots, not just small ones.

Blind people like me risk not knowing a robot is silently heading right at us or is in our path. For people using wheelchairs, robots on sidewalks risk blocking their path. Have balance issues? Robots brushing by could send you toppling. Sidewalks already have too many accessibility barriers, street furniture, art, signs and more.

Zivo’s column robotically parroted corporate lobbyists. It also falsely branded me a technophobic Luddite. As a blind person, cutting-edge technology let me read his erroneous column. It enabled me to quickly confirm that he misrepresented me, by quoting something I had told another publication about electric scooters, while incorrectly claiming I was talking about robots.

Zivo claims banning sidewalk robots hurts people with disabilities, because they would reduce the cost of delivering medications. Check your facts. My pharmacy delivers my meds for free.

I only oppose technology that endangers safety. You cannot arrest, prosecute or sue a robot. You can’t prove who unleashed that robot onto the sidewalk. A robot might display a bogus company name. Just imagine what criminals could deliver using robots, if allowed on sidewalks. David Lepofsky Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

National Post January 8, 2022

Originally posted at https://nationalpost.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor-columnist-got-it-wrong-on-street-robots Letters
Columnist got it wrong on street robots
Hamilton, Ont. –
One of the greatest challenges in life is to understand the world around us from the perspective of others; that is to walk in someone else’s shoes. Based upon the opinion of Adam Zivo it does not appear that he does, or even tries, to truly understand the world of someone with a disability.

Zivo claims Toronto City Council came to its decision despite a lack of evidence. Yet, he, himself, provides no evidence in support of his opinion. Not until he, as a blind person, must navigate a sidewalk that is obstructed by restaurants, mailboxes, posts, garbage bins, flower planters, trees, bus shelters, wayward scooter riders, fire hydrants, parking meters, and many more obstacles, would Zivo be entitled to an opinion on matters for which he so clearly has no knowledge.

Zivo also clearly knows nothing about innovation and people with disabilities. Many of the technological advancements universally enjoyed by the public were developed or refined for, if not by, people with disabilities in order that they have access to the information that the world so casually enjoys. Technology is important, if not critical to people with disabilities. But, that technology must be thoughtfully designed and developed. The same regulatory processes which govern food, toys for children, vehicles on the roads, and more, should govern advancements in robots, e-scooters, sidewalk restaurants, light rail transit and many more changes to our environment that impose unnecessary barriers to the people we should care for above all else.

Technology can be as harmful as it can be helpful.

We must encourage advancement, critically and safely. And, Zivo might think about everyone and not just getting his pizza to his door without having to give a tip.

Hopefully other municipalities will demonstrate the same degree of courage as Toronto. Tim Nolan, Hamilton, Ont.




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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @aodaalliance
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December 22, 2021

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MORE DETAILS

1. CityNews December 9, 2021

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

A call to bring back mall benches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Pointer December 8, 2021

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

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

By Isaac Callan – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Its unclear why Brampton has not done the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He recalls the encounter vividly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @isaaccallan

3. The Robot Report December 17, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiny Mile has operated in Toronto since September 2020.

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

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

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

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

4. Cities Today December 21, 2021

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

Toronto city council votes to ban pavement robots

by Christopher Carey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. CTV News October 25, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. CBC News November 21, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It boggles my mind.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It would equal the playing field for everybody.”

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

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

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

7. CTV News December 8, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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


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

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

December 21, 2021

SUMMARY

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

MORE DETAILS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more background, check out and widely share:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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As Omicron Surges, Ford Government Flagrantly Discriminates Against Many Ontarians with Disabilities in Access to Health Care by Requiring A Driver’s License to Renew Ontario Health Card Online


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Toronto December 20, 2021: As COVID-19 surges, the Ford Government’s online process for renewing a health card blatantly discriminates against many Ontarians with disabilities in their access to health care. The Ford Government now requires that expired health cards be renewed by February 28, 2022. To avoid risking exposure to COVID-19 by going to a Service Ontario office, a person can conveniently renew their health card online, but only if they have a driver’s license.

This obvious disability discrimination violates the Ontario Human Rights Code and section 15 of the Charter of Rights. Many people with disabilities, such as blind people, cannot get a driver’s license. Doug Ford forces them to go to a Service Ontario venue to renew their health card, risking exposure to COVID-19. A person with vision loss or certain other disabilities faces additional challenges in maintaining safe social distancing at Service Ontario venues due to their disability.

Ford Government Piled Discrimination Upon Discrimination

The Ford Government compounds this disability discrimination. It does not allow a person with an official Ontario Government Photo Identification Card to renew their health card online.

Years ago, the Ontario Government commendably established a new official Ontario Government Photo Identification Card to serve as official personal identification, equivalent to a driver’s license. It was created largely after advocacy by people with disabilities who cannot get a driver’s license. There is no compelling reason why the Ontario Photo Identification Card should be insufficient to let a person renew their health card online.

Making this even worse, a person cannot renew their Ontario Government Photo Identification Card online. In contrast, a driver’s license is easily renewed online. The Ford Government thereby shovels disability discrimination on top of disability discrimination.

Ford Government Has No Defence

“The Ford Government’s disability discrimination is indefensible,” said AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky, who, as a blind person, is directly victimized by these disability barriers. “The Government cannot prove that accommodating people with disabilities causes undue hardship.”

The driver’s license requirement for renewing a health card online is also problematic for those with no disability and no driver’s license. However, that does not diminish this as disability discrimination.

Ford Government’s Broken Promises to Ontarians with Disabilities

The Ford Government pledged that it would lead by example on accessibility for people with disabilities. This disability discrimination leads by a terrible example. It also violates the Ford Government’s commitment to undertake a cross-Government approach to disability accessibility so that all Government operations will implement accessibility in their work.

This disability discrimination flies in the face of Doug Ford’s solemn pledge made in a letter to the AODA Alliance on May 15, 2018 during the 2018 Ontario election that

” Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.”

How and Why Did the Ford Government Create this New Disability Barrier?

This disability discrimination should have been transparently obvious to the Ford Government. The Government should have identified this disability barrier and addressed it before it decided to require Ontarians to renew their expired health cards by February 28, 2022. This is not rocket science.

The creation of this new disability barrier is especially harmful because it took place over one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Ontarians with disabilities have faced too many other disability barriers in access to health care during this pandemic. This has included such things as disability barriers when booking vaccinations, disability barriers in the vaccine passport system, and disability discrimination in the critical care triage protocol that the Ford Government has allowed to be entrenched in hospital emergency rooms and intensive care wards. People with disabilities have disproportionately died from COVID-19, as illustrated most painfully in Ontario’s crisis-ridden long-term care homes.

With the Omicron variant surging and infection rates rapidly skyrocketing, the Ford Government’s failure to publicly admit to this barrier that it created, and its failure to have fixed it by now, escalates the harm to Ontarians with disabilities. The Ford Government’s high-handed response to this issue is demonstrated by its refusal to respond to CBC on-the-record when CBC first reported on this issue in its November 21, 2021 article, fully one month ago. CBC’s report includes:

“The province refused to provide an on-the-record statement for this story.”

In light of the high profile that the COVID-19 pandemic has received, and the Government’s claim that public health and safety has been a top priority, people with disabilities can reasonably wonder whether anyone within the Ontario Public Service earlier flagged for the Government this disability barrier in online health card renewals. If they did, did the issue get escalated or buried within the Public Service? How many internal Government failures led Ontario to this point?

Even before the pandemic, Ontario’s health care system was replete with many health care disability barriers. These are documented in the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee which the Ford Government made public on May 7, 2021. They are also addressed in the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 brief to the Government-appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee

These new disability barriers also fly in the face of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley concluded that Ontario is far behind that mandatory legal deadline. The Ford Government still has no comprehensive plan to reach that target.

A Clear, Obvious and Urgent Need for Corrective Action

People with disabilities should never feel that they must expose themselves to the danger of contracting COVID-19 by going to a Service Ontario office, just to ensure that they can continue to receive health care in Ontario. The Ford Government needs to now fix this cruel irony. For example, it should announce these actions:

1. The Ford Government should immediately enable people to renew their health card online if they have an Ontario Photo Identification Card.

2. The Ford Government should immediately enable people to renew their official Ontario Photo Identification Card online if it is expired.

3. The Ford Government should immediately create and widely publicize an easy-to-use accessible means for people with disabilities to renew their health card if they cannot do so online, without having to personally go to a Service Ontario office and risk exposure to COVID-19, such as through a phone service that is sufficiently staffed to avoid long waits on hold.

4. The Ford Government should investigate and report to the public on how it allowed this obvious disability barrier to be created in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, exposing people with disabilities to further dangers to their health.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

For more background, read:

1. The AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page, identifying the many new barriers people with disabilities have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, identifying the many barriers people with disabilities face in Ontario’s health care system.

3. The AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 Letter to Ontario Party Leaders seeking election pledges on accessibility for people with disabilities.
4. The widely-viewed captioned online presentation by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky (who is a visiting law professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School) on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.




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Important Victory! Toronto City Council Today Banned Robots from Sidewalks, to Protect People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others – But Where is the Provincial Leadership 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Need from Premier Ford?


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 17, 2021 Toronto: At its meeting today, Toronto City Council banned robots from sidewalks, including robots delivering packages, pending further consultation and City staff study in the first half of 2022. Disability community advocates have called for robots to be banned from sidewalks because they endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Under this ban, people would remain free to use robots on their private property.

Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and Infrastructure Committee each recommended outlawing sidewalk robots. In its December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto’s Mayor and City Council, the AODA Alliance emphasized the many new disability barriers that robots and sidewalks can create.

Robots on sidewalks can be a tripping hazard or a collision danger. Blind people risk not knowing that a robot is heading right toward them or in their path of travel.

For people who use wheelchairs, robots on sidewalks risk becoming an access barrier in their way. If a person has balance limitations, robots brushing by them on the sidewalk could send them toppling. Sidewalks already have far too many accessibility barriers, being increasingly cluttered by street furniture, art, signs, plants and restaurant seating.

“We applaud Toronto City Council for stopping the creation of a serious new disability barrier and for requiring City staff to consult with people with disabilities as well as law enforcement and public safety experts about the dangers that robots on sidewalks pose for the public” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance. “The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create these new disability barriers.”
Though today’s vote is good news, people with disabilities are not out of the woods. Ontarians with disabilities need Ontario Premier Doug Ford to show leadership in this area, which has been sadly lacking at the provincial level when it comes to accessibility for people with disabilities. The Ford Government should ban robots from sidewalks anywhere in Ontario, so that people with disabilities don’t have to wage these battles in one city after the next. It is wrong for the Ford Government to instead be planning to give every Ontario municipality the authority to allow for ten-year pilot projects with robots on public sidewalks. We don’t want to have to fight this again in Toronto next year after City staff investigates this issue, much less in city after city around Ontario.

If robots were allowed on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult. A person cannot prosecute or sue a robot or make it produce an insurance policy.

It’s no solution to require robots to have a remote driver. That cannot be policed. One can’t know from looking at a robot whether it has a remote driver somewhere at all, much less a sober one who is properly trained and attentive to steering. A remote driver could be steering several robots simultaneously, dangerously dividing their attention. The public can’t know if a remote driver is in Ontario or halfway around the world, unreachable by Ontario police.

“We don’t oppose innovation. We innovate daily in our lives and use cutting-edge innovative technology,” said Lepofsky. “We only oppose innovations that endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance




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Will Toronto City Council Vote Today to Ban Robots from Sidewalks, to Protect People with Disabilities, Seniors, children and Others?


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 15, 2021 Toronto: At its meeting today or tomorrow, Toronto City Council will debate whether to ban robots from sidewalks, including robots delivering packages. Disability community advocates have called for robots to be banned from sidewalks because they endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Under such a ban, people would remain free to use robots on their property.

Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and Infrastructure Committee each recommended outlawing sidewalk robots. Today’s and tomorrow’s City Council meeting will be streamed live at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZk2xbN6jjw

In its December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto’s Mayor and City Council, the AODA Alliance emphasized the many new disability barriers that robots and sidewalks can create. Robots on sidewalks can be a tripping hazard, or a collision danger. Blind people risk not knowing that a robot is heading right at them or in their path of travel.

For people who use wheelchairs, robots on sidewalks risk becoming an access barrier in their way. If a person has balance limitations, robots brushing by them on the sidewalk could send them toppling.

Sidewalks are publicly funded for pedestrians. Roads are for vehicles. Sidewalks already have too many accessibility barriers, being increasingly cluttered by street furniture, art, signs, plants and restaurant seating.

“To allow these robots would be to knowingly create a serious new disability barrier,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance. “The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create these new disability barriers.”

If robots are allowed on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult. A person cannot prosecute or sue a robot, or make it produce an insurance policy.

It’s no solution to require the robot’s company name to be displayed in braille. Imagine a blind person chasing a robot, with one hand on their white cane, and their other hand searching for the robot’s braille label.

It’s also no solution to require robots to have a remote driver. That cannot be policed. One can’t know from looking at a robot whether it has a remote driver somewhere at all, much less a sober one who is properly trained and attentive to steering. A remote driver could undetectably steer several robots simultaneously, dangerously dividing their attention. The public can’t know if a remote driver is in Ontario, or halfway around the world, unreachable by Ontario police.

“We don’t oppose innovation. We daily innovate in our lives and use cutting-edge innovative technology,” said Lepofsky. “We only oppose innovations that endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.”

This is not about one specific company’s small delivery robots, which have recently gotten some media attention. It is about any robots on sidewalks, no matter which company makes them, no matter what size or weight they are, and no matter whether they are being deployed to deliver legitimate products or for some anti-social reason.
Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
The AODA Alliance will be available to comment on City Council’s debate and vote on this issue. For real-time tweets, follow @davidlepofsky on Twitter.




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More Media Coverage on the Dangers to People with Disabilities that Robots on Sidewalks Would Pose


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

December 13, 2021

SUMMARY

1. Disability Objections to Allowing Robots on Public Sidewalks Get More Media Attention

The Saturday, December 11, 2021 Toronto Star’s Business Section included an excellent, detailed article on disability objections to allowing robots on sidewalks. Read that article, below.

As well, City TV News recently ran two items on this issue, on November 16, 2021 and on December 8, 2021

Before Toronto City Council votes on a proposal to ban robots from Toronto sidewalks, we remind you that it would really help if you urge Toronto Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Council members to vote for that ban. Here are the email addresses for all members of Toronto City Council, which you can copy and paste right into an email:

[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

Read AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s December 9, 2021 guest column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland newspapers about the dangers that robots on sidewalks pose for people with disabilities.

2. Reminder to Sign Up to Tell Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committee at its December 14, 2021 Virtual Meeting to Oppose Electric Scooters

It is not too late! Sign up to tell the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee at its December 14, 2021 virtual meeting that it should call on Ottawa City Council not to allow e-scooters, whether privately owned, or rented, in public spaces. Information on this meeting, and on how to sign up for it, is available in the December 10, 2021 AODA Alliance Update.

At this meeting, we will recommend that the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee pass a motion such as this:

“The Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee recommends as follows:

a) The City of Ottawa not conduct any more pilots that allow electric scooters to be ridden in any public places in Ottawa, whether the e-scooter is owned by or rented by the rider.

b) The City of Ottawa should not lift the legal ban now in effect on riding e-scooters in public places.

c) The City of Ottawa should enforce the legal ban on riding e-scooters in public places.”

3. Electric Scooters and Sidewalk Robots Are Illustrations of the Ford Government Failing to Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

The cruel fact that people with disabilities must battle at the local municipal level against new barriers like e-scooters and robots on sidewalks is due to the Ford Government failing to show leadership on disability accessibility. This is part of a bigger picture.

A jaw-dropping 1,047 days have now passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that was conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. It found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities, and that progress on accessibility has been “glacial.” It concluded that the AODA’s promise of an accessible province for Ontarians with disabilities is nowhere in sight.

Read the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 letter to Ontario’s political party leaders. It sets out the election pledges on accessibility for people with disabilities that we seek in the June 2022 Ontario election.

MORE DETAILS

Toronto’s pink delivery robots have been pulled off the streets and may be banned next week but is that the right move? By Sean Frankling
Toronto Star December 11, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/business/2021/12/11/torontos-pink-delivery-robots-have-been-pulled-off-the-streets-and-may-be-banned-next-week-but-is-that-the-right-move.jaws2021html Tiny Mile has pulled its pink robots off Toronto’s sidewalks, and they may be banned for good next week. But is that the right move for the city?

David Lepofsky uses a white cane as he walks to sweep the path in front of him for tripping hazards.

The retired lawyer, who teaches law part time at the University of Toronto’s Osgoode Hall, has been blind much of his life.

Lepofsky, who is also chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, learned to navigate Toronto’s streets when they were relatively clear of today’s modern distractions.

An explosion in construction sites and, more recently, sidewalk patios – a pandemic city initiative that permitted restaurants to expand outdoor dining areas onto sidewalks – have meant an increase in obstacles for Lepofsky as of late.

It’s a frustrating step back for the accessibility advocate. “These are new barriers that humans are creating in a society that’s meant to be getting more accessible,” he says.

At least one of those new barriers – remotely piloted delivery robots – will face a vote on its fate at Toronto City Hall next week.

In response to the concerns of advocates like Lepofsky, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee is calling fora ban on delivery robots and their ilk, with city council to vote on the recommendation Dec. 15.

“It’s great that this is moving up to city council on a recommendation that these be banned,” says Lepofsky. “It says to the province, ‘You should put the breaks on this. This is not such a good idea.’”

While disability advocates such as Lepofsky are rooting for the vote to succeed, robotics industry experts are looking for solutions beyond an outright ban.

Meanwhile, the owners of Toronto’s only existing robot-delivery service – Tiny Mile – fear the ban would close their doors for good.

Tiny Mile’s CEO, Ignacio Tartavull, hears Lepofsky’s concerns. On Thursday, the company announced it has temporarily taken its robots off Toronto’s streets while it awaits the outcome of the vote.

Lepofsky has already spent the last couple of years campaigning against an Ontario government pilot project that allows municipalities to decide for themselves whether to allow e-scooters on public roads and sidewalks, which he calls a nightmare for people with disabilities.

He wants them banned province-wide, not just in some cities.

“At any time there could be a silent menace racing at me at 20 km/h. A sidewalk that was safe becomes one where I could go flying over.”

He wasn’t expecting to have to arm himself against another pilot project – at least, not so soon.

But then came the robots.

In November, the Ministry of Transportation concluded public consultation on a proposed 10-year pilot project that would allow companies across Ontario to operate so-called micro-utility devices –
autonomous or remotely piloted robots – on public sidewalks for purposes like delivery service and snow shovelling.

The pilot, which doesn’t yet have a date set to proceed, is meant to assess the safety of integrating this new technology into the urban environment.

It would require human oversight of the robots, but not a person on-site. Instead, a remote operator or supervisor could watch via camera feed.

The robots would be subject to a speed limit of 10 km/h on sidewalks and 20 km/h in bike lanes, and must weigh less than 125 kg and be no more than 74 cm wide, though automated snowplows would have no size restrictions.

The pilot would also require operators to clearly label the company’s name on their robots, provide constant human oversight via camera with a safe-stop feature, mandatory collision reporting, and a minimum $25-million worth of general liability insurance for participating firms.

Municipalities would have the option to opt in – or out – the logic being that each local government knows their infrastructure best. Next week’s vote will determine whether to ban these robots before the pilot ever takes effect here.

Lepofsky says this approach just fragments a discussion that should be consistent across the province.

“That means that people with disabilities go from having a provincial rule to having to fight in one municipality after another.”

While he’s skeptical that the technology behind remotely piloted robots is up to the task of safely sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians, it’s the challenge of regulating them that has Lepofsky most concerned.

When a cyclist or an e-scooter rider gets in an accident or breaks a rule, the person liable is right there on the vehicle, says Lepofsky.

With an unmanned robot, the person responsible may not even be present, making it difficult to track them down, or even to proceed with a lawsuit, he says, stressing it’s too difficult to hold operators responsible in the event their robot causes an accident.

“The law isn’t just what’s on the books, it’s what you can enforce,” says Lepofsky.

Many experts in the robotics industry agree with his concerns, even if they don’t share his enthusiasm for an outright ban.

“(Robots) are a new source of friction, and there’s bound to be conflict,” says Shauna Brail, who just completed a report for Transport Canada looking into Canada’s policy preparedness for the rise of robot-based delivery services.

Brail, a professor of urban planning and economic development at the University of Toronto, says while it’s important to investigate what new technologies can do to improve urban life, those uses have to be done in balance with the normal use of public property.

“They’re an incompatible use if they make the sidewalk unstable for a person,” she says.

Brail’s report examined regulations governing robot delivery in Toronto, Calgary, San Francisco and a dozen other state and city jurisdictions in the U.S.

The key take-aways?

First, robots are already out there making deliveries in many of the jurisdictions they scanned.

Second; the laws around their use across Canada and the U.S. are well behind the technology, particularly in Toronto.

Before the ministry’s proposed pilot, the city had no regulations for sidewalk robots at all. They’ve been operating in a grey area – not illegal, but not allowed, either, says Brail.

And in the absence of government guidance, it’s been the companies building the robots that have led the drive to regulate them, she says.

Toronto startup Tiny Mile’s pink robots have been rolling along downtown streets daily for about a year, delivering takeout food, among other items.

A suite of cameras feed data to a remote driver who steers the robots with the aid of an on-board collision-avoidance system that detects when a robot is approaching an obstacle and automatically stops before it can hit it.

So far, the company says, in the “tens of thousands of kilometres” travelled, it’s had no reports of accidents. Tiny Mile has up to 20 robots on the streets at any given time.

“Tiny Mile is keenly interested in working with the accessibility community, hence we are calling out people who will be interested in shaping our technology with their immediate expertise and experience to help us not only make our robots safer for our community, but also greatly benefit people with disabilities,” the company said on its Instagram page in making the announcement Thursday.

Tartavull told the Star his robots put safety first, using their sensors and safety software to ensure the human operators can identify people moving slowly or using mobility devices and steer clear to give them plenty of space.

His robots’ low weight (4.5 kg), and easy speed (6 km/h), says Tartavull, pose no threat to pedestrians, a claim he says he tested personally by crashing them repeatedly into himself to make sure they couldn’t injure him.

“I went to the point of making myself the crash dummy. We don’t put anything on the street we don’t trust.”

Lepofsky isn’t buying it. No amount of testing and avoidance can guarantee a robot won’t become a tripping hazard, he says, especially if one breaks down in a public walkway.

While Tartavull says it’s inevitable that the robots will sometimes break down – he estimates it happens once every two or three months –
the small service area allows for a team to pick up the out-of-commission robot within minutes, he says.

Tartavull says any conversation about regulating robots on city streets must take into account what they can offer to business and society.

Far from just being an obstacle, he says, “(robots) can be amazing for the disabled. It’s 2 a.m., it’s freezing cold. Wouldn’t you rather pay 50 cents for a robot to bring you those drugs you need from the pharmacy (than go out there yourself)?”

He argues that robotic delivery offers solutions to help with everything from traffic congestion to greenhouse gas emissions to the high cost of services like Uber Eats.

“It’s actually firms that are driving the initiative to regulate,” Brail says. But it’s not in Canadians’ best interest to let them lead the whole conversation, she adds.

“It can give a very one-sided perspective on what regulation should look like,” Brail says. “It needs to be a conversation about what does society need. And you need government to lead that.”

Queen’s University professor Joshua Marshall, who has spent his career developing robots for deployment alongside human workers in mining and industrial settings, agrees that testing should happen before a new technology goes into the real world, not after.

Marshall says engineers have a responsibility to consult everyone who might be affected before any machine goes into a workplace or into the public. “These people need to be at the table. We need all stakeholders involved. If there’s a problem, we need to identify it early, before something happens that we don’t want.”

Marshall also stresses the importance of rigorous testing and development for robots being used around pedestrians, starting with computer simulations and then working up to controlled environments mimicking real-world conditions.

But while the Ministry of Transportation say it is incorporating the feedback from the public consultation phase and considering adding more rules, the pilot project doesn’t lay out any requirements for how much testing and consultation companies must do before they put their robots on the streets.

“I think the problem is that you have this app development attitude of ‘moving fast and breaking things’ that’s been elevated almost to a religion among some technologists,” says Jason Millar, a University of Ottawa professor and holder of the Canada research chair in robotics.

But we can’t afford to be so loose when talking about technology that has a physical presence, he says.

“An app isn’t going to break down and leave a couple-hundred-pound impediment in the sidewalk.”

This is one reason Marshall and Millar agree on the need for Canada to develop a national strategy on robotics to match the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy announced in 2017 to be led and developed by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

The AI strategy lays out ways to attract researchers, foster collaboration and educate the public, aimed at making Canada a leader in the emerging field of artificial intelligence development. But it also creates a framework to educate policy-makers to lead discussions on the ethical and social issues that come with the technology.

As Marshall describes it, a national robotics strategy would need to follow the AI strategy’s lead: planning for the re-skilling necessary as automation gets integrated into life and workplaces, while also leading the conversation toward industry-wide standards for safety, testing and stakeholder consultation.

“We need to be thinking about how can (disability advocates) elevate a concern to get meaningful, transparent answers from the companies that are developing these technologies,” says Millar.

A proper approach should create standards at the national level so when concerned citizens like Lepofsky speak out, their voices join a unified conversation, not just a local disagreement, he says.

For Tiny Mile, says CEO Tartavull, the future hinges on the outcome of Toronto city council’s vote.

“If we get banned, we won’t have money to move to any other city. So that would be the end of Tiny Mile, unfortunately.”




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New Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in Metroland Papers Explains that Toronto Should Ban Robots on Sidewalks because of the Danger They Pose for People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others


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

December 10, 2021
SUMMARY
Here’s a new way you can help people with disabilities get Toronto City Council to ban robots on sidewalks when it meets on December 15 and 16, 2021. Please widely circulate a new guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below. It appears in the Toronto Star’s local Metroland papers. It explains why robots on sidewalks endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.
Also, send this guest column to your member of the Ontario Legislature. The Ford Government is planning to allow an exceptionally long 10-year pilot with robots on sidewalks whenever a municipality opts into the pilot. We need the Ford Government to call off those plans which are still under consideration. The Ford Government should instead impose a provincewide ban on robots on sidewalks.
The December 10, 2021 edition of the Globe and Mail reports that one company that already unleashed its robots on Toronto sidewalks has now decided to temporarily pull those robots off the sidewalks up until Toronto City Council votes on the proposed ban next week. In that article, set out below, the company in question expressed a passionate desire to work with “the accessibility community” to ensure the safety of its delivery robots. This sounds remarkably like what the corporate lobbyists for the electric scooter rental companies said on the eve of Toronto City Council voting last spring against allowing e-scooters in Toronto.
For more on this, read the AODA Alliance’s December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto City Council, urging them to vote to ban robots on sidewalks. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page to learn about our battle to protect people with disabilities, seniors, kids and others from the dangers that e-scooters pose when ridden in public places. MORE DETAILS
toronto.com December 2019
Metroland News
Originally posted at https://www.toronto.com/opinion-story/10536197-toronto-must-ban-service-robots-from-its-sidewalks/ Opinion
Toronto must ban service robots from its sidewalks
‘Robots can be a tripping hazard or a collision danger,’ writes David Lepofsky BY DAVID LEPOFSKY
David Lepofsky is a lawyer and advocate for people with disabilities in Toronto. – David Lepofsky photo
Toronto must ban robots from sidewalks, like robots delivering packages. They endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. People can remain free to use robots on their property.
Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and Infrastructure Committee wisely recommended banning sidewalk robots. On Dec. 15 to 16, city council votes on this.
Ford’s Government said robots on sidewalks are unregulated, causing a free-for-all. Ford’s proposed solution, a ten-year sidewalk robots pilot at municipal option, shirks much-needed provincial leadership.
Blind people like me risk not knowing that a robot is heading right at us or in our path. Those robots can be a tripping hazard, or a collision danger.
For people who use wheelchairs, those robots risk becoming an access barrier in their path. If you have balance issues, robots brushing by could send you toppling.
Sidewalks are publicly funded, created for pedestrians. Roads are for vehicles. Sidewalks already have too many accessibility barriers, increasingly cluttered by street furniture, art, signs, plants and restaurant seating.
To allow these robots would be to knowingly create a serious new disability barrier. The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create new barriers.
If police or the public encounter a robot on a public sidewalk, they should be free to dispose of it. That would end the problem.
If robots are allowed on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult. The victim won’t know who to sue or prosecute for their injuries.
A robot might have a bogus company name on it. You cannot prosecute or sue a robot, or make it produce an insurance policy.
It’s no solution to require the robot’s company name to also be in braille. Imagine a blind person chasing a robot, with one hand on their white cane, and their other hand searching for the robot’s braille label.
It’s also no solution to require robots to have a remote driver. That cannot be policed. You can’t know from looking at a robot whether it has a remote driver somewhere at all, much less a sober one who is properly trained and attentive to steering. A remote driver could undetectably steer several robots simultaneously, dangerously dividing their attention. The public can’t know if a remote driver is in Ontario, or halfway around the world, unreachable by Ontario police.
We don’t oppose innovation. We daily innovate in our lives and regularly use innovative technology. We just oppose innovations that endanger us.
Before any government allows robots on sidewalks, they must consult police on how robots, disguised as a store’s delivery vehicle, could in the wrong hands be perverted into a dreadful weapon. Pedestrian safety is our top priority.
David Lepofsky is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and visiting professor, Osgoode Hall Law School. The Globe and Mail December 10, 2021
(2021-12-10)
Report on Business
Toronto company temporarily pulls pink delivery robots off sidewalks THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO – A technology company says it will temporarily take its food delivery robots off Toronto’s streets as the city considers whether to ban such devices from sidewalks.
Tiny Mile, the company behind a series of pink, heart-eyed robots named Geoffrey, says it is making the temporary move because it wants to collaborate with authorities and the accessibility community.
Toronto’s city council will vote next week on whether to ban devices that run on anything but muscle power from bike lanes, sidewalks and pedestrian ways.
The ban was put forward by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, which felt the robots are a hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as seniors and other children.
The ban cleared its first hurdle last week, when it was approved by the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee, but Tiny Mile vowed to fight the move and circulated a petition on its social-media pages.
The company now says on Instagram that it will seek feedback from the public and people with disabilities while it pauses public use of its robots.
“Tiny Mile is keenly interested in working with the accessibility community, hence we are calling out people who will be interested in shaping our technology with their immediate expertise and experience to help us not only make our robots safer for our community, but also greatly benefit people with disabilities,” the company said.




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Sign Up to Tell Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committee to Publicly and Strongly Oppose Electric Scooters that Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others


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

December 10, 2021

SUMMARY

Please contact the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee as soon as you can! Sign up to speak at its virtual online meeting at 6 pm on Tuesday December 14, 2021 and advocate that it should recommend that Ottawa stop allowing electric scooters (e-scooters). E-scooters endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

The public announcement of the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting is set out below. To sign up to speak at that meeting, email or phone Carole Legault:

[email protected] or 613-580-2424 ext. 28934.

If you don’t want to speak at that meeting, you can email your comments, and ask that your feedback be shared with the Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Two years ago, the Ford Government ignored serious disability concerns when it gave every municipality the power to lift the ban on e-scooters. It allows them for a so-called “pilot” for up to five years.

Right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Ottawa jumped on the e-scooters bandwagon. It did so despite strong warnings, conveyed right to the office of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, that e-scooters endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities. It was obvious that the e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists had the inside track to Ottawa’s mayor and City Council, just as they earlier had the inside track to Premier Doug Ford.

Ottawa has now held two successive “pilot projects” with e-scooters. Feedback from people with disabilities demonstrates that e-scooters create serious dangers for people with disabilities, seniors and others. What occurred was exactly what we warned the office of Ottawa’s mayor about before Ottawa plowed forward, regardless of those dangers.

An e- scooter corporate lobbyist told a City of Toronto public meeting last spring that Ottawa is “the gold standard” for e-scooters. Instead, Ottawa is in fact the model of what should never be allowed to happen. E-scooters ridden on sidewalks, without effective law enforcement have been combined with e-scooters lying on city sidewalks, as tripping hazards and accessibility barriers.

Here is a chance to speak up. We need you to be heard, whether you live in the Ottawa area, or would like to be able to visit Ottawa without having to endure the dangers that e-scooters present. We need Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committee to issue a strong, public and categorical recommendation that Ottawa not allow e-scooters, now that those two successive pilot projects have finished. We don’t need or want limits or controls on e-scooters. They don’t work. We need e-scooters banned, pure and simple. People with disabilities need and deserve nothing less.

We need the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee to issue a very public recommendation to this effect. If it does not happen in public, it does not have the political punch that people with disabilities need. Given the obvious influence of the e-scooter corporate lobbyists, we need all the help we can get in this uphill battle. With a municipal election happening next fall, it is important for all municipal politicians and candidates to pledge to unequivocally support pedestrian safety.

The Accessibility Advisory Committee of Toronto, London and Mississauga each issued strong recommendations that e-scooters should not be allowed in public places including both roads and sidewalks, and including both rental e-scooters and privately-owned e-scooters. People with disabilities in Ottawa deserve and need the same from the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee, which is supposed to be a strong voice for their safety and accessibility.

What kinds of dangers can e-scooters pose to pedestrians? We invite you to thumb through a pile of 25 deeply disturbing news articles that we have amassed from communities around the world that have allowed e-scooters. They report on a litany of injuries and even deaths. Our concern is with e-scooters, whether they are rented or privately owned.

We anticipate that Ottawa City staff will make some sort of a presentation to the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee at this meeting. We are eager to hear what they say. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky recently spoke to the Ottawa City staff member assigned to this project. They had not even read the excellent reports on disability problems with e-scooters that the Toronto City staff had produced and made public months ago. David Lepofsky thereafter sent those reports to Ottawa City staff. We hope Toronto’s exhaustive research will be fully reflected in the Ottawa City staff report.

If you sign up for this Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting, you certainly don’t need to plan to speak for long. The Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee will likely only allow you five minutes to speak.

On Thursday, December 9, 2021, CBC Radio Ottawa’s afternoon program “All In A Day” included an interview on disability issues. It included AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, Wayne Antle who heads Ottawa’s chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, and a volunteer from Stopgap Ottawa. Among other things, they discussed the serious dangers that e-scooters have created for people with disabilities in Ottawa.

To learn more about our battle to keep the public safe in Ontario from e-scooters, check out the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

MORE DETAILS

NOTICE OF A SPECIAL ACCESSIBILITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING

Please be advised that in accordance with Subsection 10 (1) of theAdvisory Committee Procedure By-law, the Chair of the Accessibility Advisory Committee has called a Special Meeting forTuesday, December 14, 2021at6:00 p.m. for the purpose of considering the following item:

E-Scooters Pilot Project Update

This Meeting will be held through electronic participation in accordance with Section 238 of theMunicipal Act, 2001as amended by Bill 197, theCOVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020.The chosen technology for this particular meeting isZoom.

This email constitutes notice of this special meeting to all Members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee in accordance with Subsection 10 (2) (b) of theProcedure By-law.




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