A Non-Partisan Look at the 2019 Federal Election Results from a Disability Accessibility Perspective


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

October 22, 2019

SUMMARY

What is the upshot of last night’s federal election results, from the perspective of over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada who want this country to become accessible to them?

We congratulate all those candidates who ran in this election and won. We are ready to again roll up our sleeves and work with all of the federal parties, as we further describe below, to advance the goal of making Canada barrier-free for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada.

Last June, Parliament unanimously endorsed the goal of making Canada barrier-free by 2040. We turn our attention to what the Federal Government should now do to ensure that Canada is on schedule for meeting this mandatory goal which the new Accessible Canada Act has set.

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The Recent Election Campaign

Our movement has now succeeded in mounting a non-partisan campaign for disability accessibility during a total of nine elections since 1995, seven at the provincial level in Ontario and 2 at the federal level. For its part, the AODA Alliance wrote the major federal parties back on July 18 2019, well before the formal election campaign began, to ask them to make 11 specific commitments on disability accessibility.

Our agenda for reform was not pulled out of the air. It built on key issues that so many disability organizations and advocates raised with the Federal Government over the past year during public hearings on the Accessible Canada Act before the House of Commons last fall, and later before the Senate last spring. These in turn built substantially on experience that we have had with the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It is so important for us to come forward with concrete and workable action requests, and not to be satisfied or distracted by the broad plattitudinal pronouncements of politicians, whatever be their political party.

We succeeded in launching a major blitz on social media to try to get the parties and their candidates to make the election pledges that we sought. We sent hundred and hundreds of tweets over the past weeks, and generated real attention on this issue in the social media context. We thank all those who retweeted our tweets, or took other actions to raise disability accessibility issues with any candidates over the past weeks. To see what we were up to, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

We secured written election commitments from two of the major parties, the NDP and later the Liberals. We plan to hold them to those commitments. A comparison of the parties’ responses is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/non-partisan-issue-by-issue-comparison-of-the-positions-of-the-6-major-federal-political-parties-on-achieving-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

While the Conservatives did not answer our July 18, 2019 letter, we plan to hold them to their strong statements on November 22, 2018 in the House of Commons during Third Reading debates on Bill C-81. They promised that if elected, they would treat the strengthening of Bill C-81as a priority. Similarly, the Green Party did not answer our July 18, 2019 letter. However it spoke in strong terms about the need to strengthen Bill C-81 during debates in Parliament over the past year. We aim to urge them to act on that policy position in the upcoming Parliament.

We express our strong regret and deep frustration that the conventional media once again gave far too little attention to these issues during the recent election campaign. This is a sad continuation of the conventional media’s failure to give much attention to the proposed Accessible Canada Act during its journey through Parliament over the past months. We commend those few reporters who bucked this trend, and covered this issue.

The Election’s Results

As we often repeat, the AODA Alliance does not campaign for or against any party or candidate. We aim to get strong commitments on disability accessibility from all parties and candidates.

Canada now will have a minority government. This provides a wonderful opportunity for us to press to try to get the Accessible Canada Act strengthened by legislative amendments. The Liberals suggested during the election campaign that they did not plan to amend the Accessible Canada Act. However, because they do not have a majority government, the door is open to us to try to get an amending bill through Parliament, and to try to get the Liberals to support it.

We have a recent and relevant track record in this regard. Last spring, we and others, working together, got the Senate to make some amendments to Bill C-81 to somewhat strengthen it. These included amendments that the Liberal Government had rejected when the bill was before the House of Commons in the 2018 fall. When the Senate’s amendments came back to the House of Commons last June, the Liberals ultimately agreed to approve the Senate’s amendments which included changes to the bill that the Liberals had earlier opposed. We and others in the disability community have done it before. We can do it again!

We thank any and all MPs who worked on making this bill as strong as they could. Let’s take a quick look at the election outcome. Several key MPs who have played key roles regarding Bill C-81 have been re-elected. These include Liberal MP Carla Qualtrough, the Accessibility Minister who led the Government’s efforts to get Bill C-81 through Parliament, and Liberal MP Bryan May, who chaired the House of Commons Standing Committee that held hearings last fall on Bill C-81. Also re-elected were Conservative MPs John Barlow (who was the Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee that held hearings last fall on Bill C-81), and who promised Tory support for strengthening Bill C-81) and MP Mike Lake (who was the Tory critic in this area as Bill C-81 was going through the Senate).

NDP MP Cheryl Hardcastle, the NDP’s critic on this issue who pressed for amendments at our request, was narrowly defeated. Liberal MP Kent Hehr, who was Accessibility Minister for a short time while Bill C-81 was being developed, was also defeated.

What’s Next

We will be eagerly watching to see whom Prime Minister Trudeau will appoint to be the next minister responsible for the implementation and enforcement of Bill C-81. We also will be eager to see whom the opposition parties appoint as their critics in this area.

We won’t just sit around and wait. We are already working on ideas of what to include in a new bill, whether a Government bill or an opposition private member’s bill, to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We welcome your ideas. Write us at [email protected] We will also be monitoring the Government’s implementation of the Accessible Canada Act to see where we might be able to helpfully contribute to it.

Last night’s election results have some echoes in history. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau won a majority government in his first try in 1968. His son did the same in his first try in 2015. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau only won a minority government in his second try, in 1972. So did his son in 2019. In both cases, the NDP held the balance of power. From 1972 to 1974, they instituted some progressive reforms. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the past weeks that if re-elected, he would lead a progressive government.

In the dying days of this most recent campaign. The Liberals promised to apply a “disability lens” to all government decisions. Last fall, the opposition had pressed without success for Bill C-81 to be amended to entrench in it just such a disability lens.

Even though the Liberals said during the recent election campaign that it didn’t intend to amend Bill C-81, we nevertheless see it as worthwhile to press for an amendment to Bill C-81 to entrench such a “disability lens”. If it is added to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, it would become a mandatory part of law, one which a future government cannot simply ignore. People with disabilities in Canada need a mandatory disability lens, not a weak, voluntary one that can be ignored at will.

We have lots to do ahead of us. We are ready to be as tenacious as ever! Just watch us.




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Federal Liberals Promise to Use a Disability Lens in All Government Decisions


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

October 18, 2019

SUMMARY

In a news article published today, just three days before the federal election, the Canadian Press reported that the federal Liberals have committed that if re-elected, they will apply a “disability lens” to all Federal Government decisions. We set out the October 18, 2019 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, below, which was posted on the National Post’s website.

It would be very helpful for the Federal Government to apply a disability lens to all of its decisions, to ensure that they do not work against people with disabilities. We provide some context to this commitment.

First, as reported in the Canadian Press article, below, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough appears to implicitly acknowledge that the new Accessible Canada Act, whose development she led, does not require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens to each of its decisions. That, regrettably, would be an accurate reading of the Accessible Canada Act. Minister Qualtrough also is reported in this article as saying that the Liberals would not make any amendments to the Accessible Canada Act. As such, this disability lens would be a voluntary measure that any future Federal Government could reject without needing to bring it before Parliament for a vote.

Second, during debates over the Accessible Canada Act over the past year, opposition members pointed out (at the request of disability advocates) that this proposed legislation lacked such a disability lens. They urged that a requirement for a disability lens should be added to the bill. None ultimately was added.

The Federal Government had an ideal opportunity to establish such a disability lens in Bill C-81 when it was before Parliament, and when all parties were focused on the need for national accessibility legislation. It is difficult to understand why the Federal Government did not add a disability lens then, and yet promises a voluntary disability lens now, just four months after Parliament passed Bill C-81. It would be preferable to entrench a disability lens into the Accessible Canada Act through an amendment once the new Parliament is elected. The AODA Alliance expects to propose such an amendment.

Third, during Second Reading debates last year in the House of Commons over Bill C-81, Liberal MP Kent Hehr actually said that Bill C-81 includes a disability lens, and praised the bill for having it. He had earlier been the Government’s minister responsible for developing this legislation for about half a year. On September 24, 2018, during Second Reading debates in the House of Commons, Mr. Hehr made these two statements on point:

1. “I can also highlight this bill and its effects on government service. The day and age of people not getting through the door is essentially over with this legislation. It puts a proactive onus on government to move forward and look at things with an accessibility lens that I believe will be very helpful for people with disabilities and those trying to navigate an often complex system.”

2. “I mentioned at the start of my speech that there are still very many inequalities in this country. In particular, people with disabilities are more likely to be poor and have difficulties finding employment, even getting services through government departments. This legislation would put that proactive emphasis on governments and systems within the federal jurisdiction having an accessibility lens to look at how we are not only going to get people through the door but help them come out the other side and succeed, whether it be through employment, accessing technology or getting government services. It is now incumbent upon us as government to follow through with what would be put in place through this legislation to make things better for people with disabilities in this country.”

We also alert you to the news that as this election campaign races to its conclusion, CTV national news broke the overwhelming silence of most conventional media outlets on this issue. It led its October 17, 2019 national television newscast with a report on how the parties have had so little to say in this campaign about accessibility for people with disabilities, and how voters with disabilities are unhappy with this. We do not have the text of this news report at this time. It can be watched online by visiting https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1807311&jwsource=twi

You can read our non-partisan comparison of the parties’ commitments on disability accessibility (which was written yesterday, and hence before this Canadian Press news report) by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/non-partisan-issue-by-issue-comparison-of-the-positions-of-the-6-major-federal-political-parties-on-achieving-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

Follow @aodaalliance on Twitter for up-to-the-instant updates on our analysis of election returns as they come in, from the perspective of our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.

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National Post Online October 28, 2019
https://www.bing.com/search?q=Accessible+Canada+Act&go=Submit&qs=n&form=QBLH&pq=Accessible+Canada+Act&sc=10-14&sp=-1&sk=&cvid=d63c261e27184bb7b950c2bd9c5a8240

Liberals vow to implement disability lens for all government policies if re-elected The Canadian Press
Michelle McQuigge
October 18, 2019
The federal Liberals say they will evaluate all existing and future government policies for their impact on disabled residents if voted back into power next week.

The pledge from Carla Qualtrough, the Liberals minister for accessibility issues, comes days before Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21 and shortly after disabled voters raised concerns about the lack of discussion of issues affecting their lives during the current campaign.

The Liberals released a disability equality statement earlier this week, a document that was not in their original platform.

Qualtrough clarified its contents in an interview with The Canadian Press, saying the party was committing to applying a disability lens to government decisions, a formal consideration of how each would affect people with disabilities.

The Liberals mandated that all policies be subjected to a gender-based analysis over the past several years, assessing whether government policies are affecting men and women in different ways.

Qualtrough says the Liberals would take the same approach with disability, reviewing existing policies and studying new ones to make sure government moves dont exclude or adversely affect anyone.

This is the next step, to kind of systematically entrench disability inclusion into the way government does business, into the way government makes decisions, she said in a telephone interview from Delta, B.C., where she is seeking re-election.

Qualtrough said such analysis would build upon the Accessible Canada Act, the countrys first federal piece of accessibility legislation, which passed into law in June. The act was the fulfillment of a 2015 Liberal campaign promise and is widely seen as a milestone in disability rights, though dozens of advocacy groups have expressed concern that its currently too weak to be effective.

Qualtrough said a re-elected Liberal government does not plan to amend the law, but said a disability lens would offer additional safeguards. The partys new equality statement also pledges timely implementation of the new act.

The Liberal announcement earned praise from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a national advocacy group that has been calling for such analysis for years.

During the national consultation that led to the ACA, council members argued the government needed to duplicate the approach used for gender when considering disability issues.

The Liberals applied gender-based-analysis-plus, which extends to characteristics such as age, religion and ethnicity, to a federal budget for the first time in 2017 and mandated it be used across the board. But internal documents obtained earlier this year showed fewer than half of departments and agencies had GBA+ plans in place.

Council spokesman John Rae said adopting the same approach for disability would be an important practice that may ensure disabled voices are heard even if they arent in the room to speak up for themselves.

We arent present in sufficient numbers in places where decisions about important aspects of life are made, Rae said. Its very easy for our needs to get overlooked if not consciously ignored.

Rae declined to comment on the timing of the Liberal announcement, but said he hoped other parties would follow suit.

Despite the recent passage of the ACA, neither the Liberals nor the other federal parties had made significant reference to disability issues for the bulk of the election campaign.

The Green party did not respond to request for comment on accessibility measures, and the Peoples Party of Canada said its platform contained no policy related to disabled persons.

The NDP did not provide comment to The Canadian Press, but made several commitments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act in a letter sent to an Ontario-based disability advocacy group.

The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures, reads the NDPs letter to the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal party rhetoric.

The Conservatives, too, pledged to work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities.

At a Thursday campaign stop in Brampton, Ont., leader Andrew Scheer said his party would implement the ACA and criticized the Liberals for their handling of other disability-related files.

We made commitments to make it easier to qualify for the disability tax credit, something that Justin Trudeaus government made harder especially for people with Type 1 diabetes, he said.

While campaigning in Trois-Rivieres, Que., also on Thursday, Trudeau said his governments approach was about fundamental equality, adding there is more to be done to achieve that goal.

Some disabled voters expressed concerns about the handful of relevant promises that have been put forward on the campaign trail. In addition to pledging expanded eligibility for the disability tax credit, the Conservatives have said they would implement a $50-million national autism strategy focusing on research and services for children. The NDP and Greens have followed suit with similar proposals and larger pots of cash.

While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults said theyd prefer to see their concerns addressed in a broader strategy focusing on disability as a whole.

We face similar issues that people with other disabilities face, said Anne Borden of the self-advocacy group Autistics For Autistics. We all need access, human rights, dignity, self-determination We have more in common across our disabilities than any differences.

Qualtrough said she, too, favours that approach.

I am very much a proponent of a more overarching strategy that includes everyone and doesnt focus on diagnosis, she said, adding that research focusing on individual disabilities still has value and should be encouraged.




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Non-Partisan Issue-By-Issue Comparison of the Positions of the 6 Major Federal Political Parties on Achieving Accessibility for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada


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

October 17, 2019

SUMMARY

With the federal election only four days away, the AODA Alliance now makes public a non-partisan issue-by-issue comparison of the position of the 6 major federal political parties on what they would do, if elected, to ensure that Canada becomes accessible to over 6 million people with disabilities.

Just four months ago, all parties in Canada’s Parliament united to unanimously pass the Accessible Canada Act. It has the purpose of achieving a barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities by 2040. This election gives the parties an excellent first chance to say what they would do to fulfil that important goal. The AODA Alliance has extensive experience in this area, having done this in the past federal election and the past seven Ontario elections.

What’s the bottom line? The votes of millions of voters with disabilities are on the line. It is therefore very regrettable if not deeply troubling that only two of the major parties, the NDP and Liberals, even answered the AODA Alliances July 18, 2019 letter to the party leaders. That letter sought 11 concrete commitments on this topic. Of those two parties, the NDP clearly gave stronger specific commitments. The Liberals did not give specific commitments to take most of the actions we were seeking. It is especially troubling that only one of the six parties, the NDP, explicitly committed in responses to our July 18, 2019 letter, not to allow public money to be used to create new accessibility barriers against people with disabilities in Canada.

The Conservatives and Greens were strong critics of Bill C-81 because it was so weak, and commendably pressed to have it strengthened. Whether or not they respond to the AODA Alliances July 18, 2019 letter before the October 21, 2019, we will hold them to those positions, and to the Tories’ commitments to strengthen this law if elected. The Liberals proclaimed that the Accessible Canada Act is historic legislation. It is therefore hard to see why they would give such non-specific responses to our requests for clear, specific commitments.

In this comparison, we refer to the responses to our July 18, 2019 letter to the party leaders, and to positions that parties expressed in Parliament during debates over Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. The 11 commitments which the AODA Alliance sought from the parties are based on key issues which the AODA Alliance and many other disability organizations raised regarding Bill C-81 during extensive public hearings before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee last fall, and before the Senate’s Standing Committee last spring. The entire history of these efforts is available at www.aodaalliance.org/canada

It is during an election campaign when politicians put their best political foot forward and are most eager to show their interest in and support of causes that affect millions of Canadians. The federal parties have had ample opportunity to let us know their position on our issues. We wrote them fully three months ago, and have tweeted many of their candidates across Canada over a good number of weeks to try to get them to answer us.

For over 6 million people in Canada who now have a disability, and for all others who will later acquire a disability there is a powerful message here. It emanates from the comparison that is set out below. During public hearings on Bill C-81, one disability organization after the next emphasized that this legislation is deficient because it gives the Federal Government a series of helpful powers, but it does not require the Government to use those powers or set time lines for their exercise. The opposition NDP, Conservatives and Green Parties repeatedly echoed this serious concern.

However despite this, the bill was not substantially amended to eliminate this problem. Here we now are, just four months after this law was passed, and yet most of the parties are not prepared to say what, if anything, they would do to use those powers. This proves, beyond any doubt, why the Accessible Canada Act must be strengthened to make it strong and effective, and to require its effective implementation and enforcement.

We in the disability community were correct to push for amendments last year to achieve this goal. We will be wise to do it again when parliament resumes. The AODA Alliance will be ready to work with all parties, and with whomever forms Canada’s next government, to achieve that goal.

In providing this comparison, we yet again repeat that the non-partisan, AODA Alliance does not seek to support or oppose any party or candidate. We try to get the strongest commitments from all the parties and candidates.

If we receive any further responses from any of the parties before voting day, we will make them public as fast as we can. We will continue up to the last minute, trying to get all parties to make commitments on this issue.

The AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter to the major party leaders is available at: https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliances available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

The Liberal Party’s October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance’s letter is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/liberal-party-of-canada-answers-request-for-election-commitments-on-achieving-an-accessible-canada-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-liberals-promise-less-than-the-ndp-tories-greens-peop/ The AODA Alliance’s federal election action kit that gives the public ideas on how to raise these issues during the election campaign is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/federal-election-action-kit-raise-disability-accessibility-issues-in-canadas-2019-federal-election/

Follow @aodaalliance to see our relentless stream of tweets to federal candidates, seeking their commitments on this issue, and to follow our analysis of election returns, as they bear on this issue.

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Non-Partisan Issue-By-Issue Comparison of the Major Federal Parties’ Positions on Ensuring that Canada Becomes Barrier-Free for Over Six Million People with Disabilities

General

All parties that were in Parliament before the current federal election voted for the Accessible Canada Act. As such, they have all agreed with the goal of Canada becoming barrier-free for people with disabilities by 2040.

Here is a summary of the 11 commitments that the AODA Alliance asked each party to make in its July 18, 2019 letter to the leaders of the six major federal parties:

1. Enforceable accessibility standard regulations should be enacted within four years.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said this about this issue:

“We can do much more to make Canada an inclusive and barrier-free place. As a start, New Democrats will uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to cover all federal agencies equally with the power to make accessibility standards in a timely manner.

The NDP made multiple attempts to include implementation of timelines. During Committee meetings of Persons Living with Disabilities, the Government was presented with overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to which parts of the bill needed amending. The amendments proposed by us aligned with the leading experts’ proposals. The Government brought no one forward to rebut this testimony. They listened but rejected almost all of the amendments brought forward by the opposition parties. A New Democrat government will work hard to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in a timely fashion.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, as well as the positions of Chief Accessibility Officer and Accessibility Commissioner, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”
Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders. 2. The ACA should be effectively enforced.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said this on this issue:

Yes, it’s critical to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced. Once again, the NDP made multiple attempts to ensure the ACA is effectively enforced. During Committee, the Government was presented with overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to which parts of the bill needed amending. The amendments proposed by us were taken from their proposals. The Government brought no one forward to rebut this testimony. They listened but rejected almost all of the amendments brought forward by the opposition parties.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, as well as the positions of Chief Accessibility Officer and Accessibility Commissioner, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”
Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

3. Federal public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said this on this issue:

“The Liberal government missed a sizable opportunity in C-81. Federal money should never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate disability barriers. We proposed such an amendment during committee hearing.

Our ultimate goal is to help foster a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. We believe that this cannot happen until all of our institutions are open and completely accessible to everyone. The NDP would require that federal public money would never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, including federal money received for procurement; infrastructure; transfer payments; research grants; business development loans or grants, or for any other kind of payment, including purpose under a contract.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance gave this response:

“Disability rights are human rights and we will always stand up to see these rights brought to life across government. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act. This builds on the work we have done over the past four years, putting into place measures that harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre, as well as the update to procurement policies across government.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”
Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

4. The ACA should never reduce the rights of people with disabilities.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said this on this issue:

“Yes, if a provision of the Act or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response gave this answer on this issue:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. Our government established the broadest definitions of disability and barrier to date within federal legislation, and we will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

We have already established a working group that includes all agencies involved in the ACA, and they have already started working on the coordination of the implementation and enforcement. This will be furthered by the leadership of the Minister of Accessibility, the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner. As we move forward, we will continue to look for new ways to ensure that Canadians with disabilities are able to identify and resolve complaints in a timely and effective way.

As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will also ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”
Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

5. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said this on this issue:

“We will review section 172(3) of the ACA a take the appropriate corrective measures to make sure airlines and railways pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response gave this answer on this issue:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. Our government established the broadest definitions of disability and barrier to date within federal legislation, and we will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

We have already established a working group that includes all agencies involved in the ACA, and they have already started working on the coordination of the implementation and enforcement. This will be furthered by the leadership of the Minister of Accessibility, the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner. As we move forward, we will continue to look for new ways to ensure that Canadians with disabilities are able to identify and resolve complaints in a timely and effective way.

As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will also ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”
Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

6. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in one federal agency, not splintered among several of them.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

“Yes. The Liberal government’s Bill C-81 wrongly gave several public agencies or officials far too much sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions to specific organizations from important parts of this bill. C-81 separated enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. Rather it should be providing people with disabilities with what they need: the single service location or, one-stop shop..
We will assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response gave this answer on this issue:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. Our government established the broadest definitions of disability and barrier to date within federal legislation, and we will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

We have already established a working group that includes all agencies involved in the ACA, and they have already started working on the coordination of the implementation and enforcement. This will be furthered by the leadership of the Minister of Accessibility, the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner. As we move forward, we will continue to look for new ways to ensure that Canadians with disabilities are able to identify and resolve complaints in a timely and effective way.

As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will also ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”
Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders. 7. No federal laws should ever create or permit disability barriers.

New Democratic Party:

The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue, which can be read as directly or indirectly committing to what we seek:

“The NDP has long been committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. It has been our longstanding position that all of government-every budget,
every policy and regulation-should be viewed through a disability lens. The NDP has supported the establishment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act for many years.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response gave this answer on this issue:

“As stated above, we are fully committed to continuing to work with stakeholders and the disability community as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented to ensure it is fulfilling its objectives.

We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes.

We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”
Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders. 8. Federal elections should be made accessible to voters with disabilities.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

New Democrats have always fought to remove the barriers keeping persons with disabilities from living with dignity and independence, because when barriers are removed all Canadians are empowered to participate fully in society and we all benefit.

We brought forward amendments to C-81 that require the Accessibility Commissioner to appoint, within 12 months of the bill being enacted, an independent person (with no current or prior involvement in administering elections) to conduct an Independent Review of disability barriers in the election process, with a requirement to consult the public, including persons with disabilities, and to report within 12 months to the Federal Government. Their report should immediately be made public. Additionally, we would require the Federal Government to designate a minister with responsibility to bring forward a bill to reform elections legislation within 12 months of the completion of that Independent Review.”

Liberal Party:

The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response gave this answer on this issue:

We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote. As we do after every election, we will review lessons learned from these changes and work with stakeholders and the disability community on further steps we can take to address barriers that may exist.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”
Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.
9. Power to exempt organizations from some ACA requirements should be eliminated or reduced.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance included the following on this issue:

“Nine years ago, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Though the Liberal government has tabled a new Accessibility Act, its’ exemptions mean C-81 falls short of meeting Canada’s goal of creating an inclusive and barrier-free country. An NDP government will reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment to amend the Accessible Canada Act on this issue, but a commitment that would in practice narrow the use of this power. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response said the following on this issue:

“Should any exemptions be implemented in accordance with the Accessible Canada Act these will be limited and due to very exceptional circumstances. The rationale for the exemptions will also be made public.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”
Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

10. Federally-controlled courts and tribunals should be made disability-accessible.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

“The amendment we brought forward during the C-81 proceedings would have required the Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Government, to develop and implement a multi- year plan to ensure that all federally controlled courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts) as well as federally-created administrative tribunals become fully accessible to court participants with disabilities, by the bill’s accessibility deadline. This should adopt and build upon the work of the Ontario Courts Accessibility Committee, which oversees efforts on accessibility for provincially-regulated courts in Ontario.”

Liberal Party:

A commitment to “examine this issue”. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

“We will examine this issue as part of promised comprehensive review of federal policies and programs. In doing so we will work closely with provinces, territories, stakeholders and the disability community to effectively identify and reduce barriers.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”
Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

11. Proposed Opposition amendments to the ACA that were defeated in the House of Commons in 2018 and that would strengthen the ACA should be passed.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

“Absolutely! The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures. New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal Party rhetoric.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment on this issue. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. We will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”
Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.




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Liberal Party of Canada Answers Request for Election Commitments on Achieving an Accessible Canada for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities


Liberals Promise Less Than the NDP Tories Greens, People’s Party and the Bloc Haven’t Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for 11 Commitments

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

October 16, 2019

SUMMARY

With the October 21 federal election so near, so close in the polls, and with every vote so important, what are the federal parties committing to do for over six million people with disabilities in Canada? The grassroots AODA Alliance has sought 11 specific commitments to strengthen the recently-enacted Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced. So far, only two federal parties have even answered.

Polls are suggesting that Canadians are about to elect a minority government. If there is a minority government, no matter who is our next Prime Minister, there is a real potential that Canada’s next Parliament could be persuaded to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. While in opposition last year, the Greens, NDP and Conservatives all advocated for this law to be strengthened.

On October 15, 2019, the Liberal Party of Canada announced which election pledges it would make to people with disabilities, in response to the July 18, 2019 request for 11 major commitments which the AODA Alliance directed to the leaders of the six major federal parties. The Liberals’ response and its accompanying online statement on disability equality which it posted on its website on October 15, 2019, both set out below, give fewer promises than the only other federal party to respond to date.

On September 16, 2019, the federal New Democratic Party became the first federal party to answer the AODA Alliance’s request for these 11 commitments. The NDP response is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

With only five days left before voting day, the AODA Alliance is continuing its blitz. The federal Conservatives, Greens, People’s Party and Bloc Quebecois have not yet answered. Last year, the Greens and Tories teamed up with the NDP in an unsuccessful to press for amendments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, at the request of a number of disability organizations including the AODA Alliance. During debates on the bill in the House of Commons last fall, the Tories promised to make it a priority to strengthen this law if they form the next Government. On November 22, 2018, Tory MPP John Barlow pledged: “when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.” Tory MP Alex Nuttall promised Parliament “we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Below we also set out the excellent October 15, 2019 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, posted online by Global News. It is the only news article we have seen in this election campaign covering the parties positions on this issue, and disability community efforts to secure such commitments. We urge the media to give this issue more coverage in the election campaign’s final days.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate. It seeks to secure the strongest commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities from all the parties. As part of this campaign, it is tweeting to as many federal candidates across Canada as possible to press for the commitments it seeks. This evening, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to speak on a panel that will give action tips for the election campaign’s final days at a federal election disability issues public forum in Toronto, organized by a number of disability organizations. It takes place from 7 to 9 pm at Ryerson University’s Tecumseh Auditorium, Ryerson Student Centre, 55 Gould Street, Toronto.

Here is a summary of the 11 commitments that the AODA Alliance asked each party to make in its July 18, 2019 letter to the leaders of the six major federal parties:

1. Enforceable accessibility standard regulations should be enacted within four years.

2. The ACA should be effectively enforced.

3. Federal public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers.

4. The ACA should never reduce the rights of people with disabilities.

5. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.

6. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in One federal agency, not splintered among several of them.

7. No federal laws should ever create or permit disability barriers.

8. Federal elections should be made accessible to voters with disabilities.

9. Power to exempt organizations from some ACA requirements should be eliminated or reduced.

10. Federally-controlled courts and tribunals should be made disability-accessible.

11. Proposed Opposition amendments to the ACA that were defeated in the House of Commons in 2018 and that would strengthen the ACA should be passed.

The AODA Alliance is deeply concerned that the voting process in federal elections has not been assured to be barrier-free for voters with disabilities. We will be monitoring for these barriers, and are urging voters with disabilities to alert us of any problems they encounter. To follow all the action on Twitter over the last days leading to the election, follow @aodaalliance Email reports of voting barriers to us at [email protected]

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
For background on the AODA Alliance’s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

MORE DETAILS

October 15, 2019 Response from the Liberal Party of Canada to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Disability equality benefits everyone. When Canadians with disabilities have equal opportunities to contribute to their communities, to have the same quality of service from their government, to have equal opportunities to work, and to enjoy the same quality of life as everyone else, we build a stronger economy and a stronger country.

Since 2015, weve worked to make this the reality for more Canadians. We started with a human rights-based approach to disability equality fundamentally changing the way we, as a country, treat inclusion and accessibility. Part of that meant moving beyond individual accommodation and instead addressing discrimination as a whole.

Now, were making another choice. Were choosing forward taking the progress weve achieved and going even further to make Canada a more fair, equal and affordable place to live.

Over the past four years, we have made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. For a full list of these actions please refer to Appendix A.

There is more work to be done. Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers and experience discrimination.

Canada requires strong leadership to ensure that a human rights-based approach to disability is reflected in all Government of Canada policies, programmes, practices and results. To ensure systemic disability inclusion and to lead by example as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented, a re-elected Liberal government will put these policies and practices into place, in consultation with the disability community. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act.

We heard from Canadians with disabilities that the most significant economic and social barrier they face to full economic and social participation is in the area of employment. This is particularly so for youth with disabilities. From the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know that approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities.

Thats why a re-elected Liberal government will improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities through various measures that target these barriers, address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses in a coordinated way. One component of this will be the creation of a workplace accessibility fund to help increase the availability of accommodations that help close gaps in access to good paying jobs and education. We know that improving workplace accessibility and employment outcomes for Canadians with disabilities will have an overwhelmingly positive impact, leading to increased productivity and greater profits for businesses, as well as financial independence and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

We will also focus on the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Canada needs continued leadership to make sure people with disabilities can not only find good jobs, but can succeed for years and decades to come.

We wont get that leadership from the Conservatives, whove proved that they only want to give a break to the very wealthiest Canadians and cut programs and services for everyone else. Of the $53 billion they promise to cut, $14 billion is in hidden, mystery cuts could hurt Canadians with disabilities the most.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will continue on the progress weve made together. To help more Canadians with disabilities find and keep good jobs, well address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses.

These and other measures will ensure that disability inclusion is a priority for a re-elected Liberal government. We know that this is the best way to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance to succeed.

To read our full statement on disability equality and inclusion, as well as consult our 2019 platform, please visit: https://www.liberal.ca/disability-equality-statement/

Specific Additional Information in Response to Your Questions

Questions 1 and 2:
We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, as well as the positions of Chief Accessibility Officer and Accessibility Commissioner, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 3 (application to public policy):
Disability rights are human rights and we will always stand up to see these rights brought to life across government. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act. This builds on the work we have done over the past four years, putting into place measures that harness the Government of Canadas purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre, as well as the update to procurement policies across government.

Questions 4 to 6 (implementation and enforcement issues):
We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. Our government established the broadest definitions of disability and barrier to date within federal legislation, and we will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

We have already established a working group that includes all agencies involved in the ACA, and they have already started working on the coordination of the implementation and enforcement. This will be furthered by the leadership of the Minister of Accessibility, the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner. As we move forward, we will continue to look for new ways to ensure that Canadians with disabilities are able to identify and resolve complaints in a timely and effective way.

As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will also ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 7
As stated above, we are fully committed to continuing to work with stakeholders and the disability community as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented to ensure it is fulfilling its objectives.

We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes.

We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 8:
We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote. As we do after every election, we will review lessons learned from these changes and work with stakeholders and the disability community on further steps we can take to address barriers that may exist.

Question 9:
Should any exemptions be implemented in accordance with the Accessible Canada Act these will be limited and due to very exceptional circumstances. The rationale for the exemptions will also be made public.

Question 10:
We will examine this issue as part of promised comprehensive review of federal policies and programs. In doing so we will work closely with provinces, territories, stakeholders and the disability community to effectively identify and reduce barriers.

Question 11:
We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. We will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

Appendix A: Our shared progress

After a decade of neglect from Harpers Conservatives, over the past four years weve made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. This started with the appointment of Canadas first-ever Cabinet Minister responsible for Canadians with Disabilities. We also held a national discourse on disability issues through what would become the most inclusive consultation any government has ever had in the history of our country on any topic. We held the first ever national summit for youth with disabilities, attended by the Prime Minister. The result: the Accessible Canada Act.

Canada is a proud signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). Since 2015, we taken a human rights-based approach to disability equality, making fundamental changes to the way we put the principles of inclusion and accessibility into practice. We recognized the need for systems, policies and practices to be designed inclusively from the start. We recognized the need to move beyond relying on individual accommodation to address discrimination. We recognized the economic benefit of disability inclusion. And we moved beyond Nothing About Us, Without Us, to Nothing Without Us, because every decision the federal government makes impacts its citizens with disabilities. Our efforts culminated in the Accessible Canada Act, which is considered the most significant advancement in disability rights since the Charter in 1982.

At the same time, we worked across government to make federal laws, policies, procedures and programs more equitable and inclusive of Canadians with disabilities:

? We applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, the National Housing Strategy, and the National Infrastructure Program.

? We improved tax policies through measures such as permitting registered nurse practitioners to complete Disability Tax Credit (DTC) medical forms, and the enhanced caregiver credit.

? We addressed the financial security of Canadians with disabilities through important changes to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

? We improved our immigration system by amending the outdated provisions on medical inadmissibility. And we removed the processing fee to hire foreign caregivers, making these services more affordable.

? We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote.

? We increased access to alternate format material, including the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016.

? We created the Accessible Technology Fund.

? We included persons with disabilities in decision-making. Examples include the Disability Advisory Group to Elections Canada, the Canada Post Accessibility Advisory Panel, and the reconstituted Disability Advisory Group to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) which was disbanded by Harpers Conservatives.

? We focused on data collection to inform government decision-making. This included enhancements the Canadian Survey on Disability, and funding a study on intersectionality as it relates to gender and disability called More than a Footnote.

? We appointed the first-ever Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility, and committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years into the federal public service. This will be complemented by a new internship program that will provide placements across the federal government for persons with disabilities.

? We invested in making government workspaces more accessible, and began working towards ensuring our buildings and properties meet the highest standards of accessibility. We put into places measures that will harness the Government of Canadas purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre.

? We adhered to our international human rights obligations: we signed the Optional Protocol to the UNCRPD, and appointed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor the UNCRPD.

October 15, 2019 Online Statement on Disability Equality by the Liberal Party of Canada

DISABILITY EQUALITY STATEMENT

Originally posted at https://www.liberal.ca/disability-equality-statement/

Disability equality benefits everyone. When Canadians with disabilities have equal opportunities to contribute to their communities, to have the same quality of service from their government, to have equal opportunities to work, and to enjoy the same quality of life as everyone else, we build a stronger economy and a stronger country.

Since 2015, weve worked to make this the reality for more Canadians. We started with a human rights-based approach to disability equality fundamentally changing the way we, as a country, treat inclusion and accessibility. Part of that meant moving beyond individual accommodation and instead addressing discrimination as a whole.

Now, were making another choice. Were choosing forward taking the progress weve achieved and going even further to make Canada a more fair, equal and affordable place to live.

OUR SHARED PROGRESS
After a decade of neglect from Harpers Conservatives, over the past four years weve made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. This started with the appointment of Canadas first-ever Cabinet Minister responsible for Canadians with Disabilities. We also held a national discourse on disability issues through what would become the most inclusive consultation any government has ever had in the history of our country on any topic. We held the first ever national summit for youth with disabilities, attended by the Prime Minister. The result: the Accessible Canada Act.

Canada is a proud signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). Since 2015, we taken a human rights-based approach to disability equality, making fundamental changes to the way we put the principles of inclusion and accessibility into practice. We recognized the need for systems, policies and practices to be designed inclusively from the start. We recognized the need to move beyond relying on individual accommodation to address discrimination. We recognized the economic benefit of disability inclusion. And we moved beyond Nothing About Us, Without Us, to Nothing Without Us, because every decision the federal government makes impacts its citizens with disabilities. Our efforts culminated in the Accessible Canada Act, which is considered the most significant advancement in disability rights since the Charter in 1982.

At the same time, we worked across government to make federal laws, policies, procedures and programs more equitable and inclusive of Canadians with disabilities:

We applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, the National Housing Strategy, and the National Infrastructure Program.

We improved tax policies through measures such as permitting registered nurse practitioners to complete Disability Tax Credit (DTC) medical forms, and the enhanced caregiver credit.

We addressed the financial security of Canadians with disabilities through important changes to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

We improved our immigration system by amending the outdated provisions on medical inadmissibility. And we removed the processing fee to hire foreign caregivers, making these services more affordable.

We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote.

We increased access to alternate format material, including the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016.

We created the Accessible Technology Fund.

We included persons with disabilities in decision-making. Examples include the Disability Advisory Group to Elections Canada, the Canada Post Accessibility Advisory Panel, and the reconstituted Disability Advisory Group to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) which was disbanded by Harpers Conservatives.

We focused on data collection to inform government decision-making. This included enhancements the Canadian Survey on Disability, and funding a study on intersectionality as it relates to gender and disability called More than a Footnote.

We appointed the first-ever Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility, and committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years into the federal public service. This will be complemented by a new internship program that will provide placements across the federal government for persons with disabilities.

We invested in making government workspaces more accessible, and began working towards ensuring our buildings and properties meet the highest standards of accessibility. We put into places measures that will harness the Government of Canadas purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre.

We adhered to our international human rights obligations: we signed the Optional Protocol to the UNCRPD, and appointed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor the UNCRPD.

THE PATH TO EQUALITY THROUGH DISABILITY INCLUSION

Moving forward, there is more work to be done. Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers and experience discrimination.

Canada requires strong leadership to ensure that a human rights-based approach to disability is reflected in all Government of Canada policies, programmes, practices and results. To ensure systemic disability inclusion and to lead by example as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented, a re-elected Liberal government will put these policies and practices into place, in consultation with the disability community. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act.

We heard from Canadians with disabilities that the most significant economic and social barrier they face to full economic and social participation is in the area of employment. This is particularly so for youth with disabilities. From the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know that approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities.

Thats why a re-elected Liberal government will improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities through various measures that target these barriers, address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses in a coordinated way. One component of this will be the creation of a workplace accessibility fund to help increase the availability of accommodations that help close gaps in access to good paying jobs and education. We know that improving workplace accessibility and employment outcomes for Canadians with disabilities will have an overwhelmingly positive impact, leading to increased productivity and greater profits for businesses, as well as financial independence and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

We will also focus on the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Canada needs continued leadership to make sure people with disabilities can not only find good jobs, but can succeed for years and decades to come.

We wont get that leadership from the Conservatives, whove proved that they only want to give a break to the very wealthiest Canadians and cut programs and services for everyone else. Of the $53 billion they promise to cut, $14 billion is in hidden, mystery cuts could hurt Canadians with disabilities the most.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will continue on the progress weve made together. To help more Canadians with disabilities find and keep good jobs, well address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses.

These and other measures will ensure that disability inclusion is a priority for a re-elected Liberal government. We know that this is the best way to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance to succeed.

Global News October 15, 2019

Originally posted at https://globalnews.ca/news/6034294/canadians-disabilities-election-campaign/

Canadians with disabilities cast doubt next federal government will address needs BY MICHELLE MCQUIGGE -THE CANADIAN PRESS

Amy Amantea, who lost her eyesight due to complications while undergoing surgery more than a decade ago, poses for a photograph at her home in North Vancouver, on Oct. 11, 2019.

Amy Amantea tuned in to the English-language federal leaders debate with modest hope there would be at least some discussion of issues relevant to disabled Canadians.

The first half of the campaign had passed with barely a reference, even from the party that had delivered a historic achievement in national disability policy. Earlier this year, the Liberals made good on a 2015 campaign promise when the Accessible Canada Act received royal assent, marking the first time any government had enacted accessibility legislation at the federal level.

The government estimates one in five Canadians over the age of 15 is disabled, and Amantea, who is legally blind, hoped leaders would use the Oct. 7 debate to address some of the many issues they face. But those hopes faded as the debate progressed, giving way instead to doubts about how Canadas disabled residents would fare after the Oct. 21 election.

We have a lot of very unique needs and circumstances in our community that dont get addressed, Amantea said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. Just a nod, just a mention would have been kind of nice, but it was not to be.

Amantea said that relative silence has persisted into the final week of the campaign, giving rise to concerns throughout Canadas disabled community. Many fear that parties who fail to make mention of key issues facing disabled Canadians while courting votes may prove even more dismissive once those votes have been cast.

They point to party platforms and public pledges, most of which make scant mention of either the Accessible Canada Act or disability-specific measures on issues such as infrastructure, health and affordable housing.

The Liberals response to questions on disability policy largely focused on past achievements. Spokesman Joe Pickerill did offer some future plans, including doubling the disability child benefit, establishing a $40-million-per-year national fund meant to help disabled Canadians find work, and simplifying the process veterans use to access disability benefits.

The Green party did not respond to request for comment, and the Peoples Party of Canada said its platform contained no policy related to disabled persons.

The NDP did not provide comment to The Canadian Press, but made several commitments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act in a letter sent to an Ontario-based disability advocacy group.

The act, while widely acknowledged as a significant milestone, was also broadly criticized by nearly a hundred grass-roots organizations across the country as too weak to be truly effective. Such critiques continued even after the government agreed to adopt some Senate amendments sought by the disability groups, who hoped future governments would continue to build on the new law.

Only the NDP agreed to do so when approached by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which contacted all major parties in July.

The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures, reads the NDPs response. New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal party rhetoric.

The Conservatives, too, pledged to work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities. Spokesman Simon Jefferies also noted party members pushed to strengthen the act but saw their amendments voted down by the government.

The vagueness of these commitments troubles Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair-user and writer.

Canadas approach to accessibility has been to grant it as a gift they give us rather than a right we deserve, Peters said. Now that we have the ACA, the concern is that the broader public and the government think the issue is resolved when this law is, at best, a beginning.

Other disabled voters expressed concerns about the handful of relevant promises that have been put forward on the campaign trail. In addition to pledging expanded eligibility for the disability tax credit, the Conservatives have said they would implement a $50-million national autism strategy focusing on research and services for children. The NDP and Greens have followed suit with similar proposals and larger pots of cash.

While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults view the proposals with skepticism.

Alex Haagaard, who is autistic and uses a wheelchair, said that while much modern disability policy including the ACA tends to apply a social lens, discussion of autism is still framed through the outmoded medical model that positions the disability as an ailment to be cured rather than a part of a persons identity.

Haagaard said action is clearly needed to help parents seeking supports for their children and teachers working to integrate autistic students into their classrooms, but said current attitudes at the heart of the campaign rhetoric are troubling.

A national strategy, Haagaard said, also risks undermining the goal of broader inclusion for other disabled populations.

That is counter to the goals of disability justice to silo autism as this individual condition that warrants this level of attention compared to other disabilities, Haagaard said.

Like Amantea, Peters felt let down by the leaders debates, citing the prevalence of discussion around medical assistance in dying over other issues that affect disabled people. The subject is polarizing, with many advocacy groups and individuals asserting such legislation devalues the lives of disabled people and places them at greater risk.

Such a narrow focus, Peters said, shows all parties failure to reckon with or address the diverse, complex needs of an overlooked demographic.

What strikes me as missing in policy and in this election is us, she said. Disabled people. The not inspirational, not motivational, not middle class, not white, disabled people of this country. In other words most of us.




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Come to a Toronto Area Public Forum on the Federal Elections’ Disability Issues on October 16


And more reasons why electric scooters are bad for Ontario

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

October 11, 2019

SUMMARY

Here are bits and pieces of accessibility news to share, that have been building up in our virtual in-tray! We hope you enjoy this information, on the 254th day since the Ford Government received the final report of David Onleys Independent Review of the AODAs implementation and enforcement. How much more we would have to give thanks for on this Thanksgiving weekend if the Government were to have announced a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

On the national front, we want to let you know that on the evening of October 16, 2019, a federal election forum will be held in Toronto to focus on disability issues in the current federal election. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to be one of the events speakers. We encourage you to attend. The full details are set out in the event announcement, below.

We remind one and all to raise disability accessibility issues with the candidates in this election. Use the AODA Alliances new Federal Election Action Kit. It gives you great action tips and all the background that you need to help press our issues. Please retweet the tweets that @aodaalliance is now tweeting to candidates for Canadas Parliament, where we ask for election commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Turning to the provincial front, the AODA Alliance has been trying to play a leading role in raising concerns with the Ford Governments plans to expose Ontarians to the serious safety and accessibility risks posed by allowing electric scooters (e-scooters) in Ontario.

We have no word from the Ford Government on the results of their rushed consultations on this issue last month. In the meantime, opposition continues to grow to the Governments plans. Below, we set out the October 2, 2019 news release by the City of Toronto on the subject. It recognizes a need to ensure protection for both public safety and accessibility, and reflects a cautious approach to allowing e-scooters in Canadas and Ontarios biggest city.

Torontonians need to press their city council members as well as the Ford Government to not allow e-scooters onto our streets, sidewalks or other public places, since they pose a safety and accessibility threat. We expect that the companies that want to make money renting e-scooters in Ontario and having them parked for free all over our sidewalks, like Lime and Bird, are heavily lobbying both the Ford Government and members of Toronto City Council, behind closed doors.

We also set out below an October 5, 2019 guest column in the Toronto Star that highlights how much of a safety risk e-scooters have proven themselves to be. We also show you an October 9, 2019 letter to the editor in the Toronto Star that reinforces those safety concerns.

We wish one and all a happy and barrier-free Thanksgiving.

MORE DETAILS

Announcement of October 16, 2019 Toronto Area Federal Election Forum on Disability Issues

2019 Federal Election Forum on Accessibility and Disability Justice

The GTA Disability Coalition invites people with disabilities and their allies to join us for a federal election forum on accessibility anddisability justice.

– Engage with an informed panel ofexperts speakingon the federal parties platformsonkeydisability issues

– Raise your awareness about actions you can call on parties to take to advance an accessible Canada

– Ask questions and share your civic voice in #AccessibleCndVOTE

DATE: Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
TIME: 7:00pm to9:00pm(doors open at 6:00 pm)
LOCATION: Ryerson University, Tecumseh Auditorium,Ryerson Student Centre, 55 Gould Street (SW side of Gould and Church St)

RSVP to Robin Simmonsat 416-599-2458 ext.293 byMonday, October 14, 2019.Seating is limited. You can also register for this event via Eventbrite

Submit your questionson Twitter to #AccessibleCndVOTE

Forum Partners: Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians. A-Way Express. Balance for Blind Adults. Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Centre for Independent Living in Toronto. Doris Power. Ethno-racial People with Disabilities Coalition of Ontario. Empowerment Council. Kim Adlard. Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. ODSP Action Coalition. Older Womens Network. Ryerson University. Springtide Resources. Students for Barrier-Free Access -U of T. Working for Change.

October 2, 2019 City of Toronto News Release on E-Scooters

City of Toronto Media Relations has issued the following:

News Release

October 2, 2019

City of Toronto moves to ensure safety and accessibility at forefront of planning for e-scooters

Toronto City Council today adopted a series of recommendations focused on dealing with the future oversight and management of e-scooters in Toronto.

The City is carefully planning for the provincial government’s anticipated introduction of e-scooters in Ontario by prioritizing safety and accessibility for the use of e-scooters in Toronto. Among comments provided to the province, municipalities in Ontario including Toronto have requested that municipalities maintain oversight on how e-scooters are regulated and how they are deployed on local streets.

City Council voted to direct Transportation Services, Municipal Licensing and Standards, the Medical Officer of Health and the Toronto Parking Authority, to report later this year on a program to enable the oversight and management of e-scooters on City roadways, including the possibility of adding electric scooters to the bike share fleet as a way of managing e-scooters in the public right-of-way, with the goal of ensuring a safe and accessible transportation network for all users during the proposed 5-year Provincial pilot project.

Until proper regulations are developed, City staff successfully recommended that City Council continue to prohibit the use of e-scooters on City sidewalks and pedestrian ways, prohibit any person from parking, storing or leaving an e-scooter on any street, sidewalk and pedestrian way.

Currently under the Province of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA), vehicles such as e-scooters are not considered legal for use on city/public roads, including in bike lanes. As motorized vehicles, they are also not permitted for use on municipal sidewalks.

The Ontario government has proposed regulations for the use of e-scooters, including details for a five-year pilot window. The HTA will not be altered but the rules around pilot projects for e-scooters in Ontario are expected to be outlined. Timing is currently unknown while the province reviews public input.

E-scooters are being piloted in several North American cities, including Canadian jurisdictions outside Ontario, as well as in a variety of American jurisdictions. Programs have had varied success and outcomes with regard to use, safety, sidewalk clutter and parking. More data is being collected in other cities on safety and environmental impacts of e-scooters.

While a number of cities have piloted e-scooters, some cities are reviewing and consulting the public such as Boston, Seattle and Boulder. Examples of cities that currently prohibit e-scooter programs include London (UK), New York City (Manhattan), Philadelphia, Dublin and Honolulu.

Once the regulation for Ontario is made available by the province, City staff will review it and are expected to report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee in December on a proposed framework that enables the oversight and management of e-scooters on Toronto roadways, with the aim of ensuring safe, sustainable and accessible transportation for all users during a proposed pilot project.

Documentation of the motion that City Council adopted today is available at http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2019.IE7.13

A letter from the Toronto City Manager to the Ministry of Transportation is available at https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-138531.pdf#xd_co_f=ODM2YzZiMjYtMzIwZi00MGQ5LTlhZTgtZTNiYTU2Mjg1ZTI0~.

Link to the relevant portion of the Highway Traffic Act (PDF file): https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/municode/1184_950.pdf

Quotes
“We must plan responsibly for e-scooters on our streets with safety and accessibility at the forefront of those plans. I believe this approach to this emerging transportation option will ensure we go about this in the right way that listens carefully to our residents, community groups, and businesses.” – Mayor John Tory

“We all want safe, sustainable and modern travel options in Toronto. Learning from other cities, we know that success means taking care to develop an e-scooter program for Toronto.”
– Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 6 York Centre), Chair of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee

Toronto is Canada’s largest city, the fourth largest in North America, and home to a diverse population of more than 2.9 million people. It is a global centre for business, finance, arts and culture and is consistently ranked one of the world’s most livable cities. For information on non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can visit http://www.toronto.ca, call 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/cityoftoronto, on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/cityofto or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cityofto.

– 30 –

Media contact: Eric Holmes, Strategic Communications, 416-392-4391, 416-629-4891 (cell), [email protected]






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AODA Alliance Finalizes and Makes Public Its Proposed Framework for the Promised Education Accessibility Standard


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

October 10, 2019

SUMMARY

Its done, and its public! Below we set out our finished product, the AODA Alliances Proposed Framework for the Promised AODA Education Accessibility Standard. We are now submitting it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee of which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member.

We are encouraging that Standards Development Committee to use this Framework to help with its work, as it prepares recommendations to the Ontario Government on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include. In the next few months, that Standards Development Committee will make public the draft recommendations that it is now preparing. That Committee is finally back at work after the Ford Government left it frozen for well over a year. The AODA Alliance led the campaign to get that committee and all Standards Development Committees unfrozen and back to work.

We and the public will be able to give our input on them. We hope that by offering this proposed Framework now, we can help the Standards Development Committee with its important work.

We thank all of those who took the time to give us their helpful and thoughtful feedback and suggestions after they took the time to read our draft of this proposed Framework. This finished product includes all the ideas that were in the draft. A number of great new ideas were added, thanks to the excellent and extremely helpful feedback that we received.

We were so gratified to receive such warm and supportive feedback for the draft that we circulated for public comment. This finished product reflects feedback we have received and research we have conducted over quite a stretch of time.

We always welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

Today, as we make this important proposed Framework, we are sadly reminded that there have now been 253 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the independent review of the AODAs implementation prepared by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. We are still awaiting a plan from the Government on how it will implement that report.

MORE DETAILS

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

Proposed Framework for the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard

October 10, 2019
Prepared by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Introduction — What is This Proposed Framework?

In Ontario, over a third of a million students with disabilities face too many barriers at all levels of Ontario’s education system. For years, the AODA Alliance led a campaign to get the Ontario Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). In 2018, two committees were appointed by the Ontario Government to make recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include: The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee is responsible for making recommendations on what that accessibility standard should include to address barriers in Ontario’s publicly-funded schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee was appointed to make recommendations for what that accessibility standard should include to address barriers in Ontario’s post-secondary education institutions, e.g. colleges and universities.

Under the AODA, an accessibility standard is supposed to spell out the barriers that are to be removed or prevented, what must be done to remove or prevent them, and the time lines required for these actions.

In this Framework, the AODA Alliance outlines the key ingredients and aims for the promised Education Accessibility Standard. Where we state that “A school board should” or similar wording, we mean by this that the Education Accessibility Standard should include a provision that requires the school board to take the step that we describe.

We hope that this Framework will assist the two Standards Development Committees. It predominantly focuses on the K-12 school context. However, its contents are readily transferrable to the post-secondary education context.

It is essential that the promised Education Accessibility Standard include the key ingredients that the AODA requires. It must identify the barriers to be removed and the actions required to remove them. It must set out deadlines for an obligated organization to take the steps set out in it.

To do this, it must do much more than to require organizations to have a policy on accessibility and to train its employees on that policy.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the promised Education Accessibility Standard will achieve a change in the culture regarding accessibility within education organizations, including a shift from a more traditional special education mentality to one of inclusion and accessibility. To achieve such a change within an organization, it is first necessary to change its practices on accessibility. From those changes in the organizations actions on accessibility will flow a change in its culture regarding accessibility. Therefore, the Education Accessibility Standard should be directed to change actions on accessibility.

The job of a Standards Development Committee is to recommend the contents of an AODA accessibility standard. If a Standards Development Committee chooses to also recommend some non-regulatory measures, that is beyond the Committees core mandate and should not detract from fulfilling that core mandate. For example, the 2018 final recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development Committee largely focused on recommendations of other measures, outside the revision of the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard that that Committee was assigned to review. Recommended practices that are not enshrined in an accessibility standard as a regulation, are not binding on school boards and cannot be enforced as an AODA standard.

1. What Should the Long-Term Objectives of the Education Accessibility Standard Be?

#1 The purpose of the Education Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that Ontario’s education system becomes fully accessible to all students with all kinds of disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s deadline, by requiring the removal and prevention of the accessibility barriers that impede students with disabilities. It should aim to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in, fully benefit from and be fully included in all aspects of Ontario’s education system on a footing of equality in the least restrictive environment consistent with a student’s and their parents’ wishes. It should provide a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process to learn about and seek individual placements, programs, services, supports and accommodations tailored to the individual needs of each student with disabilities. It should aim to eliminate the need for students with disabilities and their families to have to fight against education accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for educational organizations to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one school board, college, university or educational program at a time.

2. A Vision of An Accessible Education System

The Education Accessibility Standard should begin by setting out a vision of what an accessible education system should include. An accessible education system at the K-12 level should include the following:

#2.1 It would be designed and operated from top to bottom for all of its students, including students with all kinds of disabilities, as protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code and/or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would not in any way restrict its programs, services, supports, accommodations or other opportunities only to those students whose disability falls within the outdated and narrow definition of “exceptionality” in Ontario’s Education Act and regulations. Students with low-incidence disabilities would not be relegated to a second-class status within the administration of Ontarios education system as compared to those with high-incidence disabilities.

#2.2 The education system would no longer be designed and operated from the starting point of aiming to serve the fictional “average” student. It would not treat or label students with disabilities as “exceptions” or “exceptional”. It would not call their needs “special” or their disabilities exceptionalities. Their services, supports and needs would not be conflated with or funded from the same budget pot as the services and needs of gifted students who have no disability.

#2.3 The built environment in the education system, such as schools themselves, their yards, playgrounds etc., and the equipment on those premises (such as gym and playground equipment) would all be fully accessible to people with disabilities and would be designed based on the principle of universal design. Where school programs or trips take place outside the school, these will be held at locations that are disability-accessible.

#2.4 Courses taught to students, including the curriculum and lesson plans, as well as informal learning activities, would fully incorporate principles of Universal Design in Learning (UDL), and where needed, differential instruction, so that they are inclusive for students with disabilities.

#2.5 Instructional materials used in Ontario’s education system would be available in formats that are fully accessible to students with disabilities who need to use them and would be available in accessible formats when needed.

#2.6 All digital technology used in Ontario’s education system, such as hardware, software and online learning, used in class or from home, would be fully accessible and would fully embody the principle of universal design. Education staff working with students with disabilities would be properly trained to use the accessibility features of that hardware, software and online learning technology, and to effectively assist students with disabilities to use them.

#2.7 Inclusion and Universal Design in Learning would extend beyond formal classroom learning to other activities connected with education or the school more generally, such as the playground at recess, social and recreational activities, field trips, extra-curricular activities, and experiential learning opportunities.

#2.8 Students with disabilities would have prompt access to the up-to-date adaptive technology and specialized supports they need, and training on how to use it, to best enable them to fully take part in and benefit from education and other school-related programming. Students with disabilities would be able to bring to school and take home the accessibility technology and supports from which they benefit. For example, they would have the right to bring a qualified service animal to school with them.

#2.9 Teachers and other educational staff would be fully trained to serve all students, and not just students who have no disabilities. They would be fully trained in such things as Universal Design in Learning and differential instruction. “Special Education” teachers and departments would not serve as a silo for those who would teach students with disabilities.

#2.10 Options for placement and programming at school would be sufficiently diverse and flexible to accommodate a wide spectrum of learning needs and styles, rather than tending to be one-size-fits-all for students with specified kinds of disabilities.

#2.11 Tests and other forms of evaluation in school education would be designed based on principles of universal design and Universal Design in Learning, so that they will be barrier-free for students with disabilities and will provide a fair and accurate assessment of their progress.

#2.12 Classroom teachers and other front-line teaching staff would be provided sufficient staff support, and, where needed, additional specialized training, to enable them to effectively serve students with disabilities in their classes.

#2.13 Students with disabilities would be assured the opportunity to receive an equal education in the least restrictive environment, consistent with the student’s/parents’ wishes.

#2.14 Students with disabilities would encounter a welcoming environment at school and in class to facilitate their full participation, and a welcoming environment in which they can seek and receive accommodations for their disabilities. Students without disabilities, teaching staff and other school staff, as well as other parents in the school context, would be welcoming and inclusive towards students with disabilities. To achieve this, among other things, all students will receive positive curriculum content on the importance of inclusion and accessibility for students with disabilities. Bullying, teasing, stereotyping, patronization and the soft bigotry of low expectations will be eliminated from the school environment.

#2.15 Admission criteria, admission tests or other admission screening to get into any specialized education programming would be barrier-free for students with disabilities.

#2.16 Students with disabilities and their parents/guardians would have prompt, effective and easy access to user-friendly information in multiple languages about the educational options, programs, services, supports and accommodations available for them and their disability, and about the process for them to seek these. Students with disabilities and their parents would be given a timely opportunity to observe options for placement, programming and other educational services and supports, when considering which would be most suitable for that student, and before they need to make any decisions about this.

#2.17 Students with disabilities and their families would be kept regularly informed about the effectiveness of the placement, program, services, supports and accommodations that the student is receiving.

#2.18 The school boards process for deciding on the placement, programming, services, supports and accommodations for students with disabilities would be fair, open, transparent and collaborative, in which the student and their family can fully participate. For example, before an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is written, the student and parents/guardians would be able and invited to take part in an Individual Education Plan meeting with school officials, at which the Individual Education Plan would be jointly written. At each stage of the process, the student and parents would be given clear user-friendly “rights advice” on how the process works, and on their rights in the process.

#2.19 Once a student has an established Individual Education Plan at one school, that plan would be portable, and would carry forward should that student move to another school at the same or a different school board.

#2.20 A decision about a student’s placement would not be made until assessments and decisions are reached about the needs and most appropriate program, services, supports and accommodations for that student with disabilities.

#2.21 Where a student with a disability or their family believes that the school or school board is not effectively meeting the student’s disability-related needs, (e.g. by not including a desired item in the Individual Education Plan), or if the student or family believes that the school board is not providing an educational program, service, support or accommodation which it had agreed to provide, the student and family would have access to a prompt, fair, open and arms-length review process, including an offer of a voluntary Alternative Resolution Process if needed. It would be conducted by someone with expertise in the education of students with disabilities who was not involved in the original decision or activity, and who does not oversee the work of those involved in the student’s direct education.

#2.22 The mandatory minimum qualifications and required training for specialized support educators (such as teachers of the visually impaired) would be modernized and upgraded where needed to ensure that they are qualified to meet the specialized needs of their students and of the other teachers whom they support.

#2.23 There would be no bureaucratic, procedural or policy barriers that would impede the effective placement and accommodation of individual students with disabilities at all levels of Ontario’s education system.

#2.24 Students with disabilities would have a right to attend school for the entire school day, and the right to not be excluded from school by their school or school board for all or part of a school day, directly or indirectly because of their disability. Schools would not systemically or disproportionately exclude students with disabilities from school for either all or part of the school day (e.g. because a special needs assistant is away from school).

#2.25 Major new Government strategies in Ontario’s education system would be proactively designed from the start to fully include the needs of students with disabilities. For example, if the Ontario Government were to announce a new math strategy for Ontario’s schools, it would, among other things, include an effective strategy to address disability barriers that students with disabilities face in math education.

#2.26 Those responsible at the provincial and local school board levels for leading, overseeing and operating Ontario’s education system would have strong and specific requirements to address disability accessibility and inclusion in their mandates and would be accountable for their work on this. This responsibility will not be relegated to and segregated in special education bureaucratic silos.

#2.27 The education system would provide disability-related funding to a school board based on the actual number of students with disabilities at that board, and not on a provincial formula that merely tries to estimate how many should be at that school board.

3. General Provisions that the Education Accessibility Standard Should Include

#3.1 This proposed accessibility standard should cover and apply to all education programs and opportunities for students at any school board that receives public funding in Ontario.

#3.2 Where this accessibility standard refers to “students with disabilities “, this should include any student who has any kind of disability, including, for example, any kind of physical, mental, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health, communication, neurological, neurobehavioural or other kind of disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act . It should not be limited to the much more restricted definition of an “exceptional pupil” or a student with an “exceptionality” in the Education Act and regulations and policy related to them, or who is therefore treated under Ontario’s Education Act, regulations, or policy as a student with special education needs.

#3.3 Each school board should be required to establish a permanent committee of its trustees to be called the “Accessibility Committee”. Other members should include the school board’s chair or vice chair. The chair and vice chair of the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee should sit as ex officio members of this committee, whether or not they are trustees of the school board. The school board’s Accessibility Committee should have responsibility for overseeing the school board’s compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in so far as they guarantee the right of students with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the education programs and opportunities that the school board provides.

#3.4 Each school board should be required to establish in each school or related cluster of adjacent schools, a School Accessibility Committee. It should include representatives from the schools teachers, management, staff, students and parents/guardians, including representation where possible of people with disabilities from these groups. Its mandate should be to identify barriers in the school and its programs and to make recommendations for accessibility improvements to be shared with the school board administration and with the trustees Accessibility Committee.

#3.5 Each school board should be required to establish or designate the position of Chief Accessibility/Inclusion Officer, reporting to the Director of Education, with a mandate and responsibility to ensure proper leadership on the school board’s accessibility and inclusion obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, including the requirements set by this accessibility standard. This responsibility may be assigned to an existing senior management official.

#3.6 Each school board should set up and maintain a network of teachers and other staff with disabilities, and a network of students with disabilities, to get input on accessibility issues at the school board.

#3.7 Beyond the specific measures on removing and preventing barriers set out in this accessibility standard and in other AODA accessibility standards, each school board should be required to systematically review its educational programming, services, facilities and equipment to identify recurring accessibility barriers within that school board that can impede the effective participation and inclusion of students with disabilities. A comprehensive plan for removing and preventing these accessibility barriers should be developed, implemented and made public with clear time lines, clear assignment of responsibilities for action, monitoring for progress, and reporting to the school board’s trustees , the school board’s accessibility committee, and to the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee. It should include actions on barriers identified by the local School Accessibility Committees established under this standard. This plan should aim at all accessibility barriers that can impede students with disabilities from full inclusion in the education and other programs and activities at that school board, whether or not they are specifically identified in the Education Accessibility Standard or in any other specific accessibility standards enacted under the AODA.

#3.8 Each school board should be required to develop, implement and monitor a comprehensive new Inclusion Strategy for students with disabilities, whether or not their disability is identified as an “exceptionality” under Ontario’s special education laws. Under this strategy, where a school board proposes to refuse to provide a placement for a student with a disability in a regular class setting with needed accommodations, supports or services, over the objections of the student or of their family, on the grounds that the school board believes that it cannot serve that student in a regular classroom setting, the principal should be required to give written notice of this to the family, with reasons, and to tell the family that it has the right to promptly receive the principal’s reasons in writing. But this should not be reason to stop or withdraw any services or support from the student until a meeting has been held to discuss this issue.

#3.9 Each school board should have an explicit duty to create a welcoming environment for students with disabilities and their families, including other family members with disabilities, to seek accommodations for their disabilities.

4. The Right of Parents, Guardians and Students with Disabilities to Know About Disability-Related Programs, Services, and Supports, and How to Access Them

Barrier: Parents, including parents with disabilities, too often find it difficult to get easily accessed and accessible information from their school board and from the Ontario Government on education options, services and supports available for students with disabilities and how to access them.

#4.1 Each school board should provide parents of students with disabilities, and where applicable, students with disabilities themselves, with timely and effective information, in accessible formats, on the available services, programs and supports for students with disabilities (whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs under the Education Act and regulations). Each school board should ensure that parents, guardians, and where practicable, students are informed, as early as possible, in a readily-accessible and understandable way, about important information such as:

a) What special education is and who is entitled to receive it.

b) That the school board has a duty to ensure that a student with a disability has the right to full participation in and full inclusion in all the school board’s education and other programming, and to be accommodated in connection with those programs under the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, whether or not the student is classified as a student with special education needs under Ontario’s Education Act and regulations.

c) The menu of options, placements, programs, services, supports and accommodations available at the school board for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs under the Education Act and regulations.

d) What persons and what office to approach at the school board to get this information, to request placements, programs, supports, services or accommodations for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs, or to raise concerns about whether the school board is effectively meeting the students education needs.

e) The processes and procedures at the school board for a parent, guardian or student to request or change placements, programs, services, supports or accommodations for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs. This includes formal legislated processes like the Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) and the development and implementation of the students Individual Education Plan (IEP). It also includes other informal processes like requests for programs, services, supports and accommodations that are not covered in an IPRC or IEP.

#4.2 Without restricting the important information that must be made readily available, each school board should ensure, among other things, that:

a) Parents and guardians of students with disabilities can easily find out and, where necessary, visit different placement, program, service and support options for a student with a disability, whether or not they are classified as a student with special education needs, before the parent, guardian or, where practicable, the student must take a position on what placement, program or services should be provided to that student.

b) Parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and, where practicable, students with disabilities themselves, should be given clear, understandable explanations of their rights in the school system, including but not limited to the special education process. For example, when a school board presents parents or guardians with a proposed IEP, the school board should explain to them that they need not agree to and sign the proposed IEP, that the school board is open to consider the family’s suggestions for changes to the proposed IEP, and the avenues by which parents or guardians can seek to get the school board to make changes to the proposed IEP.

#4.3 Each school board should develop, implement and make public an action plan to substantially improve its provision of the important information, described above, to all parents and guardians of that school board’s students, and to all students where practicable, and especially to parents and guardians of students with disabilities:

a) This plans objective should be to ensure that all parents, guardians and where practicable, students, get the information they need to ensure that students of all abilities can fully participate in and benefit from the educational and other opportunities available at the school board.

b) A school board should not simply leave it to each principal or teacher to make sure that this important information is effectively provided. Each school board should instead have an effective system in place to ensure that this information actually reaches all parents and guardians, and where applicable, students.

c) Each school board should ensure that all of this important information is fully and readily accessible in a prompt and timely way to all parents, guardians and students, in accessible formats and in jargon-free plain language, in a diverse range of languages. It should be easy to find this information. Among other things, this information should be posted on the school boards website, in a prominent place that is easy to find, with a link on the school boards home page. A school board should not simply rely on its website to share this information since this will not serve those families that do not have internet access.

d) Among other things, each school board should send home an information package to all families at the start of each school year, and not merely to families of those students who are already being identified or served as having special education needs or disabilities. This package should include, among other things, a Question and Answer format to help families see how this information could relate to the student in their family.

e) Each school board should also create a user-friendly package of information to be provided to families who first approach a school board about the possibility of enrolling a child at that school board, e.g. when they register for kindergarten. This should help enable a family to know whether they should be trying to access disability-related services and supports.

f) Each school board should periodically host events at local schools to help families learn how to navigate disability-related school board processes like the Individual Education Plan and the Identification and Placement Review Committee processes. Where possible these should be streamed online and archived online as a resource for families to watch online.

5. Ensuring that Parents, Guardians and Students Have a Fair and Effective Process for Raising Concerns About a School Board’s Accommodation of the Education Needs of Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Lack of sufficient, easily-accessed and fair processes at each school board to enable students with disabilities and families to have effective input into the placement and accommodation of the student, and for raising disability-related concerns.

The procedures required by the Education Act and regulations for identifying and accommodating the needs of students with disabilities are out-of-date. They are insufficient to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities are effectively met.

#5.1 Each school board should establish and maintain an effective process for parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and where applicable, the student themselves, to effectively take part in the development and implementation of a students plans for meeting and accommodating their disability-related needs, including (but not limited to) their Individual Education Plan (IEP).

#5.2 As part of this process, parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and where practicable, the student, should be invited to take part in a joint school team student accommodation/IEP development meeting, where accommodation plans will be made and where the IEP will be written. The school board should bring to the table all key professionals who can contribute to this. The family should be invited to bring to the table any supports and professionals that can assist the family. Parents should have the right to bring with them anyone who can assist them in advocating for their child. Parents/families should be given a wide range of options for participating e.g. in person or by phone. They should be told in advance who will attend from the school board. Any proposal for accommodations including a draft IEP should include a summary of key points to assist families in understanding them.

#5.3 If a school board refuses to provide an accommodation, service, or support for a childs disability that a parent, guardian, or where appropriate, the student requests, or if the school board does not provide an accommodation or support that it has agreed to provide, the school board should, on request, promptly provide written reasons for that refusal. It should let the family and student know that they can request written reasons.

#5.4 If parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and where applicable, the student, disagree with any aspect of the proposed supports, services or accommodations including (but not limited to) the proposed IEP, or if the student or their family believe that the school board has not provided a service, accommodation or support that the school board has agreed to provide, the school board should make available a respectful, non-adversarial internal review process for hearing and deciding on the familys concerns. The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should set out the specifics of this review process. This school board review process should include the following:

a) It should be very prompt. Arrangements for a student’s accommodations, including an IEP, should be finalized as quickly as possible, so that the students needs are promptly met.

b) No proposed services, supports or accommodations that the school board is prepared to offer should be withheld from a student pending a review. The family should not feel pressured not to seek this review, lest the child be placed in a position of educational disadvantage during the review process. In other words, a family should not fear that if they launch a review, the student will suffer because the school board will not provide an accommodation or service that the school board has offered, while the review is pending.

c) The review process should be fair. The school board should let the family know all of its issues or concerns with a familys proposal regarding the student’s accommodations, including the contents of the IEP. The family should be given a fair chance to express its concerns and recommendations regarding the student’s accommodations’, including in the IEP.

d) The review should be by a person or persons who are independent and impartial. They should have expertise in the education of students with disabilities. They should not have taken part in any of the earlier discussions or decisions at that school board regarding the services, supports or accommodations or IEP for that child.

e) At the review, every effort should be made to mediate and resolve any disagreements between the family and the school board. If the matter cannot be resolved by agreement, there should be an option for the school board or the Ministry of Education to appoint a person or persons who are outside the school board to consider the review, along prompt time lines.

f) At the review, written reasons should be given for the decision, especially if any of the familys requests or concerns are not accepted.

g) If, after receiving the review’s decision and reasons, the family wishes to present any new information, they should be able to ask for the review to be reconsidered. This should be along short time lines.

H) After the review is decided, if the family is not satisfied, they should be able to bring their concerns regarding the proposed accommodations including any IEP to a designated senior official at the school board with authority to approve the requested accommodations, for a further review.

#5.5 Each school board should notify parents and guardians who themselves have a disability that they have a right to have their disability-related needs accommodated in these processes, so that they can fully participate in them. For example, they should be notified that they have a right to receive any information or documents to be used in any such meeting or process in an accessible format.

#5.6 Where a student with a disability is being accommodated in a school covered by this accessibility standard, and the student transfers to another school in that school board or to another school board, that student should have a right to have the same accommodations maintained at the new school or school board. If the school board of the school to which the student transfers proposes to reduce those accommodations or supports, they should be maintained until and unless, through the procedures set out in this accessibility standard, the school board has justified a reduction of those accommodations.

6. Expediting the Early Identification and Assessment of Students with Disabilities’ Needs

Barrier: Students with disabilities can face delays and bureaucratic impediments to early and timely professional assessment, where needed, of their disability-related needs.

#6.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require measures to tear down administrative, bureaucratic and other barriers to reduce delays for getting psychological and other educational assessments for the identification of disability related needs.

7. Ensuring a Fully Accessible Built Environment at Schools

Barrier: Too often, the built environment where education programming is offered have physical barriers that partially or totally impede some students with disabilities from being able to enter or independently move around.

The Ontario Building Code and existing accessibility standards do not set out modern and sufficient accessibility requirements for the built environment in Ontario. Moreover, the Ontario Building Code is largely if not entirely designed to address the needs of adults, not children. The Ontario Government has no accessibility standard for the built environment in schools, whether old or new schools. The Ontario Government has not agreed to develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard or to substantially strengthen the accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code.

It is thus left to each school board to come up with its own designs to address accessibility in the built environment in schools and other school board locations. This is highly inefficient and wasteful. It allows public money to be used to create new barriers against people with disabilities and to perpetuate existing barriers.

#7.1 The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific requirements for accessibility in the built environment in schools and other locations where education programs are to be offered. These should meet the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. They should meet the needs of all disabilities, and not only mobility disabilities. These should include:

a) Specific requirements to be included in a new school to be built.

b) Requirements to be included in a renovation of or addition to an existing school, and

c) Retrofit requirements for an existing school that is not slated for a major renovation or addition.

#7.2 Each school board should develop a plan for ensuring that the built environment of its schools and other educational facilities becomes fully accessible to people with disabilities as soon as reasonably possible, and in any event, no later than 2025. As part of this:

a) As a first step, each school board should develop a plan for making as many of its schools disability-accessible within its current financial context. Accessibility does not only include the needs of people with mobility disabilities. It includes the needs of people with all disabilities, for example people with vision and/or hearing loss, autism, or mental health disabilities.

b) Each school board should identify which of its existing schools can be more easily made accessible, and which schools would require substantially more extensive action to be made physically accessible. An interim plan should be developed to show what progress towards full physical accessibility can be made by first addressing schools that would require less money to be made physically accessible, taking into account the need to also consider geographic equity of access across the school board.

c) When designing a new school or managing an existing school, wherever possible, a quiet room should be assigned in a school facility to assist with learning by those students with disabilities who require such an environment. For example, when a school board is deciding what to do with excess building capacity, it should allocate unused or under-used rooms as quiet rooms whenever possible.

#7.3 When a school board seeks to retain or hire design professionals, such as architects, interior designers or landscape architects, for the design of a new school or a existing school’s retrofit or renovation, or for any other school board construction or other infrastructure project, the school board should include in any Request for Proposal (RFP) a mandatory requirement that the design professional must have sufficient demonstrated expertise in accessibility design, and not simply knowledge about compliance with the Ontario Building Code or the AODA. This includes the accessibility needs of people with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those with mobility impairments. It includes the accessibility needs of students and not just of adults.

#7.4 When a school board is planning a new school, or expanding or renovating an existing school or other infrastructure, a qualified accessibility consultant should be retained by the school board (and not by a private architecture firm) to advise on the project from the outset, with their advice being transmitted directly to the school board and not only to the private design professionals who are retained to design the project. Completing the 8-day training course on accessibility offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation should not be treated as either necessary or sufficient for this purpose, as that course is substantially inadequate and has significant problems.

#7.5 A committee of the school board’s trustees and the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee should be required to review design decisions on new construction or renovations to ensure that accessibility of the built environment is effectively addressed. A schools School Accessibility Committee should also be involved in this review.

#7.6 Where possible, a school board should not renovate an existing school that lacks disability accessibility, unless the school board has a plan to also make that school accessible. For example, a school board should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a school which lacks accessibility to the second storey, if the school board does not have a plan to make that second storey disability-accessible. Very pressing health and safety concerns should be the only reason for any exception to this.

#7.7 When a school board decides which schools to close due to reduced enrollment, a priority should be placed on keeping open schools with more physical accessibility, while a priority should be given to closing schools that are the most lacking in accessibility, or for which retrofitting is the most costly.

#7.8 Each school board should only hold off-site educational events at venues whose built environment is accessible.

8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

Barrier: School boards using classroom technology, such as hardware, software, online learning systems and internal or external websites that lack digital accessibility; school board policies that can be obstacles to using adaptive technology designed for people with disabilities; Insufficient staff training and familiarity with the use of accessibility features of mainstream technology, and with disability-specific adaptive technology.

#8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

Educational equipment and technology, including hardware, software, and tablet/mobile apps deployed in educational settings should be designed based on universal design principles, to ensure that students with disabilities can use them.

a) A school board’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) should be accessible to staff and students with disabilities, including those who use adaptive technology. They should have all accessibility features turned on and available to ensure that information posted through them will be accessible to students with disabilities, including those using adaptive technology such as screen readers or voice recognition tools. Each school board should ensure that no teacher is able to turn off any feature of the LMS that is accessible in favour of one that is not.

b) Each school board’s internal and external websites and intranet content, including internet content available to students for learning purposes, including all online learning programs, should be fully accessible, with all new information posted on them to be fully accessible.

c) Electronic documents created at the school board for use in education and other programming and activities should be created in accessible formats unless there is a compelling and unavoidable reason requiring otherwise. PDF format should be avoided. If a PDF document is created, an alternate version of the content should be simultaneously provided and posted in an accessible Microsoft Word or HTML format.

d) Software used to produce a school board’s documents such as report cards, Individual Education Plans, or other key documents should be designed to ensure that they produce these documents in accessible formats.

e) Textbooks and learning software should be procured only if they include full information technology accessibility. Any textbook used in any learning environment must be accessible to teachers and students with disabilities at the time of procurement. Here again, PDF should not be used unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously available. For example, if a textbook is available in EPUB format, the textbooks must meet the international standard for that file format. For EPUB it is the W3C Digital Publishing Guidelines currently under review. If a textbook is available in print, the publisher should be required to provide the digital version of the textbook in an accessible format at the same time the print version is delivered to the school/Board.

#8.2 The Ministry of Education and each school board should establish, implement, publicize and enforce information technology procurement accessibility requirements, to ensure that no technology is purchased either by a school board, or by the Ministry for use by school boards, unless it ensures full digital accessibility. Digital and information technology accessibility should be included in all Requests for Proposal (RFP) or other tenders for sale of products and services to a school board or the Ministry.

9. Ensuring Universal Design in Learning Is Used in All Teaching Activities, Both Online and in Classroom Learning

Barrier: Too often, the curricula and lesson plans used in Ontario schools were not designed based on principles of accessibility and Universal Design in Learning.

#9.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require that the Ministry of Education and each school board, when setting requirements for or designing school curriculum, shall ensure that it incorporates universal design in learning to make it accessible to students with disabilities.

Barrier: Too often, teachers and other school staff who work with students are not sufficiently trained on how to teach all students, including students with disabilities. Teachers colleges and other programs that are publicly funded to train professionals who will work with students in Ontario schools are therefore creating new generations of barriers that will impede students with disabilities.

The solution requires both reforms to the required training of future new teachers while they are in teachers’ college, and measures to expand the training of those who are already graduates of teachers’ college and who are already working as teachers. This also applies to other school staff with teaching-related roles, such as principals and education assistants.

#9.2 The Ontario Government should require that to be qualified to teach or serve as a principal in an Ontario-funded school, a teacher or principal must have specified training in the education of students with disabilities, covering the spectrum of different learning needs and learning styles. Any teacher’s college or like program that receives any provincial funding should require, as part of its degree programming, specified course contents on the education of students with disabilities for all teachers, and not only for special education teachers. Time lines for implementing this should be specified for the transition to this new approach. Each school board should be required to train school board staff, including teachers and other staff who work with students, on ensuring digital/information technology accessibility in the classroom, on the use of access technology (where needed) and on steps how to create accessible documents and web content.

#9.3 Each school board should ensure that all teachers and teaching staff understand, and effectively and consistently use, principles of Universal Design in Learning (UDL), and differentiated instruction, when preparing and implementing lesson plans and other educational programming, to effectively address the spectrum of different learning needs and styles. For example:

a) This plans objective should be to ensure that all parents, guardians and where practicable, students, get the information they need to ensure that students of all abilities can fully participate in and benefit from the educational opportunities available at the school board.

b) Each school board should develop, implement and monitor a comprehensive plan to train its teachers, other teaching staff, teaching coaches and principals on using UDL and differentiated instruction principles when preparing lesson plans and teaching, in order to effectively meet the spectrum of different learning needs and styles. The Ontario Government should be required to provide a model program for this training which each school board can use.

c) Each school board should include knowledge of UDL and differentiated instruction principles as an important criterion when recruiting or promoting teachers, other teaching staff and principals.

d) Each school board should ensure that teachers are provided with appropriate resources and support to successfully implement the UDL training. Each school board should monitor how effectively UDL and differentiated instruction are incorporated into lesson plans and other teaching activities on the front lines.

e) Each school board should review any curriculum, textbooks and other instructional materials and learning resources used in its schools to ensure that they incorporate principles of UDL.

f) Each school board should create and implement a plan to ensure that teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineer and math (STEM) have resources and expertise to ensure the accessibility of STEM courses and learning resources.

g) Each school board should provide teaching coaches with expertise in UDL to support teachers and other teaching staff.

h) Similarly, specialized training should be included for those who teach sex education to ensure that it includes disability-related sex education.

i) The Ministry of Education should create templates or models for the foregoing training so that each school board does not have to reinvent the wheel in this context.

#9.4 Concentrated requirements to require the removal and prevention of workplace barriers at school boards impeding teachers and other school staff with disabilities would have the side-benefit of removing and preventing barriers that impede students with disabilities, such as specific measures to ensure that accessible student placements are provided in Ontario schools for teachers and other teaching staff with disabilities during their training in teachers college and other post-secondary programs.

10. Ensuring Sufficient Training and Expertise for Education Professionals Who Support Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Lack of sufficient training requirements for some education professionals who specialize in supporting the education needs of students with disabilities.

Ontario does not currently ensure that all professionals who are employed to support the education of students with disabilities will have sufficient qualifications to do so. For example, Ontario’s leading organization of parents of children with vision loss, Views for the Visually Impaired, has pointed out to the Ontario Government and the Ontario College of Teachers that the requirements to qualify to serve as a “teacher of the visually impaired” (TVI) in Ontario are substantially inadequate. They are much lower than in some other places in Canada and elsewhere. A teacher employed to teach braille to a blind child in Ontario need have no prior hands-on experience ever training a blind child to read braille. They need not ever previously even have observed another TVI teaching braille to a blind child.

#10.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require sufficient training for professionals who support the education of students with disabilities.

11. Removing Attitudinal Barriers Against Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Stereotypes, lack of knowledge and other attitudes among some teachers, principals, other school staff, other students and some families, that do not recognize the right and benefits of students with disabilities to get a full and equal education.

#11.1 To eliminate attitudinal barriers among students, school board employees and some families of students, each school board should:

a) Develop and implement a multi-year program/curriculum for teaching students, school board staff and families of school board students, about inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities, tailored to age levels. Because online courses are inadequate for this, where possible, this should include hearing from, meeting and interacting with people with disabilities e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations.

b) Post in all schools and send information to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.

c) Provide specific training to all school board staff that deal with parents or students, on the importance of inclusion.

d) Implement human resources policies and practices to expand school board staff knowledge and skills regarding inclusion.

#11.2 Each school board should develop and implement human resources policies targeted at full accessibility and inclusion, such as:

a) Making knowledge and experience on implementing inclusion an important hiring and promotions criterion especially for principals, vice-principals and teaching staff.

b) Emphasizing accessibility and inclusion knowledge and performance in any performance management and performance reviews.

12. Ensuring Accessibility of Instructional Materials that Students with Disabilities Use

Barrier: Instructional materials, such as textbooks and other instructional materials and teaching resources that are not provided at the same time in an accessible format for students with disabilities.

Section 15 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, enacted in June 2011, and in force for school boards since 2013 or 2015 (depending on their size) requires education organizations to provide instructional materials on request in an accessible format, and to make this part of their procurement of such resources. However, this provision has not been effective and sufficient to effectively ensure that students with disabilities face no barriers in this context. Therefore, stronger measures are needed.

#12.1 To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each school board should:

a) Survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their teachers and families, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.

b) Establish a dedicated resource within the school board, or shared among school boards, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis, either alone or in combination with other school boards.

c) Review its procurement practices to ensure that any new instructional materials that are acquired is fully accessible or conversion-ready and monitor to ensure that this is always done in practice. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vender must remediate any inaccessible materials at its own expense.

#12.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ministry of Education to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across school boards.

13. Ensuring Accessibility of Gym, Playground and Like Equipment and Activities

Barrier: Schools or school boards that have gym, playground or other equipment that is not designed based on principles of universal design, and that some students with disabilities therefore cannot use, as well as gym, sports and other activities in which students with disabilities can fully participate.

Section 80.18 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, as amended in 2012, requires accessibility features to be considered when new outdoor play spaces are being established or existing ones are redeveloped. However, those provisions do not set the spectrum of detailed requirements that should be included. They do not require any action if an existing play space is not being redeveloped. They ultimately leave it to each school board or each school to re-invent the accessibility wheel each time they build or redevelop an outdoor play space. They do not require anything of indoor play spaces or gyms.

#13.1 To ensure that gym equipment, playground equipment and other like equipment and facilities are accessible for students with disabilities, the Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific technical accessibility requirements for new or existing outdoor or indoor play spaces, gym and other like equipment, drawing on accessibility standards and best practices in other jurisdictions, if sufficient, so that each school board does not have to re-invent the accessibility wheel.

#13.2 Each school board should:

a) Take an inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor play spaces and gym and playground equipment, and make this public, including posting it online.

b) Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of new gym or playground equipment, in consultation with the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee and Accessibility Committee, and widely with families of students with disabilities.

c) Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing playground is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the school board.

#13.3 Where playground or other school equipment or facilities to be deployed on school property for use by students is funded and/or purchased by anyone other than the school board, the school board should remain responsible for approving the purchases and ensuring that only accessible equipment and facilities are placed on school property for use by students or the public. Decisions over whether accessibility features will be included, or which will be included, should not be left to community groups which may fund-raise for such equipment or facilities.

Barrier: Gym and other physical activity programming at schools may not be designed or operated in a way that allows students with disabilities to fully participate.

#13.4 Each school board should be required to ensure that its gym and other physical activity teachers and coaches have training and access to support information on how to include students with disabilities in these programs.

#13.5 The Ministry of Education should be required to make available to school boards resources and training material on effectively including students with disabilities in gym and other physical activity programming.

14. Ensuring Student Testing/Assessment is Free of Disability Barriers

Barrier: Tests or other performance assessments of students that are not designed in a way that ensures that students with disabilities are fairly and accurately assessed.

Throughout the education system, students take tests and other assessments of their academic performance, whether in specific courses or via system-wide standardized tests. There have been no mandatory provincial requirements of which we are aware to ensure that the ways students’ performance is tested or assessed are barrier-free for students with disabilities, and to ensure a fair and accurate assessment of their performance.

#14.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should set requirements for proper approaches to ensuring tests provide a fair, accurate and barrier-free assessment of students with disabilities, and on when and how to provide an alternative evaluation method.

#14.2 To ensure that a school board fairly and accurately assesses the performance of students with disabilities, each school board should:

a) Have a policy that commits to ensure that testing and other assessments of students’ performance and learning are designed to be barrier-free for students with disabilities.

b) Give its teachers and principals training resources on how to ensure a test is a fair, accurate and barrier-free assessment for students with disabilities in their class, and where needed, how to provide an alternative evaluation method.

c) Monitor implementation of these guidelines.

#14.3 The Ministry of Education should ensure that any provincial standardized testing is fully accessible to and barrier-free for students with disabilities and will provide a fair and accurate assessment of their knowledge and abilities.

15. Ensuring Students with Disabilities Have the Technology and Other Supports They Need at School

Barrier: Policy and bureaucratic impediments to students with disabilities getting the adaptive technology and other supports they need for school.

There are inconsistent practices around Ontario for making available to students with disabilities the adaptive technology and support services they need, and the training required to be able to effectively use that equipment. For example, the Toronto District School Board does not at all support students with vision loss using Apple products such as the iPhone or iPad. Those products come with leading accessibility features and are widely used by people with vision loss around the world. There are also inconsistent practices on whether a student can take such equipment home for use there or can bring their own adaptive equipment from home for use at school.

#15.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should require that procedural, bureaucratic and other barriers to the acquisition, training and use of needed adaptive equipment and technology at school should be eliminated. It should require the establishment of a prompt, standardized and consistent provincial system for the procurement and deployment of accessible technology that ensures access to the most appropriate and up-to-date technology that is available on the market.

Barrier: Some school boards or schools do not let students with disabilities bring a sufficiently trained service animal to school as an accommodation to their disability, either because the school board or school does not allow for this or lacks a proper policy to allow for this.

Some students on the autism spectrum and their families in Ontario have reported having difficulties at some school boards with being allowed to bring a service animal to school and have even had to take action before the Human Rights Tribunal against a school board. Others have been able to succeed without barriers in bringing their service animal to school.

#15.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should provide that each school board should ensure that students with disabilities are able to bring a sufficiently trained service animal to school as a disability accommodation. Each school board should respect the student’s rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

#15.3 The Education Accessibility Standard should set specific requirements for school board practices in relation to a student bringing a service animal to school. The recent Ministry of Education policy directive to school boards on this topic did not include the important specifics that are needed. Here again, each school board should not have to reinvent the wheel.

#15.4 The Education Accessibility Standard should ensure that there should be no bureaucratic or policy barriers to students with disabilities bringing a sufficiently trained service animal to school. The fair process procedures described in this Framework should apply to such requests.

#15.5 If the school board does not accept at first the sincerity or legitimacy of the student’s request, or the training of the service animal, the school board should immediately notify the student and their family of any and all concerns. The school board should investigate the request, including the student’s benefits from the service animal outside school and in the home, or any other concerns, as well as the experience of other schools or school boards that have allowed students with disabilities to bring service animals to school, before acting on any potential board reluctance or unwillingness to grant the student’s request. If a school board is not prepared to accept a request to be able to bring a service animal to school at first, the school board should undertake a test period of allowing the service animal at school, unless the school board can demonstrate that it would be impossible to conduct such a test period without causing the school board undue hardship. A school board should not refuse a request to bring a service animal to school based on no test period and based on speculative assumptions or stereotypes.

#15.6 The question when dealing with such requests should not be whether the student is doing adequately at school without the service animal. The question should be whether the student could do better at reaching their potential at school if assisted by their service animal. Similarly, the question is not whether the service animal will assist the student in accessing the curriculum. Rather the relevant question is whether the service animal could assist the student with any aspect of student life in the school environment, such as social interaction, independence and self-regulation. In its May 2, 2019 letter to Ontario’s Education Minister, the Ontario Human Rights Commission stated: “We believe that limiting disability accommodation to only “learning needs” is not a proper interpretation of the Code.”

#15.7 Each school board should ensure that principals, teachers, school office staff and families of students with disabilities know about this policy and that no attitudinal barriers impede this accommodation.

#15.8 The preference of some other students or staff with no disability not to have a service animal in class is not a justification for refusing to allow this accommodation for a student with a disability. Such concerns of other students, or of staff should be addressed by making arrangements that allow the student with a disability to bring their service animal to school, while situating any objecting student or staff with no disability at an acceptable distance from them. Notwithstanding anything in such school board policies, nothing may restrict a person with vision loss, student, staff, and parent or otherwise, from being a qualified guide dog with whom they have trained to school.

16. Removing Barriers to Participation in Experiential Learning

Barrier: Experiential learning programs that do not ensure that accessible experiential and inclusive experiential learning placements are made available to students with disabilities, and insufficient supports to help organizations, providing experiential learning placements, to facilitate the placement of students with disabilities.

#16.1 To ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a school board’s experiential learning programs, each school board should:

a) Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers.

b) Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that there will be a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate.

c) Ensure that its partner organizations that accept its students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities.

d) Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements.

e) Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation.

f) Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.

#16.2 The Ministry of Education should provide templates for these policies and measures. It should also prepare and make available training videos for school boards and organizations offering experiential learning programs to guide them on accommodating students with disabilities in experiential learning placements.

17. Ensuring French Immersion and Other Specialized Programs Are Barrier-Free for Students with Disabilities

Barrier: A potential combination of different barriers reviewed in this Framework.

#17.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should set a province-wide standard for ensuring that French immersion programs and other specialized programs are accessible to and effectively accommodate students with disabilities. These programs should be offered in accessible locations. Their instructional materials should be available in accessible formats. Their admission criteria should be screened for any disability barriers.

#17.2 Each school board should develop, implement and monitor a strategy to ensure that French Immersion and other specialized programs are open and accessible to and barrier-free for students with disabilities, including:

a) Identifying what percentage of the students in these programs are students with disabilities, to document any patterns of under-participation.

b) Reviewing the admission process for gaining entry to these programs, to identify possible accessibility barriers.

c) Reviewing the choice of the buildings and classrooms where these programs are to be delivered to ensure that students with disabilities will be able to physically attend these programs.

d) Identifying what efforts the school board now makes to ensure that students with disabilities are included in and accommodated in these programs, and the extent to which UDL and differentiated instruction principles are used in the teaching in these programs.

e) Developing an action plan to address any accessibility and inclusion shortfalls.

f) Actively publicizing to students with disabilities and their families about the opportunities to take part in these programs, and the school board’s readiness to ensure that their accommodation needs will be met.

g) Monitoring the effectiveness of efforts to ensure inclusion and accessibility of these programs for students with disabilities, and report publicly on this, including to school board trustees, to the trustees’ accessibility committee and to the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, on an annual basis.

18. Substantially Reducing the Shuffling of Students with Special Education Needs From School to School over Their school Years

Barrier: The school boards choice of in which schools to locate special education classes or programs for students with disabilities can force too many of these students to have to change the school they attend over their years at school much more than do other students, causing disruption and hardships for the students and their families. This can also make it harder for flexible placements that straddle more than one of these programs or classes.

#18.1 Each school board should be required to develop and implement a strategy to substantially reduce the shuffling of students with disabilities from one school to another over their school years. For example:

a) If a student, attending a school other than their home school, for a special education program or class, is prepared to shift to inclusion in a fulltime regular classroom, then consistent with parental agreement, the student should have the option of remaining at the same school as the special education class, and treating it as their home school.

b) Where possible, the school board should locate in the same school a combination of two special education classes that involve different levels of support. This would enable a student to gradually progress through different levels of special education classes towards a regular class setting in that school, without having to switch schools in order to switch to a different level of special education class. It would also enable a student, where appropriate, to spend part of a school day in one program and another part of the school day in another program, to best and most flexibly meet the student’s needs.

c) Where feasible, if a student with a disability is required to attend a different school than his or her home school in order to take part in special education programming, the family should have the option of having that students’ siblings also attend that school, especially where this will help the student with a disability. Whenever possible, siblings, including those with disabilities, should be able to attend the same school.

19. Transportation for Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Barriers to accessibility of the education programming offered at a student’s local school that necessitates the provision of bus transportation to more distant schools, combined with the failure to ensure that students with disabilities are consistently, reliably and safely bussed to and from school.

The provisions on bus transportation for students with disabilities in s. 75 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 2011 (IASR) have not been sufficient to effectively remove transportation barriers facing students with disabilities. Stronger provisions are required. The 2018 recommendations for revisions to the transportation provisions in the IASR do not address or meet this need.

#19.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should provide that where a school board provides bussing or other transportation to students with disabilities in order to enable them to attend school, the school board shall ensure, and shall monitor to ensure that:

a) The school board has individually consulted with each family to identify the accessibility and accommodation needs of the student with disabilities in relation to transportation, and the bus company and driver have been properly trained to accommodate that need.

b) Where the school board or its bussing contractor changes the driver assigned to transport the student, the replacement driver is given the same information and training prior to driving the student, or, in the case of an emergency replacement, as soon as possible.

c) The school board and, where applicable, any contractor it hires, shall retain records of the training provided, including when it was provided and shall make this information public.

d) The school board should have a readily available and reachable official, especially during periods when a student is being transported, to receive and address phone calls, emails and text messages from a family about problems regarding the student’s transportation.

e) The school board should document all complaints reported on transportation services, and the company to which it applies. A summary of these should be provided to all members of the school board including its Special Education Advisory Committee and its Accessibility Committee on a quarterly basis and shall make this public on the school board’s website.

f) The Education Accessibility Standard should make it clear that the fact that the school board has contracted for a private company to provide the student transportation does not remove or reduce the school board’s duties under this accessibility standard or otherwise under the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that the student has been provided with barrier-free participation in the school board’s educational programs and opportunities. In any contract for bussing, the school board should be required to monitor the bus company for compliance with all obligations regarding bussing, such as the duty to properly train each bus driver on the specific disability-related needs of each passenger with a disability, and to document this training. Each school board should periodically audit the bus companies with whom they contract for compliance, and publicly report on the audits results. A bus companys failure to consistently and reliably meet its obligations should trigger substantial monetary penalties and termination of the contract.

Barrier: Some school boards do not ensure that pick-up/drop locations for student bussing are accessible for parents with disabilities.

#19.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should require that the school board and, where applicable, a bus company with which it contracts, will ensure that pick-up and drop-off locations for a student’s bussing are accessible when needed to accommodate the parents or guardians of students with disabilities.

20. Protecting Students with Disabilities from Being Unfairly Denied the Right to Attend School for All or Part of the School Day

Barrier: The arbitrary power of school principals to exclude students from school, outside the disciplinary suspension and expulsion power, that disproportionately impacts on students with disabilities.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has identified as a human rights issue the sweeping and arbitrary power of any school principal to exclude a student from school. Section 265(1) (m) of Ontario’s Education Act provides:

“265. (1) It is the duty of a principal of a school, in addition to the principals duties as a teacher

(m) subject to an appeal to the board, to refuse to admit to the school or classroom a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principals judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils; ”

This power can be and is misused, especially to keep some students with disabilities away from school. This is made worse by the school boards power under Ontario regulations to shorten the length of the school day for students with disabilities, even over a parents objection. This Framework addresses together the school boards power to exclude a student from school for an entire day as well as the school boards power to reduce the length of the school day, whether or not they emanate from the same provisions under Ontario’s Education Act.

#20.1 The Education Accessibility Standard should set specific comprehensive, mandatory requirements on when a school board can exercise any power to refuse to admit a student to school for all or part of a school day. It should have no loopholes that would let a principal or teacher exclude a student informally without complying with these requirements.

a) This should include any time a school board formally or informally asks or directs that a student not attend school, or that the student be removed from school, whether in writing or in a discussion

b) This should include a school board request or direction that a student only attend school for part of the regular school day.

c) This does not include a situation where a family requests that a student be absent from school for all or part of a school day, but the school board is willing to let the student attend school.

#20.2 The school board should be required to ensure that a student, excluded from attending school, is provided an equivalent and sufficient educational program while away from school. The school board should keep records of and publicly account for its doing so.

#20.3 A refusal to admit should only be imposed when it is demonstrably necessary to protect the health and safety of students at school, and only after all relevant accommodations for the student up to the point of undue hardship have been explored or attempted.

#20.4 A refusal to admit should go no further and last no longer than is necessary. A principal should only resort to a refusal to admit if the principal can demonstrate that the student presents an imminent risk to health or safety which cannot be addressed by lesser measures, such as suspension.

#20.5 If a refusal to admit is to take place, the first resort should be to exclude the student from a specific class, accommodating that student in another class. Only if that can’t be sufficient, should a principal consider excluding the student from that school, accommodating the student at another school. A school board should only refuse to admit a student from any and all schools if it is impossible to accommodate them at any other school at that school board.

#20.6 The Education Accessibility Standard and policy directives from the Ministry of Education should give clear examples of the circumstances when a refusal to admit is permitted, and when it is not permitted.

#20.7 A refusal to admit should not be allowed to last more than five consecutive school days, unless extended by the school board in accordance with this accessibility standard.

#20.8 The burden should be on the school board to justify the refusal to admit. It should not be for the student or the students family to justify why the student should be allowed to attend school.

#20.9 When school board staff decide whether to refuse to admit a student, they should take into account all mitigating considerations that are considered when deciding whether to suspend or expel a student.

#20.10 A school board should not refuse to admit a student with a disability on the ground that school board staff believe they cannot accommodate the student’s needs, e.g. because staff is absent.

#20.11 If, when a refusal to admit is to expire, the school board wants to extend it, the school board must justify it. The student’s family need not prove why the student should be allowed to return to school.

#20.12 An extension of a refusal to admit must first consider excluding the student from a single class, and then the option of excluding the student from that entire school, and only as a last resort, excluding the student from all schools at that school board.

#20.13 An extension of the refusal to admit should not be permitted if the school board has not put in place an effective alternative option for the student to receive their education while excluded from school.

#20.14 The Education Accessibility Standard should establish a mandatory fair procedure that the school board must follow when refusing to admit a student. These procedures should ensure accountability of the school board and its employees, including:

a) A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when a school board is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.

b) The prior review and approval of the superintendent should be required, before a refusal to admit is imposed. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.

c) The superintendent should independently assess whether the school board has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit the student, and has met all the requirements of the school board’s refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).

d) The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. That should include outlining steps that the school board has taken or will be taking to expedite a students return to school and provide an expected timeline for the completion of these steps.

e) The principal should immediately tell the student and the student’s family, in clear and plain language, in writing, what a refusal to admit is, its duration, the reasons for it, the steps the school board is taking to expedite the students return to school and time lines for those steps, the school board’s process for reviewing that decision, and the family’s right to appeal it (including how to use that right of appeal). This should be provided in a language that the family speaks. These procedures should again be mandatory any time the school board extends a refusal to admit a student to school.

f) A refusal to admit a student to school should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30 day period) without the independent review and written approval of an executive superintendent of the school board.

g) No refusal to admit a student to school should be extended for an accumulated total of more than 20 days (within a surrounding 45 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of Education.

#20.15 A fair and prompt appeal process should be provided to the parents/guardian and, where appropriate, the student who was refused admission to school, which includes:

a) The appeal should be to school board officials who had no involvement with the initial decision to refuse to admit that student to school or any extensions of it.

b) The school board should promptly inform the student and the student’s family about how to start an appeal, who decides the appeal, the procedures for the appeal, that the student and family can present reports, support people or experts or any other information they wish, and can have a representative, either a lawyer or other person, to speak for them or assist them with the appeal.

c) The appeal should include an in-person meeting with the student and family.

d) The appeal should be heard and decided very promptly along time lines that the Education Accessibility Standard should set.

e) On the appeal, the school board should have the burden to prove that the refusal to admit was justified, that it went no further and lasted no longer than was necessary, and that proper alternative education programming was provided or offered.

f) A decision on the appeal should promptly be provided in writing with reasons along time lines that the Education Accessibility Standard should set.

#20.16 The Ministry of Education or the school board should set a unique code for marking attendance for a student who is absent from school for all or part of a day due to a refusal to admit.

#20.17 Each principal should be required to immediately report to their superiors in writing whenever a student is excluded from school, including the student’s name, whether the student has a disability, the reason for the exclusion, the intended duration of the exclusion, and the substitute educational programming that will be provided to the student while excluded from school The school board should centrally collect these reports and should make public quarterly aggregated data (without any names or identifying information) on the number of refusals to admit, reasons for them, percentage that involve any kind of disability, the number of days missed from school, and measures to provide alternative education during refusals to admit.

#20.18 To help ensure that refusals to admit are not used due to a failure to accommodate a
student’s disability up to the point of undue hardship, each school board should create an emergency fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.




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The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act


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

October 1, 2019

SUMMARY

The grassroots movement for enacting comprehensive disability accessibility legislation has spread to British Columbia and is making important progress. The BC Government has committed to bring forward a provincial accessibility law, and is now seeking public input on a proposed Framework for this legislation. Below we set out the input that the AODA Alliance has just submitted to the BC Government based on our experience in Ontario and on the federal scene. The Framework for the BC legislation, which the BC Government has posted for public comment, is permanently available on the AODA Alliance website as well at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/BC-Framework-for-Accessibility-Legislation.pdf .

Anyone can send input to the BC Government from September 16 to November 29, 2019, by emailing [email protected] or by using the other avenues for input that the BC Framework specifies.

In summary, we commend the BC Government for committing to bring forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. However, the Framework’s proposal, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our 12 recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

We congratulate Barrier-Free BC’s tireless grassroots efforts over the past four years that have led to this important development. The AODA Alliance is proud to have played a small part in the launch of the grassroots movement that has brought BC to this point. Four years ago this month, on October 28, 2015, a meeting of grassroots activists was held in Vancouver. It led to the birth of Barrier-Free BC. Barrier-Free BC is BC’s counterpart to the AODA Alliance. At that kick-off meeting, the keynote speaker was AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. We congratulate Barrier-Free BC on their excellent work over the past four years, and continue to be available to offer our advice whenever asked.

Today, the topic of BC disability accessibility legislation is expected to be the focus of CBC’s provincial radio call-in program in BC. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to be one of that program’s guests. If the program goes ahead as scheduled, the broadcast can be streamed live at this link https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-4-bc-today It should then be available as a podcast, at least for a few days. Search for the program “BC Today” on your favourite smart phone podcasting app, or via your computer, on the web.

MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
Submission of the AODA Alliance to the Government of British Columbia on the BC Framework for New Provincial Accessibility Legislation

October 1, 2019

Sent to: [email protected]

Introduction

This is the AODA Alliance’s submission to the BC Government on its proposed Framework for a new BC disability accessibility law. We welcome this opportunity to share our experience in this area. We would be delighted to do whatever we can to assist the BC Government with this endeavour.

The BC Government’s proposed Framework for disability accessibility is available at ##

We heartily commend the BC Government for committing to bringing forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for posting its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. We call for all provincial governments in provinces lacking accessibility legislation to show this kind of commendable leadership.

This submission shows that the BC Framework, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are also predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

Below we provide 12 practical suggestions on what to add to the BC Framework to make this legislation effective. What is needed is both clear and readily doable. We want to help BC learn from both the accomplishments and the problems experienced with existing legislation. BC has the chance to lead Canada by coming up with the best accessibility law developed to date. The Appendix at the end of this submission lists all our 12 recommendations in one place.

In addition to the specific recommendations below, we ask the BC Government to read the AODA Alliance’s September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It is among the most extensive analyses of that bill at First Reading. Some of our recommendations were eventually incorporated into the Accessible Canada Act. They were also incorporated into amendments which the federal NDP and Conservatives tried to get the Federal Government to agree to as amendments to the bill. However, the analysis is almost entirely applicable to the provincial context that the BC Government will be addressing. You can download the September 27, 2018 AODA Alliance brief to Parliament on Bill C-81 by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-in-ms-word-format-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-september-27-2018-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-requesting-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-bill-c-81/

Who Are We?

What does the AODA Alliance have to offer BC? The AODA Alliance has extensive experience with the design, implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation in Canada. Founded in 2005, we are a voluntary, non-partisan, grassroots coalition of individuals and community organizations. Our mission is:

“To contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.”

To learn about us, visit our open filing cabinet at http://www.aodaalliance.org.

Our coalition is the successor to the non-partisan grassroots Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee advocated for more than ten years, from 1994 to 2005, for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our membership from the ODA Committee’s broad, grassroots base. To learn about the ODA Committee’s history, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past four years, the AODA Alliance has been active, advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue. In 2016, AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky made public a Discussion Paper on what federal accessibility legislation should include. That widely-read Discussion Paper is now published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law at (2018) NJCL 169-207. Its contents can provide a great deal of guidance to BC, even though it was written to address the federal legislative sphere. You can download our Discussion Paper on what the promised national accessibility law should include by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/

We presented on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, to both the House of Commons and the Senate. Our recommendations played a role in improvements to the Accessible Canada Act. Both the Government of Canada and opposition parties referred to the AODA Alliance and its proposals during parliamentary debates over that legislation.

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on the topic of designing and implementing provincial accessibility legislation. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the previous BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that legislation. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was the keynote speaker at the October 28, 2015 meeting in Vancouver where Barrier-Free BC was established.

We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, in Israel and New Zealand. In addition, in June 2016, we presented on this topic at the UN annual international conference of state parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Our Recommendations

Purpose of the BC Legislation

The BC Framework proposes that the BC accessibility law should have these purposes, and asks what the public thinks of them:

“1. To support Canada’s ratification of the UNCRPD by promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and by promoting respect for their inherent dignity.
2. To identify, remove, and prevent barriers encountered by people with disabilities in their daily lives through the development, implementation, and enforcement of accessibility standards.
3. To allow persons with disabilities and other impacted stakeholders in the public and private sectors to work collaboratively towards the timely development of accessibility standards.
4. To ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to track progress on accessibility.
5. To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

The proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law set out in the BC Framework, while helpful, are far too weak. It is very important to substantially strengthen the proposed purposes for the BC disabilities legislation. We have learned that the goal must be the achievement of an accessible or barrier-free society, or both, pure and simple. Nothing short of that will do.

We have also learned that an end date must be set in the legislation. Ontario’s AODA has both the goal of accessibility, and nothing less, and an end date. These are real strengths in that legislation. The Accessible Canada Act has both the goal of a barrier-free Canada and an end date. We and others fought long and hard to get this goal enshrined in the Accessible Canada Act. The Senate added the end date of 2040 to Bill C-81 last May. At the last minute, when Bill C-81 came back to the House of Commons this past June, on the eve of its rising for the federal election, the Federal Government finally withdrew its objection to enshrining an end date for accessibility in the bill.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

Do Not Let the Accessible Canada Act Serve as a Constraint or Limit on BC Accessibility Legislation

The BC Framework includes the following, among other things, in its discussion of the proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law:

” To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

At first, that may seem sensible. However, it risks having BC measures on accessibility sink to the lowest common denominator. BC should never feel constrained to follow or imitate anything done at the federal level if it is too weak. BC should not commit in advance to be compatible with a federal accessibility measure that is insufficient.

For example, the Canadian Transportation Agency has recently adopted new federal transportation regulations on accessibility. They are helpful in part, but have serious problems. BC should not tie its hands in such circumstances.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

Nothing Should Ever Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

It is important that nothing be done under the new BC accessibility law that reduces the rights or opportunities of people with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law, or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

Several provincial laws address aspects of accessibility for people with disabilities. A new BC accessibility law and regulations enacted under it will hopefully add more accessibility requirements.

There is no assurance that these laws will all set the same level of accessibility. The new BC accessibility law should ensure that the law which provides the greatest amount of accessibility should always prevail. Section 38 of the AODA is instructive. It commendably provides:

” 38. If a provision of this Act, of an accessibility standard or of any other regulation conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.”

We therefore recommend that:

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

Setting Mandatory Timelines for Enacting Accessibility Regulations

A central and fundamentally important part of the BC accessibility legislation would be the Government enacting new accessibility regulations. These would specify in detail what obligated organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities. The BC Framework states:
“Accessibility standards would provide guidance about best practices for accessibility including desired accessibility outcomes.”

The BC Framework suggests at one point that it would be permissible for the Government to enact accessibility regulations that are enforceable. However, it does not there make it clear that the Government would have a duty to do so. The Framework states:

“Government envisions accessibility legislation that allows for the creation of both voluntary accessibility standards as well as mandatory accessibility regulations. Accessibility legislation would allow the Government of British Columbia to adopt standards as binding regulations in part or in whole.”

Yet elsewhere the BC Framework states:

“To ensure progress, accessibility legislation could require timelines to achieve the timely development, implementation and revision of accessibility standards.”

It is essential that the law impose a clear and strong duty on the Government to create these standards, and for it to set enforceable timelines for creating these standards. Otherwise, they may never be created, or they may take excessive amounts of time to be created.

We know from experience under Ontario’s AODA’s predecessor law, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, that it is insufficient to merely give a Government the power to enact accessibility standards or regulations, without requiring that Government to ever do so. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 permitted the Ontario Government to enact accessibility standards, but that Government never enacted any under that legislation. That in part is why Ontario later enacted the stronger AODA.

One of the major criticisms of the Accessible Canada Act is that it gives the Federal Government a number of helpful powers, such as the power to enact accessibility regulations, but for the most part does not require that these powers be used. it also does not for the most part set timelines for their deployment. That is why we and so many others said that the Accessible Canada Act is strong on good intentions but weak on implementation.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

Areas for Accessibility Standards to Cover

The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards could cover a variety of areas including: Service Delivery
Employment
Built Environment
Information and Communication
Transportation”

These are all helpful areas. However, we know from extensive Ontario experience that this list is insufficient. It is helpful if the bill lists some of the areas that enforceable accessibility regulations can cover, so long as it is clear that they are not the only areas that these regulations can cover.

Moreover, the list that the law spells out should be expanded. It should include enforceable accessibility regulations to address disability accessibility barriers in education, health care, housing, and ensuring public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. This last area is addressed further below.

In Ontario, after years of campaigning, accessibility regulations are now under development in the areas of education and health care. The AODA Alliance led the fight for these to be included. We have been asking for almost a decade for an accessibility regulation to be created to address accessibility in residential housing. British Columbians with disabilities should not have to endure the hardship of having to wage similar multi-year battles just to get these topics on the regulatory agenda.

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

Adopting Other Pre-existing Accessibility Standards

The BC Government is contemplating the possibility of adopting some pre-existing accessibility standards that are in place elsewhere, as part of its efforts under this legislation. The BC Framework states:

“The Government of British Columbia could seek to expedite the development of accessibility standards by adopting or building on existing standards, policies and practices developed elsewhere in Canada or around the world.”

It is desirable to avoid re-inventing the wheel. However, we caution that pre-existing accessibility standards can be seriously deficient. For example, those enacted to date in Ontario are fraught with problems, as earlier Independent Reviews of the AODA have documented on our urging. We can provide ample details on this.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

Governance, Compliance and Enforcement

We strongly commend to BC our recommendations for governance, compliance and enforcement that are set out in our published Discussion Paper on what a national accessibility law should include, and our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, both referred to above.

The BC Framework considers as a possible feature of its implementation/enforcement regime the following:

“Reduced reporting requirements for individuals and organizations that show accessibility leadership.”

We disagree. It is of course commendable for an obligated organization to show leadership on accessibility. However, that should not lead to any reduction in that organization’s reporting obligations. Just because an organization has done well on accessibility in the past does not mean that it will continue to do so in the future and need only have reduced accountability. Reporting requirements are always needed to help monitor and motivate compliance.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

How Often Should There Be an Independent Review of the BC Accessibility Law’s Implementation?

It is good that the BC Framework contemplates including in the law a requirement for the Government to periodically appoint an Independent Review of the new accessibility law’s implementation. These have been very important in Ontario.

The BC Framework asks how often these should take place. Ontario’s legislation got it right.

The AODA required the first Independent Review to begin three years after the AODA was passed. It requires each successive Independent Review to be appointed four years after the previous one was completed. Each Independent Review takes one year to conduct, once appointed. Therefore, the interval between the first and second AODA Independent Review, and between the second and third AODA Independent Review, have in each case been in the range of 5 years, not four. Nothing shorter would be appropriate.

The recommendations from each of the three AODA Independent Reviews came at important times. It would have been harmful to Ontarians with disabilities had they been delayed any longer. We only regret that the Ontario Government has not acted promptly on any of those reports’ helpful findings and recommendations.

In contrast, the Federal Government set too long a period in the Accessible Canada Act. The first Independent Review won’t begin under federal legislation til almost twice as long a period as was the case in Ontario. That will work to the substantial disadvantage of people with disabilities across Canada. This is especially troubling since under the Accessible Canada Act, the Federal Government need not create any enforceable accessibility standard regulations in that period.

We therefore recommend that:

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

Key Features Needed in the BC Accessibility Law that the BC Framework Does Not Identify

While the BC Framework includes several helpful key ingredients for a new BC accessibility law, there are additional features that are very important, and that were not identified in that Framework. We summarize these here. They are discussed in greater length in our Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The BC accessibility law should

a) Specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.

b) Impose specific duties and implementation time lines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.

c) Require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.

d) Enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.

e) Require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.

f) Require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.

g) Require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.

h) Include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.

i) Require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

We especially focus on one of these needed additions. The BC Government can bring about significant progress towards accessibility by making sure that no one uses public money to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability barriers. Many in society want to receive provincial public money, as venders, infrastructure builders, businesses, colleges, universities, hospitals, and governmental transfer partners. The law should attach clear monitored, enforced mandatory accessibility strings to that money. Anyone accepting those funds should be bound by the strings attached.

Provincial spending that should be subject to this requirement should include, for example:

a) spending on procuring goods, services and facilities, for use by the BC Public Service and the public.

b) BC spending on capital and infrastructure projects, including projects built by the BC Government, municipalities or others.

c) BC spending on business development grants and loans, and on research grants for universities and other organizations.

d) BC transfer payments to transfer agencies for programs, like health care.

e) Any other BC Government contract.

This spending would give the BC Government substantial leverage to promote accessibility. Widely-viewed AODA Alliance online videos have demonstrated that new construction, including construction on infrastructure using public money, have included serious accessibility problems. These videos secured significant media coverage. See:

The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently renovated Toronto area public transit stations.

The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre.

The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video, showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary arts Centre.

Ontario experience shows that this must be specifically legislated, monitored and enforced. There has been limited success in getting some new Ontario laws enacted and policies adopted. They lack needed visibility, strength and enforcement. They have not had the impact needed. The Ontario Government has thereby missed out on huge opportunities to generate greater accessibility.

The Federal Government has similarly missed out on a huge opportunity here. It declined to include the needed measures to address this in the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act allows the Government to make accessibility standards in the area of procurement, but does not require these to be made.

Canada’s Senate made a formal “observation” on Bill C-81 when it passed other amendments to strengthen the bill. It called for federal action to ensure that federal public money is not used to create disability barriers.

Don’t Make the Same Mistakes in the Accessible Canada Act

We commended the Federal Government for committing to national accessibility legislation, and have identified several helpful features in the Accessible Canada Act. However despite the efforts and recommendations of many from the disability including the AODA Alliance, there are several shortcomings in that law. BC should avoid these. These are extensively identified on the Canada page of the AODA Alliance website and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament.

Apart from deficiencies already discussed above are the following major problems, identified in our March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate on Bill C-81:

* “The bill gives the Federal Government and federal accessibility agencies/officials helpful powers to promote accessibility. However, the bill imposes no duty on them to ever use those powers, with one inconsequential exception.

The bill also sets no deadlines for taking many of the major implementation steps that the Government must take to implement this bill. The Government could drag its feet for years if not indefinitely.

For example, the bill lets the Government enact accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. However, the bill does not require the Government to ever enact any. Without them, the bill is a hollow shell.

The bill gives the Federal Government enforcement powers. However it doesn’t require the bill to be effectively enforced.

During the first five years after this bill goes into effect, the Federal Government’s only mandatory duty under the bill is for Cabinet, the CRTC and Canada Transportation agency to enact one regulation within two years after the bill comes into force. However that regulation could be an inconsequential one on minor procedural matters, without ever requiring that any disability barriers be removed or prevented.”

* “The 105-page bill is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities and others to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This makes the bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated and more costly. It will take longer to get accessibility regulations enacted. It risks weak, contradictory or unnecessarily complex regulations.

This splintering makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities are burdened to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint. That weakens the rights and voices of people with disabilities.

This splintering only helps existing federal bureaucracies that want more power, and any large obligated organizations that want to dodge taking action on accessibility. Those organizations will relish exploiting the bill’s confusing complexity to delay and impede its implementation and enforcement.

It is wrong for the bill to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

The CTA and CRTC are too close to the industries they regulate. They lack expertise in disability accessibility. The industries the CTA and CRTC regulate would love to have those agencies stay largely in control of their accessibility obligations, given their inadequate regulatory track records on accessibility.

We ask for the bill to be simplified, to get rid of its harmful splintering of federal accessibility oversight responsibilities. Only the Federal Cabinet should make accessibility regulations. Only the new federal Accessibility Commissioner should enforce the bill. This ensures clearer, smoother, lower-cost, easier-to-access one-stop-shopping for people with disabilities, and easier implementation for the Federal Government and obligated organizations.

Under the bill, transportation organizations, broadcasters and telecommunication companies must make two concurrent accessibility plans, one supervised by the Accessibility Commissioner and the other supervised either by the CTA or CRTC. That also makes compliance and enforcement more costly and confusing. We ask for the bill to be amended so that all obligated organizations will only have to make one accessibility plan, not two, all supervised by the new federal Accessibility Commissioner.

It is no solution to the bill’s “splintering” problem for the Federal Government to say that there will be “no wrong door” for a person to file a complaint. The problem is not just the four different doors that a person with a disability must choose to enter. There are also as many as three or four different procedures they must figure out, even after they enter the right door. That is a formula for confusion, and for tripping up people with disabilities.”

* “The bill has too many loopholes. As one example, the bill gives the Federal Government the power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill. The Government should not be able to exempt itself. We request an amendment to close the bill’s loopholes, such as the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill.”

Concerns with Public Funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility Certification Program

The BC Framework notes that the BC Government has given the Rick Hansen Foundation 10 million dollars in connection with its private accessibility certification program. When the Ontario Government recently announced its intention to give public money to the Rick Hansen Foundation for this purpose, we raised serious concerns. Our investigation of this process resulted in our making public two reports. These amply document our serious concerns.

Among other things, we are concerned that there is no assurance that those who conduct the RHF’s private accessibility certification assessments are qualified to do so. The RHF 8-day training course is woefully inadequate. As well, the RHF process for assessing a building’s accessibility itself has serious problems. It also lacks proper safeguards against conflicts of interest on the part of its assessors or the RHF itself.

As a result, there can be no assurance that a building that the RHF certifies as “accessible” is in fact accessible. Moreover, a government should not delegate to an unaccountable private organization any responsibility to decide what standard for accessibility should be used.

Any BC accessibility legislation should not involve any such private accessibility certification process. Any accessibility standards should be publicly set, publicly monitored and publicly enforced.

Feedback from the disability community has echoed and reinforced our concerns in this area. Our concerns have garnered media attention and coverage.

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/

The AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplement report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/the-doug-ford-governments-controversial-plan-to-divert-1-3-million-into-the-rick-hansen-foundations-private-accessibility-certification-program-is-plagued-with-even-more-problems-than-earlier-rev/ We therefore recommend that:

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.

Appendix List of Recommendations

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law , or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

#11. The BC accessibility law should

a) specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.

b) impose specific duties and implementation timelines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.

c) require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.

d) enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.

e) require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.

f) require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.

g) require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.

h) include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.

i) require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.




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Why Haven’t Any of the Federal Parties Except the NDP Answered the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 Letter, Seeking Election Commitments on Promoting Accessibility for Over Six Million People with Disabilities in Canada?


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

September 25, 2019

SUMMARY

The federal election is less than four weeks away. Why haven’t the federal Liberals, Tories, and Green Party answered our request, sent to them over two months ago, for specific election commitments on accessibility for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada? Last fall and again this past June, these parties each voted unanimously for Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act and all spoke passionately about its importance to Canada.

On July 18, 2019, over two months ago, we wrote a letter to their leaders, asking for a series of election commitments. These commitments would be a roadmap for the strong and effective implementation of this new legislation.

The only federal political party that has answered us so far is the New Democratic Party. You can see the NDP response to us at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

Why have the Liberals not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? The Accessible Canada Act is legislation that they said they were so proud to introduce. They said the Accessible Canada Act is historic legislation. They promised it would do so much to tear down the many barriers that face people with disabilities in Canada. Their provincial counterparts, the Ontario Liberal Party, made election commitments on the implementation of Ontario’s accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, in each of the four provincial elections since it was passed in 2005.

Why have the Conservatives not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? When the Accessible Canada Act was debated in the House of Commons and the Senate, they vigourously pointed to the weaknesses in this bill that we and others from the disability community had raised. On behalf of people with disabilities in Canada, they pressed for amendments to the bill to address those weaknesses amendments that the Government mostly voted down.

Less than a year ago, on November 22, 2019 during third reading debates in the House of Commons on this legislation, two Tory MPs with leadership roles on this bill explicitly committed that if the Tories are elected in 2019, they will strengthen this legislation. Those commitments came from MP John Barlow, who was vice chair of the Standing Committee that held hearings on the bill, and Alex Nuttall, who was then the Tory critic on this bill. We set out their statements, below.

Why has the Green Party not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? Green Party Leader Elizabeth May did a good job of raising our concerns with Bill C-81 when it was being debated in the House of Commons, even though her party had the least resources to mount such an effort.

We are continuing our non-partisan campaign to get strong commitments from all the parties and candidates in this election on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act. Please press your local candidates to get us an answer from their parties! Here are resources to help you help us all!

* Go on Twitter and follow us @aodaalliance. We are sending tweets each day to different federal candidates. We are asking them to give the commitments we seek on the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. Please take a few moments each day to retweet our tweets. When you retweet them, you are adding your voice to ours.

* Use suggestions for helping our blitz that are set out in our new Federal Election Action Kit. You can find it at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/federal-election-action-kit-raise-disability-accessibility-issues-in-canadas-2019-federal-election/

Would you like to watch the all-candidates’ debate in Toronto on issues surrounding the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act, being hosted by the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre and the Reena Foundation tonight at the Bloorview facility , 150 Kilgour Road, Toronto? Our friends and colleagues at the Ontario Autism Coalition have volunteered to live stream the event on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 from 7 to 9 pm eastern time. The precise link for viewing it won’t be available until right before the event. However, you can go to the OAC’s Facebook page where the link will appear near the top of the page when the stream is ready to start. The OAC can make no promises about the quality of the live stream and no doubt will do their best. To go to the Ontario Autism Coalition’s Facebook page, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/4179793644/

Learn all about the campaign for a strong and effective Accessible Canada Act by visiting our website’s Canada page.

MORE DETAILS

House of Commons of Canada Hansard

November 22, 2018

Excerpts from Third Reading Debates on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act

Posted at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/transcript-of-the-2nd-and-final-day-of-third-reading-debates-on-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-in-the-house-of-commons-on-november-22-2018/

Erin O’Toole Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned by the comments from the Liberal parliamentary secretary suggesting my colleague and friend is misleading people. I spoke to my friend just yesterday about the conversation I had last week with David Lepofsky, probably the most prominent Canadian in terms of disability advocacy. He has the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada, as a constitutional lawyer and disability advocate.

What my friend is saying to the House today is exactly what is being said by people like David Lepofsky. One of the things I heard from him was the fact that there is no end date for accessibility within Bill C-81, no timeline. Ontario has set a 20-year goal of making sure accessibility is paramount. The other thing I heard from him was that there is no clear commitment in Bill C-81 to ensure no infrastructure dollars would go to new projects unless accessibility is at the centre of the project. There are no timelines and no teeth.

The Liberal member is suggesting that my friend is misleading Canadians. This is what disability advocates are asking for. Will my friend comment on the fact that we have an opportunity with Bill C-81 to get it right, if only the Liberals will listen?

Conservative

Alex Nuttall BarrieSpringwaterOro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to commit to the member that we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians. It is interesting the member brought up Mr. Lepofsky, because he said the following:

…the bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Those are the words of Mr. Lepofsky. It is unfortunate that the Liberal Party did not listen to them.

House of Commons Hansard November 22, 2018

Third Reading Debates over Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act

John Barlow Foothills, AB

We mentioned David Lepofsky today who is with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. I really want to put in his comment here today. He said:

The bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Mr. Lepofsky was speaking for Canadians across the country asking us as parliamentarians to not get cold feet. This is an opportunity to make some substantial, historic change for Canadians with disabilities, and we failed.

I have to share a little of the frustration on this, as we will be voting in support of Bill C-81. For those organizations, those stakeholders listening today, the reason we are voting in support of Bill C-81 is certainly not because we agree with it. In fact, I have outlined today in my speech the many reasons why we are not. We heard from the stakeholders time and time again of their disappointment. But their comments were always that, although it fell well short of what they wanted, it was a start, and I will grant them that, it is a start.

I know they were expecting much more from the minister, the Liberal government and from us as members of that committee. Therefore, my promise to those Canadians in the disabilities community across the country is that when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81. I know how much work they have put into this proposed legislation. I know how much time and effort they put in working with us on the committee. I know what their vision was for Bill C-81. Unfortunately, this falls short. We will not make that same mistake in 2019.




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More Media on the E-scooters Issue – and


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

September 23, 2019

SUMMARY

1. Yet More Media Attention on the Problems with Allowing Electric Scooters Out in Public in Our Province

There have now been four weeks since we learned about the Ford Government’s troubling plan to allow unlicensed, uninsured people to drive electric scooters in Ontario in a 5-year pilot project. We presented it to Ontarians as a serious disability issue. Since then, the media coverage of this issue just keeps on coming!

Below we set out an article on this subject that was in the September 21, 2019 Globe and Mail. It does not make the e-scooters’ disability issues its focus.

As well, last week, on Friday, September 20, 2019, CBC Radio devoted an entire hour to a province-wide call-in program on e-scooters on its Ontario Today program. Those taking part in that program echoed a number of the concerns with e-scooters that we have been raising. The CBC included a clip from an earlier interview with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the program.

We are especially concerned to know what kind of audience our provincial and municipal politicians are giving to the lobbyists for the companies that are lobbying hard to rent e-scooters in Ontario. Those of course are the very companies whose business plan includes people randomly leaving e-scooters on our public sidewalks, creating new barriers for pedestrians with disabilities. We have contended that our public sidewalks are not meant for their businesses’ free parking. Our provincial and municipal politicians should make public their discussions with those corporate lobbyists.

We encourage you to check out the September 12, 2019 brief that the AODA Alliance has submitted to the Ontario Government. Please let the Government know if you support our brief and its recommendations. You can write the Government at [email protected]

2. Come to the Toronto September 25, 2019 Federal Candidates’ Forum on the Accessible Canada Act

Would you like to know what the federal parties are promising to do, if elected, to strengthen the new Accessible Canada Act and to ensure that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced? If you are in the Toronto area, come to the September 25, 2019 federal candidates’ forum on this topic, organized by the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre, and the Reena Foundation. We set out the announcement below. It includes information on how to sign up to attend this event.

We are hoping that this event will also be live streamed, but details are still in the works. , AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to be a subject matter expert during this debate.

We encourage you to use the AODA Alliance’s brand new Action Kit for tips on how to raise disability accessibility issues in this federal election.

3. Another Chance to Alert TTC to Public Transit Barriers in Toronto

Do you still run into accessibility barriers when using public transit in Toronto? Here is another opportunity to try to press for reforms at the TTC.

Below is the Toronto Transit Commission’s announcement of its 2019 Annual Public Forum on Accessible Transit. It will be held on the evening of Wednesday, September 25, 2019 from 7 to 9 pm.

It is too bad that both this TTC forum and the federal candidates forum on the Accessible Canada Act will be taking place at the same date and time. We encourage one and all in the Toronto area to come to this TTC event, or the federal candidates’ event. Raise accessibility problems you have experienced on the TTC. It is important to shine the light on accessibility issues that continue to plague people with disabilities on public transit in Canada’s biggest city.

Over three years ago, the Ontario Government appointed a new Transportation Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to review the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, and to recommend any needed changes to strengthen it. That Committee’s final reform recommendations, which the former Ontario Government under Kathleen Wynne made public in the 2018 spring, were exceptionally weak. If implemented, they wouldn’t significantly improve that very limited accessibility standard.

In its first 15 months in office, the new Ontario Government under Premier Doug Ford has announced no new action to make public transit accessible in Ontario for people with disabilities. It has announced no action on this subject as a result of the Transportation Standards Development Committee’s 2018 recommendations.

This is part of a bigger and troubling provincial picture. The Ford Government has done nothing since taking office to strengthen and accelerate the sluggish implementation and enforcement of the AODA.

Back on January 31, 2019, the Ford Government received the final report of the most recent Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That was 236 days ago. That report found a pressing need to substantially strengthen the AODA’s implementation. Yet the Ford Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report’s recommendations for strengthening the AODA’s implementation.

Please contact your local media and encourage them to attend the TTC forum. Video record or photograph barriers on TTC you have experienced. Send them to the media. Publicize them on social media like Twitter and Facebook. Use the ever-popular hashtag #AODAfail in tweets about these barriers, as part of our “Picture Our Barriers” campaign.

TTC will again stream this public forum event live. Check out details below in the TTC announcement.

This TTC Public Forum originated in 2008 as a result of the 2007 Human Rights Tribunal order in Lepofsky v. TTC #2. Eleven years ago, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered TTC to hold one such event per year for the three years after the Tribunal ruled against TTC in Lepofsky v. TTC #2.

After starting to hold these events because it was ordered to do so commendably TTC decided to keep holding these events once per year, even though TTC originally and strenuously opposed David Lepofsky when he asked the Human Rights Tribunal to make this order.

Since 2011, TTC and all public transit providers in Ontario are required by law to hold a similar event each year in your community under section 41(2) of the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation, enacted under the AODA. If you live outside Toronto, ask your public transit provider when they are planning to hold their annual public forum on accessible transit. If your public transit authority has not done so, please contact Raymond Cho, who is Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility and is responsible for enforcing the AODA, and ask that this provision be strictly enforced. This section provides:

“41(2) Every conventional transportation service provider shall annually hold at least one public meeting involving persons with disabilities to ensure that they have an opportunity to participate in a review of the accessibility plan and that they are given the opportunity to provide feedback on the accessibility plan.”

Let us know if your public transit authority elsewhere in Ontario is holding a similar event this year, or did so last year. Email us at [email protected] or reply to this email.

Each year there is an impressive turnout of hundreds of people at TTC’s public forums on accessible transit. Each wants a chance at the microphone to tell their story. Unfortunately, TTC each year uses up far too much time, as much as a third of the time in some instances, making speeches on what a great job TTC says it’s doing on accessibility. We have urged TTC to keep all of those speeches down to a total of five or ten minutes, maximum, to give as much time as possible to the attendees to speak, since they made the effort to come to this event. We hope TTC will listen to this suggestion this time. They have not done so in the past despite our requests.

Under the Human Rights Tribunal’s order, all TTC Commissioners were required to attend each public forum. Since that order expired, many if not most TTC Commissioners have skipped these TTC accessible transit public forums. This is wrong. TTC chose the forum’s date well in advance. Its Commissioners should be able to make it. If hundreds of people with disabilities take the time out of their busy day to come to speak to the TTC Commissioners, the least that those TTC Commissioners can do is to themselves take the time to show up to this TTC community event and listen to the front-line experiences of riders with disabilities.

More Details
The Globe and Mail September 21, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/alberta/article-politicians-and-planners-look-to-data-for-answers-on-e-scooters/

Cities look to data for answers on e-scooters

By CARRIE TAIT
Staff

CALGARY – Calgarians puttering around on electric scooters flock to Prince’s Island Park, a downtown gem and the river paths. Montrealers favour Old Montreal. And in Edmonton, Whyte Avenue, known for pubs and shops, is a popular destination.

A handful of Canadian cities launched e-scooter pilot projects this summer, writing bylaws with limited data. Even the most basic rule –
where, exactly, are riders allowed to scoot – varies from city to city. In Edmonton, for example, scooters are allowed on streets with speed limits up to 50 kilometres an hour, but not sidewalks; in Calgary, sidewalks are in and roads are out.

Now, as summer wraps up, politicians and urban planners have information they will use to rewrite the rules for shared escooters. But the data will do far more than influence speed limits on pathways. It will affect largescale infrastructure plans – the types of projects that cost billions of dollars and take years to complete.

Shauna Brail is a professor at the University of Toronto’s urban-planning program and studies new methods of transportation –
think bike-sharing programs and autonomous vehicles – in cities. She anticipates cities will adopt stricter rules around where users can leave their scooters.

“I think we’ll start to see more and more regulations around parking,” Dr. Brail said. “This is one of the biggest pieces of contention.”

Two companies dominate pilot projects in Canada: Lime and Bird. Riders use apps to find and unlock scooters, and are generally charged a flat rate to get started and then pay by the minute. Users in some cities can leave the scooters anywhere within designated boundaries; riders in other cities can park only in specific spots. Some cities allow parking on sidewalks, so long as the scooters do not obstruct the walkway.

Calgary received 62 complaints through its 311 service about abandoned or improperly parked scooters in the first nine weeks of the pilot project. Parking complaints were the second most common reason citizens turned to 311 regarding scooters, behind sidewalk conflicts.

Montreal, which launched its pilot project in August, has already taken action to thwart troublesome parking jobs. Politicians there last week announced plans to fine e-scooter and e-bike users $50 for shoddy parking and Montreal will fine the companies $100 every time a police officer or city official finds one of their respective scooters or bikes parked illegally.

Calgary approved 1,500 scooters for the pilot project launched in the middle of July. Their popularity among users outpaced the city’s expectations. As of Wednesday, riders in Calgary had made a collective 542,374 trips covering more than 1.1 million kilometres. The median trip lasts 10 minutes, according to city data.

Roughly 142,100 unique users have used the e-scooters at least once. After accounting for tourist traffic, city officials estimate this means about 10 per cent of Calgarians have gone for at least one spin. These numbers exclude privately owned e-scooters.

Calgary’s 311 data show the most common concern about escooters stems from riding on sidewalks, which is legal in the city. Concerned citizens, for example, want the scooters to slow down and want the city to crack down on riders who are inconsiderate on the sidewalks, the city said. It counts 112 submissions related to sidewalks.

The 311 data, however, also demonstrate Calgarians are adjusting to e-scooters. Since the pilot’s launch, the city service recorded 281 submissions tied to escooters. Complaints spiked around the third week of the pilot, with 68 concerns registered.

But submissions have dropped every week since, hitting and holding at 15 around weeks eight and nine.

Nathan Carswell, Calgary’s shared-mobility program co-ordinator, said the city will make changes as data flow in. Sidewalk problems, for example, may be alleviated by working with the scooter companies to lower the machines’ top speed in designated areas, such as busy downtown corridors, Mr. Carswell said.

GPS data, injury rates and the degree of conflict with pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, will help shape city infrastructure.

The information, Mr. Carswell said, provides hints on where Calgary should expand its separated bike-lane network, whether sidewalks in some areas should be widened, or whether there are areas where it would be appropriate to allow scooters on roadways, for example.

“I think they are here for the long run,” he said.

In Edmonton, which launched its pilot project in the middle of August, Mayor Don Iveson noted pedestrians, business owners and people with mobility issues have complained about users illegally riding the scooters on the sidewalk.

“It is not going well,” he said.

The mayor has also said if issues persist, Edmonton will reassess whether e-scooters are suitable in Alberta’s capital.

Eddy Lang, the department head for emergency medicine at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, is analyzing statistics related to ER and urgent-care visits related to scooters and bicycle incidents.

There have been 477 visits to Calgary’s ER and urgent-care facilities owing to scooter injuries. Fractures are the most common reason, clocking in at 121 incidents, followed by head and facial injuries, at 83 visits. Visits related to bicycle injuries far outpace scooter visits, but there are far more cyclists than scooter riders in the city.

Announcement of September 25, 2019 Federal Candidates’ Forum on the, Accessible Canada Act

Originally posted at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/accessible-canada-act-candidates-forum-tickets-71795944603 Sep 25

Accessible Canada Act: Candidates’ Forum

By Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and Reena
Wed, 25 September 2019, 7:00 PM 9:00 PM EDT

Join us to learn more about the Accessible Canada Act and to hear directly from federal candidates on potential implementation strategies

About this Event

On June 21, 2019, the Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81), received Royal Assent after passing unanimously through the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada.

The act fulfills the government’s mandate promise to introduce new accessibility legislation toward ensuring a barrier-free Canada, though no recommendations have been made to date.

To learn more about the act and its potential implications for Canadians, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and Reena are hosting Accessible Canada Act: Candidates’ Forum that will serve to educate on the importance of the act, its potential outcomes and provide an opportunity to hear directly from candidates on their parties’ potential implementation strategies.

Light refreshments will be served. Kashrut observed.

If you require any special accommodations to attend the event, please send an email to [email protected] before September 20.

Announcement of the September 25, 2019 TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit

Originally posted at http://ttc.ca/TTC_Accessibility/Public_Forum_on_Accessible_Transit/2019/index.jsp

The 2019 Public Forum on Accessible Transit is happening this September!
On Wednesday, September 25 the 2019 Public Forum on Accessible Transit is taking place at the Beanfield Centre!
Join us to learn more about Easier Access at the TTC, Family of Services and conditional trip-matching.

For further information on accommodations, booking your trip and the livestream, please head to: http://www.ttc.ca/TTC_Accessibility/Public_Forum_on_Accessible_Transit/2019/index.jsp




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Federal Election Action Kit Raise Disability Accessibility Issues in Canada’s 2019 Federal Election!


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

September 20, 2019

Introduction

Do you think people with disabilities in Canada should be able to travel on airplanes and on interprovincial buses or trains without being impeded by disability barriers? Do you think they should have equal access to services provided by the Government of Canada? Should they be able to enjoy whatever information CBC posts on its public website? Should they be assured that they can enter their neighbourhood polling station during a federal election, and independently mark their own ballot in private? Should the Federal Government ensure that our public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

Over six million people with disabilities in Canada still face too many accessibility barriers. They should not have to individually fight these barriers, one at a time, through endless federal human rights complaints. They need the Federal Government to ensure that it does all it can to ensure that people with disabilities can live in a Canada that is accessible and barrier-free.

Canada’s next federal election is on October 19, 2015. Canadians have a unique opportunity during this election campaign to speed up progress on the long, challenging road to a barrier-free Canada for more than 6 million Canadians with physical, mental, sensory, communication or other disabilities. The new Accessible Canada Act, enacted this past June, requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. We want each party and each candidate to commit to plans that will ensure we will reach this goal.

Let’s work together to raise important disability accessibility issues during this federal election campaign. Let’s get the strongest election pledges from each party and candidate. This Action Kit tells you how to pitch in and help with this effort between now and October 21. Our blitz is totally non-partisan. We don’t try to elect or defeat any party or candidate. We try to get all parties and candidates to make the strongest election commitments we can get on our issues.

This Action Kit tells you:

* What we are seeking from the federal parties and candidates in this federal election.

* What we’ve heard from the major parties so far.

* What you can do.

Helping our cause takes just a few minutes. This Action Kit draws on the extensive experience of the AODA Alliance and its predecessor coalition, the ODA Committee, in successfully conducting non-partisan blitzes like this in seven Ontario elections since 1995. All you need to know is in this Action Kit. Be creative. Come up with your own ideas. Share them with us. Contact us at [email protected] or on Twitter @aodaalliance

What We’re Seeking from the Federal Political Parties

We aim to get all the major national parties to commit to strengthen the new Accessible Canada Act and to promptly effectively implement it, so that the many barriers impeding people with disabilities will get torn down, as far as the Federal Government can do this. Back on July 18, 2019, we wrote the leaders of the major federal parties. We asked them to make specific commitments. We are making the responses of the party leaders public on our website at www.aodaalliance.org/canada You can read the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter to the major national party leaders by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

Let’s build on our past successes! In the 2015 federal election campaign, we and others conducted a successful non-partisan blitz to get commitments to pass a new national law that would make Canada become accessible to people with disabilities, in so far as the Federal Government can do this. Working together, we and others in the disability community succeeded in getting three of the four national parties that existed in 2015 to do so. In the 2015 election, the Liberals, NDP and Greens all made the pledge. Only the federal Conservatives did not.

We and others in the disability community continued to work hard over the past four years since the 2015 election to get strong new national accessibility law passed. In June of this year, Parliament unanimously passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act.

The Accessible Canada Act is a helpful step forward for people with disabilities in Canada. We got some of the ingredients in the law that we sought. However the Accessible Canada Act falls well short of what people with disabilities need.

It is good that this new law sets the mandatory goal of Canada becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. It gives us and all people with disabilities in Canada added tools we can try to use in an effort to tear down the many barriers that persist across this country. It includes a complaints-based enforcement process, a national body to recommend accessibility standards to be enacted, and reductions in the improper power of the Canadian Transportation Agency to enact regulations that can cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities.

Yet the Accessible Canada Act also suffers from serious deficiencies. For example:

1. Even though it gives the Federal Government helpful powers to promote accessibility, it largely does not require that these ever be used. For example, it lets the Federal Government create helpful and enforceable national accessibility standards but does not require the Federal Government to ever do so.

2. It provides for helpful enforcement tools but splinters its enforcement across four federal agencies. That is a real disadvantage for people with disabilities.

3. It continues to allow federal public money to be wastefully used to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against people with disabilities.

4. It unfairly lets the Federal Government grant sweeping exemptions from some of the bill’s requirements to regulated organizations, including the Federal Government itself.

5. It is very long, excessively complicated and hard to read and navigate.

The AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter to the federal party leaders asks them for 11 commitments to ensure that Canada becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. We want to know what their plans are to ensure that Canada is accessible by that date.

Where Do the Parties Stand?

As of September 20, 2019, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is the only leader of a major federal party that has answered the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter, which asked for election commitments on this issue. The NDP made some of the commitments we sought. To read the NDP’s September 16, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

We will make public any responses we get from the other party leaders. Check out our website’s Canada page for the latest news, at www.aodaalliance.org/Canada and follow our tweets on Twitter: @aodaalliance

How You Can Help

* Phone, email or visit the candidates’ campaign offices in your riding. Later in this Action Kit we give you ideas of what you might say to them. To help you, we have posted online a list of the names, email addresses and Twitter handles (where we could locate ones) for the candidates for some of the major parties at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/list-of-major-national-party-candidates-and-their-email-and-twitter-addresses-in-the-2019-federal-election/

* Go to a local all-candidates’ debate in or near your riding. These are a great place for grassroots democracy. These usually are held at a school, church or other community hall. You can find out when and where an all-candidates’ debate will be held by contacting any local candidate’s campaign office. Ask the candidates a brief, punchy question about the Accessible Canada Act during the debate. Later in this Action Kit, we offer ideas of what you might ask.

* Spread the word about these issues on social media like Twitter and Facebook. These social media platforms give you great ways to reach candidates, voters and news organizations during election campaigns. Later in this Kit, we give you sample tweets you might wish to use on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Tweet candidates in your riding or elsewhere to ask where they stand on the need to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act and to ensure its swift, strong implementation and enforcement. Just include their Twitter name in the tweet.

In fact, you can quickly help our social media blitz, without having to yourself compose your own tweets to the candidates. We and others are daily tweeting about this issue on Twitter. Just follow @aodaalliance on Twitter or search for the hashtag #AccessibleCanada and you will see all our tweets. It would help us so much if you would set aside a few minutes each day to just retweet our tweets to the candidates. Every re-tweet helps.

* On a smart phone or digital camera, take photos or videos of any accessibility barriers you find at candidates’ offices, campaign events, all-candidates debates, and other election events. Share those photos on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Use the hashtag #AccessibleCanada

* Use a smart phone to make video or audio recordings of candidates when they answer questions about the Accessible Canada Act, at all-candidates forums or other campaign events. Post these videos for free on YouTube. Then you can share the YouTube link to your video via social media like Facebook, and Twitter. This lets you become your own citizen journalist. Your online video may be the only record of a candidate’s giving commitments at one of these events on the Accessible Canada Act.

* Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about these accessibility issues. Tell them what the parties have said about this issue. Urge them to consider this issue when deciding on their vote.

* Call your local radio or TV station, and your local newspaper. Tell them about disability accessibility barriers that impede you or others you know, especially in areas like air and train travel, banking, cable or telephone services, Canada Post, or when dealing with the federal government. Urge the media to cover this election issue.

* Call in to radio or TV call-in shows. Write letters to the editor. If you are especially eager, write a guest column and urge your local newspaper to print it. Cut and paste as much as you want from this Action Kit and from our website. We are delighted when others make use of our resources.

* If you are connected with a community organization, such as one that deals with disability or other social justice issues, get that organization to circulate this Action Kit and post it or link to it on their website and Facebook page.

What You Might Say to Candidates, Media Reporters and Voters

It is best if you say it in your own words, not ours. However, if you don’t have time to re-phrase our suggestions, just use them as is!

Give examples of barriers that we need the Accessible Canada Act to fix, such as accessibility problems you or others have faced at airports, or when taking flights within Canada or on flights that start or end in Canada; when trying to use services of the Government of Canada; with Canada Post services; using banks in Canada, or when trying to vote in a Canadian election.

Explain why you or others should not have to fight these accessibility barriers one at a time, by launching a human rights complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, or by suing in court under the Charter of Rights. Accessibility is good for all Canadians. We all are bound to get a disability as we age. These barriers hurt our economy, are bad for business, and create a preventable burden on the public purse.

Be brief candidates and news reporters are extremely busy during election campaigns. Be personal. People remember personal stories more than statistics.

Tips for Phoning or Visiting a Candidate’s Campaign Office:

Usually, a receptionist or volunteer at a candidate’s campaign office will take your call. The candidate is likely out knocking on doors to meet voters. Here is what you might say when someone answers your call or meet you at their campaign office. Try to get the receptionist or volunteer on our side, by getting them interested in the Accessible Canada Act. We have found that often, campaign staff and volunteers have their own personal experience with disability accessibility barriers.

ME: Hello, my name is [insert name] and I’m a voter and constituent of [insert riding]. I’d like to speak with the candidate to introduce myself. Would he/she be available?

RECEPTIONIST: No, he/she is out at the moment. Can I take a message?

ME: Yes, please. My name is [insert name], and I’m a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability. Parliament passed a law last spring called the Accessible Canada Act. It says that Canada must become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party will do to achieve this if you are elected.

Note: It is helpful to try to convince a campaign staff member or volunteer about the importance of this issue. If they get really motivated about this issue, they can call their party’s campaign headquarters and help turn up the heat on this issue.

What You Might Say When Talking to a Candidate Wherever You Meet Them

ME: My name is [insert name] and I am a voter in [insert riding]. I’m also a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability. [Describe your connection to disability.]

Last June, Parliament passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada by 2040. I want to know what you and your party will do to make sure this happens, if you are elected.

Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers in areas that the federal government can address, like air travel, federal government services, banking, Canada Post, phone and cable companies, and other telecommunications. Everyone either has a disability now or will get one as they age. So this issue affects all voters.

Tips for Emailing a Candidate:

Email is a quick and easy way to get your message to candidates. However, candidates often have staff or volunteers monitor email accounts for them. If you want to be sure you’re reaching the candidate him/herself, it is best to email them, and then phone their campaign office to follow up on the email.

Sample email:

Dear [insert name],

As a person with a disability/family member or friend of someone with a disability, I would like to know where you stand on an important issue in this federal election.

[Feel free to insert a paragraph about your personal connection to disability.]

Today there are more than 6 million Canadians with disabilities, and this number is expected to grow even larger in the future. These people continue to face unnecessary barriers in areas of federal authority such as federal government services, air travel, cable TV and phone services, Canada Post, banking, and telecommunications. These barriers mean that people with disabilities in Canada can’t fully participate in all aspects of life.

Last June, Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party’s plan is to ensure that we achieve this goal. What will your party do on this issue, if you are elected? I also want to know if you, as a Member of Parliament, will personally advocate to make sure this new law is effectively implemented and enforced. I would appreciate it if you would tell others in your party that this issue is important to your constituents.

If you have any questions or require further information, please feel free to contact me or to email the AODA Alliance at [email protected]

Yours sincerely,

Tips for Attending a Local All-Candidates’ Debate

Some all-candidates debates let you ask a question from the floor. Others require you to write it out while there, and submit it so that the debate moderator can read it aloud. Either way, you should write it out in advance if you can. Make it short and punchy. If the event’s format presents accessibility challenges, let the organizers know. You may even wish to highlight the challenges as part of your question.

ME: My name is [insert name], and I live in this riding. More than 6 million Canadians have disabilities. They face unfair accessibility barriers in areas of federal jurisdiction like federal government services, Canada Post, air travel, banking, phone and cable TV companies, and telecommunications.

Here is my question for all the candidates:

Last June, Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. It requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. I want to know what your party’s plan is to ensure that we achieve this. What will your party do on this issue, if you are elected.

Tweets You Might Wish to Send on Twitter or Facebook

As mentioned earlier, you can find all the email addresses and Twitter handles for federal candidates that we could track down on our website at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/list-of-major-national-party-candidates-and-their-email-and-twitter-addresses-in-the-2019-federal-election/

At the start of your tweet, insert the Twitter handle (i.e. Twitter name) for a candidate and then cut and paste in any of these tweets. These all fit within the Twitter maximum of 280 characters, with a bit of space leftover.

Parliament unanimously passed #AccessibleCanada Act. It requires Canada to become #accessible to people with disabilities by 2040. What is your party’s plan to ensure we reach that goal? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #accessibility #canpoli

@aodaalliance wrote party leaders for election pledges to ensure #AccessibleCanada Act is swiftly & effectively implemented & enforced. Will you help get your leader to pledge? Read our letter https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #CRPD #canpoli

Parliament unanimously passed the #AccessibleCanada Act this year to make Canada #accessible by 2040. Do you pledge to support its full, strong and prompt implementation & enforcement? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AODA #accessibility #CRPD #canpoli

Do you agree that the Federal Government should never let public money be used to create or perpetuate #accessibility barriers against over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada? Please pledge! https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree and commit that enforceable federal #accessibility regulations should &will be enacted within 4 years in the areas that the new #AccessibleCanada Act is mandated to regulate? Please pledge! https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree and commit that nothing should and will be done under the #AccessibleCanada Act that reduces the rights of people with disabilities in Canada? Please pledge https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #accessibility #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree that the Federal Government should ensure that no federal laws create or permit #accessibility barriers against people with disabilities? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you agree that the Federal Government should ensure that voters with disabilities face no #accessibility barriers to voting independently and in private & verifying that their ballot was marked as they wish? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada

Do you agree that the Federal Government should not be able to exempt itself from any of its obligations under the new #AccessibleCanada Act? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #accessibility #CRPD #CanPoli

Do you commit to only attend all-candidates debates during this election campaign if they are held in a place that has #accessibility for voters with disabilities? https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/ #AccessibleCanada #CRPD #Canpoli




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