With the COVID-19 Crisis Creating a Nightmare for Us All, Why Does the City of Toronto’s Infrastructure Committee Think It?s More Important to Meet to Discuss Allowing Electric Scooters in Toronto?


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

July 3, 2020

SUMMARY

The COVID-19 crisis now is into its fourth month with no end in sight. We need our politicians and public servants working 100% on alleviating the horrible burdens that COVID-19 has inflicted on us all. Yet the politicians on the City of Torontos Infrastructure Committee think it is more important to now debate allowing electric scooters (e-scooters) on Toronto street. This is so even though e-scooters are known to present a real danger to safety and accessibility for people with disabilities and others.

On July 2, 2020, the City of Toronto announced at its meeting on Thursday, July 9, 2020 meeting that the City of Toronto Infrastructure Committee will consider a proposal to eventually allow e-scooters in Toronto. The AODA Alliance quickly wrote the City of Torontos Infrastructure Committee to request an opportunity to address the Committee at its July 9, 2020 meeting. We set out that request, below.

We have not yet received an acknowledgement of our request to present, or an acceptance of our request. The AODA Alliance has played a major role raising serious safety and accessibility concerns for people with disabilities and others.

On July 2, 2020, the City of Toronto made public a detailed June 24, 2020 staff report on e-scooters submitted to the Infrastructure Committee by the Citys General Manager, Transportation Services. Below we set out key excerpts from that report from a disability perspective. We then set out the entire report, which is about 49 pages long.

We will have more to say about the staff report in the coming days. However, heres the AODA Alliances initial take on the report:

1. The City of Toronto Staff Report shows that to introduce e-scooters to Toronto will create real dangers to safety and accessibility for people with disabilities. The Staff Report says that it is an aim to reduce those dangers. However nothing in the reports plan of action would substantially reduce those dangers, much less eliminate them.

2. The Staff Report demonstrates that to introduce e-scooters to new costs and financial burdens will be imposed on the City of Toronto. The AODA takes the position that these burdens should not be inflicted on the public, especially after our society has had to suffer the crushing financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis, an impact that is continuing with no end in sight. If more public money were now to be spent, it should not be on the costs that the City of Toronto would have to shoulder due to the introduction of e-scooters.

3. The Staff Report shows that the supposed social benefits of e-scooters (reducing car traffic on the streets and better for the environment) are actually not proven by experience with e-scooters.

4. Despite all the demonstrated harms and burdens that e-scooters will inflict, and their dubious benefits, the Staff Report proposes that the City work towards conducting a pilot with e-scooters, deferring a decision to early in 2021. The Staff Report does not justify its conclusion, which is amply and overwhelmingly contradicted by the reports thorough analysis and findings.

5. The Staff Reports recommendations are directly contrary to the strong, unanimous recommendation to the City of Toronto by the statutorily-mandated Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee. As the Staff Report notes, that Committee recommended that e-scooters not be allowed in Toronto. The Staff Reports recommendations are also contrary to the strong recommendations of 11 disability organizations in the January 22, 2020 open letter sent by the AODA Alliance to the mayors and councils of all Ontario municipalities.

6. Those who stand to profit from this proposal are the e-scooter rental companies that would open up this new rental market, without bearing the costs that our community would suffer. There is no doubt that their corporate lobbyists have been hard at work behind closed doors, trying to influence the members of Toronto City Council.

7. The AODA Alliance calls on the City of Toronto and its Infrastructure Committee to quickly reject this proposal. We call on the City of Toronto and its Infrastructure Committee to focus 100% of their time and effort to the horrific crisis that is now engulfing us at all, namely the COVID-19 crisis.

8. If the City of Toronto Infrastructure Committee is looking for a new priority agenda item to address, it should work comprehensively on making Torontos infrastructure fully accessible to people with disabilities. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires Toronto, including its infrastructure, to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, under 4.5 years from now. Toronto is not on schedule to reach that goal.

9. It is especially unfair for the City of Toronto and its Infrastructure Committee to be bringing this issue forward now, in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. City Council and Committee meetings are not open to the public to physically attend. Members of the public are struggling to cope with the multiple pressures that they face, that have been accumulating over the past 16 weeks. At the start of July, many are trying to just get something of a holiday, if possible. For its part, the AODA Alliance is overloaded with issues on which to advocate for people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. For the City of Toronto to force us to also have to divert our volunteer advocacy efforts to this e-scooter issue now is just one more hardship that should not have had to be shouldered.

To learn more about the AODA Alliances advocacy efforts to protect people with disabilities and others from the dangers that e-scooters pose, visit our e-scooters web page.

We welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

July 2, 2020 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to the Clerk of the City of Toronto Infrastructure Committee

To: Clerk, City of Toronto Infrastructure Committee
Via email: [email protected]
CC: Mayor John Tory
Via email: [email protected]
From: David Lepofsky, chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Date: July 2, 2020
Re: July 9, 2020 Meeting of the City of Toronto Infrastructure Committee

I write to request a chance to present a deputation to the July 9, 2020 meeting of the Infrastructure Committee on the issue of electric scooters. The AODA Alliance, of which I am Chair, has played a leading role in raising serious disability safety and accessibility concerns with e-scooters.

I ask that we be permitted to present for more than the typical 5 minutes. Even a 10-minute time slot would be preferable to 5 minutes. We have very serous concerns to present, backed by extensive work on this issue. We have also played a leading role in advocating for the needs of people with disabilities during COVID-19, which will bear on the e-scooter issue. Five minutes will not allow us to effectively identify our key safety and accessibility concerns.

We are certain that many if not most of the counsellors will have had ample opportunities to individually hear from the corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies, before the July 9, 2020 meeting. It is important for the voices of people with disabilities to be given a fair chance to be heard. This is especially important since due to COVID-19, we are not able to attend the Committee meeting in person and in public.

We would be happy to do whatever we can to assist the Committee in its deliberations and to use our time efficiently.

Our advocacy work on the e-scooters issue is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/e-scooters/

Our advocacy efforts on COVID-19 issues for people with disabilities are documented at www.aodaalliance.org/covid

We also ask that a fully accessible platform be used for the Committee meeting. Your office can contact me if we can assist with that issue.

Please confirm that you received this letter.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Key Excerpts from the June 24, 2020 City of Toronto Staff Report on E-Scooters

* this report recommends an approach that reduces the likelihood of e-scooter risks to riders, impacts on people with accessibility needs, community nuisance, and liability to the City, as well as enhancing the public benefits.

* City staff recommend that the Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) be authorized to serve as the provider of shared micromobility services to allow for the implementation of more safeguards and better coordination with other municipal services, especially Bike Share. This approach would result in a competitive procurement process for shared e-scooters that complements Bike Share Toronto. The use and parking of e-scooters would continue to be prohibited in Toronto until such time that the TPA service has been contracted and City resources for enforcement are in place.

This report also recommends the need for improved industry standards at the provincial and federal levels for greater consumer protection in the purchase and/or use of e-scooters. While staff are aware that e-scooters are being considered as an open-air transportation option, the absence of improved standards and available insurance for e-scooter riders, coupled with lack of enforcement resources, would risk the safety of riders and the public on the City’s streets and sidewalks, especially for people with disabilities.

Next steps are to commence development of an RFP by the TPA, with support by Transportation Services, and for City staff to report back in the first quarter of 2021 with an update on progress on opting into the pilot and proposed pilot by-law changes applicable to e-scooters (personal and shared) for an e-scooter pilot recommended for May 2021.

* RECOMMENDATIONS

The General Manager, Transportation Services recommends that:

1. City Council request that the General Manager, Transportation Services, report back in the first quarter of 2021 with progress on opting into the pilot and the recommendations below, including, but not limited to, injury, fatality and collision investigations and data collection and tracking, further standards development for e-scooter device design, as well as consultations on proposed by-law changes with the accessibility community and other external and internal stakeholders (e.g., Toronto Police Services, Toronto Parking Authority, and Toronto Public Health), prior to, or in conjunction with, proposed by-law changes required to opt in to the Provincial e-scooter pilot for May 2021, subject to budget approvals and COVID-19 status.

2. City Council amend Municipal Code Chapter 179 – Parking Authority by adding the term, “micromobility”, in section 179-7.1 to expand the Toronto Parking Authority’s authority over the bike share system to add micromobility share system as shown in the amended section in Attachment 1.

3. City Council request that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation amend the Motor Vehicle Collision Report to add electric kick-scooters as a vehicle type and to treat e-scooters as a motor vehicle for reporting purposes.

4. City Council request that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General establish set fines for violations of O. Reg. 389/19, Pilot Project –
Electric Kick-Scooters, and communicate these set fines to Toronto Police Services through an All Chiefs Bulletin.

5. City Council request that the General Manager, Transportation Services, consult with internal and external stakeholders regarding the lack of available medical coverage for e-scooter users and non-users when injured, and explore options with other government and industry stakeholders on creating a solution for automatic no-fault benefits for medical and rehabilitation expenses not provided through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) for those injured in incidents involving e-scooters and other micromobility devices.

6. City Council request that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation strengthen its standards and specifications for e-scooters in O. Reg. 389/19, Pilot Project – Electric Kick-Scooters based on the latest best practice research.

7. City Council request that the General Manager of Transportation, in consultation with health agencies and/or academic partners, to explore options and methods for studying the health impacts of e-scooter use, including, but not limited to, tracking the number and types of injuries and fatalities related to e-scooters.

8. City Council request that the General Manager, Transportation Services, report back through the 2021 budget process, and in consultation with the Toronto Parking Authority, Toronto Police Services, the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, and other Divisions as necessary, on the financial and additional staff resources required to manage the implementation, operation, and enforcement of e-scooters in Toronto.

9. City Council authorize the City Solicitor to introduce the necessary bills to give effect to City Council’s decision and City Council authorize the City Solicitor to make any necessary clarifications, refinements, minor modifications, technical amendments, or by-law amendments as may be identified by the City Solicitor in order to give effect to the recommendations in this report dated June 24, 2020, titled “E-Scooters – A Vision Zero Road Safety Approach”, in consultation with the General Manager, Transportation Services and the President, Toronto Parking Authority.

* While e-scooters have potential to serve areas with less access to mobility, the experience of other cities has shown that this has not always been realized. The privately operated e-scooter business model is centred around serving areas with higher pedestrian density and more disposable income.

E-scooters pose a risk to people with disabilities due to their faster speeds and lack of noise. Cities that have allowed e-scooters have observed a high incidence of sidewalk riding by riders, whether permitted or not on sidewalks. Parked e-scooters, especially when part of a dockless sharing system, can pose trip hazards and obstacles. Seniors, people with disabilities, and those with socio-economic challenges could face negative outcomes if injured in a collision or fall. Solutions to enforcement and compliance are still in their infancy.

* On February 3, 2020, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee recommended City Council prohibit e-scooters for use in public spaces including sidewalks and roads, and directed that any City permission granted to e-scooter companies be guided by public safety, in robust consultation with people living with disabilities, and related organizations serving this population.

* The key appeal and popularity of e-scooters is that they are fun and convenient, particularly to people under the age of 35. They are often used for recreation and touring, but can also be used as a method of commuting or for taking short utilitarian trips. They reduce effort and sweat from exertion compared to human-powered kick-scooters and bicycles. They also enable people to go farther distances than on foot. A large part of the convenience is that there is no need to search for parking as there is with a car; adding to that e-scooters are easy to access, if folded and carried with the user, or if available through a dockless sharing system where the devices are widely available on the street.

* Vision Zero Road Safety Risks with E-scooters
The City has a Vision Zero commitment to eliminate serious injuries and fatalities resulting from roadway crashes, particularly around six emphasis areas including pedestrians, school children, and older adults. Replacing car trips with e-scooter trips presents an opportunity to address some road safety issues if e-scooters produce a net safety benefit, especially for these groups. A 2020 International Transport Forum study notes that the risk of hospital admission may be higher for e-scooter riders than for cyclists, but that there are too few studies to draw firm conclusions. While not comprehensive, the emerging evidence of the health impacts associated with e-scooter use warrants a cautious approach to mitigate risks to e-scooter riders, pedestrians, and the City. Some of the findings are below.

New e-scooters users are most likely to be injured with 63 per cent of injuries occurring within the first nine times using an e-scooter. (CDC and City of Austin).

A comparison of serious injury rates between Calgary’s 2019 shared e-scooter pilot and Bike Share Toronto suggests riding a shared e-scooter is potentially about 350 times more likely to result in a serious injury than riding a shared bike on a per km basis, and about 100 times more likely on a per trip basis. This includes a limited sample size, differing definitions for serious injuries, different city contexts (e.g., Calgary allowed e-scooter riding on sidewalks, whereas bicycle riding is not allowed on sidewalks in Toronto) and serious injuries may decline over time as people gain experience riding e-scooters. (Montréal reported few e-scooter injuries for its 2019 pilot, however, it is unclear whether and how data for serious injuries was gathered.) Calculations are based on: 33 ER visits requiring ambulance transport over three months (Jul to Sep 2019) in Calgary for e-scooter-related injuries with a reported 750,000 trips, and average trip length of 0.9km; and 2,439,000 trips for Bike Share Toronto, with 3km average trip length, over 12 months in 2019, and no serious injuries (e.g., broken bones, head trauma, hospitalization) but attributing one for comparison purposes. Further data collection and studies of injuries are needed on a per km basis, by type of trip (i.e., recreational versus commuting, facility type), and by injury type.

The fatality rate for shared e-scooter users is potentially nine to 18 times the rate of bike share-related deaths in the U.S., based on a news report in the Chicagoreader.

Head trauma was reported in nearly one third of all e-scooter-related injuries in the U.S. from 2014 to 2018 more than twice the rate of head injuries to bicyclists. In a City of Austin study in 2018 over three months, 48 per cent of e-scooter riders who were hurt had head injuries (91 out of 190), with 15 per cent (28 riders) experiencing more serious traumatic brain injuries.

Falling off e-scooters was the cause of 80 per cent of injuries (183 riders); 20 per cent (45 riders) had collided with a vehicle or an object, according to a 2019 UCLA study of two hospital ERs in one year. Just over eight per cent of the injuries were to pedestrians injured as a result of e-scooters (11 hit by an e-scooter, 5 tripped over a parked e-scooter, and 5 were attempting to move an e-scooter not in use).

Hospital data will be key to track injuries and fatalities by type and severity, especially for incidents where no motor vehicle has been involved (e.g., losing control) or for a trip and fall involving improperly parked e-scooters. As an ICD-10 code (international standard injury reporting code) specific to e-scooters will not be implemented in Canada until at least spring 2021, a reliable method to track serious e-scooter related injuries and fatalities presenting at hospitals is currently not available.

* Although the HTA sets out some e-scooter standards, such as maximum speed and power wattage, due to the nature of urban and suburban conditions such as Toronto’s, City staff recommend that the Province strengthen the device standards for greater rider safety. Based on an extensive literature review, items recommended for further Provincial exploration include a maximum turning radius, a platform surface grip, wheel characteristics (e.g., minimum size, traction, tire width), braking and suspension.

In addition, the Province has not established set fine amounts for offences under the HTA e-scooter regulations. Without this in place, for the police to lay a charge in respect of a violation, a “Part III Summons” is required, which means the police must attend court for each charge laid regardless of severity, and a trial is required for a conviction and fine to be set. This may make it less likely that charges are laid. Fines outside of ones the City could set (e.g. e-scooter parking violations, illegal sidewalk riding) would create workload challenges for Police and courts.

In spite of the Pilot requirement to collect data, there is currently no vehicle type for e-scooters in the Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) Motor Vehicle Collision Report (MVCR) template used by all police services to report collisions. Unless the Province specifies e-scooters are motor vehicles for the purposes of collision reporting, and has a field for this in its template, e-scooter collisions may not be reported reliably and meaningful collision data analysis will not be possible. In Fall 2019, City staff requested that the MTO add e-scooters as a separate vehicle type, but MTO has not yet communicated they would make this change.

* Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
Persons with disabilities and seniors have considerable concerns about sidewalk and crosswalk interactions with e-scooter users, as well as concerns regarding trip hazards and obstructions from poorly parked or excessive amounts of e-scooters. The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, a body required under the AODA, recommends that City Council prohibit the use of e-scooters in public spaces, including sidewalks and roads. In other jurisdictions outside of Ontario, some legal action has been undertaken against municipalities by persons injured as a result of e-scooter sidewalk obstructions, as well as by persons with disabilities.

* There is a significant risk that the City may be held partially or fully liable for damages if e-scooter riders or other parties are injured. Transportation Services staff consulted with the City’s Insurance and Risk Management office (I&RM) to understand the magnitude of the City’s liability if allowing e-scooters. At this time, loss data is lacking on e-scooters due to generally lengthy settlement times for bodily injury claims. The City has significant liability exposure, however, due to joint and several liability, as the City may have to pay an entire judgement or claim even if only found to be 1 per cent at fault for an incident. The City has a $5M deductible per occurrence, which means the City will be responsible for all costs below that amount. In terms of costs, Transportation Services staff will also be required to investigate and serve in the discovery process for claims.

E-scooter sharing/rental companies typically require a rider to sign a waiver, placing the onus of compensating injured parties on the rider. Riders are left financially exposed due to a lack of insurance coverage and if unable to pay, municipalities will be looked to for compensation (e.g., in settlements and courts). Claims related to e-scooter malfunction have been reported by the media (such as in Atlanta, Auckland, New Zealand and Brisbane, Australia). In 2019, a Grand Jury faulted the City of San Diego for inadequate regulation and enforcement of e-scooter sharing companies. By opting in to the Pilot, the City will be exposed to claims associated with improperly parked e-scooters as evidenced by lawsuits filed by persons with disabilities and those injured by e-scooter obstructions (such as in Minneapolis and Santa Monica, California).

The insurance industry does not currently have insurance products available for e-scooter riders. In Fall 2019, City staff explored whether the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund could be expanded or if a similar kind of fund in principle could be created to address claims where e-scooter riders or non-users are injured and their expenses are not covered by OHIP, nor by other insurance policies (e.g., homeowner’s or personal auto). Further research and consultation would be needed to look into these considerations.

It will be critical to ensure that insurance evidenced by e-scooter sharing companies will cover their operations for all jurisdictions operated in (e.g., all cities nationally or internationally). Further, there needs to be full indemnification for the municipality by e-scooter sharing companies, and not limitations in their indemnification contracts.

In addition to the experiences in other jurisdictions, several risk factors are unique to the City of Toronto and play a role in informing the recommended approach to e-scooters:

Streetcar tracks: Toronto has an extensive track network (177 linear kilometres) which poses a hazard to e-scooter riders due to the vehicle’s small wheel diameter.

Winter and State-Of-Good-Repair: Toronto experiences freezing and thawing that impacts the state-of-good-repair for roads. A large portion of roads are 40 to 50 years old, with 43 per cent of Major Roads and 24 per cent of Local Roads in poor condition. Coupled with lack of standards for e-scooter wheels (e.g., traction, size), this makes this particular device more sensitive to uneven road surfaces.

High construction activity: In addition to the city’s various infrastructure projects, Toronto has been one of the fastest growing cities with about 120 development construction sites in 2019.

Narrow sidewalks and high pedestrian mode shares in the Downtown Core and City Centres: Most jurisdictions experienced illegal sidewalk riding by e-scooter users, with some business districts saying e-scooters deterred patrons from visiting their previously pedestrian-friendly main streets. This is especially challenging with physical distancing requirements and other COVID-19 recovery programs expanding the use of the City’s sidewalks and boulevards.

* Residents gave the highest intensity of support for e-scooter riders having to wear helmets (mean score of 8.8 out of ten).

* Other key issues raised in the consultations include lack of enforcement and adequate infrastructure; and questions about environmental sustainability, public space and the potential for clutter and safety hazards particularly for people with disabilities.

* Other cities have suspended e-scooter sharing services until after COVID-19 (e.g., Windsor approved a shared e-scooter pilot in April 2020, but has now deferred its pilot until after COVID-19). Prior to the pandemic, a number of jurisdictions (e.g., Boulder, Honolulu, and Houston) had refused to allow or banned the use of e-scooters due to public safety concerns. Key cities with similar population, urban form, and/or climate have not yet piloted e-scooters such as New York City (Manhattan/New York County ban), Philadelphia, and Sydney, Australia.

* While staff have considered a potential e-scooter pilot on ActiveTO major road closures, it would pose risks to vulnerable road users and leave the City open to considerable liability and risk due to lack of resources for oversight, education and enforcement at this time. A key purpose of ActiveTO is to provide a mixed use space for physical activity for people of all ages for walking, jogging and human-powered cycling. Piloting a new vehicle type that is throttle-powered and can potentially exceed speeds of 24km/hr poses risks to vulnerable road users in such conditions. It could also lead to confusion about which infrastructure or facilities under ActiveTO are permissible, and this would pose public safety risks that the City does not have resources to manage at this time.

* Finally, the risk of injury for new users is high, and could put additional burden on local hospitals and paramedics at this time. For the reasons above, City staff do not recommend permitting e-scooters in ActiveTO facilities in 2020.

* If Council were to permit e-scooters to be operated on City streets – without the commensurate resources to provide oversight, education, outreach and enforcement, there would be considerable risks to public safety for e-scooter riders and other vulnerable road users; additional burden on hospitals and paramedics; impacts on accessibility, community nuisance and complaints; impacts on current initiatives to enhance the public realm for COVID-19 recovery efforts, such as CurbTO and CaféTO; and liability and costs to the City. For the reasons above, staff recommend that personal use of e-scooters not be considered until 2021.

* Recommended Approach
Staff recommend an approach that minimizes risk by seeking enhancements to the Provincial pilot project regulations and supports, as well as building from the improvements made to e-scooter programs in other cities. The conclusion is to propose a municipal service model under the TPA that is competitively procured, and that is coordinated with, and complements Bike Share Toronto. This will ensure shared micromobility continues as a public transportation option with oversight. This approach reduces impacts on sidewalk users and public space by managing shared micromobility parking. This approach requires an amendment to the authority granted to the TPA under Chapter 179, Parking Authority of the Municipal Code to add shared micromobility including e-scooters. (see Attachment 1)

Staff recommend continuing the current prohibitions of e-scooter use and parking as outlined in Chapter 950, Traffic and Parking, and Chapter 886, Footpaths, Pedestrian Ways, Bicycle Paths, Bicycle Lanes and Cycle Tracks, until the system for oversight is in place for public safety, and given the requests for amendments to Provincial regulations. While a number of e-scooter sharing companies are looking for permission from the City to allow e-scooters in 2020, staff do not recommend this as it would pre-empt the recommended approach for competitive procurement, require diversion of staff resources to manage opting in to the Provincial pilot, and lead to considerable risks and costs to the City. A pilot involving e-scooter use in ActiveTO facilities would not provide useful assessment of e-scooters as ActiveTO (e.g., major road closures) are not representative of typical real life conditions and interactions with other road users, and would present immediate liability exposure and costs to the City.

* Next steps are to commence development of an RFP by the TPA, with support by Transportation Services, and for City staff to report back in the first quarter of 2021 with an update on proposed pilot by-law changes applicable to e-scooters (personal and shared) and budget requirements for an e-scooter pilot recommended for May 2021.
The report back for 2021 can include any progress on consultations with the Province and other key stakeholders to:

Strengthen the e-scooter standards and specifications to foster greater safety for privately owned e-scooters and for e-scooter sharing;

Update the MVCR template and treat e-scooters as a motor vehicle for reporting purposes to enable effective, consistent data collection;
Establish set fines for offences made under the HTA Pilot Project regulations and communicate this to the Toronto Police; and

Research and explore issues and opportunities to create a fund for claims by e-scooter users and non-users who are injured as a result of e-scooter incidents and have medical/rehabilitation expenses not provided through OHIP or existing homeowner’s or auto insurance.

June 24, 2020 Report to Toronto City Council by General Manager Transportation Services for the City of Toronto

REPORT FOR ACTION

E-Scooters – A Vision Zero Road Safety Approach

Date: June 24, 2020
To: Infrastructure and Environment Committee
From: General Manager, Transportation Services
Wards: All

SUMMARY

E-scooters, or electric kick-scooters, are a new vehicle type suited for short urban trips. Since 2017, they have emerged in many cities across North America and Europe as they provide convenient, low-cost solutions for short trips and can provide connections to other modes of travel such as transit.

On January 1, 2020, new Provincial regulations came into effect that allow Ontario municipalities to opt in to a five-year e-scooter pilot project subject to conditions. This requires revising municipal by-laws to identify where e-scooters would be allowed to be used. Key pilot rules for e-scooter riders include a minimum operation age of 16, maximum travel speed of 24 km/hr, mandatory riding in bike lanes where available, and helmets required if the rider is under 18 years old.

This report is informed by a Vision Zero approach to road safety, particularly for vulnerable road users, while also considering the potential benefits of e-scooters such as convenience and alternatives to automobile use for short trips. Based on extensive research and consultations, this report recommends an approach that reduces the likelihood of e-scooter risks to riders, impacts on people with accessibility needs, community nuisance, and liability to the City, as well as enhancing the public benefits.

City staff recommend that the Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) be authorized to serve as the provider of shared micromobility services to allow for the implementation of more safeguards and better coordination with other municipal services, especially Bike Share. This approach would result in a competitive procurement process for shared e-scooters that complements Bike Share Toronto. The use and parking of e-scooters would continue to be prohibited in Toronto until such time that the TPA service has been contracted and City resources for enforcement are in place.

This report also recommends the need for improved industry standards at the provincial and federal levels for greater consumer protection in the purchase and/or use of e-scooters. While staff are aware that e-scooters are being considered as an open-air transportation option, the absence of improved standards and available insurance for e-scooter riders, coupled with lack of enforcement resources, would risk the safety of riders and the public on the City’s streets and sidewalks, especially for people with disabilities.

Next steps are to commence development of an RFP by the TPA, with support by Transportation Services, and for City staff to report back in the first quarter of 2021 with an update on progress on opting into the pilot and proposed pilot by-law changes applicable to e-scooters (personal and shared) for an e-scooter pilot recommended for May 2021.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The General Manager, Transportation Services recommends that:

1. City Council request that the General Manager, Transportation Services, report back in the first quarter of 2021 with progress on opting into the pilot and the recommendations below, including, but not limited to, injury, fatality and collision investigations and data collection and tracking, further standards development for e-scooter device design, as well as consultations on proposed by-law changes with the accessibility community and other external and internal stakeholders (e.g., Toronto Police Services, Toronto Parking Authority, and Toronto Public Health), prior to, or in conjunction with, proposed by-law changes required to opt in to the Provincial e-scooter pilot for May 2021, subject to budget approvals and COVID-19 status.

2. City Council amend Municipal Code Chapter 179 – Parking Authority by adding the term, “micromobility”, in section 179-7.1 to expand the Toronto Parking Authority’s authority over the bike share system to add micromobility share system as shown in the amended section in Attachment 1.

3. City Council request that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation amend the Motor Vehicle Collision Report to add electric kick-scooters as a vehicle type and to treat e-scooters as a motor vehicle for reporting purposes.

4. City Council request that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General establish set fines for violations of O. Reg. 389/19, Pilot Project –
Electric Kick-Scooters, and communicate these set fines to Toronto Police Services through an All Chiefs Bulletin.

5. City Council request that the General Manager, Transportation Services, consult with internal and external stakeholders regarding the lack of available medical coverage for e-scooter users and non-users when injured, and explore options with other government and industry stakeholders on creating a solution for automatic no-fault benefits for medical and rehabilitation expenses not provided through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) for those injured in incidents involving e-scooters and other micromobility devices.

6. City Council request that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation strengthen its standards and specifications for e-scooters in O. Reg. 389/19, Pilot Project – Electric Kick-Scooters based on the latest best practice research.

7. City Council request that the General Manager of Transportation, in consultation with health agencies and/or academic partners, to explore options and methods for studying the health impacts of e-scooter use, including, but not limited to, tracking the number and types of injuries and fatalities related to e-scooters.

8. City Council request that the General Manager, Transportation Services, report back through the 2021 budget process, and in consultation with the Toronto Parking Authority, Toronto Police Services, the Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, and other Divisions as necessary, on the financial and additional staff resources required to manage the implementation, operation, and enforcement of e-scooters in Toronto.

9. City Council authorize the City Solicitor to introduce the necessary bills to give effect to City Council’s decision and City Council authorize the City Solicitor to make any necessary clarifications, refinements, minor modifications, technical amendments, or by-law amendments as may be identified by the City Solicitor in order to give effect to the recommendations in this report dated June 24, 2020, titled “E-Scooters – A Vision Zero Road Safety Approach”, in consultation with the General Manager, Transportation Services and the President, Toronto Parking Authority.

FINANCIAL IMPACT

Funding and resources required in various programs for the following will be included as part of future budget submissions for consideration during the budget process to address the financial and additional staff resources required to: manage implementation, operational, and enforcement issues of e-scooters in Toronto; and the resolution of e-scooter issues, including, but not limited to, injury/fatality and collision investigations and data collection and tracking (e.g., in consultation with health agencies and/or academic partners, Toronto Police Services, and others), further standards development for e-scooter device design, and consultations on proposed by-law changes with accessibility and other stakeholders.

The Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer has reviewed this report and agrees with the financial impact information.

EQUITY STATEMENT
While e-scooters have potential to serve areas with less access to mobility, the experience of other cities has shown that this has not always been realized. The privately operated e-scooter business model is centred around serving areas with higher pedestrian density and more disposable income.

E-scooters pose a risk to people with disabilities due to their faster speeds and lack of noise. Cities that have allowed e-scooters have observed a high incidence of sidewalk riding by riders, whether permitted or not on sidewalks. Parked e-scooters, especially when part of a dockless sharing system, can pose trip hazards and obstacles. Seniors, people with disabilities, and those with socio-economic challenges could face negative outcomes if injured in a collision or fall. Solutions to enforcement and compliance are still in their infancy.

DECISION HISTORY

On February 3, 2020, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee recommended City Council prohibit e-scooters for use in public spaces including sidewalks and roads, and directed that any City permission granted to e-scooter companies be guided by public safety, in robust consultation with people living with disabilities, and related organizations serving this population. http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2020.DI7.3

On October 2-3, 2019 City Council, directed the General Manager, Transportation Services, to report on a program for the oversight and management of e-scooters on City roadways, including possibly adding e-scooters to the bike share fleet as a way of managing e-scooters in the public right-of-way, to ensure a safe and accessible transportation network for all users during the proposed five-year Provincial pilot project. City Council also prohibited e-scooter use on City sidewalks and pedestrian ways, and parking, storing or leaving an e-scooter on any street, sidewalk and pedestrian way. http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2019.IE7.13

On April 25, 2019, the Infrastructure and Environment Committee requested a report back on a proposed regulatory framework, safe road design and intersection requirements for low-speed wheeled modes under 25 km, including but not limited to electric wheelchairs, scooters, cargo cycles, and e-assist cycles in Toronto. http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2019.IE4.5

COMMENTS

Background
E-scooters are a two-wheeled battery-powered device, with a narrow board that the rider stands on and steers using a handle stick, and a throttle for acceleration (see Figure 1 which is a photo of this device and a hand holding a smart phone). They are a form of micromobility, a general concept for shorter distance travel using light-weight vehicles such as bicycles, e-bikes, and e-scooters. They may be privately owned or are often rented by the minute through mobile apps.

On January 1, 2020, Ontario Regulation 389/19 Pilot Project – Electric Kick-Scooters under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) came into force, outlining broad conditions for a five-year e-scooter pilot period. Municipalities may opt in to the pilot by revising their by-laws on where e-scooters would be allowed to operate such as roads, bike lanes, and trails within its jurisdiction. A few of the City of Toronto’s requested standards for e-scooters were included in the Province’s regulations. Key parameters in the HTA for the vehicle and rules are: Two wheels (one at the front of the kick-scooter and one at the rear); No seat, no pedals, no enclosure, no basket;
No carrying goods/items/cargo, no towing;
Maximum 500 watts, and maximum 24 km/hr speed;
Must have lights and bell or horn;
Maximum wheel diameter of 17 inches;
Maximum weight of 45 kilograms;
No provincial vehicle permit or driver’s license required;
Minimum age of 16 to operate an e-scooter; helmets required for those under 18; Must be used in bicycle lanes where they exist; and
Must be stopped for pedestrians at crosswalks and pedestrian crossovers.

In the absence of federal or provincial industry standards for e-scooter manufacturing and retailing, buyers are able to purchase e-scooters that do not meet provincial regulations.

Benefits of E-scooters
The key appeal and popularity of e-scooters is that they are fun and convenient, particularly to people under the age of 35. They are often used for recreation and touring, but can also be used as a method of commuting or for taking short utilitarian trips. They reduce effort and sweat from exertion compared to human-powered kick-scooters and bicycles. They also enable people to go farther distances than on foot. A large part of the convenience is that there is no need to search for parking as there is with a car; adding to that e-scooters are easy to access, if folded and carried with the user, or if available through a dockless sharing system where the devices are widely available on the street.

E-scooters also take up little space in the roadway and offer the potential to replace automobile trips with some reports of 30 per cent of riders choosing the e-scooter over taking a car/ridehail/taxi (Portland, Calgary), thereby helping to reduce traffic congestion. Some e-scooter rider surveys indicate e-scooters are used to address first mile/last mile issues to get to and from transit. For example, in the Paris area, about 23 per cent of trips were combined with another mode like public transit, and in Montreal, about 27 per cent of e-scooter trips originated or ended at a subway or train station. E-scooters are also attracting interest from individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic as they offer an individual, socially distanced, and open-air transportation option that is a potential alternative to public transit or car use.

Micromobility
Micromobility is a general concept for light weight, human- or electric-powered modes of travel such as walking, cycling, e-biking, and e-scootering used for shorter trips than by driving a car and for first and last mile to transit. Some cities (Montreal, Paris) and industry thinkers (Deloitte TMT Predictions 2020) anticipate that the future of e-micromobility will be realized with pedal assist e-bikes which can be used more comfortably for longer distances than e-scooters or human-powered bicycles, and allow for carrying cargo.

Recent reports by Metrolinx suggests that 40 per cent of trips (4.35 million trips in 2016) within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) can be considered bikeable (i.e. less than five kilometres in length). Distances in the Downtown and City Centres in Toronto have great potential for micromobility. From a City Planning 2016 survey of those who live and work in the Downtown, 57 per cent reported walking to work, over 30 per cent taking public transit to work, and 13 per cent cycling to work.

Recognizing the importance of micromobility options, especially as part of COVID-19 emergency response and recovery, the City of Toronto and its agencies are already advancing active transportation as follows:
Implementation of ActiveTO, CurbTO, and CaféTO to reallocate space for walking, cycling, and support of local businesses and their patrons;
Implementation of TransformTO and ResilientTO with a target by 2050 that 75 per cent of trips under 5km will be by walking or cycling, and 100 per cent of transportation will use zero carbon energy;
Accelerated expansion of 40km of active transportation infrastructure in the City Council-adopted Cycling Network Plan;
Expansion of Bike Share Toronto in 2020 to 20 of the 25 wards in the City, adding 1,850 new bicycles, 160 stations and 3,615 docking points to the network. The system will grow to a total of 6,850 bikes, 625 stations, and 12,000 docking points.
Completion of e-bike feasibility testing and the addition of 300 e-bikes to the Bike Share fleet for 2020;
Implementation of the Electric Vehicle Strategy’s action to pilot electric micro-mobility programs (e.g., e-bikes, etc.) that expand electric mobility alternatives to driving; and
Implementation of the Walking Strategy (2009-2019) resulting in a majority of Torontonians saying their neighbourhood is very walkable (64 per cent citywide and 75 per cent in Toronto and East York, The Strategic Counsel’s 2018 survey).

Vision Zero Road Safety Risks with E-scooters
The City has a Vision Zero commitment to eliminate serious injuries and fatalities resulting from roadway crashes, particularly around six emphasis areas including pedestrians, school children, and older adults. Replacing car trips with e-scooter trips presents an opportunity to address some road safety issues if e-scooters produce a net safety benefit, especially for these groups. A 2020 International Transport Forum study notes that the risk of hospital admission may be higher for e-scooter riders than for cyclists, but that there are too few studies to draw firm conclusions. While not comprehensive, the emerging evidence of the health impacts associated with e-scooter use warrants a cautious approach to mitigate risks to e-scooter riders, pedestrians, and the City. Some of the findings are below.

New e-scooters users are most likely to be injured with 63 per cent of injuries occurring within the first nine times using an e-scooter. (CDC and City of Austin).

A comparison of serious injury rates between Calgary’s 2019 shared e-scooter pilot and Bike Share Toronto suggests riding a shared e-scooter is potentially about 350 times more likely to result in a serious injury than riding a shared bike on a per km basis, and about 100 times more likely on a per trip basis. This includes a limited sample size, differing definitions for serious injuries, different city contexts (e.g., Calgary allowed e-scooter riding on sidewalks, whereas bicycle riding is not allowed on sidewalks in Toronto) and serious injuries may decline over time as people gain experience riding e-scooters. (Montréal reported few e-scooter injuries for its 2019 pilot, however, it is unclear whether and how data for serious injuries was gathered.) Calculations are based on: 33 ER visits requiring ambulance transport over three months (Jul to Sep 2019) in Calgary for e-scooter-related injuries with a reported 750,000 trips, and average trip length of 0.9km; and 2,439,000 trips for Bike Share Toronto, with 3km average trip length, over 12 months in 2019, and no serious injuries (e.g., broken bones, head trauma, hospitalization) but attributing one for comparison purposes. Further data collection and studies of injuries are needed on a per km basis, by type of trip (i.e., recreational versus commuting, facility type), and by injury type.

The fatality rate for shared e-scooter users is potentially nine to 18 times the rate of bike share-related deaths in the U.S., based on a news report in the Chicagoreader.

Head trauma was reported in nearly one third of all e-scooter-related injuries in the U.S. from 2014 to 2018 more than twice the rate of head injuries to bicyclists. In a City of Austin study in 2018 over three months, 48 per cent of e-scooter riders who were hurt had head injuries (91 out of 190), with 15 per cent (28 riders) experiencing more serious traumatic brain injuries.

Falling off e-scooters was the cause of 80 per cent of injuries (183 riders); 20 per cent (45 riders) had collided with a vehicle or an object, according to a 2019 UCLA study of two hospital ERs in one year. Just over eight per cent of the injuries were to pedestrians injured as a result of e-scooters (11 hit by an e-scooter, 5 tripped over a parked e-scooter, and 5 were attempting to move an e-scooter not in use).

Hospital data will be key to track injuries and fatalities by type and severity, especially for incidents where no motor vehicle has been involved (e.g., losing control) or for a trip and fall involving improperly parked e-scooters. As an ICD-10 code (international standard injury reporting code) specific to e-scooters will not be implemented in Canada until at least spring 2021, a reliable method to track serious e-scooter related injuries and fatalities presenting at hospitals is currently not available.

Enhancing Vision Zero Road Safety with the Provincial Pilot Project

Although the HTA sets out some e-scooter standards, such as maximum speed and power wattage, due to the nature of urban and suburban conditions such as Toronto’s, City staff recommend that the Province strengthen the device standards for greater rider safety. Based on an extensive literature review, items recommended for further Provincial exploration include a maximum turning radius, a platform surface grip, wheel characteristics (e.g., minimum size, traction, tire width), braking and suspension.

In addition, the Province has not established set fine amounts for offences under the HTA e-scooter regulations. Without this in place, for the police to lay a charge in respect of a violation, a “Part III Summons” is required, which means the police must attend court for each charge laid regardless of severity, and a trial is required for a conviction and fine to be set. This may make it less likely that charges are laid. Fines outside of ones the City could set (e.g. e-scooter parking violations, illegal sidewalk riding) would create workload challenges for Police and courts.

In spite of the Pilot requirement to collect data, there is currently no vehicle type for e-scooters in the Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) Motor Vehicle Collision Report (MVCR) template used by all police services to report collisions. Unless the Province specifies e-scooters are motor vehicles for the purposes of collision reporting, and has a field for this in its template, e-scooter collisions may not be reported reliably and meaningful collision data analysis will not be possible. In Fall 2019, City staff requested that the MTO add e-scooters as a separate vehicle type, but MTO has not yet communicated they would make this change.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
Persons with disabilities and seniors have considerable concerns about sidewalk and crosswalk interactions with e-scooter users, as well as concerns regarding trip hazards and obstructions from poorly parked or excessive amounts of e-scooters. The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, a body required under the AODA, recommends that City Council prohibit the use of e-scooters in public spaces, including sidewalks and roads. In other jurisdictions outside of Ontario, some legal action has been undertaken against municipalities by persons injured as a result of e-scooter sidewalk obstructions, as well as by persons with disabilities.

Risk and Liability Issues
There is a significant risk that the City may be held partially or fully liable for damages if e-scooter riders or other parties are injured. Transportation Services staff consulted with the City’s Insurance and Risk Management office (I&RM) to understand the magnitude of the City’s liability if allowing e-scooters. At this time, loss data is lacking on e-scooters due to generally lengthy settlement times for bodily injury claims. The City has significant liability exposure, however, due to joint and several liability, as the City may have to pay an entire judgement or claim even if only found to be 1 per cent at fault for an incident. The City has a $5M deductible per occurrence, which means the City will be responsible for all costs below that amount. In terms of costs, Transportation Services staff will also be required to investigate and serve in the discovery process for claims.

E-scooter sharing/rental companies typically require a rider to sign a waiver, placing the onus of compensating injured parties on the rider. Riders are left financially exposed due to a lack of insurance coverage and if unable to pay, municipalities will be looked to for compensation (e.g., in settlements and courts). Claims related to e-scooter malfunction have been reported by the media (such as in Atlanta, Auckland, New Zealand and Brisbane, Australia). In 2019, a Grand Jury faulted the City of San Diego for inadequate regulation and enforcement of e-scooter sharing companies. By opting in to the Pilot, the City will be exposed to claims associated with improperly parked e-scooters as evidenced by lawsuits filed by persons with disabilities and those injured by e-scooter obstructions (such as in Minneapolis and Santa Monica, California).

The insurance industry does not currently have insurance products available for e-scooter riders. In Fall 2019, City staff explored whether the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund could be expanded or if a similar kind of fund in principle could be created to address claims where e-scooter riders or non-users are injured and their expenses are not covered by OHIP, nor by other insurance policies (e.g., homeowner’s or personal auto). Further research and consultation would be needed to look into these considerations.

It will be critical to ensure that insurance evidenced by e-scooter sharing companies will cover their operations for all jurisdictions operated in (e.g., all cities nationally or internationally). Further, there needs to be full indemnification for the municipality by e-scooter sharing companies, and not limitations in their indemnification contracts.

In addition to the experiences in other jurisdictions, several risk factors are unique to the City of Toronto and play a role in informing the recommended approach to e-scooters:

Streetcar tracks: Toronto has an extensive track network (177 linear kilometres) which poses a hazard to e-scooter riders due to the vehicle’s small wheel diameter.

Winter and State-Of-Good-Repair: Toronto experiences freezing and thawing that impacts the state-of-good-repair for roads. A large portion of roads are 40 to 50 years old, with 43 per cent of Major Roads and 24 per cent of Local Roads in poor condition. Coupled with lack of standards for e-scooter wheels (e.g., traction, size), this makes this particular device more sensitive to uneven road surfaces.

High construction activity: In addition to the city’s various infrastructure projects, Toronto has been one of the fastest growing cities with about 120 development construction sites in 2019.

Narrow sidewalks and high pedestrian mode shares in the Downtown Core and City Centres: Most jurisdictions experienced illegal sidewalk riding by e-scooter users, with some business districts saying e-scooters deterred patrons from visiting their previously pedestrian-friendly main streets. This is especially challenging with physical distancing requirements and other COVID-19 recovery programs expanding the use of the City’s sidewalks and boulevards.

Environmental Impacts of E-scooters
While some mode shift from driving to using an e-scooter has occurred in other cities, the majority of e-scooter trips would have been by walking or public transit (around 60% for Calgary and Portland; and 86% in Greater Paris). For example, 55 per cent would have walked instead of using an e-scooter (Calgary). From a Paris area survey, 44 per cent would have walked, 30 per cent would have used public transit, and 12 per cent would have used a bicycle/shared bike; while this study noted that e-scooters had no impact on car equipment reduction, an extrapolation would assume that 14 per cent would have used a car/ridehail/taxi, which still represents a minor shift away from motorized vehicular use.

Transportation accounts for about 38% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Toronto (2017). E-scooters are promoted as a near-zero local GHG transportation option as the electricity grid in Ontario is very low-carbon. A 2019 study based on life-cycle analysis suggests that average greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per e-scooter mile travelled were half the amount associated with a car, but 20 times than that of a personal bicycle. Suggesting that reliance on e-scooters alone to shift people out of cars and to reduce GHGs and environmental impacts may not be entirely effective. Environmental impacts of e-scooters include disused e-scooters arising from the device’s short lifespan, toxic materials from battery waste, and emissions from the manufacturing, shipping, and maintenance of sharing fleets. In May 2020, Jump reportedly scrapped thousands (possibly 20,000) still functional e-bikes, and in June 2020, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Circ e-scooters were scrapped in the Middle East.

Transportation Services staff consulted with Energy and Environment, and Solid Waste Management Services Divisions, who are involved in researching and monitoring issues related to e-waste in the Electric Vehicle Strategy, such as potential battery recycling and second life applications for batteries; impacts to the waste stream where end-of-life batteries from these devices may require special disposal as hazardous waste; and also management of discarded or abandoned e-scooters as litter.

Public and Stakeholder Feedback
Various consultation was undertaken in late 2019 to early 2020 (pre-pandemic), including direct staff contact, written submissions, in-person meetings, industry meetings, an online panel survey of 1,010 residents, and focus groups. City staff also consulted a municipal e-scooter coordinating committee across Ontario, and contacts across Canada, the U.S, as well as Paris and Transport for London, UK.

Results are fairly polarized among all those consulted with just over half supporting, and just under half not supporting, the use of e-scooters in Toronto. Most stakeholders and a majority of Toronto residents surveyed (69 per cent) support a coordinated approach to shared e-scooter services managed by Bike Share Toronto. Responses highlighted the potential of e-scooters to provide first mile/last mile connections, however concerns related to safety were also noted. Highlights from the online survey panel:

Fifty-five per cent of residents said they would be comfortable (19%) or somewhat comfortable (36%) recommending that a loved one use an e-scooter, while 18% said somewhat not comfortable, and 21% said not comfortable, and 6% were unsure.

About half of Toronto residents said e-scooters are still a new device and should be introduced cautiously, starting with a limited pilot project.

Residents gave the highest intensity of support for e-scooter riders having to wear helmets (mean score of 8.8 out of ten).

Dangerous and fun/adventure are top of mind words. Those 55 years or older are six times more likely to have said, “dangerous” for e-scooters than younger residents.

Eight per cent of residents said they have used or rented an e-scooter. Fun (26%) and convenient (25%) described their experiences, followed by “I would use it but not everyone should use it as it takes some skill” (19%).

Feedback from stakeholder groups surveyed:
Fifty-nine per cent said e-scooters could serve as a first and last mile transportation option to/from public transit.

Sixty-seven per cent said the City’s priority should be road safety, focused on preventing serious injuries and deaths in its approach to e-scooters, rising to 80% for BIA respondents.
Among BIA respondents, 47% said e-scooters are too dangerous to be on city streets and should not be used for transportation, while 40% said e-scooters should be treated the same as power-assisted bicycles.

Other key issues raised in the consultations include lack of enforcement and adequate infrastructure; and questions about environmental sustainability, public space and the potential for clutter and safety hazards particularly for people with disabilities.

Industry Stakeholders
Over 20 e-scooter-, micromobility- and software-related companies have been actively seeking out meetings with City staff, and to varying degrees with City Councillors, TPA Board Members, and senior management at the City to persuade them of the potential benefits of e-scooter sharing products and services. City staff conducted two industry group meetings – one in October 2019 and one in January 2020 – among other individual meetings and communications with industry representatives to understand and share information on e-scooter issues and to develop this report.

E-Scooters and COVID-19
Some cities like San Francisco designated shared mobility as essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, while others have not (e.g., Chicago). Some e-scooter providers provided discounts or incentives like free 30 minute rides for essential frontline or hospital workers. Cleaning was done more frequently (e.g., twice per day or each time the e-scooters were charged/maintained), and users are reminded to wash their hands and not touch their faces. In cities where the service was deemed essential, many private sector providers had reduced or altogether removed their shared bike and e-scooter fleets due to low demand, and in some cases this was contrary to municipal desires to provide transportation options to the public who rely on them (e.g., Portland, San Francisco, and SoBi bike share in Hamilton, Ontario).

While physical distancing requirements and COVID-19 impacts have changed travel patterns, existing options such as independent cycling and use of Toronto Bike Share, in combination with expanded cycling infrastructure, have increased to provide independent mobility. For the first 5 months of 2020, Bike Share Toronto casual ridership has increased 72.6 per cent over the same period in 2019. A Forbes article reported cycling being up 150 per cent in Philadelphia in May 2020.

More recently, with cities in stages of re-opening, e-scooter sharing companies are returning (e.g., Calgary, Edmonton). Other cities have suspended e-scooter sharing services until after COVID-19 (e.g., Windsor approved a shared e-scooter pilot in April 2020, but has now deferred its pilot until after COVID-19). Prior to the pandemic, a number of jurisdictions (e.g., Boulder, Honolulu, and Houston) had refused to allow or banned the use of e-scooters due to public safety concerns. Key cities with similar population, urban form, and/or climate have not yet piloted e-scooters such as New York City (Manhattan/New York County ban), Philadelphia, and Sydney, Australia. A summary of lessons learned from other jurisdictions can be found in Attachment 2.

Consideration of a Potential Pilot for ActiveTO Major Road Closures
While staff have considered a potential e-scooter pilot on ActiveTO major road closures, it would pose risks to vulnerable road users and leave the City open to considerable liability and risk due to lack of resources for oversight, education and enforcement at this time. A key purpose of ActiveTO is to provide a mixed use space for physical activity for people of all ages for walking, jogging and human-powered cycling. Piloting a new vehicle type that is throttle-powered and can potentially exceed speeds of 24km/hr poses risks to vulnerable road users in such conditions. It could also lead to confusion about which infrastructure or facilities under ActiveTO are permissible, and this would pose public safety risks that the City does not have resources to manage at this time.

City staff would also need to address fair process for the 15 or more companies interested in renting out e-scooters for use in a short timeframe (e.g., processing requirements for insurance and indemnification, and appeals for which vendors are allowed or rejected, and creating a permit/legal agreement for the vendors allowed), and this would pre-empt the recommended RFP process. Finally, the risk of injury for new users is high, and could put additional burden on local hospitals and paramedics at this time. For the reasons above, City staff do not recommend permitting e-scooters in ActiveTO facilities in 2020.

Consideration of Allowing Personal E-scooters, Not Shared E-scooters

In theory, there would be a way to only allow personal e-scooters and not shared e-scooters, but this is not the case. By changing the City’s bylaws to allow e-scooters to be operated on the City’s streets it would be near impossible to prevent shared or rental e-scooters. For example, a number of companies both sell e-scooters for private use and rent them for shared use (e.g., Bird, Razor, and Segway). In addition, while e-scooters present another form of individualized mobility other than cycling or driving, it is limited by the HTA’s e-scooter regulations that do not allow carrying items/goods for safety reasons as this could affect an e-scooter rider’s balance resulting in falls or losing control. Further, e-scooters appear very simple to use, which poses a risk that new riders underestimate the skill and attention required to balance and ride safely.

If Council were to permit e-scooters to be operated on City streets – without the commensurate resources to provide oversight, education, outreach and enforcement, there would be considerable risks to public safety for e-scooter riders and other vulnerable road users; additional burden on hospitals and paramedics; impacts on accessibility, community nuisance and complaints; impacts on current initiatives to enhance the public realm for COVID-19 recovery efforts, such as CurbTO and CaféTO; and liability and costs to the City. For the reasons above, staff recommend that personal use of e-scooters not be considered until 2021.

Recommended Approach
Staff recommend an approach that minimizes risk by seeking enhancements to the Provincial pilot project regulations and supports, as well as building from the improvements made to e-scooter programs in other cities. The conclusion is to propose a municipal service model under the TPA that is competitively procured, and that is coordinated with, and complements Bike Share Toronto. This will ensure shared micromobility continues as a public transportation option with oversight. This approach reduces impacts on sidewalk users and public space by managing shared micromobility parking. This approach requires an amendment to the authority granted to the TPA under Chapter 179, Parking Authority of the Municipal Code to add shared micromobility including e-scooters. (see Attachment 1)

Staff recommend continuing the current prohibitions of e-scooter use and parking as outlined in Chapter 950, Traffic and Parking, and Chapter 886, Footpaths, Pedestrian Ways, Bicycle Paths, Bicycle Lanes and Cycle Tracks, until the system for oversight is in place for public safety, and given the requests for amendments to Provincial regulations. While a number of e-scooter sharing companies are looking for permission from the City to allow e-scooters in 2020, staff do not recommend this as it would pre-empt the recommended approach for competitive procurement, require diversion of staff resources to manage opting in to the Provincial pilot, and lead to considerable risks and costs to the City. A pilot involving e-scooter use in ActiveTO facilities would not provide useful assessment of e-scooters as ActiveTO (e.g., major road closures) are not representative of typical real life conditions and interactions with other road users, and would present immediate liability exposure and costs to the City.

Next Steps
Next steps are to commence development of an RFP by the TPA, with support by Transportation Services, and for City staff to report back in the first quarter of 2021 with an update on proposed pilot by-law changes applicable to e-scooters (personal and shared) and budget requirements for an e-scooter pilot recommended for May 2021.
The report back for 2021 can include any progress on consultations with the Province and other key stakeholders to:

Strengthen the e-scooter standards and specifications to foster greater safety for privately owned e-scooters and for e-scooter sharing;

Update the MVCR template and treat e-scooters as a motor vehicle for reporting purposes to enable effective, consistent data collection;
Establish set fines for offences made under the HTA Pilot Project regulations and communicate this to the Toronto Police; and

Research and explore issues and opportunities to create a fund for claims by e-scooter users and non-users who are injured as a result of e-scooter incidents and have medical/rehabilitation expenses not provided through OHIP or existing homeowner’s or auto insurance.

CONTACT

Elyse Parker, Director, Policy and Innovation, Transportation Services, Tel: 416-338-2432, Email: [email protected]

Janet Lo, Senior Project Manager, Transportation Services, Tel: 416-397-4853, Email: [email protected]

SIGNATURE Barbara Gray, General Manager, Transportation Services ATTACHMENTS
Attachment 1: Amendments to Chapter 179 – Parking Authority
Attachment 2: Lessons Learned from Other Jurisdictions
Attachment 3: E-scooter Focus Groups Report
Attachment 4: Views of Toronto Residents on E-Scooters (Summary Report)?

Attachment 1: Amendments to Chapter 179 – Parking Authority

Add the following definition:

MICROMOBILITY a category of vehicles or devices that includes those operated or used by a person that moves the sole person operating or using the vehicle or device, as well as any vehicles or devices that can move or carry up to two people including the person operating the vehicle or device, that are not automobiles, such as without limitation electric bicycles, electric kick-scooters, and electric mopeds, and that excludes wheelchairs or unenclosed motorized wheelchairs.

§ 179-7.1 Authority over bike share and micromobility share system
All the powers, rights, authorities and privileges with respect to the ownership, acquisition, management, maintenance and operation of the bike share and micromobility share program assets within the City of Toronto or outside the geographical boundaries of the City of Toronto, including entering into contracts and agreements, undertaking sponsorship, naming, rebranding, partnership, acceptance of donations, approval of sponsorship and third party advertising on the station panels, and all other related ownership, operational, management or revenue generating activities, shall be exercised only by the Parking Authority, subject to the following limitations:
A. Any operating surplus from the bike share program shall be deposited in the bike share program reserve for the purposes of the reserve, including replenishment of the bike share program capital assets and/or any future operating deficits.
B. The Parking Authority shall be required to obtain the approval of the appropriate City officials with respect to the location or relocation of the bike share stations and equipment on City property which has not been designated for the Parking Authority’s use by by-law of Council; and shall be required to obtain the approval of the appropriate City officials with respect to the location or relocation of the micromobility stations and equipment on any City property. C. (Reserved) 6
D. Despite anything else in this section, where the annualized cash flow deficit for the bike share program exceeds $750,000, the President of the Parking Authority shall report directly to Council for direction.
E. The Parking Authority shall not undertake any actions in connection with the bike share and micromobility share system outside the geographic boundaries of the City of Toronto unless the action is in keeping with the purposes of enhancing the long term viability of Bike Share Toronto and the micromobility share system overseen by the Parking Authority, or building and developing the Bike Share Toronto brand or other micromobility system brands overseen by the Parking Authority and not until the Parking Authority obtains the consent of the municipality in which such actions will occur, in accordance with the City of Toronto Act, 2006.

Attachment 2: Lessons Learned from Other Jurisdictions

More recently, e-scooters have received greater interest as a potential open-air transportation alternative that enables physical distancing. While a number of jurisdictions that previously did not allow e-scooters are considering it, such as the UK, it is still early days in terms of how the schemes will be established to address public safety, nuisance and liability issues. Iterative approaches include time limited pilots (e.g., four months or one season) and geographically contained pilots. In June 2020, the UKs largest urban transport authorities have urged caution in response to the national government’s consultation on allowing e-scooter trials, with respect to speed and the impact on active travel.

Key parameters put forward in their response:
Recommending mandatory helmet use;
Setting e-scooter device standards for features such minimum wheel size, lighting, braking and indicators; Introducing mandatory training for e-scooter users;
Addressing the risk that e-scooters will replace walking and cycling journeys and associated public health impacts; Improving cycle infrastructure and streets that place people first; and
Giving municipalities the explicit powers to cap the number of rental e-scooters.

While these UK cities welcome the opportunity for e-scooter trials, they made a joint statement that “it is vitally important that Government recognises the need for e-scooters to be introduced safely and in a way that ensures they help rather than hinder the achievement of wider city region objectives for people and places, from a pleasant urban realm to a healthy population.

Where e-scooters are allowed to operate
Majority of cities treat e-scooters like bicycles and allow them to be operated in bike lanes and on roads (with maximum posted speed limits of 40km/hr to 50km/hr), and prohibit them from sidewalks, trails, paths and parks. Cities that initially allowed e-scooters on sidewalks have since banned them due to safety issues (pedestrian deaths and injuries), e.g., France, Spain, Singapore and San Diego; and other jurisdictions such Ottawa’s National Capital Commission have banned e-scooters on mixed use trails/paths.

E-scooters have been prohibited also from mixed use paths or in parks because of the intermixing with people and children on foot, who are slower, and also making unpredictable movements when using public space for leisure and recreational purposes. In cities such as Berlin, Paris and Tel Aviv, where e-scooters are permitted for operation on roads or bike lanes, and not sidewalks, there have been compliance and enforcement issues with these rules. Some cities (such as Atlanta) and countries (such as the UK) have accelerated bicycle infrastructure projects after e-scooter fatalities, and in anticipation of expanding micromobility. In May 2020, the UK announced a £250 million emergency active travel fund – the first stage of a £2 billion investment supporting cycling, walking and bus-only infrastructure.

Where e-scooters are allowed to park
Dockless or free-floating e-scooters are said to be the most convenient for potential e-scooter customers, as they are left anywhere on sidewalks in a convenient location to be found by an e-scooter customer. E-scooter clutter has resulted in obstacles for pedestrians especially those with disabilities, and in some cases, injury and lawsuits. (Santa Monica, Minneapolis, Paris) More jurisdictions are requiring e-scooters to be parked: in designated areas (Berlin, Calgary, Montreal), at docked stations (Christchurch, New Zealand), or locked to a post (e.g., for bike parking) (San Francisco).

In some jurisdictions, e-scooters must be removed overnight or locked (unable to be unlocked and used) to prevent theft, vandalism using e-scooters or vandalism of e-scooters, and intoxicated riding. Companies are developing docked stations that enable charging (e.g., Spin). While some companies operate a dockless approach, there is feedback from some cities that users prefer having the reliability of designated areas or docked stations available to find the e-scooters, bike share or e-bike share.

Personal E-scooter Use, Protections and Regulations
Most jurisdictions do not require individuals to have permits or licenses to operate personal e-scooters; however, some have begun to implement greater oversight to address public safety:

The Netherlands has device standards and testing, and only e-scooters meeting certain conditions are allowed for use on public roads after the RDW (the Vehicle Authority) assesses them.
Germany and The Netherlands have mandatory insurance requirements for individual e-scooter users.
New Zealand has an Accident Compensation Corporation that covers personal injury claims related to e-scooters (for riders and non-riders).
Australia has the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which holds e-scooter companies accountable to its legislation (e.g., misrepresentations to consumers about safety when issues known were not disclosed to e-scooter users).
Malta requires that e-scooter users must be in possession of a valid driving licence, third-party insurance coverage and registration plates like a normal vehicle. Breaching these rules could result in being fined thousands of euros, confiscation of the e-scooter, and license suspension.
Singapore requires mandatory training for e-scooter riders, and has high fines and penalties including compensation of damages for injured parties and jail time. Province of Quebec requires helmets for e-scooter users.
Tel Aviv requires e-scooter riders wear a helmet with a high visibility strip; a drivers license or training; and license plates affixed to e-scooters. (regulations were implemented in response to fatalities) Program Management of E-scooter Sharing
In general, jurisdictions have used either a selective permit system or a request for proposals/qualifications for e-scooter sharing companies. Across existing pilot projects, the ideal number of operators ranges from two to four, in order to reduce community nuisance with high amounts of e-scooters on sidewalks, and to reduce the burden of enforcement. More cities are using an RFP (competitive procurement) to have greater oversight over shared mobility as an essential part of public transportation for residents. Cities have also emphasized the importance of taking an incremental approach, and being conservative in setting the initial fleet size and geographic area to mitigate issues related to new rider behaviours and sidewalk clutter, liability and risk, and to evaluate and modify program parameters. Key criteria or conditions in RFP/RFQs and selective permit systems include: strong and clear indemnification agreements, adequate insurance requirements and upfront fees and deposits, minimum service standards,
social equity requirements, data and dashboard requirements including both the MDS and GBFS standards, and a 24 hour/7 day a week customer phone line. Enforcement
A number of jurisdictions have set higher fines for aberrant behaviour such as discourteous or reckless sidewalk riding, improper parking and intoxicated riding.
Citations have been issued to e-scooter companies and in some cases, permits have been revoked and re-issued after compliance is improved. In general, jurisdictions do not have the capacity to enforce compliance. For example, Tel Aviv has a unit of 22 inspectors dedicated to enforcing that e-scooters do not ride on sidewalks. These inspectors are able to issue tickets for sidewalk violations, but only the police have the authority to issue tickets to riders not wearing helmets, as required by law. 21,000 tickets for sidewalk offenses were issued in 2019.

Earlier on with the introduction of e-scooters, some cities had to deal with issuing injunctions and seizing and impounding e-scooters of companies that launched in these cities without permission from the cities. Some cities have outsourced the enforcement and compliance operations to manage parking issues and other complaints.

E-scooter Focus Groups Report
Prepared for the City of Toronto’s Transportation Services Division February 2020
Written and compiled for the City of Torontos Transportation Services by Swerhun Inc.

Overview and background

This e-scooter Focus Groups Report is an integrated summary of five focus groups commissioned by the City of Toronto to help inform its decision-making about if/how to consider a role for e-scooters in Toronto. It was prepared by Swerhun Inc., third-party facilitation firm retained by the City of Toronto to design, facilitate, and report on the focus groups. The intent of this report is to capture feedback and advice shared by focus group participants and is not intended to imply consensus of opinions. This report should be read in concert with other reports prepared as part of the Citys research / exploration into e-scooters.

As of January 1, 2020, the Government of Ontario has given cities the option to test electric kick-scooters or e-scooters on public roads, trails, parks and sidewalks (if they choose to participate through changing their municipal by-laws). An e-scooter is a two-wheeled electric-powered device, where the rider stands on a narrow board holding a handlebar (see picture below).

Staff from the City of Torontos Transportation Services are preparing a report for City Council with advice on if/how to proceed with exploring a role for e-scooters in Toronto. To inform the staff report, Transportation Services commissioned five focus groups to better understand the publics knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about e-scooters. The focus groups are one of multiple research inputs informing the staff report. Other inputs include an online survey of Toronto residents (~1,000 residents), stakeholder consultation, consultation with representatives of the e-scooter industry, and research by City staff and policy considerations.

Recruitment overview

Recruitment objectives

The Citys recruitment approach was guided by an objective to assemble groups of individuals representing five interest-specific groups: cyclists, drivers, local business owners/managers, local retailers of electric mobility devices, and pedestrians/transit riders. The Citys rationale for choosing these groups was to understand the perspectives of the different road users in Toronto, including their thoughts about e-scooters relationship to public realm, streets, sidewalks, entrances (as related to businesses with a bricks and mortar establishments, such as restaurants or stores selling goods/services), and businesses selling or repairing e-scooters and/or similar mobility devices.

The City also wanted to ensure a diverse range of perspectives was represented, including diverse age groups, ethnicities, genders, income levels, geographies, and different levels of first-hand experience with e-scooters (see Appendix B for anonymized demographics of selected participants across all focus groups). The City also wanted to speak with individuals who have not been otherwise consulted or engaged by the City about e-scooters through another mechanism. Finally, the City wanted to speak with individuals over the age of 16 to consult only those that are legally allowed by the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (regulation 389/19) to operate an e-scooter.

Recruitment & selection process

Working closely with the City of Toronto, Swerhun Inc. led the recruitment and selection process of the focus groups. Outlined below is the sequence of events for executing the recruitment process.

An independent website was developed for the sole purpose of recruiting focus group participants. The website included background information, purpose of the focus groups, key information about the focus groups (including focus group dates, times, and general location, compensation of $40 for selected participants, eligibility to participate, submission deadline, and contact person), and a webform with questions to collect information about interested participants to determine their eligibility. The recruitment questions were reviewed by City staff. See Appendix A for sample images of the recruitment website.

A contact list drawn from publicly available information was developed. Over 750 organizations and businesses with an interest in urban issues and mobility were identified. The organizations and businesses identified represented a range of sectors, including: area-specific and/or interest-specific advocacy groups (residents associations, friends of groups, faith-based groups, dog walkers, recreation, environmental advocacy groups, seniors, youth, heritage organizations, economic development organizations, arts organizations, Indigenous organizations, food banks, and many more; community service, shelter, and support (community services and health); accessibility; active transportation and transportation; local businesses and local retailers of electric mobility devices, and; academic organizations.

Invitations to participate in the focus groups were emailed to organizations and businesses. They were asked to either fill out the webform attached in the email or share it with others that might be interested. Recipients had the opportunity to opt-out of receiving further emails and request removal from the email distribution list.

The initial recruitment website and invitation email required interested individuals to be between the ages of 16 70 and to have completed the webform to be eligible to participate in the focus groups. Based on feedback received from email recipients, the maximum age limit was removed, meaning participants were eligible to participate if they were over the age of 16.

By the end of the submission deadline, approximately 187 people registered their interest to participate.

A three-step screening process was developed to identify who was eligible to participate:
Step 1: screen out those who were not available on either evening identified in the website, those affiliated with groups already consulted by the City through other means, and those whose self-identification answers did not qualify them for the target focus group categories.
Step 2: ensure the remaining eligible individuals represented a range of demographics, such as age group, gender, ethnicity, income range, geographies and first-hand experience with e-scooters.
Step 3: for focus groups that received a high volume of eligible participants (pedestrians/transit riders, cyclists, and drivers), further screening was done to ensure selected individuals represented a range of characteristics (e.g. if they used assistive devices such as a cane/walker/motorized wheelchair to get around, if they had any visual/hearing impairments, if they frequently travelled with baby carriers/strollers, if there were any children below the age of 16 in their household, and if anyone in their household owned a dog).
NOTE: The first priority with recruitment was to ensure as much participation as possible from each interest-specific group.

After the selected participants were identified and reviewed by the City, they received an email notifying them that they were selected to participate in a particular focus group and requesting their confirmation to attend. Key information participants needed to now before the meeting was also provided (e.g. confirmed date, time, and location).

Individuals who were not selected to participate were also notified by email. They were informed that although they were not selected to participate, they could still share their thoughts on e-scooters and what the City should consider as it explores if/how there could be a role for e-scooters in Toronto by emailing Janet Lo, Transportation Services, City staff leading the e-scooter research study.

Focus group process

Between February 12th and February 13th, approximately 27 people participated in the focus groups. The focus groups were organized to represent five interest-specific groups: cyclists, drivers, local business owners/managers, local retailers of electric mobility devices, and pedestrians/transit riders. Each focus group was 55 minutes long and consisted of an overview, introduction, facilitated discussion, and information sharing (see Appendix C for focus group agendas). In each focus group, the discussion was organized into three parts: discussion about participants experiences and perceptions of e-scooters; discussion about if/how to pilot e-scooters, and; discussion about changes to perceptions (if any) based on information and statistics shared about e-scooters. The information and statistics shared was provided by City staff and included statistics highlighting potential benefits, potential risks, and neutral information about e-scooters (see Appendix D).

Overall observations

The following points summarize the facilitation teams observations about which topics emerged consistently across all five focus groups as well as the range of perspectives participants shared within those topics. These observations are drawn from the five individual focus group summaries, also written by the facilitation team, which were subject to participant review prior to being finalized. They should be read in conjunction with the individual meeting summaries that follow and are not intended to imply consensus between participants, either within or across any given focus group(s).

1. Potential benefits and opportunities of e-scooters. Participants identified a number of potential benefits and opportunities e-scooters could bring to the city, including (but not limited to): a new, convenient mode of transportation; an alternative to driving (that could help address congestion); a first-and-last-mile solution; an opportunity to improve mobility equity across the city (if they are deployed in areas with limited or infrequent connections to transit, like the suburbs), and; transit relief, both generally and as a supplement to shuttle buses during significant delays.

2. Potential risks of e-scooters. Participants identified a number of potential risks e-scooters could bring to the city, including (but not limited to): safety and injury issues due to a lack of appropriate road infrastructure for e-scooters and potential for pedestrian collisions if e-scooters are ridden on sidewalks; additional chaos on Torontos streets, especially if there is no increase in enforcement; competition and conflicts with other road users depending where they are allowed (e.g. bike lanes); clutter from lack of designated parking for dockless e-scooters; small tires of e-scooters hitting potholes, debris or snow; concerns about potential criminal behavior (e.g. impaired e-scootering); and risk of losing control because of the minimal effort required by users to operate them (i.e. use of a throttle button).

3. Key considerations participants said the City should keep in mind as it explores a potential role for e-scooters in Toronto.

Public safety. While participants generally agreed safety was important, they shared a range of perspectives on if/how the City should consider safety when exploring a role for e-scooters in Toronto. Some said the City should not consider a new mode of transportation unless/until enforcement and/or infrastructure improves on Torontos streets. Others said the City could explore a role for e-scooters in Toronto as long as it considered/developed controls for things like: where e-scooters should and should not go; whether protective gear (e.g. helmets) is required or not; what type of education/training might be required (both for e-scooter riders and for the broader public), and other topics.

Enforcement. Participants generally agreed that enforcement of the rules of the road is important whether the City decides to pilot e-scooters or not. Many participants said that existing traffic enforcement is lacking, and they were concerned that the lack of enforcement would be a challenge for e-scooters as well. Enforcement-related topics participants suggested the City consider when exploring a role for e-scooters included e-scooter licensing and/or identifiers (with mixed opinions on whether these types of approaches would be effective and/or feasible) and the cost of enforcement (whether paid for by e-scooter companies or the public).

What role e-scooters should have in the broader transportation system. Many participants said they saw potential for e-scooters to have a role in Torontos transportation system, though some were concerned that City resources dedicated to accommodating e-scooters might draw resources from other transportation modes, like cycling. Among those that supported the City exploring a role for e-scooters, some said the City should be strategic in thinking about what specific role(s) e-scooters should have in the context of the Citys broader transportation objectives and then design the pilot to fulfill that role(s).

If/how to use Torontos existing street infrastructure. Participants said that, because Torontos streets were not designed for vehicles like e-scooters, the City should think carefully about if/how there is room for them. Some participants felt that Torontos streets are already struggling to accommodate existing modes and that adding e-scooters to the mix could make matters worse. Others suggested (but did not necessarily agree on) other ways to accommodate e-scooters, including identifying dedicated lanes for e-scooters and other alternative mobility devices and/or re-allocating space from other uses (such as car and/or parking lanes),

Protecting public space. Most participants agreed that the City would need to consider and identify ways to protect public space if it allows an e-scooter pilot. Several participants said they perceived e-scooter clutter and/or litter to be big issues in jurisdictions that have allowed them, while others said some cities have addressed these challenges through strategies like identifying dedicated parking areas, software geo-fencing, and pick up staff that collect discarded e-scooters. Several said that the City should consider requiring e-scooter parking in private spaces and/or parking spaces (as opposed to sidewalks and/or parks).

A tailored approach to different areas. Among those that were willing to consider a role for e-scooters in Toronto, there were suggestions for the City to consider the influence of different road characteristics in different areas (e.g the fact that sidewalks are wider in the suburbs, the fact that some streets are used for recreation while others are for transportation) when determining if/how to accommodate them.

Sustainability and environmental considerations. Participants shared a range of opinions on e-scooters potential sustainability and environmental benefits/drawbacks. Some said e-scooters could be a great way to get people out of cars and reduce vehicle emissions; others were skeptical of e-scooters purported environmental benefits and said they would like the City to analyze e-scooters whole life cycle, including manufacturing, how long they typically last, if/how theyre recycled, and e-scooter companies operational impacts (e.g. driving cars to redistribute e-scooters).

Feedback shared in the CYCLISTS focus group

Experiences, understanding, and perceptions
Participants had a range of experiences with e-scooters, including having visited cities where they are in use, seeing them on social media, having friends who own one, and from seeing kids riding them in Torontos sidewalks. Participants who saw e-scooters in other cities did not try riding them because they looked unsteady, “made me feel unsafe,” and the rental system would not take their credit card for payment. They used words like surprisingly fast and surprisingly quiet to describe them. They also saw dockless e-scooters littering sidewalks and in bike lanes.

Potential benefits / opportunities participants identified included: e-scooters could be an alternative to cars; a first-and-last mile solution, and; could help reduce traffic congestion. Potential risks / concerns participants identified included: lack of motor noise makes e-scooters difficult to hear, which could pose a safety risk for cyclists and pedestrians (particularly for the elderly); unpredictable movements, high speeds, and the differential in speed between throttle and human-powered cycling; clutter on streets; safety issues due to challenging road conditions (e.g. snow banks, potholes, debris) and the small wheels of e-scooters being vulnerable to these road conditions, and; riding e-scooters in areas with narrow spaces.

When asked whether they would feel comfortable recommending a loved one use e-scooters, participants mostly said no because of the lack of safe and connected infrastructure in Toronto to support e-scooters and lack of training to use e-scooters. One participant said that if e-scooter speed was limited to 10 km/h on multi-use paths like Martin Goodman Trail and e-scooter use was limited to off-peak times when it is not crowded with pedestrians, kids and tourists/busy event times, they would be comfortable recommending them.

Participants also shared thoughts about e-scooters from the perspective of a cyclist:
E-scooters could compete with bikes and pedestrians for space. Cyclists already compete with e-bikes in bike lanes e-scooters would be another vehicle taking space intended for cyclists. E-scooter riders will also likely ride on sidewalks, even if not allowed.
Road infrastructure needs to change, regardless of whether e-scooters are introduced. Participants were concerned about the safety of Torontos streets for pedestrians and cyclists and said adding a new mode of transportation to Torontos streets without improving the infrastructure is risky and would increase already highly stressful conditions on streets. Some said the City should focus first on stronger enforcement to better protect pedestrians and cyclists and on creating a minimum grid of cycling infrastructure rather than finding a way to accommodate e-scooters.

Advice on if/how to accommodate e-scooters
Participants suggested considerations for the City to keep in mind as it explores if/how there is a role for e-scooters in Toronto:
The City needs to provide adequately wide, safe, dedicated infrastructure for e-scooters/micro-mobility. The City recently declared a climate emergency. E-scooters could be a great way to get people out of cars and reduce vehicle emissions. However, proper infrastructure is needed for people to feel safe getting around on e-scooters. Road space in Toronto is limited, so if the City decides to create space for e-scooters, something will have to give (e.g. space for cars) the City cannot squish more modes into limited space. Consider giving a tax break or credit to people who use bikes, transit, and other non-car modes.
Provide dedicated parking spaces or docking stations to avoid e-scooter clutter on streets and provide more predictability about where they are parked. E-scooter parking should be on streets and car parking spaces, not sidewalks.
The City should create a safe space and provide training before piloting e-scooters to avoid accidents or injuries to riders and conflicts with other road users.
Tailored approaches for different areas. Instead of taking a blanket approach to accommodating e-scooters, the City should take a tailored approach for different areas that considers factors like pedestrian and vehicle traffic, what a street is commonly used for (e.g. mobility or recreation), width of the street, the speed limit, and driver behaviour.
Consider using e-scooters as transit relief vehicles and as a last mile solution. E-scooters could help alleviate congestion on the Yonge subway and supplement shuttle buses during significant delays. Consider providing e-scooter fleets at transit stations and explore integrating payment with the PRESTO system.
Consider the acceleration profile of e-scooters versus the average cyclist in safety standards for e-scooters. E-scooters accelerate by throttle, not human power and this affects their interaction with cyclists when starting up at intersections after being stopped at traffic lights, and also the passing behaviour of e-scooter riders in bike lanes. Do not make helmets mandatory, since that could deter use.
Rely on e-scooter data from North American cities instead of European cities; North American cities design and transportation patterns are more relevant to Toronto.
Consider a role for other mobility devices that would support the growing ageing population, including a fleet of tricycles.
Required lighting on e-scooters. The City should require e-scooters lights are always on.
Consider a role for e-scooters on campuses to help students travel between classes.

How e-scooter statistics influenced participants perspectives
After hearing some statistics about e-scooters, some participants reinforced their feedback that the City needs to improve existing infrastructure before introducing e-scooters. Participants also asked questions about the statistics, including questions about: which areas of other cities e-scooters have been deployed; the cause of e-scooter rider injuries (e.g. collisions with cars vs. with other modes); whether there is information on what modes were replaced by the 2/3 of trips that did not replace car trips; the road surface type where accidents happened, and; who is promoting e-scooters as environmentally-friendly modes of transportation (e.g. does this claim come only from e-scooter companies?).

Other feedback
The City should invest resources on concrete infrastructure for plans that are already well-researched and supported (e.g. 10 Year Cycling Plan) before investing those resources on adding micro-mobility devices like e-scooters. Research has shown that 76% of people are too afraid to ride a bike and both Vision Zero and Vision Zero 2.0 are not changing this fear.

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Feedback shared in the DRIVERS focus group

Experiences, understanding, and perceptions
Participants had a range of experiences with e-scooters, including having visited cities where they are in use, seeing videos of them on social media, and having learned of them for the first time through the focus group notice. They said they understood e-scooters are used for things like food delivery, entertainment, tourist transportation, and short trips for locals in cities. They used words like fun, erratic, tempting, fast, clutter, and scary to describe them, reflecting attitudes ranging from curiosity and interest to concern.

Potential benefits / opportunities participants identified included: the fact that a rider doesnt need to worry about parking; speed and convenience, and; the potential to provide more transportation options to help get people out of cars. Potential risks participants identified included: decreased pedestrian safety (due to e-scooters speed, quick acceleration, weight, and unpredictable movements); potential for more chaos on Torontos streets (given the citys on-going struggles with road safety and the lack of enforcement); competition and conflicts with other road users (since Torontos road network is not designed for e-scooters and e-scooter riders may want to use bike lanes and/or sidewalks), and; clutter (especially from dockless e-scooter rental services).

When asked whether they would feel comfortable recommending a loved one use e-scooters, participants responses were mixed. Most said no, saying e-scooters are unsafe, especially if the rider isnt wearing a helmet and/or is riding Downtown or in a busy area. Some said yes, saying they would feel comfortable as long as the rider had been properly trained and/or was riding in a designated/restricted safe area.

Participants also shared thoughts about e-scooters from the perspective of a driver:
E-scooters could result in increased driver anxiety. It is scary to be a driver in Toronto, especially Downtown. Drivers are already afraid of injuring other, erratic road users, and adding unpredictable e-scooters may make this anxiety worse.
Theres potential for more collisions, especially if e-scooters do not handle well in snow and when people have poorer visibility such as when it is raining or dark outside.
Risks of an aging population. As baby boomers age, their vision and reaction times decrease. Mixing e-scooters with this demographic seems risky.

Advice on if/how to accommodate e-scooters
Participants suggested considerations the City keep in mind as it explores if/how there is a role for e-scooters in Toronto:
Public safety and education. If the City decides to allow piloting e-scooters, there would need to be a safety and education campaign reminding everyone to share the road and teaching people to ride e-scooters safely.
Enforcement mechanisms. If the City and/or police are not willing to increase enforcement resources, the City either should not allow e-scooters or should require e-scooter companies to subsidize enforcement costs.
Public space protections, including preventing clutter from dockless e-scooters and protect older pedestrians (e.g., my grandmother) on narrow sidewalks from e-scooter riders. For e-scooter systems that uses docks, the City should ensure docks are installed in parking spaces or private property, not public spaces (like parks or pedestrian clearways).
Learn from the experiences of other cities, like Paris, New York City, and Chicago.
Understand what real benefits (if any) e-scooters bring. How many car trips do they displace? E-scooters may actually remove more bicycles and/or transit trips than car trips. Consider piloting/restricting e-scooters to where they might be most effective at removing cars (like university campuses, GO parking lots).
Consider different approaches for different areas of the City. Sidewalks in the suburbs are wider and less-used compared to Downtown, so it might be safer to allow people to ride the e-scooters on sidewalks in the suburbs (but not downtown).
Pilot outside Downtown to fill a first mile / last mile gap, improve transportation equity, and demonstrate a different kind of approach to e-scooters to the world.
Have fewer operators or integration of multiple private operators services on one same app so multiple vendors are not competing for and/or cluttering the city.
Avoiding legal challenges from e-scooter companies. E-scooter companies have taken municipalities to court to allow their operation, citing the need to allow competition. Any pilot should be designed to prevent this type of legal challenge.
Adapting road infrastructure, such as smart streetlights that brighten during the darkest and busiest times of the year.
Preference for a BikeShare model for a pilot, which gives the City more control. Explore dedicated alternative transportation lanes to reduce conflicts.
The role for helmets. Some felt helmets for e-scooters should not be mandatory (since they are not mandatory for cyclists and could create a barrier); others thought they should be.

How e-scooter statistics influenced participants perspectives
After hearing some statistics about e-scooters, participants reiterated the importance of having dedicated and separated lanes for cyclists and e-scooters, enforcement, penalties, and training if the City decides to identify a role for e-scooters in Toronto. Participants were also concerned about people riding e-scooters while impaired; the City would need to think through ways to prevent this behaviour. Participants reinforced the potential of piloting e-scooters where they have the greatest potential to reduce car trips, especially the suburbs.

Several questioned whether e-scooters are environmentally-friendly, saying the City should engage a third party to review this claim. This review should analyze e-scooters whole life cycle, including their manufacturing, how long e-scooters typically last, if/how theyre recycled, and e-scooter companies operational impacts (e.g. driving cars to redistribute e-scooters).

Other feedback
Support for the Citys careful approach, including hosting these focus groups. Private e-scooter companies business can have a significant public impact, so it is important not to take a knee-jerk reaction one way or the other.

Feedback shared in the LOCAL BUSINESS focus group

Experiences, understanding, and perceptions
Participants had a range of experiences with e-scooters, including having visited cities where they are in use, hearing about them in the media, and seeing people use them in the Beaches. One participant said that it seems cities are still working out where e-scooters should be in their mobility system.

Potential benefits / opportunities participants identified included: they are a convenient mode of transportation; an alternative to driving; a happy medium between car ownership and bikes; less physically intensive than bikes, and; there is no license requirement to use them. Potential risks / concerns participants identified included: Vision Zero safety and injury issues due to lack of appropriate road infrastructure for e-scooters and risk of sidewalk riding and pedestrian collisions; small tires of e-scooters getting stuck in potholes or snow banks; clutter from lack of designated parking spaces; concerns about potential criminal behavior; reduced user-control because of the minimal effort required to operate them; lack of education about how to use e-scooters, particularly for tourists; potential for accidents during late night use (due to reduced visibility and impaired riding), and; lack of accessibility to people with mobility issues (e.g. people who has difficulty standing for long periods).

When asked whether they would feel comfortable recommending a loved one use e-scooters, participants responses were mixed. Those that said no said they would not recommend using them because e-scooters do not have safety features like doors/airbag built into them; the only safety feature is a helmet (if a rider is even wearing one). They also said they wouldnt recommend using them Downtown, on sidewalks, or in parks. Those that said yes would do so if they are used in a designated area and if the users are over a certain age, and that its no different than an e-skateboard. Others said they were unsure, saying it depends on the person and whether they are able to properly use and control the e-scooter.

Participants also shared thoughts about e-scooters from the perspective of a local business owner/manager:
The impact of e-scooters on businesses will depend on the business clientele/ audience. E-scooters might help some businesses (e.g. where the customers dont have to carry lots of bags) but wont necessarily be either positive or negative for many businesses.
E-scooters could help customers get to businesses faster by allowing customers to get around quickly and park anywhere, but this depends on their clientele (e.g. demographic).
Avoid impacting existing car parking. If the City is designating parking areas for e-scooters, avoid removing car parking to avoid impacting customers who are drivers.
Being located on a street with dedicated infrastructure helps (e.g. bike lanes on Richmond St).

Advice on if/how to accommodate e-scooters
Participants suggested considerations for the City to keep in mind as it explores if/how there is a role for e-scooters in Toronto:
Education for all road users, not just e-scooter riders. It is important for the City to educate all road users on where e-scooters fit in the Citys road infrastructure to reduce conflicts between different road users. Tourists should also be educated to reduce confusion on how the road system works in Toronto. Consider hosting training (like Can-Bike courses) at City Hall/each civic centre to teach proper use of e-scooters to reduce injuries.
Do not allow e-scooters on sidewalks or in parks for pedestrians safety, particularly the elderly and children. E-scooters (and other e-mobility devices) should have dedicated lanes.
Explore creating limitations, including limiting maximum speed and restricting night use.
Enforcement should be carefully planned. There should be a place for people to report and have issues addressed. Toronto Police Services is already understaffed and would lack the resources to enforce rules for e-scooters, so the City should consider having a third party enforce e-scooter rules. Los Angeles might be a good model to consider for enforcement.
Designate different zones in the city with different speed limits and have e-scooters automatically regulate the speed when they get into a certain zone (using geo-fencing).
Who is using them? Are they used by younger people, older people, or a range of ages?
Consider how e-scooters impact other modes. For example, if e-scooters are allowed in bike lanes, what is their impact on cyclists? If the City is investing resources into accommodating e-scooters, are there fewer resources allocated to cycling?
Understand the overall benefit and risk to assess if the investment (e.g. cost to taxpayers related to enforcement and policing) is worth the benefit(s) they provide.
Road conditions. Some streets in Toronto are bumpy and have many potholes (e.g. Dufferin St) and need repaving or it could present safety challenges for e-scooter users due to its small wheels.
Deploy e-scooters in the suburbs or less dense areas to provide a first-and-last-mile solution and a convenient way to get around suburban neighbourhoods.
Provide docking stations or designated parking spaces to prevent e-scooters from cluttering streets.
Require the use of helmets. E-scooter riders should be required to wear helmets to protect against head injuries. Some acknowledged that requiring helmets could be difficult given the lack of a place to store them and the likely spontaneous use of e-scooters.
Require e-scooter sharing companies to have insurance coverage for users. For example, Uber covers people who are injured or in an accident while using the service.
Consider requiring registration and insurance for privately owned electric mobility devices (e.g. e-motorcyles, e-bicycles, and e-scooters).
Embrace change. Some participants said e-scooter is like ride-hailing apps (e.g. Uber and Lyft) and the City should embrace change and figure out how it can work for everyone.

How e-scooter statistics influenced participants perspectives
After hearing some statistics about e-scooters, several participants said e-scooters could be a good idea in Toronto because they have the potential to replace a good percentage of car use, and could provide another mode of transportation for people who do not like cycling and/or do not own a car. However, some participants were concerned about the high number of head injuries and the possibility for severe trauma. They also said that e-scooters do not seem to replace car or bike use, but rather are another option to get from A to B faster for short trips (i.e. not replacing a 15min drive). Participants said the statistics reinforced their suggestion that education will be important in helping people get over the learning curve in the first few trips and understand the need for helmets.

Feedback shared in the LOCAL RETAILERS OF ELECTRIC MICROMOBILITY DEVICES focus group

Experiences, understanding, and perceptions
Two participants sold e-scooters in their stores (including both kids and adult models as well as e-hoverboards) while one sold bicycles and e-bikes, and provided repair services for bicycles. Participants experiences with e-scooters also included seeing them in Prague. The retailers of e-mobility devices said customers ask questions about how long e-scooters batteries last and how far they could go, what their warranty period is, whether their tires have tubes, the restrictions around riding them (e.g. minimum age), and how fast they go. They also said customers have typically already heard about e-scooters before they come into the store (usually through advertising or at school); the purpose of customers visit is to see one in person. The e-scooters they sell do not have software applications and sell for $499, which has not been an issue for customers. Customers tend to prefer lighter e-scooters and e-scooters that fold up, but do not have any preference for brand or tire type. Customers have been telling retailers that they use them for the first / last mile in their trips, recreation, and entertainment. The retailer whose shop does not sell e-scooters said that customers have not been asking about them.

When asked whether they would feel comfortable recommending anyone use e-scooters, participants were unsure since they do not know what the rules are for using e-scooters. Some said that they would recommend others use them on the condition that e-scooters are not used on the sidewalk (since e-scooters weigh as much as bikes and should be treated like bicycles). Potential benefits / opportunities participants identified included: e-scooters might provide more transportation options; e-scooters might be more theft resistant than bikes (since they fold up), and; e-scooters might be more convenient than a bike (since a rider could more easily fold one up and take it on transit even during rush hours). Participants said it is difficult to comment on the pros & cons of e-scooters in the abstract: the City should instead ask what its transportation objectives are and whether e-scooters help achieve them.

Advice on if/how to accommodate e-scooters
Participants suggested considerations the City keep in mind as it explores if/how there is a role for e-scooters in Toronto:
Impacts of regulation on privately-owned e-scooters and local retailers. The City should consider how its approach to regulating big e-scooter sharing companies might impact privately-owned e-scooters and local retailers of e-mobility devices. Participants said it would be unfortunate for private owners of e-scooters and retailers of e-scooters to be impacted by regulations aiming to fix issues from the big e-scooter sharing companies (as has happened in Alberta). Regulations developed based considerations like the size of e-scooter sharing companies fleets, the durability of their vehicles, and wear-and-tear on their vehicles might overlook considerations unique to private owners of e-scooters and/or retailers of mobility devices.
The same rules should apply to bikes and e-scooters. For example, if the City is going to allow them, e-scooters should be required to use the road and banned from sidewalks and parks because of the risk of collisions with people.
Industry standards. Participants had mixed opinions about industry standards. While standards can be a headache for manufacturers, they could be beneficial to create consistency and responsibility. If the City does pursue or advocate for industry standards (e.g. for turning radius, weight, material strength, durability, etc.), there should be different standards for different types of e-scooters (e.g. kids vs. adult e-scooters). There would also need to be a system to enforce standards, such as limiting 750 watt e-scooters (which are not legal).
E-scooter warranties and maintenance. Participants said it is up to private individual e-scooter owners to obtain replacement parts and fix the e-scooters themselves. The existing warranty period for some products is two months.
Learn from others. For example, the dockless e-scooter and e-bike pilot project has not been working well in other cities (companies did not conform to the Citys requirements). Toronto should learn from that experience to avoid similar challenges.
Avoiding clutter and scooter mayhem. In many cities, e-scooters end up littering streets, public spaces, and lakes; so there needs to be some control to manage potential nuisances. Recommend that Toronto city staff learn from other cities to consider how to avoid similar negative impacts here.
Ways to prevent impaired riding. Impaired riding of e-scooters has been an issue in some cities; Toronto should learn how other cities have approached and prevented this behaviour.
Different uses & users. Its likely there will be two types of uses for e-scooters: commuting and entertainment/recreation. Most people will likely fit into the entertainment/recreation category since the speed and battery life of e-scooters make them less practical over the long distances faced by many commuters. The City should also consider who is using e-scooters (such as students, transit users, etc.).
Education will be important, especially in terms of encouraging people to wear helmets and discouraging tourists from going at top speed in pedestrian zones/busy pedestrian areas.
Consider the political challenges of building infrastructure for e-scooters and/or bikes. For example, some people may get upset if the City builds more dedicated lanes for bikes and/or e-scooters. However, without dedicated lanes, cyclists and e-scooter riders may be in danger of getting hit by cars.
The pros and cons of e-scooters will depend on the Citys goals and objectives. The benefits/risks of e-scooters will depend on the what the City is trying to achieve (e.g. to use along transit or replace transit) and who will use e-scooters (e.g. students, transit users, novice riders).
Limit the top speed. Some said the 15 mph (24 km/h) top speed should be maintained.

How e-scooter statistics influenced participants perspectives
After hearing some statistics about e-scooters, participants said they were interested in understanding how the statistics compare to e-bikes, especially when it applies to injuries, to help put them in context. Some said the statistics were confusing and seemed to be mixing apples and oranges, such as statistics that compared the percentage of injuries between different municipalities even though each municipality might have different fleet sizes. Some said they would expect head injuries would be higher on e-scooters since people might be more inclined to use an e-scooter spontaneously.

Feedback shared in the PEDESTRIAN / TRANSIT RIDERS focus group

Experiences, understanding, and perceptions
Participants had a range of experiences with e-scooters, including having lived in and visited cities where they are in use (e.g. Tel Aviv, San Diego), seeing them in pop culture, having personally used them, and having no personal experience with them. Some participants saw them being used on either sidewalks or on the streets (depending on the city). Those that had personal experience riding them (all male) and/or lived in cities where they are used said that e-scooters are a wonderful, fast, and convenient way to travel. They said its easier (and cheaper) to navigate an unfamiliar city via e-scooter than via public transit (especially where you don’t speak the language and it’s hard to navigate public transit). Participants also said e-scooters work best in cities that do not get snow (or where snow is cleared immediately) and in cities with wide streets or sidewalks. Those that had visited cities where they are in use but did not ride them said they had experienced e-scooters passing them quickly while cycling in bike lanes. Some said they saw e-scooters as “unnerving”, “stealthy”, litter, broken, and abandoned on streets; others said that, in some cities, private companies have developed ways to prevent the litter issue, including app / software updates (requiring e-scooters be left in designated areas), hiring staff to tend to e-scooters overnight, and identifying designated parking areas.

Potential benefits / opportunities participants identified with e-scooters included: they can be a cheaper transportation option when transit is not working or unavailable; they are a convenient and fast way to get around, and; may benefit from being integrated with transit. Potential risks / concerns participants identified included: lack of appropriate infrastructure (such as narrow, unprotected bike lanes); e-scooters are very quiet making them potentially dangerous for pedestrians (if allowed on sidewalks); impaired riding, and; lack of familiarity on how to use/control e-scooters, especially for novice riders.

When asked whether they would feel comfortable recommending a loved one use e-scooters, participants responses were mixed. Those who said they would be comfortable said they would only do so if e-scooters were not allowed on sidewalks and were used on streets with safe, well-maintained (“as long as streets are cleaned”) and appropriate infrastructure or in areas with no/little car traffic (such as the suburbs or King Street). Those who said they would not be comfortable cited the lack of infrastructure and having “no safety buffer”, lack of traffic law enforcement on Torontos streets, and the dangerous habits of drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Participants also shared thoughts about e-scooters from the perspective of a pedestrian / transit rider:
E-scooters could be integrated into the TTC to serve as a last mile solution for pedestrians / transit riders and/or could help distribute the load from the transit system.
Carefully consider the impact of e-scooters (using throttle) on people with mobility issues and people with baby strollers.
Using e-scooters in the suburbs as a last mile solution is a good idea, but the City needs to identify where e-scooters would fit in the existing infrastructure. If its illegal to cycle on sidewalks, it should be the same for e-scooters, but riding on streets in the suburbs is unsafe since cars move faster and take up most of the street.
Potential for e-scooter riders to blow past open streetcar doors. Enforcement would be needed to discourage this behaviour, which is already a problem with other road users. Advice on if/how to accommodate e-scooters
Participants suggested considerations for the City to keep in mind as it explores if/how there is a role for e-scooters in Toronto:
E-scooters should not be allowed on sidewalks for pedestrians safety, especially kids and the elderly. E-scooters should be restricted to streets and have the same regulation as e-bikes in terms of speed limit.
Plan for and provide enough infrastructure space, especially if e-scooters are not allowed on sidewalks, and if more people use e-bikes and e-scooters, consider the threshold where more space is needed for micromobility infrastructure.
Provide education and training on e-scooters and promote an awareness campaign about general road safety. Currently, there is a general lack of knowledge about road safety. Adding a new mode of transportation on the streets will require all road users to be properly informed on how to keep the road safe for everyone. Consider closing streets with bike lanes (e.g. Bloor Street) to car traffic in summer to allow people to learn how to properly use e-scooters since some participants said “at first it’s shaky when learning to use e-scooters”.
Consider whether there is a role for identifiers or license plates on e-scooters. Some felt strongly that an identifier would be important in supporting enforcement of the rules of the road; others said requiring licensing of e-scooters could initiate a move to require licensing for every form of transportation, which has been proven to be impractical.
Prevent people from using e-scooters to bypass PRESTO fare machines. A participant was concerned people would use e-scooters for fare evasion, especially in transit stations where the bus bay is easily accessed from the sidewalk (e.g. Bathurst Station).
Understand how e-scooters could impact the transportation habits of transit riders, including whether e-scooters are intended to replace or supplement transit and whether e-scooters are suitable for longer distances or inclement weather. Understanding these impacts would help the City understand if e-scooters are replacing driving trips or are only being used instead of walking or short transit trips.

How e-scooter statistics influenced participants perspectives
After hearing some statistics about e-scooters, participants generally said the statistics reinforced their thoughts about both the benefits and risks of e-scooters. Some said the statistics made them feel e-scooters are more of a novelty device than a new mode of transportation, while others said the statistics revealed that e-scooters are useful for day-to-day travel and could serve as a new mode of transportation (e.g. if you have a 5km commute or need to get to a transit station and buses are infrequent). Some said they are concerned about impaired or drunk e-scootering. Some said that, if the City allows e-scooters in Toronto, riders should be required to wear a helmet but unsure how helmets would be distributed; others said they would not like helmet use to be required (given cyclists above the age of 18 are not required to wear helmets and requiring helmets for e-scooter use could present logistical and administrative barriers to their use). Participants also asked questions about the e-scooter statistics, including interest in understanding: absolute values (not just percentages); the cause of collisions reported, and; what percentage of the population in the cities surveyed used e-scooters.

Appendices
Appendix A Recruitment e-mail, website, and questionnaire

Recruitment e-mail

Subject: Seeking Focus Group Participants: City of Toronto E-scooter Research

Youre receiving this email because the City of Toronto and our Swerhun team think your organization or people in your organizations network may potentially be interested in participating in a focus group about e-scooters in Toronto. Our Swerhun team regularly works on consultations in Toronto and knows organizations and/or businesses like yours pay close attention to urban issues, including issues around mobility. We looked up your contact information online to send you this email if you would prefer not to receive further emails about this e-scooter focus group research process, please respond and let us know so we can remove you from this email distribution list.

Hello,

We are looking for Toronto residents and representatives of local businesses to participate in one of five one-hour focus groups to help the City of Toronto understand the publics knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about electric kick-scooters or e-scooters.

Dates and times: One hour in the evening of either February 12 or February 13 (beginning at either 6:00, 7:00, or 8:00 p.m.)
Location of focus groups: Downtown Toronto (Queen and Spadina) eligible applicants will receive detailed information
Compensation: Participants who attend an entire 1-hour focus group will receive a $40 honorarium
Eligibility: Participants must be between the ages of 16-70 and have completed the web form linked below to be considered eligible to participate. Note that not all eligible participants will be necessarily invited to participate.
How to register your interest: Complete this brief online form no later than Friday, February 7, 2020

More details:
An e-scooter is a two-wheeled electric-powered device, where the rider stands on a narrow board holding a handlebar (see picture below). As of January 1, 2020, the Government of Ontario has given cities the option to test e-scooters on public roads, trails, parks and sidewalks. Staff from the City of Torontos Transportation Services are preparing a report for City Council with advice on if/how to proceed with exploring a role for e-scooters in Toronto. The focus groups are one of multiple research inputs informing this report, including staff research, a phone survey, stakeholder consultation, and consultation with the e-scooter industry.

If you are interested in participating in one of the focus groups (or know someone between the ages of 16-70 who might be), please either share or complete the online web form. Click the link below to access the online web form it only takes 2 minutes to complete. The focus group research team will notify eligible individuals no later than February 7.

www.e-scooterfocusgroup.com

Thank you for your interest. We look forward to your participation.

Khly Lamparero, Swerhun Inc.
Firm retained by the City of Toronto to conduct the e-scooter focus groups (416) 572-4365
[email protected]

Recruitment website

Recruitment questionnaire

1. How often do you walk to get to destinations or for recreation? Daily
Several times a week
Weekly
Several times a month
Monthly
Less than once a month
Never

2. On most days, do you walk or use an assistive device such as a cane/walker/motorized wheelchair to get around? Yes
No

3. How often do you take public transit?
Daily
Several times a week
Weekly
Several times a month
Monthly
Less than once a month
Never

4. Do you travel frequently with baby carriers/strollers? Yes
No

5. How often do you ride a bike to get to destinations or for recreation? Daily
Several times a week
Weekly
Several times a month
Monthly
Less than once a month
Never

6. How often do you drive?
Daily
Several times a week
Weekly
Several times a month
Monthly
Less than once a month
Never

7. Do you own or run a business establishment in the city of Toronto (e.g. restaurant or store selling goods/services)? Yes
No

8. Do you own or run a business establishment selling bicycles, electric bicycles, kick-style e-scooters and electric motorcycles/e-mopeds? Yes
No

9. Do you have any visual impairments?
Yes
No

10. Are there any children 16 or younger living in your household? Yes
No

11. Do you or anyone in your household own a dog?
Yes
No

12. Are you a commercially licensed dog walker?
Yes
No

13. Among the following, which have you ever tried using? (Select all that apply) BikeShare Toronto
Bike share system in another city
Pedal assist electric powered-bicycle
Electric-powered bicycle (no pedalling required)
Kick-style e-scooter
None of the above

14. Have you ever been in a city that allows kick style e-scooters? Yes
No

15. Which of these groups do you identify with the most? (choose up to 3) Pedestrian/transit rider
Cyclist
Driver
Local business owner/manager
Local retailer of electric mobility devices (e.g. electric bicycles, kick style e-scooters, electric motorcycles/e-mopeds)

16. Are you a member of any organization/advocacy group? Yes
No
Prefer not to say

17. If you answered yes above, please specify the organization/advocacy group.
______________________

18. What is your age?
15 and below
16 30
31 50
51 70
71 and over

19. What gender do you identify as?
Male
Female
Non-binary/third gender
Other, please specify
Prefer not to say

20. Which area in the City of Toronto do you live in?
Etobicoke York
North York
Scarborough
Toronto and East York
I dont live in the City of Toronto

21. Please specify your ethnicity.
Black (e.g. African, African-Canadian, Caribbean)
East Asian (e.g. Chinese, Japanese, Korean)
First Nations (status, non-status, treaty or non-treaty) Inuit or Métis Latin American (e.g. Colombian, Cuban, Mexican, Peruvian)
Middle Eastern (e.g. Afghan, Iranian, Lebanese, Saudi Arabian, Syrian)
South Asian (e.g. Bangladeshi, Indian, Indian-Caribbean such as Guyanese, Pakistani, Sri Lankan) Southeast Asian (e.g. Filipino, Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, Vietnamese) White (e.g. English, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Slovakian) More than one race category or mixed race, please describe below Not listed, please describe below
Prefer not to answer

22. What language(s) do you speak? (Select all that apply) English
French
Other, please specify

23. What is your annual household income?
Under $20,000
$20,000 – $49,999
$50,000 – $79,999
$80,000 – $124,999
More than $125,000
Prefer not to say

24. How many years have you lived in the City of Toronto? Less than 1 year
1 2 years
2 5 years
5 10 years
10 20 years
Over 20 years
Dont know/Prefer not to say

25. Please identify which evenings you would be available. Note, eligible individuals are only expected to attend one session. Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Thursday, February 13, 2020
I am available on both evenings
I am NOT available on either evening

26. Please share your contact information below:

First Name:
Phone Number (optional):
Email:

Please note this information will only be used to follow up with you about additional details if you are identified as being eligible to participate on the focus groups.

Make sure to click submit to complete your registration.

This concludes the registration questions. Thank you for taking the time to participate. We will get in touch with you no later than Friday, February 7, 2020 if you have been identified as eligible to participate in a focus group.

Notice of Collection: The personal information is collected under the City of Toronto Act, 2006, s. 136(c) and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Any personal information collected by a third party vendor acting as an agent for the City of Toronto will only be used for the purpose of scheduling and organizing focus groups to provide feedback to city staff related to e-scooters. With the exception of personal information, all comments will become part of the public record. For more on the City’s commitment to protect the privacy of individuals, see our Corporate Privacy and Security Statement.

Appendix B Summary of selected participant demographics

Outlined below is a breakdown of some of the City-identified key demographics of selected participants.

Age group. Approximately 21% 16-30 year olds; 45% 31-50 year olds; 24% 51-70 year olds, and; 10% 71 and over.

Ethnicity. Approximately 48% non-caucasian and 52% Caucasian.

Income. Approximately 7% under $20,000; 24% $20,000 – $49,000; 17% $50,000 – $79,000; 24% $80,000 – $124,000; 14% more than $125,000, and; 14% preferred not to say.

Gender. Approximately 42% female and 58% male.

Geography. Approximately 79% from Toronto and East York; 14% from Etobicoke York; 3% from North York, and; 3% do not live in Toronto.

Experience with e-scooters. Approximately 59% have been in a city that allow e-scooters, and 41% have not.

Appendix C Focus group agendas

City of Toronto e-Scooter Focus Group
CYCLIST
Alterna Savings Room, CSI Spadina
192 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON
Feb 13, 2020

Focus group purpose
To help the City of Toronto understand cyclists knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about e-scooters.

Agenda
6:00 pm Welcome, introductions, agenda review, quick orientation Swerhun Inc. and City of Toronto
6:05 Discussion: your experiences and perceptions
1. Where and how have you heard about e-scooters? How would you describe them and/or your experience with them?
2. Based on your experience, would you be comfortable recommending a loved one use them? Why or why not?
3. Do you have any specific experiences or perceptions to share from the perspective of a cyclist? 6:20 Discussion: if/how to pilot e-scooters
4. The Province has given the City the ability to pilot e-scooters. What kinds of things do you think the City should consider when exploring if/how they might have a role in Toronto?
5. Thinking as a cyclist, what specific issues, opportunities, or concerns do you want the City to consider (if any)? 6:35 Distribution of info and stats around e-scooters
Swerhun Inc.
6:40 Discussion: changes to perceptions
6. Did any of the information shared change your opinion or attitude about e-scooters or your thoughts on if/how the City should consider exploring a role for them? If so, how? 6:55 Adjourn

City of Toronto e-Scooter Focus Group
DRIVERS
Alterna Savings Room, CSI Spadina
192 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON
Feb 12, 2020

Focus group purpose
To help the City of Toronto understand drivers knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about e-scooters.

Agenda
6:00 pm Welcome, introductions, agenda review, quick orientation Swerhun Inc. and City of Toronto
6:05 Discussion: your experiences and perceptions
1. Where and how have you heard about e-scooters? How would you describe them and/or your experience with them?
2. Based on your experience, would you be comfortable recommending a loved one use them? Why or why not?
3. Do you have any specific experiences or perceptions to share from the perspective of a driver? 6:20 Discussion: if/how to pilot e-scooters
4. The Province has given the City the ability to pilot e-scooters. What kinds of things do you think the City should consider when exploring if/how they might have a role in Toronto?
5. Thinking as a driver, what specific issues, opportunities, or concerns do you want the City to consider (if any)? 6:35 Distribution of info and stats around e-scooters
Swerhun Inc.
6:40 Discussion: changes to perceptions
6. Did any of the information shared change your opinion or attitude about e-scooters or your thoughts on if/how the City should consider exploring a role for them? If so, how? 6:55 Adjourn

City of Toronto e-Scooter Focus Group
LOCAL BUSINESS OWNERS/MANAGERS
Alterna Savings Room, CSI Spadina
192 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON
Feb 12, 2020

Focus group purpose
To help the City of Toronto understand local business owners knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about e-scooters.

Agenda
7:00 pm Welcome, introductions, agenda review, quick orientation Swerhun Inc. and City of Toronto
7:05 Discussion: your experiences and perceptions
1. Where and how have you heard about e-scooters? How would you describe them and/or your experience with them?
2. Based on your experience, would you be comfortable recommending a loved one use them? Why or why not?
3. Do you have any specific experiences or perceptions to share from the perspective of a local business owner? 7:20 Discussion: if/how to pilot e-scooters
4. The Province has given the City the ability to pilot e-scooters. What kinds of things do you think the City should consider when exploring if/how they might have a role in Toronto?
5. Thinking as a local business owner, what specific issues, opportunities, or concerns do you want the City to consider (if any)? 7:35 Distribution of info and stats around e-scooters
Swerhun Inc.
7:40 Discussion: changes to perceptions
6. Did any of the information shared change your opinion or attitude about e-scooters or your thoughts on if/how the City should consider exploring a role for them? If so, how? 7:55 Adjourn

City of Toronto e-Scooter Focus Group
LOCAL RETAILERS OF E-MOBILITY DEVICES
Alterna Savings Room, CSI Spadina
192 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON
Feb 12, 2020

Focus group purpose
To help the City of Toronto understand local e-mobility device retailers knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about e-scooters.

Agenda
8:00 pm Welcome, introductions, agenda review, quick orientation Swerhun Inc. and City of Toronto
8:05 Discussion: your experiences and perceptions as retailers
1. Where and how have your customers heard about e-scooters? What kinds of questions do they ask about them?
2. Based on your experience, would you be comfortable recommending everybody use e-scooters? Why or why not?
3. Do you have any experiences or perceptions to share from the perspective of a local retailer of e-mobility devices? 8:20 Discussion: if/how to pilot e-scooters
4. The Province has given the City the ability to pilot e-scooters. What kinds of things do you think the City should consider when exploring if/how they might have a role in Toronto?
5. Thinking as a retailer of e-mobility devices, what do you see as the risks/benefits to retailers if municipalities and/or the province decide not to make e-scooters legal? (e.g., decide not to pilot or decide not to continue after the pilot period) 8:35 Distribution of info and stats around e-scooters
Swerhun Inc.
8:40 Discussion: changes to perceptions
6. Did any of the information shared change your opinion or attitude about e-scooters or your thoughts on if/how the City should consider exploring a role for them? If so, how? 8:55 Adjourn

City of Toronto e-Scooter Focus Group
PEDESTRIANS / TRANSIT RIDERS
Alterna Savings Room, CSI Spadina
192 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON
Feb 13, 2020

Focus group purpose
To help the City of Toronto understand pedestrian & transit riders knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions about e-scooters.

Agenda
7:00 pm Welcome, introductions, agenda review, quick orientation Swerhun Inc. and City of Toronto
7:05 Discussion: your experiences and perceptions
1. Where and how have you heard about e-scooters? How would you describe them and/or your experience with them?
2. Based on your experience, would you be comfortable recommending a loved one use them? Why or why not?
3. Do you have any specific experiences or perceptions to share from the perspective of a pedestrian & transit rider? 7:20 Discussion: if/how to pilot e-scooters
4. The Province has given the City the ability to pilot e-scooters. What kinds of things do you think the City should consider when exploring if/how they might have a role in Toronto?
5. Thinking as a pedestrian & transit rider, what specific issues, opportunities, or concerns do you want the City to consider (if any)? 7:35 Distribution of info and stats around e-scooters
Swerhun Inc.
7:40 Discussion: changes to perceptions
6. Did any of the information shared change your opinion or attitude about e-scooters or your thoughts on if/how the City should consider exploring a role for them? If so, how? 7:55 Adjourn

Appendix D E-scooter statistics shared in focus groups

E-scooter statistics

1. In Paris, a survey of e-scooter riders revealed that 7% rented one almost every day and 38% rented one at least once a week. About 68% said it was a pleasant and fun way to travel and saved them time.

2. Paris and Singapore banned e-scooters from being used on sidewalks. This ban occurred as a result of pedestrian deaths from e-scooter collisions on sidewalks.

3. In Calgary, 1 in 3 trips by e-scooters replaced a car trip. In Paris, 23% of e-scooter trips were combined with another mode like public transit.

4. In the City of Austin, 63% of injuries occurred within the first nine rides of using an e-scooter. About 50% are head injuries and 35% are fractures. Less than 1% wore helmets. (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and City of Austin)

5. E-scooters are promoted as an environmentally-friendly mode and as a way to reduce car traffic.

6. In Chicago, 10 pedestrians were sent to the emergency room after being hit by e-scooter users in their 4 month pilot project. There was a total of 192 emergency room visits related to e-scooters in these 4 months.

7. In Paris, 44% of e-scooters riders used bicycle lanes, 35% used roadways, and 19% used sidewalks. 82% said they wanted to use bicycle lanes for e-scooters.

Attachment 4: Views of Toronto Residents on E-Scooters (Summary Report)?

This study was commissioned by the City of Toronto and the research was conducted by Nanos Research. This report summarizes the observations based on an online nonprobability panel survey of 1,010 Toronto residents, 16 years or older, between January 23rd and February 1st, 2020.

Sampling plan: To achieve the best representation, the sample was structured to the natural geographic distribution of Toronto based on the Statistics Canada 2016 Census of Population.

Awareness and Attitudes Towards E-Scooters
While one in two Toronto residents report having seen e-scooters being operated, less than one in ten report having used or rented one. Younger residents were more likely to report having seen e-scooters being operated and were also more likely to report having used an e-scooter than older residents.
Dangerous and fun/adventure are top of mind words when Toronto residents think about escooters Asked what words come to mind when they think of an e-scooter, Toronto residents most frequently say dangerous and fun/adventure (16% each), followed by easy/convenient/ useful (13%), quick/speed (12%), and kid/toy (nine per cent). Toronto residents who are 55 years old or older (27%) are six times more likely to use the word, “dangerous”, to describe e-scooters than younger residents (five per cent of those 16 to 34 years old).
Toronto residents most frequently have heard about e-scooters through seeing them being operated or through the News, TV, Twitter or other media Asked where they have heard about e-scooters, Toronto residents most frequently say they had seen e-scooters being operated (50%) and through News, TV, Twitter and other media (46%), followed by word of mouth (26%), online shopping and retailer websites (19%), and having used or rented one (eight per cent). Fourteen per cent say they had never heard about them until this survey.
Older residents are twice as likely to say they have never heard of e-scooters than younger residents Nearly one in two Toronto residents who are 55 years old or older say they had not heard about e-scooters until this survey (18%) compared to under one in ten (nine per cent) of 16 to 34 year olds. Toronto residents who are 16 to 34 years old are more likely to say they have seen e-scooters being operated than older Toronto residents (55%, compared to 45% of those 55 and older). Younger Toronto residents are also more likely to report having used or rented an escooter (16% of 16-34 year olds, compared to three per cent of those 55 and older).

Less than one in ten Toronto residents say they have used and/or rented an e-scooter Eight per cent of Toronto residents say they have used and/or rented an e-scooter. Of these, Toronto residents who are 16 to 34 years old (16%) are five times more likely to report having used or rented an e-scooter than those age 55 and older (three per cent), and nearly three time more likely than those aged 35 to 54 years old (six per cent).
Those who have seen an e-scooter being operated most frequently say that they observed young people operating them Asked to rank their top three observations when they saw people operating e-scooters, Toronto residents most frequently rank first that they saw mostly young people riding them (29%), followed by people having fun or riding e-scooters for convenience (18%), few people using them (13%), and people riding safely, not speeding, using bike lanes/roadway on e-scooters (13%). Ten per cent first rank that they saw people riding recklessly, speeding, not yielding to pedestrians on e-scooters.
Those who have used an e-scooter are marginally more likely to say they used a rented escooter rather than a privately owned e-scooter Just over one in two Toronto residents (54%) who have ridden an e-scooter say they used a rented e-scooter to do so, while just under one in two (47%) say they used a privately owned e-scooter.
Fun and convenience best describe Toronto residents experiences when riding an e-scooter Asked to rank the top three descriptions that best match their experience when riding an escooter, Toronto residents who have used or rented an e-scooter most frequently rank first that it was fun (26%) and that it was convenient (25%), followed by I would use it but not everyone should use it as it takes some skill (19%), it was cost effective (16%), it was expensive (seven per cent), and they had a near miss with other e-scooter riders, pedestrians, cyclists or drivers (four per cent).

E-scooter pilot projects
When it comes to how the City of Toronto should participate in the Provinces e-scooter pilot project, Toronto residents most frequently say e-scooters are still a new device and should be introduced cautiously, starting with a limited pilot project. Safety and education are most frequently seen as the priorities the City should consider when developing its approach to e-scooters. Respondents were asked for their views before and after reading a set of statements about e-scooters. Overall, results pre and post-information were consistent.
Toronto residents most frequently say that e-scooters are still a new device and should be introduced cautiously, starting with a limited pilot project Asked how the City of Toronto should participate in the Provinces e-scooter pilot project, if at all, Toronto residents most frequently say that e-scooters are still a new device and should be introduced cautiously, starting with a limited pilot project (44% pre-information, 52% post-information), followed by e-scooters are fun, convenient and should be allowed like bicycles and e-bikes (27% pre-information, 22% post-information), e-scooters are a fad and the City should improve other transportation options (14% pre-information, 11% post-information) and e-scooters are dangerous and should not be piloted at this time (nine per cent pre-information, 10% post-information).
Toronto residents most frequently say the most important role e-scooters could fulfil in Torontos transportation system is being used for fun or recreation Asked to rank the top three roles they think e-scooters could fulfil in Torontos transportation system, Toronto residents most frequently ranked using them for fun or recreation (20% pre-information, 15% post-information) first, followed by using them instead of walking or short transit trips (18% pre-information, 19% post-information), a way for tourists and others to see the city (13% pre-information, 12% post-information), using them where public transit service is less frequent or not available (12% pre-information, 16% post-information), an alternative to driving (10% pre-information, 11% post-information) and using them to commute to/from work (nine per cent pre-information and post-information). Fourteen per cent say e-scooters do not fulfill a real role in Torontos transportation system and five per cent are unsure both pre-information and post-information.
Older residents are more likely to say that e-scooters do not fulfill a real role in Torontos transportation system compared to younger residents Just under two in ten (19%) older residents (55 and older) say that e-scooters do not fulfill a real role in Torontos transportation system compared to nine per cent of residents aged 16 to 34 years old.

Priorities for the Citys e-scooter approach
Residents says safety is the most important priority for the City of Toronto to prioritize when developing its approach to e-scooters Asked to rank the top three things the City of Toronto should prioritize in developing its approach to e-scooters, Toronto residents rank first focusing on safety to prevent serious injuries and death (28% pre-information, 26% post-information), followed by educating new users of e-scooters to learn how to operate them (20% pre-information and post-information), protecting pedestrians and persons with disabilities from escooters being used on sidewalks (17% pre-information, 22% post-information), restricting the use of e-scooters in Toronto (12% pre-information, nine per cent post information), building more infrastructure for e-scooters and other similar uses (11% pre-information and post-information). Seven per cent rank being open and more permissive to dockless e-scooters first (five per cent post-information), and six per cent say the City should ban/not allow e-scooters both pre-information and post-information.
Toronto residents most frequently say the City should prioritize injuries and fatalities compared to other modes when evaluating an e-scooter pilot Asked what the City of Toronto should prioritize when evaluating an e-scooter pilot if it were to allow e-scooters on public streets, Toronto residents most frequently ranked injuries and fatalities compared with other modes (31%) first, followed by impacts on all road users and the transportation system (25%), costs to the city for enforcement, dealing with litter/complaints, lawsuits, claims and staffing (15%), the environmental impacts like the lifecycle of e-scooters (11%), the number of trips taken and shifts in transportation mode used (10%), and social equity and demographics of users (eight per cent).

Perception of e-scooters
Over half of Toronto residents say they would feel comfortable or somewhat comfortable recommending that a loved on use an e-scooter, with younger residents feeling most comfortable. Toronto residents are more likely to say that using e-scooters is generally safe or somewhat safe than to say it is not safe or somewhat not safe, with younger respondents most likely to say that they are generally safe or somewhat safe. Results pre and post-information were consistent.
Over half of Toronto residents say they would be comfortable or somewhat comfortable recommending that a loved one use an e-scooter Over one in two say they would be comfortable (19% pre-information, 17% post-information) or somewhat comfortable (36% pre-information, 37% post-information) recommending that a loved one use an e-scooter as a mode of transportation in Toronto if the City of Toronto were to allow e-scooters where bikes are allowed on roadways and bike lanes, while four in ten say they would be somewhat not comfortable (18% pre-information, 20% post-information) or not comfortable (21% pre-information and post-information). Six per cent are unsure.
Younger Toronto residents are more likely to say they would be comfortable recommending that a loved one use an e-scooter than older residents Three in ten (30%) Toronto residents 55 years old or older say they would not be comfortable recommending that a loved one use an escooter as a mode of transportation in Toronto, compared to 18 per cent of 35 to 54 year olds and 13 per cent of 16 to 34 year olds.

Toronto residents are most likely to say that using e-scooters is generally safe or somewhat safe
o Over half of Toronto residents say that using e-scooters is generally safe (11% pre-information, 10% post-information) or somewhat safe (44% pre-information, 42% post-information), while just over one in three say that it is generally somewhat not safe (21% pre-information, 24% post-information) or not safe (15% pre-information, 17% post-information). Nine per cent are unsure.
Younger Toronto residents and men are more likely to say that using e-scooters is generally safe Just over seven in ten 16 to 34 year olds say that using e-scooter is generally safe (19%) or somewhat safe (52%), compared to under six in ten 35 to 54 year olds (13% safe, 46% somewhat safe) and just over four in ten 55 year olds and older (five per cent safe, 38% somewhat safe). Men (16% safe, 46% somewhat safe) are more likely to say that using e-scooters is generally safe compared to women (eight per cent safe, 43% somewhat safe).

Support for e-scooter initiatives
Toronto residents gave the highest intensity of support for the initiative that would require e-scooter riders to wear helmets and the lowest intensity of support for the initiative that would ban e-scooters in Toronto.
* E-scooter riders having to wear helmets received the highest intensity of support from Toronto residents Asked to rate a series of e-scooter initiatives on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being least supportive to 10 being highly supportive, Toronto residents gave the highest mean score to e-scooter riders having to wear helmets (mean of 8.8 out of 10), followed by having e-scooter rentals at Toronto Bike Share stations (mean of 7.0 out of 10) and having e-scooter rentals at public transit stations/stops (mean of 6.9 out of 10). Focusing a pilot downtown or in suburban areas received lower support (mean of 6.2 and 6.3, respectively), while not allowing e-scooters in Toronto like New York citys Manhattan received the lowest support (mean of 5.4 out of 10).

* Older Toronto residents were more likely to support initiatives that would ban e-scooters in Toronto; younger Toronto residents were more likely to support having e-scooter rentals at public transit and Bikeshare stations Older respondents (55 plus) were more likely to support the initiative that would not allow e-scooters in Toronto than younger respondents (mean of 6.0 out of 10 for those 55 plus compared to 4.7 for those 16 to 34 years old), and were also more likely to support the initiative that would require e-scooter riders to wear helmets (mean of 9.3 out of 10 for those 55 plus compared to 8.2 for those 16 to 34 years old). Younger Toronto residents were more likely to support having e-scooter rentals at public transit stations/stops and at Bikeshare stations (mean or 7.3 and 7.4 out of 10 respectively for those 16 to 34 years old, compared to a mean of 6.6 out of 10, each, for those 55 and older).

Nanos conducted an online survey of 1010 residents of Toronto, 16 years of age or older, between January 23rd to February 1st, 2020. The results were statistically checked and weighted by age and gender using the latest Census information and the sample is geographically stratified to be representative of Toronto. Note: Charts may not add up to 100 due to rounding.




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More Helpful Media Coverage and More Organizations Endorse the AODA Alliance Brief to the Ford Government on How to Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic


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

June 30, 2020

SUMMARY

With the delight of summer and the ongoing terrible stress of COVID-19 both upon us, here is a grab-bag of latest news in our multi-front campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities. We wish one and all a safe, happy and accessible Canada Day.

1. Support Keeps Growing for the June 18, 2020 AODA Alliance Brief to the Ford Government on Protecting Students with Disabilities During the Transition to School Re-opening

An impressive list of 12 disability-related organizations have now endorsed the 19 recommendations to the Ford Government in the June 18, 2020 AODA Alliance brief on what needs to be done to meet the needs of students with disabilities during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the transition to school re-openings. Those organizations now include:

1. March of Dimes of Canada
2. Citizens with Disabilities Ontario
3. Community Living Ontario
4. Spinal Cord Injury Ontario
5. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind
6. the Inclusive Design Research Centre of the Ontario college of Art and Design University 7. Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy
8. Balance for Blind Adults
9. The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network Elgin, London, Middlesex, Oxford
10. Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children (Views for the Visually Impaired) 11. Ontario Autism Coalition
12. Integration Action for Inclusion

As we announced on June 26,2020, our briefs recommendations have also been endorsed by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. OSSTF is the union that represents thousands of public high school teachers. Thus our recommendations have a broad consensus of support from a diversity of voices within the front lines of the disability community and from teachers who work at the front lines of our education system.
It is not too late for you as an individual, or for an organization with which you are connected, to write the Ministry of Education to endorse the AODA Alliances June 18, 2020 brief on school re-openings. Email the Ontario Government at [email protected] to support our June 18, 2019 brief. Wed welcome the chance to add more organizations to this list.

2. What Has TVO Done to Fix Its Website Accessibility Problems?

The Ford Government has repeatedly announced that it has partnered with TVO to deliver online learning content to students during distance learning, while schools are closed due to COVID-19. Back on May 4, 2020, we made public the fact that there are significant accessibility problems with the online learning resources offered on the website of TVO, Ontarios publicly-owned and operated public education TV network. This was revealed during the May 4, 2020 virtual town hall that was jointly organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition on meeting the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We are proud that since then, over 1,600 people have watched that virtual town hall. It is still available online for you to watch, and for you to share with others to watch!
Since we revealed this problem, the AODA Alliance has expressed its concerns in detail to TVO in a 30-minute phone call on May 14, 2020 between AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and the TVO vice president for digital content. The AODA Alliance followed this up with a detailed letter to TVOs digital content vice president on May 21, 2020. We have also raised this issue at the highest levels within the Ministry of Education. The Ministry oversees TVO.

Since then, we have not heard a word from TVO. TVO has not told us of anything it has done, if it has done anything, to act on the serious accessibility problems we identified and the concrete recommendations for action that we offered.

3. More Media on the Impact of COVID-19on People with Disabilities

For more than three months, our media has devoted most of its attention to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite that, it has been incredibly hard for the disability community to get sufficient and appropriate media attention on the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on people with disabilities, and on the failure of our governments to effectively address the unmet needs of people with disabilities during this pandemic. We have tried hard and will continue to try hard to get the media to properly cover these issues.
Set out below are three good media reports that have accrued over the past weeks that weve wanted to share with you:
1. An article in the June 23, 2020 Mississauga News on the barriers for people with disabilities that are threatened by Mississaugas approach to allowing restaurants to open patios to serve the public. For practical suggestions on how to ensure such patios are accessible to people with disabilities, and dont create barriers to people with disabilities, check out a list of tips from DesignAble Environments, an accessible design consulting firm.
2. The May 6,2020 Global News report on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, and
3. The May 5, 2020 report in QP Briefing on the virtual town hall organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition on meeting the needs of students with disabilities during COVID-19.

4. Delay and Delay and More Delay from the Ford Government

There have now been 516 days, or a full year and a half, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
There have been fully 97 days, or over three months, since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The Premiers office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Visit the AODA Alliances COVID-19 web page to see what we have been up to, trying to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis are properly addressed. Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected] Please stay safe!

MORE DETAILS

Mississauga News June 23, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.mississauga.com/news-story/10039099–waived-all-the-red-tape-mississauga-to-allow-more-bar-and-restaurant-patios-starting-wednesday/ Waived all the red tape: Mississauga to allow more bar and restaurant patios starting Wednesday Patios could be navigational nightmare, accessibility advocate says NEWS Jun 23, 2020 By Steve Cornwell Mississauga News
When Ontario allows Mississauga bars and restaurants to serve customers outdoors starting Wednesday, June 24, you may see proliferation of patios in the city.
Mississauga council is moving forward with a temporary bylaw relaxing restrictions and fees on restaurant patios in strip mall parking lots, public streets and on sidewalks.
Prior to the new bylaw, restaurants patios were permitted on private property in Mississaugas downtown area, Port Credit or where the city has allowed them through a zoning variance.
The new rules apply to the citys five business improvement areas and wherever restaurants have their own entrances. Restaurant patios can extend for free once establishments reopen: province
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the move is meant to help restaurants and bars revive revenues impacted by the COIVD-19 pandemic.
We’ve waived all the red tape, she said. We’ve waived all the fees and we’re just telling them to get ready because as soon as they get the green light from the province to open Phase 2 they can start serving.
Peel Region, including Mississauga, is not yet in the provinces Stage 2 reopening phase, which allows restaurants and bars to host patrons on outdoor patios. The province will allow Peel to move to that stage June 24.

Until then, the city would continue to enforce COVID-19 emergency orders forbidding restaurants and bars from having services beyond takeaway and delivery, according to Mississaugas planning commissioner, Andrew Whittemore.
Patios on sidewalks and on public streets would still require a temporary permit. Parking lot patios in strip malls would also need to be permitted by property managers.
Crombie also said inspectors will be out ensuring that the patios meet Mississaugas building standards.
But accessibility advocate David Lepofsky said a sudden surge of new furniture on sidewalks could be a big proplem for individuals that use mobility devices or have low vision.
For people like me who are blind, those patios that stick out on the sidewalk are just a big navigational nightmare in the best of times, said Lepofsky, who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. And they can be unpredictable. It’s there one day; it’s not there the next day.
He said problems for people with accessibility needs could be intensified during the pandemic as there are more concerns around interacting with others for help to get around obstacles.
Ordinarily if you got something that’s a little uncertain (in your path) you could just ask a stranger, he said.
But that means that I take your arm. Well, I don’t want to take your arm and you don’t want me taking your arm because now we’re not two metres apart.
City council still needs to hold a July 8 planning and development meeting to officially pass the temporary bylaw. However, it voted to relax enforcement on patios that would be allowed under the new rule after Mississauga enters Stage 2 in the meantime.
Toronto is moving ahead with a similar program, CaféTO, which aims to streamline the placement of temporary sidewalk and curb lane patios, once permitted.
That program requires a minimum 2.1 metres of clearance for pedestrians and for any patio installation to be cane-detectable, meaning individuals with low or no vision can use their white-cane to navigate around it. Global News Online May 6, 2020
Originally posted at https://globalnews.ca/news/6906216/coronavirus-canadians-disabilities/
I need help: Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities National BY EMERALD BENSADOUN- GLOBAL NEWS

Prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, 27-year-old Marissa Blake was rarely ever home. Now, Blake, who lives in Toronto supportive housing and needs assistance to walk, can only have one visitor a week for three hours and cant see her friends in-person. An appointment to discuss surgery on her legs was cancelled, and her sleep and care schedule are in flux because her personal support workers keep changing.

Its difficult, she said. I feel like Im in jail. Disability advocates say B.C.s womans death shows need for clearer COVID-19 policy. Her exercise program with March of Dimes Canada, a rehabilitation foundation for disabled persons, was cancelled, and Blake said shes been less physically active than usual.
Its been really making me tight, really making me feel like Im fighting with my body, she said. I cant just get up and walk. I need help.
But for Blake, isolation and exclusion are having the largest impact. The biggest thing for me is support, she said.
I miss my friends. I miss interacting with people. Because when you look at a computer, its great but its not the same as seeing them face-to-face.
One in four Canadians about 25 per cent of the population has a disability, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. Despite this, advocates say they are often left out of emergency planning.
David Lepofsky, who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, likened the situation to a fire raging inside of an apartment building complex, where the people inside are alerted by a fire alarm and loudspeaker that tells them to exit by taking designated stairs illuminated by clearly-indicated markers.
A person who is deaf wouldnt hear the fire alarm. A person in a wheelchair would be trapped inside. And those designated markers will do nothing for someone who cant see. Unless they receive support, Lepofsky said anyone with disabilities living in the building will likely not survive. Similarly, he said the government has applied a mostly one-size-fits-all approach to COVID-19 measures that offer little support the countrys disabled.
Its because of their disability and its because no one planned for them in the emergency, he said.
Often, Canadians with more severe disabilities will get placed in long-term care facilities, where health officials said over 79 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths occur. Lepofsky said that poses a danger to those with disabilities, as well. He said comparable problems arise in Ontarios virtual elementary and secondary education system, called Learn At Home. The program isnt user-friendly for students with disabilities who may be deaf, blind or unable to use a mouse, said Lepofsky. Despite making up upwards of one-in-six of the student population, he said much of the program was made with only able-bodied students in mind. When asked about this, the Ontario Ministry of Education said in a statement to Global News that Education Minister Stephen Lecce had convened two urgent discussions with the Ministers Advisory Council on Special Education where they discussed how best to support students and families during this period and has consulted the K-12 Standards Development Committee struck by the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. They said all resources were reviewed for accessibility based on the standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005), but that school boards were ultimately responsible for making decisions on the use of digital learning resources and collaboration tools to support students learning online.

The Ministry has provided clear direction to school boards on how to support students with special education and mental health needs during school closures, they said.
March of Dimes Canada president Len Baker said even before the existence of COVID-19, people with disabilities were facing significant challenges every day, including already-existing barriers like attitudinal ones about disability.
Those historic barriers become exacerbated during a time such as this pandemic, where now not only do they have to address the issues that they needto be able to complete their goals and feel connected to the community, but with social distancing and the isolation that the pandemic brings, it causes us concern that many individuals are going to feel even a greater sense of isolation and loneliness during this time, he said.
Baker said around 50,000 students with disabilities rely on the organization for opportunities to read, learn skills, get out in the community, to participate and connect with others. But since the pandemic started, he said theyve had to revamp their services to be available virtually or over the phone.
Marielle Hossack, press secretary to the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a statement to Global News the federal government has increased human resources for support services for Canadians with disabilities over the phone and online, and is looking into implementing ALS and LSQ into current and future emergency responses.
The federal government has also established the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, which is comprised of experts in disability inclusion, that provide advice on real-time live experiences of persons with disabilities. Hossack wrote the group discusses disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps as well as strategies, measures and steps to be taken. But some advocates dont think thats enough.
Karine Myrgianie Jean-François, director of operations at DisAbled Womens Network Canada, told Global News that despite making up such a large percentage of the population, many are not getting support services typically provided by provincial health departments or social services. This is due to a lot of factors, she said because theres a lack of protective equipment, because people are getting sick, because its too dangerous. For children with disabilities, Jean-François said the pandemic means theyre often relying on their parents for mental and physical support they would have received at school.
A lot of the measures that have been made to prepare for this pandemic have been done to think about the greatest number of people, which often means that we forget about people who are more marginalized and people who have a disability are included in that, she said.
Jean-François said that includes the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Currently, 70 per cent of Canadians eligible for the disability tax credit will receive the enhanced GST/HST benefit based on their income levels due to COVID-19, but that may not add up to much for Canadians with disabilities who may also need to hire food deliveries, in-house care, or those that would be deemed ineligible for the aid because theyre unable to work.

The money doesnt go as far as it used to, she said. When factored to include the rising cost of living, Jean-François said most Canadians with disabilities many of whom are already living at or near the poverty line end up barely scraping by. Were not all equal under COVID-19, she said. We need to be looking at who stands up to make sure that people get what they need, and how to make sure that theyre supported in what theyre doing both financially but also mentally, because its its really hard work to support people who were left alone.

QP Briefing May 5, 2020
Some Ontario e-learning doesnt work for students with disabilities Jack Hauen
Some TVO and ministry course content isn’t accessible to people with low vision, saidKaren McCall, a professor who teaches about accessible media at Mohawk College and owns an accessible design firm. She was one of several experts who spoke at a virtualtown hallhosted on Monday by AODA Alliance ChairDavidLepofsky, a member of the province’s K-12AODA standards committee,and Ontario Autism Coalition PresidentLaura Kirby-McIntosh, who is also a high school teacher.
None of the stories in the “math storytime” section worked for McCall, who has low vision herself and uses a screen reader. She couldn’t find any homework in the “homework zone.”
Teachers did a good job of describing what was going on in the videos she watched, until they didn’t, she said. For instance, one math teacher didn’t read out the main formula students were to use.
She said this formula equates to one quarter, but if Im a student whos trying to learn this, I have no idea what equates to one quarter, McCall said.
Another gap came during a science class. Everything was fine, everything was explained, until the teacher said, Watch what happens, and then did not describe what was happening, she said.
But the biggest problems came with the ministry of education’s own coursepreview site, McCall said, where her screen reader couldn’t make heads or tails of what it said.
If theyre going to rely on this kind of content, theyve got to make sure its properly accessible, Lepofsky said of the provincial government.
Kirby-McIntosh noted that Zoom is the most accessible streaming service, but some school boards have banned teachers from using it. More top-down direction is needed to avoid these types of errors, she said.
Other experts during the town hall provided tips for educators and parents such as making sure videos were the highest quality possible, so kids with hearing loss can better lip read; and sticking to routines as much as possible, which helps many kids on the autism spectrum.

Education MinisterStephen Leccehas held two meetings with the Ministers Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE) during the pandemic, and is also consulting the K-12 standards development committee that Lepofsky sits on, said ministry of education spokespersonIngrid Anderson. Lepofsky confirmed that he’ll be speaking with Lecce on Wednesday.
“TVO has been working to make all their online content and resources accessible and compliant to AODA regulations. The Ministry will continue to work with the Agency to consider ways to enhance accessibility beyond the AODA requirements,” Anderson said in a statement. “School boards remain independently accountable for making decisions on the use of digital learning resources and collaboration tools to support students learning online.”
The minister’s advisory committee is “no substitute for consulting extensive grassroots disability community participation that is needed,” the AODA Alliance wrote in an April 29letterto Lecce. A number of positions on the committee remain vacant, the group said. “Also, MACSE is designed to focus on ‘special education’ which is not addressed to students with all kinds of disabilities, due to the Governments unduly narrow definition of special education students.”
The town hall’s last guest wasJeff Butler, the acting assistant deputy minister of student support and field services in the ministry of education. He pointed to actions the ministry has taken already, like directing school boards to consult with their special education committees and honour individual education plans; as well as working with boards to distribute assistive technology that usually lives in schools to families.
The ministry has also hosted a series of webinars for teachers to learn about special education during the pandemic. About 500 educators have attended them so far, and more are planned, he said.
Responding to McCall’s feedback about sites not working with screen readers, he said: I absolutely am listening on that and will take that input back. It is important to us that those resources that are there are accessible for students with disabilities and students with special needs.
He promised to continue to engage with experts, saying that their input has been “incredibly valuable.”
It’s critical for the government to carry these lessons through to when schools eventually re-open, Lepofsky said.
For instance, some students won’t be able to socially distance or wear masks due to their disabilities, if they require a close by aide or are hypersensitive to touch. We cant tell those kids, Oh, sorry kid, you stay home, everybody else is going back to school.
A “surge” in education hours will be needed for some kids with disabilities, who will have fallen further behind some of their peers, Lepofsky said, giving the example of kids learning to read braille who require hand-over-hand instruction that’s impossible to conduct online.
This is really something we cant leave to every single school board again to try to reinvent the same wheel,” he said, calling for the provincial government to “take on leadership here.”

Kirby-McIntosh ended the stream with a message for Lecce: don’t just assemble a spiffy webpage with a blizzard of links, but consult with experts and provide school boards with top-down direction on best practices.
Please learn from this town hall, she said, and gather ideas from the front-line people teaching kids with disabilities during the pandemic.
The premier committed at the beginning of this crisis to protecting those who are most vulnerable,” she said. “Well, surely a third of a million Ontario students with disabilities are among those most vulnerable.




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The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation OSSTF and Ten Disability Organizations Have Already Endorsed the AODA Alliance’s 19 Recommendations on What the Ontario Government Must Now Do to Meet the Needs of A Third of A Million Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools


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

June 26, 2020

SUMMARY

Last week, the AODA Alliance made public a detailed brief showing the Ontario Government what it must now do to address the needs of a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario schools during the transition to schools eventually re-opening, hopefully this fall. This brief draws on grassroots feedback we have received from many sources both before and during the COVID-19 crisis.

We are delighted that in just over one week since we submitted it to the Ontario Government, the AODA Alliance’s June 18, 2020 brief on what should be done to meet the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis has already won important endorsements. As an important step forward, our brief’s 19 recommendations, set out below, were just endorsed by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation OSSTF. OSSTF is the union that represents thousands of secondary school teachers who work at the front lines in Ontario’s public schools. OSSTF’s June 26, 2020 public statement, sent to the AODA Alliance, says:

“Supporting students with disabilities A statement from OSSTF/FEESO

June 26, 2020 – Over the past four months, educators have done their best to work with students in this unprecedented environment of emergency remote learning. The start of the new school year in September will come quickly, and it is critical that the Ontario government prepare a plan for reopening schools that meets the learning needs of all students.

It is essential for the government to ensure that they meet the learning needs of the thousands of students with disabilities in our school system now, and during the transition to school reopening.

OSSTF/FEESO supports the 19 recommendations of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance as outlined in its June 18, 2020 brief on this topic. These recommendations effectively speak to the needs of students with disabilities, their families, and those of us committed to providing those students and all students with an excellent education.”

Seven years ago, when we were in the midst of our multi-year campaign to get the Ontario Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to tackle the many barriers that impede students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system, We were fortified and helped in our efforts when the OSSTF wrote , the Ontario Government to support our call for an Education Accessibility Standard. Several other teachers unions supported our efforts back then.

As well, we have been notified that ten key organizations in the disability community have endorsed our brief’s recommendations, including March of Dimes of Canada, Citizens with Disabilities Ontario, Community Living Ontario, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Inclusive Design Research Centre of the Ontario college of Art and Design University, Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy, Balance for Blind Adults, the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Elgin, London, Middlesex, Oxford Network), and Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children (Views for the Visually Impaired).

We commend all those who have already supported our brief. We urge other organizations and individuals, whether within the disability community or not, to email the Ontario Government at [email protected] to support our June 18, 2019 brief. Both individuals and organizations can write the Ontario Government to voice this support. Please help us get more individuals and organizations to do so.

There have been 512 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 93 days, or over three months, since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The Premier’s office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Visit the AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page to see what we have been up to, trying to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis are properly addressed. Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected] Please stay safe!

MORE DETAILS

List of Recommendations in the AODA Alliance’s June 18, 2020 Brief to the Ontario Government

#1. The Ministry of Education should immediately develop, announce and implement a comprehensive plan for meeting the learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. This plan should include during this time of distance learning, during an eventual return to school, and in case of a future COVID-19 wave that requires another round of school closures. To the extent possible, this plan should be an integral part of the Ministry’s overall plan it is developing for school re-opening.

#2. The Ministry of Education should immediately establish a “Students with Disabilities Education Command Table” to oversee the development and implementation of a Government action plan for meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, and to swiftly react to issues for students with disabilities as they arise.

#3. The Ministry of Education should immediately issue a policy direction to all school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school, including directions that:

a) During the re-opening at schools, students with disabilities have an equal right to attend schools for the entire school day as do students without disabilities. The power to refuse to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day should not be used in a way that disproportionately burdens students with disabilities or that creates a barrier to their right to attend school.

b) A principal who refuses to admit a student to school during the school re-opening process should be required to immediately give the student and their family written notice of their decision to do so, including written reasons for the refusal to admit, the duration of the refusal to admit and notice of the family’s right to appeal this refusal to admit to the school board.

c) A principal who refuses to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day should be required to immediately report this in writing to their school board’s senior management, including the reasons for the exclusion, its duration and whether the student has a disability. Each school board should be required to compile this information and to report it on a bi-monthly basis to the board of trustees, the public and the Ministry of Education (with individual information totally anonymized). The Ministry should promptly make public on a provincial basis and a school board by school board basis the information it receives on numbers, reasons and durations of refusals to admit during post- COVID-19 school re-opening.

#4. For each student with disabilities, each school board should now:

a) Contact the family of each student with disabilities, preferably by phone rather than email, to discuss and identify the student’s progress during the school shutdown, the student’s specific and individualized disability-related deficits and needs arising from and during distance learning due to the COVID-19 crisis and the student’s needs and challenges related to eventual transition to school (including any vulnerabilities of other family members due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and;

b) Create a COVID-19 IEP to set specific goals and activities to effectively address their disability-related needs during distance learning, and in connection with transition back to school.

#5. The Ministry of Education should assign staff to assist its Students with Disabilities Command Table by serving as a central rapid response team to receive feedback from school boards on recurring issues facing students with disabilities and to help find solutions to share with school boards.

#6. The Ministry should direct that each school board shall establish a similar central rapid response team within the board to receive and act on feedback from teachers, principals and families about problems they are encountering serving students with disabilities during the COVID-19 period, that will quickly network with other similar offices at other school boards, and that can report recurring issues to the Ministry.

#7. The Ministry of Education should plan for, fund and coordinate the provision by school boards of a surge in specialized disability supports to those students with disabilities who will need them when students return to school.

#8. The Ministry of Education’s plan for school re-openings must include detailed directions on required measures for ensuring that students with disabilities are safe from COVID-19 during any return to school. This requires additional planning in advance by school boards and additional funding to school boards to hire and train the additional SNAs and EAs they will need to ensure the safety of students with disabilities. It also requires safeguards to ensure that an EA or SNA does not work at multiple sites and risk transmitting the COVID-19 virus from one location to another.

#9. The Ministry of Education should immediately engage an arms-length digital accessibility consultant to evaluate the comparative accessibility of different digital meeting platforms available for use in Ontario schools. This should involve end-user testing. The Ministry should immediately send the resulting report and comparison to all school boards and make it public. This should be revisited as the fall approaches, in case there have been changes to the relative accessibility of different virtual meeting platforms. The Ministry should direct which platforms may be used and which may not be used for virtual or synchronous classes or parent/school meetings, based on their accessibility.

#10. The Ministry of Education should immediately direct TVO to make its online learning content accessible to people with disabilities, and to promptly make public a plan of action to achieve this goal, with specific milestones and timelines.

#11. The Ministry of Education should make public a plan of action to swiftly make its own online learning content accessible for people with disabilities, setting out milestones and timelines, and should report to the public on its progress.

#12. The Ministry of Education should direct all its staff and all school boards that whenever making digital information public in a PDF format, it must at the same time also be made available in an accessible format such as an accessible MS Word document.

#13. The provincial plans for return to school should include these features:

a) Rather than having all students across Ontario return to school at once, in a one-size-fits-all strategy, the Ontario Government should lead a strategic return to school process, trying out different approaches to see what works most effectively. For example, opening a few schools first to detect recurring problems and plan to prevent them would assist with opening of other schools across Ontario.

b) The COVID-19 IEP of each student with disabilities should tailor their plans for the return to school to meet their individual needs. Students with disabilities who need this accommodation should be afforded a chance to return to the school facility early so they can be oriented to any changes to which they need to adjust in the COVID-19 era.

#14. The Ministry of Education should immediately put in place an effective proactive team to gather teaching strategies for students with disabilities during distance learning from frontline teachers, parents and school boards and make these easily available to the frontlines on an ongoing basis, in formats that are accessible to people with disabilities. These should be supplemented by strategies that the Ministry researches from other jurisdictions that have innovated creative solutions.

#15 The plans for return to school must include measures for ensuring that those who cannot return to school at the same time can secure effective distance learning, including home visits (with social distancing) from teaching staff.

#16. The Ministry of Education should prepare teaching materials for teachers and parents to use, addressing different disability-related learning needs, for preparing students with disabilities for the return to school, to address such changes as social distancing.

#17. The Ministry of Education should create, fund and effectively enforce new standards for safe bussing practices for students with disabilities during any return to school while COVID-19 remains a community threat.

#18. Each school board should ensure that its Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) meets at least once per month, and preferably more often, during the COVID-19 crisis, to give its board ongoing input into planning for students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

#19. To get the most from the volunteer work of SEACs around Ontario, the Ministry of Education should:

a) Create and maintain a listserv or other virtual network of all Ontario SEACs, to enable them to share their efforts with all other SEACs around Ontario, and

b) Frequently gather input from SEACs around Ontario about the experiences of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.




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Please Email the Ontario Government to Support the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief on Measures Needed to Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities Now and During the Transition to Schools Re-Opening


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

June 18, 2020

SUMMARY

Working at warp speed, the AODA Alliance has finalized and submitted its brief to the Ontario Government on what must be done to meet the needs of at least one third of a million students with disabilities in kindergarten to Grade 12 now and during the eventual transition to schools re-opening. We set out that 23-page brief below.

We invite and encourage you to email the Ontario Government right away to support our briefs 19 recommendations. Those recommendations are set out and described throughout the brief. To make it easier for you, at the end of the brief is an appendix that lists all the recommendations together in one place.

You can support us by emailing the Government at this address: [email protected] If you are part of a disability community organization, please get your organization to write the Government to support our recommendations. Of course, we encourage you to add any thoughts, experiences or recommendations that you wish.

It is good if you can use your own words when you write the Government. If you dont have time, you might just wish to say something like this:

I support the recommendations made in the AODA Alliances June 18, 2020 brief to the Ontario Government on what needs to be done to meet the needs of students with disabilities now and during the transition to re-opened schools.

We thank everyone who took the time to read over the draft of this brief that we circulated for comment on June 11, 2020. We got fantastic feedback. We drew heavily on that feedback as we finalized this brief.

This finalized brief makes all the 17 recommendations that were in our draft brief (with some minor improvements) with one exception. Based on feedback we received, we removed our draft recommendation 13(b) in the draft brief. It had recommended that schools re-open for vulnerable students first. Our finalized brief replaced that recommendation with this, in #13(b):

The COVID-19 IEP of each student with disabilities should tailor their plans for the return to school to meet their individual needs. Students with disabilities who need this accommodation should be afforded a chance to return to the school facility early so they can be oriented to any changes to which they need to adjust in the COVID-19 era.

This finalized brief adds two new recommendations, 18 and 19. These propose that the Government and school boards across the board make more use during the COVID-19 pandemic of the Special Education Advisory Committee that each Ontario school board is required to have, if they are not doing so now.

In addition to writing the Government to support our recommendations, we encourage you to send this brief to your local school board and school trustees. Encourage them to take the actions we recommend in this brief.

For more background on these issues, please visit the AODA Alliances COVID-19 web page and our education web page.

Stay safe, and let us know what you do to help us press for these reforms. Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS
A Brief to the Ontario Government on Key Measures Needed to Address the Learning Needs of Students with Disabilities in Ontario During the COVID-19 Crisis Both During Distance Learning and During The Transition to the Eventual Re-Opening of Schools

Submitted by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

To: The Hon. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education
Via email [email protected]
June 18, 2020

Introduction

The AODA Alliance submits this brief to the Minister of Education for Ontario, in response to the Ministry of Educations public consultation on the transition to school re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AODA Alliance is a voluntary non-partisan grassroots coalition of individuals and 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: http://www.aodaalliance.org.

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

We have been widely recognized by the Ontario Government, by all political parties in the Ontario Legislature, within the disability community and by the media, as a key voice leading the non-partisan campaign for accessibility in Ontario. In every provincial election since 2005, parties that made election commitments on accessibility did so in letters to the AODA Alliance.

Among our many activities, we led a multi-year campaign to get the Ontario Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA to tear down the many barriers that impede students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. Our years of efforts to advocate for accessibility for students with disabilities are documented on our websites education page.

Our efforts and expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities have been recognized in MPPs speeches in the Ontario Legislature, and beyond. Our website and Twitter feed are widely consulted as helpful sources of information on accessibility efforts in Ontario and elsewhere. We have achieved this as an unfunded volunteer community coalition.

The Government must pay special heed to the input it receives from the disability community including parents of students with disabilities . Input to the Government from other organizations can fail to effectively address the specific experience and needs of students with disabilities . The recommendations in this brief are gathered together in a list in the appendix appearing at the end of this brief. Our position in this brief is summarized as follows:

a) The COVID-19 crisis has imposed disproportionate added hardships on people with disabilities. As part of this, it has led to disproportionate, serious hardships being inflicted on students with disabilities in Ontario schools. These hardships are exacerbated by no small part by serious pre-existing problems and disability barriers that have faced students with disabilities for years in Ontario’s education system, which have been made even worse for too many students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

b) In this brief we address the needs of all students with disabilities, using the inclusive definition of disability in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act . We do not limit our recommendations to the narrower group of students whose disability falls in the narrower definitions of special education or exceptionality that the Ministry of Education uses.

c) To date, the provincial response to the problems facing students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic has been substantially insufficient. The AODA Alliance offers 19 recommendations in this brief, to effectively address this, starting now and into the fall. Our fuller recommendations for comprehensive and long term reforms in the form of a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard are set out in the AODA Alliances October 10, 20-19 Framework for the promised Education Accessibility Standard.

d) While students are not able to go to school this spring due to the COVID-19 crisis, students with disabilities are experiencing wildly different learning experiences. Some are making good progress. Some are making much less progress. Some are making no progress or are losing ground. Some are getting extensive educational supports from their school board. Some are getting much less support. Some are getting little if any support. Conditions and supports can vary widely, even within the same school board and by students with the same disability.

e) There is a pressing need for a comprehensive Ministry of Education plan of action to address the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

f) There is a need for a provincial Students with Disabilities Command Table at the Ministry of Education.

g) The Ministry must prevent a rash of principals refusing to admit some students with disabilities to school when schools re-open.

h) There is a need for specific COVID-19 Individual Education Plans for individual students with disabilities before and during the transition to return to school.

i) There is a need for Provincial and School Board Rapid Response Teams to be established to address recurring urgent needs of students with disabilities.

j) A surge of specialized supports for students with disabilities is needed when schools re-open.

k) School boards must plan for the needs of students with disabilities who cannot themselves ensure social distancing.

l) The Ministry must ensure the full accessibility of digital platforms used for remote classes or synchronous learning.

m) The Ontario Government must immediately ensure the digital accessibility of Ontario Government and TVO online learning resources.

n) The Ministry of Education and school boards must stop making some learning resources available only in PDF format as this creates accessibility barriers.

o) One size fits all does not fit for return to school.

p) There is a need for a rapid method to spread the word to teachers and parents about effective teaching strategies for students with disabilities during COVID-19.

q) Distance learning must be effectively provided for students who cannot return to school right away when schools re-open.

r) The Ministry of Education should now create provincial resources for parents to prepare their students for the return to school.

s) New protocols are needed for safe school bussing for students with disabilities.

t) The Ministry should ensure the very active engagement of each school boards Special Education Advisory Committee.

This brief builds on extensive involvement of the AODA Alliance during the COVID-19 crisis, advocating for the needs of people with disabilities across society. On June 11, 2020, we made public a draft of this brief, and solicited public input on it. We were very gratified by the supportive and helpful feedback we received. We have drawn heavily on that feedback to produce this finalized brief. We are urging one and all to share their own advice and recommendations with the Ontario Government during this important consultation.

1. Pressing Need for A Comprehensive Ministry of Education Plan of Action to Address Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the AODA Alliance has repeatedly urged the Ontario Government to develop and announce a comprehensive plan to meet the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. This has been needed so over 70 school boards dont have to each re-invent the wheel in deciding what the needs of students with disabilities are and how best to meet them. To date, the Ontario Government has not done what we have urged.

The need for this comprehensive provincial plan remains pressing during the period of distance learning due to school closures. It is also needed to ensure that students with disabilities needs are met across Ontario when schools eventually re-open. Ontario needs to also be prepared in the event of the realistic possibility that distance learning will have to continue in the fall, either because school re-opening is further delayed, or because a second wave of COVID-19 would require another round of school closures.

To date, the Ontario Government has primarily focused its education strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic on students without disabilities. Almost as an afterthought, it then reminded school boards that they should also accommodate students with special education needs.

The plan for students with disabilities should, to the extent possible, be included in the Ministrys overall plan for school re-opening.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The Ministry of Education should immediately develop, announce and implement a comprehensive plan for meeting the learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. This plan should include during this time of distance learning, during an eventual return to school, and in case of a future COVID-19 wave that requires another round of school closures. To the extent possible, this plan should be an integral part of the Ministrys overall plan it is developing for school re-opening.

2. Need for a Provincial Students with Disabilities Command Table

To deal with the need for rapid planning during the COVID-19 crisis, the Ontario Government has commendably set up its own command tables to deal with critical areas, like health care planning and planning for the safe operation of the economy during this crisis. This enables the Government to have critical expertise at the table to make rapid and key decisions.

There is a pressing need for a students with disabilities command table within the Government to plan for the learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. No such table or concentrated expertise centre exists now within Ontarios Ministry of Education. We have been pressing for this for three months. That table needs to be staffed by professionals with focused expertise on providing education to students with disabilities.

This is not meant to be an advisory or consultative table. It needs to be a planning and implementation table that can quickly and nimbly make decisions and effectively connect with the frontlines in the education system, where the action is.

This need is not fulfilled by the Minister of Education having had some consultative meetings with the Ministers Advisory Committee on Special Education (MACSE), which still has vacancies, or with the AODA K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. Those bodies are only advisory. They do not have the capacity of a Ministry command table. Of course, it is good that they have been consulted.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. The Ministry of Education should immediately establish a Students with Disabilities Education Command Table to oversee the development and implementation of a Government action plan for meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, and to swiftly react to issues for students with disabilities as they arise.

3. Preventing a Rash of Refusals to Admit Students with Disabilities to School When Schools Re-Open

Ontarios Education Act lets a school principal refuse to admit to school any 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”. Disability advocates have repeatedly criticized this as an excessive, arbitrary and unfair power. The Education Act and the Ministry of Education leave to school boards and individual principals an extremely wide discretion over when, how and why to exclude a student from school under this power. The Education Act does not even require principals to give a parent their reasons for excluding a student from school. It does not cap the duration of the students exclusion from school. It does not require a school board or the Ministry to keep track of how often or why students are excluded from school under this power.

Disproportionately, this excessive power has been used against students with disabilities, leading them too often to be excluded from school altogether or allowing them to attend school only for reduced hours. Long before the COVID-19 crisis, parents and students advocates have called for this power to be reduced and regulated. See for example the January 30, 2019 joint news release by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition. To date, the Ontario Government has not made any significant reform of this power.

In September 2018, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released an updated policy on accessible education for students with disabilities. Its recommendations to the Ontario Government included, among other things:

“9. Identify and end the practice of exclusion wherein principals ask parents to keep primary and secondary students with disabilities home from school for part or all of the school day (and the role that an improper use of section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act may be playing in this practice).”

There is a serious risk that some principals will feel at liberty to use this power to exclude some students with disabilities from school during school re-openings in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially before any effective vaccine is invented and widely available. This is especially so if school boards do not now effectively plan for the inclusion and accommodation of students with disabilities at school during the transition to school re-opening. They may do so either because they dont know how to accommodate some students with disabilities during social distancing, or because the Ontario Government and/or their school board has not given them the staffing, directions and resources they need to be able to effectively include and accommodate those students at school for part or all of the school day. Such exclusions from school raise serious human rights concerns and are contrary to the students right to an education.

With all the uncertainties and pressures anticipated during the transition back to school, a principal can be expected to feel a real temptation to use the power to refuse to admit such students to school during a COVID-19 school re-opening. This is so because it would seem to solve the problem of having to plan for those students needs at school.

The need to reform practices regarding a school principals power to refuse to admit a student to school for part or all of the school day has therefore become even more pressing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AODA Alliance considers this a major priority. It is essential that school re-openings this fall do not lead to a rash of principals refusals to admit any number of students with disabilities to school. Such a rash of exclusions would thereby create two classes of students, those allowed to return to school and those who are excluded from school, especially if this disproportionately divides along disability lines.

The Ontario Government has commendably been willing to give directions to a school board about the use of its power to refuse to admit students to school in other contexts. It can and should do so here as well. The Ontario Ministry of Education has very recently given directions to the Peel District School Board to keep and report data on exclusions of students from school by race. In directive number 9, the Ministry stipulated that:

The Board shall centrally track disaggregated race-based data on suspensions (in-school and out-of-school), expulsions and exclusions, and report publicly through the Annual Equity Accountability Report Card.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. The Ministry of Education should immediately issue a policy direction to all school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school, including directions that:

a) During the re-opening at schools, students with disabilities have an equal right to attend schools for the entire school day as do students without disabilities. The power to refuse to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day should not be used in a way that disproportionately burdens students with disabilities or that creates a barrier to their right to attend school.

b) A principal who refuses to admit a student to school during the school re-opening process should be required to immediately give the student and their family written notice of their decision to do so, including written reasons for the refusal to admit, the duration of the refusal to admit and notice of the familys right to appeal this refusal to admit to the school board.

c) A principal who refuses to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day should be required to immediately report this in writing to their school boards senior management, including the reasons for the exclusion, its duration and whether the student has a disability. Each school board should be required to compile this information and to report it on a bi-monthly basis to the board of trustees, the public and the Ministry of Education (with individual information totally anonymized). The Ministry should promptly make public on a provincial basis and a school board by school board basis the information it receives on numbers, reasons and durations of refusals to admit during post- COVID-19 school re-opening.

4. Need for Specific COVID-19 Individual Education Plans for Individual Students with Disabilities Before and During Transition to Return to School

For each student with disabilities, distance learning during COVID-19 will have created different deficits and challenges. The transition back to school will present challenges and needs that will vary from student to student.

Students IEPs were all written earlier this past school year while students were in school. They were written with no contemplation of the COVID-19 crisis or the challenges and hardships of distance learning and then of a later transition back to school. All students with disabilities will need their IEP modified to address these unforeseen needs.

As an immediate measure, students with disabilities each now need a customized COVID-19 specific IEP to be created and implemented. This should not be limited to students whose disability fits within the narrow and incomplete definition of exceptionality in Ontario, which leaves out some disabilities. It should be provided to any student that has a disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code. It should not be limited to students whose disability has been formally identified at an Identification and Placement Review Committee.

This COVID-19 IEP would not replace the students existing IEP. It would not replace the usual IEP development process when school is back in usual operation. This COVID-19 IEP is meant as an immediate, temporary or interim measure to address these hitherto-unanticipated events and related learning needs. IEPs are supported to deal, among other things, with transition needs. Both the transition to distance learning and the later transition to school re-opening fit well within that rubric.

The COVID-19 IEP should be developed now and over the summer, not in the fall when students are already back in school. This may well require new resources to enable this to be developed over the summer.

As noted earlier, there is a real possibility that distance learning will continue in September, or may have to later resume due to a resurgence or a second wave of COVID-19. These COVID-19 IEPs need to now anticipate and effectively address each of these possible eventualities.

The development of each students COVID-19 IEP should start with a direct phone conversation as soon as possible between the students teacher and the family. They should discuss where the gains and gaps have been, the concerns for the fall that are anticipated and how best to address them. The COVID-19 IEP should be developed in close consultation with the family and, where appropriate, the student.

We therefore recommend that:

#4. For each student with disabilities, each school board should now:

a) Contact the family of each student with disabilities, preferably by phone rather than email, to discuss and identify the students progress during the school shutdown, the students specific and individualized disability-related deficits and needs arising from and during distance learning due to the COVID-19 crisis and the students needs and challenges related to eventual transition to school (including any vulnerabilities of other family members due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and;

b) Create a COVID-19 IEP to set specific goals and activities to effectively address their disability-related needs during distance learning, and in connection with transition back to school.

5. Need for Provincial and School Board Rapid Response Teams to Be Established to Address Recurring Urgent Needs of Students with Disabilities

During the COVID-19 crisis, Ontario’s education system continues to try to navigate uncharted territory. No matter how much planning for the needs of students with disabilities takes place as we here recommend, unexpected surprises will crop up. School boards and the Ministry of Education each need to be able to quickly detect these, and to nimbly respond to them. Traditionally, large organizations are not always the best at rapid and nimble adaptations in the midst of great uncertainty.

Parents, teachers and principals need a central point in the school board to report difficult challenges. Each school board needs to quickly feed this information to a single point at the Ministry that is staying on top of things, for rapid responses to recurring issues around the province.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The Ministry of Education should assign staff to assist its Students with Disabilities Command Table by serving as a central rapid response team to receive feedback from school boards on recurring issues facing students with disabilities and to help find solutions to share with school boards.

#6. The Ministry should direct that each school board shall establish a similar central rapid response team within the board to receive and act on feedback from teachers, principals and families about problems they are encountering serving students with disabilities during the COVID-19 period, that will quickly network with other similar offices at other school boards, and that can report recurring issues to the Ministry.

6. Surge Needed in Specialized Supports for Students with Disabilities

All students will have fallen behind to varying extents during the months when schools were closed. This hardship falls especially on students with disabilities who have additional specialized curriculum to learn, related to their disabilities, or who need specialized supports to learn which are unavailable during distance learning.

When students return to school, students with disabilities who need those supports will need a surge in the hours of support provided to them to help them catch up and adjust to the return to school. School boards cannot simply pull those resources out of the air. School boards will need added funding to hire those staff. They will need provincial help in finding them where there are shortages.

For example, students with vision loss are unable to get the full benefit of teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs) teaching hands-on braille reading when schools are closed. When schools re-open, school boards will need to engage additional TVIs to help ramp up the surge in TVI hours to be provided to students. There is now a shortage of TVIs in Ontario. The Ministry will need to lead a concerted effort to create a surge of TVIs to help school boards fill this gap during the return to school. Comparable needs can similarly be identified for students with other disabilities where such specialized educational support is needed.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The Ministry of Education should plan for, fund and coordinate the provision by school boards of a surge in specialized disability supports to those students with disabilities who will need them when students return to school.

7. Planning for Needs of Students with Disabilities Who Cannot Themselves Ensure Social Distancing

As an illustration of the last issue discussed, any return to school while COVID-19 continues to exist in our community will require students to engage in social distancing. If schools re-open, they will be doing so mindful of the fact that many students will not be able to consistently and reliably engage in social distancing, frequent hand washing and other important protective activities. Many are too young to ensure that they can fully understand the need to do so and comply. For some older children, it may seem cool to periodically break the rules. For many, it will be impossible to remain attentive to these precautions all the time.

For any number of students with disabilities, social distancing and related safe practices may pose additional challenges. For some, wearing a mask may not be possible due to such things as sensory integration or behavioural issues.

Some students with disabilities require an education assistant (EA) or special needs assistant (SNA) for all or part of the day to fully take part in school activities. For some of these students, it will not be possible to remain two meters away while providing the support or assistance that the student needs. Some will require close assistance for eating, hand-washing and other personal needs.

Pre-COVID-19 staffing levels for EAs and SNAs were too often inadequate. They did not account for these important additional requirements. EAs and SNAs were not experienced with or trained for this before COVID-19. It is not sufficient to now send them an email with instructions, or a link to a training video, and thereafter to assume that they will be fully equipped to consistently and reliably handle these duties. In addition to new in-person training, they will need to have constant access to good quality personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks.

It is also important to employ enough EAs and SNAs so that they dont have to split their time among multiple schools or venues, lest they pose a greater risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus from place to place among vulnerable students.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The Ministry of Educations plan for school re-openings must include detailed directions on required measures for ensuring that students with disabilities are safe from COVID-19 during any return to school. This requires additional planning in advance by school boards and additional funding to school boards to hire and train the additional SNAs and EAs they will need to ensure the safety of students with disabilities. It also requires safeguards to ensure that an EA or SNA does not work at multiple sites and risk transmitting the COVID-19 virus from one location to another.

8. Ensuring Full Accessibility of Digital Platforms Used for Remote Classes or Synchronous Learning

We do not here wade into the dispute between the Ford Government and some teachers unions about whether or when a teacher should conduct online classes for their students in real time over the internet, sometimes called synchronous learning. We insist, however, that whenever an online real time class or synchronous learning takes place, or any other online meeting involving students with disabilities or their parents in connection with their education, it must be conducted via a fully accessible digital meeting platform.

When the Ontario Government moved our education system from the physical classroom to the virtual classroom in late March, it should have ensured from the start that the choice of digital meeting platforms was fully accessible. The Ontario Government did not do so, nor did it monitor school boards to see what platforms they were using. The Ontario Government dropped the ball on this critical accessibility concern, to the detriment of students, teachers and parents with disabilities. The Ministry of Education took the erroneous position that it was up to each school board to decide which online virtual meeting platform to use, based on the boards assessment of its local needs. Yet these disability accessibility needs do not vary from school board to school board. They are the same across Ontario. The Ministry wastefully leaves it to each school board to investigate the relative accessibility of different virtual meeting platforms.

As a belated partial attempt to address this problem, the Minister of Education wrote school boards on or around May 26, 2020 about several issues regarding distance learning. That memo stated, among other things:

Boards must ensure that the platforms they use for connecting with students and families are fully accessible for persons with disabilities.

However, that direction provides no assistance to school boards on which platforms to use or avoid, or how to figure this out. It still leaves it to each school board to investigate this as much or as little as they wish, and then to duplicate the same investigations of this issue over and over across Ontario. We have seen no indication that the Ministers direction led any school boards to change what they were doing in this regard.

This issue remains a live one and will continue into the fall. It is not clear when schools will re-open. Our education system may still be running on 100% distance learning at the start of the fall school term. Even when schools re-open, there is a real likelihood that some distance learning will continue in some blended model of in-school and distance education. As noted earlier, if a second wave of COVID-19 hits, as has happened elsewhere, requiring another round of school closures, Ontario will have to return to 100% distance learning.

At least one school board has improperly prohibited the use of Zoom, even though it is at least as accessible as, or more accessible than, other platforms. The Ministry of the Attorney General did its own comparison of digital meeting platforms, for use by the courts. The Superior Court of Justice of Ontario has decided to use Zoom as its platform for virtual court proceedings. If Zoom is safe enough for the Superior Court of Justice, there is no reason why a school board should prohibit its use.

Canadas largest school board, TDSB, has announced that it is using Webex for parent-teacher meetings. This is so even though Webex has real accessibility problems. Such a practice should not be allowed.

We have heard examples of quite inaccurate information on this topic from some in the school board sector. Parents should not have to fight about this, one school board at a time, especially in the middle of a pandemic.

This topic requires ongoing effort and leadership by the Ministry. By August, there could well have been changes to the relative accessibility of different virtual meeting platforms. School boards need to operate based on current information.

We therefore recommend that:

#9. The Ministry of Education should immediately engage an arms-length digital accessibility consultant to evaluate the comparative accessibility of different digital meeting platforms available for use in Ontario schools. This should involve end-user testing. The Ministry should immediately send the resulting report and comparison to all school boards and make it public. This should be revisited as the fall approaches, in case there have been changes to the relative accessibility of different virtual meeting platforms. The Ministry should direct which platforms may be used and which may not be used for virtual or synchronous classes or parent/school meetings, based on their accessibility.

9. Ensuring Digital Accessibility of Ontario Government and TVO Online Learning Resources

Over three months into the COVID-19 crisis, the Ontario Government has still not ensured that the online content that it provides to school boards, teachers, parents and students meets accessibility requirements for computer-users with disabilities. The AODA Alliance has been raising concerns with the Government about this since early in the pandemic. We have seen no public commitment to the needed corrective action. We have raised our concerns at senior levels within TVO and the Ministry of Education. The Government and TVO were required to comply with these accessibility requirements well before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We therefore recommend that:

#10. The Ministry of Education should immediately direct TVO to make its online learning content accessible to people with disabilities, and to promptly make public a plan of action to achieve this goal, with specific milestones and timelines.

#11. The Ministry of Education should make public a plan of action to swiftly make its own online learning content accessible for people with disabilities, setting out milestones and timelines, and should report to the public on its progress.

10. Stop Making Some Learning Resources Available Only in PDF Format

Throughout this pandemic, as well as beforehand, the Ministry of Education and too many school boards have continued to make important digital information available to the public, including to parents, teachers and students, only in pdf format. That format can present accessibility problems for people with disabilities. When a document is made public in PDF format, it should also be made public in an accessible format, such as MS Word. This is an important time to start this long-overdue practice.

We therefore recommend that:

#12. The Ministry of Education should direct all its staff and all school boards that whenever making digital information public in a PDF format, it must at the same time also be made available in an accessible format such as an accessible MS Word document.

11. One Size Fits All Does Not Fit for Return to School

To avoid chaos, a return to school should not be done all at once using a one-size-fits-all approach. Because we are in uncharted waters, it makes sense to go about this gradually and to try different approaches at different locations to see what works. We must avoid students with disabilities being again treated as after-thoughts who have to try to fit into a chaotic situation that was not designed with their needs in mind.

One suggestion that some have raised is to enable students with disabilities to return to school first, and for teaching staff to ensure their needs are met, before trying to also cope with an onslaught of all other students. Some have raised with us a concern that this might turn out to be a form of segregation, and could be detrimental for some of those students.

We therefore recommend that:

#13. The provincial plans for return to school should include these features:

a) Rather than having all students across Ontario return to school at once, in a one-size-fits-all strategy, the Ontario Government should lead a strategic return to school process, trying out different approaches to see what works most effectively. For example, opening a few schools first to detect recurring problems and plan to prevent them would assist with opening of other schools across Ontario.

b) The COVID-19 IEP of each student with disabilities should tailor their plans for the return to school to meet their individual needs. Students with disabilities who need this accommodation should be afforded a chance to return to the school facility early so they can be oriented to any changes to which they need to adjust in the COVID-19 era.

12. Need for A Rapid Method to Spread the Word to Teachers and Parents About Effective Teaching Strategies for Students with Disabilities During COVID-19

Teachers and parents of students with disabilities are struggling around Ontario to cope with distance learning and the barriers it can create for many students with disabilities. Teachers and parents are creating novel work-arounds to address this.

Yet the Ontario Government has not been effectively canvassing the frontlines of teachers and parents to gather these up and share them around the province, so all can benefit without having to re-invent the wheel in the midst of a traumatic pandemic. We have called on the Ontario Government for the past three months to do this without success. We modelled one way of doing this by our successful May 4, 2020 online virtual town hall on teaching students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis (jointly organized with the Ontario Autism Coalition). As far as we have been able to learn, the Ontario Government has neither taken up that idea nor has it shared with school boards the link to our May 4, 2020 virtual town hall so that they can all benefit from it. We have repeatedly asked the Ministry of Education to share that link with school boards.

In the meantime, to fill this gap, several school boards have commendably been trying to address this need themselves. They have themselves been compiling good ideas and sharing them within their own board.

This is a huge and wasteful duplication of effort. The Ontario Government should be centrally accumulating and compiling all these resources, as well as researching what other jurisdictions have compiled from their own experience. These should be rapidly made available to frontline teachers and parents in a way that is easy to access, not by a blizzard of endless links that few if anyone will have the time to explore.

This effort should have been done weeks ago. Nevertheless, it is still not too late, since distance learning will remain part of our lives in whole or in part until a vaccine for COVID-19 is created and widely administered.

It is important that any such resources be themselves fully accessible to teacher, school staff, students and family members with disabilities. We regret that we have no assurance of this. On June 15, 2020, the Ontario Government announced in a news release that it was now making available new teaching materials during the COVID-19 crisis, under the headline: Ontario Develops Additional Learning Materials for Students and Teachers. The AODA Alliance promptly wrote senior officials at the Ministry of Education to ask what steps were taken to ensure that these new educational materials are accessible to people with disabilities, and asking what was done to include tips for teaching students with disabilities. The Ministry has not answered as of the time this brief was submitted.

We therefore recommend that:

#14. The Ministry of Education should immediately put in place an effective proactive team to gather teaching strategies for students with disabilities during distance learning from frontline teachers, parents and school boards and make these easily available to the frontlines on an ongoing basis, in formats that are accessible to people with disabilities. These should be supplemented by strategies that the Ministry researches from other jurisdictions that have innovated creative solutions.

13. Distance Learning Must Be Effectively Provided for Students Who Cannot Return to School

When schools re-open, each school board will have a duty to accommodate its students with disabilities in school unless the school board can prove that it is impossible to do so without undue hardship. There may be some students who cannot return to school when others do. Their disability may make it impossible to accommodate them in school under the restrictions that apply during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some students may not be able to return to school because their parents or other family members with whom they live are so medically vulnerable or immuno-compromised that the family must take heightened precautions to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19.

In those cases, even if other students are learning at school, the school board must provide effective and accessible distance learning for those students who must remain at home. This may include home visits from teaching staff. In this, students with disabilities must be more effectively and consistently served during distance learning than was the case in the spring.

We therefore recommend that:

#15 The plans for return to school must include measures for ensuring that those who cannot return to school at the same time can secure effective distance learning, including home visits (with social distancing) from teaching staff.

14. Creating Provincial Resources for Parents to Prepare Their Students for Return to School

Some students with disabilities will need extensive preparation at home for their eventual return to school, including learning about social distancing and other new school practices due to COVID-19. Some parents will need a great deal of time to deal with this. Each school board or teacher and family should not have to duplicate these efforts by inventing their own curriculum, social stories or other resources.

We therefore recommend that:

#16. The Ministry of Education should prepare teaching materials for teachers and parents to use, addressing different disability-related learning needs, for preparing students with disabilities for the return to school, to address such changes as social distancing.

15. New Protocols Needed for Safe School Bussing

There were ample problems with bussing of students with disabilities to school before the COVID-19 crisis. In any return to school, heightened safeguards will be needed, including frequent sanitization of busses, ensuring students are seated more than 2 meters from each other and ensuring that the driver has PPE and doesnt risk spreading COVID-19. It is not realistic to expect that this will all simply happen with private sector bussing companies who employ casual and part time drivers working at low wages.

We therefore recommend that:

#17. The Ministry of Education should create, fund and effectively enforce new standards for safe bussing practices for students with disabilities during any return to school while COVID-19 remains a community threat.

16. Ensure Very Active Engagement of Each School Boards Special Education Advisory Committee

Each Ontario school board is required to have a Special Education Advisory Committee to advise it on special education issues. We understand that some have met regularly during the school closures, using conference calls or virtual online meeting platforms. Others have not met regularly, from what we have heard.

SEACs have a great deal to offer in this area. In making our recommendations about SEACs, we note that SEACs are not required to include representation regarding students with all kinds of disabilities. They are instead required only to have members that represent families whose students whose disability falls within the more limited definition of exceptionality that the Ministry of Education uses. Of course, it is open to a school board to have its SEAC have a more inclusive membership. It is also open to SEAC members to speak to any needs of any students with disabilities . School boards and the Ontario Government must ensure that they get input regarding students with any and all kinds of disabilities.

It is essential that each school board ensures that its Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) is meeting at least once per month, if not more, during the COVID-19pandemic, including during the transition to re-opening. While they usually dont meet during the summer, they should meet if possible during the 2020 summer. They should be fully engaged in planning for the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 period.

Their volunteer efforts would have more impact if the Ministry of Education took two easy steps. First, the Minister should create a virtual network or listserv to enable SEACs to share their work with each other. No such network now exists. As well, the Ministry should collect input from all Ontarios SEACs on their concerns and advice given during the COVID-19 era, as this is a readily-available avenue to more front-line experience of students with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

#18. Each school board should ensure that its Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) meets at least once per month, and preferably more often, during the COVID-19 crisis, to give its board ongoing input into planning for students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

#19. To get the most from the volunteer work of SEACs around Ontario, the Ministry of Education should:

a) Create and maintain a listserv or other virtual network of all Ontario SEACs, to enable them to share their efforts with all other SEACs around Ontario, and

b) Frequently gather input from SEACs around Ontario about the experiences of students with disabilities during the COVID-19crisis.

Appendix List of Recommendations

#1. The Ministry of Education should immediately develop, announce and implement a comprehensive plan for meeting the learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. This plan should include during this time of distance learning, during an eventual return to school, and in case of a future COVID-19 wave that requires another round of school closures. To the extent possible, this plan should be an integral part of the Ministrys overall plan it is developing for school re-opening.

#2. The Ministry of Education should immediately establish a Students with Disabilities Education Command Table to oversee the development and implementation of a Government action plan for meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, and to swiftly react to issues for students with disabilities as they arise.

#3. The Ministry of Education should immediately issue a policy direction to all school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school. including directions that:

#4. For each student with disabilities, each school board should now:

a) Contact the family of each student with disabilities, preferably by phone rather than email, to discuss and identify the students progress during the school shutdown, the students specific and individualized disability-related deficits and needs arising from and during distance learning due to the COVID-19crisis and the students needs and challenges related to eventual transition to school (including any vulnerabilities of other family members due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and;

b) Create a COVID-19 IEP to set specific goals and activities to effectively address their disability-related needs during distance learning, and in connection with transition back to school.

#5. The Ministry of Education should assign staff to assist its Students with Disabilities Command Table by serving as a central rapid response team to receive feedback from school boards on recurring issues facing students with disabilities and to help find solutions to share with school boards.

#6. The Ministry should direct that each school board shall establish a similar central rapid response team within the board to receive and act on feedback from teachers, principals and families about problems they are encountering serving students with disabilities during the COVID-19 period, that will quickly network with other similar offices at other school boards, and that can report recurring issues to the Ministry.

#7. The Ministry of Education should plan for, fund and coordinate the provision by school boards of a surge in specialized disability supports to those students with disabilities who will need them when students return to school.

#8. The Ministry of Educations plan for school re-openings must include detailed directions on required measures for ensuring that students with disabilities are safe from COVID-19 during any return to school. This requires additional planning in advance by school boards and additional funding to school boards to hire and train the additional SNAs and EAs they will need to ensure the safety of students with disabilities. It also requires safeguards to ensure that an EA or SNA does not work at multiple sites and risk transmitting the COVID-19 virus from one location to another.

#9. The Ministry of Education should immediately engage an arms-length digital accessibility consultant to evaluate the comparative accessibility of different digital meeting platforms available for use in Ontario schools. This should involve end-user testing. The Ministry should immediately send the resulting report and comparison to all school boards and make it public. This should be revisited as the fall approaches, in case there have been changes to the relative accessibility of different virtual meeting platforms. The Ministry should direct which platforms may be used and which may not be used for virtual or synchronous classes or parent/school meetings, based on their accessibility.

#10. The Ministry of Education should immediately direct TVO to make its online learning content accessible to people with disabilities, and to promptly make public a plan of action to achieve this goal, with specific milestones and timelines.

#11. The Ministry of Education should make public a plan of action to swiftly make its own online learning content accessible for people with disabilities, setting out milestones and timelines, and should report to the public on its progress.

#12. The Ministry of Education should direct all its staff and all school boards that whenever making digital information public in a PDF format, it must at the same time also be made available in an accessible format such as an accessible MS Word document.

#13. The provincial plans for return to school should include these features:

a) Rather than having all students across Ontario return to school at once, in a one-size-fits-all strategy, the Ontario Government should lead a strategic return to school process, trying out different approaches to see what works most effectively. For example, opening a few schools first to detect recurring problems and plan to prevent them would assist with opening of other schools across Ontario.

b) The COVID-19 IEP of each student with disabilities should tailor their plans for the return to school to meet their individual needs. Students with disabilities who need this accommodation should be afforded a chance to return to the school facility early so they can be oriented to any changes to which they need to adjust in the COVID-19 era.

#14. The Ministry of Education should immediately put in place an effective proactive team to gather teaching strategies for students with disabilities during distance learning from frontline teachers, parents and school boards and make these easily available to the frontlines on an ongoing basis, in formats that are accessible to people with disabilities. These should be supplemented by strategies that the Ministry researches from other jurisdictions that have innovated creative solutions.

#15 The plans for return to school must include measures for ensuring that those who cannot return to school at the same time can secure effective distance learning, including home visits (with social distancing) from teaching staff.

#16. The Ministry of Education should prepare teaching materials for teachers and parents to use, addressing different disability-related learning needs, for preparing students with disabilities for the return to school, to address such changes as social distancing.

#17. The Ministry of Education should create, fund and effectively enforce new standards for safe bussing practices for students with disabilities during any return to school while COVID-19 remains a community threat.

#18. Each school board should ensure that its Special Education Advisory Committee(SEAC) meets at least once per month, and preferably more often, during the COVID-19 crisis, to give its board ongoing input into planning for students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

#19. To get the most from the volunteer work of SEACs around Ontario, the Ministry of Education should:

a) Create and maintain a listserv or other virtual network of all Ontario SEACs, to enable them to share their efforts with all other SEACs around Ontario, and

b) Frequently gather input from SEACs around Ontario about the experiences of students with disabilities during the COVID-19crisis.




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Send Us Your Feedback Very Quickly on Our Draft Brief to the Ontario Government on the Urgent Needs of K-12 Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis


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

June 11, 2020

SUMMARY

We are rushing to prepare and submit a brief to the Ford Government on what it must do now and as schools eventually re-open to meet the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We have assembled a draft brief, which we set out below. We want your feedback and ideas. We need them fast. We want to get this brief submitted to the Government as quickly as we can. We are sorry this is so rushed. Life during COVID-19 feels like an endless blitz for the AODA Alliance!

Send your feedback to us by June 16, 2020 by emailing us at [email protected] and feel free to share this draft brief with others. We welcome feedback from anyone who wants to offer it to us.

Stay safe!

MORE DETAILS

A Brief to the Ontario Government on Key Measures Needed to Address the Urgent Learning Needs of Students with Disabilities in Ontario During the COVID-19 Crisis During Distance Learning and in the Eventual Re-Opening of Schools

June 11, 2020

NOTE: This is only a draft. The AODA Alliance seeks input and additional ideas no later than June 16, 2020. Send feedback to [email protected]

1. Pressing Need for A Comprehensive Ministry of Education Plan of Action to Address Urgent Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the AODA Alliance has been urging the Ontario Government to develop and announce a comprehensive plan to meet the urgent need of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. This has been needed so over 70 school boards dont have to each re-invent the wheel in deciding what the needs of students with disabilities are and how best to meet them. To date, the Ontario Government has not done what we have urged.

The need for this provincial plan remains pressing during the period of distance learning due to school closures. It is also needed to ensure that students with disabilities urgent needs are met across Ontario when schools eventually re-open. Ontario needs to also be prepared in case of the realistic possibility that distance learning will have to continue in the fall, either because school re-opening is further delayed, or because a second wave of COVID-19 would require another round of school closures.

To date, the Ontario Government has primarily if not totally focused its education strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic on students without disabilities. Almost as an afterthought, it then reminded school boards that they should also accommodate students with special education needs.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The Ministry of Education should immediately develop, announce and implement a comprehensive plan for meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. This plan should include during this time of distance learning, during an eventual return to school, and in case of a future COVID-19 wave that requires another round of school closures.

2. Need for a Provincial Students with Disabilities Command Table

To deal with the need for rapid planning during the COVID-19 crisis, the Ontario Government has commendably set up its own command tables to deal with critical areas, like health care planning and planning for the safe operation of the economy during this crisis. This enables the Government to have critical expertise at the table that makes key decisions.

There is a pressing need for a students with disabilities command table within the Government to plan for the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. No such table or concentrated expertise centre exists now within Ontarios Ministry of Education. We have been pressing for this for three months without success. That table needs to be staffed by professionals with focused expertise on providing education to students with disabilities.

This is not meant to be an advisory or consultative table. It needs to be a planning and implementation table that can quickly make decisions and effectively connect with the front lines in the education system, where the action is.

This need is not fulfilled by the Minister of Education having had some consultative meetings with the Ministers Advisory Committee on Special Education (MACSE), which still has vacancies, or with the AODA K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. Those bodies are only advisory. They do not have the capacity of a Ministry command table. Of course, their input should be welcomed and valued.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. The Ministry of Education should immediately establish a Students with Disabilities Education Command Table to oversee the development and implementation of a Government action plan for meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, and to swiftly react to issues for students with disabilities as they arise.

3. Preventing a Rash of Refusals to Admit Students with Disabilities to School When Schools Re-Open

Ontarios Education Act lets a school principal refuse to admit to school any 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”. Disability advocates have repeatedly criticized this as an excessive, arbitrary and unfair power. The Education Act and the Ministry of Education leave to school boards and individual principals an extremely wide discretion over when, how and why to exclude a student from school under this power. The Education Act does not even require principals to give a parent their reasons for excluding a student from school, nor does it cap the duration of the students exclusion from school.

Disproportionately, this excessive power has been used against some students with disabilities. School boards have not always tracked when or why or how many students are excluded from school under this power. Long before this COVID-19 crisis, parent advocates have called for this power to be reduced and regulated. See for example the January 30, 2019 joint news release by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition. To date, the Ontario Government has not agreed to any significant reform of this excessive power.

In September 2018, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a new policy on accessible education for students with disabilities. Its recommendations to the Ontario Government included, among other things:

“9. Identify and end the practice of exclusion wherein principals ask parents to keep primary and secondary students with disabilities home from school for part or all of the school day (and the role that an improper use of section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act may be playing in this practice).”

There is a serious risk that some principals will feel at liberty to use this power to exclude some students with disabilities from school during school re-openings in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially before any effective vaccine is invented and widely available. This is especially so if school boards do not effectively plan for the inclusion and accommodation of students with disabilities at school during this school re-opening process. They may do so either because they dont know how to accommodate some students with disabilities during social distancing, or because the Ontario Government and/or their school board has not given them the directions and resources they need to be able to effectively include and accommodate those students.

The need to reform practices regarding a school principals power to refuse to admit a student to school has become even more pressing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is essential that school re-openings this fall do not lead to the creation of two classes of students, those allowed to return to school and those who are excluded from school, especially if this disproportionately divides along disability lines. A principal can feel a real temptation to use the power to refuse to admit such students to school during a COVID-19 school re-opening because it would seem to solve the problem of having to plan for those students needs at school.

The Ontario Government has been willing to give directions to a school board about the use of its power to refuse to admit students to school in other contexts. It can do so here as well. The Ontario Ministry of Education has very recently given directions to the Peel District School Board to keep and report data on exclusions of students from school by race. In directive number 9, the Ministry stipulates that:

The Board shall centrally track disaggregated race-based data on suspensions (in-school and out-of-school), expulsions and exclusions, and report publicly through the Annual Equity Accountability Report Card.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. The Ministry of Education should immediately issue a policy direction to all school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school. including directions that:

a) During the re-opening at schools, students with disabilities have an equal right to attend schools as do students without disabilities. The power to refuse to admit a student to school should not be used in a way that disproportionately burdens students with disabilities or that creates a barrier to their right to attend school.

b) A principal who refuses to admit a student to school during the school re-opening process should be required to immediately give the student and their family written notice of their decision to do so, including written reasons for the refusal to admit, the duration of the refusal to admit and notice of the familys right to appeal this refusal to admit to the school board.

c) A principal who refuses to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day should be required to report this in writing to their school boards senior management, including the reasons for the exclusion, its duration and whether the student has a disability. Each school board should be required to compile this information and to report it on a bi-monthly basis to the board of trustees, the public and the Ministry of Education (with individual information totally anonymized). The Ministry should promptly make public on a school board by school board basis the information it receives on numbers, reasons and durations of refusals to admit during post- COVID-19 school re-opening.

4. Need for Specific COVID-19 Individual Education Plans for Individual Students with Disabilities Before and During Transitioning to Return to School

For students with disabilities the distance learning during COVID-19 will have created different deficits and challenges. The transition back to school will present challenges that will vary from student to student.

Students IEPs were all written while students were in school, with no contemplation of the COVID-19 crisis or the challenges and hardships of distance learning and then of transition back to school. All students with disabilities will need their IEP modified to address these unforeseen needs.

They each need a COVID-19 specific IEP. This should be done now and over the summer, not in the fall when students are hopefully already back in school. This will require action now. It may require new resources to enable this to be worked on over the summer.

As noted earlier, there is a real possibility that distance learning will continue in the fall or may have to resume due to a second wave of COVID-19. IEPs need to now anticipate and address these needs.

We therefore recommend that:

#4. For each student with disabilities, each school board should now:

a) Contact the family of each student with disabilities, preferably by phone rather than email, to discuss and identify the students progress during the shutdown, the students specific and individualized disability-related deficits and needs arising from and during distance learning due to the COVID-19crisis and the students needs and challenges related to eventual return to school (including any vulnerabilities of other family members due to the COVID-19 pandemic), and;

b) add to their IEP specific goals and activities to effectively address their disability-related needs during distance learning, and in connection with transition back to school.

5. Need for Provincial and School Board Rapid Response Teams to Address Recurring Urgent Needs of Students with Disabilities

During the COVID-19 crisis, Ontario’s education system continues to try to navigate uncharted territory. No matter how much planning for the needs of students with disabilities takes place as we here recommend, unexpected surprises will crop up. school boards and the Ministry of Education each need to be able to quickly detect these, and to nimbly respond to them.

Parents, teachers and principals need a central point in the school board to report difficult challenges. Each school board needs to feed this information to a single point at the Ministry that is staying on top of things, for rapid responses to recurring issues around the province.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The Ministry of Education should assign staff to assist its Students with Disabilities Command Table by serving as a central rapid response team to receive feedback from school boards on recurring issues facing students with disabilities and to help find solutions to be shared with school boards.

#6. The Ministry should direct that each school board shall establish a similar central rapid response team within the board to receive feedback from teachers and principals about problems they are encountering serving students with disabilities during the COVID-19 period, that can quickly network with other similar offices at other school boards, and that can report recurring issues to the Ministry.

6. Surge Needed in Specialized Supports for Students with Disabilities

All students will have fallen behind to some extent during the months when schools were closed. This hardship falls especially on students with disabilities who have additional specialized curriculum to learn, related to their disabilities, or who need specialized supports to learn which are unavailable during distance learning.

When students return to school, students with disabilities who need those supports will need a surge in the hours of support provided to them to help them catch up and adjust to the return to school. School boards cannot simply pull those resources out of the air. School boards will need added funding to hire those staff, and provincial help finding them if there are shortages.

For example, students with vision loss are unable to get the full benefit of teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs) teaching hands-on braille reading when schools are closed. School boards will need to engage additional TVIs to help ramp up the surge in TVI hours to be provided to students. There is now a shortage of TVIs in Ontario. The Ministry will need to lead the effort to provide a surge of TVIs to help school boards fill this gap during the return to school. Comparable needs can similarly be identified for students with other disabilities where such specialized educational support is needed.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The Ministry of Education should plan for, fund and coordinate the provision by school boards of a surge in specialized disability supports to those students with disabilities who will need them when students return to school.

7. Planning for Needs of Students with Disabilities Who Cannot Themselves Ensure Social Distancing

As an illustration of the last issue discussed, any return to school while COVID-19 continues to exist in our community will require students to engage in social distancing. If schools re-open, they will be doing so mindful of the fact that many students will not be able to consistently and reliably engage in social distancing, frequent hand washing and other important protective activities. Many are too young to ensure that they can fully understand the need to do so and comply. For some older children, it may seem cool to periodically break the rules. For many, it will be impossible to remain attentive to these precautions all the time.

For any number of students with disabilities, social distancing and related safe practices may pose additional challenges. For some, wearing a mask may not be possible due to such things as sensory integration or behavioural issues.

Some students with disabilities require an education assistant (EA) or special needs assistant (SNA) for all or part of the day to fully take part in school activities. For some of these students, it will not be possible to remain two meters away while providing the support or assistance that the student needs. Some will require close assistance for eating, hand-washing and other personal needs.

Pre-COVID-19 staffing levels for EAs and SNAs did not account for these additional requirements. EAs and SNAs were not experienced with or trained for this before COVID-19. It is not sufficient to now send them an email with instructions, or a link to a training video, and thereafter to assume that they will be fully equipped to handle these duties. In addition to new in-person training, they will need to have constant access to good quality personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The Ministry of Educations plan for school re-openings must include detailed instructions on required measures for ensuring that students with disabilities are safe from COVID-19 during any return to school. This requires additional planning in advance by school boards and additional funding to school boards to hire and train the additional SNAs and EAs they will need to ensure the safety of students with disabilities.

8. Ensuring Full Accessibility of Digital Platforms Used for Remote Classes or Synchronous Learning

We do not here wade into the dispute between the Ford Government and some teachers unions about whether or when a teacher should conduct online classes for their students in real time over the internet, sometimes called synchronous learning. We insist, however, that whenever an online real time class or synchronous learning takes place, or any other online meeting involving students with disabilities or their parents in connection with their education, it must be conducted via a fully accessible digital meeting platform.

When the Ontario Government moved our education system from the physical classroom to the virtual classroom in late March, it should have ensured from the start that the choice of digital classroom platforms was fully accessible. The Ontario Government did not do so, nor did it monitor school boards to see what platforms they were using. Put simply, the Ontario Government entirely dropped the ball on this critical accessibility concern to the detriment of students, teachers and parents with disabilities. It did so based on a transparently erroneous starting point. The Ministry of Education took the position that it was up to each school board to decide which online virtual meeting platform to use based on its assessment of its local needs. Yet these disability accessibility needs do not vary from school board to school board.

As a belated partial attempt to address this problem, the Minister of Education wrote school boards on or around May 26, 2020 about several issues regarding distance learning. That memo stated, among other things:

Boards must ensure that the platforms they use for connecting with students and families are fully accessible for persons with disabilities.

However, that direction provides no assistance to school boards on which platforms to use or avoid, or how to figure this out. It still leaves it to each school board to investigate this as much or as little as they wish, and then to duplicate the same investigations of this issue over and over across Ontario.

This issue remains a live one and will continue into the fall. It is not clear when schools will re-open. Our education system may still be running on 100% distance learning at the start of the fall school term. Even when schools re-open, there is a real likelihood that some distance learning will continue in some blended model of in-school and distance education. As noted earlier, if a second wave of COVID-19 hits, as has happened elsewhere, requiring another round of school closures, Ontario will have to return to 100% distance learning.

We therefore recommend that:

#9. The Ministry of Education should immediately engage an arms-length digital accessibility consultant to evaluate the comparative accessibility of different digital meeting platforms available for use in Ontario schools. The Ministry should immediately send the resulting report and comparison to all school boards and make it public. The Ministry should direct which platforms may be used and which may not be used for virtual or synchronous classes or parent/school meetings, based on their accessibility.

9. Ensuring Digital Accessibility of Ontario Government and TVO Online Learning Resources

Over three months into the COVID-19 crisis, the Ontario Government has still not ensured that the online content that it provides to school boards, teachers, parents and students meets accessibility requirements for computer-users with disabilities. The AODA Alliance has been raising concerns with the Government about this since early in the pandemic. We have seen no public commitment to the needed corrective action. We have raised our concerns at senior levels within TVO and the Ministry of Education. The Government and TVO were required to comply with these accessibility requirements well before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We therefore recommend that:

#10. The Ministry of Education should immediately direct TVO to make its online learning content accessible to people with disabilities, and to promptly make public a plan of action to achieve this goal, with specific milestones and time lines.

#11. The Ministry of Education should make public a plan of action to swiftly make its own online learning content accessible for people with disabilities, setting out milestones and time lines, and should report to the public on its progress.

10. Stop Making Learning Resources Available Only in PDF Format

Throughout this pandemic, as well as beforehand, the Ministry of Education and too many school boards have continued to make important digital information available to the public, including to parents, teachers and students, only in pdf format. That format can present accessibility problems for people with disabilities. When a document is made public in PDF format, it should also be made public in an accessible format, such as MS Word. This is an important time to start this long-overdue practice.

We therefore recommend that:

#12. The Ministry of Education should direct all its staff and all school boards that whenever making digital information public in a PDF format, it must at the same time also be made available in an accessible format such as an accessible MS Word document.

11. One Size Fits All Does Not Fit for Return to School

To avoid chaos, a return to school should not be done all at once using a one-size-fits-all approach. Because we are in uncharted waters, it makes sense to go about this gradually and try different approaches at different locations to see what works. To avoid students with disabilities from being treated as after-thoughts who have to try to fit into a chaotic situation that was not designed with their needs in mind, it can be worthwhile to enable students with disabilities to return to school first, and for teaching staff to ensure their needs are met, before trying to also cope with an onslaught of all other students.

We therefore recommend that:

#13. The provincial plans for return to school should include these features:

a) Rather than having all students across Ontario return to school at once, in a one-size-fits-all strategy, the Ontario Government should lead a strategic return to school process, trying out different approaches to see what works most effectively. For example, opening a few schools first to detect recurring problems and plan to prevent them would assist with opening of other schools across Ontario.

b) The Ontario Government should try having the most vulnerable students, including students with disabilities, return to school first to facilitate their effective accommodation and orientation before all other students return to school.

12. Need for A Rapid Method to Spread the Word to Teachers and Parents About Effective Teaching Strategies for Students with Disabilities During COVID-19

Teachers and parents of students with disabilities are struggling around Ontario to cope with distance learning and the barriers it can create for many students with disabilities. Teachers and parents are creating novel work-arounds to address this.

Yet the Ontario Government has not been effectively canvassing the front lines of teachers and parents to gather these up and share them around the province, so all can benefit without having to re-invent the wheel I n the midst of a traumatic pandemic. We have called on the Ontario Government for the past three months to do this without success. We modelled one way of doing this by our successful May 4, 2020 online virtual town hall on teaching students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis (jointly organized with the Ontario Autism Coalition). As far as we have been able to learn, the Ontario Government has neither taken up that idea nor has it shared with school boards the link to our May 4, 2020 virtual town hall so that they can all benefit from it. We have repeatedly asked the Ministry of Education to share that link with school boards.

In the meantime, to fill this gap, several school boards have commendably been trying to do this themselves. They have themselves been compiling good ideas and sharing them within their own board.

This is a huge and wasteful duplication of effort. The Ontario Government should be centrally accumulating and compiling all these resources, as well as researching what other jurisdictions have compiled from their own experience. These should be rapidly made available to front line teachers and parents in a way that is easy to access, not by a blizzard of endless links that few if anyone will have the time to explore.

This effort should have been done weeks ago. it is not too late, since distance learning will remain part of our lives in whole or in part until a vaccine for COVID-19 is created and widely administered.

We therefore recommend that:

#14. The Ministry of Education should immediately put in place an effective proactive team to gather teaching strategies for students with disabilities during distance learning from front line teachers, parents and school boards and make these easily available to the front lines on an ongoing basis. These should be supplemented by strategies that the Ministry researches from other jurisdictions that have innovated creative solutions.

13. Distance Learning Must Be Maintained for Students Who Cannot Return to School

There will be students who cannot return to school when others do. Their disability may make it impossible to accommodate them in school under the restrictions that apply during the COVID-19 pandemic. The school board will have a duty to accommodate them unless the school board can prove that it is impossible to do so without undue hardship. Some students may not be able to return to school because their parents or other family members with whom they live are so medically vulnerable or immune-compromised that the family must take heightened precautions to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19.

In those cases, even if other students are learning at school, the school board must provide effective and accessible distance learning for those students who must remain at home. This may include home visits from teaching staff.

We therefore recommend that:

#15 The plans for return to school must include measures for ensuring that those who cannot return to school at the same time can secure effective distance learning, including home visits (with social distancing) from teaching staff.

14. Creating Provincial Resources for Parents to Prepare Their Students for Return to School

Some students with disabilities will need extensive preparation at home for their eventual return to school, including learning about social distancing and other new school practices due to COVID-19. Some parents will need a great deal of time to deal with this. Each school board or teacher and family should not have to duplicate these efforts by inventing their own curriculum, social stories or other resources.

We therefore recommend that:

#16. The Ministry of Education should prepare teaching materials for teachers and parents to use, addressing different disability-related learning needs, for preparing students with disabilities for the return to school, to address such changes as social distancing.

15. New Protocols Needed for Safe School Bussing

There were ample problems with bussing of students with disabilities to school before the COVID-19 crisis. In any return to school, heightened safeguards will be needed, including frequent sanitization of busses, ensuring students are seated more than 2 meters from each other and ensuring that the driver has PPE and doesnt risk spreading COVID-19. It is not realistic to expect that this will all simply happen with private sector bussing companies who employ casual and part time drivers working at low wages.

We therefore recommend that:

#17. The Ministry of Education should create, fund and effectively enforce new standards for safe bussing practices for students with disabilities during any return to school while COVID-19 remains a community threat.




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Will Ottawa City Council Today Vote to Conduct a Deeply Troubling Experiment on Ottawa Residents and Visitors By Allowing Electric Scooters that Endanger People with Disabilities and Others?


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

June 10, 2020 Toronto: On the eve of today’s Ottawa City Council vote on whether to allow electric scooters (e-scooters), in the nation’s capital, the AODA Alliance obtained information from the office of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson that exposes new serious problems with Ottawa’s proposal. Today, Ottawa City Council will decide whether to allow uninsured, untrained, unlicensed, unhelmetted e-scooter riders to rent and ride electric scooters in some public places during a “pilot” that would run until the end of October. Montreal tried just such a pilot but cancelled it last year due to problems that were revealed.

E-scooters can silently race up to 20 KPH up to and injure innocent pedestrians, such as blind people who can’t see them coming. E-scooters will also create new barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities, especially when left lying in public spaces like sidewalks (as the Ottawa proposal would permit).

Yesterday, the AODA Alliance learned this troubling information from officials in the Mayor’s office:

* The mayor’s office did not dispute that e-scooters can pose a risk of personal injuries. It did not dispute that they can present a safety risk for people with disabilities and others, as well as creating accessibility barriers that can impede people with disabilities.

* Ottawa has not budgeted for any additional law enforcement to cope with the risks that e-scooters are known to present. Therefore, there will be no additional police or other law enforcement on the streets to monitor if e-scooter riders are obeying any of the City’s rules or regulations. The AODA Alliance emphasizes that this means that e-scooter riders have little to fear if they break the rules.

* The only “training” that Ottawa would require an e-scooter rider to take before renting and riding one is to read materials that will be presented on a smartphone app. The AODA Alliance notes that this provides no public protection. One need only click that one has read such content, without actually reading it. The AODA Alliance here notes that as well, the person first signing up and clicking that they read it may not be the user that actually rents and rides the e-scooter, if the smartphone owner shares their e-scooter account with family or friends.

* When confronted with the danger that e-scooters pose to safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, the mayor’s office stated that during this pilot, Ottawa will collect data so that the pilot can be evaluated. The AODA Alliance pointed out to the mayor’s office that this amounts to conducting an experiment on those who live or visit Ottawa, risking their safety, without their prior consent to being subjected to this experiment.

* According to the mayor’s office, if someone is injured by an e-scooter or if the e-scooter blocks their accessibility on a sidewalk, data can be collected on this during the pilot, if those people call in to report their problem with the e-scooter. The AODA Alliance pointed out that the City of Ottawa would be unfairly shifting a burden onto innocent victims of e-scooters to have to report to the City about the harm they suffered, if the City is to learn about these harms.

* The mayor’s office disputed the AODA Alliance ‘s suggestion that the COVID-19 pandemic was an inappropriate time for City Council to take up this issue. The mayor’s spokesperson said that the COVID-19 pandemic is an especially good time to try out e-scooters, due to congestion in public places. According to the AODA Alliance, the COVID-19 crisis does not make it more appropriate to expose Ottawa residents and visitors to e-scooters’ dangers. E-scooters now present an additional danger in the COVID-19 era. When rented by one member of the public after the next, without any process in place to ensure they are sanitized, e-scooters risk further community spread of COVID-19. The City of Ottawa should not sponsor a program that would create this new danger to public health.

“The ill-conceived Defence offered by the mayor’s office for its plans to conduct an experiment with e-scooters on Ottawa’s own residents and visitors is strikingly similar to the very talking points used by the corporate lobbyists of the e-scooter rental companies who lobby hard for their adoption,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, a grassroots disability coalition that has spearheaded efforts to protect people with disabilities from the dangers posed by e-scooters. “It’s especially unfair for Ottawa Council to be dealing with this now, when we’re all locked down and battling the impact of COVID-19. Surely Ottawa City Council has more pressing issues to address during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more important priorities for spending public money.”

The AODA Alliance alerted the Ottawa mayor’s office that if this e-scooter scheme is adopted, tourists and conference planners will be best advised to avoid Ottawa as a destination because of the experiment it is conducting in public with e-scooters that pose these dangers to the public.

The AODA Alliance urgently asked the mayor’s office for a chance to speak to Mayor Watson. The Alliance calls on Ottawa City Council to delay today’s vote, so it can properly investigate these and other serious concerns with e-scooters that the AODA Alliance has uncovered.

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

For more background, check out:

The January 22, 2020 open letter from disability community organizations to the Ontario Government and Ontario municipalities.

The February 3, 2020 unanimous resolution of the Toronto City Council’s Accessibility Advisory Committee that called for Toronto not to allow e-scooters.

The AODA Alliance’s September 12, 2019 brief to the Ford Government on its proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario.

The AODA Alliance’s e-scooter web page that sets out the campaign since last summer to protect Ontarians with disabilities from the dangers that e-scooters pose.




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To Honour National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government Announces Nothing New to Address the Unmet Urgent Needs of 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis


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

June 5, 2020 Toronto: The Ford Government’s self-congratulatory June 1, 2020 announcement to mark National AccessAbility Week (set out below) announces no comprehensive plan of new action to address the unmet urgent needs of 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Instead it once again simply re-announces measures that have been in place for months or years and that have failed to redress the serious additional hardships that COVID-19 inflicts on many people with disabilities.

“For almost three months, we’ve been pleading with the Ford Government to announce a plan of action to address the disproportionate hardships that people with disabilities face in Ontario’s health care, education, housing and income support programs during the COVID-19 crisis, but neither Premier Ford nor the Premier’s office have even answered our March 25, 2020 letter or our pleas for help,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, a grassroots disability coalition that has tenaciously campaigned on this issue. “Instead, the Ford Government claims to be ‘leading by example’ on accessibility for people with disabilities. This hurtful, protracted neglect is not the example by which we deserve to be led.”

Patients with disabilities, who are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, are now facing new and stressful barriers in our health care system. Students with disabilities as well as their parents, teachers and school boards are left by the Ford Government to struggle and flounder, each trying to figure out how to help these students learn at home during the COVID-19 crisis. The Ford Government announced nothing new for any of these people with disabilities during National AccessAbility Week.

Instead, the Government’s June 1 announcement pointed to such failed strategies as its diverting public funds into the seriously flawed Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program. Neither the Ford Government nor the Rick Hansen Foundation has publicly refuted the serious problems with that program that the AODA Alliance publicly documented last summer. Since then, the Government has not pointed to a single barrier in any building in Ontario that has been removed as a result of its commitment to spend 1.3 million public dollars on that program.

This is part of a bigger picture. On May 30, 2019, during last year’s National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government used its majority in the Legislature to defeat a resolution that called on the Government to create a plan to implement the report of former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Government then invoked false and hurtful stereotypes about the Disabilities Act, unfairly disparaging its implementation and enforcement as “red tape.”

The Government’s June 1, 2020 statement, set out below, is transparently incorrect where it claims that “we are making significant progress in implementing the AODA.” There have been 491 days since the Ford Government received the blistering Onley Report. That report documented that progress on accessibility in Ontario has proceeded at a “glacial” pace for years. The Government has still announced no plan of action to effectively implement that report. That failure has weakened the Government’s ability to respond to the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the COVID-19 crisis drags into its fourth month, with no clear end in sight, it is more important than ever for the Ford Government to announce and implement comprehensive plans targeted at meeting the additional needs that people with disabilities are suffering during this pandemic,” said Lepofsky. “National AccessAbility Week would be a great time to do so. We remain eager to help.”

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

For more background, check out:

* The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page, listing all that coalition’s efforts to raise these issues since mid-March.

* The April 7, 2020 virtual Town Hall on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, jointly organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition, now viewed almost 3,000 times.

* The May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall on how to teach students with disabilities during the COVID-19crisis, also jointly organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition, viewed over 1,500 times.

The May 27, 2020 online virtual fireside chat on the impact of , COVID-19 on Ontarians with disabilities with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner.

June 1, 2020 Mass Email Announcement by the Minister of Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho

To our valued partners:
This year, National AccessAbility Week comes during a particularly challenging time. COVID-19 has forced many people to stay home and practice physical distancing. This can be stressful and lonely, and we must pay close attention to ensuring accessibility remains a priority and be mindful of potential barriers.

Our government is proud to work towards creating a society and economy that is accessible and inclusive for all Ontarians. Our work has been especially significant during the COVID-19 outbreak, and it is more important than ever that we come together to support our communities, including people with disabilities and seniors.

I am proud to share that we recently invested $11 million into the Ontario Community Support Program, which helps deliver hot meals, medicine and other essentials to low-income seniors and people with disabilities. We’ve also partnered with SPARK Ontario and invested $100,000 towards a provincial hub that connects volunteers to community organizations that support seniors and people with disabilities.

In 2005, Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and our commitment to making the province barrier-free continues today.

We recently announced a new cross-government framework called Advancing Accessibility in Ontario, which will help focus our work in four key areas as we move forward working with partners inside and beyond government.

Our government is working hard to lead by example and improve accessibility in our role as policy maker, service provider and employer. For example, we are making significant progress in implementing the AODA. As an organization, we are ensuring Ontario’s own ministries are taking accessibility into account as a key consideration when developing policies.

This includes supporting Ontario’s Standards Development Committees as they continue their important work to develop proposed accessibility standards in the Kindergarten to Grade 12 and post-secondary education sectors, as well as a proposed accessibility health care standard for hospitals.

We are also dedicated to breaking down barriers in the built environment. To do this, we are working with key partners in architecture, design and building to enhance curriculum and training on accessibility to help ensure new and existing buildings can be planned and built to be more accessible. We recently invested $1.3 million over two years for the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch a certification program in Ontario to help remove barriers in buildings.

Part of our Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework focuses on increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities. We have helped businesses in Ontario realize the benefits of employing people with disabilities through working with our Employers’ Partnership Table. As our government turns towards recovery efforts, we will work to ensure it includes innovative and focused approaches for people with disabilities.

Another key area in our new framework is about improving understanding and awareness about accessibility. We know this is a key focus for many of your own groups. Our government provides free webinars with practical tips on accessibility for organizations and the public. We also fund the development of many free resources and training materials through our EnAbling Change Program to further educate businesses and communities.

Many of the guides and resources about how to make businesses and organizations more accessible and inclusive can be found at the webpage ontario.ca/AccessibleBusiness.

From May 31 June 6, I ask everyone to take time to recognize the importance of accessibility and inclusion in our communities and workplaces, as well as acknowledge the contributions of Canadians with disabilities. I would also like to thank all of the individuals, groups and partners working together towards creating a barrier-free Ontario.

Each step we take together to remove barriers will make a difference today and in the future.

Sincerely,

Raymond Cho
Minister for Seniors and Accessibility




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Watch the Captioned May 27, 2020 Online Fireside Chat with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner on the Impact of COVID-19 on Ontarians with Disabilities


Tell Us What Barriers Students with Disabilities Face in Colleges and Universities

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

May 26, 2020

SUMMARY

1. Check Out an Online Fireside Chat Tomorrow Night on the Impact of COVID-19 on 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Please log on tomorrow night, Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at 8 pm Eastern time, for a live virtual fireside chat with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. He’s been invited to speak with the leader of the Green Party of Ontario, Mike Schreiner. Captioning is provided. See the details below.

This fireside chat will address the impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on people with disabilities and the pressing need for the Ford Government to include their urgent needs in its emergency COVID-19 planning.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance commends the Green party for inviting AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to take part in this event. The AODA Alliance would be happy to do so with members of the Legislature from any of Ontario’s political parties, as part of our long-term spirit of non-partisanship.

Please encourage others to watch this event. Publicize it on social media and in any other way you can.

2. More Time for You to Tell Us What Barriers Students with Disabilities Face in Post-Secondary Education in Ontario

The AODA Alliance wants to hear from you about the barriers that students with disabilities face in post-secondary education in Ontario. Back on March 11, 2020, we made public a draft Framework that the AODA Alliance had prepared for your input. It offers ideas on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include for students with disabilities in post-secondary education. Just after that, the COVID-19 crisis hit. As a result, we are extending the time to give us feedback on that draft Framework. You can read that draft Framework by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-barriers-do-students-with-disabilities-face-in-post-secondary-education-in-ontario-send-us-feedback-on-our-draft-framework-for-a-post-secondary-education-accessibility-standard/

With the COVID-19 crisis, post-secondary education has all moved online. This has created a series of new barriers for many students with disabilities. We are eager to hear about those barriers, as well as any that students with disabilities encountered before the COVID-19 crisis arose. We also invite your recommendations for what should be done, both during the period when post-secondary education continues online, and after that, for the time when colleges and universities will re-open for students to attend in person.

Please send us your feedback by June 30, 2020. Send your feedback to us at [email protected] .

Please don’t use “track changes” to give us feedback, as it can present accessibility problems. Instead, send us an email with your comments. You can mention the number of the recommendation on which you are commenting or cut and paste from our draft Framework the passage on which you are commenting.

Once we get your feedback, we will finalize this Framework, make it public, and send it to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

3. Delay and Yet More Delay

There have been 481 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 62 days, or over two months, since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The Premier’s office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected] Please stay safe!

MORE DETAILS

Announcement from the Green Party of Ontario

Supporting our Disability Community During Covid-19
Please tune in for a discussion between Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario and Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, David Lepofsky. The two will discuss the unique challenges affecting the disability community during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the policies needed to ensure the disability community does not continue to fall through the cracks of the government’s response.

Wednesday, May 27 8:00-8:45 pm

The event will be closed-captioned and can be streamed on the Green Party of Ontario Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GreenPartyOntario/

@davidlepofsky @aodaalliance
@OntarioGreens @MikeSchreiner




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On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the AODA Alliance Again Writes Ontario’s Education Minister and TVO’s Vice President to Try to Get the Urgent Learning Needs of Students with Disabilities Met


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

May 21, 2020

SUMMARY

In our continuing campaign to get the Ford Government to address the urgent needs of a third of a million vulnerable students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, the AODA Alliance today wrote two important letters, set out below. These are especially timely, because today is the internationally recognized Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD).

First, we wrote Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce today to again press him to direct the establishment within his Ministry of a command table of experts on teaching students with disabilities. We need this command table created to lead and oversee the creation and implementation of an emergency plan to address the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We were following up on our April 29, 2020 letter to the minister. In our new letter we point out three striking examples that show why there is a pressing need for the minister to direct his Ministry to immediately take the overdue actions we recommend.

Second, we today wrote the vice president for digital content at TVO, Ontarios public education TV network. We summarized a recent discussion that the vice president had with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. In that discussion, we gave TVO constructive recommendations for urgent action that TVO needs to take to fix the accessibility problems in its online education content.

Taken together, these letters show a recurring failure of leadership by the Ford Government when it comes to meeting the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. A striking illustration of this is the Education Ministers May 8, 2020 email to all school boards about distance learning during COVID-19. We also set out that memo below. The ministers detailed email to all school boards was missing the key directions to school boards on how to meet the urgent needs of students with disabilities during COVID-19.

Stay tuned for more AODA Alliance Updates. Keep us posted by sending us your feedback, at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

May 21, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
[email protected] www.aodalliance.org Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 21, 2020

Via Email
To: The Hon Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education
[email protected]

Dear Minister,

Re: Ensuring that Students with Disabilities Fully Benefit from Education at Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

We write On Global Accessibility Awareness Day to follow up on our April 29, 2020 letter to you about the pressing need for the Ontario Government to create and swiftly implement a comprehensive plan to meet the urgent learning needs of a third of a million Ontario students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Since we wrote you almost a month ago, we appreciate having had the chance to have conversations with your deputy minister, two of your assistant deputy ministers, and some other officials within the ministry. I also welcomed the chance to make a five-minute presentation to you during the May 6, 2020 virtual meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee of which I am a member.

It is good that during Premier Fords May 19, 2020 daily COVID-19 briefing, you recognized that more than ever, families of students with disabilities in Ontario need more support for their children to be able to learn at home. It is helpful that you said that the Government has great concern about these children and that the Government wants to ensure that these children get the support they need.

However, almost ten weeks into the school shutdown, and even after announcing that schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year, the Government has still announced no comprehensive plan to remove the troubling and recurring additional barriers facing students with disabilities that you have acknowledged. Your Government still leaves it to each school board to separately figure out what these barriers are and how to systematically overcome them. Your Government has still not set up and put in charge a much-needed command table with expertise in educating students with disabilities to steer and lead the provinces efforts in this area. This is especially wasteful and ineffective when school boards, like your Government, are trying to cope with an unexpected and unprecedented crisis. Front line educators and parents are struggling to do their best. They need more help from the Ontario Government.

Here are three illustrative and deeply disturbing examples of missing provincial leadership. We ask you to intervene with your Ministry officials to get them to act not only on these examples, but on a comprehensive plan of action.

First, with the rapid move to online classes, it is a bedrock necessity that the platform that schools use for online class meetings is accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. From our exchanges with Ministry staff, it is clear that the Ministry has not shown the required leadership on this issue. It does not appear to have directed school boards to ensure that they use accessible platforms, nor has it compared the options to direct which platform should be preferred.

Your detailed May 8, 2020 email to all school boards and other key players in the education system focuses primarily on the Ministrys directions to school boards to use synchronous learning (i.e. online classes in real time via web-based meeting platforms). That memo is stunningly silent on the need to ensure that the platform school boards use is accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. That memo gives school boards no directions on which platforms to use. That memo was sent two days after I briefed you and four of your caucus colleagues on this serious issue during the May 6, 2020 meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee in which you commendably participated.

The Ministry has told us that it has left it to each school board to decide for itself which meeting platform to use. That is a failed approach. It abdicates provincial leadership and oversight. Your Ministry is leaving it to each school board to itself decide whether or not it should investigate the relative accessibility of different online meeting platforms. A school board may not even know that this is an issue it needs to investigate.

Under your Ministrys approach a school board is free to simply overlook this issue altogether. Your Government is burdening each school board to duplicate the same investigation of the comparative accessibility of different online meeting platforms. It is not clear which school boards have any expertise to do this. There is no assurance that any school boards who do this will in fact get it right. Your Ministry is not tracking which online platforms are being used in Ontario schools, or to what extent accessible platforms are being used.

The Ministry told us it has not itself undertaken a comparison of the various virtual meeting platforms available to school boards in order to assess their comparative accessibility. We have called on your Ministry to do so and to direct school boards on the accessible platforms that may be used. Parents, students, and teachers with disabilities should not have to fight against such recurring barriers one class, one school, or one school board at a time.

Your Ministry told us that it leaves it to each school board to decide which synchronous meeting platform to use, based on the school boards assessment of its local needs. With respect, blindness, dyslexia, or other reading-related disabilities do not change when they occur in Cornwall or Kenora. The reason why the Government is now developing an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is so that people with disabilities will not have to fight the same battles time and again and so that school boards wont have to each reinvent the same accessibility wheel.

We have received troubling word that at least one school board has forbidden its teachers from using Zoom, which is at least as accessible as or more accessible than the other available online platforms. That flies in the face of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act .

Your Ministry arranged a helpful May 13, 2020 demonstration of the specific online meeting platform that it has chosen to purchase for school boards, called Bongo. It is part of the Bright Space learning management system that your Ministry chose to procure from the D2L firm for use by school boards if they wish. During this demonstration, it became apparent that neither your Ministry nor D2L claimed that Bongo is the most accessible meeting platform available. Its accessibility features were helpfully demonstrated and described.

During this demonstration, we learned that your Government has no idea how many school boards, schools or teachers around Ontario are using the Bongo platform. Your Ministry has left them free to use whatever platform they wish. As far as your Ministry would know, there could be few if any teachers using Bongo or who even know about it.

This presentation included a comparison of Bongos accessibility features as compared to those of the Zoom platform. It was D2L that was comparing its product to Zoom. Your Ministry did not invite Zoom for a chance to showcase its own products accessibility features, leaving it to its competitor D2L to do this.

The D2L presentation made an unfair comparison. It compared the Bongo platform, for which the Ministry was directly or indirectly paying a fee, to the free version of Zoom. I pointed this out and asked how the Bongo platform compared to Zooms more robust pay version, as opposed to its free version, which has fewer features. D2L acknowledged that the pay version of Zoom is closer in comparison to Bongo.

During that May 13, 2020 presentation, my questions revealed that Bongo is missing an important accessibility feature that Zoom contains. With Zoom, a student can easily and instantly raise his or her virtual hand for the teachers attention, by simply typing a keyboard shortcut. Bongo has no such keyboard shortcut. For a student to reach Bongos accessible control for raising his or her hand, it takes more hunting around the program. Its location is not obvious. It is important for a student to be able to quickly raise ones hand without having to hunt around the program for the relevant control. D2L conceded that their accessibility tester had earlier asked Bongos provider to add this to their program. D2L did not include this important fact in its comparison of its product to Zoom.

In the Ministrys PowerPoint prepared to demonstrate Bongos accessibility, a slide was included to suggest that the ARCH Disability Law Centre used Bongo. This was obviously done to convey or imply that it had ARCHs approval as accessible. The slides stated:

We have several clients who support people with disabilities: CNIB, CHS, Vision Australia, Thomas Pocklington Trust, ARCH Disability Law Centre.

ARCHs use of Virtual Classroom
Educating Canadians on Accessibility Rights using Brightspace and Virtual Classroom
ARCH is offering online courses to Community Champions and Disability Rights Lawyers on the Optional Protocol (OP) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) with Simultaneous French interpretation, English and French live captions, ASL, and LSQ.

Press Release ARCH launches OP Lab: Learning, Sharing, Actioning!

This was quite misleading. At this May 13, 2020 presentation, I responded that ARCHs executive director had advised me that while they had procured Bongo for certain upcoming events, they have not yet used it because it has several accessibility problems. ARCH has been trying to get these problems fixed. Neither D2L nor the Government disputed this.

Second, as a key part of its approach during the COVID-19 crisis, your Government has repeatedly pointed to key online learning resources for teachers and parents. We have alerted the Government that these have accessibility problems. This includes both the Governments own Learn at Home web page and the Government-owned TVOs online learning resources. It became evident from my May 14, 2020 phone call with TVOs Vice President for Digital Content that TVO is lacking a plan to retrofit its online educational resources to ensure that they become accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. TVO seemed to be unaware of the severity of this problem until we brought it to their and the publics attention. I encourage you to read our May 21, 2020 letter to TVOs Vice President of Digital Content, copied to you. It sets out our constructive advice to TVO advice which TVO found quite helpful.

We have seen no indication that your Ministry was aware of the problems with its own online resources or those of TVO until we raised these concerns. We have seen no plan from your Ministry to fix these problems.

This TVO situation reflects a double failure. TVO failed to properly ensure its online contents accessibility. After that, your Ministry failed to ensure the accessibility of TVOs online content before so heavily relying on it as part of its COVID-19 emergency planning.

Third, struggling with this COVID-19 crisis, it is great that teachers, parents, and others with expertise in the field in Ontario and elsewhere have been coming up with creative ways to help students with different disabilities learn while schools are closed. We have been urging your Government for weeks without success to devote staff to effectively gather from the front lines specific examples of effective strategies. We still need your Government to do so and to effectively share these with educators and parents as quickly as possible in a user-friendly way, not through a blizzard of links.

Let us illustrate how disturbing this situation is. On May 4, 2020, in the absence of effective Government action on this front, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition joined together to hold a successful virtual town hall. It offered practical tips to parents and teachers for teaching students with disabilities at home during COVID-19. Your Ministrys Assistant Deputy Minister of Education responsible for special education Jeff Butler commendably took part in our virtual town hall and described its contents as valuable. In just over two weeks, it has been viewed over 1,400 times. We have no budget to publicize it.

We have repeatedly asked your Ministry to publicize this virtual town hall to school boards and frontline educators. So far, it has not agreed to do so. What could be a simpler and lower-cost way to help students with disabilities? We have also urged your Ministry for weeks without success to take over this idea and itself hold such events. We have offered to help with ideas. The Ministry, with its staff and resources, could do this more effectively than did our handful of volunteers who pulled together our successful May 4, 2020 virtual town hall in under a week.

Instead of taking us up on this, the Government has largely re-announced the same initiatives that have been underway for weeks. While helpful to a point, those measures have not effectively addressed the pressing concerns of vulnerable students with disabilities.

On May 19, 2020 you said at the Premiers daily COVID-19 briefing that you have directed school boards to unlock all their special education and mental health resources during the school shutdown to help students with disabilities. That of course has been their job from the outset. However, for them to succeed, they need far more provincial direction and support than this.

On May 19, 2020, in response to a question from the media at the Premiers COVID-19 briefing, you announced some sort of two-week summer program aimed at helping orient some students with disabilities, such as those with autism, to a return to school. That announcement gave no specifics, such as where this will be offered or which students or how many students will be eligible for this program. Depending on how this is carried out, it could be helpful.

However, here again, there is a similar pressing need for the Ontario Government to show leadership by setting specific detailed and effective standards and requirements for school re-openings to ensure that the added needs of students with disabilities are effectively met in this process. Your Ministrys approach to date to students with disabilities during this crisis will not ensure that this is properly handled.

Your May 8, 2020 memo to all school boards is quite illustrative of this entire problem. It commendably makes a few general references to accommodating students with special education needs and to mental health issues. However, it gives no specific directions for meeting the recurring needs of students with disabilities in circumstances where specificity and provincial leadership are required.

We remain eager to help with solutions. We need your active intervention to set things right. Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC: Premier Doug Ford
Via Email: [email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility
[email protected]

Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education
[email protected]

Jeff Butler, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister of the Student Support and Field Services Division [email protected]

Yael Ginsler, Assistant Deputy Minister of Education (Acting) for the Student Achievement Division [email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
[email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario [email protected]

Claudine Munroe, Director of the Special Education/Success for All Branch [email protected]

Demetra Saldaris, Director of the Professionalism, Teaching Policy and Standards Branch [email protected]

Rashmi, Swarup TVO Vice President Digital Learning
[email protected]

May 21, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to TVOs Vice President for Digital Content

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
Email: [email protected]
Visit: www.aodalliance.org
Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 21, 2020

To: Rashmi Swarup
Vice President Digital Learning
Via email: [email protected]

Dear Ms. Swarup,

Re: Accessibility Problems with TVOs Online Educational Content

Thank you for speaking to me by phone on May 14, 2020 about the accessibility problems on TVOs website. It is especially timely that I am writing you on Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Here are several key points that I shared with you during our discussion.

I explained that TVOs online learning content requires a major review as soon as possible for accessibility problems. Our preliminary look at them revealed significant and obvious problems. This strongly suggests that accessibility problems are likely more pervasive. The fact that they turned up so quickly suggests to us that TVO has not done effective accessibility user testing.

I explained that to rectify this, TVO needs to immediately put in place several new measures. It needs to now publicly commit to fix its online contents accessibility problems and to ensure that any new online content created in the future is accessible from the start.

You explained that you have been in your position for about one year as TVOs Vice President of Digital Content. Previously, you were a superintendent of schools at the York Region District School Board. You didnt claim to be a subject matter expert on digital content accessibility, though you have taken required basic AODA training training which we know to be quite introductory.

TVO needs to have a senior official with subject matter expertise in digital accessibility with lead responsibility and authority for ensuring the accessibility of TVOs digital content and online offerings. It seems clear from the presence of accessibility problems in TVOs online educational content that it is lacking that expertise in a leadership role.

I outlined for you that a number of major organizations have helpfully established a position of Chief Accessibility Officer to address their accessibility needs and duties. TVO could benefit from doing so. From what you explained, it appears that no one senior official at TVO has full responsibility for and authority over ensuring digital accessibility. Responsibility is spread over several members of the TVO senior management team. That is a far less effective way of addressing this important issue.

TVO needs to bring on board the subject matter expertise to fix this problem. I explained that there are digital accessibility experts TVO can retain to assist in this area.

TVO needs to establish and make public a detailed plan to fix the accessibility problems with its current digital learning content and to ensure that new digital content that TVO creates in the future is barrier-free. I explained that end-user testing is an important aspect of this. Automated checking tools cannot replace proper user testing by human beings. From our preliminary inspection of some of TVOs online educational content, it seemed that no proper user testing would have earlier occurred.

You said you appreciated our raising these concerns and the recommendations that I shared. Our raising these concerns had escalated TVOs attention. We appreciate your agreeing to write us to let us know what new action TVO will take to address these concerns.

We hope the Ontario Government will support TVOs taking swift action to correct these problems. We had raised our concerns about TVO at senior levels within the Ministry of Education. The Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has repeatedly said that the Government has partnered with TVO to help deliver online education to students during the COVID-19 crisis.

Finally, I emphasized that as a public broadcast, TVO should be a leader in this area. In contrast to TVOs accessibility deficiencies, WGBH, a US PBS station, is a key hub and, I believe, the birthplace for the important accessibility innovation of audio description for video content.

We look forward to hearing from you about the reforms TVO will adopt. It is important for corrective action to be taken quickly, given that schools remain closed for the rest of this school year due to the COVID-19 crisis and may have to close again should there be a second surge of COVID-19.

Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC
Premier Doug Ford
[email protected]

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education,
[email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility
[email protected]

Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education
[email protected]

Claudine Munroe, Director of the Special Education/Success for All Branch [email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
[email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario [email protected]

Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission [email protected]

May 8, 2020 Email from Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce to Ontario School Boards

May 8 2020 Email from Minister of Education Stephen Lecce to Ontario School Boards From: Ministry of Education (EDU) <
[email protected]>

Sent: May 8, 2020 5:36 PM
To: Ministry of Education (EDU) <
[email protected]>
Subject: Updates on Continuity of Learning for the Extended School Closure Period | Mises à jour sur la continuité de lapprentissage pendant la période de fermeture prolongée des écoles

table with 2 columns and 2 rows
Memorandum To:
Chairs of District School Boards
Directors of Education
School Authorities

From:
Stephen Lecce
Minister of Education

Nancy Naylor
Deputy Minister
table end

Thank you for your continued commitment to supporting students during the school closure period. We have heard so many inspiring stories from across the province of students, parents, and educators doing extraordinary work to continue learning and build and maintain relationships at this time.

During this time, the mental health and well-being of students and the people working in the education system remains a priority. The government and school boards have moved rapidly to mobilize critical mental health resources and supports for students during these uncertain times.

As you know, the school closure period has been extended to at least May 31, 2020. To that end, we are writing to provide guidance on provincial standards for continuity of learning for the remainder of the closure period, as well as to provide updates on progress to date. GUIDANCE FOR CONTINUITY OF LEARNING

As we entered the school closure period, our transition to Learn at Home was aided by existing tools that were in place to support virtual learning. The ministry provides Ontarios Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) at no cost to educators in school boards and First Nation/federally operated schools to use for delivering online programming. As a learning management system, the VLE provides tools for both synchronous and asynchronous learning delivery. Boards may already have access to other synchronous learning management systems and tools, such as Google Classroom or Edsby.

While the expectation of the ministry was that educators would embrace the use of synchronous learning during the school closure period, there has been an inconsistent uptake of this mode of learning. As such, this memo is providing clarity on the ministry position.
Recognizing there are a wide range of modalities that are used in the continuum of learning between educators and their students, the ministrys expectation is that synchronous learning be used as part of whole class instruction, in smaller groups of students, and/or in a one-on-one context.

We know that parents and students are looking for ways to interact with their teachers – which can be addressed through multiple modalities – and that online synchronous learning experience with teachers and education workers is an effective and supportive method that will position students to succeed during the school closure period. Similarly, parents expect their childs educators to strive toward as normal a learning environment as possible during this period, of which synchronous learning is a key component.
Boards should take steps to ensure that privacy considerations are addressed and that students are aware of best practices, including not giving out passwords, ensuring that teachers are the last person to leave a synchronous meeting, and respecting other board policies on student conduct.

We recognize that there may be exceptional situations where synchronous online delivery may not be possible for all students. Exceptions could include, for example, where a parent has excused their child from instruction or this form of instruction, in which case a parents wishes should be respected.

If a student cannot participate due to a lack of devices or internet connectivity, or where students require accommodations for special education needs, alternate arrangements must be made, including personal outreach through phone calls. With that in mind, it is insufficient for educators to communicate with their students in one interaction per week, for example. We recognize that school boards have made extraordinary efforts to ensure that students have devices and connectivity wherever possible, and we once again reiterate our expectation that boards provide necessary technology to students as soon as possible, and appropriate accommodations for students with special education needs, where necessary. The ministry will continue to support school boards in these efforts.

If a teacher or education worker does not feel they can currently deliver education to their students in this manner, schools and boards are encouraged to provide support and professional development. However, in situations where teachers or education workers are not delivering synchronous learning, schools and boards are expected to immediately move to a team assignment approach to ensure that students are offered synchronous delivery of teacher led learning.

School boards should continue to follow the guidance provided on March 31, 2020 regarding the hours per student, per week, and the suggested areas of curriculum focus by grade groupings.

UPDATES ON PROGRESS TO DATE

Working Together

Between April 15 and 29, the ministry conducted a series of meetings beginning with Parent Involvement Committee Chairs and extending to include meetings with the following key roles responsible for supporting vulnerable students: Student Success and Student Effectiveness Leads, Indigenous Graduation Coaches, and Black Student Graduation Coaches. These meetings provided a venue for board leads to share successful practices and ongoing challenges to supporting vulnerable students and identify additional ways to offer support.

During these meetings, partners in school boards shared information on the many ways they are addressing the needs of vulnerable students, their wellbeing, and academic success. The ministry will continue to work with partners to determine ways to support student well-being, engagement in learning, and inclusive approaches to learning within a remote learning environment, as well as when students return to school.

Access to Technology

Access to internet connectivity and learning devices has been identified by school boards and other stakeholders as an urgent need during the school closure period. In response to this need, the ministry launched an education-related call for proposals on the Ontario Together web portal, focused on supporting equity of access to remote learning.

Through this initiative, the ministry will identify proposals that school boards may wish to consider to support student and educator access to internet connectivity and devices such as computers, tablets, and portable wi-fi hotspots. As well, school boards may also wish to consider consulting other partners and sources, such as OECM, to consider comparable services and goods.

As we prepare for the eventual return to the classroom, broadband modernization activities in schools continue. All Ontario students and educators in publicly funded schools will have access to reliable, fast, secure and affordable internet services at school, in all regions of the province including rural and northern communities. This work will be complete in secondary schools by September 2020 and in elementary schools by September 2021.

As of March 31, 2020, broadband modernization was complete at 1,983 schools (including 403 in northern communities and 686 in rural communities) and in progress at 2,953 schools (including 99 in northern communities and 408 in rural communities).

Ensuring protection of privacy and security of digital learning resources is of the utmost importance for the ministry to support a safe, inclusive and accepting learning environment for synchronous learning. While school boards remain independently accountable for establishing clear policies and approving appropriate use of collaboration tools to support students learning online, we will continue to work with boards and our government partners to provide guidance on cyber security and privacy best practices for sharing with educators in your schools.

School Construction

Schools are an essential part of supporting student achievement, as well as providing safe and healthy learning and work environments for students and staff. As we head into the spring and summer months, when school boards undertake critical capital construction and renewal projects, the province has revised the list of essential workplaces to support school infrastructure. Construction projects and services (e.g. new construction, maintenance and repair) that support the essential operation of, and provide new capacity in, schools and child care centres can proceed, provided that there is strict adherence to health and safety requirements.

As school boards are best situated to understand their own particular circumstances, the ministry is asking that school boards consider whether their construction projects are able to reopen in light of these changes. This may mean that boards will need to consult with their own legal counsel, as appropriate.

Learn at Home/
Apprendre à la maison

Learn at Home/
Apprendre à la maison
was launched on March 20, 2020. This website provides supplemental resources for parents and students to support independent learning at home while schools are closed.

Learn at Home/
Apprendre à la maison includes learning resources on a variety of subjects including math, science, technology, Indigenous history and ways of knowing, art, physical education, social sciences, and mental health. Supports for students with learning disabilities and special education needs, including autism, have also been included. Resources continue to be added to address a range of learning needs.

Over the past month, there have been over four million visits to Learn at Home/ Apprendre à la maison.
We encourage you to continue to share this website and promote the new resources available with parents and students in your board.

If there are additional high-quality online learning resources that you think would be particularly beneficial to students and parents at this time, we encourage you to share them with us by emailing [email protected]

School Mental Health Ontario

School Mental Health Ontario a provincial implementation support team that works alongside the ministry, school boards, and provincial education and health organizations to develop a systematic and comprehensive approach to school mental health has several resources available to support families during the school closure period (
https://smho-smso.ca/blog/how-to-support-student-mental-health-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/).

Professional development

Through webinars, the ministry is providing professional development to support educators in the use of the VLE and pedagogy for remote, synchronous and asynchronous learning. In addition, the ministry is providing professional learning webinars for educators on specialised topics such as supporting students with special education needs, kindergarten/primary education and meaningful assessments and evaluations.

To date, more than 23,000 teachers have participated in, or registered for future webinars, on 34 different topics. Completed webinars have been recorded and posted for teachers who were unable to attend the live session.

In addition to the webinar series, the ministry has created the Supports for Virtual Learning eCommunity. Over 9,000 educational staff have accessed this professional learning community, including resources for self-serve learning that are updated regularly.

First Nation and Indigenous partners

The ministry continues to support First Nation education partners during the school closure period. This has included providing access to online education resources, connecting First Nation partners to the supply chain to purchase Chromebooks and iPads, as well as encouraging local school boards to work closely with local First Nations and Indigenous partners, where possible.

In addition to supporting educators through teleconferences in areas/communities where bandwidth is limited or unavailable, the ministry has responded
to outreach from First Nation partners and has established a series of ongoing virtual meetings with First Nations Education Task Teams. The Task Teams were established to work collaboratively with First Nation education leadership, to identify gaps in services and develop options to address emerging priorities for First Nation students.

We are also ensuring that First Nation educators have access to Ontarios VLE and training for teachers provided by the ministry. There is no cost to the First Nation schools to access and use the VLE.

Summer learning

The ministry is working with boards and organizations to support an expanded offering of summer learning opportunities. This plan will focus on programs that support student learning through the summer such as summer school, course upgrading, and gap-closing programs for vulnerable students, students with special education needs, and Indigenous students. This plan will be flexible to accommodate both remote and face-to-face learning, pending emergency measures through the summer. While summer learning opportunities are voluntary for students, we hope that many students will take advantage of the opportunity to continue their learning throughout the summer.

The goal with these measures is to mitigate the impacts of the school closure period and the learning loss that may typically occur during the summer.

Further details will be provided in the coming weeks.

Communication with parents and families

We recognize that many boards are creating opportunities for parents to provide feedback on the current learning experience through surveys and other platforms, as well as continuing to seek the advice of their Parent Involvement Committee (PIC). Through a virtual meeting with PIC chairs at the end of April, the ministry heard that parents appreciate the efforts their boards are making to address a variety of diverse family challenges due to the pandemic. We encourage boards to continue to be open to feedback and to recognize where delivery of education under current circumstances can be challenging, and can be adjusted to better serve students and families.

Thank you once again for your flexibility and willingness to work together to support Ontarios students.

Sincerely,

Stephen Lecce Nancy Naylor
Minister of Education Deputy Minister

c: President, Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’ontario (ACÉPO)
Executive Director, Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’ontario (ACÉPO)
President, Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques (AFOCSC)
Executive Director, Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques (AFOCSC) President, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) Executive Director, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) President, Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Executive Director, Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) Executive Director, Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE)
President, Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO)
Executive Director and Secretary-Treasurer, Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) President, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) General Secretary, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) President, Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) General Secretary, Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) President, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) General Secretary, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) Chair, Ontario Council of Educational Workers (OCEW)
Chair, Education Workers Alliance of Ontario (EWAO)
President of OSBCU, Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario (CUPE-ON) Co-ordinator, Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario (CUPE-ON)




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Ford Government Acknowledges Ontario Students with Disabilities Face Added Hardships Trying to learn at Home During COVID-19 But Announces No Comprehensive Plan to Remove the Added Disability Barriers that Online Learning Creates for Them


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

May 19, 2020, Toronto: Today, as the first media question at Premier Doug Fords Queens Park COVID-19 briefing, the Toronto Star told the premier that parents of special needs children have told the Star that they are particularly struggling at this time and that the Government needs to take a leading role in making sure that their children are being served during the school shutdown. Since schools are now closed until the end of the school year, the Star asked what the Government is doing to help these families and to ensure that school boards are meeting these students needs. The AODA Alliance commends the Star for raising this issue. We have been pressing the Ford Government on this issue for weeks.

Premier Ford referred the question to Education Minister Stephen Lecce. The Minister commendably stated on behalf of the Government that he absolutely agrees with the premise, … that these families are going to need more support now more than ever to support their children enable them to learn while theyre at home. He said on behalf of the Government that we have great concern about these children He pledged that the Government wants to make sure that all kids with exceptionalities are able to get aheadget the support they need.

It is good, but certainly not news, that the Government has told all school boards to deploy all their special education resources during the shutdown, and that the Government earlier consulted with two provincial advisory committees on this issue. It is not yet possible for us to comment on the Governments amorphous announcement of some sort of two-week summer program aimed at helping orient some students with disabilities, such as those with autism, to a return to school. Todays announcement gave no specifics (such as where this will be offered, or which students or how many students will be eligible for this program.)

However, todays Ministers statement falls far short of the urgent action one-third of a million Ontario students with disabilities immediately need. It is good that the Government now publicly acknowledges that students with disabilities and their families suffer additional burdens with the move to online learning as schools are shut down and that the Government should show leadership. However, The Government has not announced any specific comprehensive plan to remove the added barriers that students with disabilities are facing due to the move to online learning.

It is wrong for the Ford Government to continue to leave it to over 70 school boards to each have to wastefully re-invent the wheel as they struggle with the same recurring disability barriers. It is wrong for the Ford Government to leave over-burdened parents of students with disabilities to have to fight the same battles against these disability barriers, one school board at a time, while isolated at home during the COVID-19crisis.

For example, the Ford Government is not even ensuring that the online platforms that each school board and each school uses to hold virtual classes are fully accessible to students, teachers and parents with disabilities, or even to track which of these platforms are being used. The Government has not announced any plan to fix the significant accessibility barriers in the online learning resources that the Government itself provides to teachers, parents and school boards on its Learn at Home website, such as the TVO online resources that have a series of accessibility problems. It was the AODA Alliance that earlier exposed these accessibility problems.

To help frontline teachers and parents of students with disabilities, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held a helpful May 4 online virtual town hall to share teaching strategies from experts in teaching students with disabilities, now viewed over 1,300 times. Yet despite our repeatedly asking, weve seen no indication that The Government has taken the simple step of sharing this resource with school boards and encouraging them to watch it, much less has the Government organized similar events to share the creative solutions that frontline teachers and parents are inventing all around Ontario.

The AODA alliance remains ready to assist the government on any and all of these issues.

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

Background Resources
The April 30, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, which sets out a list of concrete and constructive requests for action that the AODA Alliance presented to Ontarios Ministry of Education.
The May 4, 2020 virtual town hall on teaching students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.

The AODA Alliances education web page, that documents its efforts over the past decade to advocate for Ontario’s education system to become fully accessible to students with disabilities
The AODA Alliances COVID-19 web page, setting out our efforts to advocate for governments to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.
The earlier widely-watched April 7, 2020 virtual public forum by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition on the overall impact of the COVID-19 crisis on 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.




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