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


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

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE DETAILS

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

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

August 15, 2019

Introduction and Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In summary, this supplemental report concludes that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. The RHFAC adjudication process has serious flaws.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. The RHFAC Adjudication Process Has Serious Flaws

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

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

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

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

As well, the Student Guide states:

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

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

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

Elsewhere the Student guide states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Student Guide states:

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

The Student Guide also states:

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

In this connection, the Instructor’s Guide states:

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

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

The Instructor’s Guide also states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Instructor’s Guide includes:

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

It also states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That tells us nothing new.

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

The Student Guide states:

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

The Student Guide also states:

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

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

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,
Raymond Cho
Minister

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

Enclosure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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Ontario Should Move Faster on Tearing Down Barriers


By Star Editorial Board
Tues., Aug. 6, 2019

As accessibility advocates constantly warn, we’re all just one illness or accident away from becoming disabled.

And with 1,000 Ontario baby boomers turning 65 every day, more of us will be dealing with aging vision, hearing, hips and knees that will impact our quality of life and make our physical environment more difficult to navigate.

Ontario’s former lieutenant-governor, David Onley, reported that the province is nowhere near meeting its stated goal of full accessibility by 2025.

So it’s disappointing that six months after former lieutenant governor David Onley delivered a scathing report on the “soul crushing” barriers that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities face on a daily basis, the Ford government has yet to develop a clear way forward.

In March, Raymond Cho, Ontario’s minister for seniors and accessibility, finally authorized work to resume on three committees developing accessibility standards in the education and health care systems. But, so far, none of the committees have met and no dates have been set.

When NDP MPP Joel Harden introduced a motion in the legislature in May urging the government to implement Onley’s report, starting with the development of new accessibility standards for the built environment, Cho dismissed the idea as “red tape.”

Instead, Cho and the Ford government are trumpeting a two-year $1.3-million investment in a new accessibility certification program developed by the Rick Hansen Foundation. By certifying 250 public and private buildings, the government says it will raise awareness and encourage the development industry to make accessibility a priority.

We have no quarrel with the foundation’s quest to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities and to fund research into spinal cord injury and care.

But we are concerned about a program that relies on building professionals who have completed just two weeks of accessibility training to conduct the certifications. And we question why certifications will be given to entire buildings at a time when most accessibility advocates and seasoned consultants say few buildings are fully accessible.

For example, the foundation was recently criticized for awarding a “gold” rating to the Vancouver airport in 2018, even though the building includes so-called “hangout steps” for socializing, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs and are difficult to navigate for those with vision loss or difficulty with balance.

Far better for the foundation to give its stamp of approval on accessible design elements that are truly remarkable and worth highlighting as examples for others to follow.

But for the province to be financially backing such a scheme particularly when it was not among Onley’s 15 recommendations is questionable.

Shouldn’t scarce public funds be spent on implementing Onley’s detailed blueprint to ensure that Ontario meets its 2025 deadline for becoming fully accessible under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)?

As Onley rightly recommends, the province should be developing better provincial accessibility standards for public and private buildings and boosting enforcement of the few rules that currently exist.

And it should make accessibility courses mandatory in colleges and universities to ensure future architects and other design professionals get the training they need. Just as physicians are trained to “do no harm,” architects and design professionals should be educated to create no barriers.

It’s hard to believe that during one of the biggest building booms in the history of Ontario, there are so few accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code. Nothing prevents a developer from building acres of single family homes inaccessible to people with disabilities. And just 15 per cent of units in multi-residential buildings condominiums and apartments are required to be accessible.

Ottawa’s national housing strategy aims to ensure 20 per cent of homes created under the plan are accessible. And yet, according to the latest 2017 federal statistics, 22 per cent of Canadians report having a disability, a percentage that will only grow as the population ages.

Clearly, we are not addressing current need, let alone future demand. The Ford government must do better.

Correction – August 6, 2019: This article was edited from a previous version that misstated Joel Harden’s given name.

Original at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/08/06/ontario-should-move-faster-on-tearing-down-barriers.html



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A New Toronto Star Editorial Blasts the Ford Government for Moving So Slowly on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and Echoes the AODA Alliance’s Objections to Doug Ford’s Diverting 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Problematic Private Accessibility Certification Program


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

August 6, 2019

SUMMARY

The August 6, 2019 edition of the Toronto Star includes a powerful editorial. It slams the Doug Ford Government for spending 1.3 million dollars on the problematic private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), when the Government should act more strongly and swiftly to speed up the sluggish implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). That editorial can be found below.

We applaud the Toronto Star for this editorial. This is the 16th editorial that a media outlet has run in the past quarter century that endorses some aspect of our non-partisan accessibility campaign, spearheaded since 2005 by the AODA Alliance, and from 1994 to 2005 by its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

This new editorial follows on and builds on the excellent July 24, 2019 Toronto Star article which reported on some of our serious concerns that the AODA Alliance has with the Ford Government’s plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. In the coming days, we will have more to say about our concerns with public funding of that program. This will supplement our July 25, 2019 news release and report on this topic.

This editorial comes 188 days, or over six months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that was conducted by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has still announced no plan to implement that report. This is so, even though Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

It is time for Premier Doug Ford to suspend its controversial and trouble-ridden plan to divert public money to the RHF private accessibility certification program. It should instead promptly sit down with disability advocacy organizations like the AODA Alliance and other stakeholders, all together at one place and time, to quickly map out a far better plan of action.

There are two ways you can help: First, write a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star to support this editorial. Send your letter to the Star at: [email protected]

Second, join in our Dial Doug campaign. #DialDoug Phone or email Premier Doug Ford and ask him where is his plan to lead Ontario to be accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. You can find out what to do by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/join-in-our-new-dial-doug-campaign-a-grassroots-blitz-unveiled-today-to-get-the-doug-ford-government-to-make-ontario-open-for-over-1-9-million-ontarians-with-disabilities/

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

MORE DETAILS

The Toronto Star August 6, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/08/06/ontario-should-move-faster-on-tearing-down-barriers.html Editorial

Buildings must be for everyone

As accessibility advocates constantly warn, we’re all just one illness or accident away from becoming disabled.

And with 1,000 Ontario baby boomers turning 65 every day, more of us will be dealing with aging vision, hearing, hips and knees that will affect our quality of life and make our physical environment more difficult to navigate.

So it’s disappointing that six months after former lieutenant governor David Onley delivered a scathing report on the “soul crushing” barriers that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities face on a daily basis, the Ford government has yet to develop a clear way forward.

In March, Raymond Cho, Ontario’s minister for seniors and accessibility, finally authorized work to resume on three committees developing accessibility standards in the education and health-care systems.

But, so far, none of the committees have met and no dates have been set.

When NDP MPP Joe Harden introduced a motion in the legislature in May urging the government to implement Onley’s report, starting with the development of new accessibility standards for the built environment, Cho dismissed the idea as “red tape.”

Instead, Cho and the Ford government are trumpeting a two-year $1.3-million investment in a new accessibility certification program developed by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

By certifying 250 public and private buildings, the government says it will raise awareness and encourage the development industry to make accessibility a priority.

We have no quarrel with the foundation’s quest to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities and to fund research into spinal cord injury and care.

But we are concerned about a program that relies on building professionals who have completed just two weeks of accessibility training to conduct the certifications.

And we question why certifications will be given to entire buildings at a time when most accessibility advocates and seasoned consultants say few buildings are fully accessible.

For example, the foundation was recently criticized for awarding a “gold” rating to the Vancouver airport in 2018, even though the building includes so-called “hangout steps” for socializing, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs and are difficult to navigate for those with vision loss or difficulty with balance.

Far better for the foundation to give its stamp of approval on accessible design elements that are truly remarkable and worth highlighting as examples for others to follow.

But, for the province to be financially backing such a scheme – particularly when it was not among Onley’s 15 recommendations – is questionable.

Shouldn’t scarce public funds be spent on implementing Onley’s detailed blueprint to ensure that Ontario meets its 2025 deadline for becoming fully accessible under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

As Onley rightly recommends, the province should be developing better provincial accessibility standards for public and private buildings and boosting enforcement of the few rules that currently exist.

And it should make accessibility courses mandatory in colleges and universities to ensure future architects and other design professionals get the training they need.

Just as physicians are trained to “do no harm,” architects and design professionals should be educated to create no barriers.

It’s hard to believe that during one of the biggest building booms in the history of Ontario, there are so few accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Nothing prevents a developer from building acres of single family homes inaccessible to people with disabilities.

And just 15 per cent of units in multiresidential buildings – condominiums and apartments – are required to be accessible.

Ottawa’s national housing strategy aims to ensure 20 per cent of homes created under the plan are accessible. And yet, according to the latest 2017 federal statistics, 22 per cent of Canadians report having a disability, a percentage that will only grow as the population ages.

Clearly, we are not addressing current need, let alone future demand. The Ford government must do better.



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Great Conventional Media and Social Media Coverage Highlight Serious Problems with the Doug Ford Government Plan to Divert 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Controversial Private Accessibility Certification Program


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

July 29, 2019

SUMMARY

In both conventional media and social media, there has already been good coverage of the serious problems that we have publicly raised with the Ford Government plan to divert 1.3 million public dollars to the controversial Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) private accessibility certification program. This helps reinforce our call for the Government to set this plan aside. Instead of this inappropriate use of public money, the Doug Ford Government should act now to implement the helpful recommendations in the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Last week, the AODA Alliance made public its important July 3, 2019 report. It documents serious problems with the Government plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. Our July 3, 2019 report shows that it is an exaggeration, if not inaccurate, to call an RHF assessment of a building an “accessibility certification”. It is an exaggeration, if not inaccurate, to call someone who took a two-week course from the RHF on accessibility and who passed a multiple-choice test an “accessibility professional”. It is an exaggeration if not inaccurate for the Ford Government to claim that public funding for this will remove barriers against people with disabilities.

Our efforts have triggered quite a good early response. In this Update we highlight early attention that our concerns have gotten in conventional media and social media. We also let you know about a recent article in a BC news publication that reinforces our concerns. We also take a closer look at the first public statement to the media that the Doug Ford Government has made in response to our concerns. We show that the Ford Government’s responses do not eliminate our concerns at all.

In this Update we also identify the specific actions we want the Ford Government to now take. What we seek is rooted in the recommendations of the David Onley report, and in election commitments that Doug Ford made to the AODA Alliance and Ontarians with disabilities during last year’s election campaign.

Just before this Update was sent out, we received a letter from Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho. It responds to the questions about the plan to publicly fund the problematic RHF private accessibility certification program in our July 3, 2019 letter to the Accessibility Minister. We are hard at work analyzing this letter and will address it in an upcoming AODA Alliance Update.

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

MORE DETAILS

1. Great Conventional and Social Media Coverage

On July 24, 2019, the Toronto Star online ran a great article entitled “Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings.” This article is included below. It reported on several of the serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan to give $1.3 million to the RHF for this. Below we address the Government’s first public responses to our July 3, 2019 report.

As well, on Thursday, July 25, 2019, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed on the Kitchener 570 News Radio station, as part of the “Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke” show. CFRB News Talk 1010 Radio in Toronto did a news interview with him on July 26, 2019. We have not heard if it was used on the air. At 4:45 pm today, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is scheduled to be interviewed on CBC Radio 1 in Ottawa.

There has also been quite a positive and vocal reaction to our report on social media. We set out a sampling from Twitter, below, as well as a Facebook post by Optimal Consulting, an accessibility firm that operates in Ontario.

All the feedback we have seen or received from the disability community has echoed and reinforced our concerns about the Ford Government’s plan to publicly fund the troubling RHF private accessibility certification program for 250 as-yet unspecified buildings in Ontario. They have also broadened the discussion with new information. Beyond what they say that is set out in our July 3, 2019 report, we have not investigated or verified facts set out in those posts. We present them to show that there is real controversy swirling around the Government’s plan.

Here are two tweets as examples. They were both replies to the Toronto Star tweeting about its July 24, 2019 article on this topic, which we provide for you later in this Update:

“Liz Hay. @Kurdi @TorontoStar If a building with “hangout steps” can be certified gold under the RHF system, its understanding of #accessibility is hardly gold standard. #AODAfail”

“Thea Kurdi. @TorontoStar Hmmm… as someone who’s been doing #accessibility audits for 18 years we never only use CSA B651 standard, especially in provinces like ON with Ontario Building Code and #AODA . How does a certification that’s not looking at legislation help government & building owners? #a11y

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify its buildings. torstar.co/b6aY50vaL06”

One of the tweets set out later in this Update , and that arises from our July 3, 2019 report, brought to our attention an important article in the July 9, 2019 edition of the Delta Observer news publication from British Columbia. We also set that article out below. It reports on a human rights complaint that has been filed with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal against a BC restaurant. A customer with a disability alleges that the restaurant has accessibility problems that amount to a violation of their human rights. The article says the RHF had certified that venue as accessible.

This shows, as we have said, that just because the RHF “certifies” that a place is accessible does not mean that people with disabilities will experience that place as accessible. Moreover, the fact that the RHF “certified” a restaurant as accessible is no defence to a human rights complaint, if the complainant shows that they faced accessibility barriers. Calling this “accessibility certification” is therefore inaccurate.

2. A Closer Look Shows that the Ford Government’s First Official Response to the AODA Alliance Report Doesn’t Refute Our Serious Concerns

What has the Ford Government told the media in response to the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the Government’s plan to fund the RHF private accessibility certification program to assess 250 buildings in Ontario over the next two years? Twenty-two days before we made our report public, we sent it to the office of the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. We asked his office to let us know if there are any factual inaccuracies in our report. We explained that we have done our best to ensure that it is accurate, and don’t want to make any inaccurate statements in that report. We said we’d like to know before we make the report public, in case there is anything we need to correct. Knowing of our request, Minister Cho’s office and ministry has not suggested to us that there was anything inaccurate in the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report.

The Government’s first public response to the media was in the same Toronto Star July 24, 2019 article that was mentioned in the tweets above. We here take a closer look at that response, which is full of holes. The article’s key passage is:

“In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, theyll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHFs vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundations certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation, he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: certified gold if they score over 80 per cent, certified if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundations program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather its an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities, he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.”

The Government’s response to the Toronto Star does not disprove any of our serious concerns. We address seven points.

First, we have seen no indication that the Ford Government held any open competitive process before it decided whom it would engage to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. There are a number of accessibility experts in Ontario that have been doing this kind of accessibility advisory work for years. There is no indication whether any of them were considered, or even had a chance to bid on this project. We do not know why a Government, acting responsibly with public money, would choose the RHF assessors whose only required accessibility background comes from passing a multiple choice test after a two-week course. A public bidding process would be a more appropriate approach to the responsible use of public money.

On that issue, the Star article includes this Government response:

“The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.”

Yet that track record in BC is called into question by the problems with the RHF Gold rating for the Vancouver International Airport (addressed in our July 3, 2019 report), and the RHF’s rating a BC restaurant as “accessible” which is now being sued under BC’s human rights legislation for alleged accessibility problems. (as addressed in the news article set out later in this Update).

Second, according to the Toronto Star, an RHF spokesperson said that the RHF program is geared towards industry, not consumers. That will hardly be encouraging for Ontarians with disabilities. We need an increased focus on consumers with disabilities. Even if it is geared for industry, there is no way the public can know if the RHF assessments are useful since they are being kept secret, unless an organization wants its RHF report made public.

Third, the RHF spokesperson said that the RHF program is “an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities.” However, as our July 3, 2019 report highlighted, and as a tweet from Ontario-based accessibility consultant Thea Kurdi notes, it is not even clear that the RHF assessments will cover all accessibility requirements in Ontario provincial and municipal laws. Moreover, the “Code” that organizations must meet or exceed is the Ontario Human Rights Code, and not the inferior accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Fourth, according to the Toronto Star, Accessibility Minister Cho said that “CSA Group (i.e. the Canadian Standards Association) will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate.” However, the CSA is itself not a government agency. It is a private organization. To our knowledge, the CSA is not authorized under any law of which we are aware to conduct accessibility assessments of buildings in Ontario or to evaluate the correctness or consistency of assessments done by others. We have seen no proof that the CSA has any expertise in that field. It is certainly not an organization that we would advise a government to engage for that purpose.

Fifth, it is peculiar that the RHF told the Star that: When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation. This flies in the face of the fact that both the Ford Government and the RHF’s website emphasize the Rick Hansen Foundation’s name all over this process. In the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 news release (included in the appendix to our July 3, 2019 report), the Government states position that is quite contrary to what it here told the Star, where it says:

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

It would likely come as a troubling surprise to an organization that had paid for the RHF certification and for permission to post an RHF certification sign on their building, as well as to members of the public who see a “Rick Hansen Foundation” accessibility certification sign in front of a building, that the RHF did not actually certify the building’s accessibility. This is especially so since it appears that a bedrock foundation of the RHF private accessibility certification program, and the Government’s promotion of this plan, is its prominent focus on Rick Hansen’s name and notoriety.

Sixth, assuming that the Star quoted it accurately, the RHF statement to the Toronto Star contradicts its own website where the RHF spokesperson said:

“The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments”

The admission requirements to be able to take the RHF two-week course and to pass a multiple choice test to qualify to conduct these building accessibility assessments for the RHF do not require a person to have ” a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments”, as our July 3, 2019 report documents. According to the Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation, posted on the RHF website, the qualifications to take the RHF 2-week course are:

“Prerequisites include the following:
You have a diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program;
You have a Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in
a designated trade related to building construction;
You are an engineer or are eligible for registration as
an engineer;
You are an architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; OR You have a minimum of five years’ experience related to building construction.”

If we are right, then the RHF statement to the Star is inaccurate on a very important issue, namely whether a person needs to have any accessibility experience before taking the RHF course. As noted earlier, the Ford Government did not tell us that we got any of our facts wrong in our July 3, 2019 report.

Seventh and finally, the Government’s response does not disprove our serious concerns with the twin risk of conflicts of interest that are inherent in this plan. Our report explains that there are two conflict of interest risks:

1. The RHF can be asked to assess the building of a public or private organization that has given a donation to the RHF, or that offers to do so in the future, or that otherwise signals a willingness to do so. This creates a conflict of interest for the RHF.

2. The RHF’s accessibility assessors are freelancers. They get hired on an ad hoc basis by an organization to do an RHF accessibility assessment and to submit it to the RHF for its adjudication and approval. These assessors are paid by the job. No doubt, they want to get more jobs. As such, they have an incentive to give more favourable accessibility ratings, so that other organizations will also want to choose them for future certification jobs.

To answer these concerns, the Ford Government told the Star:

“”In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, theyll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.”

These Government statements do not eliminate any of our conflict of interest concerns. The fact that the assessors work as freelancers does not take away the fact that the RHF, which grants the ultimate award or certification in its own name, has a potential conflict of interest, in the case of organizations that may be past or potential future donors to the RHF.

As well, the fact that these assessors are paid by the job as freelancers is the very basis for the second conflict of interest concern listed above. By emphasizing that they are freelancers, the Minister’s statement simply reaffirms this problem.

3. What Should the Ford Government Do Now?

The Ford Government should take a long second look at this plan in light of our concerns, and should cancel it.

It’s time for the Ford Government instead to come up with a plan to implement the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government received the Onley report six months ago (or 179 days ago(. the Government has announced no plans to implement that report, even though over four months ago, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors said that David Onley did a “marvelous job”.

To create disability accessibility in the built environment, we call on the Ford Government to act on Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. That is where Premier Ford set out his 2018 election pledges on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

We need Ontario to enact new and modernized accessibility requirements to ensure that the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The current Ontario Building Code is woefully inadequate. The Onley Report recommended this action. The AODA Alliance has called for this action. On May 15, 2018, Doug Ford pledged:

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Codes accessibility provisions.”

We need Ontario to require that design professionals like architects be properly trained to design a built environment that is accessible to people with disabilities. The AODA Alliance has recommended this. So did the Onley Report. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford wrote:

“We need Ontarios design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

We also need the Ford Government to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The AODA Alliance has called for this. the Onley Report did the same. In the 2018 election, Doug Ford promised that there would be an end to mismanagement of public money.

Rather than taking these important actions, the Ford Government took the official position in the Legislature on May 30, 2019 that this is all just undesirable “red tape”. The Doug Ford Government proudly pointed to its alternative plan of providing public funding to the RHF private accessibility certification program.

In the face of this, last week, the AODA Alliance launched its new grassroots “Dial Doug” campaign. It is inviting the public to call or email the Premier at his office (416 325-1941 or [email protected]) to ask for his plan to make Ontario accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. Members of the public are already taking up this challenge.

4. Toronto Star Online July 24, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/17/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky, seen on hangout steps he says are inaccessible and difficult for people with vision loss, says its wrong for the provincial government to fund a private entity to assess its buildings for accessibility, noting the chosen entity recently gave a certified gold rating to a building with such steps.

Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings

By Gilbert Ngabo Staff Reporter

A group that advocates for better accessibility standards in Ontario is voicing concerns about the provinces new assessment plan.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance says the plan to conduct accessibility assessments of public and private buildings will remove few barriers and is bound to be marred by conflicts of interest.

In this springs budget, the province earmarked $1.3 million to conduct accessibility audits of some 250 public and private facilities over two years. The program will be conducted in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

In a report released this week, the AODA Alliance a non-partisan coalition advocating for the implementation of the provinces disability accessibility laws said the government should reconsider its decision.

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the RHF to certify its buildings.

You cant say, Hey, youre about to inspect my house, heres some cash. You shouldnt be allowed to do that, said Lepofsky, a lawyer and longtime advocate for people with disabilities. Thats a clear conflict of interest. Its actually quite troubling.

Using properly trained government inspectors would be a better choice, he said, as theyd be bound by the established laws of accessibility.

The alliance is also critical of the government for not consulting members of the disability community before unveiling the certification process. Lepofsky said theres risk of leaving out people whose disabilities are not related to mobility, vision or hearing.

In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, theyll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHFs vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundations certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation, he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: certified gold if they score over 80 per cent, certified if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundations program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather its an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities, he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.

But Lepofsky pointed to the Vancouver airport a RHF certified gold rated building in 2018 as a reason for caution.

In a RHG tweet announcing the rating, a photo shows hangout steps for socializing at the airport, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices and are difficult for people with vision loss or balance issues, he said.

Lepofsky, who raised the problem of hangout steps in Ryerson Universitys Student Learning Centre in an online video in 2017, questioned how a public building with hangout steps can deserve a gold rating for accessibility.

It is troubling that this gold rating signals to the Vancouver International Airport and to the public that having hangout steps is fine from an accessibility perspective, he said. It is also troubling that it signals to design professionals that they should feel free to include them in other buildings without worrying that it raises any accessibility concern.

The provincial government continues to draw criticism from accessibility advocacy communities and experts over AODA.

Earlier this year, former lieutenant-governor David Onley issued a report on the implementation of the 14-year-old act, in which he observed that people with disabilities are still facing soul-crushing barriers in Ontario. The goal of achieving the fully accessible Ontario by 2025 is nowhere in sight, Onleys report concluded.

This month, 21 disability organizations across Ontario sent a letter to the premier decrying a long-standing lack of leadership on the accessibility file and calling for a concrete plan of action on the recommendations from the Onley report.

The Doug Ford government in the past year has done absolutely nothing new to speed up and strengthen the implementation of the AODA. Absolutely nothing, Lepofsky said.

We think (the building certification plan) is just a big distraction rather than doing their job.

With files from Laurie Monsebraatan

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

5. The Delta Optimist July 8, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.delta-optimist.com/news/human-rights-tribunal-to-hear-disabled-customer-s-complaint-about-pat-quinn-s-1.23877536?fbclid=IwAR2YQfRum15xPmepCS7c10T4gO7lDhS-bJUfBimDOggHjSK5zzRiUBoB7mg BC Human Rights Tribunal to hear disabled customers complaint about Pat Quinns

An accessibility complaint against Pat Quinns Restaurant & Bar will go before the Human Rights Tribunal later this year.

The complaint has been filed by Tsawwassens Vince Miele who uses a wheelchair and has long been an advocate for people with disabilities.

According to his application, in February 2016 he made a reservation for four and informed the Tsawwassen Springs restaurant that one in the party uses a wheelchair.

When he arrived, he found his friends had been seated at a table in the lower area of the restaurant, but he was unable to independently join them because of three stairs. A server offered to help him down the stairs, but that was not feasible.

As a result, his friends were moved to the upper level of the restaurant. He said the experience attracted undue attention from other diners and that it was an incredibly embarrassing experience.

After the incident, Miele contacted the restaurant to complain about the lack of access to the lower floor.

I received less than a satisfactory response and in correspondence with others looked originally at a class-action lawsuit, Miele told the Optimist. The commissioner of the tribunal determined that a class-action complaint was a lot more complicated. They felt they would not accept it as a class-action, but continue it at the Human Rights Tribunal.

In January, an application was made to dismiss the complaint, but that was denied, so it will now be heard before the tribunal in November.

Miele said since he started the complaint process three years ago, the restaurant has made some improvements, including installing an automatic door opener from the parkade to the elevator and a door to enable access to the patio. As well, it now has a portable ramp, but Miele contends that does not meet the building code and a permanent ramp should be installed to meet all accessibility standards.

Were very surprised by all of this. Its a shame because it is a great restaurant and we love going there, he said. Im not in this to harm the reputation of the restaurant. I thought it was an oversight when I first wrote to them in good faith and thought it would be corrected.

Three years later we are still waiting. What are we to think? Im adamant about what I want and so are they and thats why we are heading to a hearing. To design something like this so poorly is quite surprising. It should be inclusive and accessible for all and its not.

Dave Symington also wrote to the Optimist about a similar experience he had at the restaurant in May.

Its surprising that a building this new still did not take into account that people with mobility-related disabilities might want to use the lower and main portion of the restaurant, he said. The building code specifically states that where there is a change in floor levels it must be made accessible, which means a permanent ramp or other means where an individual can independently access the area. If we have to make a fuss about sitting in an area that anyone else can, we are not being accommodated fairly.

Through its legal counsel, Tsawwassen Springs provided a written response to the Optimist.

We engaged the services of professional engineers and architects who created the building plans for the construction of Pat Quinns Restaurant & Bar along with the entire building in which the restaurant is situate, which plans were in full compliance with the then current B.C. Building Code including the accessibility requirements provided therein, said the response.

Those building plans were approved by the City of Delta, whose representatives issued all necessary permits. The building, including the restaurant, is Accessibility Certified by the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program.

We will not be providing any further comment while this matter is being considered by the tribunal.

6. Sampling of Recent Tweets

Liz Hay. @tkurdi @TorontoStar If a building with “hangout steps” can be certified gold under the RHF system, its understanding of #accessibility is hardly gold standard. #AODAfail

J E Sleeth. @DavidLepofsky @fordnation @HonDavidOnley Excellent article @TorontoStar re. #aoda #ford giving $ 2 @RickHansenFdn which is not bona fide #accessibility nor a means 2 have private sector be #openforbusiness to #peopleofallabilities it’s not just the #wheelchair

Joel Harden. $1.3 million for accessibility audits will not rid Ontario of the “soul-crushing” barriers that exist. We need immediate action to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025, not meager investments. #onpoli #AODA https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html thestar.com/news/gta/2019/ Twitter Web App

Allen Mankewich. This thread highlights concerns with the RHF’s Accessibility Certification Program and reveals a lot of what I’m hearing in private conversations. Thanks @mssinenomine for compiling the thread, and thanks @DavidLepofsky for releasing a report exposing issues with this program. https://twitter.com/mssinenomine/status/1154420373187751936 twitter.com/mssinenomine/s

Michelle Sanders. #Ontario to allocate $1.3 million to #accessibility audits in partnership with @RickHansenFdn . Accessibility Certification requirements not available to the public + not based on public consult. What are we doing?? @fordnation @aodaalliance @AODAontario https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html thestar.com/news/gta/2019/ Twitter for iPhone

Micaela Evans A case is heading to the BC Human Rights Tribunal soon that touches on these important issues of the certification https://twitter.com/micievans13/status/1154622550682456064?s=20

Gabrielle Peters The building is accessibility certified by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. Check out the @aodaalliance report at the top of this thread detailing this wasteful use of public money and their “Dial Doug” campaign

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. Trust the Doug Ford government to come up with a way to look like it’s doing something about accessibility when all its doing is spending money on a private foundation to ensure it makes the government look like it’s doing something. Ontario taxpayers deserve better. #onpoli
Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. Unlike the government this private foundation has no obligation to make anything public. Ontarians won’t know which buildings are rated, or how they’re rated. The Ford gov will release results as it sees fit. There is no enforcement for buildings that fail. This fails us all.
While slashing education and health care the Doug Ford government is paying a private foundation 1.3 million to rate 250 buildings. That’s $5,200 per building. Government inspectors already employed could do this. Is this an attempt to ensure that these buildings pass?

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. To work as a building accessibility certfier for RHF all you have to do is take a two week course and pass a multiple choice test. Then you’re fully trained to certify every single building you see as accessible or accessible enough for Doug Ford’s purposes. Right. #Accessibilty
Further to the detailed work of BC’s @mssinenomine Ontario disability activists also reject this ridiculously expensive private accessibility certification company that essentially does nothing but make itself money. twitter.com/DavidLepofsky/

Thea Kurdi. To move the needle on #accessibility , enforce existing laws but face reality we need to radically rewrite building codes. Older buildings need audits using detailed requ’ts from several standards to get even close to Human Rights. After renos *maybe then ready for celebration.

Thea Kurdi. My career has been focused on trying to remove barriers people with disabilities unjustly face in built environments. I wish we were ready for whole building certification by now, but current standard practice & building codes don’t create accessible places. Love encouraging…

…and celebrating progress but at best we are only ready to celebrate features. Areas of most progress? Bathrooms, service desks, parking, signage, but rarely more than minimum, & not what we’ve known for decades is needed. #Education is far more valuable than certification.

Thea Kurdi. …this report from @aodaalliance raises many reasonable questions. And for those who don’t know much about #accessibility in buildings I understand wishing one national standard, like the CSA B651, would cover everything. Sadly, it does not. Why? Read: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-insider-secrets-whats-stopping-full-inclusion-design-thea-kurdi/ linkedin.com/pulse/top-insi

People have been asking what I think of new RHF certification program. I can see why business & government are attracted to what looks like an easy solution to a complex problem that they want to solve. I can see why people like the idea of celebrating through recognition. But… twitter.com/DavidLepofsky/
Thea Kurdi. @TorontoStar Hmmm… as someone who’s been doing #accessibility audits for 18 years we never only use CSA B651 standard, especially in provinces like ON with Ontario Building Code and #AODA . How does a certification that’s not looking at legislation help government & building owners? #a11y

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify its buildings. torstar.co/b6aY50vaL06

7. Facebook Post by Optimal Consultants, an Ontario-Based Accessibility Consulting Firm

Originally posted at https://www.facebook.com/93712137122/posts/10156628031122123/

(Note: The AODA Alliance has not investigated or verified any statements in this post)

Please read my article in Linked In and in Facebook yesterday about the @RickHansen certification system being flawed. This includes “auditors” who have no formal education in the areas of ergonomics, human factors, psychology or design. As mentioned yesterday we are aware of 1 very important building in Meadowvale Ontario that was deemed by RHF to be accessible and received an award (which is clearly displayed in the building owners website – (note the building is owned by and managed by a real estate company. The certification and award were not in any way pursued by the FI business who leases the building). The two formal audits conducted by Optimal Performance Consultants and paid for by the FI in the building found the building to not meet even basic #OntarioBuildingCode #BarrierFreeDesign let alone provide accessibility for people of ALL abilities. Remember, accessible and inclusive design is NOT just about the #Wheelchair We stand by our University educated, experienced and professional Auditors at Optimal Performance Consultants. Optimizing human performance through the built environment for 30 years. [email protected]





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Advocates Slam Ontario Plan to Rate Accessibility of Buildings


By Gilbert NgaboStaff Reporter
Wed., July 24, 2019

A group that advocates for better accessibility standards in Ontario is voicing concerns about the province’s new assessment plan.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance says the plan to conduct accessibility assessments of public and private buildings will remove few barriers and is bound to be marred by conflicts of interest.

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky, seen on hangout steps he says are inaccessible and difficult for people with vision loss, says it’s wrong for the provincial government to fund a private entity to assess its buildings for accessibility, noting the chosen entity recently gave a “certified gold” rating to a building with such steps.

In this spring’s budget, the province earmarked $1.3 million to conduct accessibility audits of some 250 public and private facilities over two years. The program will be conducted in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

In a report released this week, the AODA Alliance a non-partisan coalition advocating for the implementation of the province’s disability accessibility laws said the government should reconsider its decision.

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the RHF to certify its buildings.

“You can’t say, ‘Hey, you’re about to inspect my house, here’s some cash.’ You shouldn’t be allowed to do that,” said Lepofsky, a lawyer and longtime advocate for people with disabilities. “That’s a clear conflict of interest. It’s actually quite troubling.”

Using properly trained government inspectors would be a better choice, he said, as they’d be bound by the established laws of accessibility.

The alliance is also critical of the government for not consulting members of the disability community before unveiling the certification process. Lepofsky said there’s risk of leaving out people whose disabilities are not related to mobility, vision or hearing.

In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, they’ll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHF’s vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundation’s certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

“When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation,” he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: “certified gold” if they score over 80 per cent, “certified” if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundation’s program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

“The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather it’s an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities,” he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.

But Lepofsky pointed to the Vancouver airport a RHF “certified gold” rated building in 2018 as a reason for caution.

In a RHG tweet announcing the rating, a photo shows “hangout steps” for socializing at the airport, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices and are difficult for people with vision loss or balance issues, he said.

Lepofsky, who raised the problem of hangout steps in Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre in an online video in 2017, questioned how a public building with hangout steps can deserve a gold rating for accessibility.

“It is troubling that this gold rating signals to the Vancouver International Airport and to the public that having hangout steps is fine from an accessibility perspective,” he said. “It is also troubling that it signals to design professionals that they should feel free to include them in other buildings without worrying that it raises any accessibility concern.”

The provincial government continues to draw criticism from accessibility advocacy communities and experts over AODA.

Earlier this year, former lieutenant-governor David Onley issued a report on the implementation of the 14-year-old act, in which he observed that people with disabilities are still facing “soul-crushing” barriers in Ontario. The goal of achieving the fully accessible Ontario by 2025 is “nowhere in sight,” Onley’s report concluded.

This month, 21 disability organizations across Ontario sent a letter to the premier decrying a long-standing lack of leadership on the accessibility file and calling for a concrete plan of action on the recommendations from the Onley report.

“The Doug Ford government in the past year has done absolutely nothing new to speed up and strengthen the implementation of the AODA. Absolutely nothing,” Lepofsky said.

“We think (the building certification plan) is just a big distraction rather than doing their job.”

With files from Laurie Monsebraatan

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

Original at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html



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Doug Ford’s Only New Action in Over One Year in Office to Improve Accessibility for Over 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities is Riddled with Problems and Cries Out for a Serious Re-Think, According to a Disability Coalition’s Report Made Public Today


[author admin]
ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 25, 2019 Toronto: The centerpiece of the Doug Ford Government’s new strategy to remove the many barriers impeding over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities is riddled with serious problems and cries out for a serious re-think, according to a detailed report researched by the non-partisan AODA Alliance, and made public today (Report set out below). The Ford Government’s April Budget announced the only new measure on disability accessibility in its first year in office, — paying the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) 1.3 million dollars for RHF to privately audit 250 as-yet unidentified public and private sector buildings over two years, on the Government’s behalf.

Among many problems, this new report reveals:

* Ford’s Government says this plan will remove barriers facing people with disabilities. Yet the report reveals that the plan need not result in any barriers ever being removed.

* Instead of using properly trained Government inspectors, Ford’s plan uses private individuals who may have no prior experience with the highly technical area of building accessibility, and who just took a two-week course and passed a multiple choice exam. To acquire the needed expertise, it takes much more training on accessibility than a 2-week course.

* There are serious concerns with RHF’s private standard or yardstick to assess a building’s accessibility. For example, there is a real risk of leaving out people whose disabilities are not related to mobility, vision or hearing.

* There is a risk of conflict of interest if the RHF inspects an organization that has given or may give the RHF a charitable donation. It would be inexcusable for an organization to give money to a Government inspector.

* These private free-lance accessibility assessors appear to have a troubling incentive to give higher accessibility ratings, in hopes of getting more work. An organization chooses the RHF-trained free-lance assessor who will inspect their building. Assessors are paid by the job.

*Even though the taxpayer will fund these inspections, the public will have no right to know the inspection’s results, unless an organization agrees to make its results public.

In a letter set out below and made public today, the AODA Alliance has pressed the Ford Government for important details about its plan. The answers to questions like these are critical to accountability in the use of public money: Which buildings will be inspected? Who chooses them? The Ford Government? The RHF? What assessment tools or checklists and scoring scale will be used? What is the specific curriculum used in the RHF’s two-week training course for assessors?

“Premier Ford should set aside his problem-ridden plan to divert scarce public money into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification. Doug Ford should instead use this money to do his job, to beef up the sluggish implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s Disabilities Act,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which spearheads the campaign to get the Government to effectively implement Ontario’s 2005 accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). “We recently gave Doug Ford’s Government a failing F grade for its efforts on making Ontario accessible to people with disabilities during its first year in office.”

Fully 175 days ago, on January 31, 2019, the Ford Government received a blistering report from the Independent Review of the Government’s implementation of the Disabilities Act, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Onley Report found that Ontario is a province full of soul-crushing barriers facing people with disabilities. It called for strong new Government action and leadership on this issue. It did not recommend pouring public money into a private accessibility certification process, like the RHF’s one. Yet the Ford Government has still not released a plan to implement the Onley Report, even though Accessibility Minister, Raymond Cho, told the Legislature that Onley did a “marvelous job.”

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

Attachment – AODA Alliance Report Made Public Today

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

A Problematic Government Strategy on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and An Inappropriate Use of Public Money
The AODA Alliance Report on the Ontario Government’s Proposal to Spend Public Money on the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Process

July 3, 2019

1. Introduction and Summary

a) What Is This Report About?

In the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it plans to spend 1.3 million dollars on having the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) conduct a private accessibility certification process on some 250 buildings in the public and/or private sector in Ontario over the next two years. The Ford Government has said that the RHF will be conducting these accessibility assessments for “us” i.e. the Ontario Government. On May 29, 2019, Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said this in the Legislature:

“Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.”

The Government provided a few more details about this plan in its May 23, 2019 public posting online. (The relevant April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget announcement and the Government’s May 23, 2019 supplementary announcement are set out in this report’s appendix.)

This is a report of the AODA Alliance’s detailed analysis of this plan, based on public information available to us. The AODA Alliances a non-partisan grassroots disability coalition which advocates for the effective implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s landmark 2005 disability accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act(AODA). Learn more about the AODA Alliance by visiting www.aodaalliance.org

This report identifies several serious concerns with the Government’s plan to divert public money into the RHF private accessibility certification process. The Ford Government should address all of these concerns and issues before spending any public money on this. Preferably, the Government should reconsider its decision to divert scarce public funds to this initiative. Those funds could be far better directed at the implementation and enforcement of the AODA.

This report identifies key questions that should be central to proper Government decision-making in connection with the idea of publicly funding this activity by the RHF. We have sent a letter to the Ontario minister responsible for this initiative, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho, requesting answers to key questions. That letter is included in this report’s appendix.

The RHF is a charitable foundation, headed by Rick Hansen. Under the RHF private accessibility certification process, an organization can pay for an assessment of its building’s accessibility by assessors trained via the Foundation.

In 2015 to 2016, Ontario’s previous Government under Premier Kathleen Wynne flirted with the idea of publicly funding a private accessibility certification process in Ontario. After careful consideration, the AODA Alliance took a principled position in opposition to that idea in early 2016. Despite this, the Wynne Government announced that it planned to proceed with such a plan.

In September 2016, the Accessibility Minister was tasked with making this happen, despite our objections. The former Ontario Government ultimately dropped the idea. It never announced this, or publicly stated why it evidently must have decided not to proceed.

The Ford Government did not announce that it was considering the option of publicly funding the RHF private accessibility certification process, or conduct a public consultation on whether this would be a good idea, before it made its April 11, 2019 Budget announcement of 1.3 million dollars for this. As documented in the June 21, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, funding this RHF process is the only new initiative on disability accessibility that the Ford Government has announced in its first year in office.

b) Summary of Concerns with the RHF Private Accessibility Certification Process

We reiterated in the May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update the following major reasons why we have opposed any public funding for a private accessibility certification process, no matter which organization conducts it, because:

“a) A private accessibility certification in reality certifies nothing. It provides no defence to enforcement proceedings under the AODA, the Ontario Building Code, a municipal bylaw, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

b) A private accessibility certification process lacks an assurance of public accountability.

c) A private certification of accessibility can be misleading to the public, including to people with disabilities.

d) The Government should not be subsidizing one accessibility consultant over another.

e) Spending public money on a private accessibility certification process is not a priority for efforts on accessibility in Ontario or a responsible use of public money.

f) The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford Government has not yet agreed to take, but it did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.”

We are not alone in our concern about the idea of a private accessibility certification process. See for example, the online article, set out in this report’s appendix, entitled: “If any company in US or Canada promises Certification in Accessible Audits BUYER BEWARE”.

In addition to the foregoing concerns, this report describes serious concerns that arise from the specifics of the RHF private accessibility certification process which the Ford Government is proposing to publicly finance. In summary, these concerns include the following:

1. Despite the Ford Government’s claims, the Government’s funding of the RHF private accessibility certification process won’t ensure that any disability barriers are ever removed.

2. There is no assurance that the RHF uses a sufficient standard or measure for assessing a building’s accessibility.

3. RHF accessibility certification appears to only or primarily focus on people with physical disabilities, not people with all kinds of disabilities.

4. Once an RHF accessibility certification is granted, the Ford Government has not announced any requirement that it ever be renewed.

5. It is wrong that people must pay a hefty fee to get access to the CSA standard that the RHF says it draws on to assess a building’s accessibility.

6. There are serious concerns about the required qualifications of the persons who can conduct the RHF accessibility assessments and about the RHF calling them “accessibility professionals”.

7. There is a need for effective protection against The RHF being in a conflict of interest with organizations it assesses for accessibility.

8. There are concerns with the RHF’s accessibility adjudication process and the sufficiency of the required qualifications of RHF accessibility adjudicators.

9. There is no indication of which buildings will be checked for accessibility, whether they will be chosen by the Government, the RHF or both and whether the selection process will be fair and open.

10. The public has no right to see the results, findings or recommendations that the RHF provides to an organization whose building was assessed at the taxpayer’s expense.

11. There is no indication if the Ford Government plans to pay all or just part of the RHF fee for its accessibility assessment, even for a highly profitable private business that needs no Government subsidy.

12. The Ford Government appears to create an incorrect impression that it is funding the launch of the RHF private accessibility certification process in Ontario.

13. An open competitive bidding process should precede any such public funding of the RHF.

14. There are related concerns with the RHF process for certifying an entire design firm as champions of accessible design.

15. The RHF gave its first gold accessibility certification to the Vancouver International Airport despite accessibility concerns there.

16. The Ford Government’s action here flies in the face of election promises Doug Ford made to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance.

c) Why This Report Matters

On June 21, 2019, the AODA Alliance announced that it gave the Ford Government a failing “F” grade for its actions in its first year in office towards leading Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. That is the deadline which the AODA sets. The only new measure that the Ford Government has announced in its first year in office to speed up Ontario’s progress to reach the goal of full accessibility by 2025 has been its announcement of public funding for the RHF private accessibility certification process, analyzed in this report.

The AODA Alliance has called on the Government to instead announce a plan to implement the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley submitted to the Government on January 31, 2019. That should include, among other things, creating a comprehensive enforceable Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, strengthening AODA enforcement, and ensuring that design professionals are properly trained on accessibility for people with disabilities.

To date, the Ford Government has not announced a plan to implement the Onley Report. To the contrary, on May 30, 2019, the Ford Government used its majority in the Legislature to defeat a motion, presented by NDP MPP Joel Harden, that had called on the Government to develop a plan to implement the Onley Report. In their speeches in opposition to that motion, Conservative MPPs pointed instead to the Government’s plan to direct public money to the RHF private accessibility certification process.

Some have sought to analogize between the RHF private accessibility certification process and the LEEDS process for assessing buildings for energy conservation. This is not a correct analogy in this context. The question we raise is not whether the RHF or other organizations should be allowed to offer a private accessibility certification process. The question here presented is whether the Ford Government should be spending scarce public money on the RHF process. As far as we know, the Ford Government does not use public money to subsidize organizations to have a LEEDS assessment of their buildings.

In raising this report’s concerns and questions, we acknowledge the work of the RHF and of Mr. Hansen, and their strong interest in inclusion for people with disabilities.

2. Despite the Ford Government’s Claims, the Government’s funding of the RHF Private Accessibility Certification Process Won’t ensure that Any Disability Barriers are Ever Removed

The Ford Government has said that its channelling 1.3 million dollars of the taxpayers’ money into the RHF private accessibility certification process will remove barriers facing Ontarians with disabilities. Yet there is no assurance that any barriers in any building or service will ever be removed. An organization whose building that RHF assesses need not ever make any changes to improve its accessibility before or after an RHF assessment.

The Doug Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 news release, set out below, incorrectly states in its headline:

“Taking Action to Remove Barriers for People with Disabilities Ontario making buildings more accessible”.

That news release also inaccurately states:

“Ontario is focusing on what matters most to people with disabilities and seniors by helping to remove barriers in buildings and making communities more accessible.”

It is implicit in the Government’s announcement and the overall design of the RHF private accessibility certification process and explicit on the RHF website that an organization will only be subject to an RHF accessibility inspection if it voluntarily agrees to that inspection. It is obvious that the only organizations that will take part in this are ones who believe their building is already quite accessible. Why would an organization ever ask for an RHF certification if its building has obvious accessibility problems?

If we are correct in this, then this public expenditure will largely if not totally focus on assessing the accessibility of buildings that are likely the least problematic for Ontarians with disabilities. This too means that it cannot be expected that this will materially contribute to making material progress towards accessibility.

Under this announcement, the RHF will look at some 250 buildings over two years, or 125 buildings per year. That is a tiny drop in the bucket for all of Ontario. It is not a measure that the Government can claim to be a major centerpiece of a serious effort to speed up progress towards achieving an accessible Ontario by 2025.

3. There is No Assurance that the RHF Uses a Sufficient Standard or Measure for Assessing a Building’s Accessibility

An assessment of a building’s accessibility must use a specific, detailed accessibility standard that is strong and effective, that is consistently employed, and that ensures that the building is barrier-free for people with any kind of disability. There is no assurance that the RHF private accessibility certification process uses such a standard. There are causes for concern.

The public, including people with disabilities, have no control over the measure of accessibility that the RHF chooses to use. Instead, Ontario needs a comprehensive enforceable Built Environment Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA, rather than a private accessibility standard that an unelected, private charitable foundation chooses.

The RHF’s website and its Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation states that its accessibility assessments are “based upon CSA B651 standards”, produced by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). This refers to a voluntary accessibility standard that the CSA has established. The CSA is a private organization, not a publicly-accountable government agency.

It is not clear from that statement what precise accessibility standard the RHF assessors use. If it is simply “based on” that CSA accessibility standard, it is not clear whether the RHF assessors use the entirety of that CSA standard, or only parts of it.

If RHF assessors only use part of that voluntary CSA standard, we and the public need to know which parts. We need to know who has decided which parts of that accessibility standard to use, and why others were left out. We do not know if the RHF gives its assessors some discretion over which parts of that CSA accessibility standard to use, or what measures of compliance with an element of that standard the RHF uses.

Making this situation worse, the Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation says the RHF measures the “meaningful access” of a building. It uses the short form RHFAC to refer to the RHF accessibility certification. The RHF Guide states:

“RHFAC is the first program of its kind to:

Measure a Sites level of meaningful access based on CSA Group’s B651 standard, which considers the holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities;”

That RHF Guide makes it clear that the RHF does not assess all access issues, but it does not say which access issues it leaves out. The Guide states:

“RHFAC is intended to measure the overall level of meaningful access of the built environment. The rating is not intended as a detailed assessment of all access issues.”

Before diverting any public money into the RHF accessibility certification process, the Doug Ford Government should make it clear for the public what specific accessibility standard the RHF is using on the Government’s behalf. The Ford Government should also satisfy itself and the public that the measure of accessibility that the RHF uses is strong enough to fulfil the needs of Ontarians with disabilities. This is especially important since, as noted earlier, Accessibility Minister Cho told the Legislature that these accessibility assessments are being done for “us” i.e. for the Government. A standard, rating system or measure of accessibility is not sufficient for Ontarians with disabilities just because it happens to be the one that the RHF uses.

We and the public do not know what the RHF considers “meaningful access” to be “meaningful access” is a very slippery term. We have not previously encountered it in our accessibility advocacy efforts.

We are concerned that “meaningful access” seems to be a vehicle for diluting how much actual accessibility must be present to pass an RHF assessment. The measure should be a building’s accessibility pure and simple, not its “meaningful” accessibility.

Key aspects of this must be clarified now, and well in advance of taking any steps to implement this publicly-funded strategy, for the benefit of the public, of people with disabilities and of organizations that might wish to consider taking part in the RHF’s accessibility assessment. Even before that, the Doug Ford Government needs to know and be satisfied by the answers to important questions such as these (which we have sent to the Ford Government) before it can properly decide whether to divert any public money into this RHF program.

What does the RHF mean by “meaningful access”? How much must a building comply with the CSA voluntary built environment accessibility standard to meet this? What kinds of barriers are included? Which ones are left out? How many barriers can remain in a building for the RHF to decide that it nevertheless provides meaningful access?

Who decides if the access is meaningful? Is it the individual assessor? What assurance is there in the RHF’s recruitment, qualifications and training of its assessors that this will be consistently done, and will not vary arbitrarily from assessor to assessor?

How is meaningful access scored on a barrier-by-barrier basis? Is each bathroom assessed separately, with a score attached to it, or are the scores for all bathrooms averaged? What are the scoring instructions and scales that the RHF gives to its assessors?

Has the RHF sufficiently tested out its assessment training and forms to see if different assessors or adjudicators reach different conclusions on the same building or features within that building?

Does the RHF consider that a building has “meaningful access” if a person using a wheelchair can get in and around it, even if there is so much glare in the building that someone with low vision has real trouble navigating inside the building? Does the building have meaningful access if there is Braille on elevator buttons, but an inaccessible series of electronic kiosks? Does it have meaningful access if the noise level and glare in the building create serious impediments for some people with autism?

We do not know if the CSA B651 voluntary built environment accessibility standard, if fully used without exception, is itself sufficient to ensure that it effectively addresses the barriers facing people with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those using wheelchairs. We do not know if the CSA B651 voluntary built environment accessibility standard or the RHF itself has incorporated into its accessibility standard all the accessibility requirements in force in Ontario for the built environment under the AODA, in the Ontario Building Code (inadequate as they are), and in Ontario municipal building bylaws. We certainly don’t know if the CSA accessibility standard meets all the requirements for accessibility that an organization must fulfil in its built environment to fulfil its duties to people with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and in the case of public sector organizations, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If not, a building could get an RHF “gold” certification even though it might not comply with Ontario’s mandatory accessibility laws, insufficient as those laws may now be.

The RHF’s slippery “meaningful access” measure makes the RHF the sole and potentially arbitrary judge of what amount of accessibility people with disabilities need. How much discretion does the RHF give to each of its assessors to decide how much accessibility amounts to “meaningful access”? If assessors have any discretion over this, that can make the RHF accessibility certification process even more slippery and arbitrary.

This all risks lowering the bar for the accessibility of the built environment. It could be as low as the RHF, or a specific RHF assessor, decides it should be in specific cases. We, and Ontarians with disabilities generally, have no control and no say. That is discordant with the AODA’s letter and spirit. If anything, we need the accessibility bar for the built environment in Ontario to be raised. We cannot risk having it lowered. This is all the more important since the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards are now so deficient in the area of the accessibility of the built environment.

This is more troubling in light of the fact that the RHF considers its accessibility rating to be meeting the “minimum” and its gold rating to go beyond that minimum, according to a May 2, 2019 report in the Richmond News. Rick Hansen is quoted as follows, referring to accessibility ratings that the RHF has given to some organizations in Richmond BC:

“Those ratings are really important because they give visibility to owners, their employees and their customers of how accessible they are and theyre recognized and certified for meeting the minimum standard, Hansen said.

And theyre being actively spotlighted when theyve gone beyond minimum to a gold level of accessibility.”

What does the RHF consider to be the “minimum” when it comes to accessibility? The Guide to RFHAC Professional Designation refers to going beyond “code”, which we gather refers to building code requirements. Those vary from province to province. The RHF Guide states, among other things, as being the duties of an RFHAC accessibility professional:

” Identifying positive accessibility features and determining where meaningful access exceeds minimum code requirements”

Unless we can know for certain what the RHF accessibility standard is that its assessors and adjudicators are using, we cannot be assured that the buildings that the RHF rates as “accessible” truly are accessible, and that those which it rates as “gold” have gone beyond that minimum.

We have seen nothing from the RHF that assures us that its “minimum” is the proper minimum that the Ontario Government should be using. Is the “minimum” that the RHF considers simply the inadequate requirements of the Ontario Building Code? That would fall below the higher and paramount accessibility requirements that the Ontario Human Rights Code and, in the case of the public sector, the Charter of Rights each imposes. Unless an accessibility certification is given to a building which meets or exceeds the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and, where applicable, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is not meeting or exceeding a proper “minimum”.

Because the Ontario Government has chosen to use the RHF private accessibility certification process and to publicly fund it in Ontario, and because the Government said that the RHF is certifying those buildings for “us” (i.e. for the Ontario Government), it has in effect chosen whatever accessibility standard the RHF uses as a de facto private built environment accessibility standard or measure for Ontario. the Ford Government has done so without following any of the safeguards in the AODA for creating an accessibility standard and without making any of the AODA’s enforcement regime available to people with disabilities. This operates in practice as an end-run around the AODA for which Ontarians with disabilities campaigned so hard for a decade from 1994 to 2005, and for which the Legislature, including the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party unanimously voted in 2005.

Before deciding to take this step, the Ontario Government did not consult the AODA Alliance and the broader disability community on the standard to be used by the RHF private accessibility certification process, or on anything to do with its April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget announcement on this issue. Yet central to the AODA’s process for setting accessibility standards is that the disability community is to play a key role by being consulted in the process of developing that standard. This violates the promises that Doug Ford made to Ontarians with disabilities in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, where he set out his party’s 2018 election commitments on disability accessibility issues. He wrote:

a) “This is why were disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Codes accessibility provisions. We need Ontarios design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

b) “Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.”

4. RHF Accessibility Certification Appears to Only or Primarily Focus on People with Physical Disabilities, Not People with All Kinds of Disability

Built environment barriers can impede people with a very wide range of different kinds of disabilities, not only those with physical disabilities. It is important that any accessibility certification that the Ontario Government helps finance does not leave out any people with disabilities, or create a hierarchy among different disabilities.

It is especially important to ensure that the RHF accessibility assessments don’t exclusively or predominantly focus on people with physical or mobility disabilities. We have cause for concern in this context, even though the RHF at times has stated that its accessibility certification process aims at people of all abilities. According to the Guide for RHFAC Professional Designation for its accessibility assessors, available on the RHF website, its private accessibility certification process only focuses on the needs of people with physical disabilities. It states:

” The Survey is designed to measure the meaningful access of a variety of settings in the built environment for people with physical disabilities.”

The RHF website states categorically that its accessibility rating and certification process only deals with disabilities affecting mobility, vision and hearing, and nothing more. The RHF frequently asked questions includes this statement (referring to the RHF accessibility certification process);

“It measures the level of meaningful access beyond building code, and is based upon the holistic user experience of people with varying disabilities affecting their mobility, vision, and hearing.”

5. Once an RHF Certification is Granted, the Ford Government Has Not Announced Any Requirement that It Ever Be renewed

From what we can tell, it appears that once an organization’s building receives an RHF accessibility certification, and the requisite fees are paid to the RHF, the organization can indefinitely publicly announce and display its accessibility certification. We have seen no indication that this certification is time-limited. That means that the organization can continue to use that designation into the indefinite future, even if the organization later makes changes to the building or its contents that create new and entirely avoidable disability barriers. We have written the Ontario Government to find out if the Government intends to require a time limitation for such certifications.

6. It is Wrong that People Must Pay a Hefty Fee to Get Access to the CSA Standard that the RHF Says It Draws on to Assess a Building’s Accessibility

We, the public, and organizations that might wish to take part in this certification process, evidently must pay a hefty $125 to see the CSA B651 voluntary building accessibility standard. , according to the CSA website. We do not know if CSA has ensured that this documentation is in an accessible format. In contrast, all accessibility standards enacted under the AODA are publicly available for free.

The public should not have to pay to get a copy of this accessibility standard, especially if public money is being diverted into the RHF private accessibility certification process. We should be able to see that standard for free, to see if it is sufficiently strong. It should also be freely available to help make this process publicly accountable. How can we know if a building that RHF certifies as “gold” for accessibility meets the accessibility expectations in the CSA standard if we cannot see that standard without paying the CSA $125.

As noted earlier, the CSA is a private organization. It does not have the public accountability of the Ontario Government when it enacts a statute or regulation or adopts a public policy. In contrast, if Ontario were to create a much-needed Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, it must be done through an open and consultative process.

7. There Are Serious Concerns About the Required Qualifications of the Persons Conducting the RHF Accessibility Assessments and About the RHF Calling Them “Accessibility Professionals”

It is important for anyone conducting an accessibility assessment of a building or of an organization to have sufficient background, training and expertise. This is especially so if they present themselves to the public as ” accessibility professionals”. We do not have that assurance in the case of the RHF accessibility certification process.

The RHF says that its accessibility assessments are done by “RHFAC accessibility professionals”. This is a professional designation which the RHF invented. Just because the RHF says that someone is an “RHFAC accessibility professional” does not mean that they are in fact an accessibility professional, or that they have sufficient training and expertise to assess, much less to certify, a building’s accessibility. The RHF’s use of this “professional” title appears to imbue these individuals with a mantle of authoritativeness, just as the RHF’s calling its assessments an “accessibility certification” gives it an aura of authoritativeness.

To become an RHFAC accessibility professional, a person must, at their own expense, take a two-week course that the RHF appears to have designed, and then pass a test which the RHF designed. A case study exercise is required.

This all presumes that the RHF has the required expertise in the fine details of accessibility of the built environment, as well as expertise in how to train and evaluate accessibility inspectors. It would be necessary for the RHF to demonstrate that it has this expertise.

Before channelling public funds into the RHF private accessibility certification process, the Ontario Government’s due diligence should require the RHF to demonstrate this. We have not seen any objective and reliable proof that the RHF has this expertise. The fact that the RHF has conducted public advocacy or education in the past on the importance of accessibility does not, of itself, demonstrate that it has all this required expertise. The fact that some other provincial governments have opted to direct public money into the RHF process does not of itself ensure that those governments each first undertook this important due diligence. The issues set out in this report combine to raise concerns over whether the RHF has that required expertise.

We do not know how anyone can become a “professional” in anything by taking a two-week course. We do not have access to the specifics of the curriculum that is taught in those two weeks, or the testing that is applied, or the evaluation results that must be achieved to pass that test. To pass that test, the person must pass a multiple-choice examination. In our view, a multiple-choice test has only a limited capacity to effectively measure a person’s accessibility expertise.

A person does not have to have any prior experience or expertise with the accessibility of the built environment to enroll to take the RHF course. For example, as long as a person has a Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction or has been involved in some kind of construction work for five years, they are qualified to take the course. The guide to RHFAC Professional Designation states:

“Prerequisites include the following:
You have a diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program;
You have a Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction; You are an engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer; You are an architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; OR
You have a minimum of five years’ experience related to building construction.”

It is our view that a two-week course is insufficient to make someone into an “accessibility professional”, especially if they had no prior expertise in the area of disability accessibility of the built environment before taking that course. They cannot learn in two weeks what other accessibility consultants have acquired in years of work experience in this field. Moreover, it is not clear to us that a person, taking that two-week course, will learn and must demonstrate detailed knowledge of all the accessibility requirements in the 247-page CSA standard which the RHF relies on, namely, CSA B651.

It is also essential to obtain detailed information on the credentials or qualifications of those who teach the course. Do those who teach this two-week course themselves have sufficient accessibility expertise, or are they simply delivering content which the RHF has designed for them to deliver?

The RHF course is offered at the premises of some colleges and universities. However, the fact that it is taught in a college or university building does not mean that it is an approved college or university level course, taught by a sufficiently qualified member of that college or university faculty, using a curriculum that meets that college’s or university’s curriculum standards. The RHF website can leave the impression that these courses are in fact college or university courses, where it states:

“To complete the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor training, please register directly with the educational institution offering the course.”

The designation of “professional” can reasonably be expected to give the public an expectation that the individual has recognized and demonstrated expertise in a field, and that the designation has been conferred by a professional body with the authority, experience and safeguards to properly do so, with the expected independent oversight of a professional self-governing body. We are not satisfied that the RHF is in a position to qualify people as “accessibility professionals”. It is not a self-governing professional body, that has been established as such under appropriate laws, with the proper safeguards that are typically built into such bodies in order to protect the public interest.

The fact that the Canadian Standards Association is involved in parts of the RHF accessibility certification process does not remedy this problem. We have seen no indication that the CSA is a self-governing professional licensing body with expertise in the training of accessibility consultants, assessors or certifiers.

Reinforcing these concerns, one need not even attend a course in person to get qualified by the RHF as an assessor. A person can take the two week course via an on-line course. The risk associated with an online course is that there is less chance to learn from other students in the course, and less chance for those delivering the course to observe students to see if they are fully attentive and effectively understanding and absorbing the materials.

Nothing in the Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation ensures that an assessor needs to have expert knowledge of the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions and/or of relevant AODA accessibility standards, and/or of related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario. We therefore do not know if an assessor would be free to give an organization’s building a positive rating for accessibility even if it is in direct violation of detailed accessibility legislation in Ontario.

This is also the case for accessibility requirements under the Ontario Human Rights Code and, in the case of public services, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We do not know if those taking this two-week RHF course get copies of the CSA B651 voluntary accessibility standard, as well as the built environment accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code, AODA accessibility standards, or applicable municipal bylaws in Ontario.

8. There is a Need for Effective Protection Against the RHF Being in a Conflict of Interest with Organizations it Assesses for Accessibility

It is important that any organization providing an accessibility “certification”, not have any actual or perceived conflicts of interest. This is especially so since, according to the Doug Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister, the RHF will be conducting these assessments on behalf of the Ontario Government.

A government auditor or inspector must be in an arms-length relationship from an organization that it audits. They cannot receive payments from an organization that they are going to audit, or have audited, and can have no hope or expectation that they might in future receive payments from that organization. The RHF is a charitable foundation. It solicits charitable donations for its activities. It is important to ensure that an organization, seeking an RHF accessibility assessment, has an arms-length relationship with the RHF, has not made any donations to the RHF and is not planning to do so.

We have not seen anything in the Ford Government’s announcements on this initiative showing that it has put in place open, transparent and accountable measures to ensure that there is no such actual or perceived conflict of interest. The Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation addresses the need for assessors not to have an individual conflict of interest, but not the need for the RHF itself to ensure that it has no conflicts of interest. That Guide states:

” Conflict of Interest: A designated RHFAC Professional shall not place themselves in a conflict of interest with their client or employer and must promptly disclose to the client, employer or RHF any situation where a business or personal interest might be construed as affecting the designated RHFAC Professionals objectivity or independence.”

It appears from the RHF website that the organization to be assessed gets to pick which RHF assessor will conduct their RHF assessment. The assessors that pass the RHFAC training are listed on a roster from which an organization can make its choice.

We need to know if the assessor gets paid by the building assessed, on a piece wages basis. From the description on the RHF website, it appears that this is the case. If so, there is the risk that organizations may shop around to get the most favourable assessor. There is also a real risk that assessors will have a financial interest in giving a more positive accessibility rating. Otherwise, other organizations will be disinclined to hire them. That raises more concerns about Government funding for this process.

9. There Are Concerns with the RHF’s Accessibility Adjudication Process and the Sufficiency of the Required Qualifications of RHF Accessibility Adjudicators

From what we gather, the RHF accessibility certification process works like this: An assessor goes to a building to assess it. They then submit their assessment to the RHF. Someone at the RHF called an RHF certification adjudicator”, then reviews the assessment remotely and decides whether to approve it.

We do not know how an adjudicator can effectively adjudicate on the accessibility of a building without themselves visiting that building. Photos and videos can help, of course, but we question their sufficiency here.

Moreover, since this accessibility certification is being conducted on behalf of the Ontario Government, this adjudication process should have significant procedures to ensure its fairness, openness and transparency. The public should be able to see what the assessor submitted, and what, if anything the adjudicator changed, with the adjudicator’s reasons for this. If the adjudicator decides to give the building a higher or lower rating than did the assessor who was on site, this should be made clear to the public, and their reasons for doing so.

There is cause for concern about the sufficiency of the qualifications that the RHF requires for a person to be an accessibility adjudicator. On its website, the only training in accessibility that is strictly required is for the adjudicator to take the two-week RHF course, described above, to pass the related test or other assessment, and then shadowing and then being reviewed by a senior RHF adjudicator. The RHF website lists these qualifications for a posting for a temporary certification adjudicator:

“QUALIFICATIONS

Education/Experience:

Post-secondary education in a related discipline plus a minimum of 3 years of related experience with the built environment, such as architecture, engineering, construction, urban planning, surveying, facilities management, or accessibility and inclusive design;
Experience assessing applications and documentation for certification or accreditation preferred; Practical knowledge of commonly applied Universal Design principles; Knowledge and application of Universal Design strongly preferred; and
Knowledge or experience with accessibility, individuals with disabilities and/or disability issues preferred.

Skills/Behaviours:

Ability to apply a rating or certification system to assess and verify for program compliance;
Strong spatial aptitude, with ability to visualize spaces from photos and descriptions;
Strong oral and written communication skills. Ability to communicate effectively, concisely and tactfully with others through an online platform; Effective interpersonal, organizational and problem-solving skills;
Effective computer skills including knowledge of Outlook and ability to learn web-based online systems;
Ability to manage and adjudicate a high volume of RHFAC ratings independently and professionally; Ability to work independently and remotely;
Ability to maintain confidentiality and work with integrity; and Strong attention to detail and analytical mindset.
An equivalent combination of education, experience and skills/behaviours will be considered”

Here again, nothing in the foregoing qualifications shows that to be trained to be an RHF accessibility adjudicator, one must have good detailed knowledge of current Ontario accessibility legal requirements in the Ontario Building Code, in relevant municipal bylaws, in AODA accessibility standards, or in the Ontario Human Rights Code or, in the case of public sector agencies, the Charter of Rights.

10. There is No Indication of Which Buildings Will Be Checked for Accessibility, Whether They Will be Chosen by the Government, the RHF, or Both and Whether the Selection Process Will be Fair and Open

The Ford Government has not publicly announced several key details that are important to this initiative, such as:

1. Which organizations’ buildings will be checked for accessibility at public expense by the RHF certification process?

2. What proportion of them will be private businesses and what proportion will be public sector organizations?

3. Who will choose which organizations and which buildings will be subject to these accessibility assessments, the Ontario Government, the RHF or some combination of the two? There is no reason why a private foundation should play any part in the decision of which public or private sector organizations get the benefit of a taxpayer-subsidized accessibility assessment.

4. If the RHF will have any role to play in decisions over which organizations’ buildings will be assessed, what measures will be implemented to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest?

5. What criteria will be used to choose which organizations and which buildings will be assessed?

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

7. What public accountability and openness requirements will be in place regarding the decisions over which organizations will have their building assessed? The public needs open, proper and effective mechanisms to oversee this process. Will organizations be able to apply to be chosen? Will the public know who was chosen and who was refused, and the reasons for these choices?

11. The Public Has No Right to See the Results, Findings or Recommendations that the RHF Provides to an organization Whose Building Was Assessed at the Taxpayers Expense

Even though the Ontario taxpayer is supposed to pay , in whole or in part, for the RHF private accessibility assessment of some 250 buildings in Ontario over the next two years, the public has no right to know what accessibility rating, report or recommendations were rendered by the RHF assessor for any of them. The Government’s May 23, 2019 news release, set out below makes it evident that the organization, whose building is assessed at public expense, can decide if it wants to make public its certification rating, and that the report of recommendations for improvements by the assessor is private, not public. The news release states:

“? Organizations that are rated through the program get a confidential scorecard rating and report of key areas of success and improvement for their facility.

? The program has two certification levels: RHF Accessibility Certified and RHF Accessibility Certified Gold.

? Certification can be made public through building labeling. Buildings can also be identified as an accessible facility on the RHFAC Registry hosted by CSA Group.”

If the public is to pay for this accessibility assessment, in whole or in part, the public has a right to know the results. Based on the Government’s announcement, an organization could inaccurately claim that it got a great accessibility assessment, while concealing a report from the RHF that lists a large number of readily-achievable low cost accessibility improvements that can and should be made. The public has no way to know what the RHF recommended, or if the organization has taken any of the recommended actions. Indeed, the public has no way to know if the organization has accurately described in public statements what the RHF said about the accessibility of that organization’s building.

12. There is No Indication if the Ontario Government is Paying All or Just Part of the RHF Fee for Its Accessibility Assessment, Even for a Highly Profitable Private Business that Needs No Government Subsidy

A private accessibility certification process like that offered by the RHF would ordinarily charge an organization a fee for conducting its accessibility check of that organization’s building. the Ontario Government has not announced whether the organizations that are chosen for this RHF assessment will get a free accessibility assessment, or whether each organization will have to contribute to part of the fee for this service. If they are to pay part of the fee, what percentage of the fee will they pay? Will this depend on the organization’s resources and profits?

An organization that hires any of the other accessibility consultants that offer services in Ontario does not get such a taxpayer-funded subsidy of their fee. They must pay that entire fee.

Why should any organization get a fee subsidy here? Why should a for-profit company get any public subsidy here? Why should any for-profit company that is making a good profit get a public subsidy here? A for-profit company can write off the cost of any accessibility consultant as a business expense. They thereby already get a tax benefit in such situations. Why do they need this additional public benefit?

13. The Ford Government Appears to Create an Incorrect Impression that It is Funding the Launch of the RHF Private Accessibility Certification Process in Ontario

In the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget, the Ford Government made a statement that could create the inaccurate impression that through this 1.3-million-dollar public expenditure, the Government is launching the RHF private accessibility certification process in Ontario. The Budget stated:

“The built environment continues to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. This is why the government will partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in select communities across the province.”

In fact, the RHF private accessibility certification process was already operating in Ontario, before that Government announcement, and without this Ontario Government funding. According to the RHF website, it had given two gold ratings in Ontario as of February 2019, two months before the Ontario Government’s April 2019 Budget. Another trade news website reported that Toronto’s CN Tower opted into the RHF accessibility certification process by November 2018.

14. An Open Competitive Bidding Process Should Precede Any Such Public Funding of the RHF

The Ford Government was elected on a commitment that it would ensure proper management of Ontario Government finances. Before the Ontario Government decides to channel a substantial 1.3 million dollars into the RHF private accessibility certification process, it should first hold an open competitive bidding process. This should not simply be given to the RHF. We have seen no indication that the Ontario Government did so. We have written the Government to find out about this.

There are a number of accessibility consultants operating in Ontario that review existing buildings and plans for future buildings for accessibility issues. The RHF is certainly not the only game in town. Others may well have as much or more experience and expertise in conducting accessibility audits than does the RHF.

Moreover, as addressed earlier in part, it would be important for the Government to satisfy itself that the RHF has sufficient expertise in this area. The Government is expected to undertake proper due diligence before choosing to spend that much public money on a single private organization. The fact that Rick Hansen has a great deal of notoriety is not, of itself, sufficient to satisfy this due diligence requirement.

The issues raised in this report demonstrate that such due diligence is needed here. If this same private accessibility certification process were conducted by the same organization in the same way, with all the issues identified here, but without the name of Rick Hansen affixed to it, would the Ontario Government have decided to channel 1.3 million public dollars into it?

15. There are Related Concerns with the RHF Process for Certifying an Entire Design Firm as Champions of Accessible Design

From an announcement on Twitter, the RHF appears to now have taken upon itself to designate an entire design firm as the “first design firm to achieve RHF Accessibility Certification”. On Twitter, the RHF congratulated a particular design firm as champions of #accessible design”.

Such a “certification” will convey to many that a design firm has sufficient expertise in accessible design to be counted on as an expert in the area. It also risks implying to the public that such a certified firm is somehow superior to other design firms that have no such RHF “certification”.

This raises important questions. What expertise does the RHF have for assessing the competence, training and experience of an entire design firm, in order to determine if it has sufficient expertise in accessible design is to be certified as such by the RHF? The issues raised in this report raise many important questions that bear on this. We would not accept as a given that the RHF has the requisite expertise, and that its certification of an entire design firm itself deserves any credit. There are design firms specializing in accessible design in Canada which have been working in the accessible design field for many years more than the RHF has been in the accessibility certification field.

It would be important to know what the RHF requires before granting this certification to an entire design firm. What more, if anything does it require beyond completion of the RHF’s two-week course, addressed earlier in this Report? Does the RHF examine the buildings that the design firm has previously designed, to ensure that they had no accessibility problems? Does the RHF simply certify a design firm if it aspires to the RHF standard of “meaningful access” (a standard which we questioned earlier in this report)?

Does the design firm retain that RHF designation even if it later hires new staff who did not get assessed? Building on the conflict of interest concerns addressed earlier, what conflict of interest concerns are in place in relation to the RHF certifying an entire design firm? Does the RHF ensure that it has an arms-length relationship with any design firm that it certifies, and that it does not grant any such certification to a design firm that has ever donated money to the RHF, or that might do so in the future?

It is important that the RHF process of purporting to certify an entire design firm not play any part in the Ontario Government’s decisions in relation to its own construction of infrastructure. There should be no preference given to design firms with this RHF certification, in the present circumstances.

16. The RHF Gave Its First Gold Accessibility Certification to the Vancouver International Airport, But There are Accessibility Concerns There

This report’s concerns with the Ford Government using public money to fund the RHF private accessibility certification process are reinforced by an example of the RHF certification process in practice. The RHF announced on December 5,2018 that it gave its first gold certification, its highest rating, to the Vancouver International Airport. As the June 4, 2019 AODA Alliance Update described, CBC’s flagship TV news program “The National” revealed two deeply troubling instances of horrific accessibility problems at the Vancouver International Airport. In two separate incidents, passengers with disabilities who use wheelchairs were brought to the wrong departure lounge and left there for hours, without food, water, bathrooms or help. The passengers did not speak English. For them, that was likely no “gold” accessibility experience at that airport.

Taking too narrow an approach, the RHF accessibility certification appears only to look at the airport’s bricks and mortar, and not as well at the accessibility of services delivered there. Yet the gold rating that the RHF certification gave risks leading many if not most to wrongly think that this is an airport that is a good and reliable place for passengers with disabilities.

We also note that in a tweet where the RHF announced that it gave a gold accessibility rating to the Vancouver International Airport, a photo shows that there are “hangout steps” at the airport. Hangout steps are a concern from the accessibility perspective.

The AODA Alliance’s widely viewed October 29, 2017 online video about accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre describes accessibility problems with hangout steps. See also the online post entitled “Why Do We Continue to Celebrate the Creation of New Barriers to Accessibility?” by Ontario-based accessibility consultant Marnie Peters, set out in this report’s appendix.

Hangout steps are akin to amphitheater seating. They are meant as a place to hang out and socialize. It is quite easy to create a socializing or hangout area where people with disabilities can reach and sit in any part of that area. In contrast, hangout steps have a proportion of the seating which is inaccessible to people using a mobility device. They can also be quite hard to navigate for people with vision loss or balance issues.

The RHF website frequently asked questions states that buildings that get a gold accessibility certification are “considered showcases of accessibility”. We question how a public building with hangout steps can deserve a gold rating for accessibility. It is troubling that this gold rating signals to the Vancouver International Airport and to the public that having hangout steps is fine from an accessibility perspective. it is also troubling that it signals to design professionals that they should feel free to include them in other buildings, without worrying that it raises any accessibility concern.

Appendix

1. July 3, 2019 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho

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

July 3, 2019

To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Via email: [email protected]
College Park 5th Floor
777 Bay St
Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

Re: Proposed Provincial Funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Process

In the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget, your Government announced that it plans to spend 1.3 million dollars over two years to get the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) to conduct its private accessibility certification on a total of 250 buildings in Ontario. We have been on the public record for over three years voicing serious concerns about spending any public money on any private accessibility certification process.

We have several questions and concerns about the RHF private accessibility certification process, on which your Government is aiming to spend a substantial amount of public money. We set these out below. We ask you to answer these questions and to consider all these issues when considering whether to proceed with the Government’s plan, as announced in the April Ontario Budget.

Process for Selecting the RHF for this Government Funding

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

Standard for Assessing a Building’s Accessibility

2. What specific accessibility standard will the RHF use when it assesses the accessibility of a building? The RHF website and its “Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation” states that its accessibility assessments are “based upon CSA B651 standards”, produced by the Canadian Standards Association. How much of that CSA Standard does the RHF use? All or only part of it? If only part, then which parts are included and which are excluded? If any are excluded, why were they excluded?

3. The RHF says it assesses the “meaningful access” of a building. What specific criteria, measures and rating scales are used to assess if a building has “meaningful access”? Who decides if the access is meaningful? Is it the individual assessor? What safeguards are there to prevent this from arbitrarily varying from RHF assessor to assessor or from RHF adjudicator to adjudicator?

4. Can we please have a copy of the RHF assessor’s and adjudicator’s checklist score criteria. How does the RHF score meaningful access on a barrier-by-barrier basis? What are the scoring instructions and scales that the RHF gives to its assessors, not only for each kind of barrier, but also for determining what overall level of accessibility RHF will award? We seek detailed specifics on this. For example, is each bathroom assessed and rated separately, with a distinct score attached to it, or are the scores for all bathrooms averaged into one figure?

5. How has the RHF tested out its assessment training and forms to see if different assessors or adjudicators reach different conclusions on the same building or features within that building?

Time Limitations on RHF Accessibility Certification

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

Training for RHF Assessors and Adjudicators

7. What are the required qualifications or credentials for a person to be able to teach the RHFAC course? Are the course instructors required to have anything more than their own credentials as an RFHAC assessor? Are they required to be a member of the faculty of the college or university where the course is offered, and to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment?

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

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

10. Does an RHF assessor need to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario? Or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

11. Do course participants get a copy of the specifics of the CSA B621 voluntary built environment accessibility standard? Do they get copies of all the built environment accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code, in AODA accessibility standards, and in applicable municipal bylaws in Ontario? Does the course teach detailed knowledge of these? Does testing at the end of the course assess a person’s detailed knowledge of these?

Ensuring the RHF has No Conflicts of Interest

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

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

Sufficiency of RHF Off-Site Accessibility Adjudication Process

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

Choice of Which Buildings to Assess for Accessibility

15. Which organizations’ buildings will be checked for accessibility by the RHF certification process? What proportion of them will be private businesses and what proportion will be public sector organizations?

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

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

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

Amount of Government Subsidy for RHF Accessibility Assessment

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

We would be pleased to provide any clarifications to these questions, if needed.

Sincerely,

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

CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford [email protected]
Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]
Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]

2. Excerpt from the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget Re Public Funding for the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility Certification Process

Originally posted at http://budget.ontario.ca/2019/chapter-1c.html#s-15

Making Ontario More Accessible

Approximately one in four people in Ontario age 15 years and over has a disability, a number that increases to 43 per cent among seniors. Disabilities can range from flexibility and mobility to vision and hearing. As the population continues to age, the numbers are expected to rise in terms of frequency and seriousness. Ontarios Government for the People will work to ensure people with disabilities have the support and resources they need to live fulfilling and productive lives.

The built environment continues to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. This is why the government will partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in select communities across the province. With a $1.3 million investment over two years, this program will prepare accessibility assessments of businesses and public buildings and, together with property managers and owners, determine ways to remove any identified barriers for people with visible and invisible disabilities.

3. Text of the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 Announcement Regarding Public Funding of the Rick Hansen Private Accessibility Certification Process

Taking Action to Remove Barriers for People with Disabilities Ontario making buildings more accessible

NEWS
May 23, 2019 TORONTO People with disabilities and seniors deserve to remain engaged in their communities and represent a huge potential employee and customer base. Many buildings in Ontario continue to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. When buildings are not accessible, people are shut out from fully participating in everyday life, businesses fail to reach their full potential, and communities are not as welcoming as they should be.
Ontario is focusing on what matters most to people with disabilities and seniors by helping to remove barriers in buildings and making communities more accessible.

The Government of Ontario is investing $1.3 million over two years through a new partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation. Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, and Rick Hansen, Founder of the Rick Hansen Foundation, were at the MaRS Discovery District today to announce that the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program will be launched in Ontario.

The certification program will provide accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings by trained professionals, and will help property managers and owners determine ways to remove identified barriers.

Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities. The program is expected to start this fall and roll out over the next two years in select communities across Ontario.

Removing barriers in buildings will help make communities and businesses more accessible and open for jobs, said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.
We are working to ensure people with disabilities have the support and resources they need to participate more fully in their communities, as consumers and employees. Being accessible benefits businesses and communities and opens them up to qualified talent and more customers.

I am very pleased and honoured to be collaborating with the Ontario government. The $1.3 million will go a long way in providing meaningful access to buildings and communities, and will help make Ontario more inclusive where people with disabilities are living to their full potential, said Rick Hansen, Founder of the Rick Hansen Foundation.

QUICK FACTS

* Organizations that are rated through the program get a confidential scorecard rating and report of key areas of success and improvement for their facility.
* The program has two certification levels: RHF Accessibility Certified and RHF Accessibility Certified Gold.
* Certification can be made public through building labeling. Buildings can also be identified as an accessible facility on the RHFAC Registry hosted by CSA Group.
* Currently, the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor Training Course is offered at George Brown College and Carleton University in Ontario. The program has been successfully implemented by the provincial governments of British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Rick Hansen Accessibility Certification
2019 Ontario Budget
RHFAC Registry

Pooja Parekh, Ministers Office, 416-314-0797
Matt Gloyd, Communications Branch, 416-314-7013
Dawn Tse, Rick Hansen Foundation, 778-229-7532
http://news.ontario.ca/oss/en
Disponible en français 4. Online Article by a Canadian -Based Accessibility Consultant Warning about Private Accessibility Certification Processes

Originally posted at https://www.optimalperformance.ca/if-any-company-in-us-or-canada-promises-certification-in-accessible-audits-buyer-beware/

Optimal Performance

If any company in US or Canada promises Certification in Accessible Audits BUYER BEWARE
HOME / ACCESSIBILITY / IF ANY COMPANY IN US OR CANADA PROMISES CERTIFICATION IN ACCESSIBLE AUDITS BUYER BEWARE

BUYER BEWARE When you read Building Accessibility Excellence Program (BAEA) Certification Program; There is no such thing and this certification can be downright dangerous and ill founded

The less than scrupulous entrepreneurs who suddenly label themselves not only as accessibility experts but as being able to certify lay people as being certified as Building Accessibility experts or BAEAs abound in Ontario and in the US.

Olga Dosis and I wanted to address this in an effort to ensure you the buyer be fully aware that these promises to certify or as being certified is being used purely as a selling tool and also represent potential liabilities for your company. The liabilities will occur within the Human Rights Code for Ontario or the complaints driven ADA in the case of the USA related to accommodation and accessibility. The second area of liability will arise over time from audits of your companys AODA programs and mandatory processes expected by the Directorate of Ontario, in which case daily penalites can be levied. The third area of liability will rest with civil suits where a non-bona fide certification system within Ontario and states Build Codes audits and recommendations completed by non-qualified consultants will result in accidents, build code violations and even loss of life. This loss of life or accidents may well occur where a certified lay person referring to themselves as Building Accessibility experts recommend a build code change to accommodate a certain type of disability which endangers the life of that person or someone with another type of disability or with no disability at all.

This game of letting employers and lay persons think they can attend a course about building accessibly and then be certified is at best, a naive way of quickly making money from the AODA and ADA Regulations and at worst a dangerous and cynical approach to an unimformed marketplace.

So who really would meet Certification requirements and the work experience to audit a workplace or building and make recommendations about the Build Code for each State or Province? Our past, current and future recommendations to clients and any companies in the US or Ontario who ask us about this is a dedicated team of accessible design experts should conduct audits of your workplace, building, space. The team should be comprised of Interior Designers/Architects/Contractors who are certified in the Build Code for the jurisdiction in which your building is located; coupled with ADA, AODA and Accessible Build Code experts who will have formal University/College level degrees in the area of AODA/ADA Design/Code and Cross Disability Studies. The teaming of experts is the real answer, not a short course of E-Learning followed by the promise of being a certified Building Accessibility expert.

Dont forget we are not talking about relatively simple recommendations such as colour contrast on a wall or designing a directional sign. We may be talking about altering the structural support in a soon-to-be-accessible washroom; the design and installation of a way- finding sign which keeps an unsighted person from walking into a hazardous area; or a customer or employee with a cognitive or learning disability not being made aware of an area of a building which is hazardous to enter; pinch points in a escalator which results in loss of limbs etc. The stakes are high relative to the Building Audits, interpretation of Build Codes and Accessible Codes coupled with the resulting recommendations and guidance for employers, building owners, facility managers and end-users.

The use of University/College educated and long-term experienced teams of experts such as Interior Designers, Contractors, Facility Managers (the experience should include audits and accessible design of multiple building types, sizes and complexity for example) and Accessibility experts (University education in the areas of Human Factors Design/Ergonomic Design/Disability Studies and Design) is who the bona fide experts are. These experts will also have the appropriate insurance in place to protect your firm, building, facility in the case of accidents, law suits and Human Rights/AODA/ADA related claims.

As in any purchasing decisions made for your building, facility, workplace, school or hospital, always ask for complete resumes of the experts; ensure they have the correct degrees, years of experience in multiple settings, no past history of liabilities or actions against them and the use of an ACCESSIBILITY TEAM to ensure all aspects of accessibility are addressed; review the type of insurance the accessibility auditing team carry and the amount of liability coverage in place; interview and establish a working relationship with the accessibility auditing team. Then as the project proceeds including in depth, science based audits; build code review; recommendations and guidance on the part of the consulting team ensure your own internal team works closely with them to assure communication and recommendations are clear.

Many of us would love to learn to be Doctors, Lawyers, Physiotherapists and even Ergonomists by taking a few weeks of study and having a private firm certify us. All reasonable people know however that these specializations take years of study and years of experience to achieve. The old adage of Buyer Beware needs to come to the fore as many lay people hang out a shingle saying they are accessiblity and disability experts in Ontario and the US. If the promise of certified accessible building assssors (BAEA for example) sounds too be good to be true, it is. OPC Inc and our team of Interior Designers/Architects/FMs and contractors wants to ensure the marketplace knows this up front before a serious accident occurs. Lives, limbs and creating equal access to the marketplace, workplaces and public spaces is at stake for Ontario and the US. This is serious business.

Olga Dosis BA, Masters Psychology, Masters Disability Studies

JESleeth Hon B.P&H.E. (Kin), Hon B.Sc.P.. T
Members Association of Interior Designers Ontario (ARIDO), Interior Designers of Canada (IDC), International Facility Managers Association of Canada and National Institute of Building Sciences

Optimal Performance Consultants
416-860-0002
416-860-0005
[email protected]
www.OptimalPerformance.ca

5. Text of an Online Article by Another Accessibility Consultant on Why “Hang-Out Steps Present Major Accessibility Problems

Originally posted at https://medium.com/@marnie_265/why-do-we-continue-to-celebrate-the-creation-of-new-barriers-to-accessibility-d075e05d90d1

June 4, 2019

Why Do We Continue to Celebrate the Creation of New Barriers to Accessibility?

A recent story about new or renovated buildings being celebrated for their innovative and unique designs made my head spin, blood boil and my heart drop. It was a tantalizing title after all, After a Thoughtful Revamp, a University Library Finally Sees the Light

Unfortunately??the light must have been blinding their eyes in this thoughtless revamp.

Universities are supposed to be places of inclusion, diversity and welcoming for everyone. What the architects have developed for the University screams exclusion, discrimination, and segregation.

Steps up to the socializing space. Photo: Stéphane Groleau Azure Magazine-Bishops-Library-Lemay

The changes to the library, in particular steps and risers designed as a place to hang out, are designed to create a multifunctional space ideal for study, reading, discussions, meetings and lectures. But that is only true if you can walk, and dont have vision loss, or hearing loss??there is no way for a person with a mobility aid such as a wheelchair to join their friends, attend a lecture or meeting in this re-envisioned space. There is insufficent colour contrast between the risers, the steps and the landings, step with caution.

High Counters and Chairs in Library. Photo Stéphane Groleau Azure Magazine-Bishops-Library-Lemay

If you want to grab a reference book and grab a space at a table for a quick look??you need to be able to stand sorry, high counters and chairs only, better luck next time all you wheelchair users.

Fully glazed panels with no vision strips or markings. Photo Stéphane Groleau Azure Magazine-Bishops-Library-Lemay

In a high-traffic, wood-finished hub known as the Agora, no running is allowed, or looking down at your phone while walking??lest you run face first into the fully glazed panels without vision strips that make up the several smaller meeting rooms??which I am just guessing here??most probably do not have an assistive listening system to help students with hearing impairments. Say what ? I couldnt hear you.

Universities are supposed to be places of higher learning??people with disabilities face enough challenges from barriers in existing and heritage built environment facilities and urban spaces??we shouldnt be creating new barriers. We most certainly shouldnt be celebrating them.

Marnie Peters??President of Accessibility Simplified

Marnie Peters has 20+ years of experience as a consultant offering comprehensive services related to accessibility and universal design. Her firm, Accessibility Simplified provides professional services to architects, engineers, designers and planners to ensure buildings and urban environments comply with all building codes, accessibility standards and human rights legislation.



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Join in Our New “Dial Doug” Campaign! — A Grassroots Blitz, Unveiled Today, to Get the Doug Ford Government to Make Ontario Open for Over 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities


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

Twitter: #DialDoug

July 24, 2019

Please help our new grassroots blitz, unveiled today! We want the Doug Ford Government to come up with a plan to make Ontario accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians who have any kind of disability. It just takes you a few minutes to help, from home, or anywhere.

Grab a smart phone! DIAL DOUG! Phone or email him! Ask him where is his plan to get Ontario to be accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025? Tell him our rights are not red tape!

The phone number for the Office of the Premier of Ontario is (416) 325-1941. Premier Ford’s email address is [email protected] He had made his cell number public and was open to getting calls and text messages from voters on it. He portrays himself as being a very accessible premier who wants to hear directly from the people. He recently cancelled that cell number. But we the public can still try to reach him on his office phone or his email address.

Doug Ford says he is the premier “for the People”. His Government says it’s focusing on what matters most to Ontarians. Let’s take him at his word. Call or email him. Have your say. Read on for action tips and helpful background at a glance, below. We’ll have even more tips for you in future AODA Alliance Updates.

Here’s What to Do

Please phone or email Premier Doug Ford, whichever makes you most comfortable. If you phone him at his office, you will likely get connected with one of his staff. You can tell them what you have to say to the premier. You can even ask him to call you back, if you like. You might get directed to a voice mail box to leave a message. If you send him an email, you can take the time to write out what you want. You can do both, phone him and email him.

What might you say? Here are some ideas. It’s best if you share your thoughts in your own words.

Tell Doug Ford how many people around you have disabilities. We’re voters! Describe disability barriers that hurt you or your friends or family members with disabilities. These might be barriers you or others face when trying to shop, use public transit or health care services, go to school or university, or get a job.

Most important, ask him what is his plan to lead Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025? That is the deadline that the Disabilities Act (AODA) sets.

You might tell him that our rights are not “red tape”. In the Legislature on May 30, 2019, several Conservative MPPs said it would just create red tape for the Ontario Government to make new regulations on accessibility or to do a better job at enforcing Ontario’s Disabilities Act (AODA).

Ontario won’t be open for business if it is not open to all Ontarians with disabilities as customers and employees. We need Doug Ford to use the Disabilities Act to tear down the barriers that close Ontario to so many of us.

Tell him that this past January, former Lieutenant Governor David Onley gave the Government a report that said that for people with disabilities, Ontario is full of “countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers”.

Be open about your concerns but also remember that it is important to be respectful, no matter how frustrated you may feel. That is far more effective and appropriate than sounding angry.

We are non-partisan. We work with all parties, commend them when they do good things, and hold them publicly accountable when they fall short on our issues.

Let us know what you tried and what you were told. If you are on Twitter or Facebook, tweet or post about your text message or call to Doug Ford. Use our new #DialDoug hashtag in your tweet or post. You can email us about it, at [email protected]

Encourage family and friends to also take part in our Dial Doug campaign. If you have more time, please also contact your nearest members of the Ontario Legislature with the same message. Their contact information is at https://www.ola.org/en/members

Background at a Glance

Over 1.9 million Ontarians have a physical, mental, sensory, intellectual, learning, communication or other disability. This number is increasing as the population grows and ages.

In the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford said:

“Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.”

In 2005, the Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025 (less than 5 and a half years away). The Ontario Government must enact regulations, called accessibility standards. These tell organizations what they need to do to become accessible, and set time lines. the Government is supposed to enforce these standards.

Progress on accessibility since 2005 has been far too slow. Ontarians with disabilities know this from their experience. It was also the strong finding of a Government-appointed Independent Review by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Onley Report concluded this province is mostly inaccessible.”

The Onley report found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership for years on this issue. The Onley Report recommended:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen.”

The Onley report made practical recommendations. Among other things, it called for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for the built environment, strengthen existing AODA accessibility standards, and ensure that public money is never again used to create disability barriers.

The Ford Government has been studying the Onley Report for almost six months. It has announced no plan to implement the Onley Report.

Doug Ford’s Government voted against creating a plan to implement the Onley Report. Yet the Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job”. On May 30, 2019, during National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government voted to defeat a motion in the Legislature proposed by NDP MPP Joel Harden. That motion had called on the Ford Government to come up with a plan to implement the Onley Report.

In statements in the Legislature on May 30, 2019 that are hurtful to people with disabilities, several of Doug Ford’s members of the Legislature inaccurately rejected the Onley Report’s recommendations as leading to “more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Our rights to accessibility under the AODA are not red tape!

The AODA Alliance recently gave the Ford Government a failing “F” grade for its work on accessibility in its first year in office.

On July 10, 2019, 21 disability organizations sent an open letter to Premier Ford, calling on his Government to come up with a plan to implement the Onley Report. More organizations have signed on since then.

In one year, Doug Ford’s Government announced only one new measure to fix disability barriers. Doug Ford plans to give the Rick Hansen Foundation 1.3 million dollars of the public’s money to conduct a private accessibility certification of 250 public or private buildings over two years. This plan is riddled with problems. It’s an inappropriate use of public money. The Government should instead use that money to beef up AODA implementation and enforcement.



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AODA Alliance Writes Federal Party Leaders Seeking Election Commitments on Advancing the Cause of Accessibility for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada


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

July 18, 2019

SUMMARY

A hotly-contested federal election will take place this October. The candidates are already fanning out across Canada, campaigning for our votes.

Once again, the AODA Alliance is jumping into the fray. On July 18, 2019, we wrote the leaders of the major federal parties. We asked them for election pledges concerning accessibility for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada. We set that letter out below.

Our letter offers this short summary of what we seek:

“In summary we ask your Party to make 11 commitments to ensure that the implementation and enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) is swift, strong and effective, including, e.g. making needed accessibility standard regulations within four years, effectively enforcing the law, establishing a single unified process for complaints under the ACA, ensuring that nothing is done under the ACA that cuts back on the rights of people with disabilities, and ensuring that public money is not used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.”

The specific pledges we seek include:

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

2. The ACA should be effectively enforced.

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

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

5. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.
6. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in One federal agency, not splintered among several of them.

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

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

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

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

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

We will let you know what responses we receive. We will be active over the next three months on social media and elsewhere, in an effort to raise these issues leading up to the federal election. In future AODA Alliance Updates, we will offer you action tips on how you can help.

As we say time and again, but must repeat here: We don’t support or oppose any candidate. We try to get the strongest commitments on accessibility from as many candidates and parties as we can.

To learn about our efforts over the past four years to get a strong and effective Accessible Canada Act enacted by Canada’s Parliament, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

MORE DETAILS

Text of the July 18, 2019 Letter to the Leaders of the Major Federal Political Parties

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance www.aodaalliance.org United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

July 18, 2019

To:
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Via email: [email protected]
Office of the Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Twitter: @JustinTrudeau

The Hon. Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Loyal Opposition and the Conservative Party Leader of the Conservative Party; MP, Regina-QuAppelle
Via email: [email protected]
Leader of the Conservative Party
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Twitter: @AndrewScheer

The Hon. Jagmeet Singh Leader of the NDP
Via email: [email protected]
300 279 Laurier West
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J9
Twitter: @theJagmeetSingh

The Hon. Elizabeth May Leader of the Green Party; MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands Via email: [email protected]
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Twitter: @ElizabethMay

The Hon. Rhéal Fortin Interim Leader of the Bloc Québécois
Via email: [email protected]
3730 boul. Crémazie Est, 4e étage
Montréal, Québec H2A 1B4
Twitter: @RhealFortin

The Hon. Maxime Bernier, Leader of the People’s Party of Canada Via email: [email protected]
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 Canada
Twitter: @MaximeBernier

Dear Federal Party Leaders,

Re: Seeking Your Commitments to Ensure the Effective Implementation of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA)

With a federal election approaching, we seek 11 commitments from each federal political party on Canada’s new national accessibility legislation, the Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81). It is good that Parliament recently passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act . That is only the first step on the road to making Canada accessible to people with disabilities in Canada.

In this letter, we explain what we seek, who we are, and why over six million people with disabilities in Canada need these strong election commitments. Founded in 2005, the AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that advocates for accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario and at the federal level. We were one of the disability organizations that appeared before the House of Commons and Senate to call for amendments to strengthen Bill C-81. During debates in Parliament over this bill, MPs and Senators relied on our submissions.

In summary we ask your Party to make 11 commitments to ensure that the implementation and enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) is swift, strong and effective, including, e.g. making needed accessibility standard regulations within four years, effectively enforcing the law, establishing a single unified process for complaints under the ACA, ensuring that nothing is done under the ACA that cuts back on the rights of people with disabilities, and ensuring that public money is not used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.

1. Enforceable Accessibility Standard Regulations Should Be Enacted Within Four Years

The ACA’s centerpiece is the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standard regulations. These regulations will specify what an organization must do and by when, to become accessible. The ACA lets the Federal Cabinet, the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) and the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) enact these regulations. However, it does not require them ever to be enacted. If they are not enacted, the ACA will fail.

1. Will you enact or amend legislation to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the ACA covers within four years? If not, will you commit that those regulations will be enacted under the ACA within four years?

2. The ACA Should Be Effectively Enforced

We have learned from extensive experience with provincial accessibility legislation that the ACA will be ineffective unless it is effectively enforced.

2. Will your party commit to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced?

3. Federal Public Money Should Never Be used to Create or Perpetuate Barriers

The ACA does not require the Federal Government to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient of those funds, to create or perpetuate disability barriers. For example, the ACA doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach accessibility strings when it gives money to a municipality, college, university, local transit authority or other organization to build new infrastructure. Those recipients of federal money are left free to design and build new infrastructure without ensuring that it is fully accessible to people with disabilities. Also, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

It is helpful that the ACA lets the Federal Government impose accessibility requirements when it buys goods or services. However it doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever do so.

This allows for a wasteful and harmful use of public money. The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs that held hearings on Bill C-81 made this important observation in its May 7, 2019 report to the Senate:

“Your committee heard concerns that despite this legislation, federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that do not always meet accessibility standards. Therefore, we encourage the federal government to ensure that when public money is spent or transferred, the funding should never be used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided.”

3. Will your party ensure by legislation, and if not, then by public policy, that no one will use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g. , payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity?

4. The ACA Should Never Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

The ACA includes only limited and insufficient protection to ensure that nothing under the ACA reduces the rights of people with disabilities. The ACA provides:

“121.1 For greater certainty, nothing in any provision of this Act or the regulations limits a regulated entity’s duty to accommodate under any other Act of Parliament.”

4. Will your party amend the ACA to provide that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the ACA or in any regulations enacted under it or in any actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law?

A discriminatory provision was included in the Accessible Canada Act. It is helpful that it was softened in the Senate, after extensive advocacy efforts by people with disabilities. However, it should be repealed altogether.

Making this worse, section 172(3) of the ACA unfairly takes away important rights from people with disabilities in a discriminatory way. It bars the CTA from awarding justly-deserved money compensation to a passenger with a disability, even if the Agency finds that an airline or other federally-regulated transportation-provider has imposed an undue barrier against them, so long as a federal transportation accessibility regulation wrongly says that the airline did not have to provide the passenger with that accommodation. Section 172 of the ACA provides:

“Inquiry??barriers to mobility
172 (1) The Agency may, on application, inquire into a matter in relation to which a regulation could be made under subsection 170(1), regardless of whether such a regulation has been made, in order to determine whether there is an undue barrier to the mobility of persons with disabilities. Remedies
(2) On determining that there is an undue barrier to the mobility of persons with disabilities, the Agency may do one or more of the following: (a)?require the taking of appropriate corrective measures;
(b)?direct that compensation be paid for any expense incurred by a person with a disability arising out of the barrier, including for any costs of obtaining alternative goods, services or accommodation;
(c)?direct that compensation be paid for any wages that a person with a disability was deprived of as a result of the barrier;
(d)?direct that compensation be paid up to a maximum amount of??subject to the annual adjustments made under section 172.2??$20,000, for any pain and suffering experienced by a person with a disability arising out of the barrier;
(e)?direct that compensation be paid up to a maximum amount of??subject to the annual adjustments made under section 172.2??$20,000, if the Agency determines that the barrier is the result of a wilful or reckless practice. Compliance with regulations
(3) If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”

This unfairly protects huge, well-funded airlines and railways from having to pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up.

5. Will your party repeal the offending portion of section 172(3) of the ACA that reads “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”” And replace them with words such as: “and grant a remedy in accordance with subsection 2.” ?

5. The ACA’s Implementation and Enforcement Should be Consolidated in One Federal Agency, Not Splintered Among Several of Them

The 105-page ACA is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the CTA, and the CRTC.

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

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

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

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

6. Will your party assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet? If not, then at a minimum, would your party require by legislation or policy that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner?

6. No Federal Laws Should Ever Create or Permit Disability Barriers

It is important to ensure that no federal laws impose or permit the creation of barriers against people with disabilities.

7. Will your Party review all federal laws to identify any which require or permit any barriers against people with disabilities, and will your party amend Section 2 of the ACA (definition of “barrier”) to add the words “a law”, so that it will read:

“barrier means anything??including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice??that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation.”

7. Federal Elections Should Be Made Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

Voters with disabilities continue to face disability barriers in federal elections, including, for example, barriers that can impede them from voting independently and in private, and verifying their choice. Recent amendments to federal election legislation do not ensure this.

8. Will your party pass legislation or regulations and adopt policies needed to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.

8. Power to Exempt Organizations from Some ACA Requirements Should be Eliminated or Reduced

The ACA has too many loopholes. For example, it lets the Federal Government exempt itself from some of its duties under the ACA. The Government should not ever be able to exempt itself.

9. Will your Party eliminate or reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes? Such as eliminating the power to exempt the Government of Canada, or a federal department or agency? If not, will your party commit not to grant any exemptions from the ACA?

9. Federally-Controlled Courts and Tribunals Should be Made Disability-Accessible

People with disabilities continue to face barriers when they try to take part in proceedings in courts for which the Federal Government is responsible.

10. Will your party develop and implement a plan to ensure that all federally-operated courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts), and federally operated regulatory tribunals (like the CRTC and CTA) become accessible.

10. Other Measures Needed to Strengthen the ACA

In 2018, federal opposition parties proposed a number of amendments to strengthen Bill C-81 in the House of Commons. The Government defeated most if not all of them.

11. Would your party pass the amendments to the ACA which the opposition proposed in the fall of 2018 in the House of Commons, which the Government had defeated, and which would strengthen the ACA?

We would appreciate a response by email in MS Word format. We will make responses public. We would be pleased to answer any questions you have.

Sincerely,

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



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The Accessible Canada Act Comes into Force Today


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

July 11, 2019

SUMMARY

Today, the Federal Government proclaimed the Accessible Canada Act in force. It was recently passed by the House of Commons and Senate and was given Royal Assent. The law comes into force when the Federal Cabinet so orders. In a news release earlier today, set out below, the Cabinet proclaimed it in force.

The Federal Government’s news release makes commitments on what this law will do. we will be vigilant to hold the Federal Government to any and all of its commitments. For example, in its news release, the Federal Government promises:

“With this legislation in place, millions of Canadians with disabilities can rely on the Government of Canada to remove the barriers that hinder their full participation in society.”

Would you like to read the Accessible Canada Act in its final form? At last, we just recently received from Parliament electronic copies of the finalized wording of the law in English and French. You can get these in MS Word or pdf format by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/canada/download-the-final-text-of-the-accessible-canada-act-as-passed-by-canadas-parliament-previously-called-bill-c-81-in-english-or-french-and-in-an-accessible-ms-word-or-a-pdf-format/

We also invite you to read the AODA Alliance ‘s 7 preliminary reflections we recently made about the final enactment of the Accessible Canada Act.

Since it is now a law, we no longer call it Bill C-81. A bill is a proposed law, that has not yet become a law.

Watch for future AODA Alliance Updates where we will map out our next steps in our campaign to ensure that this new legislation is effectively implemented.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the Federal Government’s July 11, 2019 News Release

Originally posted at https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2019/07/canadas-first-federal-accessibility-legislation-comes-into-force.html

Employment and Social Development Canada

Canadas first federal accessibility legislation comes into force

News release
July 11, 2019 Gatineau, Quebec Employment and Social Development Canada

Accessibility in Canada is about creating communities, workplaces and services that enable everyone to participate fully in society without barriers. The Government of Canada believes that all Canadians deserve the same opportunities and chances at success and is pleased to announce the coming into force of the Accessible Canada Act. Reaching this milestone demonstrates the Governments commitment to implement this transformational legislation in a timely manner, creating more opportunities for persons with disabilities and ensuring greater access for all Canadians.

The coming into force of the Accessible Canada Act establishes a framework to create a barrier-free Canada through the proactive identification, removal and prevention of accessibility barriers. It will also ensure that persons with disabilities are no longer required to fight barriers to accessibility on an individual basis. With this legislation in place, millions of Canadians with disabilities can rely on the Government of Canada to remove the barriers that hinder their full participation in society.

The Accessible Canada Act applies to the federally regulated private sector, which includes the banking, transportation and telecommunications sectors, as well as the Government of Canada, Crown corporations and Parliament. Under the Act, these organizations will be required to develop and publish accessibility plans that describe how they will identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility. They will also be required to establish a mechanism for receiving and addressing feedback on accessibility from anyone who interacts with their organization. Finally, they will have to develop regular progress reports on the implementation of their plan and addressing any feedback they receive.

The Accessible Canada Act also establishes new structures and positions, including:

the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO), led by a board of directors comprised of a majority of persons with disabilities that will develop accessibility standards in collaboration with the disability community and industry;
a Chief Accessibility Officer, who will advise the Minister of Accessibility and monitor systemic and emerging accessibility issues; and
an Accessibility Commissioner, who will spearhead compliance and enforcement activities under the legislation.

The next phase of implementation will include the development of standards and regulations that will provide clear guidance on accessibility requirements.

The new legislation is built on a whole-of-government approach to accessibility. Existing regulators and complaints bodiessuch as the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Boardare required to collaborate to put in place a mechanism for the efficient and expeditious referral of accessibility-related complaints and to foster complementary accessibility policies and practices.

The coming into force of the Accessible Canada Act also legislates National AccessAbility Week as beginning each year on the last Sunday in May, with the objective of promoting accessibility and celebrating the contributions of persons with disabilities across the country.

Quotes

Today marks a major milestone in the history of disability rights. I am so proud that the Accessible Canada Act has now come into force and is a reality. This important achievement would not have been possible without the dedication and engagement of the disability community and I thank them for their hard work. With this legislation now in place, we can begin a journey that will lead us to a society that treats all people with the dignity they deserve. Now more than ever, we can say: Nothing without us!
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility

Quick facts

Approximately one in five Canadians, or about 6.2 million people aged 15 and over, report having a disability that limits them in their daily activities.

The Accessible Canada Act was developed following the most inclusive and accessible consultations with the disability community in our countrys history. More than 6,000 Canadians and 100 accessibility organizations shared their views and ideas about an accessible Canada.

Contacts

For media enquiries, please contact:
Marielle Hossack
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Carla Qualtrough
819-956-3239
[email protected]

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
819-994-5559
[email protected]



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