NWT Human Rights Commission backs call for accessibility legislation

Says accessibility is about a persons dignity and is good for business Emily Blake · CBC News · Posted: May 03, 2019

The N.W.T. Human Rights Commission says accessibility legislation would help people understand how to make communities barrier-free and help businesses and organizations avoid human rights complaints. (Guy Quenneville/CBC )

The NWT Human Rights Commission is supporting the development of accessibility legislation in the territory after a woman has called for the move to make the North barrier-free.

In an opinion piece published by CBC on April 23, 2019, Therese Estacion, who was born able-bodied but became a below-the-knee amputee in 2016 and a partial hands amputee in 2018, highlights the daily obstacles people with disabilities can face in Yellowknife and argues for the need for legislation.

“I’ve gotten a lot of really positive reaction,” Estacion said of the piece, noting that local advocates and organizations like the Yellowknife chapter of the MS Society of Canada have long raised issues about accessibility in the North.

In a media release issued on May 1, 2019, the N.W.T. Human Rights Commission said it also supports the development of accessibility legislation. The press release states “accessibility is good for business” and that “at its core, accessibility is about a person’s dignity.”

“Accessibility is more than a legal standard. It involves fostering a sense of inclusion so people with disabilities can flourish,” it adds.

Estacion said the press release is “the beginning of something” and that awareness and education is key to promoting change. She added that it takes all levels of government, organizations, businesses and community members to push for that change.

“It takes the whole community really coming together to kind of bring this about.”

Currently in Canada, only Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have accessibility legislation in place. Estacion says that if the N.W.T. were to develop legislation, it could be a be a model for other jurisdictions.

“I think what it would mean is that the N.W.T. is actually listening to the people that reside in the Northwest Territories and they’re listening in particular to people that have often been marginalized or perhaps have been forgotten.”

Charles Dent, chair of the N.W.T. Human Rights Commission, has previously told CBC News he hears a lot of concerns about physical barriers people with disabilities face in communities across the territory.

“Across the North, it’s something that we need to try and do better at,” he said.

According to the human rights commissions’ last annual report, 72 per cent of the 39 human rights complaints filed in the 2017-2018 fiscal year alleged discrimination based on disability.

One issue the commission highlighted is that the national building code, which governs buildings in the Northwest Territories, doesn’t require people to build an accessible standard.

“So when somebody uses the building code and builds a building, right off the bat they’re not really providing something that is totally accessible to people who have mobility issues,” Dent said.

The territorial government has recognized there is room to grow when it comes to addressing accessibility in the North. In November 2018, it released its disabilities action plan which includes a number of goals the territory plans to carry out by 2022 to support people with disabilities and their caregivers.

The Department of Infrastructure is currently updating the Good Building Practices for Northern Facilities which has guidelines on accessible design. And last year, the department developed an accessibility toolkit to help with accessible design in government offices. It said this will affect renovations to the third floor of the Stuart M. Hodgson building and construction of a new air terminal building in Inuvik.

For people that want to improve accessibility, the human rights commission also has an accessibility checklist for organizing public events on its website.

And federal funding is available for non-profits, businesses and governments, up to $100,000 per project, through the Enabling Accessibility for renovations, retrofits or other projects that address accessibility barriers.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/nwt-human-rights-commission-accessibility-legislation-1.5120961

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Taking the Message of Accessibility to the Streets

‘The idea is to understand what people go through if they are blind or deaf or in a wheelchair and use city transit’ MACC chair Brian Bibeault. April 27
by: Linda Holmes

North Bay’s Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC) is taking its message of accessibility for all, to the streets.

North Bay’s Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC) has challenged the mayor to use city transit while blindfolded to experience what it is like for a blind person to use city transit

It has issued a challenge to mayor Al McDonald to experience what a person who is blind goes through using a city transit.bus.

“The last week of May is Municipal Accessibility Awareness Week in Ontario, and the month of June is National Deafblind Awareness Month,” said MACC chair Brian Bibeault.

“We decided that on June 6 we were going to promote our wheelchair accessible transit as we have done in the past when we had Mayor Al McDonald in a wheelchair. This time he is going to be blindfolded to experience what it is like to use city transit when you are blind.”

The plan is to take a transit bus from City Hall to Lee Park where a flag will be raised for National Deafblind Awareness Month.

“The idea is to go through it and understand what people go through if they are blind or deaf or in a wheelchair. It is just so councillors understand so that when we bring accessibility issues to them, they will understand them a little bit better like, ‘I didn’t realize a curb would be such a problem for my wheelchair or a minor step into a building.’”

The last time MAAC did a large-scale awareness event like this one was roughly three years ago, however, it does carry out awareness campaigns on a smaller scale, on an annual basis.

“Every year we do something. Last year we had a table at the Farmers’ Market for the first week of June. The year before we were at the mall and had a booth set up for information.”

Invitations will be extended to all city councillors along with other local dignitaries.

Not only is June National Deafblind Awareness Month, but it is also the birth month of Helen Keller, who lost her sight and hearing due to a childhood illness.

She went on to graduate from college and became famous for her work as a political activist and author.

Original at https://www.baytoday.ca/local-news/taking-the-message-of-accessibility-to-the-streets-1395132

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No More Excuses for Ignorance: N.W.T. Needs Accessibility Legislation

Therese Estacion became an amputee in 2016, and she’s found Yellowknife tricky to navigate Therese Estacion · for CBC News · Posted: Apr 23, 2019

The idea of creating barrier-free spaces was once novel to me. I was born able-bodied and had the privilege of entering into and out of spaces with little fuss or notice.

However, during the summer of 2016, I contracted a rare bacterial infection that caused my body to go into septic shock. The night everything happened, my partner was told to call my parents and tell them to rush to the hospital to say their goodbyes.

Luckily, my medical team was able to save my life but at a cost. They pumped my body with medication to draw blood from my extremities to my vital organs and brain. It became apparent, as time passed, that my hands and feet were becoming increasingly necrotic and would have to be amputated.

After November 2016, I became a below-the-knee amputee, and in 2018, I became a partial hands amputee.

The surreal nature of how my body metamorphosed is only one part of what I have come to experience in my journey as a person with a disability. The other more tangible part is concerned with accessibility.

‘The events that make Yellowknife distinctly ‘Yellowknife’ like the winter festivals held on a frozen lake became less cool as I noticed how inaccessible they are,’ writes Therese Estacion. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Inaccessible Old Town

When I first came to the North last year I was just a tourist, and I immediately became enamoured with this snowy expanse. Having lived in Toronto, the spaciousness I encountered in Yellowknife remedied my cramped lifestyle and I seized the opportunity to go on as many adventures as I could.

Now that I live here, and have prosthetic limbs, it has become apparent that people with disabilities face daily obstacles in Yellowknife.

The eclectic allure of the city’s Old Town neighbourhood, for example, waned as I noticed how the icy steps and poorly maintained parking spots excluded persons with physical disabilities from entering businesses.

Similarly, the events that make Yellowknife distinctly “Yellowknife” like the winter festivals held on a frozen lake became less cool as I noticed how inaccessible they are.

The rights of people with disabilities will continue to take a backseat until accessibility legislation is enacted here in the Northwest Territories.

One may argue that business owners and event planners are doing their best. But how can they do their best when there are no benchmarks or standards to live up to? And if there are no timelines to work toward?

The Accessible Canada Act, introduced in Parliament last year, aims to create more consistent accessibility in organizations under the federal government’s responsibility, like the RCMP, the Senate and Crown corporations. But it’s becoming more about rhetoric for change than an actual agent for change, so it is up to the individual provinces and territories to make Canada barrier-free.

A couple of Yellowknife winter festivals are held here, on frozen Great Slave Lake. Estacion notes how inaccessible that is for people like her. (Katherine Barton/CBC)

Disability legislation

In the Northwest Territories, buildings must meet the requirements of the National Building Code. The territorial government told CBC it is updating its Good Building Practices for Northern Facilities, which has guidelines on accessible design for building developers.

But currently only three provinces have accessibility legislation in place: Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

Accessibility legislation would provide clarity for everyone.

In Ontario, the goal of its disability legislationis to have the province be barrier free by 2025. It also sets standards for things like customer service, transportation, and the design of public spaces. How long will businesses in the N.W.T. continue to “try” without any real guidance, direction or accountability?

Accessibility legislation would provide clarity for everyone. It would also create awareness regarding the principles of universal design, which is the design of buildings, products or environments accessible to all people.

There would be no excuses then for benign ignorance, and individuals with disabilities would know their rights and be able to advocate for themselves.

Just like we enacted laws that require drivers wear seat belts, so must we evolve as a generation that will no longer set cruise control on the issues concerning accessibility and the people that need it.

About the Author

Therese Estacion is a teacher from Toronto who came to Canada from the Philippines when she was 10 years old. She is currently working on a book of poems that explores the issues she faces as a person with a disability, after recently becoming a bilateral below-the-knee and partial hand amputee.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/therese-estacion-disability-yellowknife-legislation-1.5098658

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NTEC Awards Business Champions Who Strive for Inclusivity, Accessibility

Hiring the disabled is not only the right choice ethically speaking its the smart choice, says Mike Bradley, long-time Mayor of Sarnia-Lambton
by Cathy Pelletier

At a gala banquet in Niagara Falls last week, N-Tec awarded its Business Champions for hiring the disabled. Joining N-Tec staff Jodi Delage and Kathleen Kelly were: Darla Bell, Fallsview Indoor Waterpark; Wilma Olive-Mills, Chocolate F/X; Norm Kraft, Niagara Recyling; Ryan Wills, Fallsview Casino Resort; Chris DiRaddo, Sassafrass Farms; Rob Welch, Lancaster Brooks & Welch; Bruce Vandersluys, Dobbie’s Florist; Mike DiRaddo, Plant’s Choice; Craig Maguire, Oh Canada, Eh; Sylvia McCormick, Third Space Café; Meghan Grove, Future Waste Recycling; Kayleigh Sexton, The Powerhouse Project; Dan Bouwman, Heartland Forest; Gary Beynon, Doc Magilligan’s Irish Pub.

Gary Beynon needed help in his kitchen at Doc Magilligans Irish Pub.

We needed a dishwasher and someone to butter toast, explained the executive chef, reflecting on his relationship with NTEC (Niagara Training and Employment Agency).

Within a week, I had two great employees, said the Niagara Falls business leader. Job coaches come in and work with the employee the first couple hours of the shift. When Brett came in, he was very shy. He started buttering toast and now hes a line cook. He cooks and helps out with every aspect of the breakfast. Hes a key player. Everybody loves him. Hes so much more confident than when we hired him. You just have to be willing to take a chance, so I encourage everyone to go out and find their own Brett.

NTEC hosted a gala awards ceremony last week to celebrate Beynon and other local Niagara entrepreneurs for being business champions, and including disabled people among their work force.

Agencies such as Community Living, March of Dimes Niagara, Start Me Up Niagara, the NRP Diversity and Inclusive Program, the Niagara Parks Commission, and Venture Niagara, were also recognized for their inclusiveness.

NTEC has committed to finding the best fit for those individuals we support and the businesses, said John Fast, interim CEO and CFO. “Tonights about celebrating success. It is very satisfying to see the growtha 400 per cent increase in just the past two yearsfor individuals placed in competitive employment.

Revealing the agencys new Work Now logo, NTECs manager of employment Jodi Delage stated, Business champions are accessible and inclusive, and from the top down, develop innovation to suit their objectives.

Mayor Mike Bradley of Sarnia-Lambton appeared as guest speaker at the banquet. In 2012, Sarnia was nationally recognized for its accessibility and inclusiveness, and in 2014, Bradley received the Lieutenant Governors award for his personal contributions as an advocate for the disabled, both on the physical and mental spectrum.

Bradley, who has acquired countless additional awards for his inclusive philosophy and activism in his 30 years as mayor of Sarnia, issued a challenge to his fellow Ontario mayors.

The mayors challenge started in 2010, he explained, and it was to hire the intellectually-challenged and disabled. In 2016, we changed it from Do the right thing to do the smart thing. At some point, youve got to find something else besides being elected. You need something within your soul as an elected person to inspire you while advancing your community.

When it comes to accessibility, most communities are doing the minimum, stated Bradley.

In my own community, were building a new sports complex. We did the maximum number of (disabled) parking spots. Its about creating a culture of inclusiveness in your community; to bring people into your business. You can do much more at the grassroots level than at the provincial or federal.

Bradley said he struggles with the language of disability and its related issues.

I dont like intellectually-challenged, he said. To me, this is not about charity. Its just about human rights. I hope you wont just think about one day a year, but think about being a part of the population thats disenfranchised as a citizen. The unemployment rate for those who are disabled is incredible. The barriers of employment are soul-crushing barriers. Our government said its going to change by 2025. Its not even close. If it were any other segment of society, people would fight back.

According to Bradley, Im not just appealing to peoples good nature. Its time. We are all full citizens of the community. Some people see employment and accessibility as a medical issue. Its not. There are 17 million Ontarians who are not included right now, and its not right.

Original at https://www.thoroldnews.com/local-news/ntec-awards-business-champions-who-strive-for-inclusivity-accessibility-1341392

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Debbie Kirwin Honoured With Huntsville Town Hall Flag in Credit to Service

Mayor and council recognize efforts of accessibility advocate and Huntsville resident by Alison Brownlee
Huntsville Forester

Debbie Kirwin has spent years advocating for accessibility in Huntsville. She sees the impending downtown redesign as a chance to make more improvements.

HUNTSVILLE It was the first flag presented by the mayor to a member of the public.

Huntsville mayor Scott Aitchison, during a town council meeting on March 25, presented accessibility advocate Debbie Kirwin with a Canadian flag retired from atop the Huntsville town hall clock tower.

“I, personally, have always been in awe at Deb,” said the mayor. “From the very first moment I met Deb 15 years ago, I knew that she was going to be a force to be reckoned with in this community. And she most certainly has been.”

Kirwin served tirelessly as the chair for the town’s accessibility advisory committee from 2006 to 2018.

Aitchison said the former chair’s committee role was “just the tip of the iceberg” when it came to her advocacy and policy development efforts in the community, region and province.

“Not only has she changed the attitudes and ideas about accessibility and the importance of accessibility in this community, but she has been a transformative voice on the issue of accessibility across Ontario.”

He noted Kirwin would likely focus on the work still left to be done.

“But on a day like today I want you to know that council and, certainly, all of Huntsville celebrate the tremendous progress that you have brought to Huntsville,” said Aitchison.

He thanked her for her years of service and presented her with the flag, a new gesture reserved for honoured citizens. Though the first flag went to former Coun. Det Schumacher, the flag Kirwin received was the first presented to a member of the public.

Kirwin said her position as chair had provided her with many opportunities to promote accessibility in Huntsville and beyond.

She noted that, when Huntsville first held the Ontario ParaSport Winter Games in 2006, the town was recognized for its accessibility initiatives.

“At that time, the initiative that stood out was the Yellow Ramp program and was instrumental in securing the Main Street Accessibility Award for the Town of Huntsville,” said Kirwin. “The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario continued to monitor the progress of accessibility in our town and it’s put Huntsville on the provincial map as a hot spot for accessibility.”

And she noted she had made many presentations throughout the province on the successes of the town’s accessibility advisory committee.

“I believe the icing on the cake was the relationship the (committee) developed with council and staff,” she said. “I want to thank this council, and the four preceding councils, and staff who have come and gone, and those who have hung in to work with us. Together, we have made Huntsville a better place to live.”

Kirwin has also served on the District of Muskoka accessibility advisory committee, the province’s accessibility standards advisory committee, and the 2006 and 2012 Ontario ParaSport Winter Games organizing committees.

Her advocacy areas of focus have included accessible transit and affordable housing, employment for people with disabilities, accessible public spaces and barrier-free community inclusion.

Alison Brownlee is the regional government and health-care reporter for muskokaregion.com. She also writes about people and issues across Muskoka. Reach her at: [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter and Facebook Email: [email protected]

Original at https://www.muskokaregion.com/ews-story/9239777-debbie-kirwin-honoured-with-huntsville-town-hall-flag-in-credit-to-service/

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Still Work to Do in Meeting Accessibility Standards

By Sue Tiffin
Published Feb. 26, 2019

When Anna Froebe, an independent HR consultant who works with business owners in this community, is asked how many businesses are likely not compliant with the rules and deadlines they must follow to meet provincial accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, she doesn’t hesitate to offer a guess.

“Ninety-nine per cent,” she estimates. “Or even more. Ninety-nine point nine. It’s one thing being aware of the act, there’s another thing having the policies in place, the training, and then the other aspect is now acting on that.”

According to Access Ontario, the AODA became law in June 2005, and aims to identify, remove, and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. It applies to all levels of government, non-profits and private sector businesses in Ontario that have one or more employees, regardless of whether they be working full-time, part-time, seasonally or on contract.

Although many businesses and organizations are aware they need to be compliant with the accessibility standards by 2025, Froebe said many don’t realize the deadlines for compliance began years ago, in 2010, depending on the size and scope of the business.

She carries with her what she calls her AODA “bible,” documents which outline what public sector organizations municipalities, education and library or businesses and non-profits must do to meet the standards, depending on whether they have one to 19 employees, 20 to 49 employees or upwards of 50 employees. This includes creating accessibility policies, training staff on Ontario’s accessibility laws, making public information including emergency and public safety information accessible when asked, making websites accessible and filing accessibility compliance reports. The deadlines for changes leading up to 2025 occur almost annually.

“They have to have had this done,” she said of some points listed in her documents. “They don’t even have until 2025.”

And besides missed deadlines causing organizations and businesses to be inaccessible for employees or customers, the financial penalties for not being AODA-compliant can be steep.

“The penalty is that an auditor could come out … and assess your business based on a complaint,” she said. “In Toronto, auditors I think do more random checks, but I think a community like this it would be more so because someone has filed a complaint.”

Froebe has read of corporations and organizations, or directors and officers of a corporation or organization, receiving an auditor’s order to meet accessibility standards with a deadline of 10 days, or two weeks or a month, with failure to become compliant in that time resulting in fines of $50,000 per day, $100,000 per day, or even jail time. Froebe notes this is case law and won’t always be the result of an auditor’s assessment, but that it’s important to at least have a plan in place.

“Part of the act also stipulates that you should be doing this, or have a plan in place, so to have a policy in place that you’re working on it,” she said.

Improved accessibility through the removal of barriers in five key areas of life customer service, information and communication, employment, transportation and design of public spaces is expected.

The customer service standard states that organizations must provide customer service that allows people with disabilities to access goods, services, information, and facilities, with trained staff and an option for a support person at all times.

The public transportation standard notes specialized transit services should be available at the same time as other public transit, rates must be the same as for people without disabilities, vehicle registration and driver identification must appear in an accessible format and guide dogs or service animals must be allowed to ride alongside a user.

In the employment standard, candidates for jobs must be able to access application forms in a variety of formats, of their choice, and have accommodations for interviews, tests, and during the period of employment.

The Ontario Building Code covers most requirements for making new buildings accessible, and Ontario’s Design of Public Spaces Standards detail accessibility requirements for service counters, waiting areas with fixed seating and outdoor spaces, such as sidewalks and parking lots while municipalities and businesses must consult with the public prior to building or rebuilding outdoor public spaces like recreational trails, new or redeveloped outdoor public eating areas, playgrounds and outdoor play spaces, service counters, and parking lots.

The AODA standards are part of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, which require that businesses and organizations provide training to staff and volunteers, develop an accessibility policy, create a multi-year accessibility plan and update it every five years, and consider accessibility in procurement and when designing or purchasing self-service kiosks.

Making changes and understanding policy doesn’t have to be overwhelming, according to Froebe. She said she has worked with local business owners to determine what their priorities are and what their policies and procedures already look like, so she can assess if something is missing or outdated based on new legislation in order to help businesses meet AODA requirements and be fully accessible.

“There’s different steps: understanding this, working with me or whomever to start putting in policies that are specific to their business and their business size, having the staff training and then implementing the changes that need to be made, even little ones,” said Froebe. “Like, how much does it take to put on the bottom of your website, a small disclaimer, if you need this website information in a different format.”

Froebe said she has noticed employment ads in the newspaper that don’t make note of different formats of the advertisement available, and how potential candidates might access information about the job offered.

“You need to do this … every time, any catalogues you produce, any brochures, any flyers, any pamphlets, your websites you need to say somewhere, even if it’s at the very back in small letters, on the ads you produce, you have to put, if you want this in a different format, please contact [us],” she said.

In many cases, Froebe has said business owners might understand the basics of accessibility but don’t have all the other parts, including updated training of new employees.

Froebe said that almost two million people with disabilities live in Ontario.

“That’s huge in terms of customer base, or lost customer base, or lost employee base,” she said. “[It could be] $536 billion in income that’s lost from people who have disabilities. That’s huge. This could be huge for a town like this … there’s potential there for employment, business productivity, business profit, if [people] look at some of these issues.”

Original at http://www.haliburtonecho.ca/still-work-to-do-in-meeting-accessibility-standards?id=876

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Blind Juror in Toronto Impaired Driving Case Was Almost Rejected

Disability advocates seek removal of courtroom barriers
Betsy Powell Toronto Star
Dec. 29, 2018

A recent criminal trial at Toronto’s downtown Superior Court featured what may be a first in Ontario: a blind juror.

The fact that is, if not a first, an extremely rare occurrence in Ontario underscores that much more needs to be done to remove the barriers to equal treatment in the criminal justice system, disability advocates say.

“Certainly this applies to ensuring adequate representation of persons with disabilities on juries,” says Luke Reid, a lawyer with ARCH Disability Law Centre in Toronto.

The Criminal Code allows people with vision or hearing disabilities to serve on juries. However, an accused may challenge a juror’s service and the Juries Act deems jurors ineligible if they have “a physical or mental disability that would seriously impair his or her ability to discharge the duties of a juror.”

“However, human rights law would demand that this (or any) requirement not be interpreted in an overbroad way and that persons with disabilities have the right to the necessary accommodations,” Reid wrote in email.

Juror 29743 almost didn’t get picked. While there are likely numerous reasons preventing people with impaired vision from sitting on juries, there is still a “very active debate” around the ability of a “trier of fact” to see a witness’s demeanour in order to assess credibility, Reid noted in an email.

“I think courts tend to err on the side of caution where the right of an accused to a fair trial is potentially at issue.”

This fall, a day before jury selection in an impaired driving causing death trial, prosecutor Marnie Goldenberg told the judge she and defence lawyer Carolyn Kerr had some concerns about a prospective juror, who had shown up at the courthouse with a service dog. Goldenberg told the judge numerous photos would be introduced during the two-week trial.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Rob Goldstein told the lawyers while it was entirely appropriate to raise the issue, he didn’t intend to treat Juror 29743 any differently than other jurors.

“I think it’s something we canvass and we treat her the way we treat any other juror who has a health issue,” Goldstein said. The next day, after Juror 29743 entered the courtroom with her service dog, the judge asked her how she would “deal” with all the photos in the case.

“It would be through description … I cannot see them,” the woman, who works in human resources, told Goldstein.

“OK, all right, so if they are described – you can absorb what’s in them?” the judge asked. She said yes.

The jury selection process continued in the normal course with two already selected jurors, designated as “triers,” deciding whether or not she was an acceptable pick.

Juror 29743 said she had not heard about the case involving a man charged with impaired driving causing death on April 23, 2016, near Jane St. and Humberview Blvd. She also indicated she could consider the evidence without prejudice or bias after being told the accused was a visible minority and Muslim. Nevertheless, the triers immediately rejected her.

Goldstein, however, wasn’t satisfied. He told the triers he was going to reread their instructions and asked them to consult each other again. The test to decide is if a juror would approach jury duty with an open mind and decide the case based solely on the evidence and his legal instructions, the judge told them.

This time, the triers found Juror 29743 acceptable while counsel on both sides said they were “content” with the choice. After a few days of deliberations, the jury returned to court with a guilty verdict. The Star’s attempts to speak to Juror 29743 were unsuccessful.

Lawyer David Lepofsky, a retired Crown attorney who is blind and was not involved in the case, said having a blind juror not only makes the legal system more representative of society, it makes lawyers more effective.

There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in a courtroom that is visual and needs to be explained for the transcript, or audio recording, so having a blind juror will help ensure that happens, “so you get a better record, and it’s better for everybody,” Lepofsky said.

But there are some exceptions where a visually impaired juror might have to be excluded, he added. If, for example, the guilt or innocence of an accused is entirely based on whether a jury believes an accused looks like an assailant captured in a surveillance video.

Lepofsky, now a visiting professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall law school, said traditionally, appeal courts said trial judges were in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses, because they, unlike appeal judges, can access demeanour.

That view has evolved, and now appeal courts are increasingly warning “it’s wrong to over emphasize visual demeanour when assessing credibility.” He uses himself as an example to explain how everyone has different ways of doing that.

“Sighted people use eyes. I listen to a voice … and the whole idea of a jury is it’s a bunch of different people … pooling their different ways of assessing credibility and then voting as a group. Well, who’s to say visual is the only way to do it,” he said.

“Those of us who experience the world non visually, have our own experience too.”

While jurors don’t have to be statistically representative of society, there is an expectation that they bring to the courtroom their own life experience, “drawn from different parts of the community, and they pool to form a collective assessment, a very difficult assessment, who to believe about what happened.”

Original at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/11/05/blind-juror-in-toronto-impaired-driving-case-was-almost-rejected.html

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Airline Fined for Separate Disabled-Accessible Website

Advertising Law
December 13, 2018
Jesse M. Brody

Offering a separate website for those with disabilities does not comply with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) website accessibility requirements, the agency made clear with a $200,000 fine to the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS).

The DOT established website accessibility requirements that require any U.S. or foreign air carrier that has a website and that operates at least one aircraft seating more than 60 passengers to ensure that its public-facing webpages on its primary website are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Set forth at 14 CFR Part 382, the rule had two phases of implementation.

By December 12, 2015, covered entities needed to ensure that core travel information and services on the airline’s primary website met the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA Standard. Airlines had until December 12, 2016, to achieve compliance for all remaining webpages on the primary site.

But in February 2017, the DOT’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings discovered that SAS’ primary website was not accessible to persons with disabilities. Instead, the airline created an “assistive version” of its primary website at a separate and distinct URL.

This separate site violated the DOT rule, the agency said.

“In the preamble to the rule the Department explained that to create a separate accessible website would ‘likely perpetuate the problem of unequal access as carriers allot fewer resources than needed over time to properly maintain the second site,’” according to the DOT consent order with SAS. “The Department also stated that it is a ‘well-established principle of disability non-discrimination law that separate or different aids, benefits or services can only be provided to individuals with disabilities (or a class of such individuals) when necessary to provide aids, benefits or service that are as effective as those provided to others.’”

SAS’ failure to comply also constituted unfair and deceptive practices and an unfair method of competition, the agency said.

In response, SAS argued it “held a good faith belief” that the assistive version of its website was a conforming alternate version that brought its primary site into compliance, pointing the finger at a third-party vendor that “assured” the airline the alternative site met the requirements of the DOT rule. SAS no longer has an alternative separate website designed for individuals with disabilities, and its primary website is accessible.

The DOT Enforcement Office and SAS reached an agreement over the charges. While the airline did not admit to the violations asserted by the agency, it agreed to cease and desist from future similar violations and pay a compromise civil penalty of $200,000. Of the total amount, $100,000 was due immediately, with the remaining $100,000 due and payable if SAS violates the consent order within one year.

“This compromise assessment is appropriate considering the nature and extent of the violations described herein and serves the public interest,” according to the consent order. “It represents a strong deterrent to future similar unlawful practices by SAS and other carriers.”

To read the DOT’s consent order, visit https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOT-OST-2018-0001-0017 .

Why it matters

Website operators have struggled over the years with accessibility requirements, but the DOT consent order makes one thing very clear: A separate accessible website designed for individuals with disabilities is not an option

Original at https://www.manatt.com/Insights/Newsletters/Advertising-Law/Airline-Fined-for-Separate-Disabled-Accessible-Web

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Accommodating Students With Disabilities on Campus: Moving Beyond Silos

A new report looks at how accessibility and accommodations are meeting the needs of disabled students across Canada. By MICHAEL RANCIC | NOV 21 2018

A new study aims to challenge how accessibility and accommodations are understood at postsecondary institutions. Released in October, the Landscape of Accessibility and Accommodation in Post-Secondary Education for Students with Disabilities report says that accessibility remains siloed within postsecondary education.

Accessibility and inclusion efforts in the postsecondary environment have lagged behind the evolution of the student experience and are limited to the academic (classroom and online learning) environment, reads the report, published by the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS).

Founded in 1986, NEADS mandate is to support access to education and employment for postsecondary students and graduates with disabilities across Canada. The Social Development Partnerships Program of Employment and Social Development Canada funded the Landscape project in 2016 to help inform the federal governments new national accessibility legislation, known as Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The bill went through its first reading in June 2018 and was referred to committee in September for further study.

We recognized that it was very important that postsecondary students and graduates with disabilities have a significant input into the consultations relating to a federal disability act, said Frank Smith, NEADS national coordinator.

Beyond the opportunity to influence new federal legislation, there were more pressing reasons that necessitated the report, said Mr. Smith. [NEADS] started in 1986 that was before most students were using computers, the internet, social media. It was a time when, if you were a blind student, you got your books on tape, he said.

What has happened since then with technology, online learning and distance education has really helped to level the playing field for many people with disabilities who, without technology, would not be able to fully participate, Mr. Smith continued. However, technology has also introduced new challenges: with more students with disabilities able to participate on campus, is the accommodation process working for them the best that it can? How is the rest of campus life meeting their needs? This rapidly shifting learning dynamic hasnt been studied with this kind of national scope, Mr. Smith explained.

We often dont look at whole systems across a nation, said Christine Arnold, one of the co-investigators for the Landscape report and an assistant professor in the faculty of education at Memorial University (the two other co-investigators were Michelle Pidgeon, an associate professor of education at Simon Fraser University, and Deanna Rexe, vice-president, academic, at Assiniboine Community College). I dont know that weve seen this comprehensive of a scan across the entire country looking at the policies, programs and the literature, said Dr. Arnold

The project was a collaborative effort between researchers at SFU, Assiniboine and Memorial, along with a team of 15 graduate students with disabilities. The report and its recommendations came from a substantive literature review, environmental scans, data analysis from surveys like the Canadian Graduate Survey, as well as consultations with students, service providers and educators at various conferences across the country.

The report makes numerous recommendations for policy changes at the federal, provincial and institutional levels (the latter includes service providers, teaching staff and libraries).

These include: Mandate accessibility of features, methods, applications and protocols used by persons with disabilities in navigating education and employment, meaning that accessibility shouldnt be limited to certain areas of education and employment; and Mandate postsecondary institutions to outline a nationally accepted set of essential requirements for all their programs of study, which aims to eliminate the current regional and provincial disparities that exist with respect to policies and practices around accessibility and inclusion.

Information gaps

Across all recommendations, some themes emerged, said Dr. Arnold. First and foremost was the limited amount of research previously done in this area. We found there were gaps gaping gaps at times, she said.

Identifying those gaps was a key step before more original research could take place, Dr. Arnold added. We know theres real appetite to do this work and we know that its becoming increasingly important as we open up access for students and were trying to accommodate more students and try to make sure theyre successful.

Dr. Arnold cited the example of student transitions within institutions, between institutions and from postsecondary education into the job market as an area thats of particular interest to her, and yet a literature review she conducted yielded little research. How do our services allow our students to make those transitions successfully and where do we fall down? she asked.

Dr. Arnold also said more effort needs to be focused on the retention and attrition of students, making sure that they have supports they need and know where to find them. A lot of the literature focuses on support for students with disabilities with regard to their coursework their academics, making sure theyre proceeding in their program but theres this whole other dimension of student life, she said.

Acknowledging this, the Landscape report suggests that accommodations need to be built into programs and initiatives that fall under student services or student affairs. Co-curricular experiences, work-oriented learning, experiential learning, leadership opportunities all of these need to have accommodations built into them, she said.

Jay Dolmage, an associate professor of English at the University of Waterloo who researches disability accommodations, said the NEADS report reveals a culture thats failing its disabled students. Offices of disability services, especially in Canada, are doing a good job within the parameters theyre often really underfunded and understaffed. But, theres also a cultural stigma against disability that makes it difficult to do that job effectively, he said, noting that, according to the multi-year accountability agreements published by each university, fewer students are seeking accommodations from one year to the next.

Dr. Dolmage added: Universities map disability as a legal requirement and as something that needs to be medically verified, but they might not necessarily recognize disability as an important source of diversity or as a culture. Mr. Smith at NEADS agreed: That medical approach doesnt speak to the individual learning path or requirement of the student who happens to have a disability.

Fundamentally, said Dr. Arnold, the report and its recommendations are rooted in a push for universal planning in education. There are always going to be specific accommodations, she said. However, if we can be more universal and plan for those in advance, we would be doing ourselves a great favour and our students would be able to see themselves in the programming. Seeing yourself there and knowing youll be comfortable is honestly at times half the struggle.

Original at https://www.universityaffairs.ca/news/news-article/accommodating-students-with-disabilities-on-campus-moving-beyond-silos/

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AODA Review Hopes to Address What it Means to Be Accessible

Former Ontario lieutenant governor is conducting the third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Posted October 31, 2018
by: Matt Vis

THUNDER BAY The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, passed in 2005, gave the province 20 years to become fully accessible.

With that target date now less than a decade away, David Onley believes it’s important to figure out what exactly it means to be accessible.

The former Ontario lieutenant governor is in the midst of conducting the third legislative review of the act, a process that brought him to Thunder Bay for a Tuesday afternoon public town hall session.

“If you can’t identify what the objective is, how are you going to know whether or not you get there,” Onley said.

“I think there needs to be some definition setting as to what it is that we’re really talking about what we’re going to do.”

Onley compared the lack of direction with the act to former U.S. president John F. Kennedy’s famous declaration in 1961 that the country would land a man on the moon by the end of that decade and return him home safely.

“The equivalent of the AODA would be that we need to go somewhere in space sometime fairly soon and do our very best to get back OK,” Onley said. “It’s not definite.”

Maurice Rubenick, who has required a wheelchair since breaking his back in a fall on the job in 1988, said one emerging issue he has encountered is that the act does not have regulations for bed heights in accessible hotel rooms.

Beds 30 inches in height, which Rubenick said is becoming more common, are difficult for people with physical disabilities to climb in and out. He has been told to discuss the issue directly with hoteliers.

“What purpose is the AODA if I have to do the talking myself? It doesn’t make any sense,” Rubenick said. “An accessible hotel room gives you all accommodations for wheelchairs, heights of toilets, heights of showers, wheel-in showers, chairs, but nothing to do with bed height.”

Onley, who uses a motorized scooter and leg braces after an early life battle with polio, said he is finding a similar trend when he travels.

That is an example of an issue, Onley said, that exists all across Ontario rather than just in small, isolated pockets.

“You hear common denominator stories, so that’s reinforcing and I really appreciate when people keep saying they’re encountering the same problem, whether it’s in Sioux Lookout or whether it’s Toronto or whether it’s Ottawa or whether it’s Thunder Bay,” Onley said.

“If you keep hearing the same thing then you go, OK, this is happening across the province. It’s not just a big city problem and it’s not just a small town problem.”

Other examples raised include businesses that have accessible washrooms but have physical barriers, such as steps, to enter the building.

“Typically what they have not done, is they have not engaged with the disability community and because they haven’t engaged with them they’re just guessing what they think they need,” Onley said.

The act in 2005 required municipalities with a population of more than 10,000 people to have municipal accessibility advisory committees.

Onley said he has heard across the province that members of those committees don’t feel like they’re listened to or paid attention, which is something he said should be assessed.

Original at https://www.tbnewswatch.com/local-news/aoda-review-hopes-to-address-what-it-means-to-be-accessible-1105484

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