Is the Ford Government Obeying the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act? – And Other News from the Accessibility Front


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Is the Ford Government Obeying the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act? – And Other News from the Accessibility Front

November 25, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here is a sampling of news from the grassroots of Ontario’s non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.

1. Two Illustrations of How the Ford Government Has Not Obeyed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

For years, the Ontario Government has proclaimed that it is leading Ontario by its example when it comes to achieving accessibility for people with disabilities. Yet is the Government itself fully obeying Ontario’s key accessibility law, the AODA? We here highlight two ways in which the Ontario Government is not now in compliance with the AODA:

First, as far as it has announced, the Government has not fulfilled its mandatory and important duty under s. 9 of the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard that was enacted in December 2012. We have not even seen a public posting inviting people to apply to serve on that Standards Development Committee.

In our July 17, 2018 letter to Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, we alerted the minister to this obligation. Fully 16 months later, we have seen no action on this. In that letter, we identified this as a priority for the minister:

“4. Get a Standards Development Committee appointed to develop recommendations on accessibility standards needed to address barriers in the built environment, in residential housing, and in existing buildings whether or not they are undergoing major renovations.

One effective way to do this would be to fulfil the Government’s overdue obligation under the AODA, which the previous Government failed to fulfil, to appoint a new Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on any revisions needed to the 2012 provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation which address disability barriers in public spaces.”

That review had to be started within five years, i.e. by December 2017. Both the previous Wynne Government and the current Doug Ford Government have each failed to do so. Section 9 of the AODA provides:

“(9)   Within five years after an accessibility standard is adopted by regulation or at such earlier time as the Minister may specify, the standards development committee responsible for the industry, sector of the economy or class of persons or organizations to which the standard applies shall,

(a)    re-examine the long-term accessibility objectives determined under subsection (2);

(b)    if required, revise the measures, policies, practices and requirements to be implemented on or before January 1, 2025 and the time-frame for their implementation;

(c)    develop another proposed accessibility standard containing such additions or modifications to the existing accessibility standard as the standards development committee deems advisable and submit it to the Minister for the purposes of making the proposed standard public and receiving comments in accordance with section 10; and

(d)    make such changes it considers advisable to the proposed accessibility standard developed under clause (c) based on the comments received under section 10 and provide the Minister with the subsequent proposed accessibility standard.”

Second, the Ford Government is not obeying the mandatory requirement to have an Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) in place. The previous Government had appointed an ASAC. It met over the years since the AODA was enacted in 2005.

However, there has been no meeting of ASAC since the Ford Government took office in June 2018. At present, according to the Government’s website, there is only one member left on ASAC and no chair or vice chair of that Council.

Section 31 of the AODA provides:

“Accessibility Standards Advisory Council

  1. (1)   The Minister shall establish a council to be known in English as the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and in French as Conseil consultatif des normes d’accessibilité.

Members

(2)   A majority of the members of the Council shall be persons with disabilities.

Remuneration and expenses

(3)   The Minister may pay the members of the Council the remuneration and the reimbursement for expenses that the Lieutenant Governor in Council determines.

Duties

(4)   At the direction of the Minister, the Council shall advise the Minister on,

(a)    the process for the development of accessibility standards and the progress made by standards development committees in the development of proposed accessibility standards and in achieving the purposes of this Act;

(b)    accessibility reports prepared under this Act;

(c)    programs of public information related to this Act; and

(d)    all other matters related to the subject-matter of this Act that the Minister directs.

Public consultation

(5)   At the direction of the Minister, the Council shall hold public consultations in relation to the matters referred to in subsection (4).

Reports

(6)   The Council shall give the Minister such reports as the Minister may request.”

Of these two clear contraventions of the AODA, the first is by far the most important. However, the Government should never disobey our accessibility legislation, especially at a time when Ontario keeps slipping further and further behind the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming an accessible province for people with disabilities by 2025.

2. Act Quickly to RSVP to Come to the December 3, 2019 Birthday Party to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Birth of the Grassroots Non-Partisan Campaign for Strong Ontario Accessibility Legislation

Available spaces are quickly filling up to attend the December 3, 2019 birthday party at Queen’s Park to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the birth in that very building of the non-partisan grassroots campaign for strong accessibility legislation in Ontario for over 2 million people with disabilities. For information about this event, and how to RSVP, and for a summary of the historic events on November 29, 1994, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/come-to-a-birthday-party-on-december-3-2019-the-international-day-for-people-with-disabilities-at-queens-park-to-celebrate-the-25th-anniversary-of-the-birth-of-the-non-partisan-grassroots-movemen/

Once the maximum of 150 people is reached, anyone who RSVPs will get a spot on the waiting list.

3. The Doug Ford Government Has Still Not Announced a Plan to Implement the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA

A total of 298 days or almost ten months have now passed since the Doug Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Onley Report found that the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA has been far too sluggish and ineffective. The Ford Government has still announced no plan to implement that report, nor has it said that it will do so.

4. A Successful Public Forum on Accessibility Was Held Earlier this Month in the County of Essex

On November 5, 2019, the County of Essex and its Accessibility Advisory Committee held a very successful public forum on disability accessibility. It focused on practical things that can be done to make accessibility a reality for people with disabilities.

Below we set out news coverage of that event. We were delighted that in attendance were the mayor or deputy mayor of several local municipalities, as well as people with disabilities, senior municipal public servants and representatives of disability community organizations. We encourage other local communities to organize similar events. We’d be happy to help and to provide a speaker if possible.

5. Carla Qualtrough is Back as the Minister Responsible for Implementing and Enforcing the New Accessible Canada Act

After the recent federal election, Prime Minister Trudeau has announced his new Cabinet. He has again appointed Carla Qualtrough to serve as the federal minister responsible to lead the implementation and enforcement of the new Accessible Canada Act. Her title has been modified. She is now Canada’s Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.

We congratulate Minister Qualtrough on her new appointment. We look forward to working with her on our proposal which we announced on November 18, 2019 , that a short bill be introduced into Parliament to better enable the Accessible Canada Act to achieve its important goals.

          MORE DETAILS

The Windsor Star November 6, 2019

Originally posted at https://windsorstar.com/news/local-news/accessibility-advocate-david-lepofsky-urging-people-to-highlight-access-deficiencies

Accessibility advocate David Lepofsky urging people to highlight access deficiencies

CHRIS THOMPSON, WINDSOR STAR Updated: November 5, 2019

David Lepofsky, a prominent champion of accessibility and the rights of persons with disabilities, speaks at an event hosted by the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee at the Civic Centre, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. DAX MELMER / WINDSOR STAR

Accessibility advocate David Lepofsky came to Essex Tuesday to promote a Twitter campaign aimed at affecting change by identifying barriers to mobility for the disabled.

Lepofsky, chairman of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Alliance, spoke to about 60 people at the Essex Civic Centre.

“We have made progress, but we are not on schedule for accessibility in 2025, nowhere close,” said Lepofsky. “Our accessibility and our rights should not be dismissed as red tape.”

Lepofsky is encouraging all Ontarians to use social media to expose accessibility barriers with photographs using the hashtags #DialDoug and #AODAFail.

Lepofsky is calling on the Progressive Conservative government of Doug Ford to make the province fully accessible for the 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.

He said the disabled community is “the minority of everyone” because you either have a disability, know someone with a disability or will get a disability later in life.

“The biggest cause of disability is getting older,” Lepofsky said.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was enacted in 2005 to improve accessibility standards for Ontarians with physical and mental disabilities to all public establishments by 2025.

Compliance deadlines depend on the size of the institution and the sector in which it operates.

[email protected]

Excerpt from Ontario Government’s Website Listing the Membership of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council as of November 24, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.pas.gov.on.ca/Home/Agency/1

  1. Chair (Part-Time)
  2. Vice-Chair (Part-Time)
  3. Member (Part-Time) OLGA DOSIS, 03-Jan-2018 – 02-Jan-2020, Woodbridge
  4. Member (Part-Time)
  5. Member (Part-Time)
  6. Member (Part-Time)
  7. Member (Part-Time)
  8. Member (Part-Time)
  9. Member (Part-Time)
  10. Member (Part-Time)
  11. Member (Part-Time)
  12. Member (Part-Time)
  13. Member (Part-Time)
  14. Member (Part-Time)
  15. Member (Part-Time)
  16. Member (Part-Time)



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Come to A November 5, 2019 Windsor Area Public Forum on Accessibility – CBC’s “The National” Reveals A Troubling Barrier to Accessible Housing Facing Too Many People with Disabilities – and Another Memorable Anniversary on the Road to A Barrier-Free Ontario


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Come to A November 5, 2019 Windsor Area Public Forum on Accessibility – CBC’s “The National” Reveals A Troubling Barrier to Accessible Housing Facing Too Many People with Disabilities – and Another Memorable Anniversary on the Road to A Barrier-Free Ontario

October 29, 2019

          SUMMARY

1. Come to the November 5, 2019 Essex County Town Hall Forum on the AODA and Accessible Canada Act

Want to hear the latest news in our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities, at the municipal, provincial and federal levels? Want to know how you can make a big difference for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada?

If you live in Windsor, or anywhere in Essex County, please come to the Essex County Civic Centre on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, beginning at 1 p.m. for a Town Hall Public Forum on making the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Accessible Canada Act work for you. The speaker will be AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. Below is the announcement of this event by the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee. We commend that Committee and the municipal staff that supports them for organizing this event and for reaching out to the AODA Alliance to have our chair take part. Information on how to RSVP is available at a link in the announcement, set out below.

2. CBC’s “The National” TV Program Shines Light on Another Troubling Disability Accessibility Barrier

For the third time this year, CBC TV’s unstoppable reporter Rosa Marchitelli shone a bright light on another troubling accessibility barrier that faces too many people with disabilities in Canada. This time, it was a barrier to accessible housing. A condo refused to install an automatic door opener to accommodate a woman with a disability who needs it to get in and out of the building where she lives. We set that story out below, and commend CBC, Rosa Marchitelli and her team for covering this barrier.

This story is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the critical shortage of accessible housing in Canada, needed by a growing population that needs an accessible place to live. Federal, provincial and municipal action is needed to address this. We are honoured that CBC has come to us with this story and sought our comment on it.

 3. Today is An Important Anniversary for the Campaign for Accessibility

Twenty-one years ago today, tireless and tenacious grass roots disability advocacy paid off, with long term consequences for over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities!

On October 29, 1998, when the Conservative Government of Premier Mike Harris was in power, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the predecessor to the AODA Alliance) got the Ontario Legislature to unanimously pass a powerful resolution. It called for the enactment of a provincial disability accessibility law that puts into effect the 11 principles that grass roots disability advocates had formulated. You can read that resolution by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/today-is-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-ontario-legislatures-historic-unanimous-resolution-calling-for-ontario-to-enact-strong-and-effective-disability-accessibility-legislation-how-far-have-1-9-mil/

The events of that dramatic day are summarized in a three-page excerpt, set out below, from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s detailed article which summarizes the Disabilities Act movement’s history from 1994 to 2003. To read the debates in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998, leading to the passage of this resolution, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/hansard18.html

Over two decades later, we still measure the legislation we’ve won, the McGuinty Government’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, against the 11 principles that the Ontario Legislature adopted on October 29, 1998. We also continue to measure any accessibility standards and other actions taken under the AODA 2005 against the 11 bedrock principles which the Ontario Legislature adopted on that historic day.

It is troubling that on this anniversary, a seemingly-endless 273 days have passed since the Ontario Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ontario Government has still not announced a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report. In the meantime, public money continues to be freely available to create new barriers against people with disabilities in Ontario and to perpetuate existing barriers.

Learn more about the ODA Committee’s campaign that led to the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign since 2005 to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign to get the Federal Government to enact strong national accessibility legislation.

          MORE DETAILS

 Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee Announcement of November 5, 2019 Town Hall Public Forum on Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Accessibility Champion to Speak at Essex County Civic Centre

David Lepofsky, a prominent and passionate champion for accessibility and the rights of persons with disabilities, will speak at a free event hosted by the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee at the Civic Centre on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

An author, advocate, professor, lawyer and community organizer, Lepofsky will speak about accessibility in municipal settings and the need for continued advocacy in pursuit of an inclusive society accessible to all. The ECAAC is thrilled to welcome such an experienced, engaging and dynamic speaker on such an important topic.

Lepofsky has been advocating for laws to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Canada since the 1970s. In the early 1980s, he was part of a successful effort to ensure the rights of those with disabilities were protected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He began fighting for those with vision loss in the 1990s and won cases against the Toronto Transit Commission before the Human Rights Tribunal, which ordered the TTC in 2005 to announce all subway stops and in 2007 to announce all bus and streetcar stops.

From 1994 to 2005, Lepofsky led the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, which campaigned for a decade to secure passage of two provincial laws to make Ontario fully accessible – the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

He is presently the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which advocates for the strong accessibility standards outlined in provincial legislation. The Alliance successfully secured in 2010 amendments to electoral legislation to address barriers to voting in Ontario and is currently working for the expansion of telephone and internet voting.

Lepofsky is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Osgoode Hall Law School, where he is a visiting professor of Disability Rights and Legal Education. He is also an adjunct member of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. He is the author of one law book, the author or co-author of 30 law journal articles or book chapters and his work has been cited in several decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada.

He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1995, the Order of Ontario in 2007 and inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 2003. He has honorary doctorates from multiple Canadian universities and awards from several organizations including the March of Dimes Canada and Community Living Ontario. Canadian Lawyer magazine named him one of Canada’s 25 most influential lawyers in 2010.

Lepofsky has been a featured speaker across Canada and the United States as well as Israel, Denmark, Belgium, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland. He will speak at the Essex County Civic Centre on Tuesday, Nov. 5, beginning at 1 p.m.

The event is free but space is limited, so participants are asked to register by visiting the County of Essex’s website.

CBC TV News The National October 13, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/go-public-disabled-automatic-door-1.5313633

Calgary GO PUBLIC

‘If there’s a fire I’m dead’: Quadruple amputee battles condo board for access to her own building

Governments need to ‘get with the program,’ fix building codes and laws, advocate says

Rosa Marchitelli CBC News

Verna Marzo says she’ll never forget the embarrassment of being stuck outside her Calgary condo building — in the cold for almost two hours, waiting for someone to let her in — because as a quadruple amputee she can’t open the doors on her own, and her condo board has refused to install automatic doors she can use.

“Someone helped me [get] out, but when I wanted to go back in, there was no one to open the door,” said Marzo, 46.

“It was cold. I called my sister but my sister was at work … so I waited until my caregiver arrived.” She says none of the other doors in the building is an option.

“That means I get stuck behind the doors. If there’s an emergency … if there’s a fire, I’m dead, there’s no way I can get outside.”

According to an advocate for people with disabilities, situations like Marzo’s are “all too common,” because weak building codes and a lack of provincial accessibility laws are causing a “chronic and pervasive shortage” of accessible housing.

“Imagine that you’re in a building where you paid good money to live … and you can’t get in or out without having someone there,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“Imagine you go to sleep at night knowing — God forbid — if there’s a fire, you can’t let yourself out. No one would want to live that way and people with disabilities shouldn’t have to live that way.”

Homebound and frustrated

Two years ago, after having emergency abdominal surgery, Marzo contracted sepsis — a reaction to a severe blood infection that leads to organs shutting down. Doctors amputated both legs and arms to save her life.

Earlier this year, she started shopping for a condo that would allow her to get around with her wheelchair or prosthetics. She says she knew the place she bought wasn’t perfect, but it was one of the few she could afford. She hoped to deal with issues as they came up, but never expected to be fighting for a door.

In May, a few months after she was locked outside in the cold, she asked the building manager if automatic doors could be installed.

She was told the condo board decided not at this time. Marzo’s social worker tried again, contacting the board on her behalf.

She was told the board already had a plan for new doors but there would be no automatic push-button system due to security concerns of the doors being open too long.

That explanation is “a total red herring,” according to Lepofsky.

“You could design doors with optical sensors to protect against that. But even a manual door, with a lock, there’s no guarantee that requires it to be held open only long enough for the person with the key to get through.”

Meanwhile, Marzo remains homebound and frustrated.

“I don’t want to only benefit me. I want people who have lesser mobility to benefit as well. Because it’s not easy to just be staying at home and be depressed,” she said.

The property management company declined to answer Go Public’s questions, claiming it was a legal matter and referring us to the condo board.

Go Public made repeated requests to board members for comment; all went unanswered.

‘Get with the program’

Automatic doors would cost between $2,500 to $7,500, depending on the design, according to Sean Crump from Universal Access, a Calgary company that provides advice to businesses on how to make buildings more accessible.

Crump says there is public funding available to qualified candidates to help pay for building modifications, though it’s not clear if Marzo’s building qualifies.

“There are a few resources. The federal government has an Enabling Access Fund that allows funds to be put into accessible design for spaces and buildings — and it’s done a lot of good.”

More than three million people over the age of 15 have at least one physical disability according to the most recent Statistics Canada numbers from 2017.

On July 11, the Accessible Canada Act came into force. Lepofsky says it’s a well intentioned effort at mandating barrier-free access, but it, too, falls short by covering only sectors within Ottawa’s jurisdiction like banking, telecommunications and the federal government.

He says that leaves a mish-mash of accessibility laws — or none at all — at the provincial level. Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia are the only provinces with that kind of legislation.

“We need the seven provinces in Canada that don’t have a provincial accessibility law to enact one — to get with the program,” Lepofsky said.

But even in those provinces, Marzo would have little or no recourse. Manitoba and Nova Scotia’s legislation don’t address the responsibilities of condo boards.

Ontario’s does, but since it was implemented in 2005, it’s done little to help people with disabilities, according to a review released in January by former lieutenant governor David Onley.

“We are almost 14 years later,” Onley, who was Canada’s first lieutenant governor with a physical disability, wrote, “and the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.”

“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

Changing the building codes could also help, according to Lepofsky. But, though national and provincial codes cover new buildings and major renovations, older buildings like Marzo’s are under no obligation to renovate.

All of this, Lepofsky says, leaves people with disabilities to deal with problems “one battle at a time” through human rights complaints.

The national and provincial human rights codes say buildings used by the public need to be accessible.

Fight for doors ‘hideous’

Marzo says everywhere she turned no one could — or would — help. She says her call to the Alberta Human Rights Commission wasn’t returned and the City of Calgary told her there is nothing it can do.

“They just keep [telling me] call this person or this person and eventually someone from City of Calgary called me and said they cannot force the condo board to put the door in because it’s not the law.”

Go Public took Marzo’s situation to provincial and federal lawmakers.

Jennifer Dagsvik, spokesperson for Alberta’s Ministry of Community and Social Service, says the province is “monitoring” the new federal and existing provincial laws.

She says while Alberta lacks an accessibility law, people with disabilities can seek help under the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Ottawa’s most recent minister of public services and procurement and accessibility didn’t answer Go Public’s questions directly.

Instead Carla Qualtrough sent a general statement, referring to the Accessible Canada Act and the accessibility review board — the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO) — it created.

“While CASDO is still in its early stages of development, it has been made evident by Canadians and members of the disability community that standards in new and existing buildings is a priority,” Qualtrough said.

Marzo says she won’t give up, saying it’s “hideous” she’s had to fight this hard to be able to enter and exit the building she lives in.

She’s planning to talk to a lawyer for advice on what to do next.

“They will get old too,” she says, referring to members of her condo board. “And they will lose their strength. And they will thank me for that door if they will do it now.”

Rosa Marchitelli

@cbcRosa

Rosa Marchitelli is a national award winner for her investigative work. As co-host of the CBC News segment Go Public, she has a reputation for asking tough questions and holding companies and individuals to account. Rosa’s work is seen across CBC News platforms.

With files by Jenn Blair

 Excerpt from The Long, Arduous Road To A Barrier-Free Ontario For People With Disabilities: The History Of The Ontarians with Disabilities Act — The First Chapter

(2004, 15 National Journal of Constitutional Law)

By David Lepofsky

8)         FALL 1998: THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE DECLARES WHAT THE ODA MUST INCLUDE AND THE GOVERNMENT BRINGS FORWARD ITS FIRST ODA BILL

  1. a) Enshrining The ODA Yardstick – The Legislature’s Second ODA Resolution Adopts Our Eleven Principles

Perhaps the most significant milestone in the first chapter of our campaign came in October 1998. In the Fall of 1998, after the Government’s 1998 ODA closed consultations ended, we turned our attention to a next big challenge. A Government ODA bill could come at any time. We had no reason to expect that the Government would forewarn us of the date when it would introduce an ODA bill into the Legislature. The Government hadn’t forewarned us of the July 1998 release of its ODA discussion paper.

We wanted to publicly set a clear benchmark or yardstick against which any Government’s ODA bill could be measured. We had no reason to expect that a Government ODA bill would be any better than its weak policy framework in its ODA discussion paper.

Early in the Fall of 1998, we were approached by Liberal Windsor MPP Dwight Duncan. Until then, Hamilton Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino had been the lead Liberal MPP championing the ODA in the Legislature. Agostino had announced at one of our news conferences that his father had been an injured worker. From this, he well understood the barriers persons with disabilities faced. He had brought a personal passion to the ODA issue.

Mr. Duncan told us he wanted to introduce a private member’s ODA bill in the Legislature for us. We welcomed his support. However, we were still very reluctant to put massive work into researching and drafting a private member’s bill, for the reasons discussed earlier. We also feared that the Government could skilfully focus a barrage of criticism on some minor, distracting target in a bill that we would crank out, such as some obscure inconsequential wording problem. It could thereby transform a red herring into the central public issue. This could drag us off our message.

Accordingly we asked Duncan to instead introduce another private member’s ODA resolution into the Legislature. This tactic had worked so well for us in May 1996, when NDP MPP Marion Boyd had successfully brought forward the first ODA resolution to the Legislature. If Duncan were to bring forward another ODA resolution, this could help increase the Liberal Party’s support for the ODA. It was very important for our coalition to be, and to be seen as non-partisan. Rotating our activities among both opposition parties helped us achieve this.

Duncan was open to our idea. We then had to decide what this second ODA resolution should say. It needn’t replicate the first ODA resolution. That had called on the Ontario Government to keep its 1995 ODA election promise. We again didn’t want the resolution to be a partisan attack on the Conservative Government. As in 1996, we didn’t want to give the Government an easy excuse to use its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution.

We came up with an idea which would move the ODA cause forward, and which would put all of the political parties to the test. We proposed to Duncan that his resolution call on the Ontario Legislature to pass an ODA which complies with our 11 principles. A legislative debate over those principles took the ODA discussion far beyond the realm of just discussing in the abstract whether a law called the ODA should be passed. Such a resolution would make the parties either vote for or against our core principles on what that legislation should contain.

Dwight Duncan agreed to introduce the resolution we proposed. He also secured the Liberal Party’s support for the resolution. The NDP also notified us that it would support the resolution. We did not know whether the Conservatives, who commanded a majority of votes in the Legislature, would support it. We had no reason in advance for any optimism.

The resolution was scheduled for a debate and vote in the Legislature on October 29, 1998. This was one week after our meeting with Citizenship Minister Bassett, where we had been treated to the overhead slide show. The date for the resolution’s debate and vote also came a mere two days before Hallowe’en. Carole Riback, an inspired and inspiring ODA activist, dreamt up a clever Hallowe’en slogan around which we rallied. This resolution vote raised the question: “Would the ODA be a trick or treat?”

In Fall 1998, the ODA movement made its main focus getting this resolution passed. We urged ODA supporters to lobby MPPs from all three parties to vote for it. We also urged them to go to their local media to publicize this issue. We were learning more and more that the ODA movement was increasingly effective when it channelled its energies over a period of weeks on one concrete short-term goal.

The ODA Committee again quickly pulled together a major event at the legislative building at Queen’s Park for the morning of the resolution’s debate and vote. ODA supporters came to the legislative building and met in committee rooms. We planned to break into small teams to each go to MPPs’ offices, door to door, to “trick or treat,” canvassing them for their support on the resolution.

All hurried planning for this event went well, until we were contacted the night before by the office of the Speaker of the Legislature. It confronted us with a huge problem. The Speaker would not let us go to any MPP’s office unless we had a prior appointment. We were told that there is a blanket rule that provides that no one can get near the MPPs’ offices without an invitation. We were threatened with all being refused admittance to the legislative building. Since the Conservatives had taken power in 1995, Queen’s Park building security had increased extraordinarily.

This threatened to eviscerate our plans. We explained to the Speaker’s office that we planned an informal door-to-door canvass. It was impossible for us at that late hour to call then, the very night before our event, to try to book meetings with each MPP. We feared that if asked, Conservative MPPs would not agree to meet with us. They had refused to come to most of our prior events, and had so often resisted meeting our supporters in their local communities. If we could even get through to their offices at that late hour (which was unlikely), we would likely be told that appointments cannot be booked on such short notice.

We hurriedly negotiated a solution with the Speaker’s office. Small groups of our supporters could go to MPPs’ offices without a prior appointment, if each group was escorted by one Queen’s Park security officer, one MPP staffer, and one ODA committee representative. We had to agree to immediately recall all groups if any complaints about their conduct were received.

Having removed this last-minute roadblock, October 29, 1998 was a dramatic day. We had no idea in advance whether the resolution would pass. The Conservative majority held the power to decide this. Our teams carried out their door-to-door trick or treat canvass without any complaint.

One group was larger than authorized. We persuaded the Queen’s Park security staff not to complain. That group was composed entirely of deaf people. They made no noise, and needed our sign language interpreters. Queen’s Park security officials who travelled with our teams seemed to be enjoying the process.

An ODA supporter on one of our “trick or treat” teams reported that a Conservative MPP happened to be quickly leaving his office as the ODA team approached. The MPP called out that he had no time to meet, but he would vote for us, whatever it was we wanted him to vote for. While behind a glass door, another Conservative MPP turned to a staff member and mouthed that he did not know what the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was all about. That MPP hadn’t foreseen that among those on the other side of the glass door was a hard-of-hearing ODA supporter who can read lips.

The trick or treat teams finished their tours of MPPs’ offices. They then converged in Queen’s Park legislative committee rooms to watch the MPPs debate Dwight Duncan’s resolution in the Legislature, again on video monitors. We again brought our own sign language interpretation. As in the past, the Legislature’s public galleries remained almost totally inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.

During the debate in the Legislature, Liberal and NDP MPPs predictably spoke in favour of the resolution. The governing Conservative MPPs boasted of their Government’s record, and sounded as if they would vote against the resolution. However, when the vote came, our second ODA resolution in the Ontario Legislature passed unanimously.

Immediately afterward, we held a triumphant news conference at the Queen’s Park media studio. Both opposition parties had MPPs in attendance. The Government again declined our invitation to participate.

As another important step forward for us, the new Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty attended our news conference. He announced on the record that if his party were elected, they would commit to passing an ODA which complies with Dwight Duncan’s resolution.44

Later that day Citizenship Minister Bassett was asked in Question Period whether her Government would honour the resolution that the Legislature had unanimously passed that morning. Minister Bassett had not attended the debate in the Legislature that morning when the resolution was under consideration, even though it directly related to legislation for which she had lead responsibility for the Government. In her evasive answer to the opposition’s question put to her in Question Period that afternoon, Minister Bassett condemned the resolution as calling for job hiring quotas.

It was self-evident from the resolution’s text that it did not call for job hiring quotas or even hint at them. When we realized that the Government was going to use the hot-button “job quotas” accusation to try to whip up public opposition against us, we immediately launched a province-wide letter-writing campaign addressed directly to Minister Bassett and Premier Harris. We proclaimed that we sought no job hiring quotas. We called on the Government to desist in their inaccurate claims. Within a short time, Minister Bassett candidly conceded on a CBC radio interview that we were not seeking quotas. The Government thereafter dropped that tactic.

The Legislature’s passage of Dwight Duncan’s October 29, 1998 resolution was likely the most critical victory for the ODA movement in its history to that date. From then on, we no longer referred to the 11 principles as simply “the ODA Committee’s 11 principles for the ODA.” From then on we could, and did point to them as “the 11 principles for the ODA which the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved by a resolution on October 29, 1998.” We were indebted to Duncan for spearheading this resolution in a non-partisan way. His resolution served to become the yardstick by which any future legislation would be tested. It was also the catalyst that brought the Liberal and New Democratic Parties officially on the record in support of our 11 principles for the ODA. Both parties would go on to campaign for these 11 principles in the 1999 and 2003 provincial elections, and would actively press the Conservative Government to live up to them.

In the end, October 29, 1998 was a decisive, indeed towering milestone on the road to a barrier-free Ontario. Ironically, we got no media coverage that day, despite our best efforts. This cannot be explained on the basis that this story wasn’t newsworthy. The story had all the hallmarks of newsworthiness. We have learned that this is an unfortunate fact of community advocacy life. It did not deter our tenacity.

44 This was Mr. McGuinty’s first public commitment to this effect. Of great importance to the as-yet unwritten second chapter of the ODA saga, five years later, Mr. McGuinty would be elected Premier of Ontario in the October 2, 2003 provincial election. His 2003 election platform included a pledge to fulfil the commitment he first gave at our news conference on October 29, 1998.



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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

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

October 10, 2019

          SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Proposed Framework for the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard

October 10, 2019

Prepared by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Introduction — What is This Proposed Framework?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. A Vision of An Accessible Education System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. General Provisions that the Education Accessibility Standard Should Include

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. a) What “special education” is and who is entitled to receive it.
  1. b) That the school board has a duty to ensure that a student with a disability has the right to full participation in and full inclusion in all the school board’s education and other programming, and to be accommodated in connection with those programs under the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, whether or not the student is classified as a student with special education needs under Ontario’s Education Act and regulations.
  1. c) The menu of options, placements, programs, services, supports and accommodations available at the school board for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs under the Education Act and regulations.
  1. d) What persons and what office to approach at the school board to get this information, to request placements, programs, supports, services or accommodations for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs, or to raise concerns about whether the school board is effectively meeting the student’s education needs.
  1. e) The processes and procedures at the school board for a parent, guardian or student to request or change placements, programs, services, supports or accommodations for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs. This includes formal legislated processes like the Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) and the development and implementation of the students Individual Education Plan (IEP). It also includes other informal processes like requests for programs, services, supports and accommodations that are not covered in an IPRC or IEP.

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

  1. a) Parents and guardians of students with disabilities can easily find out and, where necessary, visit different placement, program, service and support options for a student with a disability, whether or not they are classified as a student with special education needs, before the parent, guardian or, where practicable, the student must take a position on what placement, program or services should be provided to that student.
  1. b) Parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and, where practicable, students with disabilities themselves, should be given clear, understandable explanations of their rights in the school system, including but not limited to the special education process. For example, when a school board presents parents or guardians with a proposed IEP, the school board should explain to them that they need not agree to and sign the proposed IEP, that the school board is open to consider the family’s suggestions for changes to the proposed IEP, and the avenues by which parents or guardians can seek to get the school board to make changes to the proposed IEP.

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

  1. a) This plan’s objective should be to ensure that all parents, guardians and where practicable, students, get the information they need to ensure that students of all abilities can fully participate in and benefit from the educational and other opportunities available at the school board.
  1. b) A school board should not simply leave it to each principal or teacher to make sure that this important information is effectively provided. Each school board should instead have an effective system in place to ensure that this information actually reaches all parents and guardians, and where applicable, students.
  1. c) Each school board should ensure that all of this important information is fully and readily accessible in a prompt and timely way to all parents, guardians and students, in accessible formats and in jargon-free plain language, in a diverse range of languages. It should be easy to find this information. Among other things, this information should be posted on the school board’s website, in a prominent place that is easy to find, with a link on the school board’s home page. A school board should not simply rely on its website to share this information since this will not serve those families that do not have internet access.
  1. d) Among other things, each school board should send home an information package to all families at the start of each school year, and not merely to families of those students who are already being identified or served as having special education needs or disabilities. This package should include, among other things, a Question and Answer format to help families see how this information could relate to the student in their family.
  1. e) Each school board should also create a user-friendly package of information to be provided to families who first approach a school board about the possibility of enrolling a child at that school board, e.g. when they register for kindergarten. This should help enable a family to know whether they should be trying to access disability-related services and supports.
  1. f) Each school board should periodically host events at local schools to help families learn how to navigate disability-related school board processes like the Individual Education Plan and the Identification and Placement Review Committee processes. Where possible these should be streamed online and archived online as a resource for families to watch online.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. a) It should be very prompt. Arrangements for a student’s accommodations, including an IEP, should be finalized as quickly as possible, so that the student’s needs are promptly met.
  1. b) No proposed services, supports or accommodations that the school board is prepared to offer should be withheld from a student pending a review. The family should not feel pressured not to seek this review, lest the child be placed in a position of educational disadvantage during the review process. In other words, a family should not fear that if they launch a review, the student will suffer because the school board will not provide an accommodation or service that the school board has offered, while the review is pending.
  1. c) The review process should be fair. The school board should let the family know all of its issues or concerns with a family’s proposal regarding the student’s accommodations, including the contents of the IEP. The family should be given a fair chance to express its concerns and recommendations regarding the student’s accommodations’, including in the IEP.
  1. d) The review should be by a person or persons who are independent and impartial. They should have expertise in the education of students with disabilities. They should not have taken part in any of the earlier discussions or decisions at that school board regarding the services, supports or accommodations or IEP for that child.
  1. e) At the review, every effort should be made to mediate and resolve any disagreements between the family and the school board. If the matter cannot be resolved by agreement, there should be an option for the school board or the Ministry of Education to appoint a person or persons who are outside the school board to consider the review, along prompt time lines.
  1. f) At the review, written reasons should be given for the decision, especially if any of the family’s requests or concerns are not accepted.
  1. g) If, after receiving the review’s decision and reasons, the family wishes to present any new information, they should be able to ask for the review to be reconsidered. This should be along short time lines.
  1. H) After the review is decided, if the family is not satisfied, they should be able to bring their concerns regarding the proposed accommodations including any IEP to a designated senior official at the school board with authority to approve the requested accommodations, for a further review.

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

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

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

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

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

7. Ensuring a Fully Accessible Built Environment at Schools

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

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

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

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

  1. a) Specific requirements to be included in a new school to be built.
  1. b) Requirements to be included in a renovation of or addition to an existing school, and
  1. c) Retrofit requirements for an existing school that is not slated for a major renovation or addition.

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

  1. a) As a first step, each school board should develop a plan for making as many of its schools disability-accessible within its current financial context. Accessibility does not only include the needs of people with mobility disabilities. It includes the needs of people with all disabilities, for example people with vision and/or hearing loss, autism, or mental health disabilities.
  1. b) Each school board should identify which of its existing schools can be more easily made accessible, and which schools would require substantially more extensive action to be made physically accessible. An interim plan should be developed to show what progress towards full physical accessibility can be made by first addressing schools that would require less money to be made physically accessible, taking into account the need to also consider geographic equity of access across the school board.
  1. c) When designing a new school or managing an existing school, wherever possible, a quiet room should be assigned in a school facility to assist with learning by those students with disabilities who require such an environment. For example, when a school board is deciding what to do with excess building capacity, it should allocate unused or under-used rooms as quiet rooms whenever possible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

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

#8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

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

  1. a) A school board’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) should be accessible to staff and students with disabilities, including those who use adaptive technology. They should have all accessibility features turned on and available to ensure that information posted through them will be accessible to students with disabilities, including those using adaptive technology such as screen readers or voice recognition tools. Each school board should ensure that no teacher is able to turn off any feature of the LMS that is accessible in favour of one that is not.
  1. b) Each school board’s internal and external websites and intranet content, including internet content available to students for learning purposes, including all online learning programs, should be fully accessible, with all new information posted on them to be fully accessible.
  1. c) Electronic documents created at the school board for use in education and other programming and activities should be created in accessible formats unless there is a compelling and unavoidable reason requiring otherwise. PDF format should be avoided. If a PDF document is created, an alternate version of the content should be simultaneously provided and posted in an accessible Microsoft Word or HTML format.
  1. d) Software used to produce a school board’s documents such as report cards, Individual Education Plans, or other key documents should be designed to ensure that they produce these documents in accessible formats.
  1. e) Textbooks and learning software should be procured only if they include full information technology accessibility. Any textbook used in any learning environment must be accessible to teachers and students with disabilities at the time of procurement. Here again, PDF should not be used unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously available. For example, if a textbook is available in EPUB format, the textbooks must meet the international standard for that file format. For EPUB it is the W3C Digital Publishing Guidelines currently under review. If a textbook is available in print, the publisher should be required to provide the digital version of the textbook in an accessible format at the same time the print version is delivered to the school/Board.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. a) This plan’s objective should be to ensure that all parents, guardians and where practicable, students, get the information they need to ensure that students of all abilities can fully participate in and benefit from the educational opportunities available at the school board.
  1. b) Each school board should develop, implement and monitor a comprehensive plan to train its teachers, other teaching staff, teaching coaches and principals on using UDL and differentiated instruction principles when preparing lesson plans and teaching, in order to effectively meet the spectrum of different learning needs and styles. The Ontario Government should be required to provide a model program for this training which each school board can use.
  1. c) Each school board should include knowledge of UDL and differentiated instruction principles as an important criterion when recruiting or promoting teachers, other teaching staff and principals.
  1. d) Each school board should ensure that teachers are provided with appropriate resources and support to successfully implement the UDL training. Each school board should monitor how effectively UDL and differentiated instruction are incorporated into lesson plans and other teaching activities on the front lines.
  1. e) Each school board should review any curriculum, textbooks and other instructional materials and learning resources used in its schools to ensure that they incorporate principles of UDL.
  1. f) Each school board should create and implement a plan to ensure that teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineer and math (STEM) have resources and expertise to ensure the accessibility of STEM courses and learning resources.
  1. g) Each school board should provide teaching coaches with expertise in UDL to support teachers and other teaching staff.
  1. h) Similarly, specialized training should be included for those who teach sex education to ensure that it includes disability-related sex education.
  1. i) The Ministry of Education should create templates or models for the foregoing training so that each school board does not have to reinvent the wheel in this context.

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

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

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

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

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

11. Removing Attitudinal Barriers Against Students with Disabilities

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

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

  1. a) Develop and implement a multi-year program/curriculum for teaching students, school board staff and families of school board students, about inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities, tailored to age levels. Because online courses are inadequate for this, where possible, this should include hearing from, meeting and interacting with people with disabilities e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations.
  1. b) Post in all schools and send information to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.
  1. c) Provide specific training to all school board staff that deal with parents or students, on the importance of inclusion.
  1. d) Implement human resources policies and practices to expand school board staff knowledge and skills regarding inclusion.

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

  1. a) Making knowledge and experience on implementing inclusion an important hiring and promotions criterion especially for principals, vice-principals and teaching staff.
  1. b) Emphasizing accessibility and inclusion knowledge and performance in any performance management and performance reviews.

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

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

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

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

  1. a) Survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their teachers and families, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  1. b) Establish a dedicated resource within the school board, or shared among school boards, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis, either alone or in combination with other school boards.
  1. c) Review its procurement practices to ensure that any new instructional materials that are acquired is fully accessible or conversion-ready and monitor to ensure that this is always done in practice. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vender must remediate any inaccessible materials at its own expense.

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

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

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

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

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

#13.2 Each school board should:

  1. a) Take an inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor play spaces and gym and playground equipment, and make this public, including posting it online.
  1. b) Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of new gym or playground equipment, in consultation with the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee and Accessibility Committee, and widely with families of students with disabilities.
  1. c) Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing playground is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the school board.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. a) Have a policy that commits to ensure that testing and other assessments of students’ performance and learning are designed to be barrier-free for students with disabilities.
  1. b) Give its teachers and principals training resources on how to ensure a test is a fair, accurate and barrier-free assessment for students with disabilities in their class, and where needed, how to provide an alternative evaluation method.
  1. c) Monitor implementation of these guidelines.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16. Removing Barriers to Participation in Experiential Learning

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

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

  1. a) Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers.
  1. b) Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that there will be a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate.
  1. c) Ensure that its partner organizations that accept its students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities.
  1. d) Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements.
  1. e) Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation.
  1. f) Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.

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

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

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

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

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

  1. a) Identifying what percentage of the students in these programs are students with disabilities, to document any patterns of under-participation.
  1. b) Reviewing the admission process for gaining entry to these programs, to identify possible accessibility barriers.
  1. c) Reviewing the choice of the buildings and classrooms where these programs are to be delivered to ensure that students with disabilities will be able to physically attend these programs.
  1. d) Identifying what efforts the school board now makes to ensure that students with disabilities are included in and accommodated in these programs, and the extent to which UDL and differentiated instruction principles are used in the teaching in these programs.
  1. e) Developing an action plan to address any accessibility and inclusion shortfalls.
  1. f) Actively publicizing to students with disabilities and their families about the opportunities to take part in these programs, and the school board’s readiness to ensure that their accommodation needs will be met.
  1. g) Monitoring the effectiveness of efforts to ensure inclusion and accessibility of these programs for students with disabilities, and report publicly on this, including to school board trustees, to the trustees’ accessibility committee and to the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, on an annual basis.

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

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

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

  1. a) If a student, attending a school other than their home school, for a special education program or class, is prepared to shift to inclusion in a fulltime regular classroom, then consistent with parental agreement, the student should have the option of remaining at the same school as the special education class, and treating it as their home school.
  1. b) Where possible, the school board should locate in the same school a combination of two special education classes that involve different levels of support. This would enable a student to gradually progress through different levels of special education classes towards a regular class setting in that school, without having to switch schools in order to switch to a different level of special education class. It would also enable a student, where appropriate, to spend part of a school day in one program and another part of the school day in another program, to best and most flexibly meet the student’s needs.
  1. c) Where feasible, if a student with a disability is required to attend a different school than his or her home school in order to take part in special education programming, the family should have the option of having that students’ siblings also attend that school, especially where this will help the student with a disability. Whenever possible, siblings, including those with disabilities, should be able to attend the same school.

19. Transportation for Students with Disabilities

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

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

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

  1. a) The school board has individually consulted with each family to identify the accessibility and accommodation needs of the student with disabilities in relation to transportation, and the bus company and driver have been properly trained to accommodate that need.
  1. b) Where the school board or its bussing contractor changes the driver assigned to transport the student, the replacement driver is given the same information and training prior to driving the student, or, in the case of an emergency replacement, as soon as possible.
  1. c) The school board and, where applicable, any contractor it hires, shall retain records of the training provided, including when it was provided and shall make this information public.
  1. d) The school board should have a readily available and reachable official, especially during periods when a student is being transported, to receive and address phone calls, emails and text messages from a family about problems regarding the student’s transportation.
  1. e) The school board should document all complaints reported on transportation services, and the company to which it applies. A summary of these should be provided to all members of the school board including its Special Education Advisory Committee and its Accessibility Committee on a quarterly basis and shall make this public on the school board’s website.
  1. f) The Education Accessibility Standard should make it clear that the fact that the school board has contracted for a private company to provide the student transportation does not remove or reduce the school board’s duties under this accessibility standard or otherwise under the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that the student has been provided with barrier-free participation in the school board’s educational programs and opportunities. In any contract for bussing, the school board should be required to monitor the bus company for compliance with all obligations regarding bussing, such as the duty to properly train each bus driver on the specific disability-related needs of each passenger with a disability, and to document this training. Each school board should periodically audit the bus companies with whom they contract for compliance, and publicly report on the audit’s results. A bus company’s failure to consistently and reliably meet its obligations should trigger substantial monetary penalties and termination of the contract.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. a) This should include any time a school board formally or informally asks or directs that a student not attend school, or that the student be removed from school, whether in writing or in a discussion
  1. b) This should include a school board request or direction that a student only attend school for part of the regular school day.
  1. c) This does not include a situation where a family requests that a student be absent from school for all or part of a school day, but the school board is willing to let the student attend school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. a) A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when a school board is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.
  1. b) The prior review and approval of the superintendent should be required, before a refusal to admit is imposed. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.
  1. c) The superintendent should independently assess whether the school board has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit the student, and has met all the requirements of the school board’s refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).
  1. d) The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. That should include outlining steps that the school board has taken or will be taking to expedite a student’s return to school and provide an expected timeline for the completion of these steps.
  1. e) The principal should immediately tell the student and the student’s family, in clear and plain language, in writing, what a refusal to admit is, its duration, the reasons for it, the steps the school board is taking to expedite the student’s return to school and time lines for those steps, the school board’s process for reviewing that decision, and the family’s right to appeal it (including how to use that right of appeal). This should be provided in a language that the family speaks. These procedures should again be mandatory any time the school board extends a refusal to admit a student to school.
  1. f) A refusal to admit a student to school should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30 day period) without the independent review and written approval of an executive superintendent of the school board.
  1. g) No refusal to admit a student to school should be extended for an accumulated total of more than 20 days (within a surrounding 45 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of Education.

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

  1. a) The appeal should be to school board officials who had no involvement with the initial decision to refuse to admit that student to school or any extensions of it.
  1. b) The school board should promptly inform the student and the student’s family about how to start an appeal, who decides the appeal, the procedures for the appeal, that the student and family can present reports, support people or experts or any other information they wish, and can have a representative, either a lawyer or other person, to speak for them or assist them with the appeal.
  1. c) The appeal should include an in-person meeting with the student and family.
  1. d) The appeal should be heard and decided very promptly along time lines that the Education Accessibility Standard should set.
  1. e) On the appeal, the school board should have the burden to prove that the refusal to admit was justified, that it went no further and lasted no longer than was necessary, and that proper alternative education programming was provided or offered.
  1. f) A decision on the appeal should promptly be provided in writing with reasons along time lines that the Education Accessibility Standard should set.

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

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

#20.18 To help ensure that refusals to admit are not used due to a failure to accommodate a

student’s disability up to the point of undue hardship, each school board should create an emergency fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.



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The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act – Read the AODA Alliance’s Submission to the BC Government


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act – Read the AODA Alliance’s Submission to the BC Government

October 1, 2019

          SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Submission of the AODA Alliance to the Government of British Columbia on the BC Framework for New Provincial Accessibility Legislation

October 1, 2019

Sent to: [email protected]

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Are We?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Recommendations

Purpose of the BC Legislation

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

“1. To support Canada’s ratification of the UNCRPD by promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and by promoting respect for their inherent dignity.

  1. To identify, remove, and prevent barriers encountered by people with disabilities in their daily lives through the development, implementation, and enforcement of accessibility standards.
  2. To allow persons with disabilities and other impacted stakeholders in the public and private sectors to work collaboratively towards the timely development of accessibility standards.
  3. To ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to track progress on accessibility.
  4. To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

 Nothing Should Ever Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Setting Mandatory Timelines for Enacting Accessibility Regulations

A central and fundamentally important part of the BC accessibility legislation would be the Government enacting new accessibility regulations. These would specify in detail what obligated organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities. The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards would provide guidance about best practices for accessibility including desired accessibility outcomes.”

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

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

Yet elsewhere the BC Framework states:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Areas for Accessibility Standards to Cover

The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards could cover a variety of areas including:

Service Delivery

Employment

Built Environment

Information and Communication

Transportation”

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Adopting Other Pre-existing Accessibility Standards

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Governance, Compliance and Enforcement

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The BC accessibility law should

  1. a) Specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.
  1. b) Impose specific duties and implementation time lines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.
  1. c) Require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.
  1. d) Enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.
  1. e) Require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.
  1. f) Require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  1. g) Require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.
  1. h) Include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.
  1. i) Require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

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

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

  1. a) spending on procuring goods, services and facilities, for use by the BC Public Service and the public.
  1. b) BC spending on capital and infrastructure projects, including projects built by the BC Government, municipalities or others.
  1. c) BC spending on business development grants and loans, and on research grants for universities and other organizations.
  1. d) BC transfer payments to transfer agencies for programs, like health care.
  1. e) Any other BC Government contract.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

Appendix – List of Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#11. The BC accessibility law should

  1. a) specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.
  1. b) impose specific duties and implementation timelines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.
  1. c) require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.
  1. d) enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.
  1. e) require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.
  1. f) require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  1. g) require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.
  1. h) include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.
  1. i) require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

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



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Send Us Your Feedback on Our Draft Framework for what the Promised K-12 Education Accessibility Standard Should Include – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Send Us Your Feedback on Our Draft Framework for what the Promised K-12 Education Accessibility Standard Should Include

September 18, 2019

          SUMMARY

Today, the AODA Alliance is making public a draft Framework for what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include for students in schools between kindergarten and Grade 12. We set it out below and invite your feedback. Let us know what you think we should do to improve this Framework before we finalize it and submit it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. Please email us your feedback by October 2, 2019 by replying to this email, or by addressing an email to [email protected]

After months and months of our advocacy, we are delighted and relieved that the Ford Government has finally let the three AODA Standards Development Committees go back to work, which had remained frozen since the June 2018 Ontario election,. Those are the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of K-12 education, post-secondary education, and health care. The K-12 Standards Development Committee held its first resuming meeting by a telephone conference call on September 10, 2019. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky  is a member of that committee. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee did so on September 12, 2019.

We are preparing this Framework to help the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee go about its work developing recommendations for the Ford Government of what to include in the promised Education Accessibility Standard. Once we get your feedback, we will finalize this Framework, make it public and submit it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

Time-permitting, we also hope to prepare a Framework to submit to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, to supplement this one. If you have ideas of what we should include, beyond the parts of this Framework that are relevant at the post-secondary phase of education, please send us your ideas.

This draft framework is the result of lots of feedback that we have gathered over the past several years, as we campaigned to get commitments to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It substantially builds and expands on the Discussion Paper on this topic that we made public almost three years ago, on November 21, 2016. We thank all those who have given us feedback in the past and who will do so now.

It is because we have gotten so much helpful feedback that this 27 page draft Framework is so detailed and thorough.

We understand that it can take some time to read through and think about all the detailed information in this draft Framework. For those who have the time to do so, we really appreciate your doing so. For those who don’t have the time, you can just look over this list of headings in the Framework:

Introduction — What is This Proposed Framework?

  1. What Should the Long-term Objectives of the Education Accessibility Standard Be?
  2. A Vision of An Accessible Education system
  3. General provisions that the Education Accessibility Standard Should Include
  4. The Right of Parents, Guardians and Students with Disabilities to Know about Disability-Related Programs, Services, and Supports, and How to Access Them
  5. Ensuring that Parents, Guardians and Students Have a Fair and Effective Process for Raising Concerns about a school board’s Accommodation of the Education Needs of Students with Disabilities.
  6. Expedited the Early Identification and Assessment of Students with Disabilities’ Needs
  7. Ensuring a Fully Accessible Built Environment at Schools
  8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School
  9. Ensuring Universal Design in Learning Is Used in All Teaching Activities, Both Online and in Classroom Learning
  10. Ensuring Sufficient Training and Expertise for Education Professionals Who Support Students with Disabilities
  11. Removing Attitudinal Barriers against Students with Disabilities
  12. Ensuring Accessibility of Instructional Materials that Students with Disabilities Use
  13. Ensuring Accessibility of Gym, Playground and Like Equipment and Activities
  14. Ensuring Student Testing/Assessment is Free of Disability Barriers
  15. Ensuring Students with Disabilities Have the Technology and Other Supports They Need at School
  16. Removing Barriers to Participation in Experiential Learning
  17. Ensuring French Immersion and Other Specialized Programs Are Barrier-Free for Students with Disabilities
  18. Substantially Reducing the Shuffling of Students with Special Education Needs From School to School over Their school Years
  19. Transportation for Students with Disabilities
  20. Protecting Students with Disabilities from Being Unfairly Denied the Right to Attend School for All or Part of the School Day

As we make this draft Framework public, we are sadly reminded that 231 days have now passed since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement which was conducted by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has still not released a comprehensive plan to implement its recommendations, nor has it publicly promised to ever do so. Over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities suffer the ongoing consequences of that foot-dragging. New disability barriers continue to be created, while old barriers too often remain in place.

          MORE DETAILS

 Proposed Framework for the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard

Prepared by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Note: This is only a draft. It is still a work in progress. Feedback on it is welcomed. Send feedback to [email protected]

Introduction — What is This Proposed Framework?

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. A Vision of An Accessible Education system

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

#2.1 It would be designed and operated from top to bottom for all of its students, including students with all kinds of disabilities, as protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code and/or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would not in any way restrict its programs, services, supports or accommodations only to those students whose disability falls within the outdated and narrow definition of “exceptionality” in Ontario’s Education Act and regulations. The education system would no longer be designed and operated from the starting point of aiming to serve the fictional “average” student. It would not treat or label students with disabilities as “exceptions” or “exceptional”. It would not call their needs “special.” Their services, supports and needs would not be conflated with the services and needs of gifted students who have no disability.

#2.2 The built environment in the education system, such as schools themselves, their yards, playgrounds etc., and the equipment on those premises (such as gym and playground equipment) would all be fully accessible to people with disabilities, and would be designed based on the principle of universal design.

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

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

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

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

#2.7 Students with disabilities would have prompt access to the adaptive technology and specialized supports they need for their education and needed training on how to use it. Students with disabilities would be able to bring to school and take home the accessibility technology and supports from which they benefit. For example, they would have the right to bring a qualified service animal to school with them.

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

#2.9 Students with disabilities would have timely access to up-to-date adaptive technology and to effective training on how to use it, to enable them to best take part in and benefit from education programming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2.17 Students with disabilities and their families would be kept regularly posted on the effectiveness of the placement, program, services, supports and accommodations that the student is to receive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. General provisions that the Education Accessibility Standard Should Include

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3.7 Each school board should have an explicit duty to create a welcoming environment for students with disabilities and their families to seek accommodations for their disabilities.

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

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

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

  1. What “special education” is and who is entitled to receive it.
  2. That the school board has a duty to ensure that a student with a disability has the right to full participation in and full inclusion in all the school board’s education programming, and to be accommodated in connection with those programs under the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, whether or not the student is classified as a student with special education needs under Ontario’s Education Act and regulations.
  3. The menu of options, placements, programs, services, supports and accommodations available at the school board for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs under the Education Act and regulations.
  4. What persons and what office to approach at the school board to get this information, to request placements, programs, supports, services or accommodations for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs, or to raise concerns about whether the school board is effectively meeting the student’s education needs.
  5. The processes and procedures at the school board for a parent, guardian or student to request or change placements, programs, services, supports or accommodations for students with disabilities, whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs. This includes formal legislated processes like the Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) and the development and implementation of the students Individual Education Plan (IEP). It also includes other informal processes like requests for programs, services, supports and accommodations in the classroom that are not covered in an IPRC or IEP.

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

  1. Parents and guardians of students with disabilities can easily find out and, where necessary, visit different placement, program, service and support options for a student with a disability, whether or not they are classified as a student with special education needs, before the parent, guardian or, where practicable, the student must take a position on what placement, program or services should be provided to that student.
  2. Parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and, where practicable, students with disabilities themselves, should be given clear, understandable explanations of their rights in the school system, including but not limited to the special education process. For example, when a school board presents parents or guardians with a proposed IEP, the school board should explain to them that they need not agree to and sign the proposed IEP, that the school board is open to consider the family’s suggestions for changes to the proposed IEP, and the avenues by which parents or guardians can seek to get the school board to make changes to the proposed IEP.

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

  1. This plan’s objective should be to ensure that all parents, guardians and where practicable, students, get the information they need to ensure that students of all abilities can fully participate in and benefit from the educational opportunities available at the school board.
  2. A school board should not simply leave it to each principal or teacher to make sure that this important information is effectively provided. Each school board should instead have an effective system in place to ensure that this information actually reaches all parents and guardians, and where applicable, students.
  3. Each school board should ensure that all of this important information is fully and readily accessible in a prompt and timely way to all parents, guardians and students, in accessible formats and in jargon-free plain language, in a diverse range of languages. It should be easy to find this information. Among other things, this information should be posted on the school board’s website, in a prominent place that is easy to find, with a link on the school board’s home page. A school board should not simply rely on its website to share this information since this will not serve those families that do not have internet access.
  4. Among other things, each school board should send home an information package to all families at the start of each school year, and not merely to families of those students who are already being identified or served as having special education needs or disabilities. This package should include, among other things, a Question and Answer format to help families see how this information could relate to the student in their family.
  5. Each school board should also create a user-friendly package of information to be provided to families who first approach a school board about the possibility of enrolling a child at that school board, e.g. when they register for kindergarten. This should help enable a family to know whether they should be trying to access disability-related services and supports.
  6. Each school board should periodically host events at local schools to help families learn how to navigate disability-related school board processes like the Individual Education Plan and the Identification and Placement Review Committee processes. Where possible these should be streamed online and archived as a resource for families to watch online.

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

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

The procedures in place under the Education Act and regulations for identifying and accommodating the needs of students with disabilities are out-of-date, and insufficient to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities are effectively met.

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

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

#5.3 If a school board refuses to provide an accommodation, service, or support for a child’s disability that a parent, guardian, or where appropriate, the student requests, or if the school board fails to provide an accommodation or support that it has agreed to provide, the school board should, on request, promptly provide written reasons for that refusal, and let the family and student know that they can request written reasons.

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

  1. It should be very prompt. Arrangements for a student’s accommodations, including An IEP, should be finalized as quickly as possible, so that the students’ learning needs are promptly met.
  2. No proposed accommodations should be withheld from a student pending a review. The family should not feel pressured not to seek this review, lest the child be placed in a position of educational disadvantage during the review process. In other words, a family should not fear that if they launch a review, the student will suffer because the school board will not provide an accommodation or service the school board has offered, while the review is pending.
  3. The review process should be fair. The school board should let the family know all of its issues or concerns with a family’s proposal regarding the student’s accommodations, including the contents of the IEP. The family should be given a fair chance to express its concerns and recommendations regarding the student’s accommodations’, including IEP.
  4. The review should be by a person or persons who are independent and impartial. They should have expertise in education of students with disabilities. They should not have taken part in any of the earlier discussions or decisions at that school board regarding the accommodations or IEP for that child.
  5. At the review, every effort should be made to mediate and resolve any disagreements between the family and the school board. If the matter cannot be resolved by agreement, there should be an option for the school board to appoint a person or persons who are outside the school board to consider the review, along prompt time lines.
  6. At the review, written reasons should be given for the decision, and especially if any of the family’s requests or concerns are not accepted.
  7. If, after receiving the review’s decision and reasons, the family wishes to present any new information, it should be able to ask for the review to be reconsidered. This should be along short time lines.
  8. After the review is decided, if the family is not satisfied, it should be able to bring its concerns regarding the proposed accommodations including any IEP to a designated senior official at the school board with authority to approve the requested accommodations, for a further review.

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

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

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

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

7. Ensuring a Fully Accessible Built Environment at Schools

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

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

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

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

  1. Specific requirements to be included in a new school to be built.
  2. Requirements to be included in a renovation of or addition to an existing school, and
  3. Retrofit requirements for an existing school that is not slated for a major renovation or addition.

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

  1. As a first step, each school board should develop a plan for making as many of its schools disability-accessible within its current financial context. Accessibility does not only include the needs of people with mobility disabilities. It includes the needs of people with all disabilities, for example people with vision and/or hearing loss, autism, or mental health disabilities.
  2. Each school board should identify which of its existing schools can be more easily made accessible, and which schools would require substantially more extensive action to be made physically accessible. An interim plan should be developed to show what progress towards full physical accessibility can be made by first addressing schools that would require less money to be made physically accessible, taking into account the need to also consider geographic equity of access across the school board.

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

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

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

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

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

8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

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

#8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

  1. Educational equipment and technology, including hardware, software, and tablet/mobile apps deployed in educational settings should be designed based on universal design principles, to ensure that students with disabilities can use them.
  2. A school board’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) should be accessible to staff and students with disabilities, including those who use adaptive technology. They should have all accessibility features turned on and available to ensure that information posted through them will be accessible to students with disabilities, including those using adaptive technology such as screen readers or voice recognition tools. Each school board should ensure that no teacher is able to turn off any feature of the LMS that is accessible in favour of one that is not.
  3. Each school board’s websites and intranet content, including internet content available to students for learning purposes, including all online learning programs, should be fully accessible, with all new information posted on them to be fully accessible.
  4. Electronic documents created at the school board for use in education programming and activities should be created in accessible formats unless there is a compelling and unavoidable reason requiring otherwise. PDF format should be avoided. If a PDF document is created, an alternate version of the content should be provided and posted in an accessible Microsoft Word or HTML format.
  5. Software used to produce a school board’s documents such as report cards, Individual Education Plans, or other key documents should be designed to ensure that they produce these documents in accessible formats.
  6. Textbooks and learning software should only be procured which include full information technology accessibility. Any textbook used in any learning environment must be accessible to teachers and students with disabilities at the time of procurement. PDF should not be used unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also available. For example, if a textbook is available in EPUB format, the textbooks must meet the international standard for that file format. For EPUB it is the W3C Digital Publishing Guidelines currently under review. If a textbook is available in print, the publisher should be required to provide the digital version of the textbook in an accessible format at the same time the print version is delivered to the school/Board.

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

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

Barrier: Too often, the curriculum used in Ontario schools was not designed based on accessibility and universal design in learning.

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

Barrier: Too often, teachers and other school staff who work with students are not sufficiently trained on how to teach all students, including students with disabilities.

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

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

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

  1. This plan’s objective should be to ensure that all parents, guardians and where practicable, students, get the information they need to ensure that students of all abilities can fully participate in and benefit from the educational opportunities available at the school board.
  2. Each school board should develop, implement and monitor a comprehensive plan to train its teachers, other teaching staff, teaching coaches and principals on using UDL and differentiated instruction principles when preparing lesson plans and teaching. The Ontario Government should be required to provide a model program for this training which each school board can use.
  3. Each school board should include knowledge of UDL and differentiated instruction principles as an important criterion when recruiting or promoting teachers, other teaching staff and principals.
  4. Each school board should ensure that teachers are provided with appropriate resources and support to successfully implement the UDL training. Each school board should monitor how effectively UDL and differentiated instruction are incorporated into lesson plans and other teaching activities on the front lines.
  5. Each school board should review any curriculum, text books and other instructional materials and learning resources used in its schools to ensure that they incorporate principles of UDL.
  6. Each school board should create and implement a plan to ensure that teachers in the areas of science, technology, engineer and math (STEM) have resources and expertise to ensure the accessibility of STEM courses and learning resources.
  7. Each school board should provide teaching coaches with expertise in UDL to support teachers and other teaching staff.
  8. Similarly specialized training should be included for those who teach sex education to ensure that it includes disability-related sex education.

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

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

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

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

11. Removing Attitudinal Barriers against Students with Disabilities

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

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

  1. Develop and implement a multi-year program/curriculum for teaching students, school board staff and families of school board students, about inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities, tailored to age levels. Because online courses are inadequate for this, where possible, this should include hearing from, meeting and interacting with people with disabilities e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations.
  2. Post in all schools and send information to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.
  3. Provide specific training to all school board staff that deal with parents or students, on the importance of inclusion.
  4. Implement Human Resources Policies and Practices to Expand School Board Staff Knowledge and Skills Regarding Inclusion

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

  1. Making knowledge and experience on implementing inclusion an important hiring and promotions criterion especially for principals, vice-principals and teaching staff.
  2. Emphasizing accessibility and inclusion knowledge and performance in any performance management and performance reviews.

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

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

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

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

  1. Survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their teachers and families, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  2. Establish a dedicated resource within the school board, or shared among school boards, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis, either alone or in combination with other school boards.
  3. Review its procurement practices to ensure that any new instructional material that is acquired is fully accessible or conversion-ready, and monitor to ensure that this is always done in practice. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vender must remediate any inaccessible materials at its own expense.

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

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

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

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

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

#13.2 Each school board should:

  1. a) Take an inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor play spaces and gym and playground equipment.
  2. b) Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of new gym or playground equipment, in consultation with the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee and Accessibility Committee, and widely with families of students with disabilities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Have a policy that commits to ensure that testing and other assessments of students’ performance and learning are designed to be barrier-free for students with disabilities.
  2. Give its teachers and principals training resources on how to ensure a test is a fair, accurate and barrier-free assessment for students with disabilities in their class, and where needed, how to provide an alternative evaluation method.
  3. Monitor implementation of these guidelines.

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

Barrier: Policy and bureaucratic impediments to students with disabilities being able to get the adaptive technology and supports they need for school.

There are inconsistent practices around Ontario for acquiring needed adaptive technology and the training required to be able to effectively use that equipment. There are also inconsistent practices on whether a student can take such equipment home for use there, or can bring their own adaptive equipment from home for use at school. TDSB does not at all support students with vision loss using Apple products such as the iPhone or iPad, which come with leading accessibility features.

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

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

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

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

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

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

#15.5 If the school board does not accept at first the sincerity or legitimacy of the student’s request, or the training of the service animal, the school board should immediately notify the student and their family of any and all concerns. The school board should investigate the request, including the student’s benefits from the service animal outside school and in the home, or any other concerns, as well as the experience of other schools or school boards that have allowed students with disabilities to bring service animals to school, before acting on any potential unwillingness to grant the student’s request. If a school board is not prepared to accept a request to be able to bring a service animal to school at first, the school board should undertake a test period of allowing this practice, unless the school board can demonstrate that to conduct such a test period would cause the school board an undue hardship. A school board should not refuse a request to bring a service animal to school based on no test period and based on speculative assumptions or stereotypes.

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

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

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

16. Removing Barriers to Participation in Experiential Learning

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

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

  1. Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers.
  2. Ensure that its partners who accept its students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities.
  3. Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning opportunities.
  4. Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation.
  5. Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Identifying what percentage of the students in these programs are students with disabilities, to document any under-participation.
  2. Review the admission process for gaining entry to these programs, to identify possible accessibility barriers.
  3. Review the choice of the buildings where these programs are to be delivered to ensure that students with disabilities will be able to physically attend these programs.
  4. Identify what efforts the school board now makes to ensure that students with disabilities are accommodated in these programs, and the extent to which UDL and differentiated instruction principles are used in the teaching in these programs.
  5. Develop an action plan to address any accessibility and inclusion shortfalls.
  6. Actively publicize to students with disabilities and their families about the opportunities to take part in these programs, and the school board’s readiness to ensure that their accommodation needs will be met.
  7. Monitor the effectiveness of efforts to ensure inclusion and accessibility of these programs for students with disabilities, and report publicly on this, including to school board trustees, to the trustees’ accessibility committee and to the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, on an annual basis.

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

Barrier: The situating of programs for students with disabilities can force too many of these students to have to change the school they attend during their years at school much more than do other students, causing disruption and hardships for the students and their families.

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

  1. If a student, attending a school other than their home school, for a special education program or class, is prepared to shift to inclusion in a fulltime regular classroom, then consistent with parental agreement, the student should have the option of remaining at the same school as the special education class, and treating it as their home school.
  2. Where possible, the school board should locate in the same school a combination of two special education classes that involve different levels of support. This would enable a student to gradually progress through different levels of special education classes towards a regular class setting in that school, without having to switch schools in order to switch to a different level of special education class. It would also enable a student, where appropriate, to spend part of a school day in one program and another part of the school day in another program, to best meet the student’s needs.
  3. Where feasible, if a student with a disability is required to attend a different school than his or her home school, in order to take part in special education programming, the family should have the option of having that students’ siblings also attend that school, especially where this will help the student with disabilities. Whenever possible, siblings, including those with disabilities, should be able to attend the same school.

19. Transportation for Students with Disabilities

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

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

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

  1. The school board has consulted with each family to identify the accessibility and accommodation needs of the student with disabilities in relation to transportation, and the bus company and driver has been properly trained to accommodate that need.
  2. Where the school board or its bussing contractor changes the driver assigned to transport the student, the replacement driver is given the same information and training prior to driving the student, or, in the case of an emergency replacement, as soon as possible.
  3. The school board and, where applicable, any contractor it hires, shall retain records of the training provided, including when it was provided and shall make this information public.
  4. The school board should have a readily available official especially during periods when a student is being transported to receive and address phone calls, emails and text messages from a family about problems regarding the student’s transportation.
  5. The school board should document all complaints reported on transportation services, and the company to which it applies. A summary of these should be provided to all members of the school board including its Special Education Advisory Committee and its Accessibility Committee on a quarterly basis and shall make this public on the school board’s website.
  6. The Education Accessibility Standard should make it clear that the fact that the school board has contracted for a private company to provide the student transportation does not remove or reduce the school board’s duties under this accessibility standard or otherwise under the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that the student has been provided with barrier-free participation in in the school board’s educational programs and opportunities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. This should include any time a school board formally or informally asks or directs that a student not attend school, or that the student be removed from school, whether in writing or in a discussion
  2. This should include a school board request or direction that a student only attend school for part of the regular school day.
  3. This does not include a situation where a family requests that a student be absent from school for all or part of a school day, but the school board is willing to let the student attend school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when a school board is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.
  2. The prior review and approval of the superintendent should be required, before a refusal to admit is imposed. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.
  3. The superintendent should independently assess whether the school board has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit, and has met all the requirements of the school board’s refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).
  1. The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. That should include outlining steps that the school board has taken or will be taking to expedite a student’s return to school and provide an expected timeline for the completion of these steps.
  2. The principal should immediately tell the student and the student’s family, in clear and plain language, in writing, what a refusal to admit is, its duration, the reasons for it, the steps the school board is taking to expedite the student’s return to school and time lines for those steps, the school board’s process for reviewing that decision, and the family’s right to appeal it (including how to use that right of appeal). This should be provided in a language that the family speaks.
  3. These procedures should again be mandatory any time the school board extends a refusal to admit.
  4. A refusal to admit should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30 day period) without the independent review and written approval of an executive superintendent of the school board.
  5. No refusal to admit should be extended for an accumulated total of more than 20 days (within a surrounding 45 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of Education.

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

  1. The appeal should be to school board officials who had no involvement with the initial decision to refuse to admit or any extensions of it.
  2. The school board should promptly inform the student and the student’s family about how to start an appeal, who decides the appeal, the procedures for the appeal, that the student and family can present reports, support people or experts or any other information they wish, and can have a representative, either a lawyer or other person, to speak for them or assist them with the appeal.
  3. The appeal should include an in-person meeting with the student and family.
  4. The appeal should be heard and decided very promptly along time lines that the Education Accessibility Standard should set.
  5. On the appeal, the school board should have the burden to prove that the refusal to admit was justified, that it went no further and lasted no longer than was necessary, and that proper alternative education programming was provided or offered.
  6. A decision on the appeal should promptly be provided in writing with reasons along time lines that the Education Accessibility Standard should set.

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

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

#20.18 To help ensure that refusals to admit are not used due to a failure to accommodate a

student’s disability up to the point of undue hardship, each school board should create an emergency fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.



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Quickly Send Us Feedback On Our Draft Brief to the Ontario Government’s Rushed Public Consultation on Its Proposal to Hold a Five-Year Pilot Project to Allow Electric Scooters in Ontario


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Quickly Send Us Feedback On Our Draft Brief to the Ontario Government’s Rushed Public Consultation on Its Proposal to Hold a Five-Year Pilot Project to Allow Electric Scooters in Ontario

September 6, 2019

          SUMMARY

We welcome your feedback by Tuesday, September 10, 2019, on our draft brief to the Ford Government’s rushed public consultation on its proposal to allow electric scooters (e-scooters) in Ontario for a five year pilot project. Our draft brief is set out below. Feedback to us can be sent to [email protected] or on Twitter @aodaalliance

We regret giving you so little time to send us feedback. the Government gave us no choice, since its consultation was just announced last week, and ends on September 12, 2019. We had to battle to get the consultation extended from 48 hours to 2.5 weeks!

We will do our best to address your feedback as we finalize this draft. Please remember that this draft was prepared in a great hurry. Thanks to all who have sent us your feedback on the e-scooter issue, and to the wonderful Osgoode Hall Law School who volunteered to help with our work on this brief.

We have continued to secure good media coverage for the e-scooter issue from the disability perspective. As previously reported to you, we got this issue covered by the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, City TV News, among several other media outlets.

Since then, there has been more coverage. On September 4, 2019, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed on the e-scooter issue on CBC morning radio programs in Toronto, Windsor, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, and Kitchener-Waterloo, as well as on Ontario Morning, the program that covers other parts of Ontario. He also pre-recorded an interview for the London CBC morning program. It was supposed to run on September 5, 2019. Capping this off, a clip from one of those interviews was included in an item on the problems with e-scooters that ran on CBC Radio’s national news program The World at 6 that ran at dinnertime on September 5, 2019. All that coverage took place in one week!

There have now been 219 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation prepared by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. Doug Ford’s Government has still not announced a plan to implement the Onley report. Instead, it has proposed this troubling e-scooter pilot project which threatens to create even more new accessibility barriers against Ontarians with disabilities.

          MORE DETAILS

Draft AODA Alliance Brief to the Ontario Government on Its Proposal to Hold a Five-Year Pilot Project Allowing Electric Scooters in Ontario

September 6, 2019

Note: This is only a draft and has not yet been submitted to the Ontario Government. Feedback on this draft is welcomed before Tuesday, September 10, 2019. We apologize for this rushed period. The Ontario Government has set an extremely short deadline for submitting input on its proposal. We are rushing to meet that deadline. Send us feedback at: [email protected] or on Twitter @aodaalliance

Introduction

The AODA Alliance submits this brief to the Ontario Government as part of the Government’s short public consultation on its proposal to hold a five-year pilot project to allow electric scooters (e-scooters) in Ontario. E-scooters are electric motor vehicles which can travel as fast as 32 kilometers per hour or faster. Under the Government’s proposal e-scooters would be allowed to zip at up to 32 kilometers per hour, anywhere a bicycle is allowed. The Government is not proposing to require the e-scooter owner or driver or vehicle itself to carry insurance, or to have a license. We include as Appendix 1 to this brief the Government’s original August 28, 2019 online posting that describes its proposed pilot project.

In summary, the AODA Alliance strongly opposes the proposed pilot project. This pilot project raises serious safety concerns for the entire public. Ontarians with disabilities are especially vulnerable to this safety risk. Experience in other jurisdictions where e-scooters have been allowed shows that they present serious public safety and disability accessibility problems.

the Ford Government repeatedly emphasized that it is focusing on what matters most to Ontarians. We emphasize that protecting public safety matters most for Ontarians.

E-scooters are motor vehicles, pure and simple. At a bare minimum, if they are to be permitted at all, e-scooters, like other motor vehicles, should have to be licensed. Their drivers should also have to be licensed, only after they have completed needed and specific training. Both the driver and the motor vehicle should have to carry sufficient insurance.

Their other risks should be subject to strict safety regulations. They should be required to emit a beep to enable people with vision loss to know they are coming. Rental of e-scooters should be forbidden. Regulation of e-scooters can later be reduced if shown to be justified, and that doing so won’t compromise on public safety and disability accessibility.

If, despite these concerns, Ontario were to hold a pilot project with e-scooters, it should be far shorter than five years. It should be restricted to a narrow area, not the entire province, and only with the consent of the community where the pilot is to occur. Very strict regulation of e-scooters should be in place.

Just because parts of the US and some other jurisdictions have allowed e-scooters does not mean that they are inevitable in Ontario. Ontario should not repeat the serious mistakes that other jurisdictions have made.

The Ontario Government Has an Important Duty to Prevent the Creation of New Disability Barriers

This brief will show that the Government’s proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario threatens to create new accessibility barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Government has a duty to prevent the creation of new accessibility barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. For example, the AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

As the final report of the most recent Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, prepared by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley revealed, Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching that goal. The Onley report found that Ontario remains a province full of “soul-crushing barriers”. Barriers in the built environment remain a serious example of this. The creation of any new barriers in the built environment would only make this worse.

The AODA Alliance elsewhere documented that the new Ontario Government has done a poor job of implementing the AODA. For the Government to take new action that would create more disability accessibility barriers, such as by allowing e-scooters, is an especially serious concern.

No Government Should Ever Compromise on Public Safety

We are deeply concerned that the Ontario Government’s proposal of a five-year pilot project with e-scooters in Ontario was arrived at without proper concern for or protection of public safety. As addressed later in this brief, e-scooters are known to present a danger to public safety.

According to a troubling CityTV report, the Doug Ford Government admitted it had compromised between protecting public safety on the one hand, and advancing business opportunities and consumer choice on the other, when it designed its controversial proposal to permit electric scooters in Ontario for a 5-year pilot. The August 30, 2019 City TV television news story that aired in Toronto in the evening news revealed this troubling new information, and included a comment by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on it:

“We reached out to the Ministry of Transportation, who told City News in a statement: the proposed pilot project is another example of how the province is helping businesses expand and give consumers more choice. When asked why the project is set to last a long five years, it said: ‘This proposed time line creates a compromise between road safety and access for businesses and consumers. If approved, the five year pilot will take a measured approach that will promote road safety, foster business innovation and open the Ontario market to this new and growing sector.’”

But Lepofsky fears the Government is prioritizing business over safety.

(Quotation from David Lepofsky in the news story) “the Government’s obligation is to protect public safety, not to decide, well, we’ll do some compromise between making sure people don’t get hurt and making sure other people can make some more money.”

We again call on the Ford Government to put the brakes on this proposal and to ensure that there is no risk to public safety, before even contemplating any pilot project with electric scooters. The Government must never compromise on the safety of the public, such as vulnerable people with disabilities, especially when it does so in the interests of some businesses wishing to expand into Ontario. Public Safety must always come first, and its protection should be unremitting and uncompromising.

Now that it has been revealed that the Government’s ill-conceived pilot project was based on an unacceptable compromise on public safety, the proposed pilot project should be withdrawn. The Government should go back to the drawing board.

E-Scooters Have Been Proven to Present a Safety Threat Both to Innocent Pedestrians and to the E-Scooter Driver Themselves

Our review of media articles and other sources posted on the internet quickly revealed that e-scooters are well-known to and well-documented to have posed a danger of personal injury, and in some cases, even of death. Injuries have been sustained by innocent pedestrians and by the e-scooter drivers themselves.

The AODA Alliance was able to quickly locate this information from a web search. As such, the Ontario Government, engaging in due diligence, should have been able to do the same.

The following is a very brief review of some of what we found, prepared in a hurry due to the Government’s very short public consultation deadline on this issue. We point especially to the article on e-scooters in the September 4, 2019 edition of the New York Times, set out in full as an appendix 2 to this brief.

Euronews reported on June 18, 2019, that Paris intended to implement speed limits and parking restrictions for e-scooters following its “first death on an electric scooter”. The French transport minister also announced a nationwide ban on e-scooters on sidewalks, effective September. A week prior to the announcements, a 25-year-old man riding an e-scooter had died after being hit by a truck. The report details other incidents, involving both riders and bystanders. In Sweden, “a 27-year-old man died in a crash while riding one of the electric vehicles in May”. In Barcelona, “a 92-year-old woman died in August 2018 after she was run over by an e-scooter — making it the first case of a pedestrian being killed by the electric vehicle”.

On July 26, 2019, CBC News reported that since e-scooters became available in Calgary, “Calgary emergency rooms have seen 60 patients with e-scooter-related injuries”. The report added that “[a]bout a third of them were fractures and roughly 10 per cent were injuries to the face and head”. These figures have triggered a study by the University of Calgary.

The Copenhagen Post reported on August 5, 2019, that a Capital Region release had identified “100 ‘scooter-related injuries’ this year” in Copenhagen. “Among those injured were several pedestrians, although it sounds like most of them tripped over discarded scooters. Only one ended up in hospital after being hit by one.”

The Guardian reported on August 11, 2019, that Paris had experienced its third e-scooter-related death in four months: “A 30-year-old man has been killed after being hit by a motorbike while riding his e-scooter on a French motorway.” The report went on to state that “[t]he scooter rider was not wearing a helmet and was reportedly travelling in the fast lane when the motorbike hit him from behind”, despite the fact that “[u]sing scooters on motorways is banned in France”. Moreover, “The day before the accident, a 27-year-old woman suffered serious head injuries after falling from an e-scooter she was using in a cycle lane in Lyon. A few days earlier a 41-year-old man had been seriously injured after falling from his e-scooter in Lille.” Finally, the report provided details on another, earlier e-scooter-related death in France: “An 81-year-old man died after he was reportedly knocked over by an e-scooter in Levallois-Perret, a Parisian suburb, in April.”

CityNews reported on August 13, 2019, as part of a short survey of European regulations, that “German police say seven people have been seriously injured and 27 suffered minor injuries in scooter accidents since mid-June, saying most were due to riders behaving carelessly.”

Extend the Current Public Consultation

If, despite the foregoing concerns, the Ontario Government plans to continue with the current e-scooter public consultation, it should significantly lengthen it. On Wednesday, August 28, 2019, just two days before the Labour Day long weekend, the Doug Ford Government quietly posted online, for a meager 48-hour public consultation, its proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario for five years, for a trial period. Thankfully we were alerted to this by an AODA Alliance supporter, who was concerned about the safety risk that e-scooters posed for Ontarians with disabilities.

On August 29, 2019, the AODA Alliance quickly swung into action on this helpful tip. So did others, including Balance for Blind Adults and the CNIB. The media showed interest quite quickly.

Within hours, the Ford Government gave some ground, though not all the ground we had requested. Late on Thursday, August 29, 2019, the Government announced that it was extending its consultation on this issue to September 12, 2019.

For the Government to announce a public consultation on the eve of a long weekend is a well-known strategy for rushing forward with a decision to implement something new, without truly consulting the public, while wishing to appear that it has genuinely consulted the public. It is a fair inference to draw that the Government has been lobbied by companies that rent e-scooters in the U.S. or elsewhere, in order to get the Government to permit them in Ontario. As noted later in this brief, the proposal of an excessively long five -year pilot project suggests an intent to get e-scooters deeply embedded in Ontario, and to make it harder to get them removed or effectively controlled.

It is essential for this consultation process to immediately slow down. If the Government is not prepared to withdraw its current consultation and go back to the drawing board, with a stronger commitment to protecting public safety, it should at least substantially lengthen the current public consultation period beyond September 12, 2019

Recommendation #1

If it is not prepared to withdraw its current public consultation on e-scooters, the Ontario Government should at least extend the consultation period to October 31, 2019.

Do Not Allow Rental of E-Scooters

It appears that at least in some if not most of the other jurisdictions where e-scooters have been allowed, a very common way that they are used is by companies renting them to the public, rather than by individuals buying them. Of course, the option to buy them was presumably available in those jurisdictions as well. It is reasonable to suppose that the lobbying of the Ford Government that has led to the current proposal for a five-year e-scooter pilot program comes from those big companies known in other jurisdictions to provide e-scooter rentals. See further the September 4, 2019 New York Times article set out in Appendix 2, at the end of this brief.

By this rental model, a member of the public gets an app on their phone to sign up for these rentals. E-scooters are left around the city, tagged with a GPS chip. The individual uses the app to find the nearest e-scooter that is available. They pick it up and ride away. They presumably do not go to a store, or deal with anyone directly and in person from the rental company. When they are finished with the e-scooter, they leave it on a sidewalk, wherever they wish, and walk away. That e-scooter then sits there until another person, using the app, decides to take it away and ride it, leaving it somewhere else, once they are done.

The rental model for e-scooters presents several serious problems. It should be forbidden.

First and foremost, having users randomly leave an e-scooter on a sidewalk or other like public place when they are finished with it creates significant and unpredictable new barriers against people with disabilities. these barriers can instantly pop up anywhere, unannounced.

For people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision, they are a serious and unexpected tripping hazard. They should not have to face the prospect of e-scooters potentially lying in their path at any time. we have received feedback about concerns with this from people with vision loss elsewhere where this has been allowed.

As well, leaving an e-scooter randomly on sidewalks presents a serious new barrier for people who use a wheelchair, walker or other mobility device. For them, an e-scooter can prevent them from being able to continue along an otherwise-accessible sidewalk. The option of going up on the grass or down onto the road in the path of car traffic may not be accessible, feasible or safe. This is especially so for people with temporary or permanent balance issues.

The sidewalks or other public spaces should not be made available to the private companies who rent e-scooters as free parking spaces, fully subsidized by the taxpayer. It would not be good enough for the Government to try to regulate where the scooters are left, e.g. by setting regulations that they not block the sidewalk. This would be very hard to enforce, since police are not on the scene wherever these e-scooters would be left. To the contrary, there needs to be a strict ban in place precluding them ever being left in the sidewalk, given the experiences of which we have learned in other jurisdictions.

Beyond the foregoing concerns, the rental model presents other safety risks. Under that model, a person could go into a bar, drink to excess, walk outside, look on their smart phone’s e-scooter app, and quickly find a nearby e-scooter to ride. That would expose the public to added risks. As it is, drunk driving is a troubling problem in our society that leads to deaths and serious injuries. Our Government should not expose the public to any more such risks.

Were an intoxicated person to walk into a car rental office and try to rent a car, they would have to deal with a human being, who no doubt would refuse to hand over the car keys. In the case of renting e-scooters via an app, there is no comparable control at the source, such as a sales person, to prevent this.

It is no answer to say that drunk driving is already illegal. We already know that that law is too often disobeyed, with innocent people paying the price with permanent injuries or their lives. The Government should not make e-scooters available, increasing that risk.

Recommendation #2

The rental of e-scooters should be strictly forbidden, even if private ownership of an e-scooter by a user of that e-scooter were to be permitted.

Recommendation #3

There should be a strict ban on leaving an e-scooter in a public sidewalk or like location. If an e-scooter is left in such a place, it should be subject to immediate confiscation as well as a strict penalty.

Require Beeping Sound from E-Scooters When Powered On

E-scooters are very quiet, if not silent, when being operated. It presents a significant safety risk for a virtually silent e-scooter to be hurtling towards a blind person at 32 kph. This is so whether the e-scooter is being driven on a road, or on a sidewalk) (where they are supposedly not to be permitted). They pose a similar risk to a sighted pedestrian who can hear, but who is not looking in the direction from which the e-scooter is coming.

Recommendation #4

If e-scooters are to be permitted in Ontario, they should be required to make an ongoing beeping sound when they are powered on, to warn others of their approach.

Reduce the Maximum Speed Well Below 32 KPH

The faster an e-scooter goes, the less time its driver or a pedestrian has to avoid a collision. Moreover, the fast the e-scooter goes, the greater the potential harm caused by a collision.

There is no magic reason why an e-scooter should be allowed to travel at 32 KPH, just because e-bikes are allowed to go at that speed.

The Ontario Government should study the options for speed limits from other jurisdictions to determine the safest maximum speed, before embarking on any pilot project. A considerably slower speed limit should be set. It can always be raised later, if that is justified.

Recommendation #5

The speed limit for e-scooters should initially be set much lower than 32 KPH, such as 15 or 20 KPH, until a strong showing can be made that a higher speed limit poses no safety threat to the public.

Require That an E-scooter Driver Have a License and Proper Training

Because an e-scooter is a motor vehicle which can cause significant personal injuries to innocent pedestrians, a person should be required to get a license before they can drive an e-scooter. To qualify to get a license, a person should have to take appropriate training and show sufficient proficiency, including sufficient knowledge about the rules of the road and the threat to personal injuries that an e-scooter can cause.

Recommendation #6

A person wishing to drive an e-scooter should be required to first take required training on its safe operation and on the rules of the road, and then to obtain a license.

E-Scooters Should Be Licensed and Display a License Plate Number

It is important for each e-scooter to be licensed, and to display a license plate number, as is required for cars and motorcycles. This will make it far, far easier to enforce the law in case a person, driving an e-scooter, collides with a pedestrian, and then flees the scene. Without such a license requirement, it may well be impossible for an injured pedestrian to effectively identify the e-scooter that hit them, and thereby, to trace the driver in question.

Recommendation #7

Each e-scooter should be required to be licensed and to display a readily-seen license plate number.

The E-scooter’s Owner and Driver Should Be Required to Carry Valid Insurance

It is widely recognized that motor vehicles pose a risk to personal injury of other motorists and pedestrians. As a result, both the owner and driver of a motor vehicle are required to carry liability insurance. It is an offence to fail to carry proper insurance.

The same should be so for the owner and driver of an e-scooter. It is important for both to be insured, as is the case for other motor vehicles such as cars and trucks, so an injured victim can recover compensation from either or both, if injured.

This is especially important where, as here, it is known that e-scooters can pose a real risk of personal injury. The victims of such injuries, and the taxpayers who pay for our health system, should not be left holding the bag when it comes to the consequences of the use of e-scooters.

Recommendation #8

The owner and driver of an e-scooter should be required to carry sufficient liability insurance for injuries or other damages that the e-scooter causes to others.

Helmets Should Be Required for All E-Scooter Drivers, No Matter What Their Age Is

The use of an e-scooter can result in injuries to the driver, and not just to innocent pedestrians. This obviously can include head injuries.

A helmet is an important safety measure to at least try to reduce some of the harmful impacts on the driver of a fall from the e-scooter. Yet the Ford Government is only proposing during its pilot project to require an e-scooter driver to wear a helmet if they are between the ages of 16 and 18.

Yet people older than 18 are equally exposed to the risk of head injuries. This creates an undue risk of increased injuries to drivers. That is bad for the drivers themselves and their families. It also creates an unnecessary and unfair burden for the taxpayer, who will have to cover the health and other social safety net costs of those injuries to the e-scooter drivers.

Recommendation #9

All e-scooter drivers, regardless of their age, should be required to wear a helmet whenever operating an e-scooter.

If There Is to Be a Pilot Period with E-scooters, It Should Be Much Shorter Than Five Years and For A Smaller Part of Ontario

The Ford Government is proposing an e-scooter pilot project for the entirety of Ontario, to last fully five years. There is serious reason to doubt whether the Government means this as a pilot project. It appears far more likely that the Government means for this to be a way to embed e-scooters as a done deal, a permanent fixture in Ontario. After five years, the Government may well be hoping that it will be much harder to reduce or eliminate them, if already entrenched around Ontario. We anticipate that this is a real problem facing those jurisdictions that have already allowed e-scooters to proliferate, and that now have serious concerns about their impact.

There is no reason for a pilot project to last for a long five years. A much shorter period is warranted, in order to assess their impact. This is so especially since there are other jurisdictions which have already in effect served as a pilot project for Ontario. They have allowed e-scooters, with all the accompanying problems. As noted earlier, Ontario should study their impact in those other jurisdictions first, rather than exposing Ontarians to the risk of personal injury. Only if that study reveals that e-scooters can be safely introduced in Ontario should a pilot project be conducted in Ontario.

If a pilot project is to take place in Ontario, it should be conducted for a far shorter period, such as six months. A proper assessment of their impact should be assigned to an arms-length organization with expertise in public safety.

There is no reason why a pilot project should take place across the entirety of Ontario. Instead, a specific region or community should be selected. That community should first be given the right to consent or reject the proposal on behalf of its citizens.

Recommendation #10

No e-scooter pilot project should be held in Ontario until the Ontario Government effectively studies the impact on public safety of e-scooters in jurisdictions that have allowed them, and on options for regulatory controls of them, and has made the details of these public. A pilot project should only be held in Ontario if public safety can be fully and effectively protected.

Recommendation #11

If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, it should only take place for a period much shorter than five years, e.g. six months, and should only take place in a specific community that has consented to permit that pilot project there.

Recommendation #12

If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, the Ontario Government should retain a trusted independent organization with expertise in public safety to study the impact of e-scooters during that pilot project, and to make the full results of that study public.

A Ban on Riding E-scooters on Sidewalks Is Insufficient to Address Public Safety Concerns

To address the safety and accessibility concerns in this brief, it would be insufficient to simply ban the riding of e-scooters on sidewalks. e-scooters present safety issues on public roads, not just on sidewalks. Moreover, it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to effectively police a ban on e-scooters on sidewalks. Even though bicycles are not supposed to be ridden on public sidewalks, pedestrians know that a good number of cyclists nevertheless ride their bikes on sidewalks from time to time, without much fear of law enforcement.

Moreover, especially if an e-scooter is not licensed and does not bear a plainly visible license plate number, it would too often be hard if not impossible for an injured pedestrian to report to police on someone who unlawfully rode an e-scooter on the sidewalk. It will be hard if not impossible to reliably identify the offender in a way that will stand up in court. Eyewitness identification evidence is notoriously hard to present in court.

Recommendation #13

The Government should not treat a ban on riding e-scooters on the sidewalk as a sufficient protection against the threat to public safety that e-scooters present.

There Should Be No Comparable Restrictions on Powered Scooters Used as a Mobility Aid for People with Disabilities

We emphasize that in raising these concerns with e-scooters, nothing should be done to restrict the current availability and use of powered scooters as a mobility aid for people with various disabilities. These are not in the same class of vehicle as e-scooters, addressed in this brief. They do not present the concerns raised in this brief. As we understand it, they do not travel at the kinds of speeds that an e-scooter can travel. They are an essential form of adaptive technology for people with disabilities.

Recommendation #14

nothing should be done to reduce the availability or use of powered mobility devices used by people with disabilities.

There Are Important Differences Between E-bikes and E-scooters

It would be wrong for the Government to proceed on the basis that it should allow e-scooters since it allows e-bikes, for several reasons. First, if, as we have shown, e-scooters present a safety risk, that safety risk neither magically vanishes nor in any way reduces just because Ontario now allows e-bikes.

Second, there are some important differences between the two. A person cannot ride an e-bike unless they already know how to ride a bike. In contrast, a person with no prior experience can, in some other jurisdictions, pay a rental fee, hop on an e-scooter, and immediately start racing in public at 32 KPH. As well, we are not aware of any companies that rent e-bikes on the terms used elsewhere for e-scooters, where they are regularly left as barriers in the middle of sidewalks.

Because this e-scooter consultation has been so rushed, we have not had a sufficient opportunity to explore the full ramifications of e-bikes beyond this. This is yet another reason why this hasty public consultation should be withdrawn or lengthened.

We also emphasize that there are key differences between an e-scooter and a non-motorized bicycle. While some can ride a bike quite fast, a novice cannot simply hop on a bike and race at 32 KPH. Moreover, a regular bike is not a motor vehicle. An e-scooter is a motor vehicle.

Appendix 1 The Ford Government’s 48-Hour Pre-Labour Day Public Consultation on Allowing Electric Scooters in Ontario

Originally posted at https://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=30207&language=en

Kick Style Electric Scooter (E-Scooter)

 

Background:

 

The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is strongly committed to promoting the highest standards of safety for all Ontarians who travel on our roads, including drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, and will continue working with all our partners on measures that enhance this objective. Trends and technology are evolving, with new forms of vehicles such as e-scooters entering the market.

MTO is interested in new and environmentally-friendly vehicles, however it is important that new vehicles are constructed with appropriate safety features to allow safe integration with all other road users.

MTO is considering the following proposal and invites you to submit your comments for consideration.

E-Scooters

 

E-scooters have been launched in more than 125 cities across the United States. They represent a new way for residents to get around their communities, are seen as providing first and last mile connections to transit, and represent an opportunity to reduce traffic congestion.

E-scooters are currently not permitted to operate on roads in Ontario as they do not meet any federal or provincial safety standards for on-road use. These devices may only be operated where Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA) does not apply such as private property.

The ministry is interested in exploring the feasibility of these vehicles safely integrating with other road users while promoting road safety and fostering business innovation in the province.

 

MTO is soliciting public comment on potentially permitting the use of e-scooters on roads in Ontario as part of a pilot project. This will allow the ministry to ensure e-scooters can be safely integrated with other road users before a final, permanent, regulatory decision is made.

 

 

 

Proposed E-Scooter Pilot Framework:

 

Pilot Duration:

The length of the pilot will be for a prescribed period of 5 years, to ensure sufficient time to effectively monitor and evaluate the pilot results.

 

Operator/Rider/Vehicle Requirements Include:

 

  • Can operate on-road similar to where bicycles can operate; prohibited on controlled access highways
  • Minimum operating age 16
  • Bicycle helmet required for those under 18 years old
  • No passengers allowed
  • Maximum operating speed 32 km/h
  • No pedals or seat allowed
  • Must have 2 wheels and brakes
  • Maximum wheel diameter 17 inches
  • Must have horn or bell
  • Must have front and back light
  • Maximum weight 45kg and Maximum power output 500W

Data Collection:

 

  • Municipalities to remit data to the province, as requested

 

Appendix 2 The New York Times September 4, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/04/technology/san-diego-electric-scooters.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

Welcome to San Diego. Don’t Mind the Scooters.

A year ago, electric rental scooters were hailed as the next big thing in transportation. But their troubles in San Diego show how the services have now hit growing pains.

Companies distribute scooters around cities, often on sidewalks. In the area around Mission Beach, one of San Diego’s main beaches, 70 scooters lined a single side of one block in July. By

Erin Griffith

Sept. 4, 2019

SAN DIEGO — The first thing you notice in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter is not the brick sidewalks, the rows of bars and the roving gaggles of bachelorette parties and conferencegoers, or even the actual gas lamps.

It’s the electric rental scooters. Hundreds are scattered around the sidewalks, clustered in newly painted corrals on the street and piled up in the gutters. In early July, one corner alone had 37. In the area around Mission Beach, one of the city’s main beaches, a single side of one block had 70. Most sat unused.

Since scooter rental companies like Bird, Lime, Razor, Lyft and Uber-owned Jump moved into San Diego last year, inflating the city’s scooter population to as many as 40,000 by some estimates, the vehicles have led to injuries, deaths, lawsuits and vandals. Regulators and local activists have pushed back against them. One company has even started collecting the vehicles to help keep the sidewalks clear.

“My constituents hate them pretty universally,” said Barbara Bry, a San Diego City Council member. She called for a moratorium on the scooters when they arrived, saying they clogged sidewalks and were a danger to pedestrians.

San Diego’s struggle to contain the havoc provides a glimpse of how reality has set in for scooter companies like Bird and Lime. Last year, the services were hailed as the next big thing in personal transportation. Investors poured money into the firms, valuing Bird at $2.3 billion and Lime at $2.4 billion and prompting an array of followers.

At the end of a rental period, a rider leaves the scooter for the next customer to retrieve. CreditTara Pixley for The New York Times

The scooter companies distribute their electric vehicles around cities and universities — often on sidewalks — and rent them by the minute via apps. At the end of a rental period, a rider leaves the scooter for the next customer to retrieve. Scooter speeds vary by company, model and city, as do helmet laws, although helmets generally are not required.

But now, skepticism about scooter services is rising. Some cities, including San Francisco, Paris, Atlanta and Portland, Ore., have imposed stricter regulations on scooter speed limits, parking or nighttime riding. Columbia, S.C., has temporarily banned them. New York recently passed legislation that would allow scooters to operate in some parts of New York City, but not in Manhattan.

Safety has become a big issue. A three-month study published in May from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Public Health and Transportation Departments of Austin, Tex., found that for every 100,000 scooter rides, 20 people were injured. Nearly half of the injuries were to the head; 15 percent of those showed evidence of traumatic brain injury.

Bird, Lime and Skip are trying to secure new funding, according to three people familiar with the talks, who declined to be identified because the discussions were not finished. In May, Lime replaced its chief executive; several other top executives also left. And in July, Bird’s chief executive called a report about the company’s losses “fake.”

Scooters are “a fun and convenient mode of transportation that really does put people at risk and introduces significant spatial challenges to the civic commons,” said Adie Tomer, a metropolitan policy fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Those tensions are not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Bird declined to comment.

Many scooter companies miscalculated how long the scooters would last — often not long enough for rental fees to cover their costs — and are struggling with profitability, acknowledged Sanjay Dastoor, Skip’s chief executive. His company has designed a way to produce more durable scooters that can be repaired more easily and last long enough to turn a profit, he said, allowing it to “run a safe fleet that we are proud of.”

Lindsey Haswell, Lime’s head of communications, said new industries often faced regulatory challenges, “but our investors are willing to take the long view.” She added that the issues in San Diego did not reflect the global scooter market. Lime has provided more than three million trips in San Diego, she said, and has “as many supporters as we have detractors” there.

Hans Tung, an investor at GGV, which has backed Lime, said he was encouraged by the company’s progress and was confident it would make its scooters safe and profitable. “I don’t see how that couldn’t be achieved,” he said.

Bird and Lime deployed their scooters in San Diego in February 2018, followed by other companies. The start-ups pitched themselves as environmentally friendly, a message that jibed with San Diego’s goal to reduce greenhouse emissions.

San Diego initially took a hands-off approach. The scooters became popular, with an average of 30,000 riders per day, according to city officials.

“Millennials and post-millennials want to live in a thriving, bustling city that has dynamic choices for mobility,” said Erik Caldwell, San Diego’s deputy head of operations for smart and sustainable communities.

But as more scooters flooded San Diego last summer, local business owners and residents began objecting. Alex Stennet, a bouncer at Coyote Ugly Saloon in the Gaslamp District, said people tripped over the vehicles and threw them around. He said he had witnessed at least 20 scooter accidents in front of Coyote Ugly.

ScootScoop has deals with 250 local businesses to remove scooters; it has towed more than 12,500. CreditTara Pixley for The New York Times

Dan Borelli, who owns a bike rental shop called Boardwalk Electric Rides in Pacific Beach, said the scooters frequently blocked the entrance to his store. In July 2018, he teamed up with John Heinkel, owner of a local towing company, to haul away scooters that they deemed to be parked on private property. They charge Bird, Lime and others a retrieval fee of $50 per scooter, plus $2 for each day of storage.

Their company, ScootScoop, has essentially turned them into scooter bounty hunters. They said they have struck deals with 250 local businesses and hotels and have towed more than 12,500 scooters. Some scooter companies have paid to get them back, they said.

In March, Lime and Bird sued Mr. Borelli and Mr. Heinkel for the scooter removals. ScootScoop countersued Bird and Lime last week.

Other cities have called ScootScoop for advice, Mr. Borelli said. Mr. Heinkel said the scooter companies underestimated them. “They assumed we were two hillbillies in a pickup truck, as opposed to business owners,” he said.

Lime’s Ms. Haswell said Mr. Borelli and Mr. Heinkel “are opportunistic businessmen who troll the streets stealing scooters, with no respect for the law, trying to make a profit at San Diego’s expense.”

Late last year, the scooters turned from annoyances into hazards. In December, a man in Chula Vista, a San Diego suburb, died after he was hit by a car while riding a Bird scooter, according to the Chula Vista Police Department. A tourist died a few months later after crashing his rental scooter into a tree. Another visitor died of “blunt force torso trauma” after his scooter collided with another, the San Diego Police Department said.

The department said it counted 15 “serious injury collisions” involving scooters in the first half of this year. Last month, three separate scooter-related skull fractures happened in one week.

On one day in July, there were 150 available Bird scooters within a two-block radius in Mission Beach.CreditTara Pixley for The New York Times

Scooter parking corrals were introduced in July as part of San Diego’s new rules.CreditTara Pixley for The New York Times

As the injuries piled up, Safe Walkways, an activist group, amassed hundreds of members in a Facebook group to oppose the scooters and file complaints to government agencies. In April, around 50 protesters gathered on Mission Beach’s boardwalk with signs bearing messages like “Safety Not Scooters” and “BoardWALK.”

Lawsuits have also piled up. Clients of Matthew Souther, an attorney at Neil Dymott, filed a potential class action suit in March that accused Bird, Lime and the City of San Diego of not complying with disability rights laws to keep sidewalks clear. He said he was working on a dozen other injury lawsuits against scooter companies.

San Diego has started cracking down on the scooters. In July, the city enacted rules restricting where they could be parked and driven and issued permits for 20,000 scooters, across all companies, to operate. In three days that month, authorities impounded 2,500 scooters that violated parking rules. San Diego later sent notices of violations to Bird, Lyft, Lime and Skip.

Last month, San Diego told Lime that it planned to revoke its permit to operate in the city because of the violations, pending a hearing.

Christina Chadwick, a spokeswoman for San Diego’s mayor, Kevin Faulconer, said the scooter operators had been warned that the city would aggressively monitor them.

To deal with critics and improve safety and costs, the scooter companies have upgraded their fleets with sturdier scooters. Bird has said its Bird Zero model, which makes up a majority of its fleet, lasts an average of 10 months, compared with three months for past models. Skip recently announced a scooter with modular parts, which makes repairs easier.

And after a year recalling scooters with cracked baseboards and batteries that caught fire, Lime has introduced new vehicles with bigger wheels and baseboards, as well as interchangeable batteries and parts.

Ms. Haswell said Lime was eager to show the progress it had made. “We admit that we haven’t always gotten it right in San Diego,” she said.

Erin Griffith reports on technology start-ups and venture capital from the San Francisco bureau. Before joining The Times she was a senior writer at WIRED and Fortune. @eringriffith

A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 4, 2019, Section B, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: San Diego’s Scooter Tryout Gets Off to a Bumpy Start.

 



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Almost 8 Months After Receiving the Blistering Onley Report, Both Premier Doug Ford and His Accessibility Minister Write the AODA Alliance But Offer Nothing New to Strengthen the Implementation and Enforcement of Ontario’s Beleaguered Disabilities Act


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Almost 8 Months After Receiving the Blistering Onley Report, Both Premier Doug Ford and His Accessibility Minister Write the AODA Alliance But Offer Nothing New to Strengthen the Implementation and Enforcement of Ontario’s Beleaguered Disabilities Act

August 26, 2019

          SUMMARY

Two more letters have come in to the AODA Alliance from the Doug Ford Government. They were sent in response to an open letter which the Government received from us on July 10, 2019. The Government’s new letters offer Ontarians with disabilities simply more of the same foot-dragging on accessibility for people with disabilities. There is no indication of any new plan for a strengthened Government approach to accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

In substance these letters just repeat things the Government has already been doing on accessibility. These are measures that are proven to be insufficient to overcome the serious problems that the Onley Report documented in detail.

It is regrettably typical for governments in such a situation to simply regurgitate what it has been doing, instead of offering needed new actions. It is noteworthy that in listing its actions of which it is proud, the Government did not in these letters point to its deeply troubling plan to divert 1.3 million public dollars to the problem-ridden private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation. That Government plan has come under heavy criticism over the past months.

You can read both of the Government’s new letters below. You can read the July 10, 2019 open letter to the Doug Ford Government by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/in-a-compelling-open-letter-21-disability-organizations-unite-to-call-on-the-doug-ford-government-to-announce-a-plan-to-implement-the-report-on-ontarios-disabilities-act-submitted-by-former-lieuten/

Meanwhile, an inexcusable 208 days have now passed since the Doug Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Yet Doug Ford’s Government has still announced no plan for implementing its key recommendations that would strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

The July 10, 2019 open letter was originally co-signed by an impressive 21 community organizations and groups. The expanded list of signatories, set out later in this Update, has since grown to 27 organizations. If any organizations want to sign on, send us an email at [email protected]

Do you find this frustrating? There’s something you can do to help us! Join in our Dial Doug campaign. Call or email Premier Doug Ford. Ask him where is his plan to get Ontario to become accessible to over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025?

Doug Ford’s office number is +1 (416) 325-1941. His email address is [email protected]

We are delighted to hear from those who have already taken part in the Dial Doug campaign. Action tips on how to take part are available for you at 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 also invite and encourage you to download, print up and give out our 1-page leaflet on the Dial Doug campaign. Spread the word about it. Email it to friends. Post it on your Facebook page. Our 1-page Dial Doug leaflet is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/dial-doug-leaflet.docx

https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/dial-doug-leaflet.docx

          MORE DETAILS

A Closer Look — The Doug Ford Government’s Response to the July 10, 2019 Open Letter Just Offers Over 2 Million Ontarians with Disabilities More of the Same, Not Strong New Action

The July 10, 2019 open letter called on the Ford Government to announce a plan to implement the final report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, of his Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s accessibility law, the AODA. The Onley Report found that the AODA’s required goal of becoming a fully accessible province for over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities is nowhere in sight. It concluded that Ontario remains replete with “soul-crushing” barriers against people with disabilities. That report recommended a series of important new measures needed to get Ontario back on schedule for becoming accessible by 2025.

The AODA Alliance led the preparation of this July 10, 2019 open letter. We did so after the Ford Government used its majority in the Legislature on May 30, 2019 to defeat a non-partisan motion by NDP MPP Joel Harden. That motion called on the Doug Ford Government to develop a plan to implement the Onley Report. Several MPPs from the Ford Government, including Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, disparaged taking the action recommended in that proposed motion as “red tape”.

On that day, the Ford Government gave prepared speeches that sound like they reject the Onley Report’s recommendations as “red tape.” That is an extremely inaccurate and unfair description of the Onley Report. The Doug Ford Government has not retracted those statements in the three months since it made them.

The Ford Government’s two written responses to the July 10, 2019 open letter are deeply disappointing. They embody no plan of effective action, nor any pledge to establish one.

We heard once again in the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter that the Government is still studying the Onley Report. That report is only 81 pages. This is a top responsibility for the Accessibility Minister. David Onley’s key recommendations are ones which we have been presenting to all parties in the Legislature for years. This is not rocket science.

The Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho had earlier studied this report sufficiently after having it for a little over two months that he publicly declared in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley had done a “marvelous job.” As we have noted in the past, the Doug Ford Government has shown itself willing to act quickly, decisively, and vigorously in areas that it considers important. In those areas, it has not taken almost eight months to keep studying a report. This delay of almost eight months is hardly consistent with the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter where the Government says it is taking the Onley Report “very seriously.”

In the Minister’s detailed letter, the Government did not say it would ever bring forward such a plan. We respectfully but profoundly disagree with the Ford Government’s claim in the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter that the Government is now on the right track on accessibility. Its protracted failure to bring forward a plan to implement the Onley Report is proof positive that it is on the wrong track. The Minister wrote:

“We are on the right track to creating an Ontario where communities offer opportunities instead of barriers.

A place where everyone can be independent, work, and contribute to the economy – wherever they live.”

Both the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter and the Premier’s July 24, 2019 letter raise a serious concern that the Doug Ford Government is not even trying to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities, the goal which the AODA requires by 2025. Those letters speak instead about merely trying to “improve accessibility” and about “making Ontario more accessible and preventing barriers for people with disabilities.”

It is not good enough for the Government to merely aim to “improve accessibility.” Just one new ramp, installed somewhere in Ontario, or just one newly-retrofitted website, would fulfil that feeble goal.

In his August 19, 2019 letter, the Minister pointed in support to his Government’s having agreed to resume the work of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees. The Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter states:

“Right after tabling the report, we announced that we would be resuming the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees. As the Minister, I was proud to immediately begin working with the chairs to re-start work on these valuable committees.”

Yet it was the Ford Government itself that left those important Standards Development Committees frozen since the Government took power in June 2019. Moreover, even though the Ford Government announced on March 7, 2019 that it was lifting its freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees, over five months have passed since then. Those committees have not held a meeting, as far as we can tell. As an initial step, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee is expected to hold its first re-engagement telephone conference call some time on September 10, 2019. That is a small glimmer of progress, that will take place over six months after the Ford Government lifted this freeze, and over 14 months after this freeze was first imposed.

The rest of the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter basically rehashes what we had been hearing for years from the Wynne Government. The Onley Report adds up to a stinging indictment of that strategy as far too little and far too slow. For example, the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter summarizes what the Government says it is now doing on accessibility as follows:

“We’ve also taken action through a number of key initiatives, including working across government to take a whole-of-government approach to accessibility, supporting businesses to better understand accessibility and its benefits, and engaging with employers through our Employers’ Partnership Table.”

It is true that the Onley Report recommends that the Ontario Government take a “whole of Government approach” to accessibility. However, all the Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter does is to repeat this phrase without specifying any concrete changes, much less any substantial improvements. The previous Government similarly claimed to be taking a whole of Government approach to accessibility, without demonstrating concrete improvements.

The Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter refers to its strategy within the Government which is very similar to, if not identical to, the internal Government strategy of the Wynne Government (2013-2018, the McGuinty Government before that (2003-2013, and the Mike Harris Government before those two (1995-2003), as follows:

“As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to make accessibility a responsibility of all ministries and inform a whole-of-government approach to advancing accessibility.

As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services and identifying areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontario’s 2.6 million people with disabilities.”

The Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter focuses predominantly if not entirely on efforts to educate organizations on accessibility, and efforts to get organizations to voluntarily do more. The letter refers to two specific initiatives which the former Wynne Government had been using for years, the Enabling Change Fund and the Government’s Partnership Council on Employment for People with disabilities. As a core Government strategy on accessibility, that is a formula for more progress at a snail’s pace. The Onley Report‘s recommendations call for the Government to do much, much more.

The only tiny glimmer of progress in these letters came where the Minister stated:

“For example, with our ministry partners, we have begun discussions with the Ontario Building Officials Association and the Retail Council of Canada and have been meeting with other stakeholders such as the Ontario Association of Architects.”

To “begin discussions” is very preliminary. We ask the Government to speed up this effort and to now bring us to the table with those organizations and with an ambitious plan for action, so we can work together throughout on progress.

We also again urge the Ford Government to now fulfil its duty under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, and to mandate that committee to make recommendations for a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It’s time the Ontario Government obeyed the AODA. Both the Doug Ford Government and the previous Wynne Government stand together as having violated the requirement to appoint that mandatory review of the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017. To take these action we seek is consistent with the Onley Report’s recommendations.

Premier Doug ford’s July 24, 2019 letter to us is no more encouraging than is the Accessibility Minister’s August 19, 2019 letter. As he has in all his prior letters to us since taking power, Premier Ford simply punted all our issues back to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho. There are two powerful reasons why this is insufficient for over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities:

First, the Onley Report itself called for new Government leadership on accessibility, pointing to the premier’s office. The report included the damning heading “Restoring Government Leadership.” The Onley Report found:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this. I am hopeful the current one will.”

Second, key areas where we need action are ones which the Premier himself must take. The Accessibility Minister, acting alone, cannot do so. We listed examples of priority actions in the AODA Alliance’s July 19, 2018 letter to Premier Ford. Premier Ford’s response to that letter was to punt it entirely to Accessibility Minister Cho.

Text of the August 19, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

 

Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
Minister

College Park, 5th Floor
777 Bay St.
Toronto ON M7A 1S5

Ministre des Services aux aînés et de l’Accessibilitée Ministre

College Park, 5ème étage
rue 777 Bay
Toronto ON M7A 1S5

August 20, 2019

Mr. David Lepofsky

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

I would like to respond to your Open Letter to the Premier of Ontario, dated July 10, 2019.

Thank you for sharing your concerns and for continuing to raise this very important issue.

We are taking Mr. Onley’s report on the Third Legislative Review very seriously as we continue to work towards making Ontario more accessible.

In an effort to be open and transparent, we tabled Mr. Onley’s report and made it public as soon as possible, just over a month after receiving it.

Right after tabling the report, we announced that we would be resuming the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees. As the Minister, I was proud to immediately begin working with the chairs to re-start work on these valuable committees.

We’ve also taken action through a number of key initiatives, including working across government to take a whole-of-government approach to accessibility, supporting businesses to better understand accessibility and its benefits, and engaging with employers through our Employers’ Partnership Table.

As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to make accessibility a responsibility of all ministries and inform a whole-of-government approach to advancing accessibility.

As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services and identifying areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontario’s 2.6 million people with disabilities.

For example, with our ministry partners, we have begun discussions with the Ontario Building Officials Association and the Retail Council of Canada and have been meeting with other stakeholders such as the Ontario Association of Architects. We will continue to work collaboratively with other ministries to promote accessibility and explore opportunities to develop resources and make it easier to understand how to build using universal design principles.

We continue our outreach with people with disabilities and disability organizations, and consult with businesses, non-profits and industry groups to get their perspectives on how to improve accessibility in Ontario.

On employment, we are working through our Employers’ Partnership Table, which was brought together to support the creation of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The Table is comprised of 17 members representing a range of small, medium and large businesses, industry associations, non-profit and public organizations, and post-secondary education institutions from across Ontario. It is currently developing business cases to demonstrate that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line because productivity goes up.

The table will share their work and experiences with other businesses in Ontario to help them realize the benefits of employing people with disabilities. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers Partnership Table and other forums.

Government alone cannot create a barrier free Ontario.

That is why while all the work on the Onley report is ongoing, I have been hard at work every day meeting with Ontarians and engaging with disability and business stakeholders to make accessibility into a reality in this province.

We work closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility.

We partnered with OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre to develop “Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Congregations” which was shared and highlighted at the 2018 Parliament of World’s Religions Conference. The guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called Enabling Change.

Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include:

  • A resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible including addressing barriers in the built environment such as entrances and exits, space layout and design.
  • A partnership with the Conference Board of Canada to develop: Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities, attract customers and improve services.
  • ca which is a free online training portal with modules and videos that businesses can use to train staff on Ontario’s accessibility laws

We will continue to work with businesses and communities to help them better understand the benefits of accessibility. To address the recommendation in the Third Legislative Review on creating a comprehensive website for accessibility resources, we have taken steps to begin re-designing our ministry website to make it a comprehensive one stop shop on accessibility for the public and businesses. In order to make it easier for businesses to access resources on accessibility, we have created a new webpage dedicated to supporting businesses with practical guides and resources to help them understand the benefits of accessibility and break down barriers for people with disabilities.

A business that commits to accessibility sends a strong message that people with disabilities are welcome. For this reason, it is much more likely to attract people with disabilities and their families. This goes for any and all businesses in Ontario that are providing goods and services to the public.

Accessibility is a journey and we are eager to continue to work with all our partners in the disability community, not-for-profit, public and private sector to make change that will have a positive impact on the daily lives of people with disabilities and seniors.

We are on the right track to creating an Ontario where communities offer opportunities instead of barriers.

A place where everyone can be independent, work, and contribute to the economy – wherever they live.

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

Sincerely,

(Original signed by)

Raymond Cho

Minister

c: The Honourable Doug Ford

Text of the July 24, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance From Premier Doug Ford

Dear Mr. Lepofsky and Colleagues:

Thanks very much for writing to me about the Honourable David C. Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. I appreciate hearing your views and concerns.

My team is here for all the people. We are working to make our province a great place for all the people of Ontario today, and every day. Our government remains committed to making Ontario more accessible and preventing barriers for people with disabilities.

I note that you have sent a copy of your email to the Honourable Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. As the issue you raised falls in his area of responsibility, I have asked that he respond to you as soon as possible.

Thanks again for contacting me.

Doug Ford

Premier of Ontario

C: The Honourable Raymond Cho

Please note that this email account is not monitored. For further inquiries, kindly direct your online message through https://correspondence.premier.gov.on.ca/en/feedback/default.aspx.

Updated List of Signatories to the July 10, 2019 Open Letter to the Ontario Government As of August 26, 2019

As of August 23, 2019, the following 27 organizations and groups  are signatories to the July 10, 2019 Open Letter to the Ford Government on the need to promptly implement the Onley Report:

  1. AODA Alliance
  2. CNIB
  3. March of Dimes Canada
  4. Older Women’s’ Network
  5. Ontario Autism Coalition
  6. Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC)
  7. StopGap Foundation
  8. BALANCE for Blind Adults
  9. Community Living Ontario
  10. DeafBlind Ontario Services)
  11. Ontario Disability Coalition
  12. Guide Dog Users of Canada
  13. Views for the Visually Impaired
  14. Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy (PONDA)
  15. ARCH Disability Law Centre
  16. Easter Seals Ontario
  17. Inclusive Design Research Centre, Ontario College of Art and Design University
  18. Centre for Independent Living in Toronto CILT
  19. Canadian Disability Policy Alliance
  20. Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC)
  21. Citizens With Disabilities – Ontario
  22. Autism Ontario
  23. Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation (EPIC)
  24. Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre
  25. Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO)
  26. Unitarian Commons Co-Housing Corporation
  27. Peterborough Council for Person’s with Disabilities [CPD]



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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

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

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

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.
  1. There are no measures in place to address serious conflict of interest concerns with the RHFAC.
  1. Key and basic aspects of this public funding program have still not yet been worked out months after it was announced.
  1. It is troubling that the RHFAC tries to shift responsibility and risk for accessibility ratings and advice onto others.
  1. 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.
  1. It is problematic for the RHFAC to take averages of the accessibility of a building’s features like bathrooms.
  1. The RHFAC program emphasizes the problematic idea of getting organizations to go “beyond code”, as if building code compliance is all that is required.
  1. The RHFAC adjudication process has serious flaws.
  1. There are insufficient safeguards to ensure that an RHF-certified building remains accessible after it is so-certified.
  1. The mandatory RHFAC course is even shorter than the two weeks we earlier announced.
  1. An instructor in the RHFAC course need not have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment.
  1. The RHF training course crams far too much curriculum into too short a time.
  1. The RHFAC course appears to emphasize barriers facing people with physical disabilities such as people using wheelchairs.
  1. It is misleading to suggest at points that building code compliance means that a building is accessible.
  1. It is inappropriate and potentially harmful for the RHF to use blindness or vision loss simulations as part of the RHFAC course.
  1. It is unhelpful for The RHFAC course to ask students to consider which disability they’d rather have or not have.
  1. 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 Professional’s 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 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.”

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 building’s 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 building’s 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:

  1. 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.
  1. b) “Substantial changes” is a highly discretionary, flexible and subjective standard.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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 artist’s 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 building’s 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 government’s 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

  • 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 Ontario’s Transfer Payment Accountability Directive.

Standard for Assessing a Building’s Accessibility

  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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
  • 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 program’s 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

  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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?

 

 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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 program’s approach of consistent training and consistent methodology provides consistent results.
  • 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 RHF’s 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 professional’s evaluation to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by the CSA Group.

Sufficiency of RHF Off-Site Accessibility Adjudication Process

  • 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

  • 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 RHF’s and Government of Ontario’s 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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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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

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

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

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

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

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

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, 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.”

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.
  1. 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, 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.”

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 Code’s 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 Ontario’s 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 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.

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 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.

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

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 customer’s complaint about Pat Quinn’s

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

The complaint has been filed by Tsawwassen’s 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.

“We’re very surprised by all of this. It’s a shame because it is a great restaurant and we love going there,” he said. “I’m 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? I’m adamant about what I want and so are they and that’s 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 it’s not.”

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

“It’s 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 Quinn’s 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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