Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Is First and Only National Leader to Pledge to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. What Will the Other Parties Pledge in This Election to Make Canada Accessible for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities by 2040? – AODA Alliance


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 4, 2021 Toronto: In the current federal election, the NDP is the first federal party to write the AODA Alliance to commit to strengthen the 2019 Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that public money is never used to create barriers against over six million people with disabilities. The NDP’s September 4, 2021 letter to the AODA Alliance is set out below.

In its August 3, 2021 letter to the party leaders, the non-partisan AODA Alliance requested 12 specific commitments to strengthen the ACA and to ensure its swift and effective implementation and enforcement. (12 requests set out and answered below in Mr. Singh’s letter). The NDP’s letter, set out below, Mr. Singh makes many of the commitments the AODA Alliance sought.

“We’ve now gotten commitments from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, so now we aim to get the other federal party leaders to meet or beat those commitments,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “We and other disability advocates together got the Accessible Canada Act introduced into Parliament, and then got it strengthened somewhat between 2018 and 2019 before it was passed. It has helpful ingredients, but is too weak. We are seeking commitments to ensure that this law gets strengthened, and that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced.”

In Parliament during debates over that bill in 2018-2019, the Liberals made promising statements about what the new law would achieve for people with disabilities. Commitments are sought in this election to turn those statements into assured action.

In the 2019 federal election, the Liberals promised the timely and ambitious implementation of this legislation. It repeated that pledge in its 2021 platform released days ago. Two years after first making this pledge, the Government has taken some steps, but has been dragging its feet. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

Even though Parliament unanimously passed the ACA, the federal parties were substantially divided on whether it went far enough to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The Tories, NDP and Greens argued in Parliament for the bill to be made stronger, speaking on behalf of diverse voices from the disability community. In 2018, the Liberals voted down most of the proposed opposition amendments that were advanced on behalf of people with disabilities.

In 2019, the Senate called for new measures to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities. The ACA does not ensure this.

Among the disability organizations that are raising disability issues in this election, the AODA Alliance is spearheading a blitz to help the grassroots press these issues on the actual and virtual hustings and in social media. The AODA Alliance is tweeting candidates across Canada to solicit their commitments and will make public any commitments that the other party leaders make. Follow @aodaalliance. As a non-partisan effort, the AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate.

The AODA Alliance is also calling on the Federal Government and Elections Canada to ensure for the first time that millions of voters with disabilities can vote in this election without fearing that they may encounter accessibility barriers in the voting process.

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

For background on the AODA Alliance ‘s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, and its efforts to get it effectively implemented since then, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Text of the New Democratic Party of Canada’s September 4, 2021 Email to the AODA Alliance

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

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

The NDP fought repeatedly to include implementation timelines in Bill C-81. During committee study of the bill, the Government there was overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to how the bill needed to be amended. The NDP listened and introduced amendments based on the feedback of the disability community but nearly all our amendments were defeated by the Liberals. A New Democrat government will work hard to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in a timely fashion.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the ACA is effectively and vigourously enforced?

 

Yes, it’s critical to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced. The NDP fought hard to amend Bill C-81 to ensure that the accessibility standards would be enforced, introducing amendments that were called for by Canadians living with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Liberals defeated nearly all of our amendments. An NDP government will strengthen the ACA to ensure accessibility standards are enforced.

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

 

The Liberal government missed a sizable opportunity when they introduced the ACA. Federal money should never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The NDP fought to include this provision in the bill, putting forward an amendment at committee. Unfortunately, the Liberals voted against.

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

 

  1. Will your party amend the ACA to provide that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the ACA or in any regulations enacted under it or in any actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law?

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

  1. Will your party repeal the offending portion of section 172(3) of the ACA that reads “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.” and replace them with words such as: “and grant a remedy in accordance with subsection 2.”?

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

  1. Will your party assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet? If not, then at a minimum, would your party require by legislation or policy that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner?

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

  1. Will your Party review all federal laws to identify any which require or permit any barriers against people with disabilities, and will your party amend Section 2 of the ACA (definition of “barrier”) to add the words “a law”, so that it will read:

 

“barrier means anything — including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice — that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation.”

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

  1. Will your party pass legislation or regulations and adopt policies needed to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities?

New Democrats recognize that our public institutions and our public policies are stronger when they are representative and allow for full participation. Within our own party, we have sought to address barriers for candidates with disabilities guided by the advice of our Persons Living With Disabilities Committee, and have established a fund specifically to support candidates living with disabilities.

We have also fought to create change for candidates in all parties, bringing forward amendments to C-81 that would have required the Accessibility Commissioner to appoint, within 12 months of the bill being enacted, an independent person (with no current or prior involvement in administering elections) to conduct an Independent Review of disability barriers in the election process, with a requirement to consult the public, including persons with disabilities, and to report within 12 months to the Federal Government. An NDP government will make sure that review happens, and bring forth legislation within 12 months of the completion of that review to address the barriers that were identified.

  1. Will your Party eliminate or reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes? Such as eliminating the power to exempt the Government of Canada, or a federal department or agency? If not, will your party commit not to grant any exemptions from the ACA?

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

  1. Will your party develop and implement a plan to ensure that all federally-operated courts (e.g., the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts), and federally operated regulatory tribunals (like the CRTC and CTA) become accessible to participants with hearing disabilities?

Our country cannot be barrier-free if our public institutions are not accessible to all Canadians, including Canadians with hearing disabilities. The NDP brought forward an amendment during hearings on the ACA that would have required the Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Government, to develop and implement a multi- year plan to ensure that all federally controlled courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts) as well as federally-created administrative tribunals become fully accessible to court participants with disabilities, by the bill’s accessibility deadline. An NDP government will implement this requirement and ensure that we remove barriers to justice for Canadians living with disabilities.

  1. Would your party pass the amendments to the ACA which the opposition proposed in the fall of 2018 in the House of Commons, which the Government had defeated, and which would strengthen the ACA?

Absolutely! The NDP fought to improve this bill and brought forward numerous amendments that were proposed by stakeholders in the disability community. We do not see this fight as over just because the Liberals have given up; an NDP government will work to fix the ACA, including the many issues that were flagged during hearings on Bill C-81.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the National Building Code meets the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Will your party commit that any efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes will never reduce or dilute accessibility protections for people with disabilities?

Yes, an NDP government will apply a disability lens to all government legislation, regulations, codes, and procedures to ensure that we are removing barriers to full inclusion and respecting the rights of Canadians living with disabilities. Where there are gaps or shortcomings in existing policies, we will work with the disability community to fix the legislation or policies, including with the National Building Code. We will apply this same lens to any conversations with the provinces and territories about harmonization of laws and regulations.

 



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What Do the Major Federal Political Parties Commit to Do in Their Published Election Platforms to Make Canada Accessible for Six Million People with Disabilities? – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

What Do the Major Federal Political Parties Commit to Do in Their Published Election Platforms to Make Canada Accessible for Six Million People with Disabilities?

August 27, 2021

        SUMMARY

In the current federal election, what are the major national political parties promising to do, if elected, to make Canada accessible for people with disabilities? On August 3, 2021, we wrote the major parties to ask them to make 12 specific commitments. With less than a month left before voting day, none of the party leaders have written us back to make any commitments in response.

We have reviewed the publicly-posted platforms of the major national parties in this election to see if they make any commitments there on this issue. We set out below what we found. We emphasize that accessibility for people with disabilities is only one of the important disability issues in this federal election. The major national parties’ platforms have things to say on other issues that affect people with disabilities, beyond those excerpted below.

We will make public any commitments we receive in response to our requests. As always, we do not support or oppose any party or candidate. We urge all parties to make the commitments on disability accessibility that we seek.

The AODA Alliance is now tweeting as many federal candidates as we can to try to get them to make strong commitments on accessibility. Please follow @aodaalliance and @davidlepofsky on Twitter and retweet the tweets you find there. This will help put pressure on the candidates to make strong commitments.

2021 National Federal Parties’ Platform Key Excerpts on Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Liberal Party

More Accessible Workplaces and Schools

We will make it easier for people with disabilities to work or attend school.

Across Canada, nearly 650,000 people with disabilities have the potential to work or attend school, but aren’t able to do so because they don’t have access to the accommodations that would make this possible.

To help more people with disabilities go to school, enter the workforce, and join the middle class, we will move forward with a new $40 million per year national workplace accessibility fund, with a special focus on making small and medium-sized businesses more accessible. This fund will match costs with employers and schools, providing up to a combined $10,000 to cover the cost of an accommodation.

Employers and schools will continue to be required to meet their accessibility obligations under provincial and federal law. (Page 13)

New Democratic Party

Removing barriers for persons living with disabilities

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

To help tackle the unacceptable rate of poverty among Canadians living with a disability and ensure that everyone has the chance to thrive and live in dignity, we will expand income security programs to ensure Canadians living with a disability have a guaranteed livable income. While the Liberal government spends years talking about a new federal disability benefit, New Democrats will get to work immediately to deliver it.

When it comes to employment, everyone deserves a fair shot at a good job that fits their unique abilities. A New Democrat government will continue and expand employment programs to make sure that quality employment opportunities are available to all.

For Canadians facing a serious illness, we’ll make Employment Insurance work better by extending sickness benefits to 50 weeks of coverage, and creating a pilot project to allow workers with episodic disabilities to access benefits as they need them.

Canadians living with disabilities shouldn’t need to worry about the cost of prescription medication, dental work, how to find housing, or how to get their mail. In addition to putting in place a universal, publicly funded national pharmacare and dental care program that will offer full benefits to all Canadians, a New Democrat government will restore door-to door mail delivery for those who lost it under the Conservatives, and create affordable, accessible housing in communities across the country.

Finally, we will work with Autistic Canadians to develop and implement a national Autism strategy that will coordinate support for research, ensure access to needs-based services, promote employment, and help expand housing options. (Page 62)

Conservative Party

Breaking Down Barriers for Canadians Living with Disabilities

One in five Canadians lives with a disability. They need our support – to live full lives and participate fully in society, including in the workforce. Canada’s Conservatives have a plan to break down the barriers faced by Canadians living with disabilities.

Doubling Disability Support in the Canada Workers Benefit

A disproportionate number of disabled Canadians are working part-time or for low wages.

  • Canada’s Conservatives will double the Disability Supplement in the Canada Workers Benefit from $713 to $1,500, providing a major boost to lower-income disabled Canadians on top of our increase in the Canada Workers Benefit. The most help will go to families where one member has a disability. We will help them achieve the security and financial independence they deserve.

Making Work Pay

Canada’s Conservatives will ensure that going to work never costs a disabled person money – as is too often the case today. The complex web of programs in place today means that someone can lose more than a dollar in benefit cuts and       higher taxes for every dollar they earn by working. This means               that for many disabled Canadians, the harder they work, the poorer they become.

This is simply wrong.

We will overhaul the complex array of disability supports and benefits to ensure that working always leaves someone further ahead. And we will work with the provinces to ensure that federal programs are designed to work with provincial programs to achieve this result.

This will augment the effect of our increase to the Canada Workers Benefit, which will help make work pay for disabled Canadians by boosting the        benefits of work.

Boosting the Enabling Accessibility Fund

We will  provide  an additional $80 million per year through the Enabling Accessibility Fund to provide:

  • Additional incentives for small business and community projects to improve accessibility.
  • Grants and support for all types of accessibility equipment that disabled Canadians need to work.
  • Enhancements to existing programs that will get more disabled Canadians into the workforce.

Making it Easier to Qualify for the Disability Tax Credit and Registered Disability Savings Plan

To give more Canadians with disabilities access to financial support, we will reduce the number of hours required to qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the Registered Disability Savings Plan from 14 to 10 hours per week.

In 2017, Justin Trudeau took away the support that thousands of Canadians relied on when he changed how Canadians qualify for the Disability Tax Credit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan. To some, this credit was worth thousands of dollars. Conservatives joined diabetes advocates to successfully fight back against this tax grab.

Our changes will save a disabled person made eligible for the tax credit or their family an average of $2,100 per year. Making it easier to qualify for the tax credit will also make it easier to qualify for the RDSP, which provides up to $3,500 per year in matching grants for Canadians with disabilities. (Pages 135-136)



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Disability Coalition Slams Trudeau Government’s Giving Millions to Rick Hansen Foundation’s Seriously Deficient Building Accessibility Certification Training Program


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Coalition Slams Trudeau Government’s Giving Millions to Rick Hansen Foundation’s Seriously Deficient Building Accessibility Certification Training Program

August 24, 2021 Toronto: Just before calling a federal election, the Federal Government announced action that wastes public money, creates serious new problems for people with disabilities and lacks important due diligence needed before pouring millions of public dollars into an unaccountable private foundation.

On August 13, 2021, the Federal Government announced up to 7.5 million dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) to help finance its problem-ridden private accessibility certification program for buildings. Entirely unhelpful for six million people with disabilities in Canada, this wasteful federal announcement took a page from Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s troubling playbook, by using a wasteful diversion of public money to the RHF to deflect attention from protracted delays in implementing disability accessibility legislation.

The Federal Government claimed: “With this investment, the Foundation will establish a new standardized profession of “accessibility professionals,” which will increase expertise and information on how to build accessible spaces in a way that includes people of all abilities.”

1. RHF Program Does Not Accurately Measure a Building’s Accessibility

The RHF program provides an unreliable accessibility “certification”. It in reality certifies nothing. A building that the RHF says as accessible” is not assured to be accessible.

  1. a) A BC restaurant agreed to a human rights settlement due to its premises’ lack of accessibility even though the RHF had “certified” it as accessible. See Human Rights Tribunal to hear disabled customer’s complaint about Pat Quinn’sand “Disability advocate settles accessibility complaint against Pat Quinn’s Restaurant & Bar
  1. b) The RHF proudly gave the Vancouver International Airport a gold rating for accessibility, even though it had “hang out steps”, riddled with accessibility problems. See “Who gets to decide what is accessible—and who does that leave behind?”
  1. c) The Ontario Government is building a massive new courthouse in downtown Toronto replete with accessibility problems. Yet the Ontario Government told the AODA Alliance that the RHF program rated the building’s design as accessible. The RHF assessor never contacted the AODA Alliance to investigate the Alliance’s detailed and publicly documented accessibility concerns with that building.

2. Deficient RHF Training Does Not Make a Person an Accessibility Professional

The Federal Government makes the highly misleading claim that the RHF training that the Government is underwriting will create a new standardized profession of accessibility professionals. Yet two years ago, an AODA Alliance report detailed massive problems with the RHF’s seriously deficient training. A person completing that substandard training would mislead others if they claim to thereby be an “accessibility professional.” Even the RHF conceded in an August 19, 2021 report in the Burnaby Beacon:

“‘we agree that the 2-week RHFAC training course is not sufficient to provide students with enough knowledge to consider themselves experts in the application of universal design,’ the foundation said.”

Far from being the gold standard for training accessibility professionals that the Federal Government should underwrite and that others should follow, the very short RHF training program is a model of how such training should not be done.

3. Ford Government Earlier Spending $1.3 Million on RHF Program Yielded No Improvement in Accessibility

In 2015, the Kathleen Wynne Government flirted with buying into the RHF program, but wisely dropped that idea. In 2019, the Ford Government claimed it was improving the accessibility of buildings in Ontario by giving the RHF private accessibility certification program 1.3 million dollars. The AODA Alliance led criticism of that misuse of public money. See the July 24, 2019 Toronto Star: “Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings.”

On August 6, 2019, the Toronto Star ran a strong editorial blasting the Ford Government for this use of public money. Over two years after the Ford Government bought into the RHF program, there’s no proof it led to the removal of any disability barriers.

4. Much Needed Federal Government Due Diligence is Strikingly Absent

Before pouring millions of public dollars into the RHF, an unaccountable private foundation, the Federal Government must not have undertaken obvious, rudimentary due diligence. A quick Google or social media search would quickly reveal serious concerns about the RHF program emanating from credible voices in the grass roots disability community that this federal spending supposedly is to benefit. For example, the Federal Government never contacted the AODA Alliance to explore its documented concerns with the RHF training and certification program. Two years ago, the AODA Alliance made public two detailed reports, dated July 3, 2019 and August 15, 2019. Those reports exhaustively proved in exquisite detail, based on RHF documentation, the many serious deficiencies with the RHF program. Since then, the RHF has not disproved these concerns.

5. RHF is not Expert in Training Accessibility Professionals or Assessing Building Accessibility

Mr. Hansen’s name and personal notoriety do not give the RHF the expertise it lacks in this area. In contrast, Canada RCanada has real accessibility professionals, with far more than a couple of weeks of accessibility training, who can competently assess a building’s accessibility and make recommendations where improvements are needed.

“By buying into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s problem-ridden program and misleadingly claiming to create a new profession of accessibility professionals, the Federal Government hurts people with disabilities. It’s substantially lowering the training needed to competently work in this area, and putting it in the hands of an unaccountable private foundation with a record of focusing primarily on some disabilities to the potential exclusion of others,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance that advocates for accessibility for people with all kinds of disabilities. “This public funding would have been far better used to develop a strong, effective, comprehensive, mandatory national standard for accessible design of buildings for all people with disabilities that could be enforced under the Accessible Canada Act.”

In this close election race, the non-partisan AODA Alliance wrote the major political parties on August 4, 2021, seeking specific election commitments to implement the Accessible Canada Act that was passed in 2019. In the 2019 federal election, the Liberal party committed “to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians.” It also pledged to use a disability lens for all Government decisions.

The Accessible Canada Act requires Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040, at least within federal jurisdiction. In the two years since the Accessible Canada Act was passed, there has been some progress. However, we have to date not observed any appreciable improvement in accessibility for people with disabilities.

The Federal Government has still not even hired the national Accessibility Commissioner or the Chief Accessibility Officer to lead the Accessible Canada Act’s implementation. No national accessibility standards have yet been enacted to require specific action to remove and prevent disability barriers.

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

For more background:

  1. The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program..
  2. The AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program certification program.
  3. The AODA Alliances widely viewed online video about accessibility problems with the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre. That building included the very inaccessible “hang out steps” that are also present at the Vancouver International Airport, the latter building being the first to receive an RHF gold rating for accessibility.



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Another Media Report on Huge Problems with the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility “Certification” Program – RHF Concedes Its Training for Its Accessibility Assessors Does Not Make Them Experts in Accessibility


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Another Media Report on Huge Problems with the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility “Certification” Program – RHF Concedes Its Training for Its Accessibility Assessors Does Not Make Them Experts in Accessibility

August 20, 2021

        SUMMARY

An excellent, extensive article in the August 19, 2021 edition of the Burnaby Beacon, set out below, details many serious problems with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) private accessibility “certification” program. For more than two years, this program has been the centrepiece of the Ford Government’s failing efforts to address the many substantial barriers that people with disabilities face in the built environment. What Ontarians with disabilities need instead is for the Ford Government to agree to develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Over two years ago, the Ford Government announced that it would spend over 1.3 million public dollars on the RHF program over a two-year period. Two years later, there is no evidence that this has resulted in any improvement in the accessibility of the built environment in Ontario.

The AODA Alliance, quoted in this new article, as well as other credible voices, have together brought to public attention many serious failings in the RHF program. For example, the fact that the RHF calls a building “accessible” is no proof at all that it is accessible.

As another example, the very short training course that the RHF provides for those assessing a building’s accessibility is too short and riddled with problems. The RHF calls those who complete that inadequate course an “RHF accessibility professional”. This is an inaccurate and very misleading title. In this new news report, the RHF is quoted as in substance conceding this point. The article states in part:

“‘we agree that the 2-week RHFAC training course is not sufficient to provide students with enough knowledge to consider themselves experts in the application of universal design,’ the foundation said.”

This new article refers to a Toronto Star editorial that blasted the Ford Government for its strategy of using the RHF program. We set that editorial out below. It accords with criticisms of the RHF program that we have made public.

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program, entitled “A Problematic Government Strategy on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and An Inappropriate Use of Public Money

The AODA Alliance Report on the Ontario Government’s Proposal to Spend Public Money on the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Process” made these findings which have not been disproven in the past two years:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program reached these 17 additional conclusions:

“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.”

Fully 932 days ago, the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review. Among other things, that report called for substantial new regulatory action to make the built environment in Ontario accessible to people with disabilities. That report did not make any recommendation for the Ontario Government to use the RHF program. Over two and a half years later, Ontarians with disabilities are still waiting for meaningful provincial action on this front.

        MORE DETAILS

Burnaby Beacon August 19, 2021

Originally posted at https://burnabybeacon.com/article/rick-hansen-foundation-parks-accessibility/

Who gets to decide what is accessible—and who does that leave behind?

The City of Burnaby is requiring all bidders on parks projects to have Rick Hansen Foundation certification—but advocates say standards shouldn’t be put in the hands of private foundations.

By Dustin Godfrey

Disabilities advocates are decrying a move by the City of Burnaby to require architects and other contractors looking to work with the city to have certification with the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Earlier this summer, city staff noted in a report to the parks, recreation, and culture commission that the parks department is working to improve accessibility in parks and trails.

“Following the principles of universal design, we strive to make our parks usable to the greatest extent possible, by everyone,” director of parks, recreation, and cultural services Dave Ellenwood wrote in the report.

Standards for accessibility at parks facilities, according to the report, are sourced from a combination of provincial and national regulations, including the BC Housing Code and the Canadian Landscape Architecture Association’s design standards for accessibility.

The report goes on to note that the city doesn’t have a direct relationship with the Rick Hansen Foundation, but an access advisory committee in the city is in touch with the foundation “semi-regularly.”

“Approximately 2 years ago, leadership from the Rick Hansen Foundation met with the mayor to inquire if the City would certify its corporate facilities; however, at the time there was substantial fee associated with the process, and it was not pursued,” Ellenwood wrote.

“Going forward, however, all new civic projects require Rick Hansen training/certification as criteria in its RFP [request for proposals] process for consultants/architects of new civic facilities, including the current recreation centre projects. This means that the Rick Hansen certification lens is applied to Burnaby civic projects.”

But advocates say this wrongly forces architects to patronize a foundation they say relieves pressure on senior levels of government to develop their own stricter rules for accessibility.

“It is exceedingly inappropriate and quite troubling,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, who described his organization as “among the leading voices you’ll see being quoted publicly as raising concerns about the RHF certification process and certifier training.”

And the issue draws questions about how accessibility should be regulated—by market forces, such as certifications drawn up by private foundations, or by public entities.

The City of Burnaby did not respond to requests for comment.

What is the Rick Hansen Foundation?

A statue of Rick Hansen at Rogers Arena in Vancouver before it was moved to the Vancouver General Hospital. (Flickr, Creative Commons)

The foundation was launched in the late 1980s as the Man in Motion World Tour Society by Rick Hansen, a paraplegic wheelchair user following a spinal cord injury at age 15 after he completed his famous 26-month Man in Motion World Tour.

The Paralympian’s 40,000-km wheelchair marathon, inspired by Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, covered 34 countries and earned Hansen broad recognition, including the Order of Canada and the Order of BC.

And the momentum of that tour carried into the foundation, whose original aim, according to its website, was “to raise money to improve the lives of people with disabilities and to support SCI research.”

The Rick Hansen Foundation has been the vessel for a number of accessibility investments, doling out grants on behalf of governments, and in 2017, it launched a certification program to rate buildings for accessibility. Since then, the foundation has sent evaluators to over 1,300 sites to determine an accessibility rating—certification requires 60% compliance, as well as full compliance with mandatory requirements, while a gold certification requires 80% compliance.

Of the 1,300-plus sites assessed, over 850 have received certification, while just over 70 have received gold certification.

Just last week, the federal government—ahead of an election call—announced a $7.5-million investment into the foundation to “establish a new standardized profession of ‘accessibility professionals,’ which will increase expertise and information on how to build accessible spaces in a way that includes people of all abilities.”

What’s the problem?

In recent years, while the foundation has managed to elicit the praise of governments, it has also drawn the ire of many accessibility advocates.

Advocates say various governments have come to rely too heavily on RHF’s certification program, effectively privatizing accessibility. And they say the program takes pressure off of governments to develop adequate accessibility legislation with teeth to enforce compliance.

Lepofsky pointed in particular to a move by the Ontario government to give Rick Hansen Foundation $1.3 million to do certification inspections on 250 buildings.

“They pointed to this, in multiple statements, when points are made publicly that they are not making progress on accessibility in anywhere near the way we need it,” Lepofsky said, adding the certification “proves nothing other than a PR gesture.”

“It’s a waste of money, but a lot of money for a photo op smokescreen to make it look like they’re doing something, so they can point to it and hope that that gets some good media.”

Gabrielle Peters, a disabled writer and policy analyst in Vancouver, said she has been frustrated with the level of interest RHF has gotten from governments and the private sector, particularly around its certification program.

“Accessibility is essentially, and should be, understood in terms of the built environment and the conditions of the built environment,” she said. “It’s sort of akin to a fire code, [or] health policy. So if you don’t follow the fire code, you can be shut down. Your business licence can be taken away. That’s my ideal situation.”

Filling the gaps

 

Rick Hansen Foundation bills its certification program as something that’s intended to fill the gaps not addressed by legislation, saying it agrees that the government also needs to take a role in the issue.

“RHF does not disagree with the position that there should be government regulation, however we do not see this as being mutually exclusive to our program. Both can exist. It’s important to have both enabling legislation and harmonized national codes and standards and a complementary national certification program that uses consistent methodology and recognizes industry leadership,” the foundation wrote in a statement to Burnaby Beacon.

“Legislation alone is not enough, according to a report from the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance (CDPA), public and private collaboration is essential.”

The foundation also pointed to a study by HCMA Architecture + Design that showed building to the national and Ontario building codes would get a building 35% and 42% respectively on the RHF certification rating.

“RHFAC was developed on national and international standards and research demonstrating best practices in accessibility. The program has been reviewed by a broad scope of stakeholders,” the foundation said, listing major disabilities organizations, a technical committee of private and public officials, and an advisory committee made up of city planners and operators of commercial spaces.

“People are always ready to tell us if they disagree with us—I’ve heard absolutely no one come to [RHF’s] defence.”

But Peters said accessibility should be defined by the public, through public institutions, comparing it to a fire code or food safety regulations.

“If you could just imagine putting those things into a privatized situation, I think you can imagine the myriad of problems that could occur. You don’t have to follow the fire code; you have to follow Dustin’s privately developed rules of fires,” Peters said.

“That would be a big problem, because it shouldn’t be up to Dustin to decide. It should be up to the fire department and the fire marshal to decide. It should be up to a health authority, which is publicly accountable and publicly run. And the same with accessibility.”

 

Legislation being implemented

 

BC and Canada have both recently passed accessibility legislation, including the Accessible Canada Act in 2019 and the Accessible BC Act signed in June this year.

The federal legislation only applies to federal agencies and federally regulated institutions in the private sector, such as banks, airlines, broadcasting and cross-provincial transportation.

Meanwhile, it’s still unclear how BC’s law will apply, with implementation taking place over 10 years. Its focuses over the next decade will include culture change, accountability requirements for BC government, monitoring and evaluation, and standards development.

As it stands, there’s little recourse for anyone with a disability in BC who can’t access services or even basics like curb cuts—ramps at the corners of sidewalks to allow wheelchairs and others to easily get onto the road—beyond going to the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

But advocates’ issues with RHF’s certification program aren’t just about who should be responsible for standardizing accessibility—they have concerns about the methodology and scope of the program.

 

‘We’ve been very public about this’

 

Peters said Rick Hansen Foundation has gained a particularly strong foothold in BC, where it’s based, often acting as a vessel for government grant money.

But that hasn’t been the case everywhere—Lepofsky said RHF doesn’t have the same standing in Ontario.

When Doug Ford’s government gave $1.3 million to RHF, Lepofsky’s coalition listed 17 concerns they have with RHFAC and with the Ontario government’s funding announcement. And his organization wasn’t the only one that pushed back on the funding announcement.

The Toronto Star’s editorial board penned a condemnation of the move, citing a number of similar qualms to Lepofsky’s concerns.

“People are always ready to tell us if they disagree with us—I’ve heard absolutely no one come to [RFH’s] defence,” Lepofsky said.

“Our positions are informed by feedback we get on an ongoing basis. … We’ve been very public about this, and I’ve had nobody from within the disability community pushing back and saying, ‘You’re wrong; this is a great thing.’”

Lepofsky’s concerns about RHF certification range from conflict of interest concerns to the short training period involved to the methodology around its ratings.

“If the Hansen folks go in and say something’s accessible, all you’ve got to do is move a garbage can in the path of travel, and that’s over. They get the label, they get the sign up [on the] front of their building, but it doesn’t mean anything,” Lepofsky said.

Lepofsky further took issue with the suggestion that RHF certification pushes building design beyond the bare minimum, with the implication that the building code is the minimum.

“The minimum is the human rights code of the Charter of Rights. So what Mr. Hansen and the foundation talk about is encouraging people to go beyond the minimum, grossly understating what the minimum is, and then applauding people for doing better than that substandard requirement,” Lepofsky said.

Human rights complaint

 

In fact, Lepofsky and Peters both pointed to a couple of notable shortcomings by Rick Hansen Foundation.

Last year, Pat Quinn’s Restaurant & Bar in Tsawwassen settled a human rights complaint filed against it by a wheelchair user, despite the building—and restaurant—having accessibility certification from the Rick Hansen Foundation.

And in 2018, the foundation awarded YVR Airport a gold certification. The problem, they said, is where they held the photo op—at a set of “hangout steps” or stepped seating, a feature that is loved by architects but derided by accessibility advocates.

“The very picture where they’re portraying it had a barrier in the picture,” Lepofsky said. “This is a design, a thing that should never take place. And here, [RHF is] not only giving them a gold, … but they’re giving them a gold [with hangout steps] in the picture. This is just proof positive of a complete bungle. So that’s a huge problem.”

RHF did not address a question about the YVR approval directly but said in an email statement that ratings provide “a ‘snapshot’ of the overall accessibility of their facilities.”

“Certification does not equal perfection. Using their scorecards, organizations are able to identify which areas have scored well and which areas require improvements in a simple and easily understood format,” the foundation said.

Rick Hansen Foundation awards YVR Airport a gold certification, with a photo op at hangout stairs in the airport.

And that gets to another point of contention many within the disability community have with the RHF certification program: a sense that it may offer a photo op and a plaque for the sake of PR without actually being adequately accessible.

For Peters, a big part of the issue is transparency around how the certification process is done. The foundation has a public checklist on its website, indicating the different factors that are considered in its accessibility certification test, and how they’re weighted. But when a business says it’s RHF certified, it’s not clear what that means.

The word “certification” is a misnomer, according to Lepofsky.

“They don’t certify anything. It’s not like you get a certificate that is now a defence to a human rights complaint. It’s not,” Lepofsky said.

 

Who certifies the certifiers?

 

Part of the issue, according to Thea Kurdi, an Ontario-based accessibility and universal design consultant with DesignAble who has been involved in writing accessibility standards, is how much training RHF certifiers get—just 10 days.

“If you’re doing an audit, none of my staff members are allowed to go out and do that independently for 2 years. We take 2 years to train people to make sure that they really understand what they’re doing,” Kurdi said.

That can pose a problem when many parts of the checklist are discretionary—each point is ranked on a scale—rather than simple yes or no questions.

In its written statement, RHF noted that its certification process does have prerequisites for its training, including a diploma in architecture, engineering, or urban planning, or a minimum of 5 years’ experience related to accessibility in buildings.

“Furthermore, RHFAC ratings are reviewed by an independent adjudication process,” the foundation said. Despite this, we agree that the 2-week RHFAC training course is not sufficient to provide students with enough knowledge to consider themselves experts in the application of universal design,” the foundation said.

“However, it does change the way industry professionals see the built environment, help them to see barriers they didn’t see before, and to challenge the assumption that meeting code is equal to providing real access for people with disabilities.”

A focus on spinal cord injuries

 

One issue Kurdi, Lepofsky and Peters all noted were around where Rick Hansen Foundation’s focus has been for much of its existence. The foundation was originally created to raise money for spinal cord research, “which is a really important endeavour,” Kurdi said.

But all 3 said the foundation’s focus skews toward a specific type of disability—wheelchair users.

“While [the certification program] does talk about other types of disabilities, we have noticed—because we’ve been asked to review it for several clients to see, does that make sense for them to use—I find it’s still wheelchair-centric,” Kurdi said.

Peters noted one particular RHF point that suggested facilities use aromatic plants as a form of wayfinding assistance for people who are blind or have low vision. This, she said, ignores the existence of winter and the fact that accessibility includes accommodating people with scent sensitivities and allergies.

“RHFAC uses them as an example of an olfactory wayfinding clue for a building entrance but does not suggest their use in parks,” the foundation said in response to a question about the suggestion.

“We continue to value ongoing input from the community, and will discuss the feedback regarding aromatic plants with our Technical Advisory Committee during the development of RHFAC v4.0.”

Kurdi said: “I love it when people are trying to bring attention to accessibility and when they’re trying to move things going down the whole line. But I think people really need to understand the difference between a certification program and, for example, a building audit.”

A certification program can be a “fun way to celebrate accessibility and then raise awareness as a central improvement,” Kurdi said, but she noted some limitations.

“I don’t think that this really captures what’s required under the human rights code, and it certainly doesn’t encompass what we’re recommending in the accessible built environment industry.”

The foundation said its goal has, for 33 years, been to remove barriers for people with disabilities and to increase awareness of accessibility, along with its focus on spinal cord injury research.

“One of the most fundamental barriers that people with disabilities face is the lack of physical accessibility in the places we live, work, learn, and play. A key priority for RHF is to improve accessibility for people with physical disabilities affecting their mobility, vision, and hearing,” RHF said.

Laws with teeth

 

A person in a wheelchair uses a curb cut at a crosswalk.

Curb cuts are one basic area of accessibility that Gabrielle Peters says is woefully lacking in Metro Vancouver. (phaustov, Shutterstock)

Peters highlighted the Americans with Disabilities Act south of the border as an example of doing accessibility better than in Canada.

While Canada’s and BC’s laws have just been passed in the last couple of years, the ADA has been in place for 3 decades now. And while Peters said it isn’t perfect by any means, it’s still much stronger than existing legislation in Canada.

And a key issue, she noted, is how effective it is as a law—if something isn’t ADA compliant, a person can sue. This is what happened south of the border with curb cuts—and that bears results.

The City of Portland recently settled a class-action lawsuit filed against it by committing to creating 1,500 curb cuts per year.

In Vancouver, Peters said the city has 8,000 corners without curb cuts, and when she sat on that city’s transportation council, the projected completion date was 200 years out.

Here in Burnaby, meanwhile, many residential roads don’t have sidewalks, and the city even cancelled a sidewalks project at the behest of local families.

Free resources

Peters said one of her main issues with the Rick Hansen Foundation’s certification program is the price—described by the city in its own report as “substantial”—and the barriers that adds.

This, she said, makes the process inaccessible to people who could consult on disabilities, drawing from lived experience and community consultations but who don’t have RHF training.

“It makes me very sad that this is being turned into a money-making opportunity that seems to be replicating some of the [existing] oppressions and hierarchy,” Peters said.

All the while, she said, there are free resources the city could draw from for its parks facilities.

Because it’s publicly regulated, the ADA’s guidelines are freely available, including standards specific to parks. Peters said the guidelines aren’t comprehensive but still are more so than those from RHF, also pointing to more guidelines freely available from the City of Malibu in California.

Watch for our companion piece to this article coming on Friday, August 20, where a local resident offers some challenges around—and solutions for—accessibility in Burnaby’s parks facilities.

Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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

Ontario should move faster on tearing down barriers

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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Tell the Health Care Standards Development Committee If You Support the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations on What the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include, Spelled Out in the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Tell the Health Care Standards Development Committee If You Support the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations on What the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include, Spelled Out in the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief

August 5, 2021

         SUMMARY

On August 3, 2021, the AODA Alliance submitted its final brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. It gives our feedback on its initial or draft recommendations on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard. The Health Care Accessibility Standard is needed to tear down the many barriers that impede people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

We want the Health Care Standards Development Committee to incorporate our recommendations into its final report to the Ontario Government. Our finalized brief includes all the recommendations and other content that was in our draft brief that we circulated for public comment on July 23, 2021. There has only been very minor editing and fine-tuning.

Below we set out the 67 recommendations that our brief makes. To download and read the entire brief that explains these recommendations, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/August-3-2021-finalized-AODA-Alliance-Brief-to-Health-Care-Standards-Development-Committee.docx

Help us build support for our cause. Please email the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Tell the Committee if you support our recommendations. You can write them at: [email protected]

If you or an organization with which you are connected is writing a submission to the Health Care Standards Development Committee it would be great if your submission could state that you endorse the AODA Alliance ‘s recommendations in its August 3, 2021 brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. As well, any individual or organization can simply write that Standards Development Committee at the email address listed above, and just say something like:

“I support the recommendations that the AODA Alliance sent the Health Care Standards Development Committee in its August 3, 2021 Brief.”

The deadline for submitting feedback to the Committee is August 11, 2021. Even if you miss that deadline, it can always help to send in an email any time that supports our recommendations.

Do you want more background on this issue? Explore the time line of our efforts to get a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s health care page.

Now 917 days have passed since the 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 Ford Government has announced no plan to implement that report.

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

         MORE DETAILS

List of the AODA Alliance August 3, 2021 Brief’s Recommendations

Where the following recommendations by the AODA Alliance refer to the “Initial Report”, that is the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report in which that Committee sets out draft proposals for what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.

#1 Throughout the Initial Report, action recommendations should be revised to go beyond providing disability accommodations to patients with disabilities, and making plans for barrier-removal and prevention, so as to also spell out specific measures that must be undertaken to remove and prevent recurring disability barriers to health care services.

#2 The Health Care Accessibility Standard’s primary focus should be on specifying detailed actions to remove and prevent barriers, not by overloading people with disabilities with redundant separate consultations with one hospital after the next across Ontario.

#3 The Standards Development Committee should explicitly and comprehensively make recommendations for the entire health care system, and not merely for the small fraction of the health care system that hospitals comprise. At a minimum, the Standards Development Committee should make a strong recommendation that the Health Care Accessibility Standard must address disability barriers in the entire health care system, and not merely in the hospital sector. It should specify that all health care providers should be required to remove and prevent the same barriers, in terms at least as strong as the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

#4 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should cover and apply to all public and private health care programs, services and products available in Ontario, whether or not OHIP covers them. It should cover all health care providers and professions, whether or not Ontario recognizes, regulates or licenses them. It should cover ambulances and other vehicles which can transport patients in connection with health care services. It should cover all parts of Ontario. It should address accessibility barriers that are distinctive to the north, to remote communities, as well as the distinctive barriers facing different racialized, ethnic or other communities within Ontario.

#5 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should address the accessibility needs of patients with any kind of disability, and the accessibility needs of any patients’ support people with any kind of disability. The term “disability” should be defined broadly to include any permanent or episodic disability within the meaning of the AODA or the Ontario Human Rights Code.

#6 The Committee’s final report should clearly state that to make hospitals accessible to people with disabilities, much more is needed than addressing training, accountability and sensitivity within hospitals.

#7 The Initial Report should not recommend that smaller obligated organizations always or presumptively get more time to comply with the Health Care Accessibility Standard than do larger obligated organizations. This especially should not take place in circumstances where smaller organizations can comply more quickly than larger organizations.

#8 The Initial Report should be revised to describe the Standards Development Committee’s mandate as achieving the removal and prevention of disability barriers, the accessibility of health care services, and inclusion of people with disabilities in the health care system. It should not describe the goal as merely making the health care system more accessible or more inclusive, or merely reducing barriers.

#9 The long term objective of the Health Care Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that Ontario’s health care system and the services, facilities and products offered in it, become fully accessible to all patients with any kind of permanent or episodic disabilities and to any support people with disabilities for any patient, by 2025, the AODA’s deadline, by requiring the removal and prevention of the accessibility barriers that impede people with disabilities, and by providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process to learn about and seek disability-related accommodations tailored to a person’s individual disability-related needs. It should aim to ensure that patients with disabilities can fully benefit from and be fully included in the health care services and products offered in Ontario’s health care system on a footing of equality. It should aim to eliminate the need for patients with disabilities and any support people with disabilities to have to contend with and fight against health care accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for health care providers to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one health care facility or one health care provider at a time. It should aim for health care services, facilities and products in Ontario to be designed and operated based on accessibility principles of universal design.

#10 The Initial Report’s vision of an accessible health care system should be expanded to include the following:

  1. a) The health care system will be designed and operated from top to bottom for all its patients, including patients with all kinds of permanent or episodic disabilities, as disability is defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The health care system will no longer be designed and operated from an implicit starting point of aiming predominantly to serve the fictional “average” patient, who is too often assumed to have no disabilities.
  1. b) Patients with disabilities, and where needed, any patients’ support people with disabilities, will be able to effectively communicate with health care providers and health care staff in connection with requesting or receiving health care services and products throughout each stage of the healthcare process. This will include face-to-face interactions, telephone or alternates to telephone use, accessible information and forms as well as alternate arrangements for providing one’s signature. For example, health care facilities and ambulances will be equipped with needed equipment to ensure effective communication with people with communication-related disabilities.
  1. c) Patients with disabilities, and where needed, any patients’ support people with disabilities will be able to get and receive information relevant to their health care needs in private, e.g., when giving information at a health care provider’s office or when seeking or receiving information about their medication at a pharmacy, rather than in a public place where others can overhear. Effective procedures will protect the confidentiality of private information relating to patients with disabilities who rely on others to assist them with communication.
  1. d) Information technology and applications which patients can use at home, or at a health care facility in connection with seeking and receiving health care services, will be designed based on principals of universal design and will be accessible to and usable by patients with disabilities, and where needed, to patients’ support people with disabilities. Where needed for effective communication, health care facilities will also provide alternatives to telephone use including email, text, video and authorized human assistance.
  1. e) Health care products, and any instructions for their use, will be designed and available based on principles of universal design so that people with disabilities and not just people with no disability can use and benefit from them.
  1. f) Support services such as sighted guides for visually impaired patients and attendant care will be available to patients with disabilities who need them while going to or at a facility to receive health care services.
  1. g) Publicly funded appointments for receiving health care services will be sufficiently long to enable those patients with a disability, who need more time, to be able to receive the health care services they need. If a patient with disabilities cannot attend a health care provider’s premises due to their disability, there will be in place measures whenever therapeutically possible for remote appointments or home visits.
  1. h) Patients will be free to use their own accommodation supports, such as service animals, when seeking or obtaining health care services and products.
  1. i) New Government strategies, services and facilities in Ontario’s health care system will be proactively designed from the start and operated to fully include the needs of patients with disabilities. Those responsible at the provincial and local levels for leading, overseeing and operating Ontario’s health care system will have strong and specific requirements to address disability accessibility and inclusion in their mandates and will be accountable for their work on this issue. Ontario’s disability community will have effective input into public decisions on the design and operation of Ontario’s health care system to ensure that existing disability accessibility barriers are removed and no new ones are created.
  1. j) An accessible health care system is one where people with disabilities can work in a barrier-free workplace.

#11 The Initial Report should not merely recommend that an obligated organization “consider accessibility.” It should instead require specific actions that will achieve accessibility.

#12 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require each health care facility and health care provider to create a welcoming environment for patients with disabilities and any patients’ support people with disabilities to seek accommodations for their disabilities when receiving health care services.

#13 Each major health care facility such as each hospital should be required to establish a permanent committee of its board to be called the “Accessibility Committee.” This Accessibility Committee should have responsibility for overseeing the facility’s compliance with the AODA, 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 people with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the health care services that the facility provides. It should endeavour to reflect the spectrum of disability needs.

#14 Each major health care facility such as each hospital should be required to establish or designate the position of Chief Accessibility/Accommodation Officer, reporting to the Chief Executive Officer. Their mandate, responsibility and authority should be to ensure proper leadership on the facility’s accessibility and accommodation obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the AODA, including the requirements of this accessibility standard. This responsibility may be assigned to an existing senior management official.

#15 Beyond the specific measures to remove and prevent barriers set out in the Health Care Accessibility Standard and in other accessibility standards enacted under the AODA, each health care facility and health care provider should be required to periodically and systematically review its health care services, facilities, equipment and products to identify recurring accessibility barriers that can impede the provision of health care services to patients with disabilities. A comprehensive plan for removing and preventing these accessibility barriers should be developed, implemented and made public with clear timelines, with clear assignment of responsibilities for action, monitoring for progress, and reporting to the facility’s accessibility committee. This plan should aim at all accessibility barriers that can impede patients with disabilities from fully benefiting from the facility’s health care services, whether or not they are specifically identified in the Health Care Accessibility Standard or in any other AODA accessibility standards.

#16 The Initial Report should be expanded to recommend specific, detailed accessibility requirements in the built environment of hospitals and other health care facilities such as those recommended in Appendix 1 to this brief. The goal of these should be that the built environment in the health care system, such as hospitals and any other places where health care services are provided, including the furniture there, will all be fully accessible to people with disabilities, and will be designed based on the principle of universal design. For example:

  1. a) The front area or drop-off areas for a hospital or other health care facility should be accessible, with automatic power doors that do not require a button to be found and pressed, and with tactile walking surface indicators both to warn when a person is walking into a driving area and to guide a person to the facility’s entrance. All other entrances and exits should be fully accessible, with automatic power door operators and an accessible path of travel to the door. This includes entrances from indoor or underground parking to the health care facility.
  1. b) Inside the health care facility, major public areas such as emergency room doors should always be fully accessible and have automatic power door openers.
  1. c) For the benefit of patients and others with learning and cognitive disabilities, vision loss or other disabilities that can affect mobility or way-finding, hospitals and other health care facilities should have way-finding markings in important areas such as the main lobby from the front door to the help desk and other major routes such as to main elevators, including colour contrasted markings such as a carpeted path or tactile walking surface indicators.
  1. d) Hospitals and other health care facilities with elevators should have accessible elevators that can accommodate people using mobility devices. They should also have accessible elevator buttons (with braille and large print on or beside each button), braille and large print floor numbers just outside elevator doors, and audible floor announcements on elevators. Elevator button panels should be consistent in layout from one elevator to the next.
  1. e) Health care facilities, including hospitals, should never install “destination elevators” which require a person to pre-select the floor to which they are going before entering the elevators. These present unfixable accessibility problems.
  1. f) Hospitals and other health care facilities should have accessible signage throughout, including braille and large print, for key locations. For example, public bathrooms should have accessible braille and large print signs on them. These signs should be placed in consistent and predictable locations.
  1. g) Where a health care facility has power doors that require a button to be pushed (i.e., they don’t open automatically), the button should always be located throughout the health care facility in a consistent place to make it easier to find. The button should be located near the door, so that a slow-moving individual can make it through the open door after pressing the button before the door closes. The button should always be located on the wall, and not on a free-standing post or bollard.
  1. h) Despite weaker requirements in other AODA accessibility standards, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should set out specific and strong requirements for the accessibility of any electronic kiosks in hospitals and other health care facilities, such as:
  1. i) specifying their required end-user functionality that effectively address recurring known needs arising from specific disabilities, and,
  1. ii) ensuring that they are at an accessible height e.g., for those using a wheelchair or other mobility device.

As a starting point, see the US Access Board’s standard for accessible electronic kiosks.

  1. i) Patient consultation or treatment rooms should have enough space to enable people using mobility devices to navigate in them and reach any treatment or consultation area. They should have enough space to enable a Sign Language interpreter to be positioned in the room to interpret for a deaf patient or support person.
  1. j) Movable furniture such as desks, tables or chairs should not obstruct accessible paths of travel around a facility where health care services are delivered, such as a doctor’s office, e.g., in their hallways or treatment rooms.
  1. k) Major health care facilities should provide accessible waiting areas for accessible transit pickup and drop-off, close to the pickup/drop-off point, with clear sight lines.
  1. l) Major health care facilities such as hospitals should be designed to avoid major sensory overstimulation or acoustic overloads, such as bright lights, loud music, large atrium areas, or frequent loud announcements. This is especially important in treatment areas or hospital rooms.
  1. m) Throughout a health care facility, proper colour contrasting should be required to assist people with low vision and cognitive disabilities, such as around elevator opening, doorways, and on the edge of stairs and handrails.
  1. n) Health care facilities should be required to have accessible bathrooms so that all patients can use the facilities, including adult change tables, sufficient transfer space and maneuvering room for mobility devices.
  1. o) Major health care facilities should include sensory rooms for people with sensory overload issues, such as in hospital emergency rooms.
  1. p) In a health care facility, all stairs and staircases, including “feature staircases” (included as aesthetic design enhancements) should be accessible, e.g., with tactile warnings at the top and bottom of each set of stairs, no open risers and with proper colour contrast on railings and step edges. There should never be curving staircases.
  1. q) Health care facilities should provide charging areas for electric mobility devices.
  1. r) Hospital rooms should be able to accommodate a patient’s mobility device so they can keep theirs with them and readily available when admitted to hospital.
  1. s) In a health care facility, waiting areas, isolation areas, breastfeeding rooms, staff areas and volunteer areas should be designed to be accessible.
  1. t) Accessible and bariatric paths of travel should be provided in health care facilities.
  1. u) Despite the more limited provisions regarding the provision of accessible parking spaces in other AODA accessibility standards, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should set higher and more specific requirements for accessible parking spaces for health care facilities, such as:
  1. i) requiring a greater number of accessible parking spots for the facility, where possible.
  1. ii) requiring that the accessible parking spots be located as close as possible to the doors of the health care facility.

iii) requiring that at least some of the accessible parking spots have larger dimensions to accommodate larger accessible vans, so that a passenger with a disability can park in that spot and have sufficient room to exit the vehicle, and

  1. iv) requiring that there be accessible curb cuts and an accessible path of travel from the accessible parking spots to the health care facilities’ entrances.
  1. v) Health Care facilities should have designated snow-piling areas outside, to prevent snow from being shoveled onto accessible paths of travel.
  1. w) Major health care facilities such as hospitals should provide service animal relief areas close to the facility’s door, covered wherever possible, with an accessible path of travel to them.
  1. x) When a major new health care facility like a hospital is being designed, or a major new wing or renovation is being planned, especially if public money is helping fund it, a properly trained and qualified accessibility consultant should be required to be engaged on the project from the very beginning. Their accessible design advice should be transmitted unedited to the Government or other organization for whom the project is being built and should be made public. Direct consultation with end-users with disabilities should be part of the design process from the beginning.

#17 The standard should require that:

  1. a) Each hospital patient’s bed should have an accessible means for a patient with disabilities to notify the nursing station of a health care need, not just a button or pull-string that they may not be able to reach and operate.
  1. b) Furniture such as seating in health care facilities should be designed with accessibility features and positioned in a manner that does not block accessible paths of travel.
  1. c) A Help Desk should be positioned immediately inside the main entrance of any major health care facility, including hospitals, to assist patients, including patients with disabilities, to get directions or help to their destination within the facility, or to request other accommodation supports.
  1. d) In any discrete department or area where health care services are provided, (such as an area for day surgery), the check-in desk should be located immediately adjacent to the entrance to that area, so that patients and support people with disabilities can easily reach it after entering the room or area.
  1. e) Accessible public service counters should be installed, even in existing health care facilities, with a specified height requirement, no glass barrier creating barriers for people with hearing loss and knee space for people using a mobility device.
  1. f) A large health care facility like a hospital should have rest areas along routes through the building so that people with fatiguing conditions can stop and rest along their route to get health care services.
  1. g) Health care facilities such as hospitals should have emergency areas of refuge with separate ventilation in case of fire, so that people with disabilities who cannot escape the building have safe areas to wait, while being protected from life-threatening smoke.
  1. h) The Ontario Government should make available to health care facilities and providers: guides on accessible procurement including procurement of accessible furniture, lists of vendors of accessible furniture. The Ontario Government should provide a hub for procuring accessible furniture to help health care facilities and providers reduce the cost of their acquisition.

#18 the Ministry of Health should within one year survey all offices of physicians, chiropractors, occupational and physiotherapists and other like health care providers where they provide direct health care services to patients, on the extent to which their premises are accessible for patients with disabilities. The Ministry should make public a report on the results of this survey (anonymized).

#19 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should set specific technical requirements for the accessibility of diagnostic and treatment equipment. As a starting point, the Health Care Standards Development Committee should consider the accessible medical diagnostic equipment standards that the US Access Board has formulated. The needs of patients with all kinds of disabilities, and not only those with mobility disabilities, should be met by the technical requirements that the Health Care Accessibility Standard sets.

#20 The Ontario Government should impose a strict funding condition on the purchase or rental of any new health care diagnostic or treatment equipment anywhere in the health care system requiring that it must be accessible to patients with disabilities and designed based on principles of universal design, in compliance with the technical standards to be included in the Health Care Accessibility Standard.

#21 The Ontario Government should be required to make readily available to health care providers and facilities, and to the public, an up-to-date list of accessible health care diagnostic and treatment equipment and venders, so that each health care provider and facility does not have to re-invent the wheel by re-investigating these same issues.

#22 To save money, the Ontario Government should be required to attempt to negotiate bulk purchasing of accessible diagnostic and treatment equipment so that health care facilities and providers can obtain them at lower prices.

#23 When health care facilities and providers purchase, rent or otherwise acquire new or replacement diagnostic or treatment equipment, these should be required to be accessible to patients with disabilities and to be designed based on principles of universal design.

#24 Health care facilities and providers should survey their existing diagnostic or treatment equipment, and take the following steps to address any accessibility problems they have, if that equipment is not now being replaced:

  1. a) Identify where the nearest place is where a patient can get diagnosis or treatment services where there is accessible diagnostic and treatment equipment, and to help facilitate the access of the patient with disabilities to health care services from that provider or facility.
  1. b) Adopt and implement an interim plan to make any readily achievable accessibility improvements to the health care facility’s or provider’s existing diagnostic or treatment equipment.
  1. c) Develop plans to purchase, rent or otherwise acquire accessible diagnostic or treatment equipment over a period of up to five years.

#25 These accessibility/universal design requirements should also apply to consumer health care products, such as for example, pill bottles.

#26 Because Ontario’s system for electronic health care records has been centrally created, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the Ontario Government and any provincial agency that is responsible for overseeing the design, procurement or operation of the system for electronic health care records to ensure that these records will be kept and available in accessible formats for patients and support people with disabilities, and, as a related benefit, to health care providers and their staff with disabilities, except where technically impossible. PDF format should not be treated as being an accessible format.

#27 Individual health care organizations or facilities, including laboratories, that create their own health care records in electronic form should also be required to ensure that they are readily available in accessible formats for patients with disabilities and any patients’ support people with disabilities, and, as a side benefit, for health care providers and their staff with disabilities, except where technically impossible.

#28 All the Initial Report’s recommendations on training on accessibility laws should be revised to explicitly include training on the accessibility requirements regarding people with disabilities in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

#29 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require training on disability accessibility, disability human rights and disability Charter obligations for existing health care professionals as a condition of continuing in practice.

#30 The Ontario Government should be required to impose a condition of its funding for post-secondary education programs to train anyone in a health care discipline, profession or field, that the college or university that offers that degree or course must include a sufficient designated and mandatory curriculum on meeting the needs of patients with disabilities.

#31 Wherever possible, any new health care facility or provider receiving public funds that is setting up a new location should be required to locate at or near an accessible public transit stop on an accessible public transit route, with an accessible path of travel from the public transit stop to the health care facility or provider. Similarly, where an existing health care facility or provider is going to move to another location, it should be required to attempt to relocate to a location that is on an accessible public transit route.

#32 Where it is medically possible for a patient to take part in a health care service without physically attending at the health care facility or provider, an option should be provided for taking part remotely, e.g., via Facetime or other remote video conferencing. The Health Care Accessibility Standard should also require the removal of the OHIP barrier to funded physicians house calls.

#33 Where OHIP or a health care facility or provider has a policy or practice of permitting only one health issue per visit, an exception should be created for patients with disabilities for whom transportation to the health care facility is impeded by accessibility barriers.

#34 A health care facility or provider should not be permitted to charge a late fee or a missed appointment fee where a patient with a disability has in good faith attempted to attend on time but was made late or precluded from attending by transportation barriers (such as being made late for the appointment by the community’s para-transit service).

#35 When the Ontario Government is undertaking planning for new health care services, or for improvements to health care services, it should be required to include in those plans, and to make public, requirements to ensure that wherever possible, health care services and facilities are provided in locations on accessible public transit routes, with an accessible path of travel from the accessible public transit stop to the facility or provider.

#36 The 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard should be amended to set accessibility requirements for public transit stations and stops, as the joint July 31, 2017 AODA Alliance/ARCH brief to the Transportation Standards Development Committee recommended.

#37 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should set technical specifications to ensure the full accessibility of ambulances and other vehicles that transport patients, including patients with disabilities, to or from health care services. See also below re: the need to include equipment in those vehicles for communication with patients with communication-related disabilities.

#38 Any health care facility or provider, including such places as doctors’ offices and pharmacies, should be required to designate an accessible private area where patients with disabilities can give and receive private information in connection with their health care services or products without others being able to overhear this.

#39 Health care facilities and providers should be required to notify all patients, including patients with disabilities, of their right to have their health care needs and issues discussed and information exchanged in a private location, and should instruct their staff, including any who deal with patients or the public, of their duty to fully respect this right.

#40 Without limiting the information and communications to which this part of the Health Care Accessibility Standard should apply, it should address:

  1. a) Information or communications needed to provide a health care provider with the patient’s history, needs, symptoms or other health problems.
  1. b) Information and communications regarding the patient’s diagnosis, prognosis or treatment, including any risks, follow-up or other health care services to secure.
  1. c) A health care facility’s discharge instructions.

#41 Health Care facilities should be equipped with assistive listening devices to enable patients with hearing loss and support people with hearing loss to be able to effectively communicate e.g., at nursing stations, help desks, and when dealing directly with health care providers.

#42 Health care-related products such as prescription and non-prescription medications should be provided when needed with accessible labels, instructions or users’ manuals, available in accessible formats. Those who sell or rent these to the public should be required to regularly notify the public, including their customers, that accessible labels, instructions, and users’ manuals are available on request. See e.g. work on developing standards and practices for accessible prescription drug container labels by the US Access Board. See also the February 6, 2020 news release announcing that the Empire chain of stores, including all Sobeys Stores, will provide accessible prescription labels to customers with disabilities free of charge on request. If they can, so can all other drug stores.

#43 Where a health care facility or health care provider provides information about their services or facilities in print or via the internet, they should be required to ensure that their website meets current international accessibility requirements along prompt time lines, even if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard does not now require this. Currently, the Information and Communication Accessibility Information and Communication Accessibility Standard has too many exemptions, leaves out too many providers of goods and services, and has timelines that are too long. Whether or not those exemptions, exclusions and long timelines are justified for other sectors, they are unjustified for a sector as important as the health care sector.

#44 Ambulances and other vehicles that transport patients should include equipment to facilitate communication with patients with communication disabilities, such as remotely-accessed sign language interpretation and other communication supports.

#45 The Ontario Government should be required to set up hubs or centralized services to enable health care facilities and providers, including small providers, to quickly and easily access communication supports needed for patients with communication-related disabilities (for example Sign Language interpreters and real time captioning). The Ontario Government should fund these services as part of its funding of the health care system, in furtherance of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Eldridge decision.

#46 Any prepared information on health care conditions, treatment instructions, prognoses, risks, laboratory or other test results and the like which a health care facility or provider makes available to patients, whether in print or electronic form, should be made available at the same time on request in an accessible format. The standard should direct that PDF format is not sufficient to be accessible, and that if information is available in a PDF document, it should also be posted in an accessible format such as HTML or MS Word. Health care facilities and providers should be required to notify patients, including patients and their support people with disabilities, that any hard copy or electronic documents provided to them can be requested and obtained in an accessible format on request.

#47 Where a health care facility or provider asks patients or their support people to use information technology hardware or software in connection with the delivery of health care services (such as asking them to fill out their medical history on a portable computer or tablet device), the facility or provider shall:

  1. a) In the case of new or updated information technology or equipment to be acquired, ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities and is designed based on principles of universal design;
  1. b) In the case of existing information technology now being used, retrofit to be accessible except where this would pose an undue hardship and,
  1. c) For those people who prefer this option, ensure that patients with disabilities or their support people with disabilities are assisted to use that technology, in private, at the same time as others would use it, where this would not reduce their access to the health care services to which it pertains.

#48 The Ontario Government should be required to develop and make public a strategy for ensuring that health care promotion initiatives in Ontario are accessible to people with disabilities. For example, it should require that:

  1. a) All advertisements for health care promotion should have captioning and audio description.
  1. b) All mail-out, printed and online materials focusing on health promotion should be required to be in accessible formats, regardless of any exemptions in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

#49 Hospitals and other major health care facilities should be required to provide support services for patients with disabilities when needed to ensure that those patients can fully access and benefit from the health care services that the facility offers, to let patients know about the availability of these services, and to annually publicly report on the number of staff available to provide this support, such as:

  1. a) Attendant care.
  1. b) Assistance with meals.
  1. c) Assistance with being guided to and getting around the health care facility e.g., for patients with vision loss or cognitive disabilities.

#50 In a hospital or other major health care facility, there should be one nurse at each nursing station designated to receive training and to be responsible for addressing the needs of patients with complex needs due to their disability.

#51 Each health care provider and facility should be required to put in place a system and designate a person to solicit and receive requests from patients or their support people for disability accommodations in connection with health care services or products.

#52 Each health care provider or facility should be required to make readily-available to the public, including to their patients, in an accessible format, information about how to identify themselves in advance to the health care provider as having disability-related accessibility or accommodation needs, and to ask to arrange for these needs to be met.

#53 Each hospital and larger health care facility should be required to collect anonymized information on disability-related accessibility and accommodation requests received from or on behalf of patients with disabilities, to assist that health care provider or facility in planning for future disability accessibility and accommodation. This anonymized information should be available for study by the Government or other health policy planners.

#54 The Chief Executive Officer of any hospital or large health care facility should be required to annually review the information that the facility has collected on the requests for disability accessibility and accommodation that the facility has received and report to the board of directors on measures that could improve the facility’s capacity to meet these needs.

#55 Each health care profession’s self-governing college should be required to:

  1. a) Review its public complaints process to identify any barriers at any stage in that process that could adversely affect people with disabilities filing a complaint, or about whom a complaint is filed.
  1. b) Develop a plan for removing and preventing any accessibility barriers identified, whether or not those barriers are specified in any current AODA accessibility standards.
  1. c) Publicly report to its governing board of directors and the public on these barriers and the college’s plans to remove and prevent such barriers, in order to achieve a barrier-free complaints process.
  1. d) Establish and maintain a standing committee of its governing board of directors responsible for the accessibility of the services that the college offers the public, including, but not limited to its public complaints process.
  1. e) Consult with the public, including people with disabilities, on barriers that people with disabilities experience when seeking the services of the health care professionals that that profession regulates, to be shared with the board’s Accessibility Committee. To avoid duplication of efforts and burdens on the disability community, several regulatory colleges can jointly undertake this consultation.

#56 The Ministry of Health should be required to designate a senior official at the “Assistant Deputy Minister” level as the leading public official who is responsible for ensuring accessibility, accommodation and inclusion for patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. They should be responsible for ensuring that any policies, plans or proposals regarding the health care system are screened to ensure that they will not create any new barriers for patients with disabilities, and will instead remove barriers.

#57 The Ministry of Health should be required to conduct a system-wide review of the health care system for any systemic barriers, in consultation with the public including people with disabilities. It should identify and make public a plan to remove and prevent systemic or system-wide barriers that impede patients with disabilities from receiving accessible health care, along time lines that the Health Care Accessibility Standard will set.

#58 Each hospital and other major health care facility should be required to establish and regularly publicize a dedicated disability accessibility/accommodation complaints hotline, to trigger prompt action when problems are raised.

#59 The Ministry of Health should be required to establish and regularly publicize a hotline to receive complaints about accessibility problems facing patients and support people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. The Ministry should be required to annually publish a report with an anonymized summary of the substance of complaints received and action taken to prevent their recurrence.

#60 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the creation of authoritative, well-trained system navigators to assist patients with disabilities and their support people to navigate Ontario’s health care system.

#61 The OHIP fee schedule should be revised to provide for added time to serve the needs of patients with disabilities who need more time for assessment, diagnosis and treatment, to eliminate the harmful financial incentive that the Ontario Government now creates for physicians to avoid treating taking on those patients.

#62 Each hospital and major health care facility should be required to establish a committee of those employees and volunteers with disabilities who wish to voluntarily join it, to give the facility’s senior management feedback on the barriers in the health care facility that could impede patients with disabilities or any patients’ support people with disabilities, and/or employees/volunteers with disabilities.

#63 The Health Care Standards Development Committee should endorse the recommendations regarding health care services in the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario schools.

#64 The Initial Report’s Recommendation 15 regarding the conduct of an after-the fact review of the problems facing people with disabilities in accessing health care during the COVID-19 pandemic should be revised so that this review is an Independent Review conducted by trusted and respected persons who are independent of the Government and of the health care system.

#65 The Initial Report should recommend that the Health Care Accessibility Standard

  1. a) Require the Government to immediately rescind the January 13, 2021 critical care triage protocol and all directions and training materials relating to it, and should direct that these are not to be followed or considered appropriate under any situation.
  1. b) Require the Ontario Government to immediately make public all versions of the critical care triage protocol that have been in force in Ontario, or distributed to hospitals, as well as any critical care triage protocol or directions to ambulances or other emergency services, and any reports that the government received from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.
  1. c) Require that if critical care triage is directed to occur during this or other emergencies, the Government shall make public on a daily basis the number of patients who are refused or denied critical care that they need and want, due to critical care triage.
  1. e) Require that the Clinical Frailty Scale shall not be used as a tool to decide who is to ever be refused critical care they need and want.
  1. f) Forbid the use or distribution of the “Short Term Mortality Risk Calculator” that was made available under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario to all Ontario hospitals.

#66 the Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the Government to ensure the availability of remote or distance delivery of health care services where medically feasible, and where patients with disabilities face barriers attending at a health care office or facility to receive such services.

#67 The Initial Report should be expanded to list a full range of disability barriers reported to the Standards Development Committee in access to health care during the pandemic.



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Please Send Us Your Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on the Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Health Care System


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Please Send Us Your Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on the Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Health Care System

July 23, 2021

            SUMMARY

Did we get it right? Let us know!

We’ve been busy as can be, writing a brief that we plan to submit by August 11, 2021 to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The Ontario Government appointed that Committee back in 2017 to come up with recommendations on what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. The Health Care Accessibility Standard is a law that is to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to tear down the barriers that obstruct people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

We’ve come up with a draft brief. We want your feedback on it to help us finalize it.

Back on May 7, 2021, the Ford Government made public the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. That initial report makes a series of recommendations on what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. The Government is inviting public feedback on that initial report up to August 11, 2021. The Health Care Standards Development Committee will be given all that public feedback. It can use that feedback to finalize its recommendations to the Government. We want our brief to give as much help as possible to the Health Care Standards Development Committee.

Below we set out a summary of what our draft brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee recommends. We applaud and agree with most of what the Health Care Standards Development Committee wrote. However, we make a number of recommendations on how it can improve its report.

Our draft brief builds upon all the feedback we have received over the years about disability barriers in the health care system. You can download our draft brief by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/July-23-2021-Draft-AODA-Alliance-brief-on-health-Care-Standards-Development-Committee-initial-report.docx

Please send us your suggestions on our draft brief by August 1, 2021. We will then have to rush to turn our draft brief into a finished product.

Here are resources that you might find helpful:

  1. The Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial report, recommending what the promise Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.
  1. A captioned talk by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky two years ago about disability barriers in the health care system.
  1. A captioned talk earlier this year by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky about the disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol that is now embedded in Ontario hospitals.
  1. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, which documents our advocacy efforts over the past decade to make health care services accessible to people with disabilities.

A long 904 days ago, the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. It called for urgent action to speed up and strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Since then, the Ford Government has announced no comprehensive plan of action to implement that report.

            MORE DETAILS

Summary of the July 23, 2021 Draft AODA Alliance Brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee

  1. a) The Health Care Standards Development Committee should recommend more concrete actions to ensure that disability barriers are removed and prevented, rather than instead giving primary emphasis to individually accommodating patients with disabilities and having hospitals plan for accessibility.
  1. b) The Health Care Standards Development Committee should more forcefully address all barriers in the hospital sector and the broader health care system.
  1. c) The Health Care Accessibility Standard should ensure that all disability barriers are removed and prevented in hospitals, not just those the Accessibility Minister asked the Standards Development Committee to focus on.
  1. d) The Health Care Accessibility Standard should not assume that smaller hospitals always need more time to comply.
  1. e) The initial report incorrectly understates the role of the Health Care Standards Development Committee.
  1. f) The proposed long-term objective of the Health Care Accessibility Standard should be strengthened.
  1. g) The initial report’s vision of a barrier-free health care system should be strengthened.
  1. h) Additional recommendations are needed to ensure accountability for accessibility within a hospital or other health care provider’s organization.
  1. i) Specific requirements for accessibility of health care facilities’ built environment are needed.
  1. j) Specific actions should be recommended to ensure that diagnostic and treatment equipment are accessible.
  1. k) Specific actions are needed to ensure the accessibility of health records.
  1. l) The initial report’s recommendations on training of health care providers should be strengthened.
  1. m) Detailed recommendations are needed to protect the right of patients with disabilities and of any patients’ support people with disabilities to physically get to health care services.
  1. n) Action is needed to guarantee the right of patients with disabilities to the privacy of their health care information.
  1. o) Additional recommendations are needed to help ensure the rights of patients with disabilities and of patients’ support people with disabilities to accessible information and communication in connection with health care.
  1. p) The initial report’s recommendations should be strengthened to effectively protect the right of patients with disabilities to the support services they need to access health care services.
  1. q) Additional measures should be recommended to ensure right of patients with disabilities to identify their disability-related accessibility needs in advance and to request accessibility/accommodation from a health care provider or facility.
  1. r) Patients with disabilities and support people with disabilities should be assured accessible complaint processes at health care providers’ self-governing colleges, and to have those colleges ensure that the profession they regulate are trained to meet the needs of patients with disabilities.
  1. s) Systemic accessibility safeguards should be built into the health care system from top to bottom.
  1. t) The experience and expertise of people with disabilities working in the health care system should be harnessed to expedite the removal and prevention of barriers facing patients, and those facing their support people with disabilities.
  1. u) The Health Care Standards Development Committee should endorse the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report’s health care recommendations.
  1. v) Further steps should be recommended to supplement the initial report’s recommendations arising from the covid-19 pandemic.
  1. w) The initial report’s recommendations on strengthening AODA enforcement are heartily applauded.t



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Check Out the New Video that Explains the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s 185-Page Initial Report and Gives Tips on How to Give Feedback


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Check Out the New Video that Explains the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s 185-Page Initial Report and Gives Tips on How to Give Feedback

June 24, 2021

            SUMMARY

We today unveil another new video! This video gives you helpful information on how and why to give feedback on the disability barriers that face students with disabilities in Ontario schools. The Ontario Government is conducting a public consultation this summer, ending on September 2, 2021. It is gathering feedback from the public on the initial recommendations in this area that have been prepared by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and posted for public comment. This new video is available at https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8

This public consultation is the first time in a generation or longer that the Ontario Government has taken a good look at Ontario’s school system from the perspective of students with disabilities. The AODA Alliance wants to help you have your say. This video will be helpful for you if you are:

* a student with disabilities;

* a family member of students with disabilities;

* a teacher or other education staff;

* a school principal or vice principal, or school board administrator;

* a member of an Accessibility Advisory Committee or Special Education Advisory Committee;

* connected with a disability community organization;

* teaching in a Faculty of Education, or

* studying in a Faculty of Education or Early Childhood Education.

The video is recorded by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. He is also a Visiting Professor of Disability Rights and Legal Education at the Osgoode Hall Law School. He is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, and a member and past chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board.

We hope this video helps you decide whether to give feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, and helps you think about what feedback to give. You could use all or part of it as part of a public forum to gather input for the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. If you are part of a committee or group that is going to collectively give feedback, such as a Special Education Advisory Committee, your members might find it helpful to watch this video before going to a meeting to discuss the feedback that you wish to give to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

This video is 49 minutes long. Some might only want to watch part of it. To help with this, we set out below links to each major heading or topic in the video. You can just jump right to the part that you find most helpful to you.

In the video, Lepofsky refers to various helpful resources for you to read, if you want more information. Below is a list of these resources, with links to them.

Please encourage others to watch this video. Publicize it on social media.

This video is now in the process of being captioned. This captioning (and not just Youtube’s automated captions) should be available in the next few days.

As this video makes clear, it was not produced by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

Did you find this video helpful? Write us at [email protected]

            MORE DETAILS

1. How to Jump Directly to Each Topic in This New Video

  1. Start of the video: https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8
  1. 2. What is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act? What is an accessibility standard? (3:30: minutes) https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=210
  1. What is the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee? (5 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=285
  1. What is the current public consultation? (6:50 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=405
  1. What can an accessibility standard include? (7:35 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=455
  1. Why do we need an Education Accessibility Standard? (8 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=490
  1. How to have your say. Different ways you can give your feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee up to September 2, 2021 (11 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=660
  1. What did the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee recommend in its initial report? Review of the 20 major themes in the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial recommendations (13:20 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=800
  1. Tips on what you can do right now to use the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report, to get action to help students with disabilities (43 minutes): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=2580
  1. Conclusion and Further resources for more information and to help you give feedback (46:50): https://youtu.be/yjQgOjRTZJ8?t=2810

2. Key Background Resources

  1. The entire 185-page K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and initial recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include to make education in Ontario schools barrier-free for all students with disabilities.
  2. The AODA Alliance’s 55-page condensed and annotated version of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
  3. The AODA Alliance’s 15-page summary of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
  4. The AODA Alliance‘s action kit on how to give public feedback on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
  5. The June 16, 2021 AODA Alliance Update, setting out the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee‘s recommendations for designing a barrier-free school building.
  6. A captioned video of tips for parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate at school for their child’s needs.
  7. For general background, the AODA Alliance website Education page.



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Tell the Ford Government, School Boards and Others To Use Recommended New Standard for Ensuring Accessibility of the Built Environment


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Tell the Ford Government, School Boards and Others  To Use Recommended New Standard for Ensuring Accessibility of the Built Environment

June 16, 2021

            SUMMARY

Ontario desperately needs to modernize its outdated laws to ensure that buildings and the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The Ford Government has received a promising blueprint for this. This can help propel Ontario in the right direction towards becoming accessible to people with disabilities. Will the Ford Government act?

Below you can find one important part of the initial recommendations of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. These initial recommendations, which the Ford Government made public on June 1, 2021. This excerpt outlines what should be required for a school building to become physically accessible to students, school staff and family members with disabilities. We will have lots more to say in the coming days about the many other important initial recommendations that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee offered for public feedback.

Many incorrectly think that the Ontario Building Code and accessibility standards enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act require a new building or major renovations to be accessible for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the physical accessibility requirements in those laws are grossly inadequate. The AODA Alliance gives compelling examples of this in three captioned online videos. These videos have been viewed thousands of times. These show serious accessibility problems in the Ryerson University’s new Student Learning Centre, in Centennial College’s new Culinary arts Centre, and in several new public transit stations in Toronto.

Two different AODA Independent Reviews, the 2014 Independent Review by Mayo Moran and the 2019 Independent Review by David Onley, each identified the disability barriers in the built environment as a priority. They both called for strong new action under the AODA. That action has not taken place.

Here’s what we set out below that is new and helpful to combat this situation. Written in non-technical language, is a list of important features that should be included in a building’s design. It is in a report that specifically talks about barriers facing students with disabilities in school. However, the recommendations listed below can equally apply to virtually any kind of building, not just schools.

These proposed requirements should be incorporated into the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards for buildings generally. In the meantime, and until they are enacted in laws, they should be followed whenever buildings, and especially public buildings are designed. This includes schools, hospitals, colleges, universities, government or private offices and any other public building.

These initial recommendations are the product of a joint collaboration between disability community and education sector representatives. The membership of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee which approved these initial recommendations was appointed by the Ontario Government. Half of its members are drawn from the disability community, including AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other half of the committee’s members are drawn from the education sector at all levels, including teachers, school board staff, and school board trustees. For an initial recommendation to be approved, the Ontario Government requires that it be supported by at least 75% of the committee’s membership.

Here is how the Ford Government can get an immediate start. Last summer, the Ford Government announced that at least a half a billion dollars were to be spent on new schools, and on major additions to existing schools. However the Government made no commitments that those new construction projects would be accessible to people with disabilities, and announced no new measures to achieve that goal. The Ontario Government should now require that those new school construction projects incorporate the accessibility requirements below. As well, even if the Ford Government does not act, school boards that will be undertaking these or any other construction projects can and should themselves use these recommendations in their building designs.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee confirmed in its initial recommendations report that the Ministry of Education does not now have a standard that sets accessibility requirements for school construction projects that the Government funds. Neither the Ontario Building Code nor AODA accessibility standards impose the requirements set out below.

Up to September 2, 2021, it is open to the public to send feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on all its initial recommendations, including those set out below. We encourage everyone to send the Government that feedback. Send your feedback to the Government at [email protected]

We again urge the Ontario Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to develop a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. The recommendations set out below would provide a great starting point for their discussions.

When he was seeking the public’s votes in the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford made specific commitments regarding the disability barriers in the built environment. Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s election commitments on disability accessibility, included:

  1. a) “Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.”
  1. b) “Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.”
  1. c) “Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”
  1. d) “This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

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

To learn more about the campaign to get Ontario to enact a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard, visit the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

To learn more about the campaign to get the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard, visit the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page.

To download the entire set of initial recommendations by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/download-in-ms-word-format-the-ontario-governments-survey-on-the-initial-or-draft-recommendations-of-the-k-12-education-standards-development-committee/

Initial Recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on Ensuring Physical Accessibility of the Built Environment in Education Settings

(Note: Even though these recommendations are written to address the school setting, they can easily apply to a very wide range of other buildings)

Specific Accessibility Requirements Recommendations

Recommendation Part Three: Usable Accessible Design for Exterior Site Elements

The following should be required:

  1. Access to the site for pedestrians
  2. a) Clear, intuitive connection to the accessible entrance
  3. b) A tactile raised line map shall be provided at the main entry points adjacent to the accessible path of travel but with enough space to ensure users do not block the path for others
  4. c) Path of travel from each sidewalk connects to an accessible entrance with few to no joints to avoid bumps. The primary paths shall be wide enough to allow two-way traffic with a clear width that allows two people using wheelchairs or guide dogs to pass each other. For secondary paths where a single path is used, passing spaces shall be provided at regular intervals and at all decision points. The height difference from the sidewalk to the entrance will not require a ramp or stairs. The path will provide drainage slopes only and ensure no puddles form on the path. Paths will be heated during winter months using heat from the school or other renewable energy sources.
  5. d) Bike parking shall be adjacent to the entry path. Riders shall be required to dismount and not ride on the pedestrian routes. Bike parking shall provide horizontal storage with enough space to ensure users and parked bikes do not block the path for others. The ground surface below the bikes shall be colour contrasted and textured to be distinct from the pedestrian path.
  6. e) Rest areas and benches with clear floor space for at least two assistive mobility devices or strollers or a mix of both shall be provided. Benches shall be colour contrasted, have back and arm rests and provide transfer seating options at both ends of the bench. These shall be provided every 30m along the path placed adjoining. The bench and space for assistive devices are not to block the path. If the path to the main entrance is less than 30m at least one rest area shall be provided along the route. If the drop-off area is in a different location than the pedestrian route from the sidewalk, an interior rest area shall be provided with clear sightlines to the drop-off area. If the drop-off area is more than 20m from the closest accessible entrance an exterior accessible heated shelter shall be provided for those awaiting pick-up. The ground surface below the rest areas shall be colour contrasted and textured to be distinct from the pedestrian path it abuts
  7. f) Tactile directional indicators shall be provided where large open paved areas happen along the route
  8. g) Accessible pedestrian directional signage at decision points
  9. h) Lighting levels shall be bright and even enough to avoid shadows and ensure it’s easy to see the features and to keep people safe.
  10. i) Accessible duress stations (Emergency safety zones in public spaces)
  11. j) Heated walkways shall be used where possible to ensure the path is always clear of snow and ice
  1. Access to the site for vehicles
  2. a) Clear, intuitive connection to the drop-off and accessible parking
  3. b) Passenger drop-off shall include space for driveway, layby, access aisle (painted with non slip paint), and a drop curb (to provide a smooth transition) for the full length of the drop off. This edge shall be identified and protected with high colour contrasted tactile attention indicators and bollards to stop cars, so people with vision loss or those not paying attention get a warning before walking into the car area. Sidewalk slopes shall provide drainage in all directions for the full length of the dropped curb
  4. c) Overhead protection shall be provided by a canopy that allows for a clearance for raised vans or buses and shall provide as much overhead protection as possible for people who may need more time to load or off-load
  5. d) Heated walkways from the drop-off and parking shall be used to ensure the path is always clear of snow and ice
  6. e) A tactile walking directional indicator path shall lead from the drop-off area to the closest accessible entrance to the building (typically the main entrance)
  7. f) A parking surface will only be steep enough to provide drainage in all directions. The drainage will be designed to prevent puddles from forming at the parking or along the pedestrian route from the parking
  8. g) Parking design should include potential expansion plans for future growth and/or to address increased need for accessible parking
  9. h) Parking access aisles shall connect to the sidewalk with a curb cut that leads to the closest accessible entrance to the building. (so that no one needs to travel along the driveway behind parked cars or in the path of car traffic)
  10. i) Lighting levels shall be bright and even enough to avoid shadows and to ensure it’s easy to see obstacles and to keep people safe.
  11. j) If there is more than one parking lot, each site shall have a distinctive colour and shape symbol associated with it that will be used on all directional signage especially along pedestrian routes.
  12. Parking
  13. a) The provision of parking spaces near the entrance to a facility is important to accommodate persons with a varying range of abilities as well as persons with limited mobility. Medical conditions, such as anemia, arthritis or heart conditions, using crutches or the physical act of pushing a wheelchair, all can make it difficult to travel long distances. Minimizing travel distances is particularly important outdoors, where weather conditions and ground surfaces can make travel difficult and hazardous.
  14. b) The sizes of accessible parking stalls are important. A person using a mobility aid such as a wheelchair requires a wider parking space to accommodate the manoeuvring of the wheelchair beside the car or van. A van may also require additional space to deploy a lift or ramp out the side or back door. An individual would require space for the deployment of the lift itself as well as additional space to manoeuvre on/off the lift.
  15. c) Heights of passage along the driving routes to accessible parking is a factor. Accessible vans may have a raised roof resulting in the need for additional overhead clearance. Alternatively, the floor of the van may be lowered, resulting in lower capacity to travel over for speed bumps and pavement slope transitions.
  16. d) Wherever possible, parking signs shall be located away from pedestrian routes, because they can constitute an overhead and/or protruding hazard. All parking signage shall be placed at the end of the parking space in a bollard barricade to stop cars, trucks or vans from parking over and blocking the sidewalk.
  1. A Building’s Exterior doors
  2. a) Level areas on both sides of a building’s exterior door shall allow the clear floor space for a large scooter or mobility device or several strollers to be at the door. Exterior surface slope shall only provide drainage away from the building.
  3. b) 100% of a building’s exterior doors will be accessible with level thresholds, colour contrast, accessible door hardware and in-door windows or side windows (where security allows) so those approaching the door can see if someone is on the other side of the door
  4. c) Main entry doors at the front of the building and the door closest to the parking lot (if not the same) to be obvious, prominent and will have automatic sliders with overhead sensors. Placing power door operator buttons correctly is difficult and often creates barriers especially within the vestibule
  5. d) Accessible security access for after hours or if used all day with 2-way video for those who are deaf and/or scrolling voice to text messaging
  6. e) All exit doors shall be accessible with a level threshold and clear floor space on either side of the door. The exterior shall include a paved accessible path leading away from the building

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – General Requirements Recommendations

The following should be required:

85. Entrances:

  1. a) All entrances used by staff and/or the public shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all staff and public entrances accessible, at least 50% of all staff and public entrances shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all public entrances accessible, the primary entrances used by staff and the public shall be accessible.

86. Door:

  1. a) Doors shall be sufficiently wide enough to accommodate stretchers, wheelchairs or assistive scooters, pushing strollers, or making a delivery
  2. b) Threshold at the door’s base shall be level to allow a trip free and wheel friendly passage.
  3. c) Heavy doors and those with auto closers shall provide automatic door openers.
  4. d) Room entrances shall have doors.
  5. e) Direction of door swing shall be chosen to enhance the usability and limit the hazard to others of the door opening.
  6. f) Sliding doors can be easier for some individuals to operate and can also require less wheelchair manoeuvring space.
  7. g) Doors that require two hands to operate will not be used.
  8. h) Revolving doors are not accessible.
  9. i) Full glass doors are not to be used as they represent a hazard.
  10. j) Colour-contrasting will be provided on door frames, door handles as well as the door edges.
  11. k) Door handles and locks will be operable by using a closed fist, and not require fine finger control, tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate

87. Gates, Turnstiles and Openings:

  1. a) Gates and turnstiles should be designed to accommodate the full range of users that may pass through them. Single-bar gates designed to be at a convenient waist height for ambulatory persons are at neck and face height for children and chest height for persons who use wheelchairs or scooters.
  2. b) Revolving turnstiles should not be used as they are a physical impossibility for a person in a wheelchair to negotiate. They are also difficult for persons using canes or crutches, or persons with poor balance.
  3. c) All controlled entry points will provide an accessible width to allow passage of wheelchairs, other mobility devices, strollers, walkers or delivery carts.

88. Windows, Glazed Screens and Sidelights

  1. a) Broad expanses of glass should not be used for walls, beside doors and as doors can be difficult to detect. This may be a particular concern to persons with vision loss/no vision. It is also possible for anyone to walk into a clear sheet of glazing especially if they are distracted or in a hurry.
  2. b) Windowsill heights and operating controls for opening windows or closing blinds should be accessible…located on a path of travel, with clear floor space, within reach of a shorter or seated user, colour contrasted and not require punching or twisting to operate.

89. Drinking Fountains

  1. a) Drinking fountain height should accommodate children and that of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Potentially conflicting with this, the height should strive to attempt to accommodate individuals who have difficulty bending and who would require a higher fountain. Where feasible, this may require more than one fountain, at different heights. The operating system shall account for limited hand strength or dexterity. Fountains will be recessed, to avoid protruding into the path of travel. Angled recessed alcove designs allow more flexibility and require less precision by a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Providing accessible signage with a tactile attention indicator tile will help those who with vision loss to find the fountain.

90. Layout

  1. a) The main office where visitors and others need to report to upon entering the building shall always be located on the same level as the entrance, as close to the entrance as possible. If the path of travel to the office crosses a large open area, a tactile directional indicator path shall lead from the main entrance(s) to the office ID signage next to the office door.
  2. b) All classrooms and or public destinations shall be on the ground floor. Where this is not possible, at least 2 elevators should be provided to access all other levels. Where the building is long and spread out, travel distance to elevators should be considered to reduce extra time needed for students and staff or others who use the elevators instead of the stairs. If feature stairs (staircases included in whole or in part for design aesthetics) are included, elevators shall be co-located and just as prominent as the stairs
  3. c) Corridors should meet at 90-degree angles. Floor layouts from floor to floor should be consistent and predictable so the room number line up and are the same with the floors above and below along with the washrooms
  4. d) Multi-stall washrooms shall always place the women’s washroom on the right and the men’s washroom on the left. No labyrinth entrances shall be used. Universal washrooms shall be co-located immediately adjacent to the stall washrooms, in a location that is consistent and predictable throughout the building

91. Facilities

  1. a) The entry doors to each type of facility within a building should be accessible, colour contrasted, obvious and prominent and designed as part of the wayfinding system including accessible signage that is co-located with power door openers controls.
  2. b) Tactile attention indicator tile will be placed on the floor in front of the accessible ID signage at each room or facility type. Where a room or facility entrance is placed off of a large interior open area

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Circulation Recommendations

The following should be required:

92. Elevators

  1. a) Elevator Doors will provide a clear width to allow a stretcher and larger mobility devices to get in and out
  2. b) Doors will have sensors so doors will auto open if the doorway is blocked
  3. c) Elevators will be installed in pairs so that when one is out of service for repair or maintenance, there is an alternative available.
  4. d) Elevators will be sized at allow at least two mobility device users and two non-mobility devices users to be in the elevator at the same time. This should also allow for a wide stretcher in case of emergency.
  5. e) Assistive listening will be available in each elevator to help make the audible announcements heard by those using hearing aids
  6. f) Emergency button on the elevator’s control panel will also provide 2-way communication with video and scrolling text and a keyboard for people who are deaf or who have other communication disabilities
  7. g) Inside the elevators will be additional horizontal buttons on the side wall in case there is not enough room for a person using a mobility aid to push the typical vertical buttons along the wall beside the door. If there are only two floors the elevator will only provide the door open, close and emergency call buttons and the elevator will automatically move to the floor it is not on.
  8. h) The words spoken in the elevator’s voice announcement of the floor will be the same as the braille and print floor markings, so the button shows 1 as a number, 1 in braille and the voice says first floor not G for Ground with M in braille and voice says first floor.)
  9. i) Ensure the star symbol for each elevator matches ground level appropriate to the elevator. The star symbol indicates the floor the elevator will return to in an emergency. This means users in the elevator will open closest to the available accessible exit. If the entrance on the north side is on the second floor, the star symbol in that elevator will be next to the button that says 2. If the entrance on the south side of the building is on the 1st floor, the star symbol will be next to the button that says 1.
  10. j) The voice on the elevator shall be set at a volume that is audible above typical noise levels while the elevator is in use, so that people on the elevator can easily hear the audible floor announcements.
  11. k) Lighting levels inside the elevator will match the lighting at the elevator lobbies. Lighting will be measured at the ground level
  12. l) Elevators will provide colour contrast between the floor and the walls inside the cab and between the frame of the door or the doors with the wall surrounding in the elevator lobbies. Vinyl peel and stick sheets or paint will be used to cover the shiny metal which creates glare. Vinyl sheets will be plain to ensure the door looks like a door, and not like advertising
  13. m) In a retrofit situation where adding 2 elevators is not technically possible without undue hardship, platform lifts may be considered. Elevators that are used by all facility users are preferred to platform lifts which tend to segregate persons with disabilities and which limit space at entrance and stair locations. Furthermore, independent access is often compromised by such platform lifts, because platform lifts are often requiring a key to operate. Whenever possible, integrated elevator access should be incorporated to avoid the use of lifts.

93. Ramps

  1. a) A properly designed ramp can provide wait-free access for those using wheelchairs or scooters, pushing strollers or moving packages on a trolley or those who are using sign language to communicate and don’t want to stop talking as they climb stairs.
  2. b) A ramp’s textured surfaces, edge protection and handrails all provide important safety features.
  3. c) On outdoor ramps, heated surfaces shall be provided to address the safety concerns associated with snow and ice.
  4. d) Ramps shall only be used where the height difference between levels is no more than 1m (4ft). Longer ramps take up too much space and are too tiring for many users. Where a height difference is more than 1m in height, elevators will be provided instead.
  5. e) Landings will be sized to allow a large mobility device or scooter to make a 360 degree turn and/or for two people with mobility assistive devices or guide dogs to pass
  6. f) Slopes inside the building will be no higher than is permitted for exterior ramps in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s Design of Public Spaces Standard, to ensure usability without making the ramp too long.
  7. g) Curved ramps will not be used, because the cross slope at the turn is hard to navigate and a tipping hazard for many people.
  8. h) Colour and texture contrast will be provided to differentiate the full slope from any level landings. Tactile attention domes shall not be used at ramps, because they are meant only for stairs and for drop-off edges like at stages

94. Stairs

  1. a) Stairs that are comfortable for many adults may be challenging for children, seniors or persons of short stature.
  2. b) The leading edge of each step (aka nosing) shall not present tripping hazards, particularly to persons with prosthetic devices or those using canes and will have a bright colour contrast to the rest of the horizontal step surface.
  3. c) Each stair in a staircase will use the same height and depth, to avoid creating tripping hazards
  4. d) The rise between stairs will always be smooth, so that shoes will not catch on an abrupt edge causing a tripping hazard. These spaces will always be closed as open stairs create a tripping hazard.

The top of all stair entry points will have a tactile attention indicator surface, to ensure the drop-off is identified for those who are blind or distracted.

  1. e) Handrails will aid all users navigating stairways safely. Handrails will be provided on both sides of all stairs and will be provided at both the traditional height as well as a second lower rail for children or people who are shorter. These will be in a high colour contrasting colour and round in shape, without sharp edges or interruptions.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Washroom Facilities Recommendations

The following should be required:

95. General Washroom Requirements

  1. a) Washroom facilities will accommodate the range of people that will use the space. Although many persons with disabilities use toilet facilities independently, some may require assistance. Where the individual providing assistance is of the opposite gender then typical gender-specific washrooms are awkward, and so an individual washroom is required.
  2. b) Parents and caregivers with small children and strollers also benefit from a large, individual washroom with toilet and change facilities contained within the same space.
  3. c) Circumstances such as wet surfaces and the act of transferring between toilet and wheelchair or scooter can make toilet facilities accident-prone areas. An individual falling in a washroom with a door that swings inward could prevent his or her own rescuers from opening the door. Due to the risk of accidents, emergency call buttons are vital in all washrooms.
  4. d) The appropriate design of all features will ensure the usability and safety of all toilet facilities.
  5. e) The identification of washrooms will include pictograms for children or people who cannot read. All signage will include braille that translates the text on the print sign, and not only the room number.
  6. f) There are three types of washrooms. Single use accessible washrooms, single use universal washrooms, and multi-use stalled washrooms. The number and types of washrooms used in a facility will be determined by the number of users. There will always at least be one universal washroom on each floor.
  7. g) All washrooms will have doors with power door opening buttons. No door washrooms will be hard to identify for people who have vision loss.
  8. h) Stall washrooms accessible sized stalls – At least 2 accessible stalls shall be provided in each washroom to avoid long wait times. Schools with accessible education programs that include a large percentage of people with mobility disabilities should to have all stalls sized to accommodate a turn circle and the transfer space beside the toilet.
  9. i) All washrooms near rooms that will be used for public events shall include a baby change table that is accessible to all users, not placed inside a stall. It shall be colour contrasted with the surroundings and usable for those in a seated mobility device and or of shorter stature.
  10. j) At least one universal washroom will include an adult sized change table, with the washroom located near appropriate facilities in the school and any public event spaces. These are important for some adults with disabilities and for children with disabilities who are too large for the baby change tables. This helps prevent anyone from needing to be changed lying on a bathroom floor.
  11. k) Where shower stalls are provided, these shall include accessible sized stalls.
  12. l) Portable Toilets at Special Events shall all be accessible. At least one will include an adult sized change table.
  1. Washroom Stalls
  2. a) Size: Manoeuvrability of a wheelchair or scooter is the principal consideration in the design of an accessible stall. The increased size of the stall is required to ensure there is sufficient space to facilitate proper placement of a wheelchair or scooter to accommodate a person transferring transfer onto the toilet from their mobility device. There may also be instances where an individual requires assistance. Thus, the stall will have to accommodate a second person.
  3. b) Stall Door swings are normally outward for safety reasons and space considerations. However, this makes it difficult to close the door once inside. A handle mounted part way along the door makes it easier for someone inside the stall to close the door behind them.
  4. c) Minimum requirements for non-accessible toilet stalls are included to ensure that persons who do not use wheelchairs or scooters can be adequately accommodated within any toilet stall.
  5. d) Universal features include accessible hardware and a minimum stall width to accommodate persons of large stature or parents with small children.
  6. Toilets
  7. a) Automatic flush controls are preferred. If flushing mechanisms are not automated, flushing controls shall be on the transfer side of the toilet, with colour contrasted and lever style handles.
  8. b) Children sized toilets and accessible child sized toilets will be required in kindergarten areas either within the classroom or immediately adjacent to the facilities.
  9. Sinks
  10. a) Each accessible sink shall be on an accessible path of travel that other people, using other sinks or features (like hand-dryers), are not positioned to block.
  11. b) The sink, sink controls, soap dispenser and towel dispenser should all be at an accessible height and location and should all be automatic controls that do not require physical contact.
  12. c) While faucets with remote-eye technology may initially confuse some individuals, their ease of use is notable. Individuals with hand strength or dexterity difficulties can use lever-style handles.
  13. d) For an individual in a wheelchair and younger children, a lower counter height and clearance for knees under the counter are required.
  14. e) The insulating of hot water pipes shall be assured to protect the legs of an individual using a wheelchair. This is particularly important when a disability impairs sensation such that the individual would not sense that their legs were being burned.
  15. f) The combination of shallow sinks and higher water pressures can cause unacceptable splashing at lavatories.
  1. Urinals
  2. a) Each urinal needs to be on an accessible path of travel with clear floor space in front of each accessible urinal to provide the manoeuvring space for a mobility device.
  3. b) Urinal grab bars shall be provided to assist individuals rising from a seated position and others to steady themselves.
  4. c) Floor-mounted urinals accommodate children and persons of short stature as well as enabling easier access to drain personal care devices.
  5. d) Flush controls, where used, will be automatic preferred. Strong colour contrasts shall be provided between the urinal, the wall and the floor to assist persons with vision loss/no vision.
  6. e) In stall washrooms with Urinals, all urinals will be accessible with lower rim heights. For primary schools the urinal should be full height from floor to upper rim to accommodate children. Stalled washrooms with urinals will have an upper rim at the same height as typical non-accessible urinals to avoid the mess taller users can make. All urinals will provide vertical grab bars which are colour contrasted to the walls. Where dividers between urinals are used, the dividers will be colour contrasted to the walls as well.
  1. Showers
  2. a) Roll-in or curb less shower stalls shall be provided to eliminate the hazard of stepping over a threshold and are essential for persons with disabilities who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices in the shower.
  3. b) Grab bars and non-slip materials shall be included as safety measures that will support any individual.
  4. c) Colour contrasted hand-held shower head and a water-resistant folding bench shall be included to assist persons with disabilities. These are also convenient for others.
  5. d) Other equipment that has contrasting colour from the shower stall shall be included to assist individuals with vision loss/no vision.
  6. e) Shower floor drain locations will be located to avoid room flooding when they may get blocked
  7. f) Colour contrast will be provided between the floor and the walls in the shower to assist with wayfinding
  8. g) Shower curtains will be used for individual showers instead of doors as much as possible as it
  9. h) Where showers are provided in locker rooms each locker room will include at least one accessible shower, but an additional individual shower room will be provided immediately adjacent to allow for those with opposite sex attendants to assist them with the appropriate privacy.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Specific Room Requirements Recommendations

101. Performance stages

The following should be required:

  1. a) Elevated platforms, such as stage areas, speaker podiums, etc., shall be accessible to all.
  2. b) A clear accessible route will be provided along the same path of access for those who are not using mobility assistive devices as those who do. Lifts will not be used to access stage or raised platforms, unless the facility is retrofitting an existing stage and it is not technically possible to provide access by other means.
  3. c) The stage shall include safety features to assist persons with vision loss or those momentarily blinded by stage lights from falling off the edge of a raised stage, such as a colour contrasted raised lip along the edge of the stage.
  4. d) Lecterns shall be accessible with an adjustable height surface, knee space and accessible audio visual (AV) and information technology (IT) equipment. Lecterns shall have a microphone that is connected to an assistive listening system, such as a hearing loop. The office and/or presentation area will have assistive listening units available for those who may request them, for example people who are hard of hearing but not yet wearing hearing aids.
  5. e) Lighting shall be adjustable to allow for a minimum of lighting in the public seating area and backstage to allow those who need to move or leave with sufficient lighting at floor level to be safe

102. Sensory Rooms

The following should be required:

  1. a) Sensory rooms will be provided in a central location on each floor where there are classrooms or public meeting spaces
  2. b) They will be soundproof and identified with accessible signage
  3. c) The interior walls and floor will be darker in colour, but colour contrast will be used to distinctly differentiate the floor from the wall and the furniture
  4. d) Lighting will be provided on a dimmer to allow for the room to be darkened
  5. e) Weighted blankets will be available along with a variety of different seating options including beanbag chairs or bouncy seat balls
  6. f) They will provide a phone or other 2-way communication to call for assistance if needed

103. Offices, Work Areas, and Meeting Rooms

The following should be required:

  1. a) Offices providing services or programs to the public will be accessible to all, regardless of mobility or functional needs. Offices and related support areas shall be accessible to staff and visitors with disabilities.
  2. b) All people, but particularly those with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing, will benefit from having a quiet acoustic environment – background noise from mechanical equipment such as fans, shall be designed to be minimal. Telephone equipment that supports the needs of individuals with hearing and vision loss shall be available.
  3. c) The provision of assistive speaking devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. Where offices and work areas and small meeting rooms do not have assistive listening, such as hearing loops permanently installed, portable assistive hearing loops shall be available at the office
  4. d) Tables and workstations shall provide the knee space requirements of an individual in a mobility assistive device. Adjustable height tables allow for a full range of user needs. Circulation areas shall accommodate the spatial needs of mobility equipment as large as scooters to ensure all areas and facilities in the space can be reached with appropriate manoeuvring and turning spaces.
  5. e) Natural coloured task lighting, such as that provided through halogen bulbs, shall be used wherever possible to facilitate use by all, especially persons with low vision.
  6. f) In locations where reflective glare may be problematic, such as large expanses of glass with reflective flooring, blinds that can be louvered upwards shall be provided. Controls for blinds shall be accessible to all and usable with a closed fist without pinching or twisting

104. Outdoor Athletic and Recreational Facilities

The following should be required:

  1. a) Areas for outdoor recreation, leisure and active sport participation shall be designed to be available to all members of the school community.
  2. b) Outdoor spaces will allow persons with a disability to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff. Spaces will be accessible including boardwalks, trails and footbridges, pathways, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, grandstand and other viewing areas, and playing fields
  3. c) Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
  4. d) Noise cancelling headphones shall be available to those with sensory disabilities.
  5. e) Outdoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities undergoing rehabilitation.
  6. f) Seating and like facilities shall be inclusive and allow for all members of a disabled sports team to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.
  7. g) Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of persons with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.

105. Arenas, Halls and Other Indoor Recreational Facilities

The following should be required:

  1. a) Areas for recreation, leisure and active sport participation will be accessible to all members of the community.
  2. b) Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
  3. c) Noise cancelling headphones will be available to those with sensory disabilities.
  4. d) Access will be provided throughout outdoor facilities including to; playing fields and other sports facilities, all activity areas, outdoor trails, swimming areas, play spaces, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
  5. e) Interior access will be provided to halls, arenas, and other sports facilities, including access to the site, all activity spaces, gymnasia, fitness facilities, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
  6. f) Spaces will allow persons with disabilities to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff.
  7. g) Indoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities who are undergoing rehabilitation.
  8. h) Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of persons with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate or stigmatize anyone.

106. Swimming Pools

The following should be required:

  1. a) Primary considerations for accommodating persons who have mobility impairments include accessible change facilities and a means of access into the water. Ramped access into the water is preferred over lift access, as it promotes integration (everyone will use the ramp) and independence.
  2. b) Persons with low vision benefit from colour and textural surfaces that are detectable and safe for both bare feet or those wearing water shoes. These surfaces will be provided along primary routes of travel leading to access points such as pool access ladders and ramps.
  3. c) Tactile surface markings and other barriers will be provided at potentially dangerous locations, such as the edge of the pool, at steps into the pool and at railings.
  4. d) Floors will be slip resistant to help those who are unsteady on their feet and everyone even in wet conditions.

107. Cafeterias

The following should be required:

  1. a) Cafeteria serving lines and seating area designs shall reflect the lower sight lines, reduced reach, knee-space and manoeuvring requirements of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Patrons using mobility devices may not be able to hold a tray or food items while supporting themselves on canes or while manoeuvring a wheelchair.
  2. b) If tray slides are provided, they will be designed to move trays with minimal effort.
  3. c) Food signage will be accessible.
  4. d) All areas where food is ordered and picked up will be designed to meet accessible service counter requirements
  5. e) Self serve food will be within the reach of people who are shorter or using seated mobility assistive devices
  6. f) Where trays are provided, a tray cart that can be attached to seated assistive mobility devices or a staff assistant solution that is readily available shall be available on demand, because carrying trays and pushing a chair or operating a motorized assistive device can be difficult or impossible.

108. Libraries

The following should be required:

  1. a) All service counters shall provide accessibility features
  2. b) Study carrels will accommodate the knee-space and armrest requirements of a person using a mobility device.
  3. c) Computer catalogues, carrels and workstations will be provided at a range of heights, to accommodate persons who are standing or sitting, as well as children of different ages and sizes.
  4. d) Workstations shall be equipped with assistive technology such as large displays, screen readers, to increase the accessibility of a library.
  5. e) Book drop-off slots shall be at different heights for standing and seated use with accessible signage, to enhance usability.

109. Teaching Spaces and Classrooms

The following should be required:

  1. a) Students, teachers and staff with disabilities will have accessibility to teaching and classroom facilities, including teaching computer labs.
  2. b) All teaching spaces and classrooms will provide power door operators and assistive listening systems such as hearing loops
  3. c) Additional considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features specifically designated for use by students with disabilities, such as accessibility standard accommodations for complex personal care needs.
  4. d) Students teachers and staff with disabilities will be accommodated in all teaching spaces throughout the school.
  5. e) This accessibility will include the ability to enter and move freely throughout the space, as well as to use the various built-in elements within (i.e. blackboards and/or whiteboards, switches, computer stations, sinks, etc.). Classroom and meeting rooms must be designed with enough room for people with mobility devices to comfortably move around.
  6. f) Individuals with disabilities frequently use learning aids and other assistive devices that require a power supply. Additional electrical outlets shall be provided throughout teaching spaces to -accommodate the use of such equipment.
  7. g) Except where it is impossible, fixtures, fittings, furniture and equipment will be specified for teaching spaces, which is usable by students, faculty, teaching assistants and staff with disabilities.
  8. h) Providing only one size of seating does not reflect the diversity of body types of our society. Offering seats with an increased width and weight capacity is helpful for persons of large stature. Seating with increased legroom will better suit individuals that are taller. Removable armrests can be helpful for persons of larger stature as well as individuals using wheelchairs that prefer to transfer to the seat.
  1. Laboratories will provide, in addition to the requirements for classrooms, additional accessibility considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features in laboratories.

111. Waiting and Queuing Areas

The following should be required:

  1. a) Queuing areas for information, tickets or services will permit persons who use wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices as well as for persons with a varying range of user ability to easily move through the line safely.
  2. b) All lines shall be accessible.
  3. c) Waiting and queuing areas will provide space for mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and scooters.
  4. d) Queuing lines that turn corners or double back on themselves will provide adequate space to manoeuvre mobility devices.
  5. e) Handrails, not flexible guidelines, with high colour contrast will be provided along queuing lines, because they are a useful support for individuals and guidance for those with vision loss.
  6. f) Benches in waiting areas shall be provided for individuals who may have difficulty with standing for extended periods.
  7. g) Assistive listening systems will be provided, such as hearing loops, will be provided along with accessible signage indicating this service is available.

112. Information, Reception and Service Counters

The following should be required:

  1. a) All information, reception and service counters will be accessible to the full range of visitors. Where adjustable height furniture is not used, a choice of fixed counter heights will provide a range of options for a variety of persons. Lowered sections will serve children, persons of short stature and persons using mobility devices such as a wheelchair or scooter. The choice of heights will also extend to any speaking ports and writing surfaces.
  2. b) Counters will provide knee space under the counter to accommodate a person using a wheelchair or a scooter.
  3. c) The provision of assistive speaking and listening devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. The space where people are speaking will have appropriate acoustic treatment to ensure the best possible conditions for communication. Both the public and staff sides of the counter will have good lighting for the faces to help facilitate lip reading.
  4. d) Colour contrast will be provided to delineate the public service counters and speaking ports for people with low vision.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Other Features Recommendations

113. Lockers

The following should be required:

  1. a) Lockers will be accessible with colour contrast and accessible signage
  2. b) In change rooms an accessible bench will be provided in close proximity to lockers.
  3. c) Lockers at lower heights serve the reach of children or a person using a wheelchair or scooter.
  4. d) The locker operating mechanisms will be at an appropriate height and operable by individuals with restrictions in hand dexterity (i.e. operable with a closed fist).

114. Storage, Shelving and Display Units

The following should be required:

  1. a) The heights of storage, shelving and display units will address a full range of vantage points including the lower sightlines of children or a person using a wheelchair or scooter. The lower heights also serve the lower reach of these individuals.
  2. b) Displays and storage along a path of travel that are too low can be problematic for individuals that have difficulty bending down or who are blind. If these protrude too much into the path of travel, each will protect people with the use of a trip free cane detectable guard.
  3. c) Appropriate lighting and colour contrast are particularly important for persons with vision loss.
  4. d) Signage provided will be accessible with braille, text, colour contrast and tactile features.

115. Public Address Systems

The following should be required:

  1. a) Public address systems will be designed to best accommodate all users, especially those that may be hard of hearing. They will be easy to hear above the ambient background noise of the environment with no distortion or feedback. Background noise or music will be minimized.
  2. b) Technology for visual equivalents of information being broadcast will be available for individuals with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing who may not hear an audible public address system.
  3. c) Classrooms, library, hallways, and other areas will have assistive listening equipment that is tied into the general public address system.

116. Emergency Exits, Fire Evacuation and Areas of Rescue Assistance

The following should be required:

116.1 In order to be accessible to all individuals, emergency exits will include the same accessibility features as other doors. The doors and routes will be marked in a way that is accessible to all individuals, including those who may have difficulty with literacy, such as children or persons speaking a different language.

116.2 Persons with vision loss/no vision will be provided a means to quickly locate exits – audio or talking signs could assist.

116.3 Areas of rescue assistance

  1. a) In the event of fire when elevators cannot be used, areas of rescue assistance shall be provided especially for anyone who has difficulty traversing sets of stairs.
  2. b) Areas of rescue assistance will be provided on all floors above or below the ground floor.
  3. c) Exit stairs will provide an area of rescue assistance on the landing with at least two spaces for people with mobility assistive devices sized to ensure those spaces do not block the exit route for those using the stairs.
  4. d) The number of spaces necessary on each floor that does not have a at grade exit should be sized by the number of people on each floor.
  5. e) Each area of refuge will provide a 2-way communication system with both 2-way video and audio to allow those using these spaces to communicate that they are waiting there and to communicate with fire safety services and or security.
  6. f) All signage associated with the area of rescue assistance will be accessible and include braille for all controls and information.

117. Other Features

The following should be required:

117.1 Space and Reach Requirements

  1. a) The dimensions and manoeuvring characteristics of wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices will allow for a full array of equipment that is used by individuals to access and use facilities, as well as the diverse range of user ability.

117.2 Ground and Floor Surfaces

  1. a) Irregular surfaces, such as cobblestones or pea-gravel finished concrete, shall be avoided because they are difficult for both walking and pushing a wheelchair. Slippery surfaces are to be avoided because they are hazardous to all individuals and especially hazardous for seniors and others who may not be sure-footed.
  2. b) Glare from polished floor surfaces is to be avoided because it can be uncomfortable for all users and can be a particular obstacle to persons with vision loss by obscuring important orientation and safety features. Pronounced colour contrast between walls and floor finishes are helpful for persons with vision loss, as are changes in colour/texture where a change in level or function occurs.
  3. c) Patterned floors should be avoided, as they can create visual confusion.
  4. d) Thick pile carpeting is to be avoided as it makes pushing a wheelchair very difficult. Small and uneven changes in floor level represent a further barrier to using a wheelchair and present a tripping hazard to ambulatory persons.
  5. e) Openings in any ground or floor surface such as grates or grilles are to be avoided because they can catch canes or wheelchair wheels.

118. Universal Design Practices beyond Typical Accessibility Requirements

The following should be required:

118.1 Areas of refuge should be provided even when a building has a sprinkler system.

118.2 No hangout steps* should ever be included in the building or facility.

* Hangout steps are a socializing area that is sometimes used for presentations. It looks similar to bleachers. Each seating level is further away from the front and higher up but here people sit on the floor rather than on seats. Each seating level is about as deep as four stairs and about 3 stairs high. There is typically a regular staircase provided on one side that leads from the front or stage area to the back at the top. The stairs allow ambulatory people access to all levels of the seating areas, but the only seating spaces for those who use mobility assistive devices are at the front or at the top at the back, but these are not integrated in any way with the other seating options.

118.3 There should never be “stramps”. A stramp is a staircase that someone has built a ramp running back and forth across. These create accessibility problems rather than solving them

118.4 Rest areas should be differentiated from walking surfaces or paths by texture- and colour-contrast

118.5 Keypads angled to be usable from both a standing and a seated position

118.6 Finishes

  1. a) No floor-to-ceiling mirrors
  2. b) Colour luminance contrast will be provided at least between:
  3. Floor to wall
  4. Door or door frame to wall

iii. Door hardware to door

  1. Controls to wall surfaces

118.7 Furniture – Arrange seating in square or round arrangement so all participants can see each other for those who are lip reading or using sign language

118.8 No sharp corners especially near turn circles or under surfaces where people will be sitting

119. Requirements for Public Playgrounds on or Adjacent to School Property

The following should be required:

119.1 Accessible path of travel from sidewalk and entry points to and throughout the play space. Tactile directional indicators would help as integrated path through large open spaces

119.2 Accessible controlled access routes into and out of the play space

119.3 Multiple ways to use and access play equipment

119.4 A mix of ground-level equipment integrated with elevated equipment accessible by a ramp or transfer platform

119.5 Where stairs are provided, ramps to same area

119.6 No overhead hazards

119.7 Ramp landings, elevated decks and other areas should provide sufficient turning space for mobility devices and include fun plan activities not just a view

119.8 Space to park wheelchairs and mobility devices beside transfer platforms

119.9 Space for a caregiver to sit beside a child on a slide or other play element

119.10 Provide elements that can be manipulated with limited exertion

119.11 Avoid recurring scraping or sharp clanging sounds such as the sound of dropping stones and gravel

119.12 Avoid shiny surfaces as they produce a glare

119.13 Colour luminance contrast will be provided at least at:

  1. a) Different spaces throughout the play area
  2. b) Differentiate the rise and run on steps. Include colour contrasting on the edge of each step
  3. c) Play space boundaries and areas where children should be cautious, such as around high traffic areas e.g. slide exits
  4. d) Entry to play areas with shorter doors to help avoid hitting heads
  5. e) Tactile edges where there is a level change like at the top of the stairs or at a drop-off
  6. f) Transfer platforms
  7. g) Railings and handrails contrasted to the supports to make them easier to find
  8. h) Tripping hazards should be avoided but if they exist, providing colour contrast, to improve safety for all. This is more likely in an older playground
  9. i) Safe zones around swings, slide exits and other play areas where people are moving, that might not be noticed when people are moving around the playground

119.14 Play Surfacing Materials Under Foot will be pour-in-place rubber surfacing that should be made of either

  1. a) Rubber Tile
  2. b) Engineered wood fiber
  3. c) Engineered carpet, artificial turf, and crushed rubber products
  4. d) Sand

119.15 Accessible Parking and Curbs, where provided, at least one clearly marked accessible space positioned as close as possible to the playground on a safe, accessible route to the play space

119.16 Accessible Signage

  1. a) Accessible signage and raised line map at each entrance to the park
  2. b) Provide large colour contrasted text, pictograms, braille
  3. c) provide signage at each play element with ID text and braille, marked with a Tactile attention paver to make it easier to find
  4. d) Identify the types of disability included at each play equipment/area

119.17 For Caregivers

  1. a) Junior and senior play equipment within easy viewing of each other
  2. b) Sitting areas that offer a clear line of sight to play areas and equipment
  3. c) Clear lines of sight throughout the play space
  4. d) Access to all play areas in order to provide assistance
  5. e) Sitting areas with back support, arm rests and shade
  6. f) Benches and other sitting areas should be placed on a firm stable area for people using assistive devices such as wheelchairs.

119.18 For Service Animals

  1. a) Nearby safe, shady places at rest area benches where service animals can wait with a caregiver with a clear view of their handlers when they are not assisting them
  2. b) Spaces where dogs can relive themselves – dog relief area with nearby garbage can

119.19 Tips for Swings

  1. a) Providing a safe boundary area around swings which is identified by surface material colour and texture
  2. b) Swings in a variety of sizes
  3. c) Accessible seat swings or basket swings that require transfer. If size and space allow provide two accessible swings for friends with disabilities to swing together

Platform swings eliminate the need to transfer should be integrated

119.20 Tips for Slides

  1. a) Double Slides (side by side) allow caregivers to accompany and, if needed, to offer support
  2. b) Slide exits should not be directed into busy play areas
  3. c) Transfer platforms at the base of slide exits
  4. d) Seating spaces with back support adjacent to the slide exit where children/caregivers can wait for their mobility device to be retrieved
  5. e) Metal versus Plastic Slides (Metal slides avoid static electricity which damaged cochlear implants, while sun exposure can leave metal slide hot, so shade devices are vital)
  6. f) Roller slides are usually gentler in slope and provide both a tactile and sliding experience or an Avalanche Inclusive Slide



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Ford Government Finally Makes Public the Initial Recommendations by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on How to Make Ontario Schools Accessible for Students with Disabilities


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Ford Government Finally Makes Public the Initial Recommendations by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on How to Make Ontario Schools Accessible for Students with Disabilities

June 1, 2021

At long last, the Ford Government today belatedly made public the initial or draft recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include. The Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee submitted these initial or draft recommendations to the Government over two and a half months ago.

These will be available online for the public to submit feedback up to September 2, 2021, according to the Government announcement. That feedback will be sent to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee is then required to review that feedback and take it into account as it works to finalize its recommendations for the Government.

In addition to finding them on the Ford Government’s website, you can go to the AODA Alliance’s website to find the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Committee-Approved-K-12-Initial-Recommendations-Report-Submission-2021.docx

In addition to finding it on the Government’s website, you can also go to the AODA Alliance website to download the survey that the Government created and is inviting the public to answer to give feedback on these draft recommendations at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/K-12-Initial-Recommendations-Report-Survey-Word-Version.docx

In contravention of s, 10(1) of the AODA, the Ford Government has still not publicly posted the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. On May 7, 2021 AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky had to resort to filing a court application, arguing that the Ford Government is in breach of its duty to post the initial or final recommendations it receives from these Standards Development Committees upon receiving them. You can read more about that court application in the May 7, 2021 AODA Alliance Update.

The Government finally posted the initial recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee today, just two days before an upcoming conference call, scheduled for June 3, 2021 with a Superior Court judge. Lepofsky requested that call to ask that the Court schedule a hearing in court on his application as soon as possible on an urgent or expedited basis.

We will later have much to say about these initial or draft recommendations. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. He took active part in the development of these initial recommendations. Lepofsky believes that the members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee with whom he worked did an excellent job of undertaking the most thorough top-to-bottom review of Ontario’s education system in decades, if not ever, from the perspective of students with disabilities. He shares the committee’s eagerness for public feedback to help with the finalization of these recommendations.

The AODA Alliance welcomes your feedback on these initial or draft recommendations. To assist us in preparing a written brief to submit to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, send your feedback to us at [email protected].

We want all Standards Development Committees that are now underway to get their finalized recommendations completed, submitted to the Ford Government, and posted publicly well before the Ontario Election campaign begins next spring. We want to be able to press all major political parties and candidates for commitments to detailed reforms in Ontario’s education and health care systems, to make them barrier-free for people with disabilities. Any delay in posting a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final recommendations hurts people with disabilities, delays progress on accessibility, and makes it harder for us to effectively avail ourselves of the democratic process during a provincial election.

Parents of students with disabilities can benefit from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky‘s captioned online video, already seen over 2,000 times. It offers practical tips on how to advocate for students with disabilities in the school system. This video fits well within the focus of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations.

For more background on the AODA Alliances multi-year campaign to tear down the barriers facing students with disabilities at all levels of Ontario’s education system, check out the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

You can also read the AODA Alliance’s October 10, 2019 Framework for what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include.

In honour of this week, National AccessAbility Week, read the report card that the AODA Alliance made public on the Ford Government’s performance on disability accessibility issues during its first three years in office. The Ford Government was awarded an “F” grade.



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In a Detailed Report Card Delivered During National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government Gets a Blistering “F” Grade for Its Three Year Record Since Taking Office on Action to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In a Detailed Report Card Delivered During National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government Gets a Blistering “F” Grade for Its Three Year Record Since Taking Office on Action to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

May 31, 2021 Toronto: During National AccessAbility Week, the non-partisan grassroots AODA Alliance releases a report card (set out below) on the Ford Government’s record for tearing down the barriers that people with disabilities face, awarding the Government an “F” grade.

When he was campaigning for votes in the 2018 election, Doug Ford said that our issues “are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus” and that:

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

Yet three years after taking office, people with disabilities are no better off, and in some important ways, are worse off, according to today’s new report card. Passed unanimously in 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead this province to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Ontario is nowhere near that goal with under four years left. The Ford Government has no effective plan to meet that deadline.

This report card’s key findings include:

  1. The Ford Government has no comprehensive plan of action on accessibility, 851 days after receiving the Report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review.
  1. The Government has not ensured that public money will never be used to create new accessibility barriers.
  1. The Ford Government has failed to enact or strengthen any accessibility standards under the AODA.

 

  1. The Ford Government has announced no new action to effectively ensure the accessibility of public transportation.

 

  1. The Ford Government imposed substantial and harmful delays in the work of Five important AODA Standards Development Committees that was underway before the Government took office.

 

  1. The Ford Government has repeatedly violated its mandatory duty under the AODA to make public the initial or final recommendations of a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee “upon receiving” those recommendations.

 

  1. The Ford Government has failed for 3 years to fulfil its mandatory duty to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.

 

  1. The Ford Government has made public no detailed plan for effective AODA enforcement.

 

  1. In a waste of public money, the Ford Government diverted 1.3 million dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s controversial private accessibility certification process. This has resulted in no disability barriers being removed or prevented.

 

  1. The Ford Government unfairly burdened Ontarians with disabilities with having to fight against new safety dangers being created by municipalities allowing electric scooters.

 

  1. The Ford Government’s rhetoric has been harmfully diluting the AODA’s goal of full accessibility.

 

  1. The Ford Government has given public voice to false and troubling stereotypes About disability accessibility.

 

  1. The Ford Government has failed to effectively address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

  1. The lives of vulnerable Ontarians with disabilities are endangered by the Ford Government’s secret plans for critical care triage during the COVID-19 pandemic, If hospitals cannot serve All critical care Patients.

“We keep offering the Ford Government constructive ideas, but too often, they are disregarded,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities. “Premier Ford hasn’t even met with us, and has turned down every request for a meeting.”

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has had to resort to a court application (now pending) to get the Ford Government to fulfil one of its important duties under the AODA, and a Freedom of Information application to try to force the Ford Government to release its secret plans for critical care triage if the COVID-19pandemic worsens, requiring rationing of critical care.

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

Twitter: @aodaalliance

 A Report Card on the Ford Government’s Record, After Three Years in Office, on Achieving Disability Accessibility

May 31, 2021

Prepared by the AODA Alliance

 Introduction

This year’s National AccessAbility Week takes place when Ontario’s Ford Government is completing its third year of a four year term in office. This is an especially appropriate time to take stock of how well the Ford Government is doing at advancing the goal of making Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the deadline which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act enshrines in Ontario law.

It is with a strong sense of frustration that we award the Ford Government a failing “F” grade for its record on this issue.

The Ontario Public Service includes quite a number of public officials who are deeply and profoundly dedicated to the goal of tearing down barriers impeding people with disabilities, and preventing the creation of new disability barriers. They have commendably found quite a number of willing partners within the disability community (both individuals and disability organizations), and among obligated organizations in the public and private sectors. These partners are also committed to the goal of accessibility, and have in their spheres of influenced tried to move things forward. To all these people we and people with disabilities generally are indebted.

For example, several Standards Development Committees have been appointed under the AODA to craft recommendations on what enforceable AODA accessibility standards should include to be strong and effective. They have invested many hours, trying to come up with workable recommendations.

As well, over the past three years, the Ontario Government has continued to operate voluntary programs that have existed for years to contribute to the goal of accessibility. The Ford Government has also, we believe, improved things by freeing its Standards Development Committees from excessive involvement by Public Service staff. This has enabled those staff to support the work of those committees, while leaving them free to do their own work, devising recommendations for the Government.

However, all of that cannot succeed in bringing Ontario to the goal of an accessible province by 2025, without strong leadership by the Ontario Government and those who steer it. This has been the conclusion of three successive Independent Reviews, conducted under the AODA, by Charles Beer in 2010, by Mayo Moran in 2014 and by David Onley in 2018.

Over the past three years, we regret that that leadership has continued to be lacking. The result is that Ontario is falling further and further behind the goal of an accessible province by 2025. Less and less time is available to correct that.

This report details several of the key ways that the Ontario Government has fallen far short of what Ontarians with disabilities need. As the Government’s mandatory annual report on its efforts on accessibility back in 2019 reveals, the Government’s prime focus has been on trying to raise awareness about accessibility. As has been the Ontario Government’s practice for years, that 2019 annual report was belatedly posted on line on the eve of the 2021 National AccessAbility Week, two years after many of the events reported in it.

Decades of experience, leading to the enactment of the AODA in 2005, has proven over and over that such awareness-raising and voluntary measures won’t get Ontario to the goal of accessibility by 2025, or indeed, ever. As always, the AODA Alliance, as a non-partisan coalition, remains ready, willing, able, and eager to work with the Government, and to offer constructive ideas on how it can change course and fulfil the AODA’s dream that the Legislature unanimously endorsed in May 2005.

1. The Ford Government Has No Comprehensive Plan of Action on Accessibility, 851 Days After Receiving the Report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review

We have been urging the Ford Government to develop a detailed plan on accessibility since shortly after it took office, to lay out how it will get Ontario to the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It has never done so.

In December 2018, the Ford Government said it was awaiting the final report of former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, before deciding what it would do regarding accessibility for people with disabilities. On January 31, 2019, the Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Minister for Accessibility Raymond Cho publicly said on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

The Onley report found that Ontario is still full of “soul-crushing” barriers impeding people with disabilities. It concluded that progress on accessibility has taken place at a “glacial pace.” It determined that that the goal of accessibility by 2025 is nowhere in sight, and that specific new Government actions, spelled out in the report, are needed.

However, in the 851 days since receiving the Onley Report, the Ford Government has not made public a detailed plan to implement that report’s findings and recommendations. The Government has staged some media events with the Accessibility Minister to make announcements, but little if anything new was ever announced. The Government repeated pledges to lead by example on accessibility, and to take an all-of-Government approach to accessibility. But these pledges were backed by nothing new to make them mean anything more than when previous governments and ministers engaged in similar rhetorical flourishes.

2. The Government Has Not Ensured that Public Money Will Never Be Used to Create New Accessibility Barriers

In its three years in office, we have seen no effective action by the Ford Government to ensure that public money is never used to create new disability barriers or to perpetuate existing barriers. The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars on infrastructure and on procuring goods, services and facilities, without ensuring that no new barriers are thereby created, and that no existing barriers are thereby perpetuated.

As but one example, last summer, the Ford Government announced that it would spend a half a billion dollars on the construction of new schools and on additions to existing schools. However, it announced no action to ensure that those new construction projects are fully accessible to students, teachers, school staff and parents with disabilities. The Ontario Ministry of Education has no effective standards or policies in place to ensure this accessibility, and has announced no plans to create any.

3. The Ford Government Has Enacted or Strengthened No Accessibility Standards

In its three years in power, the Ford Government has enacted no new AODA accessibility standards. It has revised no existing accessibility standards to strengthen them. It has not begun the process of developing any new accessibility standards that were not already under development when the Ford Government took office in June 2018.

As one major example, the Ford Government has not committed to develop and enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to ensure that the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. No AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard now exists. None is under development.

This failure to act is especially striking for two reasons. First, the last two AODA Independent Reviews, the 2014 Independent Review by Mayo Moran and the 2019 Independent Review by David Onley, each identified the disability barriers in the built environment as a priority. They both called for new action under the AODA. Second, when he was seeking the public’s votes in the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford made specific commitments regarding the disability barriers in the built environment. Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s election commitments on disability accessibility, included this:

  1. a) “Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.”
  1. b) “Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.”
  1. c) “Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”
  1. d) “This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

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

4. The Ford Government Has Announced No New Action to Effectively Ensure the Accessibility of Public Transportation

Just before the 2018 Ontario election, the Ontario Government received the final recommendations for reforms to the Transportation Accessibility Standard from the AODA Transportation Standards Development committee. Since then, and over the ensuing three years in office, the Ford Government announced no action on those recommendations. It has not publicly invited any input or consultation on those recommendations. At the same time, the Ford Government has made major announcements about the future of public transit infrastructure in Ontario. As such, barriers in public transportation remained while the risk remains that new ones will continue to be created.

 5. The Ford Government Imposed Substantial and Harmful Delays in the Work of Five Important AODA Standards Development Committees that was Underway Before the Government Took Office

When the Ford Government won the 2018 Ontario election, the work of five AODA Standards Development Committees were all frozen, pending the new Minister for Accessibility getting a briefing. Any delay in the work of those committees would further slow the AODA’s sluggish implementation documented in the Onley Report.

Those Standards Development Committees remained frozen for months, long after the minister needed time to be briefed. We had to campaign for months to get that freeze lifted.

Over four months later, in November 2018, the Ford Government belatedly lifted its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. However it did not then also lift the freeze on the work of the three other Standards Development Committees, those working on proposals for accessibility standards in health care and education.

We had to keep up the pressure for months. The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 before it announced that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. It was as long as half a year after that announcement that those three Standards Development Committees finally got back to work.

In the meantime, the many unfair disability barriers in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system remained in place, while new ones continued to be created. The final enactment of new accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education was delayed commensurately, as was the enactment of revisions to strengthen Ontario’s 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard and Ontario’s 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard.

6. The Ford Government Has Repeatedly Violated Its Mandatory Duty Under the AODA to Make Public the Initial or Final Recommendations of a Government-Appointed Standards Development Committee “Upon Receiving” Those Recommendations

Section 10(1) of the AODA requires the Government to make public the initial or final recommendations that it receives from a Standards Development Committee, appointed under the AODA “upon receiving” those recommendations. The Ontario Government under successive governments and ministers has wrongly taken the approach that it can delay making those recommendations public for months despite the AODA‘s clear, mandatory and unambiguous language.

The Ford Government has certainly taken this troubling approach. It delayed some two years before making public the final recommendations of the Employment Standards Development Committee earlier this year. It delayed some six months before making public the final recommendations of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee last year. It delayed over five months before making public the initial recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee earlier this month. It has delayed over two months so far in making public the initial recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

As a result, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has brought a court application, now pending, to seek an order compelling the Ford Government to obey the AODA. This is especially disturbing, because the Government is leading by such a poor example when it comes to the AODA. Its delay in complying with s. 10 of the AODA slows the already-slow process of developing and enacting or revising accessibility standards under the AODA.

7. The Ford Government Has for 3 Years Failed to Fulfil Its Mandatory Duty to Appoint A Standards Development Committee to Review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017. Neither the previous Wynne Government nor the current Ford Government have fulfilled this legal duty. This is a mandatory AODA requirement.

The Ford Government has had three years in office to learn about this duty and to fulfil it. We flagged it for the Government very soon after it took office in 2018.

8. The Ford Government Has Made Public No Detailed Plan for Effective AODA Enforcement

During its three years in office, the Ford Government has announced no public plan to substantially strengthen the AODA’s weak enforcement. Three years ago, the Ford Government inherited the previous McGuinty Government’s and Wynne Government’s multi-year failure to effectively and vigourously enforce the AODA. What little enforcement that took place fell far short of what people with disabilities needed, as is confirmed in both the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report. The failure to effectively enforce the AODA has contributed to Ontario falling so far behind the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

 

9. In a Waste of Public Money, the Ford Government Diverted 1.3 Million Dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Controversial Private Accessibility Certification Process

The only significant new action that the Ford Government has announced on accessibility over its first three years in office was its announcement over two years ago in the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget that it would spend 1.3 million public dollars over two years to have the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process “certify” some 250 buildings, belonging to business or the public sector, for accessibility. In two years, this has not been shown to lead to the removal or prevention of a single barrier against people with disabilities anywhere in the built environment. It has predictably been a waste of public money.

The Ford Government did not consult the AODA Alliance or, to our knowledge, the disability community, before embarking on this wasteful project. It ignored serious concerns with spending public money on such a private accessibility certification process. These concerns have been public for well over five years. The Ford Government gave no public reasons for rejecting these concerns.

A private accessibility certification risks misleading the public, including people with disabilities. It also risks misleading the organization that seeks this so-called certification. It “certifies” nothing.

A private organization might certify a building as accessible, and yet people with disabilities may well find that the building itself, or the services offered in the building, still have serious accessibility problems. Such a certification provides no defence to an accessibility complaint or proceeding under the AODA, under the Ontario Building Code, under a municipal bylaw, under the Ontario Human Rights Code, or under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If an organization gets a good -level accessibility certification, it may think they have done all they need to do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be misled to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This can turn out not to be the case, especially if the assessor uses the Rick Hansen Foundation’s insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if the assessor’s only training is the inadequate short training that the Rick Hansen Foundation created.

For example, the Ford Government got the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify as accessible the huge New Toronto Courthouse now under construction. Yet we have shown that its plans are replete with serious accessibility problems. The Rick Hansen Foundation’s assessor never contacted the AODA Alliance to find out about our serious concerns with the courthouse’s design before giving it a rating of “accessible.”

The Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process lacks much-needed public accountability. The public has no way to know if the private accessibility assessor is making accurate assessments. It is not subject to Freedom of Information laws. It operates behind closed doors. It lacks the kind of public accountability that applies to a government audit or inspection or other enforcement. For more details on the problems with private accessibility certification processes, read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process.

10. The Ford Government Unfairly Burdened Ontarians with Disabilities with Having to Fight Against New Barriers Being Created by Municipalities Allowing Electric Scooters

It is bad enough that the Ford Government did too little in its first three years in office to tear down the many existing barriers that impede people with disabilities. It is even worse that the Government took action that will create new disability barriers, and against which people with disabilities must organize to battle at the municipal level.

When the Ford Government took office in June 2018, it was illegal to ride electric scooters (e-scooters) in public places. In January 2019, over the strenuous objection of Ontario’s disability community, the Ford Government passed a new regulation. It lets each municipality permit the use of e-scooters in public places, if they wish. It did not require municipalities to protect people with disabilities from the dangers that e-scooters pose to them.

Silent, high-speed e-scooters racing towards pedestrians at over 20 KPH, ridden by an unlicensed, untrained, uninsured joy-riders, endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Leaving e-scooters strewn all over in public places, as happens in other cities that permit them, creates physical barriers to people using wheelchairs and walkers. They create tripping hazards for people with vision loss.

Torontonians with disabilities had to mount a major campaign to convince Toronto City Council to reject the idea of allowing e-scooters. They were up against a feeding-frenzy of well-funded and well-connected corporate lobbyists, the lobbyists who clearly hold sway with the Ontario Premier’s office.

Unlike Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor have allowed e-scooters, disregarding the danger they now pose for people with disabilities. Some other Ontario cities are considering allowing them.

Thanks to the Ford Government, people with disabilities must now campaign against e-scooters, city by city. This is a huge, unfair burden that people with disabilities did not need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a cruel irony that the Ford Government unleashed the danger of personal injuries by e-scooters at the same time as it has said it wants to reduce the number of concussions in Ontario.

11. The Ford Government’s Rhetoric Has Been Harmfully Diluting the AODA’s Goal of Full Accessibility

A core feature of the AODA is that it requires Ontario become “accessible” to people with disabilities by 2025. It does not merely say that Ontario should become “more accessible” by that deadline.

Yet, the Ford Government too often only talks about making Ontario more accessible. In fairness, the previous Ontario Liberal Government under Premier Dalton McGuinty and later Premier Kathleen Wynne too often did the same.

This dilutes the goal of the AODA, for which people with disabilities fought so hard for a decade. It hurts people with disabilities. It is no doubt used to try to lower expectations and over-inflate any accomplishments.

 

12. The Ford Government Has Given Public Voice to False Troubling Stereotypes About Disability Accessibility

 

Two years ago, the Ford Government publicly voiced very troubling and harmful stereotypes about the AODA and disability accessibility during National AccessAbility Week.

In 2019, during National AccessAbility Week, NDP MPP Joel Harden proposed a that the Legislature pass a resolution that called for the Government to bring forward a plan in response to the Onley Report. The resolution was worded in benign and non-partisan words, which in key ways tracked Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. The proposed resolution stated:

“That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.”

Premier Ford had every good reason to support this proposed resolution, as we explained in the June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update. Yet, as described in detail in the June 11, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Doug Ford Government used its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution on May 30, 2019, right in the middle of National Access Abilities Week.

The speeches by Conservative MPPs in the Legislature on the Government’s behalf, in opposition to that motion, voiced false and harmful stereotypes about disability accessibility. Those statements in effect called into serious question the Ford Government’s commitment to the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. They denigrated the creation and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards as red tape that threatened to imperil businesses and hurt people with disabilities.

13. The Ford Government Has Failed to Effectively Address the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

All of the foregoing would be enough in ordinary times to merit the “F” grade which the Ford Government is here awarded. However, its treatment of people with disabilities and their accessibility needs during the COVID-19 pandemic makes that grade all the more deserved.

In the earliest weeks, the Government deserved a great deal of leeway for responding to the pandemic, because it was understandably caught off guard, as was the world, by the enormity of this nightmare. However, even well after the initial shock period when the pandemic hit and for the year or more since then, the Ford Government has systemically failed to effectively address the distinctive and heightened urgent needs of people with disabilities in the pandemic.

People with disabilities were foreseeably exposed to disproportionately contract COVID-19, to suffer its worst hardships and to die from it. Yet too often the Government took a failed “one size fits all” approach to its emergency planning, that failed to address the urgent needs of people with disabilities. This issue has preoccupied the work of the AODA Alliance and many other disability organizations over the past 14 months.

Two of the areas where the Government most obviously failed were in health care and education. This is especially inexcusable since the Government had the benefit of a Health Care Standards Development Committee, a K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and a Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to give the Government ideas and advice throughout the pandemic. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee delivered a detailed package of recommendations for the pandemic response four months into the pandemic. Yet those recommendations have largely if not totally gone unimplemented.

The Government repeatedly left it to each school board, college, university, and health care provider to each separately figure out what disability barriers had arisen during the pandemic, and how to remove and prevent those barriers. This is a predictable formula for wasteful duplication of effort, for increased costs and workloads, all in the middle of a pandemic.

For example, the Ford Government largely left it to each frontline teacher and principal to figure out how to accommodate the recurring needs of students with different disabilities during distance learning. The Government relied on TVO as a major partner in delivering distance learning to school students, even though TVO’s distance learning offerings have accessibility barriers that are unforgivable at any time, and especially during a pandemic.

As another example, the Ford Government did not properly plan to ensure that the process for booking and arranging a COVID-19 vaccine was disability-accessible. There is no specific accessible booking hotline to help people with disabilities navigate the booking process from beginning to end.

There is no assurance that drug stores or others through whom vaccines can be booked have accessible websites. We have received complaints that the Government’s own online booking portal has accessibility problems. Arranging for a barrier-free vaccination for People with Disabilities is even harder than the public is finding for just booking a vaccination for those with no disabilities.

14. The Lives of Vulnerable People with Disabilities are Endangered by the Ford Government’s Secret Plans for Critical Care Triage During the COVID-19 Pandemic, If Hospitals Cannot Serve All Critical Care Patients

The AODA Alliance, working together with other disability organizations, has also had to devote a great deal of effort to try to combat the danger that vulnerable people with disabilities would face disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical care if the pandemic overloads hospitals, leading to critical care triage. The Ford Government has created new disability barriers by allowing clear disability discrimination to be entrenched in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol. Even though formal critical care triage has not yet been directed, there is a real danger that it has occurred on the front lines without proper public accountability e.g. by ambulance crews declining to offer critical care to some patients at roadside, when called via 911.

The Ford Government has allowed a concerted disinformation campaign to be led by those who designed the Ontario critical care triage protocol, and who are falsely claiming that there is no disability discrimination in that protocol.

Further Background

Further background on all of the issues addressed in this report card can be found on the AODA Alliance’s web site. It has separate pages, linked to its home page, addressing such topics as accessibility issues in transportation, health care, education, information and communication, the built environment, AODA enforcement, and disability issues arising during the COVID-19 pandemic, among others. Follow @aodaalliance



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