AODA Alliance’s Year-End Report on Our Advocacy Efforts in 2021 – 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/

AODA Alliance’s Year-End Report on Our Advocacy Efforts This Year

December 24, 2021

An exhausting year is reaching its conclusion. With this, our 100th AODA Alliance Update of the year, we give you, our valued supporters, an update on what we have accomplished together in 2021. We also look forward to what to expect in 2022.

What a year! The battles too often feel that they are uphill. Yet we always retain our optimism. We never give up. We never surrender!

Here are some of the year’s major highlights in our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.

  1. This year, we continued to raise serious disability issues in the Ford Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to offer constructive suggestions to those in positions of power. As a primary focus, we battled against the disability discrimination that is deeply rooted in the critical care triage protocol that the Ford Government allowed to be embedded in Ontario hospitals. In this effort, we collaborated closely with the ARCH Disability Law Centre and a team of other disability advocates and experts. We highlighted disability barriers in Ontario’s vaccine distribution and in its vaccine passport system.
  1. Working closely with supporters and allies in the disability community, we together convinced Toronto City Council to retain the ban on electric scooters. E-scooters endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.
  1. We also presented concerns on allowing e-scooters in public places to Hamilton’s and Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committees and to London City Council’s Civic Works Committee.
  1. Working with our allies, we convinced Toronto City Council to pass a ban on robots on sidewalks, which endanger us and others. This win secured media coverage as far away as the UK.
  1. We raised disability accessibility issues during the fall 2021 federal election and sought commitments on this topic from the major parties.
  1. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky waged a legal battle in court against the Ford Government for its unjustified delay in making public the initial reports it received from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The AODA requires the Government to publicly post those reports upon receiving them, not after long delays. Regrettably, Ontario’s Superior Court dismissed that case as moot, without ruling on the correctness of the claim. This is because the Government finally though belatedly posted those reports online before the case got to court for oral argument.

As a step forward for us, during oral argument of that case, the Ford Government’s lawyer conceded for the first time that the Government must post such Standards Development Committee reports online once the steps needed for their posting (coding and translation to French) are completed. In this case, the Ford Government delayed posting those three reports longer than the time needed to complete those steps.

  1. With next year’s June Ontario election approaching, we have written to the Ontario political party leaders well in advance to list the election commitments we seek on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities. This includes a comprehensive Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we developed and to which we ask each party to commit. This Plan will serve as our major agenda for action over the next year and beyond. We are ready to brief any political party on our requests for commitments.

This is especially important since it was towards the end of 2021 that the AODA Alliance publicly recognized that at the present rate, it will not be possible for Ontario to reach the mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, just three years from now. This is due to many years of insufficient action by the Ontario Government to implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

  1. We researched, wrote, and submitted a number of detailed briefs on important disability issues, including:
  1. a) A brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on the barriers facing people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.
  1. b) A brief to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on the barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s colleges and universities.
  1. c) A brief to the Ford Government on the disability barriers in the Ontario critical care triage protocol
  1. d) A brief to the Ford Government on why it should not allow a public pilot of robots on sidewalks in Ontario.
  1. e) A brief to Toronto City Council on why it should not allow e-scooters.
  1. f) A brief to London Ontario City Council on why it should not allow e-scooters.

You can look through all the briefs that the AODA Alliance has prepared and submitted over the years on various accessibility issues by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s briefs page.

  1. We continued to raise major objections to any Government reliance on the seriously flawed Rick Hansen Foundation private accessibility “certification” program. It does not provide an accurate and reliable assessment of a building’s accessibility. For details on these documented concerns, see the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program and the AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program.
  1. We again brought our message and a wide range of issues to the public through conventional media and through social media. For example, we issued thousands of tweets again this year on Twitter. In a wide spectrum of our advocacy activity, we secured media attention in print, on TV, and on the radio. In a good many cases, it was the media that came to us for comment, rather than the other way around.
  1. This year, we released new online captioned videos that help people with disabilities, the Government and the public learn more about our issues. These videos got an impressive number of views and very positive feedback. Prominent among these are the new video that introduces you to the duty to accommodate people with disabilities and the video that gives an in-depth explanation of the disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
  1. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky continued to serve on behalf of the AODA Alliance as a member of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. Its initial report on barriers facing students with disabilities was made public for public consultation on June 1, 2021. It received very positive feedback from the disability community and from educators. That Standards Development Committee is now in the last stages of finalizing revisions to the report based on all the public feedback. The Standards Development Committee aims to conduct its final vote on its final report in the first week of January 2022.
  1. Where positive steps are taken on accessibility, we remain ready to acknowledge and applaud them. We also have continued to hold the Ontario Government publicly accountable for its insufficient action on accessibility. For example, this year we continued to publicize our daily count of the number of days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act conducted by David Onley. As of today, that count has reached 1,058 days. We are still waiting for the Ford Government to announce a comprehensive plan to effectively implement that report’s recommendations.

Thus, it has been a busy year for our volunteer efforts. Next year will be at least as busy as 2021 was for advocacy by Ontarians with disabilities. Our foreseeable challenges in the next year include raising disability issues in the June 2022 Ontario provincial election and in the October 2022 Ontario municipal and school board elections.

We will have to continue battling disability barriers created during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 pandemic racing out of control, we face the terrible need to again battle against the disability-discriminatory Ontario critical care triage protocol. We also need to get the Ford Government to remove disability discrimination from its process for renewing the Ontario Health Card online. Those are just two prominent examples of health care barriers facing people with disabilities.

Final reports are expected in the new year from the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. We will press for the swift enactment of accessibility standards that implement those reports’ recommendations.

We will need to continue to battle new barriers, traceable to the Ford Government, created by allowing electric scooters and potentially by allowing robots on sidewalks.

No doubt, there will also be new disability issues that we have not been able to predict. We’ll be ready!

Once again, we thank all our supporters for their help and their encouragement as we together press forward with our non-partisan accessibility campaign. We also thank all those, including the silent heroes who cannot speak out, within the Ontario Government, school boards, city governments and private organizations and businesses who have tried in their own way to make progress on accessibility for people with disabilities. We wish one and all a safe, happy and barrier-free holiday season.

The AODA Alliance is now going offline for a while to re-charge our advocacy batteries. We’ll be back in full flight in January 2022. Stay safe, and have a healthy and happy new year.



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Why Did the Ford Government Fail to Hold an Open Merit-Based Competition for the Chair of the Long-Overdue Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee, under Ontario’s Disabilities Act?


          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/

Why Did the Ford Government Fail to Hold an Open Merit-Based Competition for the Chair of the Long-Overdue Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee, under Ontario’s Disabilities Act?

December 23, 2021

            SUMMARY

After years of failing to take needed action to tear down disability barriers in the built environment, the Ford Government failed to hold a fair, open, merit-based competition before announcing the appointment of a person as Chair of the long-overdue AODA Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. Below we set out the AODA Alliance’s December 23, 2021 letter to the Ford Government. It raises our serious concerns. It calls on the Government to hold a fair, open and merit-based competition for both the Chair and the membership of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. We also set out the Government’s December 20, 2021 announcement to which we are responding.

Since it took office in the summer of 2018, we have been pressing the Ford Government to fulfil its legal duty to appoint the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on the standard that needs to be enacted to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to all people with disabilities by 2025. In its three and a half years of stalling on this, the Ford Government had ample time and opportunity to take the obvious and important step of announcing and holding a fair, open, merit-based competition. There is no justification for the Ford Government’s failure to do so.

To learn about the AODA Alliance’s efforts to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, visit the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page. The Ford Government still has no comprehensive plan to fully implement the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that David Onley conducted. The Ford Government received the Onley Report 1,057 days ago. That report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities and that progress on making Ontario disability-accessible has been “glacial.”

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December 23, 2021 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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/

December 23, 2021

To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

Via email: [email protected]

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

Re: Appointment of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee

We have serious concerns about your December 20, 2021 announcement about your appointment of a person to chair a Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We ask you to take specific corrective action identified below.

This would have been a “good news” announcement by your Government, had it not been for the serious objection that we here outline. We have been waiting a long four years for the Ontario Government to fulfil its obligation under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to conduct the mandatory five-year review of the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard that was enacted in December 2012, nine years ago. We have asked you over and over to fulfil that obligation, starting as far back as our July 17, 2018 letter to you. No explanation or justification has ever been offered for the multi-year failure to appoint the mandatory Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee.

It is good that the Government is finally starting to take steps to comply with its clear legal obligation. It is also good that your announcement states that this new Standards Development Committee will review accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code as well as those in the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.

However, your recent appointment of the Chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee should have been preceded by a proper open merit-based competition for the position. It was not. We understand that there was no public posting of this position and no invitation for members of the public to apply for the position, so that they could be considered on their merits. Only through such a process could the Government obtain the best pool of candidates and select the most qualified person for the position. Ontarians with disabilities deserve nothing less.

The Ford Government had ample time and opportunity to hold an open merit-based competition for this position and to invite applications and nominations. There is no justification for your failing to do so.

We have been very concerned for some time about your Government’s overall view on whether we even need a strong accessibility standard under the AODA to address the many barriers facing people with disabilities in the built environment. During National Access Ability Week in 2019, you and your Government denounced such measures as “red tape.” In contrast, two successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA by Mayo Moran which reported in 2014 and by David Onley, which reported in 2019, emphasized as a priority the need for the Government to take effective action to tear down the disability barriers in Ontario’s built environment.

For a Standards Development Committee to be credible and successful, the public, including the disability community, must have strong confidence in it and in the process for appointing it. Your failure to undertake a merit-based open competition for chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee undermines that needed public confidence.

Important qualifications for someone to chair an AODA Standards Development Committee include demonstrated expertise in leadership, team building, consensus-building, dispute resolution, and mediation of conflicting views. It also requires a strong knowledge of and experience with public policy development, and where possible, extensive knowledge of the regulatory context.

Nothing in your announcement suggests that the person you nominated has any of this experience and demonstrated expertise. A key qualification that you emphasize in your December 20, 2021 announcement is your nominee’s having taken the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) training course to conduct building accessibility assessments as part of the RHF private accessibility “certification” program. We have been on record for over two years demonstrating that that training program is woefully inadequate. It is far too short, being some eight days long as of the 2019 summer. It wrongly prioritizes some disabilities over others. It trains on how to conduct an RHF building assessment which is, in and of itself, fatally deficient. It includes troubling elements that are inappropriate for such training. All in all, it is not capable of effectively training someone to be an “accessibility professional,” the over-inflated label which the RHF gives to those completing this very short course.

We have amply documented that the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility “certification” program is fundamentally flawed. There is no assurance that a building is in fact accessible when it has been “certified” as such by the RHF program. Indeed, even calling its assessments a “certification” of accessibility is false and misleading. For details on our concerns, see the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF program and the AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplemental report on the RHF program.

In the period of over two years since the AODA Alliance publicly and thoroughly documented the many deficiencies with the RHF program and its training course, neither your Government nor the RHF has disproven the flaws we identified. Feedback that we have received from the disability community has supported and endorsed our objections to the RHF program.

An excellent article in the August 19, 2021 edition of the Burnaby Beacon details many serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. In this news report, the RHF is quoted as in substance conceding that its training course does not make a person an expert in accessible design. 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.”

When it comes to assessing the accessibility of buildings, Ontario has a number of true experts who have taken more than eight days of training. It has experts who are trained to know about the accessibility needs of people with a wide spectrum of disabilities and not just the ones that the RHF prioritizes.

In raising these concerns, we do not wish to single out in any way the person whom you nominated to chair this Standards Development Committee. We do not question her commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities nor do we suggest or imply that she has no knowledge to bring to bear in this area. In a fair, open merit-based competition, she could be evaluated along with all others who apply.

It is very troubling that the Government did not take the time to conduct a proper, open, merit-based competition for the chair of this Standards Development Committee. That could be done at the same time as the Government conducts its recruitment for all the members of that Standards Development Committee. To date, we have seen no public announcement of any such competition, nor any invitation to apply to serve on that Standards Development Committee.

We are also very troubled by your December 20, 2021 announcement’s substantially watering down the purpose of the Standards Development Committee and of the AODA. Your announcement repeatedly spoke of the goal of making Ontario “more accessible.” The AODA does not simply require that Ontario become “more accessible” to people with disabilities by 2025. It requires that Ontario become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Simply replacing one staircase with a ramp somewhere in Ontario is all that is needed to make Ontario “more accessible.” People with disabilities need and deserve better than that.

We urgently request that you now hold a proper, fair, open merit-based competition for the position of Chair of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee and for the membership of that committee. We have had no contact with your office for many months. We request a virtual meeting with you to discuss this.

Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford [email protected]

Carlene Alexander, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]

Alison Drummond, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, ali[email protected]

Ontario Government’s December 20, 2021 Announcement on the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee

Originally posted at https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1001367/ontario-making-public-spaces-more-accessible

NEWS RELEASE

Ontario Making Public Spaces More Accessible

New Chair Julie Sawchuk to lead work on behalf of province to review and improve accessibility of public spaces for people with disabilities

December 20, 2021

TORONTO — The Ontario government continues the ongoing work of identifying, removing and preventing barriers for people with disabilities. Julie Sawchuk has accepted an invitation to be the chair of the Standards Development Committee that will lead the province’s review of the Design of Public Spaces accessibility standards for outdoor and indoor public spaces. The committee will include people with disabilities from all across the province, as well as businesses, municipalities, and other impacted stakeholders. It will review existing accessibility standards, and consider whether new standards might be needed to improve accessibility in Ontario’s public spaces.

“I am honoured that Julie Sawchuk has accepted the role of chair of this Standards Development Committee,” said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. “Her expertise and insights will be incredibly valuable in guiding the review of standards for accessibility in outdoor and indoor public spaces.”

Ms. Sawchuk is a best-selling author, professional speaker, and accessibility strategist. She holds Bachelors of Science and Education degrees and is a designated professional for Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification. Ms. Sawchuk’s lived experience as a person who has a spinal cord injury offers an important perspective for the committee’s work.

As part of the government’s commitment to making Ontario more accessible and inclusive, it is breaking down barriers in outdoor public spaces such as bike paths, parks and playgrounds and indoor public spaces in buildings such as service counters and accessible washrooms. This is a key area of focus in the cross-government Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework. The government is working with all levels of government, community partners, and businesses to identify, prevent, and remove barriers for people with disabilities.

“Creating accessible public spaces in Ontario is not the job of one person, it is the responsibility of all,” said Ms. Sawchuk. “I’m both grateful and incredibly proud to be asked to lead this discussion and look forward to adding a rural perspective as often as I can. This is an opportunity to bring people together to share what is working and what needs to be done differently in design and construction and to listen to all the voices who are looking for change.”

The Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee is expected to begin work in early 2022 and continue into 2023.



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Smorgasbord of Recent Media Coverage of Disability Barriers Shows Why the Ford Government Must Ramp Up Action to Make Ontario Accessible to 2.6 Million Ontarians 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/

Smorgasbord of Recent Media Coverage of Disability Barriers Shows Why the Ford Government Must Ramp Up Action to Make Ontario Accessible to 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

December 22, 2021

            SUMMARY

As 2021 nears a close, we want to catch you up on a mix of different news items that have run on disability accessibility issues in Ontario that our earlier AODA Alliance Updates did not include. These seven stories show the very wide spectrum of different disability accessibility issues that are going on simultaneously in the lives of Ontarians with disabilities. The first four of these articles quote the AODA Alliance’s chair, David Lepofsky:

  1. The December 9, 2021 City News report about the disability barrier experienced by people with disabilities at shopping malls in which the benches have been removed.
  1. The December 8, 2021 article in The Pointer about disability barriers to following the proceedings of some city council proceedings during the pandemic.
  1. The December 17, 2021 article in The Robot Report, reporting that Toronto City Council has banned robots from sidewalks due to the barrier they present for pedestrians with disabilities.
  1. The December 21, 2021 report in the British “Cities Today” publication on Toronto’s decision to ban robots from sidewalks. To our knowledge, this is the first time the AODA Alliance has been quoted in a British publication.
  1. The October 25, 2021 CTV News Toronto report on the disability barrier that can be created by a failure to plow snow in a way that ensures clear accessible paths of travel and the implications of a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.
  1. The November 21, 2021 CBC News report on the disability barrier facing people with disabilities because Ontario requires one to have a driver’s license to renew an Ontario Health Card online. The AODA Alliance is not quoted in this article and had no involvement in getting this great coverage. To learn more about that barrier, check out the AODA Alliance’s December 20, 2021 news release.
  1. The December 8, 2021 CTV report on the same barrier to renewing Ontario Health Cards. Here again, the AODA Alliance had no involvement in getting this great coverage of that issue.

With 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities facing so many different disability barriers, it is even more wrong for the Ford Government to still have no comprehensive plan in place to fully implement the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that David Onley conducted. The Ford Government received the Onley Report a deplorable 1,056 days ago. That report concluded that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities and that progress on making Ontario disability-accessible has been “glacial.”

Send us your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

            MORE DETAILS

1. CityNews December 9, 2021

Originally posted at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/12/09/calls-to-return-bench-seating-in-public-settings-such-as-shopping-malls/

Calls to return bench seating in public settings such as shopping malls

A call to bring back mall benches

It was done to protect public health but now one disability advocate says the time has come to return corridor seating to local shopping malls. David Zura explains.

By David Zura

In the early part of the pandemic, the decision was made to remove benches and public seating areas from within malls as part of public health measures to protect the public. But now, Toronto area shoppers are saying it might be time to bring them back.

“Many people with disabilities, they can’t walk long distances without taking a rest,” says David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Lepofsky says many people have conditions that cause fatigue or chronic pain and need places to periodically sit to shop comfortably. He adds, mall benches are easily cleaned and don’t impact vaccine status, mask use or distancing.

“This isn’t rocket science. So, the solution of leaving people with disabilities, who need a bench to rest on, out in the cold, is no solution.”

“You kind of feel it as you walk around, that there’s nowhere to sit,” says one shopper at Yorkdale Mall Thursday evening. Another saying “It would make sense to put the benches back.”

In a statement, Yorkdale Mall explains both benches and planters were removed from the mall at the request of Toronto Public Health.

“There is seating available in the food court, at restaurants and near valet. Wheelchairs are available for Yorkdale shoppers who require assistance at Guest Services,” read the statement.

Officials of the mall go on to say they look forward to reinstating corridor seating once public health restrictions are lifted.

Until then, Lepofsky says the lack of benches remains a barrier to those with a disability, as well as for businesses in urgent need of shoppers.

“Our stores are hurting after this pandemic, they want more customers.”

2. The Pointer December 8, 2021

 

Originally posted at https://thepointer.com/article/2021-12-08/they-are-engaging-in-a-fundamental-violation-of-the-human-rights-code-virtual-council-meetings-a-nightmare-for-local-accountability

 

‘They are engaging in a fundamental violation of the Human Rights Code’: Virtual council meetings a nightmare for local accountability

By Isaac Callan – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It isn’t uncommon for Brampton’s 11 council members to be confused. They constantly mix up technical terms like referral or deferral and they often find themselves mired in tangential discussions during council meetings.

None of them have two full terms of experience and five are rookies in their first term.

It falls to Peter Fay, the City Clerk, to put them right. With his mask strapped beneath his chin and a mop of sometimes misbehaving hair, the veteran bureaucrat battles to keep council within the rules meant to govern their conduct.

Fay helps councillors navigate the pesky procedures designed to keep the process of local government open and democratic, always responsive to the people who put them in office. Members of the public hoping to keep track and help ensure accountability are too often on their own.

“Obviously it’s impossible to follow what they’re talking about because you don’t have the text to follow what the propositions are,” David Lepofsky told The Pointer.

He had reviewed a video of Brampton’s October 20 council meeting and was left somewhat dismayed.

Lepofsky is a blind lawyer and leading advocate for people living with disabilities. He is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA) and has pushed forward key concerns for those living with disabilities, including strong opposition to electric scooters.

“I can tell you, by comparison, when for example in the Ontario legislature we took part in debates over legislation like 10, 20 years ago, if a standing committee received amendments they were read out and they voted on them.”

Peter Fay coordinates Brampton’s meetings (Image from City of Brampton/YouTube)

Inside Brampton’s legislative chamber, things can be chaotic, especially for those who are unable to see what councillors are seeing.

“At the beginning of the meeting, there was the added item 14.5 regarding a request from Blackthorn Developments for a Minister’s Zoning Order resolution, and there was a consideration to deal with both of the items together,” Fay explained to councillors on October 20, trying to stickhandle a last-minute discussion about two requests made by Mayor Patrick Brown to bypass the traditional development planning process by using a provincial approval tool instead. “So we just need a moment to bring them up because we need them to be introduced before we can put them on the screen. So, Charlotte has on the screen the first motion as it relates to 14.3 and just momentarily we’re going to bring up the second motion as it relates to 14.5. There it is there, Charlotte.”

Brampton’s agenda promises these sorts of basic communication barriers should not exist.

“Meeting information is also available in alternate formats upon request,” it states. The claim is not backed by the typical communications offered for public meetings, as issues around accessibility for residents living with and without disabilities abound.

The videos of council meetings on Brampton’s website don’t offer accessible navigation in the standard player, for example. Video files matched to agendas have some options to skip through by clicking on specific items, but the buttons to fast forward and rewind   by those with visual impairments. Anyone who uses accessible technology has to watch the full meeting to catch a particular moment or exchange.

Councillors walk motions onto the floor without providing written materials to the public and motions are drafted on the spot often without being read out in full. Sometimes decisions flash across a non-accessible online projection for mere seconds.

Brampton councillors race through meetings, sometimes approving items or allowing procedural advancement without any discussion or description of what has happened, referencing items using short-form and agenda item numbers and barely drawing a breath before moving toward adjournment.

“It’s a joke,” Lepofsky said, “it’s a joke. These guys are on there and I’m going to gamble that most city councillors who are one meeting after the next going on Webex may well be oblivious they are engaging in a fundamental violation of the Human Rights Code. They’re flying in the face of the objectives of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. These laws require that they not create new barriers — well, they did.”

The City of Mississauga began reading its items and bylaws out in full at meetings during 2020 to make them more accessible. The same practice was introduced at the Region of Peel. But the broader issue of accessibility, including for those less comfortable with various technology platforms used during the pandemic and now, in some cases, being taken up more routinely, is a systemic problem.

It’s often older residents most engaged in the civic process who feel most cut off from a system that’s supposed to serve them.

Before the pandemic, Brampton councillors met in-person (Image from The Pointer files)

Many accessibility issues existed before the pandemic, with chaotic council meetings cutting people out. The transition to virtual meetings has compounded the situation. Access to technology and the quality of internet connections are now often a prerequisite to present to council.

In Caledon and Brampton, in particular, key decisions are being rushed through without public notice. Some community members have found their attempts to present shut down and their audio connections muted before they feel they have been able to make key arguments.

“I do not like virtual meetings because they result in people not really able to express themselves,” Joe Grogan, a long-time resident of Bolton, told The Pointer. “Some people are intimidated by the process because the technology is so depersonalizing. In my opinion, the process does not encourage or facilitate citizen engagement.”

When COVID-19 forced the end of in-person gatherings in March 2020, the Province amended the rules governing councils to allow them to meet digitally. Elected officials and bureaucrats switched almost instantly to a virtual format. A return to in-person meetings has been more drawn out, and in some jurisdictions, like Brampton, one gets the impression elected officials such as Mayor Patrick Brown prefer the lack of direct public scrutiny.

Even before the pandemic, more and more debate was being conducted in-camera, behind closed doors, away from public view, an issue that some Brampton councillors have openly raised during the so-called public portion of meetings.

“In consideration of the current COVID-19 public health orders prohibiting large public gatherings and requiring physical distancing, in-person attendance at Council and Committee meetings will be limited to Members of Council and essential City staff only,” reads a note that has sat at the top of Brampton’s agendas in some form for almost two years.

Mayor Brown recently said in-person meetings would return “whenever it is deemed appropriate” without offering a timeline. This is the same person who was pushing to re-open restaurants and bars during the height of the pandemic. Meanwhile, many other cities have returned to in-person meetings.

As of September 7, Mississauga resumed in-person meetings for council and all standing committees, with an option for virtual participation for those who still prefer the digital format.

It’s unclear why Brampton has not done the same.

Potential advantages to online meetings remain. Councillors can take part in discussions from anywhere in the world when exceptional circumstances force them to miss a meeting, while residents can present without travelling to City Hall if they don’t have the time or access to transportation. Advocacy groups can appear virtually at councils across Ontario from a single office, maximizing the often limited resources of non-profit organizations.

These advantages don’t all come automatically, and there are clear trade-offs.

Lengthy motions in Brampton flash across a screen briefly before being adopted (Image from Isaac Callan/The Pointer)

Grogan, who professes to not love technology, says the pandemic’s impact on local council killed his engagement. He went from a regular council watcher and an engaged taxpayer to a frustrated citizen.

“In my case, I used to follow agendas and meetings religiously. Not anymore,” he said. “The effort required is just not worth it. In the past, it would be easier to raise last-minute concerns from the floor of the meeting; this is less possible with virtual meetings. Moreover, how can citizens challenge items as in the past? The entire situation is orchestrated and controlled.”

Councillors also no longer have to appear in person at the meetings. Residents or members of the media cannot catch their attention after meetings to raise concerns or ask questions; both groups are often forced to deal with faceless email accounts instead.

Lepofsky experienced the extreme limits of poorly thought-out virtual meetings last summer.

In the heat of a battle between electric scooter lobbyists and disability advocates, he planned to appear before Toronto City Council. His speech was a key moment for the campaign to limit e-scooters on Toronto’s sidewalks after months of lobbying efforts. He only had a few minutes to put the concerns of Ontarians living with disabilities on the table.

The meeting was scheduled to take place using Webex, a system that lacked accessibility features, especially early in the pandemic. Its icon-heavy design, with limited keyboard shortcuts, meant Lepofsky was forced to call into the meeting by phone instead of using his computer. “I’m a blind guy, for me to use my computer I have a program called a screen reading program,” he said.

He recalls the encounter vividly.

To make sure he didn’t miss his spot, Lepofsky had to call into the meeting 30 minutes early. He listened to the clerks organizing the agenda until the meeting began at 9:30 a.m. and then sat through a further hour of discussions unrelated to his item. Finally, e-scooters came up and Lepofsky paid close attention to the lobbyists, preparing to make his remarks and rebut some of their arguments.

“Our next speaker is David Lepofsky,” the chair said. His sentence was followed by a heavy silence.

On the other end of the phone, Lepofsky was growing more frustrated by the second: “This is David Lepofsky, can you hear me?”

“Mr. Lepofsky? Has Mr. Lepofsky called in? We have no indication — he’s not here,” the chair continued.

Lepofsky’s heart was pumping. He began desperately sending emails to City staff and council members telling them he was in the meeting trying to speak. The presentation he planned to make was pushed to one side in his mind, as he scrambled to secure a speaking spot he had already been granted.

“I’m screaming into the phone like my blood pressure is going through the roof,” he recalled. “There’s no phone number to call and I’m starting to email as many people as I can, and this is all because they’re using an inaccessible app.”

It is one of many barriers to accessing local council that have developed through the pandemic. These obstacles are more than inconvenient: they actively limit residents’ rights to take part in the democratic process.

A lack of public participation in local democracy leaves councillors to govern people, not listen to residents (Image from Google Maps)

It is unclear when all councils in Ontario will return to full in-person meetings. Brampton is currently considering plans for a hybrid system to be implemented in January, although it is unclear how new variants or provincial health measures could impact this plan.

“Following the Province’s announcement of its Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term, the City is planning to expand its safe reopening and resumption of in-person services – including Council meetings,” a Brampton spokesperson told The Pointer in October. “We’ll have more information in the coming days.”

That was a month after Mississauga had already moved to an in-person option.

On November 16, a spokesperson said to keep waiting. “Discussions on timeline and other aspects such as vaccination proof requirements are underway,” they said. “We can provide more details once they are available.”

The failure to do what Mississauga and other jurisdictions did, to ensure democratic participation, has meant the Brampton budget process for 2022 has been done virtually, shutting some residents out of the debate to decide how their money will be used.

In-person meetings are also rife with barriers to accessibility that are borne from ignorant or lazy meeting structures. An example of this is councillors springing new motions at the start of a meeting so that those who require an accessible agenda are unable to read the details of what has been proposed. The switch to a virtual format has made things worse.

Inaccessible technology put up more walls, and made many parts of the local democratic process less accessible to a range of local residents.

“I sort of don’t need to parse out whether they know better or they should have known better, they know better and don’t care or should have known better and didn’t think about it,” Lepofsky said. “In 2021, there is no way an elected politician could reasonably expect anybody watching [the Brampton October 20 council meeting]… to have the slightest idea what they’re deciding.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @isaaccallan

3. The Robot Report December 17, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.therobotreport.com/toronto-city-council-votes-to-ban-sidewalk-robots/

Toronto City Council votes to ban sidewalk robots – The Robot Report

By

Brianna Wessling

Tiny Mile’s robots have operated in Toronto for over a year, but were pulled from the streets last week. | Source: Tiny Mile

Today, the Toronto City Council voted to ban sidewalk robots until the council has the opportunity to further study the effects they have on the community.

The ban will prevent all robots that operate on anything other than muscular power, are automated or remote controlled, and don’t transport passengers from traveling on the sidewalks and in bike lanes. Violators will face a $150 fine.

Councillors approved important amendments to the ban today to leave room for potentially opening the sidewalks of Toronto back up to robots in the future.

It will be in effect until the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s pilot program is implemented and the City Council decides if they want to opt into the project.

“I can’t go around doing all the boasting I do about all the smart people, and the great tech ecosystem and why this is a great place for people to invest and create jobs, especially for innovative tech companies, and then say that we’re not going to welcome innovation,” Mayor John Tory said. “But at the same time, it can’t just be a free-for-all”

The ban proposal was put forward by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, in response to a proposed ten year pilot program by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, which municipalities can opt into. The Committee expressed concerns about sidewalk robots being hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as elderly people and children.

The pilot program did set specifications on how robots should operate. Robots must be marked with the operator’s name and contact details, and would be required to have audible signals, reflectors with lights, brakes, insurance and must yield to pedestrians. The program also states that robots couldn’t travel about 10 km/hr, about 6 mph.

“Sidewalks are an important publicly-funded public resource, created for pedestrians to safely use,” David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said in a letter to the Council. “Their safe use should not be undermined for such things as private companies’ delivery robots.”

The Council also approved what Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, an advocate for the bill, called a “friendly” amendment that would issue a Transportation Innovation Challenge in the second quarter of 2022.

This event would give the City Council an opportunity to explore and support local economic development with respect to the sidewalk robots. The amendment requests that the general manager of transportation services consult with local entrepreneurs, sidewalk robot manufacturers, accessibility community members, law enforcement and more. The general manager would then report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on their findings. Last week,

Tiny Mile, a company operating delivery robots in Toronto, announced on its

Instagram that it would temporarily remove its robots from the city in the spirit of good faith.

Yesterday, Ignacio Tartavull, the CEO of Tiny Mile, expressed dissatisfaction with the now adopted Transportation Innovation Challenge, and the Councils offer to allow sidewalk robots to use the Canadian National Exhibition for testing ground.

“Under this challenge we will be able to operate at the Canadian National Exhibition,” Tartavull said in a LinkedIn post.

“The only problem is that there are no deliveries to be done there … how do you fundraise as a startup if you have no customers using your product?”

Tiny Mile has operated in Toronto since September 2020.

The robots aren’t autonomous, but are controlled remotely by human operators. Ryan Lanyon, the manager of strategic policy and innovation in transportation and chair of the Automated Vehicles Working Group, stated during the meeting that the city had not received any 311 complaints about the robots.

However, a concern for the council was that the sidewalk robots don’t fall under a specific jurisdiction, and citizens may not be sure where to file complaints.

The Toronto City Council isn’t the first governing body to put limitations on delivery robots. In December 2017, San Francisco voted to ban delivery robots on most sidewalks, and greatly restrict use in permitted areas. The ban prevented robotics companies from operating sidewalk delivery robots in San Francisco until 2019, when Postmates Serve (now the independent company Serve Robotics) was approved for the first permit to test sidewalk deliveries in the city.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brianna Wessling

Brianna Wessling is an Associate Editor, Robotics, WTWH Media. She joined WTWH Media in November 2021, and is a recent graduate from the University of Kansas. She can be reached at [email protected]

4. Cities Today December 21, 2021

Originally posted at https://cities-today.com/toronto-city-council-votes-to-ban-pavement-robots/

Toronto city council votes to ban pavement robots

by Christopher Carey

Toronto City Council has voted to ban automated robots from operating on pavements and cycle lanes until a provincial pilot scheme is in place.

The decision prohibits the use of “automated micro-utility devices” such as food delivery robots operated by robotics company Tiny Mile, which some city restaurants have been using to courier orders.

The ban came after the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee – composed of members of the public and the City Council – asked city councillors to restrict the devices over safety concerns.

“We applaud Toronto City Council for stopping the creation of a serious new disability barrier and for requiring City staff to consult with people with disabilities as well as law enforcement and public safety experts about the dangers that robots on sidewalks pose for the public,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance).

“The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create these new disability barriers.”

Speaking at an earlier hearing, City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said: “We want to remove external barriers so that people can participate in public life.

“With people who are facing barriers, with disabilities, our job is to make sure that that community has a voice to city council.”

Innovation challenge

The committee’s recommendation was aimed at reducing hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as the elderly and children, who may be impeded by the devices or unable to detect their presence.

But the City Council plans to hold a ‘Transportation Innovation Challenge’ in the second quarter of 2022, which would explore and support local economic development with respect to pavement robots.

The amendment requests that Toronto’s General Manager of Transportation Services Barbara Gray consult with local entrepreneurs, sidewalk robot manufacturers, accessibility community members and law enforcement before reporting back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on their findings.

“We of course would rather not have to fight this battle again next year, but are ready to do so if necessary,” Lepofsky told Cities Today.

“We are also happy to see that a City staff investigation of this issue requires consultation with people with disabilities and to law enforcement.

“People need to seriously talk about how such robots could be misused if allowed on sidewalks.”

Deeply worrying

Tiny Mile’s delivery robots, nicknamed Geoffrey, began delivering in Toronto in September 2020.

The devices, which can travel at a speed of up to 6 kmph, are remotely controlled by human operators from a central office.

“Governments – like most organisations – make decisions based on information, many times incomplete information which leads to the wrong decisions,” Tiny Mile CEO Ignacio Tartavull said on LinkedIn.

“What’s deeply worrying is that the process that led to this decision didn’t include any research but only brainstorming ways to mislead the public on the reasoning and the outcome.”

5. CTV News October 25, 2021

Originally posted at https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/people-with-disabilities-hope-snow-clearing-ruling-means-more-accessible-streets-1.5637918

People with disabilities hope snow clearing ruling means more accessible streets

Jon Woodward

CTV News Toronto Videojournalist

@CTV_Jon

TORONTO — Advocates for people with disabilities say they are hoping a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that makes cities more accountable for accidents related to snow clearing will lead to more accessible streets across the country.

Observers say the decision could extend to legal liability for other municipal activities from filling potholes to swimming pools to garbage collection, which may bring improved service but also higher costs.

The case — based on a woman injuring herself while clambering over a snowbank that had been left on a sidewalk by city workers in Nelson, B.C. — could have implications for cities across Canada, said lawyer David Lepofsky.

“I hope it’s going to make municipalities sit up and take a listen, and make sure they get it right,” said Lepofsky, a lawyer who is legally blind and represents the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance.

He said he knows people with disabilities who have navigated into the roadways to avoid snowbanks left by city crews.

“They can create very serious barriers for people with disabilities,” he said.

The far-reaching decision stems from the snow piles that the city of Nelson, B.C. created when a worker cleared snow from downtown streets after a storm in early January 2015.

Nurse Taryn Joy Marchi, 28 at the time, parked in an angled spot on the street and tried to cross the snow pile to get to the sidewalk. She claimed her right foot dropped through the snow and her leg was seriously injured.

She said the city should have left openings in the sidewalk to allow safe passage, as other cities in the area did. But the trial judge dismissed the case, saying that cities were immune from lawsuits relating to policy decisions.

However, on appeal first to the B.C. Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court, judges found that clearing the snow was not a “core policy decision” and so the regular principles of negligence apply.

“I think it’s going to help improve snow clearing — if we can do it correctly—so we don’t leave snowbanks in the way or potential hazards for members of the disability community,” said Anthony Frisina of the Ontario Disability Coalition.

Those hazards have been an issue for Toronto resident Alison Brown, who is legally blind and navigates the city with the help of Ellis the vision dog. She says sometimes the city doesn’t make it easy for her.

“We’ve experienced many situations where the snow is blocking the sidewalk. It becomes a stress factor and makes our ability to maneuver challenging,” she said.

She said she’s not sure what the court decision means to her — but hopes that cities get the message to “clear the snow.”

The Supreme Court decision can apply to other things a city does, or doesn’t do, said personal injury lawyer Melissa Miller with Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP.

“This case is more far-reaching than simply snow removal, which is what’s so significant about it,” she said.

“A pothole that isn’t filled in downtown Toronto that bottoms out your car and causes you a significant injury is potentially now the subject of a lawsuit,” she said.

Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said the ruling is a sign that cities must take the responsibilities of clearing snow seriously for all people.

“We have now heard a statement that says everybody get your house in order,” she said. “You have a responsibility to make sure roads and sidewalks are safe.”

Wong-Tam seconded a motion at Toronto city council in May that asked the General Manager of Transportation Services to report on the feasibility of clearing snow from accessible parking spaces by July. That date was pushed to September — but she said the report still had yet to happen.

“This is a very wealthy city. Things should not be falling apart as long as we maintain it,” she said.

Lepofsky said the case may lead to more scrutiny for snow-clearing city employees, and snow-clearing robots, which are being tested right now in Ontario.

“No matter how clever a robot is, and I don’t think it’s that clever, the danger is that they will also shovel snow into the path of a person with disabilities,” he said.

In that case, it may be less obvious who to sue if there is not a clear connection between the robot’s actions and the person who programmed it or is monitoring it, he said.

The City of Toronto, which intervened in the lawsuit, said through a spokesperson that it will “continue to deliver a comprehensive snow and ice clearing service this winter, with council approval, has the capability to adjust service levels if required.”

6. CBC News November 21, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-s-online-health-card-renewal-system-excludes-people-with-disabilities-advocates-say-1.6255828

Ontario’s online health-card renewal system excludes people with disabilities, advocates say | CBC News Loaded

Toronto

Province looking at upgrading its system but declined to comment on the record

Samantha Beattie CBC News

People line up outside at a Service Ontario location in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Derek Hooper/CBC)

The thought of driving her son to a Service Ontario centre to renew his health card fills Jane Toner with dread.

Ben, 22, suffers from chronic pain and nerve damage, which makes the bumps, vibrations and cold temperatures that inevitably come with a ride in a car excruciating — not to mention the wait in line outside the provincial centre’s location, Toner said.

But soon they’ll have no other choice. In Ontario, only people with a driver’s licence can renew their health cards online, leaving those who use photo ID cards like Ben with few other options than to physically go to a centre.

Toner says it’s “shameful” that the province is imposing such a limitation on people living with disabilities and on seniors with mobility issues.

“Really, what it’s saying is that if you have a disability, we don’t care, they don’t matter,” she said.

“It boggles my mind.”

Ben’s health card expired about a year ago, but he hasn’t had to renew it yet because the province extended the validity of Ontario cards to Feb. 28, 2022 in response to the pandemic. Toner has tried acting on his behalf, filling out and dropping off all the required paperwork at Service Ontario, but was informed Ben still needed to come in to have a new photo taken.

Ben Toner was diagnosed with a rare condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome as a child and has undergone surgeries and treatments to help ease his chronic pain. (Submitted by Jane Toner)

Toner hopes changes will be made before then, but said so far calls to elected officials on both sides of the aisle have gone unheard.

“These are the people who need their help most,” she said. “I thought maybe somebody would take up the torch for us, but obviously not.”

The government’s stance is that it’s looking at expanding online services and encourages anybody who is having difficulties renewing their health card to call Service Ontario. The province refused to provide an on-the-record statement for this story.

‘Level the playing field’

Crystal Barnard has been in and out of hospital for months following major back surgery. Like Ben, she also has an expired health card and no driver’s licence and is faced with a similar dilemma where there’s “no way” she can go to a Service Ontario herself.

“When it comes to disabled people, we end up having all sorts of hoops and cracks to jump over in order to do things ourselves,” said Barnard.

Come February, she said she will have to find a doctor to sign a medical exemption form. To complicate matters she doesn’t have a family doctor. Then she’ll have to get her father — who requires two canes to walk — to drop off the forms at a Service Ontario location for her. They’re hoping she can reuse her photo from her old health card.

“If they could find a way that renewing online could be made possible for everybody involved, disabled and able-bodied people alike, it would just be so much easier all around,” said Barnard.

“It would equal the playing field for everybody.”

Anthony Frisina, a disability advocate who uses a wheelchair, said the current system is a “huge complication.” It doesn’t factor in that people without driver’s licences face more challenges getting to a Service Ontario location than those who drive, such as needing to rely on public transportation and facing accessibility barriers.

And getting someone to go in their place is problematic, too, he said.

“You want to be in control of your own issues, your own quality of life and your actual activities of daily living.”

7. CTV News December 8, 2021

Originally posted at https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/health-experts-say-it-s-concerning-that-those-without-a-driver-s-licence-can-t-renew-their-ohip-cards-online-1.5699182

Health experts say it’s ‘concerning’ that those without a driver’s licence can’t renew their OHIP cards online

Hannah Alberga

Hannah Alberga

CTV News Toronto Multi-Platform Writer

@HannahAlberga

Published Wednesday, December 8, 2021 4:28PM EST

A person is seen typing. (Pressmaster/shutterstock.com)

Healthcare experts are calling on the province to address inequities in Ontario’s online OHIP card renewal requirements.

At the moment, Ontario health cards can only be renewed online if the individual has a driver’s licence. While government issued identification that shows proof of residency and personal identity is acceptable for in-person renewal, the requirements are different online.

“This is concerning at any time, and it is particularly concerning during a pandemic,” said Sarah Hobbs, CEO of Alliance for Healthier Communities, in a release issued on Tuesday.

She pointed to people with disabilities as just one group that could be disproportionately impacted by these rules.

“People made more vulnerable by the pandemic, and at higher risk, are also faced with inequitable access to this system,” she said.

Katie Hogue, a nurse practitioner in Ontario, added that there are a wide range of medical reasons that could prevent a person from driving, such as mobility challenges, vision impairment, dementia and epilepsy.

“The system is not considering these people or their needs,” Hogue said.

According to the government website, if you cannot visit a Service Ontario for a medical reason, a physician or nurse practitioner can fill out a medical exemption form. Although, once the form is completed, someone must deliver the documents to a Service Ontario to finish the renewal process.

More widely, the pandemic has highlighted inequities that span across the entire healthcare system, Caroline Lidstone-Jones, CEO of the Indigenous Primary Health Care Council, said.

“This discrimination is one example of an inequitable system but this one has a quick solution,” Lidstone-Jones said. “Allow people with a photo card to renew their health card online, the same way those with a driver’s licence can.”

When Minister Ross Romano was asked to address the subject at Queen’s Park earlier in the week, he said that the government is working towards “modernizing” the process of renewing OHIP cards, making it “digital first not digital only.”

“But I want to be crystal clear that the way in which you would have renewed your health card in the past, you can still do the same renewal processes you always could and we are just making it better,” he added.

Romano acknowledged how important it is to have access to OHIP renewal throughout the province and said he will have more to say about the topic at a future date.

Do they not work? Or not available?

So they hover over the video, so you cannot use them if yoiu can’t see them. David told me when I sent him the video to watch





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Important Victory! Toronto City Council Today Banned Robots from Sidewalks, to Protect People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others – But Where is the Provincial Leadership 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Need from Premier Ford?


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Important Victory! Toronto City Council Today Banned Robots from Sidewalks, to Protect People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others – But Where is the Provincial Leadership 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Need from Premier Ford?

December 17, 2021 Toronto: At its meeting today, Toronto City Council banned robots from sidewalks, including robots delivering packages, pending further consultation and City staff study in the first half of 2022. Disability community advocates have called for robots to be banned from sidewalks because they endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Under this ban, people would remain free to use robots on their private property.

Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and Infrastructure Committee each recommended outlawing sidewalk robots. In its December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto’s Mayor and City Council, the AODA Alliance emphasized the many new disability barriers that robots and sidewalks can create.

Robots on sidewalks can be a tripping hazard or a collision danger. Blind people risk not knowing that a robot is heading right toward them or in their path of travel.

For people who use wheelchairs, robots on sidewalks risk becoming an access barrier in their way. If a person has balance limitations, robots brushing by them on the sidewalk could send them toppling. Sidewalks already have far too many accessibility barriers, being increasingly cluttered by street furniture, art, signs, plants and restaurant seating.

“We applaud Toronto City Council for stopping the creation of a serious new disability barrier and for requiring City staff to consult with people with disabilities as well as law enforcement and public safety experts about the dangers that robots on sidewalks pose for the public” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance. “The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create these new disability barriers.”

Though today’s vote is good news, people with disabilities are not out of the woods. Ontarians with disabilities need Ontario Premier Doug Ford to show leadership in this area, which has been sadly lacking at the provincial level when it comes to accessibility for people with disabilities. The Ford Government should ban robots from sidewalks anywhere in Ontario, so that people with disabilities don’t have to wage these battles in one city after the next. It is wrong for the Ford Government to instead be planning to give every Ontario municipality the authority to allow for ten-year pilot projects with robots on public sidewalks. We don’t want to have to fight this again in Toronto next year after City staff investigates this issue, much less in city after city around Ontario.

If robots were allowed on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult. A person cannot prosecute or sue a robot or make it produce an insurance policy.

It’s no solution to require robots to have a remote driver. That cannot be policed. One can’t know from looking at a robot whether it has a remote driver somewhere at all, much less a sober one who is properly trained and attentive to steering. A remote driver could be steering several robots simultaneously, dangerously dividing their attention. The public can’t know if a remote driver is in Ontario or halfway around the world, unreachable by Ontario police.

“We don’t oppose innovation. We innovate daily in our lives and use cutting-edge innovative technology,” said Lepofsky. “We only oppose innovations that endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.”

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



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Will Toronto City Council Vote Today to Ban Robots from Sidewalks, to Protect People with Disabilities, Seniors, children and Others?


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Will Toronto City Council Vote Today to Ban Robots from Sidewalks, to Protect People with Disabilities, Seniors, children and Others?

December 15, 2021 Toronto: At its meeting today or tomorrow, Toronto City Council will debate whether to ban robots from sidewalks, including robots delivering packages. Disability community advocates have called for robots to be banned from sidewalks because they endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Under such a ban, people would remain free to use robots on their property.

Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and Infrastructure Committee each recommended outlawing sidewalk robots. Today’s and tomorrow’s City Council meeting will be streamed live at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZk2xbN6jjw

In its December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto’s Mayor and City Council, the AODA Alliance emphasized the many new disability barriers that robots and sidewalks can create. Robots on sidewalks can be a tripping hazard, or a collision danger. Blind people risk not knowing that a robot is heading right at them or in their path of travel.

For people who use wheelchairs, robots on sidewalks risk becoming an access barrier in their way. If a person has balance limitations, robots brushing by them on the sidewalk could send them toppling.

Sidewalks are publicly funded for pedestrians. Roads are for vehicles. Sidewalks already have too many accessibility barriers, being increasingly cluttered by street furniture, art, signs, plants and restaurant seating.

“To allow these robots would be to knowingly create a serious new disability barrier,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance. “The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create these new disability barriers.”

If robots are allowed on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult. A person cannot prosecute or sue a robot, or make it produce an insurance policy.

It’s no solution to require the robot’s company name to be displayed in braille. Imagine a blind person chasing a robot, with one hand on their white cane, and their other hand searching for the robot’s braille label.

It’s also no solution to require robots to have a remote driver. That cannot be policed. One can’t know from looking at a robot whether it has a remote driver somewhere at all, much less a sober one who is properly trained and attentive to steering. A remote driver could undetectably steer several robots simultaneously, dangerously dividing their attention. The public can’t know if a remote driver is in Ontario, or halfway around the world, unreachable by Ontario police.

“We don’t oppose innovation. We daily innovate in our lives and use cutting-edge innovative technology,” said Lepofsky. “We only oppose innovations that endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.”

This is not about one specific company’s small delivery robots, which have recently gotten some media attention. It is about any robots on sidewalks, no matter which company makes them, no matter what size or weight they are, and no matter whether they are being deployed to deliver legitimate products or for some anti-social reason.

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

The AODA Alliance will be available to comment on City Council’s debate and vote on this issue. For real-time tweets, follow @davidlepofsky on Twitter.



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More Media Coverage on the Dangers to People with Disabilities that Robots on Sidewalks Would Pose – 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/

More Media Coverage on the Dangers to People with Disabilities that Robots on Sidewalks Would Pose

December 13, 2021

            SUMMARY

1. Disability Objections to Allowing Robots on Public Sidewalks Get More Media Attention

The Saturday, December 11, 2021 Toronto Star’s Business Section included an excellent, detailed article on disability objections to allowing robots on sidewalks. Read that article, below.

As well, City TV News recently ran two items on this issue, on November 16, 2021 and on December 8, 2021

Before Toronto City Council votes on a proposal to ban robots from Toronto sidewalks, we remind you that it would really help if you urge Toronto Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Council members to vote for that ban. Here are the email addresses for all members of Toronto City Council, which you can copy and paste right into an email:

[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], council[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

Read AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s December 9, 2021 guest column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland newspapers about the dangers that robots on sidewalks pose for people with disabilities.

2. Reminder to Sign Up to Tell Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committee at its December 14, 2021 Virtual Meeting to Oppose Electric Scooters

It is not too late! Sign up to tell the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee at its December 14, 2021 virtual meeting that it should call on Ottawa City Council not to allow e-scooters, whether privately owned, or rented, in public spaces. Information on this meeting, and on how to sign up for it, is available in the December 10, 2021 AODA Alliance Update.

At this meeting, we will recommend that the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee pass a motion such as this:

“The Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee recommends as follows:

  1. a) The City of Ottawa not conduct any more pilots that allow electric scooters to be ridden in any public places in Ottawa, whether the e-scooter is owned by or rented by the rider.
  1. b) The City of Ottawa should not lift the legal ban now in effect on riding e-scooters in public places.
  1. c) The City of Ottawa should enforce the legal ban on riding e-scooters in public places.”

3. Electric Scooters and Sidewalk Robots Are Illustrations of the Ford Government Failing to Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

The cruel fact that people with disabilities must battle at the local municipal level against new barriers like e-scooters and robots on sidewalks is due to the Ford Government failing to show leadership on disability accessibility. This is part of a bigger picture.

A jaw-dropping 1,047 days have now passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that was conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. It found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities, and that progress on accessibility has been “glacial.” It concluded that the AODA’s promise of an accessible province for Ontarians with disabilities is nowhere in sight.

Read the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 letter to Ontario’s political party leaders. It sets out the election pledges on accessibility for people with disabilities that we seek in the June 2022 Ontario election.

            MORE DETAILS

 

Toronto’s pink delivery robots have been pulled off the streets and may be banned next week — but is that the right move?

By Sean Frankling

Toronto Star December 11, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/business/2021/12/11/torontos-pink-delivery-robots-have-been-pulled-off-the-streets-and-may-be-banned-next-week-but-is-that-the-right-move.jaws2021html

Tiny Mile has pulled its pink robots off Toronto’s sidewalks, and they may be banned for good next week. But is that the right move for the city?

David Lepofsky uses a white cane as he walks to sweep the path in front of him for tripping hazards.

The retired lawyer, who teaches law part time at the University of Toronto’s Osgoode Hall, has been blind much of his life.

Lepofsky, who is also chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, learned to navigate Toronto’s streets when they were relatively clear of today’s modern distractions.

An explosion in construction sites and, more recently, sidewalk patios – a pandemic city initiative that permitted restaurants to expand outdoor dining areas onto sidewalks – have meant an increase in obstacles for Lepofsky as of late.

It’s a frustrating step back for the accessibility advocate. “These are new barriers that humans are creating in a society that’s meant to be getting more accessible,” he says.

At least one of those new barriers – remotely piloted delivery robots – will face a vote on its fate at Toronto City Hall next week.

In response to the concerns of advocates like Lepofsky, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee is calling fora ban on delivery robots and their ilk, with city council to vote on the recommendation Dec. 15.

“It’s great that this is moving up to city council on a recommendation that these be banned,” says Lepofsky. “It says to the province, ‘You should put the breaks on this. This is not such a good idea.’”

While disability advocates such as Lepofsky are rooting for the vote to succeed, robotics industry experts are looking for solutions beyond an outright ban.

Meanwhile, the owners of Toronto’s only existing robot-delivery service – Tiny Mile – fear the ban would close their doors for good.

Tiny Mile’s CEO, Ignacio Tartavull, hears Lepofsky’s concerns. On Thursday, the company announced it has temporarily taken its robots off Toronto’s streets while it awaits the outcome of the vote.

Lepofsky has already spent the last couple of years campaigning against an Ontario government pilot project that allows municipalities to decide for themselves whether to allow e-scooters on public roads and sidewalks, which he calls a nightmare for people with disabilities.

He wants them banned province-wide, not just in some cities.

“At any time there could be a silent menace racing at me at 20 km/h. A sidewalk that was safe becomes one where I could go flying over.”

He wasn’t expecting to have to arm himself against another pilot project – at least, not so soon.

But then came the robots.

In November, the Ministry of Transportation concluded public consultation on a proposed 10-year pilot project that would allow companies across Ontario to operate so-called micro-utility devices – autonomous or remotely piloted robots – on public sidewalks for purposes like delivery service and snow shovelling.

The pilot, which doesn’t yet have a date set to proceed, is meant to assess the safety of integrating this new technology into the urban environment.

It would require human oversight of the robots, but not a person on-site. Instead, a remote operator or supervisor could watch via camera feed.

The robots would be subject to a speed limit of 10 km/h on sidewalks and 20 km/h in bike lanes, and must weigh less than 125 kg and be no more than 74 cm wide, though automated snowplows would have no size restrictions.

The pilot would also require operators to clearly label the company’s name on their robots, provide constant human oversight via camera with a safe-stop feature, mandatory collision reporting, and a minimum $25-million worth of general liability insurance for participating firms.

Municipalities would have the option to opt in – or out – the logic being that each local government knows their infrastructure best. Next week’s vote will determine whether to ban these robots before the pilot ever takes effect here.

Lepofsky says this approach just fragments a discussion that should be consistent across the province.

“That means that people with disabilities go from having a provincial rule to having to fight in one municipality after another.”

While he’s skeptical that the technology behind remotely piloted robots is up to the task of safely sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians, it’s the challenge of regulating them that has Lepofsky most concerned.

When a cyclist or an e-scooter rider gets in an accident or breaks a rule, the person liable is right there on the vehicle, says Lepofsky.

With an unmanned robot, the person responsible may not even be present, making it difficult to track them down, or even to proceed with a lawsuit, he says, stressing it’s too difficult to hold operators responsible in the event their robot causes an accident.

“The law isn’t just what’s on the books, it’s what you can enforce,” says Lepofsky.

Many experts in the robotics industry agree with his concerns, even if they don’t share his enthusiasm for an outright ban.

“(Robots) are a new source of friction, and there’s bound to be conflict,” says Shauna Brail, who just completed a report for Transport Canada looking into Canada’s policy preparedness for the rise of robot-based delivery services.

Brail, a professor of urban planning and economic development at the University of Toronto, says while it’s important to investigate what new technologies can do to improve urban life, those uses have to be done in balance with the normal use of public property.

“They’re an incompatible use if they make the sidewalk unstable for a person,” she says.

Brail’s report examined regulations governing robot delivery in Toronto, Calgary, San Francisco and a dozen other state and city jurisdictions in the U.S.

The key take-aways?

First, robots are already out there making deliveries in many of the jurisdictions they scanned.

Second; the laws around their use across Canada and the U.S. are well behind the technology, particularly in Toronto.

Before the ministry’s proposed pilot, the city had no regulations for sidewalk robots at all. They’ve been operating in a grey area – not illegal, but not allowed, either, says Brail.

And in the absence of government guidance, it’s been the companies building the robots that have led the drive to regulate them, she says.

Toronto startup Tiny Mile’s pink robots have been rolling along downtown streets daily for about a year, delivering takeout food, among other items.

A suite of cameras feed data to a remote driver who steers the robots with the aid of an on-board collision-avoidance system that detects when a robot is approaching an obstacle and automatically stops before it can hit it.

So far, the company says, in the “tens of thousands of kilometres” travelled, it’s had no reports of accidents. Tiny Mile has up to 20 robots on the streets at any given time.

“Tiny Mile is keenly interested in working with the accessibility community, hence we are calling out people who will be interested in shaping our technology with their immediate expertise and experience to help us not only make our robots safer for our community, but also greatly benefit people with disabilities,” the company said on its Instagram page in making the announcement Thursday.

Tartavull told the Star his robots put safety first, using their sensors and safety software to ensure the human operators can identify people moving slowly or using mobility devices and steer clear to give them plenty of space.

His robots’ low weight (4.5 kg), and easy speed (6 km/h), says Tartavull, pose no threat to pedestrians, a claim he says he tested personally by crashing them repeatedly into himself to make sure they couldn’t injure him.

“I went to the point of making myself the crash dummy. We don’t put anything on the street we don’t trust.”

Lepofsky isn’t buying it. No amount of testing and avoidance can guarantee a robot won’t become a tripping hazard, he says, especially if one breaks down in a public walkway.

While Tartavull says it’s inevitable that the robots will sometimes break down – he estimates it happens once every two or three months – the small service area allows for a team to pick up the out-of-commission robot within minutes, he says.

Tartavull says any conversation about regulating robots on city streets must take into account what they can offer to business and society.

Far from just being an obstacle, he says, “(robots) can be amazing for the disabled. It’s 2 a.m., it’s freezing cold. Wouldn’t you rather pay 50 cents for a robot to bring you those drugs you need from the pharmacy (than go out there yourself)?”

He argues that robotic delivery offers solutions to help with everything from traffic congestion to greenhouse gas emissions to the high cost of services like Uber Eats.

“It’s actually firms that are driving the initiative to regulate,” Brail says. But it’s not in Canadians’ best interest to let them lead the whole conversation, she adds.

“It can give a very one-sided perspective on what regulation should look like,” Brail says. “It needs to be a conversation about what does society need. And you need government to lead that.”

Queen’s University professor Joshua Marshall, who has spent his career developing robots for deployment alongside human workers in mining and industrial settings, agrees that testing should happen before a new technology goes into the real world, not after.

Marshall says engineers have a responsibility to consult everyone who might be affected before any machine goes into a workplace or into the public. “These people need to be at the table. We need all stakeholders involved. If there’s a problem, we need to identify it early, before something happens that we don’t want.”

Marshall also stresses the importance of rigorous testing and development for robots being used around pedestrians, starting with computer simulations and then working up to controlled environments mimicking real-world conditions.

But while the Ministry of Transportation say it is incorporating the feedback from the public consultation phase and considering adding more rules, the pilot project doesn’t lay out any requirements for how much testing and consultation companies must do before they put their robots on the streets.

“I think the problem is that you have this app development attitude of ‘moving fast and breaking things’ that’s been elevated almost to a religion among some technologists,” says Jason Millar, a University of Ottawa professor and holder of the Canada research chair in robotics.

But we can’t afford to be so loose when talking about technology that has a physical presence, he says.

“An app isn’t going to break down and leave a couple-hundred-pound impediment in the sidewalk.”

This is one reason Marshall and Millar agree on the need for Canada to develop a national strategy on robotics to match the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy announced in 2017 to be led and developed by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

The AI strategy lays out ways to attract researchers, foster collaboration and educate the public, aimed at making Canada a leader in the emerging field of artificial intelligence development. But it also creates a framework to educate policy-makers to lead discussions on the ethical and social issues that come with the technology.

As Marshall describes it, a national robotics strategy would need to follow the AI strategy’s lead: planning for the re-skilling necessary as automation gets integrated into life and workplaces, while also leading the conversation toward industry-wide standards for safety, testing and stakeholder consultation.

“We need to be thinking about how can (disability advocates) elevate a concern to get meaningful, transparent answers from the companies that are developing these technologies,” says Millar.

A proper approach should create standards at the national level so when concerned citizens like Lepofsky speak out, their voices join a unified conversation, not just a local disagreement, he says.

For Tiny Mile, says CEO Tartavull, the future hinges on the outcome of Toronto city council’s vote.

“If we get banned, we won’t have money to move to any other city. So that would be the end of Tiny Mile, unfortunately.”



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New Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in Metroland Papers Explains that Toronto Should Ban Robots on Sidewalks because of the Danger They Pose for People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others


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/

New Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in Metroland Papers Explains that Toronto Should Ban Robots on Sidewalks because of the Danger They Pose for People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others

December 10, 2021

            SUMMARY

Here’s a new way you can help people with disabilities get Toronto City Council to ban robots on sidewalks when it meets on December 15 and 16, 2021. Please widely circulate a new guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below. It appears in the Toronto Star’s local Metroland papers. It explains why robots on sidewalks endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

Also, send this guest column to your member of the Ontario Legislature. The Ford Government is planning to allow an exceptionally long 10-year pilot with robots on sidewalks whenever a municipality opts into the pilot. We need the Ford Government to call off those plans which are still under consideration. The Ford Government should instead impose a provincewide ban on robots on sidewalks.

The December 10, 2021 edition of the Globe and Mail reports that one company that already unleashed its robots on Toronto sidewalks has now decided to temporarily pull those robots off the sidewalks up until Toronto City Council votes on the proposed ban next week. In that article, set out below, the company in question expressed a passionate desire to work with “the accessibility community” to ensure the safety of its delivery robots. This sounds remarkably like what the corporate lobbyists for the electric scooter rental companies said on the eve of Toronto City Council voting last spring against allowing e-scooters in Toronto.

For more on this, read the AODA Alliance’s December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto City Council, urging them to vote to ban robots on sidewalks. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page to learn about our battle to protect people with disabilities, seniors, kids and others from the dangers that e-scooters pose when ridden in public places.

            MORE DETAILS

toronto.com December 2019

Metroland News

Originally posted at https://www.toronto.com/opinion-story/10536197-toronto-must-ban-service-robots-from-its-sidewalks/

Opinion

Toronto must ban service robots from its sidewalks

‘Robots can be a tripping hazard or a collision danger,’ writes David Lepofsky

BY DAVID LEPOFSKY

David Lepofsky is a lawyer and advocate for people with disabilities in Toronto. – David Lepofsky photo

Toronto must ban robots from sidewalks, like robots delivering packages. They endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. People can remain free to use robots on their property.

Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and Infrastructure Committee wisely recommended banning sidewalk robots. On Dec. 15 to 16, city council votes on this.

Ford’s Government said robots on sidewalks are unregulated, causing a free-for-all. Ford’s proposed solution, a ten-year sidewalk robots pilot at municipal option, shirks much-needed provincial leadership.

Blind people like me risk not knowing that a robot is heading right at us or in our path. Those robots can be a tripping hazard, or a collision danger.

For people who use wheelchairs, those robots risk becoming an access barrier in their path. If you have balance issues, robots brushing by could send you toppling.

Sidewalks are publicly funded, created for pedestrians. Roads are for vehicles. Sidewalks already have too many accessibility barriers, increasingly cluttered by street furniture, art, signs, plants and restaurant seating.

To allow these robots would be to knowingly create a serious new disability barrier. The Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Far behind that schedule, Toronto can’t afford to create new barriers.

If police or the public encounter a robot on a public sidewalk, they should be free to dispose of it. That would end the problem.

If robots are allowed on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult. The victim won’t know who to sue or prosecute for their injuries.

A robot might have a bogus company name on it. You cannot prosecute or sue a robot, or make it produce an insurance policy.

It’s no solution to require the robot’s company name to also be in braille. Imagine a blind person chasing a robot, with one hand on their white cane, and their other hand searching for the robot’s braille label.

It’s also no solution to require robots to have a remote driver. That cannot be policed. You can’t know from looking at a robot whether it has a remote driver somewhere at all, much less a sober one who is properly trained and attentive to steering. A remote driver could undetectably steer several robots simultaneously, dangerously dividing their attention. The public can’t know if a remote driver is in Ontario, or halfway around the world, unreachable by Ontario police.

We don’t oppose innovation. We daily innovate in our lives and regularly use innovative technology. We just oppose innovations that endanger us.

Before any government allows robots on sidewalks, they must consult police on how robots, disguised as a store’s delivery vehicle, could in the wrong hands be perverted into a dreadful weapon. Pedestrian safety is our top priority.

David Lepofsky is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and visiting professor, Osgoode Hall Law School.

 The Globe and Mail December 10, 2021

(2021-12-10)

Report on Business

Toronto company temporarily pulls pink delivery robots off sidewalks

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO – A technology company says it will temporarily take its food delivery robots off Toronto’s streets as the city considers whether to ban such devices from sidewalks.

Tiny Mile, the company behind a series of pink, heart-eyed robots named Geoffrey, says it is making the temporary move because it wants to collaborate with authorities and the accessibility community.

Toronto’s city council will vote next week on whether to ban devices that run on anything but muscle power from bike lanes, sidewalks and pedestrian ways.

The ban was put forward by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, which felt the robots are a hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as seniors and other children.

The ban cleared its first hurdle last week, when it was approved by the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee, but Tiny Mile vowed to fight the move and circulated a petition on its social-media pages.

The company now says on Instagram that it will seek feedback from the public and people with disabilities while it pauses public use of its robots.

“Tiny Mile is keenly interested in working with the accessibility community, hence we are calling out people who will be interested in shaping our technology with their immediate expertise and experience to help us not only make our robots safer for our community, but also greatly benefit people with disabilities,” the company said.



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Tell Toronto City Council to Ban Robots from Sidewalks, Because They Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others – 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/

Tell Toronto City Council to Ban Robots from Sidewalks, Because They Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others

December 8, 2021

            SUMMARY

How many new disability barriers can crop up in one year?

Next week, on December 15 or 16, 2021 Toronto’s City Council will decide whether to ban the use of robots (such as those that deliver packages) from public sidewalks. We’ve written Toronto Mayor John Tory and all members of Toronto City Council to urge them to vote for this ban. You can read our letter, below.

We urge you to email or call Toronto’s Mayor and members of Toronto City Council, if you live in Toronto or if you visit Toronto. Tell them to vote to ban robots from Toronto sidewalks. You can find the email addresses of all members of Toronto City Council in our letter to them, below.

As the AODA Alliance’s October 20, 2021 brief to the Ford Government  and its December 7, 2021 letter to Toronto City Council explain, robots on sidewalks endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. There are no safeguards to overcome these dangers. There is no effective way to regulate robots on sidewalks, short of a total ban.

This ban would not stop a person or company from using robots on their own private property, if they wish. We only here object to robots on public sidewalks and other public walkways.

Our letter to Toronto City Council answers a dubious argument against us that a few have raised on social media. Our letter states:

” Some claim that to oppose robots on sidewalks is to oppose innovation. This is wrong. People with disabilities are among society’s core of innovators, daily innovating in our personal lives and regularly using innovative technology.

We do not oppose innovation. Rather, we oppose any technology, new or old, that endangers our safety or accessibility. We hope and trust that you do too.”

We applaud the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee for raising this issue, for welcoming public input (including a deputation by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky), and for voting to recommend that Toronto ban robots on sidewalks. We also commend the Toronto City Council’s Infrastructure Committee for passing a motion to ban robots on sidewalks, and for getting this issue placed on the agenda of Toronto City Council on December 15-16, 2021.

We need the Ford Government to stop creating new barriers against people with disabilities. It should call off its plans to hold a ten-year pilot project with robots on sidewalks – a pilot project that would inflict on people with disabilities the undue hardship of having to battle in one Ontario city after the next to prevent municipalities from opting into that wrong-headed pilot project. It would be far more helpful for the Ford Government to enact a strong Pedestrian’s Bill of Rights.

It helps that there is growing media coverage of our concerns. On December 6, 2021 the Canadian Press published an excellent article on it. Below we set out the text of that article that appeared on the CBC website. It also appeared in the hard copy of the December 7, 2021 Globe and Mail, and on other media websites such as Global News. As well, the CBC TV News at 6 pm on Friday December 3, 2021 included a report on this issue, quoting AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.

            MORE DETAILS

December 7, 2021 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Toronto Mayor John Tory and Members of Toronto City Council

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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/

December 7, 2021

To: Mayor John Tory and Members of Toronto City Council

City Hall,

100 Queen St. W.

Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Via email: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

Dear Mayor Tory and Members of Toronto City Council,

 

Re: Protecting People with Disabilities, Seniors, Children and Others in Toronto from the Dangers Posed by Robots on Sidewalks

 

Please vote to ban robots from Toronto sidewalks and other public walkways, such as robots that deliver packages. Robots on sidewalks endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. This ban would not prevent a person or company from using robots on their own private property, if they wish.

After receiving feedback from the public, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee recently recommended that Toronto City Council ban sidewalk robots. Toronto’s Infrastructure Committee then commendably followed that recommendation, and voted to ban sidewalk Robots. At its December 15-16, 2021 meeting, Toronto City Council is scheduled to vote on their proposal to ban robots from Toronto’s sidewalks and other public pedestrian walkways.

In Toronto, robots are now used on some public sidewalks, e.g., to deliver packages. The Ontario Government told us that the use of robots on sidewalks is unregulated, is a gray area, and results in a free-for-all. The Ontario Government’s impending solution, to allow a ten-year pilot with sidewalk robots at municipal option, is no solution at all.

People with vision loss risk not knowing that a robot is heading right at them, or that one is in their path of travel. Such robots can pose a tripping hazard, or a danger of collision. For people with mobility disabilities, including those who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs, such robots risk becoming a physical barrier in their path of travel. They can transform an accessible route into an inaccessible one. For people with balance issues, such robots present a danger of losing balance from any inadvertent brush with a robot.

These robots will be constantly on the move, and such unpredictable barriers are unforeseeable in advance. People with disabilities cannot plan strategies to avoid them, short of isolating at home.

Sidewalks are an important publicly-funded public resource, created for pedestrians to safely use. Their safe use should not be undermined for such things as private companies’ delivery robots.

Roads, and not sidewalks, are the place for vehicles to travel, including powered vehicles. As it is, public sidewalks and other paths of travel have far too many accessibility barriers. They are increasingly cluttered with street furniture, art, signage, plants, sidewalk restaurant eating areas, and other clutter. In residential areas, this includes weekly garbage bins.

For those who have just acquired a disability, sidewalk robots threaten added hardships. For example, a senior who just lost their vision needs to undergo training on how to safely and independently walk around in public. The added burden of coping with these robots will make that challenge more difficult.

For Toronto to allow these robots would be to knowingly create a substantial and worrisome new disability barrier impeding people with disabilities in their safe use of public sidewalks and other public paths of travel. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible by 2025. Toronto is far behind schedule for reaching that fast-approaching goal. Toronto cannot afford to create any new disability barriers.

Toronto needs a total ban on these robots on sidewalks and other public pedestrian walkways. If police or members of the public encounter a robot in forbidden locations like a public sidewalk, they should be able to seize the robot and dispose of it. That would quickly and effectively end the problem.

If robots are permitted on sidewalks, enforcing the law will be exceedingly difficult, when someone is injured or endangered. The victim won’t know who to sue or prosecute for their injuries. You cannot prosecute or sue a robot, or make it produce a valid insurance policy.

If a person is injured by a robot, and the robot keeps moving, the individual has no capacity to stop it and to try to identify its source. This is all the more so for a person with a disability such as a mobility impairment or vision loss.

It can be hard to know who has deployed the robot. A robot might have a company name on it. However, there is no assurance that this company name is accurate.

It is no solution to require the company name, if present, to be in braille. It is unreasonable to burden people with disabilities with having to find the robot, and then grope it to find a braille label. Braille labels cannot be read if the robot is moving. The very notion that a person with vision loss should try to chase down a robot in public that has injured or endangered them, with one hand on their white cane and guide dog, and their other hand flailing around to see if there is a braille label to read on the robot, illustrates the absurdity of this idea.

Moreover, many people with vision loss do not read braille. Most who lose their vision have this happen later in life.

It is unfair to burden a person suffering personal injury or property damage due to these robots to have to sue for damages. How does an injured plaintiff meet their burden to prove who is responsible for their injuries?

These dangers are not reduced if the law requires a robot to have a remote driver or monitor. Such a requirement cannot be effectively policed. It is impossible to know from looking at a robot, barreling towards you on the street or sidewalk, whether there is a remote driver somewhere who is attentive to steering the robot. There is no way to know if a remote driver is directing multiple robots at the same time and thus dangerously dividing their attention. Even then, the simple fact that a human being is remotely involved does not ensure that they have the skills and knowledge needed to safely operate the robot.

There is no way to police whether the remote driver is paying attention and is not intoxicated or has their degree of attentiveness otherwise impacted. Indeed, there is no way for the public to know if a remote driver is even in Ontario and within the reach of a police investigation, or is situated halfway around the world, far removed from the reach of Ontario law and the damage that their remote driving can cause.

Robots can also damage a person’s property. This in turn would shift an unfair burden to those suffering property damage to have to prove who is at fault, and the value of the loss. If the person is not present when the damage is caused, this will be impossible to do. If the person has vision loss, they may not be able to provide the necessary information to prove the claim.

Some claim that to oppose robots on sidewalks is to oppose innovation. This is wrong. People with disabilities are among society’s core of innovators, daily innovating in our personal lives and regularly using innovative technology.

We do not oppose innovation. Rather, we oppose any technology, new or old, that endangers our safety or accessibility. We hope and trust that you do too.

When it comes to robots on sidewalks, a spectrum of important issues should be extensively explored, in addition to the disability issues raised here, before ever allowing them. For example, it is important for the City to first extensively consult police and other public security experts to explore the danger that such robots, dressed up as a delivery vehicle for a big box store, could in the wrong hands be perverted into a dreadful weapon.

Please make pedestrian safety your top priority. End the free-for-all that now seems to be permitted. Ban robots from public sidewalks and other public pedestrian walkways.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CBC News December 7, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-robot-ban-1.6275532?ref=mobilerss&cmp=newsletter_CBC%20Toronto_1642_347870

 

Toronto committee calls for ban on robots from sidewalks, bike paths

Committee’s recommendation aimed at reducing hazards for people with low mobility, vision

Tara Deschamps · The Canadian Press · Posted: Dec 06, 2021 4:36 PM ET | Last Updated: December 6

Geoffrey, pictured here in pink, provides contactless delivery while being controlled by an employee of Tiny Mile, a food delivery company in Toronto. (Angelina King/CBC)

A Toronto committee is pushing for the city to ban some robots and other automated or remote controlled devices from sidewalks, bike paths and pedestrian ways.

The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee is asking city councillors to vote next Wednesday in favour of prohibiting devices from these spaces that run on anything but muscle power.

The committee’s recommendation is aimed at reducing hazards for people with low mobility or vision, as well as seniors and other children, who may be impeded by stopped or stalled devices or unable to quickly detect their presence and manoeuvre around them.

The recommendation permits mobility devices like scooters used by people with disabilities, but would ban food delivery robots like Tiny Mile’s pink, heart-eyed ones named Geoffrey, which some Toronto restaurants have used to courier orders.

Tiny Mile did not respond to requests for comment, but circulated a petition on social media, which calls for a stop to the “illogical” ban accused of hurting innovation.

However, the committee’s chair insists the proposed ban is not about stifling innovation, but rather encouraging accessibility.

“We want to remove external barriers so that people can participate in public life,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, a city councillor, who represents the Toronto-Centre area and recently put forward a motion calling for the ban.

“With people who are facing barriers, with disabilities, our job is to make sure that that community has a voice to city council.”

Measures not enough, says professor

 

Wong Tam’s motion was prompted by discussions the committee and city staff had after Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation solicited feedback on a pilot allowing micro-utility devices, including automated personal delivery devices, for off-road use in places such as sidewalks in September.

The 10-year pilot proposal suggested such devices travel at no more than 10 km/hr on sidewalks, be marked with an operator’s name and contact details, and have mandatory audible signals, reflectors with lights, brakes, insurance and a requirement to yield to pedestrians.

These measures are not enough, said David Lepofsky, chairman of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School.

He worries about all the dangerous situations that could arise for people with disabilities and even those without.

“It’s everything from a robot, which could be in your path or travelling becoming a tripping hazard, to a robot that’s fallen over or could be in motion and could injure you,” he said.

“If you have a guide dog or you have got a kid with you, they could also be injured.”

Wong-Tam has similar concerns and feels if they aren’t addressed early, tech companies may continue to push limits and the devices could become even more dangerous.

“Will (the devices) become taller and larger?” she said.

“Unless there are regulations that tell us how fast they can operate or how large they can be, how tall they can be, how wide they can be, they’ll just keep on going.”

‘You can’t arrest a robot,’ advocate says

While the province is mulling collision reporting for the pilot, Lepofsky feels there will be little recourse for pedestrians.

“You can’t arrest a robot and prosecute them,” he said.

And worse, he says the province’s plan to allow municipalities to opt into the pilot could put the onus on Canadians with disabilities to repeatedly defend their rights and ensure they can safely use sidewalks.

“We don’t want to have to fight robots one city after the next all the way across Ontario,” he said. “That is totally dumping an unfair burden on people with disabilities.”

If Wong-Tam’s motion succeeds at city council on Dec. 16, accessibility advocates like Lepofsky will have one less battle to fight and an example of a region that took a hard stand to use elsewhere.

The motion was already approved by the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee last week.



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What election pledges has the AODA Alliance asked Ontario’s party leaders to make in the June 2022 provincial election on disability accessibility? Read the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 letter to Ontario’s party leaders.


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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/

November 22, 2021

To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier

Via Email: [email protected]

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition

Via email: [email protected]

Room 113, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5

Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:

Via email: [email protected]

Room 451 Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON M7A 1A2

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

Via email: [email protected]

344 Bloor St W,

Toronto On, M5S 1W9

Dear Party Leaders,

Re: Seeking your Parties’ 2022 Election Commitments to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

We write in a spirit of non-partisanship to ask your Parties to pledge in advance of the June 2, 2022 Ontario election, to implement our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario (set out below). Our non-partisan grass-roots community coalition seeks the achievement of an accessible Ontario for people with disabilities, through the prompt, effective implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Below we set out specific commitments that we seek in order to make Ontario accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. Taken together, they constitute the much-needed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we ask your parties to each endorse.

In each Ontario election since 1995, some or all parties made election commitments on this. They did so in letters to the AODA Alliance, or before 2005, to our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

We write over six months before the election, because these are big, important issues. We will make public responses we receive.

 These Commitments are Vital

For people with disabilities, Ontario is at a very troubling crossroads. We must seek a substantial list of commitments, because of the Government’s cumulative failures to effectively implement and enforce the AODA for years.

People with disabilities had tenaciously advocated for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA enacted. It was an historic day in 2005 when the Legislature unanimously passed the landmark AODA.

The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. The Government must enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to lead Ontario to that goal.

Accessibility standards are enforceable provincial regulations. They are to specify, on an economic sector-by-sector basis, the disability barriers that an organization must remove or prevent, and the time lines for action, to become accessible to people with disabilities. For example, the Transportation Accessibility Standard is meant to spell out the actions that transit providers must take to tear down barriers that impede passengers with disabilities from fully using and benefitting from their transit services.

Since 2005, we have vigourously advocated to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced. There has been some progress since 2005. However, it has been too little and too slow.

With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. Responsibility for this entirely avoidable failure spreads out over many years. We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.

People with disabilities know from their daily life experience that we are now at this painful turning point. Reinforcing this, in January 2019, the third Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, found that progress on accessibility in Ontario has been “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal was nowhere in sight.

No one disputed these Onley Report findings. On April 10, 2019, the Government told the Legislature that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

There has been no significant progress since the Onley Report on actually removing and preventing disability barriers. The AODA’s implementation and enforcement have not been strengthened or sped up.

Undermining the AODA’s purpose, new disability barriers have been created since the release of the Onley Report. People with disabilities disproportionately bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and its worst impacts. Yet the Government’s emergency COVID-19 planning has not effectively addressed people with disabilities’ urgent needs.

For example, a new critical care triage protocol, systematically embedded in Ontario hospitals, enshrines discrimination against some patients with disabilities in access to life-saving care, if hospital overloads require rationing of critical care beds. Another example of new barriers traceable to the Ontario Government are electric scooters, which are ridden by uninsured and unlicensed joy-riders in public and which now endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others in some Cities on a daily basis.

The AODA does not vanish on January 1, 2025. It remains the law of Ontario. The Government will remain responsible for leading its implementation and enforcement.

The Government elected on June 2, 2022 will be in power when the AODA’s January 1, 2025 deadline for accessibility arrives. That Government needs to have a plan of action. We here offer a carefully-designed one, based on our years of experience on the front lines, and ask you to pledge to implement it.

 What Went Wrong?

Why do we ask your parties to endorse and commit to our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario, set out below? What led to this predicament? First, despite strong unanimous support for the AODA when it was passed, and a good start on implementing it in the early years, it substantially dropped as a Government priority after that. Premier after premier failed to show the strong leadership on this issue that Ontarians with disabilities needed, which three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA called for. Second, the AODA accessibility standards passed to date, while helpful, are not strong enough. They do not cover all or even a majority of the recurring barriers that people with disabilities face. Third, the Government’s enforcement of the AODA has been weak and ineffective. Fourth, the Government has not used all the other levers of power conveniently available to it to promote accessibility for people with disabilities.

For over a decade, successive governments and ministers have been told about the need to strengthen and speed up the AODA’s implementation. They received strong, practical recommendations on how to do this. This all came from Ontario’s disability community, and from the reports of three successive mandatory Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA. The report of the first AODA Independent Review, conducted by Charles Beer, was made public in May 2010. The report of the second AODA Independent Review, conducted by former University of Toronto Law Dean Mayo Moran, was made public in February 2015. The report of the third AODA Independent Review, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, was made public in March 2019.

Our Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario In a Nutshell

The 2022 election is the most pivotal one for Ontarians with disabilities since the 2003 election. This is because Ontario is on the verge of failing to comply with the AODA’s mandatory deadline. We need Ontario’s Government, elected on June 2, 2022, to commit to a bold plan of strong new action on disability accessibility, targeted at two goals. First, Ontario must get as close to full accessibility for people with disabilities as is possible by 2025. Second, Ontario must thereafter get the rest of the way to full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025.

In summary, our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we set out below, and to which we ask you to commit, includes requests that your party each agree to:

  1. Foster and strengthen our ongoing relationship with your party.
  2. Show strong leadership on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.
  3. Protect the gains on accessibility that people with disabilities have made so far.
  4. Enact a comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  5. Enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  6. Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards.
  7. Enact a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  8. Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA and create an Accessible Housing Strategy.
  9. Strengthen the weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA.
  10. Develop additional new Accessibility Standards under the AODA, needed to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities.
  11. Speed up the excessively long process for developing and enacting AODA Accessibility Standards.
  12. Substantially strengthen AODA enforcement to ensure that all requirements under the AODA are effectively enforced.
  13. Substantially reform and improve how the Ministry of Education and Ontario school system address the needs of students with disabilities.
  14. Ensure that new generations of design professionals (like architects) are not trained to be new barrier-creators.
  15. Ensure that taxpayers’ money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.
  16. Establish free independent technical accessibility advice for obligated organizations.
  17. Make provincial and municipal elections accessible to voters with disabilities.
  18. Substantially improve the accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s workplaces, services and facilities.
  19. Review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers.
  20. Root out recently-created new disability barriers traceable to the Ontario Government.
  21. Give no more public money to the problematic and unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility “certification” program.

Following Up on This Letter

Please respond to this request by February 1, 2022. Email us at [email protected]. Please send your response in MS Word format, and not as a pdf, because the pdf format presents serious accessibility problems. We would be pleased to provide background briefings or to answer any questions you may have.

Our coalition addresses disability accessibility. We urge you to also take very seriously the requests you will receive from community groups for election pledges on other important disability issues, such as the pressing need to strengthen income supports like ODSP to tackle the protracted, rampant poverty among far too many Ontarians with disabilities.

Our non-partisan coalition does not support or oppose any party or candidate. We aim to secure the strongest commitments from each party.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

A Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario – 2022 Ontario Election Commitments Requested by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

 I. Leadership Commitments

 a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

Our coalition and its pre-2005 predecessor (the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) have been recognized in the Legislature and elsewhere for our leadership and advocacy for and expertise in disability accessibility. We offer input and advice to the Government and to opposition parties.

#1. As Premier, will you periodically meet with us to discuss issues concerning persons with disabilities and accessibility, including once within the first four months of taking office?

#2. If your Party does not form the Government, will you meet with us periodically? Will your Party raise our concerns in the Legislature, including in Question Period?

 b) Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility

Three successive Independent Reviews of the AODA concluded that Ontario needs strong new leadership within the Ontario Government on accessibility for people with disabilities, starting with the premier.

#3. As premier, will you show strong leadership on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities? Will you substantially strengthen and accelerate the AODA’s implementation?

#4. Will you commit to get Ontario as close as possible to the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025? Will you also announce and implement a plan to get Ontario to reach full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025, if the 2025 deadline is missed?

Ontario has not had in place a comprehensive multi-year plan for implementing the AODA. We and others urged the Government for years to establish such a plan, and have offered proposals.

#5. Within four months of taking office, and after consulting the public including people with disabilities, will you announce a comprehensive action plan for ensuring that the Government leads Ontario to become as close as possible to full accessibility by 2025 for people with disabilities, and if the 2025 goal is not reached, to reach the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities as soon as possible after 2025?

#6. Will you assign a stand-alone minister responsible for disability issues, who will periodically meet with us? Will other ministers with responsibility bearing on our issues also meet with us?

The Government needs to lead by a good example. Yet it has not done so. Examples are given below where the Ontario Government itself is violating the AODA.

#7. Will you comply with the AODA?

 c) Protect the Gains on Accessibility that People with Disabilities Have Made So Far

It is vital that the AODA not be opened up in the Legislature or amended in any way.

#8. Will you ensure that no amendments to the AODA will be made?

#9. Do you agree not to eliminate or reduce any provisions or protections in the AODA or its regulations, or in policies or initiatives within the Ontario Government that promote its objectives, or any rights of persons with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code?

 II. Develop and Enact Needed New Accessibility Standards Under the AODA

The AODA requires the Government to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government must then enforce those accessibility standards. When done right, these accessibility standards help business and public sector organizations know what to do. They contribute to the profitability and success of these organizations.

Since 2005, the Ontario Government has enacted five accessibility standards. They address disability barriers in customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and a very limited range of built environment barriers in “public spaces,” mostly outside buildings.

The Moran and Onley AODA Independent Reviews concluded that Ontario needs to enact more accessibility standards to address all the many recurring disability barriers that Ontarians with disabilities face. Yet no new AODA accessibility standards have been enacted since 2012, in almost a decade.

The AODA requires that each AODA accessibility standard must be independently reviewed by a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee after five years, to see if it needs strengthening. Only one of Ontario’s five accessibility standards has ever been revised. That was in June 2016, over half a decade ago. That is so even though four separate Government-appointed Standards Development Committees found that the four accessibility standards they reviewed all need to be strengthened.

We need the Ontario Government to develop and enact new accessibility standards, and to strengthen all the existing accessibility standards. The weak and limited accessibility standards enacted to date will not ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025 or ever, even if all obligated organizations fully comply with them.

 a) Enact a Comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

For example, students with disabilities face too many disability barriers in Ontario Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) schools, colleges and universities. All political parties have agreed that an Education Accessibility Standard should be enacted under the AODA. This is needed to remove and prevent the many disability barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s K-12 schools, colleges and universities.

In 2017, the Government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations for the promised Education Accessibility Standard, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. Last spring, both those Standards Development Committees sent the Government excellent, comprehensive Initial Reports. They give a strong roadmap for major reforms. A strong consensus supports their recommendations. They are expected to have submitted their final reports before the June 2022 election.

#10. Within one year of taking office, will you enact an AODA Education Accessibility Standard that accords with the recommendations in the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 1, 2021, and the Initial Report of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 25, 2021?

 b) Enact a Comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

All political parties have agreed that Ontario needs to enact an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. In 2016 or 2017, the Government appointed a Health Care Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. It was only mandated to address disability barriers in hospitals, even though people with disabilities face many disability barriers throughout the health care system.

The Health Care Standards Development Committee gave the Government an Initial Report at the end of 2020. It shows why Ontario needs a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard, and what that regulation should include. The Health Care Standards Development Committee is expected to submit a final report before the June 2022 Ontario election.

#11. Within one year of taking office, will you enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to remove and prevent the disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system (not limited to hospitals), that accords with the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report, made public on May 7, 2021?

 c) Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards

People with disabilities also still face many barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, or try to get access to information and communication that is shared with the public. The accessibility standards in these three areas that were passed in 2011 under the AODA, while helpful, have not been effective at overcoming these barriers.

The Government has received recommendations to strengthen Ontario’s 2011 accessibility standards that address barriers in transportation, in information and communication and in employment. In the 2018 spring, almost four years ago, the Government received recommendations for reforms in transportation from the Transportation Standards Development Committee. Well over two years ago, in 2019 the Government received recommendations for reform from the Employment Standards Development Committee. Almost two years ago, in early 2020, the Government received recommendations for reform from the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. The Government has announced no plans to implement any of those recommendations.

#12. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

#13. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

#14. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

 d) Enact a Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA

There are still far too many disability barriers in the built environment. There has been far too little progress on this since the AODA was enacted.

Even if a new building fully complies with the weak Ontario Building Code and scant AODA accessibility standards that address tiny bits of accessibility in the built environment, that building routinely has significant accessibility barriers. This is illustrated in our widely-viewed online videos about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre and recent new Toronto public transit stations.

The AODA requires buildings in Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. Around 15 years ago, shortly after the AODA was enacted, the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend what should be included in a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Yet Ontario still has no comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA.

In December 2012, the Government only enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. It is an extremely narrow accessibility standard. It only deals with a few kinds of “Public Spaces” (e.g. recreational trails, sidewalks and parking spots). It mainly deals with some spaces outside buildings, but extremely little inside buildings.

For some four years, the Ontario Government has been in violation of the AODA’s requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government has announced no plans to comply with this legal requirement, despite our repeated requests.

In December 2013 and later, the Government enacted very limited new accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code. That Code only deals with the accessibility of new buildings and major renovations. Even after those amendments, the Ontario Building Code does not ensure that new buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. It is not a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It is not enforceable under the AODA. It does not effectively address all the disability barriers in buildings.

The Ontario Government has enacted nothing under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code to address the need for retrofits in existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. If accessibility requirements for the built environment continue to only address new construction and major renovations, then Ontario’s built environment will never become accessible for people with disabilities. Two AODA Independent Reviews have specifically called for new Government action under the AODA to address the need to retrofit the built environment, the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report.

#15. Will you adopt a comprehensive strategy to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, including enacting a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA? As part of this, within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA to make recommendations on what a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities? This should include accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations. It should include, but not be limited to, the overdue review of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions should also be strengthened to equal the requirements in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

We understand that the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards do not now set needed accessibility requirements in the location and operation of elevators. Ontario needs strong accessibility standards regarding elevators. For example, increasingly buildings are installing “destination elevator” facilities. These confuse the public as a whole, and create serious accessibility problems.

#16. Will you ensure that a new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard will include accessibility requirements for elevators?

 e) Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard and Create Accessible Housing Strategy

Ontario has a serious shortage of accessible housing where people with disabilities can live. This crisis will get worse as society ages.

The Ontario Building Code and current AODA accessibility standards now set no accessibility requirements for new residential homes, even if commercially built to go on the public market. Ontario has no comprehensive effective Government strategy for ensuring that Ontario will have a sufficient supply of accessible housing.

#17. Will you create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA? Within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include? We are open to this being part of the mandate of the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to above, or being a separate stand-alone AODA Standards Development Committee.

#18. Will you announce a comprehensive accessible housing strategy, (apart from an AODA accessibility standard), within six months of taking office, after consulting the public, including people with disabilities? This strategy should aim to effectively increase the supply of accessible housing in Ontario, including supportive housing.

 f) Strengthen the Weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard

Shocking many, people with disabilities continue to face disability barriers to accessible customer service in Ontario. In 2007, Ontario passed the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard enacted under the AODA.

In 2016, the Ontario Government made revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard after a mandatory five-year review of it. These did not significantly strengthen it, and in some ways, weakened it.

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard by June 2021, five years after it was last revised. Violating the AODA, the Ontario Government has not done so. It has not announced any plans to do so.

#19. Within three months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee under the AODA to review the 2007 AODA Customer Service Accessibility Standard? After that Committee reports, will you strengthen that accessibility standard to require accessible customer service in Ontario for people with disabilities?

 g) Develop Additional New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility

Even if the accessibility standards addressed above are enacted or strengthened, other new accessibility standards will also be needed. For example, it would be helpful to develop an accessibility standard to address procurement of goods and services, further addressed below.

#20. Over the six months after the June 2022 election, will you consult with the public, including the disability community, on all the additional economic sectors that other accessibility standards need to address to achieve the AODA’s purposes? Will you announce decisions on the economic sectors to be addressed in those additional standards within three months after that consultation, and appoint Standards Development Committees to address those areas within nine months after that announcement?

 h) Speed Up the Excessively Long Process for Developing AODA Accessibility Standards

Over the 16 years since the AODA was passed, each Government has taken far too long to develop each accessibility standard. The process has been bogged down in years of delays and bureaucracy.

Here are a few examples: It took over six years just to decide to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Once the Government decided to create a Health Care Accessibility Standard, it took some two years merely to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee to start to develop recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. After the Employment Standards Development Committee rendered its final report on the revisions needed to the Employment Accessibility Standard, it took the Government some two years just to make that final report public.

#21. Will you streamline, speed up and de-bureaucratize the development of accessibility standards under the AODA, in consultation with us and the public?

 III. Substantially Strengthen AODA Enforcement to Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced

On October 29, 1998, all parties voted for a unanimous landmark resolution in the Legislature that required the Disabilities Act to have teeth. In 2005, all parties unanimously voted to include in the AODA important enforcement powers, like audits, inspections, compliance orders, and stiff monetary penalties.

Ever since any AODA accessibility standards became enforceable, AODA enforcement has at best been weak and spotty. Yet the Government has known about years of rampant AODA violations. Where the Government takes enforcement action, compliance with the AODA increases. While enforcement is not the only way to get more compliance with the AODA, it is an important part.

#22. Will you substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers to enforce all enforceable requirements under the AODA, and in connection with all classes of obligated organizations?

#23. Will you Transfer operational AODA enforcement outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and assign it to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement, with a significant increase in the number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers?

#24. Will you immediately give Ontario Government inspectors and investigators under other legislation a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation? Years ago, the Ontario Government piloted this.

#25. Will you have the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario publicly release and promptly post detailed information on AODA enforcement actions at least every three months. It should report on how many obligated organizations are actually providing accessibility, and not how many organizations simply tell the Government that they are providing accessibility. This should include prompt reports of quarterly results and year-to-date totals, broken down by sector and size of organization. At a minimum, it should include such measures as the number of notices of proposed order issued, the total amount of proposed penalties, the number of orders issued and total amounts and number of penalties imposed, the number of appeals from orders and the outcome, the total amount of penalties including changes ordered by the appeal tribunal, and the orders categorized by subject matter. This is what the 2015 final report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review recommended.

#26. Will you make as a core feature of AODA enforcement the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities? It is not good enough for the Government, as at present, to mainly or only aim to ensure that obligated organizations keep good records on steps taken on accessibility. It is far more important for organizations to actually achieve accessibility.

#27. Will you establish and widely publicize an effective toll-free line for the public to report AODA violations? Will you also provide and widely publicize other online avenues to report AODA violations, including Twitter, Facebook and a web page? Will you publicly account on a quarterly basis on the complaints received and the specific enforcement action taken as a result?

#28. Will you create new ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement, such as the Government publicly posting all online AODA compliance reports from obligated organizations in a publicly-accessible searchable data base, and by requiring each obligated organization to post its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one?

Additional enforcement measures regarding accessibility of built environments are also needed.

#29. Will you require that before a building permit and/or site plan approval can be obtained for a construction project, the approving authority, whether municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in any AODA accessibility standards?

#30. Will you require that post-project completion inspections include inspecting for compliance with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards?

 IV. Effectively Use Other Levers of Government Power to Achieve Accessibility

Beyond implementing the AODA, the Ontario Government needs to effectively use all levers of power at its disposal to help promote disability accessibility. Here are examples.

 a) Substantially Reform and Improve How the Ministry of Education and Ontario School System Deal with the Needs of Students with Disabilities

Those working at Ontario’s Ministry of Education are often individually eager to ensure the best for students with disabilities. Despite this, the Ministry has been a major barrier to meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Its policies and directives are too often out-of-date and unresponsive to the needs of students with disabilities. They have perpetuated the operation of school boards as organizations designed first and foremost for students without disabilities. They harmfully handcuff teachers, principals and other educators who want to effectively teach students with disabilities.

In Ontario’s education system, students with disabilities are far too often treated as an afterthought. They are viewed and treated pejoratively as “exceptional pupils” and as students with “special education needs” (patronizing descriptions), seen too often as a major budgetary demand. Programming, budgeting and planning for students with disabilities is arbitrarily lumped together with that for gifted students who have no disabilities, even though there is no good policy reason for this. The Ministry of Education resisted our efforts to get the Government to agree to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report shows a pressing need for major reforms in Ontario’s education system, beyond enacted a strong AODA Education Accessibility Standard. Public feedback from the disability community, families and educators on that report shows that there is a strong consensus in support of the recommended reforms. The Ontario Government needs to lead this reform. Beyond the creation of the Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, we seek the following commitments:

#31. Will you undertake a comprehensive reform of Ontario’s education system as it relates to students with disabilities including its funding formula for students with disabilities in order to ensure it is sufficient to meet their needs, and to ensure that funding is based on the actual number of students with disabilities in a school board, and not on the basis of some mathematical formula of how many students with disabilities there hypothetically should be at that school board?

#32. Will you immediately create a new deputy minister or associate Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Education to be responsible for leading reform of Ontario’s education provided for students with disabilities, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be fully included in school programs?

 b) Ensure that New Generations of Design Professionals Are Not Trained to be New Barrier-Creators

At present, design professionals, such as architects, do not need to be effectively trained in designing accessible buildings and other built environment, to get or to keep their license. This is so even though in 2007, the Government of the day promised during the 2007 election to raise the need for this with the relevant professional bodies. Despite our repeatedly asking, we have seen no indication that any Government action on that pledge ever occurred.

#33. Will you make it mandatory for professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects and other design professionals, to require adequate training on accessible design to qualify for a license, and to require existing professionals, where needed to take continuing professional development training on accessible design? This should not include the problem-ridden Rick Hansen Foundation training for accessibility assessors, addressed further below.

The Government annually contributes substantial funding to several Ontario colleges and universities for the training of design professionals, such as architects. Thus, public funding is now being used to train generation after generation of these professionals, without ensuring that they know how to meet accessibility needs. Public money is thereby being used to train and license generations of new barrier-creators. That is not a responsible use of public money.

#34. Will you require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains professions, such as design professionals (like architects), that they include sufficient training on meeting accessibility needs, in their program’s curriculum?

 c) Ensure that Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars each year on capital and infrastructure projects, on procuring goods, services and facilities for use by itself or the public, on business development grants and loans, and on research grants. Ontario needs a new, comprehensive, effective strategy to ensure that no one ever uses Ontario tax dollars to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. This can be done within the existing budget for infrastructure, procurement and other such loans and grants.

#35. Will you enact, implement, enforce, widely publicize and publicly report on compliance with standards and create a comprehensive strategy, all to ensure that public money is never used by anyone to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, for example, in capital or infrastructure spending, or through procurement of goods, services or facilities, or through business development grants or loans, or research grants?

There are serious problems with the way the Government and other public sector organizations act to ensure accessibility in major projects. These are due in part to poor accessibility legal requirements, and to inadequate accessibility training for design professionals, as addressed above. This is also due to serious problems with the way the Ontario Government funds, plans and oversees major infrastructure projects, such as new public transit stations, new college and university buildings, new hospitals and new court houses. Accessibility issues are too often inadequately addressed behind closed doors without full proper public accountability. Infrastructure Ontario’s approach to accessibility has been troubling. The common “Alternate Finance and Procurement” AFP approach to building new infrastructure creates problems.

#36. Will you substantially reform and improve the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario, to ensure that accessibility is addressed far earlier, and more effectively in the project? This should include a requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, with input being required from the outset obtained from people with disabilities. Any accessibility advice from people with disabilities or accessibility consultants should be promptly made public. Any decisions by the Government or by project teams it hires to reject any accessibility advice should promptly be publicly reported, identifying who made that decision, and the reasons for it. The accessibility requirements for any infrastructure should be made public as soon as possible, and well before a bidding competition is closed.

#37. Will you require that when public money is used to create public housing, principles of universal design will be employed in the design of that public housing?

#38. Will you create a fund to increase the number of accessible public premises, which would be available to public buildings that agree to make their property available to the public, in the case of emergency?

 d) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations

Two Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews emphasized the need for the Ontario Government to provide far better technical advice and support for obligated organizations who want to take action on accessibility, but who don’t know what to do. The existing Service Ontario toll-free number gives general information. However, it is no substitute for detailed technical accessibility expertise. US experience shows that it is best when such technical advice is offered by a publicly-funded organization that is arms-length from the Government.

#39. Will you establish a publicly-funded centre, arms-length from the Ontario Government, that will provide expert detailed technical advice on accessibility to the public, including obligated organizations, modelled after successful US programs? For example, an Ontario “Job Accommodation Network”, designed to operate like the successful US service bearing that name, could help employers and employees in the public and private sectors.

 e) Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

Voters with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties each committed that if elected, they would implement an accessible elections action plan. Since then, legislative reforms, enacted over a decade ago, for Ontario provincial and municipal elections have not ensured that voters with disabilities face no barriers in the election process. We are aware of no plans to fix this.

#40. Will you consult with voters with disabilities by the end of 2022, and then introduce in the Legislature within 9 months after that, a bill that comprehensively and effectively addresses accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections?

#41. Will you commit that your candidates will not take part in any all-candidates’ debate during the June 2022 election campaign if the location is not accessible to people with disabilities??

 f) Substantially Improve the Accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s Workplaces, Services and Facilities

The Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government still does not now ensure that their services, facilities and workplaces are accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility is still too often inadequately dealt with in isolated silos in the Ontario Public Service. There is no strong, effective, systematic leadership, monitoring and public accountability.

In 2014, the second Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found a need for significant improvement in this area. Any minor changes since then have taken too long and accomplished too little.

#42. After promptly consulting with people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service and in the general public for no more than four months, will you announce and implement a plan to substantially re-engineer and strengthen how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are accessible? This should include, among other things, ensuring that the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces is regularly and comprehensively audited and that public servants are made accountable for ensuring their accessibility, with the results of that audit promptly made public.

#43. Will you ensure that in Mandate Letters, the Premier promptly directs the appropriate cabinet ministers and senior public officials to implement the Government’s accessibility obligations and commitments, and to make this direction public, once given?

#44. Will you establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister, who is responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Ontario Public Service Chief Accessibility Officer? Similar positions have been successfully established in leading large businesses.

#45. Will you ensure that in each Ontario Government Ministry, there is a full-time Accessibility Lead position directly reporting to that Ministry’s deputy minister? This should include establishing an Accessibility Lead position in the Cabinet Office, which reports directly to the Secretary of Cabinet, to ensure that accessibility is considered in all work of the Cabinet Office, and to ensure that all Cabinet Submissions are vetted in advance to ensure they do not create or perpetuate disability barriers.

#46. Will you include in the annual performance reviews of each deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and director below them, where feasible, specific annual commitments relating to their mandate on accessibility for people with disabilities? In 2007, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered this for senior management at the Toronto Transit Commission.

 g) Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Parties each promised that if elected, they would review all provincial laws for accessibility barriers. Almost fifteen years later, we have only been told of some 50 of Ontario’s 750 statutes being reviewed, and no regulations being reviewed. In contrast, back in 1982 the Charter of Rights gave governments three years to review all legislation for all equality issues, not just disability equality.

#47. Within four months of taking office, will you announce a detailed plan for lawyers at the Ministry of the Attorney General to undertake a review of all Ontario laws for disability accessibility barriers, and for ensuring that new legislation and regulations will be screen in advance to ensure that they do not authorize, create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

#48. Will you complete a review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2023 and the review of all regulations by the end of 2024? By June 2024, will you introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed as a result of this accessibility review?

#49. By the end of 2025, will Cabinet amend any regulations that the government deems needed to remove and prevent disability barriers as a result of the accessibility review?

 h) Root Out Recently-Created New Disability Barriers Traceable to the Ontario Government

Contrary to the AODA, Ontario has recently become less accessible to people with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, two successive critical care triage protocols were distributed to all Ontario hospitals under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario, a Government creation of which the Ontario Government is a part. These successive critical care triage protocols each directed clear and indefensible discrimination against some patients based on their disabilities.

The Ontario Government has never publicly explained or accounted for this, or even made these protocols public. They were leaked to the disability community. Ontario’s Government has declined to answer any of the letters we sent over the past year on this topic.

Beyond this, there are up to two additional critical care triage protocols that may be in circulation, and that we have never seen or been given. One addresses critical care triage for patients under the age of 18. The other would address critical care triage by emergency medical services such as ambulances.

#50. Will you immediately make public any critical care triage protocol for hospitals or for other health services such as emergency medical services, that have been issued since 2020, including those pertaining to any specific age group, and any drafts that have been circulated to hospitals or other health care providers?

#51. Will you immediately rescind any draft or final critical care triage protocols that have been sent to any hospitals or other health care providers?

#52. Will you consult directly with us and the disability community on any future plans or protocols regarding critical care triage?

#53. Within six months of taking office, will you appoint an independent inquiry to investigate and report on the effectiveness of the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the needs of people with disabilities, including in terms of such things as health care services, critical care triage protocols, education services and income supports?

In 2019, over strong objections from the disability community, the Ontario Government passed regulations under the Highway Traffic Act that permit municipalities to allow electric scooters in public places for a pilot of up to five years. It did so despite the fact that e-scooters present serious personal safety and accessibility dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

The Ontario Government thereby inflicted on people with disabilities the undue hardship of having to battle against e-scooter rental corporate lobbyists in one city after the next. In cities like Ottawa that permit them, e-scooters are creating the very safety and accessibility dangers about which we forewarned. Moreover, even though riding them in public places remains illegal in many places in Ontario, such as Toronto, stores and online venders continue to sell e-scooters for use in Ontario.

#54. Will you immediately repeal the Ontario regulations that permit municipalities to allow the use of e-scooters in public places?

#55. Will you pass legislation or regulations to provide for effective enforcement of the ban on riding e-scooters in public places, with strong penalties?

#56. Will you pass legislation or regulations to ban the sale of e-scooters for use in Ontario, with strong penalties?

The Ontario Government is conducting a consultation on whether to allow autonomous robots that can be used on public sidewalks, e.g., to deliver products to customers or to shovel snow. These robots endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others. Regulation that might try to set rules on their use will not be enforceable. Moreover, Ontario is proposing giving municipalities the power to allow a 10-year pilot with such robots. That too would impose an undue hardship on people with disabilities to have to fight against them in one city after the next.

#57. Will you ban robots on sidewalks, with effective enforcement such as a right to dispose of any robot on public sidewalks?

 i) Give No More Public Money to the Problematic and Unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility “Certification” Program

In its 2019 Budget, the current Ontario Government announced $1.3 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) private accessibility certification program, to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. This is a wasteful misuse of public money. In two years, there is no evidence it has led to the removal of any accessibility barriers.

We have documented serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. The RHF has authority to “certify” nothing. The RHF process for training assessors and for assessing a building’s accessibility is quite faulty, misleading and unreliable. It can result in a building being “certified” as accessible which is not in fact accessible.

#58. Will you commit not to spend any additional public money on any private accessibility certification program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program?



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Due to Years of Government Foot-Dragging, Ontario Won’t Become Accessible to 2.6 Million People with Disabilities by 2025, Violating Disabilities Act


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Due to Years of Government Foot-Dragging, Ontario Won’t Become Accessible to 2.6 Million People with Disabilities by 2025, Violating Disabilities Act

December 2, 2021 Toronto: Because of years of Ontario Government foot-dragging and broken promises, it is now impossible for the Government to fulfil its legal duty to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, a leading non-partisan disability coalition declared on the eve of December 3, the International Day for People with Disabilities. In a November 22, 2021 letter sent to all party leaders (set out below), the grassroots AODA Alliance wrote:

“The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. … With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. …We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.”

The Ford Government is certainly not being let off the hook for living up to its obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There’s still time for the Ford Government to take its foot off the brakes and hit the accelerator.

“Three successive premiers and a parade of ministers caused this hurtful failure,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities. “When the Ford Government took power in 2018, we needed him to speed up action on accessibility, but instead, he slowed progress even more and created new disability barriers that make things even worse.”

For example, the vaccination program and vaccine passport have too many disability barriers. On the Ford Government’s watch, hospitals trained doctors to deploy a blatantly disability-discriminatory secret protocol for rationing or triaging life-saving critical care, if overrun with COVID-19 cases. As well, people with disabilities, seniors and others are now in danger of serious injuries by joyriders on electric scooters.

Fully 1,036 days ago, Premier Ford received a blistering report from a government-appointed independent review of the AODA’s implementation, by former lieutenant-governor David Onley. It reported that progress on accessibility is “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal is nowhere in sight.

Ford’s accessibility minister said Onley did a “marvellous job.” Yet Ford still has no comprehensive action plan to implement Onley’s recommendations.

With next June’s Ontario election campaign already in effect underway, the AODA Alliance is getting out in front. It today releases the package of election commitments on disability accessibility that it seeks from all the political parties, detailed in its November 22, 2021 letter to the parties, below. Each party is asked to pledge to implement the AODA Alliance’s proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario laid out in that letter. In the meantime, the Ford Government should act now on all the actions spelled out in that plan.

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

For more background, visit www.aodaalliance.org

Text of the AODA Alliance’s November 22, 2021 Letter to Ontario Party Leaders

 

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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/

November 22, 2021

To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier

Via Email: [email protected]

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition

Via email: [email protected]

Room 113, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5

Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:

Via email: [email protected]

Room 451 Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON M7A 1A2

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

Via email: [email protected]

344 Bloor St W,

Toronto On, M5S 1W9

Dear Party Leaders,

Re: Seeking your Parties’ 2022 Election Commitments to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

We write in a spirit of non-partisanship to ask your Parties to pledge in advance of the June 2, 2022 Ontario election, to implement our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario (set out below). Our non-partisan grass-roots community coalition seeks the achievement of an accessible Ontario for people with disabilities, through the prompt, effective implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Below we set out specific commitments that we seek in order to make Ontario accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. Taken together, they constitute the much-needed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we ask your parties to each endorse.

In each Ontario election since 1995, some or all parties made election commitments on this. They did so in letters to the AODA Alliance, or before 2005, to our predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

We write over six months before the election, because these are big, important issues. We will make public responses we receive.

 These Commitments are Vital

For people with disabilities, Ontario is at a very troubling crossroads. We must seek a substantial list of commitments, because of the Government’s cumulative failures to effectively implement and enforce the AODA for years.

People with disabilities had tenaciously advocated for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA enacted. It was an historic day in 2005 when the Legislature unanimously passed the landmark AODA.

The AODA requires the Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, twenty years after it was enacted. The Government must enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to lead Ontario to that goal.

Accessibility standards are enforceable provincial regulations. They are to specify, on an economic sector-by-sector basis, the disability barriers that an organization must remove or prevent, and the time lines for action, to become accessible to people with disabilities. For example, the Transportation Accessibility Standard is meant to spell out the actions that transit providers must take to tear down barriers that impede passengers with disabilities from fully using and benefitting from their transit services.

Since 2005, we have vigourously advocated to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced. There has been some progress since 2005. However, it has been too little and too slow.

With great pain and frustration, we have reached a wrenching turning point. Ontario must recognize that Ontario will not reach the goal of being accessible by 2025. Responsibility for this entirely avoidable failure spreads out over many years. We reach this hurtful crossroads despite the grassroots efforts of many to get the AODA fully and effectively implemented.

People with disabilities know from their daily life experience that we are now at this painful turning point. Reinforcing this, in January 2019, the third Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, found that progress on accessibility in Ontario has been “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal was nowhere in sight.

No one disputed these Onley Report findings. On April 10, 2019, the Government told the Legislature that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

There has been no significant progress since the Onley Report on actually removing and preventing disability barriers. The AODA’s implementation and enforcement have not been strengthened or sped up.

Undermining the AODA’s purpose, new disability barriers have been created since the release of the Onley Report. People with disabilities disproportionately bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and its worst impacts. Yet the Government’s emergency COVID-19 planning has not effectively addressed people with disabilities’ urgent needs.

For example, a new critical care triage protocol, systematically embedded in Ontario hospitals, enshrines discrimination against some patients with disabilities in access to life-saving care, if hospital overloads require rationing of critical care beds. Another example of new barriers traceable to the Ontario Government are electric scooters, which are ridden by uninsured and unlicensed joy-riders in public and which now endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others in some Cities on a daily basis.

The AODA does not vanish on January 1, 2025. It remains the law of Ontario. The Government will remain responsible for leading its implementation and enforcement.

The Government elected on June 2, 2022 will be in power when the AODA’s January 1, 2025 deadline for accessibility arrives. That Government needs to have a plan of action. We here offer a carefully-designed one, based on our years of experience on the front lines, and ask you to pledge to implement it.

 What Went Wrong?

Why do we ask your parties to endorse and commit to our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario, set out below? What led to this predicament? First, despite strong unanimous support for the AODA when it was passed, and a good start on implementing it in the early years, it substantially dropped as a Government priority after that. Premier after premier failed to show the strong leadership on this issue that Ontarians with disabilities needed, which three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA called for. Second, the AODA accessibility standards passed to date, while helpful, are not strong enough. They do not cover all or even a majority of the recurring barriers that people with disabilities face. Third, the Government’s enforcement of the AODA has been weak and ineffective. Fourth, the Government has not used all the other levers of power conveniently available to it to promote accessibility for people with disabilities.

For over a decade, successive governments and ministers have been told about the need to strengthen and speed up the AODA’s implementation. They received strong, practical recommendations on how to do this. This all came from Ontario’s disability community, and from the reports of three successive mandatory Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA. The report of the first AODA Independent Review, conducted by Charles Beer, was made public in May 2010. The report of the second AODA Independent Review, conducted by former University of Toronto Law Dean Mayo Moran, was made public in February 2015. The report of the third AODA Independent Review, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, was made public in March 2019.

Our Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario In a Nutshell

The 2022 election is the most pivotal one for Ontarians with disabilities since the 2003 election. This is because Ontario is on the verge of failing to comply with the AODA’s mandatory deadline. We need Ontario’s Government, elected on June 2, 2022, to commit to a bold plan of strong new action on disability accessibility, targeted at two goals. First, Ontario must get as close to full accessibility for people with disabilities as is possible by 2025. Second, Ontario must thereafter get the rest of the way to full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025.

In summary, our proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario that we set out below, and to which we ask you to commit, includes requests that your party each agree to:

  1. Foster and strengthen our ongoing relationship with your party.
  2. Show strong leadership on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.
  3. Protect the gains on accessibility that people with disabilities have made so far.
  4. Enact a comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  5. Enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  6. Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards.
  7. Enact a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  8. Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA and create an Accessible Housing Strategy.
  9. Strengthen the weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA.
  10. Develop additional new Accessibility Standards under the AODA, needed to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities.
  11. Speed up the excessively long process for developing and enacting AODA Accessibility Standards.
  12. Substantially strengthen AODA enforcement to ensure that all requirements under the AODA are effectively enforced.
  13. Substantially reform and improve how the Ministry of Education and Ontario school system address the needs of students with disabilities.
  14. Ensure that new generations of design professionals (like architects) are not trained to be new barrier-creators.
  15. Ensure that taxpayers’ money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers.
  16. Establish free independent technical accessibility advice for obligated organizations.
  17. Make provincial and municipal elections accessible to voters with disabilities.
  18. Substantially improve the accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s workplaces, services and facilities.
  19. Review all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers.
  20. Root out recently-created new disability barriers traceable to the Ontario Government.
  21. Give no more public money to the problematic and unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility “certification” program.

Following Up on This Letter

Please respond to this request by February 1, 2022. Email us at [email protected]. Please send your response in MS Word format, and not as a pdf, because the pdf format presents serious accessibility problems. We would be pleased to provide background briefings or to answer any questions you may have.

Our coalition addresses disability accessibility. We urge you to also take very seriously the requests you will receive from community groups for election pledges on other important disability issues, such as the pressing need to strengthen income supports like ODSP to tackle the protracted, rampant poverty among far too many Ontarians with disabilities.

Our non-partisan coalition does not support or oppose any party or candidate. We aim to secure the strongest commitments from each party.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

A Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario – 2022 Ontario Election Commitments Requested by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

 I. Leadership Commitments

 a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

Our coalition and its pre-2005 predecessor (the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) have been recognized in the Legislature and elsewhere for our leadership and advocacy for and expertise in disability accessibility. We offer input and advice to the Government and to opposition parties.

#1. As Premier, will you periodically meet with us to discuss issues concerning persons with disabilities and accessibility, including once within the first four months of taking office?

#2. If your Party does not form the Government, will you meet with us periodically? Will your Party raise our concerns in the Legislature, including in Question Period?

 b) Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility

Three successive Independent Reviews of the AODA concluded that Ontario needs strong new leadership within the Ontario Government on accessibility for people with disabilities, starting with the premier.

#3. As premier, will you show strong leadership on the issue of accessibility for people with disabilities? Will you substantially strengthen and accelerate the AODA’s implementation?

#4. Will you commit to get Ontario as close as possible to the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025? Will you also announce and implement a plan to get Ontario to reach full accessibility as soon as possible after 2025, if the 2025 deadline is missed?

Ontario has not had in place a comprehensive multi-year plan for implementing the AODA. We and others urged the Government for years to establish such a plan, and have offered proposals.

#5. Within four months of taking office, and after consulting the public including people with disabilities, will you announce a comprehensive action plan for ensuring that the Government leads Ontario to become as close as possible to full accessibility by 2025 for people with disabilities, and if the 2025 goal is not reached, to reach the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities as soon as possible after 2025?

#6. Will you assign a stand-alone minister responsible for disability issues, who will periodically meet with us? Will other ministers with responsibility bearing on our issues also meet with us?

The Government needs to lead by a good example. Yet it has not done so. Examples are given below where the Ontario Government itself is violating the AODA.

#7. Will you comply with the AODA?

 c) Protect the Gains on Accessibility that People with Disabilities Have Made So Far

It is vital that the AODA not be opened up in the Legislature or amended in any way.

#8. Will you ensure that no amendments to the AODA will be made?

#9. Do you agree not to eliminate or reduce any provisions or protections in the AODA or its regulations, or in policies or initiatives within the Ontario Government that promote its objectives, or any rights of persons with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code?

 II. Develop and Enact Needed New Accessibility Standards Under the AODA

The AODA requires the Government to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government must then enforce those accessibility standards. When done right, these accessibility standards help business and public sector organizations know what to do. They contribute to the profitability and success of these organizations.

Since 2005, the Ontario Government has enacted five accessibility standards. They address disability barriers in customer service, employment, information and communication, transportation, and a very limited range of built environment barriers in “public spaces,” mostly outside buildings.

The Moran and Onley AODA Independent Reviews concluded that Ontario needs to enact more accessibility standards to address all the many recurring disability barriers that Ontarians with disabilities face. Yet no new AODA accessibility standards have been enacted since 2012, in almost a decade.

The AODA requires that each AODA accessibility standard must be independently reviewed by a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee after five years, to see if it needs strengthening. Only one of Ontario’s five accessibility standards has ever been revised. That was in June 2016, over half a decade ago. That is so even though four separate Government-appointed Standards Development Committees found that the four accessibility standards they reviewed all need to be strengthened.

We need the Ontario Government to develop and enact new accessibility standards, and to strengthen all the existing accessibility standards. The weak and limited accessibility standards enacted to date will not ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025 or ever, even if all obligated organizations fully comply with them.

 a) Enact a Comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

For example, students with disabilities face too many disability barriers in Ontario Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) schools, colleges and universities. All political parties have agreed that an Education Accessibility Standard should be enacted under the AODA. This is needed to remove and prevent the many disability barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s K-12 schools, colleges and universities.

In 2017, the Government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations for the promised Education Accessibility Standard, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. Last spring, both those Standards Development Committees sent the Government excellent, comprehensive Initial Reports. They give a strong roadmap for major reforms. A strong consensus supports their recommendations. They are expected to have submitted their final reports before the June 2022 election.

#10. Within one year of taking office, will you enact an AODA Education Accessibility Standard that accords with the recommendations in the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 1, 2021, and the Initial Report of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, which the Government made public on June 25, 2021?

 b) Enact a Comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

All political parties have agreed that Ontario needs to enact an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. In 2016 or 2017, the Government appointed a Health Care Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. It was only mandated to address disability barriers in hospitals, even though people with disabilities face many disability barriers throughout the health care system.

The Health Care Standards Development Committee gave the Government an Initial Report at the end of 2020. It shows why Ontario needs a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard, and what that regulation should include. The Health Care Standards Development Committee is expected to submit a final report before the June 2022 Ontario election.

#11. Within one year of taking office, will you enact a comprehensive Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to remove and prevent the disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system (not limited to hospitals), that accords with the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report, made public on May 7, 2021?

 c) Strengthen the Employment, Transportation and Information and Communication Accessibility Standards

People with disabilities also still face many barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, or try to get access to information and communication that is shared with the public. The accessibility standards in these three areas that were passed in 2011 under the AODA, while helpful, have not been effective at overcoming these barriers.

The Government has received recommendations to strengthen Ontario’s 2011 accessibility standards that address barriers in transportation, in information and communication and in employment. In the 2018 spring, almost four years ago, the Government received recommendations for reforms in transportation from the Transportation Standards Development Committee. Well over two years ago, in 2019 the Government received recommendations for reform from the Employment Standards Development Committee. Almost two years ago, in early 2020, the Government received recommendations for reform from the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. The Government has announced no plans to implement any of those recommendations.

#12. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

#13. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

#14. Within nine months of taking office, will you revise the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard in order to make it strong and effective, after consulting with us and the public on it?

 d) Enact a Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA

There are still far too many disability barriers in the built environment. There has been far too little progress on this since the AODA was enacted.

Even if a new building fully complies with the weak Ontario Building Code and scant AODA accessibility standards that address tiny bits of accessibility in the built environment, that building routinely has significant accessibility barriers. This is illustrated in our widely-viewed online videos about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre and recent new Toronto public transit stations.

The AODA requires buildings in Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. Around 15 years ago, shortly after the AODA was enacted, the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend what should be included in a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. Yet Ontario still has no comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA.

In December 2012, the Government only enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. It is an extremely narrow accessibility standard. It only deals with a few kinds of “Public Spaces” (e.g. recreational trails, sidewalks and parking spots). It mainly deals with some spaces outside buildings, but extremely little inside buildings.

For some four years, the Ontario Government has been in violation of the AODA’s requirement to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government has announced no plans to comply with this legal requirement, despite our repeated requests.

In December 2013 and later, the Government enacted very limited new accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code. That Code only deals with the accessibility of new buildings and major renovations. Even after those amendments, the Ontario Building Code does not ensure that new buildings are accessible to people with disabilities. It is not a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It is not enforceable under the AODA. It does not effectively address all the disability barriers in buildings.

The Ontario Government has enacted nothing under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code to address the need for retrofits in existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation. If accessibility requirements for the built environment continue to only address new construction and major renovations, then Ontario’s built environment will never become accessible for people with disabilities. Two AODA Independent Reviews have specifically called for new Government action under the AODA to address the need to retrofit the built environment, the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report.

#15. Will you adopt a comprehensive strategy to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities, including enacting a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA? As part of this, within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA to make recommendations on what a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include to make Ontario’s built environment accessible to people with disabilities? This should include accessibility retrofits in existing buildings, as well as accessibility in new construction and major renovations. It should include, but not be limited to, the overdue review of the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions should also be strengthened to equal the requirements in the Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

We understand that the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards do not now set needed accessibility requirements in the location and operation of elevators. Ontario needs strong accessibility standards regarding elevators. For example, increasingly buildings are installing “destination elevator” facilities. These confuse the public as a whole, and create serious accessibility problems.

#16. Will you ensure that a new and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard will include accessibility requirements for elevators?

 e) Enact an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard and Create Accessible Housing Strategy

Ontario has a serious shortage of accessible housing where people with disabilities can live. This crisis will get worse as society ages.

The Ontario Building Code and current AODA accessibility standards now set no accessibility requirements for new residential homes, even if commercially built to go on the public market. Ontario has no comprehensive effective Government strategy for ensuring that Ontario will have a sufficient supply of accessible housing.

#17. Will you create a Residential Housing Accessibility Standard under the AODA? Within four months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what it should include? We are open to this being part of the mandate of the Built Environment Standards Development Committee, referred to above, or being a separate stand-alone AODA Standards Development Committee.

#18. Will you announce a comprehensive accessible housing strategy, (apart from an AODA accessibility standard), within six months of taking office, after consulting the public, including people with disabilities? This strategy should aim to effectively increase the supply of accessible housing in Ontario, including supportive housing.

 f) Strengthen the Weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard

Shocking many, people with disabilities continue to face disability barriers to accessible customer service in Ontario. In 2007, Ontario passed the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard enacted under the AODA.

In 2016, the Ontario Government made revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard after a mandatory five-year review of it. These did not significantly strengthen it, and in some ways, weakened it.

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard by June 2021, five years after it was last revised. Violating the AODA, the Ontario Government has not done so. It has not announced any plans to do so.

#19. Within three months of taking office, will you appoint a Standards Development Committee under the AODA to review the 2007 AODA Customer Service Accessibility Standard? After that Committee reports, will you strengthen that accessibility standard to require accessible customer service in Ontario for people with disabilities?

 g) Develop Additional New Accessibility Standards under the AODA Needed to Achieve Accessibility

Even if the accessibility standards addressed above are enacted or strengthened, other new accessibility standards will also be needed. For example, it would be helpful to develop an accessibility standard to address procurement of goods and services, further addressed below.

#20. Over the six months after the June 2022 election, will you consult with the public, including the disability community, on all the additional economic sectors that other accessibility standards need to address to achieve the AODA’s purposes? Will you announce decisions on the economic sectors to be addressed in those additional standards within three months after that consultation, and appoint Standards Development Committees to address those areas within nine months after that announcement?

 h) Speed Up the Excessively Long Process for Developing AODA Accessibility Standards

Over the 16 years since the AODA was passed, each Government has taken far too long to develop each accessibility standard. The process has been bogged down in years of delays and bureaucracy.

Here are a few examples: It took over six years just to decide to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Once the Government decided to create a Health Care Accessibility Standard, it took some two years merely to appoint the Health Care Standards Development Committee to start to develop recommendations on what the Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. After the Employment Standards Development Committee rendered its final report on the revisions needed to the Employment Accessibility Standard, it took the Government some two years just to make that final report public.

#21. Will you streamline, speed up and de-bureaucratize the development of accessibility standards under the AODA, in consultation with us and the public?

 III. Substantially Strengthen AODA Enforcement to Ensure that All Requirements under the AODA are Effectively Enforced

On October 29, 1998, all parties voted for a unanimous landmark resolution in the Legislature that required the Disabilities Act to have teeth. In 2005, all parties unanimously voted to include in the AODA important enforcement powers, like audits, inspections, compliance orders, and stiff monetary penalties.

Ever since any AODA accessibility standards became enforceable, AODA enforcement has at best been weak and spotty. Yet the Government has known about years of rampant AODA violations. Where the Government takes enforcement action, compliance with the AODA increases. While enforcement is not the only way to get more compliance with the AODA, it is an important part.

#22. Will you substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, including effectively using all AODA enforcement powers to enforce all enforceable requirements under the AODA, and in connection with all classes of obligated organizations?

#23. Will you Transfer operational AODA enforcement outside the Ministry responsible for the AODA, and assign it to an arms-length public agency to be created for AODA enforcement, with a significant increase in the number of inspectors and directors appointed with AODA enforcement powers?

#24. Will you immediately give Ontario Government inspectors and investigators under other legislation a mandate to enforce the AODA when they inspect or investigate an organization under other legislation? Years ago, the Ontario Government piloted this.

#25. Will you have the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario publicly release and promptly post detailed information on AODA enforcement actions at least every three months. It should report on how many obligated organizations are actually providing accessibility, and not how many organizations simply tell the Government that they are providing accessibility. This should include prompt reports of quarterly results and year-to-date totals, broken down by sector and size of organization. At a minimum, it should include such measures as the number of notices of proposed order issued, the total amount of proposed penalties, the number of orders issued and total amounts and number of penalties imposed, the number of appeals from orders and the outcome, the total amount of penalties including changes ordered by the appeal tribunal, and the orders categorized by subject matter. This is what the 2015 final report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review recommended.

#26. Will you make as a core feature of AODA enforcement the on-site inspection of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their workplace, goods, services and facilities? It is not good enough for the Government, as at present, to mainly or only aim to ensure that obligated organizations keep good records on steps taken on accessibility. It is far more important for organizations to actually achieve accessibility.

#27. Will you establish and widely publicize an effective toll-free line for the public to report AODA violations? Will you also provide and widely publicize other online avenues to report AODA violations, including Twitter, Facebook and a web page? Will you publicly account on a quarterly basis on the complaints received and the specific enforcement action taken as a result?

#28. Will you create new ways for crowd-sourced AODA monitoring/enforcement, such as the Government publicly posting all online AODA compliance reports from obligated organizations in a publicly-accessible searchable data base, and by requiring each obligated organization to post its AODA compliance report on its own website, if it has one?

Additional enforcement measures regarding accessibility of built environments are also needed.

#29. Will you require that before a building permit and/or site plan approval can be obtained for a construction project, the approving authority, whether municipal or provincial, must be satisfied that the project, on completion, will meet all accessibility requirements under the Ontario Building Code and in any AODA accessibility standards?

#30. Will you require that post-project completion inspections include inspecting for compliance with accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards?

 IV. Effectively Use Other Levers of Government Power to Achieve Accessibility

Beyond implementing the AODA, the Ontario Government needs to effectively use all levers of power at its disposal to help promote disability accessibility. Here are examples.

 a) Substantially Reform and Improve How the Ministry of Education and Ontario School System Deal with the Needs of Students with Disabilities

Those working at Ontario’s Ministry of Education are often individually eager to ensure the best for students with disabilities. Despite this, the Ministry has been a major barrier to meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Its policies and directives are too often out-of-date and unresponsive to the needs of students with disabilities. They have perpetuated the operation of school boards as organizations designed first and foremost for students without disabilities. They harmfully handcuff teachers, principals and other educators who want to effectively teach students with disabilities.

In Ontario’s education system, students with disabilities are far too often treated as an afterthought. They are viewed and treated pejoratively as “exceptional pupils” and as students with “special education needs” (patronizing descriptions), seen too often as a major budgetary demand. Programming, budgeting and planning for students with disabilities is arbitrarily lumped together with that for gifted students who have no disabilities, even though there is no good policy reason for this. The Ministry of Education resisted our efforts to get the Government to agree to create an AODA Education Accessibility Standard.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report shows a pressing need for major reforms in Ontario’s education system, beyond enacted a strong AODA Education Accessibility Standard. Public feedback from the disability community, families and educators on that report shows that there is a strong consensus in support of the recommended reforms. The Ontario Government needs to lead this reform. Beyond the creation of the Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA, we seek the following commitments:

#31. Will you undertake a comprehensive reform of Ontario’s education system as it relates to students with disabilities including its funding formula for students with disabilities in order to ensure it is sufficient to meet their needs, and to ensure that funding is based on the actual number of students with disabilities in a school board, and not on the basis of some mathematical formula of how many students with disabilities there hypothetically should be at that school board?

#32. Will you immediately create a new deputy minister or associate Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Education to be responsible for leading reform of Ontario’s education provided for students with disabilities, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be fully included in school programs?

 b) Ensure that New Generations of Design Professionals Are Not Trained to be New Barrier-Creators

At present, design professionals, such as architects, do not need to be effectively trained in designing accessible buildings and other built environment, to get or to keep their license. This is so even though in 2007, the Government of the day promised during the 2007 election to raise the need for this with the relevant professional bodies. Despite our repeatedly asking, we have seen no indication that any Government action on that pledge ever occurred.

#33. Will you make it mandatory for professional bodies that regulate or licence key professionals such as architects and other design professionals, to require adequate training on accessible design to qualify for a license, and to require existing professionals, where needed to take continuing professional development training on accessible design? This should not include the problem-ridden Rick Hansen Foundation training for accessibility assessors, addressed further below.

The Government annually contributes substantial funding to several Ontario colleges and universities for the training of design professionals, such as architects. Thus, public funding is now being used to train generation after generation of these professionals, without ensuring that they know how to meet accessibility needs. Public money is thereby being used to train and license generations of new barrier-creators. That is not a responsible use of public money.

#34. Will you require, as a condition of funding any college or university that trains professions, such as design professionals (like architects), that they include sufficient training on meeting accessibility needs, in their program’s curriculum?

 c) Ensure that Taxpayers’ Money is Never Used to Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars each year on capital and infrastructure projects, on procuring goods, services and facilities for use by itself or the public, on business development grants and loans, and on research grants. Ontario needs a new, comprehensive, effective strategy to ensure that no one ever uses Ontario tax dollars to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. This can be done within the existing budget for infrastructure, procurement and other such loans and grants.

#35. Will you enact, implement, enforce, widely publicize and publicly report on compliance with standards and create a comprehensive strategy, all to ensure that public money is never used by anyone to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, for example, in capital or infrastructure spending, or through procurement of goods, services or facilities, or through business development grants or loans, or research grants?

There are serious problems with the way the Government and other public sector organizations act to ensure accessibility in major projects. These are due in part to poor accessibility legal requirements, and to inadequate accessibility training for design professionals, as addressed above. This is also due to serious problems with the way the Ontario Government funds, plans and oversees major infrastructure projects, such as new public transit stations, new college and university buildings, new hospitals and new court houses. Accessibility issues are too often inadequately addressed behind closed doors without full proper public accountability. Infrastructure Ontario’s approach to accessibility has been troubling. The common “Alternate Finance and Procurement” AFP approach to building new infrastructure creates problems.

#36. Will you substantially reform and improve the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed and overseen in Ontario, including a major reform of Infrastructure Ontario, to ensure that accessibility is addressed far earlier, and more effectively in the project? This should include a requirement that accessibility advice be obtained on all major projects starting at the very beginning, with input being required from the outset obtained from people with disabilities. Any accessibility advice from people with disabilities or accessibility consultants should be promptly made public. Any decisions by the Government or by project teams it hires to reject any accessibility advice should promptly be publicly reported, identifying who made that decision, and the reasons for it. The accessibility requirements for any infrastructure should be made public as soon as possible, and well before a bidding competition is closed.

#37. Will you require that when public money is used to create public housing, principles of universal design will be employed in the design of that public housing?

#38. Will you create a fund to increase the number of accessible public premises, which would be available to public buildings that agree to make their property available to the public, in the case of emergency?

 d) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations

Two Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews emphasized the need for the Ontario Government to provide far better technical advice and support for obligated organizations who want to take action on accessibility, but who don’t know what to do. The existing Service Ontario toll-free number gives general information. However, it is no substitute for detailed technical accessibility expertise. US experience shows that it is best when such technical advice is offered by a publicly-funded organization that is arms-length from the Government.

#39. Will you establish a publicly-funded centre, arms-length from the Ontario Government, that will provide expert detailed technical advice on accessibility to the public, including obligated organizations, modelled after successful US programs? For example, an Ontario “Job Accommodation Network”, designed to operate like the successful US service bearing that name, could help employers and employees in the public and private sectors.

 e) Make Provincial and Municipal Elections Accessible to Voters with Disabilities

Voters with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic parties each committed that if elected, they would implement an accessible elections action plan. Since then, legislative reforms, enacted over a decade ago, for Ontario provincial and municipal elections have not ensured that voters with disabilities face no barriers in the election process. We are aware of no plans to fix this.

#40. Will you consult with voters with disabilities by the end of 2022, and then introduce in the Legislature within 9 months after that, a bill that comprehensively and effectively addresses accessibility needs of voters and candidates with disabilities in provincial and municipal elections?

#41. Will you commit that your candidates will not take part in any all-candidates’ debate during the June 2022 election campaign if the location is not accessible to people with disabilities??

 f) Substantially Improve the Accessibility of the Ontario Public Service’s Workplaces, Services and Facilities

The Ontario Public Service and the Ontario Government still does not now ensure that their services, facilities and workplaces are accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility is still too often inadequately dealt with in isolated silos in the Ontario Public Service. There is no strong, effective, systematic leadership, monitoring and public accountability.

In 2014, the second Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found a need for significant improvement in this area. Any minor changes since then have taken too long and accomplished too little.

#42. After promptly consulting with people with disabilities within the Ontario Public Service and in the general public for no more than four months, will you announce and implement a plan to substantially re-engineer and strengthen how the Ontario Public Service discharges its duty to ensure that its own services, facilities and workplaces are accessible? This should include, among other things, ensuring that the accessibility of its services, facilities and workplaces is regularly and comprehensively audited and that public servants are made accountable for ensuring their accessibility, with the results of that audit promptly made public.

#43. Will you ensure that in Mandate Letters, the Premier promptly directs the appropriate cabinet ministers and senior public officials to implement the Government’s accessibility obligations and commitments, and to make this direction public, once given?

#44. Will you establish a full-time Deputy Minister or associate deputy minister, who is responsible for ensuring the accessibility of the Ontario Government’s services, facilities and workplaces, to be called the Ontario Public Service Chief Accessibility Officer? Similar positions have been successfully established in leading large businesses.

#45. Will you ensure that in each Ontario Government Ministry, there is a full-time Accessibility Lead position directly reporting to that Ministry’s deputy minister? This should include establishing an Accessibility Lead position in the Cabinet Office, which reports directly to the Secretary of Cabinet, to ensure that accessibility is considered in all work of the Cabinet Office, and to ensure that all Cabinet Submissions are vetted in advance to ensure they do not create or perpetuate disability barriers.

#46. Will you include in the annual performance reviews of each deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and director below them, where feasible, specific annual commitments relating to their mandate on accessibility for people with disabilities? In 2007, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered this for senior management at the Toronto Transit Commission.

 g) Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

In the 2007 election, the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and New Democratic Parties each promised that if elected, they would review all provincial laws for accessibility barriers. Almost fifteen years later, we have only been told of some 50 of Ontario’s 750 statutes being reviewed, and no regulations being reviewed. In contrast, back in 1982 the Charter of Rights gave governments three years to review all legislation for all equality issues, not just disability equality.

#47. Within four months of taking office, will you announce a detailed plan for lawyers at the Ministry of the Attorney General to undertake a review of all Ontario laws for disability accessibility barriers, and for ensuring that new legislation and regulations will be screen in advance to ensure that they do not authorize, create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

#48. Will you complete a review of all legislation for accessibility barriers by the end of 2023 and the review of all regulations by the end of 2024? By June 2024, will you introduce into the Legislature, with the intent of passing it, an omnibus bill or bills to amend any legislation as needed as a result of this accessibility review?

#49. By the end of 2025, will Cabinet amend any regulations that the government deems needed to remove and prevent disability barriers as a result of the accessibility review?

 h) Root Out Recently-Created New Disability Barriers Traceable to the Ontario Government

Contrary to the AODA, Ontario has recently become less accessible to people with disabilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, two successive critical care triage protocols were distributed to all Ontario hospitals under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario, a Government creation of which the Ontario Government is a part. These successive critical care triage protocols each directed clear and indefensible discrimination against some patients based on their disabilities.

The Ontario Government has never publicly explained or accounted for this, or even made these protocols public. They were leaked to the disability community. Ontario’s Government has declined to answer any of the letters we sent over the past year on this topic.

Beyond this, there are up to two additional critical care triage protocols that may be in circulation, and that we have never seen or been given. One addresses critical care triage for patients under the age of 18. The other would address critical care triage by emergency medical services such as ambulances.

#50. Will you immediately make public any critical care triage protocol for hospitals or for other health services such as emergency medical services, that have been issued since 2020, including those pertaining to any specific age group, and any drafts that have been circulated to hospitals or other health care providers?

#51. Will you immediately rescind any draft or final critical care triage protocols that have been sent to any hospitals or other health care providers?

#52. Will you consult directly with us and the disability community on any future plans or protocols regarding critical care triage?

#53. Within six months of taking office, will you appoint an independent inquiry to investigate and report on the effectiveness of the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the needs of people with disabilities, including in terms of such things as health care services, critical care triage protocols, education services and income supports?

In 2019, over strong objections from the disability community, the Ontario Government passed regulations under the Highway Traffic Act that permit municipalities to allow electric scooters in public places for a pilot of up to five years. It did so despite the fact that e-scooters present serious personal safety and accessibility dangers for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others.

The Ontario Government thereby inflicted on people with disabilities the undue hardship of having to battle against e-scooter rental corporate lobbyists in one city after the next. In cities like Ottawa that permit them, e-scooters are creating the very safety and accessibility dangers about which we forewarned. Moreover, even though riding them in public places remains illegal in many places in Ontario, such as Toronto, stores and online venders continue to sell e-scooters for use in Ontario.

#54. Will you immediately repeal the Ontario regulations that permit municipalities to allow the use of e-scooters in public places?

#55. Will you pass legislation or regulations to provide for effective enforcement of the ban on riding e-scooters in public places, with strong penalties?

#56. Will you pass legislation or regulations to ban the sale of e-scooters for use in Ontario, with strong penalties?

The Ontario Government is conducting a consultation on whether to allow autonomous robots that can be used on public sidewalks, e.g., to deliver products to customers or to shovel snow. These robots endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others. Regulation that might try to set rules on their use will not be enforceable. Moreover, Ontario is proposing giving municipalities the power to allow a 10-year pilot with such robots. That too would impose an undue hardship on people with disabilities to have to fight against them in one city after the next.

#57. Will you ban robots on sidewalks, with effective enforcement such as a right to dispose of any robot on public sidewalks?

 i) Give No More Public Money to the Problematic and Unreliable Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility “Certification” Program

In its 2019 Budget, the current Ontario Government announced $1.3 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s (RHF) private accessibility certification program, to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. This is a wasteful misuse of public money. In two years, there is no evidence it has led to the removal of any accessibility barriers.

We have documented serious problems with the RHF private accessibility certification program. The RHF has authority to “certify” nothing. The RHF process for training assessors and for assessing a building’s accessibility is quite faulty, misleading and unreliable. It can result in a building being “certified” as accessible which is not in fact accessible.

#58. Will you commit not to spend any additional public money on any private accessibility certification program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification program?



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