Hamilton Parking Lot and On-Street Patios Create Accessibility Issues

By Craig Campbell Reporter
Fri., Oct. 8, 2021timer3 min. read

Susan Creer, of Accessible Hamilton, says the City of Hamilton’s on-street and parking lot patio program takes away needed parking spaces, limited access for the disabled.

Susan Creer, a west Hamilton resident with mobility challenges and a longtime advocate for the disabled, hopes the City of Hamilton will stop its five-year-old on-street patio program in parking lots and street parking spaces across the city.

In a presentation to a special meeting of the city’s Advisory Committee for Persons With Disabilities meeting Sept. 24, Creer said the patios take away parking spaces that provide important access for the disabled.

“I have said it from the beginning,” Creer told the committee. “The porch patio program allows restaurants to make money off the backs of the disabled by taking away needed metered parking spaces and City parking lots.”

Residents with provincial accessible parking permits can park free of charge in any municipal parking spot, or in any municipal parking lot, for up to three hours – except during rush hour, not just in specifically designed accessible parking spaces.

Creer said accessible parking permit holders can not walk long distances, and need parking spaces as close as possible to their destinations – often in the BIA areas where the street and parking lot patios are permitted.

“The city seems to be doing what the restaurants want – not what we need,” Creer said. “Their concern seems to be helping restaurants.”

She noted patios began encroaching into Westdale parking spaces long before the COVID-19 pandemic, so the project was not a response to struggling restaurants.

Approximately half the available parking spaces in two Westdale village lots have been lost to patios – significantly limiting parking options for anyone with mobility challenges.

Among the areas she noted as negatively impacted by loss of parking to patios is Upper James Street, Westdale Village and Locke Street in the west end, James Street and King William Street downtown. She said the loss of parking prevents her and others from supporting local businesses in those areas.

Creer told the committee if a restaurant has the space for a patio on its property, it should be allowed to have one – but shouldn’t encroach into municipal parking spaces.

“I hope I can convince the (committee) members to press for the patios to be discontinued. I also hope to convince the (committee) to try to help me convince city staff, councillors and others that porch patios victimize the disabled by taking away metered parking spaces. Someone with a permit who is blocked from accessing a service such as a pharmacy or clinic may be within their rights to make a human rights complaint.”

City spokesperson Michelle Shantz said staff review the on-street patio and outdoor dining district programs each year to see if any changes or updates can be implemented based on feedback from all city committees, including the Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities.

“Staff will be taking all feedback from 2021 into 2022 preparation meetings, which will take place early next year,” Shantz said.

City of Hamilton business development officer Julia Davis also gave a power point presentation at the special meeting.

Davis’ slides state the on-street patio program was approved for BIA areas in June 2016, for temporary patios within municipally owned parking spaces between May 1 and October 31. An outdoor dining district program was implemented in 2020 to permit extensions of existing patios to support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Creer formed the organization Accessible Hamilton more than two years ago with the goal of overcoming ongoing physical and attitudinal barriers to the disabled that she has seen during her volunteer efforts and personal experiences.

Original at https://www.thespec.com/local-dundas/life/health-wellness/2021/10/08/hamilton-parking-lot-and-on-street-patios-create-accessibility-issues.html

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‘Going to Be Impossible’: How Will People With Disabilities Handle Simcoe County’s Bigger Bins?

County of Simcoe plans to host workshop Oct. 26
Brad Pritchard
Alliston Herald
Monday, October 4, 2021

The committee that provides guidance to the County of Simcoe to ensure facilities are designed to be accessible wants to know why it wasn’t asked for input prior to a decision to switch homes to larger waste collection containers.

Rosemont resident Doug Mein, 68, who has multiple sclerosis, has been chair of the joint accessibility advisory committee (JAAC) for the past eight years, and has been involved with the group even longer.

The committee has representatives from the county, along with residents with disabilities from the townships of Adjala-Tosorontio, Springwater, Tay and Oro-Medonte.

“I’m quite puzzled that they did not take advantage of consulting with the committee that they formed,” Mein said.

The committee’s main function is to provide input on site plans and drawings for new construction or major renovations to existing buildings owned or operated by the municipalities. It also does regular facility reviews of municipal offices, community centres, social housing, sports facilities and public transit.

According to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), municipalities must include people with disabilities in their planning processes to ensure barrier-free buildings, washrooms, parking, trails, signs and outdoor play spaces

Mein acknowledged garbage carts aren’t something the committee typically looks at, but it’s still baffling to him that nobody at the county thought it might be a good idea to talk to them about concerns with a one-size-fits-all approach for the new bins.

“Ontario has 1.65 million people with disabilities, and those people have one or more disabilities,” he said.

The wheeled bins for garbage, recycling and organics, which will be used when the new automated collection system begins Nov. 1, are much larger than the old containers. While the county says they will be easier to move than the old bins, Mein isn’t convinced.

He noted there are many people like him living in rural areas with long driveways. Mein’s gravel driveway is a couple of hundred feet long and inclines toward the road. His wife, Susan, is the one who takes the bins to the road, and she loads them into the back of their SUV to make the process easier. This won’t be possible with the new bins because they are too heavy for her to lift and, even if she could heave them up, they don’t fit in the trunk.

Mein said he wonders how a couple of his neighbours, who are in their 70s and use canes, will be able to get them roadside, especially in the winter. He said they will have no choice but to ask a neighbour for help, or hire someone to move the bins for them.

“For some people, it’s literally going to be impossible,” he said.

At the Sept. 14 county council meeting, collections manager Willma Bureau said consultation “wasn’t required” and that the county “went through a sufficient procurement process to ensure accessibility was considered in the process.”

In a written statement provided to Simcoe.com, the county’s director of solid waste management, Rob McCullough, said the county believes seniors and residents with limited mobility will “greatly benefit” from the new containers.

“Carts are easy to lean and roll, with ergonomic handles, lids and durable wheels,” he said. “The increased consolidated storage for recycling materials might also mean fewer trips to and from the curb in inclement weather, as households with smaller volumes of waste may choose to hold their materials over a few collection weeks and roll recycling out once a month.”

County council will take part in a workshop to discuss the garbage containers Oct. 26. McCullough said council will have a chance to consider offering smaller carts at some point in the future.

Mein just hopes the recommendation that comes out of the discussion is run past the JAAC for further input.

Original at https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/10484538–going-to-be-impossible-how-will-people-with-disabilities-handle-simcoe-county-s-bigger-bins-/

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Campaign Gives Children With Disabilities Chance to Trick-or-Treat Without Barriers

Ali Raza, CBC News
Posted: Oct 02, 2021

For nine-year-old Gabriel Nikolakakis, Halloween has not always been a holiday he could participate in easily because of his limited mobility, but one organization is helping to change that by creating accessible trick-or-treating neighbourhoods, one home at a time.

Treat Accessibly hosted an accessible trick-or-treat event Saturday for children with disabilities to offer a unique, barrier-free Halloween village.

Children from the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital joined others from Weston Village in on Queens Drive for the inclusive experience.

After Halloween was all but cancelled last year because of the pandemic, this year’s event was given the green light by public health officials with a limit on the number of people who could gather together.

Gabriel’s parents, Fabiana Bacchini and Stelios Nikolakakis, said they were thrilled for an event like this, especially after many children couldn’t trick-or-treat last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Gabriel, and the other children, it was a chance to dress up, collect candy, and celebrate a beloved holiday.

“It’s not scary enough for me yet,” said Gabriel. “But it feels amazing (to be back out).”

Dressed up as Harry Potter, Gabriel didn’t need the help of his parents to go house-to-house using his motorized wheelchair.

Instead, families handed out candy at the ends of their driveways –
just one of the many small adjustments that are part of Trick Accessibly’s campaign.

Small adjustments, great results

“Usually it’s me carrying him or taking him to the door,” said Gabriel’s father, Stelios Nikolakakis. “We do whatever we can to make this experience for our family a positive one.”

“It’s beautiful to be a part of this [event].”

Gabriel’s mother, Fabiana Bacchini, said she was thrilled to see her son trick-or-treating again after a long year indoors.

“To be out here with all the kids, it’s an amazing experience,” she said. “We have to do what we can to keep schools open, and keep the kids interacting with each other.”

Gabriel is one of around 400,000 children living with a disability across Canada.

Treat Accessibly, founded in 2017, intended to remove barriers for children with disabilities during Halloween. The organization’s founder, Rich Padulo, said the experience is meant to support those children and their families.

“The beautiful part about Treat Accessibly is it’s a curbside scenario,” he said. “People get to trick or treat outside. No one’s going up to front doors, it makes it easier for neighbours, parents, and friends to feel more social outside, and also be COVID safe.”

He said making a home accessible for children with disabilities takes a few simple solutions. Handing out candy at the end of the driveway, for example, skips the need to use the stairs or cross a lawn.

Other things like keeping pets at a distance and removing strobe lights that may affect some children, are also among the organization’s recommendations.

Campaign expanding

“We’re very excited this year about the movement, and the growth,” Padulo said.

The campaign is expanding in Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, and Caledon.

In 2019, 40,000 homes participated in the event. This year, 40,000 have already signed up, and the organization hopes to reach 100,000 across Canada by the end of the month.

Treat Accessibly gives homeowners a sign to place on their lawn indicating it is accessible for all.

“Dreams are coming true by creating the first ever accessible Halloween village,” Padulo said. “Our goal is by 2025 to have 400,000 homes participating.”

Advocates say it’s minor changes that can make the biggest differences.

“If we don’t think about those minor changes, our kids get left out,” said Christine Hill, manager of stakeholder engagement for the Holland Bloorview Foundation.

“We want to ensure a hopeful future for the kids,” she said. “We would love to see accessibility takeover every neighbourhood across the nation so kids can have the access they deserve.”

Kelsey Lecoure came to participate with her two-year-old daughter Amelia. Both mother and daughter have osteogenesis imperfecta, and the event gave them a chance to celebrate together.

“An event like this is so important,” she said. “[Amelia] uses a wheelchair, and I have my own disability, so trick or treating isn’t something we consider.”

“In the future, something like this is the only way we can go [trick or treating] as a family,” she said.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/treat-accessibility-children-halloween-1.6197953

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Why is a New Grocery Store in Downtown Kitchener Inaccessible to People in Wheelchairs?

By Luisa D’AmatoRecord Columnist
Fri., Aug. 20, 2021

A beautiful new grocery store has just opened in downtown Kitchener.

Marché Leo’s Market has a pizza oven, a deli and an upscale pastry counter. It sells perfect flowers by the bunch, plus staples, nut milks, organic cheeses and many different kinds of olive oils and vinegars.

It’s at 276 King Street W., right next door to the church where Rev. Preston Parsons works. He was excited to go inside.

But then he discovered that, for him, it might as well be in China.

Parsons uses a wheelchair – and there is no way for him to get into the store.

From the street, you have to climb up eight steps. There is no ramp and no elevator for people with mobility issues. There’s no accessible back entrance either.

“It makes me feel like I don’t belong, in the city I live in,” said Parsons, who is rector and priest of the Anglican Church of St. John the Evangelist on Water Street.

He got in touch with the company headquarters of the store to discuss this with them. That was a week ago and he has heard nothing.

Another disappointed customer is Jennifer Adams, who uses a scooter and a walker to get around.

She approached the store and sat outside the front entrance for a couple of minutes as she wondered what to do. A few people asked if they could help her.

Eventually she sat on each step with her back to the front doors, pushing herself up to the next step with her arms as she laboriously got into the building. She left the scooter behind on the sidewalk.

Once she was inside, the staff were “very kind” to her, she said, but she felt embarrassed by the experience.

“I’d been so looking forward to this store opening up in downtown Kitchener,” she told me Thursday.

She started to cry. “This whole thing about losing mobility is very hard.”

I wonder: Can’t we do better than this?

Surely the government should be minimizing the difficulties that people like Adams and Parsons experience on a daily basis, instead of allowing them to be shut out of even more buildings.

You would think that a newly renovated space like this grocery store would be required to be accessible to people with mobility challenges.

But according to the people who enforce the Ontario Building Code, that’s not necessarily the case.

In the case of this building in Kitchener, although there were renovations involved before the store could go into the building, they weren’t major enough to allow city inspectors to require the provision of inclusive features like ramps or elevators.

“This is what the code considers a basic renovation of an existing building,” said Tim Benedict, manager of the building division of the City of Kitchener.

“It allows existing buildings that are renovated to remain as is.”

“We always encourage property owners to make things accessible,” Benedict said, but there’s only so much they can do, given the legislation.

The building, which also includes condos, is owned by Perimeter Development Corporation, which has many projects in Kitchener and Waterloo, including the Walper Hotel and Breithaupt Block (where Google’s offices are).

In an email Thursday, the company’s chief executive officer, Craig Beattie, said the building at 276 King St. W. had been vacant for well over a decade.

The building’s unusual structure meant it was not possible to build a ramp or elevator as renovations went ahead.

“We invested significantly in base building renovations,” he said, including new facades along King and Water streets, new electrical and mechanical systems, and partitioning to create the individual retail units.

All this work attracted “a long desired and needed urban grocery market to the core,” he said. It’s an important amenity for the growing downtown population.

All true.

But it’s also true that this new market is not for everybody.

It’s just for able-bodied people.

And in that sense, it’s a little bit like downtown Kitchener itself.

“We’re rejuvenating Kitchener,” said Parsons.

“Are we building a Kitchener for everyone, or a Kitchener for some?”

Luisa D’Amato is a Waterloo Region-based staff columnist for The Record. Reach her via email: [email protected]

Original at https://www.therecord.com/news/waterloo-region/2021/08/20/why-is-a-new-grocery-store-in-downtown-kitchener-inaccessible-to-people-in-wheelchairs.html

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Toronto Teacher Who Now Uses Wheelchair Prompts TDSB to Make School More Accessible

More than 50% of TDSB schools have barriers to people with disabilities Talia Ricci , CBC News
Posted: Aug 19, 2021

Toronto teacher Karyn Bugelli says she’s overwhelmed by recent support from her school and neighbours as she adjusts to life in a wheelchair. As Talia Ricci reports, the situation has motivated the TDSB to make the school more accessible – but there’s still a long way to go.

When Karyn Bugelli first learned she wouldn’t walk again, she says one of the first things that came to mind was one of her former students.

“He had something go wrong with his spine and he ended up in a wheelchair. I was instructing him while he waited to get into another school, because Malvern wasn’t accessible,” she said.

Bugelli has worked as both a teacher and a guidance counsellor at Malvern Collegiate Institute in Toronto’s east-end for the past 15 years.

“I remember thinking at the time, what a terrible thing that a Grade 9 student will have to move away from his friends and move to a new school in this day and age.” Now she feels an even deeper connection to that student.

Last October, Bugelli was experiencing what she thought was common back pain – but it wasn’t going away. Tests determined she had a cancerous tumour on her spine. She underwent chemotherapy but eventually had to have the tumour removed. That operation meant she was cancer-free, but would remain paralyzed from the waist down and would have to use a wheelchair.

After being rooted in a school and community she loved for more than a decade, she hoped there was a way she could continue working there, and so did her colleagues. According to data provided by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), more than 50 per cent of its schools are not accessible. Bugelli hopes her situation sparks change so future students and staff can work and learn in accessible buildings.

Bugelli said her principal and colleagues have been very supportive. One even started a GoFundMe to help with renovations to make her home more accessible, which has raised more than $55,000. Multiple messages on the page from former students say Bugelli was their favourite teacher.

“It’s basically overwhelming. It’s an indescribable feeling really. You feel like you don’t deserve it. But you really just can’t believe what people will do to help you out,” Bugelli said. She added that friends, neighbours and colleagues also brought her family meals, offered to walk her dog and continue to send her motivating texts in the morning.

“I think it will be a big learning curve, and I think there’s a lot of barriers I haven’t seen before,” she said.

“But I will now.”

More than 50% of TDSB schools not accessible

In a statement, the TDSB says it has audited all of its schools and created site-specific profiles on their accessibility. During the audit, schools were categorized as either accessible, somewhat accessible, or not accessible.

Accessible is defined as allowing independent access into and throughout the building and providing a barrier-free washroom, while somewhat accessible does not meet the full criteria but provides independent access to the building, a barrier-free washroom on the main level and no level disruptions to entry.

According to the data provided to CBC News, the board found 153 schools are accessible, 114 are somewhat accessible and 276 as not accessible. The TDSB estimates it would cost between $750 million and $1 billion to make all its schools barrier-free to people with disabilities.

Sandy Kaskens, principal at Malvern C.I., says she felt an overwhelming sense of admiration for Bugelli when she received a text from her about whether she’d be able to do her job in a wheelchair.

“Her first communication was about how she can return to work and continue serving the community,” she said. “I thought, ‘Okay, what do I need to do to make sure she can return to Malvern.”‘

Kaskens explained that for Bugelli to get into her office an exterior ramp needs to be installed at the door where the parking lot is located and a stair-lift to access the main floor will also need to be installed. There will also have to be an accessible washroom. Like Bugelli, Kaskens was reminded of students who had to transfer because the high school isn’t fully accessible.

“A process has started, but I am learning that accessibility at TDSB schools is really a massive project. It’s not just Malvern,” she said, adding that she has known for a long time that accessibility needed improvement across the board.

But now the issue feels close to home.

“When someone close to you, someone you’re responsible for professionally, suddenly has accessibility needs, you see the barriers much more.”

Learning how to live in a wheelchair

Bugelli has been staying at the University Health Network’s Lyndhurst Centre. Dr. Anthony Burns, a physiatrist at the facility, says the spinal cord rehabilitation program helps people like Bugelli transition back to home and work, while remaining as independent as possible.

“Here at the centre, as you can imagine it’s an ideal environment, an accessible set-up for people with spinal cord injuries,” he said.

“But it’s a significant transition when they return to the community because, unfortunately, they will encounter barriers, not all of the environments within the home and outside the home will be accessible.”

Burns says part of their program is to help individuals solve problems in these situations.

“When I’m out and about I certainly note people with mobility impairments and some of the challenges they face,” he said.

“I think we have a long way to go, we need to do a better job as a society of increasing access for individuals with impairments to fully engage in the workplace.”

Bugelli says she can’t wait to return to the job she loves. Reflecting on her former student and the road ahead, she says she hopes everybody will be able to attend fully accessible schools in the near future.

“If it starts with me, maybe something good can come out of all this.”


Talia Ricci is a CBC reporter based in Toronto. She has travelled around the globe with her camera documenting people and places as well as volunteering. Talia enjoys covering offbeat human interest stories and exposing social justice issues. When she’s not reporting, you can find her reading or strolling the city with a film camera.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-teacher-overwhelmed-by-support-1.6143645

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


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

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

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

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

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

a) A BC restaurant agreed to a human rights settlement due to its premises’ lack of accessibility even though the RHF had “certified” it as accessible. See “Human Rights Tribunal to hear disabled customer’s complaint about Pat Quinn’s” and “Disability advocate settles accessibility complaint against Pat Quinn’s Restaurant & Bar”

b) The RHF proudly gave the Vancouver International Airport a gold rating for accessibility, even though it had “hang out steps”, riddled with accessibility problems. See “Who gets to decide what is accessibleand who does that leave behind?”

c) The Ontario Government is building a massive new courthouse in downtown Toronto replete with accessibility problems. Yet the Ontario Government told the AODA Alliance that the RHF program rated the building’s design as accessible. The RHF assessor never contacted the AODA Alliance to investigate the Alliance’s detailed and publicly documented accessibility concerns with that building.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Much Needed Federal Government Due Diligence is Strikingly Absent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pandemic-Era Patios Still too Often Inaccessible, Disability Advocates Say

Patios are ‘very frustrating’ for people with hearing loss, advocate says Emma Paling , CBC News
Posted: Aug 07, 2021

More than 16 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians with disabilities say many restaurant and bar patios that have been expanded onto streets and sidewalks to create more outdoor seating remain inaccessible to them.

They say it’s bad for people with disabilities and bad for businesses.

David Lepofsky, a law professor and chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance said the expanded patios pose two challenges. One is that the patios themselves are often inaccessible for people who have mobility issues, vision loss or hearing loss. The other is that they also sometimes make the sidewalks and streets inaccessible, too.

Bars and restaurants across Canada have expanded outdoor seating as provinces clamped down on indoor dining to curb COVID-19 infections, which spread more easily indoors.

Walking into oncoming traffic

Lepofsky, who is blind, said in an interview that he was once forced to step into the street because there was no space to socially distance on the sidewalk next to a patio in Toronto.

“Nobody really wants to walk into oncoming traffic. And if you’re a blind person, you particularly don’t want to walk into oncoming traffic,” he said.

Toronto’s guidebook for patios does include a list of accessibility requirements, including leaving a 2.1-metre pathway clear for pedestrians, that the city’s accessibility rules and the province’s rules under AODA are complied with and that patios have a barrier around them so that people who use white canes can pass by safely.

“This past winter, City staff committed to enhancing the requirements in the guidebook by including feedback from the accessibility community and meeting with the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee,” City of Toronto spokesperson Deborah Blackstone said in an email to CBC News.

“Members of the public are encouraged to contact 311 if they observe a public space that has been obstructed or blocked so that City staff can respond as soon as possible.”

A ‘very frustrating’ experience

But Lepofsky said the pathways beside sidewalk patios are often not large enough to allow for social distancing and that the existing rules under AODA are insufficient.

He argues that requirements for new structures under Ontario’s Building Code or AODA are inadequate and “have been for a long time.”

“And there appears to be no municipal enforcement to ensure that there is a safe, accessible path of travel around the patio,” he said.

Lee Pigeau, national executive director of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, said dining on patios can be “very frustrating” for people with hearing loss.

People who read lips are already struggling to communicate because everyone is wearing masks, and street patios add additional distractions with the noise from traffic, he said.

“You get music and noises from all sides, which makes communication very difficult,” he said in an interview.

Businesses are losing customers, advocate says

In New Brunswick, where disability rates are higher than the national level, accessibility standards for sidewalk patios are inadequate, says Haley Flaro, executive director of Ability New Brunswick.

In Fredericton, where Flaro lives, the city lists two accessibility requirements on its application for sidewalk patios. It says patios must be wheelchair accessible and a two-metre pathway must be left beside the patio when possible.

But Flaro says that’s not enough, since there’s often not enough room to navigate a wheelchair between tables and the tables themselves may not be high enough for wheelchairs to fit underneath.

“When a business opens or expands the patio and it is not accessible, they’re losing about 12 per cent of their business in New Brunswick right off the bat,” she said. “So we know accessibility is good for a lot of things and business is one of them.”

Spokespeople for the City of Fredericton did not respond to a request for comment.

‘Here we go again’

Victoria Levack of Halifax uses a power wheelchair. She’s the spokesperson for the Disability Rights Coalition of Nova Scotia and chair of the Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities.

“There are times I can’t get by [sidewalk patios]. I physically can’t,” she said in an interview.

Both she and Lepofsky said that the patios are just one small piece of a bigger problem: Canadian cities aren’t accessible enough for people with disabilities.

“So along comes the pandemic and these patios and it’s like ‘Here we go again,’” Lepofsky said.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/pandemic-era-patios-still-too-often-inaccessible-disability-advocates-say-1.6132490

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Opt Out of e-Scooters Before It’s too Late, Accessibility Committee Warns

A letter from the accessibility advisory committee has been sent to council Tuesday Angela McInnes, CBC New
Posted: Jul 27, 2021

Adding e-scooters to London’s proposed pilot bike share program will do more harm than good, according to the accessibility advisory committee.

The city has been surveying Londoners for their input on the matter since May.

Jay Menard, chair of London’s accessibility advisory committee, has written a letter to the Community and Protective Services Committee about concerns around e-scooters.

“Essentially, our committee realizes that there’s a number of unintentional barriers that impede people with accessibility challenges from getting around the city,” Menard said.

“Our concern with the implementation of a trial on e-scooters is that we would be having an intentional barrier that we’ve seen in other communities has caused problems, not just for people with disabilities, but for anybody who has mobility challenges.”

Menard said that properly maintaining the electronic scooters will likely be too much upkeep for Londoners, ultimately leading to a misuse of municipal funds.

He worries the e-scooters will be abandoned throughout the city, obstructing pathways and harming the environment.

Toronto, Montreal opt out of e-scooter programs

Menard cited anecdotal evidence from Montreal, where shared e-scooters were banned last year due to noncompliance with the rules to safely park them.

Ontario launched a five-year e-scooter pilot program from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2024. The program aims to evaluate the use of both personal and shared e-scooters in accordance with the province’s rules of the road.

In May, Toronto City Council unanimously voted to opt-out of the e-scooter pilot, due to safety concerns for seniors and those living with disabilities.

“The ideal outcome is that we don’t engage in the pilot project, that we look to communities like Toronto that have examined this and have resisted the lobbyists and have listened to the accessibility communities and done an evaluation where they said this really isn’t worth any of the benefit,” said Menard.

Environmental benefits may make scooters worth a try

Allison Miller, London’s coordinator of transportation demand management, is more optimistic for the environmental impact of a shared e-scooter program.

“The idea with the scooter is that they have an electric powered motor as opposed to your personal vehicle, which uses gasoline, for example. So right off the bat, if you’re replacing a car trip with an e-scooter trip, then there are fewer greenhouse gas emissions,” Miller said.

A service provider would be responsible for running the program, she said. A GPS tracking device would allow for the company to track and recoup discarded e-scooters within a given time limit.

For safety, rules would be in place to prevent riders from overtaking sidewalks. The e-scooters would be painted a highly visible colour, and emit an audible warning to pedestrians.

Miller said she is aware of the accessibility advisory committee’s concerns.

“They are very much valid concerns, and other municipalities have had to grapple with this before us, but we’re learning from those municipalities, too,” she said. “And I do think that the scooter share providers don’t want their scooters to become a nuisance and to become dangerous either, so they’re doing their best as well. We’ll see what council decides and we’ll move forward from there.”

The survey for input on e-scooters has had a range of responses so far. It does not yet have an end date as more data is being collected.

Miller said that a staff report with recommendations based on the feedback will most likely be submitted to council in early fall.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/opt-out-of-e-scooters-before-it-s-too-late-accessibility-committee-warns-1.6118337

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I Am Trying and Struggling: Lack of Accessible, Affordable Units Leaves Kitchener Man Stranded

CBC News
Posted July 12, 2021

Ronald Hoppe said shock turned to anger when he found out he would be waiting years on Waterloo regions affordable housing list before he would be able to get a unit that was accessible.

Hoppe, who has run Kitcheners Comic-Con since 2015, started using a wheelchair earlier this year after part of his left leg was amputated in December 2020.

Hoppe also previously had all his toes on his right foot amputated and has cataract scarring in both his eyes, which he said has caused problems with his vision.

I was upset because here I am, a person in need who is trying to live independent, trying to get my life back in order, and when I heard about this wait list I was like, You have to be kidding me?’ Hoppe told CBC News.

Im doing what I can to piece the broken pieces together with scotch tape. I am trying and struggling every single day.

During his recovery at St. Josephs Health Centre in Guelph, Hoppe said he found out he was being pushed out of the Kitchener townhouse he shared with a roommate in part because of his disability. He then tried to find an alternative place to stay.

Hoppe said at the same time he registered for the regions affordable housing program with the hope of getting a unit, and he discovered he might be waiting up to seven years.

Youre hoping to see a light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel, you fill out all the paperwork and you find out its a seven year waiting list, he said.

What are you supposed to do in the meantime? The answer is, suffer.

Average wait time 3 to 7 years

According to the region, the average wait time for an affordable unit can be anywhere from three to seven years, and it can often be an even longer wait for those looking for an accessible unit.

As demand for affordable housing continues to rise in Waterloo region, local advocates say there needs to be a bigger push for more accessible and affordable units as well.

The Region of Waterloo oversees roughly 5,600 affordable housing units through different programs like Waterloo Region Housing and the regions rent supplement program.

The region also works with non-profit organizations, co-op living communities and private landlords to provide and build more affordable housing.

In general its a big issue, but especially for people with disabilities because there is so little of it, said Edward Faruzel, executive director of KW AccessAbility, a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities in the region.

Faruzel said his organization has been advocating for more accessible and affordable housing for years.

KW AcessAbility doesnt provide affordable housing units, but the organization helps people navigate the regions affordable housing system and assisted living, Faruzel said.

He said the number of people reaching out to his organization for help has been on the rise over the last five years, many not knowing how to begin finding a home.

It might be an injury thats happened recently, weve received a lot of calls about that. Or, people will call for a loved one or a parent whos had a stroke, he said.

In the past it might have been a few a year, but now were getting a few a month. Its increased dramatically.

Shelter system a horrific experience

After being released from the hospital in May, Hoppe said he was dropped off at The Bridges shelter in Cambridge because it was the only accessible shelter in Waterloo region.

He said hes struggled to get help from other local homeless organizations because he is not considered chronically homeless and is not part of the regions emergency shelter system.

Hoppe said he spent one night at The Bridges, but decided not to stay due to the shelters condition. He said the shelter had a number of COVID-19 cases at the time and he was not told where he could find an accessible washroom.

No one was wearing masks, there was no physical distancing. It was a horrific experience, he said.

After that, Hoppe said he couch surfed with a friend while he tried to work out where he could go next and was eventually allowed to go back to his previous home in June. But Hoppe fears he could get pushed out again.

An added challenge he said, is that the townhouse hes currently subleasing is not wheelchair accessible and he is forced to crawl through doorways, to use the bathroom or to go up and down stairs.

Hoppe said hes also on social assistance and cant work because of his condition.

He adds the cost of rent in Waterloo region is too high and looking for a different apartment or townhouse to move into is no longer a viable option.

If I didnt have this place to come back to, I would be in so much trouble right now, he said.

I was naive thinking I could get over not having a leg in six months. Im still adjusting.

People aren’t moving because of affordability

High cost of rent in Waterloo region and a shortage of affordable housing units are major contributing factors to why thousands of people are on the wait list for years, according to Kelly-Anne Solerno, manager of Waterloo Region Housing.

Solerno said there are currently 6,000 people on the regions wait list for affordable housing, 81 of them in need of an accessible unit, and the wait list is only getting longer.

In terms of Waterloo Region Housing [?] were looking at a less than two per cent vacancy rate, which is very similar to what the community is feeling right now in terms of stock, and our turn over rate is really low right now, she said.

People arent moving because of affordability. As we have vacant units, we rent them up as soon as we can.

And it can become more challenging for people looking for accessible units, she said.

The majority of the affordable units that the region took over from the Ontario Housing Corporation 20 years ago were not built to be accessible.

As the region builds new affordable housing, making sure theres more accessible, affordable units is a much bigger priority now, Solerno said.

The provinces standard is that 15 per cent of the new units that we build must have basic accessibility features such as barrier-free paths, travel in doorways, kitchen and bedroom, she said.

Faruzel and Hoppe said 15 per cent is a small step in the right direction and more needs to be done to increase the number of accessible units locally.

The region has plans to build up to 2,500 new affordable housing units over the next five years and Solerno said they are willing to work with more non-profits and landlords to bring more affordable housing and accessible units to the community.

As we continue to build and ramp up, well start to see more accessible units coming into the stock, Solerno said.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/accessible-affordable-housing-waterloo-region-1.6094745

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New School Misses Mark on Accessibility

July 8, 2021
By Helen Solmes

The new Georgian Bay Community School (GBCS) that is scheduled to open in September falls short of being fully accessible to people with disabilities, according to Mary Solomon in a Letter to the Editor, The Meaford Independent, June 30, 2021.

In today’s world where concerted effort is being made to remove barriers for people with disabilities, Mary and her husband Geoff Solomon are struggling to understand why the new school is not fully accessible.

Accessibility has been a lifelong battle for Geoff, whose time in a wheelchair dates back to his high school years. He knows the challenges disabled people face in public buildings. He and Mary have served in various capacities to advocate for accessibility.

When the construction fences came down around the new school in June, Mary and Geoff did a walkabout and were alarmed when they found two doors at the front of the building on both sides of the main door that a person in a wheelchair would not be able to access. They contacted staff members and a trustee of the Bluewater District School Board (BWDSB) to express their concerns. The response was disheartening, according to Mary.

“We were told that a percentage of the exits are accessible and thus the school is in compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act,” she said.

BWDSB Superintendent of Business Services and Treasurer Rob Cummings, has provided a statement to The Meaford Independent in response to the Solomon’s letter stating: “Our architect, contractor, and Bluewater District School Board rely on the guidance and direction provided by Ontario legislation regarding building code, fire code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and a range of other requirements. We have fully followed the rules set out by the Acts.

“Georgian Bay Community School is fully accessible and includes three barrier free entrances and exits, including the main front entrance, an entrance on the north for the EarlyON child care location, and an east entrance for access to the recreational area.”

Mary questions why BWDSB would build a school that is not fully accessible. “Nothing in the new school should be inaccessible,” she said. “Why build a new school and not make it fully accessible? I really could care less if the BWDSB is officially compliant. Ethically, they are extremely wrong. This in 2021.”

Mary serves on the Municipality of Meaford Accessibility Committee. She has advised the municipality on the challenges disabled people face. She recommends that the BWDSB form a similar advisory committee. “I would even say the BWDSB has the potential to be a leading school board in accessibility and inclusion, but you need to ask for help from those with lived experience,” she said.

Original at https://themeafordindependent.ca/new-school-misses-mark-on-accessibility/

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