How Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Went Off the Rails in an Important Disability Accessibility Case–Read the New Article by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the Tribunal’s Ruling Against an 8-Year-Old Student With Autism Who Wanted to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

How Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Went Off the Rails in an Important  Disability Accessibility Case–Read the New Article by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the Tribunal’s Ruling Against an 8-Year-Old Student With Autism Who Wanted to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School

July 5, 2019

          SUMMARY

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a controversial and deeply troubling decision about the rights of students with disabilities in Ontario schools. An 8-year-old boy with autism wanted to bring his certified autism service dog to school with him. The school board refused. His family filed a human rights complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The Tribunal ruled in favour of the school board and against the student.

Many reacted with surprise or shock at this ruling. Now you have a chance to delve deeper and see what went wrong. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has written a 28-page article analyzing this human rights decision. He found that there are several problems with the decision. His article is entitled “Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School.”

In the fall of 2020, this article will be published in volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law. You don’t need any legal training or background to read this article.

Below we set out this article’s introduction. You can download the entire article in an accessible MS Word format by clicking here https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/ASD-Dog-Article-by-David-Lepofsky-Accepted-for-Publication-in-the-NJCL-dated-july-4-2019.docx

The published text of this article next year may have minor editorial changes.

The AODA Alliance has pressed the Ford Government for over a year to get the Education Standards Development Committee back to work, developing recommendations for what should be included in an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. Among other things, we plan to propose detailed standards to bind all schools on letting students with autism bring their qualified service animal to school.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. On March 7, 2019, the Ford Government said it was lifting that freeze. Yet no date for the next meeting of that AODA Standards Development Committee is set.

There have been 155 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing” barriers that impede over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. It calls on the Ontario Government to show new leadership and to take strong action on accessibility for people with disabilities. the Ford Government has not announced a plan to implement the Onley Report.

          MORE DETAILS

Excerpt from the Article ” Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School” by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to be Published in Volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law

A child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can experience anxiety, challenges in self-regulating their mood and behaviours, and difficulty adjusting to transitions. Helpful measures to address these needs contribute to a child’s developmental progress. An autism service dog can help with these needs.

ASD’s emotional, behavioural and communicational impacts on a child cannot be measured, day-by-day, by a blood test or thermometer. It is typically not possible to isolate and quantify exactly when and how an intervention such as a service dog has helped, any more than an omelet can be unscrambled. This does not derogate from the benefits experienced from using such a service dog. For children with ASD, as with many others, trial and error is so often the best approach.

This article examines a troubling case where a school board, and then Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal, each got it wrong when it came to accommodating a student with ASD. In J.F. v. Waterloo District Catholic School Board, an eight-year-old boy with ASD benefitted at home from a trained autism service dog. His family asked the school board to let him bring the service dog to school, to help accommodate his ASD. The school board said no. The Tribunal sided with the board.

There was no showing that board employees, addressing this issue, had prior knowledge, experience or expertise with autism service dogs, or that those officials tried to observe the boy outside school when using the autism service dog. There was no indication that the board took any proactive steps to learn about the benefits of these service dogs, or considered a trial period with this boy bringing his autism service dog to school.

In contrast, some other Ontario school boards let students with ASD bring a service dog to school. If other school boards can do so, the Waterloo District Catholic School Board could do the same, rather than putting barriers in the path of a vulnerable student.

The boy’s family filed a human rights complaint against the school board. It alleged a violation of his right to equal treatment in education without discrimination due to his disability, guaranteed by s. 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The family argued that the board failed to fulfil its substantive duty to accommodate (its duty to provide a disability-related accommodation he needed), and its procedural duty to accommodate (its duty to adequately investigate his disability-related needs and the options for accommodating them). In a widely-publicized and erroneous decision, the Tribunal ruled against the boy on both scores.

The school board and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario failed to properly apply human rights principles to a vulnerable student with an undisputed disability. This case provides a powerful illustration of a Human Rights Tribunal that failed to properly apply both the human rights procedural duty to accommodate and the substantive duty to accommodate. The school board’s failure to fulfil its procedural duty to accommodate this boy’s disability also serves to substantially weaken the board’s claim that it met its substantive duty to accommodate.

As well, this case illustrates unfair accessibility barriers that students with disabilities too often face in Ontario’s education system. It shows how families must repeatedly fight against the same barriers, at school board after school board. This case also highlights serious flaws in Ontario’s controversial system for enforcing human rights. It shows why Ontario needs a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to remove such recurring disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system.

Had this school board redirected more of its effort and public money towards working out a way to let this student bring his autism service dog to school, rather than fighting against him, a more positive outcome here was likely. Instead the Board marshalled its formidable legal resources to fight against this boy.

This article first delineates the case’s largely undisputed facts. It then explores the evolution of the procedural duty to accommodate in human rights law. The importance of the duty to accommodate in the education context is then investigated.

Attention next turns to problems in the Tribunal’s reasoning that led it to find that the school board did not violate the procedural duty to accommodate. After that, serious problems are identified with the Tribunal’s finding that the school board did not violate its substantive duty to accommodate.

This article concludes with a look more broadly at this case’s implications. This case typifies problems since 2008 with the way human rights are enforced in Ontario. This case also illustrates the need for the Ontario Government to adopt a reformed approach to the education of students with disabilities in Ontario schools as well as the need for an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.



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Carleton Creates Canadian Accessibility Network


June 26, 2019

Building on its reputation as Canada’s most accessible university, Carleton University is launching the Canadian Accessibility Network the first entity of its kind in the country.

The announcement follows the historic passage of the federal government’s Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. The bill sets groundbreaking accessibility standards for the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, programs, services and information are accessible to everyone.

“As a campus community that has been dedicated to supporting people with disabilities since our inception, we are excited to see the Accessible Canada Act bring accessibility to the top of our national agenda,” says President Benoit-Antoine Bacon.

“Carleton exemplifies the many ways accessibility can be embedded into everything we do, but we know there is so much more we can do within our own community and beyond. We are excited to launch and lead the Canadian Accessibility Network and we call on all our current and future partners to work together, through the network, to create a more accessible and inclusive world.”

“When talented people work together for a common cause, great things can happen, and that is the promise of the Canadian Accessibility Network,” says Yazmine Laroche, deputy minister, Public Service Accessibility, Treasury Board Secretariat. “I am so excited by the possibilities the network will provide for collaboration on removing barriers and building greater accessibility for Canadians where they work, learn, play and live. Congratulations to Carleton University and all of the partners of the network.”

The Honourable Raymond Cho, Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, expressed support for the foundation of the Canadian Accessibility Network at Carleton. “I am proud that this initiative is spearheaded in Ontario, where accessibility is a priority as exemplified by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA),” said Cho. “I am equally pleased that such an ambitious undertaking is led by Carleton University, the most accessible university in Canada. My ministry is looking forward to working alongside Carleton as a Canadian Accessibility Network partner to advance accessibility in Ontario and Canada.”

Ontario’s Minister of Seniors and Accessibility, Raymond Cho, toured Carleton University in 2018 to get an inside look at how it is pushing the boundaries of accessibility and inclusion.

Carleton University has a long history in accessibility and is regarded among the most supportive universities in North America for students with disabilities. For example:

  • The Research, Education, Accessibility and Design (READ) initiative joins expertise from across all academic disciplines and service departments at Carleton with individuals and organizations committed to accessibility. READ will serve as the headquarters for the new Canadian Accessibility Network.
  • Through its Research and Education in Accessibility, Design and Innovation (READi) training program funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Carleton brings together students from across more than seven disciplines and three universities to use theory and practice to develop accessibility solutions.
  • Carleton University’s Disability Research Group is an interdisciplinary team from scholarly and professional backgrounds that aims to raise awareness about disability and technology through virtual exhibits and multidisciplinary research.
  • The Transforming Disability Knowledge, Research and Activism project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, focuses on engaging women and girls with disabilities in disadvantaged communities in Vietnam.
  • The Paul Menton Centre (PMC) fosters equal access to university experiences for students with disabilities while maintaining academic standards by providing academic accommodations and support services.
  • From Intention to Action (FITA) supports students to manage their mental health and improve academic performance by helping them navigate personal stressors impacting their education.
  • Led by Carleton, the David C. Onley Initiative for Employment and Enterprise Development is an Ontario government-funded partnership between four post-secondary institutions in Ottawa dedicated to supporting students with disabilities in their employment readiness and career aspirations.

By leveraging strengths of individual stakeholders within a national network of partnerships, the Canadian Accessibility Network is creating collective regional and national capacity. A number of organizations and individual stakeholders from across Canada representing diverse sectors have already expressed interest in the Canadian Accessibility Network, such as the Rick Hansen Foundation, Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility, National Educational Association of Disabled Students, and several universities and organizations across Canada.

Through the Canadian Accessibility Network, Carleton will work with partners to promote a more accessible and inclusive Canada and build on the goals of the Accessible Canada Act.

To learn more about the Canadian Accessibility Network, visit: http://www.Carleton.ca/read/can.

Original at https://newsroom.carleton.ca/2019/carleton-creates-canadian-accessibility-network/



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The Ford Government Gets A Failing Grade on Making Progress on Disability Accessibility After One year in Power – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

The Ford Government Gets A Failing Grade on Making Progress on Disability Accessibility After One year in Power

June 21, 2019

SUMMARY

It’s time to look back on the past year, take stock and give a report card on the Ontario Government’s performance on achieving the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. The Ontario Government has now been in office for one year, or one quarter of its term in office. It has been blanketing social media and the web with glowing statements about its progress on various issues, exemplified in Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho’s June 14, 2019 email to disability stakeholders, set out below. It repeatedly tells the public that it is keeping its promises and protecting “what matters most” to Ontarians.

We regret that we must give the Ford Government a failing “F” grade. It has done virtually nothing helpful and new to improve the Ontario Government’s efforts on leading Ontario to become accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the deadline which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets. It has even exceeded the previous Wynne Government’s record for dithering and inaction on accessibility. When running for office, Doug Ford told all Ontarians that if he is elected, help is on the way. When it comes to the accessibility needs of Ontarians with disabilities, we are still waiting.

We were delighted at the start of the new Government that it appointed the closest thing to a fulltime accessibility minister. This meant that progress on accessibility could be sped up, since more ministerial time could be devoted to that issue. Yet no such progress occurred over the year that followed.

The only new initiative on disability accessibility that the Ford Government has announced in an entire year is unhelpful. It appears to be a major distraction rather than a real significant help. That is the Ford Government’s decision to divert 1.3 million public dollars over two years into having the Rick Hansen Foundation undertake a private “certification” of a total of 250 buildings (125 per year), using the Rick Hansen Foundation’s problematic private accessibility certification process. We have been on the record for years in opposition to investing any public money in a private accessibility certification process, no matter who runs it. In an upcoming AODA Alliance Update, we will have more to say specifically about the Rick Hansen Foundation private accessibility certification process which the Ford Government has chosen to endorse and finance in Ontario.

With yesterday’s Cabinet shuffle, the Ford Government is now broadly trying to do a re-set, since it has plummeted in the polls. This is a good time for the Government to do a re-set in its approach to accessibility for people with disabilities. We estimate that there are at least one million voters with disabilities in Ontario. We are ready and willing to help with this, in our ongoing spirit of non-partisanship.

We remain open to work with the Ford Government so that it turns the page and begins a new strategy on disability accessibility. We invite and encourage your feedback on what to do in response to the Ford Government’s failing grade on accessibility in its first year in office. Email us at [email protected]

In striking contrast to this “F” grade for the Ontario Government, today the Federal Government is scheduled to give Royal Assent to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. That means that it goes into operation as a federal law. While the Accessible Canada Act lacks important features for which we and others vigorously campaigned, it underwent a series of improvements over the year since it was introduced in the House of Commons for First Reading on June 20, 2018, just one year and one day ago. It was improved in the House of Commons last fall at public hearings. It was further improved this past spring in the public hearings in the Senate. Check out the seven preliminary observations we have offered in response to the enactment of the Accessible Canada Act, in the June 3, 2019 AODA Alliance Update.

          MORE DETAILS

The Doug Ford Government’s Record on Accessibility After One Year in Office – A Closer Look

Here are the key developments over the past year which together lead to the Ford Government’s failing grade on promoting accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities during its first year in office.

1. Starting on a Positive Note

The Ford Government started its term in office on a positive note. In June 2018, on being sworn in, the Ford Government announced that it was appointing Ontario’s first ever Minister for Accessibility and Seniors. This was the closest Ontario has ever come to having a much-needed full-time accessibility minister. Combining responsibility for accessibility and for seniors was a good idea, since these mandates overlap. A large percentage of people with disabilities are seniors.

We congratulated the Government for this move. We offered to work together with Raymond Cho, the new minister, and the new Government. We have had a number of discussions with the minister and the minister’s staff.

2. We Offered the Government Good Ideas Early On But Got Vague Answers

Within a month of the Ford Government taking office, we wrote to the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors and to Premier Doug Ford. We made specific suggestions for priority actions. Check out our July 17, 2018 letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho and our July 19, 2018 letter to Premier Doug Ford.

Both Premier Ford and Minister Cho replied with pro forma letters. These letters said little and committed to nothing specific. Apart from our request that the Government revive the work of five Standards Development Committees (which the Government had just frozen due to the election and its outcome), addressed further below, the Ford Government has taken none of the actions in the past year that we recommended as priorities.

3. Chilling Progress on Accessibility by Freezing the Work of AODA Standards Development Committees for Many Months

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

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

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

We had to keep up the pressure. The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 before it announced that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. As of now, over three and a half months since the Ford Government announced that it was lifting that freeze, none of those three remaining Standards Development Committees has had a single meeting, as far as we can tell.

The Ford Government has announced potential reductions in the number of days that they will be able to meet. In the meantime, the many barriers in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system remain in place, while new ones continue to be created.

4. No New Government Action on Ensuring the Accessibility of Public Transportation in Ontario

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

5. Failure to Fulfil Its Duty to Appoint A Standards Development Committee to Review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017. Neither the previous Wynne Government nor the current Ford Government have fulfilled this legal duty. This is a mandatory AODA requirement. The Ford Government has had a year in office to learn about this duty and to fulfil it. We flagged it for the Government early on.

6. No Comprehensive Government Plan of Action on Accessibility 142 Days After Receiving the Report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review, Even Though the Government Thought Onley Did a “Marvelous Job”

We have been urging the Ford Government to develop a detailed plan on accessibility since shortly after it took office. it has never done so.

In December 2018, the Ford Government stated that it was awaiting the final report of former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, before deciding what it would do regarding accessibility for people with disabilities.

On January 31, 2019, the Ford Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho publicly said on April 10, 2019 in the Ontario Legislature that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

The Onley report found that Ontario is still full of serious barriers impeding people with disabilities, and that specific new Government actions, spelled out in the report, are needed. However, in the 142 days since receiving the Onley Report, the Ford Government has not made public any detailed plan to implement that report’s findings and recommendations. It says it is still studying the issue.

The Ford Government Voiced Very Troubling and Harmful Stereotypes About the AODA and Disability Accessibility During National Access Abilities Week

For years, Canada has held some form of National Access Week towards the end of May. During this week, provincial politicians typically make public statements in the Legislature committing to accessibility and focusing on what more needs to be done.

This year, during National Access Abilities Week, MPP Joel Harden proposed a that the Legislature pass a resolution that called for the Government to bring forward a plan in response to the Onley Report. The resolution was worded in benign and non-partisan words, which in key ways tracked Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. In that letter, Doug Ford had set out the Conservative Party’s 2018 election promises on disability accessibility. The proposed resolution stated:

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

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

The speeches by Conservative MPPs in the Legislature on the Government’s behalf, in opposition to that motion, voiced false and harmful stereotypes about disability accessibility. That was hurtful to 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. Those statements in effect call into serious question the Ford Government’s commitment to the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. They denigrated the creation and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards as red tape that threatened to imperil businesses and hurt people with disabilities.

7. In an Inappropriate Use of Public Money, the Ford Government Diverts 1.3 Million Dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Process

The only new action the Ford Government has taken on accessibility over its first year in office is its announcement in the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget that it would spend 1.3 million public dollars over two years to have the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process “certify” some 250 buildings, belonging to business or the public sector, for accessibility. We oppose any public funding for any private accessibility certification process, no matter who provides this service.

the Ford Government entirely ignored all our serious concerns with spending public money on such a private accessibility certification process. These concerns have been public for well over three years. The Ford Government has given no public reasons for its rejecting all of these concerns.

We here summarize our major concerns with any kind of private accessibility certification process, no matter who is operating it. A future AODA Alliance update will address concerns specific to the Ford Government’s funding the private accessibility certification process offered under the name of the Rick Hansen Foundation.

  1. a) A private accessibility certification risks misleading the public, including people with disabilities. It also risks misleading the very organization that seeks this so-called certification. It “certifies” nothing. A private organization might certify a building as accessible, and yet people with disabilities may well find that the building itself, or the services offered in the building, still has serious accessibility problems.

Such a certification provides no defence to an accessibility complaint or proceeding under the AODA, under the Ontario Building Code, under a municipal bylaw, under the Ontario Human Rights Code, or under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As well, the certification, for whatever it is worth on the day it is granted, can quickly become out-of-date. New accessibility rules might later be enacted or amended that the assessor did not even consider. The building might proudly display a gold accessibility certification, while something might have been changed inside the building that creates new barriers.

If an organization gets a top-level accessibility certification, it may think they have done all they must do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be led to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This may turn out not to be the case, especially if the assessor uses an insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if things change in the building after the certification is granted.

  1. b) All a private accessibility is some kind of accessibility advice, dressed up in the seemingly more impressive and authoritative label of “certification”. There are a number of accessibility consultants available to organizations to provide accessibility reviews and advice. The Government should not be subsidizing one accessibility consultant over another, and conferring on it the seemingly superior designation of “certification”. There is no assurance that the people who do the certifying have as much training, experience and expertise on accessibility as do other accessibility consultants.
  1. c) A private accessibility certification process lacks much-needed public accountability. The public has no way to know if the private accessibility assessor is making accurate assessments. It is not subject to Freedom of Information laws. It can operate behind closed doors. It lacks the kind of public accountability that applies to a government audit or inspection or other enforcement.
  1. d) Especially in a period of austerity and major Ontario budget cuts, spending any public money on a private accessibility certification process is not a priority for efforts on accessibility in Ontario or a responsible use of public money. It is not focusing Government funding and efforts on the things that “matter most”, to draw on the Ford Government’s slogan.

There are much more pressing areas for new public spending on accessibility. At the same time as it is diverting this new public money to the Rick Hansen Foundation, the Ford Government appears to be cutting its expenditures on existing Standards Development Committees that are doing work in the health care and education areas. There is a much more pressing need for the Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend an appropriate accessibility standard to deal with barriers in the built environment. These public funds could also be far better used to beef up the flagging and weak enforcement of the AODA.

  1. e) The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford Government has not yet agreed to take. The Onley Report did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.
  1. f) If a private organization wants to hire an accessibility consultant of any sort, that organization should pay for those services. The Government should not be subsidizing this.

To read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief to Deloitte on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process, visit https://www.aoda.ca/aoda-alliance-sends-the-deloitte-company-its-submission-on-the-first-phase-of-the-deloitte-companys-public-consultation-on-the-wynne-governments-problem-ridden-proposal-to-fund-a-new-private-ac/

7. Text of the June 14, 2019 Email from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho to Stakeholders on Accessibility Issues

Dear Stakeholder:

June 7th marks the one-year anniversary that our government has been in office, and together, we have much to celebrate. We were elected to be a government that works for the people, putting their interests first in everything we do. I am proud to share with you how our government has helped people with disabilities and their families across Ontario over this past year.

Premier Ford and our entire team made five core commitments to the people of Ontario: restoring trust, accountability, and transparency; putting more money in people’s pockets; cleaning up the hydro mess; ending hallway healthcare; and making Ontario open for business and open for jobs.

Today, we can proudly say: “Promises made, promises kept.” We have charted a reasonable and responsible path to a balanced budget in five years, invested in core public services like healthcare and education, and protected frontline workers.

As Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, I am committed to helping seniors and people with disabilities stay independent, safe, active and socially connected. Our government has the highest regard for people with disabilities and is committed to protecting what matters most to them and their families. I am incredibly proud of the work that our Ministry has accomplished over the past year, working alongside terrific partners like AODA Alliance.

We are committed to making Ontario more accessible for all. That is why when the Honourable David C. Onley completed and submitted his review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in January 2019, our government tabled the report faster than either previous review. After tabling the report, we immediately announced that we would be resuming the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees so that they can continue their valuable work to improve accessibility in those sectors. We are also continuing to work with the Information and Communications Standard Development Committee. Needless to say, we are taking Mr. Onley’s input very seriously as we continue to work towards making Ontario more accessible.

People with disabilities and seniors deserve to remain engaged and participate fully in their communities. Yet many buildings in Ontario continue to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. That is why our government is investing $1.3 million over two years through a new partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation. The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program is expected to start this fall and will roll out over the next two years in select communities across Ontario. The certification program will provide accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings by trained professionals, and will help property managers and owners determine ways to remove identified barriers. Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.

We are also continuing to work closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility. For instance, our Employers’ Partnership Table, which was brought together to support the creation of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. They are working on developing sector-specific business cases for hiring people with disabilities that will be shared with businesses in Ontario to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

Additionally, through our EnAbling Change Program, we partner with non-profit organizations to develop educational tools and resources to promote ways to make our communities and businesses more accessible.

This is just the beginning. We look forward to continuing to work together to make Ontario more accessible for all.

As our track record shows, we have accomplished a great deal, but our work is far from over. Looking ahead, our government will continue turning this province around and building for the future.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to build an Ontario where everyone shares in greater opportunity and prosperity.

Sincerely,

Raymond Cho

Minister



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Change In Ontario Law Creates Uncertainty For Service Dogs In Schools


“Are all these school boards going to start saying that the dogs need to be certified?” By Bailey Martens

Fifteen-year-old Cameron Cadarette was a C student, struggling to stay in school in Windsor, Ont. until Vincent came along. The specifically trained golden Labrador helps the teen manage his post-traumatic stress disorder, and gain better focus in classes.

Cameron scratches his arms and legs until they bleed; Vincent is able to interrupt his self-harming behaviour by nudging the teen’s hand. The service animal also keeps the teen safe at night, waking him from night terrors and bringing him water bottles to help him catch his breath during an anxiety attack.

Two years later, Cameron holds an average of 95 per cent in Grade 9 and is able to have relationships with his peers. “He can meld into the school system and not be an outcast,” said his mother, Nicole McMillan.

But a recent change in Ontario’s Safe and Supportive Classroom Act is making McMillan and other families with students who use service animals nervous.

Vague nature of new section concerns dog handlers

A new section on service dogs, which was approved in April, notes that the education minister may create policies and guidelines, and require school boards to comply with them or create their own based on the minister’s parameters.

A draft policy is underway, the Ministry of Education told HuffPost Canada, that will “set out the framework and required components of board policies across the province resulting in greater consistency, transparency and clarity of process when requesting that a student be accompanied by a service animal in school.”

“We are committed to ensuring every student in Ontario has access to safe and supportive learning environments,” said a ministry statement, which noted that it’s aware of 39 of 72 school boards with active policies on service animals.

Still, the vague nature of the new section has left service dog handlers with more questions than answers.

“Nothing is actually changing because they’re just passing a bill that says the minister could do something,” said Deanna Allain, an Ontario-based service dog trainer and lobbyist. But the concern comes in the unknown: “The minister could ban all service dogs, that’s that’s how specific this legislation is.”

Emily Write has been working with her diabetic alert service dog Kailey for six years. Kailey is scent-trained to alert her handler to dangerous changes in blood sugar levels.

Write is nearing completion of her masters degree from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute For Studies In Education, and has been doing a required teaching placement at a Catholic school.

“I realize that we can’t just have anyone bring a dog in a school and that the dog does need to have appropriate training levels,” Write told HuffPost Canada. But the new addition in the law is not the way to go about it, she said.

With a lack of clear expectations, it provides no information on the process to bring a service dog to school. “Are all these school boards going to start saying that the dogs need to be certified, and who is going to monitor that? Because we don’t have a certification process,” said Write.

Uneven requirements across Canada

Currently, Ontario only requires a note from a medical professional outlining the need for a service dog. This is contrary to provinces like British Columbia, which mandates a certification test, or Alberta, where certification is voluntary. There’s no national standard or consistency across provincial laws, which becomes problematic when more public places are requesting proof of certifications. An increase in fraudulent registries and copycat harnesses and ID cards doesn’t help either.

Then there’s the issue of reporting complaints. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that governs service animals does not have a formal complaint process. Write wonders why new service dog legislation would be implemented if it has no clear path to enforcement.

McMillan has fought complex policies before. Cameron’s service dog was initially denied by both the Greater Essex Public School Board and the Windsor-Essex County Catholic School Boards because they couldn’t recognize Vincent’s international training credentials from Florida.

The public school board has its own service dog policies and was considered complaint with the AODA. McMillan took their case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, which said the issue was settled through mediation in 2017.

Cameron now attends a private school with Vincent by his side.

“All I want for him is an education that he has the right to,” said McMillan.

She feels the new section in provincial legislation can open doors, “but it’s also left room for interpretation, which in the long run, I think you’ll see some battles from families trying to … get their service dogs in schools that are adequately trained for their children.”

“It encourages empathy.
Emily Write

McMillan fears that families will go “school-district shopping” as they try to place students in schools with better service dog policies, as it appears the act’s new section would allow districts to have varying policies.

As a teacher in training, Write points out that service dogs benefit the whole classroom. “It encourages empathy,” she said. She noted how students she worked with, ranging from kindergarten to Grade 12, recognized when the classroom was getting too loud through Kailey’s changing body language and would respond accordingly.

“As an educator, that’s not something I ever knew: that by bringing a service dog into a classroom that it would not just benefit me but also benefit my students,” said Write.

Original at https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/ontario-service-dog-school-policy_ca_5d014863e4b0985c419705b8?utm_hp_ref=ca-living&guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS91cmw_cmN0PWomc2E9dCZ1cmw9aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuaHVmZmluZ3RvbnBvc3QuY2EvZW50cnkvb250YXJpby1zZXJ2aWNlLWRvZy1zY2hvb2wtcG9saWN5X2NhXzVkMDE0ODYzZTRiMDk4NWM0MTk3MDViOCUzRnV0bV9ocF9yZWYlM0RjYS1saXZpbmcmY3Q9Z2EmY2Q9Q0FFWUFDb1VNVEEwTURnNE5qWXlNamN4TmpRek9Ea3dOemt5R2pGa1l6QTJOVFF5TjJaa00yRmhORFE2WTI5dE9tVnVPbFZUJnVzZz1BRlFqQ05FYXZiTTdqeDFZUTE3OXVRcElabkxsekNFYWl3&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACquXyzeRYfHimJ7dPggreypPKVGbaamqEGxlH9Uk4ADtqTX1oq4Z9iLbgCR6CbQJnTKndTqxxv46eR0LjoXnjQiw4Hrghk0WMoSBP29oaXjuJRmjiQDiK4FwzCtSCFbPeFxMBtOqn8QQudOe6E704VNYOn41BsqlM1OwhPgwcGA



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How Tech Breaks Down Barriers for Students With Disabilities


June 7, 2019

Universities are under growing pressure to improve accessibility for students. But is it working?

Rustling crisp packets, shuffling feet and the general buzz of conversation made lectures a trial for Gemma Long during her first degree. She suffers from sensory overload connected to her autism, which was only diagnosed after she graduated. But when she started a teacher-training course at the University of Huddersfield, she received access to software to help her cope with dyslexia and found it transformative. It allowed her to listen to lectures quietly at home, which dramatically improved her grades. She went on to take an MA at the Open University and is now studying for a PhD at Sheffield Hallam University.

I struggled to understand the point of lectures until I got that software, recalls Long. I didnt realise how much useful information was in them. As someone who is hypersensitive to noise I spend most of my time in lectures trying to filter out the background noise, which means I miss much of what the lecturer is saying. Being able to audio record the lectures and listen back to them in a silent room meant I was finally able to digest the content.

Technology is breaking down barriers faced by students with disabilities. This matters, because fewer disabled students go to university than their non-disabled peers. Online journal articles or reading lists now mean that those with visual impairments can zoom in to read printed text or convert it to easier-to-read formats such as braille. Universities are also increasingly recording lectures which students can replay at their own pace, which benefits students with dyslexia or attention deficit disorder (ADHD) too. Often, all this can be done through laptops at home, giving disabled students greater independence.

According to Alistair McNaught, a digital learning consultant, universities are increasingly tracking how students learn, and then directing them to the accessible resources most suited to their personal needs. Staff can also receive automated feedback on the accessibility or otherwise of material they upload to the virtual learning environment.

McNaught appreciates the way assistive technologies can help all students whether they have a disability or not but stresses that its important for universities to get the basics right first. Many higher and further institutions have inaccessible websites or inaccessible digital content. If the content is inaccessible, investments in assistive technology can be undermined at a stroke.

This is something that new European regulations aim to tackle. After September this year, new material published on university websites and virtual learning environments will need to meet standards on accessibility.

This drive is complemented by other technological innovations. There are new mobile apps to guide students through tricky periods or situations. For instance, Brain in Hand is designed specifically for people with autism, mental health conditions, brain injuries or specific learning difficulties. It suggests personalised coping strategies to students in distress, offers reminders about tasks, and allows them to monitor anxiety levels and access help swiftly when needed.

Some universities are taking a wider approach. At De Montfort University, around 200 students can record their moods via a traffic light system green when all is OK, amber when they are feeling uncomfortable, and red when they need help. Specialist mentors track these notifications and step in when needed, as well as observing what activities seem to cause each student particular stress. For example, many students seem to record high anxiety levels on Wednesday afternoons, which have traditionally been left free, so the university now offers drop-in sessions on those days.

Universities are feeling the pressure to improve accessibility after the government reduced funds for Disabled Student Allowances in 2016-17. Universities were given more money to persuade them to create a more inclusive learning environment overall, rather than focus on targeted support for individuals.

But although disability campaigners have broadly welcomed this, they point to some problems. Piers Wilkinson, head of Ramping Up, a consultancy on accessibility in higher education and disabled students officer elect at the National Union of Students, says that a general inclusive approach can be helpful in identifying that a particular style of teaching or assessment does not work for all students, not just their disabled peers. But he argues that although its important, universities still need to provide targeted support for disabled students.

Furthermore, analysis by Policy Connect, a cross-party thinktank, shows the number of students receiving technology equipment through DSA has dropped since the £200 charge for DSA-issued laptops came in, despite a substantial increase in the number being assessed as needing support. It is putting together a report, due out in the next few weeks, which is expected to recommend removing these upfront costs.

Rachel Hewett, fellow in the Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research at the University of Birmingham, adds that even when students receive laptops the fact they are issued by the DSA can make them unsuitable. Once they have put on all the different software they need and are trying to run them in conjunction with other laptops they arent powerful enough, she says. Many students struggle to use the equipment as they arent given any training, either.

Hewett would like to see the DSA fund mainstream technology such as iPads, which increasingly include features such as braille-writing capability. Getting used to mainstream technology would also be more helpful to students long term, she argues.

For Long, universities just need to get better at promoting the support thats already there. She says that making specialist software and training generally available, rather than confining it to disabled students, makes it more widely known, as well as removes stigma. For someone like her, who received her diagnoses late, it would have been particularly helpful. To this end, the assistive technology network she founded to represent staff who support their disabled students with tech, will hold its first awards ceremony next month.

Universities are slowly tackling the barriers for disabled students, helped along by developments in technology. Theres more yet to come: Wilkinson is excited about the prospect of virtual reality particularly when it comes to fieldwork. It can be incredibly difficult for a disabled student to get a wheelchair on to a salt marsh, he says. But if the learning aims are being immersed in an environment, and making discoveries, VR can achieve that.

Original at http://www.brinkwire.com/canada/it-removes-stigma-how-tech-breaks-down-barriers-for-students-with-disabilities/



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Charting the Landscape of Accessible Education for Post-secondary Students with Disabilities


Abstract

This article presents the results of research examining the impact of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) on educational accessibility at one university in Ontario, Canada.

A longitudinal, qualitative study was conducted to explore how students with and without disabilities, instructors, staff members and administrators perceived the relative accessibility of teaching and learning on campus before, during, and after the implementation of one portion of the AODA legislation.

In the first phase of this research, several factors affecting educational accessibility at the study university were noted, including knowledge, attitudes, pedagogical choices, disciplinary features, and institutional practices and characteristics.

Participants raised many of these issues in the later phases reported here, although some preliminary changes in awareness and institutional practices are also described.

Based on these minimal developments, and on participants’ expressed perceptions of the AODA, we conclude that the legislation has had limited impact on the accessibility of teaching and learning on campus to date.

Implications of the findings, potentially applicable in many contexts beyond the Ontario setting where the research was conducted, as well as next steps and recommendations for further research are discussed.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Marquis, Arts & Science Program and McMaster Institute for Innovation & Excellence in Teaching & Learning, McMaster University

Elizabeth Marquis is an assistant professor in the Arts & Science program and the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning at McMaster University. Her teaching and learning research interests include accessibility and inclusion in teaching and learning, the teaching of creativity across disciplines, and capacity building for the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).

Ann Fudge Schormans, School of Social Work, McMaster University

Ann Fudge Schormans is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at McMaster University. Her research interests centre on questions related to disability, particularly issues important to people labelled with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She engages in community-based research and partnerships, particularly participatory and inclusive research methodologies and arts-informed methodologies that facilitate more active participation of labelled persons.

Bonny Jung, School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University

Bonny Jung is an Associate Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science and Director of the Program for Interprofessional Practice, Education, and Research (PIPER) at McMaster University. Her research focuses on interprofessional and clinical education, problem-based learning and university-community partnerships, and inclusive education.

Christina Vietinghoff, Arts & Science Program and McMaster Institute for Innovation & Excellence in Teaching & Learning, McMaster University

Christina Vietinghoff recently graduated from the Arts and Science Program at McMaster University, where she worked as a student scholar for the McMaster Institute for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning (MIIETL).

Rob Wilton, School of Geography & Earth Sciences, McMaster University

Rob Wilton is a professor of social geography in the School of Geography and Earth Sciences at McMaster University. His research focuses primarily on social inclusion and exclusion with particular emphasis on disability, mental health and addiction.

Sue Baptiste, School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University

Sue Baptiste is a Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University and a recent President of the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists. Her research interests include professional development, competence and self assessment, acculturation of internationally educated health professionals into Canadian professional practice, and faculty development and roles in problem-based, learner-centred curricula

Reports

Original at https://cjds.uwaterloo.ca/index.php/cjds/article/view/272



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Despite No Announced Plans to Implement the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report, the Ford Government Gives 1.3 Million Dollars to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Program — A Use of Public Money We Don’t Support


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Despite No Announced Plans to Implement the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report, the Ford Government Gives 1.3 Million Dollars to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Program — A Use of Public Money We Don’t Support

May 17, 2019

          SUMMARY

Why has the Ford Government dragged its feet for months on taking new action to effectively implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)? Why instead, amidst a flurry of its controversial budget cuts across the Ontario Government, has the Government decided to invest 1.3 million new public dollars over two years in the private accessibility certification process now operated by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF)?

This is not an appropriate use of public money. Instead, the Ford Government needs to now announce a bold and comprehensive plan of action to implement the key recommendations of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Any new public money in this area should be allocated to that effort.

The Ford Government has in effect done nothing new to strengthen the AODA’s implementation in its first 11 months in office, apart from this new announcement. It has been 106 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and Enforcement. The Government has announced no plans to implement that Report’s spectrum of recommendations. This is so even though Ontario’s Accessibility minister Raymond Cho said in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a “marvelous job” in that report and that Ontario has only progressed 30% towards its target of becoming fully accessible to people with disabilities.

The Onley Report found that Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching full accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025 as the AODA requires. It concluded that progress on accessibility in Ontario has proceeded at a glacial pace, and that Ontario remains a province full of disability barriers.

Instead of announcing any new measures that the Onley Report recommended, in this spring’s Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it is giving the RHF some 1.3 million dollars over two years for its private accessibility certification process. We have serious concerns with this.

We have been on the public record for over four years expressing our strong opposition to any public money going into any private accessibility certification process, no matter who runs it. This Update tells you why. In summary:

  1. a) A private accessibility certification in reality certifies nothing. It provides no defence to enforcement proceedings under the AODA, the Ontario Building Code, a municipal bylaw, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  1. b) A private accessibility certification process lacks an assurance of public accountability.
  1. c) A private certification of accessibility can be misleading to the public, including to people with disabilities.
  1. d) The Government should not be subsidizing one accessibility consultant over another.
  1. e) Spending public money on a private accessibility certification process is not a priority for efforts on accessibility in Ontario or a responsible use of public money.
  1. f) The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford Government has not yet agreed to take, but it did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.

          MORE DETAILS

1. Why We Oppose Public Money Being Spent to Help Finance a Private Accessibility Certification Process, No Matter Who Operates It – A Closer Look

1. Overview

The RHF has for some time been offering a private accessibility certification process for buildings. From what we understand, an organization can choose to pay the RHF to have someone visit that building and give it an accessibility rating based on whatever standard of accessibility that the RHF has decided to use. They call this an accessibility “certification.” You can learn more about the RHF program by visiting its website at: https://www.rickhansen.com/become-accessible

We have several serious concerns about investing any public money in this. It is not a responsible use of public money. We voice these concerns no matter what organization were to be publicly funded to conduct this private accessibility certification process. We voiced these concerns before the RHF began offering its certification services. We recognize the RHF’s good work in other areas.

Whether a private organization wants to offer its accessibility certification services, and whether any organizations wish to pay for those services, is up to those organizations. The issue we address here is whether the taxpayer’s money should be used to help subsidize this.

We have publicly stated over the past four years that the Ontario Government should not invest any public money in a private accessibility certification process. The former Ontario Government flirted with the idea of investing public money in a private accessibility certification process four years ago. It evidently invested a great deal of public money in a private consulting firm, Deloitt, to create a public report exploring this idea. We took part in that consultation and voiced our strong and principled opposition to this whole idea as a place to put any public money.

Fortunately, the former Government eventually saw the light, and dropped the idea. It is deeply troubling that the new Ford Government is going further down the wrong road that the former Government had explored.

To read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief to Deloitt on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process, visit https://www.aoda.ca/aoda-alliance-sends-the-deloitte-company-its-submission-on-the-first-phase-of-the-deloitte-companys-public-consultation-on-the-wynne-governments-problem-ridden-proposal-to-fund-a-new-private-ac/

2. A Private Accessibility Certification in Reality Certifies Nothing

The very idea of a private organization certifying another organization or its building as accessible is fraught with problems. Organizations that seek this certification of their building will eventually realize that a so-called accessibility certification through a private accessibility certification process is not what it may appear to be.

Such a certification does not mean that the organization is in fact accessible. All that is certified is a building. The services delivered inside the building may have serious accessibility barriers.

Moreover, the certification does not even mean that the built environment in the building is in fact accessible and free of disability barriers.

Such a certification cannot give that organization a defence if there is an objection that the building does not comply with accessibility requirements in the AODA, the Ontario Building Code or a municipal bylaws. An accessibility certification similarly does not provide a defence if the organization is subject to a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, or in the case of a public-sector organization, a disability equality rights claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. An organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Ontario Building Code or a municipal bylaw, or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law and was accessible.

In addition, a private accessibility certification can have a very limited shelf-life. If anything changes in that building, such as a garbage can blocking an accessibility ramp, the assertion of certified accessibility becomes disconnected with the actual experience of people with disabilities.

When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as is under development in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.

An accessibility certification from a private accessibility certification process ultimately means nothing authoritative. At most, it is an expression of opinion by a private self-appointed certifying organization that it thinks the building in question meets whatever standard for accessibility that the private certifying organization chooses to use. That standard may itself be deficient. Its inspection may be faulty or incomplete.

It is therefore an over-statement to call this an accessibility certification. What it boils down to in real terms is something along the lines of the advice an organization might seek from one of many accessibility consultants.

Several such consultants now operate in Ontario, on a fee-for-service basis. They are available to audit an organization’s building or its plans for a new building. They can give advice on barriers in the building. They can recommend accessibility improvements to an existing building or plans for a new building. What they give is advice, not certification.

As well, there is no assurance that the people who do the actual certifying have as much expertise on accessibility as do other accessibility consultants.

3. A Private Accessibility Certification Process Lacks an Assurance of Public Accountability

There is no assurance of public accountability in a private accessibility certification process. For example, the public has no way to know or assure itself that the private certifier is making accurate assessments.

4. A Private Certification of Accessibility Can Be Misleading to the Public, Including to People with Disabilities

If an organization receives a top-level accessibility certification, that organization may be led to think they have done all they need to do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be led to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This may turn out not to be the case if the certifier uses an insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if things change in the building after the certification is granted.

5. The Government Should Not Be Subsidizing One Accessibility Consultant over Another

In a field where there are a number of accessibility consultants providing advisory services, there is no good reason why the Ontario Government should choose to subsidize one of them. If it were to do so, it should presumably first hold an open competitive bid process. It should not be limited to an organization that calls its accessibility advice a “certification” for the reasons set out above.

Moreover, we see no reason why there should be any public subsidy here. Such an accessibility certification should simply operate on a fee-for-service basis, as do all other accessibility consultants and advisors, whether or not they call their advice “accessibility certification.”

6. Spending Public Money on a Private Accessibility Certification Process Is Not a Priority for Efforts on Accessibility in Ontario or a Responsible use of Public Money

Due to its concern over the public debt and deficit, the Ford Government is now implementing major and controversial budget cuts in a large number of areas across the Government. At least some of those cuts have real and troubling implications for people with disabilities.

If the Ontario Government was looking for somewhere to inject a new spending of 1.3 million public dollars to serve the needs of people with disabilities, including in the accessibility context, public spending on a private accessibility certification process would certainly not be a priority. It is not an appropriate public expenditure.

For example, as we covered in our May 13, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Ford Government appears to be cutting its expenditures on existing Standards Development Committees that are doing work in the health care and education areas. This new 1.3 million dollars could better be spent in part to ensure that there is no cut to the number of days that those Standards Development Committees can work.

As well, there is a pressing need for the Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend an appropriate accessibility standard to deal with barriers in the built environment. These public funds could also be far better used to beef up the flagging and weak enforcement of the AODA.

7. The Onley Report Recommended Important Measures to Address Disability Barriers in the Built Environment that the Ford Government has not yet Agreed to take, But it did not Recommend Spending Scarce Public Money on a Private Accessibility Certification Process

It is striking that the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review, which Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho called “marvelous,” did not recommend that public money be spent on a private accessibility certification process. This takes on special importance since the AODA Alliance had urged the Onley Report not to recommend any public investment in a private accessibility certification process. Below we set out an excerpt from Chapter 4 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review.

It makes no sense for the Ford Government to announce only one new action on the accessibility front, and for it not to be any of the priority actions that that the Onley Report recommended. The Ford Government indicated last fall that it was awaiting the Onley Report before deciding on what to do in the area of accessibility for people with disabilities. In his December 20, 2018 letter to the chair of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, Accessibility Minister Cho wrote:

“In this regard, we will be waiting to review Mr. Onley’s report before considering the best path forward to further improving accessibility in Ontario.”

We commend the Onley Report for not recommending that public money be spent in that area. Mr. Onley clearly knew about this issue from our brief and from his prior activities in the accessibility field. He declared that the built environment should be a priority area for new action. Moreover, he offered other specific recommendations to address barriers in the built environment – recommendations that the Ford government has not yet agreed to take.

More broadly, the Onley Report also made a number of important recommendations for new Government action on accessibility beyond the built environment. With one exception addressed below (that is not relevant here), the Government has not yet announced any action on any of them, even though it has had the Onley Report for some 106 days.

Moreover, last July, long before the Onley Report was submitted, we called on the Ford Government to take a number of the priority actions that the Onley Report was later to recommend. See the AODA Alliance’s July 17, 2018 letter to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho and our July 19, 2018 letter to premier Doug Ford. Publicly funding a private accessibility certification process is not a substitute for, or better than, Government action on any of those important priorities.

Over the past eleven months, the only new action which the Ford Government has announced on accessibility and that is recommended in the Onley Report has been to belatedly lift the Government’s unwarranted and harmful 9-month freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees that were previously developing recommendations for what to include in new accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education. Yet it was the Ford Government that let that freeze run for nine months.

Investing public funds in implementing key recommendations in the Onley Report is far more important to progress on accessibility for people with disabilities than publicly subsidizing a private accessibility certification process.

2. Excerpt from Chapter 4 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 Brief to the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement, Entitled “The Need for New Accessibility Standards, Including a Strong and Comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard”

d) The Ontario Government Should Not Invest Public Funds in or Support any Private Accessibility Certification Process in Ontario

Several years ago, the former Ontario Government toyed with the idea of supporting the establishment of a private accessibility certification process in Ontario. It evidently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a private consulting firm, Deloitt, to explore this. Eventually, after Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid was shuffled out of the AODA portfolio in June 2016, this idea was in effect dropped. We opposed the idea of a private accessibility certification process and opposed the Government investing any public money in it. We urge this AODA Independent Review not to re-open that topic, and not to recommend a private accessibility certification process.

The February 1, 2016 AODA Alliance Update set out this backgrounder on this issue, including a summary of the AODA Alliance’s submission to the Deloitt consulting firm. It said:

“Back on November 16, 2015, the Wynne Government launched a public consultation on its proposal that the Government create a private process for an as-yet-unnamed private organization to provide a private, voluntary accessibility certification of the obligated organization. The Government’s November 16, 2015 email, news release and web posting on this were thin on details.

The Government did not have its own Accessibility Directorate conduct this consultation. Instead, at public expense, the Wynne Government hired the private Deloitte firm to consult the public.

Last fall, we moved as fast as possible to prepare and circulate a draft submission to Deloitte. It was emailed and posted on the web for public comment on November 25, 2015. We have repeatedly sent out invitations for input on it via Twitter and Facebook.

Last fall, we promptly shared our draft submission with Deloitte and with senior Government officials. On December 5, 2015, we wrote Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid to ask for important specifics on the Deloitte consultation. The Government has not answered that letter.

  1. Summary of the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 Submission to the Deloitte Company

This submission’s feedback on the idea of the Ontario Government financing the creation of a private accessibility certification process is summarized as follows:

  1. It is important to probe beyond any superficial attractiveness that some might think a private accessibility certification process has.
  1. It is important for the Government to first decide whether it will adopt a private accessibility certification process, before public money and the public’s effort are invested in deciding on the details of how such a process would work. Several serious concerns set out in this submission are fatal to any such proposal, however its details are designed.
  1. Instead of diverting limited public and private resources, effort and time into a problematic private accessibility certification process, the Government should instead increase efforts at creating all the AODA accessibility standards needed to ensure full accessibility by 2025 and keeping its unkept promise to effectively enforce the AODA. A private accessibility certification process is no substitute for needed accessibility standards that show obligated organizations what they need to do, and a full and comprehensive AODA audit or inspection, conducted by a director or inspector duly authorized under the AODA.
  1. The Government cannot claim that it has deployed the AODA’s compliance/enforcement powers to the fullest and gotten from the AODA all it can in terms of increasing accessibility among obligated organizations. The Government has invested far too little in AODA enforcement.
  1. The entire idea of a private organization certifying an obligated organization as “accessible” is fraught with inescapable problems. Obligated organizations will ultimately realize that a so-called “accessibility certification” through a private accessibility certification process is practically useless. It does not mean that their organization is in fact accessible. It cannot give that obligated organization any defence if an AODA inspection or audit reveals that the organization is not in compliance with an AODA accessibility standard, or if the organization is subject to a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. An obligated organization cannot excuse itself from a violation of the AODA, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Charter of Rights by arguing that thanks to its private accessibility certification, it thought it was obeying the law.
  1. A private accessibility certification could mislead people with disabilities into thinking an organization is fully accessible in a situation where that organization is not in fact fully accessible.
  1. Obligated organizations that have spent their money on a private accessibility certification will understandably become angry or frustrated when they find that this certification does not excuse unlawful conduct. They will understandably share these feelings with their business associates. Ontarians with disabilities don’t need the Government launching a new process that will risk generating such backlash.
  1. A private accessibility certification could have a very limited shelf-life. When the Government enacts a new accessibility standard (as it has promised to do in the area of health care), or revises an existing one, (as the Government is required to consider every five years in the case of existing AODA accessibility standards), that certification would have to be reviewed once new accessibility requirements come into effect.
  1. The Government’s idea that a private accessibility certification process would be self-financing creates additional serious problems.
      1. Any private certification process raises serious concerns about public accountability. As such, the public will not be able to find out how it is operating, beyond any selective information that the Government or the private certifier decides to make public. Without full access to the activities and records of a private certifier, the public cannot effectively assess how this private accessibility certification process is working, and whether it is helping or hurting the accessibility cause…”



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102 Days after the Ford Government Received the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA, the Government Has Still Not Announced a Detailed Plan to Implement It


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

102 Days after the Ford Government Received the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA, the Government Has Still Not Announced a Detailed Plan to Implement It

May 13, 2019

          SUMMARY

We have recently focused a lot of attention on Parliament in Ottawa, and on Bill C-81, the proposed federal Accessible Canada Act. Yet we never lose sight of important issues at the provincial level at Queen’s park. Here’s the latest!

In a nutshell, the Ford Government has been proceeding at the speed of a turtle in slow motion, when it comes to the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Almost 11 months after the new Ontario Government took office, we’ve seen no indication of any action to speed up and strengthen the AODA’s faltering implementation and enforcement. This stands in striking contrast to certain other areas of governing, where the new Ontario Government has shown itself quite ready to act in a swift and decisive way. In this Update you can read the latest about the following issues, and then read the actual documents on point:

* Ontario Accessibility Minister wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2019 but had little to say.

* On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister was questioned in Question Period in the Legislature about the Onley Report on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, but again had little to say.

* Letters to the editor in newspapers continue to be a great way to help our accessibility campaign, as recent examples show, and

* Over two months after the Ford Government said it was lifting its 9-month freeze on the work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, no new meetings of These Committees have even been scheduled.

We will have more to say on recent developments on the Ontario front over the next weeks.

          MORE DETAILS

1. A Closer Look at Recent Developments on the Provincial Front

a) Ontario Accessibility Minister Wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2-019 But Had Little to Say

On April 3, 2019, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho wrote the AODA Alliance. We set out his letter below.

The minister was answering two earlier letters from the AODA Alliance. In our February 6, 2019 letter, we asked the Minister to immediately lift his Government’s long freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees that were developing recommendations on what to include in new AODA accessibility standards to tear down disability barriers in the areas of health care and education. We also asked his Government to quickly make public the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

In our March 11, 2019 letter, we asked the Government to “clearly and publicly accept the findings in the Onley report regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.” We also asked him to quickly take action on five priority areas identified in the Onley report, namely:

  1. to appoint a new Standards Development Committee under the AODA to address the removal and prevention of all kinds of disability barriers in the built environment. The Onley report identified this as a top priority. That Standards Development Committee should be free to address, among other things, requirements in the deficient Ontario Building Code. It should be able to address built environment in residential housing. It should also conduct the mandatory 5-year review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Government remains in violation of the AODA, because it has not yet appointed a Standards Development Committee to conduct that mandatory review. It was obligatory to appoint that review by the end of 2017, when the former Ontario Government was still in power.
  1. to now launch a short, focused public consultation leading to your Government’s identifying the other accessibility standards that need to be developed to ensure that the AODA leads Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.
  1. to substantially strengthen the Government’s enforcement of the AODA, which the Onley report showed to be substantially deficient and ineffective.
  1. to launch a major reform to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, whether as a result of public spending on infrastructure, procurement, business grants or loans, or research grants. As part of this, a major reform is desperately needed regarding how Infrastructure Ontario deals with disability accessibility needs in the projects in which it is involved. We would add to the Onley report the fact that a similar reform is desperately needed at Metrolinx when it spends billions of public dollars on public transit infrastructure, and
  1. to now implement a program to ensure that students in Ontario schools receive curriculum on accessibility for and inclusion of people with disabilities in society, and to ensure that key professional, like architects, get much-needed training on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Our March 11, 2019 letter thanked the Government for releasing the Onley report to the public on March 7, 2019 and for announcing that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the existing AODA Standards Development Committees that had been working in the areas of health care and education. Our letter urged the Government to get these existing advisory committees back to work as quickly as possible.

Minister Cho’s responding April 3, 2019 letter to us, set out below, was exceedingly general. It said nothing and committed to nothing on any of the issues we had raised and that then remained outstanding. He re-announced that the Government had lifted the freeze on the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of disability barriers in health care and education, something he’d earlier announced on March 7, 2019. Beyond that he only said that he’d have more to say at some unspecified future time.

The minister also said this in his letter:

“We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility.”

He made no mention of consulting with people with disabilities on accessibility. This takes on greater significance below. Read on!

b) On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Was Questioned in Question Period About the Onley Report But Had Little to Say

On April 10, 2019, MPP Joel Harden, the NDP accessibility critic, directed questions at Accessibility Minister Cho about the Onley Report. He asked the minister if the Government accepts the findings in the Onley Report. He also asked for the minister’s plans regarding the implementation of the Onley Report’s recommendations. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of that exchange.

This was raised in the Legislature on an especially appropriate day. Later that day, NDP MPP Joel Harden held and hosted a Town Hall meeting at the Legislature for people with disabilities to describe the disability barriers they face and the corrective action they need. MPPs of all parties were invited to attend.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to co-MC the Town Hall. For several hours stretching through the afternoon, individuals and disability organizations presented pointed and troubling illustrations of the barriers that persist in 2019, 14 years after the AODA was enacted.

In response to MPP Harden’s question whether the minister accepts the Onley Report’s findings, Minister Cho said that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Minister criticized the previous Ontario Liberal Government’s performance on the accessibility issues and said “…the accessibility is not done even 30%.” This seems to be a helpful recognition by the minister that Ontario has a long way to go to reach full accessibility by 2025, as the AODA requires. The Onley Report did not cite a specific 30% figure, but found that Ontario is far behind its goal of reaching accessibility by 2025.

In response to Mr. Harden’s question whether the minister would be releasing a plan of action in response to the Onley Report, and if so, when, the Minister said:

“After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to him—three times, I went to see him—and he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. That’s why we’re going to focus and I’m going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community.”

That answer included no commitment to create a plan of action in response to the Onley Report. The minister committed to no time lines for doing so.

The only action that the minister announced was a plan to hold a town hall for businesses. Of course, that could be one helpful step. However it is far less than what we need or what the Onley Report calls for. Here again, as in the case of the minister’s April 3, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance the minister talked about consulting businesses, but not people with disabilities. We need the Government to do much more than to hold a town hall for businesses.

We want to thank MPP Harden for raising this issue in Question Period. We also thank him, his staff, and the other NDP MPPs and staff who helped make this Town Hall such a success. We also thank the MPPs from other parties who came to watch some of the Town Hall. In our usual spirit of non-partisanship, we encourage and invite all parties to host similar Town Hall events for the public including people with disabilities.

c) Letters to the Editor in Newspapers Continue to Be a great Way to Help Our Accessibility Campaign

As in the past, letters to the editor in Ontario newspapers remain a great way to help advance our ongoing non-partisan accessibility campaign.

On March 15, 2019, the Toronto Star ran two letters to the editor about the need for more provincial action on accessibility. One was by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other was by Janis Jaffe-White, a tenacious advocate for students with disabilities. We set these out below.

These letters were written to comment on and follow up on a great March 13, 2019 Toronto Star editorial that had called for action on accessibility as a result of the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report.

Whenever you notice an article on an accessibility issue in a newspaper, we encourage you to take the opportunity to get more coverage for this issue by sending in your own letter to the editor. If it gets published, let us know. You can always write us at [email protected].

d) Over Two Months After the Ford Government Said It Was Lifting Its 9-Month Freeze on the Work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, No New Meetings of These Committees Have Even Been Scheduled

Last June, in the wake of the June Ontario election, the work of AODA Standards Development Committees in the areas of disability barriers in our health care system and education system were frozen. For those of you who have been following our AODA Alliance Updates for several months, You will recall that we spent a great deal of time and effort to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze.

After months of this effort, the Ford Government agreed partway through last fall to lift its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. However it left the other Standards Development Committees frozen. They were focusing on disability barriers in health care and education. We need those remaining advisory committees to get back to work, developing recommendations on the disability barriers and education that need to be removed and prevented in new AODA accessibility standards.

The Ford Government gave various excuses for that freeze. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors needed time to be briefed, we were originally told. Six months after the freeze went into effect, and long after the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors had had ample time to be briefed, the Government said for the first time that it was awaiting the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report before it decide what to do about the freeze.

That reason for continuing the freeze was unconvincing. It was quite obvious that Mr. Onley would recommend that that freeze be lifted. Mr. Onley submitted his report to the Ontario Government on January 31, 2019, fully 102 days ago. He did indeed recommend that that freeze be lifted.

The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 to announce that it was lifting that freeze. Yet over two months since that announcement, and over four months since the Ford Government received the Onley Report, no meetings have yet even been scheduled for the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of health care or education.

On May 6, 2019, members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee received an email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of that Standards Development Committee. We set that email out below.

On the one hand, it is good that Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is finally reaching out with preliminary steps that aim towards scheduling the next meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. As well, the email describes some changes to the way the Standards Development Committee will be operating.

We are open to improving the process for the Standards Development Committees. Our brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review included an entire chapter that detailed problems with the way the former Ontario Government operated those committees. The previous minister had, we regret, been unwilling to make changes as a result of concerns we had raised last spring.

We are, however, concerned about some of the specific changes announced in this new email. There is no reason why the Government should have waited over two months since it announced it decision to lift its freeze on these Standards Development Committees just to ask members of those committees whether they want to continue on those committees, and whether they have changed their job. That inquiry should have been made back on March 7, 2019, when the Government announced that these committees would resume their work. The Government has not yet canvassed about available dates so that the next committee meeting can be scheduled.

It appears that the Government has substantially reduced the amount of actual time when the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee can meet and do its important work. We assume that the same will be the case for the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The Government is reducing meetings from two days to one, and reducing by an undisclosed amount the total number of meeting days. This is especially problematic since the committees lost the chance to do any work over the past year due to the Government’s freeze on their work. During that year, they could have been making substantial progress if not coming close to finishing their work. students with disabilities and health care patients with disabilities are suffering the consequences.

It appears that the Government wants out-of-town committee members to take part in meetings by phone rather than in person. While reasonable cost-saving measures are understandable, this measure threatens to create real problems. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee has over 20 members. It is hard to build the kind of cooperative exchange of ideas and views if some if not many are taking part over a speaker phone.

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario’s email says that Committee members will later receive a letter of re-engagement from the minister. This is an unnecessary step. Those who were previously appointed to these Standards Development Committees remain as members of these Standards Development Committees under the AODA. The June 2018 election and its results did not change that, or dissolve these Committees. There is no need to add yet another bureaucratic step to this process which has already been delayed for too long.

We will keep you posted on developments on this front.

2. April 3, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho, In Response to the AODA Alliance’s February 6 and March 11, 2019 Letters to the Minister

Thank you for your letters regarding the review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns.

The government is taking immediate action as it continues to work towards improving the lives of people with disabilities. We are resuming the Health Care and K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees, which is something we’ve heard Ontarians ask for.

We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility. I am also working with my colleagues across other Ministries to review the Honourable David Onley’s Third Legislative review of the AODA and move forward with a plan to improve accessibility in Ontario.

The government will continue to consider Mr. Onley’s recommendations and will have more to say on next steps in the future. We are committed to working with Ontarians towards improving accessibility and we will take the time to get this right for all Ontarians.

Thank you again for writing. Please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,

Raymond Cho

Minister

3. Ontario Hansard April 10, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/house-documents/parliament-42/session-1/2019-04-10/hansard

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question today is for the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. Today, people with disabilities from across Ontario are converging right here at Queen’s Park because we’re hosting an open forum for them. They are fed up with our province’s agonizingly slow progress towards making this province fully accessible and the barriers that are preventing them from living their lives to the fullest.

In his report on the third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Honourable David Onley said the following: “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

My question to the minister: Do you accept the findings of the Onley report?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I’d like to thank the member for raising that question. First of all, I’d like to thank the Honourable David Onley. He did a marvelous job; I read the report.

I’d like to refer that question to the Liberal Party. They were in government for 15 years and the accessibility is not done even 30%.

By the way, I will drop by your town hall meeting.

Our government is open for business for everybody, even people with disabilities, and I’ll try my best as minister.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Joel Harden: Thank you to the minister for that answer, but 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities actually deserve better. This is a human rights issue. Stalling any further and only looking backwards is not an option.

The AODA sets a target for this province to be fully accessible by 2025, but the Onley report says we are nowhere near achieving that goal. Mr. Onley has 15 recommendations—Speaker, to the minister—for improving accessibility through stronger enforcement, new standards for buildings and making sure public money is never used again to create new barriers. Will the minister be releasing a plan of action and response to the Onley report, and if so, Speaker, when can we expect that plan of action?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Thank you again for the question. After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to him—three times, I went to see him—and he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. That’s why we’re going to focus and I’m going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community. Thank you for the question.

4. The Toronto Star March 15, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2019/03/15/praising-advocacy-for-those-with-disabilities.html

Letters to the Editor

Praising advocacy for those with disabilities

Time to clear the way, Editorial, March 13

Three cheers for the Star editorial “Time to clear the way.” It calls for the Ford Government to swiftly implement former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s report that shows that 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities still face far too many disability accessibility barriers. As the leading non-partisan disability coalition that’s campaigned for accessibility for almost a quarter century, we strongly support Onley’s findings and key recommendations.

We’ve asked Ford’s minister to accept Onley’s findings and to get to work swiftly on taking action. Ontarians with disabilities cannot afford more months of waiting.

As Onley said, Premier Ford needs to make accessibility for people with disabilities a major priority.

David Lepofsky, Toronto

The editor is right. This situation is “clearly unacceptable.” Thisis a violation of human rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The basic problem is lack of enforcement of the law. Everyone has the legal right to be treated equitably.

Onley is right as well. People with disabilities often feel they “don’t belong here.” School is a mini-society where inclusion develops attitudes of acceptance and belonging. It is not the curriculum that is the problem. It is the living of acceptance of all individuals within the school system and wider community. To achieve accessibility and full participation of everyone, an emphasis must be placed on compliance with and enforcement of the legally mandated human-rights requirements.

Janis Jaffe-White, Toronto

5. May 6, 2019 Email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to Members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee

Please see the message below, sent from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division. We ask that you kindly provide your response by Friday May 10th.

________________________________________

Dear Kindergarten-Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee Members,

We are pleased to confirm that the Government has announced that it will be resuming the work of the committees that have been exploring the development of new accessibility standards in Health Care, Kindergarten – Grade 12 and Post-Secondary Education under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

We wish to confirm your continued interest to sit on this committee. In addition, per the requirements of the Act regarding committee composition, we will be reviewing members’ institutional affiliations or roles to determine if any have changed – for example, if any members have switched employers or organizational affiliations, or moved to new roles within the same organization.

It is important to note that since your last meeting, there have been some changes to the way the committees will move forward. Changes will include:

  • The overall number of meeting days will be decreased;
  • The time allocated for meetings will be decreased (e.g., 1-day versus 2-day meetings);
  • Members are asked to participate in meetings via teleconference, where appropriate; and,
  • Before scheduling travel and/or accessibility supports, Ministry pre-approval is required.

This new approach is consistent with the government’s efforts to increase efficiencies and is intended to help the committees reach their goal of submitting an initial recommendations report to the minister in a more effective and streamlined way.

Please reply to this email to confirm your continued interest in sitting on the Kindergarten-Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee, as well as any relevant changes to your status.

All returning members will receive a formal invitation to re-engage from the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho.

We look forward to working with you once again soon.

Sincerely,

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division



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A Modest Interim Victory for Joint Efforts by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition — Ford Government Agrees to Consult on Practices of Schools Refusing to Admit some Students with Disabilities to School for All or Part of The School Day


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

A Modest Interim Victory for Joint Efforts by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition — Ford Government Agrees to Consult on Practices of Schools Refusing to Admit some Students with Disabilities to School for All or Part of The School Day

March 14, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here is some potentially good news for students with disabilities in Ontario.

On Monday, March 11, 2019, the Ford Government made an announcement about measures it plans to take to address the expected influx of children and youth with autism into Ontario schools as a result of provincial cuts to pre-existing autism services that those children previously received. Amidst the details of that announcement by Ontario’s Ministry of Education were these two sentences on the Ministry’s website which got little attention.

“The ministry will also host a series of virtual sessions about exclusions and modified days to engage parents, educators, administrators and others in a dialogue about these complex issues. The details will be communicated at a later date.”

Here is a joint statement by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition:

“This is a small preliminary step in the right direction, for which we can claim a modest interim victory.

As the Globe and Mail exposed in articles earlier this year, students with a range of different disabilities, who have a right to an education in Ontario schools, too often can be directed by their school or principal either that they may not come to school at all or that they can only come to school for part of the school day. On January 30, 2019, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held a joint news conference at Queen’s Park and issued a joint news release. We called on the Ford Government to take action to redress this recurring and systemic unfairness, including two immediate steps:

  1. To now convene a summit of key stakeholders to get input on legislation and policy changes to fix this problem.
  1. In the interim, to immediately issue a policy direction to school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school for all or part of a school day.

It is helpful that the Ford Government has now announced that it is prepared to look into the issue of schools refusing to admit a student to school or reducing the length of their school day. This is the Government’s first implicit recognition that there is an issue here that the provincial government should address. It is also helpful that the Government will seek input from families, educators and others on this.

However, this should be done by face-to-face meetings with all stakeholders, not through “virtual” or online input-gathering. The Government must allow for the direct in-person engagement of all stakeholders together, which is necessary to find effective solutions. As part of this,

We repeat our call that the Government now bring together at a summit meeting leaders of key organizations of stakeholders such as parents and families of students with disabilities, students themselves, teachers, principals and school boards. Get us around one table.

As well, we need the Government to rein in the obvious excesses that can and do now occur at Ontario schools. The Government can issue a policy direction to school boards on this in no time.

For example, the Government should now direct all school boards that when a principal refuses to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day, the student and family should be given the reason for this. A time limit for this should be specified.

They should be told about their right to appeal. The Ontario Government should require each school board to record a student’s absence from school for all or part of a school day by a unique attendance code.

At present, it is harmful that the Ontario Government directs school boards to use a more general attendance code which makes it impossible to know how many students or how many school days are affected by these exclusions from school.

None of these new policy directions would cost any money. Who could oppose such obvious and simple measures?

The March 11, 2019 Government announcement was made in the context of ongoing problems with the Ford Government’s treatment of children with autism. This issue pertains to all students with any kind of disabilities, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. It is important for this issue to be seen as part of the broader need to tear down the many disability barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. It is also important for the tremendous outpouring and advocacy efforts in opposition to the Ford Government’s changes to the Ontario Autism Program to be seen in this broader context. Even though children and youth with autism have gotten a great deal of recent public and media attention, all students with disabilities  need to have their learning needs effectively met in Ontario’s education system. It is our shared aim that this recent outpouring can be effectively harnessed to ensure that all students with disabilities can benefit from improved Government action.”

The Globe and Mail today reported on this news. We set out that article below. This is the third time our issues have been in the media this week.

This Globe article bears an inaccurate headline. The headline makes it sound like the Ford Government is only looking into the issue of refusing to admit students to school who have autism. In fact, as the text of the article accurately reports (but not the headline), the announcement relates to students with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those with autism. This headline error was understandable since the Government’s announcement of this consultation is included in a larger Government announcement about students with autism.

The AODA Alliance is conducting a survey of all Ontario school boards to learn about their policies and practices regarding refusals to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day. So far, a clear majority of school boards have not answered our survey, even though it was sent to them some six weeks ago.

As we set out in the January 24, AODA Alliance Update, last year, the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board made a detailed recommendation on what the policy should be regarding the power to exclude a student from school for all or part of the school day.

More Details

The Globe and Mail March 14, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontario-to-look-into-school-exclusions-of-children-with-autism/

Ontario to look into school exclusions of children with autism

CAROLINE ALPHONSO EDUCATION REPORTER

The Ontario government will examine the issue of students with complex needs being excluded from school after demands from disability advocates that the practice be halted.

The government said earlier this week, as part of an announcement on supports for schools related to the province’s autism program, that it would hold “virtual sessions” on exclusions and modified days with parents, educators and others.

The details will be shared at a later date, Kayla Iafelice, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Lisa Thompson, said on Wednesday.

The issue of indefinite exclusions from school has been top-of-mind for many parents as Doug Ford’s government implements changes to the province’s autism program. Families who currently receive full funding for intensive therapy will receive only a fraction of it after April 1, when funding will be distributed based on a child’s age and household income.

School districts have said they are expecting a number of children with complex needs who were on modified schedules to attend full-time if their parents cannot make up for the lost funding.

The Ministry of Education said in its release on Monday that it would also survey school boards regularly “to assess the impact of increased school enrolment and attendance by children and youth with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] as they transition into the school system.”

Earlier this year, a Globe and Mail analysis found that families with children in many parts of the country who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up children early, start their school day later or keep them home for an indefinite period because of behavioural issues.

Aside from school districts in North Vancouver and Greater Victoria that passed motions in the fall to record how many children with special needs are being asked to stay home, most school boards do not formally track these exclusions.

But parent and advocacy groups surveys have documented a rise in frequency.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the government’s plan to have virtual discussions is a “small preliminary step in the right direction, for which we can claim a modest interim victory.”

Mr. Lepofsky’s group and the Ontario Autism Coalition, which advocates for families, have been calling on the government to hold public discussions on possible legislation and policy changes surrounding exclusions of special-needs students with behavioural issues. The groups have also asked the government to issue a policy directive to school boards in the interim that would require principals to tell families why a child is being excluded and specify a time limit.

The Globe’s story in January highlighted the plight of Grayson Kahn, a seven-year-old with autism and behavioural issues who was expelled from his school in Guelph, Ont. The expulsion followed an incident in which Grayson struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion. Expulsions such as Grayson’s are rare – they involve a principal’s report and a hearing by a school board committee. Disability advocates say exclusions are far more common and are typically informal; parents will be given oral notice of a decision made at a principal’s discretion.

Mr. Lepofsky said it is “helpful that the Ford government has now announced that it is prepared to look into the issue” of exclusions.

He added: “This is the government’s first implicit recognition that there is an issue here that the provincial government should address. It is also helpful that the government will seek input from families, educators and others on this.”



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