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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

December 24, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

November 22, 2021

To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier

Via Email: [email protected]

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition

Via email: [email protected]

Room 113, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5

Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:

Via email: [email protected]

Room 451 Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON M7A 1A2

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

Via email: [email protected]

344 Bloor St W,

Toronto On, M5S 1W9

Dear Party Leaders,

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

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

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

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

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

 These Commitments are Vital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What Went Wrong?

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

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

Our Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario In a Nutshell

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

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

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

Following Up on This Letter

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

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

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

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

 I. Leadership Commitments

 a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

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

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

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

 b) Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#7. Will you comply with the AODA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 a) Enact a Comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 f) Strengthen the Weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 d) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 g) Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more background, visit www.aodaalliance.org

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

 

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

November 22, 2021

To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford, Premier

Via Email: [email protected]

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition

Via email: [email protected]

Room 113, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5

Mike Schreiner, Leader — Green Party of Ontario:

Via email: [email protected]

Room 451 Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON M7A 1A2

Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party

Via email: [email protected]

344 Bloor St W,

Toronto On, M5S 1W9

Dear Party Leaders,

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

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

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

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

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

 These Commitments are Vital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 What Went Wrong?

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

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

Our Proposed Accessibility Plan for Ontario In a Nutshell

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

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

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

Following Up on This Letter

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

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

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

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

 I. Leadership Commitments

 a) Foster and Strengthen Our Ongoing Relationship with Your Party

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

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

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

 b) Show Strong Leadership on Accessibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#7. Will you comply with the AODA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 a) Enact a Comprehensive Education Accessibility Standard Under the AODA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 f) Strengthen the Weak Customer Service Accessibility Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 d) Establish Free Independent Technical Accessibility Advice for Obligated Organizations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 g) Review All Ontario Laws for Accessibility Barriers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Inquest Into Death of Samuel Brown at Ontario-Run School for the Blind Postponed


Accessibility concerns were raised over virtual process for inquest, now expected in early 2022 Dan Taekema, CBC News
Posted: Nov 04, 2021

Brown’s family, who are in Brampton, had been calling for an inquest for years. On Oct. 27, the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General announced one would take place by video conference starting on Nov. 15, stretching over five days and hearing from approximately 13 witnesses.

However, eight days after the inquest was announced, the ministry said it would be delayed.

Brown, 18, was a deaf, blind and non-verbal student at the school in 2018. He died sometime overnight on Feb. 9 of that year.

In a news release Thursday, the ministry said the inquest would instead take place in early 2022 when an in-person inquest is expected to be possible.

“This will address concerns of accessibility voiced by the disability community as well as allow further exploration of the evidence without the constraints of a virtual environment,” it read.

David Lepofsky, a disability advocate and visiting professor at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said that with physical distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures, doing something in person should be possible.

Lepofsky is part of the Ontario Courts Accessibility Committee, which provides input into how to ensure the province’s courts are as open as possible. He said there are ways to ensure sign language or captions are infused in virtual court or inquest appearances, but noted some aspects, such as screen-sharing documents, can raise issues.

Lepofsky said inquests provide a format for the public can seek answers about a fatality.

“Given the vulnerability of any residential school setting – this is important,” he said of the inquest into Brown’s death, adding that’s especially true as W. Ross Macdonald School, where he died, is provincially run.

Family’s lawyer says province has apologized
The venue and new dates for the inquest have not yet been announced.

Saron Gebresellassi, the lawyer for Brown’s family, said she anticipates it will be held sometime in the first quarter of the new year.

The lawyer previously told CBC she and his parents “refuse” a virtual inquest process.

“We don’t believe that’s what the community deserves,” she said at the time.

The government of Ontario has formally apologized to the Browns, according to Gebresellassi, who described it as a “significant event.”

“They are really appreciative of the government apology,” said the lawyer, adding the family is still processing whether or not they accept it.

“They want the world to learn who Samuel is.”

Gebresellassi said there are pros and cons to the inquest being pushed off, but said she’s glad the coroner’s office understood doing it in person was the “right move.”

“Doing a cross-examination over the telephone – is not an attractive place to be,” she said.

That said, delaying it is a “destabilizing event” for those who involved with and following the case.

“We need the public to keep the foot on the gas pedal … keeping the eye on the ball, getting this inquest done as soon as possible,” said Gebresellassi.

The lawyer said her team was prepared for the inquest and remains “ready to go” whenever it’s held.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/samuel-brown-death-inquest-postponed-1.6237592




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The AODA Alliance Sends a Detailed Brief with 53 Recommendations to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to Make Post-Secondary Education Accessible to Students with Disabilities


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

The AODA Alliance Sends a Detailed Brief with 53 Recommendations to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to Make Post-Secondary Education Accessible to Students with Disabilities

November 1, 2021

            SUMMARY

Today is the final day for the public to send feedback to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on the measures needed to make colleges and universities in Ontario accessible for students with disabilities. The AODA Alliance has sent that Government-appointed Committee a detailed brief, set out below. It makes 53 recommendations.

Overall, our brief supports the Initial Report that the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted to the Ford Government last March, and which the Government made public on June 25, 2021 for public comment. Our brief points out a few areas where we disagree with that Initial Report, and several areas where we urge the Committee to add more detail to its recommendations to the Government. We congratulate the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on its efforts and are eager to meet with that Committee to discuss our recommendations in this brief.

We thank everyone who has shared their feedback with the AODA Alliance on this topic, including your thoughts on the draft Framework for the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard, which the AODA Alliance created and made public on March 11, 2020. Your input makes a huge difference.

While today is set as the final deadline for giving the Standards Development Committee your feedback, we encourage you to send a short email to them, supporting the AODA Alliance’s November 1, 2021 brief which we here make public. You can write the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee at: [email protected]

Today is also the final day to send your feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on its Initial Report that recommends measures to make K-12 education in Ontario schools accessible to students with disabilities. You can write that Standards Development Committee at [email protected]

AODA Alliance Brief to the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee on Its Initial Recommendations for the Contents of the Promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard

November 1, 2021

Via email to: [email protected]

 1. Introduction

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Government is required to do so by enacting and effectively enforcing accessibility standards. These are enforceable regulations. An accessibility standard is required to specifically spell out in detail the barriers that are to be removed or prevented, what specifically must be done to remove or prevent them, and the timelines required for these actions.

The Ontario Government has committed to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. In 2017, the Ontario Government appointed two Standards Development Committees, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. These Committees are mandated to make recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

On June 25, 2021, the Ontario Government publicly posted the initial or draft report of the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee, three and a half months after the Government received it. The public’s feedback has been invited on that Initial Report. That Initial Report sets out recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include in so far as Ontario colleges and universities are concerned. The public has been given up to November 1, 2021 to submit its feedback.

This brief sets out the AODA Alliance’s detailed feedback on the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report. Our recommendations are listed in Appendix 2 at the end of this brief. In summary, we congratulate the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee for a strong report with very helpful recommendations. In this brief, we recommend ways to fine-tune and strengthen them. With only a few exceptions, we do not disagree with anything the Standards Development Committee recommended.

The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report demonstrates over and over how Ontario desperately needs a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted as soon as possible. It shows that Ontario’s post-secondary education system is replete with far too many disability barriers. These barriers hurt students with disabilities and hand-cuff post-secondary educators who want them fully included in their post-secondary educational offerings.

It is especially important for the post-secondary education sector to become accessible to students with disabilities. A good post-secondary education is very important for getting a good job, or indeed getting a job at all. This is even more important for people with disabilities. People with disabilities chronically face a substantially higher unemployment rate than the public does as a whole. Barriers in the post-secondary education system can only make this situation worse. A strong and effective post-secondary Education Accessibility Standard is therefore an important measure for increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

 2. Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a voluntary non-partisan coalition of individuals and organizations. Our mission is:

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

To learn about us, visit: https://www.aodaalliance.org.

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

We have been widely recognized by the Ontario Government, by all political parties in the Ontario Legislature, within the disability community, and by the media, as a key voice leading the non-partisan campaign for accessibility in Ontario. In every provincial election since 2005, parties that made election commitments on accessibility did so in letters to the AODA Alliance.

Our efforts and expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities have been recognized in MPPs’ speeches on the floor of the Ontario Legislature, and beyond. Our website and Twitter feed are widely consulted as helpful sources of information on accessibility efforts in Ontario and elsewhere. We have achieved this as an unfunded volunteer community coalition.

Among other things, we led the campaign in Ontario from 2009 to the present to get the Ontario Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard. Our efforts on the education front are documented on the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past several years, the AODA Alliance has been active in advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. Our efforts influenced the development of the Accessible Canada Act. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue.

The AODA Alliance has spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on disability accessibility issues. We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, by parties from Israel and New Zealand.

 3. Our Big Message to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee

Before going into details, we offer six high-level themes and over-arching recommendations for the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee, to help it finalize its report on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include regarding colleges and universities.

First, we heartily congratulate the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee on its thorough, thoughtful Initial Report. It reflects mountains of very hard work.

The AODA Alliance strongly supports everything in that Initial Report except in the specific instances where the contrary is explicitly indicated in this brief. In each case, we show how the Initial Report can be refined to address the issues we identify. To address our concerns is eminently feasible. Our recommendations fit very well with the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s overall approach.

Second, at several points in the Initial Report, the Standards Development Committee correctly recognizes a need for standards to be created, but subsequently recommends that their creation be delegated to others, such as the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and/or the Council of Ontario Universities (COU). In each such case, we propose that it is more appropriate for that policy, standard, or direction to be set out in the Education Accessibility Standard itself.

In those instances, we agree that a standard needs to be created. However, its creation should not be delegated to the Ministry or the COU. The Ministry has no expertise in such areas as supervision of graduate students. Moreover, the whole idea of an AODA accessibility standard is that Cabinet enacts it. It does not get and indeed cannot be sub-delegated to someone else.

As noted earlier, an AODA accessibility standard is required to set specific accessibility standards that spell out in detail which barriers are to be removed and prevented, and what must be done to remove or prevent them. In the absence of an Education Accessibility Standard in Ontario, individual students with disabilities must each resort to the duty to accommodate their disabilities under human rights laws, because recurring disability barriers too often remain in place. If the Education Accessibility Standard directs the removal and prevention of specific disability barriers in the post-secondary education system, then students with disabilities will not have to resort to asking for many individualized accommodations to get around those barriers.

To illustrate, it is commendable that the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard does not tell each municipal transit authority to develop a plan on what to include in buses it procures to ensure that those buses are accessible to passengers with disabilities. Instead, it properly spells out in detail what a bus must include to be accessible.

In contrast, it is inappropriate that the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard does not spell out measures to remove and prevent many recurring workplace barriers. This is a major failing of that accessibility standard. It wrongly allows employers to leave existing barriers in place, while also allowing employers to erect new barriers. The Employment Accessibility Standard primarily attempts to encourage employers to effectively accommodate individual employees with disabilities. It does little to make workplaces accessible and barrier-free over the long term.

If the Education Accessibility Standard does not include specific and detailed barrier removal and prevention requirements in a particular area where a known recurring disability barrier exists, each college and university is left to determine what accessibility features it should include in its documents, websites, furniture, equipment, buildings, or services. This duplication of effort is wasteful and inefficient. Each college and university must re-invent the wheel. Students with disabilities at each college and university must repeatedly advocate for the mitigation and removal of the same recurring barriers. It leaves each college or university, or Colleges and the Council of Ontario Universities, to decide how much or how little each party will do. This risks accomplishing too little for students with disabilities.

Organizations want and need to know specifically what they must do to comply. Where it is proposed that each of the colleges and universities establishes a “guideline”, this is of little use. A “guideline” is not binding. In contrast, an accessibility standard is binding and enforceable.

For example, the Initial Report’s Recommendation 52 (Graduate supervision) includes:

“a) Ministry of Colleges and Universities, working with the Council of Ontario Universities, shall develop a common set of guidelines and resources for graduate faculty members in accessible and inclusive supervision of graduate students with disabilities, including best practices for virtual supervision.

  1. b) Postsecondary institutions shall mandate that all faculties of graduate studies and graduate departments have explicit policies, practices and guidelines on accessibility and accommodation for graduate students with disabilities, which are developed in a consultative manner. Policies should include consideration of disclosure, accommodation, student supervision and graduate assessments (for example, comprehensive exams and thesis defenses), and take into account the roles of graduate students as academic/research staff and university employees.
  2. c) Review of these policies shall be attached to the graduate program quality assurance process.”

We therefore recommend that:

  1. Wherever the Initial Report recommends the creation of a standard or the development of a policy or guideline, such a standard, policy or guideline should be mandatory and should be spelled out in detail in the Education Accessibility Standard, rather than delegating authority to create it to some organization or department.

Third, it is especially important not to confuse or conflate the separate concepts of accessibility on the one hand, and accommodation of students with disabilities under the human rights duty to accommodate, on the other. The Initial Report appears to focus in significant part on the duty to accommodate, though not exclusively so.

To become accessible, a college or university must identify and remove existing recurring disability barriers and prevent the creation of new ones. On the other hand, the duty to accommodate assumes the inaccessible status quo with all its accessibility barriers. It focuses on creating individual “work-arounds” to get around those barriers, while the barriers themselves tend to remain in place.

It will always be necessary at colleges and universities to have in place effective mechanisms for implementing the duty to accommodate students with disabilities. To that end, it is great that the Committee’s Initial Report makes excellent recommendations to fortify these mechanisms for individual accommodation. This is vital now, while those institutions still have many accessibility barriers. Later, when those recurring barriers are removed, there will be a reduced need for individualized accommodation. However, even then, there will remain some need for the duty to accommodate to come into play.

Fourth, while we support virtually all of the Initial Report, and largely only ask for it to be fine-tuned as identified in this brief, we do flag one significant concern. The Initial Report principally speaks to middle and senior management at colleges and universities. It does so in language and recommendations that reflect and focus that environment. As such, the report may not appear to speak directly to students with disabilities themselves, and to front-line course instructors. We do not for a moment suggest that the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee is not keenly focused on the needs of students with disabilities. The Initial Report is commendably all about meeting their needs. However, such vague notions as “disability lens” are hard if not impossible for students to enforce, and hard if not impossible for front-line instructors to understand what they are now expected to change, and when they are in compliance.

There is the risk that the Initial Report’s recommendations could wrongly be converted into an increase in administrative bureaucracy, even though the Committee is seeking substantially increased direct substantive action on removing and preventing barriers. We encourage the Standards Development Committee, as it finalizes its report, to fine-tune its recommendations to make them more concrete and enforceable, so that students will know what results to expect, and front-line instructors will know what they must do. After all, it is the frontline interaction between students and their instructors where all these measures come to fruition.

Fifth, at several places in the Initial Report, it is recommended that colleges and universities make public a document, report or data, or submit them to the Government. All of these reports, documents and other data should be made widely, accessibly available to the public in each case.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. Wherever the Education Accessibility Standard will require colleges and universities to file a document or data with the Government, or to make public any document, report, or data, it should also require that these be submitted electronically to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in an accessible format. The Standard should also require the Accessibility Directorate to make those documents, reports or data public on a publicly searchable database or hub.

Sixth, even if all the Standards Development Committee’s recommendations are adopted, we are deeply concerned that the AODA will continue to be weakly enforced. Stronger enforcement and compliance measures are needed. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee recommended such actions. With minor adjustments, they would readily fit the post-secondary sector.

For example, there is a pressing need for there to be on-site inspections, and not mere Government review of an obligated organization’s accessibility documents (such as policies and records of staff training). It is not good enough for colleges and universities to have good records on file. They need to deliver accessible education to students with disabilities

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee should endorse and echo the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial’ Report’s recommendations on enforcement of the AODA, with necessary changes to tailor them to the context of colleges and universities.

 4. Specific Recommendations

 a) General

Where this brief states that “a post-secondary education organization should …” or similar wording, this means that the Education Accessibility Standard should include a provision that requires the post-secondary education organization to take the step we describe.

The Standards Development Committee’s final report should make it clear that it applies to all disabilities covered by the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Charter of Rights and the AODA

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to add that where the Education Accessibility Standard refers to “students with disabilities “, this should include any student who has any kind of disability, including, for example, any kind of physical, mental, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health, communication, neurological, neurobehavioural or other kind of disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 b) Standards Development Committee Chair’s March 12, 2021 Letter Transmitting Its Initial Report to the Accessibility Minister

We agree with the Standards Development Committee chair’s March 12, 2021 cover letter to the Accessibility Minister, where it recommended the following – a point that the report itself should recommend:

“We also propose that the Postsecondary Education Accessibility Standards be applied beyond our mandate to include other educational contexts, such as privately funded colleges and universities and transitional job training programs.”

For example, it makes no sense that the Standard would apply to a law school, but not to the Law Society of Ontario’s Bar Admission course, which must be completed after law school graduation, to qualify for admission to the practice of law.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Standards Development Committee’s final report itself and not just the chair’s transmission letter should recommend that the Postsecondary Education Accessibility Standard apply to all other post-secondary educational contexts, such as privately funded colleges and universities and job training programs.

 c) Long Term Objective of the Post-Secondary Education Standard

We agree with the ideas and sentiments in the Initial Report’s discussion of the Standard’s long term objective, and with the Committee’s recommendation that its long term objective should be written right into the Standard itself. We also agree that the objective should be expressed in more focused and specific terms than have earlier AODA accessibility standards.

However, we believe that as written, the Initial Report’s long term objective is not strong or focused enough. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee Initial Report includes:

” Recommendation 1: The long-term objective of the standards:

With the support of the Ontario government, postsecondary publicly funded colleges and universities in Ontario will implement an intentional strategy:

that actively engages students with disabilities in the ongoing identification, removal and prevention of barriers

that recognizes disability as a critical aspect of the education sector’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion that creates policies, procedures and guidelines through an intersectional accessibility lens

where teaching and learning practices take into account the diversity of learning environments and needs throughout the academic journey

Realization of the long-term objective will result in all students with disabilities living and learning in an environment where they will:

  • feel valued, welcomed and a sense of belonging
  • navigate transparent systems without barriers
  • be provided with opportunities to realize their full potential both inside and outside of the classroom
  • have an equal opportunity to contribute, to learn and to demonstrate their knowledge”

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report’s proposed objective is preferrable.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The long term objective of the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that by 2025, post-secondary education in Ontario will be fully accessible and barrier-free for students with disabilities:
    1. By removing and preventing accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities from fully participating in, being fully included in, and fully benefitting from all aspects of post-secondary education in Ontario, and
  1. By providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process for students with disabilities to learn about and seek programs, services, supports, accommodations and placements tailored to the individual strengths and needs of each student with disabilities.”
  1. Eliminating or substantially reducing the need for students with disabilities to have to fight against post-secondary education accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for post-secondary education organizations to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one education program at a time.

 d) Barrier Area 1: Changing Public Attitudes and Awareness

The Standards Development Committee’s report places emphasis on and trust in public education campaigns, including within colleges and universities, to change attitudes towards people with disabilities, and to reduce or eliminate ablism. For example, the Committee’s Initial Report includes, under its Recommendation 18 (Awareness):

“The government will develop guidance documents for obligated organizations and conduct a sustained, multi-faceted ongoing public education campaign on accessibility.”

Respectfully, we disagree. We have been witness to and participants in more such campaigns and efforts than can be counted. They change very little. They let politicians and government claim to be doing something, and posture to look like they are doing something, when it turns out to be superficial optics at best.

We do not need another Government announcing yet another public education campaign, and to then say they are listening to and acting on the advice of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. That risks being an excuse for their not taking action on other important recommendations that the Standards Development Committee is advancing.

Sadly, ample experience shows that such public education campaigns too often do not materially change what people in positions of authority do. It is ineffective to hope to first change attitudes towards people with disabilities in the vain hope that this will sometime later change their actions.

Instead, we must now change actions. The attitudes will change as a result. Put another way, nothing raises awareness and changes attitudes and culture better than a clear, specific, mandatory law such as a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard, known to be backed by timely and effective enforcement. The detailed requirements, such as we recommend, to be included in that accessibility standard, then become the public education campaign.

An obligated organization may remove and prevent disability barriers because its attitudes have changed. It may do so because it is good for business. It may do so because it fears a Government inspection, enforcement and penalties. It may do so because it fears bad press if it doesn’t fix things. It may do so because it is the right thing to do. It may do so because of a combination of these motivations. We care principally that the obligated organization removes and prevents those barriers, and does so as soon as possible, for whatever reason.

 e) Barrier Area 2: Training

It is good that the Initial Report recommends training for post-secondary staff on AODA standards and the Ontario Human Rights Code. It should be expanded to also include their duties under s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (equality rights to people with disabilities), which the AODA also aims to implement.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (training) should be amended to include training on the duties of post-secondary institutions to people with disabilities under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and especially s. 15 (equality rights).

The Initial Report Recommendation 20-23 proposes that training should be provided at no cost to post-secondary institutions. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 20 includes:

“Online and in-person components shall be provided at no cost to postsecondary institutions across the province.”

If this means that The Government of Ontario should not charge for training resources, then we agree. If it means that post-secondary institutions should never have to pay anyone for such training, then we disagree. An accessibility standard can and should never purport to direct that an obligated organization never need pay for an accommodating or accessibility measure.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (Training) should be revised to either remove the statement that post-secondary institutions should not pay for disability accessibility/inclusion training, or to clarify that the Ontario Government should not charge a fee for providing such training to those obligated organizations.

The Initial Report’s recommendations regarding training should specifically include training on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, both employees and students with disabilities. We recognize that this is implicit in the Initial Report’s recommendations. It would be better to make it explicit.

We have found that there is a thirst for such training, and that training can start right now. In early October, 2021, the AODA Alliance made public a captioned training video on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, available at https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ which runs about one and a quarter hours. It is presented by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, and is posted on a post-secondary institution’s website, the Osgoode Hall Law School.

Within two weeks of being posted and publicized on social media by the AODA Alliance, it has been seen over 1,000 times and has received positive feedback. The Toronto District School Board sent it to all its principals and vice-principals.

With tools such as the video now available, action can start now.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations, Recommendations 20 and following, should be revised to explicitly require training on the duty to accommodate students and employees with disabilities, and to direct that this training begin immediately, using resources that are now readily available for free.

We support the need for training of college and university facility management officials on universal design. Colleges and universities have been the venue of some of the troubling new buildings with serious accessibility problems.

This training should include direct presentations by users with disabilities who have suffered as a result. It should also require the viewing of projects that have gone wrong.

For example, the AODA Alliance widely-viewed video about serious accessibility problems at the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, available at https://youtu.be/4oe4xiKknt0, is now being used for training in some design professional circles. The David Onley AODA Independent Review references that video. We encourage its use. We emphasize that we do not hold out Ryerson as an especially problematic place. Rather, that video illustrates problems that we find to be generally typical and troubling around Ontario.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. “Recommendation 29: Facilities Management/Design/Construction staff” Should be amended to require that training of those responsible for facilities at post-secondary institutions and those who design such facilities should be required to include direct live training from people with disabilities who have suffered from post-secondary institutions’ built environment barriers, and should include video depictions of such barriers, such as the AODA Alliance’s videos available at https://youtu.be/4oe4xiKknt0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgfrum7e-_0&t=87s

Training for all post-secondary employees, and especially for course instructors and other creators of electronic content (such as web site content) should be required to have up-to-date training on accessibility barriers in the area of documents and information and communication generally. For example, they need to be trained that if a document is posted in pdf, it MUST simultaneously be posted in html and/or MS Word. Too many still believe that pdf is or can be an accessible format. This is simply erroneous.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require up-to-date training on the creation of accessible digital content, such as in online posts and electronic documents, especially for course instructors and anyone else who creates digital content for use by students and others in the post-secondary community. This training should make it clear that if a document is posted or circulated in pdf, it must also be posted or circulated in MS Word and/or html.

Those involved in the procurement of technology for use in the college or university should be required to get training on procuring accessible technology. Though hard to believe, York University procured an entirely new phone system replete with new accessibility barriers, during the time that the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee was doing its work. This no doubt cost thousands of dollars to implement across the university. Those overseeing this were unaware of its obvious barriers, that became evident within moments of looking at the new phones.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require that college or university staff involved in the procurement of any technology or equipment be required to be trained on technology accessibility needs and requirements.

We offer additional proposals to supplement the Initial Report’s Training recommendations.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that:
  1. Each post-secondary education organization should provide teaching coaches with expertise in universal design in learning and differential instruction to support instructional staff.
  1. The Ontario Government should create templates or models for the training of college and university instructors on universal design in learning and differential instruction, so that each post-secondary education organization does not have to reinvent the wheel in this context.

 f) Barrier Group 3: Assessment, curriculum and instruction

The Initial Report correctly identifies the serious barrier here facing college and university students with disabilities. It is important for the Final Report to directly identify the cause of this problem. If we do not isolate the cause, we will not find the right cure.

Here is a cause that needs to be openly identified. The key product or service that colleges and universities provide to their students is education, through courses, classes and other supports. The direct provider of this product or service is the course instructor.

To be hired as a post-secondary course instructor, a person does not have to have any knowledge or training in universal design in learning (UDl), i.e. how to effectively teach all students with disabilities in their classes. To be hired as a professor or course instructor at a college or university, a candidate does generally not need to have any training, skill or background in how to teach.

This systemic barrier is deeply embedded in the college and university system. It differs markedly from K-12 schools. To be hired as a teacher, a person must have qualified as a teacher, through designated post-secondary training. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee has pointed out that even there, there is no requirement for teachers to know how to teach students with disabilities in order to get hired as a teacher. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee makes several recommendations to address that major shortcoming.

The solution is twofold. First, those already teaching in colleges and universities will need to receive substantial training on how to teach in a way that embeds UDL, so that all students with disabilities can learn in their courses. Second, the hiring, promotion and recruitment processes at Ontario colleges and universities must in future include requirements in this area, so that as new recruits join their teaching faculties, they will be better equipped from the beginning. Since getting a job teaching at Ontario colleges and universities is so competitive, there should be ample capacity to thereby make progress.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations on curriculum, assessment and instruction (Recommendations 31 and following) should be expanded
  1. to identify that a key systemic barrier is the fact that course instructors need not be able to teach, or to teach students with disabilities, to be hired, and to make recommendations for training existing instructor in this area, and
  1. to require such qualifications in the future for recruiting and promoting future faculty.

The Initial report calls for specific Government funding for colleges and universities to hire subject matter experts in the creation of accessible instruction materials. Recommendation 38 of the report includes:

“In consideration of the costs involved in hiring subject matter experts in accessible and inclusive pedagogy/andragogy, and creating accessible materials, the Ontario government should provide dedicated funding to the universities and colleges to support these standards.”

We understand the motivation underlying this recommendation, and other similar recommendations. However, it is critical that the Education Accessibility Standard does not itself perpetuate systemic discriminatory conduct. It would be unacceptable for any colleges and universities to refuse to meet a human rights obligation until and unless the Ontario Government specifically pays for new job posts to do this work. The Ontario Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights have included equality rights for students with disabilities for decades. This is not a new mandate, and should not be treated as such.

Of course, if the Government provides additional financing, that can be a positive step. However, there must be no linkage or precondition that the Government must first fund compliance by colleges and universities with their human rights obligations to students with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report, including recommendations such as Recommendation 38, should be revised to make it clear that whether or not the Ontario Government supplements their funding, they must fulfil their decades-old obligations to students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

We supplement the Initial Report’s recommendations in the area of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment to help make those recommendations fully effective.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each post-secondary education organization should:
  1. Promptly survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their instructional staff, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  1. Establish a dedicated office or resource within the post-secondary education organization, or shared among post-secondary education organizations, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis. A student should not be required to show proof that they own a hard copy of an item to be able to get it in an accessible format.
  1. The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ontario Government to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across post-secondary education organizations.

We do not know what is meant by the Initial Report’s Recommendation 57. It states:

“Recommendation 57: Jurisdiction of accessibility supports in work integrated learning settings (non-regulatory)

Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility should provide guidance to postsecondary institutions and employers with respect to the division of responsibilities and applicability of the act’s standards and accommodations (Ontario Human Rights Commission) for students with disabilities in required work integrated learning settings.”

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 57 should be explained and clarified, or removed.

It is important for each college and university to ensure barrier-free post-secondary program admission requirements. There is now a risk that admission requirements to a post-secondary program that unintentionally or inadvertently impede access to the program for otherwise-qualified students with disabilities. It is important to ensure that students with disabilities can have their eligibility for admission to a post-secondary program fairly and accurately assessed.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. Every post-secondary education organization should be required to review its admission criteria for gaining admission to any of its post-secondary education programs, to identify any barriers that would impede otherwise-qualified students with disabilities from admission, and shall adjust those criteria to either:
  1. Remove the admission criteria that constitute a barrier to admission, or
  1. Provide an alternative method for assessing students with disabilities for admission to the program.
g)  Barrier area 4: Digital learning and technology

The Initial Report calls for definitions certain terms regarding accessible technology to be established by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. This is not within that Ministry’s knowledge or expertise. Moreover, under the AODA, it is the accessibility standard that should set this definition to be enforceable. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 65 states:

“Recommendation 65: Accessible technology definitions

The Ministry of Colleges and Universities to provide and adopt clear and consistent definitions across the education sector for key terms relating to digital learning and technology.”

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 65 should be amended to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard, and not the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, should adopt clear and consistent definitions across the education sector for key terms relating to digital learning and technology.

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 68 (Digital learning and technology plan) proposes that all colleges and universities:

“must develop and make publicly available a plan to seamlessly include accessibility in the digital learning and technology used throughout the academic journey of all students with disabilities.”

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 70 would require colleges and universities to each consult with people with disabilities, including students with disabilities, on this plan.

This might at first all appear to be helpful. However, in the end, it requires all colleges and universities to undertake duplicative work, and to ask people with disabilities, including students with disabilities, the same questions about the same barriers, one institution after the next. The AODA is meant to avoid such duplication of efforts. The Education Accessibility Standard should set the detailed requirements for such a plan. All the plan needs to do is to implement the detailed accessibility requirements that the Education Accessibility Standard should itself set. The same goes for school boards under the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard.

If such plans are to be required, the Education Accessibility Standard should require that they be submitted to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, and that they be centrally posted on a searchable online hub.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 68 and following, regarding accessible technology, should be revised to:
  1. require that the Education Accessibility Standard itself set specific requirements for accessible technology, and
  1. require that each obligated organization submit its accessibility plan to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, which the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario would then be required to post online in a searchable accessible public online hub.

An excellent example of a meritorious recommendation in the Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report which is unfortunately listed as “non-regulatory” is Recommendation 76, regarding the establishment of a the accessible digital technology lead in all colleges and universities. We agree with the substance of this recommendation. However, it should not be “non-regulatory” and hence, voluntary and unenforceable. It should instead be included in the Education Accessibility Standard and be mandatory and enforceable.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 76 should be revised to make it mandatory for each college and university to appoint an accessible digital technology lead.

We respectfully but profoundly object to a key part of the Standards Development Committee’s Recommendation regarding so-called “Accessible PDFs”. We fully agree with the Standards Development Committee’s recommendation, where it would require alternative accessible formatted documents to be made available when a pdf is provided or posted. However, we disagree with the Initial Report’s proposal that colleges and universities should invest time, energy and resources into training their staff and instructors to create so-called “accessible pdfs” with a view to their becoming a long term option.

The Initial Report includes:

“Recommendation 87: Accessible PDFs

Postsecondary institutions shall provide all documents in an accessible format. In the case of a PDF, this committee is recommending a phased approach:

phase 1: postsecondary institutions shall use a PDF document only if an accessible alternative format is also simultaneously available

phase 2: postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for the creation of accessible PDFs to the PDF/UA 1 /ISO 14289 standard. Following this date, any document provided as a PDF must meet this international standard. However, to phase in this requirement it is expected that postsecondary institutions continue to publish PDF-based digital content to be as accessible as their training and applications permit, even if an accessible alternative is provided. This will lessen any remediation costs if there is a need to go back and ensure that currently produced PDFs meet the PDF/UA 1/ISO 14289 standard. This will also demonstrate the postsecondary institutions’ commitment and progress towards creating accessible PDFs.

Timeline: Phase 1: within six months of regulation being enacted. Phase 2: within two years of the regulation being enacted

Recommendation 88: Software and training for accessible PDFs

Postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for creation of accessible PDFs.

Timeline: Within six months of regulation being enacted

Recommendation 88: Software and training for accessible PDFs

Postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for creation of accessible PDFs.”

We strongly disagree that colleges and universities should invest any time, resources and energy into training themselves to be able to provide “accessible pdfs.” These resources can be far better used promoting accessibility in other areas. Here’s why:

First, the term “accessible pdf” is a misnomer. Even if the document’s creator spends a great deal of time trying to make their pdf accessible, it still is harder to use than formats such as MS Word.

The Initial Report’s recommendation relies on an ISO standard that we do not endorse or accept. It should not be the legislated standard.

Second, when a person with a disability receives a pdf, they have no idea before they open it whether it has any accessibility at all built into it. Users with disabilities should not be left wondering every time they get a pdf whether it has any accessibility features built into it.

Third, when an author types a document in a format such as MS Word, the starting point is that it is generally accessible unless the author starts doing things to the document that creates barriers. When they convert it to a pdf, its accessibility is thereby destroyed. The author then must spend time trying to rebuild its accessibility. It is better not to create the new barriers in the first place.

Fourth, the pdf software is still evolving. Right now, it is reported to have accessibility bugs. See e.g. https://acrobat.uservoice.com/forums/590923-acrobat-for-windows-and-mac/suggestions/44183082-accessibility-errors-with-pdf-maker-update-sept-20

Fifth, the Initial Repport’s recommendations here will not only require training now for existing staff. It will require ongoing training as new staff join. The risk that in the interim, someone will continue creating problematic pdfs is a substantial one. The message “don’t use pdf, or if you do, also share an accessible MS Word or html document” is far easier to convey, and is far more likely to stick.

Sixth, even if a course instructor is trained on steps to try to insert some accessibility into a pdf, and even if these current accessibility problems were eliminated from the software, which is all speculative, there is no assurance that this training will remain relevant by the time they must use it, and that it will remain relevant in the future.

In sum, it is wasteful to invest time and effort into an effort to get people to make so-called “accessible pdfs”, when they are not assured to be accessible, when there are much easier and no-cost alternatives to such training, and when there are so many other pressing needs for the training resources that would be invested into pdfs. It would be a far better use of such resources to spend the money on training staff and faculty on creating accessible content in the native application such as Word, PowerPoint and Google Docs.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 87 should be revised to eliminate “phase two”, which now provides:

“phase 2: postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for the creation of accessible PDFs to the PDF/UA 1 /ISO 14289 standard. Following this date, any document provided as a PDF must meet this international standard. However, to phase in this requirement it is expected that postsecondary institutions continue to publish PDF-based digital content to be as accessible as their training and applications permit, even if an accessible alternative is provided. This will lessen any remediation costs if there is a need to go back and ensure that currently produced PDFs meet the PDF/UA 1/ISO 14289 standard. This will also demonstrate the postsecondary institutions’ commitment and progress towards creating accessible PDFs.”

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 88 should be removed.

We ask the Standards Development Committee to add some additional recommendations that will help make the Digital Barriers recommendations as effective as possible.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to recommend that the Education Accessibility Standard will require each post-secondary education organization to ensure that its information technology support and help staff includes specialists in access technology, and that students with disabilities get prompt access to IT support when needed.

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, people with disabilities have come to experience that different remote classroom and conference platforms are much more accessible than others. When the pandemic is finally behind us, colleges and universities should benefit from lessons learned. Accessible virtual classroom and conference platforms should be available for students who, because of disability, are more effectively accommodated by attending virtually. This should take place even if the course is being taught in person.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to require that
  1. Only accessible conference and remote class platforms may be used.
  1. the Ontario Government should be required to report semi-annually to the public and to colleges and universities on the comparative accessibility of different virtual meeting and teaching platforms, so that colleges and universities do not have to repeat the same investigations.
  1. Even when classes are taught in person, students with disabilities should have the option of attending virtually via an accessible virtual meeting platform, where this accommodation would be helpful to them because of their disability.

It is essential for any learning management system to be accessible, and for all its accessibility features to remained turned on.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require that any learning management system only be procured and used if it is accessible, and for all its accessibility features to be locked in the “on” position so that they cannot be turned off.

Increasingly, electronic kiosks are being used, as well as inaccessible point-of-sale devices restaurant tablet ordering procedures. The 2011 Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation provisions regarding electronic kiosks have not been effective. They are too vague and are not effectively enforced.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to ban the use of inaccessible electronic kiosks, electronic point-of-sale devices and restaurant tablet ordering technology at any colleges and universities.

 h) Barrier area 5: Organizational barriers

We support the Initial Report’s Recommendation 91 (Access to Disability Accommodation Information), calling for all students to be notified about availability of disability supports. We encourage the Standards Development Committee to add some more specifics, to help ensure that this is as effective as possible.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 91 (Access to Disability Accommodation Information) should be expanded to ensure that the Education Accessibility Standard requires:
  1. The post-secondary education organization’s interactive voice response system for receiving incoming phone calls should announce to all callers the organization’s commitment to accommodate students with disabilities and the number to press to get introductory information about how to seek such.
  1. Programming handouts and broadcast email communications to incoming students should include similar general information.
  1. the post-secondary education organization’s broadcast email announcements and other communications to the student population should include summary information to this effect with relevant links.
  1. Classroom instructors should make announcements in their first week of classes to this effect.

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 92 addresses Documentation policies for academic accommodations. We agree that the Education Accessibility Standard should set standards in this area. We also agree that this process must comply with human rights requirements. However, we do not agree that the Initial Report where it recommends:

“Based on these requirements, postsecondary institutions shall develop in a collaborative manner, a consistent and clear set of policies and practices about the nature and extent of documentation required to establish eligibility for academic accommodation.”

The Education Accessibility Standard should set the standard, not colleges and universities. That is what an accessibility standard is for. It should, for example, set some base line requirements.

For example, we understand that some colleges or universities may ask students with disabilities to re-document their disability each academic year. This is entirely unjustified and an unfair burden on students with disabilities, in cases where their disability is a permanent one. If a student is deaf or blind or has autism, for example, that condition is obviously permanent.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 92 should be revised to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard itself should set a clear set of barrier-free requirements regarding a student’s documenting an academic accommodation need. For example, a student should not be required to re-document their disability each year, where it is a permanent or long term disability.

We support the Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 (Full participation). It requires colleges and universities to inform students “…as early as possible in a readily accessible and understandable way, of the institution’s recognition of its duty to ensure that all academically qualified students with disabilities have the right to full participation and full inclusion in all the postsecondary institution’s programming, events, orientations and academic life.”

To make this as clear as possible, it would be helpful if this explicitly includes a reference to the duty to accommodate students with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 should be amended to explicitly require that colleges and universities tell students with disabilities, as soon as possible, about the institution’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities.

In the Initial Report’s Recommendation 95: (Clear policies and procedures) the Standards Development Committee recommends that policies and procedures be adopted in colleges and universities:

“… outlining the process by which students with disabilities can access accommodations for academically related learning activities, including, but not limited to:

classroom

libraries

common areas

online learning tools including accessible software

tests/examinations

internships

practica

co-ops

field placements

apprenticeships

work integrated learning

other experiential learning that are part of their academic program of study”.

This is what the Education Accessibility Standard itself is supposed to specifically detail. Best practices, policies, guidelines and the like are not mandatory or enforceable. They can change on a whim.

Moreover, as noted earlier, the sooner colleges and universities have detailed and specific requirements to meet for barrier identification, barrier removal, and barrier prevention for recurring disability barriers, the fewer accommodations that students with disabilities will need.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94-95 be revised to set out specific accessibility requirements for colleges and universities in such areas as classrooms, libraries, common areas, online learning tools including accessible software, tests/examinations, internships, practica, co-ops, field placements, apprenticeships, work-integrated learning, other experiential learning that are part of their academic program of study, request for priority enrollment in a course, and accessible housing placement. For example, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a post-secondary education organization’s experiential learning programs, each such organization should:
  1. Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers;
  1. Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate are available;
  1. Ensure that its partner organizations that accept students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities;
  1. Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements;
  1. Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation; and
  1. Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.

We also support the Initial Report’s Recommendation 96 (Disability Accommodation Plans). However, it is especially important that the accommodation application and planning process for a student be made swift, simple, and de-bureaucratized. We have received feedback that at some post-secondary institutions, the procedure is overly bureaucratic.

Moreover, to succeed, colleges and universities must remove policies that create clear and obvious barriers. For example, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law has a policy forbidding the recording of classes. If students with disabilities need a class recorded, they must go through the process of applying for a disability accommodation. This is an unnecessary and inappropriate step.

In sharp contrast, the Osgoode Hall Law School commendably does not ban the recording of classes at all. To the contrary, it has for several years followed the practice of having all lecture classes automatically recorded, explicitly to be available as an accommodation. Law students at that law school do not have to go through any bureaucracy to access such recordings.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 and following should be revised to:
  1. Require obligated organizations to review their accommodation procedures for systemic barriers, such as a ban on recording classes to which an exception must be sought through the accommodation process; and
  1. Require that those disability barriers be removed and prevented.

It is a positive step that the Initial Report urges that annual reports be made by colleges and universities about their disability accommodation caseload in Recommendation 98 (Disability Accommodation Caseload – Reporting). We add that these figures should be required to be submitted to The Government and that The Government be required to make them publicly available on an institution-by-institution basis, and as provincial aggregations or averages.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 98 (Disability Accommodation Caseload – Reporting) be revised to require that each college or university disability accommodation caseloads be reported to The Government, with The Government being required to publish these online annually on an institution-by-institution basis, and as provincial aggregations or averages.

We share the goal in Recommendation 99 (Accessibility Lens), but not how the Standards Development Committee proposes to address that goal. The Initial Report delegates to the Accessibility Ministry responsibility to consult with key stakeholders to create an accessibility lens for colleges and universities to use in major decisions. That is in effect assigning them to create a de facto Education Accessibility Standard, but calling it a “disability lens”. Instead, it is the Standards Development Committee that through its consultation should set out the specific recurring disability barriers and the corrective measures to avoid them.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 99 (Accessibility Lens) be removed and replaced with specific recommendations on the recurring disability barriers to be removed and prevented, and what must be done to remove and prevent them.

We agree with Recommendations 104-106 (Accessible Procurement Policies and Procedures), but we ask that these be refined to clarify that these procurement standards must be detailed and specific, both on the procurement process and the kinds of barriers to be avoided (a non-exhaustive specification of barriers). The extremely vague wording in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation for the past decade has been ineffective. For example, section 5 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation now provides:

“Procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities

  1. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, except where it is not practicable to do so. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 5 (1); O. Reg. 413/12, s. 4 (1).

(2) If the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization determines that it is not practicable to incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, it shall provide, upon request, an explanation.”

The IASR’s “not practicable” standard wrongly falls short of the mandatory human rights standard of “undue hardship”. Moreover, the vague requirement of incorporating accessible features does not ensure that no new barriers are created.

There is no effective monitoring or enforcement of the current vague requirements. As noted above, York University purchased a new telephone system replete with accessibility barriers under that regime.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 104-16 ((Accessible Procurement Policies and Procedures) should be revised to require that the accessible procurement standards are mandatory, include detailed specifics, are more robust than the current section 5 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, and require public accountability/reporting to ensure that they can be effectively monitored and enforced.

We commend Recommendations 108-110 (Handling Accommodation Requests). We would add that at present, from feedback received, some of these processes are too slow and bureaucratic. There should be a simplified process required. Where the request is for a routine accommodation, it should go through a rapid process. Those which may be more unusual or complex and require more effort should be routed into a process designed to effectively address their greater complexity.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 108-110 (Handling Accommodation Requests) should be expanded to spell out mandatory baseline requirements for student accommodation request procedures, so that each college or university does not have to re-design their own procedures, and which:
  1. Require the de-bureaucratizing of the handling of accommodation requests by students;
  1. Require a fast-track process for routine accommodation requests which are suitable for such a process;
  1. Require a separate track for more unusual or complex requests to be addressed in an effective and time-sensitive way; and
  1. Ensure that if the student had an Individual Education Plan (IEP) from an Ontario school, or a finding by an Ontario school board’s Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) that identified them as having a disability (exceptionality), or a comparable form of documentation from another jurisdiction, then the post-secondary education organization should treat that as sufficient proof that the student has a disability, without requiring further assessments or proof, unless the post-secondary education organization has independent proof showing that the student no longer has that disability. In that case, the post-secondary education organization shall provide the student with that proof and shall provide the student with an opportunity to demonstrate that they have a disability-related accommodation need. The student’s IEP should not be treated as a ceiling on what a person can request, since a person’s accommodations needs may be different in the postsecondary environment.

In the Initial Report’s Recommendations 111 –113 (Service Animals), there are separate references to service animals and support animals. This incorrectly implies that a support animal is not a service animal. We doubt that this is the Standards Development Committee’s intention.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 111-113 (Service Animals) should be revised to replace the term “service animals and support animals” with the more accurate term “service animals, including support animals.”

We support the Standards Development Committees various university governance recommendations, but add one more to make them as effective as possible.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a permanent committee of its governing board of directors or trustees to be called the “Accessibility Committee”. This Accessibility Committee should have responsibility and authority to oversee the organization’s compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as far as they guarantee the right of students with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the education programs and opportunities that the organization provides.

It is very commendable that the Standards Development Committee made equity, diversity, and inclusion a core principle for its work. The Initial Report states:

“Therefore the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion underlie all aspects of the committee’s work.”

In recent years, there has been a commendable and growing recognition that it is important for an effective education system to focus at all levels on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts have, for example, expanded curriculum content and course offerings to address the needs and circumstances of women, racialized peoples, Indigenous communities, and the LGBTQ population.

Such equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts need to fully and equally include people with disabilities and effectively address their issues and needs. This is not an isolated concern. Across the broader K-12 and post-secondary education systems as well as in some other contexts, equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives have excluded disability altogether or have included but substantially underserved people with disabilities. In those instances, equity for some creates equity for none. An old hierarchy replaces a new hierarchy, in which people with disabilities remain in a position of chronic disadvantage.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Standards Development Committee should recommend that any equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy at any college or university should be reviewed and, where needed, revised to ensure that disability is a full and equal target and focus of that strategy.

People with disabilities working in post-secondary education organizations often face accessibility barriers in the workplace that also hurt students with disabilities. The experience and expertise of people with disabilities working in post-secondary education organizations should be effectively harnessed to help root out the accessibility barriers that impede students with disabilities. This is because workplace disability barriers and education service disability barriers are often the same or substantially overlap.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a committee of those employees and volunteers with disabilities who wish to join, to give the organization’s senior management feedback on the barriers in the organization that could impede employees or students with disabilities.

 i) Barrier area 7: Physical and architectural barriers Recommendations

The Initial Report’s Recommendations 127 proposes adoption of the Brock University technical requirements for accessible built environment design. We propose instead that the Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS) established at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD University) be adopted: https://www.ocadu.ca/sites/default/files/2021-06/OCADU_FADS_21-05-26.pdf

This version of FADS has been updated to include or remove any conflicts with the 2020 and 2022 changes to the Ontario Building Code. It also has improved details for some elements and for some facility types making it a more up-to-date standard for built environment design for education facilities, including the types of facilities that might be found at post-secondary education institutions.

This can be enriched by the built environment proposals set out in the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’ Initial Report, which are set out below in Appendix 1.

These standards must govern not only the buildings and structures, but the furniture as well.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 127-128 should be revised to recommend
  1. The adoption of the Education Accessibility Standards of the OCAD University Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS) https://www.ocadu.ca/sites/default/files/2021-06/OCADU_FADS_21-05-26.pdf enriched by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s built environment recommendations; and
  1. Set standards for accessibility of the furniture in the premises of colleges and universities.

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 139 (Identify Barriers and Provide Accommodations) states:

“Postsecondary institutions shall proactively identify barriers in the built environment that cannot be removed or avoided through alternative access due to legal or geographic barriers, such as heritage designation or zoning restrictions.”

This recommendation is incorrect. The Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms prevail over other regulatory and statutory instruments, such as zoning bylaws. Moreover, heritage is not itself an “undue hardship” that overrides the duty to accommodate. At most, when a heritage building is involved, an organization can first seek ways to add accessibility, with the least impact on the building’s heritage features.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 139 (Identify Barriers and Provide Accommodations) should be revised to remove an incorrect suggestion that zoning bylaws or heritage designation are a legal bar to implementing accessibility in a building.

The Initial Report’s Recommendation 153 (Signage and Wayfinding) contains some measures to address way-finding. We add that there is a need for each campus to be reviewed to ensure that there is effective cane-detectable way-finding both indoors and outside. As one example, York University’s Downsview campus can be extremely challenging for a person with vision loss to navigate because, among other barriers, outdoor paved paths curve into each other rather than having clearly defined cane-detectable intersections.

Here again, the OCAD University FADS should be adopted, not Brock University’s standard.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 153 (Signage and Wayfinding) should be revised to:
  1. Invoke the OCAD University FADS standard for signage and way-finding, instead of those by Brock University; and
  1. Require that each campus review its indoor and outdoor property for effective cane-detectable way-finding, and institute such way-finding if inadequate or non-existent.

It is important not to exacerbate existing barriers in the built environment at any colleges or universities.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations regarding the built environment should be expanded to require that, where possible, a post-secondary education organization should not renovate an existing facility that lacks disability accessibility, unless the organization has a plan to also make that facility accessible. For example, a post-secondary education organization should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a facility which is inaccessible, if the organization does not have a plan to make that second storey disability-accessible. Very pressing health and safety concerns should be the only reason for any exception to this.

Part of the built environment at a post-secondary institution is its gym facilities and equipment.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to require that each post-secondary education organization:
  1. Take inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor gym, sports, athletic and like equipment and spaces, and make this public, including posting this information online;
  1. Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of existing gym, sports, athletic or other like equipment or spaces, in consultation with students with disabilities; and
  1. Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that the purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing equipment or spaces is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the post-secondary education organization.

The Initial Report does not set out specific recommendations regarding the shoveling of snow. Each winter, every campus implements some sort of snow removal to ensure that the campus community can get around and into its buildings. However, this may not ensure that people with disabilities can also safely navigate the campus. Snow can be piled up along accessible paths of travel.

A few years ago, one law student’s video went viral and gained media attention. The video showed that snow was shoveled in a way that enabled walking people to use paths on one campus, but which did not enable safe passage by a person using a wheelchair. We include the February 2, 2019 CBC News report on this, as it fully illustrates this issue.

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/watch-this-york-student-struggle-to-get-to-class-in-a-wheelchair-due-to-uncleared-snow-1.5003306

“Ali Imrie’s Twitter video shows her struggling on a snow-covered path on university campus

Kelda Yuen

Osgoode Hall Law School student Ali Imrie says she missed one class and was late for another this week due to snow-covered sidewalks on the York University campus. (Ali Imrie/ Twitter)

Ali Imrie says it’s only 500 metres from her student apartment to Osgoode Hall Law School on the York University campus in Toronto, but even so, she wasn’t able to make it to all her classes this week due to uncleared snow.

“Honestly, this week hasn’t been any different than any other week in the snow,” she said.

But this time, she took a video and posted it on Twitter. The 17-second clip posted Thursday evening shows a friend struggling to push her home from class along a snowy path. At one point, they appear to get stuck. Within a day, the post garnered over 20,000 views and was shared almost 500 times.

The video is raising the issue of a lack of accessibility for students with mobility issues during weather events like the snowstorm the Toronto area experienced this week.

Imrie is quick to note she understands it is difficult to keep pathways clear with the “crazy amounts of snow” that fell, but she is frustrated at what she believes is a lack of initiative from the school to keep on top of snow clearing.

Barbara Joy, the spokesperson for York, told CBC Toronto Friday the university has reached out to Imrie and has since done checks to ensure all paths on campus are clear.

The specific path in Imrie’s video, Joy said, “was actually cleared several times since the snow began, but unfortunately it wasn’t adequate.”

Hoping for a permanent solution

Imrie says she has been flagging the problem for some time now, and she wants a more permanent solution.

This is her third year using a wheelchair since being diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, and her second year living on campus as a part-time law student.

When she first arrived, her mobility issues made it “difficult and isolating,” she said.

“It got to the point, last January, where I had a rotating schedule of which friend could meet me before or after class to help me get there,” she told CBC Toronto.

She says she contacted the school about it repeatedly, but the problem of uncleared snow persisted.

“The reaction will be reactive and in the moment — it’s fixed. But given it’s been a year and I keep needing to bring it up every time it snows, what’s missing is the proactive piece. There’s not really been any lasting change.”

Imrie says she understands York ‘is a really big campus and it’s difficult to keep it clear all the time,’ but she hopes the university can be more proactive in making sure paths remain clear.

Joy admits York needs to “do better.”

One thing she says the university will do is ensure employees perform more checks to make sure all pathways remain clear.

“With storms, there is blowing snow and other things that impact the way the path is covered in snow, so even if it was cleared in the morning, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t check it in the afternoon,” she said.

“We are going to keep on top of it to make sure it’s maintained.”

Joy also points out there is a shuttle that’s offered to students with mobility issues.

But Imrie says the shuttle can take up to an hour to arrive after being booked.

“For me, because (my illness) is so fatiguing, if I’m in a three-hour class, I can’t add another hour on either end to wait for a van.”

Joy says the school is looking into ways the shuttle can accommodate her better.

Not just a York University problem

Imrie, meanwhile, has another suggestion.

While it would be ideal to have the paths clear at all times, she says the ones heavily used by students with mobility issues should perhaps get priority when it comes to snow clearing.

“There’s different implications for me versus someone who’s walking.”

She is also quick to note that lack of accessibility is not just a problem her school needs to fix.

She says on her route to class, she has to travel on a sidewalk partially owned by the city.

She says it’s rarely cleared after a snowstorm.

“It’s an issue everywhere.””

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to include, in its built environment recommendations, specific mandatory requirements at all colleges and universities to ensure that snow-shoveling creates no disability barriers and is sufficient to enable people with disabilities to navigate the campus.

It is important for the Education Accessibility Standard to include protections regarding the Indoor air/environment quality to ensure accessibility for those with environmentally linked disabilities, such as Environmental Sensitivities (which includes Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, EMF Sensitivities, etc.), Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Cancer, Diabetes, Chemical Pneumonitis, Migraines, Chronic Fatigue, Lyme Disease, etc.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to include indoor air quality requirements for persons for whom this can create disability barriers.

It is important for students with disabilities and other people with disabilities to know where accessibility features are included in the campus, so they can plan their route of travel.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to require each college or university to create and make available an up-to-date guide on the accessibility features in its built environment, such as electric door openers and ramps.

Since college and university campuses now have many accessibility barriers in their built environment, it is important for students with disabilities to be assured that courses they wish to take will be offered in an accessible classroom.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be revised to:
  1. Ensure that students with disabilities have available an earlier or accelerated process for getting their course selections confirmed; and
  1. Have in place a mandatory process for the college or university to make priority re-assignment of any classes from inaccessible classrooms to accessible classrooms, where needed.

Campuses can have paths of travel blocked due to construction. Without centralized control, students and others can encounter unpredictable barriers.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require each college and university to:
  2. Ensure to the extent possible that construction projects on campus do not block accessible paths of travel, and accessibility features such as ramps and accessible doors; and
  1. Maintain a publicly-accessible up-to-date web page or other easily-accessed public announcement of the location and expected timing of construction projects that may impede accessible travel.

Graduation ceremonies should always be accessible to students, family members, friends, and staff with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to specifically require that the venue of graduation ceremonies be accessible to students, family members, friends and staff members with disabilities, including the graduation platform.

The Ontario Government funds some building projects at colleges or universities. It must ensure that any such projects will be fully accessible before agreeing to that funding. In 2017, the Ontario Government agreed to invest $125 million in a new Markham campus for York University that had several serious accessibility barriers in its design.

We therefore recommend that:

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard require that the Ontario Government ensure that public funds are never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers in the built environment.
  1. The Ontario Government be required to revise its funding criteria for construction of facilities at a post-secondary education organization to ensure that it requires, and does not obstruct, the inclusion of all needed accessibility features in that construction project.

 Appendix 1. Initial Recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on Ensuring Physical Accessibility of the Built Environment in Education Settings

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

Specific Accessibility Requirements Recommendations

Recommendation Part Three: Usable Accessible Design for Exterior Site Elements

The following should be required:

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

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – General Requirements Recommendations

The following should be required:

85. Entrances:

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

86. Door:

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

87. Gates, Turnstiles and Openings:

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

88. Windows, Glazed Screens and Sidelights

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

89. Drinking Fountains

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

90. Layout

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

91. Facilities

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

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Circulation Recommendations

The following should be required:

92. Elevators

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

93. Ramps

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

94. Stairs

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

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

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

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Washroom Facilities Recommendations

The following should be required:

95. General Washroom Requirements

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

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Specific Room Requirements Recommendations

101. Performance stages

The following should be required:

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

102. Sensory Rooms

The following should be required:

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

103. Offices, Work Areas, and Meeting Rooms

The following should be required:

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

104. Outdoor Athletic and Recreational Facilities

The following should be required:

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

105. Arenas, Halls and Other Indoor Recreational Facilities

The following should be required:

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

106. Swimming Pools

The following should be required:

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

107. Cafeterias

The following should be required:

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

108. Libraries

The following should be required:

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

109. Teaching Spaces and Classrooms

The following should be required:

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

111. Waiting and Queuing Areas

The following should be required:

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

112. Information, Reception and Service Counters

The following should be required:

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

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Other Features Recommendations

113. Lockers

The following should be required:

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

114. Storage, Shelving and Display Units

The following should be required:

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

115. Public Address Systems

The following should be required:

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

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

The following should be required:

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

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

116.3 Areas of Rescue Assistance

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

117. Other Features

The following should be required:

117.1 Space and Reach Requirements

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

117.2 Ground and Floor Surfaces

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

118. Universal Design Practices beyond Typical Accessibility Requirements

The following should be required:

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

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

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

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

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

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

118.6 Finishes

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

iii. Door hardware to door

  1. Controls to wall surfaces

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

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

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

The following should be required:

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

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

119.3 Multiple ways to use and access play equipment

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

119.5 Where stairs are provided, ramps to same area

119.6 No overhead hazards

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

119.8 Space to park wheelchairs and mobility devices beside transfer platforms

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

119.10 Provide elements that can be manipulated with limited exertion

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

119.12 Avoid shiny surfaces as they produce a glare

119.13 Colour luminance contrast will be provided at least at:

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

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

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

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

119.16 Accessible Signage

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

119.17 For Caregivers

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

119.18 For Service Animals

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

119.19 Tips for Swings

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

Platform swings eliminate the need to transfer should be integrated

119.20 Tips for Slides

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

Appendix 2: List of the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee

  1. Wherever the Initial Report recommends the creation of a standard or the development of a policy or guideline, such a standard, policy or guideline should be mandatory and should be spelled out in detail in the Education Accessibility Standard, rather than delegating authority to create it to some organization or department.
  1. Wherever the Education Accessibility Standard will require colleges and universities to file a document or data with the Government, or to make public any document, report, or data, it should also require that these be submitted electronically to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in an accessible format. The Standard should also require the Accessibility Directorate to make those documents, reports or data public on a publicly searchable database or hub.
  2. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee should endorse and echo the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial’ Report’s recommendations on enforcement of the AODA, with necessary changes to tailor them to the context of colleges and universities.
  1. The Initial Report should be revised to add that where the Education Accessibility Standard refers to “students with disabilities “, this should include any student who has any kind of disability, including, for example, any kind of physical, mental, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health, communication, neurological, neurobehavioural or other kind of disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  2. The Standards Development Committee’s final report itself and not just the chair’s transmission letter should recommend that the Postsecondary Education Accessibility Standard apply to all other post-secondary educational contexts, such as privately funded colleges and universities and job training programs.
  3. The long term objective of the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that by 2025, post-secondary education in Ontario will be fully accessible and barrier-free for students with disabilities:
  1. By removing and preventing accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities from fully participating in, being fully included in, and fully benefitting from all aspects of post-secondary education in Ontario, and
  2. By providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process for students with disabilities to learn about and seek programs, services, supports, accommodations and placements tailored to the individual strengths and needs of each student with disabilities.”
  3. Eliminating or substantially reducing the need for students with disabilities to have to fight against post-secondary education accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for post-secondary education organizations to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one education program at a time.
  1. The Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (training) should be amended to include training on the duties of post-secondary institutions to people with disabilities under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and especially s. 15 (equality rights).
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 20-23 (Training) should be revised to either remove the statement that post-secondary institutions should not pay for disability accessibility/inclusion training, or to clarify that the Ontario Government should not charge a fee for providing such training to those obligated organizations.
  3.  The Initial Report’s Training recommendations, Recommendations 20 and following, should be revised to explicitly require training on the duty to accommodate students and employees with disabilities, and to direct that this training begin immediately, using resources that are now readily available for free.
  4.             “Recommendation 29: Facilities Management/Design/Construction staff” Should be amended to require that training of those responsible for facilities at post-secondary institutions and those who design such facilities should be required to include direct live training from people with disabilities who have suffered from post-secondary institutions’ built environment barriers, and should include video depictions of such barriers, such as the AODA Alliance’s videos available at https://youtu.be/4oe4xiKknt0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgfrum7e-_0&t=87s
  5. The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require up-to-date training on the creation of accessible digital content, such as in online posts and electronic documents, especially for course instructors and anyone else who creates digital content for use by students and others in the post-secondary community. This training should make it clear that if a document is posted or circulated in pdf, it must also be posted or circulated in MS Word and/or html.
  6.  The Initial Report’s Training recommendations 20 and following should be expanded to require that college or university staff involved in the procurement of any technology or equipment be required to be trained on technology accessibility needs and requirements.
  7. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that:
  1. Each post-secondary education organization should provide teaching coaches with expertise in universal design in learning and differential instruction to support instructional staff.
  2. The Ontario Government should create templates or models for the training of college and university instructors on universal design in learning and differential instruction, so that each post-secondary education organization does not have to reinvent the wheel in this context.
  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations on curriculum, assessment and instruction (Recommendations 31 and following) should be expanded
  1. to identify that a key systemic barrier is the fact that course instructors need not be able to teach, or to teach students with disabilities, to be hired, and to make recommendations for training existing instructor in this area, and
  2. to require such qualifications in the future for recruiting and promoting future faculty.
  1. The Initial Report, including recommendations such as Recommendation 38, should be revised to make it clear that whether or not the Ontario Government supplements their funding, they must fulfil their decades-old obligations to students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.
  2. To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each post-secondary education organization should:
  1. Promptly survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their instructional staff, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  2. Establish a dedicated office or resource within the post-secondary education organization, or shared among post-secondary education organizations, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis. A student should not be required to show proof that they own a hard copy of an item to be able to get it in an accessible format.
  3. The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ontario Government to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across post-secondary education organizations.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 57 should be explained and clarified, or removed.
  2. Every post-secondary education organization should be required to review its admission criteria for gaining admission to any of its post-secondary education programs, to identify any barriers that would impede otherwise-qualified students with disabilities from admission, and shall adjust those criteria to either:
  1. Remove the admission criteria that constitute a barrier to admission, or
  2. Provide an alternative method for assessing students with disabilities for admission to the program.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 65 should be amended to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard, and not the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, should adopt clear and consistent definitions across the education sector for key terms relating to digital learning and technology.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 68 and following, regarding accessible technology, should be revised to:
  1. require that the Education Accessibility Standard itself set specific requirements for accessible technology, and
  2. require that each obligated organization submit its accessibility plan to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, which the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario would then be required to post online in a searchable accessible public online hub.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 76 should be revised to make it mandatory for each college and university to appoint an accessible digital technology lead.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 87 should be revised to eliminate “phase two”, which now provides:

“phase 2: postsecondary institutions shall provide suitable software and training for the creation of accessible PDFs to the PDF/UA 1 /ISO 14289 standard. Following this date, any document provided as a PDF must meet this international standard. However, to phase in this requirement it is expected that postsecondary institutions continue to publish PDF-based digital content to be as accessible as their training and applications permit, even if an accessible alternative is provided. This will lessen any remediation costs if there is a need to go back and ensure that currently produced PDFs meet the PDF/UA 1/ISO 14289 standard. This will also demonstrate the postsecondary institutions’ commitment and progress towards creating accessible PDFs.”

  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 88 should be removed.
  2. The Initial Report should be expanded to recommend that the Education Accessibility Standard will require each post-secondary education organization to ensure that its information technology support and help staff includes specialists in access technology, and that students with disabilities get prompt access to IT support when needed.
  3. The Initial Report should be revised to require that
  1. Only accessible conference and remote class platforms may be used.
  2. the Ontario Government should be required to report semi-annually to the public and to colleges and universities on the comparative accessibility of different virtual meeting and teaching platforms, so that colleges and universities do not have to repeat the same investigations.
  3. Even when classes are taught in person, students with disabilities should have the option of attending virtually via an accessible virtual meeting platform, where this accommodation would be helpful to them because of their disability.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require that any learning management system only be procured and used if it is accessible, and for all its accessibility features to be locked in the “on” position so that they cannot be turned off.
  2. The Initial Report should be expanded to ban the use of inaccessible electronic kiosks, electronic point-of-sale devices and restaurant tablet ordering technology at any colleges and universities.
  3. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 91 (Access to Disability Accommodation Information) should be expanded to ensure that the Education Accessibility Standard requires:
  1. The post-secondary education organization’s interactive voice response system for receiving incoming phone calls should announce to all callers the organization’s commitment to accommodate students with disabilities and the number to press to get introductory information about how to seek such.
  2. Programming handouts and broadcast email communications to incoming students should include similar general information.
  3. the post-secondary education organization’s broadcast email announcements and other communications to the student population should include summary information to this effect with relevant links.
  4. Classroom instructors should make announcements in their first week of classes to this effect.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 92 should be revised to provide that the Education Accessibility Standard itself should set a clear set of barrier-free requirements regarding a student’s documenting an academic accommodation need. For example, a student should not be required to re-document their disability each year, where it is a permanent or long term disability.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 should be amended to explicitly require that colleges and universities tell students with disabilities, as soon as possible, about the institution’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities.
  3. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94-95 be revised to set out specific accessibility requirements for colleges and universities in such areas as classrooms, libraries, common areas, online learning tools including accessible software, tests/examinations, internships, practica, co-ops, field placements, apprenticeships, work-integrated learning, other experiential learning that are part of their academic program of study, request for priority enrollment in a course, and accessible housing placement. For example, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a post-secondary education organization’s experiential learning programs, each such organization should:
  1. Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers;
  2. Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate are available;
  3. Ensure that its partner organizations that accept students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities;
  4. Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements;
  5. Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation; and
  6. Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 94 and following should be revised to:
  1. Require obligated organizations to review their accommodation procedures for systemic barriers, such as a ban on recording classes to which an exception must be sought through the accommodation process; and
  2. Require that those disability barriers be removed and prevented.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 98 (Disability Accommodation Caseload – Reporting) be revised to require that each college or university disability accommodation caseloads be reported to The Government, with The Government being required to publish these online annually on an institution-by-institution basis, and as provincial aggregations or averages.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 99 (Accessibility Lens) be removed and replaced with specific recommendations on the recurring disability barriers to be removed and prevented, and what must be done to remove and prevent them.
  3. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 104-16 ((Accessible Procurement Policies and Procedures) should be revised to require that the accessible procurement standards are mandatory, include detailed specifics, are more robust than the current section 5 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, and require public accountability/reporting to ensure that they can be effectively monitored and enforced.
  4. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 108-110 (Handling Accommodation Requests) should be expanded to spell out mandatory baseline requirements for student accommodation request procedures, so that each college or university does not have to re-design their own procedures, and which:
  1. Require the de-bureaucratizing of the handling of accommodation requests by students;
  2. Require a fast-track process for routine accommodation requests which are suitable for such a process;
  3. Require a separate track for more unusual or complex requests to be addressed in an effective and time-sensitive way; and
  4. Ensure that if the student had an Individual Education Plan (IEP) from an Ontario school, or a finding by an Ontario school board’s Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) that identified them as having a disability (exceptionality), or a comparable form of documentation from another jurisdiction, then the post-secondary education organization should treat that as sufficient proof that the student has a disability, without requiring further assessments or proof, unless the post-secondary education organization has independent proof showing that the student no longer has that disability. In that case, the post-secondary education organization shall provide the student with that proof and shall provide the student with an opportunity to demonstrate that they have a disability-related accommodation need. The student’s IEP should not be treated as a ceiling on what a person can request, since a person’s accommodations needs may be different in the postsecondary environment.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 111-113 (Service Animals) should be revised to replace the term “service animals and support animals” with the more accurate term “service animals, including support animals.”
  2. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a permanent committee of its governing board of directors or trustees to be called the “Accessibility Committee”. This Accessibility Committee should have responsibility and authority to oversee the organization’s compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as far as they guarantee the right of students with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the education programs and opportunities that the organization provides.
  3. The Standards Development Committee should recommend that any equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy at any college or university should be reviewed and, where needed, revised to ensure that disability is a full and equal target and focus of that strategy.
  4. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a committee of those employees and volunteers with disabilities who wish to join, to give the organization’s senior management feedback on the barriers in the organization that could impede employees or students with disabilities.
  5. The Initial Report’s Recommendations 127-128 should be revised to recommend
  1. The adoption of the Education Accessibility Standards of the OCAD University Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS) https://www.ocadu.ca/sites/default/files/2021-06/OCADU_FADS_21-05-26.pdf enriched by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee Initial Report’s built environment recommendations; and
  2. Set standards for accessibility of the furniture in the premises of colleges and universities.
  1. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 139 (Identify Barriers and Provide Accommodations) should be revised to remove an incorrect suggestion that zoning bylaws or heritage designation are a legal bar to implementing accessibility in a building.
  2. The Initial Report’s Recommendation 153 (Signage and Wayfinding) should be revised to:
  1. Invoke the OCAD University FADS standard for signage and way-finding, instead of those by Brock University; and
  2. Require that each campus review its indoor and outdoor property for effective cane-detectable way-finding, and institute such way-finding if inadequate or non-existent.
  1. The Initial Report’s recommendations regarding the built environment should be expanded to require that, where possible, a post-secondary education organization should not renovate an existing facility that lacks disability accessibility, unless the organization has a plan to also make that facility accessible. For example, a post-secondary education organization should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a facility which is inaccessible, if the organization does not have a plan to make that second storey disability-accessible. Very pressing health and safety concerns should be the only reason for any exception to this.
  2. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to require that each post-secondary education organization:
  1. Take inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor gym, sports, athletic and like equipment and spaces, and make this public, including posting this information online;
  2. Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of existing gym, sports, athletic or other like equipment or spaces, in consultation with students with disabilities; and
  3. Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that the purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing equipment or spaces is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the post-secondary education organization.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to include, in its built environment recommendations, specific mandatory requirements at all colleges and universities to ensure that snow-shoveling creates no disability barriers and is sufficient to enable people with disabilities to navigate the campus.
  2. The Initial Report’s built environment recommendations should be expanded to include indoor air quality requirements for persons for whom this can create disability barriers.
  3. The Initial Report should be revised to require each college or university to create and make available an up-to-date guide on the accessibility features in its built environment, such as electric door openers and ramps.
  4. The Initial Report should be revised to:
  1. Ensure that students with disabilities have available an earlier or accelerated process for getting their course selections confirmed; and
  2. Have in place a mandatory process for the college or university to make priority re-assignment of any classes from inaccessible classrooms to accessible classrooms, where needed.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to require each college and university to:
  1. Ensure to the extent possible that construction projects on campus do not block accessible paths of travel, and accessibility features such as ramps and accessible doors; and
  2. Maintain a publicly-accessible up-to-date web page or other easily-accessed public announcement of the location and expected timing of construction projects that may impede accessible travel.
  1. The Initial Report should be expanded to specifically require that the venue of graduation ceremonies be accessible to students, family members, friends and staff members with disabilities, including the graduation platform.
  2. The Education Accessibility Standard require that the Ontario Government ensure that public funds are never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers in the built environment.
  3. The Ontario Government be required to revise its funding criteria for construction of facilities at a post-secondary education organization to ensure that it requires, and does not obstruct, the inclusion of all needed accessibility features in that construction project.



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1,000 Days of Inaction by the Ford Government on the David Onley Report on Accessibility for People with Disabilities is Marked in AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s Guest Column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland Newspapers


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

1,000 Days of Inaction by the Ford Government on the David Onley Report on Accessibility for People with Disabilities is Marked in AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s Guest Column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland Newspapers

October 25, 2021

This Wednesday, October 27, 2021 will mark a deeply-disturbing 1,000 days since the Doug Ford Government received the withering report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, who conducted a Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In a guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, appearing this week in the Toronto Star’s Metroland local newspapers, set out below, the Ford Government’s 1,000 days of inaction on that report is described. The Ford Government only has 1,165 days until the start of 2025, the deadline that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets for the Ontario Government to lead this province to become accessible to people with disabilities.

The AODA Alliance March 8, 2019 news release, issued after the Government made the Onley Report public, at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-ground-breaking-report-by-former-ontario-lieutenant-governor-david-onley-tabled-in-the-legislature-yesterday-blasts-poor-provincial-government-implementation-and-enforcement-of-ontario/

Toronto Star Website and Metroland newspapers October 22, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/local-toronto-scarborough/opinion/2021/10/22/doug-ford-must-fix-his-legacy-on-disability-issues.html

SCARBOROUGH MIRROR

OPINION

Doug Ford must fix his legacy on disability issues

By David Lepofsky

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

For 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities, Doug Ford’s record is abysmal. One thousand days ago, Ford received a blistering report from a government-appointed independent review of the implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act, by former lieutenant-governor David Onley. That 2005 law requires the government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

Onley reported that progress on accessibility is “glacial.” Ontarians with disabilities still confront a myriad of “soul-crushing barriers.” For them, Ontario is not a place of opportunity. The 2025 accessibility goal is nowhere in sight.

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

Ford concealed expert recommendations for improving Ontario’s Employment Accessibility Standard for two years in contravention of Ontario’s Disabilities Act. He hasn’t assisted people with disabilities suffering unemployment and/or poverty.

Ford feebly enforced the Disabilities Act against violators. He’s enacted no new accessibility standards that people with disabilities and obligated organizations need.

The result? Creation of new buildings and other provincially-funded infrastructure, without ensuring that they are accessible. Half a billion dollars is being spent on new school buildings and additions, without ensuring that they are accessible to students, staff and parents with disabilities. Using public money to create new disability barriers is irresponsible.

Ford can’t duck, pleading COVID. He mostly ignored our calls to ensure that pandemic emergency plans address people with disabilities’ urgent needs. We’re disproportionately prone to get COVID-19 and to suffer its worst symptoms. Long-term-care residents with disabilities are a major proportion of those whom COVID-19 killed.

Distance learning wasn’t designed to accommodate many students with disabilities. It left many behind. Ford left it to 72 school boards to figure how to fix that. Ford’s TV Ontario offers distance learning resources with serious accessibility problems. Ford’s solution? Give TVO more responsibility for distance learning!

Last December, Ford received strong recommendations on how to remove disability barriers from health-care services — urgent during COVID. The law required Ford to publicly post them “upon receiving” them. Instead, he concealed them for months, during COVID’s worst phase.

The vaccination program and vaccine passport have too many disability barriers. On Ford’s watch, hospitals trained their doctors to deploy a blatantly disability-discriminatory secret protocol for rationing or triaging life-saving critical care, if overrun with COVID-19 cases. His government won’t answer our pleas on this.

Things got worse under Ford. His hurtful bungling of the plight of kids with autism is legendary. As well, in Ford’s Ontario, people with disabilities, seniors and others are now in danger of serious injuries by joyriders on electric scooters.

We non-partisan disability advocates are eager to meet with any leaders to offer our help. Unlike the last two Ontario premiers, Ford has refused to meet or talk with us. His accessibility minister holds news events, pledging that Ontario would lead by example on accessibility. The result was 1,000 days of inaction.

The Onley report urged the premier to make disability accessibility a priority. It’s not too late. Premier Ford, let’s talk!

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



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Why These Disabled Carleton U Students Can’t Go Back to Campus


The Attendant Services Program helps disabled students live an independent life. With classes returning to normal, why hasn’t the university brought it back? By Sarah Trick – Published on Oct 21, 2021

OTTAWA This fall, students at Carleton University returned to campus. The school’s residences are open, most classes are now being held in person, and clubs, activities, and sporting events have resumed.

But Kimberley Chiasson can’t go back. The 20-year-old fourth-year journalism student has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, and needs assistance with personal-care activities, such as dressing and using the washroom. That’s why she went to Carleton in the first place: it offered her the physical accessibility and attendant care she needed to live on campus.

“Once I found Carleton, I was kind of dead set on that,” says Chiasson. “It was the only option that seemed like it would really fit.”

Carleton’s Attendant Services Program, founded in 1986, offers 24-hour attendant care to disabled students in residence (those who live off-campus and require care can receive services at the residence complex). Through ASP, disabled students get the chance to live independently and participate in campus life to a degree that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Its employees are mostly fellow students, who receive on-the-job training while pursuing their own degrees. The program costs nothing for clients: the Ontario government funds it (those from other provinces or countries need to have a funding agreement between ASP and their respective governments).

The program shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Its students, both at Carleton and at the satellite site located at Algonquin College, also in Ottawa, had to return home. “I was disheartened, but I understood,” says Sydney Weaver, 21, a fourth-year communications student at Carleton who has cerebral palsy. “The entire university was closed.”

When Carleton announced its residences would reopen for the fall term, many were excited to go back. The university’s vaccination mandate, they thought, would make things safer. But in the summer, after some students had already made plans to return, Carleton told them attendant services wouldn’t be offered this fall. The school says it is protecting the client and staff safety but some argue they should have the right to make their own decisions about risks and benefits.

The university has not indicated its threshold for safety: Is it a certain vaccination rate in the population? Is it case numbers dropping to a certain level? If so, what is that level? Either of these might be decent metrics. But the university did not respond to TVO.org’s questions as to which one it is using, if any.

I can’t pretend to be disinterested in this topic, because for me, too, attending Carleton seemed like my only chance at an independent life. Like Chiasson, I have cerebral palsy. I went to Carleton for a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s. I lived in residence and used attendant services for a total of nine years. I’m still friends with staff and clients I met. When I moved to Ottawa at 18, I had never bought my own groceries, paid my own rent, or managed my own schedule. I didn’t know how to use transit. In British Columbia, where I’m from, every university I’d considered attending had a clause in its residence contract that students must be “independent”: attendant-care users need not apply.

Without the program, I would have had a completely different life. I probably wouldn’t have pursued a career in journalism. It would have been difficult to find accessible housing that wasn’t with my parents, and I definitely wouldn’t have had the same friends.

Asked why the program has not yet reopened, a spokesperson for Carleton tells TVO.org via email that ASP “does not allow for safe distancing, thereby heightening the risks of COVID-19 for participants and employees” and that “the university has been in contact with all affected students to provide online learning assistance and information on additional community resources.” (Algonquin College, which contracts with Carleton to deliver the program at its residence, tells TVO.org that “when Carleton University suspended service delivery for their residences they suspended the program in the AC Residence as well.”)

Online classes, however, don’t work for everyone. Chiasson, for example, says she can’t take required courses in radio and TV. “Logistically, there wasn’t an obvious way to physically adapt my bedroom and living room to be an audio studio,” she says, adding that, if the program doesn’t return next semester, she’ll have to delay her graduation.

While students could access funding to hire their own attendants, they would require accessible housing to do so, and that’s in short supply in the city. “It’s fairly obvious that Ottawa is in an accessible-housing crisis right now,” says Chiasson. As clients found out this summer that they wouldn’t be able to return, she says, there was no time to procure alternative accessible housing a process that can take years.

Emerson Bartel, 23, finished his accounting program during the shutdown. He has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive disease that weakens his muscles. Because of ASP, he could watch hockey games as late as he wanted and didn’t have to have a set bedtime, something that is common for attendant-care users, as most services are scheduled (the program schedules a few services, but, generally, they’re provided on an on-call basis). ASP gave Bartel a freedom he’d never had: “Before the program, I never thought I could live away from my parents.” Today, he’s on an accessible-housing wait-list, but he says the city told him it could take five years to find a place. In the meantime, he’s living at home with his parents in Arnprior.

Yugh Ajuha, who also has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, came to Algonquin from Iqualuit. During the shutdown, the 20-year-old office-administration student says, he ended up taking a break from school altogether because online delivery was hard on him and his family: “Being at home, I just didn’t have the energy or the support.” Despite this, he believes it would be too risky for ASP to return before “mostly everybody [in the community] is vaccinated.”

But while it’s true that many clients are at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, Chiasson and many of her fellow students want ASP operational again. “Others get to have the experience of living away from home while we just get to sit back and wait,” she says. She helps manage an Instagram account featuring clients and advocating for the program’s return. On September 22, she and other clients invited students to stage a walkout on campus (around 20 people participated, according to the Charlatan, Carleton’s student newspaper). The group plans to organize another later this year. “We thought the student body should be more aware of why they weren’t seeing us around campus this term,” Chiasson says.

The fact that ASP is closed does not mean that its students don’t face risk, she notes. While she waits to return to Ottawa, she’s living with her family in a rural area near Sudbury. Although she requires 24-hour care, agencies have allotted her only two hours per week from a personal-support worker. This means her parents need to help her with most of her daily-living activities. This has been extraordinarily difficult for the family, Chiasson says, as she’s still taking what courses she can virtually, and her parents have both returned to in-person work. She says she would need attendant care regardless of where she’s based, which increases her risk of exposure to COVID-19: “It’s still a risk that I have to live with. And that’s part of my reality.”

Alacia McIntosh has been an attendant with ASP: I was once her client, and she sometimes still provides care for me in emergencies. Even though she has long since graduated and gotten another job, she worked one day a week at Algonquin until the shutdown because she loves the program and its clients. She wants to return to the program whenever that becomes possible. I’ve known her for several years and consider her a friend, and I’ve rarely seen her get angry.

She’s angry now. “I was extremely upset that they allowed able-bodied students to return but not our clients,” she says. “I think it’s discriminatory. I think they’re segregating a group of people and preventing them from a fundamental human right, which is to access education.”

McIntosh says she would return “in a heartbeat” despite the COVID-19 risk. “I think it’s no different than me walking into a grocery store or gas station,” she says, adding that vaccination mandates reduce risk.

Some experts, too, question the school’s risk assessment. “It sounds like the university may not be thinking about the risks involved in not bringing back that program,” says Holly Witteman, a professor at Laval University whose research focuses on public-health communications and making health decisions with inherent risks. “Yes, the risk is higher, and that does need to be incorporated into these calculations. That being said, I think it’s tricky to impose a decision on people, to decide for them whether it’s safe or not. Many people who live with complicated health conditions are very used to making decisions about their own health, based on choices between two or more imperfect options.”

The independent-living movement, upon whose principles the Carleton program was founded, has a concept called “the dignity of risk.” It means that disabled people should have the right to decide which risks they are and are not willing to take. Those students who were allowed back to campus are being trusted to assume a level of risk, says Frank Smith, national coordinator for the National Educational Association of Disabled Students, which has an office at Carleton: “Every single day on campus, students, whether they have disabilities or not, are going to be faced with situations where they could be exposed to the virus in close quarters.”

And it’s not just disabled students’ academic careers that the shutdown jeopardizes, he says: their professional careers could be, too, because the lack of attendant services on campus could put students at further disadvantage when entering the labour market. “We know that disabled graduates have more difficulty finding employment,” he explains.

Witteman says that any decision-making should involve the people most affected by the outcomes: “If the university wanted to help disabled students make decisions that are right for them, they would involve them in decisions that affect the campus, because people who are at higher risk may have more insights about what policies might increase safety for everyone.”

But Chiasson says that clients were not consulted on the decision not to reopen the program: “No one asked clients what their home lives were like, whether they were safe at home.” (Carleton declined to comment as to whether it had consulted with clients. However, TVO.org spoke with a number of students, including Ajuha and Weaver, who also indicated they had not been consulted.)

Carleton has stated that “we hope to resume ASP in January 2022, pending health and safety requirements,” and the university indicates on its website that it is accepting applications for the winter term. But, Smith wonders, “Can we really say the risk is going to be any less in January than it is in September?” adding that, “it provides false hope, potentially, for the university to say they’re thinking about reopening in the winter.”

Smith says the school has a well-deserved reputation for being a leader in accessibility and inclusion. “Carleton will say, ‘We’re the most accessible university in Canada.’ But that reputation is connected to the Attendant Services Program, and they’re falling down on this one,” he says.

That reputation is why Weaver chose to attend Carleton. But she says the school’s decision to shut down ASP has affected her deeply: “It’s changed the way I see myself. My disability has always been a part of me, but I never thought it would define my future in the way that it has.

“Before, I was a student first. Now, I may have equal access to education, but I don’t have equal quality of education.”

Ontario Hubs are made possible by the Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust & Goldie Feldman.

Author

Sarah Trick is an assistant editor at TVO.org.

Original at https://www.tvo.org/article/why-these-disabled-carleton-u-students-cant-go-back-to-campus




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CNIB Response – AODA K-12 Education Accessibility Standards


In June 2021, the Ontario government published a report that contained 197 recommendations for Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). These standards aim to identify, remove, and prevent accessibility gaps and barriers faced by students with disabilities from kindergarten to Grade 12. A further 75 recommendations were put forward addressing the transition from K-12 to post-secondary, the community and/or the workplace.

The government called for members of the public and organizations to submit a response to the recommendations before the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee finalizes them.

To help strengthen our response to these recommendations, CNIB held virtual consultation sessions with our community members to include that feedback in our report to the government. Interviewees included Ontario K-12 teachers and CNIB staff, as well as students who are blind or partially sighted and their parents. Thank you to everyone who participated and provided their feedback.

You can read our full detailed response to the Committee at the link below. We have also provided a summary below of key points that we would like the Committee to address:

1) Teacher training

We believe that the current Additional Qualifications (AQ) system for training Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) is inadequate. A person should complete post-secondary to become a TVI.

Our interviewees also reported that there wasn’t always a TVI available for the student but that an EA isn’t an adequate replacement. Therefore, we suggest that data on TVIs include areas where someone less qualified is substituting for a full TVI. This way, the school boards can address situations where children with sight loss are underserved.

2) Curriculum

CNIB endorses the implementation of the Expanded Core Curriculum for students with sight loss and recommends the formal adoption of the Canadian National Standards for the Education of Children and Youth Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, Including Those with Additional Disabilities.

Course materials must be gathered and made accessible before the beginning of the school year so that students who are blind or partially sighted will have access to it on the first day of class, like everyone else.

Accessibility standards for virtual learning platforms should be set and reviewed every year. We believe this should be prioritized in future drafts of these recommendations to ensure virtual learning is accessible to every student.

3) Individual Education Planning (IEP)

Currently, the recommendations have not explicitly identified IEPs as a tool to support students with disabilities. We recommend that IEPs be strengthened to include both extra-curricular activities like after-school programs and off-campus learning experiences, such as field trips. IEPs should also include individualized emergency planning. Finally, the IEP evaluation process should include everyone involved in the student’s learning journey: parents/guardians and the student themselves.

4) Expanded co-operative/experiential learning opportunities

The Committee correctly calls out that students with disabilities often have less access to co-op and experiential learning opportunities. Along with offering support and advice to employers, we recommend the Ontario government also set up a fund for students with disabilities for placement accommodations. We support the recommendations for increased experiential learning opportunities but would like to see a detailed plan for how this will be accomplished.

5) Transitions

High schools can help support the transition to post-secondary for students with disabilities by ensuring guidance and career counsellors have adequate knowledge on post-secondary student accessibility offices and how to access them. This information should be published on schools’ websites in an easily accessible place. We recommend the Committee strengthen the recommendations surrounding required documentation for post-secondary so the requirements are the same across all colleges and universities (not just “reasonably consistent”).

The Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility is considering public input over the coming months and will incorporate that feedback into the final version of the AODA K-12 Standard. Feedback on the recommendations can be provided at this link: Consultation – Initial Recommendations for K-12 Accessibility Standards, with a deadline of November 1, 2021.

Original at https://www.cnib.ca/en/news/cnib-response-aoda-k-12-education-accessibility-standards?region=on




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Ford Government Extends to November 1, 2021 the Deadline for Sending In Feedback on the Disability Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools, Colleges or Universities


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Ford Government Extends to November 1, 2021 the Deadline for Sending In Feedback on the Disability Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools, Colleges or Universities

October 13, 2021

To help students with disabilities overcome the many disability barriers they face in Ontario schools, colleges and universities, you still have a chance to press for long-overdue improvements. The Ford Government has extended to November 1, 2021 the deadline for giving feedback on the disability barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario schools, colleges and universities.

After years of advocacy spearheaded by the AODA Alliance, two Standards Development Committees were appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to make recommendations for the contents of a new enforceable regulation to be called the Education Accessibility Standard. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee will make recommendations on the mandatory measures that are needed to make K-12 education in Ontario schools barrier-free for students with disabilities. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will make recommendations on the measures needed to make education offered in Ontario colleges and universities barrier-free for students with disabilities.

Up to November 1, 2021, you can send the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee your feedback on its initial proposals for this recommendation, which were posted online for public comment on June 1, 2021. Write [email protected]

Up to November 1, 2021, you can send the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee your feedback on its initial recommendations for measures to be enacted in the Education Accessibility Standard for colleges and universities, which were initially posted on June 25, 2021. Write [email protected]

For each of these two Standards Development Committees, here are four questions you might wish to address:

  1. Say if you agree with all the Standards Development Committee’s recommendations. If you disagree with any recommendations, say which ones. Explain why you disagree with them.
  1. Explain which of the recommendations you consider especially important. What are your biggest priorities? Why are they important to you?
  1. If there are any recommendations that you disagree with, explain what the Standards Development Committee might change in those recommendations to improve them.
  1. Are there any recommendations that you would like the Standards Development Committee to add? Did it leave out anything that you consider important?

We have a collection of resources that can help you take part in this important consultation.

  1. The AODA Alliance‘s action kit on how to give public feedback on the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations. You can also use that Action Kit to help you give input on the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations.
  1. The AODA Alliance’s new captioned video summarizing the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial recommendations include, and why they are needed.
  1. The AODA Alliance’s 55-page condensed and annotated version of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
  1. The AODA Alliance’s 15-page summary of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee initial report and recommendations.
  1. A captioned video of tips for parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate at school for their child’s needs.
  1. The AODA Alliance’s new captioned video giving you an introduction to the duty to accommodate people with disabilities.
  1. For general background, the AODA Alliance website Education page.

There have now been 986 days since the Ford Government received the blistering Independent Review report by David Onley on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Ford Government has still not made public a comprehensive plan to implement that report’s findings and recommendations. The Government has staged some media events with the Accessibility Minister to make announcements, but little if anything new was ever announced. There are just a little over three years til 2025. Yet Ontario lags far behind the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The Ford Government has announced no plan to get on schedule for that deadline.



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