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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

July 23, 2021

            SUMMARY

Did we get it right? Let us know!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are resources that you might find helpful:

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

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

            MORE DETAILS

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

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



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


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

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

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

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

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

This report card’s key findings include:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Twitter: @aodaalliance

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

May 31, 2021

Prepared by the AODA Alliance

 Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Background

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



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Send Us Your Feedback on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s Final Recommendations on What is Needed to Strengthen the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, Enacted under Ontario’s Disabilities Act


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Send Us Your Feedback on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee‘s Final Recommendations on What is Needed to Strengthen the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, Enacted under Ontario’s Disabilities Act

December 17, 2020

            SUMMARY

Over the past weeks, there has been a ton of breaking news on different fronts of our never-ending campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities. Before we shut down for the holidays, we’re going to try to catch you up on some that we have not earlier been able to address.

On or around November 16, 2020, the Ford Government made public the final recommendations of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. We set out those final recommendations below.

What is this about and what does it mean for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities? The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the Government to lead Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. The Government must enact and effectively enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that the AODA’s goal is achieved. An accessibility standard is an enforceable and binding provincial regulation that spells out what an obligated organization must do to prevent and remove accessibility barriers and that sets timelines for action.

Almost ten years ago, back in June 2011, the Ontario Government enacted the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) under the AODA. Among other things, that regulation includes a series of provisions requiring the accessibility of information and communication. Those provisions are often called the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

Under the AODA, the Ontario Government is required to appoint a Standards Development Committee five years or less after an accessibility standard is enacted, to review it and see if it needs to be improved. Therefore, in 2016, the Ontario Government appointed the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to review the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, and to recommend any revisions needed so that this accessibility standard would best achieve the AODA’s purposes.

After meeting over a period of months, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee came up with a package of draft recommendations on how to strengthen the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. On July 24, 2019, the Ontario Government posted those draft recommendations online and invited public input on them. The Ontario Government was required to do this under the AODA.

The public then had a few weeks to give feedback to the Standards Development Committee on its draft recommendations. For example, the AODA Alliance submitted a 73 page brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on November 25, 2019. Our brief commended much of what was in the Committee’s draft recommendations. It also offered extensive feedback and recommendations to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee.

That Standards Development Committee was then required to meet again to consider all the feedback it received from the public. It did so. Among other things, on January 22, 2020, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was given an opportunity to present in person for 30 minutes to the Committee.

The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee then finalized its package of recommendations for revisions to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. On February 28, 2020, the Standards Development Committee submitted those recommendations to the Ford Government. The Government is required to make those recommendations public, so the public can give the Government feedback on them. For no discernible or justifiable reason, the Ford Government held off making the Standards Development Committee’s final recommendations public for eight months.

What comes next? Under the AODA, the Government can enact revisions to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. It can make all, some or none of the changes that the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee recommended. It can also enact revisions beyond those that the Standards Development Committee recommended.

We and the public therefore now have an opportunity to take our case for revisions directly to the Ford Government. We therefore invite your feedback on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee‘s final recommendations, set out below. Given the incredible number of issues we are now addressing, we have not yet had a chance to analyze the Standards Development Committee’s final report and recommendations. You can always send us your thoughts by emailing us at [email protected]

Under the AODA, the Government is required to post the Standards Development Committee’s final recommendations for 45 days. Sadly, the Government under successive premiers has at times followed an irrational practice of taking down those recommendations after the minimum time period that the AODA requires them to be posted. Nothing would stop the Government from leaving them up and visible to all on the internet on a permanent basis. That would provide greater openness and accountability for the Government and the AODA itself.

Despite the Government’s past practice in this area, the AODA Alliance will continue its practice of leaving such reports and recommendations permanently posted on our website.

If the Government decides to make revisions to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, the AODA requires the Government to post the wording of the draft regulation it proposes to enact, for public comment. We will let you know if the Government does this.

We offer two examples here of the need for prompt action in this area. First, as was pointed out in the December 8, 2020 panel on accessible education on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, TVO’s online educational materials for school students doing distance learning are still replete with accessibility problems. TVO has announced no detailed plan of action to fix these. TVO is owned and operated by the Ontario Government.

Second, just weeks ago, the Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister issued an invitation in an inaccessible broadcast email to an upcoming event where he was to make an announcement on accessibility. The Government apologized for this. As it turned out, nothing new was announced at the event in question.

The Ford Government has repeatedly claimed to be “leading by example” on accessibility. These incidents are an awful example by which Ontarians should not be led in the area of accessible information and communication.

So far, the Ford Government has been very lethargic in fulfilling its duties to develop accessibility standards under the AODA. For example:

  1. In the spring of 2018, weeks before the 2018 Ontario provincial election, the Transportation Standards Development Committee submitted to the Government its final report proposing revisions needed to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. That has languished on the Ford Government’s desk since it took office in June 2018, two and a half years ago. Since then, the Government has not invited any public feedback on this, and has announced no plans in this area. Ontario thus continues to have a public transit system replete with disability barriers.
  1. As noted above, the Government sat on the final report of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee for over a half a year before fulfilling its duty to make that report public, for public input.
  1. The Government still has not fulfilled its duty to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government was required to appoint that Standards Development Committee fully three years ago. The current Government is on the hook for two and a half of the three years of AODA contravention.
  1. On taking office, the Ford Government left five existing Standards Development Committees frozen and in limbo for months, before allowing them to get back to fulfil their mandatory work. We had to campaign for months to get them unfrozen. That included, among others, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee.

For more information on our multi-year campaign to make information and communication fully accessible to people with disabilities, visit the AODA Alliance’s information and communication web page.

To see what we asked the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to recommend to the Ford Government, check out the AODA Alliance’s November 25, 2019 brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee.

There have now been an unbelievable 686 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has still announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that blistering report, including its strong recommendations regarding the development of strong accessibility standards. That delay makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, addressed in a new online video we recently unveiled.

            MORE DETAILS

Information and Communication Standards Development Committee Chair’s letter to the minister

February 28, 2020

The Honourable Raymond Cho
Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
777 Bay Street
5th Floor, Toronto, Ontario
M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

The Information and Communications Standards Development Committee has completed our legislative review of the Information and Communications Standards. As chair and on behalf of the committee, I am pleased to submit the final recommendations report for the proposed accessibility standard for your consideration.

In meeting the provisions of the legislative review, as set out in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, we re-examined the long-term objective of the Information and Communications Standards and each of the requirements. Our review included all of the Standard’s sections, the focus areas identified in the terms of reference, and additional items raised by committee members well as a limited amount of external feedback.

As you wisely requested, we considered how to make it easier for businesses and the public sector to achieve accessibility in all of the recommendations.

The report is structured in two phases, stemming from an early and clear consensus that the current structure of standards is not keeping pace with technology. Phase 1 contains 32 recommendations that the committee is proposing as immediate solutions to identified gaps and unintended barriers in the current standards. Phase 2 proposes a new model to transform and modernize the regulatory approach to accessibility in Ontario. It could be applied first to the Information and Communications Standards and would allow organizations to continuously adapt and improve their websites, web content and technology up to and beyond 2025. If the model proves successful, the committee’s intent is that government explore applying it to other accessibility standards in the future. Phase 2 is a proposal for culture change in Ontario.

Our committee had extensive discussions in reviewing the path to a province where people with disabilities be able to participate fully and equitably in the creation and use of information and communication. As chair, and in-line with The Honourable David Onley’s recent report, I assess that relying on the AODA and its associated Standards will never achieve that objective. More is needed, and this report only begins to address those needs.

We considered public feedback and stakeholder presentations in finalizing our recommendations. We have reflected this in the report. We thank the individuals, and organizations who provided feedback on the initial recommendations report.

As chair, and past chair of Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee, it is prudent for me to comment on the effectiveness of the Standards development process. In short, the Standard development process is broken, primarily for the reasons listed below:

  1. Research and feedback: Current sources of information on the experiences of people with disabilities and obligated organizations are too narrow and heavily biased by lobby groups. The voices of individual people with disabilities and “obligated organizations” must be sought out broadly and intentionally. The few sources that are available are gathered at the end of the process – these ongoing insights must seed the process, not merely confirm its outcome.
  2. Bounded by current standards: Understanding that legislation requires an explicit review (as is current interpretation), the process needs to be more responsive to on-the-ground realities that may or may not be covered by legislation.
  3. Timing and permanency: These reviews are by nature, periodic. Instead, permanent bodies, staffed by full time professional appointees must be the norm. These appointees must be paid a significant salary to attract the best and brightest in Ontario, or more boldly, globally. These professionals are better equipped to capture and react to insights gathered from a vastly to-be-improved research process.
  4. Encourage risk and failure: Disability regulations around the world have failed to deliver on their promise. Acknowledge that publicly. Encourage, and fund, innovation that ensures Ontario is a place where people with disabilities be able to participate fully and equitably in all aspects of the economy and society. Notice that mere accessibility is not the benchmark.

It has been an honour to chair this committee and work alongside such dedicated members who exude professionalism and are comfortable with taking risk.

We look forward to the Minister’s response on these final recommendations.

Sincerely,
Rich Donovan
Chair of Information and Communications Standards Development Committee

Final Report of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee

 

Originally posted at https://www.ontario.ca/page/copyright-information-c-queens-printer-ontario

 

Introduction

Recognizing the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario, the purpose of this act is to benefit all Ontarians by developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025; and providing for the involvement of persons with disabilities, of the Government of Ontario and of representatives of industries and of various sectors of the economy in the development of the accessibility standards.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005

The act became law in 2005. Its stated goal is the creation of an accessible Ontario by 2025, through the development, implementation and enforcement of accessibility standards that apply to the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

With the act, Ontario became the first province in Canada and one of the first places in the world to bring in a specific law establishing a goal and timeframe for accessibility. It was also the first place to legally require accessibility reporting, and one of the first to establish accessibility standards so that people with disabilities have more opportunities to participate in everyday life.

Accessibility standards

The accessibility standards under the act are laws that businesses and organizations with one or more employees in Ontario must follow so they can identify, remove and prevent barriers faced by people with disabilities. These standards are part of the act’s Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. Currently, there are five accessibility standards, and they apply to key areas of day-to-day life for Ontarians. These are:

  • Information and Communications
  • Employment
  • Transportation
  • Design of Public Spaces
  • Customer Service

Standards review process

The act requires that each of Ontario’s accessibility standards be reviewed within five years of becoming law, to determine whether they are working as intended and to allow for changes to be made if they are required. These reviews are carried out by Standards Development Committees. The act also requires that committees be comprised of representatives from industries or other organizations that are affected by the accessibility standards, government ministries with responsibilities relating to those industries and organizations and people with disabilities or their representatives.

As required by the act, the committee must:

  • re-examine the long-term objectives of the standards
  • if required, revise the measures, policies, practices and requirements to be implemented on or before January 1, 2025, as well as the timeframe for their implementation
  • develop initial proposed recommendations containing changes or additions that the committee considers advisable, and submit them for public comment
  • based on public feedback, make such changes to the proposed accessibility standards that it considers advisable, and submit those recommendations to the minister

This report presents the final recommendations for proposed accessibility standards by the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee.

Information and Communications Standards Development Committee

The committee was established in late 2016. The committee was originally composed of 23 members, however 3 resigned during the process. As of this final report, there were 20 members, 16 of these are voting members voting members. The remaining four members, who were non-voting, were drawn from ministries which have responsibilities relating to the sectors to which the standards apply. Nine of the voting members were people with disabilities or their representatives. All members, including those who resigned, are listed in appendix A of this report.

To begin its review, the committee was provided with stakeholder feedback from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division of the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility (formerly the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario). This feedback was informed by incoming written correspondence, telephone calls, compliance-related activities and consultation with stakeholders.

Their first meeting—an orientation session—was held in March 2017. Through 2017 and into Winter 2018, the committee held several meetings to complete its initial recommendations. These initial recommendations were posted for public comment between July 24th, 2019 and October 18th, 2019. On January 22 and 23, 2020, the committee met one last time to finalize this report while taking into account public comments.

The committee’s deliberations benefitted from the diverse viewpoints and knowledge that members brought to the table. After each meeting, members sought feedback from their communities and networks to share at the following meeting. This input informed voting on recommended changes.

As noted above, this document sets out the committee’s final recommendations for proposed updated accessibility standards. As outlined by the act, the Minister shall decide whether to recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council that the proposed standard be adopted by regulation in whole, in part or with modifications.

Approach taken by committee

The standards deal with the way organizations create and share information and outline how they are to make information and communication accessible to people with disabilities. The standards require that accessible formats and communication supports be made available on request. They also cover such areas as emergency and public safety information, websites, feedback processes, as well as educational, training and library materials and resources and training for educators.

The committee’s discussions reflected a consensus that the current standards are not keeping pace with technology. There was mention that the standards are not always strong enough and are often too difficult to apply. The committee also discussed the fact that the standards are confusing and prevent innovation in accessible technology. Overall, committee members agreed that the standards need to be modernized and crafted to ensure they remain relevant in the future, as technology changes at an increasingly rapid pace.

To assist with developing this advice, the committee created the Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee. The subcommittee’s main task was to provide expert advice to the committee about section 14 of the regulation, which sets out the accessibility requirements for websites and web content. All members of the subcommittee are listed in appendix A of this report.

In addition, the subcommittee was asked to think about some very broad questions, including what accessibility means in today’s digital world, and whether the current regulatory system can deliver the desired outcomes.

Based on the subcommittee’s advice, the committee settled on both a short- and long-term approach to making information and communication accessible for people with disabilities. This report is divided into two parts or phases.

Phase 1 contains 32 recommendations that the committee is proposing as immediate solutions to identified gaps and unintended barriers in the current standards. Each of these recommendations contains:

  • an explanation of the issue
  • the specific language of the recommendation as voted on
  • an explanation of the intent and desired outcome of the recommendation
  • recommended timing for implementation of the revised requirement if applicable

Phase 2 proposes a new model to transform and modernize the regulatory approach to accessibility in Ontario. It could be applied first to the Information and Communications Standards and would allow organizations to continuously adapt and improve their websites, web content and technology up to and beyond 2025. If the model proves successful, the committee’s intent is that government explore applying it to other accessibility standards in the future. Phase 2 is, in effect, a proposal for culture change in Ontario. The committee recognizes that, given its potentially transformative nature, this phase may take more time to develop and implement.

The committee recognizes that due to the nature of the topic, complexity of technology, simple and plain language may not have been viewed as a priority at the beginning of the process. Based on the feedback we have received and the knowledge we have gained through this process, the committee recommends any further public communication of this report should available in a simple language version.

Phase 1

This section focuses on the Information and Communications Standards outlined in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. Recommendations in this section are listed according to the different sections under the standards.

It should be noted that throughout this report, reference is frequently made to obligated organizations. These are organizations that are expected to comply with requirements in the regulation. Obligated organizations include:

  • the Government of Ontario
  • the Legislative Assembly
  • designated public sector organizations
  • large organizations, private or not-for-profit, with 50 or more employees
  • small organizations, private or not-for-profit, with one to 49 employees

Some requirements do not apply to all these organizations. Small organizations, for example, are exempt from some requirements. This report will specify when this is the case. If it does not, the requirements being discussed may be assumed to apply to all the above obligated organizations.

Recommended long-term objective

While developing its specific recommendations, the committee continuously considered the long-term objective of the standards. The act requires all the Standards Development Committees to establish these long-term objectives, and the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee is required to re-examine the long-term objective.

The current long-term objective of the accessible Information and Communications Standards is:

That by 2025, all information and methods of communication to and from an individual will be designed to be accessible to people with disabilities consistent with human rights law, the French Language Services Act (1990) (where applicable) and inclusive design principles. The committee intends for the requirements to build upon the principle of providing accommodation to people with disabilities to preserve and enhance dignity and independence.

The committee believes that the objective above is too complicated, and recommends the following clear and simple objective instead:

That people with disabilities be able to participate fully and equitably in the creation and use of information and communication.

Part 1: Regulation in general or Sections 9 to 11

Recommendations in this section are related either to the regulation in general or to Sections 9–11 of the regulation.

Recommendation 1: Feedback requirements

Section 11 of the regulation relates to the feedback organizations receive from the public, and outlines accessibility requirements around the feedback process. The committee learned that organizations were confused about the fact that there are different requirements related to feedback located throughout the regulation. Specifically, section 11: Feedback of the Information and Communications Standards and Section 80.50: Feedback process required of the Customer Service Standards have some of the same requirements.

The committee proposes the following:

The feedback requirements in Sections 11 and 80.50 of the regulation should be combined and placed in the General Requirements section of the regulation, ensuring both the format requirements of section 11 and the specific requirement for a process in Section 80.50 about goods, services and facilities remain. In addition, the committee recommends that clear definitions of the terms “feedback” and “communication” be included.

Timeline: Immediate

The intent of this recommendation is to eliminate the confusion caused by having requirements for a feedback process dealt with in two different parts of the regulation. This change should not modify the obligations of organizations but simply make them clearer and easier to find and understand.

Recommendation 2: Usage of portable document format (PDF)

During a 2016 meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, the standing committee discussed a proposal to ban PDFs from government use. This is because PDFs are often inaccessible. While the proposal was not approved, it was referred to this formal regulatory review process. The Information and Communications Standards Development Committee discussed the fact that PDFs are often inaccessible, and while it is possible to make them accessible, the expertise needed to make a fully accessible PDF is seldom present in obligated organizations. However, the committee concluded that while certain problems do exist with PDFs, banning them altogether is not the best solution, particularly since they work well when made properly accessible.

The committee proposes the following:

Government should not ban the use of PDFs for any obligated organization.

Timeline: N/A

The committee did discuss a number of alternative measures, including non-regulatory approaches such as increasing education for government employees on how to make PDFs accessible, but did not vote on the matter.

Recommendation 3: Final review of regulatory language

The Minister may accept in whole, in part or with modifications the committee’s recommendations once they are received. The committee recognizes that members are not usually involved in the decision-making process after its final advice is submitted. However, some recommendations for the standards are highly technical, and the committee is concerned about ensuring consistency in the interpretation of those recommendations. In particular, there is concern about technical aspects related to section 14: accessible websites and web content.

The committee proposes the following:

Government use the technical expertise of the Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee as a resource, as needed, to clarify intent and technical accuracy during the regulatory drafting stage related to section 14.

Timeline: N/A

The intent of this recommendation is to avoid any possible confusion regarding the intent of the committee’s recommendations and to ensure that the government can easily obtain clarification if confusion arises.

Recommendation 4: Products and product labels

The current regulation states that products and product labels are not required to be made accessible unless specifically mentioned in the standards. Stakeholders have expressed concern that a large number of goods remain inaccessible because of this exemption. The committee agreed that there should, at the very least, be a digital format available for all products and product labels where applicable. The problem is that both federal and provincial governments regulate in this area, and so making a recommendation solely at the provincial level would be ineffective.

In order to ensure a solution to this issue is coordinated between the federal and provincial jurisdictions, the committee proposes the following:

The Government of Ontario should meet with the Government of Canada to look for solutions to the problem of accessible products and product labels. These solutions may include clarifying jurisdictional authority over different products. In addition, it is recommended that Ontario meet with various industries to explore non-regulatory solutions to this issue. Medical labelling should be a priority for action.

Timeline: One year for Ontario and Canada to produce a report that sets a strategic direction on the recommendations above. If a report is not created by the governments of Ontario and Canada by this time, then the recommendation is that Ontario develop a strategy within one additional year to address this, including creating an expert committee.

The committee recognizes that the exemption of products and product labels is an accessibility barrier, but also recognizes that a solution to this problem needs to involve all levels of government that have authority over this area. The committee also recognizes that technology offers the potential for organizations to develop innovative solutions to this issue and would like the Government of Ontario to work with industries to encourage the development of non-regulatory solutions.

Part 2: section 12

The following recommendations relate to section 12 of the regulation, which requires organizations to provide accessible formats and communication supports for people with disabilities. The committee discussed this at length and have a number of recommendations regarding section 12 – Accessible formats and communication supports.

Recommendation 5: Determination of suitability

If a person with a disability asks an organization for an alternate format or communication support, that organization is required to consult with the requester about the request. The final decision on whether to provide the requested alternate format or communication support is with the organization. The committee noted that this is resulting in the provision of formats that do not meet the needs of people with disabilities.

The committee proposes the following:

Change regulation 12.(2) to state: “The obligated organization shall consult with the person making the request and gain agreement in determining the suitability of an accessible format or communication support.”

Timeline: Language to be changed immediately, and regulation to become effective six months after language change.

The intent of this recommendation is that the final decision on the suitability of an accessible format should not be left to the organization alone. Rather, both the organization and the person requesting an alternate format should work together to gain agreement on suitability. The committee recognizes that this may create an impasse, and this is partly what motivates recommendation 7 (to follow). Despite the potential for an impasse, the committee feels this recommendation will result in improved accessibility. The committee recognizes that with this change, organizations may need time to adjust their processes, so it is proposed that it be effective six months after the amended regulation is in force.

Recommendation 6: Timely manner

Section 12 of the regulation states that organizations must provide accessible formats in a ‘timely manner,’ considering the requester’s needs due to disability. Stakeholder feedback revealed that people with disabilities and organizations often do not agree on the definition of timely manner. Specifically, people with disabilities point out that organizations are only required to take the person’s needs ‘into account’ when deciding on what would be a timely manner.

The committee proposes the following:

Change the regulation to state that organizations must provide accessible formats in a mutually agreed upon timely manner which considers the circumstances of the requester, and the urgency of his or her request.

Timeline: Language to be changed immediately, and regulation to become effective six months after language change.

The idea is similar to the intent of recommendation 5, which is to ensure that important decisions that affect people with disabilities must be made with their participation. In this case, it would require that organizations and people with disabilities agree on what is meant by a timely manner. Again, the potential for disagreement is recognized, but the committee feels this recommendation will result in improved accessibility. As with Recommendation 6, the committee is proposing that this change become effective 6 months after the amended regulation is in force, to give organizations time to prepare and adjust.

Recommendation 7: Agreement between people with disabilities and organizations

Certain sections of the regulation require or provide for feedback processes allowing people with disabilities to make their needs and positions clear to organizations. Unfortunately, there is currently no mechanism to resolve disagreements when either party is unhappy with the result. Clearly, such a mechanism would be useful.

The committee proposes the following:

The issue of a lack of mechanism to address disagreement between organizations and people with disabilities in any section of the regulation should be referred to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council.

Timeline: Referred to the council immediately following the submission of the final proposed recommendations. The council should develop a mechanism within one year.

The intent of this recommendation is for the council to investigate the creation of a mechanism to support the satisfaction of both people with disabilities and organizations, in relation to requirements under the act and regulation. The council is best positioned to examine this issue.

Recommendation 8: Harmonization of section 12

As was noted in recommendation 1, organizations are confused by multiple and often duplicate requirements throughout the regulation. Specifically in this case, section 12 of the Information and Communications Standards and section 80.51 of the Customer Service Standards create duplicate requirements for providing accessible formats.

The committee proposes the following:

Requirements for alternate formats and communication supports should be combined and moved to one place, in the general requirements section of the regulation. There should be no material change in the requirements, except for any other recommendations made by the committee regarding section 12. A reference to the combined section in the general requirements should be made whenever requirements for alternative formats and communication supports are mentioned in the regulation.

Timeline: Immediate

The intent of this recommendation is to clarify requirements and eliminate confusion by ensuring they are contained in one section of the regulation. The committee feels that moving the requirement for accessible formats into the general requirements section of the regulation would also make it clear that this requirement applies to all of the standards, and not just to Information and Communications. To be clear, the intent is not to weaken requirements in any way.

Recommendation 9: On-demand conversion ready formats

Currently, there is sometimes a delay when the government is asked to provide alternate formats of documents. The committee feels that technology has advanced to the point where there is no real excuse for this delay.

The committee proposes the following:

The Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly should produce a conversion-ready digital format of all public-facing materials and provide those materials on-demand:

  • ‘on-demand’ in this case would mean immediately, meaning that it should already have been created
  • ‘conversion-ready digital format’ means a format which has the properties it needs to be readily converted into an accessible format

Timeline: January 1, 2021

The intent of this recommendation is to strengthen the idea that accessible formats should not be offered as an accommodation, to be provided only when requested and only after a delay. Accessible formats and communications supports are necessary from the start as part of an accessibility foundation. This would be a significant new requirement for government, but given current technology, it is possible.

Recommendation 10: On-demand ASL and LSQ translations

In developing recommendation 9, the committee struggled with the fact that users of American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise or Langue des signes du Québec (LSQ) would not benefit from the change in recommendation 9. It was agreed that while providing all public facing materials in ASL and LSQ on-demand would simply be too burdensome, there are certain types of information and communication which should be available in these formats.

The committee proposes the following:

The Government of Ontario should convene a meeting of deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind stakeholders to determine which materials should be provided by the Government of Ontario to the public in ASL and LSQ translation. The committee recommends that following the meeting, the materials identified start to be made available on-demand.

Timeline: One year for the meeting to occur, and January 1, 2021 for the requirement to be effective.

The committee’s intent is that the Government of Ontario find a fair and reasonable answer to the question of which types of materials should be available in ASL and LSQ on demand.

Part 3: Section 13

The following recommendations relate to section 13 of the regulation, which requires organizations to provide accessible formats of publicly posted emergency plans and procedures upon request. During discussion, many committee members expressed concern with current emergency outcomes for people with disabilities, and the committee feels that improving these outcomes is absolutely critical. The committee recognizes that the scope and overall effectiveness of the requirements in Section 13 are limited, and strongly recommends that other action to improve these outcomes be taken as soon as possible.

Recommendation 11: Emergency requirements

Section 13 in the Information and Communications Standards, section 27 in the Employment Standards and Sections 37 and 56 of the Transportation Standards are all related to emergency requirements. As has been noted previously in this document, having requirements located in different places throughout the regulation is confusing for all parties. In the case of emergency requirements, that is a particularly significant problem.

The committee proposes the following:

The emergency requirements throughout the regulation should be brought together and moved into the general requirements with no material changes to what is being required.

Timeline: Immediate

The intent of this recommendation is to ensure that nothing is missed, and no requirements are overlooked when it comes to protecting the lives of people with disabilities and their families. These requirements should be consolidated and given a clear and prominent position in the general requirements of the regulation.

Recommendation 12: Unacceptable emergency outcomes and preparedness

After a significant discussion regarding emergency outcomes, the committee has concluded that the preparedness of all levels of government for emergencies involving people with disabilities is unacceptable.

The committee strongly recommends the following to help protect the lives of people with disabilities and their families:

Disability and accessibility should be front and centre in the upcoming review of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. To that end, the Solicitor General, who has responsibility for emergency management, should involve people with disabilities in the review. The Solicitor General should specifically include the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council. The same process should occur when the Fire Code is next reviewed.

Timeline: Immediate

The intent of this recommendation is to address the lack of emergency planning focused on the needs of people with disabilities. It is unacceptable and must be dealt with urgently.

Part 4: Section 14

The following recommendations relate to section 14 of the regulation, which sets out the accessibility requirements for websites and web content. In both stakeholder feedback and in the committee meetings, Section 14 received the most attention and led to the most significant level of feedback and discussion. It has become clear that there is a great deal of confusion surrounding the requirements of Section 14, particularly given the rapidly changing pace of digital society.

The globally accepted standard for web accessibility is a set of standards called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), which is published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). While this standard is the one used in section 14, stakeholders and committee members agree that is not clear enough how the WCAG 2.0 guidelines should be applied to many technologies beyond websites and web content, nor is it easy to determine when the requirements of WCAG 2.0 have actually been met.

In order to help clear up this confusion and also inform its recommendations, the committee created a Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee. This subcommittee provided two distinct sets of expert advice to the committee:

  1. Recommendations to address confusion and gaps in section 14 (part of the phase 1 recommendations)
  2. A proposal for a new model for these standards (see phase 2)

Recommendation 13: Mobile applications and new technologies

One of the most frequently asked questions during stakeholder consultations was whether and how section 14 applied to mobile applications. The answer, for the most part, is that they do not. The current requirements apply to web-based applications only, which does not generally include mobile applications.

The committee proposes the following:

The definition of website should be aligned with the definition used by the United States Access Board, the European Union and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, among others, which include mobile applications, interfaces or other technologies as required. Relevant sections of these definitions have been provided in appendix C.

Timeline: By 2021, which aligns with the existing requirement for all websites to be accessible.

The intent of this recommendation is for both mobile applications which run from a website, and those which run as a standalone device but rely on the internet for function, would be subject to accessibility requirements under section 14. These requirements would apply to the government and legislative assembly, the broader public sector and large organizations. For the purposes of Section 14, small organizations are currently exempt from accessibility requirements.

Recommendation 14: Procurement

Procurement refers to the purchasing or acquiring of goods or services. The subcommittee noted that there are no accessible procurement requirements specifically related to section 14. There are procurement requirements in the general requirements section of the regulation, but the subcommittee suggested that these are not strong enough to result in accessible digital procurement.

The committee proposes the following:

The Government of Ontario and designated public sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features when procuring or buying goods, services or facilities. These criteria include:

  • using qualified third-party evaluation certification services established through programs such as:
    • the United States Access Board Trusted Tester Program
    • inclusive design or accessibility certificate programs such as those offered by colleges or universities
    • professional certifications from organizations such as the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP)
    • other professional service vendors that may qualify for such activities
  • both manual and automated verification of compliance to technical web and software criteria, not just automated testing
  • functional testing of usability by persons with disabilities
  • interoperability with alternative access systems (as defined in the glossary)
  • sign language and other communication modalities
  • the requirement to procure accessible authoring and development tools

This requirement would be in addition to the general accessible procurement requirements in the regulation. The reference criteria for authoring tools would be Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) 2.0 (A and B)

Timeline: January 1, 2022. Where an obligated organization has entered into a contract before January 1, 2022, it is not required to meet the requirements of this section. The intent of the committee is not to allow grandfathering past 2023.

The committee’s intent with this recommendation is to ensure that digital procurement by the Government of Ontario and broader public sector organizations includes accessibility criteria, and that authoring and development tools that are procured are accessible.

The committee would also like non-digital procurement as required by the procurement requirement in the general requirements to be strengthened. Since this is beyond the scope of the committee’s mandate, the committee would like this work to be referred to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and broader government bodies that manage procurement.

Recommendation 15: Differentiating organizations/high impact organizations

The obligations of organizations under the regulation are determined by how many employees they have, as this has traditionally been a measure of how much widespread impact they have. However, the subcommittee advised the committee that as technology evolves, the number of employees is no longer necessarily a good indicator of the impact organizations may have on Ontarians. The fact is that, increasingly, organizations with very few employees are able to provide a high level or volume of services and thus should be considered “high-impact organizations.”

The committee believes that section 14, and eventually the whole regulation, need to adapt to capture these new business models.

The committee proposes the following:

  • Create a definition for ‘high-impact’ organizations. One such definition might be an organization that has one or more Ontario employees and meets either of the following criteria:
    • one million or more average annual users in Ontario (free or paid)
    • $10 million or more in yearly global revenues
  • These newly defined high-impact organizations would have to comply with the Information and Communications Standards and report under the act, and be subject to the same requirements as large organizations
  • For such businesses as described above that are under federal instead of Ontario jurisdiction, or with no employees in Ontario, the province should engage in consultation with businesses and the federal government to determine and harmonize mechanisms to regulate them

Timeline: One year with proactive outreach.

The committee’s intent with this recommendation is to ensure that all organizations with many users in Ontario, and therefore having a large impact on the province, are complying with section 14 of the regulation. This approach could be used for other requirements in the future where appropriate.

Recommendation 16: Significant refresh

Currently, the requirements of section 14 apply to organizations which either create new websites or significantly refresh existing websites. Stakeholder feedback and advice from the subcommittee suggested there is confusion about what ‘significant refresh” means, as the term is subjective. In addition, the committee learned that since Section 14 requirements apply to websites that are new or significantly refreshed, some organizations are choosing to update their websites only a bit at a time, thus avoiding the requirements. This may actually result in reduced accessibility for users.

The committee proposes the following:

  • Any content that is new or which an obligated organization changes, updates or adds to a website must meet the accessibility requirements of section 14
  • Furthermore, when content is added, changed or updated, it is recommended that organizations take the opportunity to make all content accessible
  • The committee recommends that content should include all functions, interactions and ‘branding’ (look and feel) for a site. It is recommended that section 14 include examples for the sake of clarity

Timeline: Regulation to be changed immediately, to be effective six months after the new regulation comes into force.

The intent of this recommendation is to bring the section 14 requirement closer to its intended function, which is to ensure that over time, organizations develop greater accessible content for users with disabilities.

Recommendation 17: Practicability

Section 14 contains an exemption for obligated organizations which gives them the ability to claim that making a website accessible is ‘not practicable’. The committee feels that this term is too vague and might allow some organizations to avoid doing something they are actually able to do.

The committee proposes the following:

Clearly define the term “not practicable,” bringing it in line with the term “undue hardship,” as set out by the Ontario Human Rights Code. A link to this terminology has been provided in appendix C.

Timeline: Immediate

The intent of this recommendation is to reduce how easy it is for obligated organizations to use vague wording in the standards as an excuse to not fulfil their requirements. Aligning the language with that of the Ontario Human Rights Commission would bring significant clarity, as both the commission and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario have previously ruled on what undue hardship actually is.

Recommendation 18: Harmonization and application across requirements

Section 14 is intended to bring about greater accessibility in websites. The committee noted, however, that websites are mentioned in different sections of the regulation, but only in section 14 are the accessibility requirements explained. In the view of the committee, this makes it too easy for stakeholders to overlook or miss the requirements.

The committee proposes the following:

It should be made clear that section 14 applies to all sections of the regulation. This could be communicated as a reference to section 14 wherever websites are directly referenced in the regulation.

Timeline: Immediate

The committee’s intent with this recommendation is to make sure obligated organizations follow website accessibility requirements by reducing any confusion about what they are obligated to do.

Part 4, subpart 1: Section 14 exemptions

Section 14 identifies a number of situations in which websites or web content do not need to comply with accessibility requirements. The committee does not believe that these exemptions are functioning as intended and recommends changes to these exemptions.

Recommendation 19: Extranet exemption

Section 14 covers internet, intranet and extranet websites, and in the process it defines what these are. Intranet websites are websites that can be accessed from within a particular organization’s network. Currently, not all organizations are required to make these sites accessible. Moving on to extranet websites, section 14 defines these as websites which require a login. It considers these as an extension of intranets, and therefore also exempt for most organizations. The problem is that a great number of other internet websites that happen to require logins are therefore also considered extranets and so are exempt, which is certainly not desirable.

The committee proposes the following:

The exemption for public-facing websites with a log-in (previously referred to as extranets) should be removed and these types of websites should be required to comply with the regulation.

Timeframe: New public-facing websites with a log-in must comply by January 1, 2022, and all public-facing websites with a log-in must comply by January 1, 2023.

The intent of this recommendation is to completely remove the exemption for extranet websites, ensuring not only that these be required to comply with section 14, but also that other internet websites not be able to avoid the requirement simply because they use logins. The committee recommends a longer timeframe for implementation as this would be a new requirement.

Recommendation 20: Intranet exemption

Further to recommendation 19, the committee believes that technology has advanced to the point where all organizations should be able to make their websites accessible under section 14. Thus far, only the Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly are required to do so. The subcommittee and committee do not believe there would be a major issue with extending this requirement to the broader public sector and large organizations.

The committee proposes the following:

The exemption for employee-facing websites and content (previously referred to as intranets) should be removed and, like all other websites, these types of websites should be required to comply with the regulation.

Timeline: New employee-facing websites must comply by January 1, 2022, and all employee-facing websites must comply by January 1, 2023.

For clarity, the committee recommends that all definitions related to a type of website be removed and that section 14 simply apply to all websites, internet or intranet for all obligated organizations. Because this would be a new requirement, the lengthy timeline above is recommended.

Recommendation 21: Pre-2012 exemption

Section 14 provides an exemption from having to make web content accessible if that content was first published on a website before 2012. The committee discussed that this exemption has created two problems. First, some organizations are using this exemption as a loophole that enables them to continue using some content from pre-2012 websites on new websites. The second problem is that organizations are taking useful pre-2012 content, such as historical records, off their websites when they move to a new or refreshed website because they do not have the resources to make this content accessible.

The committee proposes the following:

A category should be created for older archived content. A potential model for this would be the federal Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada archived content policy. This would grant an exemption only to non-active documents. Active content, which is anything that requires input or, like forms, can be changed, will not be covered under this exemption. Pre-2012 images used for navigation in refreshed websites must be made accessible.

Timeframe: Immediate

The intent of this recommendation is to ensure that no content which is intended for active use can be exempt, and that inactive, archived content which is for informational purposes only can remain exempt.

Recommendation 22: Live captioning and audio description

Currently, the Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly are the only organizations which must meet the live captioning and audio description requirements in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. All other organizations are exempt from implementing this requirement.

The committee proposes the following:

  • By January 1, 2022, the exemptions to the WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines regarding live captioning and audio descriptions should be removed.
  • Between now and January 1, 2022, obligated organizations should put in place the infrastructure to support live captioning and audio description. Organizations which are currently exempt and are required to prepare a multi-year plan should include progress toward this infrastructure in their plan.

Timeline: Exemptions removed by January 1, 2022, to be evaluated for acceleration by the next committee.

The intent of this recommendation is to have obligated organizations plan infrastructure, adopt training, and generally get ready to implement live captioning and audio descriptions by 2022, or sooner if the next committee should choose to accelerate the timeline. The committee’s intention is to establish a high standard (equal to CRTC standards for live captioning) of quality in live captions.

Recommendation 23: Web hosting location

Section 14 only applies to content which organizations control either directly or through a contractual relationship that allows for modification of the product. The committee has learned that some organizations are interpreting this to mean that if their websites are hosted on servers outside the province, they may claim exemption from the section 14 requirements.

The committee proposes the following:

Section 14 should apply to obligated organizations no matter where their web servers are located.

Timeline: One year

The intent of this recommendation is to clarify that the regulations apply to obligated organizations regardless of where their websites might be hosted.

Recommendation 24: New and emerging technologies

New and emerging technologies present the risk of discriminating against persons with disabilities. As well, people with disabilities are more vulnerable to abuses of new technology and existing and emerging privacy protections do not work for them. These issues include:

  • data gaps: people with disabilities are not reflected in existing data.
  • algorithmic bias: data analytics reflect human bias.

Even if and when these risks are ameliorated, these technologies (for example, artificial intelligence) make decisions and take actions based on an average or majority. People with disabilities are very different from each other and often represent a minority of 1. People with disabilities are harmed by data in both directions. The risks are dismissed because they only affect a small number. The benefits are not pursued because they only benefit a small number.

Note: Additional resources available in appendix C.

The committee proposes the following:

When decisions are being based on data analytics using population data, there should be a disability impact assessment.

Government should immediately create a task force to work with the government on the design and testing of its digital services and to investigate risks, risk mitigation and opportunities in the context of the disability ecosystem. The task force should include experts in disability use case, emerging technologies and data analytics, the majority of whom are people with disabilities from a wide functional cross-section. This task force shall act as an ongoing bridge to phase 2.

Recommendation 25: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version

The version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines referred to in section 14 of the regulation is out of date.

The committee proposes the following:

When the requirement to comply with WCAG 2.0 AA in section 14 is fully implemented (January 1, 2021), Government should update the requirement to the most recently published version of WCAG (for example, WCAG 2.1) within 1 additional year.

Part 5: Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18

The following recommendations relate to Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18, which cover educational and training facilities, producers of educational and training materials, and libraries of educational and training institutions.

One of the topics that was brought to the committee’s attention was the difficulty that education providers and students frequently have obtaining accessible resources. The committee has heard that these resources are too often unsatisfactory or delayed provision of these resources is resulting in poor learning outcomes for students with disabilities. Based on these observations, the committee recommends the following:

Recommendation 26: Purchase of accessible teaching/training materials

During its education and training discussions, the committee noted that the procurement of course materials is a good time to ensure that accessible versions are available.

The committee proposes the following:

It is recommended that obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order text books or other curricula materials, printed or digital, from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as print or digital materials. For clarity sake, digital includes but is not limited to static, dynamic and interactive content.

These materials should meet or exceed the obligations of education providers as described in the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s “Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities”.

Timeline: Immediate

Recommendation 27: Definition of educational and training institutions

Education and training accessibility requirements in the regulation only apply to organizations that are classified as educational or training institutions, even though many organizations which do not meet that classification provide these services.

The committee proposes the following:

That the government consider including all organizations (public or private) that provide formal education and training in the requirements.

The committee has asked the public what types of organizations should fall under the definition of formal, and provides this information to the government with this report in appendix C.

Timeline: Immediate

Recommendation 28: Increasing captionist capacity

Committee members are concerned that there are too few trained captionists in the province. While training for captionists does exist in Ontario, the committee believes there is not enough supply to meet the potential demand.

The committee proposes the following:

The Government of Ontario should explore, in partnership with post-secondary institutions, employers and apprenticeship bodies, establishing a post-secondary course to train captionists, possibly in partnership with a court stenographer’s course.

Timeline: Immediate

Recommendation 29: Accessibility in education

The committee believes that the inclusion of accessibility-related content in all levels of education curricula is one of the best ways to influence cultural change.

The committee proposes the following:

The government should explore ways to make education and skills development about accessibility, including e-accessibility, part of early years, elementary, secondary and post-secondary curricula.

Timeline: Immediate

The intent of this recommendation is to increase the amount of accessibility-related content in all levels of education in Ontario.

Recommendation 30: Accessibility in information and communication tools and systems

Some members of the committee have noted that there is often a lack of knowledge regarding the needs of people with disabilities on the part of the designers of information and communication tools and systems, and this leads to a lack of accessibility in these products.

The committee proposes the following:

All obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems shall include curricula that address the needs of all people with disabilities, including deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing people who use ASL and LSQ.

Timeline: One calendar year from effective date.

The intent of this recommendation is to ensure that information and communication tools and systems are created with accessibility features built-in and are maintained by individuals who are familiar with accessibility features.

Recommendation 31: Accessibility in provincially regulated professions

The question of accessibility in provincially regulated professions was of significant interest to the committee. Provincially regulated professions provide a wide array of services to Ontarians, and ensuring they understand the needs of people with disabilities would help make these services more accessible. The committee believes that education around accessibility in all provincially regulated professions could greatly enhance awareness and further prevent attitudinal barriers.

Note: As a resource, the committee refers to the Ontario Human Rights Code “Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability.

The committee proposes the following:

Certification requirements of provincially regulated professions must include knowledge and application of accessibility (including accessible formats, language, communication and IT support) and the prevention of attitudinal barriers. These should be worked into instructional planning and course design for organizations which provide education or training.

Timeline: One calendar year

The intent of this recommendation is to integrate accessibility into the education and certification of regulated professionals in Ontario.

Recommendation 32: Education standards

The Information and Communications Standards of the regulation currently contain requirements related to education and training. When the committee first reviewed Sections 15–18 and proposed recommendations 24–29, the Government of Ontario had created committees to propose new standards in the regulation for education.

The committee proposes the following:

If the government creates education standards with requirements that are equal to or greater than those requirements found in Sections 15–18 of the regulation, including the result of recommendations 24–29 made in this report, these sections can be moved to the Education Standards.

If any elements of Sections 15–18, including the result of recommendations 24–29 made in this report, are not reflected in newly created education standards (or within the jurisdiction of education standards development committees) for example application of standards to private schools and colleges—these requirements must be retained in the Information and Communications Standards.

The committee’s intent is to make recommendations 24–29 related to Sections 15–18, while allowing the government to house these requirements in the most logical place in the regulation.

Part 6: Section 19

Section 19 relates to public libraries. The committee has reviewed and consulted on this section and voted to confirm that it recommends no changes to this section.

Phase 2

Declaring a breakdown – a call for a new way forward

During their deliberations and interactions with constituents, it became clear to the members of the committee that the current approach to regulating the accessibility of information and communication in Ontario is flawed, and if the approach does not change, the policy aims of the regulations will not be fully achieved. There was consensus that reliance on a wholly prescriptive standard that is not responsive to changes in technology and its application is a fundamental shortcoming of the current approach. There is also a need to enhance the active participation of those who build and use technology daily both to understand and to mandate the application of technologies in ways that maximize economic and social participation for Ontarians with disabilities.

A new model for accessibility regulation

As mentioned at the beginning of this report, the Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee was asked to think about some very broad questions, including what accessibility means in today’s digital world, and whether the current regulatory system is really able to deliver the desired outcomes.

In the process of considering the broader questions, the subcommittee had thorough discussions which formed the basis of a broad new proposal, presented here in this second chapter of the report, to improve access for Ontarians with disabilities: The Accessibility Ecosystem model.

The Accessibility Ecosystem model responds to what the subcommittee perceives as weaknesses in the current regulatory model and introduces a response that is better suited to a world of rapidly changing technology and business models. The committee also recognizes the need for a more responsive model that is focused on equipping obligated organizations with the knowledge and tools to best serve Ontarians on the front lines of business and government service delivery.

Government’s broader use of the Accessibility Ecosystem model

Though the application of the Accessibility Ecosystem is proposed first for digital content and its applications, this model may prove to be more broadly applicable to other standards.

The Accessibility Ecosystem is presented at a very high level, both to maximize compatibility with various requirements and in recognition that more in-depth research and development needs to be done by government and relevant stakeholders to take this model to the next step.

The committee proposes:

  • That the government adopt and operationalize phase 2 as the regulatory approach to accessibility in Ontario. The committee is aware that this approach will continue to evolve. The intent of the committee is to have phase 1 implemented in parallel with phase 2. Phase 1 should occur during the transition to phase 2.
  • Note: The infographics and additional materials (for example, long descriptions) have been submitted alongside this report after the appendices.

Timeline: Two years from submission of the final recommendations for phase 2 to be fully implemented.

What this document contains:

Current context:

  • committee investigates what the current regulatory model seems to be missing.

Accessibility Ecosystem:

  • the Accessibility Ecosystem model is proposed as a solution, and its advantages are listed.

Laws, Trusted Authority, Community Platform and Compliance

The Accessibility Ecosystem, listed and explained:

  • How is the new model better?
  • A look at what sets the Accessibility Ecosystem apart.
  • Cost, funding and sustainability
  • An explanation of how, far from being an onerous cost, the new model is actually a shrewd investment.

Current context

The subcommittee’s starting point was an acknowledgement of the fact that our understanding of accessibility has evolved since the act was drafted and implemented. People with disabilities are as diverse in their needs and perceptions as people without disabilities, and perhaps even more so. For that reason, one-size-fits-all approaches to accessibility often don’t work. In addition, it is now understood that even the word ‘accessible’ does not have a single definition and is more related to technical requirements than a person’s demand for a great experience. What is meant by accessible depends on the person and his or her goals and context. What this means is that accessibility can only be achieved through a process of inclusive design – one that recognizes that all people are variable and diverse, and our products and services must make room for a wide range of human differences.

It is also critical to understand that even if all the specified goals of the act were to be achieved by 2025, it would not be a case of mission accomplished. There would still be people with disabilities for whom Ontario is not accessible. Our society is changing all the time. New barriers to accessibility are constantly emerging, as are new opportunities for greater accessibility. The subcommittee concluded that creating an accessibility check list, however comprehensive, to address the needs of all Ontarians with disabilities is an impossible task. People not represented in the deliberations would likely be left out, unanticipated new barriers would not be considered, and new technologies that might be used to address barriers would not be leveraged. At that point, the subcommittee decided it was time to take a critical look at the current act and regulation model. What it found was five areas in which the current model is simply not meeting the needs of Ontarians with disabilities:

Participation

In the current model, the primary participants are the participating organizations and the provincial government compliance authority. The relationship is one of obligation and policing. The primary questions from obligated organizations are about what is required of them, and whether there might be exemptions. Their primary motivation for complying is avoiding penalties and/or reputational damage.

It is hard to blame organizations for this approach, because accessibility and inclusive design have traditionally been framed primarily as something that organizations must be legally compelled to do, rather than something that is also in their best interests. The fact is however, that there is significant evidence showing that inclusive design is in the interests of business. Research has shown that an organization that attends to inclusive design and accessibility, for customers and employees with disabilities, will garner economic, social and innovation benefits. There are both micro and macro-economic gains to be made for the participating company and for Ontario society as a whole, but that case is not being made clearly or often enough.

The current model also does not harness the significant energy, knowledge and support of many community stakeholders who are deeply committed to accessibility. These include:

  • students, many of whom participate in projects such as “mapathons,” design challenges and curriculum-based assignments
  • Ontario’s world-leading cluster of researchers specializing in accessibility and inclusive design
  • non-obligated organizations that recognize the importance of accessibility without being compelled to comply by law
  • persons with disabilities and their families or support communities
  • professional organizations
  • community volunteers
  • civil society

The efforts made by these people, groups and organizations are significant, but there is currently no real way to collect, harness and showcase their contributions or quantify their economic impact.

Updating

Other than the five-year review, there is currently no mechanism for keeping the standards up to date. This is especially problematic when it comes to information technology systems and practices, which are changing at an accelerating rate and affecting more and more essential aspects of our lives. Barriers to accessibility emerge suddenly, and if they are not dealt with immediately they can spread and multiply. Opportunities for greater accessibility appear, but if they are not quickly seized they can disappear. In this fast-moving world, accessibility standards quickly fall out of date, and the system is not equipped to deal with that.

Integrating innovation

Ontario is home to many innovators, many of whom have turned their ingenuity to addressing accessibility challenges. Unfortunately, there is currently no easy way for these innovators, including obligated organizations or other stakeholders, to propose new and better strategies for addressing barriers. The relationship is strictly one way, with the act essentially telling organizations what to do. This removes an incentive to innovate in accessibility.

Review and feedback

Legislation often triggers new demands for services. The act has prompted the growth of the accessibility services sector in Ontario. Training, evaluation, design, development and remediation services are now effectively growth industries in Ontario. However, these businesses and services range in expertise and quality, and there is currently no mechanism for reviewing or providing feedback about them.

Indicators

There is currently no way of tracking progress toward accessibility goals. No progress indicators have been established, making it extremely difficult to determine how well accessibility standards are working.

Based on all of this, the subcommittee concluded that an entirely new approach needs to be taken. This approach must move from presenting accessibility as an obligation to be borne by a specific group of organizations in Ontario, to a process that all Ontarians participate in, and benefit from. This is what the committee means when it refers to a culture change, and the vehicle for that culture change is the proposed new “Accessibility Ecosystem.”

The Accessibility Ecosystem

Fundamentally, the Accessibility Ecosystem is a new way of organizing the standards within the regulation. Initially, it is being proposed for the Information and Communication Standards, though the committee believes that it could one day be the framework for the full set of regulation standards. The primary aim of the Accessibility Ecosystem is to encourage organizations to see the act less as an obligation than as something in which they participate for their own benefit, and the benefit of all Ontarians. For that reason, the first step in implementing this new system, however symbolic, would be to rename “obligated organizations” as “participating organizations.” This reframing will also provide a way to keep improving and updating how we address barriers faced by persons with disabilities in Ontario, up to and beyond 2025.

The objectives of the Accessibility Ecosystem are as follows:

  • keep up with changes in technology
  • respond to new barriers
  • respond to new opportunities
  • respond to barriers not anticipated when the standards were written
  • encourage and support organizations and the larger community in finding innovative ways to address barriers
  • discourage the ‘us-them’ attitude towards accessibility, where the interests of persons with disabilities are seen as counter to the interests of businesses
  • encourage working together to make things more accessible to the benefit of everyone
  • communicate that accessibility is a responsibility we all share
  • show how accessibility and inclusive design are a good way to do business, and a good way to grow the economy and economic participation for Ontarians with disabilities
  • reduce confusion about the regulations and make it easier to find tools and resources needed to comply with them
  • provide clear, up-to-date, specific advice regarding how requirements can be met
  • create the conditions and supports so that all Ontarians feel that they can participate in removing barriers

The proposed ecosystem has three interdependent parts. They support one another, and all play a role in telling organizations what they need to do to remove barriers and expand opportunities. The ecosystem as a whole provides the balance between legal compulsion and alignment with current technical practices. All three parts require funding and ongoing support. The three parts are the laws, the Trusted Authority and the Community Platform.

The laws

This is the least flexible part. The laws would establish requirements, but not specify how they must be met. The Laws include three types:

  • Functional Accessibility Requirements (FARd) (contained in appendix B of this report). These are requirements that are constant. They do not mention specific technologies, to avoid a situation in which a technology changes and evolves to the point where the requirement no longer makes sense. If organizations need help understanding how to meet the requirements, they are linked to acceptable methods of doing so by the Trusted Authority. These requirements are modeled on and harmonized with requirements adopted by both the European Union and relevant US accessibility laws. The functional requirements do not replace technical requirements but specify what they are trying to achieve.
  • Regulations regarding the policies of the ecosystem. These govern the Trusted Authority, the Community Platform and updates to the laws.
  • Regulations that support system-wide long-term changes and improvements in the accessibility of Ontario. These include:
    • integrating education about accessibility in all education, starting as early as Kindergarten – Grade 12
    • integrating accessibility into professional training for all professions that have an impact on products and services
    • requiring accessibility when purchasing products and services, especially when spending public funds
    • including people with disabilities in decision making and planning processes, and ensuring that mechanisms for participation are accessible

Trusted Authority

The Trusted Authority would be an independent group that provides ongoing oversight and support to the system of accessibility standards, in order to ensure that the system is performing as it should and accomplishing what it is intended to accomplish. The Trusted Authority would include people with a wide range of expertise, including lived experience with disabilities.

As implied by the name, the Trusted Authority must be credible, understandable and reliable. All its activities must be transparent and open to public scrutiny. The Trusted Authority would have the power to consult with any individual or group to address knowledge and skill gaps.

The Trusted Authority would:

  • Determine and provide clear up-to-date qualifying methods for meeting regulations. (The current set of qualifying methods includes the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and other standards such as Electronic Publication (EPub) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 24751).
  • In addition to qualifying methods, ensure that necessary tools and resources are available to use the qualifying methods.
  • Provide guidance regarding how to achieve the functional accessibility requirements, specific to the particular organizations. This includes links to resources and tools in the Community Platform.
  • Retire qualifying methods that are out of date.
  • Clarify laws when there is uncertainty or when there are changes.
  • Review new and innovative methods proposed by organizations and individuals to determine whether they can be used to meet the requirements.
  • Address gaps in available qualifying methods to meet the requirements.
  • Ensure that the barriers experienced by all Ontarians with disabilities are addressed by regularly evaluating who might be falling through the cracks. This includes individuals with a range of technical literacy, individuals in urban, rural and remote communities, Ontarians at all income levels and individuals with disabilities that are not visible or episodic disabilities. It also includes people who experience other barriers that might worsen the barriers experienced due to disabilities.
  • Provide, track and make publicly available indicators of progress toward an accessible Ontario. Examples of those indicators might include the number of companies with an accessibility officer, the number of accessibility complaints received and their resolution, the number of employees who self-identify as having a disability, and the number of Ontarians trained in accessibility skills.
  • Prioritize accessibility processes and tools rather than specialized technologies and services for people with disabilities. In this way, people with disabilities do not have to bear the additional cost of buying their own specific technology.
  • Support innovation that recognizes the diversity of needs experienced by people with disabilities rather than a “winner takes all” or a “one winning design” approach.
  • Support recognition that people with disabilities must be designers, developers, producers and innovators, and not only consumers of information and communication.
  • Qualifying methods must include accessible tools and processes.

The Trusted Authority would maintain an online interactive guide for participating organizations. This guide would let organizations know which FARs apply to them, what qualifying methods they could use to meet the requirements, and what tools and resources are available to help them implement the qualifying methods. The guide would be inclusively designed to consider the different types and ranges of expertise of organizations in Ontario.

It is recommended that the Trusted Authority report directly to the Legislative Assembly. It is the responsibility of the Legislative Assembly to maintain the FARs and the responsibility of the Trusted Authority to maintain the qualifying methods. Funding commitments for the Trusted Authority must span two political terms to ensure sustainability and independence. Decision-making regarding leadership of the Trusted Authority should be transparent and inclusive of Ontarians with disabilities.

Community Platform

The Community Platform would be an online platform, open to everyone in Ontario, that provides a simple and clear way for community members to contribute their knowledge, expertise and constructive criticism about accessibility in this province.

The Community Platform would:

  • collect and make accessibility resources and tools easily available
  • share training and education
  • make it possible for community members to monitor and review how organizations are doing in meeting the requirements
  • empower communities to organize events and activities that support accessibility
  • showcase and share good examples of accessible practices
  • collect and showcase data on various economic and social aspects of disability

The Community Platform must be an open online infrastructure that is easy to get into, easy to use and easy to navigate. It would allow any community member to pool, share and review a large variety of resources that are helpful in implementing the qualifying methods. These resources might include training modules, software tools, evaluation tools, design tools, reusable software components, helpful example practices, examples of contract language for procurement contracts, examples of job description language and many other resources.

The platform would also provide a means for community members to constructively review the resources. Community members would be able to identify gaps in resources, and these gaps would be disseminated publicly to potential innovators and resource producers. The Community Platform will learn from similar initiatives to avoid the pitfalls involved in keeping resources up-to-date and usable by a large diversity of individuals and organizations. Financial support would be needed to maintain the infrastructure and keep the various resources relevant and up-to-date.

Compliance

Clearly, compliance will have to be an important part of any successful accessibility ecosystem. The question, then, is how do we enforce and ensure proper compliance? Before making a more definitive recommendation, the committee would like to ask the public for input on how compliance might work, informed by its discussion on this topic summarized below:

The committee had an in-depth discussion of how compliance might work in phase 2. It was agreed that a reasoned, measured approach that rewards good actors and addresses bad behaviour is critical. In addition, greater accountability of leadership was a recurring theme. The committee also discussed greater connections between government bodies/ministries to enable government to be a better leader and using a greater spectrum of compliance measures. Some questions that came up were:

  • What is the right way to focus on organizations that want to do this right and actively build models that work well?
  • How do you evolve the current approach to compliance in order to encourage organizations to participate in this ecosystem, using a combination of both incentives and disincentives?
    • examples of incentives include grants, loans, tax benefits and public recognition of success
    • examples of disincentives include fines, levies to cover the cost of accessibility, surcharges and naming non-compliant organizations using social media
  • How best do you highlight the benefits of proactively investing in the integration of emerging technologies? How should we define emerging technology?

How is the new model better?

There are several characteristics of the Accessibility Ecosystem that set it apart. It is a more aspirational system, focusing as it does on what is important and good about accessibility, rather than simply emphasizing that it is an obligation. It is also a more inclusive system, not just inviting but actually relying on input from the public and from stakeholders, including those organizations obligated to meet accessibility requirements. Finally, it is designed to evolve and adapt as technology and attitudes change around it. Specifically, the new model will speed progress toward an accessible and inclusive Ontario because:

  • the Trusted Authority will intervene when new barriers arise
  • the Trusted Authority will integrate accessibility into the foundation before barriers are created
  • the Trusted Authority will be able to represent accessibility and inclusive design at technical and policy planning tables, to integrate inclusive design considerations from the start
  • efforts to produce services and resources that address accessibility, which are currently fragmented, will be coordinated and strategically channeled
  • new and current contributors to the goal of accessibility will be provided with productive ways to participate
  • the Trusted Authority will have the opportunity to provide a more comprehensive set of qualifying methods to address more of the barriers experienced by all persons with disabilities in Ontario
  • innovative practices that improve accessibility for people with disabilities will be showcased, rewarded and even adopted as qualifying methods
  • the Trusted Authority be able to maintain the momentum of accessibility efforts across political terms

Cost, funding and sustainability

Reports such as the Releasing Constraints report led by the Martin Prosperity Institute show that public investment in accessibility is one of the most economically rewarding investments of public dollars. By establishing a locus of expertise in accessibility, Ontario gains recognition as a global leader in meeting the growing demand for accessibility expertise and innovation, and achieves unprecedented gains in prosperity. This leadership potential has not been fully realized in the current act framework, but the Accessibility Ecosystem would change that.

The Community Platform would serve to reduce redundancy and significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of accessibility efforts. The Community Platform is also structured in such a way that while the infrastructure would be maintained through public funding, the resources, tools, training and review would be contributed by the community at large for mutual benefit. Support for the Trusted Authority and the Community Platform could be shared by multiple jurisdictions across Canada, including other provinces and the federal government. Other jurisdictions have expressed interest in collaborating and sharing these services.

Glossary

Qualifying methods

A means of meeting a Functional Accessibility Requirement for a type of service or product that is sanctioned by the Trusted Authority. Qualifying methods can refer to specific technologies and formats, and the tools and resources needed to employ these methods would be available in the Community Platform.

Participating organizations

Organizations within Ontario, including organizations obligated by the act, previously referred to as “obligated organizations.” The renaming recognizes that a role of all organizations in Ontario is to participate in promoting and advancing accessibility for their own benefit and the benefit of Ontario as a whole.

Platform

An online service that connects people who need something with resources or people that meet those needs. The platform provides a place to pool shared resources and tools, attach descriptions, including constructive criticism of the resources and tools. Platforms have points of entry suited to the different users and contributors of the platform.

Alternative access systems

Computer-based technology comes with a standard set of devices to interact with the technology, such as keyboards and displays. People may not be able to use these standard devices. Alternative access systems replace or augment these standard devices.

Appendix A: Committee membership

Information and Communications Standards Development Committee

Voting members

  • Rich Donovan (Chair)
  • Kim Adeney
  • David Berman
  • David Best
  • Louise Bray
  • Jennifer Cowan
  • Pina D’Intino
  • Louie DiPalma
  • Robert Gaunt
  • Gary Malkowski
  • Chantal Perreault
  • James Roots
  • Kevin Shaw
  • Jutta Treviranus
  • Diane Wagner
  • Richard Watters

Non-voting members

  • Kate Acs
  • Michele Babin
  • Adam Haviaras
  • Kathy McLachlan

Resigned

  • Jessica Gabriel
  • Ben Williamson
  • Matthieu Vachon

Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee

Members

  • Jutta Treviranus (Lead)
  • David Berman
  • Pina D’Intino
  • Anne Jackson
  • Dan Shire
  • Aidan Tierney
  • George Zamfir

Appendix B: Functional Accessibility Requirements (FARs)

The following is a draft of the proposed requirements that would constitute one part of the laws. These requirements would be directly linked to qualifying methods for meeting the requirements (provided by the Trusted Authority), and then to tools and resources needed to use the methods (provided by the Community Platform).

Where visual modes of presentation are provided:

  • at least one configuration must be provided that does not require vision
  • visual presentation must be adjustable to support limited vision and/or visual perception or processing (magnification, contrast, spacing, visual emphasis, layout)
  • at least one configuration must convey information without dependence on colour distinction
  • visual presentation that triggers photosensitive seizures must be avoided
  • it must be possible to render the presentation in alternative formats, including tactile formats

Where auditory modes of presentation are provided:

  • at least one configuration must be provided that does not require hearing (captions and sign language)
  • audio presentation must be adjustable to support limited hearing and/or auditory processing (volume, reduced background noise)
  • it must be possible to render the presentation in alternative formats, including tactile formats

Where speech is required to operate a function:

  • at least one configuration must be provided that does not require speech

Where manual dexterity is required for operation:

  • the opportunity to use alternative modes of operation must be provided
  • at least one mode of operation must be provided that enables operation through actions that do not involve fine motor control. These would include path dependant gestures, pinching, twisting of the wrist, tight grasping or simultaneous manual actions (for example, one-handed operation)

Where hand strength is required for operation:

  • at least one alternative mode of operation must be provided that does not require hand strength

Where operation requires reach:

  • operational elements must be within reach of all users

Where memorization is required for use:

  • at least one configuration must provide memory supports or eliminate the demand on memorization or accurate recall (unless the purpose is to teach or test memorization)

Where text literacy is required for use:

  • at least one configuration must provide literacy supports or eliminate the demand for text literacy (for example, text-to-speech, pictorial representation)
  • at least one configuration must provide simple language (unless the purpose is to teach or test text literacy where a different level of literacy is required). Simple language means the literacy level of Grade 3.

Where extended attention is required for use:

  • at least one configuration must reduce demand on attention or enable use with limited attention

Where operation has time limits:

  • at least one configuration must enable extension or elimination of time limits

Where controlled focus is required for use:

  • at least one configuration must provide support for focus or eliminate demand on controlled focus

Where specific sequencing of steps for operation is required:

  • at least one configuration must provide support for sequencing steps, or eliminate the demand for specific sequencing of operation steps (unless the purpose is to teach or test accurate sequencing)

Where abstract thinking is required:

  • at least one configuration must reduce demand for understanding abstractions such as acronyms, allegory and metaphor (unless the purpose is to teach or test abstract thinking)

Where accuracy of input is required:

  • a simple undo must be available

Where biometrics are employed:

  • alternative methods of identification must be made available

Appendix C: Definitions and resources

Relevant to all recommendations:

User: Someone who uses a product, machine or service.

Relevant to recommendation 13

United States Access Board definition of web page

A non-embedded resource obtained from a single Universal Resource Identifier (URI) using HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) plus any other resources that are provided for the rendering, retrieval and presentation of content.

European Union Web Accessibility Directive scope:

  1. In order to improve the functioning of the internal market, this directive aims to approximate the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the member states relating to the accessibility requirements of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, thereby enabling those websites and mobile applications to be more accessible to users, in particular to persons with disabilities.
  2. This directive lays down the rules requiring member states to ensure that websites, independently of the device used for access thereto, and mobile applications of public sector bodies meet the accessibility requirements set out in Article 4.

United Nations Convention language:

  1. States Parties shall also take appropriate measures:(g) To promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the internet.

Relevant to recommendation 14

Alternative access systems

Computer-based technology comes with a standard set of devices to interact with the technology, such as keyboards and displays. People may not be able to use these standard devices. Alternative access systems replace or augment these standard devices.

Relevant to recommendation 17

Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code) “Undue Hardship” terminology

Relevant to recommendation 26

Ontario Human Rights Code “Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities”

Relevant to recommendation 27

Public feedback answers related to the question Which types of organizations should be included in the definition of formal education?:

Note: The survey answers below are extracted from survey responses:

  1. The term ‘formal’ education or training should be defined as stated above (for example, education or training that results in a certificate or other documentation) and the requirement would apply to any organizations that provide that type of education or training.
  2. Any that provide formal education or training.
  3. Any organization that would be giving a certification at the end of the training course.
  4. Tutoring organizations, recreational learning programs such as art, music, physical activity etc.
  5. Educational institutions.
  6. Yes but some agencies do not have the resources to do this. It must be funded.
  7. Everyone.
  8. Private Sector Organizations that provide (paid for) training to externa! clients. Public and Non-Profit organization whose mandate it is to provide training.
  9. University, public schools, private/board schools, workplace education training, broadcasting networks (news), city/town governments.
  10. Any time someone is enrolling as a student or paying for training.
  11. Institutions that issue certifications and designations, along with online training sessions.
  12. Public, private and non- profit.
  13. All.
  14. All.
  15. All businesses and companies, public or private, all not-for-profit companies, schools, colleges, universities, private schools.
  16. It should include all publicly funded education and all paid education.
  17. Would not recommend using the type of organization but would recommend looking at the type or frequency of the training that is being provided. Organizations that have a dedicated training and education dept that do regular training external to their organization should be considered.
  18. Anything that leads to a certification.

Infographics

Frame 1: Accessibility Ecosystem

Frame 1: View a larger version of this infographic (PDF). Read the text version below.

A diagram representing the Accessibility Ecosystem using the visual analogy of a sailing ship in the water.

Introductory text

From obligation to participation: The AODA Accessibility Ecosystem is like a ship in an unpredictable and changing global and technical context. The laws provide the compass, the Trusted Authority steers the course, and the community uses the Community Hub to provide the ideas, tools and resources needed to make the journey.

Description of diagram

The sails of the ship are being blown by wind representing culture change and innovation.

The water has a shark fin representing barriers and fish jumping out of the water representing opportunities.

The ship represents the Ontario community and contains the three parts of the Accessibility Ecosystem: the Accessibility Law, the Trusted Authority and the Community Hub.

The Accessibility Law and Trusted Authority are two separate parts connected by a double helix that has the following phrases printed on it: “Needed Adjustments”, “How to Achieve It” and “What Must Be Achieved”. The Community Hub sits beside Trusted Authority outside the helix with arrows pointing into the helix.

Subtext for the three parts of the Ecosystem further explains each of the Ecosystem’s part. This subtext is as follows:

Accessibility Law
Measures that bring about long-term culture change
Functional accessibility requirements that remain constant
Regulating overall process

Trusted Authority
Ensuring tools and resources are available
Responding to changes in context
Retiring outdated methods
Qualifying innovative methods

Community Hub
Training
Community feedback and monitoring
Pooled resources and tools
Research and guidance
Innovative approaches to addressing barriers

Frame 2: Accessibility Ecosystem

Frame 2: View a larger version of this infographic (PDF). Read the text version below.

The same diagram represented in Frame 1 is lightened with further descriptions of the three parts of the Accessibility Ecosystem layered on top.

Introductory text

There are three important parts in the Accessibility Ecosystem: Laws, Trusted Authority and Community Hub.

Ecosystem parts descriptions

Accessibility Law
The Law is the compass that keeps the ship on course. The law achieves an accessible community and maintains rules about the structure of the overall ecosystem.

Trusted Authority
The Trusted Authority provides directions to steer the course. The Trusted Authority must keep a careful watch for new barriers, opportunities and changes in technology trends and adjust directions in response to these changes.

Community Hub
The Community Hub engages everyone in the community including the general public, people with lived experience of disability, and participating organizations. The Community Hub provides the ideas and resources needed to progress forward.

Frame 3: Accessibility Ecosystem

Frame 3: View a larger version of this infographic (PDF). Read the text version below.

The same diagram represented in Frame 2 (Frame 1 lightened) with even further descriptions of the three parts of the Accessibility Ecosystem layered on top.

Introductory text

Each of the three parts plays an important role in the ecosystem. They rely on each other to be successful.

Ecosystem parts descriptions

Accessibility Law
The laws lay out the functional accessibility requirements and provide regulations to bring about the needed culture change. The laws are the most constant.

Trusted Authority
Participating Organizations and community members can propose innovative new ways to meet the Functional Accessibility Requirements. The Trusted Authority is responsible for keeping the qualifying methods for meeting Functional Accessibility Requirements up-to-date, understandable and do-able. This requires the support of the Community Hub.

Community Hub
Everyone in the community has a role to play and can benefit from participating in the community effort. The Community Hub is the place where new ideas, tools, resources, training, reviews and constructive feedback is gathered and shared.

Frame 4: Accessibility Ecosystem

Frame 4: View a larger version of this infographic (PDF). Read the text version below.

The same diagram represented in Frame 1 is darkened. Layered on top of the darkened diagram is a circle placed in the front part of the ship within the Ontario community. The circle represents Participating Organizations. Four lines with arrows extend out of the Participating Organization circle. Each line has a question attached to it with the arrow pointing to an answer within the ecosystem.

The questions and answers are as follows:

How can I make my services accessible?
Arrow points to Accessibility Law.
A second line with an arrow extends out of the question through the Trusted Authority and back to Participating Organizations.

How can I qualify my new method?
Arrow points to Trusted Authority: Qualifying innovative methods.

Where can I learn more?
Arrow points to Community Hub: Training.

What tools are there to help?
Arrow points to Community Hub: Pooled resources and tools.

Frame 5: Accessibility Ecosystem

Frame 5: View a larger version of this infographic (PDF). Read the text version below.

The same diagram represented in Frame 4 (Frame 3 darkened). Layered on top of the diagram are two circles placed in the front part of the ship within the Ontario community. The circles represent the Public and Individuals with Disabilities. Three lines with arrows extend out of the Public circle and one line extends out of the Individuals with Disabilities circle. Each line has a question attached to it with the arrow pointing to an answer within the ecosystem.

The Public questions and answers are as follows:

How can I participate in drafting the laws?
Arrow points to Accessibility Law.

How can I propose new methods?
Arrow points to Trusted Authority: Qualifying innovative methods.

How can I provide feedback?
Arrow points to Trusted Authority.

The Individuals with Disabilities question and answer is:

How can I contribute to resources?
Arrow points to Community Hub: Pooled resources and tools.

Frame 6: trusted authority process

Frame 6: View a larger version of this infographic (PDF). Read the text version below.

An explanation of the Trusted Authority process supported by a visual design that includes line drawings of a variety of people with talk bubbles containing descriptions of who they, as the Trusted Authority, are. The talk bubbles include:

We have the power to:

  1. continuously update the qualifying methods
  2. review innovative proposed new methods as alternatives or additions to existing methods
  3. clarify and rule on disputes regarding the regulations

We have inclusive representation and the power to consult with:

  1. external subject matter experts
  2. additional individuals with lived experience
  3. representative organizations

We support the law, but are independent of partisan influence.
We link the law directly to qualifying methods supported by tools, resources and training.
We bridge political terms.

We are the Trusted Authority
The Trusted Authority is responsible for keeping the qualifying methods for meeting Functional Accessibility Requirements up-to-date, understandable and do-able. This requires the support of the Community Hub. Participating Organizations and community members can propose innovative new ways to meet the Functional Accessibility Requirements.

Frame 7: participating organizations process

Frame 7: View a larger version of this infographic (PDF). Read the text version below.

An explanation of the Participating Organizations process supported by a visual design that includes line drawings of a variety of people and talk bubbles containing questions and answers.

The questions and answers are as follows:

Question: How can I connect with potential customers with lived experience who can provide feedback?
Answer: Through community hub forums

Question: We have created tools and resources for the qualifying method, how do we share it?
Answer: Share in community hub, (make sure they’re referenced)

Question: Where can I learn more?
Answer: In the Community hub for training, education and exemplars

Question: Who has expertise and experience to help me?
Answer: Visit directory with reviews

Question: We found an innovative way to meet the functional accessibility requirement, will it qualify?
Answer: Vet with trusted authority

Question: What tools are there to help?
Answer: Access community hub tools and reviews

Question: Here are the services I provide; how do I make them accessible?
Answer: Trusted Authority provides relevant FARs and qualifying methods

We are Participating Organizations:
Participating Organizations are organizations operating in Ontario that are obligated by the Law. The Accessibility Ecosystem enables these organizations to participate in advancing accessibility in Ontario and to contribute innovative approaches. All organizations benefit from a more accessible Ontario.

Frame 8: shared responsibility and shared benefit process

Frame 8: View a larger version of this infographic (PDF). Read the text version below.

An explanation of the Community and Community Hub: Shared Responsibility and Shared Benefit process supported by a diagram that includes line drawings of a variety of people around a helix.

The left side of the helix has the following phrases:
Provide constructive feedback
Help develop training, tools and resources
Find new ways to address barriers
Create innovative inclusive technologies and practices
Help identify barriers

The right side of the helix has the following phrases:
Greater innovation
Greater prosperity
Ontario as a global leader
Participation and contributions by all Ontarians

We are the Community and the Community Hub
The Community Hub is the most participatory of the ecosystem and supports engagement by everyone in the community including people from the government, obligated organizations, and diverse individuals inclusive of those with disabilities.



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Ford Government’s October 29, 2020 Virtual Media Event, Heralded to Unveil an Announcement on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities, Announces Nothing New


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’s October 29, 2020 Virtual Media Event, Heralded to Unveil an Announcement on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities, Announces Nothing New

November 3, 2020

          SUMMARY

On Thursday October 29, 2020, the Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister held a virtual conference which the Minister heralded as an event to unveil an announcement on advancing accessibility for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. We cannot find anything new in the Minister’s announcement. Below, we offer some reflections on this announcement, and then set out the Minister’s news release and backgrounder.

This was the event for which the Ford Government last week sent out an inaccessible invitation. After we made that painfully symbolic irony public, the Government apologized and re-issued its invitation, this time in an accessible email.

There have now been 642 days, or 21 months, since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes worse the serious problems still facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Send us your feedback by writing us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

 Reflections on the Ford Government’s October 29, 2020 Accessibility Announcement

On October 29, 2020, the Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho held a virtual news conference, which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to virtually watch. At this event, the Minister simply announced that the Government was launching a public education campaign on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the importance of accessibility for people with disabilities.

We scoured the announcement, set out below, and the speeches during the news event, but could find nothing new in this announcement. The Government has earlier announced that it is conducting public education on that very topic. Earlier Government news releases have pointed to such activities. Moreover, the Government’s official Twitter feed has been tweeting on this subject for quite some time.

Indeed, this is just more of what the previous Liberal Government was doing in the realm of educating the public on this topic. On October 29, 2020, the Government announced no new plan of action for this 15-year-old campaign, nor any new budget allocation for this campaign. We have written the Government to ask if any new budget is being allocated to this campaign. The Government has not answered.

Let’s look at this in context. Over 15 years after the AODA was passed, and just over four years before Ontario must become accessible to 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities, the Ford Government’s announcement is to “raise awareness” about accessibility? And this when the final report of David Onley’s most recent Independent Review of the AODA told the Government over 21 months ago that Ontario remains full of “soul-crushing barriers” facing people with disabilities, with progress on accessibility proceeding at a “glacial pace”?

Ontarians with disabilities deserve much better. “Raising awareness” about the AODA at this point is about the least effective tool in the Government’s toolkit. On the more important issue of effectively enforcing the AODA, the Ford Government said nothing at this media event.

Moreover, it has been over a month since the AODA Alliance wrote the Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister in our September 21, 2020 letter to ask for important information on what the Government is doing to enforce the AODA. While we understand that an answer will eventually be forthcoming, we have not received one to date. You can learn more about our multi-year campaign to get the AODA effectively enforced by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s enforcement page.

A closer look at the Government’s October 29, 2020 announcement triggers even more cause for concern. The Ford Government’s announcement tries to substantially dilute and lower the bar it and Ontario must meet to obey the AODA. In wording carefully crafted for its news release, set out below, the Government’s lead minister stated:

“Our government is committed to working together with our partners inside and outside of government to make Ontario more accessible and inclusive by 2025…”

It is helpful for the Ford Government to acknowledge the AODA’s 2025 deadline. However, the AODA does not merely require Ontario to become “more accessible” by that year. It requires Ontario to become “accessible” by that year, pure and simple.

The difference is enormous. Ontario would meet the Ford Government’s paltry stated goal of “more accessible” if only one ramp were installed somewhere in Ontario between now and 2025, or if only one inaccessible website were retrofitted to make it accessible.

For the Government to so profoundly misunderstand or water down the AODA hurts all Ontarians with disabilities. For the Government to publicly signal this wrongful dilution of the legislation sends the wrong signal to obligated organizations at a time when we need efforts on accessibility ramped up, not diluted.

Beyond this, the Government’s announcement includes re-announcements of initiatives that are already underway. This includes re-announcing, believe it or not, a program started by the Bob Rae NDP Ontario Government dating back to the first half of the 1990s.

Among the initiatives that the Government re-announced was its diverting 1.3 million public dollars to the problematic Rick Hansen Foundation private accessibility certification program. We have publicly shown that no public money should be spent on that program. The Government has not disputed the serious problems with that program which the AODA Alliance publicly documented over a year ago.

The Ford Government’s October 29, 2020 media event is the first major accessibility announcement that its Accessibility Minister has made since its February 28, 2020 media event. At that event, the Government proclaimed that it would “lead by example” on accessibility. In response, the March 2, 2020 AODA Alliance Update documented that there too, the Government announced nothing new. The Ford Government has not disputed this. That AODA Alliance Update also documented that the Government was leading by a poor example on accessibility.

Since then, as the AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page demonstrates, the Ford Government seriously bungled its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in so far as the urgent needs of 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities are concerned. It thereby continued to lead by a poor example, contrary to its February 28, 2020 commitment.

Finally, it is a further cruel irony that this most recent empty event (which appears to have attracted no reporters and garnered no media coverage) was held on October 29, an important anniversary in our decades-long non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities. It is frankly difficult to see what the Government was trying to achieve by holding an event which so obviously announced nothing new.

Despite all this, we continue to offer the Government our constructive recommendations on how to kick-start stalled progress on accessibility. Had the Government wished to announce something meaningful for accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities, any or all of the following, which we have urged, would be welcomed:

  1. Committing to develop a long-overdue Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and appointing a Standards Development Committee to develop recommendations for it, as the Onley Report urged;
  1. Appointing an Associate Deputy Minister of Education for Students with Disabilities, to develop an action plan to ensure that one third of a million students with disabilities are fully and safely included in in-class and distance learning;
  1. Committing that all the new schools and school renovations will be fully disability-accessible, for which the Government announced a half a billion dollars this summer, and announcing an effective plan to achieve this;
  1. Immediately making public the report and recommendations of the Government’s Bioethics Table on how critical medical care triage should be done, if the COVID-19 surge overloads Ontario hospitals, and withdrawing the controversial and seriously flawed March 28, 2020 triage protocol that the Government sent to all hospitals last spring.
  1. Announcing a new plan to effectively and meaningfully enforce the AODA.

Ford Government’s October 29, 2020 News Release on Accessibility

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario: Improving Understanding and Awareness about Accessibility

BACKGROUNDER October 29, 2020

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario is a framework designed to help focus the government’s work in four key areas:

  • breaking down barriers in the built environment
  • government leading by example in its role as a policy maker, service provider and employer
  • increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities and
  • improving understanding and awareness about accessibility

To make progress on the area of improving understanding and awareness about accessibility, the government is working with its stakeholders, including partner ministries, broader public sector organizations, businesses and non-profit organizations to help raise awareness and change attitudes. Many organizations are not fully aware of their accessibility responsibilities or do not realize the benefits of being more receptive to the accessibility needs of Ontarians with disabilities.

We are working with key industry stakeholders through the government’s EnAbling Change Program that provides resources and training materials to educate associations and employers in multiple sectors about accessibility by:

  • Developing ReadAble Fest, a specialized reading program with disability themes for elementary students that engaged more than 1,300 students in 17 Simcoe County District School Board schools with OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation.
  • Developing an enhanced curriculum and training materials on accessibility for building officials through the Ontario Building Officials Association. This ensures that new and existing buildings can be planned and built to be more accessible.
  • Supporting the ReelAbilities Toronto Film Festival, increasing awareness about Deaf and disability cultures highlighted in films and documentaries by filmmakers and actors with disabilities and/or who are Deaf. We also support the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, which runs the ReelEducation program on equity and inclusion for educators.

We are taking action to make accessibility enhancements so that everyone can fully participate in everyday life by:

  • Collaborating with Destination Ontario to improve the user experience for travellers with accessibility needs by providing practical information about accessible options at Ontario’s tourism businesses. These accessibility options are available through the desktop and mobile versions of Ontario’s official travel website.
  • Enabling Ontarians to engage with and learn about attractions, tourism operators and artists across the province, while keeping themselves safe during COVID-19, through Ontario Live, a virtual hub for the arts, attractions and film and television.
  • Using a collaborative review of Ontario’s supportive housing programs to find ways to streamline and improve coordination so people can get the services they need. The government is gathering feedback through multiple virtual public engagement activities, including an online survey, regional engagement sessions with stakeholders and partners, and population-specific discussions that include seniors and people with disabilities.
  • Improving the government’s digital platforms to put more services online, making them easier and faster to use. The Ontario Public Service (OPS) digital plan is starting by enhancing ServiceOntario transactions, including renewals of health cards and driver’s licences. The Digital Strategy endeavours to develop a robust online channel that provides convenience and ease of access for all Ontarians, including customers and OPS employees with disabilities, and will create a consistent experience across multiple platforms.
  • Embedding accessibility into national and international sport events by providing funding to non-profit organizations that deliver such events. Applicants to the Sport Hosting Program must submit an accessibility plan to show how barriers for people with disabilities will be removed so that everyone can take part in the event. Program materials include a link to the Guide to Accessible Festivals & Outdoor Events and volunteers are asked to complete an online accessibility training resource.
  • Investing $1.07 million in 2019-20 to support the Abilities Centre in Whitby to advance accessibility and inclusion by expanding its services and training.
  • Partnering with SPARK Ontario to help seniors and the most vulnerable stay connected and healthy as they self isolate during COVID-19. This volunteer hub connects volunteers to community organizations supporting people with disabilities and older adults during COVID-19 by delivering food or medicines, running errands or checking up on Ontarians as they self-isolate.
  • Launching the Ontario Community Support Program, which provides home deliveries of food and essentials into 2021 for people with disabilities as well as other vulnerable communities who need to self-isolate due to COVID-19. This meaningful support was launched in partnership with the Ontario Community Support Association in April with an $11 million investment from the government. More than 230,000 meals and essential supply deliveries have been made across Ontario between the program’s launch and September.

We are also providing enhanced support for implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and its accessibility standards by:

  • Ensuring the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks continues to incorporate up-to-date accessibility specifications in Ontario Parks capital and renovation projects by receiving training on and incorporating Building Code accessibility changes and Design of Public Spaces Standards.
  • Creating a web page that provides free accessibility resources and guides to make it easier for businesses and communities to get the information they need to help them be more accessible and inclusive. The “Accessibility in Ontario: Information for Businesses” resource is a one-stop-shop web page that includes valuable information on topics such as inclusive hiring, how to make workplaces more accessible and the economic benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

The government is strengthening its cross-government leadership in implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by:

  • Increasing awareness about accessibility within the Ontario Public Service (OPS). An annual Inclusion Week has featured discussions on topics such as accessibility, mental health and inclusive leadership. Dedicated internal committees also provide resources to help advance awareness about inclusion and diversity. A multi-ministry speaker series has also built accessibility awareness to support the design and implementation of inclusive policies, programs and public services for Ontarians.
  • Harmonizing Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). The program requires that the province ensures all federally funded, public-facing infrastructure meets the highest published, applicable accessibility standard in a respective jurisdiction. The Ontario government applied an accessibility lens while developing the provincial criteria for ICIP. Nearly 400 ICIP projects across Ontario have been approved by the provincial and federal governments to date. They will bring critical infrastructure improvements to their communities, including accessibility components that will enhance the safety and comfort of transit users. For example, roughly 249 bus stops in Oakville will be upgraded with landing pads, walkways, ramps and curbs. In Barrie, 30 new low-floor, accessible buses will replace a retiring bus fleet and 21 new accessible paratransit city buses will replace the existing fleet over the next seven years.
  • Ensuring that ministries work to design and provide accessible internal and public communications, websites and digital services that work for everyone. Our government offers best practice guidance and expertise to support these efforts, which are especially important during COVID-19 to help distribute information to Ontarians with disabilities.

The government is supporting the safety, needs and accessibility awareness of students and educators by:

  • Providing support for research and assessment services for postsecondary students with learning disabilities by funding Assessment and Resource Centres. The support is provided through three centres across the province: the Northern Ontario Assessment and Resource Centre at Cambrian College, the Regional Assessment and Resource Centre at Queen’s University, and the Centre francophone d’évaluation et des ressources de L’Ontario at Collège Boréal.
  • Making ongoing efforts during COVID to review and improve digital learning tools being considered for the Ministry of Education’s Learn at Home website to support students and families when learning from home.
  • Investing in the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program to help make buildings in Ontario more accessible. The program provides organizations with a snapshot of their building’s accessibility to help businesses and communities understand how to be more accessible and inclusive. As part of its own efforts to further its commitment to accessibility on campus, Carleton University became the first postsecondary institution to incorporate RHFAC into policy.

 Ford Government’s October 29, 2020 Backgrounder

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario: Improving Understanding and Awareness about Accessibility

BACKGROUNDER October 29, 2020

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario is a framework designed to help focus the government’s work in four key areas:

  • breaking down barriers in the built environment
  • government leading by example in its role as a policy maker, service provider and employer
  • increasing participation in the economy for people with disabilities and
  • improving understanding and awareness about accessibility

To make progress on the area of improving understanding and awareness about accessibility, the government is working with its stakeholders, including partner ministries, broader public sector organizations, businesses and non-profit organizations to help raise awareness and change attitudes. Many organizations are not fully aware of their accessibility responsibilities or do not realize the benefits of being more receptive to the accessibility needs of Ontarians with disabilities.

We are working with key industry stakeholders through the government’s EnAbling Change Program that provides resources and training materials to educate associations and employers in multiple sectors about accessibility by:

  • Developing ReadAble Fest, a specialized reading program with disability themes for elementary students that engaged more than 1,300 students in 17 Simcoe County District School Board schools with OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation.
  • Developing an enhanced curriculum and training materials on accessibility for building officials through the Ontario Building Officials Association. This ensures that new and existing buildings can be planned and built to be more accessible.
  • Supporting the ReelAbilities Toronto Film Festival, increasing awareness about Deaf and disability cultures highlighted in films and documentaries by filmmakers and actors with disabilities and/or who are Deaf. We also support the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, which runs the ReelEducation program on equity and inclusion for educators.

We are taking action to make accessibility enhancements so that everyone can fully participate in everyday life by:

  • Collaborating with Destination Ontario to improve the user experience for travellers with accessibility needs by providing practical information about accessible options at Ontario’s tourism businesses. These accessibility options are available through the desktop and mobile versions of Ontario’s official travel website.
  • Enabling Ontarians to engage with and learn about attractions, tourism operators and artists across the province, while keeping themselves safe during COVID-19, through Ontario Live, a virtual hub for the arts, attractions and film and television.
  • Using a collaborative review of Ontario’s supportive housing programs to find ways to streamline and improve coordination so people can get the services they need. The government is gathering feedback through multiple virtual public engagement activities, including an online survey, regional engagement sessions with stakeholders and partners, and population-specific discussions that include seniors and people with disabilities.
  • Improving the government’s digital platforms to put more services online, making them easier and faster to use. The Ontario Public Service (OPS) digital plan is starting by enhancing ServiceOntario transactions, including renewals of health cards and driver’s licences. The Digital Strategy endeavours to develop a robust online channel that provides convenience and ease of access for all Ontarians, including customers and OPS employees with disabilities, and will create a consistent experience across multiple platforms.
  • Embedding accessibility into national and international sport events by providing funding to non-profit organizations that deliver such events. Applicants to the Sport Hosting Program must submit an accessibility plan to show how barriers for people with disabilities will be removed so that everyone can take part in the event. Program materials include a link to the Guide to Accessible Festivals & Outdoor Events and volunteers are asked to complete an online accessibility training resource.
  • Investing $1.07 million in 2019-20 to support the Abilities Centre in Whitby to advance accessibility and inclusion by expanding its services and training.
  • Partnering with SPARK Ontario to help seniors and the most vulnerable stay connected and healthy as they self isolate during COVID-19. This volunteer hub connects volunteers to community organizations supporting people with disabilities and older adults during COVID-19 by delivering food or medicines, running errands or checking up on Ontarians as they self-isolate.
  • Launching the Ontario Community Support Program, which provides home deliveries of food and essentials into 2021 for people with disabilities as well as other vulnerable communities who need to self-isolate due to COVID-19. This meaningful support was launched in partnership with the Ontario Community Support Association in April with an $11 million investment from the government. More than 230,000 meals and essential supply deliveries have been made across Ontario between the program’s launch and September.

We are also providing enhanced support for implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and its accessibility standards by:

  • Ensuring the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks continues to incorporate up-to-date accessibility specifications in Ontario Parks capital and renovation projects by receiving training on and incorporating Building Code accessibility changes and Design of Public Spaces Standards.
  • Creating a web page that provides free accessibility resources and guides to make it easier for businesses and communities to get the information they need to help them be more accessible and inclusive. The “Accessibility in Ontario: Information for Businesses” resource is a one-stop-shop web page that includes valuable information on topics such as inclusive hiring, how to make workplaces more accessible and the economic benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

The government is strengthening its cross-government leadership in implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by:

  • Increasing awareness about accessibility within the Ontario Public Service (OPS). An annual Inclusion Week has featured discussions on topics such as accessibility, mental health and inclusive leadership. Dedicated internal committees also provide resources to help advance awareness about inclusion and diversity. A multi-ministry speaker series has also built accessibility awareness to support the design and implementation of inclusive policies, programs and public services for Ontarians.
  • Harmonizing Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). The program requires that the province ensures all federally funded, public-facing infrastructure meets the highest published, applicable accessibility standard in a respective jurisdiction. The Ontario government applied an accessibility lens while developing the provincial criteria for ICIP. Nearly 400 ICIP projects across Ontario have been approved by the provincial and federal governments to date. They will bring critical infrastructure improvements to their communities, including accessibility components that will enhance the safety and comfort of transit users. For example, roughly 249 bus stops in Oakville will be upgraded with landing pads, walkways, ramps and curbs. In Barrie, 30 new low-floor, accessible buses will replace a retiring bus fleet and 21 new accessible paratransit city buses will replace the existing fleet over the next seven years.
  • Ensuring that ministries work to design and provide accessible internal and public communications, websites and digital services that work for everyone. Our government offers best practice guidance and expertise to support these efforts, which are especially important during COVID-19 to help distribute information to Ontarians with disabilities.

The government is supporting the safety, needs and accessibility awareness of students and educators by:

  • Providing support for research and assessment services for postsecondary students with learning disabilities by funding Assessment and Resource Centres. The support is provided through three centres across the province: the Northern Ontario Assessment and Resource Centre at Cambrian College, the Regional Assessment and Resource Centre at Queen’s University, and the Centre francophone d’évaluation et des ressources de L’Ontario at Collège Boréal.
  • Making ongoing efforts during COVID to review and improve digital learning tools being considered for the Ministry of Education’s Learn at Home website to support students and families when learning from home.
  • Investing in the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program to help make buildings in Ontario more accessible. The program provides organizations with a snapshot of their building’s accessibility to help businesses and communities understand how to be more accessible and inclusive. As part of its own efforts to further its commitment to accessibility on campus, Carleton University became the first postsecondary institution to incorporate RHFAC into policy.



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Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate Steven Del Duca Only Makes Four of the Ten Full Commitments on Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities that the AODA Alliance Seeks, and Gives Weaker Commitments on the Other Six Issues – We Analyze Del Duca’s Responses Compared to Leadership Candidate Michael Coteau Who Made All Ten Commitments We Seek


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/

Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate Steven Del Duca Only Makes Four of the Ten Full Commitments on Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities that the AODA Alliance Seeks, and Gives Weaker Commitments on the Other Six Issues – We Analyze Del Duca’s Responses Compared to Leadership Candidate Michael Coteau Who Made All Ten Commitments We Seek

February 17, 2020

          SUMMARY

On January 11, 2020, the AODA Alliance sent an open letter to all Ontario Liberal leadership candidates. We asked for 10 pledges to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. On February 15, 2020, Steven Del Duca became the second Ontario Liberal leadership candidate to write to the AODA Alliance in order to spell out his specific responses regarding those commitments. We set out his letter below.

The first Ontario Liberal leadership candidate to give a detailed response to us, Michael Coteau, earlier made all ten commitments on disability accessibility that we sought. In contrast, Mr. Del Duca in substance made only four of the ten commitments we sought. On the other six issues, his commitments fell short of what we seek. Below we provide an issue-by-issue comparison.

We urge Mr. Del Duca and all the Liberal leadership candidates who have not yet done so to now make all the commitments we seek. There is still time for them to do so.

We will be closely watching the televised Liberal Leadership Candidates Debate on February 19, 2020 at 8 pm and 11 pm on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin to see what the candidates have to say about disability rights, including accessibility for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.

As always, in this leadership race or in similar races in other parties, we do not support, endorse or oppose any candidate. We seek their commitments and make public their responses. We aim to get strong commitments from all of them.

The issue of achieving accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is important as the Ontario Liberal Party seeks to rejuvenate itself after it so resoundingly lost the 2018 Ontario election. It is our hope that their rejuvenation includes a strengthened approach to accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. As always, we aim to get all parties to take as strong an approach to accessibility as we can achieve.

Turning brief attention to the current Ontario Government, as of today, 382 days have passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It called for strong new action to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. The Ford Government has still not announced a plan of action to strengthen the implementation and enforcement of the AODA. On January 28, 2020, the Ford Government held a media event where it mainly re-announced some measures that will not strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, measures which we describe as thin gruel for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities

Would you like to send us feedback? Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

Analysis of Steven Del Duca’s Commitments on Disability Accessibility Compared to the Other Five Liberal Leadership Candidates

Mr. Del Duca in effect fully made four of the ten commitments we sought, and gave more general  answers on the other six. Michael Coteau made all ten commitments we seek.

It is good that Mr. Del Duca committed to meet with accessibility advocates should he become party leader, and again should he become Ontario premier (our request #1). It is also good that he promised to press the Ford Government on accessibility issues (our request #2), and that in advance of the next election, he would set out policies on accessibility for people with disabilities (our request #3). When asked for commitments to ensure that elections become accessible to people with disabilities (our request #10), he committed that he would “work hard to ensure that elections in Ontario are accessible to everyone.”

However, Mr. Del Duca did not make six of the specific commitments we sought. His responses on those issues were more limited.

Mr. Del Duca did not commit to fully maintain the implementation of the AODA 2005 nor did he commit not to weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any Government policies, practices, strategies or initiatives that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives (our request #4). Michael Coteau gave the commitment we sought. So did Kathleen Wynne when she was running in 2012 for Ontario Liberal Party leadership, though she did not later keep that promise. On this issue, Mr. Del Duca more generally pledged: “my government will fulfill the AODA standards and will strive to implement fair policies that advance accessibility for all Ontarians.”

Unlike Michael Coteau in this race and Kathleen Wynne in the last Liberal leadership race, Mr. Del Duca did not commit to honour past Liberal Party commitments on accessibility (our request #5). He only committed to enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), just one of those prior Liberal Party commitments.

When asked if he would show new leadership on accessibility and breathe new life into the AODA’s implementation (our request #6), Mr. Del Duca more generally said “my government will consult closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the AODA is implemented and enforced effectively.”

Mr. Del Duca did not specifically commit to direct cabinet ministers, the Secretary of Cabinet and other senior public officials in his mandate letters to them to implement his Government’s duties and commitments on disability accessibility (our request #7) . He gave the more limited commitment that “I will expect all members of my government to work in a coordinated fashion to advance our accessibility policies.”

Here again, Michael Coteau gave the commitment we sought. In substance, so did the Kathleen Wynne Government in the 2014 Ontario election. The Wynne Government did not keep that pledge in many cases.

Unlike Michael Coteau, Mr. Del Duca did not commit to ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires. Should the Liberals form the Government at a time when it is too late to achieve that deadline, he did not commit to get Ontario as close to being accessible as reasonably possible by 2025. In that event, he did not commit to work with us and to take any needed action, including passing new legislation, to set a new achievable deadline and to institute measures that will ensure that it is achieved (and that will not weaken or reduce any provisions or policies then in place,our request #8).

Mr. Del Duca gave this more limited commitment:

“I will consult closely with all stakeholders to determine how Ontario can achieve greater accessibility, and I will work with all stakeholders to implement accessibility policies that achieve our goals.”

We note that “greater accessibility” is a very weak goal. Merely installing one more ramp somewhere in Ontario fulfils that goal. The AODA has the far more substantial goal of making Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

Mr. Del Duca did not categorically commit that under his leadership, public money will not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities (our request #9). He gave this more limited commitment:

“I will work closely with all stakeholders to ensure that public buildings are accessible to all Ontarians.”

This is helpful, but limited. Accessibility concerns many different kinds of barriers, not only those in the built environment.

Once again, Michael Coteau gave the commitment we sought. Kathleen Wynne’s Government also gave this commitment in the 2014 Ontario election, but broke that promise during its time in office.,

As for the four other Liberal leadership candidates, Mitzie Hunter has not responded to us at all. Kate Graham thanked us for sharing our requests with her, but did not answer any of them.

Brenda Hollingsworth sent us a message on Facebook around January 14, 2020. She said she would send us a letter making all the commitments we seek. However, we have not yet gotten a letter to that effect from her.

Finally, on January 11 or 12, 2020, Alvin Tedjo sent us a tweet on Twitter. He said that

“As leader, I’ll consult with Ontarians with disabilities, advocates and service providers to make sure our party puts forward a robust and achievable accessibility platform in 2022.”

That answer does not give most of the ten commitments we sought.

February 15, 2020, Letter to the AODA Alliance from Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate Steven Del Duca

Steven Del Duca Leadership Campaign

February 15, 2020

Mr. David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.

Chair, AODA Alliance

Dear David,

Thank-you for your letter. You and the AODA Alliance have been tireless champions for accessibility in Ontario, and I am pleased to respond to your important questions.

Achieving real accessibility for all Ontarians is vital to building an Ontario where everyone can fully enjoy our province’s social and economic prosperity. If I am honoured to be elected leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and Premier of Ontario, I am committed to working closely with all Ontarians to make Ontario accessible.

  1. We have welcomed face-to-face meetings with the past two Premiers, Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, to discuss accessibility issues (in addition to face-to-face meetings with different cabinet ministers, successive Secretaries of Cabinet, and other senior government officials). If you become your Party’s leader, will you maintain the practice of personally meeting with us to discuss accessibility issues, in addition to our meetings with your appropriate caucus members? As part of this, will you meet with us within 60 days of becoming your party’s leader, so that we can brief you on these issues? If your Party is elected to form the Government, will you as Premier agree to periodically meet with us, in addition to our meeting with appropriate cabinet ministers?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader, I will meet with accessibility leaders and advocates within 60 days. If I am honoured to be elected Premier of Ontario, I will meet regularly with the accessibility leaders and advocates to hear concerns and develop policies that advance accessibility in Ontario.

  1. Under your leadership, will your Party make it a priority to press the current Government to keep its commitments and fulfil its duties on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader, the Ontario Liberal Party will advocate for real action by the Ford Government to advance accessibility in Ontario and will demand that the Ford Government fulfill its obligations to all Ontarians with disabilities.

 

  1. In Ontario elections, will you continue the practice of the last three Ontario Liberal Party leaders, of making specific election commitments to us on the issue of achieving an accessible province for persons with disabilities, in letters to us?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader, I will set out policies in advance of the 2022 election that will demonstrate real leadership by the Ontario Liberal Party on accessibility, in stark contrast to the regressive policies of the Ford Government.

  1. Under your leadership, will the Liberal Party fully maintain the implementation of the AODA 2005 and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any Government policies, practices, strategies or initiatives that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, my government will fulfill the AODA standards and will strive to implement fair policies that advance accessibility for all Ontarians.

 

  1. Will you keep the past commitments that your Party has made to Ontarians with disabilities regarding disability accessibility, including e.g. its previous commitments to effectively enforce the AODA? We set out links to those commitments below.

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, my government will work with all stakeholders to ensure that the AODA is enforced effectively and fairly.

 

  1. Under the AODA, three Government-appointed mandatory Independent Reviews have examined the Government’s implementation of the AODA. These were conducted in 2009-2010 by Charles Beer, in 2013-2014 by Prof. Mayo Moran and in 2018-2019 by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. All three reports called on the Government to revitalize and breathe new life into the implementation of the AODA, and for the Government to show strong new leadership on this issue. The Moran report and the Onley Report specifically recommended that Ontario’s Premier should show strong new leadership on disability accessibility. (See a quotation later in this letter) If you become Ontario’s Premier, will you show new, strong leadership on accessibility and breathe new life into and revitalize the Government’s implementation of the AODA?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, my government will consult closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the AODA is implemented and enforced effectively and fairly. It is essential that we build an Ontario where everyone can fully participate in our society and economy.

 

  1. Each premier sends Mandate Letters to each of his or her cabinet ministers, setting out their priorities. In your Mandate Letters, will you direct your cabinet ministers, the Secretary of Cabinet and other senior public officials to implement your Government’s duties and commitments on disability accessibility?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, I will expect all members of my government to work in a coordinated fashion to advance our accessibility policies.

 

  1. If you become Premier, will you ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires? Should your party form the Government at a time when it is too late to achieve that deadline, will you commit to get Ontario as close to being accessible as reasonably possible by 2025? In that event, will you also commit to work with us and to take any needed action, including passing new legislation, to set a new achievable deadline and to institute measures that will ensure that it is achieved (and that will not weaken or reduce any provisions or policies then in place)?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, I will consult closely with all stakeholders to determine how Ontario can achieve greater accessibility, and I will work with all stakeholders to implement accessibility policies that achieve our goals.

 

  1. The Moran and Onley reports expressed concerns that public money has been used to create new accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. Will you commit that under your leadership, public money will not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

 

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, I will work closely with all stakeholders to ensure that public buildings are accessible to all Ontarians.

 

  1. Ontario voters and candidates with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. Under your leadership as premier, will the Government bring forward new measures, including new legislation, to ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities?

If I am honoured to be elected leader and Premier of Ontario, my government will work hard to ensure that elections in Ontario are accessible to everyone.

Sincerely,

 

Steven Del Duca

Candidate for the Leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party



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The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act – Read the AODA Alliance’s Submission to the BC Government


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act – Read the AODA Alliance’s Submission to the BC Government

October 1, 2019

          SUMMARY

The grassroots movement for enacting comprehensive disability accessibility legislation has spread to British Columbia and is making important progress. The BC Government has committed to bring forward a provincial accessibility law, and is now seeking public input on a proposed Framework for this legislation. Below we set out the input that the AODA Alliance has just submitted to the BC Government based on our experience in Ontario and on the federal scene. The Framework for the BC legislation, which the BC Government has posted for public comment, is permanently available on the AODA Alliance website as well at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/BC-Framework-for-Accessibility-Legislation.pdf .

Anyone can send input to the BC Government from September 16 to November 29, 2019, by emailing [email protected] or by using the other avenues for input that the BC Framework specifies.

In summary, we commend the BC Government for committing to bring forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. However, the Framework’s proposal, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our 12 recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

We congratulate Barrier-Free BC’s tireless grassroots efforts over the past four years that have led to this important development. The AODA Alliance is proud to have played a small part in the launch of the grassroots movement that has brought BC to this point. Four years ago this month, on October 28, 2015, a meeting of grassroots activists was held in Vancouver. It led to the birth of Barrier-Free BC. Barrier-Free BC is BC’s counterpart to the AODA Alliance. At that kick-off meeting, the keynote speaker was AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. We congratulate Barrier-Free BC on their excellent work over the past four years, and continue to be available to offer our advice whenever asked.

Today, the topic of BC disability accessibility legislation is expected to be the focus of CBC’s provincial radio call-in program in BC. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to be one of that program’s guests. If the program goes ahead as scheduled, the broadcast can be streamed live at this link https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-4-bc-today It should then be available as a podcast, at least for a few days. Search for the program “BC Today” on your favourite smart phone podcasting app, or via your computer, on the web.

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

Submission of the AODA Alliance to the Government of British Columbia on the BC Framework for New Provincial Accessibility Legislation

October 1, 2019

Sent to: [email protected]

Introduction

This is the AODA Alliance’s submission to the BC Government on its proposed Framework for a new BC disability accessibility law. We welcome this opportunity to share our experience in this area. We would be delighted to do whatever we can to assist the BC Government with this endeavour.

The BC Government’s proposed Framework for disability accessibility is available at ##

We heartily commend the BC Government for committing to bringing forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for posting its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. We call for all provincial governments in provinces lacking accessibility legislation to show this kind of commendable leadership.

This submission shows that the BC Framework, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are also predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

Below we provide 12 practical suggestions on what to add to the BC Framework to make this legislation effective. What is needed is both clear and readily doable. We want to help BC learn from both the accomplishments and the problems experienced with existing legislation. BC has the chance to lead Canada by coming up with the best accessibility law developed to date. The Appendix at the end of this submission lists all our 12 recommendations in one place.

In addition to the specific recommendations below, we ask the BC Government to read the AODA Alliance’s September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It is among the most extensive analyses of that bill at First Reading. Some of our recommendations were eventually incorporated into the Accessible Canada Act. They were also incorporated into amendments which the federal NDP and Conservatives tried to get the Federal Government to agree to as amendments to the bill. However, the analysis is almost entirely applicable to the provincial context that the BC Government will be addressing. You can download the September 27, 2018 AODA Alliance brief to Parliament on Bill C-81 by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-in-ms-word-format-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-september-27-2018-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-requesting-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-bill-c-81/

Who Are We?

What does the AODA Alliance have to offer BC? The AODA Alliance has extensive experience with the design, implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation in Canada. Founded in 2005, we are a voluntary, non-partisan, grassroots coalition of individuals and community 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 our open filing cabinet at https://www.aodaalliance.org.

Our coalition is the successor to the non-partisan grassroots Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee advocated for more than ten years, from 1994 to 2005, for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our membership from the ODA Committee’s broad, grassroots base. To learn about the ODA Committee’s history, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past four years, the AODA Alliance has been active, advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue. In 2016, AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky made public a Discussion Paper on what federal accessibility legislation should include. That widely-read Discussion Paper is now published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law at (2018) NJCL 169-207. Its contents can provide a great deal of guidance to BC, even though it was written to address the federal legislative sphere. You can download our Discussion Paper on what the promised national accessibility law should include by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/

We presented on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, to both the House of Commons and the Senate. Our recommendations played a role in improvements to the Accessible Canada Act. Both the Government of Canada and opposition parties referred to the AODA Alliance and its proposals during parliamentary debates over that legislation.

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on the topic of designing and implementing provincial accessibility legislation. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the previous BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that legislation. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was the keynote speaker at the October 28, 2015 meeting in Vancouver where Barrier-Free BC was established.

We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, in Israel and New Zealand. In addition, in June 2016, we presented on this topic at the UN annual international conference of state parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Our Recommendations

Purpose of the BC Legislation

The BC Framework proposes that the BC accessibility law should have these purposes, and asks what the public thinks of them:

“1. To support Canada’s ratification of the UNCRPD by promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and by promoting respect for their inherent dignity.

  1. To identify, remove, and prevent barriers encountered by people with disabilities in their daily lives through the development, implementation, and enforcement of accessibility standards.
  2. To allow persons with disabilities and other impacted stakeholders in the public and private sectors to work collaboratively towards the timely development of accessibility standards.
  3. To ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to track progress on accessibility.
  4. To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

The proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law set out in the BC Framework, while helpful, are far too weak. It is very important to substantially strengthen the proposed purposes for the BC disabilities legislation. We have learned that the goal must be the achievement of an accessible or barrier-free society, or both, pure and simple. Nothing short of that will do.

We have also learned that an end date must be set in the legislation. Ontario’s AODA has both the goal of accessibility, and nothing less, and an end date. These are real strengths in that legislation. The Accessible Canada Act has both the goal of a barrier-free Canada and an end date. We and others fought long and hard to get this goal enshrined in the Accessible Canada Act. The Senate added the end date of 2040 to Bill C-81 last May. At the last minute, when Bill C-81 came back to the House of Commons this past June, on the eve of its rising for the federal election, the Federal Government finally withdrew its objection to enshrining an end date for accessibility in the bill.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

Do Not Let the Accessible Canada Act Serve as a Constraint or Limit on BC Accessibility Legislation

The BC Framework includes the following, among other things, in its discussion of the proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law:

” To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

At first, that may seem sensible. However, it risks having BC measures on accessibility sink to the lowest common denominator. BC should never feel constrained to follow or imitate anything done at the federal level if it is too weak. BC should not commit in advance to be compatible with a federal accessibility measure that is insufficient.

For example, the Canadian Transportation Agency has recently adopted new federal transportation regulations on accessibility. They are helpful in part, but have serious problems. BC should not tie its hands in such circumstances.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

 Nothing Should Ever Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

It is important that nothing be done under the new BC accessibility law that reduces the rights or opportunities of people with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law, or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

Several provincial laws address aspects of accessibility for people with disabilities. A new BC accessibility law and regulations enacted under it will hopefully add more accessibility requirements.

There is no assurance that these laws will all set the same level of accessibility. The new BC accessibility law should ensure that the law which provides the greatest amount of accessibility should always prevail. Section 38 of the AODA is instructive. It commendably provides:

” 38. If a provision of this Act, of an accessibility standard or of any other regulation conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.”

We therefore recommend that:

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

Setting Mandatory Timelines for Enacting Accessibility Regulations

A central and fundamentally important part of the BC accessibility legislation would be the Government enacting new accessibility regulations. These would specify in detail what obligated organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities. The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards would provide guidance about best practices for accessibility including desired accessibility outcomes.”

The BC Framework suggests at one point that it would be permissible for the Government to enact accessibility regulations that are enforceable. However, it does not there make it clear that the Government would have a duty to do so. The Framework states:

“Government envisions accessibility legislation that allows for the creation of both voluntary accessibility standards as well as mandatory accessibility regulations. Accessibility legislation would allow the Government of British Columbia to adopt standards as binding regulations in part or in whole.”

Yet elsewhere the BC Framework states:

“To ensure progress, accessibility legislation could require timelines to achieve the timely development, implementation and revision of accessibility standards.”

It is essential that the law impose a clear and strong duty on the Government to create these standards, and for it to set enforceable timelines for creating these standards. Otherwise, they may never be created, or they may take excessive amounts of time to be created.

We know from experience under Ontario’s AODA’s predecessor law, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, that it is insufficient to merely give a Government the power to enact accessibility standards or regulations, without requiring that Government to ever do so. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 permitted the Ontario Government to enact accessibility standards, but that Government never enacted any under that legislation. That in part is why Ontario later enacted the stronger AODA.

One of the major criticisms of the Accessible Canada Act is that it gives the Federal Government a number of helpful powers, such as the power to enact accessibility regulations, but for the most part does not require that these powers be used. it also does not for the most part set timelines for their deployment. That is why we and so many others said that the Accessible Canada Act is strong on good intentions but weak on implementation.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

Areas for Accessibility Standards to Cover

The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards could cover a variety of areas including:

Service Delivery

Employment

Built Environment

Information and Communication

Transportation”

These are all helpful areas. However, we know from extensive Ontario experience that this list is insufficient. It is helpful if the bill lists some of the areas that enforceable accessibility regulations can cover, so long as it is clear that they are not the only areas that these regulations can cover.

Moreover, the list that the law spells out should be expanded. It should include enforceable accessibility regulations to address disability accessibility barriers in education, health care, housing, and ensuring public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. This last area is addressed further below.

In Ontario, after years of campaigning, accessibility regulations are now under development in the areas of education and health care. The AODA Alliance led the fight for these to be included. We have been asking for almost a decade for an accessibility regulation to be created to address accessibility in residential housing. British Columbians with disabilities should not have to endure the hardship of having to wage similar multi-year battles just to get these topics on the regulatory agenda.

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

Adopting Other Pre-existing Accessibility Standards

The BC Government is contemplating the possibility of adopting some pre-existing accessibility standards that are in place elsewhere, as part of its efforts under this legislation. The BC Framework states:

“The Government of British Columbia could seek to expedite the development of accessibility standards by adopting or building on existing standards, policies and practices developed elsewhere in Canada or around the world.”

It is desirable to avoid re-inventing the wheel. However, we caution that pre-existing accessibility standards can be seriously deficient. For example, those enacted to date in Ontario are fraught with problems, as earlier Independent Reviews of the AODA have documented on our urging. We can provide ample details on this.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

Governance, Compliance and Enforcement

We strongly commend to BC our recommendations for governance, compliance and enforcement that are set out in our published Discussion Paper on what a national accessibility law should include, and our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, both referred to above.

The BC Framework considers as a possible feature of its implementation/enforcement regime the following:

“Reduced reporting requirements for individuals and organizations that show accessibility leadership.”

We disagree. It is of course commendable for an obligated organization to show leadership on accessibility. However, that should not lead to any reduction in that organization’s reporting obligations. Just because an organization has done well on accessibility in the past does not mean that it will continue to do so in the future and need only have reduced accountability. Reporting requirements are always needed to help monitor and motivate compliance.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

How Often Should There Be an Independent Review of the BC Accessibility Law’s Implementation?

It is good that the BC Framework contemplates including in the law a requirement for the Government to periodically appoint an Independent Review of the new accessibility law’s implementation. These have been very important in Ontario.

The BC Framework asks how often these should take place. Ontario’s legislation got it right.

The AODA required the first Independent Review to begin three years after the AODA was passed. It requires each successive Independent Review to be appointed four years after the previous one was completed. Each Independent Review takes one year to conduct, once appointed. Therefore, the interval between the first and second AODA Independent Review, and between the second and third AODA Independent Review, have in each case been in the range of 5 years, not four. Nothing shorter would be appropriate.

The recommendations from each of the three AODA Independent Reviews came at important times. It would have been harmful to Ontarians with disabilities had they been delayed any longer. We only regret that the Ontario Government has not acted promptly on any of those reports’ helpful findings and recommendations.

In contrast, the Federal Government set too long a period in the Accessible Canada Act. The first Independent Review won’t begin under federal legislation til almost twice as long a period as was the case in Ontario. That will work to the substantial disadvantage of people with disabilities across Canada. This is especially troubling since under the Accessible Canada Act, the Federal Government need not create any enforceable accessibility standard regulations in that period.

We therefore recommend that:

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

Key Features Needed in the BC Accessibility Law that the BC Framework Does Not Identify

While the BC Framework includes several helpful key ingredients for a new BC accessibility law, there are additional features that are very important, and that were not identified in that Framework. We summarize these here. They are discussed in greater length in our Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The BC accessibility law should

  1. a) Specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.
  1. b) Impose specific duties and implementation time lines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.
  1. c) Require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.
  1. d) Enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.
  1. e) Require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.
  1. f) Require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  1. g) Require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.
  1. h) Include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.
  1. i) Require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

We especially focus on one of these needed additions. The BC Government can bring about significant progress towards accessibility by making sure that no one uses public money to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability barriers. Many in society want to receive provincial public money, as venders, infrastructure builders, businesses, colleges, universities, hospitals, and governmental transfer partners. The law should attach clear monitored, enforced mandatory accessibility strings to that money. Anyone accepting those funds should be bound by the strings attached.

Provincial spending that should be subject to this requirement should include, for example:

  1. a) spending on procuring goods, services and facilities, for use by the BC Public Service and the public.
  1. b) BC spending on capital and infrastructure projects, including projects built by the BC Government, municipalities or others.
  1. c) BC spending on business development grants and loans, and on research grants for universities and other organizations.
  1. d) BC transfer payments to transfer agencies for programs, like health care.
  1. e) Any other BC Government contract.

This spending would give the BC Government substantial leverage to promote accessibility. Widely-viewed AODA Alliance online videos have demonstrated that new construction, including construction on infrastructure using public money, have included serious accessibility problems. These videos secured significant media coverage. See:

The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently renovated Toronto area public transit stations.

The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre.

The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video, showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary arts Centre.

Ontario experience shows that this must be specifically legislated, monitored and enforced. There has been limited success in getting some new Ontario laws enacted and policies adopted. They lack needed visibility, strength and enforcement. They have not had the impact needed. The Ontario Government has thereby missed out on huge opportunities to generate greater accessibility.

The Federal Government has similarly missed out on a huge opportunity here. It declined to include the needed measures to address this in the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act allows the Government to make accessibility standards in the area of procurement, but does not require these to be made.

Canada’s Senate made a formal “observation” on Bill C-81 when it passed other amendments to strengthen the bill. It called for federal action to ensure that federal public money is not used to create disability barriers.

Don’t Make the Same Mistakes in the Accessible Canada Act

We commended the Federal Government for committing to national accessibility legislation, and have identified several helpful features in the Accessible Canada Act. However despite the efforts and recommendations of many from the disability including the AODA Alliance, there are several shortcomings in that law. BC should avoid these. These are extensively identified on the Canada page of the AODA Alliance website and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament.

Apart from deficiencies already discussed above are the following major problems, identified in our March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate on Bill C-81:

* “The bill gives the Federal Government and federal accessibility agencies/officials helpful powers to promote accessibility. However, the bill imposes no duty on them to ever use those powers, with one inconsequential exception.

The bill also sets no deadlines for taking many of the major implementation steps that the Government must take to implement this bill. The Government could drag its feet for years if not indefinitely.

For example, the bill lets the Government enact accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. However, the bill does not require the Government to ever enact any. Without them, the bill is a hollow shell.

The bill gives the Federal Government enforcement powers. However it doesn’t require the bill to be effectively enforced.

During the first five years after this bill goes into effect, the Federal Government’s only mandatory duty under the bill is for Cabinet, the CRTC and Canada Transportation agency to enact one regulation within two years after the bill comes into force. However that regulation could be an inconsequential one on minor procedural matters, without ever requiring that any disability barriers be removed or prevented.”

* “The 105-page bill is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities and others to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This makes the bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated and more costly. It will take longer to get accessibility regulations enacted. It risks weak, contradictory or unnecessarily complex regulations.

This splintering makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities are burdened to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint. That weakens the rights and voices of people with disabilities.

This splintering only helps existing federal bureaucracies that want more power, and any large obligated organizations that want to dodge taking action on accessibility. Those organizations will relish exploiting the bill’s confusing complexity to delay and impede its implementation and enforcement.

It is wrong for the bill to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

The CTA and CRTC are too close to the industries they regulate. They lack expertise in disability accessibility. The industries the CTA and CRTC regulate would love to have those agencies stay largely in control of their accessibility obligations, given their inadequate regulatory track records on accessibility.

We ask for the bill to be simplified, to get rid of its harmful splintering of federal accessibility oversight responsibilities. Only the Federal Cabinet should make accessibility regulations. Only the new federal Accessibility Commissioner should enforce the bill. This ensures clearer, smoother, lower-cost, easier-to-access one-stop-shopping for people with disabilities, and easier implementation for the Federal Government and obligated organizations.

Under the bill, transportation organizations, broadcasters and telecommunication companies must make two concurrent accessibility plans, one supervised by the Accessibility Commissioner and the other supervised either by the CTA or CRTC. That also makes compliance and enforcement more costly and confusing. We ask for the bill to be amended so that all obligated organizations will only have to make one accessibility plan, not two, all supervised by the new federal Accessibility Commissioner.

It is no solution to the bill’s “splintering” problem for the Federal Government to say that there will be “no wrong door” for a person to file a complaint. The problem is not just the four different doors that a person with a disability must choose to enter. There are also as many as three or four different procedures they must figure out, even after they enter the right door. That is a formula for confusion, and for tripping up people with disabilities.”

* “The bill has too many loopholes. As one example, the bill gives the Federal Government the power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill. The Government should not be able to exempt itself. We request an amendment to close the bill’s loopholes, such as the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill.”

Concerns with Public Funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility Certification Program

The BC Framework notes that the BC Government has given the Rick Hansen Foundation 10 million dollars in connection with its private accessibility certification program. When the Ontario Government recently announced its intention to give public money to the Rick Hansen Foundation for this purpose, we raised serious concerns. Our investigation of this process resulted in our making public two reports. These amply document our serious concerns.

Among other things, we are concerned that there is no assurance that those who conduct the RHF’s private accessibility certification assessments are qualified to do so. The RHF 8-day training course is woefully inadequate. As well, the RHF process for assessing a building’s accessibility itself has serious problems. It also lacks proper safeguards against conflicts of interest on the part of its assessors or the RHF itself.

As a result, there can be no assurance that a building that the RHF certifies as “accessible” is in fact accessible. Moreover, a government should not delegate to an unaccountable private organization any responsibility to decide what standard for accessibility should be used.

Any BC accessibility legislation should not involve any such private accessibility certification process. Any accessibility standards should be publicly set, publicly monitored and publicly enforced.

Feedback from the disability community has echoed and reinforced our concerns in this area. Our concerns have garnered media attention and coverage.

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/

The AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplement report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/the-doug-ford-governments-controversial-plan-to-divert-1-3-million-into-the-rick-hansen-foundations-private-accessibility-certification-program-is-plagued-with-even-more-problems-than-earlier-rev/

We therefore recommend that:

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.

Appendix – List of Recommendations

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law , or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

#11. The BC accessibility law should

  1. a) specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.
  1. b) impose specific duties and implementation timelines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.
  1. c) require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.
  1. d) enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.
  1. e) require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.
  1. f) require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  1. g) require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.
  1. h) include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.
  1. i) require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.



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AODA Alliance Files A Brief With Ontario’s Doug Ford Government, Urging that Ontario Should Not Allow E-scooters, Should Withdraw Its Proposal for a 5-Year E-scooter Pilot Project, Or, If Allowed, Should Ban E-scooter Rentals and Require E-scooters and Their Drivers to Be Licensed and Insured


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AODA Alliance Files A Brief With Ontario’s Doug Ford Government, Urging that Ontario Should Not Allow E-scooters, Should Withdraw Its Proposal for a 5-Year E-scooter Pilot Project, Or, If Allowed, Should Ban E-scooter Rentals and Require E-scooters and Their Drivers to Be Licensed and Insured

September 12, 2019 Toronto: Disability advocates are calling on the Ontario Government to show leadership in protecting the public from personal injuries, and protecting people with disabilities from having new barriers to accessibility created. In a detailed brief (set out below) that was just filed with the Ontario Government under Premier Doug Ford, the AODA Alliance calls for the Government not to allow e-scooters in Ontario, and to withdraw its proposal to hold an excessive 5-year pilot that would allow anyone age 16 and up to ride e-scooters on Ontario roads and bike paths, even if they and the e-scooter are uninsured and have no license. This brief aims to crystalize the most comprehensive case against e-scooters from the disability perspective.

“E-scooters racing at up to 32 KPH will create serious new public safety and disability accessibility problems,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which spearheads advocacy for accessibility for over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities. “Riding or leaving an e-scooter on a sidewalk should be banned. An e-scooter left on a sidewalk should be immediately forfeited and confiscated. If e-scooters are allowed at all, e-scooter rentals, like those dominating in some US cities, should not be permitted. An e-scooter and its driver should be required to have a license and insurance. Virtually silent e-scooters should be required to audibly beep when in use, to warn pedestrians, including those who are blind, that they are racing towards them.”

The AODA Alliance opposes the idea of permitting e-scooters and then leaving it to municipalities to regulate them. Ontarians with disabilities and others who don’t welcome a risk to their safety should not have to fight separate battles, in one city after the next. Each municipality should not be burdened to clean up the mess that the Province is proposing to create.

Since the AODA Alliance brought this issue to public and media attention two weeks ago, the issue whether to allow e-scooters to expand into Ontario has garnered extensive public attention and media coverage. This has included both local and national coverage, as well as an editorial in the September 9, 2019 Toronto Star. Ontarians need to decide whether they want to repeat the risks to public safety and disability accessibility that have plagued other jurisdictions, or whether Ontario wants to be the master of its own destiny in this regard.

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

AODA Alliance Brief to the Ontario Government on Its Proposal to Hold a Five-Year Pilot Project Allowing Electric Scooters in Ontario

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

September 11, 2019

Via Email: [email protected]

To: Ministry of Transportation

Road Safety Policy Office

Safety Policy and Education Branch

87 Sir William Hearst Avenue

Building “A”, Room 212

Toronto, Ontario

M3M 0B4

Re: Proposal 19-MTO026

Introduction

The AODA Alliance submits this brief to the Ontario Government as part of the Government’s short public consultation on its proposal to hold a five-year pilot project to allow electric scooters (e-scooters) in Ontario. E-scooters are electric motor vehicles which can travel as fast as 32 kilometers per hour or faster. Under the Government’s proposal e-scooters would be allowed to zip at up to 32 kilometers per hour, anywhere a bicycle is allowed, such as our congested roads and bike paths. The Government is not proposing to require the e-scooter owner or driver or vehicle itself to carry insurance, or to have a license. We include as Appendix 1 a list of the recommendations we make throughout this brief. Appendix 2 to this brief is the Government’s original August 28, 2019 online posting that describes its proposed pilot project. Appendix 3 sets out a New York Times article on e-scooters.

In summary, the AODA Alliance strongly opposes the proposed pilot project. This pilot project raises serious safety concerns for the entire public. Ontarians with disabilities are especially vulnerable to this safety risk. Experience in other jurisdictions where e-scooters have been allowed clearly shows that they present serious public safety and disability accessibility problems. Ontario does not need a pilot project to prove this, at the cost of inflicting injuries or even death upon some Ontarians.

The Ford Government repeatedly emphasized that it is focusing on what matters most to Ontarians. Protecting public safety matters most for Ontarians.

E-scooters are unnecessary and should not be permitted in Ontario at all. E-scooters are motor vehicles, pure and simple. At a bare minimum, if they are to be permitted at all despite the serious concerns spelled out in this brief, e-scooters, like other motor vehicles, should have to be licensed. Their drivers should also have to be licensed, only after they have completed needed and specific training. Both the driver and the motor vehicle should have to carry sufficient insurance.

Their other risks should be subject to strict safety regulations. They should be required to emit a beep to enable people with vision loss to know they are coming. Rental of e-scooters should be forbidden. Riding or parking an e-scooter on a sidewalk should be banned, with strong penalties and immediate confiscation of the e-scooter. Regulation of e-scooters might later be reduced only if shown to be justified, and that doing so won’t compromise on public safety and disability accessibility.

The Ontario Government’s proposal to hold a five-year pilot with e-scooters is based on a troubling Government compromise on protecting public safety. If, despite these concerns, Ontario were nevertheless to hold a pilot project with e-scooters, it should be far shorter than five years. It should be restricted to a narrow area, not the entire province, and only with the consent of the community where the pilot is to occur. Very strict regulation of e-scooters should be in place. It is wrong to experiment on people who don’t consent to being in the experiment, especially where their safety is thereby put at risk.

Just because parts of the US and some other jurisdictions have allowed e-scooters does not mean that they are inevitable in Ontario. Ontario can and should control its own destiny. Ontario should not repeat the serious mistakes that other jurisdictions have made. We should not unleash a new problem on Ontarians and then have to figure out how to undo the damage done. Other places have found this is hard to effectively do, when it comes to e-scooters.

Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance has extensive experience with the barriers facing Ontarians with disabilities. Founded in 2005, we are a voluntary, non-partisan, unincorporated grassroots coalition of individuals and community 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 non-partisan grassroots Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee advocated for more than ten years, from 1994 to 2005, for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our membership 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, any party that has made election commitments on accessibility has done so in letters to the AODA Alliance. Our efforts and expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities have been recognized in 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 community coalition.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past four years, the AODA Alliance has been active, 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. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that desired legislation.

We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, in Israel and New Zealand. In addition, in June 2016, we presented on this topic at the UN annual international conference of state parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The AODA Alliance played a central role in bringing to the public’s attention its serious concerns about e-scooters over the past two weeks. We have secured extensive media coverage on this issue, including coverage in print, on TV, on the radio, and in social media. This topic has even secured coverage in the CBC’s national radio news. Moreover, a strong Toronto Star editorial on September 9, 2019 echoed some of our major concerns, though it neither referred to the AODA Alliance nor to disability barriers threatened by e-scooters.

The AODA Alliance posted a draft of this brief online and via social media on September 6, 2019 and solicited feedback on it. We have done our best to incorporate that feedback in this finalized brief. We thank all those who sent us their feedback. The overwhelming thrust of that feedback was supportive of our concerns.

The Ontario Government Has an Important Duty to Prevent the Creation of New Disability Barriers

This brief shows that the Government’s proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario threatens to create new accessibility barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Government has a duty to prevent the creation of new accessibility barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. For example, the AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

As the final report of the most recent Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, prepared by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley revealed, Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching that goal. The Onley report found that Ontario remains a province full of “soul-crushing barriers”. Barriers in the built environment remain a serious example of this. The creation of any new barriers in the built environment would only make this worse.

The AODA Alliance elsewhere documented that the new Ontario Government has done a poor job of implementing the AODA. For the Government to now take new action, such as this proposed e-scooter pilot project, that would create more disability accessibility barriers, is an especially serious concern.

No Government Should Ever Compromise on Public Safety

We are deeply concerned that the Ontario Government’s proposal of a five-year pilot project with e-scooters in Ontario was arrived at without proper concern for or protection of public safety. As addressed later in this brief, e-scooters are known to present a danger to public safety.

According to a troubling CityTV report, the Doug Ford Government admitted it had compromised between protecting public safety on the one hand, and advancing business opportunities and consumer choice on the other, when it designed its controversial proposal to permit electric scooters in Ontario for a 5-year pilot. The August 30, 2019 City TV television news story that aired in Toronto in the evening news revealed this troubling new information, and included a comment by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on it:

“We reached out to the Ministry of Transportation, who told City News in a statement: the proposed pilot project is another example of how the province is helping businesses expand and give consumers more choice. When asked why the project is set to last a long five years, it said: ‘This proposed time line creates a compromise between road safety and access for businesses and consumers. If approved, the five year pilot will take a measured approach that will promote road safety, foster business innovation and open the Ontario market to this new and growing sector.’”

But Lepofsky fears the Government is prioritizing business over safety.

(Quotation from David Lepofsky in the news story) “the Government’s obligation is to protect public safety, not to decide, well, we’ll do some compromise between making sure people don’t get hurt and making sure other people can make some more money.”

We therefore call on the Ford Government to put the brakes on this proposal and to ensure that there is no risk to public safety, before even contemplating any pilot project with e-scooters. The Government must never compromise on the safety of the public, such as vulnerable people with disabilities, especially when it does so in the interests of some businesses wishing to expand into Ontario. Public Safety must always come first. Its protection should be unremitting and uncompromising.

Now that it has been revealed that the Government’s ill-conceived pilot project was based on an unacceptable compromise on public safety, the proposed pilot project should be withdrawn. The Government should go back to the drawing board.

E-Scooters Have Been Proven to Present a Safety Threat Both to Innocent Pedestrians and to the E-Scooter Driver Themselves

Our review of media articles and other sources posted on the internet quickly revealed that e-scooters are well-known to and well-documented to have posed a danger of personal injury, and in some cases, even of death. Injuries have been sustained by innocent pedestrians and by the e-scooter drivers themselves.

The AODA Alliance was able to quickly locate this information from a web search. As such, the Ontario Government, engaging in due diligence, should have been able to do the same.

The following is a very brief review of some of what we found, prepared in a hurry due to the Government’s very short public consultation deadline on this issue. We point especially to the article on e-scooters in the September 4, 2019 edition of the New York Times, set out in full as appendix 3 to this brief.

The Washington Post reported on January 11, 2019 that a 75-year-old man in San Diego tripped over an e-scooter. He was taken to hospital, “where X-rays revealed his knee was shattered in four places”. The article quotes Wally Ghurabi, medical director of the Nethercutt Emergency Center at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. Ghurabi said, “I’ve seen pedestrians injured by scooters with broken hips, multiple bone fractures, broken ribs and joint injuries and soft tissue injuries like lacerations and deep abrasions.” The article also reports incidents involving pedestrians in Dallas, where a 32-year-old man was “left with scrapes on his knee and face, as well as a deep gash above his right eye that required seven stitches”, and Cincinnati, where a 44-year-old woman incurred approximately $1000 in medical expenses after being “throw[n]…to the ground” — both following collisions with e-scooters.

Euronews reported on June 18, 2019, that Paris intended to implement speed limits and parking restrictions for e-scooters following its “first death on an electric scooter”. The French transport minister also announced a nationwide ban on e-scooters on sidewalks, effective September. A week prior to the announcements, a 25-year-old man riding an e-scooter had died after being hit by a truck. The report details other incidents, involving both riders and bystanders. In Sweden, “a 27-year-old man died in a crash while riding one of the electric vehicles in May”. In Barcelona, “a 92-year-old woman died in August 2018 after she was run over by an e-scooter — making it the first case of a pedestrian being killed by the electric vehicle”.

On July 26, 2019, CBC News reported that since e-scooters became available in Calgary, “Calgary emergency rooms have seen 60 patients with e-scooter-related injuries”. The report added that “[a]bout a third of them were fractures and roughly 10 per cent were injuries to the face and head”. These figures have triggered a study by the University of Calgary.

The Copenhagen Post reported on August 5, 2019, that a Capital Region release had identified “100 ‘scooter-related injuries’ this year” in Copenhagen. “Among those injured were several pedestrians, although it sounds like most of them tripped over discarded scooters. Only one ended up in hospital after being hit by one.”

The Guardian reported on August 11, 2019, that Paris had experienced its third e-scooter-related death in four months: “A 30-year-old man has been killed after being hit by a motorbike while riding his e-scooter on a French motorway.” The report went on to state that “[t]he scooter rider was not wearing a helmet and was reportedly travelling in the fast lane when the motorbike hit him from behind”, despite the fact that “[u]sing scooters on motorways is banned in France”. Moreover, “The day before the accident, a 27-year-old woman suffered serious head injuries after falling from an e-scooter she was using in a cycle lane in Lyon. A few days earlier a 41-year-old man had been seriously injured after falling from his e-scooter in Lille.” Finally, the report provided details on another, earlier e-scooter-related death in France: “An 81-year-old man died after he was reportedly knocked over by an e-scooter in Levallois-Perret, a Parisian suburb, in April.”

CityNews reported on August 13, 2019, as part of a short survey of European regulations, that “German police say seven people have been seriously injured and 27 suffered minor injuries in scooter accidents since mid-June, saying most were due to riders behaving carelessly.”

An article entitled “Sharing the sidewalk: A case of E-scooter related pedestrian injury” published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine in June 2019 cites multiple studies corroborating the occurrence of pedestrian injuries: one from Israel found that, while pedestrians were 8.4% of the patients admitted for e-bike- and e-scooter-related injuries, they “were more severely injured; compared to electric scooter riders and electric bike riders, pedestrians have higher rates of head, face, and neck injuries; traumatic brain injuries; and hospital stays lasting more than a week”.

A pilot project with something like e-scooters should only be done if it has a sensible and needed stated purpose, and if it is safe. Given these known public safety problems, there is no need to do a pilot to discover whether e-scooters pose a public safety hazard. Moreover, it is wrong to experiment on human beings without their consent, to find out how much something is a threat to their lives or safety.

Our hospital emergency rooms are already over-burdened. The current Ontario Government promised to end “hallway medicine.” Yet if e-scooters are permitted in public places like roads or bike paths, their workloads will increase. The long waiting periods that patients must now endure at Ontario hospital emergency rooms will only get worse.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #1

There should be no pilot project allowing e-scooters to be driven in public places in Ontario.

Extend the Current Public Consultation

If, despite the foregoing concerns, the Ontario Government plans to continue with the current e-scooter public consultation, it should significantly lengthen it. On Wednesday, August 28, 2019, just two days before the Labour Day long weekend, the Doug Ford Government quietly posted online, for a meager 48-hour public consultation, its proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario for five years, for a trial period. Thankfully we were alerted to this by an AODA Alliance supporter, who was concerned about the safety risk that e-scooters posed for Ontarians with disabilities.

On August 29, 2019, the AODA Alliance quickly swung into action on this helpful tip. So did others, including Balance for Blind Adults and the CNIB. The media showed interest quite quickly. Indeed, the media coverage of our concerns with e-scooters has continued to this day, and has included national radio coverage on CBC.

Within hours, the Ford Government gave some ground, though not all the ground we had requested. Late on Thursday, August 29, 2019, the Government announced that it was extending its consultation on this issue to September 12, 2019.

For the Government to announce a public consultation on the eve of a long weekend is a well-known strategy for rushing forward with a decision to implement something new, without truly consulting the public, while wishing to appear that it has genuinely consulted the public. It is a fair inference to draw that the Government has been and continues to be actively lobbied by companies that rent e-scooters in the U.S. or elsewhere, in order to get the Government to permit them in Ontario. As noted later in this brief, the proposal of an excessively long five -year pilot project suggests an intent to get e-scooters deeply embedded in Ontario, and to make it harder to get them removed or effectively controlled.

It is essential for this consultation process to immediately and substantially slow down. If the Government is not prepared to withdraw its current consultation and go back to the drawing board, with a stronger commitment to protecting public safety, it should at least substantially lengthen the current public consultation period beyond September 12, 2019 For our part, we need more time to try to document the efforts that have been taken elsewhere to reduce or stop the use of e-scooters. Time has not allowed us to cover that here. That is a topic which a Government, engaging in proper due diligence to protect public safety, should have done, and made public, before venturing forward with a public consultation on a possible pilot project with e-scooters.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #2

The Government should withdraw this e-scooter public consultation and go back to the drawing board. If it is not prepared to withdraw this public consultation on e-scooters, the Ontario Government should at least extend the consultation period to October 31, 2019.

Do Not Allow Rental of E-Scooters

It appears that at least in some if not most of the other jurisdictions where e-scooters have been allowed, a very common way that they are used is by companies renting them to the public, rather than by individuals buying them. Of course, the option to buy them was presumably available in those jurisdictions as well. It is reasonable to conclude that the lobbying of the Ford Government that has led to the current proposal for a five-year e-scooter pilot program comes from those big companies known in other jurisdictions to provide e-scooter rentals. See further the September 4, 2019 New York Times article set out in Appendix 3, at the end of this brief, and the September 10, 2019 article in the Toronto Star, quoted later in this brief.

By this rental model, a member of the public gets an app on their phone to sign up for these rentals. E-scooters are left around the city, tagged with a GPS chip. The individual uses the app to find the nearest e-scooter that is available. They pick it up and ride away. They presumably do not go to a store, or deal with anyone directly and in person from the rental company, when they are renting an e-scooter at roadside. When they are finished with the e-scooter, they leave it on a sidewalk, wherever they wish, and walk away. That e-scooter then sits there until another person, using the app, decides to take it away and ride it, leaving it somewhere else, once they are done.

The rental model for e-scooters presents several serious problems. It should be strictly forbidden.

First and foremost, having users randomly leave an e-scooter on a sidewalk or other like public place when they are finished with it creates significant and unpredictable new barriers against people with disabilities. these barriers can instantly pop up anywhere, unannounced, and then vanish before the police could get to the scene.

For people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision, they are a serious and unexpected tripping hazard. There is no way to plan a walking route to avoid them. They should not have to face the prospect of e-scooters potentially lying in their path at any time. we have received feedback about concerns with this from people with vision loss elsewhere where e-scooter rentals have been allowed.

As well, leaving an e-scooter randomly on sidewalks presents a serious new accessibility barrier for people who use a wheelchair, walker or other mobility device. For them, an e-scooter can prevent them from being able to continue along an otherwise-accessible sidewalk. They can turn an accessible route of travel into an inaccessible one. Here again, these are entirely unpredictable, since these barriers can pop up in an instant. For people with disabilities using a mobility device, the option of going up on the grass or down onto the road in the path of car traffic, to get around an e-scooter that was abandoned on the sidewalk, may not be accessible, feasible or safe. This is especially so for people with temporary or permanent balance issues.

The sidewalks or other public spaces should not be made available to the private companies who rent e-scooters as free parking spaces, fully subsidized by the taxpayer. Taxpayers paid for the construction and maintenance of sidewalks as a safe place to walk.

It is clear that the desire to have e-scooters left strewn on Ontario sidewalks is central to the desire of at least some businesses who want to offer e-scooters for rental in this province. According to a September 10, 2019 Toronto Star article, the CEO of Bird Canada, one of the private companies that is pressing to rent e-scooters in Ontario conceded that it is central to their business that e-scooters be left on Ontario sidewalks between trips with them. The article included:

“Barring e-scooters from city sidewalks, recommended by a city committee on Monday, would make it impossible to introduce the concept to Toronto, according to the CEO of Bird Canada, an e-scooter company hoping to launch here in the spring of 2020.

“If you can’t park them on the sidewalk and you can’t park them on the street, I guess we’re parking them in the air?” Stewart Lyons said.

“I don’t know where we’re parking them. They can’t fly.”

Lyons was speaking after the city’s infrastructure and environment committee passed a motion that would temporarily prevent e-scooters from occupying sidewalks – at least until city staff can come up with a better plan, expected later this year.

Lyons said being able to park e-scooters on some sidewalks is a key part of the e-scooter program.

He said it would be hard to create enough demand if the scooters can’t be made available to customers right where they live and work, arguing that docking stations, such as those used by the current Bike Share Toronto program, wouldn’t be accessible enough.

Currently, users in cities where shared e-scooter programs are in place can locate scooters near them using an app.”

It would not be good enough for the Government to try to regulate where the scooters are left, e.g. by enacting regulations that e-scooters may not be left to block the sidewalk. This would be very hard to enforce, since police are not on the scene wherever these e-scooters would be left. Our police and courts are already overburdened and do not need e-scooter enforcement to be added to their important workloads. There needs to be a strict ban in place precluding e-scooters ever being left in the sidewalk, given the experiences of which we have learned in other jurisdictions. An e-scooter left on the sidewalk should be simply treated as abandoned and forfeited.

Beyond the foregoing concerns, the rental model presents other safety risks. Under that model, a person could go into a bar, drink to excess, walk outside, look on their smart phone’s e-scooter app, and quickly find a nearby e-scooter to ride. That would expose the public to added risks. As it is, drunk driving is a troubling problem in our society that leads to deaths and serious injuries. Our Government should not expose the public to any more such risks.

Were an intoxicated person to walk into a car rental office and try to rent a car, they would have to deal with a human being, who no doubt would refuse to hand over the car keys. In the case of renting e-scooters via an app, there is no comparable control at the source, such as a salesperson, to refuse to hand over the keys.

It would be unthinkable for a car rental company to simply leave rental cars parked near a bar, with the keys in the car, so that anyone could instantly rent the car and drive it away just by clicking on a smart phone app. The danger to public safety would be obvious and intolerable. The same should go for e-scooters.

It is no answer to say that drunk driving is already illegal. We already know that that drinking and driving laws are too often disobeyed. Innocent people pay the price with permanent injuries or their lives. The Government should not make e-scooters available, increasing that risk.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #3

The rental of e-scooters should be strictly forbidden, even if private ownership of an e-scooter by a user of that e-scooter were to be permitted.

Recommendation #4

There should be a strict ban on leaving an e-scooter in a public sidewalk or like location. If an e-scooter is left in such a place, it should be subject to immediate confiscation and forfeiture, as well as a strict penalty.

Require Beeping Sound from E-Scooters When Powered On

E-scooters are very quiet, if not silent, when being operated. It presents a significant safety risk for a virtually silent e-scooter to be hurtling towards a blind person at 32 kph. This is so whether the e-scooter is being driven on a road, or on a sidewalk) (where they are supposedly not to be permitted). They pose a similar risk to a sighted pedestrian who can hear, but who is not looking in the direction from which the e-scooter is coming. It must be remembered that not every road has a sidewalk.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #5

If e-scooters are to be permitted in Ontario, they should be required to make an ongoing beeping sound when they are powered on, to warn others of their approach.

Reduce the Maximum E-scooter Speed Well Below 32 KPH

The faster an e-scooter goes, the less time its driver or a pedestrian has to avoid a collision. Moreover, the fast the e-scooter goes, the greater the potential harm caused by a collision.

There is no magic reason why an e-scooter should be allowed to travel at 32 KPH, just because e-bikes are allowed to go at that speed.

The Ontario Government should study the options for speed limits from other jurisdictions to determine the safest maximum speed, before embarking on any pilot project. A considerably slower speed limit should be set. It can always be raised later, if that is justified.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #6

The speed limit for e-scooters should initially be set much lower than 32 KPH, such as 15 or 20 KPH, until a strong showing can be made that a higher speed limit poses no safety threat to the public.

Require That an E-scooter Driver Have a License and Proper Training

Because an e-scooter is a motor vehicle which can cause significant personal injuries to innocent pedestrians, a person should be required to get a license before they can drive an e-scooter. To qualify to get a license, a person should have to take appropriate training and show sufficient proficiency, including sufficient knowledge about the rules of the road and the threat to personal injuries that an e-scooter can cause.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #7

A person wishing to drive an e-scooter should be required to first take required training on its safe operation and on the rules of the road, and then to obtain a license.

E-Scooters Should Be Licensed and Display a License Plate Number

It is important for each e-scooter to be licensed, and to display a license plate number, as is required for cars and motorcycles. This will make it far, far easier to enforce the law in case a person, driving an e-scooter, collides with a pedestrian, and then flees the scene. Without such a license requirement, it may well be impossible for an injured pedestrian to effectively identify the e-scooter that hit them, and thereby, to trace the driver in question.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #8

Each e-scooter should be required to be licensed and to display a readily-seen license plate number.

The E-scooter’s Owner and Driver Should Be Required to Carry Valid Insurance

It is widely recognized that motor vehicles pose a risk to personal injury of other motorists and pedestrians. As a result, both the owner and driver of a motor vehicle are required to carry liability insurance. It is an offence to fail to carry proper insurance.

The same should be so for the owner and driver of an e-scooter. It is important for both to be insured, as is the case for other motor vehicles such as cars and trucks, so an injured victim can recover compensation from either or both, if injured.

This is especially important where, as here, it is known that e-scooters pose a real risk of personal injury. The victims of such injuries, and the taxpayers who pay for our health system, should not be left holding the bag when it comes to the consequences of the use of e-scooters.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #9

The owner and driver of an e-scooter should be required to carry sufficient liability insurance for injuries or other damages that the e-scooter causes to others.

Helmets Should Be Required for All E-Scooter Drivers, No Matter What Their Age Is

The use of an e-scooter can result in injuries to the driver, and not just to innocent pedestrians. This obviously can include head injuries.

A helmet is an important safety measure to at least try to reduce some of the harmful impacts on the driver of a fall from the e-scooter. Yet the Ford Government is only proposing during its pilot project to require an e-scooter driver to wear a helmet if they are between the ages of 16 and 18.

Yet people 18 or older are equally exposed to the risk of head injuries. This creates an undue risk of increased injuries to drivers. That is bad for the drivers themselves and for their families. It also creates an unnecessary and unfair burden for the taxpayer, who will have to cover the health and other social safety net costs of those injuries to the e-scooter drivers.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #10

All e-scooter drivers, regardless of their age, should be required to wear a helmet whenever operating an e-scooter.

If There Is to Be a Pilot Period with E-scooters, It Should Be Much Shorter Than Five Years and For A Smaller Part of Ontario

The Ford Government is proposing an e-scooter pilot project for the entirety of Ontario, to last fully five years. There is serious reason to doubt whether the Government means this as a pilot project. It appears far more likely that the Government means for this to be a way to embed e-scooters as a done deal, a permanent fixture in Ontario. After five years, the Government and the e-scooter rental companies that are lobbying to get them into Ontario may well be hoping that it will be much harder to reduce or eliminate them, if they are already entrenched around Ontario. This is a real problem facing those jurisdictions that have already allowed e-scooters to proliferate, and that now have serious concerns about their impact.

There is no reason for a pilot project to last for a long five years. A much shorter period is warranted, in order to assess their impact. This is so especially since there are other jurisdictions which have already in effect served as a pilot project for Ontario. They have allowed e-scooters, with all the accompanying problems. As noted earlier, Ontario should study their impact in those other jurisdictions first, rather than exposing Ontarians to the risk of personal injury. Only if that study reveals that e-scooters can be safely introduced in Ontario should a pilot project be even considered for Ontario.

If, despite our documented serious concerns about e-scooters, a pilot project is to take place in Ontario, it should be conducted for a far shorter period, such as six months. A proper assessment of their impact should be assigned to an arms-length organization with expertise in public safety.

There is no reason why a pilot project should take place across the entirety of Ontario. Instead, a specific region or community should be selected. That community should first be given the right to consent or reject the proposal on behalf of its citizens.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #11

No e-scooter pilot project should be held in Ontario until the Ontario Government effectively studies the impact on public safety of e-scooters in jurisdictions that have allowed them, and on options for regulatory controls of them, and has made the details of these public. A pilot project should only be held in Ontario if public safety can be fully and effectively protected.

Recommendation #12

If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, it should only take place for a period much shorter than five years, e.g. six months, and should only take place in a specific community that has consented to permit that pilot project there.

Recommendation #13

If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, the Ontario Government should retain a trusted independent organization with expertise in public safety to study the impact of e-scooters during that pilot project, and to make the full results of that study public.

A Ban on Riding E-scooters on Sidewalks Is Insufficient to Address Public Safety Concerns

To address the safety and accessibility concerns in this brief, it would be insufficient to simply ban the riding of e-scooters on sidewalks. Such a ban is of course needed, but would be insufficient to solve problems caused by e-scooters. e-scooters present safety issues on public roads, not just on sidewalks. Moreover, it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to effectively police a ban on e-scooters on sidewalks. Even though bicycles are not supposed to be ridden on public sidewalks, pedestrians know that a good number of cyclists nevertheless ride their bikes on sidewalks from time to time, without much fear of law enforcement.

Especially if an e-scooter is not licensed and does not bear a plainly visible license plate number, it would too often be hard if not impossible for an injured pedestrian to report to police on someone who unlawfully rode an e-scooter on the sidewalk. It will be hard if not impossible to reliably identify the offender in a way that will stand up in court. Eyewitness identification evidence is notoriously hard to present in court.

Blind people, or people with low vision or who are deafblind can face the risk of injuries without any practical way to identify the e-scooter driver who hit them, or who left their e-scooter on the sidewalk.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #14

The Government should not treat a ban on riding e-scooters on the sidewalk, while necessary, as a sufficient protection against the threat to public safety that e-scooters present.

There Should Be No Comparable Restrictions on Powered Scooters Used as a Mobility Aid for People with Disabilities

We emphasize that in raising these concerns with e-scooters, nothing should be done to restrict the current availability and use of powered scooters as a mobility aid for people with various disabilities. These are not in the same class of vehicle as e-scooters, addressed in this brief. They do not present the concerns raised in this brief. As we understand it, they do not travel at the kinds of speeds that an e-scooter can travel. They are an essential form of adaptive technology for people with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #15

nothing should be done to reduce or restrict the availability or use of powered mobility devices used by people with disabilities.

Don’t Allow E-scooters and Then Leave It to Municipalities To Fix the Problems this Presents

An option the Ontario Government might be considering is to allow the use of e-scooters, either by owning or renting them, and then leaving it to each municipal government to regulate them, or to decide if they will be permitted in that municipality. This is no solution, for the following reasons.

First, as documented in this brief, the public safety and accessibility problems with e-scooters are already known. They would recur across Ontario. They do not vary from municipality to municipality.

Second, people with disabilities should not have to shoulder the burden of having to campaign, in each municipality across Ontario, to prevent the creation of these new accessibility barriers and safety threats. No doubt the e-scooter rental companies would prefer e-scooters to be permitted across Ontario, but would, as a second choice, welcome the chance to target municipalities and lobby them to permit them on very liberal terms.

Third, our municipalities and municipal taxpayers have more than enough on their plates to deal with now. They don’t need the Ontario Government to create a new problem for them, and then leave them with the burden to cope with the consequences and clean up the consequent mess.

We therefore recommend that:

Recommendation #16

The Ontario Government should not permit e-scooters and then leave it to each municipality to regulate them or leave it to each municipality to decide if they want to permit e-scooters.

There Are Important Differences Between E-bikes and E-scooters

It would be wrong for the Government to proceed on the basis that it should allow e-scooters by virtue of the fact that it already allows e-bikes, for several reasons. First, if, as we have shown, e-scooters present a safety risk, that safety risk neither magically vanishes nor in any way reduces just because Ontario now allows e-bikes.

Second, there are some important differences between the two. A person cannot ride an e-bike unless they already know how to ride a bike. In contrast, a person with no prior experience can, in some other jurisdictions, pay a rental fee, hop on an e-scooter, and immediately start racing in public at 32 KPH. As well, we are not aware of any companies that rent e-bikes on the terms used elsewhere for e-scooters, where they are regularly left as barriers in the middle of sidewalks.

Because this e-scooter consultation has been so rushed, we have not had a sufficient opportunity to explore the full ramifications of e-bikes beyond this. This is yet another reason why this hasty public consultation should be withdrawn or lengthened.

We also emphasize that there are key differences between an e-scooter and a non-motorized bicycle. While some can ride a bike quite fast, a novice cannot simply hop on a bike and race at 32 KPH. Moreover, a regular bike is not a motor vehicle. An e-scooter is a motor vehicle.

Appendix 1 List of Recommendations in This Brief

Recommendation #1

There should be no pilot project allowing e-scooters to be driven in public places in Ontario.

Recommendation #2

The Government should withdraw this e-scooter public consultation and go back to the drawing board. If it is not prepared to withdraw this public consultation on e-scooters, the Ontario Government should at least extend the consultation period to October 31, 2019.

Recommendation #3

The rental of e-scooters should be strictly forbidden, even if private ownership of an e-scooter by a user of that e-scooter were to be permitted.

Recommendation #4

There should be a strict ban on leaving an e-scooter in a public sidewalk or like location. If an e-scooter is left in such a place, it should be subject to immediate confiscation and forfeiture, as well as a strict penalty.

Recommendation #5

If e-scooters are to be permitted in Ontario, they should be required to make an ongoing beeping sound when they are powered on, to warn others of their approach.

Recommendation #6

The speed limit for e-scooters should initially be set much lower than 32 KPH, such as 15 or 20 KPH, until a strong showing can be made that a higher speed limit poses no safety threat to the public.

Recommendation #7

A person wishing to drive an e-scooter should be required to first take required training on its safe operation and on the rules of the road, and then to obtain a license.

Recommendation #8

Each e-scooter should be required to be licensed and to display a readily-seen license plate number.

Recommendation #9

The owner and driver of an e-scooter should be required to carry sufficient liability insurance for injuries or other damages that the e-scooter causes to others.

Recommendation #10

All e-scooter drivers, regardless of their age, should be required to wear a helmet whenever operating an e-scooter.

Recommendation #11

No e-scooter pilot project should be held in Ontario until the Ontario Government effectively studies the impact on public safety of e-scooters in jurisdictions that have allowed them, and on options for regulatory controls of them, and has made the details of these public. A pilot project should only be held in Ontario if public safety can be fully and effectively protected.

Recommendation #12

If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, it should only take place for a period much shorter than five years, e.g. six months, and should only take place in a specific community that has consented to permit that pilot project there.

Recommendation #13

If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, the Ontario Government should retain a trusted independent organization with expertise in public safety to study the impact of e-scooters during that pilot project, and to make the full results of that study public.

Recommendation #14

The Government should not treat a ban on riding e-scooters on the sidewalk, while necessary, as a sufficient protection against the threat to public safety that e-scooters present.

Recommendation #15

nothing should be done to reduce or restrict the availability or use of powered mobility devices used by people with disabilities.

Recommendation #16

The Ontario Government should not permit e-scooters and then leave it to each municipality to regulate them or leave it to each municipality to decide if they want to permit e-scooters.

Appendix 2 The Ford Government’s 48-Hour Pre-Labour Day Public Consultation on Allowing Electric Scooters in Ontario

Originally posted at https://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=30207&language=en

Kick Style Electric Scooter (E-Scooter)

 

Background:

 

The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is strongly committed to promoting the highest standards of safety for all Ontarians who travel on our roads, including drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, and will continue working with all our partners on measures that enhance this objective. Trends and technology are evolving, with new forms of vehicles such as e-scooters entering the market.

MTO is interested in new and environmentally-friendly vehicles, however it is important that new vehicles are constructed with appropriate safety features to allow safe integration with all other road users.

MTO is considering the following proposal and invites you to submit your comments for consideration.

E-Scooters

 

E-scooters have been launched in more than 125 cities across the United States. They represent a new way for residents to get around their communities, are seen as providing first and last mile connections to transit, and represent an opportunity to reduce traffic congestion.

E-scooters are currently not permitted to operate on roads in Ontario as they do not meet any federal or provincial safety standards for on-road use. These devices may only be operated where Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA) does not apply such as private property.

The ministry is interested in exploring the feasibility of these vehicles safely integrating with other road users while promoting road safety and fostering business innovation in the province.

 

MTO is soliciting public comment on potentially permitting the use of e-scooters on roads in Ontario as part of a pilot project. This will allow the ministry to ensure e-scooters can be safely integrated with other road users before a final, permanent, regulatory decision is made.

 

 

 

Proposed E-Scooter Pilot Framework:

 

Pilot Duration:

The length of the pilot will be for a prescribed period of 5 years, to ensure sufficient time to effectively monitor and evaluate the pilot results.

 

Operator/Rider/Vehicle Requirements Include:

 

  • Can operate on-road similar to where bicycles can operate; prohibited on controlled access highways
  • Minimum operating age 16
  • Bicycle helmet required for those under 18 years old
  • No passengers allowed
  • Maximum operating speed 32 km/h
  • No pedals or seat allowed
  • Must have 2 wheels and brakes
  • Maximum wheel diameter 17 inches
  • Must have horn or bell
  • Must have front and back light
  • Maximum weight 45kg and Maximum power output 500W

Data Collection:

 

  • Municipalities to remit data to the province, as requested

 

Appendix 3 The New York Times September 4, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/04/technology/san-diego-electric-scooters.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

Welcome to San Diego. Don’t Mind the Scooters.

A year ago, electric rental scooters were hailed as the next big thing in transportation. But their troubles in San Diego show how the services have now hit growing pains.

Companies distribute scooters around cities, often on sidewalks. In the area around Mission Beach, one of San Diego’s main beaches, 70 scooters lined a single side of one block in July. By

Erin Griffith

Sept. 4, 2019

SAN DIEGO — The first thing you notice in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter is not the brick sidewalks, the rows of bars and the roving gaggles of bachelorette parties and conferencegoers, or even the actual gas lamps.

It’s the electric rental scooters. Hundreds are scattered around the sidewalks, clustered in newly painted corrals on the street and piled up in the gutters. In early July, one corner alone had 37. In the area around Mission Beach, one of the city’s main beaches, a single side of one block had 70. Most sat unused.

Since scooter rental companies like Bird, Lime, Razor, Lyft and Uber-owned Jump moved into San Diego last year, inflating the city’s scooter population to as many as 40,000 by some estimates, the vehicles have led to injuries, deaths, lawsuits and vandals. Regulators and local activists have pushed back against them. One company has even started collecting the vehicles to help keep the sidewalks clear.

“My constituents hate them pretty universally,” said Barbara Bry, a San Diego City Council member. She called for a moratorium on the scooters when they arrived, saying they clogged sidewalks and were a danger to pedestrians.

San Diego’s struggle to contain the havoc provides a glimpse of how reality has set in for scooter companies like Bird and Lime. Last year, the services were hailed as the next big thing in personal transportation. Investors poured money into the firms, valuing Bird at $2.3 billion and Lime at $2.4 billion and prompting an array of followers.

At the end of a rental period, a rider leaves the scooter for the next customer to retrieve. CreditTara Pixley for The New York Times

The scooter companies distribute their electric vehicles around cities and universities — often on sidewalks — and rent them by the minute via apps. At the end of a rental period, a rider leaves the scooter for the next customer to retrieve. Scooter speeds vary by company, model and city, as do helmet laws, although helmets generally are not required.

But now, skepticism about scooter services is rising. Some cities, including San Francisco, Paris, Atlanta and Portland, Ore., have imposed stricter regulations on scooter speed limits, parking or nighttime riding. Columbia, S.C., has temporarily banned them. New York recently passed legislation that would allow scooters to operate in some parts of New York City, but not in Manhattan.

Safety has become a big issue. A three-month study published in May from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Public Health and Transportation Departments of Austin, Tex., found that for every 100,000 scooter rides, 20 people were injured. Nearly half of the injuries were to the head; 15 percent of those showed evidence of traumatic brain injury.

Bird, Lime and Skip are trying to secure new funding, according to three people familiar with the talks, who declined to be identified because the discussions were not finished. In May, Lime replaced its chief executive; several other top executives also left. And in July, Bird’s chief executive called a report about the company’s losses “fake.”

Scooters are “a fun and convenient mode of transportation that really does put people at risk and introduces significant spatial challenges to the civic commons,” said Adie Tomer, a metropolitan policy fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Those tensions are not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Bird declined to comment.

Many scooter companies miscalculated how long the scooters would last — often not long enough for rental fees to cover their costs — and are struggling with profitability, acknowledged Sanjay Dastoor, Skip’s chief executive. His company has designed a way to produce more durable scooters that can be repaired more easily and last long enough to turn a profit, he said, allowing it to “run a safe fleet that we are proud of.”

Lindsey Haswell, Lime’s head of communications, said new industries often faced regulatory challenges, “but our investors are willing to take the long view.” She added that the issues in San Diego did not reflect the global scooter market. Lime has provided more than three million trips in San Diego, she said, and has “as many supporters as we have detractors” there.

Hans Tung, an investor at GGV, which has backed Lime, said he was encouraged by the company’s progress and was confident it would make its scooters safe and profitable. “I don’t see how that couldn’t be achieved,” he said.

Bird and Lime deployed their scooters in San Diego in February 2018, followed by other companies. The start-ups pitched themselves as environmentally friendly, a message that jibed with San Diego’s goal to reduce greenhouse emissions.

San Diego initially took a hands-off approach. The scooters became popular, with an average of 30,000 riders per day, according to city officials.

“Millennials and post-millennials want to live in a thriving, bustling city that has dynamic choices for mobility,” said Erik Caldwell, San Diego’s deputy head of operations for smart and sustainable communities.

But as more scooters flooded San Diego last summer, local business owners and residents began objecting. Alex Stennet, a bouncer at Coyote Ugly Saloon in the Gaslamp District, said people tripped over the vehicles and threw them around. He said he had witnessed at least 20 scooter accidents in front of Coyote Ugly.

ScootScoop has deals with 250 local businesses to remove scooters; it has towed more than 12,500. CreditTara Pixley for The New York Times

Dan Borelli, who owns a bike rental shop called Boardwalk Electric Rides in Pacific Beach, said the scooters frequently blocked the entrance to his store. In July 2018, he teamed up with John Heinkel, owner of a local towing company, to haul away scooters that they deemed to be parked on private property. They charge Bird, Lime and others a retrieval fee of $50 per scooter, plus $2 for each day of storage.

Their company, ScootScoop, has essentially turned them into scooter bounty hunters. They said they have struck deals with 250 local businesses and hotels and have towed more than 12,500 scooters. Some scooter companies have paid to get them back, they said.

In March, Lime and Bird sued Mr. Borelli and Mr. Heinkel for the scooter removals. ScootScoop countersued Bird and Lime last week.

Other cities have called ScootScoop for advice, Mr. Borelli said. Mr. Heinkel said the scooter companies underestimated them. “They assumed we were two hillbillies in a pickup truck, as opposed to business owners,” he said.

Lime’s Ms. Haswell said Mr. Borelli and Mr. Heinkel “are opportunistic businessmen who troll the streets stealing scooters, with no respect for the law, trying to make a profit at San Diego’s expense.”

Late last year, the scooters turned from annoyances into hazards. In December, a man in Chula Vista, a San Diego suburb, died after he was hit by a car while riding a Bird scooter, according to the Chula Vista Police Department. A tourist died a few months later after crashing his rental scooter into a tree. Another visitor died of “blunt force torso trauma” after his scooter collided with another, the San Diego Police Department said.

The department said it counted 15 “serious injury collisions” involving scooters in the first half of this year. Last month, three separate scooter-related skull fractures happened in one week.

On one day in July, there were 150 available Bird scooters within a two-block radius in Mission Beach.CreditTara Pixley for The New York Times

Scooter parking corrals were introduced in July as part of San Diego’s new rules. CreditTara Pixley for The New York Times

As the injuries piled up, Safe Walkways, an activist group, amassed hundreds of members in a Facebook group to oppose the scooters and file complaints to government agencies. In April, around 50 protesters gathered on Mission Beach’s boardwalk with signs bearing messages like “Safety Not Scooters” and “BoardWALK.”

Lawsuits have also piled up. Clients of Matthew Souther, an attorney at Neil Dymott, filed a potential class action suit in March that accused Bird, Lime and the City of San Diego of not complying with disability rights laws to keep sidewalks clear. He said he was working on a dozen other injury lawsuits against scooter companies.

San Diego has started cracking down on the scooters. In July, the city enacted rules restricting where they could be parked and driven and issued permits for 20,000 scooters, across all companies, to operate. In three days that month, authorities impounded 2,500 scooters that violated parking rules. San Diego later sent notices of violations to Bird, Lyft, Lime and Skip.

Last month, San Diego told Lime that it planned to revoke its permit to operate in the city because of the violations, pending a hearing.

Christina Chadwick, a spokeswoman for San Diego’s mayor, Kevin Faulconer, said the scooter operators had been warned that the city would aggressively monitor them.

To deal with critics and improve safety and costs, the scooter companies have upgraded their fleets with sturdier scooters. Bird has said its Bird Zero model, which makes up a majority of its fleet, lasts an average of 10 months, compared with three months for past models. Skip recently announced a scooter with modular parts, which makes repairs easier.

And after a year recalling scooters with cracked baseboards and batteries that caught fire, Lime has introduced new vehicles with bigger wheels and baseboards, as well as interchangeable batteries and parts.

Ms. Haswell said Lime was eager to show the progress it had made. “We admit that we haven’t always gotten it right in San Diego,” she said.

Erin Griffith reports on technology start-ups and venture capital from the San Francisco bureau. Before joining The Times she was a senior writer at WIRED and Fortune. @eringriffith

A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 4, 2019, Section B, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: San Diego’s Scooter Tryout Gets Off to a Bumpy Start. Order Reprints

 



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A New Toronto Star Editorial Blasts the Ford Government for Moving So Slowly on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and Echoes the AODA Alliance’s Objections to Doug Ford’s Diverting 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Problematic Private Accessibility Certification Program


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

A New Toronto Star Editorial Blasts the Ford Government for Moving So Slowly on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and Echoes the AODA Alliance’s Objections to Doug Ford’s Diverting 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Problematic Private Accessibility Certification Program

August 6, 2019

          SUMMARY

The August 6, 2019 edition of the Toronto Star includes a powerful editorial. It slams the Doug Ford Government for spending 1.3 million dollars on the problematic private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), when the Government should act more strongly and swiftly to speed up the sluggish implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). That editorial can be found below.

We applaud the Toronto Star for this editorial. This is the 16th editorial that a media outlet has run in the past quarter century that endorses some aspect of our non-partisan accessibility campaign, spearheaded since 2005 by the AODA Alliance, and from 1994 to 2005 by its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

This new editorial follows on and builds on the excellent July 24, 2019 Toronto Star article which reported on some of our serious concerns that the AODA Alliance has with the Ford Government’s plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. In the coming days, we will have more to say about our concerns with public funding of that program. This will supplement our July 25, 2019 news release and report on this topic.

This editorial comes 188 days, or over six months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that was conducted by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has still announced no plan to implement that report. This is so, even though Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

It is time for Premier Doug Ford to suspend its controversial and trouble-ridden plan to divert public money to the RHF private accessibility certification program. It should instead promptly sit down with disability advocacy organizations like the AODA Alliance and other stakeholders, all together at one place and time, to quickly map out a far better plan of action.

There are two ways you can help: First, write a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star to support this editorial. Send your letter to the Star at: [email protected]

Second, join in our Dial Doug campaign. #DialDoug Phone or email Premier Doug Ford and ask him where is his plan to lead Ontario to be accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. You can find out what to do by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/join-in-our-new-dial-doug-campaign-a-grassroots-blitz-unveiled-today-to-get-the-doug-ford-government-to-make-ontario-open-for-over-1-9-million-ontarians-with-disabilities/

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

          MORE DETAILS

The Toronto Star August 6, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/08/06/ontario-should-move-faster-on-tearing-down-barriers.html

Editorial

Buildings must be for everyone

As accessibility advocates constantly warn, we’re all just one illness or accident away from becoming disabled.

And with 1,000 Ontario baby boomers turning 65 every day, more of us will be dealing with aging vision, hearing, hips and knees that will affect our quality of life and make our physical environment more difficult to navigate.

So it’s disappointing that six months after former lieutenant governor David Onley delivered a scathing report on the “soul crushing” barriers that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities face on a daily basis, the Ford government has yet to develop a clear way forward.

In March, Raymond Cho, Ontario’s minister for seniors and accessibility, finally authorized work to resume on three committees developing accessibility standards in the education and health-care systems.

But, so far, none of the committees have met and no dates have been set.

When NDP MPP Joe Harden introduced a motion in the legislature in May urging the government to implement Onley’s report, starting with the development of new accessibility standards for the built environment, Cho dismissed the idea as “red tape.”

Instead, Cho and the Ford government are trumpeting a two-year $1.3-million investment in a new accessibility certification program developed by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

By certifying 250 public and private buildings, the government says it will raise awareness and encourage the development industry to make accessibility a priority.

We have no quarrel with the foundation’s quest to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities and to fund research into spinal cord injury and care.

But we are concerned about a program that relies on building professionals who have completed just two weeks of accessibility training to conduct the certifications.

And we question why certifications will be given to entire buildings at a time when most accessibility advocates and seasoned consultants say few buildings are fully accessible.

For example, the foundation was recently criticized for awarding a “gold” rating to the Vancouver airport in 2018, even though the building includes so-called “hangout steps” for socializing, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs and are difficult to navigate for those with vision loss or difficulty with balance.

Far better for the foundation to give its stamp of approval on accessible design elements that are truly remarkable and worth highlighting as examples for others to follow.

But, for the province to be financially backing such a scheme – particularly when it was not among Onley’s 15 recommendations – is questionable.

Shouldn’t scarce public funds be spent on implementing Onley’s detailed blueprint to ensure that Ontario meets its 2025 deadline for becoming fully accessible

under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

As Onley rightly recommends, the province should be developing better provincial accessibility standards for public and private buildings and boosting enforcement of the few rules that currently exist.

And it should make accessibility courses mandatory in colleges and universities to ensure future architects and other design professionals get the training they need.

Just as physicians are trained to “do no harm,” architects and design professionals should be educated to create no barriers.

It’s hard to believe that during one of the biggest building booms in the history of Ontario, there are so few accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Nothing prevents a developer from building acres of single family homes inaccessible to people with disabilities.

And just 15 per cent of units in multiresidential buildings – condominiums and apartments – are required to be accessible.

Ottawa’s national housing strategy aims to ensure 20 per cent of homes created under the plan are accessible. And yet, according to the latest 2017 federal statistics, 22 per cent of Canadians report having a disability, a percentage that will only grow as the population ages.

Clearly, we are not addressing current need, let alone future demand. The Ford government must do better.



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Doug Ford’s Only New Action in Over One Year in Office to Improve Accessibility for Over 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities is Riddled with Problems and Cries Out for a Serious Re-Think, According to a Disability Coalition’s Report Made Public Today


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Doug Ford’s Only New Action in Over One Year in Office to Improve Accessibility for Over 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities is Riddled with Problems and Cries Out for a Serious Re-Think, According to a Disability Coalition’s Report Made Public Today

July 25, 2019 Toronto: The centerpiece of the Doug Ford Government’s new strategy to remove the many barriers impeding over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities is riddled with serious problems and cries out for a serious re-think, according to a detailed report researched by the non-partisan AODA Alliance, and made public today (Report set out below). The Ford Government’s April Budget announced the only new measure on disability accessibility in its first year in office, — paying the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) 1.3 million dollars for RHF to privately audit 250 as-yet unidentified public and private sector buildings over two years, on the Government’s behalf.

Among many problems, this new report reveals:

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a letter set out below and made public today, the AODA Alliance has pressed the Ford Government for important details about its plan. The answers to questions like these are critical to accountability in the use of public money: Which buildings will be inspected? Who chooses them? The Ford Government? The RHF? What assessment tools or checklists and scoring scale will be used? What is the specific curriculum used in the RHF’s two-week training course for assessors?

“Premier Ford should set aside his problem-ridden plan to divert scarce public money into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification. Doug Ford should instead use this money to do his job, to beef up the sluggish implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s Disabilities Act,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which spearheads the campaign to get the Government to effectively implement Ontario’s 2005 accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). “We recently gave Doug Ford’s Government a failing F grade for its efforts on making Ontario accessible to people with disabilities during its first year in office.”

Fully 175 days ago, on January 31, 2019, the Ford Government received a blistering report from the Independent Review of the Government’s implementation of the Disabilities Act, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Onley Report found that Ontario is a province full of soul-crushing barriers facing people with disabilities. It called for strong new Government action and leadership on this issue. It did not recommend pouring public money into a private accessibility certification process, like the RHF’s one. Yet the Ford Government has still not released a plan to implement the Onley Report, even though Accessibility Minister, Raymond Cho, told the Legislature that Onley did a “marvelous job.”

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

Attachment – AODA Alliance Report Made Public Today

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

A Problematic Government Strategy on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and An Inappropriate Use of Public Money

The AODA Alliance Report on the Ontario Government’s Proposal to Spend Public Money on the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Process

July 3, 2019

1. Introduction and Summary

a) What Is This Report About?

In the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it plans to spend 1.3 million dollars on having the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) conduct a private accessibility certification process on some 250 buildings in the public and/or private sector in Ontario over the next two years. The Ford Government has said that the RHF will be conducting these accessibility assessments for “us” i.e. the Ontario Government. On May 29, 2019, Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said this in the Legislature:

“Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.”

The Government provided a few more details about this plan in its May 23, 2019 public posting online. (The relevant April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget announcement and the Government’s May 23, 2019 supplementary announcement are set out in this report’s appendix.)

This is a report of the AODA Alliance’s detailed analysis of this plan, based on public information available to us. The AODA Alliances a non-partisan grassroots disability coalition which advocates for the effective implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s landmark 2005 disability accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act(AODA). Learn more about the AODA Alliance by visiting www.aodaalliance.org

This report identifies several serious concerns with the Government’s plan to divert public money into the RHF private accessibility certification process. The Ford Government should address all of these concerns and issues before spending any public money on this. Preferably, the Government should reconsider its decision to divert scarce public funds to this initiative. Those funds could be far better directed at the implementation and enforcement of the AODA.

This report identifies key questions that should be central to proper Government decision-making in connection with the idea of publicly funding this activity by the RHF. We have sent a letter to the Ontario minister responsible for this initiative, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho, requesting answers to key questions. That letter is included in this report’s appendix.

The RHF is a charitable foundation, headed by Rick Hansen. Under the RHF private accessibility certification process, an organization can pay for an assessment of its building’s accessibility by assessors trained via the Foundation.

In 2015 to 2016, Ontario’s previous Government under Premier Kathleen Wynne flirted with the idea of publicly funding a private accessibility certification process in Ontario. After careful consideration, the AODA Alliance took a principled position in opposition to that idea in early 2016. Despite this, the Wynne Government announced that it planned to proceed with such a plan.

In September 2016, the Accessibility Minister was tasked with making this happen, despite our objections. The former Ontario Government ultimately dropped the idea. It never announced this, or publicly stated why it evidently must have decided not to proceed.

The Ford Government did not announce that it was considering the option of publicly funding the RHF private accessibility certification process, or conduct a public consultation on whether this would be a good idea, before it made its April 11, 2019 Budget announcement of 1.3 million dollars for this. As documented in the June 21, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, funding this RHF process is the only new initiative on disability accessibility that the Ford Government has announced in its first year in office.

b) Summary of Concerns with the RHF Private Accessibility Certification Process

We reiterated in the May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update the following major reasons why we have opposed any public funding for a private accessibility certification process, no matter which organization conducts it, because:

“a)       A private accessibility certification in reality certifies nothing. It provides no defence to enforcement proceedings under the AODA, the Ontario Building Code, a municipal bylaw, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  1. b) A private accessibility certification process lacks an assurance of public accountability.
  1. c) A private certification of accessibility can be misleading to the public, including to people with disabilities.
  1. d) The Government should not be subsidizing one accessibility consultant over another.
  1. e) Spending public money on a private accessibility certification process is not a priority for efforts on accessibility in Ontario or a responsible use of public money.
  1. f) The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford Government has not yet agreed to take, but it did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.”

We are not alone in our concern about the idea of a private accessibility certification process. See for example, the online article, set out in this report’s appendix, entitled: “If any company in US or Canada promises Certification in Accessible Audits BUYER BEWARE”.

In addition to the foregoing concerns, this report describes serious concerns that arise from the specifics of the RHF private accessibility certification process which the Ford Government is proposing to publicly finance. In summary, these concerns include the following:

  1. Despite the Ford Government’s claims, the Government’s funding of the RHF private accessibility certification process won’t ensure that any disability barriers are ever removed.
  1. There is no assurance that the RHF uses a sufficient standard or measure for assessing a building’s accessibility.
  1. RHF accessibility certification appears to only or primarily focus on people with physical disabilities, not people with all kinds of disabilities.
  1. Once an RHF accessibility certification is granted, the Ford Government has not announced any requirement that it ever be renewed.
  1. It is wrong that people must pay a hefty fee to get access to the CSA standard that the RHF says it draws on to assess a building’s accessibility.
  1. There are serious concerns about the required qualifications of the persons who can conduct the RHF accessibility assessments and about the RHF calling them “accessibility professionals”.
  1. There is a need for effective protection against The RHF being in a conflict of interest with organizations it assesses for accessibility.
  1. There are concerns with the RHF’s accessibility adjudication process and the sufficiency of the required qualifications of RHF accessibility adjudicators.
  1. There is no indication of which buildings will be checked for accessibility, whether they will be chosen by the Government, the RHF or both and whether the selection process will be fair and open.
  1. The public has no right to see the results, findings or recommendations that the RHF provides to an organization whose building was assessed at the taxpayer’s expense.
  1. There is no indication if the Ford Government plans to pay all or just part of the RHF fee for its accessibility assessment, even for a highly profitable private business that needs no Government subsidy.
  1. The Ford Government appears to create an incorrect impression that it is funding the launch of the RHF private accessibility certification process in Ontario.
  1. An open competitive bidding process should precede any such public funding of the RHF.
  1. There are related concerns with the RHF process for certifying an entire design firm as champions of accessible design.
  1. The RHF gave its first gold accessibility certification to the Vancouver International Airport despite accessibility concerns there.
  1. The Ford Government’s action here flies in the face of election promises Doug Ford made to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance.

c) Why This Report Matters

On June 21, 2019, the AODA Alliance announced that it gave the Ford Government a failing “F” grade for its actions in its first year in office towards leading Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. That is the deadline which the AODA sets. The only new measure that the Ford Government has announced in its first year in office to speed up Ontario’s progress to reach the goal of full accessibility by 2025 has been its announcement of public funding for the RHF private accessibility certification process, analyzed in this report.

The AODA Alliance has called on the Government to instead announce a plan to implement the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley submitted to the Government on January 31, 2019. That should include, among other things, creating a comprehensive enforceable Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, strengthening AODA enforcement, and ensuring that design professionals are properly trained on accessibility for people with disabilities.

To date, the Ford Government has not announced a plan to implement the Onley Report. To the contrary, on May 30, 2019, the Ford Government used its majority in the Legislature to defeat a motion, presented by NDP MPP Joel Harden, that had called on the Government to develop a plan to implement the Onley Report. In their speeches in opposition to that motion, Conservative MPPs pointed instead to the Government’s plan to direct public money to the RHF private accessibility certification process.

Some have sought to analogize between the RHF private accessibility certification process and the LEEDS process for assessing buildings for energy conservation. This is not a correct analogy in this context. The question we raise is not whether the RHF or other organizations should be allowed to offer a private accessibility certification process. The question here presented is whether the Ford Government should be spending scarce public money on the RHF process. As far as we know, the Ford Government does not use public money to subsidize organizations to have a LEEDS assessment of their buildings.

In raising this report’s concerns and questions, we acknowledge the work of the RHF and of Mr. Hansen, and their strong interest in inclusion for people with disabilities.

2. Despite the Ford Government’s Claims, the Government’s funding of the RHF Private Accessibility Certification Process Won’t ensure that Any Disability Barriers are Ever Removed

The Ford Government has said that its channelling 1.3 million dollars of the taxpayers’ money into the RHF private accessibility certification process will remove barriers facing Ontarians with disabilities. Yet there is no assurance that any barriers in any building or service will ever be removed. An organization whose building that RHF assesses need not ever make any changes to improve its accessibility before or after an RHF assessment.

The Doug Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 news release, set out below, incorrectly states in its headline:

“Taking Action to Remove Barriers for People with Disabilities

Ontario making buildings more accessible”.

That news release also inaccurately states:

“Ontario is focusing on what matters most to people with disabilities and seniors by helping to remove barriers in buildings and making communities more accessible.”

It is implicit in the Government’s announcement and the overall design of the RHF private accessibility certification process and explicit on the RHF website that an organization will only be subject to an RHF accessibility inspection if it voluntarily agrees to that inspection. It is obvious that the only organizations that will take part in this are ones who believe their building is already quite accessible. Why would an organization ever ask for an RHF certification if its building has obvious accessibility problems?

If we are correct in this, then this public expenditure will largely if not totally focus on assessing the accessibility of buildings that are likely the least problematic for Ontarians with disabilities. This too means that it cannot be expected that this will materially contribute to making material progress towards accessibility.

Under this announcement, the RHF will look at some 250 buildings over two years, or 125 buildings per year. That is a tiny drop in the bucket for all of Ontario. It is not a measure that the Government can claim to be a major centerpiece of a serious effort to speed up progress towards achieving an accessible Ontario by 2025.

3. There is No Assurance that the RHF Uses a Sufficient Standard or Measure for Assessing a Building’s Accessibility

An assessment of a building’s accessibility must use a specific, detailed accessibility standard that is strong and effective, that is consistently employed, and that ensures that the building is barrier-free for people with any kind of disability. There is no assurance that the RHF private accessibility certification process uses such a standard. There are causes for concern.

The public, including people with disabilities, have no control over the measure of accessibility that the RHF chooses to use. Instead, Ontario needs a comprehensive enforceable Built Environment Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA, rather than a private accessibility standard that an unelected, private charitable foundation chooses.

The RHF’s website and its Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation states that its accessibility assessments are “based upon CSA B651 standards”, produced by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). This refers to a voluntary accessibility standard that the CSA has established. The CSA is a private organization, not a publicly-accountable government agency.

It is not clear from that statement what precise accessibility standard the RHF assessors use. If it is simply “based on” that CSA accessibility standard, it is not clear whether the RHF assessors use the entirety of that CSA standard, or only parts of it.

If RHF assessors only use part of that voluntary CSA standard, we and the public need to know which parts. We need to know who has decided which parts of that accessibility standard to use, and why others were left out. We do not know if the RHF gives its assessors some discretion over which parts of that CSA accessibility standard to use, or what measures of compliance with an element of that standard the RHF uses.

Making this situation worse, the Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation says the RHF measures the “meaningful access” of a building. It uses the short form RHFAC to refer to the RHF accessibility certification. The RHF Guide states:

“RHFAC is the first program of its kind to:

  • Measure a Site’s level of meaningful access based on CSA Group’s B651 standard, which considers the holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities;”

That RHF Guide makes it clear that the RHF does not assess all access issues, but it does not say which access issues it leaves out. The Guide states:

“RHFAC is intended to measure the overall level of meaningful access of the built environment. The rating is not intended as a detailed assessment of all access issues.”

Before diverting any public money into the RHF accessibility certification process, the Doug Ford Government should make it clear for the public what specific accessibility standard the RHF is using on the Government’s behalf. The Ford Government should also satisfy itself and the public that the measure of accessibility that the RHF uses is strong enough to fulfil the needs of Ontarians with disabilities. This is especially important since, as noted earlier, Accessibility Minister Cho told the Legislature that these accessibility assessments are being done for “us” i.e. for the Government. A standard, rating system or measure of accessibility is not sufficient for Ontarians with disabilities just because it happens to be the one that the RHF uses.

We and the public do not know what the RHF considers “meaningful access” to be “meaningful access” is a very slippery term. We have not previously encountered it in our accessibility advocacy efforts.

We are concerned that “meaningful access” seems to be a vehicle for diluting how much actual accessibility must be present to pass an RHF assessment. The measure should be a building’s accessibility pure and simple, not its “meaningful” accessibility.

Key aspects of this must be clarified now, and well in advance of taking any steps to implement this publicly-funded strategy, for the benefit of the public, of people with disabilities and of organizations that might wish to consider taking part in the RHF’s accessibility assessment. Even before that, the Doug Ford Government needs to know and be satisfied by the answers to important questions such as these (which we have sent to the Ford Government) before it can properly decide whether to divert any public money into this RHF program.

What does the RHF mean by “meaningful access”? How much must a building comply with the CSA voluntary built environment accessibility standard to meet this? What kinds of barriers are included? Which ones are left out? How many barriers can remain in a building for the RHF to decide that it nevertheless provides meaningful access?

Who decides if the access is meaningful? Is it the individual assessor? What assurance is there in the RHF’s recruitment, qualifications and training of its assessors that this will be consistently done, and will not vary arbitrarily from assessor to assessor?

How is meaningful access scored on a barrier-by-barrier basis? Is each bathroom assessed separately, with a score attached to it, or are the scores for all bathrooms averaged? What are the scoring instructions and scales that the RHF gives to its assessors?

Has the RHF sufficiently tested out its assessment training and forms to see if different assessors or adjudicators reach different conclusions on the same building or features within that building?

Does the RHF consider that a building has “meaningful access” if a person using a wheelchair can get in and around it, even if there is so much glare in the building that someone with low vision has real trouble navigating inside the building? Does the building have meaningful access if there is Braille on elevator buttons, but an inaccessible series of electronic kiosks? Does it have meaningful access if the noise level and glare in the building create serious impediments for some people with autism?

We do not know if the CSA B651 voluntary built environment accessibility standard, if fully used without exception, is itself sufficient to ensure that it effectively addresses the barriers facing people with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those using wheelchairs. We do not know if the CSA B651 voluntary built environment accessibility standard or the RHF itself has incorporated into its accessibility standard all the accessibility requirements in force in Ontario for the built environment under the AODA, in the Ontario Building Code (inadequate as they are), and in Ontario municipal building bylaws. We certainly don’t know if the CSA accessibility standard meets all the requirements for accessibility that an organization must fulfil in its built environment to fulfil its duties to people with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and in the case of public sector organizations, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If not, a building could get an RHF “gold” certification even though it might not comply with Ontario’s mandatory accessibility laws, insufficient as those laws may now be.

The RHF’s slippery “meaningful access” measure makes the RHF the sole and potentially arbitrary judge of what amount of accessibility people with disabilities need. How much discretion does the RHF give to each of its assessors to decide how much accessibility amounts to “meaningful access”? If assessors have any discretion over this, that can make the RHF accessibility certification process even more slippery and arbitrary.

This all risks lowering the bar for the accessibility of the built environment. It could be as low as the RHF, or a specific RHF assessor, decides it should be in specific cases. We, and Ontarians with disabilities generally, have no control and no say. That is discordant with the AODA’s letter and spirit. If anything, we need the accessibility bar for the built environment in Ontario to be raised. We cannot risk having it lowered. This is all the more important since the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards are now so deficient in the area of the accessibility of the built environment.

This is more troubling in light of the fact that the RHF considers its accessibility rating to be meeting the “minimum” and its gold rating to go beyond that minimum, according to a May 2, 2019 report in the Richmond News. Rick Hansen is quoted as follows, referring to accessibility ratings that the RHF has given to some organizations in Richmond BC:

““Those ratings are really important because they give visibility to owners, their employees and their customers of how accessible they are and they’re recognized and certified for meeting the minimum standard,” Hansen said.

“And they’re being actively spotlighted when they’ve gone beyond minimum to a gold level of accessibility.””

What does the RHF consider to be the “minimum” when it comes to accessibility? The Guide to RFHAC Professional Designation refers to going beyond “code”, which we gather refers to building code requirements. Those vary from province to province. The RHF Guide states, among other things, as being the duties of an RFHAC accessibility professional:

“•         Identifying positive accessibility features and determining where meaningful access exceeds minimum code requirements”

Unless we can know for certain what the RHF accessibility standard is that its assessors and adjudicators are using, we cannot be assured that the buildings that the RHF rates as “accessible” truly are accessible, and that those which it rates as “gold” have gone beyond that minimum.

We have seen nothing from the RHF that assures us that its “minimum” is the proper minimum that the Ontario Government should be using. Is the “minimum” that the RHF considers simply the inadequate requirements of the Ontario Building Code? That would fall below the higher and paramount accessibility requirements that the Ontario Human Rights Code and, in the case of the public sector, the Charter of Rights each imposes. Unless an accessibility certification is given to a building which meets or exceeds the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and, where applicable, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is not meeting or exceeding a proper “minimum”.

Because the Ontario Government has chosen to use the RHF private accessibility certification process and to publicly fund it in Ontario, and because the Government said that the RHF is certifying those buildings for “us” (i.e. for the Ontario Government), it has in effect chosen whatever accessibility standard the RHF uses as a de facto private built environment accessibility standard or measure for Ontario. the Ford Government has done so without following any of the safeguards in the AODA for creating an accessibility standard and without making any of the AODA’s enforcement regime available to people with disabilities. This operates in practice as an end-run around the AODA for which Ontarians with disabilities campaigned so hard for a decade from 1994 to 2005, and for which the Legislature, including the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party unanimously voted in 2005.

Before deciding to take this step, the Ontario Government did not consult the AODA Alliance and the broader disability community on the standard to be used by the RHF private accessibility certification process, or on anything to do with its April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget announcement on this issue. Yet central to the AODA’s process for setting accessibility standards is that the disability community is to play a key role by being consulted in the process of developing that standard. This violates the promises that Doug Ford made to Ontarians with disabilities in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, where he set out his party’s 2018 election commitments on disability accessibility issues. He wrote:

  1. a) “This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

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

  1. b) “Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.”

4. RHF Accessibility Certification Appears to Only or Primarily Focus on People with Physical Disabilities, Not People with All Kinds of Disability

Built environment barriers can impede people with a very wide range of different kinds of disabilities, not only those with physical disabilities. It is important that any accessibility certification that the Ontario Government helps finance does not leave out any people with disabilities, or create a hierarchy among different disabilities.

It is especially important to ensure that the RHF accessibility assessments don’t exclusively or predominantly focus on people with physical or mobility disabilities. We have cause for concern in this context, even though the RHF at times has stated that its accessibility certification process aims at people of all abilities. According to the Guide for RHFAC Professional Designation for its accessibility assessors, available on the RHF website, its private accessibility certification process only focuses on the needs of people with physical disabilities. It states:

” •        The Survey is designed to measure the meaningful access of a variety of settings in the built environment for people with physical disabilities.”

The RHF website states categorically that its accessibility rating and certification process only deals with disabilities affecting mobility, vision and hearing, and nothing more. The RHF frequently asked questions includes this statement (referring to the RHF accessibility certification process);

“It measures the level of meaningful access beyond building code, and is based upon the holistic user experience of people with varying disabilities affecting their mobility, vision, and hearing.”

5. Once an RHF Certification is Granted, the Ford Government Has Not Announced Any Requirement that It Ever Be renewed

From what we can tell, it appears that once an organization’s building receives an RHF accessibility certification, and the requisite fees are paid to the RHF, the organization can indefinitely publicly announce and display its accessibility certification. We have seen no indication that this certification is time-limited. That means that the organization can continue to use that designation into the indefinite future, even if the organization later makes changes to the building or its contents that create new and entirely avoidable disability barriers. We have written the Ontario Government to find out if the Government intends to require a time limitation for such certifications.

6. It is Wrong that People Must Pay a Hefty Fee to Get Access to the CSA Standard that the RHF Says It Draws on to Assess a Building’s Accessibility

We, the public, and organizations that might wish to take part in this certification process, evidently must pay a hefty $125 to see the CSA B651 voluntary building accessibility standard. , according to the CSA website. We do not know if CSA has ensured that this documentation is in an accessible format. In contrast, all accessibility standards enacted under the AODA are publicly available for free.

The public should not have to pay to get a copy of this accessibility standard, especially if public money is being diverted into the RHF private accessibility certification process. We should be able to see that standard for free, to see if it is sufficiently strong. It should also be freely available to help make this process publicly accountable. How can we know if a building that RHF certifies as “gold” for accessibility meets the accessibility expectations in the CSA standard if we cannot see that standard without paying the CSA $125.

As noted earlier, the CSA is a private organization. It does not have the public accountability of the Ontario Government when it enacts a statute or regulation or adopts a public policy. In contrast, if Ontario were to create a much-needed Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, it must be done through an open and consultative process.

7. There Are Serious Concerns About the Required Qualifications of the Persons Conducting the RHF Accessibility Assessments and About the RHF Calling Them “Accessibility Professionals”

It is important for anyone conducting an accessibility assessment of a building or of an organization to have sufficient background, training and expertise. This is especially so if they present themselves to the public as ” accessibility professionals”. We do not have that assurance in the case of the RHF accessibility certification process.

The RHF says that its accessibility assessments are done by “RHFAC accessibility professionals”. This is a professional designation which the RHF invented. Just because the RHF says that someone is an “RHFAC accessibility professional” does not mean that they are in fact an accessibility professional, or that they have sufficient training and expertise to assess, much less to certify, a building’s accessibility. The RHF’s use of this “professional” title appears to imbue these individuals with a mantle of authoritativeness, just as the RHF’s calling its assessments an “accessibility certification” gives it an aura of authoritativeness.

To become an RHFAC accessibility professional, a person must, at their own expense, take a two-week course that the RHF appears to have designed, and then pass a test which the RHF designed. A case study exercise is required.

This all presumes that the RHF has the required expertise in the fine details of accessibility of the built environment, as well as expertise in how to train and evaluate accessibility inspectors. It would be necessary for the RHF to demonstrate that it has this expertise.

Before channelling public funds into the RHF private accessibility certification process, the Ontario Government’s due diligence should require the RHF to demonstrate this. We have not seen any objective and reliable proof that the RHF has this expertise. The fact that the RHF has conducted public advocacy or education in the past on the importance of accessibility does not, of itself, demonstrate that it has all this required expertise. The fact that some other provincial governments have opted to direct public money into the RHF process does not of itself ensure that those governments each first undertook this important due diligence. The issues set out in this report combine to raise concerns over whether the RHF has that required expertise.

We do not know how anyone can become a “professional” in anything by taking a two-week course. We do not have access to the specifics of the curriculum that is taught in those two weeks, or the testing that is applied, or the evaluation results that must be achieved to pass that test. To pass that test, the person must pass a multiple-choice examination. In our view, a multiple-choice test has only a limited capacity to effectively measure a person’s accessibility expertise.

A person does not have to have any prior experience or expertise with the accessibility of the built environment to enroll to take the RHF course. For example, as long as a person has a Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction or has been involved in some kind of construction work for five years, they are qualified to take the course. The guide to RHFAC Professional Designation states:

“Prerequisites include the following:

  • You have a diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program;
  • You have a Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction;
  • You are an engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer;
  • You are an architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; OR
  • You have a minimum of five years’ experience related to building construction.”

It is our view that a two-week course is insufficient to make someone into an “accessibility professional”, especially if they had no prior expertise in the area of disability accessibility of the built environment before taking that course. They cannot learn in two weeks what other accessibility consultants have acquired in years of work experience in this field. Moreover, it is not clear to us that a person, taking that two-week course, will learn and must demonstrate detailed knowledge of all the accessibility requirements in the 247-page CSA standard which the RHF relies on, namely, CSA B651.

It is also essential to obtain detailed information on the credentials or qualifications of those who teach the course. Do those who teach this two-week course themselves have sufficient accessibility expertise, or are they simply delivering content which the RHF has designed for them to deliver?

The RHF course is offered at the premises of some colleges and universities. However, the fact that it is taught in a college or university building does not mean that it is an approved college or university level course, taught by a sufficiently qualified member of that college or university faculty, using a curriculum that meets that college’s or university’s curriculum standards. The RHF website can leave the impression that these courses are in fact college or university courses, where it states:

“To complete the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor training, please register directly with the educational institution offering the course.”

The designation of “professional” can reasonably be expected to give the public an expectation that the individual has recognized and demonstrated expertise in a field, and that the designation has been conferred by a professional body with the authority, experience and safeguards to properly do so, with the expected independent oversight of a professional self-governing body. We are not satisfied that the RHF is in a position to qualify people as “accessibility professionals”. It is not a self-governing professional body, that has been established as such under appropriate laws, with the proper safeguards that are typically built into such bodies in order to protect the public interest.

The fact that the Canadian Standards Association is involved in parts of the RHF accessibility certification process does not remedy this problem. We have seen no indication that the CSA is a self-governing professional licensing body with expertise in the training of accessibility consultants, assessors or certifiers.

Reinforcing these concerns, one need not even attend a course in person to get qualified by the RHF as an assessor. A person can take the two week course via an on-line course. The risk associated with an online course is that there is less chance to learn from other students in the course, and less chance for those delivering the course to observe students to see if they are fully attentive and effectively understanding and absorbing the materials.

Nothing in the Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation ensures that an assessor needs to have expert knowledge of the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions and/or of relevant AODA accessibility standards, and/or of related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario. We therefore do not know if an assessor would be free to give an organization’s building a positive rating for accessibility even if it is in direct violation of detailed accessibility legislation in Ontario.

This is also the case for accessibility requirements under the Ontario Human Rights Code and, in the case of public services, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We do not know if those taking this two-week RHF course get copies of the CSA B651 voluntary accessibility standard, as well as the built environment accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code, AODA accessibility standards, or applicable municipal bylaws in Ontario.

8. There is a Need for Effective Protection Against the RHF Being in a Conflict of Interest with Organizations it Assesses for Accessibility

It is important that any organization providing an accessibility “certification”, not have any actual or perceived conflicts of interest. This is especially so since, according to the Doug Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister, the RHF will be conducting these assessments on behalf of the Ontario Government.

A government auditor or inspector must be in an arms-length relationship from an organization that it audits. They cannot receive payments from an organization that they are going to audit, or have audited, and can have no hope or expectation that they might in future receive payments from that organization. The RHF is a charitable foundation. It solicits charitable donations for its activities. It is important to ensure that an organization, seeking an RHF accessibility assessment, has an arms-length relationship with the RHF, has not made any donations to the RHF and is not planning to do so.

We have not seen anything in the Ford Government’s announcements on this initiative showing that it has put in place open, transparent and accountable measures to ensure that there is no such actual or perceived conflict of interest. The Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation addresses the need for assessors not to have an individual conflict of interest, but not the need for the RHF itself to ensure that it has no conflicts of interest. That Guide states:

“• Conflict of Interest: A designated RHFAC Professional shall not place themselves in a conflict of interest with their client or employer and must promptly disclose to the client, employer or RHF any situation where a business or personal interest might be construed as affecting the designated RHFAC Professional’s objectivity or independence.”

It appears from the RHF website that the organization to be assessed gets to pick which RHF assessor will conduct their RHF assessment. The assessors that pass the RHFAC training are listed on a roster from which an organization can make its choice.

We need to know if the assessor gets paid by the building assessed, on a piece wages basis. From the description on the RHF website, it appears that this is the case. If so, there is the risk that organizations may shop around to get the most favourable assessor. There is also a real risk that assessors will have a financial interest in giving a more positive accessibility rating. Otherwise, other organizations will be disinclined to hire them. That raises more concerns about Government funding for this process.

9. There Are Concerns with the RHF’s Accessibility Adjudication Process and the Sufficiency of the Required Qualifications of RHF Accessibility Adjudicators

From what we gather, the RHF accessibility certification process works like this: An assessor goes to a building to assess it. They then submit their assessment to the RHF. Someone at the RHF called an RHF certification adjudicator”, then reviews the assessment remotely and decides whether to approve it.

We do not know how an adjudicator can effectively adjudicate on the accessibility of a building without themselves visiting that building. Photos and videos can help, of course, but we question their sufficiency here.

Moreover, since this accessibility certification is being conducted on behalf of the Ontario Government, this adjudication process should have significant procedures to ensure its fairness, openness and transparency. The public should be able to see what the assessor submitted, and what, if anything the adjudicator changed, with the adjudicator’s reasons for this. If the adjudicator decides to give the building a higher or lower rating than did the assessor who was on site, this should be made clear to the public, and their reasons for doing so.

There is cause for concern about the sufficiency of the qualifications that the RHF requires for a person to be an accessibility adjudicator. On its website, the only training in accessibility that is strictly required is for the adjudicator to take the two-week RHF course, described above, to pass the related test or other assessment, and then shadowing and then being reviewed by a senior RHF adjudicator. The RHF website lists these qualifications for a posting for a temporary certification adjudicator:

“QUALIFICATIONS

Education/Experience:

Post-secondary education in a related discipline plus a minimum of 3 years of related experience with the built environment, such as architecture, engineering, construction, urban planning, surveying, facilities management, or accessibility and inclusive design;

Experience assessing applications and documentation for certification or accreditation preferred;

Practical knowledge of commonly applied Universal Design principles;

Knowledge and application of Universal Design strongly preferred; and

Knowledge or experience with accessibility, individuals with disabilities and/or disability issues preferred.

Skills/Behaviours:

Ability to apply a rating or certification system to assess and verify for program compliance;

Strong spatial aptitude, with ability to visualize spaces from photos and descriptions;

Strong oral and written communication skills. Ability to communicate effectively, concisely and tactfully with others through an online platform;

Effective interpersonal, organizational and problem-solving skills;

Effective computer skills including knowledge of Outlook and ability to learn web-based online systems;

Ability to manage and adjudicate a high volume of RHFAC ratings independently and professionally;

Ability to work independently and remotely;

Ability to maintain confidentiality and work with integrity; and

Strong attention to detail and analytical mindset.

An equivalent combination of education, experience and skills/behaviours will be considered”

Here again, nothing in the foregoing qualifications shows that to be trained to be an RHF accessibility adjudicator, one must have good detailed knowledge of current Ontario accessibility legal requirements in the Ontario Building Code, in relevant municipal bylaws, in AODA accessibility standards, or in the Ontario Human Rights Code or, in the case of public sector agencies, the Charter of Rights.

10. There is No Indication of Which Buildings Will Be Checked for Accessibility, Whether They Will be Chosen by the Government, the RHF, or Both and Whether the Selection Process Will be Fair and Open

The Ford Government has not publicly announced several key details that are important to this initiative, such as:

  1. Which organizations’ buildings will be checked for accessibility at public expense by the RHF certification process?
  1. What proportion of them will be private businesses and what proportion will be public sector organizations?
  1. Who will choose which organizations and which buildings will be subject to these accessibility assessments, the Ontario Government, the RHF or some combination of the two? There is no reason why a private foundation should play any part in the decision of which public or private sector organizations get the benefit of a taxpayer-subsidized accessibility assessment.
  1. If the RHF will have any role to play in decisions over which organizations’ buildings will be assessed, what measures will be implemented to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest?
  1. What criteria will be used to choose which organizations and which buildings will be assessed?
  1. Will the Ford Government invite the public, including Ontario’s disability community, to indicate which organizations and which buildings should be assessed by the RHF?
  1. What public accountability and openness requirements will be in place regarding the decisions over which organizations will have their building assessed? The public needs open, proper and effective mechanisms to oversee this process. Will organizations be able to apply to be chosen? Will the public know who was chosen and who was refused, and the reasons for these choices?

11. The Public Has No Right to See the Results, Findings or Recommendations that the RHF Provides to an organization Whose Building Was Assessed at the Taxpayers’ Expense

Even though the Ontario taxpayer is supposed to pay , in whole or in part, for the RHF private accessibility assessment of some 250 buildings in Ontario over the next two years, the public has no right to know what accessibility rating, report or recommendations were rendered by the RHF assessor for any of them. The Government’s May 23, 2019 news release, set out below makes it evident that the organization, whose building is assessed at public expense, can decide if it wants to make public its certification rating, and that the report of recommendations for improvements by the assessor is private, not public. The news release states:

“       Organizations that are rated through the program get a confidential scorecard rating and report of key areas of success and improvement for their facility.

         The program has two certification levels: RHF Accessibility Certified and RHF Accessibility Certified Gold.

         Certification can be made public through building labeling. Buildings can also be identified as an accessible facility on the RHFAC Registry hosted by CSA Group.”

If the public is to pay for this accessibility assessment, in whole or in part, the public has a right to know the results. Based on the Government’s announcement, an organization could inaccurately claim that it got a great accessibility assessment, while concealing a report from the RHF that lists a large number of readily-achievable low cost accessibility improvements that can and should be made. The public has no way to know what the RHF recommended, or if the organization has taken any of the recommended actions. Indeed, the public has no way to know if the organization has accurately described in public statements what the RHF said about the accessibility of that organization’s building.

12. There is No Indication if the Ontario Government is Paying All or Just Part of the RHF Fee for Its Accessibility Assessment, Even for a Highly Profitable Private Business that Needs No Government Subsidy

A private accessibility certification process like that offered by the RHF would ordinarily charge an organization a fee for conducting its accessibility check of that organization’s building. the Ontario Government has not announced whether the organizations that are chosen for this RHF assessment will get a free accessibility assessment, or whether each organization will have to contribute to part of the fee for this service. If they are to pay part of the fee, what percentage of the fee will they pay? Will this depend on the organization’s resources and profits?

An organization that hires any of the other accessibility consultants that offer services in Ontario does not get such a taxpayer-funded subsidy of their fee. They must pay that entire fee.

Why should any organization get a fee subsidy here? Why should a for-profit company get any public subsidy here? Why should any for-profit company that is making a good profit get a public subsidy here? A for-profit company can write off the cost of any accessibility consultant as a business expense. They thereby already get a tax benefit in such situations. Why do they need this additional public benefit?

13. The Ford Government Appears to Create an Incorrect Impression that It is Funding the Launch of the RHF Private Accessibility Certification Process in Ontario

In the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget, the Ford Government made a statement that could create the inaccurate impression that through this 1.3-million-dollar public expenditure, the Government is launching the RHF private accessibility certification process in Ontario. The Budget stated:

“The built environment continues to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. This is why the government will partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in select communities across the province.”

In fact, the RHF private accessibility certification process was already operating in Ontario, before that Government announcement, and without this Ontario Government funding. According to the RHF website, it had given two gold ratings in Ontario as of February 2019, two months before the Ontario Government’s April 2019 Budget. Another trade news website reported that Toronto’s CN Tower opted into the RHF accessibility certification process by November 2018.

14. An Open Competitive Bidding Process Should Precede Any Such Public Funding of the RHF

The Ford Government was elected on a commitment that it would ensure proper management of Ontario Government finances. Before the Ontario Government decides to channel a substantial 1.3 million dollars into the RHF private accessibility certification process, it should first hold an open competitive bidding process. This should not simply be given to the RHF. We have seen no indication that the Ontario Government did so. We have written the Government to find out about this.

There are a number of accessibility consultants operating in Ontario that review existing buildings and plans for future buildings for accessibility issues. The RHF is certainly not the only game in town. Others may well have as much or more experience and expertise in conducting accessibility audits than does the RHF.

Moreover, as addressed earlier in part, it would be important for the Government to satisfy itself that the RHF has sufficient expertise in this area. The Government is expected to undertake proper due diligence before choosing to spend that much public money on a single private organization. The fact that Rick Hansen has a great deal of notoriety is not, of itself, sufficient to satisfy this due diligence requirement.

The issues raised in this report demonstrate that such due diligence is needed here. If this same private accessibility certification process were conducted by the same organization in the same way, with all the issues identified here, but without the name of Rick Hansen affixed to it, would the Ontario Government have decided to channel 1.3 million public dollars into it?

15. There are Related Concerns with the RHF Process for Certifying an Entire Design Firm as Champions of Accessible Design

From an announcement on Twitter, the RHF appears to now have taken upon itself to designate an entire design firm as the “first design firm to achieve RHF Accessibility Certification”. On Twitter, the RHF congratulated a particular design firm as champions of #accessible design”.

Such a “certification” will convey to many that a design firm has sufficient expertise in accessible design to be counted on as an expert in the area. It also risks implying to the public that such a certified firm is somehow superior to other design firms that have no such RHF “certification”.

This raises important questions. What expertise does the RHF have for assessing the competence, training and experience of an entire design firm, in order to determine if it has sufficient expertise in accessible design is to be certified as such by the RHF? The issues raised in this report raise many important questions that bear on this. We would not accept as a given that the RHF has the requisite expertise, and that its certification of an entire design firm itself deserves any credit. There are design firms specializing in accessible design in Canada which have been working in the accessible design field for many years more than the RHF has been in the accessibility certification field.

It would be important to know what the RHF requires before granting this certification to an entire design firm. What more, if anything does it require beyond completion of the RHF’s two-week course, addressed earlier in this Report? Does the RHF examine the buildings that the design firm has previously designed, to ensure that they had no accessibility problems? Does the RHF simply certify a design firm if it aspires to the RHF standard of “meaningful access” (a standard which we questioned earlier in this report)?

Does the design firm retain that RHF designation even if it later hires new staff who did not get assessed? Building on the conflict of interest concerns addressed earlier, what conflict of interest concerns are in place in relation to the RHF certifying an entire design firm? Does the RHF ensure that it has an arms-length relationship with any design firm that it certifies, and that it does not grant any such certification to a design firm that has ever donated money to the RHF, or that might do so in the future?

It is important that the RHF process of purporting to certify an entire design firm not play any part in the Ontario Government’s decisions in relation to its own construction of infrastructure. There should be no preference given to design firms with this RHF certification, in the present circumstances.

16. The RHF Gave Its First Gold Accessibility Certification to the Vancouver International Airport, But There are Accessibility Concerns There

This report’s concerns with the Ford Government using public money to fund the RHF private accessibility certification process are reinforced by an example of the RHF certification process in practice. The RHF announced on December 5,2018 that it gave its first gold certification, its highest rating, to the Vancouver International Airport. As the June 4, 2019 AODA Alliance Update described, CBC’s flagship TV news program “The National” revealed two deeply troubling instances of horrific accessibility problems at the Vancouver International Airport. In two separate incidents, passengers with disabilities who use wheelchairs were brought to the wrong departure lounge and left there for hours, without food, water, bathrooms or help. The passengers did not speak English. For them, that was likely no “gold” accessibility experience at that airport.

Taking too narrow an approach, the RHF accessibility certification appears only to look at the airport’s bricks and mortar, and not as well at the accessibility of services delivered there. Yet the gold rating that the RHF certification gave risks leading many if not most to wrongly think that this is an airport that is a good and reliable place for passengers with disabilities.

We also note that in a tweet where the RHF announced that it gave a gold accessibility rating to the Vancouver International Airport, a photo shows that there are “hangout steps” at the airport. Hangout steps are a concern from the accessibility perspective.

The AODA Alliance’s widely viewed October 29, 2017 online video about accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre describes accessibility problems with hangout steps. See also the online post entitled “Why Do We Continue to Celebrate the Creation of New Barriers to Accessibility?” by Ontario-based accessibility consultant Marnie Peters, set out in this report’s appendix.

Hangout steps are akin to amphitheater seating. They are meant as a place to hang out and socialize. It is quite easy to create a socializing or hangout area where people with disabilities can reach and sit in any part of that area. In contrast, hangout steps have a proportion of the seating which is inaccessible to people using a mobility device. They can also be quite hard to navigate for people with vision loss or balance issues.

The RHF website frequently asked questions states that buildings that get a gold accessibility certification are “considered showcases of accessibility”. We question how a public building with hangout steps can deserve a gold rating for accessibility. It is troubling that this gold rating signals to the Vancouver International Airport and to the public that having hangout steps is fine from an accessibility perspective. it is also troubling that it signals to design professionals that they should feel free to include them in other buildings, without worrying that it raises any accessibility concern.

Appendix

1. July 3, 2019 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

July 3, 2019

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

Via email: [email protected]

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

Re: Proposed Provincial Funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Process

In the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget, your Government announced that it plans to spend 1.3 million dollars over two years to get the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) to conduct its private accessibility certification on a total of 250 buildings in Ontario. We have been on the public record for over three years voicing serious concerns about spending any public money on any private accessibility certification process.

We have several questions and concerns about the RHF private accessibility certification process, on which your Government is aiming to spend a substantial amount of public money. We set these out below. We ask you to answer these questions and to consider all these issues when considering whether to proceed with the Government’s plan, as announced in the April Ontario Budget.

Process for Selecting the RHF for this Government Funding

  1. Did the Ontario Government issue a “request for proposal” or otherwise conduct an open competitive bid process before deciding to award this funding to the RHF? If not, why not?

Standard for Assessing a Building’s Accessibility

  1. What specific accessibility standard will the RHF use when it assesses the accessibility of a building? The RHF website and its “Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation” states that its accessibility assessments are “based upon CSA B651 standards”, produced by the Canadian Standards Association. How much of that CSA Standard does the RHF use? All or only part of it? If only part, then which parts are included and which are excluded? If any are excluded, why were they excluded?
  1. The RHF says it assesses the “meaningful access” of a building. What specific criteria, measures and rating scales are used to assess if a building has “meaningful access”? Who decides if the access is meaningful? Is it the individual assessor? What safeguards are there to prevent this from arbitrarily varying from RHF assessor to assessor or from RHF adjudicator to adjudicator?
  1. Can we please have a copy of the RHF assessor’s and adjudicator’s checklist score criteria. How does the RHF score meaningful access on a barrier-by-barrier basis? What are the scoring instructions and scales that the RHF gives to its assessors, not only for each kind of barrier, but also for determining what overall level of accessibility RHF will award? We seek detailed specifics on this. For example, is each bathroom assessed and rated separately, with a distinct score attached to it, or are the scores for all bathrooms averaged into one figure?
  1. How has the RHF tested out its assessment training and forms to see if different assessors or adjudicators reach different conclusions on the same building or features within that building?

Time Limitations on RHF Accessibility Certification

  1. Will the Ontario Government require that there be a time limitation affixed to an RHF accessibility certification of a building? Otherwise, what protections will Ontarians with disabilities and the public have against an organization making any changes to the building or its interior or environs that create new disability barriers, sometime after it receives an RHF certification?

Training for RHF Assessors and Adjudicators

  1. What are the required qualifications or credentials for a person to be able to teach the RHFAC course? Are the course instructors required to have anything more than their own credentials as an RFHAC assessor? Are they required to be a member of the faculty of the college or university where the course is offered, and to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment?
  1. What are the detailed specific contents of the curriculum taught in the two-week RHFAC course for RHF assessors? What specific techniques are used in the course to educate the participants in the experience of people with disabilities?
  1. What are the specifics of the knowledge assessed in the RHFAC test at the end of the two-week course?
  1. Does an RHF assessor need to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario? Or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
  1. Do course participants get a copy of the specifics of the CSA B621 voluntary built environment accessibility standard? Do they get copies of all the built environment accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code, in AODA accessibility standards, and in applicable municipal bylaws in Ontario? Does the course teach detailed knowledge of these? Does testing at the end of the course assess a person’s detailed knowledge of these?

Ensuring the RHF has No Conflicts of Interest

  1. What measures have been put in place to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest with any organizations seeking its accessibility certification? To that end, will organizations be precluded from taking part in Government-funded RHF accessibility assessments if the organization does not have an arms-length relationship with the RHF, or has made a donation to the RHF, or may do so in the future?
  1. What measures are to be put in place to avoid the risk that an assessor will lean in favour of a more favourable accessibility rating in order to be better-positioned to get more organizations to hire them to do an RHF accessibility assessment?

Sufficiency of RHF Off-Site Accessibility Adjudication Process

  1. What measures will be put in place to ensure that an RHF adjudicator’s off-site review of a building’s accessibility assessment is fair, accurate, open and transparent?

Choice of Which Buildings to Assess for Accessibility

  1. Which organizations’ buildings will be checked for accessibility by the RHF certification process? What proportion of them will be private businesses and what proportion will be public sector organizations?
  1. Will organizations be able to apply to be chosen for an RHF assessment? Who will choose which organizations and which buildings will be subject to these accessibility assessments, the Ontario Government, the RHF or some combination of the two? If the RHF has any role to play in decisions over which organizations’ buildings will be assessed, what measures will be implemented to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest?
  1. What public accountability and openness safeguards will be in place regarding the decisions over which organizations will have their building assessed? What criteria will be used to choose which organizations and which buildings will be assessed?
  1. Will the Ford Government invite the public, including Ontario’s disability community, to indicate which organizations and which buildings should be assessed by the RHF?

Amount of Government Subsidy for RHF Accessibility Assessment

  1. Will an organization that is chosen for a Government-financed RHF accessibility assessment have the entire cost of the assessment paid for by the taxpayer? If a business is highly-profitable, for example, will it be required to contribute to any part of the cost of the assessment?

We would be pleased to provide any clarifications to these questions, if needed.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance @davidlepofsky

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

Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]

2. Excerpt from the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget Re Public Funding for the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility Certification Process

Originally posted at http://budget.ontario.ca/2019/chapter-1c.html#s-15

Making Ontario More Accessible

Approximately one in four people in Ontario age 15 years and over has a disability, a number that increases to 43 per cent among seniors. Disabilities can range from flexibility and mobility to vision and hearing. As the population continues to age, the numbers are expected to rise in terms of frequency and seriousness. Ontario’s Government for the People will work to ensure people with disabilities have the support and resources they need to live fulfilling and productive lives.

The built environment continues to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. This is why the government will partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in select communities across the province. With a $1.3 million investment over two years, this program will prepare accessibility assessments of businesses and public buildings and, together with property managers and owners, determine ways to remove any identified barriers for people with visible and invisible disabilities.

3. Text of the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 Announcement Regarding Public Funding of the Rick Hansen Private Accessibility Certification Process

Taking Action to Remove Barriers for People with Disabilities

Ontario making buildings more accessible

 

TORONTO — People with disabilities and seniors deserve to remain engaged in their communities and represent a huge potential employee and customer base. Many buildings in Ontario continue to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. When buildings are not accessible, people are shut out from fully participating in everyday life, businesses fail to reach their full potential, and communities are not as welcoming as they should be.

Ontario is focusing on what matters most to people with disabilities and seniors by helping to remove barriers in buildings and making communities more accessible.

The Government of Ontario is investing $1.3 million over two years through a new partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation. Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, and Rick Hansen, Founder of the Rick Hansen Foundation, were at the MaRS Discovery District today to announce that the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program will be launched in Ontario.

The certification program will provide accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings by trained professionals, and will help property managers and owners determine ways to remove identified barriers.

Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities. The program is expected to start this fall and roll out over the next two years in select communities across Ontario.

“Removing barriers in buildings will help make communities and businesses more accessible and open for jobs,” said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.

“We are working to ensure people with disabilities have the support and resources they need to participate more fully in their communities, as consumers and employees. Being accessible benefits businesses and communities and opens them up to qualified talent and more customers.”

“I am very pleased and honoured to be collaborating with the Ontario government. The $1.3 million will go a long way in providing meaningful access to buildings and communities, and will help make Ontario more inclusive where people with disabilities are living to their full potential,” said Rick Hansen, Founder of the Rick Hansen Foundation.

 

QUICK FACTS

 

  • Organizations that are rated through the program get a confidential scorecard rating and report of key areas of success and improvement for their facility.
  • The program has two certification levels: RHF Accessibility Certified and RHF Accessibility Certified Gold.
  • Certification can be made public through building labeling. Buildings can also be identified as an accessible facility on the RHFAC Registry hosted by CSA Group.
  • Currently, the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor Training Course is offered at George Brown College and Carleton University in Ontario. The program has been successfully implemented by the provincial governments of British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

 

Rick Hansen Accessibility Certification

2019 Ontario Budget

RHFAC Registry

Pooja Parekh, Minister’s Office, 416-314-0797

Matt Gloyd, Communications Branch, 416-314-7013

Dawn Tse, Rick Hansen Foundation, 778-229-7532

http://news.ontario.ca/oss/en

Disponible en français

4. Online Article by a Canadian -Based Accessibility Consultant Warning about Private Accessibility Certification Processes

Originally posted at https://www.optimalperformance.ca/if-any-company-in-us-or-canada-promises-certification-in-accessible-audits-buyer-beware/

Optimal Performance

If any company in US or Canada promises Certification in Accessible Audits BUYER BEWARE

HOME / ACCESSIBILITY / IF ANY COMPANY IN US OR CANADA PROMISES CERTIFICATION IN ACCESSIBLE AUDITS BUYER BEWARE

BUYER BEWARE When you read “Building Accessibility Excellence Program (BAEA) Certification Program; There is no such thing and this certification can be downright dangerous and ill founded

The less than scrupulous entrepreneurs who suddenly label themselves not only as accessibility “experts” but as being able to certify lay people as being certified as “Building Accessibility experts or BAEA’s” abound in Ontario and in the US.

Olga Dosis and I wanted to address this in an effort to ensure you the “buyer” be fully aware that these promises to certify or as being certified is being used purely as a selling tool and also represent potential liabilities for your company. The liabilities will occur within the Human Rights Code for Ontario or the complaints driven ADA in the case of the USA related to accommodation and accessibility. The second area of liability will arise over time from audits of your company’s AODA programs and mandatory processes expected by the Directorate of Ontario, in which case daily penalites can be levied. The third area of liability will rest with civil suits where a non-bona fide “certification” system within Ontario and states Build Codes audits and recommendations completed by non-qualified consultants will result in accidents, build code violations and even loss of life. This loss of life or accidents may well occur where a “certified” lay person referring to themselves as Building Accessibility experts recommend a build code change to accommodate a certain type of disability which endangers the life of that person or someone with another type of disability or with no disability at all.

This “game” of letting employers and lay persons think they can attend a course about building accessibly and then be certified is at best, a naive way of quickly making money from the AODA and ADA Regulations and at worst a dangerous and cynical approach to an unimformed marketplace.

So who really would meet Certification requirements and the work experience to audit a workplace or building and make recommendations about the Build Code for each State or Province? Our past, current and future recommendations to clients and any companies in the US or Ontario who ask us about this is a dedicated team of accessible design experts should conduct audits of your workplace, building, space. The team should be comprised of Interior Designers/Architects/Contractors who are certified in the Build Code for the jurisdiction in which your building is located; coupled with ADA, AODA and Accessible Build Code experts who will have formal University/College level degrees in the area of AODA/ADA Design/Code and Cross Disability Studies. The teaming of experts is the real answer, not a short course of E-Learning followed by the promise of being a certified Building Accessibility expert.

Don’t forget we are not talking about relatively simple recommendations such as colour contrast on a wall or designing a directional sign. We may be talking about altering the structural support in a soon-to-be-accessible washroom; the design and installation of a way- finding sign which keeps an unsighted person from walking into a hazardous area; or a customer or employee with a cognitive or learning disability not being made aware of an area of a building which is hazardous to enter; pinch points in a escalator which results in loss of limbs etc. The stakes are high relative to the Building Audits, interpretation of Build Codes and Accessible Codes coupled with the resulting recommendations and guidance for employers, building owners, facility managers and end-users.

The use of University/College educated and long-term experienced teams of experts such as Interior Designers, Contractors, Facility Managers (the experience should include audits and accessible design of multiple building types, sizes and complexity for example) and Accessibility experts (University education in the areas of Human Factors Design/Ergonomic Design/Disability Studies and Design) is who the bona fide experts are. These experts will also have the appropriate insurance in place to protect your firm, building, facility in the case of accidents, law suits and Human Rights/AODA/ADA related claims.

As in any purchasing decisions made for your building, facility, workplace, school or hospital, always ask for complete resumes of the “experts”; ensure they have the correct degrees, years of experience in multiple settings, no past history of liabilities or actions against them and the use of an ACCESSIBILITY TEAM to ensure all aspects of accessibility are addressed; review the type of insurance the accessibility auditing team carry and the amount of liability coverage in place; interview and establish a working relationship with the accessibility auditing team. Then as the project proceeds including in depth, science based audits; build code review; recommendations and guidance on the part of the consulting team ensure your own internal team works closely with them to assure communication and recommendations are clear.

Many of us would love to learn to be Doctors, Lawyers, Physiotherapists and even Ergonomists by taking a few weeks of study and having a private firm “certify” us. All reasonable people know however that these specializations take years of study and years of experience to achieve. The old adage of Buyer Beware needs to come to the fore as many lay people hang out a shingle saying they are accessiblity and disability experts in Ontario and the US. If the promise of certified accessible building assssors (BAEA for example) sounds too be good to be true, it is. OPC Inc and our team of Interior Designers/Architects/FM’s and contractors wants to ensure the marketplace knows this up front before a serious accident occurs. Lives, limbs and creating equal access to the marketplace, workplaces and public spaces is at stake for Ontario and the US. This is serious business.

Olga Dosis BA, Masters Psychology, Masters Disability Studies

JESleeth Hon B.P&H.E. (Kin), Hon B.Sc.P.. T

Members Association of Interior Designers Ontario (ARIDO), Interior Designers of Canada (IDC), International Facility Managers Association of Canada and National Institute of Building Sciences

Optimal Performance Consultants

416-860-0002

416-860-0005

[email protected]

www.OptimalPerformance.ca

5. Text of an Online Article by Another Accessibility Consultant on Why “Hang-Out Steps Present Major Accessibility Problems

Originally posted at https://medium.com/@marnie_265/why-do-we-continue-to-celebrate-the-creation-of-new-barriers-to-accessibility-d075e05d90d1

June 4, 2019

Why Do We Continue to Celebrate the Creation of New Barriers to Accessibility?

A recent story about new or renovated buildings being celebrated for their innovative and unique designs made my head spin, blood boil and my heart drop. It was a tantalizing title after all, “After a Thoughtful Revamp, a University Library Finally Sees the Light”

Unfortunately — the light must have been blinding their eyes in this thoughtless revamp.

Universities are supposed to be places of inclusion, diversity and welcoming for everyone. What the architects have developed for the University screams exclusion, discrimination, and segregation.

Steps up to the socializing space. Photo: Stéphane Groleau Azure Magazine-Bishops-Library-Lemay

The changes to the library, in particular steps and risers designed as a place to hang out, are designed to create “…a multifunctional space ideal for study, reading, discussions, meetings and lectures.” But that is only true if you can walk, and don’t have vision loss, or hearing loss — there is no way for a person with a mobility aid such as a wheelchair to join their friends, attend a lecture or meeting in this ‘re-envisioned’ space. There is insufficent colour contrast between the risers, the steps and the landings, step with caution.

High Counters and Chairs in Library. Photo Stéphane Groleau Azure Magazine-Bishops-Library-Lemay

If you want to grab a reference book and grab a space at a table for a quick look — you need to be able to stand… sorry, high counters and chairs only, better luck next time all you wheelchair users.

Fully glazed panels with no vision strips or markings. Photo Stéphane Groleau Azure Magazine-Bishops-Library-Lemay

“In a high-traffic, wood-finished hub known as the Agora…”, no running is allowed, or looking down at your phone while walking — lest you run face first into the fully glazed panels without vision strips that make up the several smaller meeting rooms — which I am just guessing here — most probably do not have an assistive listening system to help students with hearing impairments. Say what ? I couldn’t hear you.

Universities are supposed to be places of higher learning — people with disabilities face enough challenges from barriers in existing and heritage built environment facilities and urban spaces — we shouldn’t be creating new barriers. We most certainly shouldn’t be celebrating them.

Marnie Peters — President of Accessibility Simplified

Marnie Peters has 20+ years of experience as a consultant offering comprehensive services related to accessibility and universal design. Her firm, Accessibility Simplified provides professional services to architects, engineers, designers and planners to ensure buildings and urban environments comply with all building codes, accessibility standards and human rights legislation.





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