On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the AODA Alliance Again Writes Ontario’s Education Minister and TVO’s Vice President to Try to Get the Urgent Learning Needs of Students with Disabilities Met During the COVID-19 Crisis


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/

On Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the AODA Alliance Again Writes Ontario’s Education Minister and TVO’s Vice President to Try to Get the Urgent Learning Needs of Students with Disabilities Met During the COVID-19 Crisis

May 21, 2020

          SUMMARY

In our continuing campaign to get the Ford Government to address the urgent needs of a third of a million vulnerable students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, the AODA Alliance today wrote two important letters, set out below. These are especially timely, because today is the internationally recognized Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD).

First, we wrote Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce today to again press him to direct the establishment within his Ministry of a command table of experts on teaching students with disabilities. We need this command table created to lead and oversee the creation and implementation of an emergency plan to address the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We were following up on our April 29, 2020 letter to the minister. In our new letter we point out three striking examples that show why there is a pressing need for the minister to direct his Ministry to immediately take the overdue actions we recommend.

Second, we today wrote the vice president for digital content at TVO, Ontario’s public education TV network. We summarized a recent discussion that the vice president had with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. In that discussion, we gave TVO constructive recommendations for urgent action that TVO needs to take to fix the accessibility problems in its online education content.

Taken together, these letters show a recurring failure of leadership by the Ford Government when it comes to meeting the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. A striking illustration of this is the Education Minister’s May 8, 2020 email to all school boards about distance learning during COVID-19. We also set out that memo below. The minister’s detailed email to all school boards was missing the key directions to school boards on how to meet the urgent needs of students with disabilities during COVID-19.

Stay tuned for more AODA Alliance Updates. Keep us posted by sending us your feedback, at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

May 21, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

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

May 21, 2020

Via Email

To: The Hon Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education

[email protected]

Dear Minister,

Re: Ensuring that Students with Disabilities Fully Benefit from Education at Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

We write On Global Accessibility Awareness Day to follow up on our April 29, 2020 letter to you about the pressing need for the Ontario Government to create and swiftly implement a comprehensive plan to meet the urgent learning needs of a third of a million Ontario students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Since we wrote you almost a month ago, we appreciate having had the chance to have conversations with your deputy minister, two of your assistant deputy ministers, and some other officials within the ministry. I also welcomed the chance to make a five-minute presentation to you during the May 6, 2020 virtual meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee of which I am a member.

It is good that during Premier Ford’s May 19, 2020 daily COVID-19 briefing, you recognized that more than ever, families of students with disabilities in Ontario need more support for their children to be able to learn at home. It is helpful that you said that the Government has great concern about these children and that the Government wants to ensure that these children get the support they need.

However, almost ten weeks into the school shutdown, and even after announcing that schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year, the Government has still announced no comprehensive plan to remove the troubling and recurring additional barriers facing students with disabilities that you have acknowledged. Your Government still leaves it to each school board to separately figure out what these barriers are and how to systematically overcome them. Your Government has still not set up and put in charge a much-needed command table with expertise in educating students with disabilities to steer and lead the province’s efforts in this area. This is especially wasteful and ineffective when school boards, like your Government, are trying to cope with an unexpected and unprecedented crisis. Front line educators and parents are struggling to do their best. They need more help from the Ontario Government.

Here are three illustrative and deeply disturbing examples of missing provincial leadership. We ask you to intervene with your Ministry officials to get them to act not only on these examples, but on a comprehensive plan of action.

First, with the rapid move to online classes, it is a bedrock necessity that the platform that schools use for online class meetings is accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. From our exchanges with Ministry staff, it is clear that the Ministry has not shown the required leadership on this issue. It does not appear to have directed school boards to ensure that they use accessible platforms, nor has it compared the options to direct which platform should be preferred.

Your detailed May 8, 2020 email to all school boards and other key players in the education system focuses primarily on the Ministry’s directions to school boards to use “synchronous learning” (i.e. online classes in real time via web-based meeting platforms). That memo is stunningly silent on the need to ensure that the platform school boards use is accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. That memo gives school boards no directions on which platforms to use. That memo was sent two days after I briefed you and four of your caucus colleagues on this serious issue during the May 6, 2020 meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee in which you commendably participated.

The Ministry has told us that it has left it to each school board to decide for itself which meeting platform to use. That is a failed approach. It abdicates provincial leadership and oversight. Your Ministry is leaving it to each school board to itself decide whether or not it should investigate the relative accessibility of different online meeting platforms. A school board may not even know that this is an issue it needs to investigate.

Under your Ministry’s approach a school board is free to simply overlook this issue altogether. Your Government is burdening each school board to duplicate the same investigation of the comparative accessibility of different online meeting platforms. It is not clear which school boards have any expertise to do this. There is no assurance that any school boards who do this will in fact get it right. Your Ministry is not tracking which online platforms are being used in Ontario schools, or to what extent accessible platforms are being used.

The Ministry told us it has not itself undertaken a comparison of the various virtual meeting platforms available to school boards in order to assess their comparative accessibility. We have called on your Ministry to do so and to direct school boards on the accessible platforms that may be used. Parents, students, and teachers with disabilities should not have to fight against such recurring barriers one class, one school, or one school board at a time.

Your Ministry told us that it leaves it to each school board to decide which synchronous meeting platform to use, based on the school board’s assessment of its local needs. With respect, blindness, dyslexia, or other reading-related disabilities do not change when they occur in Cornwall or Kenora. The reason why the Government is now developing an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is so that people with disabilities will not have to fight the same battles time and again and so that school boards won’t have to each reinvent the same accessibility wheel.

We have received troubling word that at least one school board has forbidden its teachers from using Zoom, which is at least as accessible as or more accessible than the other available online platforms. That flies in the face of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act .

Your Ministry arranged a helpful May 13, 2020 demonstration of the specific online meeting platform that it has chosen to purchase for school boards, called “Bongo.” It is part of the Bright Space learning management system that your Ministry chose to procure from the D2L firm for use by school boards if they wish. During this demonstration, it became apparent that neither your Ministry nor D2L claimed that Bongo is the most accessible meeting platform available. Its accessibility features were helpfully demonstrated and described.

During this demonstration, we learned that your Government has no idea how many school boards, schools or teachers around Ontario are using the Bongo platform. Your Ministry has left them free to use whatever platform they wish. As far as your Ministry would know, there could be few if any teachers using Bongo or who even know about it.

This presentation included a comparison of Bongo’s accessibility features as compared to those of the Zoom platform. It was D2L that was comparing its product to Zoom. Your Ministry did not invite Zoom for a chance to showcase its own product’s accessibility features, leaving it to its competitor D2L to do this.

The D2L presentation made an unfair comparison. It compared the Bongo platform, for which the Ministry was directly or indirectly paying a fee, to the free version of Zoom. I pointed this out and asked how the Bongo platform compared to Zoom’s more robust pay version, as opposed to its free version, which has fewer features. D2L acknowledged that the pay version of Zoom is closer in comparison to Bongo.

During that May 13, 2020 presentation, my questions revealed that Bongo is missing an important accessibility feature that Zoom contains. With Zoom, a student can easily and instantly raise his or her virtual hand for the teacher’s attention, by simply typing a keyboard shortcut. Bongo has no such keyboard shortcut. For a student to reach Bongo’s accessible control for raising his or her hand, it takes more hunting around the program. Its location is not obvious. It is important for a student to be able to quickly raise one’s hand without having to hunt around the program for the relevant control. D2L conceded that their accessibility tester had earlier asked Bongo’s provider to add this to their program. D2L did not include this important fact in its comparison of its product to Zoom.

In the Ministry’s PowerPoint prepared to demonstrate Bongo’s accessibility, a slide was included to suggest that the ARCH Disability Law Centre used Bongo. This was obviously done to convey or imply that it had ARCH’s approval as accessible. The slides stated:

“•        We have several clients who support people with disabilities: CNIB, CHS, Vision Australia, Thomas Pocklington Trust, ARCH Disability Law Centre.

ARCH’s use of Virtual Classroom

  • Educating Canadians on Accessibility Rights using Brightspace and Virtual Classroom
  • ARCH is offering online courses to Community Champions and Disability Rights Lawyers on the Optional Protocol (OP) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) with Simultaneous French interpretation, English and French live captions, ASL, and LSQ.

Press Release – ARCH launches OP Lab: Learning, Sharing, Actioning!”

This was quite misleading. At this May 13, 2020 presentation, I responded that ARCH’s executive director had advised me that while they had procured Bongo for certain upcoming events, they have not yet used it because it has several accessibility problems. ARCH has been trying to get these problems fixed. Neither D2L nor the Government disputed this.

Second, as a key part of its approach during the COVID-19 crisis, your Government has repeatedly pointed to key online learning resources for teachers and parents. We have alerted the Government that these have accessibility problems. This includes both the Government’s own “Learn at Home” web page and the Government-owned TVO’s online learning resources. It became evident from my May 14, 2020 phone call with TVO’s Vice President for Digital Content that TVO is lacking a plan to retrofit its online educational resources to ensure that they become accessible to students, teachers, and parents with disabilities. TVO seemed to be unaware of the severity of this problem until we brought it to their and the public’s attention. I encourage you to read our May 21, 2020 letter to TVO’s Vice President of Digital Content, copied to you. It sets out our constructive advice to TVO – advice which TVO found quite helpful.

We have seen no indication that your Ministry was aware of the problems with its own online resources or those of TVO until we raised these concerns. We have seen no plan from your Ministry to fix these problems.

This TVO situation reflects a double failure. TVO failed to properly ensure its online content’s accessibility. After that, your Ministry failed to ensure the accessibility of TVO’s online content before so heavily relying on it as part of its COVID-19 emergency planning.

Third, struggling with this COVID-19 crisis, it is great that teachers, parents, and others with expertise in the field in Ontario and elsewhere have been coming up with creative ways to help students with different disabilities learn while schools are closed. We have been urging your Government for weeks without success to devote staff to effectively gather from the front lines specific examples of effective strategies. We still need your Government to do so and to effectively share these with educators and parents as quickly as possible in a user-friendly way, not through a blizzard of links.

Let us illustrate how disturbing this situation is. On May 4, 2020, in the absence of effective Government action on this front, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition joined together to hold a successful virtual town hall. It offered practical tips to parents and teachers for teaching students with disabilities at home during COVID-19. Your Ministry’s Assistant Deputy Minister of Education responsible for special education Jeff Butler commendably took part in our virtual town hall and described its contents as valuable. In just over two weeks, it has been viewed over 1,400 times. We have no budget to publicize it.

We have repeatedly asked your Ministry to publicize this virtual town hall to school boards and frontline educators. So far, it has not agreed to do so. What could be a simpler and lower-cost way to help students with disabilities? We have also urged your Ministry for weeks without success to take over this idea and itself hold such events. We have offered to help with ideas. The Ministry, with its staff and resources, could do this more effectively than did our handful of volunteers who pulled together our successful May 4, 2020 virtual town hall in under a week.

Instead of taking us up on this, the Government has largely re-announced the same initiatives that have been underway for weeks. While helpful to a point, those measures have not effectively addressed the pressing concerns of vulnerable students with disabilities.

On May 19, 2020 you said at the Premier’s daily COVID-19 briefing that you have directed school boards to unlock all their special education and mental health resources during the school shutdown to help students with disabilities. That of course has been their job from the outset. However, for them to succeed, they need far more provincial direction and support than this.

On May 19, 2020, in response to a question from the media at the Premier’s COVID-19 briefing, you announced some sort of two-week summer program aimed at helping orient some students with disabilities, such as those with autism, to a return to school. That announcement gave no specifics, such as where this will be offered or which students or how many students will be eligible for this program. Depending on how this is carried out, it could be helpful.

However, here again, there is a similar pressing need for the Ontario Government to show leadership by setting specific detailed and effective standards and requirements for school re-openings to ensure that the added needs of students with disabilities are effectively met in this process. Your Ministry’s approach to date to students with disabilities during this crisis will not ensure that this is properly handled.

Your May 8, 2020 memo to all school boards is quite illustrative of this entire problem. It commendably makes a few general references to accommodating students with special education needs and to mental health issues. However, it gives no specific directions for meeting the recurring needs of students with disabilities in circumstances where specificity and provincial leadership are required.

We remain eager to help with solutions. We need your active intervention to set things right. Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC: Premier Doug Ford

Via Email: [email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education

[email protected]

Jeff Butler, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister of the Student Support and Field Services Division

[email protected]

Yael Ginsler, Assistant Deputy Minister of Education (Acting) for the Student Achievement Division

[email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

[email protected]

Claudine Munroe, Director of the Special Education/Success for All Branch

[email protected]

Demetra Saldaris, Director of the Professionalism, Teaching Policy and Standards Branch

[email protected]

Rashmi, Swarup TVO Vice President Digital Learning

[email protected]

May 21, 2020 Letter from the  AODA Alliance to TVO’s Vice President for Digital Content

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

Email: [email protected]

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 21, 2020

To: Rashmi Swarup

Vice President Digital Learning

Via email: [email protected]

Dear Ms. Swarup,

Re: Accessibility Problems with TVO’s Online Educational Content

Thank you for speaking to me by phone on May 14, 2020 about the accessibility problems on TVO’s website. It is especially timely that I am writing you on Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Here are several key points that I shared with you during our discussion.

I explained that TVO’s online learning content requires a major review as soon as possible for accessibility problems. Our preliminary look at them revealed significant and obvious problems. This strongly suggests that accessibility problems are likely more pervasive. The fact that they turned up so quickly suggests to us that TVO has not done effective accessibility user testing.

I explained that to rectify this, TVO needs to immediately put in place several new measures. It needs to now publicly commit to fix its online content’s accessibility problems and to ensure that any new online content created in the future is accessible from the start.

You explained that you have been in your position for about one year as TVO’s Vice President of Digital Content. Previously, you were a superintendent of schools at the York Region District School Board. You didn’t claim to be a subject matter expert on digital content accessibility, though you have taken required basic AODA training – training which we know to be quite introductory.

TVO needs to have a senior official with subject matter expertise in digital accessibility with lead responsibility and authority for ensuring the accessibility of TVO’s digital content and online offerings. It seems clear from the presence of accessibility problems in TVO’s online educational content that it is lacking that expertise in a leadership role.

I outlined for you that a number of major organizations have helpfully established a position of Chief Accessibility Officer to address their accessibility needs and duties. TVO could benefit from doing so. From what you explained, it appears that no one senior official at TVO has full responsibility for and authority over ensuring digital accessibility. Responsibility is spread over several members of the TVO senior management team. That is a far less effective way of addressing this important issue.

TVO needs to bring on board the subject matter expertise to fix this problem. I explained that there are digital accessibility experts TVO can retain to assist in this area.

TVO needs to establish and make public a detailed plan to fix the accessibility problems with its current digital learning content and to ensure that new digital content that TVO creates in the future is barrier-free. I explained that end-user testing is an important aspect of this. Automated checking tools cannot replace proper user testing by human beings. From our preliminary inspection of some of TVO’s online educational content, it seemed that no proper user testing would have earlier occurred.

You said you appreciated our raising these concerns and the recommendations that I shared. Our raising these concerns had escalated TVO’s attention. We appreciate your agreeing to write us to let us know what new action TVO will take to address these concerns.

We hope the Ontario Government will support TVO’s taking swift action to correct these problems. We had raised our concerns about TVO at senior levels within the Ministry of Education. The Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has repeatedly said that the Government has partnered with TVO to help deliver online education to students during the COVID-19 crisis.

Finally, I emphasized that as a public broadcast, TVO should be a leader in this area. In contrast to TVO’s accessibility deficiencies, WGBH, a US PBS station, is a key hub and, I believe, the birthplace for the important accessibility innovation of audio description for video content.

We look forward to hearing from you about the reforms TVO will adopt. It is important for corrective action to be taken quickly, given that schools remain closed for the rest of this school year due to the COVID-19 crisis and may have to close again should there be a second surge of COVID-19.

Please stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC

Premier Doug Ford

[email protected]

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education,

[email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education

[email protected]

Claudine Munroe, Director of the Special Education/Success for All Branch

[email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

[email protected]

Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission

[email protected]

May 8, 2020 Email from Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce to Ontario School Boards

May 8 2020 Email from Minister of Education Stephen Lecce to Ontario School Boards

From: Ministry of Education (EDU) <

[email protected]>

Sent: May 8, 2020 5:36 PM

To: Ministry of Education (EDU) <

[email protected]>

Subject: Updates on Continuity of Learning for the Extended School Closure Period | Mises à jour sur la continuité de l’apprentissage pendant la période

de fermeture prolongée des écoles

table with 2 columns and 2 rows

Memorandum To:

Chairs of District School Boards

Directors of Education

School Authorities

From:

Stephen Lecce

Minister of Education

Nancy Naylor

Deputy Minister

table end

Thank you for your continued commitment to supporting students during the school closure period. We have heard so many inspiring stories from across the province of students, parents, and educators doing extraordinary work to continue learning and build and maintain relationships at this time.

During this time, the mental health and well-being of students and the people working in the education system remains a priority. The government and school boards have moved rapidly to mobilize critical mental health resources and supports for students during these uncertain times.

As you know, the school closure period has been extended to at least May 31, 2020. To that end, we are writing to provide guidance on provincial standards for continuity of learning for the remainder of the closure period, as well as to provide updates on progress to date.

GUIDANCE FOR CONTINUITY OF LEARNING

As we entered the school closure period, our transition to Learn at Home was aided by existing tools that were in place to support virtual learning.  The ministry provides Ontario’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) at no cost to educators in school boards and First Nation/federally operated schools to use for delivering online programming. As a learning management system, the VLE provides tools for both synchronous and asynchronous learning delivery.  Boards may already have access to other synchronous learning management systems and tools, such as Google Classroom or Edsby.

While the expectation of the ministry was that educators would embrace the use of synchronous learning during the school closure period, there has been an inconsistent uptake of this mode of learning. As such, this memo is providing clarity on the ministry position.

Recognizing there are a wide range of modalities that are used in the continuum of learning between educators and their students, the ministry’s expectation is that synchronous learning be used as part of whole class instruction, in smaller groups of students, and/or in a one-on-one context.

We know that parents and students are looking for ways to interact with their teachers – which can be addressed through multiple modalities – and that online synchronous learning experience with teachers and education workers is an effective and supportive method that will position students to succeed during the school closure period. Similarly, parents expect their child’s educators to strive toward as normal a learning environment as possible during this period, of which synchronous learning is a key component.

Boards should take steps to ensure that privacy considerations are addressed and that students are aware of best practices, including not giving out passwords, ensuring that teachers are the last person to leave a synchronous meeting, and respecting other board policies on student conduct.

We recognize that there may be exceptional situations where synchronous online delivery may not be possible for all students. Exceptions could include, for example, where a parent has excused their child from instruction or this form of instruction, in which case a parent’s wishes should be respected.

If a student cannot participate due to a lack of devices or internet connectivity, or where students require accommodations for special education needs, alternate arrangements must be made, including personal outreach through phone calls. With that in mind, it is insufficient for educators to communicate with their students in one interaction per week, for example. We recognize that school boards have made extraordinary efforts to ensure that students have devices and connectivity wherever possible, and we once again reiterate our expectation that boards provide necessary technology to students as soon as possible, and appropriate accommodations for students with special education needs, where necessary.  The ministry will continue to support school boards in these efforts.

If a teacher or education worker does not feel they can currently deliver education to their students in this manner, schools and boards are encouraged to provide support and professional development.  However, in situations where teachers or education workers are not delivering synchronous learning, schools and boards are expected to immediately move to a team assignment approach to ensure that students are offered synchronous delivery of teacher led learning.

School boards should continue to follow the guidance provided on March 31, 2020 regarding the hours per student, per week, and the suggested areas of curriculum focus by grade groupings.

UPDATES ON PROGRESS TO DATE

Working Together

Between April 15 and 29, the ministry conducted a series of meetings beginning with Parent Involvement Committee Chairs and extending to include meetings with the following key roles responsible for supporting vulnerable students: Student Success and Student Effectiveness Leads, Indigenous Graduation Coaches, and Black Student Graduation Coaches. These meetings provided a venue for board leads to share successful practices and ongoing challenges to supporting vulnerable students and identify additional ways to offer support.

During these meetings, partners in school boards shared information on the many ways they are addressing the needs of vulnerable students, their wellbeing, and academic success. The ministry will continue to work with partners to determine ways to support student well-being, engagement in learning, and inclusive approaches to learning within a remote learning environment, as well as when students return to school.

Access to Technology

Access to internet connectivity and learning devices has been identified by school boards and other stakeholders as an urgent need during the school closure period. In response to this need, the ministry launched an education-related call for proposals on the Ontario Together web portal, focused on supporting

equity of access to remote learning.

Through this initiative, the ministry will identify proposals that school boards may wish to consider to support student and educator access to internet connectivity and devices such as computers, tablets, and portable wi-fi hotspots. As well, school boards may also wish to consider consulting other partners and sources, such as OECM, to consider comparable services and goods.

As we prepare for the eventual return to the classroom, broadband modernization activities in schools continue.  All Ontario students and educators in publicly funded schools will have access to reliable, fast, secure and affordable internet services at school, in all regions of the province including rural and northern communities.  This work will be complete in secondary schools by September 2020 and in elementary schools by September 2021.

As of March 31, 2020, broadband modernization was complete at 1,983 schools (including 403 in northern communities and 686 in rural communities) and in progress at 2,953 schools (including 99 in northern communities and 408 in rural communities).

Ensuring protection of privacy and security of digital learning resources is of the utmost importance for the ministry to support a safe, inclusive and accepting learning environment for synchronous learning.  While school boards remain independently accountable for establishing clear policies and approving appropriate use of collaboration tools to support students’ learning online, we will continue to work with boards and our government partners to provide guidance on cyber security and privacy best practices for sharing with educators in your schools.

School Construction

Schools are an essential part of supporting student achievement, as well as providing safe and healthy learning and work environments for students and staff. As we head into the spring and summer months, when school boards undertake critical capital construction and renewal projects, the province has revised the list of essential workplaces to support school infrastructure.  Construction projects and services (e.g. new construction, maintenance and repair) that support the essential operation of, and provide new capacity in, schools and child care centres can proceed, provided that there is strict adherence to health and safety requirements.

As school boards are best situated to understand their own particular circumstances, the ministry is asking that school boards consider whether their construction projects are able to reopen in light of these changes. This may mean that boards will need to consult with their own legal counsel, as appropriate.

Learn at Home/

Apprendre à la maison

Learn at Home/

Apprendre à la maison

was launched on March 20, 2020. This website provides supplemental resources for parents and students to support independent learning at home while schools are closed.

Learn at Home/

Apprendre à la maison  includes learning resources on a variety of subjects including math, science, technology, Indigenous history and ways of knowing, art, physical education,  social sciences, and mental health. Supports for students with learning disabilities and special education needs, including autism, have also been included.

Resources continue to be added to address a range of learning needs.

Over the past month, there have been over four million visits to  Learn at Home/

Apprendre à la maison.

We encourage you to continue to share this website and promote the new resources available with parents and students in your board.

If there are additional high-quality online learning resources that you think would be particularly beneficial to students and parents at this time, we encourage you to share them with us by emailing  [email protected]

School Mental Health Ontario

School Mental Health Ontario – a provincial implementation support team that works alongside the ministry, school boards, and provincial education and health organizations to develop a systematic and comprehensive approach to school mental health – has several resources available to support families during the school closure period (

https://smho-smso.ca/blog/how-to-support-student-mental-health-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/).

Professional development

Through webinars, the ministry is providing professional development to support educators in the use of the VLE and pedagogy for remote, synchronous and asynchronous learning. In addition, the ministry is providing professional learning webinars for educators on specialised topics such as supporting students with special education needs, kindergarten/primary education and meaningful assessments and evaluations.

To date, more than 23,000 teachers have participated in, or registered for future webinars, on 34 different topics.  Completed webinars have been recorded and posted for teachers who were unable to attend the live session.

In addition to the webinar series, the ministry has created the Supports for Virtual Learning eCommunity.  Over 9,000 educational staff have accessed this professional learning community, including resources for self-serve learning that are updated regularly.

First Nation and Indigenous partners

The ministry continues to support First Nation education partners during the school closure period. This has included providing access to online education resources, connecting First Nation partners to the supply chain to purchase Chromebooks and iPads, as well as encouraging local school boards to work closely with local First Nations and Indigenous partners, where possible.

In addition to supporting educators through teleconferences in areas/communities where bandwidth is limited or unavailable, the ministry has responded

to outreach from First Nation partners and has established a series of ongoing virtual meetings with First Nations Education Task Teams. The Task Teams were established to work collaboratively with First Nation education leadership, to identify gaps in services and develop options to address emerging priorities for First Nation students.

We are also ensuring that First Nation educators have access to Ontario’s VLE and training for teachers provided by the ministry.

There is no cost to the First Nation schools to access and use the VLE.

Summer learning

The ministry is working with boards and organizations to support an expanded offering of summer learning opportunities. This plan will focus on programs that support student learning through the summer such as summer school, course upgrading, and gap-closing programs for vulnerable students, students with special education needs, and Indigenous students.  This plan will be flexible to accommodate both remote and face-to-face learning, pending emergency measures through the summer. While summer learning opportunities are voluntary for students, we hope that many students will take advantage of the opportunity to continue their learning throughout the summer.

The goal with these measures is to mitigate the impacts of the school closure period and the learning loss that may typically occur during the summer.

Further details will be provided in the coming weeks.

Communication with parents and families

We recognize that many boards are creating opportunities for parents to provide feedback on the current learning experience through surveys and other platforms, as well as continuing to seek the advice of their Parent Involvement Committee (PIC). Through a virtual meeting with PIC chairs at the end of April, the ministry heard that parents appreciate the efforts their boards are making to address a variety of diverse family challenges due to the pandemic.  We encourage boards to continue to be open to feedback and to recognize where delivery of education under current circumstances can be challenging, and can be adjusted to better serve students and families.

Thank you once again for your flexibility and willingness to work together to support Ontario’s students.

Sincerely,

Stephen Lecce                        Nancy Naylor

Minister of Education            Deputy Minister

c:    President, Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’ontario (ACÉPO)

Executive Director, Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’ontario (ACÉPO)

President, Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques (AFOCSC)

Executive Director, Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques (AFOCSC)

President, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA)

Executive Director, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA)

President, Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA)

Executive Director, Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA)

Executive Director, Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE)

President, Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO)

Executive Director and Secretary-Treasurer, Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO)

President, Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA)

General Secretary, Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA)

President, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)

General Secretary, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)

President, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF)

General Secretary, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF)

Chair, Ontario Council of Educational Workers (OCEW)

Chair, Education Workers’ Alliance of Ontario (EWAO)

President of OSBCU, Canadian Union of Public Employees – Ontario (CUPE-ON)

Co-ordinator, Canadian Union of Public Employees – Ontario (CUPE-ON)



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Ford Government Acknowledges Ontario Students with Disabilities Face Added Hardships Trying to learn at Home During COVID-19 But Announces No Comprehensive Plan to Remove the Added Disability Barriers that Online Learning Creates for Them


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ford Government Acknowledges Ontario Students with Disabilities Face Added Hardships Trying to learn at Home During COVID-19 But Announces No Comprehensive Plan to Remove the Added Disability Barriers that Online Learning Creates for Them

May 19, 2020, Toronto: Today, as the first media question at Premier Doug Ford’s Queen’s Park COVID-19 briefing, the Toronto Star told the premier that parents of special needs children have told the Star that they are particularly struggling at this time and that the Government needs to take a leading role in making sure that their children are being served during the school shutdown. Since schools are now closed until the end of the school year, the Star asked what the Government is doing to help these families and to ensure that school boards are meeting these students’ needs. The AODA Alliance commends the Star for raising this issue. We have been pressing the Ford Government on this issue for weeks.

Premier Ford referred the question to Education Minister Stephen Lecce. The Minister commendably stated on behalf of the Government that he “absolutely agrees with the premise, … that these families are going to need more support now more than ever to support their children enable them to learn while they’re at home.” He said on behalf of the Government that “we have great concern about these children…” He pledged that the Government wants to “make sure that all kids with exceptionalities are able to get ahead…get the support they need.”

It is good, but certainly not news, that the Government has told all school boards to deploy all their special education resources during the shutdown, and that the Government earlier consulted with two provincial advisory committees on this issue. It is not yet possible for us to comment on the Government’s amorphous announcement of some sort of two-week summer program aimed at helping orient some students with disabilities, such as those with autism, to a return to school. Today’s announcement gave no specifics (such as where this will be offered, or which students or how many students will be eligible for this program.)

However, today’s Minister’s statement falls far short of the urgent action one-third of a million Ontario students with disabilities immediately need. It is good that the Government now publicly acknowledges that students with disabilities and their families suffer additional burdens with the move to online learning as schools are shut down and that the Government should show leadership. However, The Government has not announced any specific comprehensive plan to remove the added barriers that students with disabilities are facing due to the move to online learning.

It is wrong for the Ford Government to continue to leave it to over 70 school boards to each have to wastefully re-invent the wheel as they struggle with the same recurring disability barriers. It is wrong for the Ford Government to leave over-burdened parents of students with disabilities to have to fight the same battles against these disability barriers, one school board at a time, while isolated at home during the COVID-19crisis.

For example, the Ford Government is not even ensuring that the online platforms that each school board and each school uses to hold virtual classes are fully accessible to students, teachers and parents with disabilities, or even to track which of these platforms are being used. The Government has not announced any plan to fix the significant accessibility barriers in the online learning resources that the Government itself provides to teachers, parents and school boards on its “Learn at Home” website, such as the TVO online resources that have a series of accessibility problems. It was the AODA Alliance that earlier exposed these accessibility problems.

To help frontline teachers and parents of students with disabilities, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held a helpful May 4 online virtual town hall to share teaching strategies from experts in teaching students with disabilities, now viewed over 1,300 times. Yet despite our repeatedly asking, we’ve seen no indication that The Government has taken the simple step of sharing this resource with school boards and encouraging them to watch it, much less has the Government organized similar events to share the creative solutions that frontline teachers and parents are inventing all around Ontario.

The AODA alliance remains ready to assist the government on any and all of these issues.

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

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Background Resources

The April 30, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, which sets out a list of concrete and constructive requests for action that the AODA Alliance presented to Ontario’s Ministry of Education.

The May 4, 2020 virtual town hall on teaching students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.

The AODA Alliance’s education web page, that documents its efforts over the past decade to advocate for Ontario’s education system to become fully accessible to students with disabilities

The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page, setting out our efforts to advocate for governments to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

The earlier widely-watched April 7, 2020 virtual public forum by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition on the overall impact of the COVID-19 crisis on 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.



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Premier Ford Pledged to Protect the Most Vulnerable During the COVID-19 Crisis — Watch Online and Widely Circulate the May 8, 2020 Interview on TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” Showing How Premier Ford is Repeatedly Failing to Protect Vulnerable Ontarians with Disabilities


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Premier Ford Pledged to Protect the Most Vulnerable During the COVID-19 Crisis — Watch Online and Widely Circulate the May 8, 2020 Interview on TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” Showing How Premier Ford is Repeatedly Failing to Protect Vulnerable Ontarians with Disabilities

May 11, 2020

          SUMMARY

You can now watch the 20-minute interview on the May 8, 2020 episode of TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” any time on YouTube. In just over a day after it aired, it had already gotten over 1,000 views and lots of positive feedback.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford pledged that his Government would protect the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. During this interview, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and the executive director of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) Wendy Porch explain in vivid detail how the Ford Government has repeatedly failed to protect the most vulnerable, namely the 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.

This video is now an important tool in our advocacy efforts for people with disabilities. You can quickly and easily use this interview to help us try to improve this situation. The public link to the interview is https://youtu.be/KmMlTrNbud8

Please take one or more of these steps today and get others to do so too!

* Share this link with your family and friends. Urge them to watch the interview and to share it with others they know.

* Post this interview link on your social media, like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Encourage your social media friends and followers to watch the interview and to share the link with their social media friends and followers. If you have done this already, do it again! Each social media reminder and blitz helps!

* If you are connected with a disability organization or group, or any religious or other community group, get them to post this link on their website and social media pages. Urge them to press the Ford Government to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities in its emergency COVID-19 planning.

* Email your Member of the Ontario Legislature. Send them this link. Demand that the Government address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during its emergency COVID-19 planning.

* Call the Premier’s office at 416-325-1941. Tell whoever answers your call that the Premier must address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities in the Government’s emergency COVID-19 planning.

* Let your local media know about specific barriers and hardships that you know any people with disabilities are facing during the COVID-19crisis. During the interview on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, David Lepofsky and Wendy Porch only had time to talk about some of those serious hardships.

The media responds most readily to specific incidents that you bring to them. These can be shown to be part of a much bigger picture of recurring provincial failures to address our urgent needs. You can send your local media the link to the interview on The Agenda with Steve Paikin to show how much of a recurring issue this is for Ontarians with disabilities, and indeed, for people with disabilities across the country during COVID-19. Let the media know that they can contact us for more general background and comment. We are always standing by at [email protected]

Below we set out just one illustration of this. A family brought to the media the wrenching story of an Ontario hospital refusing to allow a patient with serious communication disabilities to use a vital communication aid for more than one hour a day, and the failure of the Ford Government to fix this barrier. We alerted you to that report in the May 6, 2020 AODA Alliance Update. We also reached out to the reporter to provide more background for a follow-up story that that reporter had decided to write. Below you can find the May 9, 2020 follow-up story in the May 9, 2020 Toronto Sun.

If a reporter wants more background, urge them to check out:

* The May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall that the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held to share practical tips for teachers and parents on how to meet the urgent needs of students with disabilities  during the COVID-19crisis. In just one week since we held that event, it has gotten over 1,000 views.

* The earlier April 7, 2020 virtual Town Hall, also organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition, which more broadly address the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

* The April 30, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, which sets out a list of concrete and constructive requests for action that the AODA Alliance presented to Ontario’s Ministry of Education.

* The AODA Alliance’s education web page, that documents its efforts over the past decade to advocate for Ontario’s education system to become fully accessible to students with disabilities

* The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page, setting out our efforts to advocate for governments to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Believe it or not, there have been 466 days since the Ford Government got 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 announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 47 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The Premier’s office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected]. Please stay safe!

          MORE DETAILS

Toronto Sun May 9, 2020

Originally posted at https://torontosun.com/news/local-news/levy-people-who-cant-communicate-treated-terribly-during-covid-19?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1589067224

LEVY: People who can’t communicate treated terribly during COVID-19

Sue-Ann Levy

Tommy Jutcovich, a 69-year-old former educator with multiple systems atrophy, has been told by Toronto Grace Health Centre officials he can’t use his tablet — his sole means of communication — consistently throughout the day for fear it will act as a “surveillance” tool.

In British Columbia, a 40-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, Ariis Knight, died alone April 18 in a Vancouver hospital because her family was not permitted inside and she could not communicate without a family member or a caregiver. She didn’t have COVID-19.

Closer to home, my father-in law, who passed away a week ago (not from the novel coronavirus), was forced to enter hospital completely alone during the pandemic restrictions.

He was there for days without his caregiver, who would have ensured the less-than-compassionate doctors and nurses who saw him understood his medication and food needs. Despite several pleas from his daughters that the caregiver could be tested for COVID-19 and properly protected, the hospital adamantly refused to relent.

These are some of the heartbreaking stories of COVID-19, which have shone a light on the lack of proper practices by hospitals, long-term care and group homes to deal with people who are either unable to, or have trouble speaking for themselves, says a disabilities advocate.

Barbara Collier, executive director of Communications Disabilities Access Canada, says there have been very few policies for years and years to accommodate people with communications disabilities in the health-care system.

Without “explicit” guidelines, hospitals are taking it upon themselves to make decisions — often draconian and inflexible ones, I say.

“It’s the vulnerable groups that are completely marginalized and disempowered again because of this,” Collier said Saturday.

Tommy Jutcovich, 69, is bedridden in Toronto Grace hospital but staff are no longer allowing him unlimited use of his iPad — his lifeline to the outside world during the COVID-19 pandemic — because it is considered a “surveillance tool.” SUPPLIED PHOTO/FAMILY Supplied photo / Family

“This is happening in every hospital across Canada for years and years and we didn’t have good policies in place to ensure people could effectively communicate.”

There are at least 500,000 people with speech and language disabilities in Canada — including those on the autism spectrum or suffering from cerebral palsy, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, early dementia, MS, Lou Gehrig’s disease and people such as Tommy Jutcovich, who has multiple systems atrophy, Collier said.

She said most people have a “fair idea” of the duty to accommodate those with disabilities when it means getting into a building or opening a door, or with those who are deaf or have visual impairments.

The “missing piece” is how accommodation is handled (or mishandled) for those who have a speech and language disability — those with little or no speech, or who have difficultly comprehending information before providing informed consent.

Collier says the hospital “no visitor policy” is denying patients access to support people who can assist them with communication.

“There are many people who haven’t fared well in a health-care setting if they don’t have somebody who can interpret their speech or provide access to their visual display or iPad,” she said.

“The support people are not visitors, they’re essential.”

She said caregivers or support people could easily be “gowned-up” to protect their safety against this vicious virus.

She says those with disabilities should have the right to a range of communication aids available to them in hospital or in long-term care homes.

Collier adds that speech language pathologists should also be stationed around the hospital to help those with communication issues so they understand their treatment and are truly able to give informed consent.

She said the Toronto-based ARCH Disability Law Centre just released a COVID-19 tool kit that helps those with disabilities advocate to have their support person or communications assistant with them while in hospital — in other words to have an exemption from the hospital ban.

[email protected]



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Watch TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” Tonight at 8 or 11 PM for an Interview on the Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on People with Disabilities – and More News on the COVID-19 and Disability Front


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/

Watch TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” Tonight at 8 or 11 PM for an Interview on the Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on People with Disabilities – and More News on the COVID-19 and Disability Front

May 8, 2020

          SUMMARY

 1. TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” Again Focuses Attention on Disability Issues Tonight

We invite you to watch TVO’s flagship current affairs program “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” tonight at 8 or 11 pm Eastern time for a 20-minute interview on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on people with disabilities. The guests are AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and Wendy Porch, the Executive Director of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT). Ms. Porch was one of the 10 excellent experts who spoke at the first virtual Town Hall on COVID-19 and people with disabilities that the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held on April 7, 2020.

This program will air on good old-fashioned TV (for those who use it). It will also stream tonight at 8 pm on the Twitter feed and Facebook page of The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

We thank The Agenda with Steve Paikin for again focusing attention on our accessibility campaign. Topics addressed in this interview include such things as the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, the additional barriers and hardships facing people with disabilities during this crisis in our health care and education systems, the troubling March 28, 2020 provincial medical triage protocol that the Ford Government has failed to categorically rescind and replace, and the pressing need for the Ford Government to quickly create a comprehensive plan to address the urgent needs of people with disabilities as part of its COVID-19 emergency planning. We wish to especially commend The Agenda and Steve Paikin for its and his unremitting journalistic integrity, exemplified by affording us a fair and open opportunity in this interview to speak to accessibility concerns with TVO’s online educational resources.

We encourage you to:

* Spread the word to your friends and family and encourage them to watch this interview.

* Spread the word far and wide about this interview on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. You might wish to retweet the tweets that we will be circulating on this topic. Follow us on Twitter: @aodaalliance. On Facebook: www.facebook.com/AODAAlliance/

* Urge your member of the Ontario Legislature to watch this interview.

Typically, within a day or two after TVO airs this program, it gets posted on Youtube. Good captioning usually gets added then or a short time thereafter. When this gets posted on Youtube, we will share that link in an AODA Alliance Update and on social media for you to use and share with others.

* Urge your local media to cover this issue too. Bring them stories about specific additional hardships that people with disabilities are shouldering during the COVID-19 crisis. Invite them to reach out to us at the AODA Alliance for a comment on the need for the Ford Government to effectively plan to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities as part of its COVID-19 emergency planning.

 2. Two Glimmers of Some Preliminary Progress on the Education Front

If you have not already watched it, join the hundreds of others who have already watched our May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall on meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis while schools are closed and learning has moved online. We have asked the Ford Government to post a link to that event on its “Learn at Home” website, and to circulate it to all school boards. We await word on what the Government has done or will do to share this important resource with frontline teachers and parents who are trying to cope with the additional disability barriers that students with disabilities face due to the move to online schooling.

Eight weeks into this COVID-19 crisis, here are glimmers of some preliminary progress: First, in yesterday’s May 7, 2020 AODA Alliance Update, we reported to you on our efforts to get TVO to fix the accessibility problems with its online educational content for K-12 students. This is especially important, since the Ford Government points to TVO as its partner in delivering online education during the COVID-19 crisis.

Within hours of writing TVO again about this yesterday, we received a response from TVO’s vice president of digital content, inviting a conversation with us. We are taking TVO up on this offer and will keep you posted.

Second, we are pleased to let you know that the Ford Government has resumed the work of at least some Standards Development Committees. On May 5 and 6, 2020, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee held productive online virtual meetings. As part of this, Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, as well as three of the relevant Parliamentary Assistants, took part in a one-hour portion of the May 6, 2020 meeting of that AODA Standards Development Committee.

Committee members were given time to share information on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on students with disabilities and to recommend needed actions. Given the time available, a five-minute time limit was understandably set for each speaker.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, as a member of that committee, had five minutes to speak. He emphasized that the Ministry of Education has left it to each school board to reinvent the wheel, figuring out how to serve their students with disabilities. That is extremely inefficient and wasteful. He emphasized the need instead for a provincial plan to meet the urgent needs of students with disabilities. He urged the Government to organize more virtual town halls like we and the Ontario Autism Coalition did on May 4, 2020, to gather good ideas from the frontline teachers and parents, and to share them across all school boards. He reiterated our repeated offers to help the Government. He asked Education Minister Lecce for a chance for the two to speak. Minister Lecce said he was open to a dialogue with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.

We commend the Government for arranging that Standards Development Committee meeting. We have been pressing for it since as far back as March 25, 2020, when we wrote the Premier.

Third, we are encouraged by the fact that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee has now set up a sub-committee to address the issue of COVID-19 and the education system. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky will be a member of that sub-committee. We wish that this had happened much sooner, given that it was fully eight weeks ago that the Ford Government announced school closures.

Finally, in the wake of these events, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has had some exchanges with the Deputy Minister of Education and will be following up on this to press our concerns. For more background, check out:

* The April 30, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, which sets out a list of concrete and constructive requests for action that the AODA Alliance presented to Ontario’s Ministry of Education.

* The AODA Alliance’s education web page, that documents its efforts over the past decade to advocate for Ontario’s education system to become fully accessible to students with disabilities

* The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page, setting out our efforts to advocate for governments to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

 3. Two More Important Media Reports on COVID-19 and People with Disabilities

We set out below two recent news media reports that address the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, namely:

* A May 6, 2020 report on the Global News website by reporter Emerald Bensadoun on a range of hardships falling on people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. In this article, the Ministry of Education is quoted as giving this response to our concerns about the lack of an effective provincial plan for meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis:

“When asked about this, the Ontario Ministry of Education said in a statement to Global News that Education Minister Stephen Lecce had convened two “urgent” discussions with the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education where they discussed how best to support students and families during this period and has consulted the K-12 Standards Development Committee struck by the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. They said all resources were reviewed for accessibility based on the standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005), but that school boards were ultimately responsible for making decisions on the use of digital learning resources and collaboration tools to support students’ learning online.

‘The Ministry has provided clear direction to school boards on how to support students with special education and mental health needs during school closures,’ they said.”

We respond as follows: A cursory review of the online resources that the Ford Government has shared for learning at home reveals a range of accessibility problems. We question how carefully the Government ever checked these for accessibility. The Government’s obligation is not only to obey the weaker AODA accessibility standards but the stronger accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is good that the Minister of Education earlier Consulted his Minister’s Advisory Committee on Special Education, but that committee has had a substantial number of vacancies. There is no indication what advice the Government received from that committee or to what extent, if any, the Government acted on that advice.

* A May 7, 2020 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, appearing on the CityTV News website. In the face of reported serious problems for patients in hospital with communication disabilities, the article reported in part as follows, as a response from the Ford Government:

“The Ontario Ministry of Health confirmed it can only issue guidance to hospitals, which are described as corporations with autonomy to set their own policies.

Current directives from provincial public health officials urge health-care providers to limit visitors to just four narrow categories, none of which address the communication needs of disabled patients.

But a spokeswoman said the ministry will be ‘reviewing the current directives and guidance that have been issued to the health system’ as the province continues to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak.”

We comment that the provincial government has lead responsibility here. The Health Ministry suggests its hands are somewhat tied in what it can direct Ontario hospitals to do. This disregards the reality of what is going on during the COVID-19 crisis. The Ontario Government has ample capacity to direct hospitals and is doing this right now with other facets of the COVID-19 crisis. It is wrong for the Ford Government’s Health Ministry to selectively duck its responsibility when it comes to the vital needs of highly vulnerable hospital patients with communication disabilities.

 4. The Ford Government’s Foot-Dragging Continues

There have now been a disturbing 463 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 announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 44 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected]. Please stay safe!

          MORE DETAILS

 Global News Online May 6, 2020

Originally posted at https://globalnews.ca/news/6906216/coronavirus-canadians-disabilities/

‘I need help’: Coronavirus highlights disparities among Canadians with disabilities – National

BY EMERALD BENSADOUN- GLOBAL NEWS

Prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, 27-year-old Marissa Blake was rarely ever home. Now, Blake, who lives in Toronto supportive housing and needs assistance to walk, can only have one visitor a week for three hours and can’t see her friends in-person. An appointment to discuss surgery on her legs was cancelled, and her sleep and care schedule are in flux because her personal support workers keep changing.

“It’s difficult,” she said. “I feel like I’m in jail.” Disability advocates say B.C.’s woman’s death shows need for clearer COVID-19 policy Her exercise program with March of Dimes Canada, a rehabilitation foundation for disabled persons, was cancelled, and Blake said she’s been less physically active than usual.

“It’s been really making me tight, really making me feel like I’m fighting with my body,” she said. “I can’t just get up and walk. I need help.”

But for Blake, isolation and exclusion are having the largest impact. “The biggest thing for me is support,” she said.

“I miss my friends. I miss interacting with people. Because when you look at a computer, it’s great but it’s not the same as seeing them face-to-face.”

One in four Canadians — about 25 per cent of the population — has a disability, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. Despite this, advocates say they are often left out of emergency planning.

David Lepofsky, who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, likened the situation to a fire raging inside of an apartment building complex, where the people inside are alerted by a fire alarm and loudspeaker that tells them to exit by taking designated stairs illuminated by clearly-indicated markers.

A person who is deaf wouldn’t hear the fire alarm. A person in a wheelchair would be trapped inside. And those designated markers will do nothing for someone who can’t see. Unless they receive support, Lepofsky said anyone with disabilities living in the building will likely not survive. Similarly, he said the government has applied a mostly one-size-fits-all approach to

COVID-19 measures that offer little support the country’s disabled.

“It’s because of their disability and it’s because no one planned for them in the emergency,” he said.

Often, Canadians with more severe disabilities will get placed in long-term care facilities, where health officials said over 79 per cent of COVID-19-related deaths occur. Lepofsky said that poses a danger to those with disabilities, as well. He said comparable problems arise in Ontario’s virtual elementary and secondary education system, called Learn At Home. The program isn’t user-friendly for students with disabilities who may be deaf, blind or unable to use a mouse, said Lepofsky. Despite making up upwards of one-in-six of the student population, he said much of the program was made with only able-bodied students in mind.

When asked about this, the Ontario Ministry of Education said in a statement to Global News that Education Minister Stephen Lecce had convened two “urgent” discussions with the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education where they discussed how best to support students and families during this period and has consulted the K-12 Standards Development Committee struck by the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. They said all resources were reviewed for accessibility based on the standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005), but that school boards were ultimately responsible for making decisions on the use of digital learning resources and collaboration tools to support students’ learning online.

“The Ministry has provided clear direction to school boards on how to support students with special education and mental health needs during school closures,” they said.

March of Dimes Canada president Len Baker said even before the existence of COVID-19 that people with disabilities were facing “significant” challenges every day, including already-existing barriers like attitudinal ones about disability.

“Those historic barriers become exacerbated during a time such as this pandemic, where now not only do they have to address the issues that they need to be able to complete their goals and feel connected to the community, but with social distancing and the isolation that the pandemic brings, it causes us concern that many individuals are going to feel even a greater sense of isolation and loneliness during this time,” he said.

Baker said around 50,000 students with disabilities rely on the organization for opportunities to read, learn skills, get out in the community, to participate and connect with others. But since the pandemic started, he said they’ve had to revamp their services to be available virtually or over the phone.

Marielle Hossack, press secretary to the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a statement to Global News the federal government has increased human resources for support services for Canadians with disabilities over the phone and online, and is looking into implementing ALS and LSQ into current and future emergency responses.

The federal government has also established the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, which is comprised of experts in disability inclusion, that provide advice on “real-time live experiences of persons with disabilities.” Hossack wrote the group discusses disability-specific issues, challenges and systemic gaps as well as strategies, measures and steps to be taken.

But some advocates don’t think that’s enough.

Karine Myrgianie Jean-François, director of operations at DisAbled Women’s Network Canada, told Global News that despite making up such a large percentage

of the population, many are not getting support services typically provided by provincial health departments or social services. This is due to a lot of factors, she said — because there’s a lack of protective equipment, because people are getting sick, because it’s too dangerous. For children with disabilities, Jean-François said the pandemic means they’re often relying on their parents for mental and physical support they would have received at school.

“A lot of the measures that have been made to prepare for this pandemic have been done to think about the greatest number of people, which often means that we forget about people who are more marginalized and people who have a disability are included in that,” she said.

Jean-François said that includes the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Currently, 70 per cent of Canadians eligible for the disability tax credit will receive the enhanced GST/HST benefit based on their income levels due to COVID-19, but that may not add up to much for Canadians with disabilities who may also need to hire food deliveries, in-house care, or those that would be deemed ineligible for the aid because they’re unable to work.

The money “doesn’t go as far as it used to,” she said. When factored to include the rising cost of living, Jean-François said most Canadians with disabilities — many of whom are already living at or near the poverty line — end up barely scraping by. “We’re not all equal under COVID-19,” she said. “We need to be looking at… who stands up to make sure that people get what they need, and how to make sure that they’re supported in what they’re doing both financially but also mentally, because it’s really hard work to support people who were left alone.”

 City TV News Online May 7, 2020

Originally posted at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/05/07/pandemic-highlights-existing-barriers-for-those-with-communication-disabilities/

Pandemic highlights existing barriers for those with communication disabilities

BY MICHELLE MCQUIGGE, THE CANADIAN PRESS

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing barriers preventing Canadians with communication disabilities from fully accessing the health-care system, according to advocates across the country who are calling for governments to address the issue.

Organizations and individuals point to recent cases in which disabled patients were denied access to crucial communication supports while in hospital, leaving them unable to interact with loved ones or medical professionals.

They say the two incidents — one of which involved the death of a 40-year-old woman — highlight the inconsistent approach to such issues in hospitals across Canada and should prompt governments to set uniform standards to protect disabled patients.

Heidi Janz, an Edmonton-based professor at the University of Alberta who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, said the precautions put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 have exacerbated the struggles people relying on alternative means of communication face on a daily basis.

“It terrifies me — on an advocacy level, but also on a personal level,” Janz said in an interview conducted with the support of an aide who echoed her words. “I have experience with the kind of inability to communicate with a medical team and the fear that comes with that.”

The two recent cases, which Janz said hint at “a disaster waiting to happen,” played out in different parts of the country and involved patients who were hospitalized for reasons not related to COVID-19.

The family members of both patients either could not be reached or did not respond to request for comment, but advocacy groups familiar with the cases note the similarities.

In one instance, a 40-year-old woman in British Columbia with cerebral palsy died alone in hospital last month. Pandemic-protection policies at the facility barred support workers who usually assisted her in communicating from entering the premises.

In another case, a Toronto man who used an iPad to stay in touch with his relatives saw his use of the device unexpectedly limited to one hour a day. Multiple local media reports cited hospital officials alleging the iPad could be used as a surveillance tool.

Janz and other Canadians with communication disabilities said these cases are horrifying but not surprising.

Janz said she refuses to go to an emergency room without someone there to help her convey her wishes to medical staff, noting health-care workers often make assumptions about her capacity to weigh in on her own care based on her disability.

Anne Borden, co-founder of the autism self-advocacy organization Autistics for Autistics, said people who rely on communication devices face similar barriers.

Medical staff are not always aware of the need to recognize augmentative and alternative communication — tools that supplement or take the place of speech. She said non-verbal patients frequently have their need for assistive technology questioned or ignored, or watch in frustration as medical staff address remarks to a support person rather than directly to the patient.

The issues are compounded, she said, for those living in poverty and without access to technology and other supports.

Both Janz and Borden feel Canadian governments should emulate the state of California, which recently broadened its restricted list of visitors allowed inside during the pandemic to include support people for patients with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Communication is a human right,” Borden said. “What we want is an acknowledgment that that is also true for disabled people, and it should be across the board.”

Advocates said there are currently no uniform standards to follow in Canada, leaving hospitals free to develop their own policies.

Barbara Collier, executive director of Communication Disabilities Access Canada, said that has to change. She said health-care facilities across the country should be given direction on everything from establishing a patient’s communication needs during intake to policies around support workers, adding these long-standing gaps take on additional urgency as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold.

“This should have been in place years ago,” she said.

The federal ministry responsible for disability inclusion did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The Public Health Agency of Canada released a document on Thursday addressing various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and their impact on disabled Canadians. It said health-care providers should be “ensuring that restrictions account for people with disabilities’ needs and allow essential support staff, sighted guides, interpreters and/or family members to be with them.”

The Ontario Ministry of Health confirmed it can only issue guidance to hospitals, which are described as corporations with autonomy to set their own policies.

Current directives from provincial public health officials urge health-care providers to limit visitors to just four narrow categories, none of which address the communication needs of disabled patients.

But a spokeswoman said the ministry will be “reviewing the current directives and guidance that have been issued to the health system” as the province continues to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak.





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The AODA Alliance Calls on TVO to Take Prompt Action to Fix its Educational Web Content’s Accessibility Problems – and Other COVID Disability News


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

The AODA Alliance Calls on TVO to Take Prompt Action to Fix its Educational Web Content’s Accessibility Problems – and Other COVID Disability News

May 7, 2020

          SUMMARY

As part of its emergency plans for supporting K-12 students while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Ford Government announced that it has partnered with TVO, the Government-owned educational TV network. However, the AODA Alliance has revealed that there are accessibility problems with some of TVO’s educational web content. These hurt students, teachers and parents with disabilities who need accessible web content. We have called on TVO to fix this and to let us know about its plans for this.

On April 27, 2020, the AODA Alliance sent an email to TVO asking some basic questions about its efforts to ensure the accessibility of its educational web content. We set out that email below.

TVO answered us on May 5, 2020, after we had raised concerns about this issue in our May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall event, in media interviews, and on social media. Below we set out the May 5, 2020 email we received from TVO’s digital content vice president.

We have serious concerns with TVO’s response. We described our concerns in our May 7, 2020 email to TVO’s digital content vice president, which we also set out below. We therefore ask TVO for clear answers to several specific and important questions and urge TVO to dig into this issue and get it fixed.

We also set out below an excellent news article about our May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall. It appeared in the May 5, 2020 edition of QP Briefing. QP Briefing is an influential publication about key issues and events at Queen’s Park.

Please encourage teachers, parents, school board staff and anyone else you can to watch the archived video of the May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall that the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition organized. It shares practical tips on how to meet the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Post the link on your Facebook page, on Twitter and on any other social media you use! It is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phdtibf5DbM

We are delighted that in under three days, our May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall has already gotten over 800 views! We have asked the Ministry of Education to circulate this link to school boards and to post it on the Government’s Learn at Home website that shares useful resources for teachers and parents while students must learn at home due to the COVID-19 crisis.

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

          MORE DETAILS

 April 27, 2020 Email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to TVO

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

Email:

[email protected] Visit:

www.aodalliance.org Twitter: @aodaalliance

April 27, 2020

To: TVO Ontario

Via email: [email protected]

The Ontario Government has announced that it has partnered with TVO to provide resources to parents and teachers of school-age children who have to undertake distance learning due to the COVID-19 crisis. Resources for parents and teachers is available at https://openhouse.ilc.org/

It is vital that this educational content is fully accessible to all students with disabilities. This is especially important during the COVID-19 crisis, when students must rely on remote learning.

TVO is an emanation of the Ontario Government. The Ontario Government has said that it is leading by example on accessibility for people with disabilities and is taking an “all of government” approach to accessibility. Over one third of a million students in Ontario are students with special education needs and the vast majority of them have disabilities. As many as one of every six students in Ontario-funded schools have disabilities.

We would like to know if TVO considers all its online courses to be fully accessible to students with disabilities ? This does not simply mean that they comply with accessibility standards enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act . Those standards in a number of ways fall short of what is required by the Ontario Human Rights Code, which guarantees equality without discrimination based on disability in areas like education. For example, the 2011 AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard does not effectively address accessibility based on technological developments in the past decade.

What has TVO done to ensure that these online courses are all fully accessible to students, parents and teachers with disabilities? Could you please let us know which of these courses and other online learning resources have captioning for parents, teachers or students with hearing loss, and which have audio description of their visual content for parents, teachers or students with vision loss. For parents, teachers and students with vision loss, reading a program’s transcript (even with description of visual features) is not the same as or as good as watching a program with audio description.

During the COVID-19 crisis, teachers, students and parents are now struggling to find online teaching resources that are accessible to students with disabilities. Can you let us know where on your website a parent, teacher or student can go to quickly ascertain which TVO website content (such as these online courses) is available with captioning and/or audio description, and/or with other accessibility features? For example, we cannot find a link enabling a teacher, parent or student easily search to ascertain which of the TVO online courses have full accessibility, and which, for example, include full captioning and audio description.

Does TVO make available over-the-phone or online help from someone with knowledge about accessibility, for teachers, parents or students with disabilities who need help ensuring that they can use the educational content that TVO offers online? If so, how do they obtain this help? Finally, can you let us know who has lead responsibility and authority for ensuring the full accessibility of TVO educational and programming content, and what process is in place ensure its accessibility. Given the urgency of the situation facing students, parents and teachers with disabilities, we would very much appreciate an answer to our inquiry as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

May 5, 2020 Letter to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky from Rashmi Swarup, TVO Vice President Digital Learning

Hi David,

Your note was forwarded to me by our customer service department. Thank you for reaching out, and my apologies for the delay in responding.

I appreciate you contacting us with your questions and to share your thoughts, particularly as we continue to evolve our digital learning resources and content to make them even more accessible for Ontarians.

TVO prides itself in being able to meet a wide variety of the educational needs Ontarians have, and we take care to ensure our approach and policy reflects this objective. We are continuously working to improve the accessibility of our content and resources.

Our videos on tvo.org, tvokids.com and in most of our ILC courses have closed captioning and described video or a DV text alternative (although in some cases where the program is an acquisition there may be a delay in posting the closed captioning and descriptive video while these elements are being created).

While YouTube does not support descriptive video audio or text, we do ensure that captions are present on all of our YouTube channels.

Our TVO ILC courses, including courses accessed through ILC Open House, have been created to meet the accessibility needs of students according to the AODA, and we ensure the course content supports both PC and Mac operating systems as well as a variety of screen readers.

Many of our newer courses offer the ability to choose from a variety of content formats (e.g video and/or article options for study) and assignment options to better cater to individual student needs. As we continue to evolve and update our courses, we are increasingly offering students the ability to choose from a variety of formats. We also ensure that there are transcripts for all of the audio in our TVO ILC courses.

We are proud to offer students completing courses through TVO ILC access to subject-specific academic support through academic advisors and to guidance counsellors who can support individual needs, all of whom are Ontario Certified Teachers.

While I appreciate that our efforts to make our content accessible to as many Ontarians as we can may not meet the level you would propose, please know that we continue to strive for improved accessibility of our digital learning resources for Ontarians.

Thank you again for your letter and feedback. If you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me directly.

Sincerely,

Rashmi Swarup

Vice President Digital Learning

647.203.0979

Help make the world a better place through the power of learning.

Donate today.

May 7, 2020 Email from the AODA Alliance to the Vice President of TVO

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

Email: [email protected]

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

Twitter: @aodaalliance

May 7, 2020

To: Rashmi Swarup

Vice President Digital Learning

Via email: [email protected]

Thank you for your May 5, 2020 email that responds to our April 27, 2020 email and for your invitation to reach out to you if we have any further questions. We do. Our April 27, 2020 email inquired into the accessibility of TVO online learning content to students, teachers and parents with disabilities who need adaptive technology to use a computer.

We have serious concerns about accessibility problems with TVO’s educational online content for students, teachers and parents and about your May 5, 2020 answers to our inquiries. We seek your leadership as TVO’s digital content vice president to get these problems promptly solved.

We ask what TVO will do now to quickly address serious accessibility problems with its online content, given your web content’s increased importance for K-12 education during the COVID-19 crisis. The Ontario Government publicly emphasized that it partnered with TVO to provide online educational content for K-12 students during the COVID-19 crisis. The Government’s “Learn at Home” website, a central hub of the Government’s offerings for parents, teachers and students, points to TVO web pages and resources, among other things.

Yet a rudimentary check of some of TVO’s educational online content quickly revealed significant and obvious accessibility problems. We don’t say that TVO has done nothing about online accessibility or has included no accessibility features at all. Where accessibility features are included, we commend this.

However, what TVO has done on the web accessibility front falls far short of what students, teachers and parents with disabilities need to effectively use TVO’s educational offerings. Among the various people with disabilities that these online barriers can hurt are people with vision loss, people with reading disabilities such as dyslexia, and people who need to use alternative technology instead of a keyboard and mouse to interact with a computer.

In the limited time we had available, just a few examples of these accessibility problems were described at the May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall on the impact of the COVID-19-19 crisis on students with disabilities organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition. We invite you and all TVO’s digital content staff and contributors to watch that virtual Town Hall.

Our Town Hall’s guest speaker on this topic, Ms. Karen McCall, has expertise in digital content accessibility. She explained that it took her very little time to discover these accessibility problems. If Ms. McCall could find those problems so quickly, it should have been easy for TVO or the Ministry of Education to do the same. Given the problems found in this limited review, it is our experience that one could expect an extensive audit to reveal additional problems.

Your email suggests that you believe that TVO’s educational web content complies with AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) requirements. The deficiencies that we discovered with TVO’s educational web content call that into question. In any event, as our April 27, 2020 email to you explained, TVO and the Ontario Government must obey the typically-stronger accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code. It cannot simply fall back on the weaker AODA accessibility standards on point, passed nine years ago, as if those were the only accessibility laws that govern here. Moreover, as an Ontario Government-owned public education network, we hope and trust that TVO knows that a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee has been reviewing those accessibility standards for some 2-3 years. Last year it circulated draft recommendations that would call for the 2011 AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to be strengthened and modernized. For more background on the need to strengthen the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, visit our accessible information and communication web page.

In light of our preliminary check of TVO’s educational web content, we are troubled by your May 5, 2020 email. It appears that you may not be fully aware of the extent of the problem. You wrote in part:

“While I appreciate that our efforts to make our content accessible to as many Ontarians as we can may not meet the level you would propose, please know that we continue to strive for improved accessibility of our digital learning resources for Ontarians.”

We are also quite concerned that you, TVO’s vice president of digital content, said in your email that it is your understanding that Youtube cannot support audio description for Youtube video content. You wrote:

“While YouTube does not support descriptive video audio or text, we do ensure that captions are present on all of our YouTube channels.”

This statement about including audio description in videos to be posted on Youtube is incorrect. It is quite possible to post content on Youtube that has been created with audio description included. Moreover, after reading your email, it took about 30 seconds and one Google search to find a link to online resources on how to add audio description to a Youtube video. We invite you to do a Google search on the terms “Youtube” and “audio description.”

In our April 27, 2020 email, we asked you if TVO makes available over-the-phone or online help from someone with knowledge about accessibility for teachers, parents or students with disabilities who need help using TVO’s online educational content. We also asked how they can get this help.” You responded:

“We are proud to offer students completing courses through TVO ILC access to subject-specific academic support through academic advisors and to guidance counsellors who can support individual needs, all of whom are Ontario Certified Teachers.”

Can you please let us know how many of these TVO advisors are trained and equipped to assist students, teachers or parents with disabilities if they encounter accessibility problems with your online content, where on your website it might indicate that such accessibility help is available, and how someone can reach a TVO person with that accessibility expertise?

As well, in our April 27, 2020 email we asked you the following:

“Can you let us know where on your website a parent, teacher or student can go to quickly ascertain which TVO website content (such as these online courses) is available with captioning and/or audio description and/or with other accessibility features?”

Your May 5, 2020 email did not answer this inquiry. We could not find this information on TVO’s website. A teacher, looking for audio-described content, would need such information to be able to readily discover what audio-described choices they have among your offerings. We would note that in contrast, Netflix enables a viewer to browse its audio-described content.

Finally, you wrote:

“We are continuously working to improve the accessibility of our content and resources.”

Our April 27, 2020 email asked who has lead responsibility and authority at TVO for ensuring the full accessibility of TVO educational and programming content and what process is in place to ensure its accessibility. Your May 5, 2020 email did not answer this question. We are eager to know who has this responsibility, what staff is allocated to this, and what plans you have in place for the accessibility improvement work that you described as “continuous.”

Given the urgency of these concerns to students, teachers and parents with disabilities who need accessible web content especially now during the COVID-19 crisis, we would welcome your prompt action and response.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC

Premier Doug Ford

[email protected]

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education,

[email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister of Education

[email protected]

Claudine Munroe, Director of the Special Education/Success for All Branch

[email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

[email protected]

Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

[email protected]

Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission

[email protected]

 QP Briefing May 5, 2020

Some Ontario e-learning doesn’t work for students with disabilities

Jack Hauen

The Ford government’s at-home learning tools require some changes to be fully accessible to students with disabilities, advocates say.

Some TVO and ministry course content isn’t accessible to people with low vision, said Karen McCall, a professor who teaches about accessible media at Mohawk College and owns an accessible design firm. She was one of several experts who spoke at a virtual town hall hosted on Monday by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, a member of the province’s K-12 AODA standards committee, and Ontario Autism Coalition President Laura Kirby-McIntosh, who is also a high school teacher.

None of the stories in the “math storytime” section worked for McCall, who has low vision herself and uses a screen reader. She couldn’t find any homework in the “homework zone.”

Teachers did a good job of describing what was going on in the videos she watched, until they didn’t, she said. For instance, one math teacher didn’t read out the main formula students were to use.

“She said this formula equates to one quarter, but if I’m a student who’s trying to learn this, I have no idea what equates to one quarter,” McCall said.

Another gap came during a science class. “Everything was fine, everything was explained, until the teacher said, ‘Watch what happens,’ and then did not describe what was happening,” she said.

But the biggest problems came with the ministry of education’s own course preview site, McCall said, where her screen reader couldn’t make heads or tails of what it said.

“If they’re going to rely on this kind of content, they’ve got to make sure it’s properly accessible,” Lepofsky said of the provincial government.

Kirby-McIntosh noted that Zoom is the most accessible streaming service, but some school boards have banned teachers from using it. More top-down direction is needed to avoid these types of errors, she said.

Other experts during the town hall provided tips for educators and parents such as making sure videos were the highest quality possible, so kids with hearing loss can better lip read; and sticking to routines as much as possible, which helps many kids on the autism spectrum.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has held two meetings with the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE) during the pandemic, and is also consulting the K-12 standards development committee that Lepofsky sits on, said ministry of education spokesperson Ingrid Anderson.

Lepofsky confirmed that he’ll be speaking with Lecce on Wednesday.

“TVO has been working to make all their online content and resources accessible and compliant to AODA regulations. The Ministry will continue to work with the Agency to consider ways to enhance accessibility beyond the AODA requirements,” Anderson said in a statement. “School boards remain independently accountable for making decisions on the use of digital learning resources and collaboration tools to support students’ learning online.”

The minister’s advisory committee is “no substitute for consulting extensive grassroots disability community participation that is needed,” the AODA Alliance wrote in an April 29 letter to Lecce. A number of positions on the committee remain vacant, the group said. “Also, MACSE is designed to focus on ‘special education’ which is not addressed to students with all kinds of disabilities, due to the Government’s unduly narrow definition of special education students.”

The town hall’s last guest was Jeff Butler, the acting assistant deputy minister of student support and field services in the ministry of education. He pointed to actions the ministry has taken already, like directing school boards to consult with their special education committees and honour individual education plans; as well as working with boards to distribute assistive technology that usually lives in schools to families.

The ministry has also hosted a series of webinars for teachers to learn about special education during the pandemic. About 500 educators have attended them so far, and more are planned, he said.

Responding to McCall’s feedback about sites not working with screen readers, he said: “I absolutely am listening on that and will take that input back. It is important to us that those resources that are there are accessible for students with disabilities and students with special needs.”

He promised to continue to engage with experts, saying that their input has been “incredibly valuable.”

It’s critical for the government to carry these lessons through to when schools eventually re-open, Lepofsky said.

For instance, some students won’t be able to socially distance or wear masks due to their disabilities, if they require a close by aide or are hypersensitive to touch. “We can’t tell those kids, ‘Oh, sorry kid, you stay home, everybody else is going back to school.’”

A “surge” in education hours will be needed for some kids with disabilities, who will have fallen further behind some of their peers, Lepofsky said, giving the example of kids learning to read braille who require hand-over-hand instruction that’s impossible to conduct online.

“This is really something we can’t leave to every single school board again to try to reinvent the same wheel,” he said, calling for the provincial government to “take on leadership here.”

Kirby-McIntosh ended the stream with a message for Lecce: don’t just assemble a “spiffy webpage with a blizzard of links,” but consult with experts and provide school boards with top-down direction on best practices.

“Please learn from this town hall,” she said, and gather ideas from the front-line people teaching kids with disabilities during the pandemic.

“The premier committed at the beginning of this crisis to protecting those who are most vulnerable,” she said. “Well, surely a third of a million Ontario students with disabilities are among those most vulnerable.”



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Even More Media Coverage of Disability COVID Issues — and – Pressing Need for the Ford Government to Ensure that Hospital Patients with Communication Disabilities Face No Barriers to Using Technology that Lets Them Effectively Communicate


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/

Even More Media Coverage of Disability COVID Issues — and – Pressing Need for the Ford Government to Ensure that Hospital Patients with Communication Disabilities Face No Barriers to Using Technology that Lets Them Effectively Communicate

May 6, 2020

SUMMARY

Here are three more important media reports that focus directly or indirectly on disability issues during the COVID-19 crisis. All are set out below.

The first is a good CBC Radio news report on the need for the City of Toronto to include the accessibility needs of people with disabilities if it starts erecting barriers and signs on or around sidewalks to channel pedestrian traffic and people in line for stores during COVID-19 social distancing. The second is an interview on the May 5, 2020 CBC Radio Toronto Metro Morning program. It focused on our May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall on meeting the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

The third story did not involve the AODA Alliance at all. We comment on important broad disability issues it raises.

Premier Ford has pledged to protect the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. There is a pressing need for the Ford Government to now publicly direct all hospitals and health care providers to ensure that they do not create any barriers that impede people with communication disabilities from being free to use the technology they need to be able to effectively communicate. In the middle of this COVID-19 crisis, patients with disabilities cannot wait for the months and months that it will take for the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard, now under development, to be enacted. They should not have to try to fight accessibility barriers one at a time under human rights laws.

A May 1, 2020 Toronto Sun article, set out below, reports that a Toronto area hospital is not allowing a patient with a significant communication disability to use his computer tablet while he is in hospital, except for one hour a day. He reportedly needs to use the tablet as a communication aid.

The family reportedly went to the media after they could not get the hospital to let him use the tablet when he wished. We do not have the capacity to investigate such situations, and cannot comment on the accuracy of the specific details in the Toronto Sun’s report.

This article raises very serious issues. It has very serious implications for patients with disabilities, if the facts set out in it are accurate. It further illustrates why the Ontario Government must immediately launch and implement an effective and comprehensive plan to ensure that the urgent needs of people with disabilities are met during the COVID-19 crisis, including patients with disabilities.

In the widely-watched April 7, 2020 first Virtual Town Hall on COVID-19 and disability organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition, Ms. Barbara Collier of Communication Disabilities Access Canada, a widely-respected expert on communication disabilities, emphasized the vital importance of ensuring that people with communication disabilities can effectively communicate, especially while they are in hospital. This builds on what the Supreme Court of Canada said in 1997 when it addressed the fundamental importance of hospitals accommodating the communication needs of deaf patients to effectively communicate while in hospital in Eldridge v. BC.

The Ontario Government has committed to develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to tear down barriers in our health care system facing patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2020 Framework detailed what that Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. Among other things, it emphasized the importance of ensuring effective communication supports for people with communication disabilities including when they are in hospitals.

According to the Toronto Sun report, the hospital said that it was disallowing the use of the tablet “…because it was being used to conduct “surveillance” of his care.” Yet hospital patients and visitors routinely are free to use tablets, smart phones and laptop computers while in a hospital, without having to get anyone’s permission or approval. None are banned from using them for the reason that they could be used to conduct “surveillance” of a patient’s care.

The Toronto Sun reported that the hospital said the hospital staff have a reasonable expectation of privacy and should have a safe and secure working environment. It is hard to see what threat a patient with a severe and immobilizing disability would pose to the safety or security of hospital staff, with or without a tablet in hand.

We need the long-overdue strong Health Care Accessibility Standard more than ever, so that all patients can be free from discrimination because of disability. Hospitals have a duty to accommodate patients with disabilities. They can only refuse to do so if they can prove that accommodation of that patient would cause the hospital undue hardship.

During the COVID-19 crisis, when hospital visitors are restricted, this imposes special hardships on various patients with disabilities, including those with communication disabilities. At our April 7, 2020 virtual Town Hall event, Barbara Collier gave strategies that the Ontario Government should implement across Ontario to address such needs. Since then, no one from the Ministry of Health has tried to contact the AODA Alliance to follow up on those strategies or any other health-related COVID-19 issues.

For more background, check out the following:

* The May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall on meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.

* The April 7, 2020 virtual Town Hall organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition on more generally meeting the urgent needs of all people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

* The April 30, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, which sets out a list of concrete and constructive requests for action that the AODA Alliance presented to Ontario’s Ministry of Education.

* The AODA Alliance’s education web page, that documents its efforts over the past decade to advocate for Ontario’s education system to become fully accessible to students with disabilities

* The AODA Alliance’s health care web page, which documents our years of effort to get the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard.

* The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page, setting out our efforts to advocate for governments to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 460 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 announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 41 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

MORE DETAILS

CBC News May 3, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/accessibility-curbto-program-disability-rights-david-lepofsky-1.5554034

City urged to think about people with disabilities in CurbTO plan to create space on sidewalks

With files from Kelda Yuen

An advocate is urging the City of Toronto to make sure its plan to ease sidewalk crowding takes into consideration the needs of people with disabilities amid COVID-19.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the new CurbTO program, in which the city will make room for pedestrians and delivery drivers through the creation of “curb lane pedestrian zones” and “temporary parking pickup zones,” is a good one. The alliance is a consumer advocacy group.

Through the program, the city is aiming to enable people on city sidewalks and drivers picking up and dropping goods off to engage in physical distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

But the program will actually make things worse for people with disabilities if city planners fail to think about accessibility for all people, Lepofsky told CBC Toronto on Sunday.

“The real question that I would ask is: What are they doing to ensure that, in altering this part of the built environment, that the alteration will increase and not decrease accessibility?

“In other words, the idea of creating more space for social distancing is obviously important and good. And the fact that they are looking at that is, regardless of disability, good.”

“If they don’t plan for its accessibility, they will likely screw up its accessibility. That’s what we find over and over. Accessibility doesn’t happen by accident. Inaccessibility happens by accident.”

Under the program, the city will make room at “hot spots” or “pinch points” where it is challenging for people to practise physical distancing because of lineups or congestion outside essential businesses.

These areas include sidewalks outside grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants and community agencies that offer pickup, takeout and delivery services, the city has said.

The city said it will initially target hotspots along 10 busy retail main streets for curb lane installations before the program is expanded to more than 100 locations across Toronto.

Lepofsky said the program raises several issues around accessibility.

For example, if people in a lineup outside a drug store are rerouted onto a curb lane, then it would be difficult for a person using a mobility device, such as wheelchair, scooter or walker, to enter that fenced-off lineup because it would involve stepping down onto the road.

“If they build accessibility in by making sure that the route has level access to get down into the street and so on, that could be an improvement,” he said.

And if, as an additional example, the city sets up a sign outside a drug store indicating where pedestrians should line up, that sign itself could become an obstacle for people who are blind or who have vision loss.

“What kind of prompting will there be to let me know where to go to line up? If they stick a sign on the road or on the sidewalk, which they might want to do, they have now created a new obstacle I could whack into,” he said.

“What are they are going to do to plan for safe navigation?”

Mayor John Tory told reporters at a recent daily news briefing that staff will use signs and barriers to create additional space. ‘Each location will have unique conditions that will be assessed carefully by Toronto Public Health and Transportation Services staff to develop the most appropriate solution.’ (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

In its April 27 news release in which it unveiled the program, the city did not address these concerns. The city has yet to respond to questions posed by CBC Toronto.

“Each location will have unique conditions that will be assessed carefully by Toronto Public Health and Transportation Services staff to develop the most appropriate solution,” Tory said.

“In some cases, city staff may be able to suggest line-up configurations to the business operator that alleviates crowding concerns. In other cases, a temporary curb lane closure may be the most effective response.”

“Curb lane pedestrian zones” are defined as areas in which pedestrians trying to move past lineups outside essential businesses will have more space.

“Temporary parking pick-up zones” are defined as areas in which drivers delivering food and medicine will be allowed to park for up to 10 minutes near an essential business where they are picking up or dropping off goods.

These zones could be created in areas that are now restricted parking zones.

A downtown councillor, meanwhile, has enlisted the support of residents to propose locations that the city could fix when it expands the program.

Count. Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 10 Spading-Fort York, said he is recommending 18 new additional spaces in his ward for “immediate improvements” under the CurbTO program where room could be created to allow people to distance physically during the outbreak.

“Notwithstanding the overarching advice to, where possible, stay at home, we know that in many neighbourhoods, especially in downtown Toronto, there are immediate spaces where it’s not possible to walk on the sidewalk without coming into contact with lots of people,” Cressy said.

His office has worked with local residents, community organizations, businesses and institutions to identify where there are issues around crowding, he said.

“We know that in this dense, crowded city of ours, the overarching message to stay at home works for some, but depending on how busy and crowded the sidewalks are, it doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s why we’re proposing these changes.”

Cressy said to make streets safe and accessible for all requires a “fundamental” redesign of city streets.

He said of CurbTO: “We need to include an accessibility focus around that.”

CBC Radio 1 Metro Morning May 5, 2020

Note: the host conducting the interview was David Common.

Radio Host: So, learning from home as we’ve been discussing for weeks now can be really tough for any student, and certainly for many families. For students with disabilities, whether that’s physical, mental, or sensory, the disruptions to the school year have been especially hard, there hasn’t been much direction from school boards or for school boards, about working with special needs students during the pandemic. Well that’s why a group of concerned parents and Disability Advocates held a virtual Town Hall yesterday. The goal was to share ideas of what parents, teachers and school boards can do to help students with disabilities. David Lepofsky co hosted that session, he is chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. Lolly Herman teaches children with autism. She is a certified teacher and a behavior analyst who founded Under the Umbrella Tree educational services, she’s got three kids of her own. Both Lolly and David join us now. Good morning to both of you.

Guests: Good morning, David

Radio Host: I like to start with you, David, and just ask you about this virtual Town Hall you hosted yesterday. What was your goal?

David Lepofsky: Well we’ve got upwards of a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario schools, and their teachers, their parents, and the kids are facing enormous additional barriers of hardships because of the move to online learning. And we wanted to get ideas, action tips, practical action tips to the frontline teachers and parents. There are teachers and parents who can innovate and come up with creative ideas, but the province, the provincial government has dropped the ball by not reaching out to those frontline folks, finding out what they’ve innovated and sharing them to all school boards around the province so everybody can benefit from them. We came up with the idea of our virtual Town Hall, to try to fill the gap and frankly to embarrass the province, into doing its job by picking up where we left off, and continuing that process.

Radio Host: Do you feel like in the rush to get some sort of distance learning program out that students with disabilities were simply left behind?

David Lepofsky: Well, unfortunately our Ministry of Education or provincial government tend to operate our education system first and foremost on the idea that it’s for kids without disabilities, then kids with disabilities become kind of an afterthought. Oh, what do we do for them? kind of thing. We recognize that the province had an enormous challenge, as did the school boards, moving to onsite online learning and we got to cut them some slack but we’ve now been into this for weeks. And yesterday we revealed, very serious issues. There are grassroots strategies for fixing it but the province has to step up to the plate. Let me give you one example, the provinces announced that TVO Ontario is its major partner in helping deliver online education. Well, one of our speakers yesterday, an expert in digital accessibility, found out within minutes of checking out the online resources that TV Ontario has posted, that they have significant accessibility problems for students or teachers or parents with various disabilities who have to use adaptive technology to interact with those kind of websites.

Radio host: I just want to bring Lolly into the conversation because she teaches children with autism and I wonder Lolly, what are some specific examples of how kids with autism and their parents are struggling right now?

Lolly Herman: Yeah. So, when we made the decision to close our clinic and move to online services I really worried about what our families would do without the therapies and intensive intervention that they had been receiving prior to this outbreak. And so, sort of not offering services not an option, going online and transferring our therapy and all our services online was certainly scary but it needed to be done. And I’m proud to say that we are in our eighth week of telehealth services, and it is going very well. Families help children with disabilities as specifically, the ones I work with, many of them have a diagnosis of autism, are struggling with not only changes in sleep patterns, an increase in, well, some of my kids when they can’t express themselves, when they can’t for what they need, sometimes they act out, and the ways that they act can be to hurt themselves or to hurt their parents, or to refuse eating the few foods that they were eating prior to this pandemic. A change in routine can be devastating and is often devastating to these children and their families going you know not having the child go to bed till 3 or 4 am every night is quite difficult. And so knowing that our kiddos thrive on routine, we did everything we could to get online and continue to support our families. I can say that, like, all of us I’m a mom of three. And, you know, getting online was not so fun for me and my three kids, three kids in the TDSB and all three of their, their online learning looks different. So it took a little bit of time to set that up. But for our families, you know, a lot of them just sort of wanted to wait this out hoping it wasn’t going to take so long saying you know we’re just goanna wait to get back to the clinic. And my response to that was okay, but I really want to make sure that your kids know that we’re still here, you know, give me a few minutes. Let me see them. Let’s just FaceTime, you know, let’s use our chosen method or virtual platform. Let’s get online and I think that parents, when they saw how their child connected to their therapists to their teacher, to myself I immediately felt comfort. I know myself as director, when I made the decision to close down, I felt like I, you know, had put all the weight on my shoulders and it was a massive decision. The moment I got online and saw my colleagues I immediately felt a sense of relief. There’s something special in these times where we are all social distancing and self isolating, to get online and to see the people that you see every day the people that care for you, the people that love you, the people that teach you, and you feel part of something positive. And so I think that one of the greatest strides we’ve made aside from moving our curriculum and online is by making the massive push to make sure that everything we do for our kids for our families for our staff are face to face. I mean we’ve started doing Wednesday PJ and story night for my kids and myself we get into our pajamas and our families log on and I read our clients stories, right before bed, you know we have morning coffee with me with just our parents in the morning. So we have time to connect. I think that anything that we can do to bring our community and keep our community together and engaged makes us all feel like this isn’t the new norm, we will get back to where we need to be and the more that we can keep our children, engaged and retained and being, you know, engaged with their teaching team, the better off we will be when we get back out into society and continue working with our kids.

Radio Host: Certainly I understand what you say, particularly around the importance of routine and the consequences without it. David, I know you have written to the Education Minister Stephen Lecce. What do you need the province to do now to better support students with disabilities?

David Lepofsky: Well the province has basically left it to over 70 school boards, to principals and teachers, to each have to figure these things out on their own. What we did yesterday was we brought together five experts like Lolly to give practical tips, addressing certain disabilities. We couldn’t address them all.

Radio Host: We’ve only got about a minute, David, so if you could give me some of those tips that would be helpful.

David Lepofsky: So for example if you’re going to use an online platform, you need an accessible platform for students and parents and teachers with disabilities. Zoom is by far the most accessible platform yet some school boards are either not promoting it, or in fact are refusing to allow it. That’s ridiculous. We are getting tips on. Sorry, just one other tip, Lolly gave a pile of them in the millions, you folks will have a link on your website. We invite your listeners to go and watch the different action tips we gave in the areas of educating kids with blindness or kids who are deaf or kids with autism or kids with behavior issues. One of the great ideas was setting up an area in your house that’s going to be the learning area it’s kind of a school at home, so kids who have behavior issues need to learn to focus, have one area that they could orient themselves to. That’s the learning area, very practical things that people find are working but we need the province to reach out directly to grassroots teachers on the frontlines and parents, collect their ideas. Don’t create a website that’s just a blizzard of a million links leaving it to everyone to have to click on a million links to find a good idea. Come up with really nicely packaged lists of action tips and share them with families, share them with teachers. That’s what we started doing yesterday and we invited the province to pick up, take it over and do it themselves, we will help them.

David and Lolly unfortunately we’re goanna have to leave it there but thanks very much for raising what is very clearly an important issue for a great many. Thanks a lot.

Guests: Thanks so much

Radio Host: That’s Lolly Herman who works with children with autism, she’s a behavior analyst and founder of Under the Umbrella Tree Educational Services, a parent herself. And David Lepofsky is Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Alliance.

Toronto Sun May 1, 2020

Originally posted at https://torontosun.com/news/local-news/levy-hospital-bans-disabled-patient-from-using-ipad-calling-it-surveillance-tool

LEVY: Hospital bans disabled patient from using iPad calling it ‘surveillance tool’

Sue-Ann Levy

Tommy Jutcovich, 69, is bedridden in Toronto Grace hospital but staff are no longer allowing him to use his iPad — his lifeline to the outside world during the COVID-19 pandemic — because it considered a “surveillance tool.” Supplied photo

Tommy Jutcovich is bedridden in Toronto Grace hospital — unable to walk, talk, eat or use his hands — and his only lifeline to the outside world was taken away from him.

The 69-year-old much beloved retired Toronto District School board principal was diagnosed with multiple systems atrophy eight years ago — a rare disease that presents similar to ALS — and is only able to communicate by either blinking one eye or through his computer tablet.

But his daughter, Adalia Schweitzer, said Friday that his tablet has literally been shut off by hospital staff over allegations it is being used to conduct “surveillance” of his care and is not providing a “safe and secure environment” for the nurses and other employees who service his needs.

After spending four months in the ICU at North York General Hospital, she said her dad was transferred to Toronto Grace a week ago — against the wishes of the family — to make room at NYGH for COVID-19 patients.

When her mom was no longer able to be by his side at NYGH due to the escalating pandemic, they came up with the idea of the tablet.

Through an app, her mom was able to program the tablet from home to assist with his daily readings from the Torah, allow him to watch the news and listen to podcasts.

They’d also do daily video conferencing with all members of the family, who live in different countries and time zones.

NYGH had no problem with his use of the tablet, Schweitzer said.

She said her father was admitted with his tablet on Thursday and he was using it until the patient care manager informed the family three days later that it was an “issue of privacy” and he would only be permitted to access his tablet one hour a day — at a time acceptable to hospital staff and subject to their availability.

Schweitzer feels because he was in a new hospital situation, the nurses didn’t “appreciate” that her mom was trying to advocate for his care needs and advise them of his “very strict” medication schedule.

She said the other day, while he was doing his Torah prayers, a hospital staff member actually came in to his private room and “just shut it off.”

When the family tried to work out a compromise, lawyers got into the mix and Thursday night the family received a letter indicating the hospital does not permit monitors that “allow the continuous surveillance and recording of what is occurring within the hospital.”

The lawyer’s letter also stated that hospital employees have a “reasonable expectation of privacy in the workplace” and the hospital must provide employees and professional staff with a “safe and secure work environment.”

Schweitzer said all staff have to do is put the tablet on “mute” or “turn it off” when they come in to his private room to take care of her father.

“No one’s stopping them from turning off his tablet or turning it around when they are doing his care,” she said. “They’re calling it a monitor … we’re calling it his lifeline.”

Lt.-Col. John Murray, board chair of Toronto Grace health centre, said in an e-mailed statement they are committed to “providing exceptional and compassionate care” but the Personal Health Information Protection Act prohibits the use of a monitor that can be “controlled remotely” from outside a public hospital.

When I suggested what they were doing is tantamount to elder abuse, Murray said “nothing could be further from the truth” and that they are doing “everything possible” to ensure loved ones remain connected to their families.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott’s spokesman Hayley Chazan said she’s not able to comment on the specifics because hospitals operate autonomously. However, she did say she expects Ontario hospitals to “act reasonably” to support patients during this unprecedented crisis.

Schweitzer said the entire family is “heartbroken.”

“My dad was always a passionate advocate for causes he believed in … and now he can’t speak up for himself,” she said. “(What the hospital is doing) is not acceptable.”



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Virtual Public Forum Reveals Serious Hardships Facing People with Disabilities During COVID-19 Crisis and Makes Practical Recommendations for Urgent Government Action – But Will Governments Listen and Act?


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

ONTARIO AUTISM COALITION

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 7, 2020

Virtual Public Forum Reveals Serious Hardships Facing People with Disabilities During COVID-19 Crisis and Makes Practical Recommendations for Urgent Government Action – But Will Governments Listen and Act?

April 7,2020 Toronto: A ground-breaking 2-hour virtual public forum held online this morning, and now permanently archived on Youtube, organized by Ontario grassroots disability advocates, revealed that people with disabilities are disproportionately exposed to the risks of COVID and the hardships this pandemic is causing. Ten experts, listed below, gave the government practical priority measures needed now to alleviate these hardships. Anchored by Ontario Autism Coalition president Laura Kirby-McIntosh and AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky (an Osgoode Hall Law School visiting professor), today’s virtual public forum shone a spotlight on critical needs facing 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities and over 6 million Canadians with disabilities, such as:

* If critical medical care must be rationed during shortages in this crisis, a patient’s disability should not be used as a criterion for refusing treatment, nor should a health care provider’s stereotypes or personal views about the quality of life of living with that disability;

* Government should provide personal protective equipment to attendant care workers who come to the homes of people with disabilities to help them get out of bed, dress and handle other basic tasks of daily living;

* Governments should ensure that long-term care homes like nursing homes can’t unilaterally decide not to send a resident with COVID to hospital, without getting a decision from the resident or their family members authorized to decide for them;

* An exemption should be made to the rules that bar people from entering a hospital (if not a patient) for family members, attendant care workers or others who provide needed supports to a patient with disabilities;

* COVID testing should be made available in the home for patients with disabilities who face barriers trying to travel to COVID testing sites;

* When selecting and setting up new emergency sites for treating overflows of patients coming to hospital, the most physically accessible sites should be selected. Readily-achievable priority steps should be taken to make those temporary sites disability-accessible;

* Remote and distance supports, and if possible, on-site respite supports should be centrally created to assist the families of persons with developmental or intellectual disabilities living with them, to provide some sort of respite for family members during mandatory periods of isolation at home;

* Emergency increases to social assistance should be made to alleviate the hardships facing those living in poverty, including impoverished people with disabilities;

* Government should coordinate community mental health services, using such things as readily-achievable walk-in sites for homeless individuals needing crisis help, who don’t have the technology and data plans to do this remotely;

* Schools, colleges and universities that are rapidly moving to online learning must ensure that their virtual meeting platforms, websites and digital documents are formatted to be accessible to students and staff with disabilities using adaptive technology to read that content. Poorly-enforced Ontario accessibility regulations have required this for almost a decade, but the reality on the ground is sadly inconsistent;

* The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities must urgently create action plans and resources to help school boards, colleges, and universities provide accessible online education programs so that hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities are not again relegated to second-class status. Government should not leave it to each school board, college and university to have to try to figure this out on their own, in the middle of this crisis;

* Governments must immediately and actively consult with the grassroots of the disability community to learn what they are now facing and to help plan to address their urgent needs in this crisis.

We regret that the Ontario Government declined to send anyone to speak at this virtual public forum about what it is doing. The Government’s line ministries that are working on crisis planning have not answered the AODA Alliance’s offers to work with them.

The Media is free to use excerpts from the virtual public forum in their coverage.

For further information, please contact:

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

Laura Kirby-McIntosh President Ontario Autism Coalition [email protected]

416-315-7939 www.ontarioautismcoalition.com Twitter @OntAutism

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Background

Link to the April 7, 2020 online virtual public forum on COVID and people with disabilities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ23it9ULjc

Link to background resources offered in connection with the virtual public forum: www.ontarioautismcoalition.com/covid

Speakers at the April 7, 2020 Virtual Public Forum:

  1. Co-anchor: Laura Kirby-McIntosh, President, Ontario Autism Coalition and teacher
  2. Co-anchor: David Lepofsky, AODA Alliance chair and Osgoode Hall Law visiting professor
  3. Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director ARCH Disability Law Centre
  4. Jane Meadus, counsel, Advocacy Centre for the Elderly ACE
  5. Wendy Porch, Executive Director, Centre for Independent Living in Toronto CILT
  6. Barbara Collier, Executive Director of Communication Disabilities Access Canada CDAC
  7. James Janeiro, Director of Community Engagement and Policy at Community Living Toronto
  8. Thea Kurdi, Vice President of DesignABLE Environments Inc.
  9. Yona Grant, Executive Director of the Income Security Advocacy Centre ISAC
  10. Lana Frado, Executive Director of Sound Times Support Services
  11. Karen McCall, Adjunct Faculty at Mohawk College’s Accessible Media Production Program and owner of Karlen Communications
  12. Irwin Elman, special advisor for the Laidlaw Foundation and formerly Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth



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AODA Alliance Writes Premier Doug Ford to Urge Actions to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with disabilities During the Covid Crisis


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

AODA Alliance Writes Premier Doug Ford to Urge Actions to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with disabilities During the Covid Crisis

March 25, 2020

          SUMMARY

The current COVID crisis is especially threatening for people with disabilities. As a result, we today wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford to call for strong action to protect the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during this critical time. Our letter is set out below.

In our letter, we:

* Ask Premier Ford to direct his senior officials to act on the recommendations for action in the March 20, 2020 AODA Alliance Update, which lists vital action that Ontarians with disabilities need our governments at all levels to take.

* Ask Premier Ford not to totally freeze during this COVID crisis the work of Standards Development Committees appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, even if some of their work must briefly be delayed, and

* Urge Premier Ford to convene via virtual meetings the available members of the Standards Development Committees now in place to brainstorm options for The Government could take to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during The Government’s emergency planning to deal with the COVID crisis.

We again offer The Government our assistance with any efforts to ensure that the needs of Ontarians with disabilities are safeguarded during this crisis.

We also set out below the March 23, 2020 letter to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho from NDP MPP Joel Harden. Mr. Harden offers good ideas for Government action during this crisis.

A total of 419 days have passed since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley conducted. We are still waiting for The Government to announce a serious plan of action to implement its recommendations regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

We always welcome your feedback on these issues, and any others! Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

 March 25, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Premier Doug Ford

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email: [email protected]

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

March 25, 2020

Via Email: [email protected]

To: Hon. Doug Ford, Premier

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario

M7A 1A1

Dear Premier Ford,

Re: Ensuring that the Urgent Needs of 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities Are Fully Addressed in The Government’s emergency Planning for the COVID Crisis

We appreciate all the hard work that the Government has been shouldering in the face of the horrible COVID virus crisis that is engulfing our province and the entire world. We know that at all levels, The Government is working under very difficult circumstances to head off unprecedented health and economic crises that we all now face.

It is vital that The Government’s emergency planning include strong and effective measures to ensure that the emergency needs of 2.6 million people with disabilities are effectively met. Ontarians with disabilities are already a vulnerable and disadvantaged part of our society. They will disproportionately suffer this crisis’s hardships.

On March 20, 2020, the AODA Alliance made public a comprehensive call for strong government action on this front. We ask you to share it with your Government’s senior officials. Please direct them to take the emergency actions listed there to address this part of the crisis.

It is also essential that The Government not over-react to this crisis by taking action that works against the important needs of Ontarians with disabilities. For example, yesterday, in the wake of this crisis, the Accessibility Ministry announced that it has put on hold the ongoing work on developing new accessibility standards for the time being. Its March 24, 2020 email to members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (of which AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member) included the following:

Note: SDC stands for Standards Development Committee.

“Please be advised that due to the current circumstances, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility will be suspending all planned SDC meetings, whether in person or teleconference, as well as any technical sub-committee/small team meetings until further notice….

At the request of the Chair, please release your April dates but continue to hold the May and June dates until further notice. We will keep you updated over the coming weeks.

The Ministry will continue to work on developing a revised workplan, in conversation with yourself on the restart of the SDC meetings when it becomes possible to do so….”

It is understandable that The Government cancelled the April 1, 2020 meeting of the K-12 Standards Development Committee, even as a virtual meeting, given the immediacy of the crisis. However, there was no need for The Government to have made an announcement that suspends all work of Standards Development Committees, even the informal work of sub-committees. Those sub-committees use email and conference calls to informally brainstorm ideas to bring forward when the full Standards Development Committee next meets. They have important work now in progress. No Government staff take part in those meetings.

Of course, some Standards Development Committee members may have limited time on hand due to the crisis, as well as work or family obligations. However, for any who are isolated at home, with time on their hands, The Government should encourage them to feel free to carry on with their work. The Government should not send out a message that will sound to some like everything is to be entirely frozen until further notice.

Far from now shutting down the work of Standards Development Committees for the time being, The Government should now hurry to draw on these expert committees for help with emergency planning for the COVID crisis. Their membership was hand-picked based on their expertise in important areas concerning accessibility for people with disabilities.

We call on The Government to quickly convene virtual meetings of these Standards Development Committees to brainstorm ideas for measures that The Government should implement as part of its emergency planning, to help reduce this crisis’s disproportionate hardships for Ontarians with disabilities. For example:

  1. The Health Care Standards Development Committee should be asked to identify hardships facing people with disabilities in the health care system during this crisis, and to identify urgent measures that The Government could include in its current emergency health care planning to prevent the creation of new barriers against patients with disabilities. A good source of ideas for that discussion is the AODA Alliance’s recent Framework for ensuring that the health care system is accessible to patients with disabilities.
  1. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee should be asked to identify important emergency steps that colleges and universities can now take to ensure that post-secondary students with disabilities can fully take part in their programs, especially as they rapidly shift to remote online learning and testing.
  1. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee should be asked for ideas on what the Ministry of Education and school boards should be offering for home learning and remote learning opportunities and supports for students with disabilities during school closures.
  1. The Employment Standards Development Committee should be asked for recommendations for urgent measures to help ensure that employees with disabilities can continue to work remotely, free from accessibility barriers.
  1. The Information and Communications Standards Development Committee should be asked for recommendations for urgent measures that employers, school boards, colleges, universities, health care providers (like hospitals) and governments can take, as so much is moving to the online realm during this crisis, to ensure that digital accessibility is ensured. As well, recommendations for urgent measures could be sought for ensuring that people with communication disabilities can effectively communicate with such critical services as first responders during this crisis.

Some Standards Development Committee members may be unavailable to take part in this brainstorming. Let’s just get whomever is available around the virtual table as soon as possible to put their heads together in the public interest.

There is no need to comply with the full procedural strictures that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act spells out for formal Standards Development Committee proceedings. This is because the aim would not be for these committees to formulate and vote on formal collective recommendations for new accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. Rather, The Government should call on their members to simply brainstorm ideas which individual members could offer and which The Government could collect, share with the public, and infuse into its emergency planning where appropriate.

We don’t suggest for a moment that only Standards Development Committee members should be consulted on these important issues. However, with the crisis now upon us all, these Committees are an easily-reached and readily available source of expertise that is right at hand.

In conclusion, we repeat what our March 20, 2020 call for action had emphasized. In this crisis, we are all experiencing more than ever the harms caused by past Government failures to effectively act on accessibility for people with disabilities. As but one example, there are real harms now flowing from the Government’s having left the work of Standards Development Committees frozen from the day it took office in June 2018 up until months later. Had the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee not been frozen for over a year after June 2018, The Government would now have the benefit of its final recommendations as it rushes to put in place emergency health care services to combat the COVID virus.

Let’s learn the lessons of the past, and not stop the work of Standards Development Committees any longer than necessary and any more than necessary. Let’s accelerate their work where it will help us combat the societal effects of the COVID virus.

We remain at your service to help in any way we can. We wish you and all those working for the Government, as well as all Ontarians, health and safety in the wake of this crisis.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Copies to:

The Hon. Raymond Cho Minister for Accessibility and Seniors [email protected]

Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Deputy Premier [email protected]

 March 23, 2020 Letter to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho from NDP MPP Joel Harden

Hon. Raymond Cho

Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility

College Park

5th Floor

777 Bay St.

Toronto, ON, M5G 2C8

March 23, 2020

Dear Minister Cho,

At this extraordinary time, we must do everything we can to support those who need it most. That is why I am writing to share with you two ideas for your Ministry that will ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for seniors and people with disabilities.

In our constituency of Ottawa Centre, the Good Companions Seniors’ Centre runs an innovative program called the “Seniors Centre Without Walls”. The initiative allows seniors and people with disabilities to call a toll-free number and connect with each other remotely, allowing them to participate in educational seminars, music, interactive games and more.

During this public health emergency where seniors and people with disabilities are asked to stay home for their own safety, there is a heightened risk of social isolation. As I write to you, thousands of seniors and people with disabilities are living alone, cut off the from the activities that previously provided them with human to human connection.

That is why I am asking the Ministry of Seniors & Accessibility to work with Seniors Active Living Centres to expand the “Seniors Centre Without Walls” so that every senior or adult with a disability in Ontario can access this service. In doing so, special consideration should be paid to ensuring that Francophone and minority language speaking seniors are able to participate.

On a related note, we must ensure that Ontarians who are deaf or hard of hearing are able to receive crucial information on the availability of government services, business closures, and public health updates in the midst of this crisis.

That’s why I am requesting ASL interpretation for all government press conferences related to COVID-19, and the publication of official announcements in accessible formats. We need to make sure that all 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities have the information they need to protect themselves and their families.

Minister, thank you for your consideration of this letter and its requests. I look forward to working with you to support our vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities in the days ahead.

My very best,

Joel Harden

Official Opposition Critic for Seniors, Accessibility and People with Disabilities

MPP for Ottawa Centre

CC:       Monique Doolittle-Romas

David Lepofsky

Sarah Jama



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Disability Advocacy Coalition Calls for Strong Action by Governments At All Levels to Address the Emergency Needs of People with Disabilities during the Covid Crisis


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/

Disability Advocacy Coalition Calls for Strong Action by Governments At All Levels to Address the Emergency Needs of People with Disabilities during the Covid Crisis

March 20, 2020

          SUMMARY

The Covid-19 virus crisis has serious implications for people with disabilities in our community. This cries out for immediate and major action by all levels of government. We call on our federal, provincial and municipal governments and other major public institutions to ensure that planning for the most vulnerable in our society, including people with disabilities, is a key part of all emergency planning in this area. We urge one and all to do what they can to stay isolated and safe.

We here offer concrete ideas. We are ready to help in any way we can. In this Update, we:

* outline some of the serious additional hardships that this Covid crisis is inflicting on over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.

* Offer concrete proposals for immediate action by all levels of government and

* Outline some important lessons that our government must learn after this crisis is behind us all.

We recognize that our governments at all levels are rushing to address an unbelievable crisis. They have many huge pressures on them. They are working around the clock.

We deeply appreciate all the efforts made to date to help protect the public. We here offer constructive suggestions on how to ensure that their efforts include the pressing needs of people with disabilities in this crisis. In offering these ideas, we don’t want to leave any impression whatsoever that no one is doing anything for people with disabilities. We just want to ensure that our public institutions are collectively doing all we and they can on this front. It may well be that more is going on than we have seen. Whatever be the case, we hope the following ideas will help.

          MORE DETAILS

1. The Covid Pandemic’s Serious Impact on People with Disabilities

Of the great many people whom the Covid virus will affect, the 2.6 million Ontarians who have a disability will disproportionately feel its harmful effects. We offer a few important reflections on the particular needs of people with disabilities as our society copes with the Covid-19 virus crisis that has so swiftly engulfed us all.

Specific Government Planning for the Needs of People with Disabilities Is especially vital, for several reasons. Here are the ones we’ve identified on short notice. There are, no doubt, many other similar impacts on people with disabilities beyond those listed here.

First, those who are most vulnerable to the dangers of the Covid virus are seniors and people with disabilities. Disproportionately, seniors have disabilities. Whether or not one is a senior, those with fragile or compromised medical conditions are especially at risk. While not all people with disabilities are medically fragile or compromised, there are a higher proportion of medically vulnerable people among our population of people with disabilities.

Second, the media has reported that the virus has had an especially serious impact on some living in care homes. Of course, those living in such facilities are typically (if not entirely) people with disabilities.

Third, self-imposed isolation at home is vital for everyone at this dangerous time, in order to contain this virus. This self-isolation at home can present additional hardships for some people with disabilities. For them, eliminating all close contact with other people may not be possible.

Fourth, the much-needed cancellation of school and day care programs is hard on all kids. For children with certain disabilities, this can be even harder.

For example, for children with disabilities like autism, the need for a structured and predictable day is important. That structured and predictable day has been blown away by the closure of schools and many programs for children with disabilities. Some children with disabilities get critically important services at school, beyond the school’s education program. Their families must now struggle to find those services elsewhere, and try to get them brought into the home, lest they have to venture out into the community. Some of those services will be closed now, due to the economic shutdown that is hitting so much of our economy.

Some of the important support workers and service providers will face serious economic peril as they are closed or laid off during these closures. Their economic survival may be in jeopardy.

Fifth, effective self-isolation requires a person or family to dig into their savings. A disproportionate number of people with disabilities live at or below the poverty line. They won’t have the savings one needs for this.

Sixth, the homeless too often include people with addiction and/or other mental health conditions. For them, self-isolation at home to avoid this virus is not even an option.

Seventh, we have all been told that frequent hand-washing is extremely important to protect ourselves from getting this virus. As one person with a disability pointed out on Twitter, this is hard to do in washrooms where the soap dispenser is not in an accessible location.

Eighth, for those who were away from home as this crisis escalated, and who have to travel to get home, the many disability barriers in our transportation sector will feel even more amplified now. It has at times been hard to get through on the phone to an airline. Now it is even worse. Long waits at airports are hard on everyone. On passengers with disabilities with frail medical conditions or fatiguing conditions, this is much harder.

Ninth, as the spread of this virus gets worse, we are going to need to rely more and more on our health care system. Our governments are expected to plan for a major surge in demand for hospital services.

Yet patients with disabilities now still face far too many barriers in the health care system. After years and years of our advocacy, the Ontario Government is belatedly working on developing a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

However, at the rate at which the Ontario Government has been going on this issue, a new regulation to set standards for accessibility in the health care system is likely still years away from being enacted and implemented. Last month we made public our detailed Framework that lists what needs to be done to make our health care system truly and fully accessible to patients with disabilities.

Tenth, as schools are closed and post-secondary education organizations such as colleges and universities move their teaching to online platforms, the recurring barriers in education facing students with disabilities become all the more hurtful.

For example, if any colleges and universities have not ensured the full accessibility of their digital learning environment, the move to online learning risks becoming the move to a world of even more education barriers. In that regard, last week the AODA Alliance made public a draft Framework for the promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard. We seek your input on that draft before we finalize it. Given the crisis facing us all, it is all the more important for post-secondary education organizations to move very fast now to ensure that their digital learning environments are barrier-free for students with disabilities.

Eleventh, the additional burdens of this virus can be felt differently in different disability contexts. For example:

  1. a) We are all warned to avoid touching surfaces if they have not been recently sanitized. Yet for many people with vision loss, their hands can either intentionally or accidentally contact surfaces around them as they navigate.
  1. b) For people with balance issues or fatiguing conditions, they have an increased need to hold on to railings on staircases or other public places.
  1. c) This Covid crisis is happening as the Ontario Government continues its months of delay in deciding and announcing how it is going to fix the chaos it created last year in its Ontario Autism Program. The Ford Government has left parents of children with autism hanging for months, wondering what services their children will receive. As well, for children with other disabilities that have similar needs but do not get similar provincially-supported services, the situation is also very troubling.

2. What Should We As a Society DO?

Today, the maxim “It takes a village” rings loud and clear. As individuals, we can each reach out to others to see what assistance we can rally. Many are doing so. The business sector can also do a great deal to help, by planning measures to ensure that people with disabilities are accommodated during this crisis.

We commend everyone who is trying to help others, on a one-to-one basis, or through more collective efforts. We applaud those retail stores like grocery stores and drug stores that have announced plans to allocate special shopping hours for customers who are seniors or people with disabilities. We encourage the entire business community, and especially those in the food, restaurant, banking, and other retail and service areas, to implement and announce similarly creative strategies to ensure that customers with disabilities are effectively served.

Such commendable localized and individualized volunteer measures are only one part of the picture. it is absolutely essential for our governments at all levels to take a strong lead and to show decisive leadership on these disability concerns. They need to quickly plan and implement specific strategies to ensure that people with disabilities are safe, are fully protected from the community spread of the Covid-19 virus and are able to live in the isolation to which we all must commit ourselves. Our governments at all levels need to proactively build strong and effective disability considerations into all aspects of their emergency planning.

This makes good policy sense. It is so obvious to Ontarians with disabilities. However, over the years, we have found over and over that our governments too often fail to effectively take into account the needs of people with disabilities in their policy planning. This is so even though government after government congratulates itself on supposedly leading by example on disability accessibility and inclusion.

Multiple reports have told the Ontario Government about this serious unmet need and the lack of effective provincial leadership. This has continued even years after enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

What we seek is a sensible thing to do. It is also an obligation on the part of our government.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees to people with disabilities the constitutional right to equality before and under to the law, and to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on disability. The Supreme Court of Canada made this obligation clear almost a quarter century ago in the landmark case of Eldridge v. British Columbia. It held that governments have a strong duty to take into account and accommodate the needs of people with disabilities when they design and implement public programs, including, most notably, health care. The AODA itself is a law which the grassroots disability community fought for over a decade, to turn Eldridge’s powerful language into a reality in the lives of people with disabilities. However, since the AODA was enacted in 2005, Government after Government has achieved progress on accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities at a glacial pace, according to the 2019 report of the Third Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley.

The accessibility standards enacted to date under the AODA include some requirements regarding emergency planning for people with disabilities. We set these out at the end of this Update. They only cover a small part of what people with disabilities now need in Ontario from their governments and leading public sector organizations like hospitals and public transit providers.

The AODA Alliance has repeatedly revealed that successive governments have done a poor job of enforcing the AODA. In this crisis, the harm to people with disabilities from that failure is even more harmful.

We offer a list of actions that governments should immediately take. This is not the last word on this issue. This list is only the first word. Proper planning and feedback from people with disabilities will reveal other important actions to add to this list.

  1. All emergency announcements and supports must be communicated to the public through multiple fully accessible means. Governments must ensure that people with disabilities can learn about them and find them. The public is desperate to know the latest official news, as things keep changing hour by hour.

For example, announcements by the Prime Minister of Canada or Ontario’s Premier should be simultaneously available with captioning and Sign Language interpretation. Public websites where emergency information is posted should be fully barrier-free. Plain language options should be available for persons with intellectual or cognitive disabilities.

  1. It is good that there are some government efforts underway to assist people with the serious financial hardships that this crisis is causing. Specific targeted measures need to be announced to address the added needs and vulnerabilities facing people with disabilities as they deal with this crisis.

This could include emergency supplements to social assistance like ODSP, the Disability Tax Credit and other financial supports. Emergency expedited procedures to process those claims should be implemented. There should be a moratorium on Government efforts to cut off such social assistance supports as ODSP. Protections against credit card penalties during this crisis should also be on the agenda. Those who lead the advocacy efforts for income security for people with disabilities should be at the forefront of discussions on this issue.

  1. It is good that our health care system is trying to gear up for the anticipated onslaught of patients with the Covid virus. This planning must include emergency efforts to ensure that patients with disabilities will be able to get needed health care services, and to eliminate the barriers that they now must endure throughout the health care system.

As but one example, the Covid testing centres that governments are rushing to open should be designed to be fully barrier-free for patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance’s Framework for barrier-free health care services is a good starting point for this.

  1. It is essential that people with disabilities who need health care services can get prompt accessible transportation to those services. If those services can be delivered at home through new measures, that would avoid this issue. To the extent that patients with disabilities need to use para-transit services to get to our health care system, e.g. for Covid testing, there should now be put in place an expedited process to call into para-transit services and book such urgently-needed transportation. This is all the more urgent since the Ford Government has been sitting on recommendations to strengthen the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard since it took office, with no reforms having been announced. See further our long term efforts to ensure accessible public transit in Ontario.
  1. While schools are closed, some efforts are underway to provide parents with educational activities for their kids at home. At the same time, specific and dedicated resources need to be provided for parents of students with disabilities who may not be able to benefit from educational resources that too often are only designed to meet the learning needs of students who have no disabilities. For ideas on what is needed to make education accessible in Ontario, consult the AODA Alliance’s Framework for accessible K-12 education.
  1. Our health care providers in the community must now cope with an inexcusable shortage of safety health supplies such as masks and gloves. Our governments must now rush to get these mass-produced in huge quantities.

However, these safety masks and gloves must also be made available widely to people with disabilities who need them to be used by care-givers, attendant care providers, group home staff, and other like people with whom they must closely deal.

  1. Governments must immediately deploy emergency strategies to protect homeless people from the devastating impact of this health crisis. It must take into account that disproportionately, homeless people have disabilities. This should include an emergency strategy to protect people with disabilities from becoming homeless during this crisis, because they live in a rental apartment but are on the verge of eviction.
  1. Emergency strategies must be put in place to assure needed supports to people with disabilities who are self-isolating, such as needed attendant care and other in-home services.
  1. From the experience in other countries where the pandemic has quickly spread, we know that horrible decisions may be made about rationing scarce health care services, when the demand for those services out-strips the supply. It is essential that people with disabilities not get the short end of that stick, based on harmful stereotypes about the quality of life when one is living with a disability. Such stereotypes too often have been present in our health care system. We cannot afford for them to surface now, and be used to justify denying needed medical services because a patient has a disability.
  1. Our governments should now undertake a quick multi-level coordinated outreach to people with disabilities to ensure that they know what impacts can make a more informed decisions on how to ensure that disability needs are taken into account in this emergency planning. That should include, among other things, establishing and publicizing a hotline for people with disabilities to report hardships they face during this crisis.
  1. Government disability or accessibility offices should be immediately included in all emergency planning.
  1. Governments should immediately survey readily-available online resources in this area. For example, we set out below a list of recommendations available online from the International Disability Alliance. While we are not familiar with that organization, it offers good ideas.

Governments are scrambling to deal quickly with this Covid crisis. It is vital to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are not again left out of the policy planning process, where the stakes for everyone are so high.

3. Long Term Disability-Related Lessons that Our Society Can Learn from the Covid Crisis

When we get this crisis behind us, there will be much-needed efforts to figure out what went wrong, and how we can learn from the events that are now unfolding. Our governments, public institutions and private sector organizations must learn some key lessons from the experience of people with disabilities.

One big lesson to be learned is that we are now all suffering the consequences of grossly-inadequate past government efforts at making our society fully accessible to people with disabilities. As one example, for years, the disability community has faced far too much resistance when seeking to get requirements enacted to install such helpful accessibility features as automatic water faucets, soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers in public bathrooms. The same goes for requiring automatic power doors, so that one does not have to either physically open the door or press a button to get the door to open. Yet in the face of the Covid crisis, these basic accessibility features are now vital to protect everyone from the dangerous spread of the Covid virus when we use a public washroom.

Similarly, in the past, some employees with disabilities have encountered resistance when they have asked some employers to let them work from home. Other employers were supportive. With this virus, employers have rapidly made this accommodation widely available to many of their employees, as a good public health measure to prevent the spread of the virus. ` We need to more effectively ensure that no employees with disabilities ever have to face such resistance to such workplace accommodations in the future.

One can imagine many more such illustrations of this broader lesson to be learned. These examples help show that the failure of government after government in Ontario to effectively implement and enforce the AODA must dramatically change in the future. Three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement have called for major reforms and strong new provincial leadership. The current Ontario Government has had 414 days since it received the most recent of these reports, and still has no effective plan to implement it.

4. Toward a Disability-Inclusive COVID19 Response: 10 recommendations from the International Disability Alliance

March 19, 2020

)Note: The  AODA Alliance encourages all governments to consider the following recommendations which one of our supporters brought to our attention.)

In the light of the COVID19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities, the International Disability Alliance (IDA) has compiled the following list of the main barriers that persons with disabilities face in this emergency situation along with some practical solutions and recommendations. This document is based on inputs received from our members around the world aiming to assist global, regional, national and local advocacy to more efficiently address the range of risks persons with disabilities face.

If you have any updates on how COVID 19 is affecting persons with disabilities in your area of work, or want to share any good practices or lessons learnt, please contact IDA Inclusive Humanitarian Adviser Ms Elham Youssefian via emailing [email protected]

  1. People with disabilities are at higher risk of contracting COVID19 due to barriers accessing preventive information and hygiene, reliance on physical contact with the environment or support persons, as well as respiratory conditions caused by certain impairments.

Recommendation 1: Persons with disabilities must receive information about infection mitigating tips, public restriction plans, and the services offered, in a diversity of accessible formats

  • Mass media communication should include captioning, national sign language, high contrast, large print information.
  • Digital media should include accessible formats to blind persons and other persons facing restrictions in accessing print.
  • All communication should be in plain language.
  • In case the public communications are yet to become accessible, alternative phone lines for blind persons and email address for deaf and hard of hearing may be a temporary option.
  • Sign language interpreters who work in emergency and health settings should be given the same health and safety protections as other health care workers dealing with COVID19.
  • There may be appropriate alternatives for optimum access, such as interpreters wearing a transparent mask, so that facial expressions and lip movement is still visible,
  • Alternatives are particularly important as remote interpretation is not accessible for everyone, including people with deaf-blindness. Solutions should be explored with concerned people and organizations representing them.
  • Assistive technologies should be used such as FM systems for communicating with hard of hearing persons especially important when face masks make lipreading impossible.

Recommendation 2: Additional protective measures must be taken for people with certain types of impairment.

  • Disinfection of entrance doors reserved for persons with disabilities, handrails of ramps or staircases, accessibility knobs for doors reserved for people with reduced mobility.
  • Introducing proactive testing and more strict preventive measures for groups of persons with disabilities who are more susceptible to infection due to the respiratory or other health complications caused by their impairment.
  • The COVID19 crisis and confinement measures may generate fear and anxiety; demonstrating solidarity and community support is important for all, and may be critical for persons with psychosocial disabilities

Recommendation 3: Rapid awareness raising and training of personnel involved in the response are essential

  • Government officials and service providers, including emergency responders must be trained on the rights of persons with disabilities, and on risks associated to respiratory complications for people who have specific impairments (e.g. whose health may be jeopardized by coughing).
  • Awareness raising on support to persons with disabilities should be part of all protection campaigns.

Recommendation 4: All preparedness and response plans must be inclusive of and accessible to women with disabilities

  • Any plans to support women should be inclusive of and accessible to women with disabilities
  • Programs to support persons with disabilities should include a gender perspective.
  1. Implementing quarantines or similar restrictive programs may entail disruptions in services vital for many persons with disabilities and undermine basic rights such as food, health care, wash and sanitation, and communications, leading to abandonment, isolation and institutionalization.

Recommendation 5: No disability-based institutionalization and abandonment is acceptable

  • Persons with disabilities should not be institutionalized as a consequence of quarantine procedures beyond the minimum necessary to overcome the sickness stage and on an equal basis with others.
  • Any disruptions in social services should have the least impact possible on persons with disabilities and should not entail abandonment.
  • Support family and social networks, in case of being quarantined, should be replaced by other networks or services.

Recommendation 6: During quarantine, support services, personal assistance, physical and communication accessibility must be ensured

  • Quarantined persons with disabilities must have access to interpretation and support services, either through externally provided services or through their family and social network;
  • Personal assistants, support workers or interpreters shall accompany them in quarantine, upon both parties agreement and subject to adoption of all protective measures;
  • Personal assistants, support workers or interpreters should be proactively tested for COVID 19 to minimize the risk of spreading the virus to persons with disabilities
  • Remote work or education services must be equally accessible for employees/students with disabilities.

Recommendation 7: Measures of public restrictions must consider persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others

  • In case of public restriction measures, persons with disabilities must be supported to meet their daily living requirements, including access to food (as needed with specific dietary requirements), housing, healthcare, in-home, school and community support, as well as maintaining employment and access to accessible transportation.
  • Government planners must consider that mobility and business restrictions disproportionately impact persons with reduced mobility and other persons with disabilities and allow for adaptations. For example, Australia has reserved specific opening hours in supermarket for persons with disabilities and older persons
  • Providers of support services must have the personal protective equipment and instructions needed to minimize exposure and spread of infection, as well as should be proactively tested for the virus.
  • In case of food or hygienic products shortage, immediate measures must be taken to ensure that people with disabilities are not left out as they will be the first group to experience lack of access to such items.
  • Any program to provide support to the marginalized groups should be disability-inclusive, e.g. distribution of cash may not be a good option for many people with disabilities as they may not be able to find items they need due to accessibility barriers.
  • When ill with COVID19, persons with disabilities may face additional barriers in seeking health care and also experience discrimination and negligence by health care personnel.

Recommendation 8: Persons with disabilities in need of health services due to COVID19 cannot be deprioritized on the ground of their disability

  • Public health communication messages must be respectful and non-discriminatory.
  • Instructions to health care personnel should highlight equal dignity for people with disabilities and include safeguards against disability-based discrimination.
  • While we appreciate that the urgency is to deal with the fast-rising number of people infected and in need of hospitalization, rapid awareness-raising of key medical personnel is essential to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind or systematically deprioritized in the response to the crisis.
  • Communications about the stage of the disease and any procedures must be to the person themselves and through accessible means and modes of communication.
  1. Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) particularly at national and local levels may not be prepared to take immediate action and may not be fully aware how to approach the situation. Some measures OPDs can take include:

Recommendation 9: OPDs can and should play a key role in raising awareness of persons with disabilities and their families.

 

  • Prepare COVID19 instructions and guidance in various accessible formats in local languages; please see existing resources produced by IDA members and their members, which we will keep updating
  • Help establish peer-support networks to facilitate support in case of quarantine;
  • Organize trainings on disability inclusion for responders
  • Compile an updated list of accessible health care and other essential service providers in each area

Recommendation 10: OPDs can and should play a key role in advocating for disability-inclusive response to the COVID19 crisis

  • Proactively reach to all related authorities including the health system, the national media, the crisis response headquarters and education authorities to:
  • Sensitize authorities on how the pandemic as well as the response plans may disproportionally impact persons with disabilities;
  • Offer tailored practical tips on how to address accessibility barriers or specific measures required by persons with disabilities
  • Based on available resources and capacity, contribute to the national or local emergency response.

*For updated resources on inclusion of persons with disabilities in Covid19 prevention and response, please regularly check the webpage dedicated by the International Disability Alliance at http://www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org/covid-19

5. Key Emergency Provisions in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 2011 Enacted Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, enacted in 2011 under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, includes the following emergency-related provisions.

Emergency procedure, plans or public safety information

  1. (1) In addition to its obligations under section 12, if an obligated organization prepares emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and makes the information available to the public, the obligated organization shall provide the information in an accessible format or with appropriate communication supports, as soon as practicable, upon request.

(2) Obligated organizations that prepare emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and make the information available to the public shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2012.

Workplace emergency response information

  1. (1) Every employer shall provide individualized workplace emergency response information to employees who have a disability, if the disability is such that the individualized information is necessary and the employer is aware of the need for accommodation due to the employee’s disability. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 27 (1).

(2) If an employee who receives individualized workplace emergency response information requires assistance and with the employee’s consent, the employer shall provide the workplace emergency response information to the person designated by the employer to provide assistance to the employee. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 27 (2).

(3) Employers shall provide the information required under this section as soon as practicable after the employer becomes aware of the need for accommodation due to the employee’s disability.

(4) Every employer shall review the individualized workplace emergency response information,

(a) when the employee moves to a different location in the organization;

(b) when the employee’s overall accommodations needs or plans are reviewed; and

(c) when the employer reviews its general emergency response policies.

(5) Every employer shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2012.

  1. (1) Employers, other than employers that are small organizations, shall develop and have in place a written process for the development of documented individual accommodation plans for employees with disabilities. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 28 (1).

(2) The process for the development of documented individual accommodation plans shall include the following elements:

  1. The manner in which an employee requesting accommodation can participate in the development of the individual accommodation plan.
  1. The means by which the employee is assessed on an individual basis.
  1. The manner in which the employer can request an evaluation by an outside medical or other expert, at the employer’s expense, to assist the employer in determining if accommodation can be achieved and, if so, how accommodation can be achieved.
  1. The manner in which the employee can request the participation of a representative from their bargaining agent, where the employee is represented by a bargaining agent, or other representative from the workplace, where the employee is not represented by a bargaining agent, in the development of the accommodation plan.
  1. The steps taken to protect the privacy of the employee’s personal information.
  1. The frequency with which the individual accommodation plan will be reviewed and updated and the manner in which it will be done.
  1. If an individual accommodation plan is denied, the manner in which the reasons for the denial will be provided to the employee.
  1. The means of providing the individual accommodation plan in a format that takes into account the employee’s accessibility needs due to disability. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 28 (2).

(3) Individual accommodation plans shall,

(a) if requested, include any information regarding accessible formats and communications supports provided, as described in section 26;

(b) if required, include individualized workplace emergency response information, as described in section 27; and

(c) identify any other accommodation that is to be provided.

Emergency preparedness and response policies

  1. (1) In addition to any obligations that a conventional transportation service provider or a specialized transportation service provider has under section 13, conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers,

(a) shall establish, implement, maintain and document emergency preparedness and response policies that provide for the safety of persons with disabilities; and

(b) shall make those policies available to the public. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 37 (1).

(2) Conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers shall, upon request, provide the policies described in subsection (1) in an accessible format. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 37 (2).

(3) Conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2012.

Regarding para-transit services, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation requires:

Emergency or compassionate grounds

  1. (1) Specialized transportation service providers shall develop procedures respecting the provision of temporary specialized transportation services earlier than in the 14 calendar days referred to in subsection 64 (1),

(a) where the services are required because of an emergency or on compassionate grounds; and

(b) where there are no other accessible transportation services to meet the person’s needs. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 65 (1).

(2) A person shall apply for the services described in subsection (1) in the manner determined by the specialized transportation service provider. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 65 (2).

(3) Specialized transportation service providers shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2014.

LKM



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What Barriers Do Students with Disabilities Face in Post-Secondary Education in Ontario? Send Us Feedback on Our Draft Framework for a Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard


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/

What Barriers Do Students with Disabilities Face in Post-Secondary Education in Ontario? Send Us Feedback on Our Draft Framework for a Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard

March 11, 2020

          SUMMARY

Well, we’re at it once again! We want and need your feedback! This time, it’s all about barriers impeding students with disabilities in post-secondary education in Ontario.

Two years ago, the Ontario Government appointed an advisory Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in an accessibility standard to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to tear down the barriers that impede students with disabilities in post-secondary education in Ontario. That includes such things as colleges and universities in Ontario.

We want to present ideas to that Standards Development Committee on what it should recommend. We are preparing a Framework for what the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should include. Below we set out a draft of that Framework, showing our work to date.

This draft Framework is about 38 pages long. The first 22 pages list recommendations on 16 different topics. After that, there is a 16 page appendix with specific proposals for accessibility of the built environment in post-secondary education organizations. If you don’t have time to read it all, we’d welcome your feedback on any parts of it that you have time to review.

Please look it over and send us your comments by April 3, 2020. What do you like in it? What are we missing? What should we change?

Please email us your thoughts by April 1, 2020. Write us at [email protected] The more specific you can be, the better!

Please don’t use “track changes” to give us feedback, as it can present accessibility problems. Instead, send us an email with your comments. You can mention the number of the recommendation on which you are commenting, or cut and paste the passage on which you are commenting.

Once we get your feedback, we will finalize this Framework, make it public, and send it to the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

This is the third such Framework we’ve prepared in the past 8 or 9 months. Last fall we prepared a detailed Framework on what the promised accessibility standard should include that will cover education in Ontario schools between kindergarten and Grade 12. We have submitted it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

Last month, we made public our Framework of what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard. We have submitted that to the Health Care Standards Development Committee.

These Frameworks are our latest effort to try to provide constructive and leading-edge suggestions on how the Ontario Government could show strong new leadership on accessibility for over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. We hope and trust that those Standards Development Committees found our proposals helpful. We thank everyone who has taken the time to give us feedback up to now as we worked on these important briefs.

To learn about our decade-long campaign to get the Ontario Government to take effective action under the AODA to address accessibility barriers that impede students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system, visit our website’s Education page. To learn about our decade-long campaign for similar action under the AODA to address the disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system, take a look at our website’s Health Care page.

An inexcusable 405 days have now gone by since the Ford Government received the final report on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that was prepared by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. We are still waiting for the Ford Government to come up with a comprehensive and effective plan of new measures to implement the Onley Report’s recommendations, needed to substantially strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. To date, all the Government has offered Ontarians with disabilities is thin gruel.

          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

Draft Only

A Framework for the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard

March 11, 2020

Prepared by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Note: This is only a draft. It is still a work in progress. Feedback on it is welcome. By April 3, 2020, please send feedback to [email protected] Please do not use “track changes” to provide feedback.

Introduction — What is This Proposed Framework?

Students with disabilities face too many barriers at all levels of Ontario’s post-secondary education system. To address this, the Ontario Government has agreed to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). In 2018, the Ontario Government appointed two committees to make recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include: The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee was appointed for making recommendations on what that accessibility standard should include to address barriers in Ontario’s publicly-funded schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee was appointed to make recommendations for what that accessibility standard should include to address barriers in Ontario’s post-secondary education institutions, e.g. colleges and universities.

Under the AODA, an accessibility standard is an enforceable regulation. It has the force of law. It spells out the disability barriers that are to be removed or prevented in a sector of society. It identifies the policies, practices or other measures an organization must implement to remove or prevent those barriers, and the timelines required for these actions.

In this Framework, the AODA Alliance outlines the key ingredients and aims for the promised Education Accessibility Standard in the area of post-secondary education. On October 10, 2019, the AODA Alliance made public a Framework for what the Education Accessibility Standard should include to remove and prevent barriers in Ontario’s publicly-funded schools from kindergarten to Grade 12. This new Framework builds on and expands upon ideas in that earlier document, and adds additional ideas, all tailored to apply to the post-secondary education context.

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

To be effective, the Education Accessibility Standard must do much more than require organizations to have a policy on accessibility and to train its employees on that policy. Organizations want and need to know specifically what they must do to comply.

Under the AODA, a Standards Development Committee’s job is to recommend the contents of an AODA accessibility standard. It should recommend the specific measures, practices and policies that an accessibility standard should require an organization to implement. If a Standards Development Committee chooses to also recommend some non-regulatory measures, that is beyond the Committee’s core mandate. It should not detract or distract from fulfilling that core mandate. For example, the 2018 final recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development Committee largely focused on recommendations of other measures, outside the revision of the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard that that Committee was assigned to review. A recommended practice that are not enshrined in an accessibility standard as a regulation, are not binding on an obligated organization. They cannot be enforced.

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

1. What Should the Long-Term Objectives of the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard Be?

#1 The purpose of the Education Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that by 2025, post-secondary education in Ontario will be fully accessible and barrier-free for students with disabilities:

  1. A) By removing and preventing accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities from fully participating in, being fully included in, and fully benefitting from all aspects

of post-secondary education in Ontario, and

  1. B) By providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process for students with disabilities to learn about and seek programs, services, supports, accommodations and

placements tailored to the individual strengths and needs of each student with disabilities.”

  1. c) Eliminating or substantially reducing the need for students with disabilities to have to fight against post-secondary education accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for post-secondary education organizations to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one education program at a time.

2. A Vision of An Accessible Post-Secondary Education System

The Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should begin by setting out a vision of what an accessible post-secondary education system should include. It should include the following:

#2.1 The post-secondary education system will be designed and operated from top to bottom for all of its students, including students with all kinds of disabilities, as “disability” is defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code, the AODA and/or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

#2.2 The post-secondary education system will no longer be designed and operated from the starting point of aiming to serve the fictional “average” student or students who have no disabilities. Instead, it will be designed and operated to serve all students, including students with disabilities.

#2.3 The built environment in post-secondary education organizations such as colleges and universities, and the furniture and equipment on those premises (such as gym equipment) will all be fully accessible to people with disabilities and will be designed based on the principle of universal design. Where education programs or trips take place outside the post-secondary education organization premises, these will be held at locations that are disability-accessible, unless it is impossible to do so without undue hardship.

#2.4 Courses taught to students, including the curriculum and lesson plans, as well as informal learning activities, will fully incorporate principles of Universal Design in Learning (UDL), and where needed, differential instruction, so that they are inclusive for students with disabilities.

#2.5 Instructional materials used in post-secondary education organizations will be readily and promptly available in formats that are fully accessible to students with disabilities (such as those with print disabilities) who need to use them and will be available in accessible formats when needed, at no extra charge to the student.

#2.6 All digital technology and content used in Ontario’s post-secondary education organizations such as hardware, software and online learning, used in class or from home, will be fully accessible and will fully embody the principle of universal design. Professors and other instructors working with students with disabilities will be properly trained to use the accessibility features of that hardware, software and online learning technology.

#2.7 Inclusion and Universal Design in Learning will extend beyond formal classroom learning to other educational activities, such as experiential learning opportunities.

#2.8 Students with disabilities will have prompt access to the up-to-date adaptive technology and specialized supports they need, and training on how to use it, to best enable them to fully take part in and benefit from post-secondary education related programming. Students with disabilities will have the unobstructed right to bring a qualified service animal with them to post-secondary education programs and activities.

#2.9 Professors and other instructional staff will be fully trained to serve all students, and not just students who have no disabilities. They will be fully trained in such things as Universal Design in Learning and differential instruction.

#2.10 Tests and other forms of evaluation at post-secondary education organizations will be designed based on principles of universal design and Universal Design in Learning, so that they will be barrier-free for students with disabilities and will provide a fair and accurate assessment of their progress.

#2.11 Students with disabilities will encounter a pro-actively welcoming environment at post-secondary education organizations to facilitate their full participation, and a welcoming environment in which they can seek and receive accommodations for their disabilities where needed.

#2.12 Application processes and forms, admission criteria, admission tests or other admission screening to get into any post-secondary education program will be barrier-free for students with disabilities.

#2.13 Students with disabilities will have prompt, effective and easy access to user-friendly information in multiple languages about the post-secondary educational opportunities, options, programs, services, supports and accommodations available for them and their disability, and about the process for them to seek these.

#2.14 Where a student with a disability believes that a post-secondary education organization is not effectively meeting the student’s disability-related needs, (or if the student believes that the post-secondary education organization is not providing an educational program, service, support or accommodation which it had agreed to provide, the student will have access to a prompt, fair, open and arms-length review process, including an offer of a voluntary Alternative Resolution Process if needed. It will be conducted by someone with expertise in the education of students with disabilities who was not involved in the original decision or activity, and who does not oversee the work of those involved in the student’s direct education.

#2.15 There will be no bureaucratic, procedural or policy barriers that will impede the effective placement and accommodation of individual students with disabilities in post-secondary education organizations.

#2.16 Major new Government strategies or initiatives in Ontario’s post-secondary education system, whether adopted by the Ontario Government or otherwise, will be proactively designed from the start to fully include the needs of students with disabilities.

#2.17 Those officials who are responsible in the Ontario Government and within post-secondary education organizations for leading, overseeing and operating Ontario’s post-secondary education system will have strong and specific requirements to address disability accessibility and inclusion in their mandates and will be accountable for their work on this.

3. General Provisions that the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard Should Include

#3.1 The Post-Secondary accessibility standard should cover and apply to disability barriers in all post-secondary education programs in Ontario, and not only to those offered in or by a college or university. Whether or not the terms of reference for the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee only focus on post-secondary education offered in a college or university, the same barriers and solutions almost always apply to post-secondary education, whether it is offered by a college or university or by some other post-secondary education organization.

For example, for students with disabilities who are studying law, they can encounter the same disability barriers at an Ontario law school, situated in a university, or when they undertake the Bar Admissions Course, which the Law Society of Ontario offers. To train to be a lawyer in Ontario, a student must get a law degree from a law school and then pass the Law Society of Ontario’s Bar course and examinations. Accordingly, the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee should make recommendations regarding any post-secondary programs, whether or not they are offered in a college or university.

#3.2 Where this accessibility standard refers to “students with disabilities “, this should include any student who has any kind of disability, including, for example, any kind of physical, mental, sensory, learning, intellectual, mental health, communication, neurological, neurobehavioural or other kind of disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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

#3.4 Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish in each faculty or program, a faculty or program Accessibility Committee. It should include representatives from the faculty’s or program’s instructors, management, staff and students with disabilities. Its mandate should be to identify barriers in the school and its programs and to make recommendations for accessibility improvements to be shared with the faculty, program and post-secondary education organization’s senior management and governing board.

#3.5 Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish or designate the position of Chief Accessibility/Inclusion Officer, reporting to the CEO, with a mandate and responsibility to ensure proper leadership on the organization’s accessibility and inclusion obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, including the requirements set by this accessibility standard. This responsibility may be assigned to an existing senior management official.

#3.6 Each post-secondary education organization should set up and maintain a network of teaching and other staff with disabilities, and a network of students with disabilities, to get input on accessibility issues at the organization.

#3.7 Beyond the specific measures on removing and preventing barriers set out in the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility /Standard and in other AODA accessibility standards, each post-secondary education organization should be required to systematically review its educational programming, services, facilities, premises and equipment to identify recurring accessibility barriers within that organization that can impede the full and effective participation and inclusion of students with disabilities. A comprehensive plan for removing and preventing these accessibility barriers should be developed, implemented and made public with clear time lines, clear assignment of responsibilities for action, monitoring for progress, and reporting to the organization’s governing board and senior management. It should include actions on barriers identified by the organization’s faculty or program Accessibility Committees established under this standard. This plan should aim at all accessibility barriers that can impede students with disabilities from full inclusion in the education and other programs and activities at that organization, whether or not they are specifically identified in the Education Accessibility Standard or in any other specific accessibility standards enacted under the AODA.

#3.8 Each post-secondary education organization should have an explicit duty to create a welcoming environment for students with disabilities, to seek accommodations for their disabilities.

#3.9 To further ensure the effective accommodation of students with disabilities and the entrenchment of accessibility at the front lines, while creating and developing expertise in this area, each post-secondary education organization

Shall implement the following:

  1. a) in a small post-secondary education organization, such as one that offers only one program, one senior employee within the organization who reports to the organization’s chief executive officer, dean or director, should be designated as that organization’s Disability Accessibility and Accommodation Coordinator/Champion. Their responsibility is to serve as the one-stop-shopping point person for students with disabilities seeking accommodations, and being the employee to lead efforts at the organization towards incorporating accessibility into plans and decisions from the top down.
  1. b) In a large post-secondary education organization, such as a college or university that has several faculties or programs, each faculty or program should designate a comparable Disability Accessibility and Accommodation Coordinator/Champion with similar responsibilities within that faculty or program.
  1. c) A larger post-secondary education organization that has more than one Disability Accessibility and Accommodation Coordinator/Champion should network these individuals so they can pool expertise and resources.
  1. d) The Council of Ontario Universities and comparable associations of other categories of post-secondary education organizations should establish networks of Disability Accessibility and Accommodation Coordinators/Champions to pool their expertise and resources.
  1. e) Where a post-secondary education organization has an existing support/service centre for students with disabilities it may help serve these roles, but in the case of a larger post-secondary education organization, there should be a Disability Accessibility and Accommodation Coordinator/Champion designated in each faculty or program.

#3.10 Each post-secondary education organization should develop and implement human resources policies targeted at full accessibility and inclusion, such as making knowledge and experience on implementing inclusion an important hiring and promotions criterion especially for senior management.

4. The Right of Students with Disabilities to Know About Disability-Related Programs, Services, and Supports at Post-Secondary Education Organizations, and How to Access Them

Barrier: Students with disabilities can at times find it difficult to get easily accessed and accessible information from post-secondary education organizations and from the Ontario Government on education options, services and supports available for students with disabilities in post-secondary education organizations and how to access them.

#4.1 Each post-secondary education organization should provide the public, including students with disabilities, with easily-located, timely and effective information, in accessible formats, on the available services, programs and supports for students with disabilities and how to access them. Each post-secondary education organization should ensure that students with disabilities are informed, as early as possible, in a readily-accessible and understandable way, about important information such as:

  1. a) That the post-secondary education organization recognizes that it has a duty to ensure that a student with a disability has the right to full participation in and full inclusion in all the post-secondary education organization’s programming, and has the right to be accommodated in connection with those programs under the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This applies to students with any and every kind of disability.
  1. b) About the menu of options, placements, programs, services, supports and accommodations for students with disabilities available at the post-secondary education organization.
  1. c) About which persons and which office to approach at the post-secondary education organization to get this information, to request placements, programs, supports, services or accommodations for students with disabilities, or to raise concerns about whether the post-secondary education organization is effectively meeting the student’s education needs.
  1. d) The processes and procedures at the post-secondary education organization for students with disabilities to request disability-related services, supports or accommodations.

#4.2 Each post-secondary education organization should develop, implement and make public an action plan to substantially improve its provision of the important information, described above, to students with disabilities including any who are applying for admission to the post-secondary education organization:

  1. a) This plan’s objective should be to ensure that all students with disabilities get the information they need to ensure that students of all abilities can fully participate in and benefit from the educational and other opportunities available at the post-secondary education organization.
  1. b) Each post-secondary education organization should ensure that all of this important information is fully and readily accessible in a prompt and timely way to all students with disabilities and applicants for admission, in accessible formats and in jargon-free plain language. in a diverse range of languages. It should be easy to find this information. Among other things, this information should be posted on the post-secondary education organization’s website, in a prominent place that is easy to find, with a link to it prominently on the post-secondary education organization’s home page. A post-secondary education organization should not simply rely on its website to share this information.
  1. c) Each post-secondary education organization should create a user-friendly package of information to be provided to applicants or prospective applicants for admission to any program at the post-secondary education organization. It should emphasize the need to alert the post-secondary education organization as early as possible to any disability accommodation needs.

5. Ensuring that Students Have a Fair and Effective Process for Raising Concerns About a Post-Secondary Education Organization’s Accommodation of the Disability-Related Needs of Students with Disabilities

Barrier: The need for consistent and effective processes within a post-secondary education organization to ensure an easily-accessed and fair procedure to enable students with disabilities to seek and receive needed disability supports and accommodations, and for raising disability-related concerns.

#5.1 Each post-secondary education organization should establish and maintain an effective, fair and user-friendly process for students with disabilities to request and effectively take part in the development and implementation of plans for meeting and accommodating their disability-related needs.

#5.2 As part of this process, students with disabilities should be invited to take part in a joint in-person or virtual meeting to plan for their disability-related supports and accommodations. The student should be invited to bring to the table any supports and professionals that can assist them.

#5.3 If the student had an Individual Education Plan (IEP) from an Ontario school, or a finding by an Ontario school board’s Identification and Placement Review Committee (IPRC) that identified them as having a disability (exceptionality), then the post-secondary education organization should treat that as sufficient proof that the student has a disability, without requiring further proof, unless the post-secondary education organization has independent proof showing that the student no longer has that disability. In that case, the post-secondary education organization shall provide the student with that proof and shall provide the student with an opportunity to demonstrate that they have a disability-related accommodation need. If the student had a specific disability-related accommodation while in school, the post-secondary education organization shall treat that as strong proof that they still have the same accommodation need at the post-secondary education organization, unless the post-secondary education organization has convincing proof that this need no longer exists or that an alternative and equally effective accommodation should be preferred.

#5.4 If a post-secondary education organization decides not to provide a requested disability accommodation, service, or support for a student that the student requested, or to meet a disability-related need that the student identified, the post-secondary education organization should promptly provide written reasons for that refusal.

#5.5 If students with disabilities disagree with any aspect of a post-secondary education organization’s decision on a request for accommodation, or believe that the post-secondary education organization has not provided supports or accommodations to which it had agreed, the organization should make available a respectful, non-adversarial internal review process for hearing, mediating and deciding on the student’s concerns. The Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should set out the specifics of this review process. This review process should include the following:

  1. a) It should be very prompt. Arrangements for a student’s accommodations should be finalized as quickly as possible, so that the student’s needs are promptly met.
  1. b) No proposed services, supports or accommodations that the post-secondary education organization is prepared to offer should be withheld from a student pending a review. The student should not feel pressured not to seek this review, lest they be placed in a position of educational disadvantage during the review process.
  1. c) The review process should be fair. The post-secondary education organization should let the student know all of its issues or concerns with the student’s request or concerns, and give the student a fair chance to voice their concerns.
  1. d) The review should be by a person or persons who are independent and impartial. They should have expertise in the education of students with disabilities. They should not have taken part in any of the earlier discussions or decisions at that post-secondary education organization regarding the services, supports or accommodations for that child.
  1. e) At the review, every effort should be made to mediate and resolve any disagreements between the student and the post-secondary education organization. If the matter cannot be resolved by agreement, there should be an option for a qualified person who is outside the post-secondary education organization to be appointed at no charge to the student, to consider the review, along prompt timelines.
  1. f) At the review, written reasons should be given for the decision, especially if any of the student’s requests or concerns are not accepted.

6. Expediting the Early Identification and Accommodation of Students with Disabilities’ Needs

Barrier: Students with disabilities can face delays and administrative/bureaucratic impediments to ensuring that they get all needed disability-related supports and accommodations. This comes in no small part from the fact that post-secondary education organizations are often large organizations with administrative responsibilities distributed over a number of departments and individuals. The effective accommodation of students is far easier to achieve when requests for accommodation are presented and considered as early as possible.

#6.1 The Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should require specific measures to tear down administrative, bureaucratic and other barriers to reduce delays for identifying, seeking and securing needed disability supports and accommodations. For example:

  1. a) post-secondary education organizations should be required to notify all students who apply for admission to any program or who seek information about programs to which they might apply, about the availability of disability-related supports and accommodation and the process for seeking them.
  1. b) The post-secondary education organization’s interactive voice response system for receiving incoming phone calls should announce to all callers the organization’s commitment to accommodate students with disabilities and the number to press to get introductory information about how to seek such.
  1. c) Programming handouts and broadcast email communications to incoming students should include similar general information.
  1. d) the post-secondary education organization’s broadcast email announcements and other communications to the student population should include summary information to this effect with relevant links.
  1. e) Classroom instructors should make announcements in their first week of classes to this effect.

7. Ensuring Digital Accessibility

Barrier: Post-secondary education organizations using classroom technology, such as hardware, software, online learning systems, online courses and internal or external websites that lack digital accessibility; post-secondary education organizations’ policies and practices that can be obstacles to using adaptive technology designed for people with disabilities; Insufficient staff and instructor training and familiarity with creating accessible documents, with the use of accessibility features of mainstream technology, and with disability-specific adaptive technology.

#7.1 Each post-secondary education organization should ensure that:

  1. a) Educational and information equipment and technology, including hardware, software, and tablet/mobile apps deployed in educational settings should be designed and configured based on universal design principles, to ensure that students with disabilities can fully use them.
  1. b) A post-secondary education organization’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) should be accessible to staff and students with disabilities, including those who use adaptive technology. They should have all accessibility features turned on and available to ensure that information posted through them will be accessible to students with disabilities, including those using adaptive technology such as screen readers or voice recognition tools. Each post-secondary education organization should ensure that no instructor or other staff is able to turn off any feature of the LMS that is accessible in favour of one that is not.
  1. c) Each post-secondary education organization’s internal and external websites and intranet content, including internet content available to students for learning purposes, including all online learning programs, should be fully accessible, with all new information posted on them to be fully accessible.
  1. d) Electronic documents created at the post-secondary education organization for use in education and other programming and activities should be created in accessible formats unless there is a compelling and unavoidable reason making it impossible to do so. PDF format should be avoided. If a PDF document is created, an alternate version of the content should be simultaneously provided and posted in an accessible Microsoft Word or HTML format.
  1. e) Software used to produce a post-secondary education organization’s key documents for use by students should be designed to ensure that they produce these documents in accessible formats.
  1. f) Textbooks and learning software should be procured only if they include full information technology accessibility. Any textbook used in any learning environment must be accessible to instructors and students with disabilities at the time of procurement. Here again, PDF should not be used unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously available. For example, if a textbook is available in EPUB format, the textbooks must meet the international standard for that file format. For EPUB it is the W3C Digital Publishing Guidelines currently under review. If a textbook is available in print, the publisher should be required to provide the digital version of the textbook in an accessible format at the same time the print version is delivered to the school/Board.

#7.2 Each post-secondary education organization should establish, implement, publicize and enforce information technology procurement accessibility requirements, to ensure that no technology is purchased unless it ensures full digital accessibility. Digital and information technology accessibility should be included in all Requests for Proposal (RFP) or other tenders for sale of products and services to a post-secondary education organization. It should be a condition of any such procurement that the vender will promptly remediate any accessibility shortcomings at its own expense.

#7.3 Each post-secondary education organization shall ensure that its instructional staff are fully trained in the creation of accessible electronic documents and online content for use by students, and shall periodically and randomly spot-check such documents to assist in ensuring that instructional staff are effectively trained and up-to-date in this area.

#7.4 Each post-secondary education organization shall review its policies and practices to identify, remove and prevent any barriers to the accessibility of its online and digital content that students might use as part of their educational activities.

#7.5 Each post-secondary education organization shall ensure that its information technology support and help staff includes specialists in access technology, and that students with disabilities get prompt access to IT support when needed.

8. Ensuring Universal Design in Learning and Differentiated Instruction Are Used in All Teaching Activities, Both Online and in Classroom Learning

Barrier: Too often, the curricula and lesson plans used in post-secondary education organizations were not designed and delivered based on principles of accessibility, Universal Design in Learning (UDL) and differentiated instruction (DI). Universal design in learning takes the principles of universal design (designing buildings and products so all can use them) and transfers them to the teaching and learning realm. It focuses on ways to ensure that an education program, course or other learning activity is designed to meet the learning needs of all learners, not just those with no disabilities. To provide the starkest example, a drama teacher who has a class play the game “Charades” is not using UDL principles if their class includes a blind student, for who that activity would be entirely inaccessible.

It may be easier to entrench UDL and differentiated instruction in the K-12 school system. To teach in our publicly-funded schools, a teacher must first complete recognized programs in a teacher’s college. If those teacher’s colleges were to make UDL and differentiated instructions core competency’s that they taught all of their students, Ontario could end up with schools staffed with teachers that are equipped to teach using these principles. Existing teachers could and should be trained in UDL and differentiated instruction during their PD days.

In contrast, to get a job as an instructor or professor at an Ontario post-secondary education organization, a person does not need to have successfully completed any prior course or training on how to teach. That makes it much more challenging to embed UDL and differentiated instruction principles in the teaching activities at Ontario’s post-secondary education organizations.

Principles of UDL and differentiated instruction can be effectively deployed in a manner that respects the academic freedom of those who teach in post-secondary education organizations. Those such as tenured university professors remain free to choose what ideas they wish to convey. UDL and differentiated instruction aim to ensure that all students can effectively learn that content to ultimately serve the goal of academic freedom.

The intent/rationale of the following recommendations is to entrench universal design in learning and differentiated instruction in the curricula and teaching at post-secondary education organizations.

#8.1 Each post-secondary education organization should adopt and publicize a policy committing to the goals and deployment of universal design in learning (UDL) and differentiated instruction (DI) in its education programs, including in the design and delivery of its curricula.

#8.2 Each post-secondary education organization should develop and implement a plan to ensure that all teachers and teaching staff understand, and effectively and consistently use, principles of Universal Design in Learning and differentiated instruction when preparing and delivering courses and other educational programming, to effectively address the spectrum of different learning needs and styles of their students. For example:

  1. a) Each post-secondary education organization should develop, implement and monitor a comprehensive plan to train its instructional staff on using UDL and DI principles when preparing and delivering courses and course content in order to effectively meet their students’ spectrum of different learning needs and styles.
  1. b) Each post-secondary education organization should include knowledge of UDL and differentiated instruction principles as an important criterion when recruiting or promoting instructional staff.
  1. c) Each post-secondary education organization should ensure that teachers are provided with appropriate resources and support to successfully implement their UDL and DI training. Each post-secondary education organization should monitor how effectively UDL and differentiated instruction are incorporated into their education programs on the front lines.
  1. d) Each post-secondary education organization should provide teaching coaches with expertise in UDL and DI to support instructional staff.

#8.3 The Ontario Government should create templates or models for the foregoing training so that each post-secondary education organization does not have to reinvent the wheel in this context.

9. Removing Attitudinal Barriers Against Students with Disabilities

Barrier: Stereotypes, lack of knowledge and other attitudes among some staff at post-secondary education organizations and among some other students, that do not recognize the right and benefits of students with disabilities to get a full and equal education.

#9.1 To help reduce or eliminate attitudinal barriers that can impede students with disabilities each post-secondary education organization should:

  1. a) Develop and implement a multi-year strategy to publicize the organization’s commitment to and the benefits of inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities.
  1. b) Post around the post-secondary education organization announcements of the post-secondary education organization’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.
  1. c) Provide specific training to all front-line staff (not limited to instructional staff) on the importance of inclusion.
  1. d) Implement human resources policies and practices to expand school board staff knowledge and skills regarding inclusion.

10. Ensuring Accessibility of Instructional Materials that Students with Disabilities Use

Barrier: Instructional materials, such as textbooks and other instructional materials and teaching resources that are not provided at the same time in an accessible format for students with disabilities. This is not limited to digital materials, referred to earlier in this Framework.

Section 15 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, enacted in June 2011, and in force for school boards since 2013 or 2015 (depending on their size) requires education organizations to provide instructional materials on request in an accessible format, and to make this part of their procurement of such resources. However, this provision has not been effective and sufficient to effectively ensure that students with disabilities face no barriers in this context. Therefore, much stronger measures are needed.

#10.1 To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each post-secondary education organization should:

  1. a) Promptly survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their instructional staff, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  1. b) Establish a dedicated resource within the post-secondary education organization, or shared among post-secondary education organizations, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis. A student should not be required to show proof that they own a hard copy of an item to be able to get it in an accessible format.
  1. c) Review its procurement practices to ensure that any new instructional materials that are acquired are fully accessible or conversion-ready and monitor to ensure that this is always done in practice. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vendor must remediate any inaccessible materials at its own expense.

#10.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ontario Government to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across post-secondary education organizations.

11. Ensuring Barrier-Free Post-Secondary Program Admission Requirements

Barrier: Admission requirements to a post-secondary program that unintentionally or inadvertently impede access to the program for otherwise-qualified students with disabilities.

The intention/rationale of these recommendations is to ensure that students with disabilities can have their eligibility for admission to a post-secondary program fairly and accurately assessed.

#11.1 Every post-secondary education organization shall review its admission criteria for gaining admission to any of its post-secondary education programs, to identify any barriers that would impede otherwise-qualified students with disabilities from admission, and shall adjust those criteria to either:

  1. a) Remove the admission criteria that constitute a barrier to admission, or
  1. b) Provide an alternative method for assessing students with disabilities for admission to the program.

12. Ensuring Student Testing/Assessment is Free of Disability Barriers

Barrier: Tests or other performance assessments of students that are not designed in a way that ensures that students with disabilities are fairly and accurately assessed.

Throughout the post-secondary education system, students take tests, submit papers, and undertake other assessments of their academic performance. There have been no mandatory provincial requirements of which we are aware to ensure that the ways students’ performance is tested or assessed are barrier-free for students with disabilities, and to ensure a fair and accurate assessment of their performance.

#12.1 The Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should set requirements for proper approaches to ensure tests and other methods of performance evaluation provide a fair, accurate and barrier-free assessment of students with disabilities, and on when and how to provide an alternative evaluation method.

#12.2 To ensure that a school board fairly and accurately assesses the performance of students with disabilities, each post-secondary education organization should:

  1. a) Have a policy that commits to ensure that testing and other assessments of students’ performance and learning are designed to be barrier-free for students with disabilities.
  1. b) Give its instructional staff training resources on how to ensure a test or other assessment method is a fair, accurate and barrier-free assessment for students with disabilities in their class, and where needed, how to provide an alternative evaluation method.
  1. c) Monitor implementation of these.

13. Ensuring Students with Disabilities Have the Technology and Other Supports They Need for Effective Learning

Barrier: Policy and bureaucratic impediments to students with disabilities getting the adaptive technology and other supports they need for learning at a post-secondary education organization.

There are inconsistent practices around Ontario for making available to students with disabilities the adaptive technology and support services they need, and the training required to be able to effectively use that equipment.

#13.1 The Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should require that procedural, bureaucratic and other barriers to the acquisition, training and use of needed adaptive equipment and technology at school should be eliminated. It should require the establishment of a prompt, standardized and consistent provincial system for the procurement and deployment of accessible technology to post-secondary students with disabilities that ensures access to the most appropriate and up-to-date technology that is available on the market.

#13.2 The Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should provide that each post-secondary education organization should ensure that students with disabilities are able to bring a trained service animal to their premises as a disability accommodation.

14. Removing Barriers to Participation in Experiential Learning

Barrier: Experiential learning programs that do not ensure that accessible and inclusive experiential learning placements are made available to students with disabilities, and insufficient supports to help organizations, providing experiential learning placements, to facilitate the placement of students with disabilities.

#14.1 To ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a post-secondary education organization’s experiential learning programs, each such organization should:

  1. a) Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers.
  1. b) Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that there will be a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate.
  1. c) Ensure that its partner organizations that accept its students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities.
  1. d) Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements.
  1. e) Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation.
  1. f) Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.

#14.2 The Ontario Government should provide templates for these policies and measures. It should also prepare and make available training videos for post-secondary education organizations and organizations offering experiential learning programs to guide them on accommodating students with disabilities in experiential learning placements.

 

15. The Need to Harness the Experience and Expertise of People with Disabilities Working in Post-Secondary Education Organizations to Expedite the Removal and Prevention of Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities

Barrier: People with disabilities working in post-secondary education organizations too often face accessibility barriers in the workplace that also hurt students with disabilities.

The intent/rationale of the following recommendations is to ensure that the experience and expertise of people with disabilities working in post-secondary education organizations is effectively harnessed to help root out the accessibility barriers that impede students with disabilities. This is because workplace disability barriers and education service disability barriers often are the same or substantially overlap.

#15-1. Each post-secondary education organization should be required to establish a committee of those employees and volunteers with disabilities who wish to voluntarily join it, to give the organization’s senior management feedback on the barriers in the organization that could impede employees or students with disabilities.

16. Ensuring a Fully Accessible Built Environment at Post-Secondary Education Organizations

The intent/rationale of these recommendations is to ensure that as soon as possible, and no later than January 1, 2025, the built environment in the post-secondary education system and the equipment on those premises (such as gym equipment) would all be fully accessible to people with disabilities and would be designed based on the principle of universal design. Where post-secondary education programs or trips take place outside the post-secondary education organization, these will be held at locations that are disability-accessible. The intent/rationale is also to ensure that no public money is used to create new barriers or perpetuate existing barriers in the post-secondary education system.

There can be costs associated with these measures. The Government will need to determine how much it is prepared to spend, and which of these requirements it would thereby adopt. A Standards Development Committee cannot and should not pre-decide that for the Government.

There is a far greater cost of not imposing these requirements. If the built environment at post-secondary education organizations remains inaccessible, or new post-secondary facilities are built with new barriers, there will be later retrofit costs and litigation costs in response to human rights cases.

Providing a barrier-free built environment in post-secondary education organizations benefits everyone. It ensures that all students of all ages and abilities can come to learn there. It enables people with disabilities to be employed in all jobs throughout the post-secondary education organization. It enables the premises of the post-secondary education organization, a public facility, to be used for other important public uses, such as being rented for conferences.

These recommendations do not include specific technical requirements, such as the precise width of doorways or other paths of travel. These recommendations set out the barriers to be addressed and the specific measures to address them. If the Government of Ontario adopts these, it would have to then proceed to set technical requirements where possible.

Barriers:

  1. Too often, the built environment at post-secondary education organizations has physical barriers that can partially or totally impede some students with disabilities from being able to enter or independently move around.
  1. The Ontario Building Code and existing accessibility standards do not set out all the modern and sufficient accessibility requirements for the built environment in Ontario. The Government of Ontario has no accessibility standard for the built environment in post-secondary education organizations. The Government has not agreed to develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard to substantially strengthen the general accessibility provisions for society as a whole in the Ontario Building Code.

Accordingly, it is left to each post-secondary education organization to come up with its own designs to address accessibility in the built environment at its premises. This is highly inefficient and wasteful.

The AODA Alliance has illustrated this in two widely-viewed online videos that focus on the built environment at two post-secondary education organizations, chosen because they are typical, not worse than others:

  1. a) the new Culinary Arts Centre at Centennial College: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgfrum7e-_0&t=87s
  1. b) The new Student Learning Centre at Ryerson University: https://youtu.be/4oe4xiKknt0
  1. The Ontario Government does not ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers in the built environment.

Recommendations

Examples of these requirements are set out in the Appendix to this Framework, below.

#16.1 The Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific requirements for accessibility in the built environment at post-secondary education organizations and other locations where post-secondary education programs are to be offered. These should meet the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and should meet the needs of all disabilities and not only people with mobility disabilities. These should include:

  1. a) Specific requirements to be included in a new facility to be built.
  1. b) Requirements to be included in a renovation of or addition to an existing post-secondary facility, and
  1. c) Retrofit requirements for an existing post-secondary facility, even if it is not slated for a major renovation or addition, to the extent that they are readily achievable and important to ensure the facility’s accessibility.

#16.2 Each post-secondary education organization should develop a plan to ensure that the built environment of its educational facilities becomes fully accessible to people with disabilities as soon as reasonably possible, and in any event, no later than January 1, 2025. As part of this:

  1. a) As a first step, each post-secondary education organization should develop a plan for making as many of its facilities disability-accessible within its current financial context. Accessibility does not only include the needs of people with mobility disabilities. It includes the needs of people with other disabilities such as people with vision and/or hearing loss, autism, intellectual or developmental disabilities, learning disabilities or mental health disorders.
  1. b) Each post-secondary education organization should identify which of its existing facilities can be more easily made accessible, and which facilities would require substantially more extensive action to be made physically accessible. An interim plan should be developed to show what progress towards full physical accessibility can be made by first addressing facilities that would require less money to be made physically more accessible, and the most high-impact facilities.

#16.3 The post-secondary education organization’s review of its built environment shall include a thorough review of the campus’s overall layout. Where navigation around the campus, or from building to building, lacks the needed and appropriate cues for people with vision loss or other disabilities, proper way-finding, including tactile walking surface indicators, will be installed to facilitate the ease of safe navigation around the campus

#16.4 When a post-secondary education organization seeks to retain or hire design professionals, such as architects, interior designers or landscape architects, for the design of a new facility or an existing facility’s retrofit or renovation, or for any other infrastructure project, the post-secondary education organization should include in any Request for Proposal (RFP) a mandatory requirement that the design professional must have sufficient demonstrated expertise in accessibility design, and not simply knowledge about compliance with the Ontario Building Code or the AODA. This includes the accessibility needs of people with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those with mobility impairments.

#16.5 When a post-secondary education organization is planning to construct a new facility, or to expand or renovate an existing facility or other infrastructure, a suitably qualified accessibility consultant should be directly retained by the post-secondary education organization (and not by a private architecture firm) to advise on the project from the outset, with their unedited advice being transmitted directly to the post-secondary education organization and not only to the private design professionals who are retained to design the project. Completing the 8 day training course on accessibility offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation should not be treated as either necessary or sufficient for this purpose, as that course is substantially inadequate and has significant problems.

#16.6 The post-secondary education organization should have design specifications or plans for any new construction or major renovations of any of its facilities reviewed by its board’s Accessibility Committee and by representatives of its students and employees with disabilities. If the post-secondary education organization rejects any of their recommendations regarding the project’s accessibility it shall provide written reasons for its decision to do so.

#16.7 Where possible, a post-secondary education organization should not renovate an existing facility that lacks disability accessibility, unless the organization has a plan to also make that facility accessible. For example, a post-secondary education organization should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a facility which lacks accessibility to the second storey, if the organization does not have a plan to make that second storey disability-accessible. Very pressing health and safety concerns should be the only reason for any exception to this.

#16.8 Each post-secondary education organization should only hold off-site educational events at venues whose built environment is accessible, unless to do so would be impossible without undue hardship.

#16.9 To ensure that gym, sports, athletic equipment and other like equipment and facilities are accessible for students with disabilities, the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific technical accessibility requirements for new or existing outdoor or indoor gym,, sports, athletic and other like equipment, drawing on accessibility standards and best practices in other jurisdictions, if sufficient, so that each post-secondary education organization does not have to re-invent the accessibility wheel.

#16.10 Each post-secondary education organization should:

  1. a) Take an inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor gym, sports, athletic and like equipment and spaces, and make this public, including posting this information online.
  1. b) Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of existing gym, sports, athletic or other like equipment or spaces, in consultation with students with disabilities.
  1. c) Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that the purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing equipment or spaces is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the post-secondary education organization.

#16.11 The Ontario Government should be required to revise its funding formula or criteria for construction of facilities at a post-secondary education organization to ensure that it requires and does not obstruct the inclusion of all needed accessibility features in that construction project.

Appendix 1 – Specific Accessible Design Requirements for the Built Environment Proposed For the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard

The following design features should be required by the Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard and in any new construction or renovation at a post-secondary education organization. Where an existing post-secondary facility is undergoing no renovation, any of the following measures which are readily achievable should be required. To fill in the specifics, the Ontario Government should enact technical requirements for the following, as binding enforceable rules, not as voluntary guidelines:

Usable Accessible Design for Outdoor or Exterior Site Elements

  1. Access to the site for pedestrians

Clear, intuitive connection to the accessible entrance

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

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements

  1. Entrances
  2. All entrances used by staff and/or the public shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all staff and public entrances accessible, at least 50% of all staff and public entrances shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all public entrances accessible, the primary entrances used by staff and the public shall be accessible.
  3. Door
  4. Doors shall be sufficiently wide enough to accommodate stretchers, wheelchairs or assistive scooters, pushing strollers, or making a delivery
  5. Threshold at the door’s base shall be level to allow a trip free and wheel friendly passage.
  6. Heavy doors and those with auto closers shall provide automatic door openers.
  7. Room entrances shall have doors.
  8. Direction of door swing shall be chosen to enhance the usability and limit the hazard to others of the door opening.
  9. Sliding doors can be easier for some individuals to operate, and can also require less wheelchair manoeuvring space.
  10. Doors that require two hands to operate will not be used.
  11. Revolving doors are not accessible.
  12. Full glass doors are not to be used as they represent a hazard.
  13. Colour-contrasting will be provided on door frames, door handles as well as the door edges.
  14. Door handles and locks will be operable by using a closed fist, and not require fine finger control, tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate
  1. Gates, Turnstiles and Openings
  2. Gates and turnstiles should be designed to accommodate the full range of users that may pass through them. Single-bar gates designed to be at a convenient waist height for ambulatory persons are at neck and face height for children and chest height for persons who use wheelchairs or scooters.
  3. Revolving turnstiles should not be used as they are a physical impossibility for a person in a wheelchair to negotiate. They are also difficult for persons using canes or crutches, or persons with poor balance.
  4. All controlled entry points will provide an accessible width to allow passage of wheelchairs, other mobility devices, strollers, walkers or delivery carts.
  1. Windows, Glazed Screens and Sidelights
  2. Broad expanses of glass should not be used for walls, beside doors and as doors can be difficult to detect. This may be a particular concern to persons with vision loss/no vision. It is also possible for anyone to walk into a clear sheet of glazing especially if they are distracted or in a hurry.
  3. Window sill heights and operating controls for opening windows or closing blinds should be accessible…located on a path of travel, with clear floor space, within reach of a shorter or seated user, colour contrasted and not require punching or twisting to operate.
  1. Interior Layout
  2. The main office where visitors and others need to report to upon entering the building shall always be located on the same level as the entrance, as close to the entrance as possible. If the path of travel to the office crosses a large open area, a tactile directional indicator path shall lead from the main entrance(s) to the office ID signage next to the office door.
  3. As much as possible, classrooms and or public destinations shall be on the ground floor. Where this is not possible, at least 2 elevators should be provided to access all other levels. Where the building is long and spread out, travel distance to elevators should be considered to reduce extra time needed for students and staff or others who use the elevators instead of the stairs. If feature stairs (staircases included in whole or in part for design aesthetics) are included, elevators shall be co-located and just as prominent as the stairs
  4. Corridors should meet at 90 degree angles. Floor layouts from floor to floor should be consistent and predictable so the room number line up and are the same with the floors above and below along with the washrooms
  5. Multi-stall washrooms shall always place the women’s washroom on the right and the men’s washroom on the left. No labyrinth entrances shall be used. Universal washrooms shall be co-located immediately adjacent to the stall washrooms, in a location that is consistent and predictable throughout the building
  1. Facilities
  2. The entry doors to each type of facility within a building should be accessible, colour contrasted, obvious and prominent and designed as part of the wayfinding system including accessible signage that is co-located with power door openers controls.
  3. Tactile attention indicator tile will be placed on the floor in front of the accessible ID signage at each room or facility type. Where a room or facility entrance is placed off of a large interior open area
  1. Elevators
  1. Elevator Doors will provide a clear width to allow a stretcher and larger mobility devices to get in and out
  2. Doors will have sensors so doors will auto open if the doorway is blocked
  3. Elevators will be installed in pairs so that when one is out of service for repair or maintenance, there is an alternative available.
  4. Elevators will be sized at allow at least two mobility device users and two non-mobility devices users to be in the elevator at the same time. This should also allow for a wide stretcher in case of emergency.
  5. Assistive listening will be available in each elevator to help make the audible announcements heard by those using hearing aids
  6. Emergency button on the elevator’s control panel will also provide 2-way communication with video and scrolling text and a keyboard for people who are deaf or who have other communication disabilities
  7. Inside the elevators will be additional horizontal buttons on the side wall in case there is not enough room for a person using a mobility aid to push the typical vertical buttons along the wall beside the door. If there are only two floors the elevator will only provide the door open, close and emergency call buttons and the elevator will automatically move to the floor it is not on.
  8. The words spoken in the elevator’s voice announcement of the floor will be the same as the braille and print floor markings, so the button shows 1 as a number, 1 in braille and the voice says first floor not G for Ground with M in braille and voice says first floor.)
  9. Ensure the star symbol for each elevator matches ground level appropriate to the elevator. The star symbol indicates the floor the elevator will return to in an emergency. This means users in the elevator will open closest to the available accessible exit. If the entrance on the north side is on the second floor, the star symbol in that elevator will be next to the button that says 2. If the entrance on the south side of the building is on the 1st floor, the star symbol will be next to the button that says 1.
  10. The voice on the elevator shall be set at a volume that is audible above typical noise levels while the elevator is in use, so that people on the elevator can easily hear the audible floor announcements.
  11. Lighting levels inside the elevator will match the lighting at the elevator lobbies. Lighting will be measured at the ground level
  12. Elevators will provide colour contrast between the floor and the walls inside the cab and between the frame of the door or the doors with the wall surrounding in the elevator lobbies. Vinyl peel and stick sheets or paint will be used to cover the shiny metal which creates glare. Vinyl sheets will be plain to ensure the door looks like a door, and not like advertising
  13. In a retrofit situation where adding 2 elevators is not technically possible without undue hardship, platform lifts may be considered. Elevators that are used by all facility users are preferred to platform lifts which tend to segregate persons with disabilities and which limit space at entrance and stair locations. Furthermore, independent access is often compromised by such platform lifts,, because platform lifts are often require a key to operate. Whenever possible, integrated elevator access should be incorporated to avoid the use of lifts.
  1. Ramps
    1. A properly designed ramp can provide wait-free access for those using wheelchairs or scooters, pushing strollers or moving packages on a trolley or those who are using sign language to communicate and don’t want to stop talking as they climb stairs.
    2. A ramp’s textured surfaces, edge protection and handrails all provide important safety features.
    3. On outdoor ramps, heated surfaces shall be provided to address the safety concerns associated with snow and ice.
    4. Ramps shall only be used where the height difference between levels is no more than 1m (4ft). Longer ramps take up too much space and are too tiring for many users. Where a height difference is more than 1m in height, elevators will be provided instead.
    5. Landings will be sized to allow a large mobility device or scooter to make a 360 degree turn and/or for two people with mobility assistive devices or guide dogs to pass
    6. Slopes inside the building will be no higher than is permitted for exterior ramps in the AODA Design of Public Spaces Standard, to ensure usability without making the ramp too long.
    7. Curved ramps will not be used, because the cross slope at the turn is hard to navigate and a tipping hazard for many people.
    8. Colour and texture contrast will be provided to differentiate the full slope from any level landings. Tactile attention domes shall not be used at ramps, because they are meant only for stairs and for drop-off edges like at stages
  1. Stairs
  1. Stairs that are comfortable for many adults may be challenging for children, shorter persons seniors or persons of short stature.
  2. The leading edge of each step (aka nosing) shall not present tripping hazards, particularly to persons with prosthetic devices or those using canes and will have a bright colour contrast to the rest of the horizontal step surface.
  3. Each stair in a staircase will use the same height and depth, to avoid creating tripping hazards
  4. The rise between stairs will always be smooth, so that shoes will not catch on an abrupt edge causing a tripping hazard. These spaces will always be closed as open stairs create a tripping hazard.
  5. The top of all stair entry points will have a tactile attention indicator surface, to ensure the drop-off is identified for those who are blind or distracted.
  6. Handrails will aid all users navigating stairways safely. Handrails will be provided on both sides of all stairs, and will be provided at both the traditional height as well as a second lower rail for children or people who are shorter. These will be in a high colour contrasting colour and round in shape, without sharp edges or interruptions. Rails shall always be at a right angle to the stairs, and shall never be itched at an angle.
  7. g) Spiral, curved or irregular staircases shall never be created, as they are a serious tripping hazard.
  1. Washroom Facilities
    1. Washroom facilities will accommodate the range of people that will use the space. Although many persons with disabilities use toilet facilities independently, some may require assistance. Where the individual providing assistance is of the opposite gender then typical gender-specific washrooms are awkward, and so an individual washroom is required.
    2. Parents and caregivers with small children and strollers also benefit from a large, individual washroom with toilet and change facilities contained within the same space.
    3. Circumstances such as wet surfaces and the act of transferring between toilet and wheelchair or scooter can make toilet facilities accident-prone areas. An individual falling in a washroom with a door that swings inward could prevent his or her own rescuers from opening the door. Due to the risk of accidents, emergency call buttons are vital in all washrooms.
    4. The appropriate design of all features will ensure the usability and safety of all toilet facilities.
    5. The identification of washrooms will include pictograms for children or people who cannot read. All signage will include braille that translates the text on the print sign, and not only the room number.
    6. There are three types of washrooms. Single use accessible washrooms, single use universal washrooms, and multi-use stalled washrooms. The number and types of washrooms used in a facility will be determined by the number of users. There will always at least be one universal washroom.
    7. All washrooms will have doors with power door opening buttons. No door washrooms will be hard to identify for people who have vision loss.
      1. In stall washrooms with urinals, all urinals will be accessible with lower rim heights. Universal washrooms will have an upper rim at the same height as typical non-accessible urinals to avoid the mess taller users can make. All urinals will provide vertical grab bars which are colour contrasted to the walls. Where dividers between urinals are used, the dividers will be colour contrasted to the walls as well.
    8. Stall washrooms accessible sized stalls – At least 2 accessible stalls shall be provided in each washroom to avoid long wait times. Facilities with accessible education programs that include a large percentage of people with mobility disabilities should have all stalls sized to accommodate a turn circle and the transfer space beside the toilet.
      1. All washrooms near rooms that will be used for public events shall include a baby change table that is accessible to all users, not placed inside a stall. It shall be colour contrasted with the surroundings and usable for those in a seated mobility device and or of shorter stature.
      2. At least one universal washroom will include an adult sized change table, with the washroom located near appropriate facilities in the facility and any public event spaces. These are important for some adults with disabilities and for children with disabilities who are too large for the baby change tables. This helps prevent anyone from needing to be changed lying on a bathroom floor.
  • Where shower stalls are provided, these shall include accessible sized stalls.
  1. Portable Toilets at Special Events shall all be accessible. At least one will include an adult sized change table.
  1. Washroom Stalls:
  1. Manoeuvrability of a wheelchair or scooter is the principal consideration in the design of an accessible stall. The increased size of the stall is required to ensure there is sufficient space to facilitate proper placement of a wheelchair or scooter to accommodate a person transferring transfer onto the toilet from their mobility device. There may also be instances where an individual requires assistance. Thus, the stall will have to accommodate a second person. Stall Door swings are normally outward for safety reasons and space considerations. However, this makes it difficult to close the door once inside. A handle mounted part way along the door makes it easier for someone inside the stall to close the door behind them. Minimum requirements for non-accessible toilet stalls are included to ensure that persons who do not use wheelchairs or scooters can be adequately accommodated within any toilet stall. Universal features include accessible hardware and a minimum stall width to accommodate persons of large stature or parents with small children.
  1. Toilets:
  1. Automatic flush controls are preferred. If flushing mechanisms are not automated, flushing controls shall be on the transfer side of the toilet, with colour contrasted and lever style handles.
  1. Sinks:
  1. Each accessible sink shall be on an accessible path of travel that other people, using other sinks or features (like hand-dryers), are not positioned to block. Automated sink controls are preferred. While faucets with remote-eye technology may initially confuse some individuals, their ease of use is notable. Individuals with hand strength or dexterity difficulties can use lever-style handles. For an individual in a wheelchair and younger children, a lower counter height and clearance for knees under the counter are required. The insulating of hot water pipes shall be assured to protect the legs of an individual using a wheelchair. This is particularly important when a disability impairs sensation such that the individual would not sense that their legs were being burned. The combination of shallow sinks and higher water pressures can cause unacceptable splashing at lavatories.
  2. Powered hand-dryers shall make minimum noise, to avoid being a barrier to people with vision loss or those with sensory integration issues for whom loud blasting sound can make a bathroom unusable.
    1. Urinals:
  3. Each urinal needs to be on an accessible path of travel with clear floor space in front of each accessible urinal to provide the manoeuvring space for a mobility device. Grab bars shall be provided to assist individuals rising from a seated position and others to steady themselves. Floor-mounted urinals accommodate children and persons of short stature as well as enabling easier access to drain personal care devices. Flush controls, where used, will be automatic preferred. Strong colour contrasts shall be provided between the urinal, the wall and the floor to assist persons with vision loss/no vision.
    1. Showers
  4. Where showers are provided, roll-in or curbless shower stalls shall be provided to eliminate the hazard of stepping over a threshold and are essential for persons with disabilities who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices in the shower. Grab bars and non-slip materials shall be included as safety measures that will support any individual. Hand-held shower heads or a water-resistant folding bench shall be included to assist people with disabilities. These are also convenient for others. Equipment that has contrasting colour from the shower stall shall be included to assist individuals with vision loss/no vision.
  1. Drinking Fountains
  2. Drinking fountain height should accommodate shorter persons, and that of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Potentially conflicting with this, the height should strive to attempt to accommodate individuals who have difficulty bending and who would require a higher fountain. Where feasible, this may require more than one fountain, at different heights. The operating system shall account for limited hand strength or dexterity. Fountains will be recessed, to avoid protruding into the path of travel. Angled recessed alcove designs allow more flexibility and require less precision by a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Providing accessible signage with a tactile attention indicator tile will help those who with vision loss to find the fountain.
  1. Performance Stages
  2. Elevated platforms, such as stage areas, speaker podiums, etc., shall be accessible to all. A clear accessible route will be provided along the same path of access for those who are not using mobility assistive devices as those who do. Lifts will not be used to access stage or raised platforms, unless the facility is retrofitting an existing stage and it is not technically possible to provide access by other means.
  3. The stage shall include safety features to assist persons with vision loss or those momentarily blinded by stage lights from falling off the edge of a raised stage, such as a colour contrasted raised lip along the edge of the stage.
  4. Lecterns shall be accessible with an adjustable height surface, knee space and accessible audio visual (AV) and information technology (IT) equipment. Lecterns shall have a microphone that is connected to an assistive listening system, such as a hearing loop. The office and/or presentation area will have assistive listening units available for those who may request them, for example people who are hard of hearing but not yet wearing hearing aids.
  5. Lighting shall be adjustable to allow for a minimum of lighting in the public seating area and back stage to allow those who need to move or leave with sufficient lighting at floor level to be safe
  1. Offices, Work Areas, and Meeting Rooms
  2. Offices providing services or programs to the public will be accessible to all, regardless of mobility or functional needs. Offices and related support areas shall be accessible to staff and visitors with disabilities.
  3. All people, but particularly those with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing, will benefit from having a quiet acoustic environment – background noise from mechanical equipment such as fans, shall be designed to be minimal. Telephone equipment that supports the needs of individuals with hearing and vision loss shall be available.
  4. The provision of assistive speaking devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. Where offices and work areas and small meeting rooms do not have assistive listening, such as hearing loops permanently installed, portable assistive hearing loops shall be available at the office
  5. Tables and workstations shall provide the knee space requirements of an individual in a mobility assistive device. Adjustable height tables allow for a full range of user needs. Circulation areas shall accommodate the spatial needs of mobility equipment as large as scooters to ensure all areas and facilities in the space can be reached with appropriate manoeuvring and turning spaces.
  6. Natural coloured task lighting, such as that provided through halogen bulbs, shall be used wherever possible to facilitate use by all, especially persons with low vision.
  7. In locations where reflective glare may be problematic, such as large expanses of glass with reflective flooring, blinds that can be louvered upwards shall be provided. Controls for blinds shall be accessible to all and usable with a closed fist without pinching or twisting
  1. Outdoor Athletic and Recreational Facilities
  2. Areas for outdoor recreation, leisure and active sport participation shall be designed to be available to people of a spectrum of abilities.
  3. Outdoor spaces will allow persons with a disability to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff. Spaces will be accessible including boardwalks, trails and footbridges, pathways, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, grandstand and other viewing areas, and playing fields
  4. Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
  5. Noise cancelling headphones shall be available to those with sensory disabilities.
  6. Outdoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities undergoing rehabilitation.
  7. Seating and like facilities shall be inclusive and allow for all members of a disabled sports team to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.
  8. Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of people with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.
  1. Arenas, Halls and Other Indoor Recreational Facilities
  2. Areas for recreation, leisure and active sport participation will be accessible to all members of the community.
  3. Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
  4. Noise cancelling headphones will be available to those with sensory disabilities.
  5. Access will be provided throughout outdoor facilities including: playing fields and other sports facilities, all activity areas, outdoor trails, swimming areas, play spaces, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
  6. Interior access will be provided to halls, arenas, and other sports facilities, including access to the site, all activity spaces, gymnasia, fitness facilities, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
  7. Spaces will allow people with disabilities to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff.
  8. Indoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities who are undergoing rehabilitation.
  9. Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of people with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate or stigmatize anyone.
  1. Swimming Pools
  2. Primary considerations for accommodating persons who have mobility impairments include accessible change facilities and a means of access into the water. Ramped access into the water is preferred over lift access, as it promotes integration (everyone will use the ramp) and independence.
  3. Persons with low vision benefit from colour and textural surfaces that are detectable and safe for both bare feet or those wearing water shoes. These surfaces will be provided along primary routes of travel leading to access points such as pool access ladders and ramps.
  4. Tactile surface markings and other barriers will be provided at potentially dangerous locations, such as the edge of the pool, at steps into the pool and at railings.
  1. Cafeterias
  2. Cafeteria serving lines and seating area designs shall reflect the lower sight lines, reduced reach, knee-space and manoeuvring requirements of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Patrons using mobility devices may not be able to hold a tray or food items while supporting themselves on canes or while manoeuvring a wheelchair.
  3. If tray slides are provided, they will be designed to move trays with minimal effort.
  4. Food signage will be accessible.
  5. All areas where food is ordered and picked up will be designed to meet accessible service counter requirements
  6. Self-serve food will be within the reach of people who are shorter or using seated mobility assistive devices
  7. Where trays are provided, a tray cart that can be attached to seated assistive mobility devices or a staff assistant solution that is readily available shall be available on demand, because carrying trays and pushing a chair or operating a motorized assistive device can be difficult or impossible
  1. Libraries
  2. All service counters shall provide accessibility features
  3. Study carrels will accommodate the knee-space and armrest requirements of a person using a mobility device.
  4. Computer catalogues, carrels and workstations will be provided at a range of heights, to accommodate persons who are standing or sitting, as well as people of different ages and sizes.
  5. Workstations shall be equipped with assistive technology such as large displays, screen readers, to increase the accessibility of a library.
  6. Book drop-off slots shall be at different heights for standing and seated use with accessible signage, to enhance usability.
  1. Teaching Spaces and Classrooms
  2. Students, instructors and staff with disabilities will have accessibility to teaching and classroom facilities, including teaching computer labs.
  3. All teaching spaces and classrooms will provide power door operators and assistive listening systems such as hearing loops
  4. Additional considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features specifically designated for use by students with disabilities, such as accessibility standard accommodations for complex personal care needs.
  5. Students instructors and staff with disabilities will be accommodated in all teaching spaces throughout the facility.
  6. This accessibility will include the ability to enter and move freely throughout the space, as well as to use the various built-in elements within (i.e. blackboards and/or whiteboards, switches, computer stations, sinks, etc.).
  7. Individuals with disabilities frequently use learning aids and other assistive devices that require a power supply. Additional electrical outlets shall be provided throughout teaching spaces to -accommodate the use of such equipment.
  8. Except where it is impossible, fixtures, fittings, furniture and equipment will be specified for teaching spaces, which is usable by students, faculty, teaching assistants and staff with disabilities.
  9. Providing only one size of seating does not reflect the diversity of body types of our society. Offering seats with an increased width and weight capacity is helpful for persons of large stature. Seating with increased legroom will better suit individuals that are taller. Removable armrests can be helpful for persons of larger stature as well as individuals using wheelchairs that prefer to transfer to the seat.
  1. Laboratories
  2. In addition to the requirements for classrooms, additional accessibility considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features in laboratories.
  1. Waiting and Queuing Areas
  2. Queuing areas for information, tickets or services will permit persons who use wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices as well as for persons with a varying range of user ability to easily move through the line safely. All lines shall be accessible.
  3. Waiting and queuing areas will provide space for mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and scooters. Queuing lines that turn corners or double back on themselves will provide adequate space to manoeuvre mobility devices. Handrails with high colour contrast will be provided along queuing lines, because they are a useful support for individuals and guidance for those with vision loss. Benches in waiting areas shall be provided for individuals who may have difficulty with standing for extended periods.
  4. Assistive listening systems will be provided, such as hearing loops, will be provided along with accessible signage indicating this service is available.
  1. Information, Reception and Service Counters
  2. All information, reception and service counters will be accessible to the full range of visitors. Where adjustable height furniture is not used, a choice of fixed counter heights will provide a range of options for a variety of persons. Lowered sections will serve children, persons of short stature and persons using mobility devices such as a wheelchair or scooter. The choice of heights will also extend to any speaking ports and writing surfaces.
  3. Counters will provide knee space under the counter to accommodate a person using a wheelchair or a scooter.
  4. The provision of assistive speaking and listening devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. The space where people are speaking will have appropriate acoustic treatment to ensure the best possible conditions for communication. Both the public and staff sides of the counter will have good lighting for the faces to help facilitate lip reading.
  5. Colour contrast will be provided to delineate the public service counters and speaking ports for people with low vision.
  1. Lockers
  2. Lockers will be accessible with colour contrast and accessible signage
  3. In change rooms an accessible bench will be provided in close proximity to lockers.
  4. Lockers at lower heights serve the reach of short people or a person using a wheelchair or scooter.
  5. The locker operating mechanisms will be at an appropriate height and operable by individuals with restrictions in hand dexterity (i.e. operable with a closed fist).
  1. Storage, Shelving and Display Units
  2. The heights of storage, shelving and display units will address a full range of vantage points including the lower sightlines of short people or a person using a wheelchair or scooter. The lower heights also serve the lower reach of these individuals.
  3. Displays and storage along a path of travel that are too low can be problematic for individuals that have difficulty bending down or who are blind. If these protrude too much into the path of travel, each will protect people with the use of a trip free cane detectable guard.
  4. Appropriate lighting and colour contrast is particularly important for persons with vision loss.
  5. Signage provided will be accessible with braille, text, colour contrast and tactile features
  1. Public Address Systems
  2. Public address systems will be designed to best accommodate all users, especially those that may be hard of hearing. They will be easy to hear above the ambient background noise of the environment with no distortion or feedback. Background noise or music will be minimized.
  3. Technology for visual equivalents of information being broadcast will be available for individuals with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing who may not hear an audible public address system.
  4. Classrooms, library, hallways, and other areas will have assistive listening equipment that is tied into the general public address system.
  1. Emergency Exits, Fire Evacuation and Areas of Rescue Assistance
  2. In order to be accessible to all individuals, emergency exits will include the same accessibility features as other doors. The doors and routes will be marked in a way that is accessible to all individuals, including those who may have difficulty with literacy, such as persons speaking a different language.
  3. Persons with vision loss/no vision will be provided a means to quickly locate exits – audio or talking signs could assist.
  4. In the event of fire when elevators cannot be used, areas of rescue assistance shall be provided especially for anyone who has difficulty traversing sets of stairs. Areas of rescue assistance will be provided on all floors above or below the ground floor. Exit stairs will provide an area of rescue assistance on the landing with at least two spaces for people with mobility assistive devices sized to ensure those spaces do not block the exit route for those using the stairs. The number of spaces necessary should be sized by the number of people on each floor. Each area of refuge will provide a 2-way communication system with both video and audio to allow those using the space to communicate that they are waiting there and to communicate with fire safety services and or security. All signage associated with the area of rescue assistance will be accessible and include braille for all controls and information.
  1. Space and Reach Requirements
  2. The dimensions and manoeuvring characteristics of wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices will allow for a full array of equipment that is used by individuals to access and use facilities, as well as the diverse range of user ability.
  1. Ground and Floor Surfaces
  2. Irregular surfaces, such as cobblestones or pea-gravel finished concrete, shall be avoided because they are difficult for both walking and pushing a wheelchair. Slippery surfaces are to be avoided because they are hazardous to all individuals and especially hazardous for seniors and others who may not be sure-footed.
  3. Glare from polished floor surfaces is to be avoided because it can be uncomfortable for all users and can be a particular obstacle to persons with vision loss by obscuring important orientation and safety features. Pronounced colour contrast between walls and floor finishes are helpful for persons with vision loss, as are changes in colour/texture where a change in level or function occurs.
  4. Patterned floors should be avoided, as they can create visual confusion.
  5. Thick pile carpeting is to be avoided as it makes pushing a wheelchair very difficult. Small and uneven changes in floor level represent a further barrier to using a wheelchair and present a tripping hazard to ambulatory persons.
  6. Openings in any ground or floor surface such as grates or grilles are to be avoided because they can catch canes or wheelchair wheels.
  1. Universal Design Practices Beyond Typical Accessibility Requirements
  2. Areas of refuge should be provided even when a building has a sprinkler system.
  3. No hangout steps* should ever be included in the building or facility.
  4. Hangout steps are a socializing area that is sometimes used for presentations. It looks similar to bleachers. Each seating level is further away from the front and higher up but here people sit on the floor rather than on seats. Each seating level is about as deep as four stairs and about 3 stairs high. There is typically a regular staircase provided on one side that leads from the front or stage area to the back at the top. The stairs allow ambulatory people access to all levels of the seating areas, but the only seating spaces for those who use mobility assistive devices are at the front or at the top at the back but these are not integrated in any way with the other seating options.
  5. There should never be “stramps”. A stramp is a stair case that someone has built a ramp running back and forth across it. These create accessibility problems rather than solving them.
  6. Rest areas should be differentiated from walking surfaces or paths by texture- and colour-contrast
  7. Keypads angled to be usable from both a standing and a seated position
  8. Finishes
  9. No floor-to-ceiling mirrors
  10. Colour luminance contrast between:
  1. Door or door frame to wall
  2. Door hardware to door
  3. Controls to wall surfaces
  1. Furniture – Arrange seating in square arrangement so all participants can see each other for those who are lip reading or using sign language

 



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