For over 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities, Sunday January 31, 2021 Will Be The Ford Government’s Sad Two Year Anniversary of Inaction On Disability Accessibility


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/

For over 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities, Sunday January 31, 2021 Will Be The Ford Government’s Sad Two Year Anniversary of Inaction On Disability Accessibility

January 29, 2021

            SUMMARY

Ontario is on the verge of a deeply troubling anniversary of Ontario Government inaction. This Sunday, January 31, 2021 marks the two year anniversary since the Ford Government received the blistering  final report of the Independent Review of the Implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This report was written by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley.

In the two years since it received this report, the Ford Government has announced no strong, comprehensive plan to implement its recommendations. Most of its recommendations have not been implemented at all. This is so even though Ontario’s Accessibility Minister, Raymond Cho said in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a “marvelous job” and that Ontario is only 30 percent along the way towards the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities.

It is a wrenching irony that this anniversary of inaction comes right after we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Canada’s Parliament deciding to include equality for people with disabilities in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That momentous breakthrough took place on January 28, 1981, 40 years ago yesterday. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed in no small part to implement that constitutional right to equality for people with disabilities.

Over the past two years, the AODA Alliance has spearheaded grassroots efforts to get the Ford Government to come forward with a strong and comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report. We have offered many constructive recommendations. We have also offered the Government our help. On Twitter and in our AODA Alliance Updates, we have maintained an ongoing count of the number of days that had passed since the Government received the Onley Report, keeping the spotlight on this issue. As of today, it has been 729 days.

The Government has taken a few new actions on accessibility since it took office in June 2018, the most important of which are summarized below. But these have been slow, halting and inadequate.

            MORE DETAILS

 1. What the Onley Report Found About the Plight of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities

In February 2018, the Ontario Government appointed David Onley to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. He was mandated to recommend reforms needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025, the goal which the AODA requires. Based on public feedback he received, the Onley report found that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With under six years then left before 2025 (now less than four years), the Onley report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Onley concluded that progress on accessibility for people with disabilities under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

David Onley also found “…this province is mostly inaccessible.” The Onley Report accurately concluded:

“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

The Onley Report said damning things about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this.”

The Onley Report made concrete, practical recommendations to substantially strengthen the Government’s weak, flagging AODA implementation and enforcement. Set out below is the Onley Report’s summary of its recommendations. Many if not most of them echo the findings and recommendations that the AODA Alliance submitted in its detailed January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley Review. Among other things, David Onley called for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for barriers in the built environment, strengthen the existing AODA accessibility standards, and reform the Government’s use of public money to ensure it is never used to create disability barriers.

 2. What New Has the Ford Government Done on Accessibility Since the Onley Report?

It was good, but long overdue, that when releasing the Onley report back in March 2019, the Ford Government at last lifted its inexcusable 258 day-long freeze on the important work of three Government-appointed advisory committees. These committees were mandated under the AODA to recommend what regulations should be enacted to tear down disability barriers in Ontario’s education system impeding students with disabilities, and in Ontario’s health care system obstructing patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance led the fight for the previous nine months to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze. Because of those delays, the Government delayed progress on accessibility for people with disabilities in health care and education. We are feeling the harmful effects of those delays during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ford Government’s main focus of its efforts on accessibility for people with disabilities has been on educating the public on the benefits of achieving accessibility for people with disabilities. That is work that the previous Government had been doing for over a decade. That alone will not bring about significant progress.

Since releasing the Onley Report, the Ford Government has held a couple of staged ministerial events, on January 28, 2019 and on October 29, 2019 (for which an inaccessible email invitation was sent), supposedly to announce a framework to implement the Onley Report. However they announced little, if anything, new. To the contrary, they focused on re-announcing things the Government had been doing for years, including at least one measure dating back to the Bob Rae NDP Government that was in power over a quarter century ago.

The Government has announced no plans to implement any of the recommendations for reform of accessibility standards from the Transportation Standards Development Committee (which submitted its final report to the Ontario Government in the spring of 2018, almost three years ago) or the final report of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee (which submitted its final report some ten or eleven months ago).

The Government has had in hand for at least a month, if not more, the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. It must be posted for public comment. The Government has not posted it, or announced when it will do so. In the midst of this pandemic, swift action in the area of health care accessibility is desperately needed for people with disabilities and all Ontarians.

In the meantime, the one major new strategy on disability accessibility that the Ford Government has announced in its over two and a half years in office has been an action that David Onley never recommended and has, to our knowledge, never publicly endorsed. The Government diverted 1.3 million public dollars to the seriously problematic Rick Hansen Foundation’s private building accessibility “certification” program. We have made public serious concerns about that plan. The Government never acted on those concerns. Almost two years later, there is no proof that that misuse of public money led to the removal of any barriers in an Ontario building.

Despite announcing that the Government will take an “all of Government” approach to accessibility in response to the Onley Report, we have seen the opposite take place. TVO has not fixed the serious accessibility problems with its online learning resources, much needed during distance learning in this pandemic. The Government is building a new courthouse in downtown Toronto with serious accessibility problems about which disability advocates forewarned. During the pandemic, the Government has had circulated two successive critical care triage protocols which direct hospitals to use an approach to triage that would discriminate against some patients with disabilities and has refused to directly speak to us about these concerns. Over our objection, the Government has unleashed electric scooters on Ontarians, exposing people with disabilities to dangers to their safety and accessibility. This is all amply documented on the AODA Alliance’s website.

Over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities deserve better.

 3. The Onley Report’s Summary of Its Recommendations

  1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.

Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.

Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers.

Lead by example.

Coordinate Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

  1. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA.

Define “accessibility”.

Clarify the AODA’s relationship with the Human Rights Code.

Update the definition of “disability”.

  1. Foster cultural change to instill accessibility into the everyday thinking of Ontarians.

Conduct a sustained multi-faceted public education campaign on accessibility with a focus on its economic and social benefits in an aging society.

Build accessibility into the curriculum at every level of the educational system, from elementary school through college and university.

Include accessibility in professional training for architects and other design fields.

  1. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.
  1. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.
  1. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.
  1. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.
  1. Develop new comprehensive Built Environment accessibility standards through a process to:

Review and revise the 2013 Building Code amendments for new construction and major renovations

Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards

Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

  1. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.
  1. Introduce financial incentives to improve accessibility in residential housing.

Offer substantial grants for home renovations to improve accessibility and make similar funds available to improve rental units.

Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

  1. Reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed by Infrastructure Ontario to promote accessibility and prevent new barriers.
  1. Enforce the AODA.

Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations.

Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

  1. Deliver more responsive, authoritative and comprehensive support for AODA implementation.

Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.

Establish a provincewide centre or network of regional centres offering information, guidance, training and specialized advice on accessibility.

Create a comprehensive website that organizes and provides links to trusted resources on accessibility.

  1. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.
  1. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.



Source link

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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

December 17, 2020

            SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            MORE DETAILS

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

February 28, 2020

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

Dear Minister,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Report of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee

 

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

 

Introduction

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005

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

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

Accessibility standards

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

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

Standards review process

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

As required by the act, the committee must:

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

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

Information and Communications Standards Development Committee

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

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

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

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

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

Approach taken by committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase 1

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

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

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

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

Recommended long-term objective

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1: Regulation in general or Sections 9 to 11

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

Recommendation 1: Feedback requirements

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Recommendation 2: Usage of portable document format (PDF)

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: N/A

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

Recommendation 3: Final review of regulatory language

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: N/A

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

Recommendation 4: Products and product labels

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2: section 12

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

Recommendation 5: Determination of suitability

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 6: Timely manner

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 7: Agreement between people with disabilities and organizations

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 8: Harmonization of section 12

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Recommendation 9: On-demand conversion ready formats

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

Timeline: January 1, 2021

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

Recommendation 10: On-demand ASL and LSQ translations

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Part 3: Section 13

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

Recommendation 11: Emergency requirements

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Recommendation 12: Unacceptable emergency outcomes and preparedness

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

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

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Part 4: Section 14

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

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

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

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

Recommendation 13: Mobile applications and new technologies

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 14: Procurement

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation 15: Differentiating organizations/high impact organizations

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

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: One year with proactive outreach.

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

Recommendation 16: Significant refresh

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 17: Practicability

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Recommendation 18: Harmonization and application across requirements

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Part 4, subpart 1: Section 14 exemptions

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

Recommendation 19: Extranet exemption

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 20: Intranet exemption

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 21: Pre-2012 exemption

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeframe: Immediate

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

Recommendation 22: Live captioning and audio description

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 23: Web hosting location

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: One year

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

Recommendation 24: New and emerging technologies

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

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

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

Note: Additional resources available in appendix C.

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

Recommendation 25: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Part 5: Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18

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

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

Recommendation 26: Purchase of accessible teaching/training materials

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

Timeline: Immediate

Recommendation 27: Definition of educational and training institutions

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

Timeline: Immediate

Recommendation 28: Increasing captionist capacity

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

Recommendation 29: Accessibility in education

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Recommendation 30: Accessibility in information and communication tools and systems

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: One calendar year from effective date.

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

Recommendation 31: Accessibility in provincially regulated professions

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

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: One calendar year

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

Recommendation 32: Education standards

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Part 6: Section 19

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

Phase 2

Declaring a breakdown – a call for a new way forward

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

A new model for accessibility regulation

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

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

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

Government’s broader use of the Accessibility Ecosystem model

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

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

The committee proposes:

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

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

What this document contains:

Current context:

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

Accessibility Ecosystem:

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

Laws, Trusted Authority, Community Platform and Compliance

The Accessibility Ecosystem, listed and explained:

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

Current context

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

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

Participation

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

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

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

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

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

Updating

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

Integrating innovation

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

Review and feedback

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

Indicators

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

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

The Accessibility Ecosystem

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

The objectives of the Accessibility Ecosystem are as follows:

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

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

The laws

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

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

Trusted Authority

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

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

The Trusted Authority would:

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

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

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

Community Platform

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

The Community Platform would:

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

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

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

Compliance

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

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

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

How is the new model better?

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

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

Cost, funding and sustainability

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

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

Glossary

Qualifying methods

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

Participating organizations

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

Platform

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

Alternative access systems

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

Appendix A: Committee membership

Information and Communications Standards Development Committee

Voting members

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

Non-voting members

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

Resigned

  • Jessica Gabriel
  • Ben Williamson
  • Matthieu Vachon

Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee

Members

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

Appendix B: Functional Accessibility Requirements (FARs)

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

Where visual modes of presentation are provided:

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

Where auditory modes of presentation are provided:

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

Where speech is required to operate a function:

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

Where manual dexterity is required for operation:

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

Where hand strength is required for operation:

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

Where operation requires reach:

  • operational elements must be within reach of all users

Where memorization is required for use:

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

Where text literacy is required for use:

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

Where extended attention is required for use:

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

Where operation has time limits:

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

Where controlled focus is required for use:

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

Where specific sequencing of steps for operation is required:

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

Where abstract thinking is required:

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

Where accuracy of input is required:

  • a simple undo must be available

Where biometrics are employed:

  • alternative methods of identification must be made available

Appendix C: Definitions and resources

Relevant to all recommendations:

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

Relevant to recommendation 13

United States Access Board definition of web page

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

European Union Web Accessibility Directive scope:

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

United Nations Convention language:

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

Relevant to recommendation 14

Alternative access systems

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

Relevant to recommendation 17

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

Relevant to recommendation 26

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

Relevant to recommendation 27

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

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

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

Infographics

Frame 1: Accessibility Ecosystem

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

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

Introductory text

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

Description of diagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frame 2: Accessibility Ecosystem

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

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

Introductory text

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

Ecosystem parts descriptions

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

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

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

Frame 3: Accessibility Ecosystem

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

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

Introductory text

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

Ecosystem parts descriptions

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

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

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

Frame 4: Accessibility Ecosystem

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

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

The questions and answers are as follows:

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

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

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

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

Frame 5: Accessibility Ecosystem

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

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

The Public questions and answers are as follows:

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

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

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

The Individuals with Disabilities question and answer is:

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

Frame 6: trusted authority process

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

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

We have the power to:

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

We have inclusive representation and the power to consult with:

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

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

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

Frame 7: participating organizations process

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

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

The questions and answers are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frame 8: shared responsibility and shared benefit process

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

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

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

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

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



Source link

Share with Others the Youtube Link to Yesterday’s Important Panel on TV Ontario’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” Revealing the Hardships Facing Many Ontario Students with Disabilities During Distance Education and While Attending Re-Opened Schools


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/

Share with Others the Youtube Link to Yesterday’s Important Panel on TV Ontario’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” Revealing the Hardships Facing Many Ontario Students with Disabilities During Distance Education and While Attending Re-Opened Schools

December 9, 2020

Did you miss last night’s important panel on Ontario’s flagship public affairs program The Agenda with Steve Paikin on the barriers and hardships facing many Ontario students with disabilities during distance learning or while attending re-opened schools? You can now watch it online any time you want, on your computer, tablet, smart phone or smart TV! If you want to cut and paste the link, here it is!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AO0MDM54gnA&feature=youtu.be

In the past, TVO has upgraded the automated Youtube captioning for its postings from The Agenda with Steve Paikin and has posted a transcript of such panels within a period of days.

On this panel, Steve Paikin interviewed three guests:

  1. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, who is also a member of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, as well as a member and past chair of the Toronto District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee.
  2. Ontario Autism Coalition President Laura Kirby-McIntosh, who is also a teacher and mother of two children with autism.
  3. Grand Erie District School Board Special Education Advisory Committee member Paula Boutis, who is also the mother of a child with a disability and the President of Integration Action for Inclusion, a parent association of families with children with disabilities working to improve inclusion in education and community), and a past member of the TDSB Special Education Advisory Committee.

One of the many important points made during this interview is the pressing unmet need for the Ford Government to have developed and implemented a comprehensive province-wide plan on how school boards should meet the needs of a third of a million students with disabilities during distance learning and while attending re-opened schools. It is important to emphasize that the Government was handed just such a plan on a silver platter some five months ago – one it has not implemented. That plan was developed by a sub-committee of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and was delivered to the Government on July 24, 2020. That Committee has representation from the disability community and school boards. It sets out a strong consensus position.

At the end of the interview, David Lepofsky stated that Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce told the Ontario Legislature on July 8, 2020 that he speaks regularly with Lepofsky. You can read the official Ontario Hansard transcript of that statement! Minister Lecce has not spoken to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky since he made that statement. You can also read the AODA Alliance’s September 23, 2020 letter to Education Minister Lecce, asking for a meeting.

Please encourage as many people as possible, including your member of the Legislature and your local school staff and school board officials to watch the December 8, 2020 panel on The Agenda with Steve Paikin. Forward this Update to them. Publicize it on social media.

We know that so many parents of students with disabilities are struggling more than ever to advocate to their school and school board to meet their children’s learning needs. That’s why we have made available a helpful video that offers parents of students with disabilities a series of very practical tips on how to advocate to school boards for their children. Please encourage parents, teachers, principals and others to watch that video too! Encourage principals to share that video with all the families attending their school.

We again want to acknowledge and thank Steve Paikin, and the staff of The Agenda with Steve Paikin, for shining a bright spotlight on this important disability issue. As AODA Alliance Chair David emphasized in another recent online lecture about advocating for the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been inexplicably hard to get media attention on vital disability issues over the past nine months. We are struggling to understand why that is so. Bucking that trend, Mr. Paikin and The Agenda with Steve Paikin stand out as a true and commendable model of receptiveness to our issues and concerns. Steve Paikin noted at the start of this interview that it was an approach from the AODA Alliance that led his program to decide to include this panel, arising out of our concern that an earlier panel on The Agenda did not accurately describe the experience of many students with disabilities during distance education.

Despite the ordeal facing so many Ontarians, including the plight of so many students with disabilities and their families, yesterday, the Ford Government decided yesterday to cancel the rest of the sittings of the Legislature this week. It will not sit again until mid-February of next year.

It is in that context that we remind one and all that there have now been 678 days, over 22 months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. In all this time, the Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that ground-breaking report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, addressed in this new episode of The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

Send us your feedback on this interview on The Agenda with Steve Paikin or on any other accessibility topic. Write us at [email protected]



Source link

Ford Government Admits It Sent Out An Inaccessible Broadcast Email Yesterday to Announce Its Upcoming Announcement on Accessibility, Claiming a “Clerical Error”– Even Though Ministers’ Announcements Are Carefully Screened In Advance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Ford Government Admits It Sent Out An Inaccessible Broadcast Email Yesterday to Announce Its Upcoming Announcement on Accessibility, Claiming a “Clerical Error”– Even Though Ministers’ Announcements Are Carefully Screened In Advance

October 27, 2020

          SUMMARY

Yesterday, the AODA Alliance made public the jaw-dropping fact that the Ford Government’s Minister for Accessibility sent out a broadcast email that was inaccessible, to invite people to attend an minister’s announcement on Thursday, October 29, 2020 on the very subject of accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. After our news release made this public, the Ford Government acknowledged that the announcement email was inaccessible, and apologized to the AODA Alliance. Below we set out the minister’s subsequent October 26, 2020 broadcast email, and an October 29, 2020 email to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky from the Ford Government’s Deputy Minister of Accessibility.

The minister’s email, set out below, claims that it was a “clerical error” that led the minister to broadcast his inaccessible email invitation. Of Course, mistakes can happen. However, the Ontario Government does not simply sent out such emails, without them going through all sorts of scrutiny and checking, e.g. to make sure they are consistent with Government messaging and strategy.

There can be layers and layers of such vetting. This would especially be the case when it is a minister’s announcement of an upcoming Government-staged news event being announced. The fact that this broadcast email included its text within a text box, well-known to create accessibility barriers for screen-readers, should have been caught by someone, if that internal scrutiny took accessibility seriously.

There have now been 635 days since the Ford Government received the Onley Report, the report of the Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That report found substantial problems with the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. This incident is sadly typical of those problems. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report’s recommendations.

          MORE DETAILS

Text of Ford Government Broadcast Email Received by the AODA Alliance

Earlier today an invitation was sent from this account that was not accessible. We regret the clerical error and would like to reiterate that accessibility is of the utmost importance to the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. Please find an accessible invitation below and attached.

You’re invited

The Honourable Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility invites you to a virtual announcement about Advancing Accessibility in Ontario.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.

The announcement will be held on Zoom

Meeting link will be provided upon RSVP

Please log on to the meeting 10 minutes prior to start time

Please R.S.V.P. to Dylan Franks at (416) 828-5726 or

[email protected]

This invitation is intended for the recipient and is non-transferable without permission.

Please advise if you need this communication in another format.

Text of October 27, 2020 Email to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky from Ontario Government Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Denise Cole

Good afternoon David,

Thank you for sending me your news release. I have looked into the matter and hasten to reply. On behalf of the ministry, my sincere apologies for this unintentional error having occurred. It was a ministry mistake, and as the Deputy Minister, I accept full responsibility. An accessible version will be sent to you shortly.

With apologies,

DAC

Denise Allyson Cole

Deputy Minister

Ministry for Seniors & Accessibility

777 Bay Street, 6th Floor

Toronto ON M5G 2C8



Source link

An Important New Report to the Ontario Government Calls on the Government and School Boards to Take Action Now to Ensure that One Third of a Million Students with Disabilities are Able to Fully Participate in Ontario Schools as They Re-Open This Fall


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/

An Important New Report to the Ontario Government Calls on the Government and School Boards to Take Action Now to Ensure that One Third of a Million Students with Disabilities are Able to Fully Participate in Ontario Schools as They Re-Open This Fall

August 14, 2020

          SUMMARY

We today share with you a very important new report that bears on the needs of a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario-funded schools, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Three weeks ago, the Ford Government received a detailed report on the steps it needs to take to meet the needs of students with disabilities now and into the fall, in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. This thorough report, which we set out in full below, was written by a subcommittee of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky serves on that Standards Development Committee and was one of the members of the subcommittee that collectively developed this report. The subcommittee included representation from the disability sector and the school board community.

We are delighted that this report includes the substance of all the recommendations that the AODA Alliance put forward in its June 19, 2020 brief to the Ontario Government on how to meet the needs of students with disabilities during school re-opening. It expands and enhances on the recommendations in the AODA Alliance‘s June 19, 2020 brief to the Ontario Government. This report also goes further, adding other important recommendations.

With school re-opening fast approaching, it is important for the Ford Government to now announce a plan to implement these recommendations. Until the Ford Government does so, we call on all Ontario school boards to review this report and implement its recommendations in their plans for school re-opening.

We encourage one and all to send this report to your member of the Ontario legislature, your school board trustee, and your local media. Email Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Emphasize to all of them that this report needs immediate action.

The AODA Alliance has been spearheading a campaign for over a decade to tear down the barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. We led the multi-year campaign to get the Ontario Government to agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act .

For more background on these issues, please visit the AODA Alliances COVID-19 web page and our education web page. Check out the widely-viewed online video of the May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall on meeting the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, co-organized by the Ontario Autism Coalition and the AODA Alliance.

Stay safe, and let us know what you do to help us press for these reforms. Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

July 24, 2020 Letter to the Ontario Minister of Education and Minister for Accessibility from the Chair of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee

Date: Friday, July 24, 2020

The Honourable Stephen Lecce

Minister of Education

5th Floor, 438 University Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M7A 2A5

The Honourable Raymond Cho
Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
5th Floor, 777 Bay Street,

Toronto, Ontario M7A 1S5

Dear Minister Lecce and Minister Cho,

Re: K-12 Education Standards Development Committee: Planning for Emergencies and Safety Small Group Report

On behalf of the members of the Planning for Emergencies and Safety small group (the small group), I am pleased to submit the small group’s advice and recommendations on emergency planning and safety for students with disabilities in K-12 education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (The Committee) formed the small group when the Ministry of Education was seeking feedback from the Committee on the barriers and issues identified through the COVID-19 pandemic. The small group’s mandate includes using experiential learning from the COVID-19 pandemic to:

  • identify new and reoccurring accessibility barriers to learning for students with disabilities in the context of remote learning; and
  • develop an emergency plan framework (that covers the phases of preparing, planning, response and recovery) for a systematic response to an emergency.

The small group members have put incredible effort, time and passion to complete this report that includes valuable advice and recommendations for government consideration. The report addresses the following 9 barriers for students with disabilities as a result of COVID-19:

  1. organizational, policy and procedural barriers
  2. mental health and well being
  3. academic (learning inequities for students with disabilities)
  4. support for secondary school students with disabilities
  5. transitions between in school and virtual learning
  6. accessible communication and technology
  7. training on the integration of digital technology into learning
  8. transportation
  9. recommendations addressing barriers for the Government and School Boards in emergency planning and safety

Thank you for your shared commitment to ensuring accessibility and inclusion for students with disabilities in Ontario. We have appreciated the discussions with Minister Lecce on Grants for Students Needs funding and the school board memos that address the current work being done to support students. The barriers in our report reflect what we have heard from various educational partners, families of student with disabilities and students within Ontario. I would be happy to meet with you to discuss these additional recommendations. The work and passion of the Committee continues, and we look forward to more opportunities to share our advice and feedback with you.

Together we can create an accessible and inclusive education system for students with disabilities during this unprecedented time.

Sincerely,

(Original signed by)

 

 

Lynn Ziraldo,
Chair, K-12 Education Standards Development Committee

Attachments:

  1. Small group report

July 24, 2020 Report to the Ontario Government from the Planning for Emergencies and Safety Subcommittee of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee

July 24, 2020

Introduction

The COVID-19 Pandemic has tested emergency plans for all levels of government, businesses, agencies, education systems, communities, families, and citizens in the province of Ontario. Many risks have been identified and challenges have arisen because of the pandemic and more continue to be identified as we move through the stages of the emergency. Emergency plans, response and procedures need to be reviewed to address these risks and barriers immediately and to improve responses to emergencies in the future.

As the Ministry of Education was seeking feedback on barriers and emerging issues identified during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the K-12 Standards Development Committee formed the Planning for Emergency and Safety Working Group with a focus on students with disabilities with the following mandate:

Using experiential learning from the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Identify new and reoccurring accessibility barriers to learning for students with disabilities in the context of remote learning
  • Develop an emergency plan framework (that covers the phases of preparing, planning, response and recovery) for a systematic response to an emergency.

Methodology

The Planning for Emergencies & Safety Working Group gathered resources from experts including the Framework for Reopening Schools developed by UNICEF, SickKids recommendations to Reopening Schools, Letters to Minister Lecce from the Ontario Human Rights Commission of July 14, 2020; and various other resources and articles from educational partners within Ontario, other provinces and countries (See Resource Section). While reviewing the documents, the Working Group identified barriers and subsequently developed recommendations to address said barriers.

Organizational Challenges and Barriers during COVID-19

Through a review of resources, feedback from parents and guardians, agencies, health professionals and educational stakeholders’ opinions expressed, the Working Group found that students with disabilities have faced challenges compounded by COVID-19.  Their needs have been inconsistently addressed or not at all. These are some organizational, policy and procedural barriers identified:

  • Inconsistent or unclear messaging from varying levels of government, health agencies and school boards
  • Lack of or unable to access consistent data from all regions and school boards to support data driven decisions and implement actions quickly and effectively.
  • Policies and procedures outdated, non-existent, or inflexible to accommodate this type of emergency – COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Emergency response teams not reflecting the different subject knowledge needed to support decision making and development of a plan that reflects the needs of students with disabilities.
  • Inter-governmental, health service, service agencies and school board service agreements did not reflect the ability to provide services in a virtual learning environment
  • Service delivery models used by government, health services, service agencies and school boards not conducive to virtual service delivery.
  • The extent to which Board’s utilized or sought feedback from its SEACs in developing response or action plans to the COVID-19 pandemic varied from none to fully participated.
  • Not all school boards have an Accessibility Standards Committee or for those school boards that do have members of the community or people with disabilities who have lived experience that can help plan and implement the Public Health Guidelines to mitigate risks of COVID-19 in schools for students with disabilities
  • School board Accessibility Standards Committee can be helpful in helping to plan and implement the Public Health Guidelines to mitigate risks of COVID-19 in schools for students with disabilities. However, not all school boards have such committees, or committee membership that includes members of the community or people with disabilities who have lived experience that can inform planning and implementation.

Key Recommendations for Planning for Emergencies

It is important in planning for return to school, the opportunity is taken to review and create structures, policy and procedures that can adapt and be more flexible for a 2nd wave or future emergencies.

By learning from innovations and emergency processes, systems can adapt and scale up the more effective solutions. In doing so, they could become more effective, more agile, and more resilient” – (quoted from THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: SHOCKS TO EDUCATION AND POLICY RESPONSES, World Bank).

There are 5 known steps to Emergency Planning and Preparedness: 1) Know your risk, 2) Build your Team, 3) Make critical information accessible quickly, 4) Update alert and response procedure, 5) Test the plan and revise.

To eliminate barriers identified, that a return to school plan has input from end users, be designed through an inclusive process and not by one team or group. A team of subject expertise from across the organization is critical for developing a strong plan.

Recommendations – Government

For the above reasons, it is recommended that

  • The Ministry of Education should establish a Central Education Leadership Command Table with responsibilities for ensuring that students with disabilities have access to all accommodations and supports they require during the present COVID-19 pandemic. The responsibilities of the Command Table shall include:
    1. immediately develop a comprehensive plan to meet the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during COVID-19 pandemic quickly and resolve issues for students with disabilities as they arise. The comprehensive plan should be shared for implementation by school boards. This plan should include and incorporate the three options for education:
  • normal school day routine with enhanced public health protocols
  • modified school day routine based on smaller class sizes, cohorting and alternative day or week delivery, and,
  • at-home learning with ongoing enhanced remote delivery
    1. collect and share data on existing and emerging issues as a result of COVID-19, the effective responses of other jurisdictions in supporting students with disabilities during the current emergency, using evidence base data collection method for people with disabilities
    2. establish a fully accessible centralized hub, and share and publicize the hub, for sharing of effective practices about supporting students with disabilities
    3. develop a rapid response team to receive feedback from school boards on recurring issues facing students with disabilities and to help find solutions to share with school boards
    4. provide clear communication and guidance on school opening, health service delivery, etc. based on data collected.
  • The government/Ministry of Education shall establish a cross sectorial Partnership Table at provincial and regional levels with the responsibility to integrate, coordinate and foster cross sector planning and response to emergencies. Responsibilities of this table are to:
    1. enhance an interlinked, coordinated and inter-ministerial approach in providing a seamless service delivery model to provide services and supports to students with disabilities (Psychology, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, Mental Health, etc.).
    2. collect data now, from respective sectors, health services, education, service agencies, etc. to identify existing and emerging barriers, know exactly which students with disabilities and how they are impacted, their needs, and how to better direct resources to support them
    3. provide clear communication and guidance on school opening, health service delivery, etc. based on data collected to ensure accessibility for students with disabilities.
  • The Ministry of Education provincial and regional partnership tables should include advisors that can provide insight on the needs and challenges of students with disabilities from lived experience and the collective experience of disability support groups, as well as students with disabilities.
  • The Ministry of Education should assign staff to assist the Central Educational Command Table by serving as a central rapid response team to receive feedback from school boards on recurring issues facing students with disabilities and to help find solutions to share with school boards.
  • The Ministry of Education should direct that each school board shall establish a similar Board Command table. (See recommendation 12 for School Boards).
  • The provincial government continue and enhance an interlinked, coordinated and inter-ministerial approach in providing a seamless service delivery model to provide services and supports to students with disabilities (Psychology, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, Mental Health, etc.).
  • The Ministry of Education should collect and aggregate International data, resources and information from other countries experiences for use in planning transitions between in-school and distance education, including continuation of virtual learning at home.
  • The Ministry of Education should developed comprehensive plans for students with disabilities that addresses the surge in demand and increase capacity to provide specialized disability supports, including enhanced staffing, for the return to in-class and distance learning (increase in in-class supports, social workers, psychologists, guidance counsellors)
  • The Ministry of Education should develop guidelines that provide for alternate or enhanced childcare opportunities to be made available to families of students with a disability, for students required to stay home due to adapted model classroom scheduling. (Excludes childcare needs that are related to quarantine self-isolation for child or family due to exposure or a local outbreak of the virus.)
  • To get the most from the volunteer work of SEACs around Ontario, the Ministry of Education should:
  1. a) Create and maintain a listserv or other virtual network of all Ontario SEACs, to enable them to share their efforts with all other SEACs around Ontario, and
  2. b) Frequently gather input from SEACs around Ontario about the experiences of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis to inform future policies and regulations and directions for school boards.
  • To promote transparency, accountability and identify trends, the Ministry of Education should immediately issue a policy direction for boards to create an exclusion policy, that imposes restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school, including directions that:
  1. a) Does not impede, create barrier, or disproportionally increase burdens for students with disabilities the right to attend school for the entire day as do students without disabilities. The power to refuse to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day should not be used in a way that disproportionately burdens students with disabilities or that creates a barrier to their right to attend school.
  2. b) Tracks exclusions and provide a transparent procedure and practice to parents/guardians, by requiring a principal who refuses to admit a student to school during the school re-opening process to immediately give the student and their parent/guardian written notice of their decision to do so, including written reasons for the refusal to admit, the duration of the refusal to admit and notice of the parent/guardian’s right to appeal this refusal to admit to the school board.
  3. c) Tracks exclusions, increases accountability and informs policies by requiring a principal who refuses to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day to immediately report this in writing to their school board’s senior management, including the reasons for the exclusion, its duration and whether the student has a disability. Each school board should be required to compile this information and to report it on a regular basis to the board of trustees, the public and the Ministry of Education (with individual information totally anonymized).
  • The Ministry of Education should provide clear guidelines and expectations to school boards on the implementation of Public Health Guidelines to mitigate risks of COVID-19 to ensure that school buildings and grounds be fully accessible for students with disabilities.

Recommendations – School Boards

  • School Boards should establish a similar Board Command/Central table as the Ministry of Education’s Central Education Command/Central Table, to receive and act on feedback from teachers, principals and families about problems they are encountering serving students with disabilities during the COVID-19 period. The Table will quickly network with similar offices/Tables at other school boards and can report recurring issues to the Ministry’s command table.
  • School Boards should utilize the expertise of the Special Education Advisory Committee members by directly involving members in the planning for the delivery of remote learning, other emergency plans, through regular meetings and frequent communications.
  • School Boards should enhance its hub of resources with successful practices, lesson plans, resources specific to students with disabilities in a virtual learning environment for ease of access and support teachers and students in their learning.
  • School Boards should involve their Accessibility Committee, or if there is no committee to establish an Accessibility Advisory Committee which will review all plans at the school board and school level for mitigating risk of COVID-19 meet the accessibility requirements of all students or people with disabilities.
  • School Boards should assign a leadership staff member responsible for ensuring that all changes at schools in response to COVID-19 maintain accessibility for all students with disabilities.

Mental Health & Well Being

As found through the review of resources, student and family mental health & wellbeing needs have soared to due to the traumatic effects of COVID-19. Students wellbeing has suffered for a variety of barriers: effects of isolation from social distancing, increased rise in domestic violence, lack of access to school breakfast programs, lack of access to mental health & therapeutic services, and negative financial impact to family’s income to name a few.

Barriers

  • Agencies, different levels of government and school boards developing plans and working on solutions to barriers with little or no coordination
  • Support for parents with students with complex needs are insufficient
  • Health services and supports not consistently or sufficiently prepared to provide health and mental health services in a virtual setting
  • There is a flood of information and resources being presented to teachers, parents and students
  • More inter-ministerial leadership and collaboration between Ministries of Education (MOE), Community, Children & Social Services (MCCSS) and Health (MOH) is required
  • School Boards and staff must be equipped with appropriate PPE for their own health and wellbeing
  • Need to safely deliver additional supports such and as breakfast & nutrition programs provided by community agencies
  • Plans for the next phase include a return to in-class and virtual instruction, including adapted models whereby some students will be scheduled at home on an alternate day or alternate week basis. Having students at home for short or long periods (alternate day to full semester) will be a significant challenge for families and may prevent the return to work for many parents. Some parents of children with disabilities face barriers to employment, and many others are overburdened with providing 24-hour care to students with complex care needs.

Recommendations – Government

  • The government should enhance the central hub of mental health & wellbeing information resources at provincial and regional levels with key messages and links to other resources. Ensure all resources are in an accessible digital format (as per Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation), well publicised and shared with school boards.
  • Ministries should review and increase capacity of Ontario Telehealth Network (OTN) and other privacy protected health platforms to allow for boards to use (even in non-emergency times) and deliver services by regulated health care professionals that protect the privacy of the health services and IPRCs.
  • Ministries of Education, Health and Children, Community & Social Services should remove any cross-jurisdictional barriers related to the provision of health and education services to ensure students with disabilities can be provided with the mental health & wellbeing services they require to be delivered remotely. (For example, under Policy/Program Memorandum (PPM) 149, Protocol for Partnerships with External Agencies for Provision of Services by Regulated Health Professionals, Regulated Social Service Professionals, and Paraprofessionals permit electric consent for services and virtual access to services for students with disabilities).
  • The Ministry of Education should provide funding and clear guidelines on use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and protocols for detection and containment of COVID-19 for boards, staff and all students, including those with disabilities. Public health authorities should establish clear protocols for the detection and containment of COVID-19 (and other infectious diseases) for school boards. The guidelines and protocols should be flexible for school boards to react to local situations to mitigate risks.
  • The Ministry of Education’s plan for school re-openings must include detailed directions on required measures to mitigate risk for students with disabilities from COVID-19 to maintain their health and wellbeing during any return to school. This requires additional planning in advance by school boards and additional funding to school boards to hire and train the additional Special Needs Assistants (SNA) and Educational Assistants (EA) they will need to ensure the safety of students with disabilities. It also requires safeguards to ensure that EAs or SNAs do not work at multiple sites and risk transmitting the COVID-19 virus from one location to another.
  • Ministries should review policies and regulations to continue to permit the virtual provision of therapy supports and services that have transitioned successfully to a virtual learning environment and where possible, permit and foster increased access to therapies and services to areas in province where a lack of services exists.

Recommendations – School Boards

  • Many students with disabilities volunteer at school events, in school daycares, kindergarten classes as part of their learning plan, IEP or fulfilling the 40 hours volunteer requirement. School Boards should develop/review guidelines for students with disabilities who volunteer in school to limits risk to health and safety but does not stop this valuable learning experience for students with disabilities.
  • Many adults with disabilities volunteer in schools and school daycares for the opportunity to exist as a valued contributing member within their community. School Boards should develop guidelines for people with disabilities who volunteer within the school that limits risk to the health and safety but continues to have the opportunity to be a contributing member of the school community.
  • School Board should provide virtual learning opportunities for volunteering and co-op courses for students with disabilities. Resources and guidelines should be developed to create the opportunity for the student to complete volunteering hours or cooperative credits successfully.
  • School Boards should develop and/or review guidelines for transitions plans for students with disabilities to outline supports and accommodations that may be offered in a virtual learning environment or enhanced by online tools and resources to support the physical and emotions wellbeing of student with disabilities when transitioning back to school. Accommodations or strategies should be reviewed and adapted to the virtual learning environment to support transitions. (An example would be for students with disabilities have access to audio described (DV) and closed-captioned (CC) virtual tours of the school facilities, so students could familiarize themselves with the school prior to the start of school. (See also Transition section).
  • In consultation with community agencies, School Boards should develop/revise procedures and protocols for volunteers and community agencies that support the health and wellbeing of students with disabilities continue to operate in the school (Example, Food nutrition programs, clothing exchanges, etc.)
  • In consultation with Public Health Regional Health, School Boards must develop clear protocols and procedures with accommodations for students with disabilities for the detection, isolation, tracing and follow up those students who develop symptoms for the virus, flu, respiratory infection, etc. For example: Ensure dedicated space to isolate students with disabilities who may need to return home is accessible and provides the accommodations required to meets the needs of any students with disabilities.

Academic

The pandemic has had profound impacts to student’s learning and staff’s ability to provide a learning environment that promotes student success and achievement. Learning inequities for students with disabilities have increased throughout the pandemic due to barriers faced. Some of the barriers identified were:

Barriers

  • Ongoing accessibility issues with online and virtual learning resources provided for learning at home
  • Wealth of resources, tools, etc. being developed by Boards, Agencies and Associations with limited sharing of resources. Resources developed may not be accessible.
  • Virtual learning is not working for many students with disabilities
  • Many students with disabilities were not effectively engaged in virtual learning for a variety of reasons, including accessibility challenges with the internet, computer software and hardware, nature of resources provided, individual challenges related to format, capacity of family, or behaviour.
  • Closure of schools for 3 months has resulted in significant loss of learning for many students
  • Special Education Advisory Committees meetings have been cancelled and some the skills and knowledge of SEAC members has not been fully utilized.
  • Teachers, students and parents were not prepared for the sudden transition from in-class instruction to the virtual learning environment and planning for future interruptions of schools would benefit from proactive planning for education in a virtual instruction and learning environment.

Recommendations – Government

  • The Ministry of Education should develop curriculum for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 to enable students to develop the skills and knowledge they need for learning in a virtual learning environment. In the interim, the Ministry should share existing, accessible resources on this topic to teachers and School Boards (Please see Training for additional recommendations)
  • The Ministry of Education should collect and make readily available resources/information on practices, effective strategies in learning environment, and alternate approaches for students struggling with online learning, etc. from School Boards, agencies and disability specific associations.
  • Ministry of Education should provide clear expectations for teacher led instruction, synchronous learning, and weekly teacher student-teacher connections for students who are participating in virtual instruction and learning. Expectations should include monitoring if students with disabilities are fully participating, learning and benefiting from these activities; and if not, action to address barriers or issues identified.

Recommendations – School Board

  • School Boards should assess and document accommodations, modifications, resources and supports for all students with disabilities to plan for transition back to school and continuation of virtual instruction and learning. (Please see Transitions Recommendations for details)
  • School Boards should develop and provide all resources for instruction and assessment materials, homework assignments in an accessible digital format (See Communications & Technology section for recommendation on accessible digital format).

Secondary School

The secondary school experience is different from elementary school. It is where students develop, time management, organizational, advocacy skills, networking and social skills, become more aware of community and identify career paths. It is for this reason, the Working Group felt it was important to identify barriers and make recommendations specific to secondary students. Many of these recommendations can benefit the entire secondary school student population.

Barriers

  • Students with disabilities have experienced little to no personal contact with their school community social network supports (classroom teachers, Educational Assistants, custodians, administrative assistants, etc.), who rely on this contact to maintain their engagement within the school community and preserve their mental health.
  • At any time, students with disabilities have very limited opportunity to fulfill the 40 hours of volunteering required for graduation and rely heavily on volunteering at their high school or local elementary school events. All opportunities for volunteering were eliminated during the pandemic.
  • Many students with disabilities take optional specialized courses such as Specialized High School Major (SHSM), cooperative credits, etc. which provide hands on and participation within the community. Hands on learning, skills in applicable to trades and life skills were significantly diminished during COVID-19.
  • Clubs, councils, sports teams and extracurricular activities are a formative and important part of the high school experience. Often these extracurricular activities are the only opportunity students with disabilities has to socialize with their peers. Not having access to extracurricular activities has impacted their mental health and well-being.
  • Many students with disabilities rely on in class instruction be it due to learning disability, anxiety, learning style, ADHD, or simply due to preference in the way they individually learn, among others. The loss of in-class instruction has significantly impacted their learning and future for success.
  • Learning at home during school closure has been challenging for students in terms of academic achievement, mental health and wellbeing
  • All four years of high school are an integral part of a young person’s development and a multitude of students require and rely on in class instruction be it for specialized courses That require specialized equipment, trained staff;
  • The experience of four years of high school are incredibly formative of a young person’s social, emotional, mental and physical relationship with society, the world around them and indeed the values they will build their life around;
  • Return to school planning must consider the impacts on minority & racialized students, students in abusive households, students with limited access to technology or broadband, students with disabilities and students with other complex learning needs;
  • Many students rely on in class instruction be it due to learning disability, anxiety, learning style, ADHD, or simply due to preference in the way they individually learn, among others;

Recommendations – Ministry

  • The Ministry of Education should allow high school in-class instruction to operate for the 2020-2021 school year, if authorized by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
  • The Minister should direct School Boards to continue courses which require specialized forms of equipment, classrooms, teaching staff and/or resources (science labs, shops, media classrooms) continue to operate, in accordance with local public health advice.
  • As per the Canadian Mental Health Association, 70% of mental health challenges have their onset in childhood or youth and the Kids Help Phone Line has seen a increase in demand, The Ministries of Education and Health should increase capacity of mental health professionals and supports for School Boards, to ensure there is no waitlist for any secondary student requiring support.
  • The Ministry of Education should include student voice through student trustees’ association or other student leaders, when developing a plan for return to school.
  • The Ministry of Education should waive the compulsory credit in Health & Physical Education for students who have entered secondary school in the 2020-21 school or whose timetable will be negatively impacted, should Physical Education classes not operate in the conventional manner.
  • If required by Public Health, the Ministry of Education should fund PPE for students and staff to mitigate risks of infection.
  • The Ministry should direct School Boards to develop a prioritization and execution plan for conducting clinical assessments (e.g., psycho–educational assessments) that students with disabilities require in order to access necessary supports and services as they transition from secondary to post-secondary destinations.

Recommendations – School Board

  • School Boards and Schools should include student voice, including students with disabilities in developing the Board return to school plan, as well as, individual school return plans respectively.
  • School Boards and Schools should provide clear instruction on proper personal protection equipment (PPE) and safety measures to students, parents, and staff.
  • School Boards should follow or mirror Public Health protocols prescribed by the local Public Health. If PPE is not required by the local Public Health, student have the choice to wear PPE. If PPE is required, that school boards are funded appropriately to provide PPE for all students and staff.
  • Where local public health advice can be adhered to, Schools should continue to offer extracurricular activities such as clubs, councils, teams using proper social distancing and general safety protocols.
  • Where applicable, School Boards should waive parking fees for students to reduce financial burdens and help mitigate health risks for students by not riding on a crowded public transit bus.
  • School Boards should make decisions pertaining to cancellation of extracurricular activities in school mirror that of activities outside of school. (Example: If soccer clubs operate locally, then soccer clubs in schools should continue to operate).
  • School Boards should develop and offer online programming for students who cannot or wish not to attend school in person, but not be considered a long-term alternative to in class instruction.
  • School Boards and schools seek out the voice of students, including voices of students with disabilities, when they develop return to school plan options.
  • School Board should develop guidelines for clubs or programs that supplement or enhance education for students with disabilities so they can continue to operate upon return to school.
  • School Boards should continue to offer where possible, alternate classrooms, quiet workspaces, and other special education requirements prescribed in a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).
  • School Boards should research and investigate potential online coop placements that may be available for all students; including students with disabilities.
  • When permitted under local health advice, the School Board should review new health and safety protocols with student and the coop placement provider.

Transitions

An impact of the pandemic for students with disabilities is that learning has been lost or stagnant. Learning recovery will be important when returning to school. This will mean targeted measures to reversing learning loss or closing gaps. There will be a need for clear system wide guidance for in-class and central assessments to inform and plan for curriculum delivery, supports and service upon return to school.

Transition planning will occur at the provincial, local and student level. The Ministry of Education will need to identify barriers and gaps from all educational stakeholders to develop an informed return to school plan. School boards will need identify barriers and gaps at a system and individual student level to create an informed back to school plan as well as address the needs for students with disabilities.

The Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a tool for documenting student strengths and needs and the accommodations, programs and services they require to be successful. IEPs are a valuable tool in documenting the student’s current level of achievement and transition plans for planned changes in grades, schools, and life after secondary school. The IEP can also be used to plan for return to school, full time or in an adapted model, or for continued virtual learning.

Barriers

  • During the school closure gaps in student skills and knowledge related to on-line and distance learning has been evident
  • Planning for school year 2020-2021 will include in school and distance learning
  • School staff will need to assess student’s with disabilities to determine their accessibility and learning needs
  • Students with disabilities individual IEPs and transitions plans need to be reviewed to address barriers and gaps to allow for student success.
  • Student voice often forgotten in the planning process
  • Students and prospective students cannot visit the physical environments of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and do not have the opportunity to check for physical accessibility and familiarize themselves with environment

Recommendations – Government

  • The Ministry of Education should direct School Boards to develop a prioritization and execution plan for conducting clinical assessments (e.g., psycho–educational assessments) that students with disabilities require, in order to access necessary supports and services as they transition from secondary to post-secondary destinations.
  • The Ministry of Education, in partnership with MCCSS should work with school boards to identify their cohorts of students with intellectual and other disabilities who completed their school careers in June 2020 and identify and assess if barriers faced during COVID-19 did not allow for successful student transitions to their chosen pathway (Examples: to work, volunteer work, recreation/leisure programs, and post-secondary education) as outlined in their transition plans. Jointly, the Ministries and School Boards should develop plans to help this cohort of students with disabilities achieve their individual transition goals.

Recommendations – School Boards

  • School Boards should be independently collecting board wide data on gaps, barriers, emerging issues, transition challenges, technology challenges, additional students’ needs and supports arising or as a result of COVID-19 through assessment, student and parent feedback to address and plan for system wide supports and services required by students with disabilities upon return to school.
  • To help with successful transitions for student with disabilities in returning to school, School Boards shall contact parent/guardians, as soon as possible, to discuss and identify learning gaps, individual needs arising from school shutdown and distance learning, transition challenges, social and emotional needs to inform and revise/or create individualized transition plans for students with disabilities.
  • To help reduce stress and anxiety and prepare themselves for return to school, students with disabilities should be involved with discussions and decision made in developing their Transition Plan.
  • School Boards and Administrators shall ensure Individual Education Plans for students with disabilities are revised/created to reflect specific goals and activities to address the individual needs identified in Recommendation #3 to help increase academic and transition success for each student with a disability upon returning to school.
  • School Boards shall include the student when developing their individualized Transition and IEP. All
  • When School Boards develop the Individualized Transition Plans for each student, it should be:
    1. flexible to accommodate the stop and start of in class learning. All methods of instruction should be considered for learning to ensure students have access to an education (virtual instruction, in home instruction, etc.)
    2. include a flexible and hybrid model for entry needs to accommodate the varying student needs. Any model developed for return to school shall be developed in consultation with parent/guardians and student
    3. include strategies for students around social/physical distancing. Social distancing guidelines should be developed in consultation with parents/guardians and student.
    4. Include steps for follow up and checking in with the student
    5. All documentation or information be provided to the parent/guardian and student before the meeting with enough time to review. Documents should be provided in an accessible format.
  • School Boards should take more interactive approaches to collect on-going feedback from parents, students and staff (i.e. “Thought exchange”) to guide and inform changes to policies and procedures impacted by COVID-19.
  • School Boards should develop a clear system wide plan to address increased classroom and school supports and services (Educational Assistants, Education Works, social workers, psychologists, guidance councillors) identified through assessments to help mitigate issues and support learning for students with disabilities.
  • School Boards should create audio described (DV) and closed-captioned (CC) virtual tours of their school. The virtual tour must be fully accessible and thoroughly provide information on accessibility and locations at the schools. Virtual tours should be made permanently available; not just during the pandemic.

Communications & Technology

For our purpose, communication includes technologies, systems, protocols and procedures that enable an organization to effectively communicate to its employees, partners and community. During an emergency, communication is essential and should ensure all relevant personnel can quickly and effectively communicate with each other during such crises, sharing information that will allow the organization to quickly rectify the situation, protect employees and assets, and allows the business to continue.

To relate this to Education – government, school boards, agencies, staff, students, parent/caregivers, should have the ability to communicate effectively during a crisis, while the business of providing learning continues.

Barriers

  • Ongoing accessibility issues with virtual learning environment or platform (Examples: no closed captions, compatibility issues with screen readers, lack of support or knowledge of accessibility features, no ASL interpretation)
  • Ongoing accessibility issue with information and resources provided
  • Conflicting guidelines provided by different ministries and level of government.

Recommendations – Government

  • That a designated communication lead should be assigned at the provincial and regional level for consistent messaging.
  • For efficiency and elimination of duplication of effort for School Boards, The Ministry of Education should immediately engage an arms-length digital accessibility consultant to evaluate the comparative accessibility of different digital learning and virtual learning environments or platforms available for use in Ontario schools. This should involve end-user testing. The Ministry should immediately send the resulting report and comparison to all school boards and make it public. This should be revisited as the fall approaches, in case there have been changes to the relative accessibility of different virtual instruction environments or platforms.
  • The Ministry of Education should provide a list of acceptable accessible, cross platform virtual learning environments and synchronous teaching systems to be used by school boards.
  • The Ministry of Education should make public a plan of action to swiftly make its own online learning content accessible for people with disabilities, setting out milestones and timelines, and should report to the public on its progress.
  • The Ministry of Education should immediately direct TVO/TFO to make its online learning content accessible to people with disabilities, and to promptly make public a plan of action to achieve this goal, with specific milestones and timelines. The implementation of this recommendation has become urgent since Royal Assent was given to Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 as amends to the Ontario Educational Communications Authority Act broaden the mandates of both TVO and TFO to position them to provide centralized support for online learning in the English-language and French-language publicly-funded education systems, respectively.
  • The Ministry of Education should direct its entire staff and all School Boards that whenever making information public in a Portable Document Format (PDF), it must at the same time, make available a textual format such as an accessible Microsoft Word (MSWord) or accessible HTML document. Videos must be audio described (DV) and closed captioned (CC). Templates and technical guides should be developed and provided to school boards.

Recommendations – School Boards

  • For consistent messaging, that the School board should designate a communication lead for COVID-19 related issues.
  • School Boards should develop protocols and procedures to mitigate security risks for online and virtual learning platforms to help protect privacy of students with disabilities and staff. Online and virtual learning platforms should also be accessible for all students with disabilities.
  • That School Boards should provide clear communication around protocols and return to school plans. Boards should make written communications readily available and accessible by everyone in the community, parents and students.
  • School Boards should review and revise instructional videos for parents around virtual learning tools used in the school board. Videos must be clear and accessible.
  • School Boards should provide solely dedicated or designated staff, who are available to support technology including accessibility needs to parents who are supporting the learning needs of students with disabilities at home.

Training

The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed the way in which education is delivered. Students, parents/guardians, teachers, staff, school boards and government had to change the way they access, support or deliver education. The pandemic highlighted gaps in digital skills, adaptation of technology to teaching and learning. It has also increased demand for technology and the need to integrate technology effectively into teaching and learning. With this increased demand in the use of technology and the gaps in digital skills identified, it is imperative to train students, parent/guardians and staff in the use and integration of technology in teaching and learning.

Barriers

  • Teachers, students and parent/guardians unprepared for learning at home and use of virtual platforms such as google classroom, Microsoft teams, Zoom for individual and synchronous learning
  • Teachers, ECEs, Staff need training in virtual online learning platforms
  • Teachers, ECEs, Staff need training in strategies to support students with disabilities around transitions between education models, including preparation for changing environments and self regulation
  • Teachers, ECEs lack training in strategies to support Public Health directed precautions, such as social distancing, sanitizing procedures and use of PPE when required to support students
  • School closures have had a significant impact on the mental health and well being of students with disabilities and teachers, ECEs, staff will require training on child development and trauma informed practice to assist them in supporting students in transitioning back to school or continuation of virtual education.
  • The expectation on parent/guardians to support students with learning at home were significant and parents need supports and training in virtual learning software and how they can effectively support their child’s learning.

Recommendations – Government

  • That Ministry of Education should model leadership to School Boards and provide accessible virtual learning webinars, templates for learning, etc. to be utilized in training administrators and teachers.
  • The Ministry of Education should direct School Boards to provide all staff training in child development, mental health and wellbeing to support the wellbeing and learning of students with disabilities.
  • The Government should provide direction to School Boards and Public Service agencies to develop a coordinated training delivery model to support parents of students with rehabilitation needs, mental health concerns or who have complex or significant medically needs, with the delivery of virtual care, including privacy protected health platforms such as OTN, ADcare.

Recommendations – School Boards

  • School Boards should provide focused, practical training for administrators and teachers to support students with disabilities’ health, wellbeing and learning in a mixed or virtual environment.
  • School Boards should provide administrators training and guidelines on supporting students with disabilities through transitioning and change.
  • School Boards should develop parent training modules and resources to enable parent/guardians to develop the skills and knowledge required to support online and virtual learning at home for students with disabilities.
  • School Boards should provide training for teachers and staff on specific tips and solutions, successful and evidence based promising practices by disability to support teachers and students with disabilities learning. These should be made available as soon as possible or at the latest, during the first days of PD before school instruction begins.

Transportation

School Bus operation and delivery of bus services is regulated and governed both federally and provincially. Transport Canada has consulted with the Public Health Agency of Canada to provide guidelines around bus operations during the pandemic. The National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) has also provided general guidelines for the provision of student (pupil) transportation services.

The Ministry of Education’s Return to School Framework directs School Boards to follow these federal guidelines.

To accommodate Federal Transportation and Public health guideline that require social and physical distancing, School Boards will have to revise transportation services delivery that will impact bus routes, increase the number of buses and drivers required, increase ridership time, etc. to mitigate risks to students with disabilities while transporting to and from school.

Barriers

  • Lack of or reduced public transportation available for students with disabilities, particularly for secondary students who take public transit. Municipal governments eliminated routes or reduced schedules during COVID-19. Municipalities have not made public transportation plans for when students return to school.
  • As School Boards and Consortiums plan transportation services to meet the Transport Canada guidelines, current challenges of inadequate buses, shortage of drivers and increasing fuel costs will be a barrier to boards.
  • Changes to routine can have a significant impact to a student with disabilities’ mental health, success for the start of school day and learning. Predictable changes to transportation for students with disabilities can include, increased ridership time, bus route, bus type (72-passenger, small bus), supports or accommodations required for a successful ride, etc. while maintaining safety and mitigating risks for infection.
  • Many School Boards currently overspend the transportation grant, while still achieving a high efficiency rating from the Ministry of Education. The additional requirements defined under the Transport Canada Guidelines will increase cost pressures to provide transportation services to students with disabilities while maintaining safety and mitigating risk of infection.
  • As students with disabilities require may require specific transportation accommodations such as a safety harness, seat belt, wheelchair accessible which cannot be accommodated in all vehicle types.

Recommendations – School Boards

  • As many School Boards overspend its transportation grant while maintaining a high efficiency rating, the Ministry of Education should provide school boards with additional COVID-19 specific funding to follow the guidelines as provided by Transport Canada around:
    • Measures to mitigate risk of exposure
    • Procedures to be taken before a trip, during a trip and at the end of the trip
    • PPE guidelines
    • Physical Distancing
    • Shield and Enclosure system guidelines (if bus operators choose to do so)
  • School Boards should review transportation accommodations and requirements, in consultation with parents and student, IEPs of students with disabilities who require transportation services to identify any change/modifications to accommodations required. The student’s IEP shall be modified to reflect additional requirements to transport the student safely on the bus. The review for medically fragile students should include professionals, such as nurses, occupational therapists, as well as parents. All transportation requirements shall be relayed to the Bus Consortia and administrator of the school for implementation.
  • School Boards must create/revise a protocol for the safe gathering of all students and parent/guardians at bus stops and safety on the bus. It is important that student with disabilities be included and familiarized with these protocols with their peers.
  • School Boards and Bus Consortia should provide bus drivers with training on new health and safety protocols for students with disabilities on a regular bus, small bus and wheelchair accessible bus.
  • Bus Consortia should minimize changes to routes, vehicle type, and schedules for students with disabilities while developing changes to routes, to limit increased anxiety or behaviours as a result of the changes. When changes are considered, parents and student should be consulted about changes.
  • School Boards and Bus Consortia should review procedures and protocols for persons responsible for putting a student with disability’s harness on/off or supporting a student on the school bus to mitigate health risks for the student, bus driver and support person.
  • School Boards and Bus Consortia should revise/develop, implement and disseminate bus safety protocol Information for parents needs to help mitigate health and safety risks and assuage parent’s fears. This includes protocols around harnesses. All communications should be clear and made readily available on the Board and Bus Consortia website in an accessible digital format.
  • Students with disabilities should be included in any training that is provide for all students on enhanced safety rules on the bus.
  • As students with disabilities are statistically proven to be at a higher risk of infection, School Boards and Bus Consortia should implement enhanced student bus ridership attendance procedures to aid in tracing of COVID-19 and mitigating health risks.
  • Traffic volume, student and road safety is always a concern around schools. It is expected for vehicle traffic to increase when school returns, as parent/caregiver or a secondary student chooses to drive to school. School Boards should work collaboratively with Municipalities to develop safe arrival and departure awareness campaigns for students, parents/caregivers and buses. These campaigns could include guidelines for kiss & ride, audio described (DV) and closed captioned (CC) virtual or diagrams of vehicle traffic flows for entering and exiting school property from the street, identifying school bus only access areas, promote other methods of transportation, etc.

Conclusion

The Planning for Emergencies are please to provide its draft recommendations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Working Group will continue to review resources and information on barriers and issues arising from COVID-19 and as students return to school. It will start work on its mandate to develop an emergency plan framework focused on students with disabilities (that covers the phases of preparing, planning, response and recovery) for a systematic response to an emergency.

Thank you to all the members of the Planning for Emergencies Working Group for their dedication in developing this draft set of recommendations. Working Group members are:

  • Donna Edwards (Chair – Working Group)
  • Stephan Andrews
  • David Lepofsky
  • Dr. Ashleigh Malloy
  • Alison Morse
  • Rana Nasrazadani
  • Ben Smith
  • Angelo Tocco
  • Dr. Lindy Zaretsky
  • Lynn Ziraldo (Chair K-12 SDC)

Glossary

Accessibility: a general term for the degree of ease that something (e.g., device, service, physical environment and information) can be accessed, used and enjoyed by persons with disabilities. The term implies conscious planning, design and/or effort to make sure something is barrier-free to persons with disabilities. Accessibility also benefits the general population, by making things more usable and practical for everyone, including older people and families with small children.

Accessible: does not have obstacles for people with disabilities – something that can be easily reached or obtained; facility that can be easily entered; information that is easy to access.

Accessible digital format: Information that is provided in digital form that is accessible such as HTML and MS Word.

Synchronous learning: is the kind of learning that happens in real time. This means that you, your classmates, and your instructor interact in a specific virtual place, through a specific online medium, at a specific time. In other words, it’s not exactly anywhere, anyhow, anytime. Methods of synchronous online learning include video conferencing, teleconferencing, live chatting, and live-streaming lectures.

Asynchronous learning: happens on your schedule. While your course of study, instructor or degree program will provide materials for reading, lectures for viewing, assignments for completing, and exams for evaluation, you have the ability to access and satisfy these requirements within a flexible time frame. Methods of asynchronous online learning include self-guided lesson modules, streaming video content, virtual libraries, posted lecture notes, and exchanges across discussion boards or social media platforms.

Distance Education Program: Programs to provide courses of study online, through correspondence, or by other means that do not require the physical attendance by the student at a school. (From Bill 197)

Special Education Services – As defined in the Education Act, “facilities and resources, including support personnel and equipment, necessary for developing and implementing a special education program”.

Virtual learning: is defined as learning that can functionally and effectively occur in the absence of traditional classroom environments (Simonson & Schlosser, 2006).

Virtual education: refers to instruction in a learning environment where teacher and student are separated by time or space, or both, and the teacher provides course content through course management applications, multimedia resources, the Internet, videoconferencing, etc. Students receive the content and communicate with the teacher via the same technologies.

Virtual learning environment: refers to a system that offers educators digitally-based solutions aimed at creating interactive, active learning environments. VLEs can help educators create, store and disseminate content, plan courses and lessons and foster communication between student and educator. Virtual learning environments are often part of an education institution’s wider learning management system (LMS).

Virtual instruction: is a method of teaching that is taught either entirely online or when elements of face-to-face courses are taught online through learning management systems and other educational tools and platforms. Virtual instruction also includes digitally transmitting course materials to student.

Resources

Mental Health

Public Health Guidance and Safety

 

Tools/Best Practices

Stakeholder Reports and Information

Additional Reading



Source link

More Helpful Media Coverage and More Organizations Endorse the AODA Alliance Brief to the Ford Government on How to Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic


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/

More Helpful Media Coverage and More Organizations Endorse the AODA Alliance Brief to the Ford Government on How to Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

June 30, 2020

          SUMMARY

With the delight of summer and the ongoing terrible stress of COVID-19 both upon us, here is a grab-bag of latest news in our multi-front campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities. We wish one and all a safe, happy and accessible Canada Day.

1. Support Keeps Growing for the June 18, 2020 AODA Alliance Brief to the Ford Government on Protecting Students with Disabilities During the Transition to School Re-opening

An impressive list of 12 disability-related organizations have now endorsed the 19 recommendations to the Ford Government in the June 18, 2020 AODA Alliance brief on what needs to be done to meet the needs of students with disabilities during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the transition to school re-openings. Those organizations now include:

  1. March of Dimes of Canada
  2. Citizens with Disabilities Ontario
  3. Community Living Ontario
  4. Spinal Cord Injury Ontario
  5. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind
  6. the Inclusive Design Research Centre of the Ontario college of Art and Design University
  7. Physicians of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Advocacy
  8. Balance for Blind Adults
  9. The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network – Elgin, London, Middlesex, Oxford
  10. Ontario Parents of Visually Impaired Children (Views for the Visually Impaired)
  11. Ontario Autism Coalition
  12. Integration Action for Inclusion

As we announced on June 26,2020, our brief’s recommendations have also been endorsed by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. OSSTF is the union that represents thousands of public high school teachers. Thus our recommendations have a broad consensus of support from a diversity of voices within the front lines of the disability community and from teachers who work at the front lines of our education system.

It is not too late for you as an individual, or for an organization with which you are connected, to write the Ministry of Education to endorse the AODA Alliance’s June 18, 2020 brief on school re-openings. Email the Ontario Government at [email protected] to support our June 18, 2019 brief. We’d welcome the chance to add more organizations to this list.

 2. What Has TVO Done to Fix Its Website Accessibility Problems?

The Ford Government has repeatedly announced that it has partnered with TVO to deliver online learning content to students during distance learning, while schools are closed due to COVID-19. Back on May 4, 2020, we made public the fact that there are significant accessibility problems with the online learning resources offered on the website of TVO, Ontario’s publicly-owned and operated public education TV network. This was revealed during the May 4, 2020 virtual town hall that was jointly organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition on meeting the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. We are proud that since then, over 1,600 people have watched that virtual town hall. It is still available online for you to watch, and for you to share with others to watch!

Since we revealed this problem, the AODA Alliance has expressed its concerns in detail to TVO in a 30-minute phone call on May 14, 2020 between AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and the TVO vice president for digital content. The AODA Alliance followed this up with a detailed letter to TVO’s digital content vice president on May 21, 2020. We have also raised this issue at the highest levels within the Ministry of Education. The Ministry oversees TVO.

Since then, we have not heard a word from TVO. TVO has not told us of anything it has done, if it has done anything, to act on the serious accessibility problems we identified and the concrete recommendations for action that we offered.

 3. More Media on the Impact of COVID-19on People with Disabilities

For more than three months, our media has devoted most of its attention to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite that, it has been incredibly hard for the disability community to get sufficient and appropriate media attention on the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on people with disabilities, and on the failure of our governments to effectively address the unmet needs of people with disabilities during this pandemic. We have tried hard and will continue to try hard to get the media to properly cover these issues.

Set out below are three good media reports that have accrued over the past weeks that we’ve wanted to share with you:

  1. An article in the June 23, 2020 Mississauga News on the barriers for people with disabilities that are threatened by Mississauga’s approach to allowing restaurants to open patios to serve the public. For practical suggestions on how to ensure such patios are accessible to people with disabilities, and don’t create barriers to people with disabilities, check out a list of tips from DesignAble Environments, an accessible design consulting firm.
  2. The May 6,2020 Global News report on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, and
  3. The May 5, 2020 report in QP Briefing on the virtual town hall organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition on meeting the needs of students with disabilities during COVID-19.

 4. Delay and Delay and More Delay from the Ford Government

There have now been 516 days, or a full year and a half, 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 serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been fully 97 days, or over three months, 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.

Visit the AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page to see what we have been up to, trying to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis are properly addressed. Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected]. Please stay safe!

          MORE DETAILS

 Mississauga News June 23, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.mississauga.com/news-story/10039099–waived-all-the-red-tape-mississauga-to-allow-more-bar-and-restaurant-patios-starting-wednesday/

‘Waived all the red tape’: Mississauga to allow more bar and restaurant patios starting Wednesday

Patios could be ‘navigational nightmare,’ accessibility advocate says

NEWS Jun 23, 2020 By Steve Cornwell Mississauga News

When Ontario allows Mississauga bars and restaurants to serve customers outdoors starting Wednesday, June 24, you may see proliferation of patios in the city.

Mississauga council is moving forward with a temporary bylaw relaxing restrictions and fees on restaurant patios in strip mall parking lots, public streets and on sidewalks.

Prior to the new bylaw, restaurants patios were permitted on private property in Mississauga’s downtown area, Port Credit or where the city has allowed them through a zoning variance.

The new rules apply to the city’s five business improvement areas and wherever restaurants have their own entrances.

Restaurant patios can extend for free once establishments reopen: province

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the move is meant to help restaurants and bars revive revenues impacted by the COIVD-19 pandemic.

“We’ve waived all the red tape,” she said. “We’ve waived all the fees and we’re just telling them to get ready because as soon as they get the green light from the province to open Phase 2 they can start serving.”

Peel Region, including Mississauga, is not yet in the province’s Stage 2 reopening phase, which allows restaurants and bars to host patrons on outdoor patios. The province will allow Peel to move to that stage June 24.

Until then, the city would continue to enforce COVID-19 emergency orders forbidding restaurants and bars from having services beyond takeaway and delivery, according to Mississauga’s planning commissioner, Andrew Whittemore.

Patios on sidewalks and on public streets would still require a temporary permit. Parking lot patios in strip malls would also need to be permitted by property managers.

Crombie also said inspectors will be out ensuring that the patios meet Mississauga’s building standards.

But accessibility advocate David Lepofsky said a sudden surge of new furniture on sidewalks could be a big proplem for individuals that use mobility devices or have low vision.

“For people like me who are blind, those patios that stick out on the sidewalk are just a big navigational nightmare in the best of times,” said Lepofsky, who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. “And they can be unpredictable. It’s there one day; it’s not there the next day.”

He said problems for people with accessibility needs could be intensified during the pandemic as there are more concerns around interacting with others for help to get around obstacles.

“Ordinarily if you got something that’s a little uncertain (in your path) you could just ask a stranger,” he said.

“But that means that I take your arm. Well, I don’t want to take your arm and you don’t want me taking your arm because now we’re not two metres apart.”

City council still needs to hold a July 8 planning and development meeting to officially pass the temporary bylaw. However, it voted to relax enforcement on patios that would be allowed under the new rule — after Mississauga enters Stage 2 — in the meantime.

Toronto is moving ahead with a similar program, CaféTO, which aims to streamline the placement of temporary sidewalk and curb lane patios, once permitted.

That program requires a minimum 2.1 metres of clearance for pedestrians and for any patio installation to be cane-detectable, meaning individuals with low or no vision can use their white-cane to navigate around it.

 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, 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 it’s really hard work to support people who were left alone.”

 QP Briefing May 5, 2020

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

Jack Hauen

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.”



Source link

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)



Source link

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.



Source link

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]



Source link

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.





Source link