Toronto Pearson First Airport in Canada to Offer Innovative Technology to Improve Accessibility for Travellers with Sight Loss


Aira, a mobile phone app, provides assistive services to passengers who are blind or low vision July 16, 2019

TORONTO, ONTARIO Today, Toronto Pearson announced it is now offering Aira service, a leading-edge assistive technology, to help travellers with sight loss navigate the airport independently. Using the Aira iPhone or Android mobile phone application, passengers can connect to a specially trained, human agent for navigational assistance as they journey through the airport. Toronto Pearson is the first airport in Canada to offer Aira to its passengers.

“At Toronto Pearson, we have a vision to be the best airport in the world, and this starts with ensuring that our passengers-all of our passengers-are
able to navigate the airport independently,” says Kurush Minocher, Associate Director, Passenger Development, at the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA). “We are proud to bring Aira’s easy-to-use service to Toronto Pearson. Passengers with sight loss now have more choice in how they travel through the airport, from curb to gate.”

Aira works via a smartphone or optional Aira Horizon video-equipped smart glasses, connecting passengers with sight loss to remotely located Aira agents.

Through the smart glasses or phone camera, Aira’s trained professionals provide on-demand, personalized access to visual information to help passengers navigate the airport. Aira service is available in both Terminals 1 and 3 and within Toronto Pearson parking facilities.

“The CNIB Foundation has been working in close consultation with the GTAA to identify ways to improve the travel experience for passengers with sight loss at Canada’s largest airport,” says Shane Silver, Vice-President, Social Enterprise & Innovation, Canadian National Institute for the Blind. “This announcement is a positive step on the journey to improving airport accessibility for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted. We commend the GTAA for its ongoing commitment to inclusivity.”

Aira is a subscription service, but passengers with sight loss will be able to use Aira technology for free at Toronto Pearson; all that is required is a smartphone and the Aira application, which can be downloaded for free from Google Play or the Apple App Store (data charges may apply).

“Aira’s mission is to make information instantly accessible, anytime, anywhere,” says Suman Kanuganti, President and Founder of Aira. “We’re excited to welcome Toronto Pearson as our first Aira Airport Access Partner in Canada.”

For instructions on how to use Aira at Toronto Pearson, please visit http://www.torontopearson.com/aira. To learn more about Aira, please visit http://www.aira.io.

About the Greater Toronto Airports Authority

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) is the operator of Toronto Pearson International Airport. For the second straight year Toronto Pearson has been voted by passengers as the Best Large Airport in North America serving more than 40 million annual passengers, as recognized by Airports Council International’s(ACI) Airport Service Quality (ASQ) program, the only global benchmarking survey that assesses passenger satisfaction at the airport on their day of travel.

Toronto Pearson served more than 49.5 million passengers in 2018, making it Canada’s busiest airport. With 163 international routes, Toronto Pearson is also North America’s most internationally connected airport.

Contact:
GTAA Media Office |
[email protected]|
(416) 776-3709



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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

June 21, 2019

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          MORE DETAILS

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

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

1. Starting on a Positive Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Stakeholder:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Raymond Cho

Minister



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CBC National News Reveals Appalling Incidents of Accessibility Failures in Air Travel in Canada – Yet More Proof that the Canadian Transportation Agency has been Ineffective at Ensuring Accessibility for Air Travel Passengers with Disabilities in Canada


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

CBC National News Reveals Appalling Incidents of Accessibility Failures in Air Travel in Canada – Yet More Proof that the Canadian Transportation Agency has been Ineffective at Ensuring Accessibility for Air Travel Passengers with Disabilities in Canada

June 4, 2019

          SUMMARY

On June 2 and 3, 2019, CBC TV and radio national news broke a story of two appalling failures to ensure proper accessibility for air travel passengers in Canada. These were two episodes at the Vancouver Airport where passengers using wheelchairs were left stranded in the airport for hours by airline ground assistance staff. CBC asked the AODA Alliance to comment on the incidents which CBC had uncovered.

These reports were included in the June 2, 2019 edition of CBC TV’s “The National” and CBC national radio’s “World Report” broadcast on June 3, 2019. We offer four important observations:

  1. These are not the only such incidents that air travellers have reported. As a result of this CBC report, on June 3, 2019, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to appear on the Fight Back program on Toronto’s Zoomer Radio station, hosted by Libby Znaimer. Two callers to the program said they had experienced somewhat similar incidents. The podcast of that program is available at https://www.zoomerradio.ca/show/fight-back-on-zoomer-radio/fight-back-on-zoomer-radio-podcast/treatment-vulnerable-passengers-airlines-june-03-2019/

These disability accommodations in air travel must be consistent and reliable. Even if such appalling incidents are the exception, passengers with disabilities should not be left to fear that they might be the victim of such treatment.

  1. This is a further illustration of the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA’s) poor long-term track-record of regulating airlines in the area of accessibility. It is because of the poor CTA track-record in this area that we and others in the disability community had urged the Federal Government to assign the regulation of air travel accessibility to the new Canada Accessibility Commissioner. Instead, and over our objection, Bill C-81, the new Accessible Canada Act, leaves the CTA as mainly in charge of regulating air travel accessibility.
  1. It is good that the CTA has decided to propose regulations to set some accessibility standards in the area of air travel. However, as our April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA shows, those proposed regulations are too weak. This story should be a wake-up call to the CTA to listen to us and strengthen those proposed regulations.
  1. It should not be left to individual victims of such inexcusable treatment to have to file complaints with the CTA. If the victim is just flying into Canada for a visit and then returning home, they likely would not incur the expense and inconvenience of returning to Canada just to litigate a complaint before the CTA. For meaningful reform, we need the CTA to do its own strong “secret shopper” monitoring of airlines to catch deficiencies in the efforts of airlines or airports.
  1. The troubling incidents of accessibility failures about which CBC reported took place at the Vancouver International Airport. We note that on December 5, 2018, the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process announced that it gave the Vancouver International Airport a gold rating for accessibility. This is the Rick Hansen Foundation’s highest accessibility rating.

This illustrates some of the serious problems with such a private accessibility certification process. We have previously raised our serious concerns with the whole idea of a private accessibility certification process.

We recognize that such a private accessibility certification process may only examine a building, and not the services provided in that building. That is part of the problem. Those hearing that an airport got a “gold” certification can well be expected not to draw fine distinctions between the accessibility of an airport building on the one hand, and the accessibility of the services provided in that airport on the other.

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

CBC TV The National June 2, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/seniors-abandoned-by-airlines-in-wheelchairs-1.5154364

Edmonton GO PUBLIC

‘Appalling treatment’: Couple in wheelchairs left alone for almost 12 hours at Vancouver airport

Airlines are shirking responsibility to accommodate disabled passengers, advocate says

Rosa Marchitelli CBC News · Posted: Jun 02, 2019 6:00 PM MT | Last Updated: 5 hours ago

Narayan Karki, left, and her husband, Chhaya, right, missed their flight from Vancouver to Edmonton after being left in their wheelchairs without assistance for hours at the airport. They were travelling from Nepal to visit their son, Mohan, shown at centre. (Rosa Marchitelli/CBC)

The son of an elderly couple says he wants two major airlines to stop blaming each other and take responsibility for abandoning his parents in their wheelchairs for half a day, with no help to access food, water or a washroom.

Mohan Karki’s parents, who don’t speak English and require assistance to travel, were found almost 12 hours after being dropped off at a service counter at the Vancouver airport — just not by the airlines responsible for assisting them during their trip, WestJet and Cathay Pacific.

“We were thinking they were somewhere in the corner of the airport … not knowing where to go,” said Karki. “My parents told me, ‘We never left this place’ … 12 hours they were there. They tried to communicate with some other people, passersby, and nobody responded to them. Maybe they couldn’t understand what they were saying.”

On Feb. 23, Chhaya and Narayan Karki, aged 66 and 69, were on the final leg of a trip from their home in Kathmandu, Nepal, to visit their son and his family in Edmonton, with a stopover in Vancouver.

Mohan Karki said Cathay Pacific told him it delivered his parents to the WestJet customer service counter at the airport, and WestJet was to transport the pair to the gate for their final flight to Edmonton.

The Karkis sat just steps from the WestJet service counter at the Vancouver airport for almost 12 hours, until the RCMP found them.  (Rosa Marchitelli/CBC)

When his parents failed to arrive, a worried Karki spent hours on the phone trying to track them down. They didn’t have a cellphone. “For about six or seven hours, I kept on calling both airlines, but they never found my parents,” he said.

Karki then called the RCMP. It took officers 20 minutes to find the couple, located just steps from the service counter.

The couple had placards with Karki’s name and phone number, in case of an emergency. No one responded when they tried to get help by holding them up, he said.

According to an Ontario-based advocate for people with disabilities, services for those who need assistance travelling are “unreliable and inconsistent” because airlines are allowed to set their own rules — instead of being told to meet specific standards.

“It is appalling treatment … the regulator should make it clear that [airlines] can’t pass the buck to each other,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Left at the wrong gate for 8 hours

Thanh Phan shares that frustration; the same thing happened to his 76-year-old mother at the same airport.

In August, Niem Thi Le, who has trouble walking and doesn’t speak English, was left in a wheelchair for eight hours after being dropped off at the wrong departure gate by WestJet.

Le was on her way home to Hanoi, Vietnam, after visiting family in Victoria. WestJet was supposed to connect her with China Southern Airlines for her next flight.

“My mom told me that the wheelchair attendant just left her there without talking to anyone.… I was shocked … this is a human being,” Phan said.

Niem Thi Le, 76, was on her way back to Vietnam after visiting her family in Victoria. She missed her flight after being left at the wrong gate at the Vancouver airport.  (Submitted by Thanh Phan)

An employee with another airline eventually noticed Le sitting alone, found someone who could speak Vietnamese and brought the woman to the China Southern Airlines counter.

That airline contacted Phan and suggested he call WestJet to find out what happened. He did, asking if someone could help his mother until he could get there himself.

“I said, ‘Could you please help her give her some food and drinks.’… They said, no, they didn’t do anything wrong and that’s not their business,” Phan said.

He called China Southern Airlines back and it agreed to help, bringing Le a hamburger and a

drink.

‘They did not think it’s a serious problem’

Phan complained to customer service and WestJet apologized, saying it would review its internal process. But he said the airline never got back to him to explain what happened.

WestJet also told him travellers who don’t speak English shouldn’t be travelling alone, he said, though they offered him a $100 travel voucher.

“It’s very frustrating because they blame passengers, and they did not think that is a serious problem.”

Phan said he was ‘shocked’ to receive a phone call from South China Airlines, telling him his mother had missed her flight and he needed to come pick her up.  (Mike McArthur/CBC)

WestJet ‘reaching out to the families involved’

Both Phan and Karki are still demanding an explanation from the airlines involved in their respective cases.

“We sincerely apologize for the stress and worry that these guests and their families experienced,” WestJet’s media relations manager Lauren Stewart wrote in an email to Go Public.

“The nature of these incidents is serious, and we are in touch with both airline partners involved to investigate and make enhancements to our processes to prevent this type of incident from happening again. We are also reaching out to the families involved.”

Karki says Cathay Pacific told him it took his parents to the WestJet counter, but the couple never made it on their next flight. They spent almost 12 hours sitting in wheelchairs at the airport.  (CBC)

The airline says it provides mobility assistance to more than 900 guests per day.

Cathay Pacific told Go Public it was sorry to hear what happened to the Karkis, adding it followed “standard operating procedure” when it delivered the couple to WestJet staff and exchanged wheelchairs.

“The proper turnover to WestJet was made by our staff. Additionally, we are in the process of reviewing this situation with WestJet and we will apply learnings from this experience to future transitions between our airlines,” wrote Julie Jarratt, the airline’s communications director.

‘I dread entering Canadian airspace’

Lepofsky, who is blind, said he’s had his own problems travelling. “I dread entering Canadian airspace if I’m travelling alone … not because the service is always bad, but because it’s not reliably and consistently good.”

Airlines have a duty to accommodate passengers with disabilities under Canada’s human rights laws, he said. But when that doesn’t happen, it’s tough to figure out where to turn for help.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says services for those with disabilities are ‘unreliable and inconsistent’ when it comes to air travel in Canada.  (Gary Morton/CBC)

“There are multiple agencies involved,” Lepofsky said. “The Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Transportation Agency — and you could be kicked from one to the other, trying to figure out where you’re supposed to go.

“The Canadian Transportation Agency, where you’re often kicked to, does not, from the perspective of people with disabilities, have a good track record in this area.”

Proposed rules require airlines to take responsibility

The CTA says it’s aware some of the standards are out of date and a binding set of rules is needed. Until now, accessible transportation has been governed by mostly voluntary codes of practice.

The agency has proposed new accessible transportation regulations for airlines and all travel providers. The new rules would be legally binding and impose penalties up to $25,000 for non-compliance. And if another proposed law passes, the Accessible Canada Act, that fine could jump to a maximum of $250,000.

“They need to make sure that passengers don’t fall between the cracks,” said Scott Streiner, chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

CTA chair and CEO Scott Streiner says his agency has proposed legally binding regulation for accessible transportation.  (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

Under the CTA’s proposed rules, airlines would have to provide people who need assistance a place to wait, near personnel who can assist them and will “periodically inquire” about the person’s needs.

Airports would be responsible for providing assistance from curbside to check-in, while the airlines would be responsible from check-in to boarding.

Streiner said the proposed recommendations would have helped in both cases. The agency plans to have the final regulations published before summer and hopes to have the majority of requirements in place in about a year.

“Persons who require wheelchair assistance, including older Canadians, absolutely are covered by these regulations,” Streiner said. “We want to make sure that there’s no confusion about who’s providing assistance and that people aren’t left without assistance.”

As for Karki, he said that the next time his parents visit, he won’t leave them in the hands of the airlines. Instead, he’ll try to match their itinerary with other Nepali-speaking travellers.

After hearing from Go Public, WestJet called Karki last week, promising an explanation once it looks into what went wrong.

Phan said WestJet has yet to follow up with him, adding that his mother is now afraid to travel and will no longer come visit.

Submit your story ideas

Go Public is an investigative news segment on CBC-TV, radio and the web.

We tell your stories and hold the powers that be accountable.

We want to hear from people across the country with stories you want to make public.

Submit your story ideas at [email protected].



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Give Blind LRT Riders Enough Time to Prepare, Advocates Urge


City says familiarization session will be booked once LRT handover date is confirmed Matthew Kupfer · CBC News · Posted: May 19, 2019

Lorne Neufeldt is worried he and his guide dog Herbie could end up in dangerous situations on Ottawa’s new light rail line if the city doesn’t give accessibility experts enough time to assess the system.

Advocates for people with vision loss want the city to make sure there’s enough time for them to prepare to ride light rail safely.

Lorne Neufeldt, who commutes on OC Transpo with his guide dog Herbie, said he’s concerned the city hasn’t yet announced specific days for accessibility professionals to become familiar with the stations and trains on Ottawa’s forthcoming Confederation line.

“We don’t know what we’re going into. They’re not giving us enough time. They’re talking about giving us one or two days before opening it up to the public,” Neufeldt said.

Neufeldt’s guide dog Herbie helps him navigate OC Transpo as he travels from Ottawa’s west end to downtown.

Neufeldt, who also works for the Canadian Council of the Blind, said guide dog trainers and other professionals need notice to come to Ottawa and assess the situation.

“They will be able to teach us where we need to stand, which cars we would need to go into, where the best line of travel would be and how to train the dogs properly,” he said.

‘Prior access’ needed

Duane Morgan, executive director for CNIB Eastern Ontario, says the organization which advocates for people with vision loss is still asking the city for a date for advanced access.

That would allow orientation and mobility specialists to look for any problems with the stations.

“It’s going to be very important for us to get that prior access to the LRT to take a look at it so we can be prepared,” Morgan said.

“[We can] also give any feedback on changes that could possibly made at that time.”

Duane Morgan, executive director of CNIB Eastern Ontario, says the organization has tried to be proactive about accessibility issues for future LRT users who are blind or partially sighted.

While the opening date of the LRT line has been delayed more than once, Morgan said he hopes the city will still take the time to address any issues that arise during their test run.

“We’re hoping that accessibility takes priority over any other sort of delays,” he said.

Morgan said CNIB has advocated for the use of audio announcements, large text, and textured floors that would provide warnings of hazards and edges for people who use canes.

However, he said he’s not sure how the city has implemented that feedback.

Date to be determined

In a statement, OC Transpo says it’s planning to provide outreach and familiarization sessions for customers who indicate specific requirements, including people who are blind or partially sighted.

The date of those sessions will be set once the city confirms the handover of the LRT with the Rideau Transit Group, the consortium building the line, OC Transpo said.

The transit agency also said light rail was designed to adhere to Ontario’s accessibility legislation.

The city has held meetings with stakeholders over the years of the design process, including a presentation to the city’s accessibility advisory committee in 2013

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-lrt-accessibility-vision-loss-blind-1.5141002



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More Specifics on the Amendments to Bill C-81 (the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate’s Standing Committee Passed and that We Want the House of Commons to Ratify – Still No Commitment by the Federal Government to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

More Specifics on the Amendments to Bill C-81 (the Proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the Senate’s Standing Committee Passed and that We Want the House of Commons to Ratify – Still No Commitment by the Federal Government to Ratify All the Senate’s Amendments

May 9, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here’s the latest news regarding Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It has reached the final stage in its debates in Canada’s Senate, Third Reading debates. That is expected to wind up by May 16, which happens to Be Global Accessibility Awareness Day. the Federal Government has still not committed to pass all the amendments that the Senate’s Standing Committee made to the bill at the disability community’s request to improve it.

  1. We now have the exact wording of the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate’s Standing Committee passed on May 2, 2019. Below we set out the formal report of that Standing Committee to the Senate. That report lists the specific amendments.

These amendments improve the bill. However, they do not include all the improvements that disability organizations and advocates sought, including the AODA Alliance.

The amendments include:

* Setting 2040 as the end date for Canada to become accessible;

* Ensuring that this 2040 timeline does not justify any delay in removing and preventing accessibility barriers as soon as reasonably possible;

* Recognizing American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages as the primary languages for communication used by Deaf people;

* Making it a principle to govern the bill that multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities must be considered;

* Ensuring that Bill C-81 and regulations made under it cannot cut back on the human rights of people with disabilities guaranteed by the Canadian Human Rights Act;

* Ensuring that the Canadian Transportation Agency cannot reduce existing human rights protections for passengers with disabilities when the Agency handles complaints about barriers in transportation; and

* Fixing problems the Federal Government identified between the bill’s employment provisions and legislation governing the RCMP.

  1. The ARCH Disability Law Centre has posted online a helpful explanation of these amendments. We set it out below.
  1. When a Senate Standing Committee reports back to the whole Senate on a bill it has studied, it can include in its report “observations” about the bill. These set out the Committee’s advice to the Federal Government. They are not binding on the Government, but are meant to put real pressure on the Government to address them.

The Senate Standing Committee’s report, set out below, included two observations about Bill C-81. The first observation, under the heading “Federal Contracts,” commendably raises a concern that the AODA Alliance has raised for some time. It states:

“Your committee heard concerns that despite this legislation, federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that do not always meet accessibility standards. Therefore, we encourage the federal government to ensure that when public money is spent or transferred, the funding should never be used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided.”

The Committee’s second observation “…strongly encourages the government to create standardized, effective training that will ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.”

  1. The Federal Government has still not publicly said whether it will pass all the Senate’s amendments to Bill C-81. On May 6, 2019, we wrote federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough to ask her Government to commit to do so. She has not yet responded to us.

Of special importance are the Senate’s amendments that set 2040 as the end timeline for Canada to become fully accessible to people with disabilities. The minister has in the past spoken in opposition to amendments that would make this change to the bill.

Of interest, the minister yesterday was asked about this in the House of Commons. On May 8, 2019, she appeared before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Human Resources (the HUMA Committee). Conservative MP (and Committee vice-chair) John Barlow asked Minister Qualtrough whether she would support passage of all the amendments that the Senate made to Bill C-81. We express our thanks to MP  Barlow for raising this with the minister.

In this request, MP Barlow specifically mentioned the amendments setting 2040 as the time line for reaching accessibility.

In her response, the Minister said:

“I certainly was open, as I told senators, to amendments within their process, but I’m very mindful that of course that is their process to run. I’m looking at their suggestions, looking at what the government thinks would be the best for this law and I’m open to many of their amendments, yes.”

It is not news that the Minister is open to “many” of the Senate’s amendments. Of the 11 amendments passed, a majority of them were proposed in the Senate by the Government’s own sponsor of the bill, Senator Jim Munson, or had been the subject of prior Government signals of support for them.

The only real open question is over setting the 2040 timeline. Four of the amendments speak to this.

The Minister did not say that she is open to all of the Senate’s amendments. That is why we need as many of you as possible to now email or tweet the Federal Government to press for the Government to support all the Senate’s amendments to the bill.

To get action tips on how you can help press the Federal Government to agree to pass ALL the amendments to Bill C-81 that the Senate passed, and to read our May 6, 2019 letter to federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough (explaining why we need all these amendments passed), visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/help-our-new-blitz-to-get-the-house-of-commons-to-swiftly-ratify-all-the-amendments-to-bill-c-81the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-that-the-senate-standing-committee-has-passed/

To find your MP’s email address or Twitter handle, visit https://www.ourcommons.ca/en and search for their contact information.

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the Report to the Senate of Canada on Bill C-81 by the Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

Originally posted at https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/report/74724/42-1

May 7, 2019

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to present its

THIRTY-FOURTH REPORT

Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, has, in obedience to the order of reference of March 21, 2019, examined the said bill and now reports the same with the following amendments:

  1. Preamble, page 1: Replace line 15 with the following:

“bility without delay complements the rights of persons with disabil-”.

  1. Clause 5, page 3: Replace line 13 with the following:

“ers, on or before January 1, 2040, particularly by the identification and removal of bar-”.

  1. Clause 5.1, page 4: Replace lines 1 to 5 with the following:

5.1 (1) The area of communication referred to in paragraph 5(c.1)

(a) includes the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous sign languages; and

(b) does not include broadcasting as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Broadcasting Act or telecommunications as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Telecommunications Act.

(2) American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous sign languages are recognized as the primary languages for communication by deaf persons in Canada.”.

  1. New clause 5.2, page 4: Add the following after line 5:

5.2 Nothing in this Act, including its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers, should be construed as requiring or authorizing any delay in the removal of barriers or the implementation of measures to prevent new barriers as soon as is reasonably possible.”.

  1. Clause 6, page 4:

(a) Replace lines 12 to 14 with the following:

“wish to have regardless of their disabilities;”; and

(b) replace lines 22 to 26 with the following:

“must take into account the disabilities of persons, the different ways that persons interact with their environments and the multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination faced by persons;

(f) persons with disabilities must be involved in the development and design of laws, policies, programs, services and structures; and

(g) the development and revision of accessibility stan-”.

  1. Clause 11, page 6: Replace line 6 with the following:

“Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040.”.

  1. Clause 18, page 7: Replace line 14 with the following:

“tribute to the realization of a Canada without barriers, on or before January 1, 2040,”.

  1. Clause 94, page 54:

(a)  Replace lines 9 to 17 with the following:

(4) An individual is not entitled to file a complaint in re-”; and

(b) replace line 22 with the following:

(5) The Accessibility Commissioner must cause a written”.

  1. New clause 121.1, page 67: Add the following after line 21 :

121.1 For greater certainty, nothing in any provision of this Act or the regulations limits a regulated entity’s duty to accommodate under any other Act of Parliament.”.

  1. Clause 143, page 77: Replace line 10 with the following:

“subsection 94(5), 96(1), 100(2), 101(2) or 103(3), the Ac-”.

  1. Clause 172, pages 88 to 91:

(a) On page 88, replace line 37 with the following:

172 Section 172 of the Act is replaced by”;

(b) on page 89,

(i) replace lines 3 to 12 with the following:

(2) On determining that there is an undue barrier to the”, and

(ii) replace lines 34 and 35 with the following:

(3) If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”;

(c)  on page 90, replace line 25 with the following:

172.2 (1) For the purpose of paragraphs 172(2)(d) and”;

(d) on page 91, replace line 5 with the following:

“graphs 172(2)(b) and (c) and 172.1(2)(b) and (c) may in-”; and

(e) renumber the remaining clauses and amend all references to them accordingly.

Your committee has also made certain observations, which are appended to this report.

Respectfully submitted,

JUDITH G. SEIDMAN

Deputy Chair

Observations

to the thirty-fourth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill C-81)

Federal Contracts:

Your committee heard concerns that despite this legislation, federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that do not always meet accessibility standards. Therefore, we encourage the federal government to ensure that when public money is spent or transferred, the funding should never be used to create or perpetuate disability-related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided.

Training:

Your committee is concerned that while the goal of this legislation is to prevent, identify and remove disability-related barriers, this legislation does not sufficiently emphasize how important the education and training of front-line personnel is in accomplishing that end. Your committee strongly encourages the government to create standardized, effective training that will ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.

ARCH Disability Law Centre Analysis of the Senate Standing Committee’s Amendments to Bill C-81

Originally posted at https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/update-se

May 7, 2019

Update: Senate Committee Adopts Amendments which Strengthen Bill C-81- Accessible Canada Act

Introduction

Bill C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada, continues its journey through the legislative process. If it becomes law, this Act may lead to new requirements for advancing accessibility in federal employment, transportation, services, information and communications, and other areas.

On May 2, 2019 the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) made a number of amendments to Bill C-81. Many of these amendments were adopted in response to the written and oral submissions that the Senate received from disability groups and members of disability communities across Canada. ARCH supported disability communities in their advocacy, and made our own oral and written submissions to the Senate. A common theme among these submissions was the need for the Senate to make changes to strengthen Bill C-81 and ensure that it achieves its purpose of a barrier-free Canada.

What Amendments Did the Senate Committee Adopt?

Including Timelines: SOCI adopted amendments which add a timeline of 2040 for realizing a barrier-free Canada. Amendments also clarify that this timeline does not authorize any delay in removing or preventing barriers to accessibility, and that action to advance accessibility should be taken as soon as reasonably possible. Including timelines is an important accountability mechanism, which many disability organizations advocated for, including the AODA Alliance, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and ARCH.

Taking Intersectionality Into Account: SOCI adopted an amendment which incorporates intersectionality into the principles of Bill C-81. Laws, policies, programs, services and structures must take into account disability and the multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities. This change means that organizations will have to take into account intersectionality when developing their accessibility plans. Throughout the legislative process, ARCH and other disability organizations have consistently advocated for incorporating barriers related to intersectionality into Bill C-81. Persons with disabilities and disability communities have been firm that laws, policies and programs about disability and accessibility must address the lived experiences of whole persons, not just their disabilities.

Protecting Existing Human Rights of People with Disabilities: SOCI adopted an amendment which clarifies that nothing in Bill C-81 or its regulations limits the legal obligations that organizations already have to accommodate persons with disabilities under the Canadian Human Rights Act and any other federal laws. ARCH and other disability advocacy groups highlighted to SOCI the importance of this amendment.

Protecting Existing Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities at the Canadian Transportation Agency:  Under Bill C-81, we expect that most complaints by passengers with disabilities about barriers in air travel, train travel, and every other kind of transportation that the Federal Government regulates, will go to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). The Bill gives the CTA power to make regulations to set enforceable standards on what barriers these transportation providers must remove and prevent.

However, subsection 172(2), a provision that is currently in the Canada Transportation Act, effectively means that once the CTA make these regulations and transportation providers, like airlines, comply with these regulations, they do not need to do anything more. This is problematic because the regulations that the CTA sets may not meet the duty to accommodate protections that people with disabilities have under human rights law. Under subsection 172(2), if a passenger with a disability complained to the CTA that an airline or other transportation provider should have accommodated their disability, their case would fail if the airline complied with the CTA regulations. A more detailed analysis of this issue is in ARCH’s Final Report: Legal Analysis of Bill C-81, available by going to: https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/initiatives/advocating-for-accessibility-in-canada/arch-reports-and-recommendations/  ARCH and the AODA Alliance highlighted to SOCI the importance of repealing the problematic section 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

SOCI did not repeal subsection 172(2), but adopted an amendment which changes it. The amendment allows the CTA to find that there is a barrier to accessibility, even if the transportation provider has complied with all the CTA regulations. For passengers with disabilities, this means they could file a complaint with the CTA that they faced an undue barrier in the federal transportation system, and insist that the transportation provider do more than what the CTA regulation requires. The passenger with a disability could win their case, even if the transportation provider has complied with all the CTA regulations. However, the CTA could only order the transportation provider to take “corrective measures”. The CTA could not order the transportation provider to pay the person damages or money compensation. This is different than for other complaints to the CTA about inaccessibility of the federal transportation system. Generally for these other complaints, the CTA can order the transportation provider to take corrective measures and to pay damages to the person who complained.

Recognizing Sign Languages: Communication is one of the areas in Bill C-81 for which new accessibility standards may be created. SOCI adopted an amendment that explains that communication includes the use of American Sign Language, Quebec Sign Language and Indigenous Sign Languages. Another amendment recognizes that sign languages are the primary languages for communication by Deaf persons in Canada.

Legal recognition of sign languages is an issue that Deaf communities in Canada have long advocated for. ARCH and other disability advocacy groups supported the Canadian Association of the Deaf in calling for Bill C-81 to recognize sign languages as an important acknowledgement that sign languages are not just disability accommodations, but are important for cultural and linguistic reasons.

These are some of the amendments that the Senate Committee adopted. While the amendments made address many of the issues raised by ARCH and other disability groups, they do not deal with all of our concerns and recommendations. A number of weaknesses remain in Bill C-81. One such weakness is the use of permissive language “may” rather than directive language “shall” or “must”. This language gives government and other bodies power to make and enforce accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers. For example, the Bill allows the Government of Canada to make new accessibility regulations but does not require them to do so. Therefore, there is no assurance that such regulations, a cornerstone for advancing accessibility, will ever be made.

In addition to the amendments, the Senate Committee reported 2 observations to Bill C-81. The first addresses the concern expressed by many in the disability community that federal funding may continue to be spent on projects that perpetuate barriers. The observation encourages the federal government to ensure that any federal public money should not be used to create or perpetuate disability related barriers when it is reasonable to expect that such barriers can be avoided. The second observation emphasizes the importance of training in achieving a barrier-free Canada. It encourages the government to create standardized, effective training to ensure that all persons in Canada can expect the same level of access to all government services.

What Happens Next?

In the coming weeks, the amended Bill C-81 will come before the Senate for Third Reading. At that time, Senators will vote on whether to pass the Bill with the amendments adopted by SOCI. If the Bill passes Third Reading, it will return back to the House of Commons for approval. If it gets approval from the House, the Bill will then enter the final stages of the process to become a law.

ARCH is pleased that in response to submissions by disability communities across Canada, the Senate made a number of important amendments to strengthen Bill C-81.

Now, the Senate and the House of Commons must both act quickly to allow enough time for the Bill to finish it journey through the legislative process, before the Fall federal election is called.

If you support Bill C-81 becoming law with the changes that the Senate Committee has made, write to or tweet Minister Carla Qualtrough and Members of Parliament. Let them know they should pass Bill C-81 with all the amendments. For practical tips and information on how to do this, go to the AODA Alliance’s website: www.bit.ly/2vKXmV2

More Information

Recorded video of the Senate Committee’s study of Bill C-81, with sign language interpretation, and the written submissions made by disability groups to the Senate can be found by going to: https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/soci/studiesandbills/42-1  and clicking on Bill C-81.

To read ARCH’s analysis of Bill C-81, and submissions ARCH made to the House of Commons and Senate, go to: https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/initiatives/advocating-for-accessibility-in-canada/

ARCH Disability Law Centre

55 University Avenue, 15th Floor, Toronto, ON, M5J 2H7

Phone: 416-482-8255  1-866-482-2724

TTY: 416-482-1254  1-866-482-2728

www.archdisabilitylaw.ca

 @ARCHDisabilityLawCentre

@ARCHDisability

Excerpt from the Hansard of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources on May 8, 2019

Mr. John Barlow: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My first question is to Minister Qualtrough. You were talking about the importance of barrier-free and we certainly heard from almost every single stakeholder as part of the discussion at committee on Bill C-81 on the concerns raised that the bill does not go far enough, that it does not have the metrics to ensure success or teeth to ensure that federally legislated businesses adhere to it.

Now there were dozens of amendments that we brought forward that every opposition party agreed with. None of them were supported by the government. However, many of those amendments have come forward and been accepted at the Senate. I’m just curious and I would like to know if you’re going to be supporting those amendments that have come forward from the Senate specifically adding a timeline of 2040 for Canada to be barrier-free? Are you going to support those amendments?

Hon. Carla Qualtrough: Thank you for the question. I certainly was open, as I told senators, to amendments within their process, but I’m very mindful that of course that is their process to run. I’m looking at their suggestions, looking at what the government thinks would be the best for this law and I’m open to many of their amendments, yes.

Mr. John Barlow: Thank you very much, Minister. I appreciate that.



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New Toronto Star Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Shows How and Why the Senate Should Strengthen Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, Before Passing it this Spring


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

New Toronto Star Guest Column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky Shows How and Why the Senate Should Strengthen Bill C-81, the Proposed Accessible Canada Act, Before Passing it this Spring

April 30, 2019

          SUMMARY

Just three days before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs will meet on May 2, 2019 to decide what amendments to make to Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, the Toronto Star online ran a guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below. It shows why five million people with disabilities in Canada need the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81 before the Senate passes it.

Please circulate our guest column to your friends and family. Also forward it to your member of Parliament and as many Senators as you can. You can find contact information for Canada’s Senators at https://sencanada.ca/en/senators/

Our guest column refers to the widely-viewed online video that the AODA Alliance made public last fall. That video documents serious accessibility problems at new and recently renovated public transit stations in Ontario. You can watch a 16-minute version of that video at https://youtu.be/za1UptZq82o

The new Toronto subway stations with accessibility problems, shown in that video, were built in part with federal money. Unless Bill C-81 is strengthened, the Federal Government will remain free to do that again and again with our money.

Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments, and our most recent (and even shorter) supplemental brief. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

On April 22, 2019, the Globe and Mail ran a guest column by Rick Hansen entitled “Make Canada accessible for everyone,” available at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-passing-bill-c-81-is-critical-to-making-canada-accessible-for-all/ Mr. Hansen argued why Bill C-81 should be passed, even though it may not be “perfect.”

We all know that the Senate will pass Bill C-81. The only real question is whether the Senate will first amend it, to strengthen it. We and others have been emphasizing for months that Bill C-81 is far too weak, and that people with disabilities in Canada need it strengthened.

What Mr. Hansen’s column had to say ultimately rests on one key sentence. He wrote that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “…will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.”

Unfortunately his description of Bill C-81 in that sentence is incorrect. Bill C-81 does not require any disability barriers to ever be removed in public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services or information. It doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever enact any accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. It sets no deadlines for progress towards accessibility. It doesn’t stop the Federal Government from continuing to use our money to subsidize the creation of new accessibility barriers.

We swiftly sent a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail. In it we explain why Mr. Hansen’s description of the bill is incorrect. We regret that as far as we can tell, the Globe did not publish our letter to the editor. We set that letter to the editor out below, right after our Toronto Star guest column.

Last weekend we emailed Mr. Hansen to bring this inaccuracy in his column to his attention. Given his public profile and the circulation of the Globe and Mail, we emphasized the importance of his publicly correcting his description of Bill C-81. We have not received a response.

The question is not whether the bill is “perfect.” No bill ever is. As our guest column in the Toronto Star (below) shows, the bill lacks key features that people with disabilities need and have been requesting for months, if not years.

          MORE DETAILS

Toronto Star Online April 29, 2019

OPINION

Originally posted at

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2019/04/29/liberals-failing-to-strengthen-disability-laws-as-promised.html

Liberals failing to strengthen disability laws as promised

By David Lepofsky

When it comes to ensuring accessibility for 5 million Canadians with disabilities, Canada lags far behind the U.S., which passed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act 29 years ago. Canadians with disabilities still face far too many barriers in air travel, cable TV services, and when dealing with the federal government. For example, as a blind traveller, I’ve faced these barriers. I dread returning to Canadian airspace.

It’s great that the Trudeau government promised in the last election to enact a national accessibility law. However Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act that the House of Commons passed last fall, is much weaker than what we people with disabilities need. The bill is strong on good intentions, but weak on implementation. We’re calling on the Senate to strengthen it.

The bill is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet, it doesn’t require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere.

The bill gives the federal government helpful powers to advance the goal of accessibility. However, it doesn’t require the government to use almost any of them, or set time lines for the government to act (with a minor exception). The government could drag its feet indefinitely.

It’s good that the bill lets the federal government create enforceable national accessibility standards to set accessibility rules. However, the bill doesn’t require the government to ever create any. If the government doesn’t, the bill will largely be a hollow shell.

Unlike Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation (which cannot regulate federal areas like air travel), this federal bill doesn’t set a deadline for Canada to become disability-accessible. Under Bill C-81, Canada may not become accessible to people with disabilities for hundreds of years, if ever.

The bill assigns key responsibilities for this bill to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) and CRTC. Both agencies have faltering track records for advancing disability accessibility. Both have slow, labyrinthian processes that are hard for people with disabilities to navigate.

It’s inexcusable that the bill lets the federal government continue to contribute our tax money to infrastructure projects with accessibility problems, like hospitals and subways.

For example, federal money helped finance the recent TTC subway extension up to Vaughan. Those new subway stations, like the York University stop, have real accessibility problems. Our YouTube video documents this. We need the bill to require the federal government to attach accessibility strings to projects when it uses our money to help finance them.

It’s unfair for the bill to let the CTA pass regulations that cut back on disability human rights. The CTA is now proposing new transportation regulations that threaten to cut back on the rights of passengers with disabilities in air and train travel. Thanks, but no thanks.

Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough recently told the Senate that she’s open to the Senate amending the bill, and that she wants the bill to be the best it possibly can be. Sen. Jim Munson, sponsoring the bill in the Senate, also confirmed that there will be amendments. We’re taking them up on this. We’ve proposed a short, focused set of amendments that would improve this weak bill.

If the Senate now strengthens this bill, the House of Commons has time to ratify those improvements before this fall’s election. In hearings at the House of Commons last fall, the Greens, Tories and NDP supported strengthening this bill. It’s sad that the Federal Government defeated many important amendments we sought.

With a federal election now looming closer, the Liberals have good reason to see the light, and to support amendments that strengthen this bill. They wouldn’t want to head into the fall election having just voted down measures that would help 5 million people with disabilities, many of whom are voters.

I’ve battled as a volunteer in the trenches for a quarter century on this issue, I’ve learned what accessibility legislation needs to include. Bill C-81 is weaker in some ways than Ontario’s 2005 accessibility (for whose enactment I led the decade-long campaign). A recent independent review of Ontario’s accessibility law by former Lt.-Gov. David Onley shows that Ontario’s law has not produced the progress we need.

Let’s learn from those lessons and strengthen Bill C-81. Everyone will need it, whether you have a disability now, or get one later as you get older.

David Lepofsky is the chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

Letter to the Editor Submitted by the AODA Alliance to the Globe and Mail on April 22, 2019

Via email to; [email protected]

Rick Hansen is right. Canada has a long way to go to become accessible to 5 million people with disabilities and we need federal legislation to achieve this. (Make Canada accessible for everyone April 22, 2019). He’s incorrect to state that Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act), now before Parliament “…will require the Government of Canada and organizations under its jurisdiction to ensure that public spaces, workplaces, employment, program, services and information be accessible to everyone.” Sadly it doesn’t.

The bill is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet, it doesn’t require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere. Canadians with disabilities in Canada deserve better.

The bill is strong on good intentions, but weak on implementation. It lets the Federal Government create enforceable national accessibility standards to set the rules, but doesn’t require the Government to ever pass any. It lets the Federal Government continue to contribute our tax money to infrastructure projects lacking proper accessibility, like hospitals and subways. It lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on disability human rights.

That’s why so many of us in the disability community grassroots call on Canada’s Senate to strengthen this weak bill.

If the Senate strengthens this bill, the House of Commons has time to approve those improvements. The Greens, Tories and NDP supported strengthening this bill in the House’s hearings last fall. Hopefully the Liberals will come around and support us now, with a federal election looming.

Battling as a volunteer in the trenches for a quarter century, we’ve learned what accessibility legislation needs to include. We need Bill C-81 amended now, before it is passed, to ensure it does what Rick Hansen expects.

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Visiting Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School



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AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities

April 24, 2019

          SUMMARY

On April 23, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent the Senate of Canada a short 2-page supplementary brief. It emphasizes as a priority the pressing need for the Senate to remove a harmful and outdated provision that is perpetuated in Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That provision, section 172, lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations on accessibility in transportation that can cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. There is no reason for Parliament to leave that harmful provision in place. It flies in the face of the federal Disabilities Minister’s statement to the Senate that she doesn’t want anything in the bill to reduce the human rights of people with disabilities. We set this supplementary brief out below.

There is still a week left for you to help our campaign before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs decides what amendments to make to Bill C-81. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

 

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Supplemental Brief to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Regarding Bill C-81

April 23, 2019

This supplements our March 29, 2019 brief, our April 8, 2019 short list of amendments, and our April 11, 2019 oral presentation to the Standing Committee. We elaborate on one of the 11 amendments we requested. Our proposed Amendment #7 (set out below) asks this Committee to remove s. 172 from the bill. That would remove the identically-numbered 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Section 172 lets the CTA cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. The CTA should have no power to dilute our human rights. This is a top priority for us that would benefit all passengers with any kind of disability.

What’s the problem? On April 3, 2019, Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Contradicting this, s. 172 lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. Section 172 provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

For example, if the CTA passes a regulation to set accessibility requirements in air travel, that regulation is the final word on what airlines must do to accommodate passengers with disabilities, in the specific areas it regulates. The regulation sets the maximum of the airline’s human rights obligations. Passengers with disabilities cannot bring an accessibility complaint to the CTA to demand anything more of the airline in that area, even if the passenger can show that they needed more to accommodate them, and even if it poses no undue hardship to the airline.

Assume the CTA regulation said the airline can take up to 5 hours to guide a blind passenger from the check-in desk to their airplane. That means the airline could tell passengers with disabilities that they must show up to the airport 5 hours before their flight. A passenger is not permitted to show the airline could easily accommodate this need in 2 hours and doesn’t need 5 hours. All the passenger can thereafter complain about is a delay that is longer than 5 hours.

This is not a far-fetched hypothetical risk. Last month, the CTA posted proposed transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the existing human rights of passengers with disabilities. After our Senate presentation we filed a brief with CTA objecting to this.

The proposed CTA regulations would impose a new duty on passengers with disabilities to give an airline 48 hours advance notice of a request for certain listed accommodations that they now can get without any advance notice. An airline can unilaterally expand this to a 96 hour advance notice requirement in some situations. An airline does not have to let passengers know they will demand 96 hours’ notice.

If a passenger does not give this new required advance notice, the airline only has to make “reasonable efforts” to provide the listed accommodations. This reduces the airline’s existing human rights duty to provide such needed accommodations except where the airline can show that it is impossible to do more to accommodate without undue hardship to the airline. “Undue hardship” is a much tougher test for the airline to meet than mere “reasonable efforts”.

This new legislated barrier applies to important accommodations, such as assisting passengers with disabilities to go through airport security, to get to the departure lounge and onto the airplane, telling a blind passenger on the plane where the bathroom is, letting passengers with disabilities use a larger business class bathroom on the plane if it is larger than the economy class bathroom, or telling a passenger what food options are offered on the plane.

48 hours’ advance notice is not justified for these accommodations. For them, an airline uses existing staff. If any advance notice were justified, which we dispute, two days is not.

This discriminatory new barrier especially hurts last-minute travelers, for business, for an emergency or funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened.

Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee that the CTA aims for transportation in Canada to be the most accessible in the world. These draft regulations, which the minister trumpeted, fall far short. Especially because of s. 172, we oppose the enactment of these regulations, even if they elsewhere have some helpful measures for passengers with disabilities.

The outdated s. 172 only serves the interests of transportation providers who want the CTA to dilute their human rights duties. Neither the Minister nor the CTA presented any need for s. 172. The CRTC has no corresponding provision when it enacts regulations.

We therefore ask this Committee to amend Bill C-81 to remove s. 172 of the bill, which in turn would surgically excise the identically numbered s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 7 of the AODA Alliance Amendments Package

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.



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At the Senate, Federal Disability Minister Carla Qualtrough Answers Senators’ Questions on the Weak Bill C-81 (Proposed Accessible Canada Act) – Read the AODA Alliance’s Commentary on the Minister’s Key Answers


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

At the Senate, Federal Disability Minister Carla Qualtrough Answers Senators’ Questions on the Weak Bill C-81 (Proposed Accessible Canada Act) – Read the AODA Alliance’s Commentary on the Minister’s Key Answers

April 23, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here is a rare glimpse into how the Federal Government is thinking about the concerns that we and many others have expressed about the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

On April 3, 2019, the federal minister responsible for people with disabilities, Carla Qualtrough, appeared before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to kick off that committee’s study of Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. Minister Qualtrough made an opening statement to explain and defend Bill C-81. The Senators then took turns questioning her and her senior public service official, the Director General of the Office of Disability Issues James Van Raalte.

Many of the Senators’ questions sound like they were inspired in whole or in part by the AODA Alliance’s March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate and feedback from other disability organizations with similar concerns about the bill. We express our appreciation and gratitude for the Senators doing so.

Below we set out a series of 17 important excerpts from Minister Qualtrough’s presentation, with our comments on these statements. We will post her entire presentation to the Standing Committee on our website once it becomes available.

In our comments, set out below, we respectfully disagree with some of the minister’s statements, and explain why. In other cases, we identify key comments she has made which support the narrow package of amendments to Bill C-81 that we placed before the Senate last week, and asked for their adoption.

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.`

 

Please help our campaign. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. We are so appreciative of the individuals and organizations that have already done so. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

 

          MORE DETAILS

Excerpts from Federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough’s April 3, 2019 Presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Plus AODA Alliance Commentary on Those Remarks

Excerpt 1

Minister Qualtrough: Bill C-81 complements the Human Rights Framework in Canada. It does not take anything away from existing human rights obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act or the duty to accommodate.

Our Comment: This is not correct. Section 172 of the bill re-enacts section 172 of the Canada Transportation Act. That provision provides that when the Canada Transportation Agency enacts an accessibility standard regulation, it in effect prevails over and can water down or cut back on the duty to accommodate passengers with disabilities.

If a CTA regulation says that Air Canada has an excessive five hours to help a passenger with a disability off an airplane when it arrives, that passenger cannot complain to the CTA that Air Canada could easily have accommodated them more quickly without undue hardship.

This is not a hypothetical fear. The Canadian Transportation Agency has proposed new accessibility regulations that, if passed, threaten to cut back on disability human rights. We explain this in detail in the AODA Alliance’s April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA.

We’ve been asking the Federal Government for months to remove s. 172 from the bill. The AODA Alliance’s proposed amendments to Bill C-81, now before the Senate, would remove s. 172 from that bill. That would help make the minister’s statement here become true. However the Federal Government has not yet publicly said that it would agree to a repeal of s. 172. Our 7th proposed amendment to Bill C-81, placed before the Senate, is as follows:

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.

As well, our 8th proposed amendment to Bill C-81 that we placed before the Senate provides as follows:

Section 6 should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it:

“(2) For greater certainty, in the event of any inconsistency between the provisions of this Act and the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the provisions of that Act prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.”

Excerpt 2

Minister Qualtrough: I’m extremely proud to say that the proposed accessible Canada act enjoys widespread endorsement and support from so many in the disabilities community.

Our Comment: The Federal Government has received widespread feedback from Canada’s disability community that Bill C-81 is too weak and needs to be strengthened. For example, see the Open Letter to the Federal Government which fully 95 disability organizations co-signed, and which was sent last October. See also the extensive feedback on Bill C-81 which disability organizations presented to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee. Disability organizations there repeatedly pressed for this bill to be strengthened.

Excerpt 3

Minister Qualtrough: As part of our whole-of-government approach, Bill C-81 builds upon the existing work done by regulators and, if passed, will strengthen their mandates to ensure accessibility in their sectors. This was demonstrated at the recent CTA announcement I attended, where the publication of draft accessibility regulations was announced, with the intention of making Canada’s transportation system the most accessible in the world.

Our Comment: It may at first sound good that the Canadian Transportation Agency wants to make Canada’s transportation system the most accessible one in the world. However, after a closer look, it falls far short of what people with disabilities in Canada need and deserve.

What people with disabilities deserve and are entitled to is an accessible transportation system. Bill C-81 is entitled an Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. The CTA’s much more diluted objective would be fulfilled if Canada’s transportation system were to become slightly more accessible than all others – no matter how inaccessible all others are. In other words, by the CTA’s impoverished approach to accessibility, people with disabilities in Canada could end up having to put up with many accessibility barriers in transportation forever.

As well, we noted earlier that the CTA has proposed new transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the human rights of passengers with disabilities, a very troubling development to which the AODA Alliance’s April 18, 2019 brief to the CTA objects.

Excerpt 4

Minister Qualtrough: This approach ensures that accessibility is everyone’s responsibility and that we can’t waste any time once the bill receives Royal Assent.

Our Comment: Regrettably, Bill C-81 does not ensure that we don’t waste any time once this bill receives Royal Assent. To ensure this, a series of mandatory time lines must be added to the bill.

Excerpt 5

Minister Qualtrough: Finally, the development of regulations has begun, with the CTA posting their first draft of accessibility regulations, and the consultation process has started for the development of the multi-year accessibility plan regulations.

Our Comment: This may seem a bit technical, but the regulations that the Canadian Transportation Agency are now finalizing are not being created under Bill C-81. They are being developed under the existing national transportation legislation that has been on the books for years. It is our understanding that these regulations have been under development for the past three years, well before Bill C-81 was introduced into the House of Commons in June 2018 for First Reading.

The Canadian Transportation Agency has had the power to make such regulations for many years. We anticipate that it was the fact that the Federal Government promised national accessibility legislation in the 2015 federal election that helped motivate the Canadian Transportation Agency to finally take a serious look at using its decades-old power to make comprehensive accessibility regulations in the transportation field.

Moreover, the CTA’s posting of those draft regulations is a matter of concern, as noted earlier, since they threaten to reduce human rights protections for passengers with disabilities, as the AODA Alliance’s April 22, 2019 brief to the CTA demonstrates.

Excerpt 6.

Minister Qualtrough: The Canadian Human Rights Act absolutely imposes a duty to accommodate. Nothing in this act changes that obligation on employers, on service providers and on program deliverers within the federal jurisdiction. There was confusion in provincial jurisdictions that had enacted accessibility legislation, and we’ve made every effort to avoid such confusion. Whatever standard is created by CASDO will not necessarily create any kind of defence for an employer, service provider or program deliverer in terms of their individual duty to accommodate a specific individual.

I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments for Excerpt 1, above, where we disagree with the minister’s similar earlier statement.

We also respectfully disagree with the minister’s statement that “…we’ve made every effort to avoid such confusion” When this bill was before the House of Commons last fall, we asked the Federal Government to amend Bill C-81 to include language akin to the strong language on point in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Federal Government did not do so. Unlike this bill, section 38 of the AODA provides:

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

We are troubled by the minister’s equivocal statement as follows:

“Whatever standard is created by CASDO will not necessarily create any kind of defence for an employer, service provider or program deliverer in terms of their individual duty to accommodate a specific individual.”

Compliance with a voluntary, non-binding standard recommended by the proposed new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization should simply not be a defence to a human rights complaint. Here the minister more equivocally said it is not “necessarily” a defence. That means that it could be a defence, in some situations.

It may be that the minister simply inadvertently misspoke here. However, her statement can contribute to the very confusion about the duty to accommodate that she wants to avoid.

Excerpt 7

Senator Munson: As you well know, the Senate is a chamber of sober second thought and we take looking at these bills very seriously. I am sure there will be an appetite for amendments by the time we are done our hearings.

On this particular sign language and other aspects of the bill, there are people in the community who feel it doesn’t go far enough. Yes, we’ll have it for the first time, and yes, it’s history in the making and that sort of thing, but it just doesn’t go far enough. Would you be open to amendments?

Minister Qualtrough: I would certainly defer to your process and recommendations, but yes, I want to make this bill, this eventual law, the best it can possibly be.

Our Comment: This is a very helpful, positive and important statement by the minister. The minister herself is open to the Senate making amendments to Bill C-81 to make it the best law it can possibly be. This should lay to rest any fear that by making such amendments, the Senate would thereby jeopardize the bill’s passage.

This is further reinforced by the statement by Senator Munson (the bill’s sponsor in the Senate) during the Committee’s April 10, 2019 hearings:

“We’re here for a reason. There are going to be amendments…”

Excerpt 8

Senator Forest-Niesing: With respect to deadlines, provinces with an Accessibility Act, their own Accessibility Act, have an implementation deadline, especially for total accessibility. What was the reasoning in not having a deadline in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: To be honest, this is one of the more difficult differences of opinion as we have had as a disability community in this law and in this whole process. This is because there is a very honest and staunch belief within the community that we need a deadline, that we need to make a statement saying Canada will be barrier free by X or Canada will be accessible by X. And there is an equally passionate group of individuals who believe that setting a timeline in the distant future will give people excuse to wait to take action and also believe that because accessibility is always changing and evolving as a concept, and as technology changes and as we grow in our understanding and evolve around accessibility, we won’t know what a barrier-free Canada looks like.

If we decided in this law to say by 2030 Canada will be barrier-free, first of all, I’m not sure we could achieve that, quite frankly. Second, we don’t know what barrier-free will mean and look like then.

I heard everyone, and we took back that feedback, and there are still some us of who are agreeing to disagree on this one. While we don’t disagree that we need to work towards a barrier-free Canada, we don’t agree about the need for that deadline.

Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on getting things started. Let’s get the first regulation made within two years. Let’s do a review of the act within five years of the first regulation. Let’s put the board of CASDO in place this summer. Let’s have the space for CASDO. Let’s get things going.

That seemed to be the broader consensus. It certainly ended up being where we landed as a government.

Quite frankly, it’s not necessary legislative practice to create these kinds of statements. We don’t have a criminal code that says we will be crime free by X date. We don’t have a Human Rights Act that says we will be discrimination free by this date. I’m not sure other jurisdictions have found it to be beneficial to have these timelines.

Every regulation that is established will have a timeline, so as soon as we have a standard, the regulation will say employers have to have this standard in place by X.

There will be built-in timelines. Some will be quick because we’re adopting an existing standard. Some will take longer because it’s a more complex issue.

At the end of the day, after listening to everyone, the decision was not to put that deadline in place. You will hear from stakeholders opinions that disagree with me and our government, but I assure you it has been thought out and considered. I respect their opinion, and this is where we landed.

Our Comment: We respectfully disagree with the minister. Our responses to her remarks are largely found in the April 11, 2019 presentation to the Standing Committee by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. We add a few points here.

Yes, new kinds of barriers will no doubt crop up in the future. That is a marginal factor. We nevertheless need this legislation to set an end date to reach full accessibility. A resilient flexible law can be designed to identify and adapt to address those new kinds of barriers as they come up.

The Federal Government’s repeatedly referring to accessibility as some sort of amorphous moving target is unhelpful. Overwhelmingly, we know what accessibility is and what is needed. Obligated organizations don’t need any further reasons to be reluctant to act in this area.

Contrary to the minister’s statement, there is substantial support among people with disabilities for including in this legislation an end date for reaching full accessibility. This is not a matter of a dispute among people with disabilities at the grassroots. Rather there is a dispute between the disability community on the one hand, and the Federal Government on the other.

The minister here repeated the Federal Government’s weak reasons for rejecting this request last fall when the bill was before the House of Commons. She again stated at the Senate:

“We don’t have a criminal code that says we will be crime free by X date.”

Sadly, we know that there will always be crime. The Criminal Code is there to help reduce it, and to protect the public when it occurs. That is no comparison to disability barriers. Were it so, then the Government that is sponsoring a bill “to ensure a barrier-free Canada” is conceding before we even begin that we in reality will never achieve a barrier-free Canada. We believe Canada can do better than that.

The minister said that instead of including an end date in the bill for reaching full accessibility, they decided to focus on getting the bill’s machinery up and running over the next weeks and months. She said:

“Instead, we’ve chosen to focus on getting things started. Let’s get the first regulation made within two years. Let’s do a review of the act within five years of the first regulation. Let’s put the board of CASDO in place this summer. Let’s have the space for CASDO. Let’s get things going.”

This creates the incorrect idea that we have a false choice that we must make. We must either decide to add an end date to the bill for achieving full accessibility, or we must instead choose to work on getting the bill’s machinery up and running quickly now.

The Federal Government did not have to choose one or the other, to include an end date for reaching full accessibility in the bill, or instead, to get started right away on getting the bill’s implementation up and running. The Federal Government can do both.

It is very commendable that the minister is so eager, active and enthusiastic about getting the bill’s implementation up and running so quickly. We caution that in 2005, her Ontario counterpart was just as energetic and enthusiastic just as the AODA was being enacted. A few years later, things started to dramatically slow down in Ontario. We have never gotten it sped up again. We need this bill to include strong time lines, tied to an end date, to prevent that from recurring at the federal level.

We have provided the Senate with a complete solution to the minister’s concern that the addition of an end date for full accessibility to this bill might lead obligated organizations to delay taking action on accessibility. We have recommended that the Senate add the following to the bill:

“Clarification

5.2. Nothing in this Act, including in its purpose of the realization of a Canada without barriers on or before January 1, 2040, should be construed as authorizing or requiring any delay in the removal or prevention of barriers as soon as reasonably possible.”

Excerpt 9

Minister Qualtrough: Employment is definitely one of the seven areas recognized as an area of priority in the bill, and the bill applies to all areas of federal jurisdiction. It doesn’t apply to areas of provincial jurisdiction. Other provinces do have accessibility legislation. I’m encouraged by the fact that a number of provinces have basically put on hold their intention to create provincial legislation that parallels ours, waiting to see ours and then wanting to create something that’s seamless in terms of the experience for the everyday Canadian.

Our Comment: We would consider it a backwards step for people with disabilities if any provincial government put on hold its consideration of developing a provincial accessibility law pending the passage of Bill C-81. We need provinces to speed up action in this area, not slow it down. We know the since-defeated BC Liberal Government had used the development of Bill C-81 as its excuse for continuing to dodge the development of a BC Disabilities Act.

If any provincial government has its planning efforts on hold, we would urge them to get right back to work now on developing provincial accessibility legislation.

Excerpt 10

Senator Moodie: Thank you, Minister Qualtrough, for your presentation today. As a physician and a Canadian, I’m proud that we’re leaders in this space and that this bill is going to take us to the fore in continuing to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Canadians understand the needs of people with disabilities.

My question, though, challenges the bill a bit. The concerns I’m hearing are around the notion that the federal government and various federal agencies will have, with this bill, the sweeping power to exempt organizations from a number of these important accessibility obligations. The government can even exempt itself; is that correct?

Can you speak to the extent to which the federal government and federal agencies can exempt organizations from accessibility obligations, and can you explain why you felt it necessary to exempt organizations from the obligations that are stated in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: Thank you for the question, senator. Again, this is not the first time I have heard this concern.

In this legislation, we had to balance wanting to encourage innovation — so organizations that are already doing things very, very well — with holding to account organizations that aren’t doing so well. Creating the opportunity for an exemption allows organizations that already have innovative and comparable accessibility practices to what we may create as a standard to get an exemption, because they’re already doing something that effectively has the same end results. At the same time, an organization that may need a little more time to get up to that standard is allowed the opportunity to be granted an exemption for a period of time.

This is not kind of an exclusion or a get-out-of-jail-free card. The reasons for granting the exemption have to be published publicly. It is not as though we are going to exempt you from ever having to be accessible. It is a recognition that, one, your practices are already akin to what is contained in a given standard, or two, you need a little bit more time to get up to the standard that has been established for a justifiable reason that will be made public and reviewed three years.

Senator Moodie: So I’m hearing you say that in three years, even if I get an exemption the first go-around, I will be reviewed again.

Minister Qualtrough: Absolutely. The reason is technical.

Mr. Van Raalte: You’d actually have to reapply. It’s not just a review. You have to initiate the fact that —

Minister Qualtrough: It expires.

Mr. Van Raalte: It expires, and you would have to reapply, justify and demonstrate that you still require an exemption, from your perspective. Then there’s still an approval process.

Our Comment: We disagree with the minister’s justification for the bill’s current exemptions powers. An exemption from this legislation’s requirements is not needed to encourage innovation.

If an organization is already meeting or exceeding the requirements of an accessibility standard, they have no need for an exemption. If they are close, but need a bit more time, that is typically and easily dealt with through the flexibility in the enforcement process.

Moreover, the minister spelled out the specific situations when exemptions are to be granted. Yet the bill does not limit the Government to only granting exemptions in those situations. For example, the Government could exempt itself for any reason it wishes, not just for the reasons that the minister gave (i.e. they need a little more time or are already in substantive compliance with the results that the standard seeks to achieve).

Excerpt 11

Senator Omidvar: You’ve described the bill as a first or an incremental step. There are critics who say it is unnecessarily timid. I’m going to read a portion of an email that I got that deals with splintering — with a multitude of agencies being responsible for enforcement, regulation-making and overseeing complaints.

So the concern is that the bill’s implementation and enforcement are therefore less effective, it is more confusing, it’s more complicated, it’s more costly, and there is a variability of decision-making and possibly of standards. I hear this when the advocates say that this will make it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have and to get violations fixed.

So I understand the no-wrong-door approach, but I also understand that too much of a GPS with variability will make it completely confusing. Will you respond to this criticism?

Minister Qualtrough: I will. I, too, have received email — maybe that same email and maybe more than once.

Senator Omidvar: We all did.

Minister Qualtrough: If I had a blank piece of paper, and I could design the system of my liking and choosing, it might not look like this. However, we didn’t start out with a blank piece of paper; we started out with a fully functioning, complicated system of federal government that included regulators that were already doing this work — regulators that, to be honest, we didn’t always hear good things about and regulators whose powers we have beefed up.

But it became very clear very quickly as the design of the system started to take hold that we were in a position of having to either pull out from the CTA and CRTC. There are three at play here: the CTA, the CRTC and then the Canadian Human Rights Commission does everything else. In terms of the number of regulators, we’ve got the CTA doing transportation, the CRTC doing telecommunications and broadcasting; and then the Human Rights Commission doing everything else. Taking it out of the CTA or the CRTC would be costly. In some ways, at the end of the day, it wouldn’t recognize the expertise they had built up and that they absolutely can and will improve upon.

But we heard very concretely — and I’m sure you’ll hear yourselves from the kind of more technically minded regulators that are the CTA and the CRTC — that when you’re designing and responsible for safety — CTA airplane seat design comes to mind. The CTA is responsible to design an airplane seat, and the first consideration is safety, of course, and what has to be built into that seat design.

For an outside regulator to come in and say, “Yes, you have to design a seat, but you have to take into consideration all of these accessibility needs,” it was deemed better for the CTA to be the one to include and incorporate accessibility considerations into the design of that seat.

To be very clear, the non-technical aspects of the business of the transportation sector in Canada will be under the purview of the CHRC. So if there’s a customer service standard, an employment standard, built environment standard — those are all going to be imposed on the VIA Rails, the Air Canadas, et cetera. It’s the more technical sides of those sectors that will be the purview of those specific regulators.

It was a compromise, because I recognize it makes the system more complicated for the complainant and the end user. That’s why we’ve taken the efforts we have even now. There are committees. The heads of the CTA, the CHRC and the CRTC are already meeting to figure out how they’re going to work together to make sure that from the complainant’s point of view it is seamless, but we know it’s more complicated. It was a sectoral approach that we chose as a compromise, recognizing we weren’t starting from scratch and recognizing the complicated technical nature of the business in which these two established regulators are in.

I’m confident that there will be bumps along this road, but we will get to a place where whenever someone files a complaint, it will end up where it needs to be, and the chief accessibility officer and the chief accessibility commissioner will make sure of that.

Our Comment: Contrary to the minister’s suggestion, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC do not have demonstrated expertise in disability accessibility. Their insufficient performance in this area for many years suggests much the opposite.

We have warned that this splintering of the bill’s implementation and enforcement among different federal agencies is very confusing. It is hard to figure out from the bill who does what, as between the Accessibility Commissioner, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC.

The minister’s presentation reinforced this concern. She incorrectly described the division of responsibility between these agencies. She stated:

“To be very clear, the non-technical aspects of the business of the transportation sector in Canada will be under the purview of the CHRC. So if there’s a customer service standard, an employment standard, built environment standard – those are all going to be imposed on the VIA Rails, the Air Canadas, et cetera. It’s the more technical sides of those sectors that will be the purview of those specific regulators.”

The minister here is saying that the Canadian Transportation Agency will be responsible for technical issues regarding transportation, but not things like the built environment. In fact, under Bill C-81, the Canadian Transportation Agency and not the Canadian Human Rights Commission is responsible for setting standards for the built environment in places like airports and train stations. Section 120 of the bill provides in part:

“120 The only regulations made under subsection 117(1) that apply in respect of a regulated entity that is required to comply with any provision of regulations made under subsection 170(1) of the Canada Transportation Act are those that relate to the identification and removal of barriers, and the prevention of new barriers, in the following areas: …

…(b) the built environment, other than a passenger aircraft, passenger train, passenger bus, passenger vessel, aerodrome passenger terminal, railway passenger station, bus passenger station or marine passenger terminal;”

We sympathize with the minister’s confusion. This bill is itself very confusing and difficult to understand, even for those with extensive expertise in this area.

The minister said the Government is splintering the bill because of the costs of not splintering the bill. To our knowledge, this is the first time that the Federal Government has claimed that it would be more costly to have this bill’s accessibility regime all enforced by one federal agency, the new ,Accessibility Commissioner , rather than splintering it among four agencies. It is the first time the Government has claimed it would be more costly to have all regulations made by the Federal Cabinet, rather than splintering this responsibility among three agencies, the Cabinet, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the CRTC.

The Government offered no specifics on what these supposed added costs would be. It did not offset these against the greater costs under this bill, as written, to the Government, to people with disabilities and to obligated organizations of having this bill’s implementation and enforcement so splintered. For example, under the bill as now written, it will cost the airlines more to produce two separate accessibility plans and to deal with two different regulatory agencies, the Accessibility Commissioner and the Canadian Transportation Agency, than if they only had to prepare one plan and file it with one federal agency.

Excerpt 12

Senator Poirier: On Bill C-81, it does not include a deadline for achieving full accessibility, compared to the different provincial accessibility legislation, like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This act has clear deadlines for achieving the full accessibility for Ontarians on or before January 1, 2025.

Can you explain to us why you have not put a deadline established in Bill C-81?

Minister Qualtrough: Absolutely, senator. As I said, that was a topic of rigorous debate and discussion, and sometimes disagreement, over the course of going through this whole journey with respect to this legislation. Where we landed, as I said, was focusing on getting things started, not imposing a deadline that in any way would disincentivize organizations to get going on this. It was about recognizing that what we consider accessible today will not be good enough 10 years from now and knowing, quite frankly, that we’re a long way off from being accessible or barrier-free.

We concluded that it just wasn’t the best way to get going on this. I don’t know if I could elaborate further. At the end of the day, we figured putting in place the requirement that regulations and standards be put in place within two years by each of the regulators and that a review of the law happen within five years of the first regulation coming into force — taking the steps in parallel now to get this thing off the ground and going was the better course of action.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments under Excerpt 8, above.

Excerpt 13

Senator Dasko : I guess another thing that I’ve heard from some people who think this bill should go farther than it does has to do with the federal government’s lack of intention here to take a stronger role when it comes to direct federal spending on infrastructure projects or spending in many areas where the federal government funds projects and creates projects and so on, the critique being that it doesn’t go far enough in insisting that barriers are not there when these projects are undertaken. So just at the beginning, I suppose, before federal money is given to these projects, not enough is being done in this bill to ensure that those projects are barrier-free. It’s a critique I’ve heard, and I’d like to hear what you might have to say about it.

(Procedural discussion omitted)

Minister Qualtrough: At the end of the day, what I would say is we’ve pushed the language in the law as far as we can go while still respecting federal jurisdiction. James is probably better to answer the technical side as to how far we can go, but this will apply to federal policies and federal programs. It won’t apply to financial transfers like the health transfer because that’s effectively a provincial jurisdiction that we’re helping to fund, but it doesn’t give us authority, as I understand it, to actually impose that condition down that far. Maybe I’m not explaining it right. I apologize. It’s jurisdictional.

To be very clear, though, this will transformatively change the Government of Canada in terms of every department and agency will have to have an accessibility plan. We have already established in my office, for example, a centre for accessible procurement, meaning we will be having policies and processes. We won’t procure things that aren’t accessible.

The Prime Minister has appointed a deputy minister responsible for an accessible public service, whose job it is every day to figure out how we are going to have to be ready and how we will be ready in our government with its employees to adhere to this law.

Can you talk to more about how far we can go down, please? Because I can’t remember the language in the law.

Mr. Van Raalte: I think you’ve covered it, minister. Departments will have to be able to report on their programs, policies and services. They will have to do that reporting in consultation with people with disabilities. They are at the table for that. So that will actually give both the government and the public forward-looking perspective on the plans of those organizations, such as planned spending and program priorities in a forward-looking way that will allow us to have those discussions. You want to be thinking about the accessibility measures included in those investments.

Ms. Qualtrough: Having said that, in terms of what’s in the law, we’ve taken a number of steps in parallel to embed accessibility into our new programs and our new processes. I’ll give you an example. With the National Housing Strategy or our infrastructure program, accessibility is baked into these initiatives.

A fun example I like to give is around our infrastructure. Transit is a priority for our government. Historically, for whatever reason, whether it be oversight or intention, upgrades with respect to making buses more accessible have not been included as eligible expenses for communities to claim and use infrastructure dollars for. We literally added a box on a piece of paper three years ago where we told communities that they could use this money to make their community buses more accessible. In that one year, $810 million was spent on accessible transit. We didn’t advertise it. We didn’t highlight it anywhere. We changed the form, and communities recognized the values of accessible transit and invested in their communities.

I could give you so many examples, as we’ve pursued this law, of the things that we’ve done in terms of government policy, programs and initiatives to make the way we govern a more accessible experience, both for the people who work in government and the people we serve.

Our Comment: As the AODA Alliance presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 shows, we respectfully disagree with the minister’s claims that the Federal Government cannot do more here. The minister’s statements make it sound like the Federal Government is powerless to attach accessibility strings when it gives federal public money to a local or provincial government to help build a hospital, subway station, or university building.

This is incorrect. The Federal Government has a significant “spending power” which lets it attach federal conditions to federal money that it gives out. If a provincial government or other local organization doesn’t want to comply with those strings, it is free to simply refuse to accept the federal money.

For over three decades, the Canada Health Act, a federal law, has attached federal strings to federal money that is given to provinces to help finance their health care systems. One of those legal requirements is the accessibility of health care services (not in the disability sense of accessibility) If the minister is correct – that the Federal Government has no power to attach strings to federal money that is spent in provincial areas of responsibility – then she is admitting that the Canada Health Act is unconstitutional. That would be a surprising thing for a federal cabinet minister to claim.

We believe that the Federal Government could include in Bill C-81 a requirement that no federal cabinet minister or department may agree to give federal public money to any organization, federal or provincial, to contribute to the building or renovating of infrastructure, unless the recipient agrees to meet federal accessibility requirements. If the minister were correct, then the Federal Government is simply powerless here. It can give money to help fund the construction of a local subway station, but is powerless to say that the subway station must have elevators, and not just stairs, to reach the subway. We disagree.

This too is not a hypothetical issue. The AODA Alliance has produced a widely-viewed online video that shows serious accessibility problems at new Toronto subway stations, recently opened, that were built in part with federal money.

The minister gave examples of commendable new policies that the Federal Government has adopted to promote the procurement by the Government of accessible goods, services and facilities. We applaud these. However, they are merely policies, not legal requirements. A subsequent minister or Government could abolish or disregard them with the stroke of a pen, without requiring any public debate. That is why we want such requirements embedded in the bill.

Excerpt 14

Senator Kutcher: Thank you, minister, for your very clear and well considered answers to these questions. Our task is to try to assist in making the bill the best it can be. You mentioned one area that I think you suggested we could dive a little bit deeper on and that was the sign language domain. So my question is: Are there any other areas that you or your team —

Minister Qualtrough: Boy, am I allowed to answer this question?

Senator Kutcher: — would like to highlight as something we could have a more intensive focus on as we study the bill?

Minister Qualtrough: I think some sort of recognition, as you say, of sign languages as being the first language of Canadians who are Deaf is certainly what we have all heard and you will hear.

Senator Munson asked a question about the duty to accommodate, and perhaps to avoid confusion that could be explicit. I know it is at law and I would suggest case law has already clarified that point but I think it might be worth . . . nobody usually asks me that question.

Yes, I mean, if there are things that you think can be improved, certainly please explore that. My concern is getting it passed. I think it’s a really good piece of law and I wouldn’t want anything to get in the way of that. Sorry to be so direct. The community has done such good work and I feel a real heightened obligation to deliver this for them. This is once in a generation and people have fought for a long time before me to have this conversation nationally. This is a genie we are not putting back in the bottle. It’s pretty exciting. Sorry I don’t have further feedback for you but those two would be at the top of my mind.

Our Comment: The minister here again indicates that she is open to amendments to the bill. That is helpful.

As areas that the Senators might focus on as part of their study of the bill, the minister referred to possible recognition that Sign Language is the first language of people who are deaf, and something explicit about the duty to accommodate. She said that those two items are at the top of her mind. She did not specifically commit to passage of amendments to that end. She commendably invited the Senate to explore things in the bill that “can be improved.”

Excerpt 15

Minister Qualtrough: May I add something on the duty to accommodate piece because it’s really important and kind of something I’m obsessed with. We need to make it very clear to Canadians that this is a really important legally enshrined tenet of human rights law in this country and nothing we are doing here takes away any organization’s obligation to accommodate individuals. In some cases, a small business who has complied with the standard might say, “We have complied,” and that might meet their duty to accommodate but the Government of Canada it might not. We need to be very clear and I need it on the record from me so I can sleep tonight that this in no way, in any way negates any organization’s obligation to accommodate individuals on the grounds of disability.

Our Comment: We repeat our comments under Excerpts 1 and 6 above.

Excerpt 16

Senator Eaton: Minister, is there another country who does this better than we are going to do it? Is there another country that is an example to us?

Minister Qualtrough: Our neighbour to the south has the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has an anti-discrimination component which would be covered off in our country by the human rights legislation and an accessibility standards component. So we have spent a lot of time looking at their model. It’s obviously a different kind of structured country, federal, state, but what I’m hoping, because I’m at heart a competitive athlete, is that this becomes the international standard that has built upon what other countries have been doing. The States has been doing it for 30 years, but I would like to believe ours will be better.

Our Comment: We commend the minister for wanting Canada’s new accessibility legislation to be better than the American legislation, and better than other laws around the world. However, as now written, Bill C-81 regrettably falls well short of that goal. It is also in some key ways weaker than Ontario’s AODA, which itself has run into significant implementation and enforcement problems over the past 14 years.

Excerpt 17

Senator Omidvar: Very quickly, you have talked about the fact that there is a timeline, that within two years agencies have to enact one regulation. However, what is the quality of that regulation? Is there a concern that it could be an inconsequential one, a minor procedural matter without actually embracing the spirit of what you are trying to propose?

Minister Qualtrough: I don’t think the law provides the safeguard that you are asking about. What I do think, though, is that CASDO is that safeguard. So having CASDO created with a board of directors with a majority of individuals with lived experience, and they get to decide which regulations take priority and what comes first and what comes second and who does what and what the priorities are. That group of individuals will be tasked with making sure there are substantive regulations in place as quickly as possible based on their agreed upon priorities.

Our Comment: We respectfully disagree with parts of the minister’s description of this legislation. The minister correctly stated that the bill does not ensure that the regulation that must be enacted within two years is something more than an inconsequential procedural regulation.

However, she is incorrect in stating that the new Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization is a safeguard to ensure that substantive regulations are enacted as soon as possible. CASDO has no such power under this bill. CASDO has no authority to enact any regulations whatsoever. It can only give advice. It can recommend what should be included in accessibility standard regulations. The Federal Government, the CRTC and the Canadian Transportation Agency need never listen to CASDO’s advice, and need never give a reason for refusing to act on CASDO’s advice.

As for the regulation that must be enacted within two years, that regulation is NOT an accessibility standard regulation. As the Senator’s question mentions, it is a procedural regulation that the Government must enact in the first two years. CASDO has no control over those procedural regulations. Contrary to the minister’s suggestion, CASDO is therefore not an effective safeguard to ensure that those regulations are meaningful.



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Canada Transportation Agency Proposes New Regulations that Threatens t Reduce the Duty to Accommodate Passengers with Disabilities in Air Travel and Other Transportation that the Federal Government Can Regulate, According to a New Brief by the AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Canada Transportation Agency Proposes New Regulations that Threaten to Reduce the Duty to Accommodate Passengers with Disabilities in Air Travel and Other Transportation that the Federal Government Can Regulate, According to a New Brief by the AODA Alliance

April 18, 2019

          SUMMARY

Today, the AODA Alliance submitted a brief to the Canada Transportation Agency on the draft regulations that it is proposing to enact under the Canada Transportation Act to address the many barriers that people with disabilities face in the parts of Canada’s transportation network that the Federal Government can regulate, such as air travel. We set out our brief below.

The CTA posted these very detailed draft regulations on March 9, 2019 and gave the public 30 days to comment on them. We regret that we are submitting our brief after the CTA’s deadline for comment. We were not able to prepare this brief sooner, as we have been devoting so much time to our campaign to get Canada’s Senate to strengthen the weak Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

We regret that we did not have time to post a draft of this brief earlier, for your feedback, as we ordinarily do when we are preparing briefs like this. We had to prepare this brief in an extraordinary rush.

Our brief provides an excellent illustration of why we need the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81. Parts of this draft regulation that we had time to analyze threaten to weaken the protection of the duty to accommodate people with disabilities. This is because s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act says that once a regulation like this is enacted, it serves as a cap on the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, in so far as the CTA can enforce it. Our brief illustrates by example how this draft regulation would reduce protection for the duty to accommodate people with disabilities in federally-regulated transportation.

We therefore oppose the passage of this draft regulation, for the reasons we set out in this brief. We regret having to do so, because on our first review of the draft regulation, there appear to be some good things in it. As our brief explains, we nevertheless oppose its enactment because it threatens to reduce the rights of people with disabilities.

Sadly, our brief provides a good illustration of some of the problems with Bill C-81. We have called on the Senate to amend Bill C-81 to remove the damaging and harmful s. 172, so that regulations like these cannot serve to weaken the rights of people with disabilities. Our brief illustrates why that amendment to Bill C-81 is so vital to people with disabilities. We will find out on May 2, 2019 whether the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs will take up our recommendations for strengthening Bill C-81, including the repeal of s. 172.

It is not too late for you to help. Please email the Senate’s Standing Committee by writing [email protected] and urge the Senators to strengthen Bill C-81. Send them this brief to give a good example of why we need them to get rid of the harmful s. 172.

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You should read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

 

 

          MORE DETAILS

 

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

Brief to the Canada Transportation Agency on the Draft Regulations Posted for Comment on the Canada Gazette Entitled “Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations”

April 18, 2019

To: Canada Transportation Agency

Via Email: [email protected]

Care of Sonia Gangopadhyay

Acting Director

Centre of Expertise for Accessible Transportation

Canadian Transportation Agency

15 Eddy Street

Gatineau, Quebec

K1A 0N9

Telephone: 819 953 8961

1. Introduction

In this brief, the AODA Alliance offers the Canada Transportation Agency our summary feedback on the draft regulations which the CTA posted in the Canada Gazette for public comment within 30 days on March 9, 2019, entitled “Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations”. (ATPDR)

The AODA Alliance regrets that it has had to submit this brief past the CTA’s deadline for feedback. We regret that our volunteer coalition did not have the capacity to address this earlier. The CTA’s short 30-day public consultation period on these complex regulations overlapped with the pivotally important hearings on Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act) by the Senate. Moreover, a proper analysis of the CTA’s highly-technical document, which runs over 100 pages, is not something a voluntary grassroots organization can readily undertake on such short notice. This is made more challenging by the draft regulations’ complexity and, at times, impenetrable text.

Due to the insufficient time, we have not been able to fully review and analyze the entirety of the draft regulations’ details. We here address a short number of key points that amply support our core conclusion.

Our position in this brief is summarized as follows:

  1. We commend the CTA for embarking on developing modernized accessibility standard regulations. These are long overdue. We share the CTA’s conclusion that the current situation facing passengers with disabilities is unacceptable, and that mandatory enforceable regulations are needed.
  2. We accept that there are some helpful provisions in the draft regulations. However despite this, the draft regulation should not be enacted in its current form, especially if Parliament does not remove s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act. This is because as written, the draft regulation threatens to reduce human rights of passengers with disabilities.

The Canada Transportation Agency should not infer that the short list of key concerns addressed in this brief are the only concerns that we would have raised about these draft regulations, had we had a fuller opportunity to digest and analyze them.

In general we share the concerns about this proposed regulation that the Alliance For Equality of Blind Canadians has set out in its excellent April 6, 2019 brief to the CTA which is available at:

http://www.blindcanadians.ca/sites/aebc/files/docs/brief/3208/Canada%20Gazette%20regs%20Brief%20final%2004-06-2019.docx

2. Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that has advocated in Ontario since 2005 for the effective implementation and enforcement of Canada’s first comprehensive provincial accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. We are the successor to the community coalition that successfully campaigned from 1994 to 2005 for the AODA’s enactment. We have advised many, including several provinces, a United Nations conference, the European Union, Israel and New Zealand.

Among many other activities, we have been extensively involved in providing input to the Transportation Accessibility Standard enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Our activity at the provincial level in the transportation area can be seen by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/transportation/

3. Endorsing Certain Specific CTA Findings

The CTA’s posting of draft regulation makes a number of key findings which the AODA Alliance endorses and supports.

The CTA correctly recognizes that Canada is not a leader in this area on the international stage. It acknowledged:

“Canada lags behind other countries that have comprehensive and enforceable regulations in this area.”

Later it wisely recognized:

“The CTA’s RMI revealed that its existing accessibility instruments represent a patchwork of regulations and voluntary standards, some of which are outdated and inadequate in their scope. This has resulted in inconsistent accessibility-related services and reduced access to transportation services for persons with disabilities.”

Still later the CTA recognized:

“Canada’s heavy reliance on voluntary codes of practice currently leaves it lagging behind other key jurisdictions that have comprehensive and enforceable accessible transportation regulations, notably the United States and the EU.”

Later the CTA similarly recognized how out-of-date its regulatory regime in this area has been:

“The current CTA regulations, voluntary codes of practice, and some of the guidance material relevant to accessible travel are outdated and contain significant gaps. While some gaps have been partially addressed through the CTA’s adjudication of individual accessibility complaints, this approach has resulted in an uneven playing field for industry, as some transportation service providers named in complaints are required to remove undue obstacles while others are not. As a result, extensive consultations have confirmed wide support from disability rights organizations, the general public and industry for the development of a single, comprehensive set of accessible transportation regulations that apply across the national transportation system.”

Elsewhere the CTA fairly acknowledged that its regulatory regime in this area to date has been inadequate, where it states:

“However, current accessibility provisions for the national transportation system are generally voluntary (i.e. not legally binding), and have not kept pace with developments since the early 2000s.”

4. CTA’s Goal In the Draft Regulation is Confused

At points, the CTA sets its goal well below the human rights standard. This is especially troubling, since the CTA states that it is trying to align itself with Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That proposed legislation is called “an Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada.”

At other points, CTA merely says it aims to make transportation “more accessible”, a tepid and inadequate goal. The CTA states:

“The proposed Regulations would require these entities (collectively referred to herein as “transportation service providers”) to take steps to meet certain standards to make travel more accessible and consistent for persons with disabilities.”

Later the CTA acknowledges a stronger and far more appropriate goal of a barrier-free transportation system:

“The overarching objective of the proposed regulatory package is to promote the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society by creating comprehensive and enforceable accessible transportation requirements that are applicable to all modes of transportation, and enabling persons with disabilities to travel with a predictable and consistent level of accessibility across a barrier-free modern national transportation system.”

Still later, but within just a few pages of those earlier contradictory statements, the CTA in one paragraph both sets a correct goal of “equal access” and shortly thereafter the incorrect diluted goal of “more accessible”:

“The ATPDR would ensure that all Canadians, including persons with disabilities, have equal access to the national transportation system. Transportation service providers subject to the proposed Regulations would be required to take steps and meet the proposed standards to make travel more accessible and consistent for persons with disabilities.”

We recommend that the CTA use consistent language that makes it clear that aim of the regulation is the achievement of a barrier-free and fully-accessible transportation system. We also recommend that a provision be added to the regulation that makes it clear that nothing in this regulation should be construed as reducing any duties to accommodate passengers with disabilities as guaranteed either in the Canada Human Rights Act or the Canada Transportation Act.

5. Draft Regulations Threaten to Create a New Legal Barrier that Can Impede Human Rights Duty of Transportation Providers to Accommodate

The AODA Alliance opposes the adoption of any CTA regulations that could threaten in any way to reduce the duty of transportation providers to accommodate passengers with disabilities as guaranteed under human rights laws. This includes any threat to reduce the duty of transportation providers under the Canada Transportation Act to remove and prevent undue obstacles or barriers to travel by passengers with disabilities.

For this reason, we regret that we must oppose the adoption of the draft regulation. While it includes some helpful contents, it also includes provisions that threaten existing human rights entitlements.

We have not had the time to screen the entire draft regulation to find all the threatening provisions, in order to see which parts, if any, of the draft regulation is irrelevant to that pressing concern. Before proceeding with this regulation, the Federal Government should put this draft regulation through a careful screening, with input from the disability community and the Canadian Human Rights Commission for that purpose.

Our concern arises from the fact that s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act provides that once the CTA has enacted a regulation in an area, passengers with disabilities are barred from bringing an individual claim that a barrier is an “undue obstacle” in that area, if that would require the transportation provider to do anything more than the regulation requires. In effect, the CTA regulation sets a cap or ceiling on the scope of the duty to accommodate of transportation providers. The transportation provider need do no more, even if the regulation does not ensure effective accommodation, and even if further accommodation efforts are possible without undue hardship.

Section 172 provides, referring to the Canada Transportation Agency:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

The AODA Alliance and other disability organizations have asked Parliament to repeal s. 172. That would leave the human rights duty to accommodate intact. Regulations enacted by the CTA could reinforce it, but never reduce it. The Federal Government has not done so. It has given no reason for its refusal to do so.

Instead of removing this unfair provision in the CTA legislation, Bill C-81 preserves it. The Federal Government refused our request to remove it from Bill C-81. We have asked the Senate to remove it. The Senate has not yet indicated whether it would do so.

When the CTA appeared before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to discuss Bill C-81 on April 10, 2019, it did not identify this problem or express any opinion on the AODA Alliance’s call for s. 172 to be repealed. To our knowledge, the Senators did not ask the CTA about this specific provision at those hearings.

When federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough appeared on April 3, 2019 before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs to speak to Bill C-81, she stated:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Yet Bill C-81, whose creation she led, preserves and perpetuates s. 172, which is a threat to the duty to accommodate people with disabilities.

We here identify a troubling example in the draft regulations which on their face threaten to cut back on the duty to accommodate. As a painful irony, this threat arises from provisions which on their face give the impression that they seek to assist with the accommodation in transportation of passengers with disabilities.

We specifically focus on the draft regulations’ imposing a duty on passengers with disabilities to give advance notice to transportation providers of a request for certain prescribed accommodations. This problem arises from a combination of sections 29, 32, 34 and 35 of the draft regulations, which we set out here in material part.

Section 29 of the draft regulations provides:

“Advance notice — at least 48 hours

29 (1) If a person with a disability makes a request for a service set out in this Part at least 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure, the carrier must provide the service.

No advance notice required

(2) Despite subsection (1), if a person makes a request for a service referred to in any of paragraphs 32(a), (b), (g) and (i) to (w) or section 34 or 35 less than 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure, the carrier must provide the service.

Advance notice — 96 hours

(3) Despite subsection (1) and subject to subsection (2), a carrier may require that a request for a service set out in this Part be made 96 hours in advance of the person’s scheduled time of departure if the period of advance notice that is required by the carrier is reasonably necessary in the circumstances because of the type of service that is requested by the person.

If no advance notice

(4) Despite subsections (1) and (3), if a request for a service that is subject to a time limit referred to in those subsections is not made within the time limit, the carrier must nonetheless make a reasonable effort to provide the service.”

Section 32 of the draft regulations, to which s. 29 refers, provides:

“32 A carrier must ensure that personnel, on the request of a person with a disability, provide the following services to the person without delay:

(a) assisting the person with registering at the check-in counter;

(b) permitting the person, if they are unable to use an automated self-service kiosk or other automated check-in or ticketing process, to advance to the front of the line at a check-in counter or ticket counter;

(c) assisting the person in proceeding through any security screening process at the terminal, including by

(i) providing personnel to assist the person to proceed through the security screening process, or

(ii) collaborating with the relevant security authority or security personnel at the terminal to permit a person who is not travelling with the person with a disability to have access to the security screening checkpoint so that they may assist the person with a disability to proceed through the security screening process;

(d) assisting the person in proceeding to the boarding area after check-in;

(e) before boarding, transferring the person between the person’s own mobility aid and a mobility aid provided by the carrier;

(f) assisting the person in boarding and disembarking and, in the case of a person travelling on a ferry, assisting the person in moving to and from a vehicle deck to a passenger deck;

(g) assisting the person in storing and retrieving their carry-on baggage;

(h) before departure and on arrival at the destination, transferring the person between a mobility aid and the person’s passenger seat;

(i) assisting the person in moving in and out of a mobility aid space;

(j) before departure or, if impossible because of time constraints, after departure, describing to a person who is blind or has a visual impairment the layout of the aircraft, train, ferry or bus, as the case may be, including the location of washrooms and exits, and the location and operation of any passenger-operated controls at the person’s passenger seat;

(k) assisting the person in accessing any entertainment content that is offered on board, such as by providing them with a personal electronic device and assisting them in using that device;

(l) before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration;

(m) on board an aircraft, train or ferry, providing the person with an on-board wheelchair;

(n) on board an aircraft, train or ferry, assisting the person in moving between their passenger seat and a washroom, including by assisting them in transferring between their passenger seat and an on-board wheelchair;

(o) on board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog;

(p) if a meal is offered on board, describing to the person all the food and beverages that are offered for consumption or providing a menu in large print or in Braille;

(q) if a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions;

(r) if the person is not able to access a food service car on a train, permitting the person and any support person to order a meal, and be served the meal, at their passenger seats;

(s) assisting the person in proceeding through immigration and customs;

(t) assisting the person in retrieving their checked baggage;

(u) assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to the general public area;

(v) assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance to proceed to the curbside zone from personnel of the terminal operator; and

(w) assisting the person, if they are transferring to another segment of their trip within the same terminal, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance from personnel of the receiving carrier.”

Sections 34 and 35 of the draft regulations provide:

“34 If a person with a disability who is in a wheelchair, a boarding chair or any other device in which the person is not independently mobile is waiting at a terminal for departure after check-in or in order to transfer to another segment of their trip, the carrier must ensure that personnel

(a) provide the person with a place to wait that is close to personnel who are available to provide assistance to the person; and

(b) periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part.

Request for assistance

35 Unless a person with a disability is able to request assistance from personnel by means of a call button, the carrier must ensure that personnel periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part.”

This draft regulation would legislate the creation of a new legalized barrier to the duty to accommodate, namely a requirement for passengers with disabilities to give advance notice to the transportation provider 48 hours before the travel, when seeking certain specified accommodations. That means that passengers with disabilities don’t have an assurance of a vital accommodation service if they have not given 48 hours advance notice to the transportation provider, where they are requesting any of the following accommodations:

Assisting the person in proceeding through any security screening process at the terminal (s. 32c).

Assisting the person in proceeding to the boarding area after check-in (s. 32(d)).

Before boarding, transferring the person between the person’s own mobility aid and a mobility aid provided by the carrier (s. 32(e)).

Assisting the person in boarding and disembarking and, in the case of a person travelling on a ferry, assisting the person in moving to and from a vehicle deck to a passenger deck (s. 32(f)).

Before departure and on arrival at the destination, transferring the person between a mobility aid and the person’s passenger seat (s. 32(h)).

Assisting the person in moving in and out of a mobility aid space (s. 32 (i)).

Before departure or, if impossible because of time constraints, after departure, describing to a person who is blind or has a visual impairment the layout of the aircraft, train, ferry or bus, as the case may be, including the location of washrooms and exits, and the location and operation of any passenger-operated controls at the person’s passenger seat (s. 32(j)).

Assisting the person in accessing any entertainment content that is offered on board, such as by providing them with a personal electronic device and assisting them in using that device (s.32 (k)).

Before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration) s. 32(l)).

On board an aircraft, train or ferry, providing the person with an on-board wheelchair (s. 32(m)).

On board an aircraft, train or ferry, assisting the person in moving between their passenger seat and a washroom, including by assisting them in transferring between their passenger seat and an on-board wheelchair (s. 32(n)).

On board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog (s. 32(o)).

If a meal is offered on board, describing to the person all the food and beverages that are offered for consumption or providing a menu in large print or in Braille (s. 32(p)).

If a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions (s. 32(q)).

If the person is not able to access a food service car on a train, permitting the person and any support person to order a meal, and be served the meal, at their passenger seats (s. 3r)).

Assisting the person in proceeding through immigration and customs (s. 32(s)).

Assisting the person in retrieving their checked baggage (s. 32(t)).

Assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to the general public area (s. 32(u)).

Assisting the person, after disembarkation, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance to proceed to the curbside zone from personnel of the terminal operator (s. 32(v)).

Assisting the person, if they are transferring to another segment of their trip within the same terminal, in proceeding to a location where the person may receive assistance from personnel of the receiving carrier (s. 32(w)).

Providing a person with a disability who is in a wheelchair, a boarding chair or any other device in which the person is not independently mobile, while waiting at a terminal for departure after check-in or in order to transfer to another segment of their trip, to provide the person with a place to wait that is close to personnel who are available to provide assistance ,and periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required as listed in that Part of the regulations. (s. 34).

Unless a person with a disability is able to request assistance from personnel by means of a call button, to ensure that personnel periodically inquire about the person’s needs and attend to those needs if the services requested by the person are services that are required by this Part. (s. 35).

Advance notice is simply not justified for many if not most of these accommodations – assuming it can even be justified for any of them. These all involve a transportation provider deploying existing staff on hand. We cannot see how a transportation provider would change its plans or operations 48 hours before a trip in response to such advance notice. Even if advance notice were justified, which we dispute, a full two days is excessive.

Making this problematic situation even worse, s. 32(3) would allow a transportation provider to unilaterally require even more notice, namely 96 hours (4 days) for any of the foregoing, in circumstances that passengers with disabilities could not reliably know in advance. Section 32(3) provides:

” (3) Despite subsection (1) and subject to subsection (2), a carrier may require that a request for a service set out in this Part be made 96 hours in advance of the person’s scheduled time of departure if the period of advance notice that is required by the carrier is reasonably necessary in the circumstances because of the type of service that is requested by the person.”

When could an airline, for example, possibly need fully four days’ notice in order for a flight attendant, already present on the plane to do any of the following:

* Before departure, providing the person with an individualized safety briefing and demonstration )s. 32(l)).

* On board an aircraft, permitting a person to use the washroom that has the most amount of space, regardless of the travel class for which the washroom is designated or where it is located, if the person is using the washroom in an on-board wheelchair or with the assistance of any support person or service dog (s. 32(o)).

* If a meal is served on board to the person, assisting the person with the meal by opening packages, identifying food items and their location and cutting larger food portions (s. 32(q)).

Section 32(4) of the draft regulations attempts to reduce the harshness of this new barrier to effective accommodation of passengers with disabilities. It provides:

“(4) Despite subsections (1) and (3), if a request for a service that is subject to a time limit referred to in those subsections is not made within the time limit, the carrier must nonetheless make a reasonable effort to provide the service.”

By s. 32(4), a passenger’s failure to give the required notice is not automatically barred from any accommodation. However, the only effort that the transportation provider must make to provide a needed accommodation in circumstances of no advance notice is effort that is simply “reasonable.” The draft regulation provides no criteria for assessing the reasonableness of the transportation’s efforts.

Section 32(4)’s “reasonable efforts” clause is worded in terms that risks falling short of the human rights duty to accommodate. Under the human rights duty to accommodate, the transportation provider has the duty to make serious and substantial efforts, tailored to the individual’s specific needs, including investigating alternative solutions where needed, as well as the burden to show that it was impossible for the transportation provider to do more than it did to accommodate the passenger with a disability, without undue hardship. “Undue hardship” is a recognized and tough test to meet. It is not mere “reasonableness” of its effort.

These sections in the draft regulations read as if they were written for, if not by, the transportation sector. Such provisions are emblematic of why so many in the disability community oppose the CTA being assigned the proposed accessibility mandate under Bill C-81.

Many if not most or all of the accommodation services listed above that are subject to this new prior notice requirement are ones which passengers with disabilities have been able to request without prior notice up to now. As such, the draft regulations here threaten to serve as a real step backwards.

The regulations impose no duty on a transportation provider to effectively notify all passengers that it will require a 96 hour notice period for any or all of the listed accommodation services. Merely posting this on a website provides no assurance that passengers with disabilities will know to check, and will check at the right place. Must all passengers with disabilities start surfing the web or phoning their airline 96 hours in advance in case they might need one of these accommodations?

This notice requirement also presents a serious new barrier for passengers who are travelling at the last minute, e.g. for business, or to address an emergency or to attend a funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened. As such, this appears quite discriminatory.

The draft regulations do not require transportation providers to provide a reliable, quick, easily-accessed means for passengers with disabilities to give the required notice to the transportation provider. Members of the public are all too aware of the difficulties when trying, for example, to simply get a live person on the line when calling a major transportation provider. Even when a passenger tries to contact either of Toronto’s major passenger airports, Pearson International Airport or Billy Bishop Airport, to request curbside assistance in advance of arriving at the terminal, frustrating barriers have been encountered. Some have secured media attention. Had this been so important for the airlines, we anticipate that they would have already created a fast, effective and easy-to-use to give such advance notice.

6. Exceptions and Exemptions that Are Too Broad Fly in the Face of Supreme Court Human Rights Requirements

The draft regulations include exceptions and exemptions that are too broad. We have not had the time to isolate and analyze all of these. They all needed to be screen for human rights concerns before enactment of this regulation can be considered.

The CTA’s explanation of the draft regulations includes:

“The proposed ATPDR would set minimum accessibility standards that would apply to any new buildings or facilities purchased by Canadian transportation service providers after the one year following the coming into force of the proposed Regulations. In addition, any major modifications made to existing equipment or facilities would be required to comply with the proposed Regulations.”

This appears to permit a transportation to acquire a new building with accessibility barriers over a year after this regulation comes into force. The draft regulations need to be vetted to ensure that they do not allow a transportation provider or terminal to acquire a new building or part of a building during the year after the regulation comes into force, that does not meet the regulation’s accessibility requirements.

As another example, the draft regulations set requirements for accessibility features that must be included in new passenger airplanes. According to a complex series of provisions that are hard to decipher, some of these requirements do not apply to a “pre-existing” airplane. Section 62(4) defines a pre-existing airplane or like equipment as follows:

“(4) In subsections (1) to (3), a pre-existing aircraft, train, ferry or bus means an aircraft, train, ferry or bus that was

(a) purchased or leased by the carrier before the day on which this section comes into force; or

(b) purchased or leased by the carrier on or after the day on which this section comes into force, if the carrier has submitted the invitation for bids in respect of that aircraft, train, ferry or bus before that day.”

This provision does not come into force for one year after this regulation is enacted (See s. 162). As such, it appears that an airline could rush out now and buy new airplanes that do not meet the accessibility requirements for new airplanes, over the months before the regulation comes into effect. This flies in the face of the duty of each transportation provider not to create new disability barriers. It was a CTA case before the Supreme Court of Canada that established this principle in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. ViaRail ## cite. [2007] 1 SCR 650, citing with approval Lepofsky, M. David. “Federal Court of Appeal De‑Rails Equality Rights for Persons With Disabilities — Via Rail v. Canadian Transportation Agency and the Important Duty Not to Create New Barriers to Accessibility” (2005‑2006), 18 N.J.C.L. 169.

All the timelines in these draft regulations need to be vetted to ensure that they do not violate the principle that the Supreme Court of Canada enunciated in the ViaRail case.

7. Curbside Assistance Provisions Fraught with Difficulties

We offer one other illustration of a concern with the draft regulations that show the risk of their being quite weak, namely the provision regarding curbside assistance at a transportation terminal. We do not here suggest that this provision violates existing human rights. Rather, we point to this because the CTA, when appearing before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs, highlighted this part of these regulations. CTA chair Scott Streiner told the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs on April 10, 2019:

“The second example I would give relates to curbside assistance — that is, curb to gate assistance in airports. For travellers using mobility devices, particularly wheelchairs but also those who require guidance for blind travellers, or others, we all know that it can be a challenge, even if you don’t have a disability, to find your way from curbside to gate. Certainly, we require assistance in some cases for persons with disabilities.

There have been instances that have come to our attention where there’s been confusion about who provides that assistance between the airport, the airline and folks that found themselves not receiving the kind of assistance they need in a timely way. Again, these new regulations make it clear who has to do what. That’s a gap we’re trying to address through regulations.”

It is commendable that the draft regulations aim to ensure that passengers with disabilities can get curbside assistance to get into an airport or other transportation terminal, so they can check in. However, the provisions have excessive loopholes and leave far too much to the discretion of transportation provider and terminal operators. Contrary to Mr. Streiner’s presentation to the Senate and his commendable aims here, they do not make it clear to passengers with disabilities who does what.

Section 137 provides that a terminal operator must provide to passengers with disabilities “without delay” accommodation services such as”

“(c) assisting the person to proceed between the curbside zone and the check-in area or, if there is no check-in area, between the curbside zone and a representative of a carrier.”

Section 137(2) qualifies that a terminal does not have to provide that service if the transportation provider is providing that service. Section 137(2) provides:

” (2) Despite subsection (1), a terminal operator is not required to provide a person with any assistance referred to in that subsection if a carrier is already providing that person with that assistance.”

Section 136 requires the terminal operator to publish information about the availability of this curbside assistance. Section 136 provides in part:

“136 A terminal operator must publish, including by publishing on its Internet site, information about the services or facilities available at the terminal for persons with disabilities, including information about

(a) the curbside zone, including where the curbside zone is located and how to request assistance to or from the curbside zone;”

Taken together, these provisions are too confusing and slippery. Here again, they appear to serve the interest of terminal operators and transportation providers, who are given excessive discretion. Passengers with disabilities are left with uncertainty and unpredictability.

First, the regulation sets no time target that the terminal or transportation provider must meet to provide this curbside assistance. “Without delay” is entirely unpredictable and hard to enforce. A passenger with a disability could be left isolated, with no nearby staff, waiting and waiting alone in front of an airport in the middle of a freezing February day, without knowing how long they must continue to wait. They won’t know how much earlier they must arrive at the airport to be sure they get assisted to arrive inside the terminal to check in, in time to ensure that they don’t miss their flight. This does not serve the fundamental goal of predictability that the CTA emphasized in its explanation of these regulations.

By not specifying a specific maximum time requirement, this leaves each transportation provider free to set its own time lines, hoping that passengers with disabilities won’t bother taking on the burdensome chore of filing and litigating a case before the CTA over this. transportation providers know that few passengers with disabilities will wish to take on the hardship of litigating against a well-funded transportation provider over the interpretation of the vague words “without delay”.

Second, the draft regulations create confusion facing passengers with disabilities over who is responsible to provide this curbside assistance. The provision imposes the duty on the terminal. However, it leaves it open to an airline to provide the service, in which case the terminal is excused. Yet the provision imposes no specific duties on the airline that does offer the service. Does the “without delay” clause apply to the airlines too? If the airline doesn’t provide the service, has the passenger a right to demand it from the terminal operator? How can the passenger give the 48 or 96 hour notice that the terminal operator might demand?

For a passenger with a disability who just wants to get into an airport’s front door and up to the counter, this is a legal/regulatory mess dressed up as a helpful accommodation. Add to this the ordeal, while standing outside on that freezing February day, fearful of missing one’s flight, of then having to try to get someone on the phone from the airline or airport to figure out who is supposed to help, or trying to surf the web to see if there is an up-to-date posting on the airline’s or airport’s website that might point to the right phone number. Navigating such websites for assistance and trying to reach a live person on the phone with correct information on a topic like this is already a vexing challenge.

Third, there appears to be no requirement that all passengers including passengers with disabilities be notified of this service when their ticket is purchased, as part of the ticket documentation. Similarly, there is no requirement that the transportation provider or terminal have, and make public, an easily-reached phone number to call when en route to the terminal, to give advance warning that they are about to arrive. Requiring notice 48 or 96 hours in advance does little to help the terminal or transportation provider. Being able to call to seek this accommodation when a few minutes away, and to reach a live person in direct contact with the help personnel, would go much further to make a service like this become reliable.

8. Conclusion

We hope that in our rush to provide useful feedback on this complicated and at times, opaque draft regulation, we have not inadvertently made any incorrect descriptions of its provisions. If we have, we ask the CTA to notify us, so that we can correct our submission.

This draft regulation shows why it is essential for Parliament to immediately repeal s. 172 of the Canada Transportation Act. People with disabilities should not have to fear that the enactment of a regulation like this, despite some helpful provisions, can end up reducing their rights. They face too many barriers now in Canada’s transportation system. They should not face further hurdles, created by a regulatory authority whose mandate is to tear down such barriers and to prevent the creation of new ones.



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AODA Alliance Writes Ontario’s Accessibility Minister to Urge Swift Action to Implement the Onley Report – and Media Coverage of the Onley Report and of Ongoing Public Transit Barriers


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

AODA Alliance Writes Ontario’s Accessibility Minister to Urge Swift Action to Implement the Onley Report – and Media Coverage of the Onley Report and of Ongoing Public Transit Barriers

March 11, 2019

          SUMMARY

On March 11, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho a letter that calls for swift action to implement David Onley’s withering report on the many years of deficient implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We set out that letter below. In our letter, we identify a short list of immediate actions that the Ford Government should now take to begin its implementation of the Onley report. We will have more to say later on other measures needed to implement this report. While listing these immediate actions, we recognize that beyond them, much more than these priority items will need to be done to implement this report, and to get Ontario back on schedule to become accessible to 1.9 Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.

Below we also set out two recent news articles that cover the Onley report:

* The excellent March 8, 2019 Canadian Press article by Michelle McQuigge, posted by CBC news. this article was also run by a number of other news outlets. The Saturday, March 9, 2018 print editions of the Toronto star and the Globe and Mail each ran it but did not include the quote of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, seen in the full article below.

* The great March 10, 2019 Toronto Star article on ongoing accessibility problems at the Toronto Transit Commission. It also refers to the Onley report, and also quotes AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.

We are tweeting up a storm in the wake of the Onley report. We invite you to follow @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance on Twitter, to retweet our tweets, and add your own comments on the Onley report in your tweets as well. If you are a Facebook user but not a Twitter user, please like the AODA Alliance’s Facebook page, and share our posts. Our tweets on Twitter all come out as well as Facebook posts.

^       MORE DETAILS

^Text of the March 11, 2019 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

March 11, 2019

To: The Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister of Accessibility and Seniors

Via Email: [email protected]

Frost Building South

6th Floor

7 Queen’s Park Cres

Toronto, ON M7A 1Y7

Dear Minister,

Re: Implementing the Final Report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review

Thank you for making public the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). We write to ask your Government to now take important steps to effectively implement this ground-breaking report.

The Onley report demonstrates in strong, clear and convincing language that the Ontario Government must now take strong new action to substantially improve the many years of flagging implementation and enforcement of the AODA. As our March 8, 2019 news release makes clear, the AODA Alliance applauds the Onley report and agrees with most of its recommendations. Those few recommendations with which we don’t agree (which we will address at a later date) are secondary, and do not take away from the core of the report.

We are gratified that the Onley report largely echoes and incorporates input that we provided to the Onley AODA Independent Review in the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief. It also echoes and reflects input we have given to your Government. Finally, it closely parallels and builds on the findings and recommendations in the two earlier mandatory AODA Independent Reviews, the 2010 AODA Independent Review conducted by Charles Beer and the 2015 AODA Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran.

Your Government now has the benefit of powerful and substantial unanimity among these multiple sources of expert input. The time is now for your Government to take strong action on that advice.

To begin, we ask your Government to now clearly and publicly accept the findings in the Onley report regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. These findings should be the basis of the Government’s actions in the area of accessibility for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities who continue to face many serious disability barriers in this province.

We also ask you to act now to implement five of the Onley report’s key recommendations. These include actions that we have earlier identified for the Government as priorities, such as  when we wrote you on July 17, 2018 and/or when we wrote Premier Ford on July 19, 2018. Premier Ford referred our letter to him back to you, so we look to you to act on all of these priorities:

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

We will later have much more to say on the Onley report’s implementation. However, whatever else might come from the Onley report, these five top priorities cry out for immediate action.

We appreciate your Government announcing last week, in the wake of its release of the Onley report, that it has just lifted the nine-month freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. As you know, the AODA Alliance has been in the lead in campaigning to get that freeze lifted. We were earlier in the lead in getting the former Ontario Government to agree to create accessibility standards in the important areas of health care and education.

We urge you to get these existing advisory committees back to work as quickly as possible. The Onley report shows that Ontario is well behind schedule for reaching accessibility by 2025. The loss of these many months in the work of those Standards Development Committees made a bad situation worse.

Fortunately, you are well-positioned to quickly get these committees back to work. They and you are not starting from scratch. The members of those Standards Development Committees were all appointed under the AODA well before your Government took power. They were properly constituted under the AODA. Speaking for myself, as a duly-appointed member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, I’m eager to roll up my sleeves and get right back to the work in which we were immersed when last spring’s election halted our work.

We would welcome a chance to meet with you to discuss action on the balance of the Onley report, but don’t want anything to hold up progress on the items listed in this letter.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: Premier Doug Ford, [email protected]

Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]

Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, a[email protected]

CBC News Online March 8, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-nowhere-near-goal-of-full-accessibility-by-2025-review-finds-1.5049380

Ontario nowhere near goal of full accessibility by 2025, review finds

Report offers 15 recommendations to province’s Progressive Conservative government

Michelle McQuigge The Canadian Press Posted: Mar 08, 2019 4:08 PM ET | Last Updated:

Former lieutenant governor of Ontario, David Onley, says the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act continues to leave residents with disabilities facing daily, “soul-crushing” barriers.  (Kelda Yuen/CBC)

The accessibility law that took effect in Ontario 14 years ago and has served as a blueprint for similar legislation in other parts of Canada has fallen well short of its goals and continues to leave disabled residents facing daily, “soul-crushing” barriers, a former lieutenant governor has found.

David Onley, a wheelchair user tasked with reviewing the implementation of Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, delivered a withering indictment of nearly all aspects of the law in a report quietly tabled in the provincial legislature this week.

The scathing report said disabled residents are barred from full inclusion in the province at nearly every turn, likening some of the barriers they face to long-abolished Jim Crow laws that perpetuated racial discrimination in the United States.

He said Ontario is nowhere near realizing the goal at the heart of the act, which promises to make the province fully accessible by 2025. He said only urgent, wide-ranging action from the provincial government can put a stop to the ongoing cycle of human rights violations.

“This is a matter of civil rights, and people with disabilities are being discriminated against on a daily basis in multiple ways,” Onley said in a telephone interview. “We don’t like to use the word discrimination because it gets tossed around, but what other word describes the situation? It is discrimination.”

Onley said the most obvious manifestations of that discrimination can be found throughout Ontario’s public and private buildings, many of which have physical features that actively shut people out.

‘You don’t belong here’

Onley — Ontario’s first disabled lieutenant governor — said some personal examples include restaurants featuring automatic doors atop a flight of stairs or hotels with accessible washrooms but beds too high for him to climb into from his motorized scooter.

“For a person using a wheelchair, stairs are like a sign that says you can’t enter here. The same goes for a deaf student in a classroom without captioning or a blind woman trying to find her way in a building without accurate Braille signage,” he said in the opening chapter of his report. “The message is: you don’t belong here.”

Onley said design barriers are no different than “the signs of a bygone era in foreign countries, telling people which water fountains they could or could not use and which restaurants or buses they could or could not use.”

This is a matter of civil rights, and people with disabilities are being discriminated against on a daily basis in multiple ways.

While Onley identified built environment barriers as one of the most pressing concerns, he listed a host of other problems with the law he said the government has failed to properly address since it took effect in 2005.

Other issues included lack of enforcement, accessibility rules that are slow to be developed and even slower to be implemented, and information-technology standards that are already out of date although they haven’t been fully applied.

Some of the issues are even more fundamental, he said, citing the fact that the law does not currently define “accessibility” and leaves people across the province to come up with their own interpretations. Even the definition of “disability” is problematic, he said, saying AODA’s current language positions disability as a medical issue rather than one of social exclusion.

Clarifying those key terms is among the 15 broad recommendations Onley provided to the current Progressive Conservative government, who had frozen work by committees tasked with developing accessibility standards since taking power last June.

Others involve the government radically changing its approach. Onley urged Premier Doug Ford to lead the way in making accessibility a priority across all ministries, not just the one ostensibly handling the file.

He also urged the government to redesign the provincial education curriculum to make accessibility a focus starting as early as kindergarten and extending through the post-secondary years. He likened the efforts he wants to see with past campaigns that brought public smoking and environmental protection to greater public prominence.

Onley singled out architects as a particular target of educational efforts, noting trainees in the field learn next to nothing about inclusive design.

Other recommendations included offering tax breaks and other financial incentives to those improving accessibility in public buildings and private homes, significantly bolstering enforcement efforts, and lifting the freeze on developing new accessibility standards in areas like health care and education.

The government said it acted on the last recommendation already and will be meeting with committee heads to get work back underway.

No response to recommendations

Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho did not respond to Onley’s other recommendations, but thanked him for the report.

“We aim to modernize our approach to accessibility to make things easier for families, workers and businesses in today’s Ontario,” Cho said in a statement.

Accessibility advocates lauded Onley’s report, saying his “blistering” findings should be of particular concern to other Canadian jurisdictions.

David Lepofsky, chair of advocacy group AODA Alliance, said Manitoba and Nova Scotia both put legislation in place that’s weaker than Ontario’s in many respects. The federal government, he said, is poised to follow suit unless the senate makes amendments to strengthen the proposed Accessible Canada Act, the first national accessibility law in Canada’s history.

“The thing that we’ve learned, that the Onley report shows, is that just doing what Ontario did has helped, but nowhere near as much as what we need,” Lepofsky said. “(Other governments) need to learn from that and be better.”

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Toronto Star March 10, 2019

News

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2019/03/10/a-look-at-ttc-accessibility-through-the-eyes-of-a-rider-who-uses-two-canes.html

UNEASY ACCESS

Navigating the TTC is a constant challenge for Jessica Geboers. Although provincial law requires transit stations to be fully accessible by 2025, currently only 45 of 75 TTC stations are. That is sparking worries that the deadline won’t be met

Francine Kopun Toronto Star

Jessica Geboers steps off a busy subway car at College station, a cane in each hand, and confronts her first obstacle: two flights of stairs, 10 stairs each.

The stairwell is narrow and passengers headed down the stairs stop to give her the room she needs to make her way up. On this day, at rush hour, a bottleneck forms in seconds.

Sometimes people stop to tell her that there’s an escalator – but Geboers can’t use it, because she can’t hang on to the moving handrails. She has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, affecting muscle control and coordination.

“They’re trying to be helpful and they mean well, but I’m pretty smart. I can see there is an escalator there, and I’m concentrating on not dying on these stairs,” says Geboers, 29.

Past the turnstiles she is confronted by two more flights of stairs: 14 steps and 21 steps respectively. This time the crowd bunches up behind her, infuriating a young man who bursts away from the pack and dashes around her to the top, muttering his complaint.

Making the TTC more accessible – which the transit service is legally bound to do by 2025 – can’t come soon enough for Geboers, who has a busy life that requires her to spend a lot of time on public transit. She works three days a week and attends physiotherapy appointments twice a week. She volunteers.

She rates the TTC’s accessibility as a six out of 10. “I see that they’re really trying and a good number of stations are accessible, but not as many as should be or could be,” she says.

Last week Mayor John Tory unveiled a newly installed elevator at St. Patrick station, calling it a milestone, but despite making significant progress, there are signs the TTC may be falling behind on its plan to ensure that all stations are accessible by 2025.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires the province be fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, including transportation systems like the TTC.

The Act was passed in 2005, but, to date, only 45 of Toronto’s 75 subway stations are accessible.

In fact, the AODA has fallen well short of its goals and people with disabilities continue to face “soul-crushing” barriers, according to a report on the act tabled in the provincial legislature this week by former lieutenant-governor David Onley.

While advances have been made in the area of transportation, it remains the most important issue among people with disabilities, according to the report.

“The reason is perhaps obvious,” wrote Onley, who is disabled.

“If you can’t leave your home, there will be no job, recreation, shopping or other opportunities. Better transportation requires money and leadership.”

Among other challenges, the report points out that priority seating in some places is not working out as intended.

Seats intended for wheelchair access are being taken up by able-bodied people, baby strollers and people with grocery carts. Municipalities are urged in the report to bring in and enforce stronger rules around priority seating.

A total of 11 TTC subway stations will be under construction for accessibility by the end of 2019, but only Royal York station will be completed this year.

Only 26 of 41 objectives set out for the five-year period from 2014-18 were completed when the last status update was filed, in April. By the end of this year, 32 of 41 will be completed, according to the TTC.

The new five-year accessibility plan, covering 2019-2023, has not yet been filed.

“It’s clear that TTC needs to accelerate their work to improve accessibility of their infrastructure and service,” says Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 13 Toronto Centre), while acknowledging that the TTC has been working hard to meet the 2025 deadline.

“The year 2025 for AODA compliance is literally around the corner when it comes to major infrastructure upgrades,” she says, adding that if it does fall behind, city council and other government partners need to provide additional funding to make up for lost time.

Mayor Tory, at the launch of the elevator at St. Patrick station, seemed to agree, saying: “If by any chance we fall off track, we’re going to get back on track.”

The TTC says it has made significant progress. All TTC buses are now accessible, with low floors, ramps and seats that flip up to accommodate wheelchairs. It says all subway trains are accessible, with level boarding. Over half of 204 new low-floor accessible streetcars are in service and the rest are expected to arrive by the end of 2019. All of the older inaccessible streetcars will be decommissioned. The plan is to have elevators at all stations by 2025.

After fighting against it in court and losing, the TTC now has a system that audibly announces upcoming stops on subway trains, streetcars and buses, to assist the vision impaired. There are visual signs for the hearing impaired.

Mazin Aribi, chair of the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT), which advises the TTC, says meeting the 2025 target is a delicate balance – too much construction, too fast, triggers complaints from riders.

He thinks that if the TTC continues on its accelerated plan to finish all the subway stations, the 2025 deadline will be met. But he is concerned that planned takeover of the TTC by the province could lead to delays, because the province seems to be focused on saving money and making subways accessible costs money.

“The bottom line is, we do need inclusion,” Aribi says. “It’s public transit. Every person in Toronto is entitled to use and have access.”

The cost for making a station accessible varies, according to the TTC. Sometimes as many as three elevators are required to make a station accessible. The amount of excavation work required varies. Construction costs for St. Patrick were approximately $7.5 million for one elevator. Construction began in December 2016 and the elevator went into service in September.

A second elevator was built by Amexon Development Corp. as part of a Section 37 community benefit, providing access to street level, within the footprint of a property it owns at 480 University Ave., at a cost of $3.9 million to the company. (Section 37 of Ontario’s Planning Act allows developers to exceed height and density zoning regulations in exchange for contributions to neighbourhood projects.)

Several major projects, worth $615.3 million, have been budgeted in the 2018-2027 TTC capital budget, representing more than 9 per cent of the TTC’s overall capital requirements in the next 10 years.

The TTC says it is committed to finishing on time. “Not only is that deadline our commitment, it’s our obligation,” according to a statement from TTC chair Jaye Robinson’s office. Access advocate David Lepofsky, a lawyer who is blind and who fought the TTC in court to force the transit system to announce upcoming stops in streetcars and buses and subway trains, said that without dramatic reforms, the TTC will not meet the 2025 deadline.

While the focus seems to be on elevators, he says the TTC still makes design mistakes at new stations that hinder accessibility.

And the TTC already missed an earlier deadline of 2020, says Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“Do I have concrete, specific evidence that they aren’t going to meet the plan? No I do not, and I’m not suggesting I do,” Lepofsky says. “Am I worried because of the fact that they’ve been a moving target in the past and could be again? Yes. I am basing the concern on their past conduct.”

The issue should be of concern to everyone, Lepofsky says. As people age, they are likely to suffer from impaired mobility of one form or another.

Since suffering a mild stroke two years ago, Sidonio Ferreira has become well acquainted with a flight of stairs that used to have no impact on his life, at Keele subway station.

“They took my licence away. I have to take the subway,” says Ferreira, 83, who has lived in the same neighbourhood for decades.

He and his wife, 74, struggle with the subway stairs and he says they’re not alone – many of their friends and neighbours do, too.

“So far, I can do it. But it’s very hard.”

Construction of an elevator at Keele is scheduled to begin this year, according to the TTC.



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