Media Reports Show Yet More Problems Facing People with Disabilities During the COVID-19 crisis – The Need for Urgent Government Action Is Swiftly Ballooning


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Media Reports Show Yet More Problems Facing People with Disabilities During the COVID-19 crisis – The Need for Urgent Government Action Is Swiftly Ballooning

April 20, 2020

          SUMMARY

The COVID-19 crisis remains our top priority this week in our campaign for accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.

The fact that people with disabilities are facing additional hardships during the COVID-19 crisis leaps from the pages of media reports in this area. Here is a recent sampling of some of the coverage. This selection of news reports includes:

* An April 6, 2020 report by CTV London entitled “Some LTC drivers refuse passengers in wheelchairs” shows troubling barriers that can face public transit passengers with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

* The April 11, 2020 Globe and Mail included an extensive article entitled: “Educators worry gap may grow for disadvantaged students stuck at home”. While it focused on the unmet needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged students during the move from classroom teaching to online learning, it barely mentioned the enormous disadvantage facing students with disabilities, numbering in the hundreds of thousands across Ontario.

* The April 13, 2020 Toronto Star included an article entitled: “Activists fear for safety of people with disabilities after funding for mobility and medical devices deemed non-essential”. It documented the serious harm that the Ford Government has done to people with disabilities by declaring the Assistive Devices Program for people with disabilities non-essential during the COVID-19 crisis.

* The April 15, 2020 Toronto Star included an excellent letter to the editor by accessibility advocate Ed Rice entitled: “Ford may be doing better, but he’s not helping the disabled”.

* The April 15, 2020 Windsor Star included an article entitled: “Parents worried disabled children would get low priority during COVID-19 surge”. It showed serious concerns within the disability community about the Ford Government’s secret protocol for rationing medical care during the COVID-19 crisis from the perspective of people with disabilities.

* The April 18, 2020 Toronto Star included an extensive report entitled: “People with severe disabilities feel especially vulnerable in COVID-19 shutdown”. It detailed yet more reasons why people with disabilities feel especially precarious during the COVID crisis.

* The April 19, 2020 CBC website posted a very thoughtful guest column by two professors with expertise in the disability field, entitled “Assessing the value of a life: COVID-19 triage orders mustn’t work against those with disabilities Governments need to affirm ethical and human rights obligations to persons with disabilities”. It raises serious concerns with the Ford Government’s secret protocol for rationing critical medical care during the COVID crisis.

* The April 19, 2020 Toronto Star included a detailed article entitled “‘Window is closing’ to protect disabled community from a COVID-19 outbreak”. It explores the vulnerability of people with disabilities living in nursing homes and disability living facilities due to the COVID out pandemic.

You can also check out the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s appearance on CTV’s national morning program “Your Morning” on April 10, 2020. He had a mere 3 minutes on the air to summarize all these issues!

With all these problems and many more facing people with disabilities, where is the Ford Government’s plan of action to address the urgent needs of over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities? We’ve been calling for this for weeks.

It is especially important for the media to give more attention to the added hardships imposed on people with disabilities during the COVID crisis. Because we are all shut in at home, we have no access to places like the Legislature to come together en masse to raise these concerns.

There have been 445 days since the Ford Government received the groundbreaking and blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has still announced no good comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. This is so even though the Government staged a media event on February 28, 2020 to promise that it would “lead by example” on accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.

There have now been 26 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. His office has not contacted us. The plight facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is made even worse by that delay. The news reports in this Update give just some illustrations of this.

For more background, check out and share with others:

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis. It has American Sign Language interpretation and captioning. This event was jointly organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.

* The AODA Alliance’s April 14, 2020 Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities.

* Action tips on how to help ensure that patients with disabilities don’t face discrimination in access to critical health care.

* The April 8, 2020 open letter to Premier Ford, organized by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, voicing concerns about the Ontario Government’s protocol for rationing medical care during the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford, which has gone unanswered.

Send us your feedback. Write us at [email protected] Stay healthy and safe!

MORE DETAILS

CTV LONDON | News April 6, 2020

Originally posted at https://london.ctvnews.ca/some-ltc-drivers-refuse-passengers-in-wheelchairs-1.4885291#_gus&_gucid=&_gup=Facebook&_gsc=aH1y94M

Some LTC drivers refuse passengers in wheelchairs

CTV News London

Bryan Bicknell

@BBicknellCTV

LONDON, ONT. — A dispute over COVID-19 concerns for London Transit Commission (LTC) drivers came to a head over the weekend after a number of drivers refused to allow people in wheelchairs to board buses, CTV News has learned.

One of those people was Penny Moore, who says when she tried to take the bus to go shopping she was refused – not by one, but by two different drivers on separate buses.

“The bus driver there opened the door and started yelling at me and said ‘Do you know about the new rules?’ And I said ‘What new rules?’ He said ‘We’re not taking disabled and we’re not strapping them in.’ I said ‘I have the right to get the necessity and food like everybody else.’”

Moore says she did manage to get on each bus eventually, both only with the help of kindly fellow passengers.

CTV News has learned of six work refusals over the weekend by LTC drivers concerned over COVID-19.

One of the cases was resolved, but five other cases involved the Ontario Ministry of Labour. It ruled that drivers cannot turn away passengers with wheelchairs, and they are required to strap them in.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 741 President Andre Fournier says drivers are concerned about getting close to passengers because they don’t have personal protective equipment.

“Right now they’re going through hell. There’s a lot of anxiety, stress. They’re afraid they’re going to take the COVID-19 home with them. Of course we sympathize with, you know, with people with mobility issues. But for them to get in close and strap, they’re touching the people. They’re touching their equipment and it’s just scary.”

LTC Chair, Councillor Phil Squire, says he sympathizes with drivers, but everyone must be allowed to board the bus.

“If we denied that right we would be into a human rights dispute that we would surely lose.”

Squire adds that drivers have been provided with an instructional video on how to safely tie-down mobility devices like wheelchairs.

As for Moore, she says a little compassion would go a long way.

“If you know someone that’s disabled, someone that’s senior, someone that doesn’t have a vehicle to go anywhere to get something – ask them if they need something when they go out, and also treat everybody with respect. Even though I’m disabled, I’m still a person. I have feelings too.”

Globe and Mail April 11, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-tdsb-aims-to-bridge-gaps-in-at-home-education/

Educators worry gap may grow for disadvantaged students stuck at home

By CAROLINE ALPHONSO

Globe and Mail, Apr. 11, 2020

Canada’s largest school board will be delivering internet-connected devices to about 29,000 households as educators across the country struggle to level the playing field for poorer families even as they worry that the gaps will widen during this pandemic.

As school closings stretch from weeks into months in a bidto stop the spread of COVID-19, new challenges are emerging in education around how to make sure children who may not have adequate resources at home are still learning.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB), like others across the country, is equipping families over the coming week with WiFi-enabled devices and iPads or Chromebooks if they don’t have them at home, hoping this will help keep students engaged in their schoolwork.

Increasingly, however, education observers are realizing that even though teachers across the country can send work to their housebound students, hold video chats and telephone calls, even the very best educators will struggle to overcome the loss of one key element: the school building.

The bricks-and-mortar classroom is one of the biggest assets in narrowing the divide, and distance learning during this pandemic is widening inequities that may end up setting back some children from marginalized communities even further, education observers say.

John Malloy, the TDSB’s director of education, acknowledged that technology is only one aspect of distance learning. The home situations of students vary and many may not receive help from families with their schoolwork for a variety of reasons, including parents who are considered essential workers or who are struggling after losing their jobs. Other students may have special needs that require a high level of supports, or be English-language learners who need extra assistance. That struggle will be greater remotely,” Dr. Malloy said. “[I’ve told principals] please use all the creative strategies that you know and understand to be sure that we leave no student or their family behind. “Learning is important. But well-being has to take a priority and we can’t race the learning agenda and forget about the well-being agenda,” he added, saying that the school board is looking at how to have social workers, guidance counsellors and child and youth workers connect with students.

Some provinces, including Alberta and Ontario, have outlined how many hours of work teachers are to assign students a week based on their grade level.

In Ontario, for example, students in kindergarten to Grade 6 are to receive five hours of work a week. Saskatchewan, meanwhile, said that school divisions and teachers will implement a “supplemental curriculum program” for students who want to continue learning.

Beyhan Farhadi, who recently earned a PhD at the University of Toronto examining education inequity and e-learning, said expectations in some provinces put increased pressure on families and magnify existing inequities. She said she is concerned that some students could be penalized for not getting the work done.

“There is an assumption that students are going to be disciplined, they are going to be supported by parents and caregivers. Quite frankly, it’s ridiculous,” said Ms. Farhadi, who is also a teacher with the Toronto board.

She added: “We definitely shouldn’t put learning on pause.

[But] we can provide supports both in resources and one-onone for our most vulnerable students, if we centre them in our planning.”

One of the main concerns educators face is how far behind students, especially those from marginalized communities, will be in their learning when school resumes, despite their access to technology during the pandemic.

Karen Robson, an Ontario research chair in educational achievement and at-risk youth at McMaster University, said “there’s going to be a lot of catching up” for students who were already struggling.

“A lot of the income inequalities are going to be exacerbated by this,” she said. “There’s going to be parents at home who have access to technology, who work from home, who are on top on all of this, probably really keen to help their kids with this. … But that’s not the case everywhere. There’s going to be massive differences.”

Teri Mooring, president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, said she is advising educators to go slow in restarting what she described as “emergency remote learning.”

Many families, she said, are dealing with food insecurity, shelter and health issues, and schooling may not be a priority.

“It’s a health crisis, not an education crisis,” she said.

Ms. Mooring said students may often forget some of what they learned over their summer break, and educators will be more mindful with this longer absence if school resumes in September.

“Will it be more accentuated in September? Perhaps,” Ms. Mooring said. “And teachers will know that because we’ve all been through this and will take measures to ensure that those gaps are reduced.”

Toronto Star April 13, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/04/13/activists-fear-for-safety-of-people-with-disabilities-after-funding-for-mobility-and-medical-devices-deemed-non-essential.html

Activists fear for safety of people with disabilities after funding for mobility and medical devices deemed non-essential

By Laurie Monsebraaten

Social Justice Reporter

Mon., April 13, 2020

Thousands of Ontarians with disabilities may end up in hospital — or not be able to return to the community safely — because the Ford government has temporarily shuttered a provincial program that helps pay the cost of specialized mobility and medical devices, disability activists say.

The Assistive Devices Program (ADP), which provides 75 per cent of the cost of critical equipment such as power wheelchairs, portable oxygen, prostheses and insulin pumps, was declared a non-essential workplace March 24 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

And yet equipment vendors, who continue to receive government funding, have been deemed essential and are still open, causing confusion among people with disabilities who struggle to pay for equipment without ADP approvals.

The situation highlights the urgency to “to modernize the ADP system and to move to more digital solutions to support eligibility reviews and funding approvals,” said Christine Brenchley, executive director of the Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists.

“It is unclear why some elements of application review processes cannot proceed with safe practices of social distancing as in other areas of essential service,” she wrote in a letter to ministry officials March 27, in which she raised concerns about the government’s decision to close ADP.

Barrie-area mother Heather Morgan, a disability activist who has a rare neuromuscular condition, said she has also been raising the alarm with ministry officials and her local MPP.

“Many people with disabilities in the community rely on specialized equipment to remain in their homes safely while they self-isolate,” said Morgan, whose 16-year-old daughter, Ten, has an acute form of the condition that makes it difficult for her to even sit up and has been bedridden for the last year.

After months of waiting, an error in Ten’s application for a motorized wheelchair was sorted out last month, just as the ADP program was closed, Morgan said.

“My daughter has already missed a year of school because of this, and now we don’t know when the funding will come through,” she said.

“But this isn’t just about my family,” Morgan said. “I have heard from someone who is taping their prosthetic leg together because they cannot get it fixed and can’t function without it. I have heard from someone whose elderly relative needs a rollator (a type of walker that helps prevent falls) and can’t access one but lives alone. On and on the stories go.”

A spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government is aware of the uncertainty around the ADP program.

“We’re currently evaluating options to provide greater continuity of services under the Assisted Devices Program during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hayley Chazan said in an email.

In 2017-18, the health ministry spent about $514 million to provide mobility and medical devices for more than 400,000 Ontario residents, an increase of about 48 per cent in the last 10 years, according to a 2018 provincial auditor’s report. More than 8,000 devices are covered under the program.

Since the program closed, the ministry has continued to fund equipment vendors based on an average of their monthly billings for the past six months. But some vendors are reluctant to offer equipment without ADP funding approval, Morgan said.

Others have said they will provide equipment if clients pay the 25 per cent co-payment. But for her daughter’s motorized wheelchair, that amounts to $10,000, she said.

Many people rely on insurance to cover co-payments. But insurers won’t cover the cost without an ADP approval, she said. “So it is a Catch-22 situation.”

In her letter to the ministry, Brenchley expressed grave concerns about the province’s decision to close ADP services during the pandemic.

She said many hospital patients are unable to return home or move to long-term care without access to appropriate seating and mobility systems.

Closing ADP will delay timely discharges that are critical as hospitals prepare for a surge in COVID-19 patients, warned Brenchley, whose society represents the province’s 4,300 registered occupational therapists.

Those living in the community who need mobility equipment repairs, upgrades or new equipment will be put at increased risk of falls, pressure injuries and other loss of independence if they can’t access ADP financial support, she said in the letter.

Some people will end up in emergency departments and put increased demands on home care during a time when the health-care system is already struggling to fight the pandemic, she noted.

ADP is already experiencing a three-to-seven-month backlog, Brenchley said, adding the situation will only worsen if the program remains shuttered during the health crisis.

In an email Thursday, Brenchley said the ministry has been working to ensure “expedited” funding approval for patients being discharged from hospital who need seating and mobility equipment.

“While not perfect, the ministry has addressed a workaround for essential services,” she said. “At this time we’re monitoring impacts.”

Double amputee Aristotle Domingo, founder of the Amputee Coalition of Toronto, is not aware of any local members who were awaiting ADP funding approval when the office closed last month.

“What I can share, however, is the level of anxiety that we feel while we wait for an approval from ADP even on a regular day,” he said this week. “In the amputee community, getting approval for a prosthesis or wheelchair is a game changer.”

Without funding support, mobility is severely limited, resulting in “less than ideal healthy outcomes both physically and mentally,” he added.

Toronto star April 15, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2020/04/15/ford-may-be-doing-better-but-hes-not-helping-the-disabled.html

Letters to the Editor

Ford may be doing better, but he’s not helping the disabled

Wed., April 15, 2020timer1 min. read

Kudos to Doug Ford for his leadership during this COVID-19 crisis, Letter, April 10

This letter only tells part of the story. In the government’s reports on COVID-19, the principle of “caring for our most vulnerable” is stated as a priority. Let’s not forget the vulnerable. The government’s Assistive Devices Program (ADP) supplies all types of items that people with disabilities rely on for their life-sustaining needs, employment, quality of life and mobility devices. On March 24, the program was classified as “non-essential” and frozen until the crisis passes. This has caused months of delay for processing assistance applications. The government says it is caring for the most vulnerable. People with disabilities are also part of our society. Unfreeze the Assistive Devices Program now to help those who have been waiting many months.

Edward Rice, Toronto

Windsor Star April 15, 2020

Originally posted at https://windsorstar.com/news/local-news/parents-worried-disabled-children-would-get-low-priority-during-covid-19-surge/wcm/55f694eb-9fd9-42ab-bcf2-d9e7d53d8ab6/

Parents worried disabled children would get low priority during COVID-19 surge |

Brian Cross

Megan Crawford’s parents are “really scared” her severe disabilities will get her deprioritized — denied a ventilator or other critical treatment — should she be hospitalized with COVID-19 during an overwhelming surge.

The source of their alarm is a Health Ontario document called the Clinical Triage Protocol for Major Surge in COVID Pandemic, which spells out the “last resort” decisions that must be made when the rising number of patients requiring care outnumbers the resources available.

Last week, 204 organizations representing people with disabilities — including several from Windsor-Essex — signed a letter to Premier Doug Ford, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Sung Joon Cho expressing grave concerns over the protocol.

“According to the Triage Protocol, some people will not get critical care because of their disability,” says the letter, also signed by 4,828 individuals.

“The rationing of scarce resources in the health-care system during this health crisis cannot be used as justification for discrimination.”

The government has said the protocol is just a draft. “The triage protocols you refer to are still in development,” Ontario Health spokeswoman Adele Small said in an email this week. But advocates and families are wary and alarmed. Megan, 45, was born with multiple disabilities and lives in her own home with the help of support workers to provide a 24/7 personal care.

When Megan’s mother Marleen saw the protocols — which were not labelled “draft” — she was “really scared.” Though Megan is very healthy, all it takes is exposure to the virus to put her at risk. “If she needed extreme intervention, such as a ventilator, would she be considered one of those people not in line for a ventilator, despite the fact she’s healthy and she’s 45?” Marleen asked. “We’ve been fighting for years and years and years for Megan and people like her to be seen as equal citizens in the community.”

Nowadays, Megan is living a good, healthy life.  She’s well taken care of and she’s making a contribution to the community, Marleen said. “I don’t think they should be making decisions on who should be eligible for equipment just based on their disability.”

The exclusion criteria in the triage protocol identifies people whose medical conditions indicate a low probability of surviving. But it also includes people with severe to moderate cognitive impairment, as well as people considered “severely frail” because they depend entirely on personal care. Many people with disabilities could fit into both those categories.

“I know so many people with what people would consider severe or moderate impairments who are living full lives based on their support services,” said Domenic D’Amore, director of Windsor-Essex Brokerage for Personal Supports, an agency that helps people with disabilities arrange funding, housing and support staff so they can live on their own. The way he reads the “frightening” protocol, if you need services to live your daily life, then you’re somehow lesser on the scale of human beings, he said.

“Why is that judged a lesser life and who gets to make that decision, and who should?” He’s just hoping the pandemic situation doesn’t gets so severe that these types of decisions need to be made.

In the event of a major surge, the document says all current patients receiving critical care should be reviewed and those who would be excluded according to the criteria for the first level (the most severe cases with a predicted mortality of 80 per cent or more) should be identified and informed of the situation if possible. The triaging has three levels, with Level 3 having a lower predicted mortality rate of 30 per cent or more.

Parents of children with disabilities are worried that when medical experts are trying to decide who gets access to a ventilator and who doesn’t, their children wouldn’t be deemed as important as people who can walk and talk. “And so they would become a lower priority,” said Michelle Friesen, a parent leader with Windsor-Essex Family Network whose daughter Lisa, 39, is totally dependent on support for everything, from eating to going to the washroom. Born with cerebral palsy, she is blind, developmentally disabled and doesn’t speak.

But just because someone lives in a wheelchair and needs total care doesn’t mean they have a low quality of life, said Friesen. And it doesn’t mean that someone should get to decide that their life isn’t as important. “We’re asking for basic human rights and people determining that they like their life the way it is, and that those value judgments don’t get made,” she said.

If Lisa was critically ill with COVID-19, her disability shouldn’t be the main factor in deciding if she should receive lifesaving treatment, Friesen said.

“She’s got quite a lively personality and she’s quite engaging and very beautiful. And she really enjoys life.”

Toronto Star April 18, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/04/10/people-with-severe-disabilities-feel-especially-vulnerable-in-covid-19-shutdown.html

By Laurie Monsebraaten

As public health officials scramble to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes and residential care facilities, people with severe physical disabilities living in the community are watching and worrying. The isolation many feel under normal circumstances has been heightened by social-distancing orders. Everyday health challenges now put them at significant risk of falling ill.

The Star spoke to several people with disabilities and their families to see how they are faring in the face of the pandemic:

‘I know they are deciding if people are going to live’ Michelle Kungl says she is not afraid of dying of COVID-19. “I’m just worried about knowing when to go to hospital,” said the 37-year-old Richmond Hill woman, who suffered a spinal cord injury at birth and is believed to be one of the oldest people in Canada living independently, while partially dependent on a ventilator.

“Before this, when I got sick I would know when to go to the hospital,” she said in a phone interview from her accessible, ground-floor apartment, which has on-site attendant care.

“But now, I know if I go there, I’m probably going to be around people who are much sicker than I am,” she said.“I know they are deciding if people are going to live …, so it might be healthier for me to stay home.” Critically ill COVID-19 patients are put on hospital ventilators when they can no longer get enough oxygen into their seriously infected lungs. But Kungl

has relied on a personal ventilator, hooked up to a tracheostomy tube in her neck, her entire life.

“My mother is much more scared than I am,” Kungl said. “But as you know, I’m never really nervous about much.”

The Star profiled Kungl’s remarkable life in 2017, from her years as a child forced to live in SickKids hospital in Toronto, because doctors couldn’t keep her alive at home, to her life as an adult living on her own, roaring around in her power wheelchair and driving to her full-time job in her accessible van.

If a vaccine for COVID-19 isn’t developed soon, Kungl, whose condition makes her highly susceptible to respiratory illnesses, says she’s “fairly sure” she is going to get the virus. Her mother Lyn Kungl, her daughter’s fiercest advocate, is not optimistic.

“Michelle will die of a respiratory issue due to her limited lung capacity,” she said in an interview from her cottage near Wasaga Beach, where she has been in isolation with her husband since mid-March when they returned from a trip to the Maldives. “The question is whether it will be because of COVID-19.”

Like most people who are still employed, Kungl has been working from home since the province declared a state of emergency March 17. It is lonely.

I miss the camaraderie of my office colleagues,” she said of her job as a credit-card fraud investigator for a bank. Working from home, however, has its advantages, Kungl noted. She can log overtime hours and not have to cancel evening appointments with attendant care workers, who now wear surgical masks in addition to gloves, when they clean her equipment, cook her meals and do light housekeeping.

Lyn, who speaks by phone to Kungl every day and comes into the city once a week to check on her Riverdale home, has offered to buy groceries for her daughter. But so far, Kungl, who guards her independence, insists on buying them, herself.

Her one concession is to allow “personal shoppers” to accompany her down the aisles to pick out her groceries, bring them to the check out and help her load them into her van to limit the things she has to touch.

Lyn cringes at the thought of Kungl in a grocery store during the health crisis. But she knows her daughter.

“Michelle likes to look after herself as best as she can, and she wants to be independent and advocate for herself,” Lyn said. “So am I going to stop her from going to Walmart? No, I’m not.” ‘My mother and I pray together over the phone’

Michelle MacGugan, 47, is very worried about catching COVID-19. “I can’t go out. I’ve had pneumonia five times,” says the Scarborough mother of three who became a quadriplegic 14 years ago when she broke her neck in an accident. “I try to think positive. But I’m scared. I’m very scared.”

MacGugan, an Indigenous woman from the Dene Tha’ First Nation in Alberta, has been living independently with the help of attendant care services for 11 years. She has no use of her arms and legs and limited use of one hand which she uses to move her power wheelchair and make calls on her cellphone.

She was in a state of crisis even before the global pandemic. In February, the erratic care she had been receiving through one of the attendant care agencies had almost ground to a halt. For about a month, MacGugan was not fed dinner most nights, and many mornings she waited in bed for hours, wondering if an attendant would arrive to get her up and feed her breakfast.

Her lawyer, Gabriel Reznick with ARCH Disability Law Centre, said MacGugan’s case is one of the worst he has seen and highlighted the need for more personal support workers and provincial funding, even before the pandemic. It also underscores the need for an independent complaints system for people with disabilities who receive attendant services in their homes, he said.

“It is important to understand the psychological and physical impact that the lack of services has had on her,” he said in an interview last month before a new attendant care agency took over April 1.

“Over the last few months, Michelle has been diagnosed with urinary tract infections, severe bed sores and bowel obstructions that have been linked by her doctor to the lack of care she has received,” said Reznick.

She has been approved for five government-subsidized attendant care visits a day to help her with the activities of daily life, including emptying her constantly overflowing catheter bag; bathing; and light housekeeping in her ground-floor apartment.

Despite the improved service since April 1, MacGugan has another urinary tract infection, due to her catheter bag not being emptied before it backs up into her bladder.

And she worries that if she can’t get attendant care workers to empty her catheter bag regularly, she may end up in a long-term-care facility where Premier

Doug Ford acknowledged this week COVID-19 is raging like a “wildfire.” In the meantime, MacGugan is self-isolating in her apartment and missing visits from friends and her daughter Myrah, 21, who lives nearby. With up to five different attendants coming into her apartment every day, MacGugan knows she is at risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus.

“But they all wear masks and gloves,” she said. “They are very good to me. The one at dinner time … she likes to talk to me, because she knows I am by myself. One of them picked up my pain medication at the drugstore for me.”

MacGugan speaks by phone to Myrah and to her 72-year-old mother in a seniors’ assisted living building in Edmonton where the rest of her extended family lives.

“I really feel isolated here some times,” MacGugan said. “I think about people who are passing on from this virus. My mother and I pray together over the phone.”

‘A lot families with complex kids have no support’

Disability activist Sherry Caldwell has been advocating for people with disabilities since the birth of her daughter Ashley, 15, who is non-verbal and uses a wheelchair for mobility and a feeding tube for liquids. Caldwell, who co-founded the Ontario Disability Coalition in 2017, believes the province’s new $600-million autism program discriminates against children with other disabilities who get very little direct funding and endure long waits for provincially funded programs.

She wants the government to include all children with physical and development disabilities in a single, inclusive program. Since COVID-19 swept the country, Caldwell has helped raise the alarm over the province’s decision to temporarily shutter a program that funds mobility and medical devices for children and adults with disabilities.

Her coalition signed an April 8 Open Letter from ARCH Disability Law Centre calling on the province to ensure people with physical and intellectual disabilities have equal access to emergency responders, hospitals and life-saving ventilators in the case of shortages. And Caldwell was among those who alerted government and the media when staff at Markham’s Participation House group home for adults with developmental disabilities walked off the job earlier this month.

Like most Canadians, Caldwell and her family have been self-isolating in their Richmond Hill home since mid-March to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Her husband, Ian, is working from home, and Caldwell has been helping her sons in Grade 5 and Grade 12 complete their studies. The couple’s third son remains in Ottawa where he attends university.

Caldwell, who has a part-time job at the LCBO, took a leave of absence in March to protect Ashley. She also asked the personal support workers who had been caring for Ashley before and after school every day to stop coming to their home during the pandemic. “They work in

other homes, and I just couldn’t risk having them bring the virus to our home,” Caldwell said.

A nurse who worked in Ashley’s school before everything closed in March continues to visit the Caldwell home two days a week to bathe, feed and provide other attendant care services to the teen.

“She knows Ashley and ours is the only house she comes to,” Caldwell said. “But I know not all families are fortunate enough to find someone they trust. “A lot families with complex kids have no support and are absolutely in tears, because their staff work in other homes and care facilities and it’s just not safe for them to be in their homes at this time.”

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter:

@lmonseb

CBC on Line April 19, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/opinion-disabled-covid-19-triage-orders-1.5532137?__vfz=medium%3Dsharebar

(Note: There is no indication that CBC has broadcast this guest column in whole or in part on the air on radio or TV. It is posted on CBC’s website, on its Opinion page)

Opinion

Assessing the value of a life: COVID-19 triage orders mustn’t work against those with disabilities

Governments need to affirm ethical and human rights obligations to persons with disabilities

This column is an opinion by Roxanne Mykitiuk and Trudo Lemmens. Mykitiuk is professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and director of the Disability Law Intensive Program at York University. Lemmens is professor at the Faculty of Law and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

With the rapid rise in infection rates due to COVID-19, provincial and territorial health care officials have been bracing themselves for situations of extreme shortage of the critical care beds, medical equipment and personnel necessary to treat the sickest of the sick in hospitals.

In a pandemic setting, triage is the allocation of treatment and scarce resources to patients according to a set of criteria or priorities in order to achieve a particular goal. The key goal is to make the most efficient use of available resources to maximize the number of survivors, and in times of extreme health care crisis it can also include the survival of essential health care personnel.

But who gets left behind? Persons with disabilities fear and distrust priority-setting in medicine – and you can understand why. History and often personal health care experiences of people with disabilities fuel these fears. They worry that priorities or the way access criteria are interpreted and applied, whether deliberately or through oversight, will put people with disabilities at or near the bottom of the priority list for care.

Many jurisdictions, including some Canadian provinces, are drafting clinical triage guidelines for decision-making in circumstances of extreme shortage, to avoid such decisions having to be made by individual physicians on the fly. The Canadian Medical Association has also issued a more general framework for provincial guidelines.

Triage guidelines identify various selection criteria, in particular for access to ventilator support, and a decision-making procedure most often involving triage committees.

Draft Ontario Guidelines and the CMA framework emphasize that clinical prognosis of mortality should guide triage decisions. They do not explicitly deprioritize people because of an existing disability — but they don’t just focus on whether patients will likely survive the acute illness for which they require a ventilator or other critical care resources. Guidelines that go beyond a prognosis of survival of the acute COVID-19 related event tend to disproportionately affect people with disabilities. They also facilitate “ableist” presumptions about survival chances or quality of life after ICU treatment seeping into clinical evaluations. The CMA framework suggests prioritizing people with a “reasonable life expectancy,” and among those with equal survival chances, those with more life years left. Elderly patients and many with disabilities thereby risk getting the short end of the stick.

The Ontario draft guidelines use a score system to categorize those with lower survival chances, including months after ICU treatment. Progressive cognitive impairment, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and ALS, and clinical frailty due to a progressive illness, are given scores that deprioritize people with those conditions as candidates for ventilation. The Ontario guidelines also recommend withdrawal of ventilator support of those at higher mortality risk, in order to prioritize those at lower risk, depending on the level of scarcity. For example, under the most serious shortage scenario, a 60-year-old patient with moderate Parkinson’s would be refused access to a ventilator or be withdrawn from it in favour of one without this condition. The guidelines emphasize that patients who would become ineligible should continue to receive non-critical and palliative care. They also rightly emphasize the importance of frank discussions about low survival chances, so that patient can decide to forego invasive ventilator treatment.

While decisions need to be made to prioritize the allocation of scarce resources to individuals more likely to benefit from treatment, people with disabilities must not have to battle discrimination when seeking life-sustaining treatment. Their lives are equally as valuable as those living without disabilities.

It is important that key ethical and human rights obligations towards people with disabilities, including duties to accommodate, be affirmed in clinical triage policies. People with disabilities must not be sacrificed based on faulty presumptions and stereotypes about living with disability. On the contrary, a duty to accommodate may require providing them with some level of extra care to ensure that they receive a fair chance of survival in critical care. Any triage decisions that reflect a devaluing of the lives of people with disabilities or which are based on “ableist” presumptions about quality of life or on long-term survival are discriminatory and violate provincial human rights norms. Disabilities that are unrelated to near-term survival cannot be criteria for prioritization decisions under COVID-19 triage guidelines.

The following precautions would help ensure the rights of persons with disabilities:

  • Triage guidelines should explicitly emphasize the need to avoid discrimination, and to adhere to human rights standards. The presence of a disability, including a significant disability, is not a permissible basis for giving people lower priority for intensive care. Criteria unrelated to near-term survival cannot be used as a basis for priority-setting or resource-allocation decisions. Survival estimates should be restricted to survival of the event for which the specific critical care intervention, such as a ventilator, is required. Estimates beyond this risk opening the door to evaluative decisions about the value of a life with a disability.
  • The fact that a person with a disability may require accommodations during treatment, including intensive care, or in order to perform activities of daily life outside of treatment, are not a permissible basis for giving that person a lower priority for life-saving care.
  • It’s critical that all decisions about priority-setting must be informed by evidence-based clinical criteria, and not based on stereotypes or assumptions that people with disabilities experience a lower quality of life.
  • Decisions should also not be based on stereotypical assumptions about the survival chances of people with disabilities. When guidelines refer to frailty scales that correlate with short-term survival in determining priorities, doctors should not assume that a specific diagnosis or disability is indicative of poor near-term survival. The duty to accommodate may in fact require making additional efforts to give people with disabilities an equal chance of survival.
  • All guidelines about priority-setting must state that persons with disabilities who use ventilators in their daily living and who seek medical attention in hospitals due to COVID-19 symptoms will be permitted to keep and continue to use their personal ventilators, and will receive COVID-19 treatment.

Provinces and the CMA should be lauded for drafting triage policies to facilitate challenging pandemic decision-making. But they should do so with transparency and invite public input.

Above all, guidelines should live up to human rights standards. It always requires some effort to safeguard human rights, but it can take a pandemic to force our hand and lay bare the depth of our commitment.

Toronto Star April 19, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/04/18/window-is-closing-to-protect-disabled-community-from-a-covid-19-outbreak.html?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=SocialMedia&utm_campaign=National&utm_content=windowisclosing&utm_source=twitter&source=torontostar&utm_medium=SocialMedia&utm_campaign=&utm_campaign_id=&utm_content

‘Window is closing’ to protect disabled community from a COVID-19 outbreak

By Jennifer Yang

Staff Reporter

As the province scrambles to contain the COVID-19 crisis in long-term care homes, disability advocates fear their sector could be next in the pandemic’s path of destruction and the “window is closing” for decisive action that could spare them from similar tragedy.

In the long-term care industry, the ingredients for disaster were baked in from the start: A deadly and infectious virus, buildings full of vulnerable people, and a highly-mobile workforce for whom close contact is part of the job description. But these risk factors are also inherent in “congregate” living spaces for people with disabilities and advocates say there is an urgent need for coherent plans aimed at protecting these vulnerable people.

While there is still time to take proactive steps to prevent widespread tragedy across Ontario’s disabled community, “that window is closing,” says Lori Holloway, CEO of Bellwoods Centres for Community Living.

“We don’t want to be the next long-term care scenario, where we’re dealing with mass outbreaks,” says Holloway, whose organization operates six supportive housing sites in the GTA, and helps people with disabilities live independently. “It’s not the time to be critical but it is the time to say there’s a group here that we think has been forgotten.”

While congregate living facilities for people with disabilities tend to be smaller than long-term care homes — and most residents are not elderly — they do cluster people with health complications or underlying illnesses that put them at heightened risk of deadly infection.

People who are disabled, both living in congregate settings and at home, are also highly dependent on personal support workers (PSWs), an underpaid workforce that is largely forced to work multiple jobs at different locations. While the province has ordered workers at seniors’ homes to choose a single workplace to limit the virus’ spread, a similar directive — or specific commitments for supplying personal protective gear — has yet to come for PSWs in the disability sector.

Work is now underway on a residential staffing directive that will limit “staffing flexibility in order to control infection spread,” said Palmer Lockridge, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS), in an email. But he adds that “our goal is to strike the right balance between strong infection control measures to protect individuals and staff, and adequate staffing flexibility to ensure continuity of service from people who are highly dependent on others for their health and safety in everyday living.”

Meanwhile, for some facilities shared by people with disabilities, COVID-19 has already crept in. To date, there have been 33 outbreaks reported by provincially-funded facilities for people with developmental disabilities, affecting 130 residents and staff, according to Lockridge. The threshold for declaring an outbreak is one confirmed case. “We are monitoring this situation and working closely with our partner agencies so that their immediate needs are being met,” he said.

“We will do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable citizens because we all know they are most at risk during this outbreak,” he said in an email. “We’re in constant contact with our agency partners to understand their needs as this situation evolves.”

Among the group homes where COVID-19 has already erupted is Markham’s Participation House, a home for people with developmental and physical disabilities where a massive outbreak has infected at least 37 of the home’s 42 residents. Two have died and a dozen staff members have also been infected.

“I am hopeful that Participation House is a wakeup call for every single home out there,” said Laura Meffen, whose 21-year-old daughter was among the infected residents at Participation House. “I am hopeful that the government is going to now understand the need.”

But addressing the needs of the disability community is perhaps even more complex than shoring up protections for long-term care facilities or retirement homes. The community is diverse, spanning a range of disabilities and age groups, and living arrangements are varied. There are congregate living facilities or group homes, where residents might share bedrooms or communal spaces, and independent living housing sites, like Bellwoods, where people are clustered but live in apartment-style units and receive daily supports from PSWs.

Many people with physical or intellectual disabilities are also cared for in the community by family members or employ their own PSWs — including approximately 150 in Ontario who are on ventilation.

Complicating matters is that responsibility for the disabled population is spread across different ministries. An organization like Bellwoods is a transfer payment agency through Ontario Health, the newly-created “super agency” for delivering health care in the province. But group homes like Participation House fall under the purview of MCCSS, which oversees the “developmental services sector.”

The MCCSS recently announced new measures for its sector, including emergency childcare for workers and enhanced COVID-19 testing. A new, $40-million relief fund will also help offset extra costs for additional staffing, personal protective gear, physical distancing initiatives, and transportation to minimize infection risks but it’s being dispersed across several high-needs residential facilities, including women’s shelters and youth homes.

In the absence of clear guidance or support aimed at the disabled community, many agencies and facilities have been working on the fly to figure out their own solutions. In the mad scramble for PPE, those in the disability sector are competing with not just the rest of the world but also better-resourced sectors in their own community.

“The entire health care system has had challenges around PPE but I do feel that our sector often gets left behind,” says Deborah Simon, CEO of the Ontario Community Support Association.

There is also a lack of direction for PSWs who work in the disabled community, where the need for these crucial workers is high but wages are low. The current pay gap between PSWs who work in long-term care versus home and community care is about $3.50 an hour, according to Simon.

While restricting PSWs from moving between different workplaces would help prevent further viral spread to vulnerable people, a concurrent worry is that doing so could trigger an exodus of workers from the disability sector, where their compensation is lowest but the work they do is sometimes a matter of life or death.

“We’re kind of holding our breath day to day to see if we do get work refusals or people asking to put their status on hold,” said Holloway, who employs about 300 PSWs, three quarters of whom are part-time employees. “We have clients who are in some cases non-communicative, on ventilators, on oxygen, on life-sustaining electrical powered equipment. They could be completely dependent on us for their activities of daily living.”

Without specific guidance for facilities like hers, Holloway is trying to follow COVID-19 protocols developed for long-term care facilities, but many of them are difficult to adhere to because her housing sites don’t follow a medical model.

For example, some protocols require an on-site medical doctor, which her organization doesn’t have, so she is now working with the Ontario Medical Association to try and cobble together a stop-gap solution.

Her housing model also means her residents are tenants, covered by the Landlord and Tenant Act. So if there were an outbreak in one of her buildings, a quarantine would be much more difficult to enforce. “I can’t necessarily put a supportive housing building on lockdown.”

Other types of congregate living facilities have also taken proactive steps, ahead of explicit direction or guidance from the province. At North Yorkers for Disabled Persons, executive director Cathy Samuelson has been “terrified” for her residents since first reading about the COVID-19 pandemic. Her facility has been on lockdown since March 10.

The 10 residents at North Yorkers, aged 24 to 65, have complex physical disabilities and are also non-speaking or speech-impaired; they need extensive daily assistance with everything from dressing and eating to bowel and bladder care. If any had to go to the hospital, they would need a facilitator to accompany them so that they could communicate. Some residents are also prone to respiratory issues, including one individual who was hospitalized for pneumonia for a week shortly before the pandemic hit.

“An outbreak here would be devastating for us,” Samuelson said.

At Community Living Central York, which operates 16 group homes for people with intellectual disabilities, they have also been racing to get ahead of the outbreak: scrabbling together PPE, cancelling day programs and raising the hourly pay for PSWs while also overhauling schedules so workers are only entering a single home.

But these steps are costly and the organization is making sacrifices in other areas to ensure these proactive steps are taken, said Suzanne Conner, vice-president of the board of directors.

“We don’t have a lot of direction on who’s going to help us from the government but we know it’s the right thing to do,” Conner says. “It is our duty as a society to protect those who are vulnerable and these guys are as vulnerable as it gets.”



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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

March 20, 2020

          SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          MORE DETAILS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. What Should We As a Society DO?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emergency procedure, plans or public safety information

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

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

Workplace emergency response information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(3) Individual accommodation plans shall,

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

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

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

Emergency preparedness and response policies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emergency or compassionate grounds

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

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

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

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

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

LKM



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Stratford Residents to Benefit From New Public Transit Infrastructure and Accessible Buses


STRATFORD, ON: Strategic investments in public transit infrastructure support efficient, affordable, and sustainable transportation services that help Stratford residents get to work, school and essential services on time and safely back home at the end of the day.

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities; Randy Pettapiece, MPP, PerthâWellington on behalf of the Honourable Laurie Scott, Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure; and his Worship Dan Mathieson, Mayor of the City of Stratford, today announced funding for ten public transit infrastructure projects in the City.

All of the projects will improve Stratford’s public transit fleet and supporting infrastructure. Five new conventional buses and two mobility buses will replace the aging fleet, improving the accessibility, reliability, and safety of the system for users. An additional bus will be purchased to meet the City’s growing demand for public transit. The bus routes will also see improvements with the installation of 8 new accessible shelters.

Stratford’s transit fleet will be equipped with an automated voice and signage system on buses that will notify passengers when each stop is approaching. Transit users will also be able to track their bus locations using a real time arrival smartphone application.

To encourage an increase in ridership on Sundays and improve access to public transit, the City of Stratford will pilot the design of new bus routes using an application-based, on-demand software. On Sundays, transit users will be able to request pick-up and drop-off locations at selected stops by using a smart phone app or by accessing the internet from their phone or a computer.

Together, these investments will provide residents with a more accessible and reliable bus service.

The Government of Canada is investing over $1.6 million in these projects through the Public Transit Infrastructure Stream (PTIS) of the Investing in Canada infrastructure plan. The Government of Ontario is providing approximately $1.4 million to the projects, while the City of Stratford is contributing more than $1 million.

Quotes

Investing in modern and accessible public transit systems is essential to building healthy, communities. Many Stratford residents rely on public transit to access local services and get around the region each day and these investments will improve the accessibility and reliability of bus services. We are working with our partners to build better public transit that contributes to cleaner, healthier and more liveable communities for our children and grandchildren.

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Stratford is getting eight new buses, new bus shelters and is piloting a new online, on-demand transit service for riders. Ontario’s investment of approximately $1.4 million, along with our Stratford and Federal government partners will help transit riders get around town a lot faster. This new transit will help people get to where they want to go – to work, to school, shopping, the doctors or other appointments, traveling around Stratford or home to their families.

Randy Pettapiece, MPP, PerthâWellington on behalf of the Honourable Laurie Scott, Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure

This is a meaningful investment in our community that will not only help to modernize our transit fleet, but also improve the overall transit service for all riders in Stratford. New buses, additional shelters and an innovative on-demand pilot project will make it more accessible, more comfortable and more convenient to use public transportation in our city.

His Worship Dan Mathieson, Mayor of the City of Stratford

Quick facts

Through the Investing in Canada infrastructure plan, the Government of Canada is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada’s rural and northern communities.
$28.7 billion of this funding is supporting public transit projects, including $5 billion available for investment through the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
More than $10.1 billion of this funding is supporting trade and transportation projects, including $5 billion available for investment through the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
The Government of Ontario is providing approximately $1.4 million to ten public transit projects in Stratford.
To date, the Province has nominated more than 350 projects and continues to work closely with the federal government to secure approvals under this program. Ontario has committed to investing $144 billion in infrastructure across the province over the ten years. Use the Ontario Builds map to find projects in your community.

(PRN)

Original at https://www.newkerala.com/news/2020/42728.htm




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The Ford Government Claims to Be Leading Ontario By Its Example on Achieving Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities, But a Closer Look Shows That It Is Leading By a Poor Example


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

The Ford Government Claims to Be Leading Ontario By Its Example on Achieving Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities, But a Closer Look Shows That It Is Leading By a Poor Example

March 2, 2020

          SUMMARY

Last Friday, February 28, 2020, at a media event to which the AODA Alliance was not invited, the Ford Government made an announcement, set out below, unveiling how it says it is leading Ontario by example to achieve accessibility for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities- people who face far too many barriers on a daily basis when they try to get a job, ride public transit, shop, or use public services. Yet a closer look shows that the example by which the Ford Government says it is leading is a very poor one. It lacks key ingredients that Ontarians with disabilities need.

“There is nothing new in The Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 announcement,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, Ontario’s voluntary grassroots watchdog on disability accessibility. “The Government once again staged an event to re-announce measures that are already in place or that have previously been announced, dressing them up as if this were some bold new initiative. Such pre-existing measures, while potentially helpful to a point, do not get Ontario on schedule for becoming accessible by 2025, or ever.”

A month ago, on January 28, 2020, the Ford Government held an earlier media event where it made another announcement on accessibility. It was thin gruel, mostly if not entirely made up of actions that were previously announced. That even included a program that has been in effect for over a quarter century, when Bob Rae was Ontario’s premier.

This is not the leadership on accessibility that Ontarians with disabilities deserve. Below we provide six amply documented examples that illustrate this. The AODA Alliance continues to offer the Government constructive ideas, and remains eager to work with the Government on this. To date, Premier Doug Ford continues to refuse to meet with us.

A troubling 396 days have now gone by since the Ford Government received the final report on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that was prepared by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. We are still waiting for the Ford Government to come up with a comprehensive and effective plan of new measures to implement the Onley Report’s recommendations, needed to substantially strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. To date, all the Government has offered Ontarians with disabilities is thin gruel.

          MORE DETAILS

Six Illustrations of the Poor Example that the Ford Government has Set on Accessibility for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

The Ontario Government has for over a decade, under Conservative and Liberal leaders alike, and under Minister after Minister, repeatedly congratulated itself with the same incorrect claim that Ontario is leading by example on accessibility. The Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 announcement is the most recent repetition of that claim. Yet the AODA Alliance has researched and documented in great detail how the Ontario Government has for years been leading by a poor example on accessibility – an example which others should not follow. We documented this in Chapter 10 of the AODA Alliance’s June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran 2nd AODA Independent Review, and in Chapter 10 of the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to David Onley’s 3rd AODA Independent Review. Neither the current Ontario Government nor the previous Government disputed the accuracy of the facts in those briefs.

Both the Mayo Moran and David Onley AODA Independent Reviews concluded that the Ontario Government needed to show revitalized new leadership on accessibility. They found that the disability community recognizes that the Ontario Government’s leadership on this issue has been wanting. Their findings directly echo the submissions we made to those AODA Independent Reviews.

The 2014 final report of the 2nd Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, conducted by former University of Toronto Law Dean Mayo Moran, made this pivotal finding:

“One of the prominent themes that emerged from the consultations was the belief of the disability community that the Government of Ontario has not succeeded in embedding accessibility into its internal operations.”

Five years later, the 3rd AODA Independent Review by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley made the same findings in its report:

“Government Leadership Missing

Many stakeholders called on the Ontario government to revitalize and breathe new life into the AODA, echoing both the Beer and Moran Reviews. As far as government leadership goes, little has changed. The government largely has been missing in action.”

The Onley Report also found:

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

Yet Premier Ford has not done so. He has to date refused to even meet with the AODA Alliance’s leadership.

The Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 re-announcement of pre-existing measures does not show the revitalized new leadership on accessibility for which the Moran and Onley AODA Independent Reviews called.

Here are six examples arising from the Ford Government’s announcement on February 28, 2020 that illustrate that it is not leading by the good example that it claims:

  1. This announcement includes measures that sound far better on paper than they have proven to be in practice. For example, the Ford Government said on February 28, 2020 that it is leading by example by “(e)nsuring ministries are taking accessibility into account as a key consideration when developing policies.” The Ford Government did just the opposite late last fall. Despite our pleas, it palpably ignored serious disability accessibility and safety concerns when it enacted a regulation allowing municipalities to permit electric scooters (e-scooters) on roads, sidewalks and other public places. An unlicensed, untrained and uninsured e-person as young as 16 silently racing towards people with disabilities endangers them, as an open letter from 13 disability organization attests.

The ford Government chose to listen only to corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies. It side-lined the safety of people with disabilities. Check out the AODA Alliance’s web page on the e-scooter issue.

The Ford Government’s e-scooter regulation threatens to create new and serious barriers against people with disabilities. That is not the leadership example that Ontarians with disabilities deserve.

  1. To lead by example in this area, the Ford Government needs to put in place a detailed plan that will ensure that Ontario will become accessible by 2025, the AODA’s deadline. Yet it still has no such plan. No plan was announced on Friday, February 28,2020, nor has the Government announced any plan to create a plan. That is not the leadership example that , Ontarians with disabilities deserve.
  1. To support its claim that it is leading by example on accessibility, the Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 announcement points to the fact that there are Standards Development Committees now developing recommendations on what the Government should enact in new AODA accessibility standards to address barriers in Ontario’s education system and health care system. We campaigned for years for those Standards Development Committees to be established.

However, this is hardly an illustration of the Ford Government leading by a good example. It was the previous Liberal Government under Premier Wynne that appointed those Standards Development Committees. In a very harmful move, the Ford Government kept those Standards Development Committees frozen for over a year after it took power. That freeze unjustifiably set back progress on accessibility. The AODA Alliance had to lead a tenacious campaign for many months just to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze. That is not the leadership example that Ontarians with disabilities deserve.

  1. The Onley Report found that the recurring barriers that people with disabilities face in the built environment must become a major Government priority. It called for new accessibility regulations to fix this. Doug Ford recognized the importance of this need in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance where he set out his party’s 2018 election promises on disability accessibility.

Yet last Friday’s announcement did not commit to develop new regulations, under the AODA or in the Ontario Building Code or both, to ensure that the built environment becomes accessible. Existing legal requirements are inadequate. Last May, during National Accessibility Week, Doug Ford’s Government hurtfully derided such an idea as “red tape,” as if the rights to accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities were red tape.

Making this worse, The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint an AODA Standards Development Committee over two years ago to review a weak accessibility standard that deals with barriers in public spaces, mainly outside buildings. The Ford Government continues to be in open, flagrant breach of that obligation. That is not the leadership example that Ontarians with disabilities deserve.

  1. The Ford Government’s announcement last Friday spoke of accessibility as being one of the criteria for assessing applications for some infrastructure spending. However, it did not commit to ensure that public money is never used to create barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. Yet the Government has emphasized its commitment to be responsible in the use of public money. Spending public money in a way that creates new barriers against people with disabilities, as the Ontario Government has been doing for years, is not the leadership example that Ontarians with disabilities deserve.
  1. In last Friday’s announcement, the Ford Government pointed to measures to improve accessibility in public transit. However, it has made no commitment and announced no plan to ensure that its new public transit infrastructure will be fully accessible to passengers with disabilities. Metrolinx, the Ontario Government’s key agency in that area, has a troubling track record in this regard. Moreover, after over one and a half years in power, the Ford Government has announced no plans to strengthen the weak 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Government received recommendations from the Transportation Standards Development Committee in the 2018 spring, around two years ago. This inaction is also not the leadership example that Ontarians with disabilities deserve.

Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 News Release

Ontario Leading by Example in Improving Accessibility

Government Continues Progress Through Cross-Government Actions

NEWS
February 28, 2020

WHITBY — Ontario is continuing to work towards an inclusive and barrier-free province through its comprehensive accessibility framework.

Today, Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, announced the second area of focus under the Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework – government leading by example – at the Abilities Centre in Whitby. This area demonstrates the government’s commitment and leadership in improving accessibility in its role as a policy maker, service provider and employer.

“Our government is committed to protecting what matters most, and this means removing barriers in Ontario so we can empower people with disabilities,” said Minister Cho. “We are continuing to develop and enforce accessibility laws to help deliver critical services to Ontarians. It’s crucial that we set a strong example of moving accessibility forward to make a positive difference in the daily lives of people with disabilities.”

The government is taking leadership on this issue by applying an accessibility lens when evaluating capital project applications and spending public tax dollars. For example, while developing the provincial criteria for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility worked closely with the Ministry of Infrastructure to establish accessibility as one of the four main objectives that applications will be evaluated on under the program’s Community, Culture and Recreation stream. Projects will additionally be evaluated based on exceeding minimum standards; use of Universal Design Principles, accessible guidelines and innovative solutions to increasing accessibility.

“We are extremely pleased with the direction the Government of Ontario is taking with its Advancing Accessibly in Ontario framework,” said Stuart McReynolds, President and Chief Executive Officer of Abilities Centre. “We must all work together as partners to advance inclusion and accessibility throughout the province.”

As part of Ontario’s work towards creating a more accessible and inclusive province today and for future generations, the government formed a dedicated Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility in June 2018.

QUICK FACTS

  • There are 2.6 million people in Ontario that have a disability.
  • The Ontario Public Service Accessibility Office serves as an accessibility centre of excellence, elevating accessibility as a top priority within and beyond government. It supports ministries to meet their legislated obligations and embed accessibility into government policies, programs, services and internal activities.
  • The Advancing Accessibility in Ontario framework was informed by the recommendations made by the Honourable David C. Onley in the third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, as well as input from key partners, organizations and people with disabilities.
  • Further information on the other key areas in Advancing Accessibility in Ontario will be announced in the coming weeks.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario: Government to lead by example

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario: Breaking down barriers in the built environment

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Accessibility in Ontario: Information for Businesses web page

MEDIA CONTACTS          

Pooja Parekh
Minister’s Office
[email protected]

Matt Gloyd
Communications Branch
647-268-7233
[email protected]

Ford Government’s February 28, 2020 Backgrounder

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario: Government to lead by example

BACKGROUNDER

February 28, 2020

Enhancing accessibility is a priority for the government. The province has elevated accessibility as a commitment by creating a dedicated Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility to work towards a more accessible and inclusive Ontario today and for future generations.

Advancing Accessibility in Ontario is a cross-government framework that will help focus the government’s work in four key areas:

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

The government leading by example demonstrates Ontario’s leadership in improving accessibility in its role as a policy maker, service provider and employer.

In its role as a policy maker, the government is making significant progress in implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and as an organization is leading the way by:

  • Ensuring ministries are taking accessibility into account as a key consideration when developing policies.
  • Addressing barriers in the health care sector, such as a greater need for sensitivity when communicating with people with disabilities, by resuming the Health Care Standards Development Committee to develop recommendations for proposed accessibility standards for hospitals in regulation under the AODA. This committee is comprised of people with disabilities, disability organizations and sector experts.
  • Making sure students with disabilities have the supports they need to transition from one school system to another by resuming the K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees to provide recommendations on how to make the education sector more inclusive. These committees will develop recommendations for proposed accessibility standards in regulation under the AODA.
  • Considering recommendations from the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee to assess how to make information and digital communications more accessible.
  • Creating more inclusive learning environments by providing educators with accessibility training, lesson plans and resources through the TeachAble Project website. The site was created with funding from the government’s EnAbling Change Program and gives people who work with students ways to create awareness about accessibility in the classroom.
  • Providing clearer and more transparent processes for families requesting service animals accompany their children to school, no matter where they live in Ontario. As of January 1, 2020, Ontario school boards are required to implement their service animal policies. This support will help all students be successful.
  • Providing organizations and the public with practical tips on how to be more accessible by delivering regular free webinars on various topics, such as accessible transit and creating accessible tourism experiences and customer service in Ontario.
  • Improving accessibility as part of broader efforts being made with the federal government and other provinces.

In its role as a service provider, the government is working to provide barrier-free services through initiatives including:

  • Better serving transit users and commuters by investing in improvements to the GO transit experience as part of the GO Expansion program. Progress continues at the five remaining GO stations in the Greater Toronto Area that are not yet accessible, including installing ramps and platform elevators as needed.
  • Continuing to improve accessibility on trails, beaches and provincial parks in Ontario by adding features like mobility mats to make it easier for everyone to use public spaces.
  • Streamlining the Accessible Parking Permit process to reduce misuse while ensuring access by making it easier for people 80 years of age and older, Canadian veterans of any age and certain people with disabilities to apply for an accessible parking permit.
  • Investing $1.07 million in 2019-20 to support Abilities Centre in Whitby to advance inclusion and accessibility for people of all ages and abilities. Initiatives include:
    • researching social inclusion and social enterprise
    • developing a pre-employment skills program
    • piloting a 12-week pan-disability program for adults with disabilities
    • supporting local private and non-profit sector organizations to develop inclusion and accessibility plans
  • Improving community agencies across Ontario through the annual Partner Facility Renewal program, which includes an investment totalling $11.5 million that goes towards more than 350 upgrade and repair projects. This program includes an investment of more than $1.6 million for building repairs and upgrades at community agencies across northern Ontario so they can continue providing services to children and families. For example, a new elevator will be installed at Ontario Native Women’s Association, helping to make the building more accessible.
  • Continuing to help Ontario residents with long-term mobility disabilities remain in their homes and participate in their communities by funding the Home & Vehicle Modification Program, which is administered by March of Dimes Canada. With an annual investment of $10.6 million, this program reduces safety risks by approving grants up to $15,000 to make basic home and vehicle modifications.
  • Addressing barriers in the digital environment to move towards a modern digital approach so that our accessibility resources, reports and publicly available data are easier to access. For example:
    • We’re making it easier for people who are blind to use Ontario GeoHub, a website that provides descriptive information about the characteristics, quality and context of Ontario’s geospatial data. For this project, the Ministry of National Resources and Forestry collaborated with the Canadian National Institute of the Blind, which led to helpful adjustments to the site that make it more user friendly for people with disabilities. The ministry will use these learnings to inform how it delivers digital services moving forward.

In its role as an employer and as an organization, the government is working to establish a more inclusive employment culture in the OPS by:

  • Supporting OPS employees – roughly 12 per cent of which self-identify as having a disability – and ministries to meet the requirements of the AODA and embed accessibility into internal activities through the Ontario Public Service Accessibility Office, which serves as an accessibility centre of excellence.
  • Addressing systemic barriers and gaps through Deputy Ministers’ committees within the OPS. These groups work on accessibility planning and implementation across government, as well as ensure accessibility is meaningfully reflected in government policies, programs and initiatives. This helps to improve access to government services for the public, which enhances health, employment and social inclusion.
  • Using the OPS’ annual Multi-Year Accessibility Plan Report to summarize the OPS’ work to prevent and remove barriers to accessibility. The OPS also works to help foster a culture of inclusion both within the organization and across the province.
  • Increasing opportunities for hands-on work experience and training in the OPS for youth with disabilities by expanding eligibility for the Ontario Internship Program. The criteria have recently changed so that students with disabilities that have graduated within the last five years – rather than two years – can now apply to the year-long program.
  • Expanding the professional networks of youth with disabilities by connecting them with mentors across the OPS and broader public sector through Connexions, an annual session that helps post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities prepare for the job market by practicing job-seeking skills.

 

 

MEDIA CONTACTS

Matt Gloyd

Communications Branch

647-268-7233

[email protected]



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Mayor Wants Report on Allowing Kick-Style e-Scooters in Thunder Bay


Provincial project allows municipalities to set their own guidelines. Feb. 27, 2020
By: Gary Rinne

The five-year project took effect last month.

The province has set out the broad rules for e-scooters such as the minimum age for operators (16), maximum speed (24 kilometres per hour), maximum power output (500 watts) and other specifications.

Interested municipalities are required to pass a bylaw to allow their use within their boundaries, and to determine where they can be operated.

Mauro has submitted a motion to city council, asking administration to investigate Thunder Bay’s potential involvement, in consultation with city departments, police, and the Accessibility Advisory Committee.

“I think we should at least look at it. We’re a large city. For those who may have mobility issues, e-scooters may be easier than using a bicycle,” the mayor told Tbnewswatch.

He said if council decided it’s a good idea, a bylaw would prescribe where the vehicles could be used “whether it be on roadways, on sidewalks, in public parks, or other areas.”

One long-time accessibility advocate has expressed concern about allowing e-scooters off private property.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says they move too quickly and quietly, and pose a safety threat for pedestrians, whether disabled or not.

Lepofsky told the Canadian Press, “As a blind person, I want to walk safely in public. I fear an inattentive, unlicensed, uninsured person, as young as 16, with no training, experience or knowledge of the rules of the road, silently rocketing towards me at 24 kilometres per hour.”

Mayor Mauro acknowledged that those concerns need to be addressed in consultations with stakeholders.

Key Elements of the Pilot Project

  • Municipalities must pass a by-law to allow them on municipal roads
  • 5-year pilot
  • Maximum speed 24 kilometres per hour
  • Maximum weight 45 kilograms
  • Maximum power output 500 watts
  • Minimum operating age 16
  • No passengers allowed
  • No cargo may be carried
  • No baskets allowed
  • Riders must stand at all times
  • Bicycle helmet required for those under 18 years old
  • No pedals or seat allowed
  • Must have two wheels and brakes
  • Must have horn or bell
  • Must have one white light on front, one red light on rear and reflective material on sides
  • Maximum wheel diameter 17 inches
  • All Highway Traffic Act rules of the road will apply to the operation of e-scooters like bicycles
  • Penalties in the HTA will also apply to violations of pilot regulation (fine of $250 to $2,500)
  • Not allowed on controlled access highways

Source: Gov’t of Ontario

Original at https://www.tbnewswatch.com/local-news/mayor-wants-report-on-allowing-kick-style-e-scooters-in-thunder-bay-2120961




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Montreal Halts Pilot Project that Allowed Electric Scooters Due to Rampant Violations – Will Toronto City Council Learn from Montreal or Will It Expose Torontonians with Disabilities and Others to Dangers that E-Scooters Pose?


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Montreal Halts Pilot Project that Allowed Electric Scooters Due to Rampant Violations – Will Toronto City Council Learn from Montreal or Will It Expose Torontonians with Disabilities and Others to Dangers that E-Scooters Pose?

February 20, 2020 Toronto: This week, Montreal restored its ban on electric scooters, halting its pilot project that allowed them, due to rampant violations of the rules on their use. the AODA Alliance, a leading Ontario disability rights coalition, calls on Toronto City Council to put the brakes on its consideration of whether to lift the ban on e-scooters and to make public safety and accessibility for Torontonians with disabilities their top priority.

A new Ford Government regulation passed last fall allows municipalities to permit dangerously fast e-scooters, driven by uninsured, unlicensed and untrained drivers as young as 16 years old, on roads, sidewalks and other public places. Ontarians with disabilities, seniors and others will be exposed to the danger of serious personal injuries, if not worse. E-scooters will become unpredictable new barriers blocking the accessibility of sidewalks and other public spaces for people with disabilities.

“Since last August, the AODA Alliance has been in the lead in showing that e-scooters pose a serious danger to the physical safety of people with disabilities and others, and will create new and troubling accessibility barriers on our sidewalks and other public spaces,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance. “We call on Toronto City Council to learn from Montreal, rather than exposing vulnerable people with disabilities, seniors and others to the dangers that e-scooters pose in yet another unnecessary pilot project.”

If Toronto City Council does nothing, the current ban on e-scooters remains in place. That ban can only be lifted if the Toronto City Council passes a new bylaw permitting e-scooters.

Two weeks ago, Toronto’s official Accessibility Advisory Committee sent City Council a strong message, when it passed a unanimous motion calling on City Council to leave in place the ban on e-scooters . As well, 13 major disability organizations signed a compelling open letter to the mayors and city councils of all Ontario municipalities, with the same message. Yet corporate lobbyists for thee-scooter rental companies are lobbying hard to have their business interests prevail over public safety and disability accessibility. They had the inside track with Premier Ford last fall, and no doubt are trying to get the same with Toronto City Council.

At the February 3, 2020 meeting of Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, City staff advised that their preferred option is to unleash e-scooters on Torontonians, with the Toronto Parking Authority managing them. The AODA Alliance quickly wrote Mayor John Tory, objecting to this seriously-flawed option. It saddles Toronto taxpayers with new staffing and law enforcement costs – public money that could be more wisely spent on other priorities.

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

Twitter: @aodaalliance

All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

CBC News February 19, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/scooters-banned-1.5468206

Shared e-scooters to be banned in Montreal in 2020

City says mass noncompliance with the rules means the scooters won’t be coming back this year

Montreal will ban shared, dockless e-scooters in the city for 2020.

The announcement was made at Wednesday’s executive committee meeting by Coun. Éric Alan Caldwell, citing mass noncompliance with the city’s rules for the vehicles.

“Our rules were not respected and the operators did not ensure they were respected,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said that while e-scooters can have a place in cities such as Montreal, they must not come at the expense of impeding other modes of transportation in the city. “And that’s what happened last year,” he concluded.

“That’s why, in 2020, there will be no e-scooters in the streets of Montreal.”

The e-scooters — operated by companies including Bird Canada and Lime — had been allowed last summer as part of a pilot project.

But a city report, which was tabledat Wednesday’s executive committee meeting, found that during the pilot, scooters were only parked in their designated zones 20 per cent of the time.

  • Montreal to fine Lime, Jump and their users for bad parking of e-scooters and e-bikes

“Eight e-scooters on 10 did not respect our rules… which led to problems,” Caldwell said. “Security issues. Issues for other modes of transportation, be it pedestrians, cyclists, or drivers. Issues that led to disorder in the city.”

Those issues led the city of Montreal to bring in new fines during the pilot project, with Mayor Valérie Plante saying she was “not satisfied “with how the e-scooters were being implemented.

Montreal police also issued 333 tickets to e-scooter users for not respecting the Highway Safety Code, according to the report. Tickets for not wearing a helmet accounted for 324 of them.

Caldwell did not close the door on allowing e-scooters to return to the city in the future, but said the city was not interested in policing whether or not they’re being parked properly.

He said it was the operators’ responsibility to ensure that users complied with the rules which did not happen last year.

In a statement, Lime general manager Michael Markevich said the move was “incredibly disappointing” and a “major step backwards.”

“It’s clear there was a real demand for a greener, more convenient transportation option,” the statement read. “We remain open to solutions that address the city’s concerns and are eager to bring the program back as soon as possible.”

Lime acknowledged that cases of improper parking were high, but claimed the city’s designated parking spots were not conveniently placed and there were

not enough of them to meet demand. There were 410 designed spots across Montreal, according to the city.

In a statement, Bird Canada said it was disappointed but hopes to bring the e-scooters back “when the City will have resolved its parking issues.” Shared electronic bikes, such as Jump bikes, will still be allowed to operate this year.



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Help Us Get Towns and Cities Around Ontario to Leave in Place the Ban on Electric Scooters (E-scooters) – They Are A Danger to Ontarians with Disabilities On Our Sidewalks, Roads and Other Public Places


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Help Us Get Towns and Cities Around Ontario to Leave in Place the Ban on Electric Scooters (E-scooters) – They Are A Danger to Ontarians with Disabilities On Our Sidewalks, Roads and Other Public Places

February 12, 2020

          SUMMARY

This is an AODA Alliance call to action, wherever you live in Ontario, and especially right now if you live in or near Toronto! Please help us get your local politicians to not allow electric scooters (e-scooters) in your city, town or region of Ontario. They endanger safety and accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities and others. We don’t need any new barriers created in Ontario against Ontarians with disabilities. This Update gives you quick, easy-to-use tips on how to help. It also gives background to this issue.

          MORE DETAILS

How You Can Help Protect Ontarians Against the Dangers of E-scooters

We are asking Ontario’s cities and towns something simple but important: Don’t allow e-scooters in your community! They are a danger to safety and accessibility for people with disabilities and others, as we explain later in this Update! It’s easy to do. City and town councils don’t have to do anything! If they do nothing, the ban on e-scooters stays in place in their community. The trouble only starts if a city or town council passes a bylaw that allows e-scooters in that community. We know the e-scooter rental companies are working hard to get them to do so, starting with Toronto. We need our municipal politicians to give priority to the people, including people with disabilities, rather than those corporate lobbyists.

The City of Toronto is now considering whether to allow e-scooters. Other cities will watch Toronto to follow its lead, and may be looking into this issue right now. It is therefore especially important to keep e-scooters out of public places in Toronto, such as our roads and sidewalks.

Here’s what to do, wherever you live in Ontario, and especially if you live in Toronto.

* Phone, email, write OR TWEET your member of City Council and your mayor. Tell them you don’t want e-scooters in your community. If you don’t know their name or contact information, call your community’s city hall, or dial 311 to ask for this information.

* Send your mayor and municipal council members the powerful January 22, 2020 open letter on the dangers of e-scooters to people with disabilities, from 13 major disability organizations. It is meant for all the mayors and councilors in Ontario municipalities. It explains in full detail why e-scooters are such a problem and what they should do to protect the public, including people with disabilities. Tell them to listen to you, a voter, and not to the corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies. At the end of this Update, we list the 13 disability organizations that have already signed this important open letter. The link to our open letter is: https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/major-disability-organizations-open-letter-to-the-ford-government-and-ontario-municipalities-dont-allow-electric-scooters-on-our-roads-sidewalks-and-public-places-because-they-endanger-our-safe/

* Ask your municipality’s Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee to pass a motion that recommends that the municipality not allow e-scooters. On February 3, 2020, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee unanimously passed just such a motion. If you are a municipal accessibility advisory committee, you can present this motion yourself! Share our open letter on e-scooters with this committee to give them all the background they need, as well as the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee’s February 3, 2020 motion .

The Toronto motion unanimously stated:

“The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee recommends to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee that:

  1. City Council prohibit e-scooters for use in public spaces including sidewalks and roads, and direct that any City permission granted to e-scooter companies be guided by public safety, in robust consultation with people living with disabilities, and related organizations serving this population.”

* Let us know if your municipality advisory committee passes a motion against e-scooters, so we can keep track of these.

* If you live or work in Toronto, you should also send your member of Toronto City Council the AODA Alliance’s February 6, 2020 letter to Toronto Mayor John Tory. For that matter, send it to Mayor Tory too, just as we did. Let the mayor and your member of council know you agree with it.

* Let your local news media and call-in radio stations know that you don’t want e-scooters in your community. Share our e-scooters open letter with them.

* Spread the word on social media like Facebook and Twitter. If you follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds, you can share or retweet our regular posts on this important topic.

* Tell your family and friends about this issue. Share this Update with them. Urge them to swing into action too!

* Get a disability organization with which you have a connection to add its name as a signatory to our e-scooters open letter. They just need to give us permission to add their organization’s name, by writing us at [email protected]

* Let us know what you do, and what answers you get. And let us know about any other ideas for action that you try.

Background on The E-Scooter Problem

As recent AODA Alliance Updates have reported, last fall, the Ford Government passed a new law which threatens to create serious new barriers for Ontarians with disabilities . It enacted a new regulation that lets any municipality in Ontario permit people to ride electric scooters in public places in their communities. Up until now, e-scooters were banned from public places in Ontario.

Under this new provincial regulation, a municipality can lift that ban on e-scooters just by passing a bylaw allowing e-scooters in that community, including on roads and sidewalks. If a municipality does this, an uninsured, untrained unlicensed person as young as 16 years old could be silently racing towards you at 24 KPH. You won’t hear them coming because e-scooters are silent. If you are blind, you won’t see them coming. In other communities where e-scooters have been allowed, they have led to people being injured or even killed.

Corporate lobbyists convinced the Doug Ford Government to allow this in Ontario, and to ignore our serious disability concerns. They represent companies that rent e-scooters. Their businesses make money because they have e-scooters left around a city in public places like sidewalks, for people to rent on the spot. For people with mobility disabilities, these can block an otherwise-accessible sidewalk. For people with vision loss, they are a tripping hazard. For everyone, they are a blight and an eyesore.

List of the 13 Disability Organizations that Signed the January 22, 2020 Open Letter on Electric Scooters

Note: Since we initially released this letter, two additional organizations have signed it, the Ontario Disabilities Coalition and the Brain Injury Society of Toronto. They are included in this list.

  1. Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
  2. March of Dimes of Canada
  3. Canadian National Institute for the Blind
  4. ARCH Disability Law Centre
  5. Spinal Cord Injury Ontario
  6. Ontario Autism Coalition
  7. Older Women’s Network
  8. Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
  9. Guide Dog Users of Canada
  10. Views for the Visually Impaired
  11. Citizens With Disabilities – Ontario
  12. Ontario Disability Coalition
  13. The Brain Injury Society of Toronto



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The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Asks Toronto Mayor John Tory to Help Ensure that Canada’s Largest City Does Not Lift the Ban on Electric Scooters – Torontonians with Disabilities Need Mayor Tory’s Leadership to Prevent the Dangers to Their Safety and Accessibility that E-Scooters Pose


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Asks Toronto Mayor John Tory to Help Ensure that Canada’s Largest City Does Not Lift the Ban on Electric Scooters – Torontonians with Disabilities Need Mayor Tory’s Leadership to Prevent the Dangers to Their Safety and Accessibility that E-Scooters Pose

February 6, 2020

          SUMMARY

The AODA Alliance has written Toronto Mayor John Tory. We asked him to use his leadership to help us ensure that Toronto does not lift the ban in place on electric scooters (e-scooters).  Our letter details the dangers that e-scooters pose, and the serious problems with the option for permitting them that Toronto City Staff have said they prefer. We set out our letter below.

Meanwhile, 371 days have now gone by since the Ford Government received the final report on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that was prepared by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. We are still waiting for the Ford Government to come up with an effective plan to implement the Onley Report’s recommendations to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

Your feedback is always welcome. Write us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliance’s February 6, 2020 Letter to Toronto Mayor John Tory

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Email: [email protected]

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

February 6, 2020

To: Mayor John Tory

Via Email: [email protected]

Office of the Mayor

City Hall, 2nd Floor

100 Queen St. W.

Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Twitter: @JohnTory

Dear Mayor Tory,

Re: Protecting Torontonians with Disabilities and Others from the Dangers of Electric Scooters

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me on the phone on December 9, 2019 about the serious dangers that electric scooters (e-scooters) pose for Torontonians with disabilities and others. I am writing as a follow-up to that call, and to address new developments since then. We seek your help and leadership.

  1. New Open Letter to All Ontario Mayors and City Councilors from 11 Major Disability Organizations

On January 22, 2020, 11 major disability organizations including the AODA Alliance made public an open letter to all the mayors and city councilors of Ontario municipalities. Its message is clear, simple and compelling: Do not lift the ban on e-scooters.

This is easy for you to accomplish. You needn’t do anything. Right now, e-scooters are banned in Ontario, unless a municipality takes active steps to allow them, by passing a bylaw permitting them. If Toronto passes no bylaw, the ban on e-scooters remains in place. People with disabilities remain protected from the dangers that e-scooters pose.

To pass a bylaw that lifts the ban on e-scooters will endanger the physical safety and accessibility for people with disabilities and others, as our open letter explains. Please read our open letter. Please help us ensure that your City Council colleagues and senior City staff read our open letter.

  1. The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee Unanimously Passed a Strong Motion Calling on the City of Toronto Not to Allow E-scooters

Reinforcing our open letter, on February 3, 2020, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, chaired by Councilor Wong-Tam and appointed by the City unanimously passed a very important motion. The motion calls on the City of Toronto to leave in place the ban on e-scooters in public places.

That motion combines with our open letter to shift a very heavy onus to anyone who wants to permit e-scooters in public places in Toronto. For the City to permit them would be to reject the serious documented concerns that have been presented to the City by people with disabilities. These are among our community’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents.

We are grateful that you have publicly recognized some problems that e-scooters would create. As you know, the AODA requires Toronto, like all of Ontario, to become barrier-free for people with disabilities by 2025. We are behind schedule for reaching that goal. To create new disability barriers will set things back further.

  1. Despite These Concerns, City Staff Prefer to Allow E-scooters in Toronto on Terms that Won’t Solve these Problems

At the February 3, 2020 Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting, City staff said that they are preparing a report on e-scooters for City Council. That staff report will have an important impact. You have publicly said that you are awaiting their report as you decide what Toronto should do.

According to the February 4, 2020 Toronto Star, City staff told the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee at its February 3, 2020 meeting that it has a preferred option. We understand that staff would not go public with this unless that “preferred option” has made its way through key levels of review within the City’s public service.

We are exceedingly concerned about the City staff’s preferred option. Instead of keeping the current ban on e-scooters, City staff prefer an option where e-scooters would be unleashed on Torontonians. They would be managed by the Toronto Parking Authority. The Toronto Star article stated:

“Senior project manager Janet Lo gave a preview Monday to members of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee. Those members later called the devices an unacceptable threat to the safety of disabled Torontonians.

Lo said work on the report continues. But staff’s “preferred” model would see riders pick up and leave e-scooters only in designated spots — potentially Bike Share Toronto stations, or on-street vehicle parking spots converted to scooter use by Toronto Parking Authority (TPA).

“What we are suggesting is the designated-parking model … The high density of bike share stations — they are planning for 625 — makes it easy for people to be able to walk to them and access these shared micromobility options,” Lo said. “This addresses the sidewalk clutter and obstructions issue.””

We first learned about this from the Toronto Star article. Senior City staff had not before then reached out to discuss it with us. We are well-known for our advocacy efforts on this issue. City staff should not have chosen a preferred option before speaking to the broader disability community, including us about that option and ensuring that their option resolves our concerns. The unanimous February 3, 2020 Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee motion emphasized the need for proper consultation by the City with the disability community on the e-scooters issue.

The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee’s recommendation is especially timely. Last fall, the Ford Government gave our concerns short shrift. The provincial e-scooters regulation looks like it was written by the corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies who are pressing for e-scooters in Ontario.

The City staff’s preferred option is seriously flawed. It should not be preferred by anyone.

The City staff’s preferred option does not eliminate or even reduce the danger to our physical safety posed by unlicensed, uninsured, untrained e-scooter drivers rocketing towards us at 24 KPH on roads or sidewalks on a silent e-scooter. People will get injured or worse. The most vulnerable will be people with disabilities and seniors. They should be able to walk in public in Toronto without our city government exposing them to this new danger.

Beyond the pain and suffering that e-scooters will inflict, they will force new costs, including costs to the City Government, and therefore, to the taxpayer. This includes:

* Increased policing costs, ambulance costs, and other emergency first responder costs.

* The City staff’s preferred option would have the City erect new racks for parking e-scooters in selected parking spots, forcing more costs on the City.

* If the Toronto Parking Authority is to operate an e-scooter rental program on behalf of the City, there will be additional City staffing and other costs for its planning, administration and monitoring.

* If the City operates this program, or contracts with a private e-scooter rental company, the City risks being on the hook for added costs for personal injury and property damage claims arising out of the use of the e-scooters that the City would either own or manage.

We respectfully suggest that there are better ways for the City to use public money.

Beyond these costs, the staff’s preferred option would lead to a reduction in the number of available public parking spots in Toronto. Some would be converted into sites for e-scooter racks. Too often, it is already hard to find street parking in Toronto. For people with disabilities among others, this threatens a further accessibility problem that our Open Letter had not anticipated.

As but one example, the Ontario Government is building a massive new courthouse in the middle of downtown Toronto. We have been active for over two years, raising a series of accessibility problems with that courthouse design. Among other things, that new courthouse will have no public parking, including no accessible public parking for court participants with disabilities who will be coming to court. They have to find street parking. The Ontario Government told us that they are turning to the City of Toronto to make available more accessible public parking. If e-scooter racks eat up more downtown parking spots, that will make things worse, not better, for solving that disability parking problem.

  1. Wrong for Others to Be Forced to in Effect Subsidize E-Scooter Rental Companies Who Get the Profits

The taxpayer will be on the hook for all these additional costs, not to mention the added provincial health care costs from the personal injuries that e-scooters will cause. The e-scooter companies will walk away with the profits.

  1. City Staff’s Preferred Option Does Not Eliminate the Risk of Some E-Scooters Being Left on Public Sidewalks, Creating Accessibility Barriers and Tripping Hazards

While it is an improvement over some other options, the City staff’s preferred option does not prevent e-scooters from being abandoned in the middle of the sidewalks. These will pose an unpredictable and unforeseeable accessibility barrier and tripping hazard. Beyond this impact on people with disabilities, it will also create barriers for others, such as parents pushing a shopping cart or baby stroller on a sidewalk.

The only way to prevent this, and to prevent e-scooters from being ridden on sidewalks, short of the more appropriate solution of banning them outright, is to flood the city with an armada of police officers on every block. Our overburdened police have too much on their hands as it is. This involves even more costs for the taxpayer.

  1. Ontarians with Disabilities Need Your Leadership

Other cities are no doubt looking to Toronto for its leadership on this issue. They will be watching to see if Toronto lifts the e-scooter ban. We therefore need your leadership more than ever to prevent the dangers to people with disabilities and others that e-scooters pose.

The Ford Government has burdened Ontarians with disabilities with the undue hardship of having to advocate on this issue in one municipality after another, right across Ontario. In contrast, the corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies have had the ear of Premier Ford. We anticipate that they are hard at work, lobbying members of Toronto City Council and senior staff behind closed doors.

Mayor Tory, Ontarians with disabilities are deeply indebted to you for your leadership on the issue of accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities when you were at Queen’s Park. In 2003-2005, you led the Ontario Progressive Conservative party to support the enactment in 2005 of the AODA, and to press for amendments to strengthen it when it was being debated before the Legislature. We reap the benefits of your support and dedication on this issue to this day. The fact that that legislation passed unanimously has been vital to our cause. It set a trend that has been followed in two other provinces, and federally.

Fifteen years later, we turn to you once again to show that spirited and decisive leadership. Don’t lift the ban on e-scooters in Toronto. Toronto will progress very well without exposing people with disabilities and others to the dangers that e-scooters cause. There are far better ways to address the traffic and other concerns that the e-scooter corporate lobbyists advance in their effort to make money renting e-scooters here.

There are more important issues for City staff to address. There are greater priorities for you and other members of City Council. There are greater unmet needs to which public funds should be directed.

At the very least, please direct City staff to go back to the drawing board. Please direct the City’s top officials to meet with us, before this goes any further. Direct them to review with us and the broader disability community any and all options that they might recommend. There is no reason to rush. If despite all of this, City Council were to decide to disregard the unanimous and wise call from Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, we ask that the City adopt all the restrictions on e-scooters that are set out in our open letter.

We would welcome a chance to discuss this with you further. We would be pleased to provide any help that we can.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance



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The City of Toronto’s Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee Passes A Strong Unanimous Motion Urging Toronto’s Mayor John Tory and City Council to Leave in Place the Ban on Electric Scooters – But City Staff Prefer an Option of Allowing E-Scooters Under Conditions that Leave in Place Serious Dangers for People with Disabilities and Others


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

The City of Toronto’s Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee Passes A Strong Unanimous Motion Urging Toronto’s Mayor John Tory and City Council to Leave in Place the Ban on Electric Scooters – But City Staff Prefer an Option of Allowing E-Scooters Under Conditions that Leave in Place Serious Dangers for People with Disabilities and Others

February 5, 2020

SUMMARY

We’ve had some helpful progress in our campaign to prevent electric scooters (e-scooters) from being unleashed in Ontario. Toronto’s municipal accessibility advisory committee unanimously passed a strong motion on February 3, 2020 that calls on the City of Toronto not to allow electric scooters in public spaces. We encourage other municipal accessibility advisory committees around Ontario to do the same.

This helpful step forward is only an interim bit of progress. Toronto City staff prefer allowing e-scooters, and on terms that raise serious concerns for people with disabilities. They must now listen to the strong message from the Toronto Accessibility Committee.

Since last August, the AODA Alliance has been in the lead in showing that e-scooters pose a serious danger to the physical safety of people with disabilities and others, and will create new and troubling accessibility barriers in our public spaces. We have a lot of work ahead of us.

 1. Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee Unanimously Tells the City Not to Lift the Ban on E-Scooters

On Monday, February 3, 2020, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee unanimously passed a strong motion. It calls on the City of Toronto not to allow e-scooters in Toronto. We set out that motion below.

The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee is not just any committee. It is an important mandatory official committee of the Government of the City of Toronto. It plays a critical role under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Its membership is selected by the City of Toronto. It is chaired by a member of Toronto City Council, Kristin Wong-Tam.

Under the AODA, Toronto is required to have this municipal accessibility advisory committee to give the city council and government advice on what the city must do to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities .

On February 3, 2020, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was one of the presenters to the Toronto Accessibility Committee, leading to the passage of this important motion. The AODA Alliance presented the powerful open letter from eleven major disability organizations that calls on the mayors and councillors of all Ontario municipalities to leave in place the ban on e-scooters.

Last fall, the Ford Government passed a harmful regulation that lets a municipality pass a bylaw to lift the provincial ban on e-scooters. We have been very critical of that provincial regulation. The Ford Government rejected all the serious disability concerns with e-scooters. It listened instead to corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies. We fear that those same corporate lobbyists are trying to get the City of Toronto to do the same.

We congratulate the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee for sending its strong unanimous message to Toronto Mayor John Tory, to all Toronto city councillors and to the Toronto public service: Don’t allow e-scooters in Toronto, pure and simple! We are delighted that the Toronto Star published a great article on this issue, set out below. As well, Toronto’s CFRB Radio 1010 interviewed AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on February 5, 2020 on this issue.

Were Mayor John Tory or any Toronto city councillors or the Toronto Public Service thinking of proposing a bylaw to lift the ban on e-scooters, they would be sidelining and rejecting the strong advice of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee and of all the major disability organizations that signed our open letter. They’d have a great deal of explaining to do to justify their unleashing this danger to the safety of people with disabilities and others in Toronto, and their deciding to create new barriers to disability accessibility in Toronto. Toronto already has too many accessibility barriers. We cannot afford to have the City Council create any new ones.

If Toronto City Council does nothing, the ban on e-scooters will remain in place. That ban can only be lifted if the Toronto City Council takes specific action to pass a new bylaw to lift that provincial ban. We believe that Toronto’s mayor, city council and public service have many other important things to do, without diverting their time, efforts and public money into creating new safety and accessibility problems in Toronto.

 2. Troubling News – The Preferred Option for City of Toronto Public Servants Is to Allow E-scooters in Docks to Be Set Up in Toronto, Parked in Public Parking spots Diverted for Their Use

Staff at the City of Toronto are now preparing a report on what to recommend to City Council regarding e-scooters. Until now, nothing had been made public about what City staff are going to recommend. City staff are not elected. They are public officials who work for the City of Toronto.

At the February 3, 2020 meeting of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, city staff made a report on what they are thinking of recommending to the mayor and city council. According to the February 4, 2020 Toronto Star article, set out below, there is a preferred option for Toronto’s City staff. Having now learned of this, it  is a serious problem for people with disabilities .

Instead of keeping the current ban on e-scooters , City staff prefer an option where e-scooters are unleashed on Torontonians. They would be managed by the Toronto Parking Authority. The Toronto Star article stated:

“Senior project manager Janet Lo gave a preview Monday to members of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee. Those members later called the devices an unacceptable threat to the safety of disabled Torontonians.

Lo said work on the report continues. But staff’s “preferred” model would see riders pick up and leave e-scooters only in designated spots — potentially Bike Share Toronto stations, or on-street vehicle parking spots converted to scooter use by Toronto Parking Authority (TPA).

“What we are suggesting is the designated-parking model … The high density of bike share stations — they are planning for 625 — makes it easy for people to be able to walk to them and access these shared micromobility options,” Lo said. “This addresses the sidewalk clutter and obstructions issue.””

This may be a well-intentioned effort by City staff to try to avoid e-scooters being left in the middle of the sidewalk. We appreciate any good intentions in that regard.

However that preferred option is seriously flawed and should not be preferred by anyone. It does not eliminate or even reduce the danger to our physical safety posed by unlicensed, uninsured, untrained e-scooter drivers rocketing towards us at 24 KPH on roads or sidewalks on a silent e-scooter. Moreover, this option does not ensure that e-scooters will never be left in the middle of the sidewalks, posing an unpredictable and unforeseeable accessibility and safety danger.

Making things worse, this option would lead to a reduction in the number of available public parking spots in Toronto. Too often, street parking is already hard to find. For people with disabilities this is a further accessibility problem.

As but one example, the Ontario Government is building a massive new courthouse in the middle of downtown Toronto. We have been active in raising a series of accessibility problems with that courthouse design. Among other things, it has no public parking provision for people with disabilities. They have to find street parking. The Ontario Government told us that they are asking the City of Toronto to make more accessible parking available. If e-scooter racks eat up more downtown parking spots, that will make things worse, not better, for solving that disability parking problem.

If the City diverts scarce public parking spots for e-scooter racks, and pays for the racks themselves, that means that the Toronto taxpayer will be subsidizing the parking costs for the e-scooter rental companies that no doubt are lobbying hard to get the City of Toronto to let them operate in Toronto.

Below we set out the text of the City of Toronto PowerPoint presentation to the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee. It does not appear to include the City staff’s troubling preferred option that the Toronto Star described in the article set out below. On Youtube, you can watch the proceedings of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee on February 3, 2020.

We ask for an urgent meeting with the top officials at the City of Toronto. We want direct input before they decide on their harmful preferred option. We expect that the corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies have been seeking meetings with City officials at the highest level.

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

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the Toronto Accessibility Committee’s February 3, 2020 Motion on Electric Scooters

Originally posted at https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2020/di/bgrd/backgroundfile-145137.pdf

The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee recommends to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee that:

  1. City Council prohibit e-scooters for use in public spaces including sidewalks and roads, and direct that any City permission granted to e-scooter companies be guided by public safety, in robust consultation with people living with disabilities, and related organizations serving this population.

Toronto Star February 4, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2020/02/04/e-scooters-set-to-be-corralled-in-toronto.html

-scooters set to be corralled in Toronto

Thickets of dockless e-scooters became eyesores and safety hazards in some U.S. cities.

CITY HALL

Dockless electric scooters waiting on sidewalks for commuters to hop on and then abandon wherever they please don’t appear to be part of Toronto’s transportation future.

Next month, city experts will reveal hotly awaited recommendations for e-scooter use during a five-year provincially sanctioned pilot project that will let municipalities create most of the rules.

Senior project manager Janet Lo gave a preview Monday to members of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee. Those members later called the devices an unacceptable threat to the safety of disabled Torontonians.

Lo said work on the report continues. but staff’s “preferred” model would see riders pick up and leave e-scooters only in designated spots — potentially Bike Share Toronto stations, or on-street vehicle parking spots converted to scooter use by Toronto Parking Authority (TPA).

“What we are suggesting is the designated-parking model … The high density of bike share stations — they are planning for 625 — makes it easy for people to be able to walk to them and access these shared micromobility options,” Lo said. “This addresses the sidewalk clutter and obstructions issue.”

Thickets of dockless e-scooters became eyesores and safety hazards in U.S. cities including San Francisco, which last March ordered two app-based services to collect devices that had been deployed without city permission. Lo noted that city now forces approved firms to use “lock-to” scooters that are parked locked to a stationary object, further reducing clutter.

Staff will recommend to councillors that TPA, which operates Bike Share Toronto, become the city’s umbrella agency for all “micromobility” options, Lo said, noting its plan to add 300 e-bikes as a pilot project. Lo did not respond to a request Tuesday to elaborate on TPA’s possible e-scooter role, nor did she reveal where staff will recommend Torontonians be allowed to ride the devices.

The Canadian heads of the two biggest e-scooter companies, Bird and Lime, said Tuesday they could operate with specified parking spots downtown, but they would need a lot of them.

“We see a two-zoned system as ideal for Toronto,” said Lime’s Chris Schafer, with riders in suburbs able to leave scooters “at the sidewalk’s edge wherever is convenient,” and in designated parking spots downtown, either on the street or on sidewalks if width permits.

“This allows for an organized program that also balances the convenience riders appreciate in cities around the world,” he said in an email.

Bird Canada’s Stewart Lyons is also advocating e-scooter parking spaces downtown and a more free-floating model outside the core. “We have no problem with a more defined parking system. We have that in Montreal, but we need a lot of (spots), maybe every 80 to 100 metres,” Lyons said, adding that restricting the spots to Bike Share stations would be insufficient.

At the meeting, Lo heard from disability advocates who don’t want the devices in Toronto at all.

“Electric scooters pose an immediate and serious danger to people with disabilities, as well as others. Thy should not be allowed,” said David Lepofsky, chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. Lepofsky, a lawyer who is blind, said vehicles that can zip silently at 24 km/h are dangerous to people like him when they are moving, and a tripping and obstruction hazard when they are parked.

Wong-Tam drafted a motion, passed unanimously by committee members, urging council to reject calls to legalize e-scooter services. If they are legalized, the committee said, rules must be guided by public safety in “robust consultations with people living with disabilities.”

David Rider

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

February 3, 2020 Text of Slides that Toronto City Staff Presented to the Toronto Accessibility Committee

Originally posted at https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2020/di/bgrd/backgroundfile-145137.pdf

Electric Kick-Scooters

February 3, 2020

Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee

Janet Lo

Senior Project Manager

Transportation Services

Logo City of Toronto

Purpose

  • Inform TAAC members of recent provincial and city regulations on e-scooters
  • Provide an overview of the process to develop a report on e-scooter oversight and management
  • Share what has been heard so far in the process
  • Consult the TAAC for feedback

Electric Kick-Scooter (e-scooter)

  • An e-scooter is a two-wheeled device the rider stands on, holding a handlebar.
  • Powered by battery.
  • Can travel at a speed of 24 km/hour using a throttle.
  • Shared e-scooter fleets can be rented using mobile apps.
  • Photo shows electric kick-scooter which has a board like a skateboard with two wheels, one at each end about eight inches to ten inches in diameter with a handlestick that the rider holds onto while standing on it

E-scooter Sharing

  • Photo shows row of about 16 e-scooters lined on boardwalk in Kelowna
  • Photo shows on-street e-scooter parking demarcated with white paint, symbols and bollards

Ontario Regulation 389/19 – Pilot Project Electric Kick-Scooters

  • In effect from January 1, 2020 to November 24, 2024
  • Sets a 5 year pilot period for municipalities to opt in to test e-scooters
  • E-scooter use within a municipality is not allowed unless that municipality permits e-scooters by municipal by-law for public roads, bike lanes, cycle tracks, trails, paths, parks, sidewalks, walkways etc…
  • Not to be operated on controlled access highways or highways where destrians and bicyclists are prohibited
  • Max. speed of 24 kilometres per hour
  • Max. 500 watts
  • Shall have one or more electric batteries as sole source of power
  • No seat, no pedals, no basket, no cargo, no enclosure
  • Max. wheel diameter of 17 inches
  • Max. weight of 45 kilograms
  • Minimum 16 years old to operate; helmet use required if under 18 years old
  • No vehicle permit, no driver’s license
  • Treated like a bicycle and cyclist
  • Must use bicycle lanes where they exist, except for in a tunnel or underpass, may operate on a sidewalk (unless sidewalk riding is prohibited by by-law)
  • Where no bicycle lanes, must use shoulder or right side of roadway
  • Must stop at red lights, stop signs, and crosswalks for pedestrians
  • Not permitted to ride or operate within a pedestrian crosswalk or pedestrian crossover
  • Must keep safe distance from, and give way to pedestrians or cyclists by slowing down or stopping if insufficient space to pass
  • Must not operate at speed markedly greater than pedestrians when near them
  • Must have bell or horn in working order and sounded to notify of approach
  • Half hour before sunset and before sunrise, must carry and use white/amber light on front and red light on rear
  • Must not harm, injure or damage, directly or indirectly, any person or property
  • Not carry anyone, not to tow anyone or vehicle or device
  • Must stand while operating the e-scooter
  • Must not leave the e-scooter in a location intended for passage of pedestrians
  • Must report accidents involving pedestrian, animal or vehicle
  • Must stop for police when asked and provide identification, i.e., name, address and date of birth
  • Police are required to submit reports of accidents to the Registrar under the Highway Traffic Act
  • Municipalities required to remit data to the Ministry of Transportation

Some remaining issues to address with the Province include:

  • The motor vehicle accident template for police services in Ontario must be updated to enable police to submit reports
  • Where there is no motor vehicle involved, there needs to be a mechanism to submit reports of accidents
  • Ontario hospitals such as trauma centres and emergency rooms, doctor’s clinics, public health, paramedics, coroners, etc. need a way of tracking injuries and fatalities related to e-scooters (standing and seated), and comparing these with other modes

Continued… remaining issues to address with the Province include:

  • Lacking details on data to be remitted to Province that would go in permits or contract conditions with e-scooter sharing/rental companies
  • Questions about insurance and liability where neither the e-scooter rider, nor the pedestrian or cyclist involved in an incident have insurance
  • Questions about liability where the province sets minimum maintenance standards for roads and sidewalks for municipalities, which did not contemplate new devices such as e-scooters

Toronto E-scooter Regulations

  • E-scooters are not permitted by by-law for use/operation on public roads, bike lanes, cycle tracks, trails, paths, parks, sidewalks, walkways, or public squares.
  • Last October, City Council prohibited parking, storing or leaving e-scooters on any street, sidewalk and pedestrian way.
  • A report is requested on e-scooter oversight and management including potentially adding e-scooters to the city’s bike share program as a way of managing them in the public right-of-way.
  • This report is slated for March 11, 2020 Infrastructure and Environment Committee.

Toronto Policy Goals

  • Vision Zero – safety & focus on vulnerable road users – pedestrians, seniors, children
  • Connected, reliable and efficient networks – moving more people and goods, using greener and more space-efficient modes
  • Equitable, affordable and inclusive
  • Sustainable, resilient and adaptable
  • Growing, thriving and vibrant city that supports social and economic activity
  • Effective use of financial resources, innovation and collaboration to build, maintain and operate infrastructure

Key Stakeholder Feedback So Far

  • Accessibility / persons with disabilities groups
  • Visually-impaired/blind cannot hear or see e-scooter riders, trip hazards with e-scooters, collisions and near collisions/friction on sidewalks and serious injuries from losing balance and falling, no insurance, challenges with enforcement / claims
  • Pedestrian-related – walkability, friction on sidewalks, trip hazards, collisions
  • Place-making / business improvement areas
  • Sidewalk litter, vandalism, drunk e-scooter riding (i.e. requests to make arrangements to have paid parking on private property; removal of e-scooter fleets in evening and overnight)
  • Cycling-related – conflicts in narrow cycle facilities, e-scooters fallen across paths, opportunity to expand cycling networks
  • Transit partners – mobility as a service, integration with transit, safety with transit drivers
  • Environmental stakeholders – support for electric vehicles (no emissions), e-waste, life-cycle, emissions from collection/redistribution

Policy Options Based on Review of Other Cities

Examples from Elsewhere

  • Calgary mid-pilot report for period approx. July to mid-October 2019
  • Allowed e-scooter riding on sidewalks, pathways and bike lanes, and prohibited e-scooter use on roadways. Max speed of 20 km/hour.
  • 1,500 fleet, two operators (Bird and Lime)
  • Each device averaging about 5 rides/day (errands, work trips, dining/shopping, recreation)
  • 55% trips replaced walking, 32% replaced car trips. Average length 1.2 km/trip.
  • 33 ER visits requiring ambulance rides, one of these was a pedestrian; 677 ER visits total
  • Complaints to 311 system included sidewalk riding (40%), undesirable behaviour (breaking rules/inconsiderate, 27%), and parking issues (21%)
  • Proposed designated parking areas, slow zones, and fines ($400 for colliding with pedestrians/other sidewalk and street users, and reckless behaviour)

Each city’s context is different

  • Peer cities don’t have e-scooters yet such as London (UK), New York City, Sydney, Australia
  • Chicago in the process of evaluating data from its pilot
  • San Francisco (requiring “lock to” to address theft, vandalism and clutter)
  • More jurisdictions using selective permits or requests for proposals and designated parking areas
  • Waterloo (pilot was on private property)
  • Montreal (helmet requirement, limited to four of its 19 boroughs)
  • Paris & Singapore have since banned sidewalk riding after pedestrian deaths
  • San Diego (since banned from boardwalk from Mission Beach to La Jolla)
  • Tel Aviv (requires helmets and license plates for safety and enforcement)

Option – Temporary Ban

  • Take a phased approach and ease into the 5 year pilot by continuing a temporary ban until:
  • Industry standards are in place for safety, durability and sustainability
  • More comprehensive data is made available from other pilots that have just been completed in Fall 2019
  • Product innovation – next phase of safer designs
  • Not first out the gate… observe other Ontario cities or towns

Option – Toronto Parking Authority Synergies

  • Make Toronto Parking Authority the umbrella for bikesharing, e-bikes, e- scooters, e-mopeds etc… to coordinate any shared micromobility
  • High density of docking stations (proposed fleet increase to 7,000 with 625 stations)
  • Potential opportunities to assess on-street parking conversion
  • Coordinated implementation of various shared Micromobility to meet city’s policy objectives
  • Ways to address sidewalk clutter, social equity and transit integration

Option – Open Permit Application

  • Permit system that allows any operator to apply for a permit to operate e-scooter sharing
  • Examples from other jurisdictions such as Paris and San Diego, and other cities
  • Conditions that must be met such as insurance, data sharing, and compliance (e.g., user education, parking, geofencing, social equity, service standards,…)
  • Some key issues include fleet size and number of operators

Continued Research on Best Practices

  • Safety improvements and product innovation?
  • Some jurisdictions like Portland and San Francisco are piloting e-scooters with seats for persons with disabilities (not legal under Ontario’s regulation)
  • Service and maintenance standards?
  • Enforcement & compliance?
  • Illegal sidewalk riding
  • Parking in non-designated spots
  • Prompt removal of sidewalk obstructions
  • Social equity? Sustainability?
  • Infrastructure for micro-mobility
  • Longevity of micro-mobility options

Photo shows what is called an accessible kick-scooter modified by adding a bicycle seat on it from Lime e-scooter company

E-scooter report process and next steps

  • Report slated for March 11th Infrastructure & Environment Committee
  • Reports are posted 5 business days before Committee date
  • Click on the item to submit communications on the item
  • You can submit a written letter and request to make a deputation in-person (limit to 5 minutes)
  • www.Toronto.ca – follow the tabs on City Council and Committee Meetings

Contact

[email protected] 416-397-4853

Micro-Mobility & Next Steps

  • Report slated for Q4 2020 for Infrastructure & Environment Committee

Contact: Jennifer Hyland, Senior Project Manager [email protected] 416-392-0818ankyou



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LINX Plus Service for People With Disabilities in Simcoe County Could Be Enhanced


Currently, specialized buses don’t go more than 400 metres from existing routes By Ian MacLennan
Published: Jan 28th, 2020

The County of Simcoe is proposing to enhance specialized transit service for people with disabilities.

The County operates LINX Plus Service along four routes(Barrie-Orillia, Barrie-Wasaga Beach, Barrie-Penetanguishene, Wasaga Beach-Collingwood), but the buses go no further than 400 metres from those fixed routes, providing door-to-door service and transfer to and from fixed routes.

County Council’s Committee of the Whole has given approval to a pilot project that would see the buses go beyond the 400 metres, possibly as much as one or two kilometres.

A staff report says the existing capacity in the specialized transit system will make it possible for persons in a rural area with disabilities to go where they need to go such as hospitals, medical appointments, work, out with friends and recreational pursuits.

“Buses would travel down concession roads where there is little traffic and time lost to help people in rural areas and get them to a hospital or other activities.” says David Parks, the County’s Director of Planning, Economic Development and Transit.

Specialized transit is a requirement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and must be offered wherever conventional bus service is provided, with the same hours and days of service as conventional transit.

The Specialized transit system is an on-demand service.

“A person fills out an application and describes the disability,” says Parks. “It is verified by a healthcare professional. The application is reviewed by the County with the healthcare professional to determine what the disability is and what types of needs they have.”

The application puts the individual on a service list and they can call Service Simcoe if they need to be picked up.

Eligibility for the service is based on the principles of fairness and equality, rather than age, income or ability, according to the staff report.

The County has a number of specialized buses depending on needs and services, including room for wheelchairs.

In justifying the pilot project, staff say the County continues to receive applications and requests for compassionate rides outside the current service areas, and the cost of other services such as taxis is beyond the reach of many residents due to cost or location.

There would be no additional cost to provided the enhanced service.

The pilot project must get final approval from County Council at the February meeting.

Original at https://barrie360.com/linx-plus-service-for-people-with-disabilities-in-simcoe-county-could-be-enhanced/




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